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Category: March 2012

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'Fifty Shades of Grey': Who should direct?

March 30, 2012 | 10:29 pm

  Who should direct '50 Shades of Grey'?
E.L. James, the author of the erotic e-book “Fifty Shades of Grey,” created a stir when Universal Pictures and Focus Features acquired the film rights to her trilogy of explicit books earlier this week. The series tells of a chaste college graduate named Anastasia Steele and the S&M-inflected romance she finds herself in with dashing billionaire Christian Grey.

“Shades” was a hot property in more ways than one, having already sold gazillions of copies to discreet, Kindle-carrying women all over the English-speaking world.

But now begins a more arduous process: attaching a filmmaker. Given the provocative nature of the subject matter, finding the right helmer won’t be easy. Allow us to offer a few suggestions:

Michael Bay. Sure, James’ book had plenty of raunchy sex. But where were the things moviegoers really care about, like secret government-created alien-fighting machines? “Grey” will be jazzed up considerably with the addition of Autobots and Decepticons, a true story of opposites. There is, after all, no tale of becoming quite like the tale of a car becoming a robot. Grey inflicts hurt on his partner using 30-ton robots, which brings nearly as much pain as watching a Michael Bay movie.

Nicolas Refn. Christian Grey wears a scorpion jacket and eats toothpicks. He and his lover take long drives to nowhere over '80s electropop. Forks are jammed into various body parts. The movie reaches a crescendo in its piece de resistance love scene, which takes place backward.

Marc Webb. Young Christian Grey works at a greeting card company and, when he’s not getting advice from his impossibly precocious sister or angsting about the state of his romantic life, kicks back with a little office karaoke. Anastasia Steele is an ethereal presence who doesn’t believe in love. They enter a complex relationship in which he decides to cause her pain, largely by playing her Morrissey songs over and over.

Judd Apatow. Every hot romance needs a little bromance. Apatow's "Fifty Shades" has Anastasia feeling neglected -- all Christian wants to do is smoke pot and talk about comic-book superheroes with his buddies. Challenges further ensue when Anastasia begins to question why anyone would want to be in an S&M relationship with Seth Rogen. All is resolved, however, when Christian and his friends take a break from trash-talking each other long enough for a tearful airport scene. The movie is notable for being the first Apatow film he doesn't want his wife to star in.

Sofia Coppola. Focus could reach into its own vaults and pull out “Somewhere” helmer Sofia Coppola. Grey and Steele live in a hotel. Sometimes they order room service. A car goes endlessly around a track. Someone cooks breakfast. The movie ends.

Martin Scorsese. Christian Grey begins the film by ordering mob hits on various members of Steele’s family, because she double-crossed the people who double-crossed her double-crossers. In fact, the hero is about to order a hit on Steele when he realizes that she owns an early 20th century print of Julien Duvivier's “La Belle Equipe,” which, Grey tells her, no human being should ever be without. He then gives her a three-hour lecture on the importance of preserving early cinema. She finds it a peculiar form of torture.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Fifty Shades of Grey." Credit: Vintage Books


‘Bully’ will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

March 30, 2012 |  3:03 pm

'Bully' may get a PG-13 version

As it rolls out “Bully” without a rating to five theaters this weekend, the Weinstein Co. is making plans to release a tweaked version of the documentary that will earn it a PG-13, said two people familiar with the company’s plans who were not authorized to speak about them publicly.

The new cut of the teen-bullying film, which would minimize in some manner the profanities featured in a controversial schoolbus scene, would hit theaters April 13, when the movie widens to 25 markets, and allow children of any age to see it without adult accompaniment. The film, which centers on five families affected by teen bullying, plays in limited release in Los Angeles and New York this weekend.

The Weinstein Co. denied that changes were being made now but allowed for the possibility in the coming weeks. “At this time, there are no plans to change the film for a PG-13,” Stephen Bruno, the company’s head of marketing, told 24 Frames on Friday. “We are in constant conversation with the MPAA and hope a compromise can be reached.” The MPAA has been steadfast that the existing cut wll not be given anything lower than an R.

How the tweaks would be made remains unclear. The scene that earned the film an R features one teen threatening another as the two sit side-by-side on the bus, with profanities interwoven throughout the scene. The Weinstein Co could cut the entire scene or try to trim around the obscenities. (Filmmakers cannot simply bleep obscenities for a lower rating; the MPAA typically treats even bleeped words as profanities.)

A new cut of “Bully” would cap the Weinstein Co’s long battle with the Motion Picture Assn. of America — and an extended ride in the press — over the R rating for the film. The MPAA initially handed down an R because of the profanities and then upheld the decision on appeal by one vote. The decision prompted howls from the Weinstein Co. that the group was not looking at the scene in context and kickstarted a grass-roots campaign that garnered nearly 500,000 petition signatures.

The ruling also allowed the Weinstein Co to embark on a publicity campaign that has shone a far brighter light than would normally land on an issue-oriented documentary.  The company ultimately decided to release the movie unrated, enabling the AMC theater chain to institute a policy that teens could see the movie unaccompanied if they turned up with adult permission. It also touched off another round of publicity.

Observers of the Weinstein Co. — as well as MPAA chief Christopher J. Dodd — have urged the studio to simply revise the scene if it believed that it was that important that teenagers see the film.

But Harvey Weinstein and filmmaker Lee Hirsch have been adamant that the scene remain in the film as is to show the full force of what bullied kids face. Weinstein told 24 Frames before a screening of "Bully" in Washington several weeks ago that he did not want to touch the cut.

“I did that on ‘The King’s Speech,’ and Colin and Tom killed me for it,” Weinstein said, referring to a new PG-13 cut for the 2011 Oscar winner, and to star Colin Firth and director Tom Hooper’s criticism of the move.

The MPAA generally does not allow differently rated films to be in theaters at the same time, requiring a “withdrawal period” of 90 days between cuts, according to its bylaws, so as not to create “public confusion.”

But it builds in an exception “in light of all the circumstances related to the motion picture.” Among the factors in making that exception, the group considers “the number of theaters in which the original version of the motion picture has been exhibited." That would allow "Bully," currently only in a limited-run release, to avoid the restriction.

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from the documentary "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


'Mirror Mirror': Snow White tale is fair (not fairest), critics say

March 30, 2012 |  2:21 pm

Mirror Mirror
The first of two Snow White films this year, "Mirror Mirror" outfits the classic fairy tale with some humorous elements (Julia Roberts as a catty evil queen), some modern updates (Lily Collins' Snow White wields her own sword) and some visual flair courtesy of director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell," "Immortals"). Many movie critics are finding the film to be, well, fair.

In a positive review for The Times, Sheri Linden calls "Mirror Mirror" a "visually inventive interpretation" of the familiar fairy tale that manages to avoid "shortchanging the requisite froufrou or sugarcoating the story's dark Oedipal heart." Roberts pulls off "an exceptionally entertaining evil monarch" and leads a game cast, including Collins, "a convincing foil," and Armie Hammer ("J. Edgar"), who lets "his princely flag fly." Linden adds that director Singh's "singular knack for spectacle" is mostly put to good use and owes much to "Tom Foden's lush and witty production design and the splendid costumes by Eiko Ishioka."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times similarly declares "Mirror Mirror" "a sumptuous fantasy for the eyes," with the caveat that it's also "a pinball game for the mind, as story elements collide and roll around bumping into each other." Beyond the impressive visuals and a show-stealing turn by Roberts, Ebert says there's not much depth: "The dialogue is rather flat, the movie sort of boring, and there's not much energy in the two places it should really be felt: Between the Queen and Snow White, and between Snow and the Prince."

TIMELINE: Snow White through the years

Continue reading »

Hip-hop’s Auti Angel shows her wheelchair moves in ‘Musical Chairs’

March 30, 2012 | 11:01 am

Auti Angel

Twenty years ago, Auti Angel was beginning to make a name for herself as a dancer and singer with a Latina hip-hop group. She was touring with Eazy-E and N.W.A. and on the cusp of signing a contract with Columbia’s Ruffhouse Records imprint.

Then on May 3, 1992, a horrific auto accident ended her career — Angel’s back was snapped in half, her spinal cord severed. In the wake of the accident — which was followed not long after by the death of her mother — Angel got involved with abusive men and fell into a downward spiral of depression, drugs and alcohol that eventually led to a three-month jail term.

But those days are firmly behind her. Angel, who doesn’t have the use of her legs, has a supporting role in the new film “Musical Chairs,” which opens in limited release Friday, playing a woman who finds happiness as a wheelchair ballroom dancer. Also this weekend, she and her female hip-hop wheelchair dance group Colours ‘N’ Motion will perform at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the Abilities Expo — she is the “dancebassador” for the organization.

Additionally, she is one of four women in wheelchairs profiled in the upcoming Sundance Channel reality show “Push Girls.” The series “is another amazing platform for us to deliver our message of encouragement, empowerment and inspiration,” said Angel, on a recent afternoon in the courtyard of her favorite Italian restaurant near her home in Toluca Lake.

Angel, 42, says her personal transformation owes largely to her strong belief in God, but she was hesitant to make the leap to acting with “Musical Chairs.” The film, which centers on a love story between a Puerto Rican busboy-janitor-aspiring dancer (E.J. Bonilla) and a white ballroom dancer (Leah Pipes) who becomes paralyzed, featured only two other actors in wheelchairs in major roles.

Angel, who plays the feisty Nicky, said meeting the ensemble of players who appear in the indie movie from director Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan”) convinced her to take the role. “Once I met the cast I understood why they were in it — they were perfectly cast,” said Angel.

Seidelman said she felt it was important to incorporate disabled performers into the film to the greatest degree possible, and when it came time to cast the project, she did online research to find potential actors.

“We went on an Internet search and looked up wheelchair dancing and saw [Angel’s] website,” the filmmaker said. “When I talked to her on the phone and our producer met her, she was so perfect because her story really in some ways mirrored the story of the film.”

Angel said she did her best to educate her able-bodied costars about the reality of life in a wheelchair, so she took them out to lunch on the streets of New York, where the film was shot. “They were blown away because in rehearsal, everything is perfectly acceptable,” Angel explained. “But once they went out in the real world, they noticed the cracks in the streets and trying to go down the curves.

“There is a challenge every time I roll out of my house and go into the natural world,” she added. “But it is the attitude you have when you go out and face the world head on.... I learned from my father at a very early age to take challenges ... and run with it.”

For her part, Angel said her greatest challenge came from learning ballroom dance, which is quite different from wheelchair hip-hop. “Hip-hop is freedom of interpretation of yourself without limitations of posture,” said Angel, who worked with three choreographers on “Musical Chairs.” “But ballroom and ballet — there is definitely a serious posture that you have to respect. I thought being a natural dancer, it would be easy for me to go right into it, but I had to learn a whole new respect for posture and dancing.”

Seidelman found Angel “amazing” to work with. “She wasn’t camera shy and because the story had so much personal meaning to her ... she was totally real and natural.”

Now she’s moving on to new challenges. Angel and her husband of five years, DJ Eric “Stretch Boogie”’ Rivera, are working on an album that is due out later this year, and “Push Girls” chronicles the couple’s efforts to conceive a child.

“There are so many things I am dipping my wheels in,” she said with a wide grin.

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-- Susan King

Photo: Auti Angel Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times


Oscars: Live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood?

March 29, 2012 |  6:44 pm

Kodak
Could the theater formerly known as Kodak be closer to a new name?

Audio and video corporation Dolby Laboratories has entered talks with CIM, the theater’s landlord, for naming rights to the Oscars venue, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.

The 3,300-seat venue, located inside Los Angeles’ Hollywood & Highland’s complex, has hosted the Oscars for the past decade. But it was left without a name when a judge voided the naming-rights contract in February in the wake of Kodak’s bankruptcy filing. The theater was referred to as the “Hollywood & Highland Center” at this year’s Oscars.

Bloomberg reported that a new naming deal may not be imminent, with CIM likely to test the waters with other bidders. Kodak paid about $72 million for a 20-year deal back in 2000.

Based in San Francisco, Dolby began in the mid-1960s by licensing audio and video technologies to consumer electronics companies, and has recently expanded into digital entertainment offerings; it created Dolby 3D, a system for projecting 3-D movies in digital cinemas.

Spokespeople for the academy, Dolby and CIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kodak was built in the early 2000s expressly for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ annual event, and has since come to host other performances, such as Cirque de Soleil’s salute to Hollywood called “Iris.” It serves as an anchor of the Hollywood shopping and entertainment complex.

The voiding of naming-rights deals has become a hot topic since the economic recession began in 2008. Some critics, for instance, have called for the renaming of Citi Field, the New York Mets ballpark, given the financial crisis and the team’s troubled financial picture.

Complicating the naming question at the Hollywood & Highland complex is that the academy is entering the last year of its lease with the CIM facility. Earlier this year the academy initiated preliminary talks with AEG to move the Oscars downtown to the Nokia Theatre beginning in 2014. The space is roughly double the size of the Hollywood & Highland space, though it’s unclear how serious the academy is about severing its relationship with its current home.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 Photo: Preparations for the 2006 Oscars outside the Kodak Theatre. Credit: Al Seib /Los Angeles Times


Word of Mouth: 'Wrath' tries to right 'Clash's' 3-D wrongs

March 29, 2012 |  4:18 pm

"Wrath of the Titans"

The Hollywood gods spoke. And they did not approve of "Clash of the Titans."

Even though 2010's sword and sandals was a global blockbuster -- its nearly $500 million worldwide haul made it the year's 11th highest-grossing release -- its industry critics made a lot more noise than the ticket buyers. The focus of their ire? The hasty "Clash of the Titans" 3-D conversion, undertaken at the last minute to take advantage of higher 3-D ticket prices.

While James Cameron is spending more than a year turning his 1997 smash "Titanic" into a 3-D presentation for its April 4 re-release, the makers of "Clash of the Titans" spent a mere six weeks hurriedly converting the mythological spectacle into 3-D.

DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg said the film's makeover "snookered" ticket buyers, while "Avatar" creator Cameron said of the conversion, "There was no artistry to it whatsoever."

Arriving on Friday, the "Clash of the Titans" sequel, called "Wrath of the Titans," attempts to atone for the first film's shortcomings.

Although the new, $150-million "Titans" film also was converted from 2-D into 3-D, any number of shots and visual effects sequences were designed from the very beginning for stereoscopic presentation. What's more, the filmmakers spent a year on the 3-D upgrade, working hard to ensure that the conversion was done as well as possible.

Even if "Wrath of the Titans," which stars "Avatar's" Sam Worthington, silences its 3-D critics, it will have a hard time making a big splash at the box office, as it must fend off "The Hunger Games" juggernaut. The reviews for the film have been better than they were for "Clash of the Titans," but the "Wrath" notices are still mixed to negative.

In this week's Word of Mouth column, John Horn looks at the sequel's prospects, and previews his report in this video:

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Photo: Danny Huston, left, and Sam Worthington in "Wrath of the Titans." Credit: Jay Maidment / MCT


Will Ferrell's ‘Anchorman’ sequel: Can it work?

March 29, 2012 |  1:56 pm

Anch

The announcement from a burgundy-suited, white-shoed Will Ferrell on “Conan” last night that an  “Anchorman” sequel was on its way prompted cheers from fans who have followed the project’s ups-and-downs for years.

What exactly changed at studio Paramount, which had long flouted the flutist and balked at a Ron Burgundy follow-up  (and, more to the point, the price thereof) remains a discussed question in Hollywood.

Certainly the cast had become pricier as the stock of Ferrell and Steve Carell rose after the 2004 film. Studios will resist paying a lot for a sequel of anything that isn’t a blockbuster.  “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” took in $85 million, which isn’t bad for a comedy with emerging stars but well behind of a lot of other comedies that never got a second go-round.

But the principals may have softened as they took a look at their positions. Outside of “The Other Guys,” Ferrell is coming off a string of disappointments in recent years, including the current "Casa de Mi Padre,” which makes him and his agents a lot less likely to stand on ceremony.

And Paramount had reason to warm up to the idea: It currently has only four movies scheduled for all of 2013, and no comedy franchises scheduled at any point.

One question now is how director Adam McKay and Ferrell (who will likely write together) will take aim at the new story. Will it be set in the present (and would that require changing the 70's hallmarks of the Burgundy character)? And if it remains set in a previous decade, how will the new movie figure in the "Ridgemont High"-ish postscript that had Burgundy landing at a national cable-news channel, Carell’s mentally challenged Brick Tamland becoming a presidential adviser and Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana finding a gig as host of a libidinous reality show called “Intercourse Island”?

But the biggest question may be Ferrell himself. His deluded blowhard seemed reasonably fresh when we saw it eight years ago. Will it seem that way now? The actor has trotted it out a number of times since (“Semi-Pro,” “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory"), retaining the character and simply changing the costume. 

At least a lot of anchormen still seem clueless.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Will Ferrell in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Credit: Paramount Pictures


'Footnote's' bravura filmmaking: Kenneth Turan's pick of the week

March 29, 2012 |  1:26 pm

The year is still young, but there may not be a smarter, more satisfying film in it than “Footnote.” Intensely specific in story yet universal in themes, with a tone that turns on a dime from comic absurdity to close to tragedy, this is brainy, bravura filmmaking of the highest level, a motion picture difficult to pigeonhole and a pleasure to enjoy.

The subject matter does sound unlikely: an implacable rivalry between two scholars of the Talmud, the complex key text of the Jewish religious tradition, staunch rivals who happen to be father and son.

But this, the fourth work by writer-director Joseph Cedar, Israel's most accomplished filmmaker, has not lacked for recognition. It took the best screenplay award at Cannes, won nine Israeli Oscars (including picture, script and direction for Cedar, plus a pair of acting awards) and, like Cedar's last film, 2007's very different "Beaufort," was one of the five nominees for the foreign-language Oscar.

See it and understand what all the fuss is about.

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— Kenneth Turan


Carmike reverses course, will show ‘Bully’

March 29, 2012 | 11:45 am

Bully
The country’s fourth-largest theater chain has had a change of heart on "Bully."

After announcing it would not play the teen-oriented documentary because it had a policy against showing unrated films, Carmike Cinemas will indeed play the movie. It will treat the picture as an R-rated film and will not allow anyone under 17 to see it if not accompanied by an adult.

The move means that among the largest four theater chains, only Cinemark, the country’s third-largest exhibitor, will not show "Bully." Regal Cinemas said Wednesday it would show the film and treat it as an R; AMC will also show it, allowing minors who have written permission from an adult to see it on their own.

A person close to Carmike who was not authorized to talk about the matter publicly said that the company was moved to change its mind because of both the importance of the documentary about bullying and the decision by other chains to relax its policy against unrated movies in this case.

The Weinstein Co. decided to release the film without a rating after losing an appeal with the Motion Picture Assn. to overturn its R rating.

“Bully” opens in five theaters in Los Angeles and New York this weekend, including AMC outlets, in what will be a key test of how much the extensive ratings publicity has boosted its awareness among moviegoers. The documentary widens to two dozen markets on April 13, when it will screen at Carmike and Regal venues.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Bully." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Universal's classic films at 100: Kenneth Turan's DVD pick

March 29, 2012 |  9:07 am

Universal is more than just the home of a celebrated tour, it's been making movies for exactly 100 years.

In recognition of that fact, the studio has reissued some of its best films in a series of commemorative DVDs.

Modern pictures like "Out of Africa" and "The Deer Hunter" are part of the mix, but it's especially nice to see some older classics included.

Not to be missed are Preston Sturges' "Sullivan's Travels," the director's defense of entertainment, and the top-notch screwball comedy "My Man Godfrey" starring Carole Lombard and William Powell.

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-- Kenneth Turan


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