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Category: April 2012

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Five Tribeca festival films you could soon be hearing about

April 30, 2012 |  5:27 pm

 

Scene from "Resolution"

The Tribeca Film Festival wound down Sunday, reaching what organizers said was a 95% attendance rate at its screenings and panels. Of course, what plays to packed houses within the festival bubble won't necessarily bring the crowds in outside it. What movies can you expect will attract some interest long after the last screening has ended? Here's a diverse, but by no means exhaustive, list.

"The Flat": Tribeca is known for documentaries, and this year was no exception. Receiving some of the best buzz from the festival was Arnon Goldfinger's "The Flat," a nonfiction tale about an Israeli man who begins to uncover some things about his Jewish grandparents after his grandmother dies and he is left cleaning out the Tel Aviv apartment she once shared with her husband. Reviews have been strong, and, without giving anything away, we'll just say it's a story that soon hops countries en route to some surprising discoveries.

"The World Before Her": We're a bit removed from "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Slumdog Millionaire," but a movie that combines elements of both in a story of Indian beauty pageants can only be interesting. The jury agreed too, handing Canadian director Nisha Pahuja its top documentary prize.

"Una Noche": Hey, when your stars defect in an art-imitating-life twist, that always helps. Also of assistance: when you have a well-made and well-regarded movie, as Lucy Mulloy does, telling compellingly of the fictional (but entirely plausible) aspirations of three very different teenagers in a bleak but poetic Havana. The movie still doesn't have U.S. distribution, but with all the attention paid the defectors, don't be surprised if that ends soon, particularly for a company with a Latin focus.

"Resolution": Starting out as a story about a man trying to get his buddy to go to rehab, Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorehead's film soon evolves into a tale of secrets and narrative revelations. A smart marketer will call it a thriller, and maybe in the confines of a film festival it is, but many have recognized it for something else: strong storytelling with suspense and emotion.

"Fairhaven": More to come on this one shortly, but suffice it to say that Tom O'Brien's wistful drama about men in their 30s, stuck in and returning to their small New England town, will conjure up the 1990s hit "Beautiful Girls." That's a good thing. Starring Chris Messina, the suddenly omnipresent indie actor, in a movie that could easily have played Sundance to some acclaim.

RELATED:

Cuban stars of Tribeca fest may have defected

Tribeca 2012: What exactly is James Franco's new film about?

Tribeca 2012: Journey singer doesn't stop believin'

Tribeca 2012: Una Noche, War Witch win awards

— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "Resolution." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival.


Box Office: Four new films can't stop 'Think Like a Man' [Video]

April 30, 2012 | 12:20 pm

Think Like a Man was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
"Think Like a Man" topped the box office for the second consecutive weekend, despite the arrival of four new and diverse films.

The ensemble relationship comedy claimed the No. 1 spot yet again, raking in an additional $18 million and raising its overall tally to $60.9 million. "The Five-Year Engagement," a romantic comedy starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, was expected to be the most popular movie in theaters this weekend — but instead it grossed a lackluster $11.2 million.

Three other new films all had underwhelming debuts as well, including "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," a 3-D stop-motion animated film that cost $30 million more to make than "Engagement" but collected $11.4 million this weekend. The Jason Statham action flick "Safe" sold only $7.7 million worth of tickets, and the John Cusack horror film "The Raven" scared up a soft $7.3 million.

Why didn't this weekend's new offerings score with audiences? Check out this week's box office video report for more.

RELATED:

"Five-Year Engagement" a missed opportunity

"Think Like a Man" is the surprise box-office winner

Box office: Do Jason Segel and Jason Statham need new acts?

— Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Meagan Good, left, La La Anthony and Romany Malco star in "Think Like a Man." Credit: Sony Pictures.


Box office: Do Jason Segel and Jason Statham need new acts?

April 30, 2012 |  7:00 am

Jason Segel's "The Five-Year Engagement" and Jason Statham's "Safe," each released to theaters this weekend, earned disappointing dollars at the box officeThere may be no second acts in American life. Fortunately, Jason Statham and Jason Segel work in the movie business, which is somewhere very far away from mainstream American life.

Just a few years ago, the two Jasons were unquestionably on the rise, albeit in very different genres. Segel could do no wrong as the nice guy in sweet-but-raunchy comedies. Hits such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "I Love You, Man" began to flow, and a niche sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother," began to establish itself.

Statham was on his own upward trajectory. After emerging in Guy Ritchie films more than a decade ago, the tough-talking Brit solidified his status as an action hero with a dependable franchise in "Transporter."  He then had a tidy late-summer performer in "Death Race" and was a key younger element in the blockbuster "The Expendables."

REVIEW: 'The Five-Year Engagement'

Then things began to change for both men. Segel staked a great deal of his reputation on his revival of "The Muppets," which was a modest and not entirely memorable performer last year. The streak turned colder this spring in the lower-budget "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," which flopped by all but the most indie of standards (though, to be fair, the movie inexplicably got only a small release in the first place). "How I Met Your Mother" has begun to show its age. And then this weekend, "The Five-Year Engagement" gave Segel the lowest numbers for a wide opening since he became a star.

Statham also has hit a wall, and finally it was one he couldn't punch through. After a 2008-2010 period in which the actor had a prolific four movies that grossed at least $30 million (on modest budgets), Statham's next two pictures, "The Mechanic" and "Killer Elite," each fell short of that mark. Then this weekend he too had one of his lowest openings as a star, with the measly $7.7-million take of "Safe.”

On one level, the story of the two Jasons is an age-old tale -- the actor who went to the well once too often. Studio executives like to say that actors should stay on brand. But the truth is that many performers can only play the same character so many times before audiences start to feel like they've seen it before, and turn away.

The Jasons also may be falling prey to something more specific. Fans didn't just flock to these actors' movies because they liked them; they flocked to these actors because they weren't seeing too many other people do what they were doing.

Prior to Segel and a few of his ilk, we hadn't seen the nice guy toss out ribald barbs. Statham also was a novelty, at least in this age -- a genuine action hero, a man who could punch and kick his way out of a problem with his God-given hands instead of relying on superhero powers (or just brooding darkly about those problems). These were actors, in other words, who staked their appeal on their freshness. And freshness kind of has an expiration date.

The way around this, of course, is to do something totally different and show film fans that you're still capable of surprise. Five years ago that meant a part in a smaller, more prestige-y movie. But there are fewer of those roles than there used to be, and in any event, they're increasingly taken by the likes of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, who have shown an insatiable appetite for them.

Still, some commercial actors are able to make the transition. Check out Jonah Hill, Segel's "Knocked Up" costar, who has cleverly managed to find new avenues for his brand of goofy comedy, in more dramatic vehicles such as "Moneyball" and more action-y pictures like "21 Jump Street."

Both Statham and Segel have several of those new paths open to them. But they’re going to need to start venturing down one or two, or risk becoming tired old acts.

RELATED:

"Five-Year Engagement" a missed opportunity

Jason Statham looks to punch above his weight

"Think Like a Man" is the surprise box-office winner

--Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in "The Five-Year Engagement." Credit: Universal Pictures


'Una Noche' director supports defecting Cuban actors

April 29, 2012 |  2:23 pm

Una Noche actors
NEW YORK -- Two Cuban actors who went missing in Miami 10 days ago en route to the Tribeca Film Festival have surfaced, announcing that they are indeed defecting to the United States.

“Una Noche’s” Javier Nunez Florian and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, both 20, made an appearance this weekend on America TeVe,  a Miami Spanish-language station, saying that they were in good health and that they were seeking political asylum.

On Sunday morning in New York, a third Cuban actor in the film, Dariel Arrechada, and the picture's British director, Lucy Mulloy, said they were gratified to learn of the pair's safety. "We were just relieved that they were OK," Mulloy said. "I spoke to them on the phone and told them it was an important decision and I was going to support them in whatever they wanted to do [here]."

The pair, who are a couple and are staying with relatives of De la Torre’s in Miami, have hired a lawyer to help with their asylum claim. They have not said whether they'll continue to pursue acting careers in the U.S.

The two had gone missing from the Miami airport after arriving there on a layover to the New York festival with a producer and Arrechada.

Mulloy said that she and Arrechada had learned of the actors' emergence Friday shortly after the defectors went on television to make their announcement. Mulloy spoke with them from an unidentified Miami hotel and they seemed, the director said, "a little bit shaken."

Arrechada said he was still coping with the news. "It was strange to be here [at Tribeca] without them,  but I was really happy to talk to them," he said. "It seemed like they had made the decision really easily, and that surprised me a little."

He added that he did not think about defecting himself. "I have family and a lot of friends at home. I love the Cuban culture, and the heat." He was set to return to Havana this week but was seeking to extend his New York stay by a few days.

Though athletes and actors have commonly defected from Cuba, the pair’s actions had particularly attracted interest because their film has them starring as a brother and sister who also seek to leave  the island, in the movie's case via a homemade raft.

Their situation became even more poignant Thursday night when the movie won three jury prizes, including a best actor kudo for Florian. The actor shared the honor with Arrechada, whose character in the film also seeks  to escape the island.

RELATED:

‘Una Noche,’ ‘War Witch’ win prizes at Tribeca Film Festival

Cuban stars of film screening at Tribeca fest may have defected

Tribeca 2012: 'Lola Versus' aims to be a different sort of romcom

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Javier Nunez Florian and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre are seen in the film "Una Noche." Credit: Trevor Forest and Shlomo Godder/2012 Tribeca Film Festival


Tribeca 2012: Cuban actors materialize in Miami

April 28, 2012 | 11:38 pm

Unanoc
Two Cuban actors who went missing in Miami 10 days ago en route to the Tribeca Film Festival have surfaced, announcing they have indeed defected to the United States.

“Una Noche’s” Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre, both 20, made an appearance this weekend on America TeVe,  a local Spanish-language station, saying that they were in good health and were seeking political asylum.

The Havana-raised actors, who are a couple, told Reuters that they began to think about leaving Cuba after a trip to the Berlin Film Festival this winter. They  were staying with relatives of de la Torre’s in Miami and have hired a lawyer to help with their asylum claim.

The pair had gone missing from the Miami airport after arriving there on layover to New York with a producer and a third actor from the film, Dariel Arrechada. When the other two arrived in New York, they found that the checked luggage belonging to Florian and de la Torre was empty, suggesting a pre-meditated plan to defect.

Though athletes and actors have commonly defected from Cuba, the pair’s instance had attracted particular interest because their film casts them as a brother and sister who also seek to leave the island in a homemade raft.

Their situation became even more poignant Thursday night when the movie, directed by the young British director Lucy Mulloy,  won three jury prizes at the festival, including a best actor kudo for Florian. The actor shared the honor with Arrechada.

Arrechada told the audience at an award ceremony that he missed his co-star and found it strange to accept the award without him present.

Earlier, Mulloy told 24 Frames she was surprised to learn of the pair's disappearance. "They were excited to be actors in Cuba; I worked with them for months and had no idea they were thinking about this," she said.

More as it develops.

RELATED:

Cuban stars of film screening at Tribeca fest may have defected

‘Una Noche,’ ‘War Witch’ win prizes at Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca 2012: Lola Versus aims to be a different sort of romcom

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Florian and de la Torre in "Una Noche." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival


Tribeca 2012: 'Any Day Now,' 'Burn' take audience awards

April 28, 2012 |  8:46 pm

Anyday
A drama about gay adoption and a documentary about Detroit firefighters won the audience awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, organizers announced Saturday.

Travis Fine's narrative-feature winner, "Any Day Now," centers on an aspiring singer (Alan Cumming) who, along with his partner, takes in a neglected boy with Down's syndrome. The couple must soon fight a legal battle to retain custody. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the movie is inspired by a true story.

The documentary winner, "Burn," takes a look at the firefighters of Detroit, who struggle to do their jobs in the face of urban blight and budgetary woes, focusing especially on a new hard-line commissioner brought in to shake up the system. Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez directed the film, which was executive produced by Denis Leary. The movie is the latest independent to take a look at the embattled city, coming on the heels of such films as "Detropia," which premiered at Sundance.

Tribeca's audience award can sometimes be a barometer of commercial success. Three years ago, the screwball family comedy "City Island" took the prize; the movie went on to become an art-house hit. This year's winners do not yet have theatrical distribution.

This is the first year Tribeca has given out separate audience awards in documentary and narrative categories. The festival wraps up Sunday.

RELATED:

Cuban stars of film screening at Tribeca fest may have defected

Tribeca 2012: What exactly is James Franco's new film about?

Tribeca 2012: Journey singer doesn't stop believin'

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A still from "Any Day Now." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival


'Warriors of the Rainbow' star: From minister to leading man

April 28, 2012 |  9:01 am

Warriors of the Rainbow

Lin Ching-Tai is a man of peace, a 52-year-old Presbyterian minister in Taiwan. But for the epic action film “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” he traded his vestments for tattoos and a fake scar, transforming into Taiwan's legendary aboriginal chief, Mouna Rudo, who led a bloody rebellion against Japanese colonizers of the island in 1930.

“Mouna is a dark, melancholy character,” Lin said during a recent visit to Los Angeles, speaking in Chinese. “As a child, he saw how the Japanese suppressed his people, and the desire for rebellion grew in him.” Even though he had never acted before, Lin said he found the lead role easy to assume because “Mouna’s character is my character, before I was 26.”

The brainchild of director Wei Te-Sheng, “Warriors” was produced for $25 million, the most ever for a Taiwanese-made film, and released there in two parts totaling 4½ hours. For its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival last September, he prepared a 2½-hour cut, and it is that version that opened in Los Angeles on Friday. Much of the film is carried by Lin, who has the brooding eyes and craggy countenance of a man who has done a lot of hard living.

The film tells the story of the Wushe Incident, the largest — and last — uprising against the Japanese by the island's aboriginal inhabitants. Taiwan had been ceded to Japan by China in 1895 in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Seediq tribe was forced to give up its sovereignty and to work for the Japanese at menial wages.

Getting the project off the ground proved a tough sell, even though Wei’s first film, the romantic comedy “Cape No. 7,” was a runaway hit in 2008. It didn’t help that he intended to cast unknowns with aboriginal backgrounds, and to use dialogue in Seediq, a language now spoken by only about 1,000 people. Even with seed money from the Taiwanese government, he spent five years raising funds. John Woo came on as a producer, but Wei said that in the end he borrowed most of the money.

Continue reading »

'The Raven' is macabre and muddled, quoth the critics

April 28, 2012 |  8:00 am

The Raven

"The Raven," a new mystery thriller that imagines Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) helping police solve a series of murders inspired by his stories, follows in the footsteps of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" movies, combining 19th century literary figures and Hollywood flair. Alas, many movie critics have found the result scattered and silly.

In a mixed review, The Times' Betsy Sharkey calls the film "more pulp fiction than macabre masterpiece," though she does concede that it has "a nifty idea" at its center. What's lacking most, Sharkey says, "is the tightly constructed tension-building that Poe did so unsettlingly and inventively well." On the plus side, Luke Evans is "excellent" as the detective who teams up with Poe, and style points are awarded to cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann and costume designer Carlo Poggioli.

Continue reading »

Chat live with 'Five-Year Engagement' director Nicholas Stoller

April 27, 2012 | 12:37 pm

Nicholas Stoller and Jason SegelThis post has been updated. Please see the note at bottom.

Writer-director Nicholas Stoller will be joining The Times' Amy Kaufman at 2:30 p.m. Pacific today to talk about his latest collaboration with star Jason Segel, "The Five-Year Engagement." Stoller will also be answering reader questions about anything from "Five-Year Engagement" or any of his other collaborations with Segel.

Stoller and Segel met on the set of the short-lived Judd Apatow series "Undeclared" in 2001. Since then, they have collaborated on "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "The Muppets" and "Engagement," all of which have also starred Segel.

Stoller also wrote the script for Segel's 2010 movie "Gulliver's Travels," which was a big international hit.

And for those who are curious, Segel does drop his pants again as he did famously in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," but don't expect full-frontal nudity again. Though Segel was ready and willing to bear all once again in the name of comedy, Stoller decided there was just no room in this movie for Segel in total.

The film, which also stars Emily Blunt, Alison Brie and Chris Pratt, opens in theaters today and is expected to top the box-office charts.

[Updated, 2 p.m. April 27: Stoller is delayed by traffic. We expect the chat to begin at 2:30 p.m.]

RELATED:

Review: 'The Five-Year Engagement'

Tribeca 2012: Jason Segel’s ‘Five-Year Engagement’ seeks a ring

Movie Projector: 'Five-Year Engagement' expected to reach altar first

-- Patrick Day

Photo: Nicholas Stoller, left, and Jason Segel on the set of "The Five-Year Engagement." Credit: Glen Wilson / Universal Studios.


Henry Selick on his 'medium dark' stop-motion movie for Disney

April 27, 2012 | 12:24 pm

Henryselick

Henry Selick, a giant in the pocket-sized world of stop-motion animation, is almost finished with production on his next film, an as-yet-untitled project for Walt Disney Co.

The director of "Coraline" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has been supervising a crew of about 150 craftspersons and animators from his new studio, Cinderbiter, based in an old chocolate factory in San Francisco's Mission District. The film will be Selick's first since signing an exclusive deal with Disney in 2010.

"It’s an original story of mine," Selick said of the film, which has so far remained shrouded in secrecy.

The project will hew to the spooky-sweet tone of Selick's previous work, he said.

"It won’t come from totally left field," he said. "What I personally gravitate toward tends to be fantasy, medium dark -- not too dark -- fairy tales and sci fi. Stop-motion takes something on the page that’s really dark and adds a little sweetness to it, a living toys realm."

Selick, who attended the California Institute of the Arts with Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and Pixar director Brad Bird in the 1970s, said he consulted with the animation studio's creative leaders several times while developing his script. Taking story notes from Pixar's candid "brain trust" was a new and sometimes arresting experience for Selick, who historically has been more of a lone tinkerer as a director.

"The first time, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if I can handle this, Why did John [Lasseter] agree to help me make my films?' " he said. "But then I found out it’s that way with everybody, even their best filmmakers. When you see what they produce, it’s like, 'OK, [I] don’t take any of it personally.' ''

The gist of the notes, Selick said, was, "Don’t get caught up in eye candy. They said, 'Let’s try to make your story as clear as possible and give it as much heart as it deserves.' "

Selick described the 2013 release date listed by IMDB.com for his film as "tentative."

RELATED:

Pixar announces Día de los Muertos film

'Pirates: Band of Misfits' helps stop-motion endure

Photo gallery: A brief history of stop-motion animation

--Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Henry Selick with a puppet from "Coraline." Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times


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