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Category: film festivals

Newport Beach film fest: 'Jewtopia,' John Wayne and lots more

April 25, 2012 |  5:56 pm


This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

“Jewtopia,” a stage show about the Jewish singles world, opened in a small theater in West Hollywood in 2003 and went on to become one of the longest-running comedies in off-Broadway history. Now “Jewtopia,” the movie, is set to make its world premiere at Thursday’s opening of the Newport Beach Film Festival.

It’s all quite a rush for Bryan Fogel, a former stand-up comic who created “Jewtopia” with his friend Sam Wolfson and directed the film version, whose ensemble cast includes Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rita Wilson, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jon Lovitz and Tom Arnold.

“The play is two guys on stage essentially setting each other up with girls, and the movie is the entire world of these characters and their families and their back stories,” Fogel said. “I like to think of it as ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ meets ‘Wedding Crashers.’ It’s crazier and raunchier than ‘Greek Wedding,’ but it’s that same universal theme of finding love.”

Fogel is one of many first-time filmmakers whose work will appear at the Newport Beach Film Festival, now in its 13th year. In all, 460 films from 50 countries will unspool at six Orange County theaters over seven days.

It’s the largest film slate to date for the festival, according to chief executive and co-founder Gregg Schwenk. The event is known for its strong lineup of action-sports films; this year, it also has robust selection of movies from the Pacific Rim and Latin America. “One of the unique aspects is the great breadth and depth of the festival,” Schwenk said. “We are always looking for films that we believe will resonate with a broad audience.”

Special events on tap include a youth showcase featuring filmmakers under 18, a Chuck Jones cartoon retrospective and animation seminar, and a screening of a restored version of the 1930 western “The Big Trail,” starring longtime Newport Beach resident John Wayne.

Other highlights include the world premieres of “Should’ve Been Romeo,” an ensemble comedy with Ed Asner, Carol Kane and Paul Ben-Victor; “Songs for Amy,” an Irish import about a lovesick musician trying to win his girlfriend back; and “The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez,” a film starring Ernest Borgnine about one man’s heroic revolt against a lawless nursing home.

Additionally, the festival will host the West Coast premieres of “Swerve,” an Australian film about a drug-bust gone bad, and “Sunset Strip,” Hans Fjellestad’s comprehensive history of the famous boulevard.

Another film with local ties premiering at the festival is “Behind the Orange Curtain,” a documentary about prescription drug addiction among teenagers in Orange County. The May 2 premiere and a second screening sold out quickly, so a third screening was added, said director Brent Huff.

The film begins with the drug-related deaths of two local teenagers and explores how easy it is for teens to obtain – and get hooked on – prescription meds such as OxyContin, Oxymorphine and Opana in affluent south Orange County, which “basically looks like Pleasantville,” Huff said.

“I wanted to go in and just ask questions,” he said. “How did this happen? Where do they get the drugs? What’s the DEA doing about it? I asked tough questions and they were more than willing to talk about it. Not just the parents, but the kids.”

Huff expects the film’s premiere to trigger a strong emotional reaction from the crowd, which will include some of the parents and teens he interviewed on camera.

“It will be a gut punch,” he said.

On a lighter note, this year’s action-sports spotlight film, “Decade of Dominance,” chronicles athlete Jamie Mitchell’s attempt to capture his 10th win in the World Championship of Paddleboarding in Molokai, Hawaii.

The film’s director, Brent Deal, traveled to Mitchell’s home in Australia, then Hawaii in the weeks leading up to the race to show the preparation involved in crossing the rough 32-mile Kaiwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu.

“We thought it would be a great year to show not only what I was trying to achieve but what it takes to do a race of this stature,” said Mitchell, who will appear with Deal at Saturday’s premiere. “It’s not just turn up and paddle. There’s so much more to it.”

Deal’s first film, “H2indO,” will also debut at the festival. It profiles seven of the world’s best stand-up paddleboarders, two of whom hail from Orange County, as they take on the surf breaks of Indonesia.

Newport Beach is “the mecca for stand-up paddling,” Deal said. Although the filmmaker and his team considered submitting to other film festivals, they ultimately decided against it, he said. “We said, ‘No way, we’re going to be in O.C.’”

[For the record: 1:37 p.m. April 26: A previous version of this post described the play "Jewtopia" as a two-man stage show. It centers on two male characters but other characters appear in the production.]


L.A. film festivals to celebrate Koren, Czech movies

Letterboxd: Social website for film fans launches

— Laura Randall

Photo: From left, Jon Lovitz, Rachel G. Fox, Rita Wilson, Joel David Moore, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Camryn Manheim and Tom Arnold star in "Jewtopia," based on the Off-Broadway comedy. Credit: Le Petit Canyon Productions

L.A. film festivals to celebrate Korean, Czech movies

April 24, 2012 | 12:34 pm

Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre will host two international film festivals.

"Look East: Korean Film Festival" will be June 23-24 at Grauman's. The festival will feature new and classic films from Korea including features directed by Kwon Taek Im, Jee-woon Kim and Chang-dong Lee.  And for the first time in the legendary Hollywood movie palace's history, Korean performers, including actor Byung-hun Lee, will have their handprints and footprints added to the theater's courtyard.

A schedule of the films and events will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information, go to http://www.LookEastFestival.com

The Czech Filmfest 2012 will take place May 16-24 at the Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theatre. The inaugural festival opens with the 2010 thriller "Walking Too Fast"  from director Radim Spacek, who will participate in a Q&A session.

Other films include 2012's "Four Suns," from director Bohdan Slama, and the 2011 animated  "Alois Nebel."

The closing night presentation moves to the Italian Cultural Institute, where "Rhythm on My Heels," a 2009 musical set in 1950s Czechoslovakia, will be shown. For more information, go to http://www.cinefamily.org/films/czech-film-fest-2012.


"No Surrender"

"Czech Film Fest Reflections Surroundings"

—Susan King

[For the record: A photo on an earlier version of this post was not of Byung-hun Lee.]

Photo: Byung-hun Lee will participate in a footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre during the Look East: Korean Film Festival in June. Credit: Look East: Korean Film Festival.

James Cameron, Jeremy Renner hit Beijing film festival

April 23, 2012 |  4:44 pm

Jeremy renner beijing film festival
There was plenty of Hollywood to go around on the opening day of the second Beijing International Film Festival on Monday. The day started with a morning screening of Marvel's "The Avengers" and finished with a gala that included popular vocalist Wang Leehom playing the piano and singing “As Time Goes By” from “Casablanca” while images of Humphrey Bogart floated across a backdrop. An orchestra even played a medley of Hollywood scores, from “Star Wars” and “Titanic” to “Mamma Mia!”

But if overseas visitors had any doubt about how China perceives its role in the movie world, the opening night gala provided ample reminders that it envisions great things. 

Between acrobatic dancers performing in rich silks and a shrill processional conjuring Peking Opera, Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong, the festival’s honorary chairman, nearly shouted at classical oratory volumes at the roughly 2,000 guests packed into the China National Convention Center theater for the three-hour gala.

Touting the six-day Beijing event as a better draw than its veteran competitor -- the Shanghai International Film Festival, which will turn 15 this June -- Guo said that the Beijing event was meant to define the capital as “a national cultural center and contributor to the exchange and prosperity of the world film industry.”

As Guo and Zhang Pimin, deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, belted out their speeches, their prepared remarks were projected onto giant screens for the few hundred foreign visitors in the audience, including, in the front row, James Cameron, director of the current China box-office hit “Titanic 3D.”

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Beverly Hills International Film Festival opens with 'Black Tulip'

April 23, 2012 |  2:17 pm

The 12th edition of the Beverly Hills International Film Festival begins Wednesday evening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater with the U.S. premiere of “The Black Tulip,” a drama from Afghanistan that was the country’s official Oscar submission in the foreign-language film category in 2010. The film, directed by Sonia Nassery Cole, is set in 2001 and revolves around a family that decides to open a restaurant for artists and poets to express themselves after the Taliban is vanquished.

Another 49 feature films, documentaries, shorts and animated movies in the five-day festival will screen at the Real D Theater (formerly the Clarity Theatre) in Beverly Hills. 

According to its founder, Nino Simone, the festival is all about the “love, the passion” for movies.

“We have a knack for discovering some really unique pieces and showcasing them,” said Simone. “Instead of being a mega festival where there are 250,000 attendees and the filmmakers get lost in the shuffle, we decided to focus on a limited amount of films.... We decided to keep it nice and compact and focus on high-end pieces that could move people.”

Other highlights of the festival include the world premieres of the psychological thriller “Sofia,” with Christian Slater and Donald Sutherland; the documentary “Beyond 360,” about sailing champion Dee Caffari’s circumnavigation of the globe; and “Uprising: Hip Hop and the L.A. Riots,” executive produced by Snoop Dogg. The last will air on VH1 on May 1.

The festival concludes Sunday at the Four Seasons with a gala and awards show. Anne Archer (“Fatal Attraction”) is set to receive the fifth annual Legends Award. USC professor Mardik Martin, who wrote the screenplay for “Raging Bull,” will receive the 2012 Parajanov-Vartanov Institute Award, presented annually to underrated artists. 

For more information go to beverlyhillsfilmfestival.com


Steve Carrell's 'Seeking a Friend' to premiere at L.A. Film Fest

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Beijing Film Festival attracts Hollywood movers and shakers

— Susan King

Beijing Film Festival attracts Hollywood movers and shakers

April 22, 2012 |  8:46 pm

Rob minkoff jackie chan
On the eve of the second annual Beijing International Film Festival on Sunday night, some 200 movie industry movers and shakers — many from Hollywood — piled into the trendy d Lounge in the Chinese capital, washing back petit fours and hors d'oeuvres with champagne under the vaulted brick ceilings.

The party was hosted by Rob Minkoff — director of the Academy Award-winning “The Lion King” — and as he and producing partner Pietro Ventani circulated among the guests, Minkoff reflected on how much has changed in China since he first came to Beijing in 1997.

At the time Ventani was helping the Walt Disney Co. set up its China offices and he invited Minkoff for a visit. At that time, there were just a few construction cranes on Chang An Avenue, the capital’s main East-West drag, and few other signs of the city’s future. 

Minkoff remembers scoffing when Ventani predicted a boom was coming. Of course, now he’s a believer. He filmed his 2008 Jackie Chan-Jet Li movie “The Forbidden Kingdom” here and marvels at glass-and-steel capital that began emerging that year, when the city hosted the Summer Olympics. 

“Like Paris in the 1920s, Beijing is having its world moment right now. If you’re in the movies and you haven’t been to Beijing, you’re kind of missing where things are really happening,” said Minkoff. He himself has another China project in the works — a film called “Chinese Odyssey,” though he declined to give a status report on the project, which has been gestating for some time.

Among those at the Minkoff bash ahead of the six-day, state-run festival  were “Superman Returns” producer and former Columbia/Tristar Pictures head Christopher Lee, former Creative Artists Agency China chief Peter Loehr, and “Transformers” and “X-Men” writer and producer Tom DeSanto.

Lee says he sees parallels between the Beijing of today and not Paris but Los Angeles as U.S. studios make a flurry of partnership announcements and jockey for position as the Chinese market takes off. (DreamWorks Animation said in February it would partner with two state-run media companies to build a new studio in Shanghai; Disney announced this month that it would partner with an animation arm of China's Ministry of Culture and China's largest Internet company, Tencent Holdings Ltd.; Disney also said last week that it would make "Iron-Man 3" a co-production with Beijing-based DMG Entertainment.)

It's anyone's guess as to which partnerships here will become dominant in what's projected to be the world's largest movie market in the world in the coming years.

"China is like Hollywood in the 1920s,” Lee said. “We’re all wondering which one of these big Chinese and China joint-venture companies forming is going to have the right a management. How else will China find its way?” 

Also mingling Sunday night were USC Film School professor and longtime Woody Allen producer Michael Peyser, Christopher Bremble, chief executive of Beijing-based visual effects studio BaseFX;  Aaron Shershow, unit production manager on Keanu Reeves’ upcoming directoral effort “The Man of Tai Chi,” now filming in China; and “Karate Kid” casting director Po-ping Au-Yeung. Also present were Alan Chu, head of film development at DMG Entertainment, and David Lee, producer of the Kevin Spacey-Daniel Wu film “Inseparable” due May 4 in China. 

Independent film sales veteran Michael Werner also joined the fete, as did Pete Rive, chair of Film Auckland, and a few rising Chinese industry creative types who’ve shown bilingual crossover skills, including writer-directors Chen Daming (the Chinese remake of “What Women Want”) and Eva Jin (“Sophie’s Revenge”) to the actresses Crystal Liu (co-star of Minkoff’s “The Forbidden Kingdom”) and Zhu Zhu (who appears in Daniel Hsia’s forthcoming “Shanghai Calling”).

Minkoff, whose wife is Chinese-American, bought a Beijing apartment in 2005 sight unseen at the recommendation of his future brother-in-law.  If Sunday’s soiree is any indication, he may soon have more expat Hollywood neighbors.

 “I thought I was buying as an investment, but I’ve never rented it,” Minkoff said. “I’m staying in it tonight. It’s like a second home.”


Disney, DMG team up to make 'Iron Man 3' a Chinese co-production

Beijing film festival opens amid China's movie industry boom

Full L.A. Times coverage of the China-Hollywood connection

— Jonathan Landreth in Beijing

Photo: Jackie Chan with director Rob Minkoff in 2008, when their film "The Forbidden Kingdom" was released. Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP / Getty Images.

Cannes 2012: Watch trailers of six films playing the festival

April 19, 2012 | 12:19 pm


Bruce Willis, Wes Anderson, Josh Hutcherson, Marion Cotillard, Lee Daniels and Nicole Kidman are among the talents bringing films to the Cannes Film Festival, whose lineup was announced Thursday. The prestigious festival kicks off in the southeast France town on May 16. Check out the trailers below to get familiarized with some up this year’s films.

“Moonrise Kingdom,” directed by Wes Anderson
Opening the festival is the Edward Norton-starring comedy by Wes Anderson. It’s his first film to appear at Cannes. Set in the 1960s, "Kingdom" centers on two young lovers who run away from their New England town, prompting a search party to go after them. Focus Features will distribute the film in the U.S. starting May 25. Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand round out the cast.

“On the Road,” directed by Walter Salles
Starring Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley, this long-gestating adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 Beat novel will be in competition at the festival. Executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola, the film also features Viggo Mortensen, Terrance Howard and Amy Adams.

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Tribeca Film Festival takes an international turn

April 18, 2012 | 10:36 am

Robert de niro tribeca
Since it was founded a decade ago, the Tribeca Film Festival has tried on many identities. It’s attempted to become a hot spot for sports movies, narrative documentaries, music-themed films and genre flicks, to name just a few.

But this year’s confab, which kicks off Wednesday night in Manhattan and runs through April 29, is assuming a more unlikely role: as a prime venue to discover international films.

The most prominent world-cinema gathering, of course, takes place 4,000 miles (and four weeks) away in Cannes, France. But thanks to the hiring of Frederic Boyer, a longtime Cannes Film Festival programmer, and a renewed focus on foreign directors, Tribeca this year will showcase an especially wide range of internationally flavored titles.

Among the featured films are a Havana-set coming-of-age story, “Una Noche,” from first-time British director Lucy Mulloy; “Yossi,” Israeli auteur Eytan Fox’s sequel to his well-received 2002 gay-soldier drama “Yossi and Jagger”; an Indian beauty-pageant documentary “The World Before Her”; and “La Suerte en Tus Manos,” a romantic drama from Argentina about a poker player who meets an old flame.

“We've always tried to have a diverse international lineup,” said Jane Rosenthal, who founded Tribeca with her producing partner, Robert De Niro. “But the program this year is definitely stronger.”

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L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest announces documentaries

April 14, 2012 |  8:00 am

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival has announced a lineup of 11 documentaries touching on subjects as diverse as South Korean pop music, the golden and lost era of Cambodian cinema, and healthcare to the remote villages of northwest China.

LAPFF runs May 10 – 20, with screenings at the Directors Guild of America, CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, and for the first time, the Art Theater in Long Beach.

The festival will screen:

"Seeking Asian Female," directed by Debbie Lum, about an aging American white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying an Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online.

"Planet of Snail," directed by Yi Seung-jun about a South Korean man who is deaf and blind and his wife, who helps him despite her own disability.

"Papa Mau: The Wayfinder,"  directed by Na’alehu Anthony, about a master navigator who taught Hawaiians the dying art of how to voyage on the seas without instrumentation.

"I am – SM Town Live World Tour" directed by Choi Jin-sung following South Korean pop stars.

"China Heavyweight" directed by Yung Chang about a coach in China who recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions. The top students face dramatic choices as they graduate — should they fight for the collective good or for themselves? A metaphor for the choices everyone in China faces now.

"Give up Tomorrow," directed by Michael Collins, about a teenager from a political family in the Philippines who is accused of a double murder, putting the judicial system to the test.


"Mr. Cao Goes to Washington," directed by S. Leo Chiang, about the first Vietnamese American ever to be elected to Congress and his bid for re-election in 2010.

"Restoring the Light" directed by Carol Liu, about delivering healthcare to rural Chinese villages.

"Uploaded: The Asian American Movement," directed by Kane Diep, about the extent to which Asian Americans have utilized new media such as YouTube to enter American popular culture and where this momentum will lead.

"Where Heaven Meets Hell," directed by Sasha Friedlander, about an intensive sulfur mining operation in Indonesia.

"Golden Slumbers," directed by Davy Chou, tracing the birth and destruction of Cambodian cinema, from its first film in 1960 to the arrival of the the Khmer Rouge in 1975.


French film festival City of Lights, City of Angels kicks off Monday

Woody Allen’s 'To Rome With Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

UCLA Iran film festival opens Friday with family drama 'Mourning'

— Julie Makinen



TCM Classic Film Fest: Stanley Donen on Hepburn, censors and more

April 13, 2012 |  9:00 am

Stanley donen tcm festival
When director/producer Stanley Donen took home an honorary Oscar in 1998, “in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation,” he turned on the charm at the Academy Awards, hoofing it up and singing “Cheek to Cheek.”

A former Broadway chorus dancer, he made his mark on Hollywood co-directing and choreographing musical classics with Gene Kelly — 1949’s “On the Town,” 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” and 1955’s “It’s Always Fair Weather.” Beginning with 1951’s “Royal Wedding” — best known as the film in which Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling — Donen also had great success as a solo director. He went on to helm 1954’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” with Jane Powell and Howard Keel; in 1957 he came out with both “Funny Face” with Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and “The Pajama Game,” starring Doris Day. In 1958 came the romantic comedy “Indiscreet,” with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, and later the 1963 romantic thriller “Charade” (with Hepburn and Grant) and the 1967 romantic drama “Two for the Road” (with Hepburn and Albert Finney).

Donen, who turns 88 on Friday, is appearing three times at the Turner Classic Movies Festival in Hollywood this weekend for screenings of “Funny Face,” “Charade” and “Two for the Road.” We caught up with him recently.

The TCM Film Festival is screening all three movies you did with Audrey Hepburn. She is my favorite actress. I hope you had a great time working with her.

She was wonderful.... We only had one disagreement.... On “Funny Face,” there was a scene where she danced in a black slacks and top. She said [I want to wear] black socks and I said no, white socks. She said it will ruin [the uniformity]. You can’t have white socks. I made a test with her in the white socks and she kept saying black socks. We were right up to the moment of starting the sequence. I went into her dressing room and said, “Audrey. We are never going to agree — you will have to wear the white socks.” She said all right. When the rushes came in she wrote me a little note: “Dear Stanley, you were right about the socks.” She was glorious looking. She was a lovely, lovely person. We stayed friends.

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French film festival City of Lights, City of Angels kicks off Monday

April 13, 2012 |  7:00 am

My way jeremie renier
France’s film industry is still riding high after the success of “The Artist,” the first French production to win the best picture Oscar. (It also won director for Michel Hazanavicius and lead actor for Jean Dujardin.) The afterglow is being felt by organizers of the 16th annual City of Lights, City of Angels film festival, which opens Monday at the Directors Guild of America Theater for a week of French features and shorts.

“There are more agents contacting us,” said François Truffart, director and programmer for COL-COA. “They may want to discover the next Jean Dujardin or the next Michel Hazanavicius. The interest among professionals is bigger than before.”

There are 34 narrative and documentary features and 21 shorts in the festival, which continues at the DGA through April 23. Some 40% of the films in the program already have U.S. distributors, said Truffart. Exposure at the festival doesn’t necessarily mean a film will get a distributor, said Truffart, but “I would say in the last two years more films have been acquired by distributors.”

The festival will open with “My Way,” a musical biography of French singer Claude François, who wrote “Comme d’Habitude,” which Frank Sinatra made famous in America as “My Way.” Star Jérémie Renier and director Florent-Emilio Siri (“The Nest,” “Intimate Enemies”) will appear at the screening, its North American premiere.

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