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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sarah Polley

Home theater: 'Take This Waltz,' 'Certified Copy' offer off-beat romance

May 22, 2012 |  2:17 pm

Take This Waltz

Looking to catch a film on Video on Demand or DVD or Blu-ray? Following are some of the newest options available to home theater aficionados.

'Take This Waltz'
Available on VOD beginning May 25

Actress Sarah Polley made her feature directorial debut with the achingly sad 2006 Alzheimer’s drama “Away From Her.” Her new film is funnier and sexier — albeit with an equally weighty core. Michelle Williams plays a flighty Toronto writer who develops a crush on her hunky new neighbor (Luke Kirby) that threatens to derail the comfortably childlike relationship she has with her cookbook-writing husband (Seth Rogen). As the crisis turns more serious, so does “Take This Waltz,” though Polley’s stylized dialogue and faintly fanciful tone keeps the movie from becoming too hard of a slog through a crumbling marriage. That mix of everyday problems with comic brightness can be jarring at times, but it’s also partly the point of the film, which is about how young couples deal with the revelation that life won’t always be some kooky rom-com. “Take This Waltz” opens in theaters in Los Angeles June 29.

'Certified Copy'
Criterion Blu-ray, $39.95

Legendary Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami goes international with his beguiling puzzle-film starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as a couple — possibly married, possibly strangers, possibly just actors in a movie — who spend a day walking around Tuscany, having an ever-shifting conversation about their ever-shifting relationship. “Certified Copy” will baffle those looking for explanations (or plot), but it should enchant those looking to watch attractive actors in a gorgeous locale, sharing powerful and playful moments. Criterion’s DVD and Blu-ray edition include an Italian documentary about the film and interviews with Kiarostami, Binoche and Shimell.

'The Secret World of Arrietty'
Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Japan’s animation masters Studio Ghibli do a typically superb job of adapting Mary Norton’s classic children’s novel “The Borrowers,” about a sickly boy who visits his aunt in the country and discovers a family of miniature people living in the house’s walls and floorboards. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi captures the sense of wonder and white-knuckle suspense in Norton’s book, but mainly he conveys the sense of proportion, always making sure the viewer knows just how tiny these “borrowers” are as they fight to survive. The DVD and Blu-ray don’t have much in the way of special features, aside from a look at the original storyboards, a music video and some Japanese promotional materials. However, Ghibli fans will be pleased to know that Disney is releasing two more of the studio’s classics on Blu-ray this week: Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 aerial adventure “Castle in the Sky,” and Yoshifumi Kondo’s beautiful 1995 teen romance “Whisper of the Heart.” Available on VOD beginning today.

'The Woman in Black'
Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Susan Hill’s 1983 gothic horror classic has been developed previously into a long-running stage play and an acclaimed British TV movie, each of which took its own liberties with Hill’s story, about a melancholy lawyer who stumbles into a mystery involving a ghostly figure and dead children. Director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman take a similarly free hand with their Hammer Films version, which stars Daniel Radcliffe as the solicitor who’s trying to figure out why he’s being plagued by a dark apparition. The film isn’t fully faithful to Hill’s plot, but it gets the book’s spirit right, working some classic ghost-story scares into an evocative sketch of a world where the living envy the dead. The DVD and Blu-ray add two short featurettes and a chummy Watkins/Goldman commentary. Available on VOD beginning today.

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— Noel Murray

Photo: Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in "Take This Waltz." Credit: Magnolia Pictures.


With 'Ramona and Beezus,' can Selena Gomez branch out from her Disney Channel roots?

July 22, 2010 |  4:37 pm

Selena Although having your own hit Disney Channel show might get you a record deal, clothing line, or lunchbox with your face on it, it doesn't always help you land A-list film roles.

Selena Gomez, who plays a girl with magical powers on the hit Disney Channel show "Wizards of Waverly Place," is the latest Disney teen star to try to make a go of it on the big screen. In Friday's "Ramona and Beezus," based on Beverly Cleary's beloved children's book series, Gomez will have her big-screen starring debut. In a print interview with the actress, she said she was nervous about making the jump.

The anxiety was ratcheted up when Cleary herself sent Gomez a DVD of herself explaining how she envisioned the part of Beezus, the studious teen who is continually embarrassed by her pest of a younger sister, Ramona.

“She’s like, ‘Hi, Selena, I’m very excited you’re playing the role. I wanted to give you some of the views of how I created Beezus,’ ” Gomez recalled last week, sitting in a trailer on the CBS lot, where she had just filmed a singing appearance on “America’s Got Talent.”

After watching the author’s video, she began to, as she says, “freak out.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, great. What am I getting myself into? This is my first thing.’ I was nervous. It was definitely a big responsibility.”

Even director Elizabeth Allen acknowledged that she'd had some concerns about Gomez and her wholesome television background but was reassured once the young actress got on set.

"I was personally concerned that she would turn in TV beats and moments," said Allen, "and was really delighted to see that she has an ability to match the actors around her, as far as tone."

Gomez, who is very clearly a product of the well-oiled Disney machine, said she chose "Ramona" because of its family-friendly qualities. Allen, for her part, sees this as evidence that she is making smart choices about her career. By the time the movie got a green light, Gomez -- who had auditioned earlier in the development process -- had her pick of feature film roles.

"She chose this, which was not a big payday, and she's a supporting role," the director said. "I think many other kids in her position would have taken the money and the leading role, but she felt there was a pedigree to the property... She wanted to work with a high-caliber cast [including John Corbett, Josh Duhamel and Sandra Oh] and soak up all their abilities."

But being aware about the challenges involved in transitioning from Disney to the multiplex doesn't make navigating them any easier. As my colleague Steve Zeitchik noted back in April when Miley Cyrus starred in the Nicholas Sparks tearjerker "The Last Song": "There’s an issue for Disney Channel stars trying to make the jump to movies, even frilly ones. The network's shows give their actors plenty of exposure, but they don’t exactly showcase their best acting. Even good acting gets lost there."

Indeed, many former Disney stars have struggled to be taken seriously on the big screen, including Ashley Tisdale, Hilary Duff and Vanessa Hudgens, whose new film "Beastly" recently had its release date pushed to early next year. Still, "The Last Song," the Cyrus film, fared moderately well at the box office, bringing in over $60 million stateside. And Zac Efron's face is currently plastered all over town for the campaign of "Charlie St. Cloud."

Gomez, who next stars in "Monte Carlo" opposite Leighton Meester, says that while she's certainly part of a certain Disney generation, she's looking to some established film actresses as templates. “I love Rachel McAdams. She is incredible,” she said. “I think that her career and project choices are really appropriate and perfect for her, and she kind of stays out of the spotlight; you never really see anything about her. Yeah, that’s how I would like to be.”

-- Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Selena Gomez. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.

RECENT AND RELATED

The Performance: Selena Gomez

Preview Review: The Quimbys are back in 'Ramona and Beezus'

Original 'Ramona' Sarah Polley hopes revamped character isn't 'too cute'


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Original 'Ramona' Sarah Polley hopes revamped character isn't 'too cute'

May 25, 2010 | 10:05 am

Ramonaold In the late '80s, almost every young girl saw a bit of themselves in Ramona Quimby -- the precocious redhead at the center of a popular television show whose curiosity always seemed to land her in hot water.

On the PBS program "Ramona," the bright-but-annoying 8-year-old was played by none other than a young Sarah Polley, who brought the character from the bestselling 1950s book series by Beverly Cleary to life, long before she became known as an indie actress/auteur for films such as "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Away from Her."

This summer, Fox is revamping the popular story yet again with "Ramona and Beezus," starring adorable newcomer Joey King and Disney tween queen Selena Gomez. The cuter take on a traditionally more pesty Ramona has already irked some bloggers and critics.

Take this scathing assessment on the female-centric blog Jezebel:

"'I hope you guys like it!' Selena Gomez says of her new 'Ramona and Beezus' trailer. No. We don't. Maybe because BEEZUS IS A SEX KITTEN AND RAMONA IS A PINT-SIZED MANIC-PIXIE DREAM GIRL."


MG3WOLCA48EX38CAH8WD4SCAOKZF9UCAP79Z83CA91GCWZCA716Y40CAOYBKNOCA50NS2UCAP1S683CAFPUVYXCAIOOUT6CA88XT4DCAUJZLDZCAFCMZ34CAD0Z5BXCACXKYA2CAYUYAIVCA278I0Z Last weekend we interviewed Polley -- who was in town promoting her new film "Splice" -- and asked her what she thought about the fresh take on Ramona. Though she said she hasn't seen the film and will "reserve judgment" until she does, she said she hopes the new film won't mess with the essence of Cleary's character.

"The one thing that I think would be a drag is if she's too cute a character and too sweet," Polley said. "That was what was great about Ramona. She wasn't a cute, perky little kid with perfect teeth. She was a little bit of an oddball. And when I read those books when I was 7 or 8 and felt not so pretty and not so popular and a little bit -- you know, feisty -- I felt like that book recognized me and spoke to me and made me feel less isolated. The books will always continue to do that for kids. I hope the movie does the same thing."

-- Amy Kaufman (Twitter.com/AmyKinLA)

Photos: Sarah Polley, above, as a young Ramona and, right, now at 31.

Credit: PBS, Ringo H.W. Chiu / For the Times.

Recent and related:

Preview review: The Quimbys are back in 'Ramona and Beezus'


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