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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Seth Rogen

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.


Spirit Awards: Christopher Plummer, Jean Dujardin among early acting winners

February 25, 2012 |  2:42 pm

ChristopherPlummer

Christopher Plummer picked up the first statuette at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, winning the award for best supporting actor for his role in "Beginners," in which he plays a father and widower who reveals he's gay, surprising his adult son.

The venerable actor, who is considered a front-runner to win in the same category at Sunday's 84th Academy Awards, took the stage with a quip in keeping with the irreverent nature of the beachside Santa Monica ceremony hosted this year by Seth Rogen.

"It's taken me the longest time to realize that the Spirit Awards have nothing to do with booze!" said Plummer, who previously has won Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards for the role in writer-director Mike Mills' film. 

PHOTOS: Spirit Awards red carpet

The top prize for the independent film community, the Spirit Awards hand out trophies in 14 competitive categories. The afternoon affair is designed to be a more casual answer to the motion picture academy's lavish Oscar gala.

Rogen opened the show with a series of jokes targeting Hollywood personalities. In discussing why awards season is necessary, he said, "Without awards season we wouldn't know what a bigot Brett Ratner was," referring to the anti-gay slur the filmmaker made last year at a point when we was set to produce the Academy Awards telecast.

The two-hour ceremony moved along at a quick clip, with a number of prizes handed out in the first hour or so. Will Reiser won for best first screenplay for "50/50," a cancer-themed comedy inspired by his personal experiences battling the disease as a young man. Reiser was diagnosed while working on "Da Ali G Show" alongside Rogen, who also stars in and produced "50/50."

Guillaume Schiffman won the best cinematography award for his work on the awards-season juggernaut "The Artist," the black-and-white homage to the silent era that is up for best feature at the Spirit Awards and is expected by many to win the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards, where Schiffman is also nominated for his cinematography.

Shailene Woodley won the best supporting actress prize for her performance opposite George Clooney in the family drama "The Descendants." In the film, the actress plays a moody teenager who begins reconciling with her distant father when her mother falls into a coma.

The John Cassavetes Award, which honors the best feature made for less than $500,000, was presented to "Pariah" writer-director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper. The film tells the story of a black teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian while dealing with tension at home and other trials of adolescence. The film's star, Adepero Oduye, was nominated for best female lead for her performance.

And making it two for "The Artist," the film's star, French actor Jean Dujardin, received the award for best male lead. Dujardin's turn as silent-cinema star George Valentin has won him acting honors at the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs; he is also nominated for an Oscar.

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Winners & Nominees

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-- Oliver Gettell and Amy Kaufman

Photo: Christopher Plummer accepts his Spirit Award for "Beginners." Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images


Sundance 2012: Seth Rogen's phone-sex moment

January 28, 2012 |  2:37 pm

 

Rogen

Of the many things you might expect when you walk into a Sundance movie, a cameo from a member of the Judd Apatow crew isn't at the top of the list.

But there was one of those insiders, Seth Rogen, materializing on-screen during the risqué comedy "For a Good Time, Call…" As a phone-sex call is made to protagonists Katie and Lauren (played by Ari Graynor and the film’s co-writer, Lauren Anne Miller), two economically desperate twentysomething women who've started a phone-sex line in their New York apartment, Rogen pops up on screen, wearing a pilot’s uniform and engaging in a solitary sexual act in an airport bathroom as he banters dirtily with the women.

The sight of the actor prompted a peal of laughter at the movie’s premiere at Sundance earlier this week. As the back-and-forth unfolds, Rogen rips off one of the best lines of the film when, as things heat up on the phone, he calls out to a crew member in the next stall to “Delay the flight.”

There’s a reason the comic actor wound up in the movie: Miller is his wife.
 
"I remember Seth and I were brushing our teeth one night and I said 'Wouldn't it be great if we got some comedians to do cameos as some of the callers,' " Miller recounted to 24 Frames. "And then I said, 'Wait, would you do it?' And he said 'Totally.' "

Though he has no formal role on the picture outside of the cameo, Rogen advised Miller and visited the set. “I would be silly not to listen to the person who is extremely successful at doing what I’m trying to do,” Miller said.

Rogen isn't the only raunch-comedy mainstay to have an unexpected moment in the film -- witness Kevin Smith as a cab driver who rings up the phone-sex line while a passenger waits in the backseat.

With its raunchy story of female friendship, "Good Time" has evoked the inevitable comparisons to the Apatow-godfathered “Bridesmaids.” Miller said she showed the movie to several people in the filmmaker's posse but not yet the director himself, who has been working on a new movie.

Filmgoers will get a chance to see the movie and Rogen’s surprise spot -- Focus Features acquired the comedy and will release it domestically. “I feel like that women who watch movies have been subconsciously wanting this,” Miller said. "I hope this is only the beginning of real stories about real women.”

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-- Steven Zeitchik in Park City, Utah

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Seth Rogen. Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / Summit Entertainment


Golden Globes: Seth Rogen is ready for Ricky Gervais

December 15, 2011 |  9:09 am

50_50_seth rogen

"50/50," Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's buddy cancer comedy, has a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes but did only a modest $34 million at the box office this fall. Now, though, Rogen and Gordon-Levitt are getting some awards recognition -- the film landed two Golden Globe nominations Thursday. Gordon-Levitt was nominated for best actor in a musical or comedy, while the film itself (which Rogen produced as well as co-stars in), got a nod in the best picture (musical or comedy) category.

Rogen says he's looking forward to the show and is braced for any jokes Ricky Gervais may throw his way. Here's what he had to say about it all Thursday morning:

On how he heard the news:

I was phoned by my publicist on my home phone, which woke me up, because no one ever calls that. For a split second I thought someone I know might be dead, and then I remembered that today was the Golden Globe nominations and that maybe I was getting called for that.

His initial reaction:

I was very happy, it’s awesome. After never getting nominated for anything, it’s much nicer to get nominated for stuff. And honestly, I think it will help more people be aware of the movie, which to me is one of the most important things. I think that Will [Reiser] did a pretty amazing thing by even writing this movie, so it’s really nice that people seem to like it.

I was very pleased with and proud of the movie before this happened, but it’s obviously really nice when anyone recognizes what you’ve done. Believe me, I’ve done stuff that people hate, so whenever that doesn’t happen, I’m … psyched.

Thoughts on Ricky Gervais and the ceremony:

I think Ricky Gervais is funny. I’m not actually nominated [for a performance], so maybe I won’t get insulted horribly. But if he chooses to do it, then I’m game for that.

I only went to the Golden Globes once, a few years ago. It’s pretty fun. I remember being shocked at how few people actually seem to be paying attention to the show. You can watch it a lot easier on TV. But I did get drunk with Laurence Fishburne, so that was fun.

What he’s working on now:

Nothing that is officially tellable at this moment in time. As of now, I am actually technically unemployed.

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-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "50/50." Credit: Summit Entertainment


Joseph Gordon-Levitt in '50/50': Betsy Sharkey's film pick

October 19, 2011 |  1:10 pm

Getprev
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has such natural ease as an actor that it’s easy to forget just how talented he is. That’s going to be harder to do after “50/50,” a film he carries, even with a fine ensemble cast that includes Anna Kendrick as his therapist and Seth Rogen as his noisy and nosy best friend.

Directed by Jonathan Levine, using a light touch with Will Reiser's screenplay, the story hangs on Gordon-Levitt's 27-year-old Adam finding out he has spinal cancer. His odds -- 50/50 -- give the film its name. The actor turns Adam into a living, breathing human of the sort whom you might actually meet –- not looking for pity, just trying to cope -– in emotional and physical terrain that is funny and touching in equal measure.

The role showcases the strength of the 30-year-old actor who has been working nonstop since he was 7: that keen ability to capture a character's humanity seen in countless performances. It’s what made him so charming, falling in and out of love in “(500) Days of Summer,” so cool as the kid in TV's “3rd Rock From the Sun.” Even as a crazy grifter who moves in and won't leave in the recent indie “Hesher,” he makes the insanity appealing enough that you don't mind if he stays for a while.

But with “50/50,” Gordon-Levitt reaches a new depth, giving real life to the prospect of death.

 

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-– Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Anna Kendrick and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "50/50." Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / Summit Entertainment


Why didn't Seth Rogen's '50/50' perform better this weekend?

October 3, 2011 | 10:48 am

5050

By most standards, the people who publicized and marketed the Seth Rogen-Joseph Gordon-Levitt  dramatic comedy "50/50" seemed to have a well-thought-out strategy. They made sure the press, always crucial on a tweener film, got to see the movie early and often. And marketing materials concealed some of the more difficult illness elements that could turn off the Saturday-night date crowd.

Yet the movie was a disappointment this weekend, failing to take in even $9 million on nearly 2,500  screens.

Were there, in fact, things that studio Summit Entertainment should have done differently? Or was a comedy about cancer always headed to the land of the niche?

The answer may be a little bit of both.

The road was certainly sloped against the film. Comedies about serious subjects, from "Arthur" to "Larry Crowne," have bombed in recent months, and this one's about perhaps the most serious subject of all.

But Summit might also have embraced the tearjerker elements a bit more more than  the buddy-comedy angles, since the audience that comes out to a Rogen movie was going to smell something different anyway. (And it's not that the audience was that large in the first place -- see under "The Green Hornet" and "Observe and Report.")

Instead, Summit changed the title to its generic, percentage-heavy "50/50" from its former moniker, "I'm With Cancer." Posters showed Gordon-Levitt shaving is head in a way that you never would have connected to chemotherapy if you didn't already know it.

The movie could have also gone (and indeed may yet go) a more prestige route, playing on how it's a beloved critical choice (93% on Rotten Tomatoes, well above an upscale play such as "The Ides of March"). Emphasizing the quality of the film above more topically relevant moments worked for a similarly  heartfelt comedy, "Up in the Air," two years ago; there's little reason it couldn't work to at least a certain extent in this Anna Kendrick vehicle too.

In the spirit of the film's message, all hope isn't lost. It's already been a weird season, when movies gain a head of steam a week or more after they open; "Dolphin Tale" won the weekend despite coming in third on its opening weekend.  And "50/50" is a  movie that nearly everyone who sees likes, judging by the reaction of many of our journalist colleagues and the film's A- CinemaScore.

A cancer comedy was always going to be a word-of-mouth play. The question after this weekend will be whether there are enough mouths to spread that word.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt: '50/50' is a great title

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Anna Kendrick and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "50/50." Credit: Summit Entertainment


The week in film: '50/50,' 'Margaret' and 'What's Your Number?' (video)

September 30, 2011 |  4:02 pm

5050

The new cancer comedy "50/50" from Summit Entertainment has required the distributor to walk a fine line when it comes to communicating the fairly sober plot of the film -- which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the inspired-by-life story of screenwriter Will Reiser, who was diagnosed the disease at a young age -- with its uplifting spirit. Indie movie specialist Fox Searchlight has faced an arguably more fraught situation with the release of "Margaret," a film from the Oscar-nominated Kenneth Lonergan that's taken six years to debut. Fox enters the box-office fray this weekend with "What's Your Number?" a more conventional romantic comedy starring Anna Faris and "Captain America's" Chris Evans; will the success of the summer's breakout hit "Bridesmaids" bolster its commercial prospects?

Watch Los Angeles Times reporters Rebecca Keegan and Nicole Sperling discuss the latest happenings in Hollywood.

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Photo: Writer Will Reiser and actor Seth Rogen on the set of "50/50" Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / Summit Entertainment

 


'50/50' overcomes the odds for many critics

September 30, 2011 |  2:33 pm

Bryce Dallas Howard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a scene from '50/50'
Cancer is no laughing matter — except, apparently, in the new comedy "50/50," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer (the title refers to his chances of survival) and Seth Rogen as his wisecracking, big-hearted best friend. The film, which was inspired by screenwriter Will Reiser's personal experiences, is finding favor with most critics.

The Times' Kenneth Turan writes that "'50/50' walks a very tricky line. As a comedy about a young man with cancer, it needs to be serious enough to be real as well as light enough to be funny. Though it falls off the wagon at times, it maintains its balance remarkably well." Turan credits Jonathan Levine's artful direction and an expertly assembled cast (with a nod to Francine Maisler, who also cast "Moneyball"), and says that "the key element in '50/50' is the screenplay by Will Reiser, a young writer who, as has been widely reported, was inspired by his own experience as a twentysomething diagnosed with a rare type of cancer."

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt: '50/50' is a great movie title

September 29, 2011 | 10:47 am

5050

"50/50" is a buddy comedy about cancer, but you wouldn't know it from the title. And that's on purpose. The executives at Summit Entertainment changed the original title of Will Reiser's script "I'm With Cancer" in an effort to not alienate audiences from the film's tough subject matter.

In fact, if you didn't know ahead of time that the film was a cancer movie, you might not be more informed after taking a look at the poster. Sure, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shaving his head, but it's not exactly clear why. And the tag line "It takes a pair to beat the odds" conjures up ideas of gambling. Add in Seth Rogen in the background, and you'd think Gordon-Levitt lost a bet--not that he's shaving his head in preparation for this upcoming chemotherapy treatment.

The studio grappled with other titles for the comedy, which is generating positive reviews ahead of its release on Friday. "Get Well Soon" was discussed as one possible alternative. But "50/50," according to star Gordon-Levitt, is a perfect title. Said the 30-year old actor, "I like the title '50/50' so much better then 'I’m With Cancer.'

"Before the movie was titled that, my mind kept coming back to the idea of what if someone told me I had a 50% chance of dying," the actor said during a recent interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. "I would be thinking about coin flips all the time. I also like it because the phrase '50/50' invokes a relationship and that’s what the movie is really about, much more so than cancer.

He continued: "Yes, the story is about a guy who has cancer but it’s really about the relationships he has in his life: his friend, his mom, how he’s dealing with women. That’s really the heart and soul of the movie."

To hear more from Gordon-Levitt, read this interview with the actor, who's currently at work filming Christopher Nolan's upcoming Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises."

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Will Reiser and writing about what you know: getting cancer

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Anna Kendrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in "50/50." Credit: Ed Araquel/Summit Entertainment

 


Films big and small head to Toronto festival in search of buzz

September 7, 2011 |  2:41 pm

'50/50' with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt

Known for crowd-pleasing, commercial Hollywood comedies, Seth Rogen has never been to the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. This week, though, America's stoner-in-chief will be heading to the cinematic gathering in his native Canada and rubbing elbows with Oscar mainstays like George Clooney and Brad Pitt to promote “50/50,” a buddy film he produced and stars in about a young man who's diagnosed with cancer.

If Rogen's first Toronto appearance is evidence of the actor's movement toward somewhat more mature fare, it is also testament to the festival's unique role as a critical platform for introducing somewhat challenging or genre-busting films to a wide, mainstream audience heading into the busy fall movie season.

Photos: 2011 Toronto Film Festival lineup's pluses and minusesAlthough it comes right on the heels of film festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Venice, Italy, Toronto — which kicks off Thursday — is much bigger both in terms of the number of films (about 300) and the media exposure. Reaction from the press, and the public, during the 11-day event goes a long way toward determining many movies' fate in terms of commercial success and critical recognition.

Last year, for instance, “The King's Speech” and “Black Swan” received important boosts at the festival, helping both to achieve Oscar and box-office glory.

“50/50,” which premieres Monday at Toronto and which Summit Entertainment will open in U.S. theaters on Sept. 30, is based on the story of Rogen's friend Will Reiser, who wrote the script. The movie stars Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but Rogen's description of the film in an interview — “a buddy comedy about some young dude who has cancer” — explains perfectly why it needs the good buzz of a festival to have a shot at the box office.

“Will got sick six years ago and initially we started talking about making some kind of movie about it,” Rogen said. “But at that point we didn't have any context on it. It wasn't until he got better that we could see it was a story.”

Of course, veterans like Clooney and Pitt will be at the glitzy festival too. Clooney stars in two films showing at Toronto, the dramatic comedy “The Descendants” and the political drama “The Ides of March” (which he also directed). Pitt takes the wraps off “Moneyball,” the featurized version of Michael Lewis' book about Oakland A's general manager Bill Beane.

Good buzz at Toronto, though, isn't a sure sign of Oscar success. Two years ago, Jason Reitman's “Up in the Air” rode out of town as the unquestionable best-picture favorite but was eventually shut out at the Academy Awards.

Many films that come to Toronto require a more nuanced sell than what can be achieved with a 30-second television commercial. That's the case with “Moneyball.” Despite a predominantly male cast and a plot set in the world of baseball scouting and statistics, the studio is trying aggressively to market the film to women and non-baseball fans.

There are many other such films with big names attached that are looking to break out, including David Cronenberg's “A Dangerous Method,” about the lives of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as well as Madonna's time-jumping romance, “W.E.” Then there are dozens of below-the-radar movies looking to connect, including a feel-good youth-ballet documentary called “First Position” and a horror film inflected with Cuban politics, “Juan of the Dead.”

 

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