Ben Affleck isn't off to a bad start as a movie director.
His directorial debut, 2007's "Gone Baby Gone," received overwhelmingly positive reviews, while 2010's "The Town" earned equally great marks and grossed more than $154 million globally.
Affleck's next movie, "Argo," scheduled for Oct. 12, presents the hardest test yet of his expertise behind the camera, as he steps into a genre -- Middle Eastern conflict -- that has felled any number of skilled filmmakers.
Based on the true story of an Iranian rescue operation that feels more like "Tropic Thunder" than anything military intelligence could dream up, "Argo" stars Affleck as the architect of the mission.
Here's a look at the latest trailer, complete with our Trailer Trash commentary:
Brad Pitt's "Killing Them Softly" divided audiences when it screened this week at the Cannes Film Festival: Some responded to the film's metaphoric overtones about capitalism and politics; others found it heavy-handed. The Times' Steven Zeitchik and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips recap one of the more provocative films of this year's movie gathering.
Two mainstays of Web culture are sending short messages — via Twitter, instant messaging, texting, etc. — and re-appropriating pop-culture imagery, as the many mash-ups on YouTube or celebrity memes on Tumblr demonstrate. The smartphone app PercyFX does a little bit of both, allowing users to insert personalized written messages into clips from Hollywood movies.
Take for example the clip above from "The Big Lebowski," in which the slacker protagonist Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski uses an old detective's trick to reveal what the shady smut peddler Jackie Treehorn previously wrote on and ripped off a notepad. In the actual film, the Dude turns up a crude doodle, but users of PercyFX can change that to any message that fits into 54 characters.
Some of the app's suggested uses include sending birthday wishes or invitations, or even telling off your boss while quitting (don't expect a good reference), though users will doubtless come up with their own ideas.
The app, which launched a BlackBerry version in December and an iPhone and iPad version in January, currently includes a modest selection of recent and older films from Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, including "Bridesmaids," "Animal House," "Despicable Me," "Sixteen Candles," "Wayne's World" and "Rango." New films are being added to the library at a rate of about one per week. The app is free, but customizing videos requires buying credits, with individual videos ranging from 24 to 33 cents.
Once created, the videos can be shared via email, Facebook and, in the case of Universal films, YouTube. (Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom Inc., is currently engaged in a copyright infringement lawsuit with YouTube.)
Julie Steiner, president of Toronto-based Percy3D, sees the app as a fun way for users to interact with and share movies they enjoy and identify with. "It's kind of like in your high school yearbook, everybody chose a quote from a movie," she said. "This is sort of this generation's version of that."
Steiner said the app is designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of users. "Depending on what age you are, different things appeal to you, different clips," she said. "We're always looking for stuff that's going to appeal to different age groups."
That said, the company is aware that a smartphone app could be a good way to reach a coveted young demographic. "That's the way [young people] are communicating and finding things," said Steiner, who is also a mother of teenagers. "My kids don't watch TV," she added. "They watch the Internet, they watch the computer."
For studios like Paramount and Universal, apps like PercyFX allow them to monetize their back catalogs and hopefully introduce new generations to their existing properties. The app, for example, also provides links to purchase or rent the featured films via iTunes and Amazon's video-on-demand services.
Steiner also said the app's current text-based personalization features are just the beginning, and the technology powering the app can also handle user-generated multimedia content such as photos and video.
Check out two more tongue-in-cheek videos created by 24 Frames below.
Not that long ago, an Eddie Murphy was a box-office slam-dunk.
And then came "Meet Dave."
And "Imagine That."
DreamWorks' "A Thousand Words," which stars Murphy as a fast-talking book agent, is finally being released nearly four years after it was filmed. Paramount, which releases DreamWorks movies made at the studio before Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider's company moved to Disney, isn't expecting "A Thousand Words" to break any records.
Paramount initially hoped that "A Thousand Words" would benefit from Murphy's work in the ensemble caper comedy "A Tower Heist" and his hosting this year's Oscars. But "Tower Heist" fizzled fast, and Murphy quit as the Oscar MC when Brett Ratner (who directed "Tower Heist") was forced to resign as the Academy Awards' producer.
We're not even a week into 2012, but already some interesting story lines are developing. Tom Cruise has re-emerged as a major movie star with the ongoing success of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"--but will the momentum carry over to his next roles?
Meanwhile, both Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" and the Kristen Wiig-anchored comedy "Bridesmaids" show some awards chops. We break down the stories from the past week in Hollywood.
We already knew Christopher Nolan was up to something topical with “The Dark Knight Rises” when he decided to shoot near Occupy Wall Street. Now we have a clearer sense of what that topic is.
As the Batman film's new trailer released online Monday suggests, it’s economic disparity and government response to organized protest, among other subjects.
Over a haunting rendition of a child singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" (lest there be any doubt about his national themes), Nolan offers us a peek at his haves-and-have-nots preoccupation when he has Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle whisper in the ear of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne a message from the 99%.
“You think this can last?" she says. "There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. And you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The ante is upped with a quick shot of a tank taking aim at what appears to be a group people (protesters?) congregating on a City Hall-like building -- an image, incidentally, that also evokes the Arab Spring.
And if its patriotic themes weren’t evident enough, the big act of villainous violence happens at a football game — and as a kick returner is speeding to the end zone, no less. (Thomas Hardy, wearing a gas-mask, of course does villain honors as Bane, setting off explosions-cum-earthquakes behind the player.)
Nolan cut to the issues of the day with “The Dark Knight” in 2008, posing questions about the appropriate responses to terrorism and the nature of heroism in a post-Sept. 11 world. Here he swivels his gaze.
Not a lot of filmmakers would attempt to roll together Occupy, Egypt and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in one cinematic package, let alone in one with superheroes. But Nolan is, as ever, thinking big, with his typical blend of flash and seriousness.
The movie opens July 20, with footage currently showing before some screenings of "Mission: Impossible."
Whether he's playing a small-town man hiding a secret past in "A History of Violence" or the Viennese psychoanalytic pioneer Sigmund Freud in the upcoming "A Dangerous Method," Viggo Mortensen seems to come alive in David Cronenberg movies. The two have what the Canadian auteur describes as "that strange old thing we call chemistry."
What is it that makes the actor so unique? Cronenberg describes Mortensen's preoccupation with detail before he even arrives on set. On "Method," for instance, Mortensen exchanged dozens of emails with Cronenberg about Freud's personal habits, including questions about the type and quality of cigars he smoked.
Check out Cronenberg describing the actor's meticulous work habits as he sized up the actor at The Times' Envelope screening series.
In Steve McQueen's new sex drama, "Shame," Michael Fassbender continues his streak of playing complex, even tortured types, the kind he recently brought to life in movies as diverse as "Jane Eyre" and "X-Men: First Class."
In "Shame," he stars as Brandon, a successful New Yorker who's also a sex addict who lacks anything close to a grip on his passions.
How did Fassbender, known as a cool customer in real life, so convincingly shift into character? In a panel discussion as part of the Envelope's Screening Series at the ArcLight Sherman Oaks on Thursday, McQueen describes the secret to Fassbender's acting abilities.
While "Puss in Boots" will win the box-office crown this weekend, two other new releases will provide some of the most compelling storylines. "In Time" will serve as the latest notch on the acting resume of Justin Timberlake, who continues his career reinvention from singer to actor. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp will try to prove that he can still work his quirky magic in a smaller, more independent film when he opens "The Rum Diary."
The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik break down the careers of two of the more magnetic, and complicated, entertainment personalities working today.
It's an interesting weekend at the movies. A found-footage horror film, "Paranormal Activity 3," tries to solidify its status as a stalwart Hollywood franchise. Meanwhile, a drama about the financial crisis, the Zachary Quinto-Kevin Spacey film "Margin Call," tells of a night in which Wall Street traders see their world collapsing around them.
How will filmgoers respond to a story that seems tailor-made for this Occupy Wall Street moment? The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik offer their breakdown of the week in Hollywood.