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Category: March 2010

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Cameron vs. Beck, Round 2: Host addresses fracas, doesn't exactly tell whole story

March 24, 2010 |  6:11 pm

Glenn Beck took the bait -- bait probably understating the appeal; lollipops dangled in front of a toddler are less likely to be grabbed -- after James Cameron knocked down Beck last night for his position on global warming, for calling him the Antichrist and for asserting the talk-show host spread  "poisonous" ideas.

Beck spends most of the three-minute segment on his show today focusing on the Antichrist comment from 2007. Beck would actually seem to have a point in saying that he was joking and Cameron shouldn't take it all seriously. "I did call James Cameron the Antichrist...but only because of the Celine Dion song [from 'Titanic']. Horrific, really."

But what Beck doesn't say is that the context for the original remark wasn't some TiVoed broadcast of the 1998 Oscars. It was Cameron's announcement back in 2007 for a documentary he was producing that the director had uncovered proof that Jesus in fact wasn't resurrected. So Beck wasn't making some harmless "My Heart Will Go On" joke -- he was attacking Cameron's research and beliefs. And Cameron was basically calling Beck out for his hyperbolic name-calling in which he panders, as he so often does, to our more divisive impulses.

In other words, he was calling him out for for being Glenn Beck, a far more understandable diss.

Beck rounded out the segment today with his usual they're-out-to-get-you brand of anxiety-stoking. "He's upset with you because you're a global-warming denier," Beck said, turning to the audience -- as though the guy who's made some of the most popular movies of our time, and whose entire career is built on getting people to see his movies, is some kind of snooty anti-populist.

It's an interesting dynamic. Beck's penchant for incensing viewers by preying on our collective sense of an amorphous enemy is brilliant, but not new. Cameron's mouthiness for the last few months, and especially this week, is, however, more unexpected. Most don't take the bait when Beck dangles it right in front of them. Cameron is either too stupid or too smart -- or maybe just too rich -- to sit back and take it; in fact, he's the one who cast out the line in the first place. That would seem like a dicey move because it does what most of us thought impossible: It makes Glenn Beck a victim. Of course, as today's telecast shows, it doesn't take the host very long to undo that.

--Steven Zeitchik

RECENT AND RELATED:

Glenn Beck to James Cameron: It was a joke, you knucklehead

James Cameron vs. Glenn Beck: Is the director making a bid for a cable-news show?


An in-flight scare leads to a buzz script on the ground

March 24, 2010 |  3:36 pm

 Zach
EXCLUSIVE: The path that winds from a screenwriter’s mind to a finished film at the multiplex can begin in the most unlikely of places. For Zach Dean, it started on a seemingly doomed flight.

In September 2005, Dean, a high school teacher and struggling screenwriter, was sitting on JetBlue Flight 292 from Burbank to New York when news reports on the in-flight television system informed him and 138 other passengers that the plane’s landing gear had malfunctioned, possibly preventing it from landing.

For more than two hours, he sat on the plane contemplating his mortality as it circled Southern California, burning fuel in the hopes of making a dangerous touchdown a little less risky should the aircraft catch fire. By the time it finally landed — safely — at LAX, Dean had pledged to write a script about family.

The result of that high-altitude resolution is a screenplay called “Kin,” which Dean, 35, finished last year. Although the script’s narrative suggests “A Simple Plan” or “Bonnie & Clyde” more than a feel-good family film — it’s partly about a brother and sister who commit a robbery, kill a state trooper in rural Michigan and then are forced to go on the run — it touches on the themes of love and loyalty that raced through Dean’s mind as he watched his fate play out on the in-flight video system.

“The flight solidified what I think is important, and what’s important affects what you write,” Dean says. (During the flight, he also resolved to have a child with his wife; the couple now has a 2-year-old daughter.)

In a turn sure to provide inspiration to hundreds of unknown screenwriters, “Kin” has been steadily gaining momentum in Hollywood and is now attracting some top names.

Stefan Ruzowitzky, director of the 2007 foreign-language Oscar winner, “The Counterfeiters,” has agreed to direct the film, and he and Dean have spent the last several months developing the script. Meanwhile, 2929 Productions, the film financing and production entity run by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that has been behind movies including “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Two Lovers,” has chosen the script as its point of reentry into the filmmaking business after a notable hiatus.

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Oliver Stone to get under right-wing pundits' skin again

March 24, 2010 |  3:22 pm

Documentaries aren't exactly the most welcome form at movie theaters these days, especially documentaries about starchy subjects like South American leaders.

StoneBut those wishing to see "South of the Border," Oliver Stone's look at Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez — his background and the various perceptions of him — will now have their chance. A lefty-oriented distributor named Cinema Libre — they also released Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed" in its limited theatrical run — has acquired North American rights and will release "Border" this summer. The movie will come to Los Angeles on July 2 after opening in New York the previous week; it will subsequently expand to about eight more cities.

The film, which made several stops on the festival circuit last fall, features conversations with Chavez and other South American leaders, including Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

With left-right partisanship growing fiercer by the day (see under: a certain item about James Cameron and Glenn Beck),  it remains to be seen whether the Stone imprimatur prompts people to buy tickets to the movie or to protest it (or buy tickets because they're piqued by the protests). And it's an open question as to what effect any backlash could have on Stone's "Wall Street 2," which after a release-date change now comes out in September, after "Border" is released. Let's just say we don't expect Stone on Glenn Beck's show any time soon.

— Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Oliver Stone. Credit: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

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Could Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon be shining their cowboy boots?

March 24, 2010 | 12:56 pm

Exclusive:  Could Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon be saddling up for a ride together?

Word in the development community has the A-listers eying the lead roles in "Paper Wings," a love story set in the world of rodeo that's being developed at Sony. Cruise would take the role of a rodeo champ who falls for an up-and-coming country singer, played by Witherspoon.

Cruise

The actress has taken several rides into country-and-western territory, of course, with her Oscar-winning turn as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line" and, most recently, signing on for Sony's "The Pioneer Woman," the story of a woman who falls in love with a cowboy while on a cross-country road trip and winds up living on an Oklahoma ranch. Cruise, as far as we know, has never played a cowboy.

The project has been around for some time -- it was set up at New Line before it came to Sony -- but the Cruise and Witherspoon interest could turn it into an arm jerker (yes, we had to look that one up).

Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment is producing the project, which has led producers to talk to Gabriele Muccino  about directing; the Italian film maker and Smith favorite also directed Overbrook's underrated drama "Seven Pounds" and Oscar nominee "The Pursuit of Happyness." Several other directors are also in the mix.

Rodeo-set stories haven't exactly been hugely popular in Hollywood -- one of the most well-known is 1994's "8 Seconds," which starred Luke Perry and Stephen Baldwin, which tells you something. But with "Crazy Heart's" breakout success, unlikely love stories set in the country-and-western world now seem to be in vogue. Or are, um, chasing the cans.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Tom Cruise. Credit: Alberto Rodriguez / Getty Images


James Cameron vs. Glenn Beck: Is the director making a bid for a cable-news show?

March 24, 2010 |  6:30 am

Beck
James Cameron is starting to sound more and more like Jon Stewart every day. Heck, he's starting to sound more and more like Keith Olbermann every day.

It's rare enough that the director of a hugely successful action movie thrusts himself into the political discussion as much as Cameron has (especially as the filmmakers behind a more overtly political film, "The Hurt Locker," took such pains to shy away from politics). But it's even more anomalous for a director to engage with the rabble of cable news as directly as Cameron has.

According to a story in the Hollywood Reporter, what might have been a very unremarkable DVD-release party for "Avatar" on Tuesday night turned into a very sharp barrage of words from Cameron, in which he spared little quarter for Glenn Beck.

One comment contained an unprintable epithet. Some of the other comments on the Fox News host: "He's dangerous because his ideas are poisonous. I couldn't believe when he was on CNN. I thought, what happened to CNN? Who is this guy? Who is this madman? And then of course he wound up on Fox News, which is where he belongs, I guess." Cameron also challenged Beck to a debate (not a duel, but close).

Camer And he said that "Anybody that is a global-warming denier at this point in time has got their head so deeply up their ... I'm not sure they could hear me."

Wait, is this the same guy who directed "True Lies" and faced criticism by the left for his portrayal of Muslims (and was heralded by some on the right for his patriotism)? Or did some kind of John Connor time-travel thing happen and change everything?

Either way, as someone sympathetic to Cameron's politics (commenters, bring on the backlash) -- and unsympathetic to Beck's brand of, um, journalism -- I'm not sure how to feel about Cameron's outspokenness. On the one hand, it's easy to cringe at Cameron as poster child for populism of any kind; this is a wealthy director who spends a lot of time cocooned in his editing suite and/or Southern California mansion. (Of course Glenn Beck does the same in a TV studio and Connecticut mansion, but no matter.) Every time Cameron speaks out about public policy, it hands another easy point-scoring opportunity to those who paint the Obama administration and its many supporters in Hollywood as out of touch. It's Hanoi Jane all over again.

On the other hand, Cameron has not only earned the right to speak -- but he's also shown that people will listen. This isn't some obscure auteur writing an op-ed column; it's a guy who's proved again and again he can correctly gauge the tastes of the American public (probably better than most politicians, actually).

And besides, after two days of spin and fear-mongering from Republican leaders and their cable-news water carriers on healthcare, it's nice to see someone from the other side firing back, even if it's on a different issue. Democrats may soon start getting out there and selling the healthcare package. But as a plan to minimize the fallout is developed by people who lead the party, it's encouraging in the meantime to hear some candid words from a person who leads the box office.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos, from top: Glenn Beck. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press. James Cameron. Credit: Mustafa Quraishi / Associated Press

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Could Taylor Lautner be feeling invincible?

March 23, 2010 |  6:00 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The race to direct the new Taylor Lautner movie “Abduction” is entering the homestretch.

Lautn We previously reported that "Boyz n the Hood" director John Singleton and "The Express" filmmaker Gary Fleder were in the mix for the director's job. Sources now say the studio is also considering "Invincible" director Ericson Core. 

Core has met with the studio, several of the film’s producers and Lautner, sources say, and is considered a leading candidate. (We mentioned in the previous post that there was a veteran Hollywood hand in the running too who was further back in the race; that person is still further back (and isn't Core).

Core is a cinematographer-turned-director who, in addition to directing the underdog sports movie "Invincible," is also on board to direct the next installment in the "XXX" political action franchise.

Lionsgate is expected to make a decision on an "Abduction" director as early as next week, with the production carrying a certain urgency. Shooting is slated to start in July, and it's a narrow production window -- the movie needs to shoot before Lautner begins filming the next installment in the “Twilight” franchise, "Breaking Dawn," in the fall.

"Abduction" is also a priority for Lautner, who has made the project the first film of his newly launched Tailor Made production company.

"Abduction" comes from an original script by Shawn Christensen, and involves a teenager who slowly begins to discover that he's not who his parents have always said he is. The competition to land a gig like "Abduction" -- a high-profile film that's likely to shoot imminently -- is generally intense, with a barrage of meetings, horsetrading and recon missions among the various parties.

Singleton, Fleder and Core, however, are linked in unexpected ways: All three came out of the USC film school  at approximately the same time, and Core did photography work on Fleder's thriller "Don't Say a Word."

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Taylor Lautner. Credit: James White / Summit Entertainment


Dimension confirms it will again scream with Craven

March 23, 2010 |  1:17 pm

Scr
Last month, our colleagues over at Hero Complex broke the story that Wes Craven would be back to direct "Scream 4," a reboot of sorts that would bring Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox back from the original and pair them with a group of new actors.

Craven later tweeted that nothing was finalized on the project, but today, Dimension Films confirms that there will be a movie, that Craven will shoot it beginning in May, and that it will be based on a script from Kevin Williamson, the wunderkind who of course penned the original. "Kevin is right on his game with the new script -- the characters and story crackle with energy and originality -- to say nothing of some of the most hair-raising scares I've seen in a script since... well, since the original 'Scream' series," Craven, who directed the first three, said in a statement.

The movie is expected to be a reboot of sorts that could potentially spawn a new trilogy. The most recent 'Scream' came out in 2000, and despite the potential for box office to drop as a franchise fades, 'Scream' stayed remarkably consistent over its life from 1996 to 2000. All three movies earned between $150 million and $175 million worldwide.

Dimension said it is slating the new movie for an April 15, 2011, release, though Weinstein Co. release dates get offed as often as the virgin dies in a horror film, so maybe don't book that babysitter just yet.

One interesting side note: The announcement comes as a remake of another meta-horror comedy, "Fright Night," dubbed by some the original "Scream," moves closer to production with the hiring of director Craig Gillespie. That could create a race to production that would have both parties moving faster than if they saw, well, a hooded slasher.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in "Scream." Credit: Kimberly Wright

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Is it us, or is Ben Stiller looking more like Al Pacino every day?

March 23, 2010 | 11:10 am

Stiller Pacino5

Photos: Ben Stiller, left, by Alberto Rodriguez / Getty Images; Al Pacino by Chris Pizzello / Associated Press


With Chris Evans as Captain America, Marvel goes the rubber-faced route

March 22, 2010 |  7:39 pm

Evans
After seeing more jockeying and machinations than the health-care debate, Marvel has all but sealed a deal for Chris Evans to play Captain America. Most bloggers and journos are writing up the casting of the Fantastic Four actor as " 'Human Torch' gets cast as leading man," which we suppose is a slightly more diplomatic version of what many really wanted to say: "At least he's not Channing Tatum."

The interesting subtext here is that Marvel seems to be taking a step away from the recent trend in superhero casting. For a good chunk of the current comic-book renaissance, casting a lead role was about taking a hunky young unknown and seeing if he can act (like Brandon Routh, who it turned out couldn't, or Hugh Jackman, who could).

But more recently it's been about taking actors and seeing if they can play superhero (an experiment that for the most past has worked -- see under: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Christian Bale as Batman). Evans marks a return to the lesser-known-hottie approach (literally -- the guy is credited as "Harvard Hottie" in the big-screen version of "The Nanny Diaries"). In fact, almost every one of the actors on the studio's short list, save perhaps for John Krasinski, is the chiseled, stone-faced type (the type formerly known as evincing modest acting skills and facial expression).

That's an approach that brings in a certain kind of younger female fan. But Captain America is a role that requires acting and comedy chops. As envisioned in the script, at least according to what we've been hearing, the title character isn't the unvarnished hero of the original WWII comic; he's a more marginalized type who's dissed a bit for his ingenue patriotism. Evans has a few substantive roles under his belt, including the indie "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond." Let's hope his turn here doesn't make us cry.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Chris Evans with Dakota Fanning in "Push." Credit: Hirotake Okazaki / Summit Entertainment


Will audiences ever want to see the 'Twilight' stars do anything else?

March 22, 2010 |  7:08 pm

Tw
If there's one actress who could push a "Behind the Music-"style docudrama about a 1970s all-girl band to the top of the box-office charts, it's Kristen Stewart.

So why couldn't she do it?

"The Runaways," Floria Sigismondi's biopic that, of course, stars Stewart as femme-punk icon Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as her bandmate-rival-lover Cherie Currie, earned an extremely modest $800,000 in its opening weekend. For most limited releases, that number wouldn't be horrible. But the film opened on 244 screens, meaning it averaged a paltry $3,300 per screen. Given the die-hards (or Twi-hards) you'd expect would turn out for a Kristen Stewart debut, those numbers aren't impressive; in fact, they're a lot more punk than glam.

Pundits on Monday had plenty of reasons for the disappointing performance. Certainly the movie's R-rating hurt; younger Stewart fans might have bought tickets had they not been restricted from doing so by the MPAA. (Bob Berney, the head of distributor Apparition, noted that the rating "possibly ke[pt] some of the younger audience away.")

But there may be a deeper lesson here about Stewart: For all her acting versatility, when she strays from her "Twilight" wheelhouse, the fans don't roll with her. That was, after all, also the message some experts gleaned from her first post-"Twilight" movie, "Adventureland," which grossed just $16 million domestically despite getting some marketing play as a Stewart vehicle (and not three months after "Twilight" blew off the box-office doors). It's a lesson that's especially pointed with "Runaways" because Stewart, in inhabiting the role of Joan Jett, is in many ways picking up where Bella Swan left off. She's playing the moody rebel in both, yet fans apparently only want to see her playing a certain kind of moody rebel.

A similar point could be inferred from Stewart's "Twilight' co-star Robert Pattinson, who just last week released his first mainstream movie in which he doesn't play a vampire. With the romantic drama "Remember Me," Pattinson was taking on a genre even more difficult than period music-themed biopics, but, like Stewart, was also echoing parts of his "Twilight" performance (the tortured-lover part).

That should have locked up a chunk of his fan base.  But the movie wound up grossing $14 million in its first two weeks -- a (slightly) more impressive number than "Runaways" until you realize it opened on more than 2,000 screens. Its per-screen opening of $3,600, it turns out, mirrors Stewart's own lackluster weekend.

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