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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: October 2010

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Noomi Rapace: I'm glad Rooney Mara is a relative unknown

October 27, 2010 | 12:04 pm

Noomi2 Noomi Rapace had never heard of Rooney Mara, the young actress who was recently tapped to play Lisbeth Salander in the English-language version of of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," before she was cast in the part.

But Rapace, who, of course, originated the Salander role in the three Swedish films adapted from author Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, says she now endorses the choice.

“I don’t know her. I haven’t seen her,” said the 30-year-old, who was in Hollywood to promote the Friday U.S. release of the final film in the trilogy, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.” But, she added, "I think that David Fincher is a great filmmaker, and he probably made a good choice.... I don’t think that people should ever know so much about an actor that they go into the theater and can't see the character."

Since she was cast in the Salander role several months ago, Mara has faced criticism (perhaps inevitable, given the affection for Rapace) about whether she could walk in the actress' footsteps. Mara has sought to answer those critics by throwing herself into the role. It’s been reported that Mara, who has been in production on the remake in Sweden since September, recently pierced her nipples and dyed her hair to get into character.

Rapace herself famously went to similar lengths to play Salander, cutting off her hair, buffing up and getting seven body piercings. "I’m overwhelmed by how people have embraced my performance in the films," Rapace said. "I didn’t expect that at all."

 Rapace, on a brief respite from production of Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” sequel in London, said, despite the acclaim it brought her, she was not eager to reprise the Salander role.  "I was done with it, and I was very clear that I didn’t want to do it again. And when people knew that it was David Fincher, everybody came back to me and said, ‘Have you changed your mind?’ No. Why should I?”

The actress says she has not been asked by the filmmaker or Mara for advice on how to approach Salander. "I don't think I could help her, because she has to find her own [version]. I don't know more about this book than she does, because she's probably read the books, and she has to find her own truth and give something from her to it. She will probably do something completely different."

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Rapace in West Hollywood earlier this week. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times.


Noomi Rapace is not Lisbeth Salander

Noomi Rapace, the girl with the dragon tattoo, will have a vampire bite

Rooney Mara's shoulder, transfixing Sweden more than ABBA

Will Rooney Mara make a good Lisbeth Salander?

Rooney Mara will be 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

Around Town: A weekend of spooky movie screenings

October 27, 2010 | 11:32 am

If you’ve seen “Paranormal Activity 2” but are still dying for some more fright nights (especially with Halloween upon us this Sunday), fear not. There are plenty of terrific horror films out there thanks to the American Cinematheque, the Silent Movie Theatre, the New Beverly Cinema, UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is closing its 20th anniversary of the Film Foundation on Friday with two classic chillers: Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 shocker “Shadow of a Doubt,” starring Joseph Cotton as the “Merry Widow” serial killer and Teresa Wright as his niece, and Fritz Lang’s World War II 1944 espionage tale “Cloak and Dagger” with Gary Cooper and Lilli Palmer. The latter is rarely seen theatrical. www.lacma.org

The Paley Center for Media is also getting into the ghostly spirit with its “Halloween Classics” Screening series, which continues daily through Sunday. Among the spooky fare being screened are episodes from “The Munsters,” “The Simpsons” and such specials as “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” www.paleycenter.org

The American Cinematheque’s “Oh, the Horror” monthly festival at the Egyptian concludes with some fun fare. On tap for Thursday are two vintage Universal horror flicks with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi: 1935’s “The Raven” and 1934’s “The Black Cat.” Friday is “Night of Bloody Horror” with Roger Corman and Danny DeVito’s “Blood Factory!” The programs include webisodes from FearNet.com, DeVito’s favorite “splattercuts” from his TheBloodFactory.com, and Corman’s 2009 collaboration with Netflix Web series “Splatter,” directed by Joe Dante. Dante, Corey Feldman and Tony Todd are scheduled to appear. Rounding out the chills Saturday is a 70mm print of the 1984 horror comedy classic “Ghostbusters,” starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver. www.americancinematheque.com

The Grindhouse Film Fest at the New Beverly Cinema presents two vintage horror flicks Thursday evening starring Robert Quarry: 1972’s “Dr. Phibes Rises Again,” with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, and 1971’s “The Return of Count Yorga,” with Mariette Hartley. On Friday, the New Beverly features 2009’s “Trick r Treat,” directed by Michael Dougherty, who is scheduled to appear in person and host a costume contest, and 1982’s “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” starring Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin. The New Bev goes into the vaults for Sunday’s offering the original 1941 “The Wolf Man,” with Lon Chaney Jr. and James Whale’s splendid 1933 version of “The Invisible Man,” with Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart. www.newbevcinema.com

The Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre presents a rare screening Friday evening of the 1980 ghost story “The Changeling,” starring George C. Scott. Discussion to follow with director Peter Medak and producer Joel Michaels. Set for Saturday at the Aero is the fifth annual Dusk-to-Dawn Horrorthon, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Among the flicks featured this year are 1985’s “Fright Night,” 1973’s “Don’t Look in the Basement,” 1992’s “Candyman,” 1979’s “Phantasm” and 1996’s “Cemetery Man.” And on Sunday, the Aero presents the 1987 cult horror comedy “The Monster Squad.” Director Fred Dekker will be on hand to discuss the film. www.americancinematheque.com

Laemmle’s October Horror and Suspense Series at the Royal Theatre comes to an end with one of the best horror films in the past 40 years: 1973’s “The Exorcist.” You’ll never eat pea soup again. laemmle.com

Continue reading »

A pair of 'Avatar' sequels is on its way from James Cameron

October 27, 2010 |  9:11 am

James Cameron has set his return trip to Pandora.

Fox announced Wednesday morning that "Avatar 2" and "Avatar 3," the sequels to last year's science-fiction blockbuster, will be James Cameron's next films, with the director beginning work on the scripts in early 2011. Production on "Avatar 2" could begin as soon as late '11, with the movie likely in theaters in December 2014, according to Fox.

Although it was widely believed that Cameron had many ideas for "Avatar 2" and wanted to begin work on it shortly, the fact that it would be his priority -- and that the studio was planning on a third film as well -- represents a major development. With his heavily developed story lines and intensive use of new technology, Cameron can often take a decade or longer between films.

Fox said in its announcement that Cameron has not made a decision about whether to shoot the two films back to back but that he well could, which would allow "Avatar 3" to come out as early as December 2015.

There was little detail about the plot for the new movies. "Avatar" ended with Jake (Sam Worthington) joining the Na'avi and fighting off the invasion of human armed forces led by Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang).

Cameron did say in a statement that the movies "will be self-contained stories that also fulfill a greater story arc" and that "we will not back off the throttle of 'Avatar's' visual and emotional horsepower and will continue to explore its themes and characters."

It's also not known how many of the original cast members will return, though it is all but assured both movies will be in 3-D. Cameron's writing partners also remain a question; Laeta Kalogridis ("Shutter Island") contributed heavily to the script for the first film.

The original "Avatar," which came out in December and played through the winter, was a global phenomenon that grossed about $2.8 billion worldwide. Cameron's work will also be coming back to the big screen with a 3-D rerelease of "Titanic," which is expected to hit theaters in April 2012.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Avatar. Credit: 20th Century Fox


A new entrant into the 'Deadpool'

October 26, 2010 |  7:17 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The story that's unfolded around who will direct "Deadpool," the Ryan Reynolds movie based on the Marvel antihero, has been almost as colorful as anything that appeared in the comic book itself. Robert Rodriguez was going to helm it, then he wasn't, then he was, and now he's not.

But sources familiar with the project say a new name has emerged for the director's chair, and it's an unconventional one: Adam Berg, a heretofore little-known Swedish commercial and video director.

Berg has never directed a feature before, but he gained plenty of acclaim with  "Carousel," a stylish short (you can check it out below) made for Philips Electronics that won the prestigious Cannes Lions International Advertising prize.  In a one-take freeze-frame, the short tells of a bank heist in a manner that evokes both "The Town" and "The Dark Knight." (Incidentally, it was a Philips-funded film, "The Gift," that provided the springboard for a different up-and-comer, "47 Ronin" director Carl Rinsch.)

Berg's work is admired both by those making "Deadpool" as well as by Reynolds, making him a top contender to land the job, say sources. The movie still has to overcome obstacles before it moves forward. But if it does, it will feature one big star — and a director who may well find himself on the way to becoming one.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Deadpool cover art. Credit: Marvel Comics.


Deadpool shows signs of life

Swimming in a murky deadpool

Alvin and the Chipmunks closes in on its ringleader

October 26, 2010 |  6:52 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The third Alvin & the Chipmunks film may wind up looking a little like the fourth Shrek movie.

That's because Mike Mitchell, the filmmaker behind "Shrek Forever After," is now in negotiations to direct the new installment in the live-action / animated franchise, according to several sources familiar with the project.

With a production start date just 10 weeks away, the third movie in the cartoon-creature franchise has been hurriedly searching for a director ever since "Private Parts" filmmaker Betty Thomas passed on the job. Mitchell, in addition to "Shrek," also worked on "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Kung Fu Panda." Fox could not immediately be reached for comment.

The new Chipmunks movie, set for release next December, may or may not be shot in 3-D. It is, however, expected to involve the chipmunks getting shipwrecked, and its let's-fast-forward-the-tape-recorder songs are sure to once again enchant your kids while driving you crazy.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.' Credit: 20th Century Fox


'Aftershock,' China's domestic box-office champ, finds a way to U.S. theaters

October 26, 2010 |  5:57 pm

"Aftershock," China's highest-grossing domestic film of all time, has found a way into U.S. theaters. The movie, which played at the Toronto International Film Festival, will open at selected AMC theaters across the country Friday. Earlier this month, China Lion Film Distribution announced a partnership with AMC Entertainment to introduce mainstream Chinese films to American audiences.

Directed by one of the country's most popular directors, Feng Xiaogang, "Aftershock" revolves around the aftermath of the massive 1976 Tangshan earthquake.

Made for $20 million, which is a big budget by Chinese cinema standards, "Aftershock" was released in 5,000 standard and 14 IMAX theaters this summer in China. By August, it had outgrossed "The Founding of a Republic" to become the most successful Chinese film with nearly $80 million in ticket sales. ("Avatar" remains the all-time king of the Chinese box office, with more than $200 million in sales.) "Aftershock" is also China's official entry in the foreign-language Oscar category.

Locally, "Aftershock" will be playing in Arcadia, the City of Industry, Monterey Park and Tustin. Watch the trailer below.

-- Susan King


Darren Aronofsky will make a robot movie (but not that robot movie)

October 26, 2010 |  4:15 pm

Darren Aronofsky is known for making hybrid films, a la the upcoming supernatural-ballet blend "Black Swan." So the headlines write themselves on his decision to take on "Machine Man," a story of a man who becomes part-robot as he gradually replaces his vital organs with mechanized parts.

The film, based on Max Barry's online-serial novel, will be a slower burn than Aronofsky's "Wolverine 2," a studio film with a lot of momentum. "Machine Man" is being written by Mark Heyman, Aronofsky's producing partner who spent years meticulously researching and chiseling out "Black Swan" (Aronofsky's non-studio movies are developed slowly and carefully in general).

Fanboys hoping against hope Aronofsky still will take on the financially troubled "Robocop" reboot will be disappointed with the news -- with the director doing this robot-themed project, there's almost no chance Aronofsky will go back to the same well again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Darren Aronosky. Credit: Samir Hussein / Getty Images


'Inside Job' director Charles Ferguson: The 'tea party' is not the answer

October 26, 2010 |  3:15 pm

Charles Ferguson's anatomy-of-a-financial-crisis film "Inside Job" -- in which he documents in a sober, level-headed tone the 2008 economic crash and buttonholes academics, government officials and Wall Street executives he believes were responsible -- provokes plenty of rage about how we got into such a fiscal mess. (It also has angered some of the people it depicts, such as former Federal Reserve Board governor Frederic Mishkin, who is called to task for a report he authored; in an op-ed in the Financial Times earlier this month, he offered this rebuttal.)

We caught up with Ferguson, who previously directed the anatomy-of-a-military-crisis movie "No End in Sight," to hear his latest views on the economy, the reaction to the film and whether he thinks the "tea party" has the answers.

One of the most scathing aspects of the film is how you implicate Barack Obama and his administration for perpetuating the crisis with its lax oversight of Wall Street. Do you foresee a new direction for the administration now, especially with the resignation of Larry Summers?

I don't see much change at all. And the small amount of change we do see is driven by political fear as opposed to a real change in sentiment or policy. The underlying rules of the game have not changed very much.

Why do you think most people have been slow to recognize, then, that this has not just been a George W. Bush problem?

I think that many people in America believe by supporting and voting for Barack Obama they would be fixing this problem, and part of the emotional difficulty for Americans is to come to terms with the fact that it's not the case. It's a bipartisan problem. You can't just address it by voting for a different kind of party or candidate. It's going to be longer and harder take a bottom-up change, like the civil rights movement or the environment.

In the eyes of many Americans, the tea party has taken up that mantle. What do you make of their place in prompting reform?

I think in a situation where people are under a great deal of economic stress, it's natural to get movements like this. But traditionally in American history they don't last a very long time. The more significant question is whether there's going to be a serious movement for reform, which I don't take the tea party to be.

Why is that?

Continue reading »

Justin Bieber tries to make the big screen his world

October 26, 2010 |  8:30 am


The newly released teaser for Justin Bieber's 3-D nonfiction movie, "Never Say Never," promises that, on watching the film, you will "experience his world." Whether that's a selling point we'll leave for others to decide. What it does suggest -- with its recollections from Usher and archival footage of a young(er) Bieber -- is that John Chu's quick turnaround movie, whose teaser you can see here, will give the 16-year-old the full biopic treatment. Or at least the "This Is It"-esque here's-your-chance-to-watch-a-musical-genius-at-work treatment. (There's also, apparently, an inspirational element to the film: "He came from such a small town. It gives us hope," a tween girl tells the camera.)

Cultural questions about millennials aside, "Never Say Never" does raise an interesting business issue. Movies built around tween musical sensations have a mixed commercial record -- a trip to the big screen worked out for the Hannah Montana movie; it didn't pan out quite as well for the Jonas Brothers (though Bieber's YouTube popularity dwarfs both of those phenoms). So we'll see how he translates. In the meantime, you have to wonder which will come first -- an ebb in the Beeb's popularity or the movie's Feb. 11 release date. The race is on.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Is Halle Berry sensing an opening for another Oscar?

October 25, 2010 |  7:35 pm

Halle Berry, who became the first African-American to win a best actress Academy Award with 2001's "Monster's Ball," is returning to the screen this December in the new film "Frankie & Alice."  The psychological drama, which screened this year at Cannes, is based on a true story of a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder 40 years ago in Los Angeles.

The film is being released in L.A. and New York for an awards-season qualifying run Dec. 17 before Freestyle Releasing brings it out for its regular theatrical release Feb. 4.

Other actresses have scored well during awards season playing someone suffering from multiple personalities. Joanne Woodward won the Academy Award for best actress for 1957's "The Three Faces of Eve," and Sally Field earned an Emmy for the 1976 NBC miniseries "Sybil."

Though there have been hit films starring African-Americans released this year, none have generated much Oscar buzz. Last month, the Hollywood Reporter ran a story suggesting that "for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories in the February ceremony." Prognosticators have been waiting for the Nov. 5 release of Tyler Perry's prestige film "For Colored Girls," which features a who's who of African-American actresses from Phylicia Rashad to Janet Jackson. But early reviews have not been enthusiastic.

Is the team behind "Frankie & Alice" sensing an opportunity for Berry to capture another Oscar nomination or award? Berry, who also produced the film, will be appearing Nov. 9 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood for a "Conversation on Acting with Halle Berry," which is part of the AFI Fest 2010.

— Susan King

Photo: Halle Berry poses in the press room at the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards in January. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.


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