24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: April 2011

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Arnold Schwarzenegger's new director says he couldn't imagine a better fit for a drama

April 30, 2011 |  2:08 pm

At 63, Arnold Schwarzenegger plans on returning to the screen  with "Cry Macho," a drama about an aging horse trainer who, in a fit of desperation, kidnaps his former boss' son.

In three decades of acting, the actor has never before taken on a dramatic role. But "Macho" director Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer"), who recently ushered Matthew McConaughey back to dramatic turf, says that his meetings with Schwarzenegger have convinced him of how well the former governor could pull it off.

"We all have this perception of a certain kind of person and actor," Furman said. "He's Terminator, he's Commando. He ran for governor. But in person he's so gracious and humble. His humanity is unmatched."

The movie tells of a man and a boy who are each lost in their own way (the boy, the product of divorce, isn't wanted back by the ex-wife from whom Schwarzenegger's character has kidnapped him). "This is a human interest story about people who rediscover themselves," Furman said.

"Cry Macho" has a long history. It had been developed by producer Al Ruddy with Clint Eastwood to direct and Schwarzenegger in the lead back in 2003, before the action star went into politics. (Ruddy and Eastwood went on to collaborate on "Million Dollar Baby.") In that sense, at least, Schwarzenegger is going back not only to an action vehicle he once dominated like "The Termintor" but to projects left unfinished when he left for Sacramento.

Furman's film has a beating-the-odds theme, something Furman said Schwarzenegger could draw from his own life. "He was Mr. Olympia. Who thought he's going to be a movie star, or that he could be governor?" Furman said.

Although the "Cry Macho" filmmaker says that "when we first meet [the protagonist] he's a broken man," the director resists the inevitable comparisons to Mickey Rourke vehicle "The Wrestler," in which another middle-aged actor redeemed himself (on-screen and off-screen) "It's about more of an accidental journey [about how] In life you pick one path and it leads you to a different place," Furman said.

In addition to his iconic action roles, Schwarznegger has of course used hs large frame and occasionally stiff bearing for comedic effect, but rarely for something more subtle or dramatic.

But Furman, never one for holding back, has strong words for anyone who questions the former governor's ability to pull off the part. "Arnold's been doing this his whole life," he said. "Do you really think he can't do this? Who are you kidding?"


Arnold Schwarznegger will try serious acting. Maybe.

Arnold returns to acting. Is it a good idea?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Arnold Schwarznegger in "Commando." Credit: 20th Century Fox

When will 'Apollo 18' land?

April 29, 2011 |  5:06 pm

It's become a piece of information as elusive as a NASA launch code: When in the name of Robert Goddard is "Apollo 18" hitting theaters?

Apollo18 The found-footage movie imagines that the famed scrapped lunar mission really happened, with the astronauts facing some horrific consequences when they arrived on the moon (trailer below if you'd like a refresher). When the film was signed up by the Weinstein Co.'s genre division, Dimension Films, last fall,  the company announced an ambitious March 4 date. That soon became an April 22 release date, and then an Aug. 12 date, as filmmakers needed more time to get the movie shot and edited.

The horror/science-fiction hybrid, from Spanish genre filmmaker Gonzalo Lopez Gallego, this week was shuffled to January 2012. But a few days later, it moved back to August, this time to Aug. 26, after  "Final Destination 5," a formidable competitor among the genre crowd, moved off Aug. 26 to Aug. 12.

If that isn't more complicated than a NASA rocket diagram, the story gets more knotty still. The "Final Destination" move to Aug.  12 prompted the genre movie that was already on that date -- the Guillermo del Toro-produced "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" -- to get the heck out of the way and move to...Aug. 26.

That means that both "Apollo 18" and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" sit on the same end-of-summer weekend, a situation that at least one distribution expert feels is untenable given that both appeal to the same horror crowd. So it's likely one of them -- possibly "Apollo 18" -- will move again.

At this point it may be simpler just to go to the moon.



'Apollo 18' looks to explain the reason we never went back

--Steven Zeitchik



Arnold Schwarzenegger will try serious acting. Maybe.

April 29, 2011 | 11:32 am

Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to strap on the serious weaponry and blow people away on behalf of Skynet in a fifth "Terminator" movie. But before that happens, he could don a more dramatic mask.

So says Vulture, which calls "Cry Macho," a  drama from "Lincoln Lawyer" director Brad Furman and "Million Dollar Baby" producer Al Ruddy, Schwarzenegger's next movie. Based on a novel by N. Richard Nash, it centers on an aging horse trainer who tries to get back in with his boss by kidnapping the boss' son from his ex-wife (in a "Ruthless People" turn, his ex-wife doesn't want the son back).

The site calls the film Schwarzenegger's "first post-gubernatorial project." Of course, things frequently don't happen that quickly for projects like this. There's no financing yet for the independent film, which will be seeking funds from foreign sales at the Cannes Film Festival in May, an event ahead of which this news is serendipitously surfacing. And Furman does have a history of getting a bit ahead of himself. (Messages for Ruddy and Furman were not immediately returned Friday morning.)

If "Cry Macho" does get made, is it a good choice for Arnold? In the recent history of actor comebacks, a shift to serious gears has been an effective way to get one going; Mickey Rourke, for one, executed it to perfection in "The Wrestler."

Of course, that presupposes you have the chops to pull it off. And even if you could, sometimes it's still better to take on a big summer blockbuster. No matter how good Robert Downey Jr. would have been in the smallest indie circa 2008, it didn't hurt that he was seen by millions in "Iron Man."

With no script or screenwriter for "Terminator 5" and no money as yet for "Cry Macho," it will still be a little bit before we see Schwarzenegger back on the big screen. And a while before the Governator decides what comeback path to take.


Arnold Schwazrenegger returns to 'Terminator.' Is it a good idea?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger receiving a championship belt at an environmental conference in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP


A Linda Lovelace movie (or two) fights on

April 28, 2011 |  6:35 pm

The film world is sufficiently enamored of Linda Lovelace to develop not one but two biopics about the porn pioneer. But can even get one off the ground?

Lovelace is of course the late "Deep Throat" actress who became an anti-porn crusader; she's seen as an icon, albeit a troubled one, who endured tribulations in first breaking ground and then regretting it afterward.

A year ago, Lindsay Lohan was set to play the lead in "Inferno," one of the two independently financed movies about the colorful Lovelace -- before the tabloid fixture's off-screen troubles resulted in her getting the boot.

"Watchmen" star Malin Akerman is now on board to star as the '70s icon, confirms "Inferno" director Matthew Wilder, and adds that, though there's no financing in place at the moment, the project hasn't lost steam. Wilder said in an email to The Times that he and the film's producers are making a deal with Louisiana-based investors that they hope to have closed soon; they aim to finish casting the film (including the lead role of controversial Lovelace ex-husband Chuck Traynor, who is alleged to have abused his ex-wife and manipulated her into becoming a porn star) in time to shoot this summer.

In the meantime, directors Jeffrey Friedman and Robert Epstein ("Howl") continue to push forward on "Lovelace," their own take on the star born Linda Boreman, in what they call a "nontraditional biopic."

Reached by phone last week, Friedman told 24 Frames that "I'm pretty optimistic about [the fate of the project] today, but that does change by the day." The casting process, he said, is continuing apace -- Kate Hudson had been rumored for the lead role, though Friedman declined to confirm she was on board. The filmmakers hope that the project will come together within the next few weeks for what will also be a summer shoot.

Producers will generally back off a project if a competing film beats it to the production starting line. But the fervor to make movies about real-life figures can sometimes lead to two rival films being made and released, which happened in the mid 2000s when a pair of films about Truman Capote ("Capote" and "Infamous") came out within a year of one another.

The "Lovelace" filmmakers see in their subject's life a kind of pop-cultural origin story. "The seeds of celebrity culture were just beginning to sprout then, and while the phenomenon of Linda Lovelace feels so familiar with all the Web celebrity stuff we're inundated with now, but back then it was really something new," Friedman said,  adding "There was also the evolution of sexual consciousness in this country, and she became the poster child for various phases of that."
But it's not a surprise that a Lovelace movie would have trouble getting made. While 2005 porn-world documentary "Inside Deep Throat" (in which Lovelace figured prominently) was distributed by Universal Pictures, the studio world, and even independent financiers, has become more conservative since then. (Fox Searchlight is developing a movie about sexploitation director Russ Meyer, written by the "Lovelace" screenwriter.)

Lovelace also isn't an easy personality to decipher. As Friedman said,  "You need to take an interesting perspective on the story because her own perspective on her life kept shifting."


Producer: Lindsay Lohan will star as Linda Lovelace

--Steven Zeitchik, with reporting by Amy Kaufman



Photo: Linda Lovelace arriving at the Academy Awards in 1974. Credit: Associated Press

Gregory Peck commemorative stamp unveiled in ceremony at motion picture academy

April 28, 2011 |  3:06 pm

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

A full house was on hand at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Thursday to witness the unveiling of the Gregory Peck commemorative stamp -- the first "Forever" stamp in the United States Postal Service's Legends of Hollywood series. 

The first-class stamp features Peck in his Oscar-winning role as the benevolent widowed Southern attorney and father Atticus Finch in the 1962 classic "To Kill a Mockingbird."

A scene from the beloved drama based on the novel by Harper Lee was just one of the many from Peck's films shown during the ceremony, along with clips from 1947's "Gentleman's Agreement," 1950's "The Gunfighter" and 1953's "Roman Holiday."

Sharon Stone, who met Peck and his wife, Veronique, as a young actress when she became friends with their children Cecilia and Anthony, hosted the proceedings. The event began with the presentation of colors by the Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard from March Air Reserve Base and the national anthem sung by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks.

"He taught us in his films that men could be strong without being violent and mean," said Stone. She said she thought it was appropriate that Peck, who died in 2003 at 87, was being honored with a stamp because he always described acting as "carrying the mail," which was his way of saying delivering a performance. She then introduced the Peck family's mail carrier, who delivered mail to them for eight years.

Veronique Peck was joined onstage for the unveiling of the stamp by Cecilia, Anthony, Gregory Peck's son Carey from his first marriage and several grandchildren. "It's really a great day for all of us," said an emotional Veronique Peck, adding that she was married to the "most wonderful man in the world."

She introduced various friends and actors Peck had worked with in the audience, including Sidney Poitier, who garnered the most applause, Robert Forster, Piper Laurie and James Darren.

Carey Peck told the crowd that it was "payback" that his father be memorialized with his own stamp. "He was a fanatic about mail-order catalogs," he said. "It was like Christmas every day."

"He used the Postal Service a lot," said Anthony Peck, who recalled receiving long letters from his father throughout boarding school and college. "I still have his letters."

Morgan Freeman brought the house down recounting his first meeting with Peck at an academy event. "I made an absolute fool of myself," he said. "I leapt out in the aisle in front of him and knelt," he said, sheepishly. "He said, 'Get up.' "

For the record, 1:23 p.m., April 29: An earlier version of this post quoted Veronique Peck as saying, "It's really a great deal for all of us."  Peck actually said "It's really a great day for all of us."

-- Susan King

Photo: Gregory Peck commemorative stamp. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

With trailer for 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2', Harry begins his final wand wave [Video]

April 28, 2011 |  1:31 pm

On Wednesday, we got the first taste of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" with a trailer (the first of what will likely be several) showing a flurry of action, dragons, explosions and, of course, wand-play.

This final chapter will wrap up the major quest begun In "Part I," in which Harry set off on an odyssey to destroy Horcruxes, objects containing fragments of the soul of Lord Voldemort, discovering powerful objects that could help win the war against evil.

The series has grown from a simple foray into a magical world into a full-fledged dark fantasy with world-ending implications, and that dire mood is set early in the trailer. Unfortunately, with the frenetic series of action sequences, those who have seen only the movies and shied away from the bicep-building books may be a little lost  on some plot points.

Still, we do get a tantalizing sense of what's to come, particularly as we're teased by images of the battle of Hogwarts, one of the central events of the movie for anyone not named Harry Potter.


'Harry Potter' coverage on Hero Complex

Critical Mass: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1'

Should 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1' have come out in 3-D?

-- Jevon Phillips

'Hunger Games' update: Elizabeth Banks official; tributes from District 3 and 4 named

April 28, 2011 | 12:30 pm

Elizabethbanks Casting for "The Hunger Games" is moving along at quite a clip. Lionsgate announced Thursday that Elizabeth Banks has sealed her deal to play the insufferable Effie Trinket, the perky escort to heroine Katniss Everdeen and her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, when they enter into the games.

Banks, an avid tweeter, confirmed her involvement on her feed. "Yes, And I can now confirm I'm Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games. So excited!" She continues with the common refrain uttered by the Capitol, the dogmatic government that hosts the annual games, "May the odds be ever in your favor!"

Also confirmed are the tributes for District 3 and 4. Lionsgate has named newcomers Ian Nelson and Kalia Prescott to District 3, which specializes in electronics, while Ethan Jamieson and Tara Macken will play the kids from the wealthy District 4.

Prescott's biggest claim to date is doing stunts for "Red Dawn's" Isabel Lucas and in "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" while Macken's stunts have spanned television shows such as "Glee" and "NCIS: Los Angeles" and features such as the recently released "The Lincoln Lawyer" and the upcoming "Battleship." Perhaps this means that these smaller parts, while light in content, will be action-heavy during the games.

-- Nicole Sperling


Photos: Meet the cast/characters of 'Hunger Games'

"Hunger Games": How director Gary Ross got the gig

Suzanne Collins: Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful

"The Hunger Games": Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth complete the love triangle

Photo: Elizabeth Banks. Credit: David Livingston / Getty Images



Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: 'The Promise'

April 28, 2011 |  8:30 am


If you've been kicking yourself for missing this exemplary Bruce Springsteen documentary when it played on HBO, here is a chance to see "The Promise" on the big screen and help a worthy cause in the process.

Screening Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at three different Laemmle theaters and benefitting the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, "The Promise" shows us the anguish and the creative joy that went into making "Darkness on the Edge of Town," the lean and brooding album that followed Springsteen's breakthrough "Born To Run."

Directed by Thom Zimny, a former editor sometimes described as Springsteen's personal archivist, "The Promise" is nothing if not thorough, detailing everything, including the legal battles between Springsteen and former manager Mike Appel, and how he came to co-write "Because the Night," Patti Smith's biggest hit.

It features 1970s footage of the young Springsteen creating the album with the E Street Band as well as interviews with the Springsteen of today, a man amused and fascinated by the driven perfectionist he was in his youth. For rock fans in general and Springsteen followers in particular, it's impossible to resist.

The movie is playing Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena; Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Monica 4 in Santa Monica and Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic


Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: 'The Ten Commandments'

Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: 'Circo'

Photo: Bruce Springsteen in "The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story." Credit: Frank Stefanko 

'X-Men: First Class' looks to live up to its name [Video]

April 27, 2011 |  7:22 pm

Compared to other comic-book movies, "X-Men: First Class" hasn't made much noise ahead of its June release. But that's starting to change, and will likely continue to change, with the release of the below trailer, which makes the Matthew Vaughn film look like the best of the summer superhero lot.

Some of the Professor X-Magneto back story we've seen in prior spots, but that doesn't diminish the trailer's virtues: subtly creepy special effects as humans become mutants, a keen sense of pacing -- things actually don't explode until well into the the trailer! -- and even the suggestion of some rich themes.

As with some prequels, the movie does seem to require knowledge about the films that came before (er, after). Still, it's hard to find fault with a more organic integration of a historical event (the Cuban missile crisis) than its "Captain America" competitor, or with one of the more intriguing casts this side of "Iron Man"; Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence are all here and have, apparently, been given something interesting to do.

-- Steven Zeitchik



David Lindsay-Abaire play 'Good People' aims for the big screen

April 27, 2011 |  5:11 pm


EXCLUSIVE: Few playwrights are hotter on Broadway, or in moviedom, than David Lindsay-Abaire. The "Rabbit Hole" writer last month opened "Good People," a drama set in working-class Boston that's been earning rave reviews.

Now "Good People" is looking to come to the big screen -- and with its stage pedigree largely  intact.

"American Beauty" producer Dan Jinks and Focus Features are in negotiations to develop "Good People" as a film, with Lindsay-Abaire adapting his own play and stage star Frances McDormand on board to reprise her acerbic Ms. Walsh character, according to two people familiar with the project who were not authorized to talk about it publicly. A Focus Features spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Lindsay-Abaire's play, his first about his native Boston, traffics in themes of class and luck (particularly the bad kind).

In the Manhattan Theatre Club production, Margie Walsh is a sharp-tongued South Boston single mother of a mentally disabled daughter. Walsh dropped out of high school to care for her child and has struggled to get by ever since. When she's fired from her minimum-wage job, she seeks out employment from a former classmate and rich yuppie (Tate Donovan) in an interaction that quickly becomes a tangled web of race and class.

Though more comedic than "Rabbit Hole," the themes echo Lindsay-Abaire’s Pullitzer-winning grieving-parent drama, in which a mother also suffers at the cruel hand of fate.

"Good People's" Boston setting would take Hollywood back to a place that it has mined richly, particularly for class issues, in recent movies such as "The Fighter," "The Town" and "The Social Network." The film would also reunite Jinks and Focus, who collaborated on the award-season favorite "Milk" in 2008.

McDormand was last seen on the big screen in "Burn After Reading" and "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" (both Focus films) and stars opposite Sean Penn in the drama "This Must Be the Place," which premieres at Cannes next month.

A movie based on a Lindsay-Abaire work is practically an instant recipe for awards: "Rabbit Hole" netted Cynthia Nixon a Tony statuette on Broadway and Nicole Kidman an Oscar nomination on the big screen when the movie, also adapted by Lindsay-Abaire, was released last year.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: The cast of "Good People." Credit Joan Marcus/Samuel G. Friedman Theatre



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