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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: May 2011

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Alex Proyas goes back to his roots

May 26, 2011 |  4:50 pm

  Crow
 
EXCLUSIVE: Director Alex Proyas developed a cult following in the 1990s with such movies as “The Crow” and "Dark City,” merging mainstream action with an apocalyptic vision.

 Proyas' bigger studio efforts have been less widely acclaimed –- most recently, the Nicolas Cage thriller “Knowing." But fans hoping for the filmmaker's return to his roots could get just that, with Proyas signing on to produce and godfather a new project called “Future Perfect,” a film with echoes of “Hanna” and other father-daughter thrillers, according to two people familiar with the project who were not authorized to talk about it publicly.

The film has a conceit reminiscent of "Paper Moon": An older man and a young girl, both eugenically created assassins, must go on the run, in a dynamic that may or may not be that of a father and daughter. The Australia-based production, said one source, aims to use the "District 9" model of grouping a young director, a high-profile producer, independent financing and a location far from Hollywood to make a vision-driven film that looks bigger than its relatively modest price tag.

Shane Abbess, the director of the Australian spiritual action film “Gabriel" (he was also at one time  slated to direct “Source Code”) will helm the film. The script has been written by Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman, the writers who are penning a reboot of “Zorro” as well as “Dracula.”

Interestingly, Proyas has a Dracula movie in development too, as well as a supernatural action film modeled on “Paradise Lost." He's done well by going small and scrappy, and "Future Perfect" certainly fits the definition.

RELATED:

With new movie, Zorro goes to the future

-- Steven Zeitchik

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 Photo: Brandon Lee in Alex Proyas' "The Crow." Credit: Miramax


Meg Ryan in line to star in 'Precious' producer's directorial debut

May 26, 2011 | 11:20 am

Megryan Meg Ryan is in advanced negotiations to star in the indie drama "Long Time Gone," which "Precious" producer Sarah Siegel-Magness will direct, according to the film's producers.

The movie centers on a broken family that finds itself healed when the girlfriend of the youngest son moves in. Screenwriter Karen McCullah ("Legally Blonde," "The Ugly Truth") adapted the script from the novel "Angel, Angel" by author April Stevens.

Ryan has spent the last few years in the indie film world, starring in "Serious Moonlight," the Cheryl Hines-directed film that was slain filmmaker Adrienne Shelley's ("Waitress") last screenplay, and Diane English's "The Women." She is currently prepping her directorial debut on the ensemble drama "Little Black Train."

Siegel-Magness has prided herself on switching directions frequently. Her producing debut was on the 2009 indie drama "Precious" starring Gabourey Sidibe, which was nominated for six Oscars and walked away with two. She then adapted the popular children's book series "Judy Moody" into a film that will bow on June 10. "Long Time Gone" marks another shift for Siegel-Magness who will direct the project and whose company, Smokewood Entertainment, will finance. Other producers include her husband, Gary Magness; Bobbi Sue Luther; and McCullah.

Production is scheduled to begin this fall in Los Angeles.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Meg Ryan in 2007's "In the Land of Women." Credit: Warner Bros.  

 

 


In exclusive video, Brad Pitt and others explain 'The Tree of Life'

May 26, 2011 | 10:10 am

It's been one of the bigger cinematic mysteries ever since buzz around the movie intensified last year -- just what exactly is "The Tree of Life" about? Terrence Malick's new film, as those of us who saw it in Cannes described, grapples with many subjects -- love and family, nature and religion, sadness and suffering. In this new exclusive video, actors Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, along with the film's producers, walk us through clips and moments in one of the spring's most anticipated films.

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What Malick's "Tree of Life" is  about (yes, we finally see it)

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 

 

 


Around Town: Tim Burton, Alfred Hitchcock, Rita Hayworth and more

May 26, 2011 |  5:00 am

 Ed

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Tim Burton exhibit opens May 29, and the museum's film department has planned its own tribute, "The Fantastical Works of Tim Burton." The series begins Friday evening with 1990's "Edward Scissorhands," which marked the first screen collaboration between Burton and actor Johnny Depp. Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest and Vincent Price, one of Burton's earliest supporters, also star.

Burton will be on hand Saturday evening to introduce 1994's "Ed Wood," his biopic of the eccentric director of such truly bad films as "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Depp plays Wood opposite Martin Landau's Oscar-winning turn as actor Bela Lugosi. The film will be preceded by 1982's "Vincent," Burton's stop-motion tale narrated by Price.  http://www.lacma.org

The "Suspense Account: The Films of Alfred Hitchcock" retrospective at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood features a Thursday evening screening of the director's Academy Award-winning 1940 thriller "Rebecca." Based on the classic novel by Daphne du Maurier, the film stars Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson as the evil housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. Also screening Thursday is Hitch's 1935 British thriller, "The 39 Steps," with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

Friday's offerings are 1960's "Psycho," with Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, and 1963's "The Birds,"  with Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor. Scheduled for Saturday are two Cary Grant-starrers -- 1955's "To Catch a Thief," with Grace Kelly, and 1946's "Notorious," also starring Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. The festival concludes Sunday evening with the 1958 masterwork "Vertigo," starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.

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Terrence Malick looks to Imax documentary to extend 'Tree of Life' explorations

May 25, 2011 |  3:17 pm

1
Terrence Malick left a lot of “The Tree of Life” footage on the cutting room floor. But the writer-director’s elaborate visual presentation of the birth of the universe and the origin of life may have a second life in an Imax documentary.

The publicity-phobic maker of “The New World” and “The Thin Red Line” has been developing a documentary called “Voyage of Time.” It was originally designed as a companion piece to “Tree of Life,” which opens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday. But the producers of “Tree of Life” were concerned that two films—one fiction, one not—covering similar ground might confuse audiences, and decided to push back “Voyage of Time” to an unspecified future date.

“It was important not to cannibalize ‘Tree of Life,’” says Bill Pohlad, whose River Road Entertainment financed “Tree of Life” and is one of the producers of “Voyage of Time.” “But we want to do it. He just has to find the time to do it,” Pohlad said of Malick, who recently completed photography and several reshoots on an untitled film starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams that is by one account even more experimental than “Tree of Life.”
 
“Voyage of Time” will be narrated by “Tree of Life” star Brad Pitt and display “the whole of time, from the birth of the universe to its final collapse,” according to a confidential outline for the film obtained by The Times. A team of more than 20 advisors will “ensure the film is both aesthetically unique and scientifically accurate.” 

According to a treatment for the documentary, “Voyage of Time” will cover the first signs of life, bacteria, cellular pioneers, first love, consciousness, the ascent of humanity, life and death and the end of the universe.

The business plan, heavily illustrated with images of jellyfish, crocodile embryo, nebular clouds, a slot canyon in Utah and Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, includes testimonial letters from Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, who promises that “Voyage of Time” will “be a memorable combination of art and science that will inspire as well as educate.”

RELATED:

What Terrence Malick's 'The Tree of Life' is actually about

 

How will the Palme d'Or affect 'Tree of Life's' commercial prospects?

Brad Pitt and the 'Tree of Life' gang explain Terrence Malick's process

--John Horn

Sean Penn in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Merie Wallace / Fox Searchlight Pictures


New 'Smurfs' trailer looks, oh, what's the word we're looking for? [Video]

May 25, 2011 |  2:04 pm

It was something of a question: would the reboot of "The Smurfs" return to the whimsy of the source material or go down the familiar talking-animal route? The new trailer for the hybrid animated-live action film confirms the latter -- cute creatures trying to make it in a human world, with a human friend, pursued by an evil threat -- and with a  "Muppets Take Manhattan" vibe to boot. There's a  frenetic quality to the trailer that suggests that viewing the full film when it hits theaters in July might be hard for anyone past the early grade-school years.

The trailer does showcase at least a few mildly clever moments -- a Blue Man Group reference,  Neil Patrick Harris calling out the little creatures for overusing the word "Smurf" -- but will it be enough? Let's just say the trailer makes the Columbia Pictures release look ... Smurfy.

 

ALSO:

Ron Howard looks to digital generation for inspiration

'Snow White' war: Relativity Media moves its film ahead of Universal's

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT


'Sex & Zen 3D' to play in U.S. theaters

May 25, 2011 | 12:49 pm

Sex "Sex & Zen 3D: Extreme Ecstasy," a Cantonese-language film billed as the first major 3-D porn movie, has been acquired for theatrical release in North America by China Lion Film Distribution.

An erotic costume drama adapted from the classical Chinese novel "The Carnal Prayer Mat," "Sex & Zen 3D" broke "Avatar's" opening-day box-office record in Hong Kong in April and has earned $1.1 million in six weeks of release in Australia, with a robust per-screen average there of $122,000.

The story of a Ming dynasty-era scholar's sexual awakening, "Sex & Zen 3D" stars Japanese porn actors and includes full-frontal male and female nudity in scenes of explicit and sometimes violent sex.

"Audiences that are better educated, more sophisticated in mind ... will readily appreciate the origin of this film as an adaptation of a Chinese classic," the film's director, Christopher Sun, said of "Sex & Zen 3D's" box office appeal. "These viewers are prepared to take erotic elements as part of the cinematic experience instead of the film's total package."

The titillation factor was enough to lure organized tour groups over the border from mainland China, where censorship rules prohibit exhibition of the film, into Hong Kong. In that territory, a special administrative region of China, "Sex & Zen 3D" carries a Category III rating prohibiting those under 18 from seeing it.

"It's all naughty good fun and there isn't a single boring scene," a Hong Kong-based reviewer for CNNGo said of the film. "From the moment the first pair of jiggly 3D breasts appears -- prompting the male audience members to collectively gasp -- through to the fight scenes with 3D daggers thrown at the audience, this is 3D movie magic at its low-brow erotic best."

The film's Hong Kong distributor tried some unorthodox promotional strategies, including offering special ladies' night screenings of the film with appearances by male cast members. "Our leading actors, director and producer came to say thanks and listen to the comments from the girls' side," Sun said. "The reaction was just beyond expectation."

The film has not yet been rated in the U.S., nor given a release date, according to Robert Lundberg, a spokesman for China Lion. "We’ve seen the success it’s had overseas and we think there’s an audience for it in North America," Lundberg said.

For the U.S. adult entertainment industry, which has been hit hard in recent years by the ready availability of free content on the Internet, "Sex & Zen 3D" may provide a new model for generating revenue using the allure of a big-screen-only experience. But Kristen Wynters, sales director at Van Nuys-based adult entertainment film production company Pink Visual, is dubious.

"The reaction that we get from mainstream theaters in the U.S. is that 3-D technology is cool but they’re not interested in showing porn," Wynters said. "American audiences feel differently about sex. Not everyone wants to see a giant butt coming at their face.”

RELATED:

China Lion Targets an elusive film fan — the Chinese American

-- Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo:  A man walks past a poster for "Sex and Zen 3D" in Hong Kong in April. Credit: Associated Press

 


Woody Allen loves Paris. Is it reciprocal?

May 25, 2011 |  6:30 am

Pari
It was almost midnight in Paris, which seemed as good a time as any to see "Midnight in Paris."

It wasn't as if I could have avoided it even if I wanted to. Woody Allen's new romantic comedy came out in this country a week before it did in the U.S., and since then has been as steady a presence as the corner brasserie. Three separate theaters within walking distance of my hotel were showing it, a feat of ubiquity that hasn't happened since Jerry Lewis hung up his acting shoes.

Besides, there was an eerie art-parallels-life component to seeing the film -- which tells of Owen Wilson's malcontent screenwriter luxuriating in a contemporary and period Paris, in contrast, he suggests, to the spiritual deadness of Southern California -- in the city in which it takes place.

Of all the potential movie-world settings, few have been so entwined with their real-life counterparts.  In fact, the city shots that open Allen's film include a street scene in front of the theater from which I was watching the movie, causing the audience to let out a reaction somewhere between amused and tittering. (The response was no doubt repeated at another theater down the street that's also portrayed in the montage.)  Woody surely had a feeling his movie could play in these theaters, so he cleverly slid in an homage.

As the film went along, the response was warm. But the warmth was mostly reserved for the parlor comedy about period figures such as Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali. The Paris beauty shots didn't evoke much of a reaction among much of the crowd; in fact, judging by the chatter afterward, those who liked those shots most were the scattered Americans in the audience. It turns out the film doesn't functions as a love letter to Paris -- it function as a love letter to the people who write love letters to Paris.

On the Metro earlier in the week, I struck up a conversation with a well-spoken 20-something. He winced a little when the topic of the Allen film came up. "It's a movie Americans may like more than people from France," he said. "We'll all go to see it, of course, but it's a touristic view of Paris."

It reminded me of something that began happening to Allen later in his phase of making movies about my hometown of New York (something that may partly explain why he picked up and began his European tour). After nearly three decades of creating films about the city such as "Manhattan" and "Hannah & Her Sisters," Allen became so associated with the town in which he told his stories that it started to create a backlash. It wasn't uncommon to meet people from outside New York who loved Woody and the city as one. But if you mentioned an Allen film among New Yorkers in, say, the early-mid 1990s, there were always those who rolled their eyes. We were, for better or worse, a lot more than intellectual types in uptown apartments debating our favorite writers and obsessing over marital problems.

Even Parisians would acknowledge that this film gets certain things right. After all, the shots of the city are beautiful, and Parisians aren't bashful about embracing their city's virtues.  But those who live here also know of the ethnic divisions, the socioeconomic tensions and, of course, the political scandals. And when someone comes from outside and ignores all of that, you feel some discomfiture. (Of course Allen might say that he's hardly depicting a glowing Paris as much as he is showing his misty-eyed protagonist's view of the city, though that will strike some as a distinction sans difference.)

At the end of the film, Wilson's character gives a little speech in which he says that the present is always a little unsatisfying compared with the past. The same might be said of Woody and his approach to European cities relative to those in his native America -- it's always a little better somewhere else.

Besides, even as Allen describes a France that puts art ahead of commerce, it's a lesson his own film may play a role in disproving. Though "Midnight In Paris" landed in a strong second place on its opening weekend here, it was beaten out for the top spot by a rather different sort of movie: "Fast Five."

RELATED:

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'Midnight in Paris' scores big at box office

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in "Midnight in Paris." Credit: Just Jared


Bin Laden movie: Sony Pictures acquires film for winter 2012

May 24, 2011 | 11:09 pm

Bigelow "The Hurt Locker" team of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have found a home for their new film centered on the mission that ultimately captured and killed Osama bin Laden. Sony Pictures has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the movie, which will begin filming late this summer. The studio intends to release the movie in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Bigelow and Boal, who walked away from the 2010 Academy Awards with seven Oscars for their film on an elite Army bomb squad in Iraq, have been working the Bin Laden project since 2008 and plan to include the recent events of the last month into the film. Australian actor Joel Edgerton is negotiating to play one of the Navy SEALS involved in the mission.

Says Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, "With the death of Osama bin Laden, this film could not be more relevant. Kathryn and Mark have an outstanding perspective on the team that was hunting the most wanted man in the world."

Bigelow and Boal will produce the project with Annapurna Pictures' Megan Ellison and executive producer Greg Shapiro ("The Hurt Locker").

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--Nicole Sperling

Photo credit: Kathryn Bigelow on location for "The Hurt Locker"/Summit Entertainment


'Snow White' war: Relativity Media leapfrogs its fairy tale adaptation's release date ahead of Universal's

May 24, 2011 |  2:31 pm

Julia Shot No. 2 has just been fired. As we predicted Monday, Relativity Media is moving the release date for its still-untitled, family-friendly Snow White action project ahead of Universal Pictures' fairy tale adaptation, "Snow White and the Huntsman."

Relativity's movie, which will star Julia Roberts as the evil queen, will now come out on March 16, 2012, the same weekend as Sony's "21 Jump Street" and one week ahead of the highly anticipated adaptation "The Hunger Games" from Lionsgate. (Relativity's Snow White film is scheduled to begin shooting next month.)

Tuesday's move comes one week after Universal shifted its Snow White adaptation out of the 2012 holiday season to June 1, nearly a month ahead of Relativity's original June 29, 2012,  release date.

Relativity is not stopping with "Snow White." They seem to be engaging in all-out warfare with Universal, dating their Nicholas Sparks romance "Safe Haven" -- which has yet to be cast -- on June 1. That means it will go head to head with  "Snow White and the Huntsman" starring Kristen Stewart.

Relativity has also slated its Philip Noyce-actioner "Hunter Killer," about a rookie submarine captain who must work with a Navy SEAL, for Dec. 21,the same weekend that Universal has set its latest Judd Apatow-directed comedy, a "Knocked Up" spinoff that Universal just moved into December.

It's rare for this kind of battling to happen so early in the life cycle of a film. But Relativity's maneuvering suggests it was very upset with Universal's earlier decision to move its "Snow White" adaptation from late 2012 to June 1, ahead of Relativity's title. The question now is whether Universal will retaliate.

It's never good for the movie business as a whole when studios place competing projects on the same weekend because it splits the audience and diminishes the box-office potential for each film. With Relativity placing its Sparks film on the same weekend as Universal's "Snow White," one could argue that the two films will split the female audience. The same can be said for the male audience having to choose between "Hunter Killer" and the Apatow comedy.

It's unlikely the last chess piece has been moved in this high-stakes game.

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After 'Twilight,' a fairy-tale renaissance looks for a happy ending

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Julia Roberts will star in Relativity Media's family-friendly Snow White action project. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press

 


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