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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: June 2011

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Around town: Strange delights at Cinefamily's Everything Is Festival

June 30, 2011 |  1:10 pm


The 4th of July weekend is typically a big moviegoing time, with theaters full of extravagantly loud blockbusters packed with explosions, gadgets and the fanciest special effects. (Exhibit A: this week's release of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon.") But for those looking for a different kind of movie mayhem, there is the motley, oddball Everything Is Festival, which begins Thursday night and runs through Monday at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater.

Presented by Cinefamily and the group of "video alchemists" known as Everything Is Terrible, the mix of programs -- 19 events in five days -- includes three feature films, found footage presentations, animation, a panel discussion, a keynote address, and some events that rather defy description. Numerous events will be streamed online during the festival, now in its second year.

The festival exists at an unusual intersection among film and video, the alternative comedy scene and found footage culture, and that sense of strange uncertainty -- the "What the what was that?" sensation that many of the programs inspire -- is in no small part the point.

"When you see something and you ask where did it come from or what is it, that sense of discovery has its own pleasure," said Hadrian Belove, a co-director of the festival. "Anybody who's curating is in some sense showing and sharing discoveries and trying to excite the audience with that sense of possibility. There's an inherent pleasure in the slightly unfamiliar."

The festival kicks off Thursday night with a panel discussion featuring writers from the NBC and TBS eras of Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show. That will be followed by a tribute to the surrealist cooking show "Food Party" with an appearance by host Thu Tran.

Friday's events include a keynote presentation by Mark Hosler of the group Negativland, early practitioners of the sort of "culture jamming" celebrated by many of the festival's participants. Also on Friday will be a performance of "The Pelican Brief Project," in which music group Candybox Violence perform their own alternate score to the 1993 Julia Roberts/Denzel Washington thriller "The Pelican Brief."

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Ben Stiller's 'Neighborhood Watch' begins to attract a crowd

June 30, 2011 | 12:13 pm


EXCLUSIVE: "Neighborhood Watch" is one of those movies that kicks around Hollywood for a while then  gets jolted into action when some big stars take an interest in it.

The story of an urbanite who gets more than he bargains for -- in the form of extraterrestrial activity -- when he moves to the suburbs and joins the neighborhood watch was in development several years ago with Will Ferrell. But the science-fiction comedy got a new lease on life when Seth Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg came on to write a new draft of the script and Ben Stiller decided to  take the lead role that Ferrell once occupied.

Now the film, which is set up at 20th Century Fox, is getting another jolt. "Tropic Thunder" and "Iron Man 2" writer Justin Theroux has been brought on to write a new draft, and Fox has met with Vince Vaughn with the aim of bringing the "Wedding Crashers" star aboard, said two people familiar with the project who asked not to be identified because the movie is still in the development phase. [Update, 12:48 p.m.: A person close to the production said that Vaughn is now formally negotiating for the role, which means that if terms of a deal can be worked out, he will indeed star opposite Stiller.]

The Stiller-Vaughn pairing would mark a high-profile comedy reunion. The two played nemeses -- as the underdog Peter La Fleur and the conniving White Goodman -- in 2004's "Dodgeball," a movie that took in $115 million at the U.S. box office (a fact doubtless not lost on Fox, which made and released that film too). A Fox spokeswoman did not immediately have a comment.

Apart from Stiller and Vaughn, "Neighborhood Watch" is an opportunity for other comedic actors to strut their stuff, particularly in a time when bigger-budget original comedies aren't getting made very often.There's an older black character as well as a young dad role that could be filled by a 20-something white comic actor. Earlier this month, producers brought on Akiva Schaffer, a veteran of "Saturday Night Live" and sketch-comedy group Lonely Island, to direct the movie, which is being produced by "Night at the Museum" diretor Shawn Levy. The movie could potentially shoot as soon as November.

For comedy fans, the film would represent a return for Stiller to a non-sequel comedy -- he hasn't done one since 2008's "Thunder" -- and a move away from the romance-flavored comedies that Vaughn has taken to of late.


From the archives: 'Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story' movie review

Ben Stiller and 'Saturday Night Live' veteran look to team on new comedy

Ben Stiller, Edie Falco in 'House of Blue Leaves' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

--Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling

Photo: Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in "Dodgeball: a True Underdog Story." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood memorabilia collection returns to Paley Center

June 30, 2011 | 10:49 am

Debbie Debbie Reynolds’ Hollywood memorabilia collection will make a return visit to the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills in a new multimedia exhibition, “Debbie Reynolds: The Exhibit.”

The new show, which will open July 23 and continue through 2011, comes a month after the recording-breaking exhibition and auction of nearly 600 items from Reynolds’ expansive collection.

The show will feature more items from Reynolds’ treasure trove of memorabilia, including costumes, posters and props from such films as “Gone With the Wind,” “Show Boat,” “The Yearling” and John Huston’s “Moulin Rouge." There will also be costumes worn by such Hollywood legends as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Carmen Miranda and Doris Day. New items will be added to the exhibition each month.

The exhibition last month attracted thousands of fans. The auction earned more than $23 million with Monroe's signature white "subway" dress from 1955's "The Seven Year Itch" selling for $4.6 million.

The new exhibit will encompass the first two floors of the Paley.

For more information go to www.paleycenter.org


Debbie Reynolds is parting with her movie treasures

Photos: Auction of Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood memorabilia

Marilyn Monroe dress from 'The Seven-Year Itch' sells for $4.6 million

--Susan King

Photo: Debbie Reynolds with items from 1956's "The King and I." Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times

Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'Super 8'

June 30, 2011 |  7:41 am


Writer-director J.J. Abrams has a way of meshing sci-fi with ordinary people to create extraordinary entertainment, which he’s done extremely well in “Lost” and in 2009’s explosive “Star Trek.” He goes with adolescent charm in his latest, “Super 8,” which lands a group of small-town preteens in the middle of crises both major -– a military coverup of an alien life force on the loose-- and minor –- who will win the affections of Alice, played by Elle Fanning, who once again shows she has all the acting chops of her talented older sister, Dakota. (For early Elle at her best, pick up 2004's "The Door in the Floor" on DVD. The actress, only 5 when it was filmed, is mesmerizing. And it has the added treat of an exceptional performance from Jeff Bridges.)

The “caught on tape” element drives the action and helps the kids unlock the mystery, set in 1979 during a time of such electronic innocence that it makes the film feel like a slice of nostalgic heaven. Friendships are face-to-face, not Facebook. In this movie-within-a-movie, Joe (Joel Courtney) mans the Super 8 and his best friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths), is the director. But there is friction on the set as Abrams has something to say about an early auteur with a cinematic vision.

Kyle Chandler’s single dad, a local cop trying to outwit the military bad boys and keep up with Joe, brings an earthy, ordinary-guy appeal and grown-up problems. Ron Eldard as Alice's deadbeat dad helps keep the tension tight. It might be easy to take a pass on this as just another kid’s movie. It’s more. “Super 8” is smartly satisfying, super no matter your age. 

-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: From left, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Ron Eldard in J.J. Abrams' sci-fi drama, "Super 8." Credit: Francois Duhamel/Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/MCT

Around town: Crowd-pleasing films take over L.A.'s revival houses this weekend

June 30, 2011 |  6:00 am


If fireworks aren't your thing, don't fret -- there are plenty of crowd-pleasing films screening over the holiday weekend at Los Angeles' revival movie houses.

The American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood gets the weekend off to a rocking start Thursday with "Pink Floyd The Wall," Alan Parker's 1982 interpretation of the famed rock group's landmark concept album. The surreality continues Friday with 70-milliliter screenings of the 1982's "Tron" and James Cameron's 1991 sci-fi thriller "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

Steven Spielberg's seminal 1975 summer blockbuster, "Jaws," with Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider, headlines the Egyptian's double bill Saturday evening paired with the fishy fun of Joe Dante's 1978 camp thriller "Piranha," penned by John Sayles. Jonathan Demme's 1984 concert film featuring acclaimed rock group Talking Heads, "Stop Making Sense," screens Sunday evening along with 1986's "True Stories," written, directed and featuring Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

The Cinematheque's Aero Theatre continues its "Centennial Tribute to Composer Bernard Herrmann" Thursday evening with two thrillers that feature his memorable scores: Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 "Psycho" and John Brahm's 1945 shocker "Hangover Square" with Laird Cregar. Far less scary is Friday's double bill: 1975's "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and 1983's "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life."

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Director of Sarah Palin documentary 'The Undefeated' says he will release an uncut version -- 'I took out all sorts of violence'

June 29, 2011 |  8:39 pm

Photo: Sarah Palin at the "Undefeated" premiere in Pella, Iowa. Credit: Andrea Melendez /Associated Press "The Undefeated," Stephen Bannon's documentary about the emergence of Sarah Palin on the national political scene, aims to show what the filmmaker calls a "pop-culture beat-down" of the former Alaska governor.

Although the film has been tagged with only a PG-13 rating for "brief strong language" by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Bannon said he has created an explicit cut of the film that demonstrates that beat-down in more graphic terms. "I took out all sorts of violence and masked the vulgarity for the theatrical release because I wanted families to be able to see the film," Bannon told 24 Frames on Wednesday.

In the cut that will be shown in AMC movie theaters beginning July 15, Madonna, Louis C.K. and Pamela Anderson are among those shown in public appearances to be using epithets about the former vice presidential candidate.

Bannon said the new cut would feature things like "crucifixions, lynching and suicides," but declined to say who was behind these comments or where they appeared, saying only vaguely that they came from "Facebook and Twitter."

"People think Tina Fey is the worst of what's out there, and they have no idea," he said, referring to the actress' impersonations of Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

Of course, politicians on both the right and left have often been subject to hateful speech and worse: President Obama has been the target of racist language and threats from various quarters, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was the victim of actual violence in Arizona. But Bannon said he believes Palin has been a singular target of hatemongers.

The filmmaker said his alternative version would be released to television via on-demand platforms and a deal with DirecTV. A spokesman for the satellite operator did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.

Bannon said he had initially gone to the MPAA with the harder-edged version, but "I was told I'd get much more than an R, so it would have to go unrated" to get released. (Filmmakers with racy or controversial material often opt to leave their films unrated rather than suffer the stigma and potential distribution challenges of an NC-17.)

But a source familiar with the MPAA submission process who asked not to be identified because that process is confidential said the group received just one cut, which wound up getting the PG-13.

Bannon said he aimed to make a movie that didn't wade into ideological questions and simply showed how a woman worked her way to the top of the political heap, but one that also subverts assumptions about her politics.

"In the popular imagination Gov. Palin is a lightweight who's an ideologue, and the reality is so different from that," Bannon said. "This is a woman who's the kind of political leader we need today because she builds a coalition," Bannon said, citing, among other things, her support of energy legislation in Alaska that angered large oil companies.

Palin created a stir at the premiere in Iowa on Tuesday night when she said in an interview that Hollywood was "full of hate."

Although Bannon said that Hollywood was a secondary focus of his film, he believes that when it comes to Palin, the entertainment business ignores performers who cross the line of civility. "How does Hollywood make Tracy Morgan beg forgiveness and go to reeducation for his homophobic comments, but then no one says a word when he calls Sarah Palin 'good masturbation material?' " Bannon said, referring to the actor's remark on a TNT NBA broadcast. "It's hypocrisy. Let's call it what it is."


Sarah Palin documentary: A conservative nod to the politician

A secretive Nick Broomfield doc on Sarah Palin is nearly complete

Premiere of 'The Undefeated' sets stage for new round of Sarah Palin vs. Hollywood

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Sarah Palin at the "Undefeated" premiere in Pella, Iowa. Credit: Andrea Melendez /Associated Press

Around town: A film and food event at MOCA

June 29, 2011 |  4:47 pm


This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Film fans and foodies can both get their fill next month at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary downtown. Top local chefs like Roy Choi of the Kogi BBQ food truck (with a special new menu), Ludo Lefebvre (famed for his “pop-up” restaurant LudoBites) and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo from Animal restaurant will be serving up dishes as the museum’s “pop-up” film workshop presents short films it helped produce about food.

The workshop, sponsored by Levi’s, opened mid-April and provides free filmmaking resources and education. Each four weeks, the workshop has been focusing on a different theme. The first showcased graffiti art, the second looked at skateboarding, and from mid-June to mid-July the theme is food. On July 14 at 6 p.m., the module, dubbed “The Hunger,” will present the films, which focus on growing, preparing and serving food.

 “One of the ideas of this film workshop is that it should appeal to the whole public,” said Jonathan Wells, who organized the workshop. “We’re not trying to replace film schools but to provide a unique experience that you cannot get elsewhere. The idea is to invite all members of the community of all ages to come make films, including city-based niches of people who might like street art or skateboarding or food.”

For the “The Hunger” segment,  events are held daily at the workshop to teach techniques.

For example, on July 3, live chickens will be escorted into the workshop for a series of “Chicken Screen Tests” based on Andy Warhol’s famous 1960s black-and-white “screen test” film portraits of ordinary people doing mundane activities. The shots will be incorporated into a 15-minute film called “Wild Goodness,” which will be the “growing” component of the “The Hunger” module.

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'Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol' begins to look for acceptance [Trailer]

June 29, 2011 |  2:18 pm

The new trailer for Tom Cruise's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" opens with some highly specific plot setup: An attempt to blow up the Kremlin has resulted in the U.S. government disassociating from all members of the Impossible Mission Forces espionage agency. The team will get framed for it, but then be given a chance to escape.

It's an intriguing premise, and almost makes up for the moments that follow, a quick succession of fade-outs that seem cut to both maximize style points and headaches. There are some cool shots, particularly one involving Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper, and a welcome first  glimpse of Jeremy Renner (as a possible rival, not successor, to Cruise's Ethan Hunt). The trailer also gets an extra dose of street cred, courtesy of the Eminem-Pink collaboration "Won't Back Down." But it's mostly a cursory collection of explosions and chases.

Animation guru Brad Bird ("The Incredibles") makes his live-action debut with the latest "MI" film, which opens over Christmas after a nearly six-year hiatus for the franchise.


Why can't Tom Cruise escape himself?

--Steven Zeitchik


Madonna's romantic drama 'W.E.' set to bow this December

June 29, 2011 | 11:53 am

Madonna December seems to be Harvey Weinstein's month to release films by actors- and singers-turned-directors. One week after the Weinstein Co. intends to bow its Shakespearean tragedy "Coriolanus" (which Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in along with Gerard Butler and "Tree of Life's" Jessica Chastian), the studio will open Madonna's "W.E.," starring Abbie Cornish, on Dec. 9.

Madonna's movie, which she co-wrote with her "Truth or Dare" collaborator Alek Keshishian, is an offshoot of the characters from 2010's Oscar best picture winner "The King's Speech," specifically Britain's King Edward VIII and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the woman he fell in love with and for whom he gave up the throne. The film toggles between a contemporary woman named Wally, played by Abbie Cornish ("Sucker Punch"), and her obsession with the midcentury British romance. 

Said Weinstein of the December date: "Madonna beautifully interweaves past and present in 'W.E.' It's a very smart film, and a stunning directorial debut. I'm incredibly excited about this movie and I wanted to give it a prominent release date."

Weinstein Co. will open "W.E." in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 9, expanding to additional markets throughout the month, before the wide release intended for mid-January. "W.E." also stars Andrea Riseborough ( "Never Let Me Go"), James D'Arcy ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World") and Oscar Isaac ("Drive").

Whether the film has an Oscar prospects, as the date suggests, remains to be seen. But "The King's Speech" did prove Americans love a good story about the monarchy.


A romantic drama directed by Madonna is heading to U.S. theaters

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Madonna. Credit: Evan Agostini/Associated Press 

Premiere of 'The Undefeated' sets stage for new round of Sarah Palin vs. Hollywood

June 29, 2011 |  7:36 am


Last fall, Hollywood was pulled into the Sarah Palin media frenzy when "The Social Network" writer Aaron Sorkin took some shots at Palin in a news interview and also called her a "witless bully" for her hunting exploits on the Learning Channel. Last night Hollywood and Palin again intersected when the former vice presidential candidate called out celebrities for the "hate" they've directed toward her.

The one-time Alaska governor was on hand for a premiere of Stephen Bannon's pro-Palin documentary "The Undefeated" in Iowa on Tuesday night. The movie's opening showed a montage of celebrities -- many of them comedians, including Louis C.K., Bill Maher and David Letterman -- making expletive-laden jokes about her, drawing apparent jeering from the crowd watching the movie. After the screening, Palin sounded a bemused note to the Hollywood Reporter.

“It makes you want to reach out to some of these folks and say, ‘What’s your problem?’ ” Palin told the paper. “What would make a celebrity, like you saw on screen, so hate someone that they’d seek their destruction, their death, the death of their children? What would make someone be so full of hate?” None of those cited in the documentary have responded as yet, though given the history of the Palin-Hollywood sparring, it likely won't be very long before some do.

The premiere otherwise had the feel of a rally, according to several reports, with pro-Palin and anti-Obama T-shirts and signs mixed in amid the crowd, and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart taking the stage, along with Palin, after the screening. The event, which took place in the small town of Pella and featured a post-screening barbecue, was held in Iowa on the same day that both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann visited the caucus state.

According to reports from the screening, the movie follows Palin's upbringing and Alaska governorship before the third act moves to her vice-presidential run. The movie will open in an unconventional distribution arrangement, bypassing traditional distributors to be shown in AMC Theaters. The film will open July 15 in a number of markets, including Orange County, Denver and Houston, according to a statement from AMC. Los Angeles is not mentioned as a target market.


Aaron Sorkin: Not hitting 'like' on Sarah Palin

Hawkeye State showdown: Sarah Palin documentary to debut in Iowa

A secretive Nick Broomfield documentary about Sarah Palin is nearly complete

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Sarah Palin at the post-screening barbecue in Pella, Iowa. Credit: Andrea Melendez / Associated Press


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