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Category: September 2011

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Brad Bird: Tom Cruise has ruined me for other actors

September 28, 2011 |  2:05 pm

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

Fans might run hot and cold on Tom Cruise these days, but on the set, every filmmaker seems to adore him. Brad Bird, director of Paramount's upcoming "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol," is no different.

"He's ruined me for everyone else," says Bird, who makes his live-action directorial debut in December after minting a major Hollywood profile with animation powerhouse Pixar. "I'm not going to understand after this point why any actor doesn't want to do all of their own stunts and hang off of a mile-high building. He truly loves the movies and the movie-making process, and he knows a ton about it but is incredibly polite and shows up on time and has done all of his homework."

Bird and Paramount Pictures are taking an unprecedented approach with "Ghost Protocol" by releasing it five days earlier than its Dec. 21 opening date at more than 200 Imax theaters, as reported over at our sister blog Hero Complex. But it's not clear if a franchise that has been away for nearly six years is up to the assignment it has chosen to accept.

A major centerpiece of the film, which stars Cruise as Ethan Hunt and features an ensemble cast that includes Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg, is the tense action sequence filmed at the top of the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper that stands as the world's tallest building.

Cruise risked life and limb doing the stunt work, and Bird said the veteran actor was both a resource and raconteur on the set, which was valuable considering the tight shooting schedule for the film.

"He's made for movies the way Michael Phelps is built for swimming," two-time Oscar winner Bird said. "You look at the directors he's worked with too, it's a who's who. Scorsese and Kubrick and Spielberg and Oliver Stone — when Oliver Stone was making better movies — and Michael Mann and Sydney Pollack and on and on and on. It's kind of stunning. Not every one of them was a great movie, but he's worked with great directors over and over again, and you can engage him in those conversations."


Brad Bird: 'Mission: Impossible' opening early at IMAX

Why can't Tom Cruise escape himself?

'Ghost Protocol' looks for acceptance

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, left, Paula Patton plays Jane, Simon Pegg plays Benji and Jeremy Renner plays Brandt, right, in a scene from "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol." Credit: Paramount.

Michael Shannon talks fatherhood and the end of the world

September 28, 2011 |  1:37 pm

Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon, star of the new drama “Take Shelter,” is not the typical everyman.

With a 6-foot-4 frame, deep-set eyes and facial features that seem as if they were carved from granite, Shannon strikes an imposing figure. It’s served him well playing intense characters such as the troubled Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” but it also makes him an unconventional choice for the guy next door.

Then again, “Take Shelter,” which opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York, is no ordinary family drama. Shannon, 37, plays Curtis LaForche, a working-class husband and father in a small Ohio town who begins having visions of an apocalyptic storm. He channels his anxiety into building a backyard tornado shelter, but the strain soon overwhelms him, causing him to question just how to protect his wife (Jessica Chastain) and 6-year-old daughter (Tova Stewart).

For Shannon, whose breakout role as a mentally ill mathematician in the 2008 film “Revolutionary Road” earned him an Oscar nomination, “Take Shelter” is in some ways a quiet, thoughtful take on the disaster film — one that downplays pyrotechnics and addresses real contemporary concerns.

“There’s a general sense, it seems like, that there’s a lot of unease in the world,” Shannon said in a recent interview in Los Angeles. “I felt like ‘Take Shelter’ was a very poetic expression of that anxiety.”

Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (whose 2008 debut feature, “Shotgun Stories,” also stars Shannon), “Take Shelter” taps into current economic uncertainty and environmental fears; at its core, it is also a film about the lengths a person will go to in order to keep his family safe. It asks, Shannon said, “How do you hold on to the things you care about?”

Unlike “Shotgun Stories,” which Nichols wrote in hopes of landing Shannon, he didn’t have a lead actor in mind while writing “Take Shelter.” The script was largely drawn from personal experiences. “That being said, obviously it crossed my mind, ‘I wonder what Mike would do in this role,’” Nichols recalled.

“He’s a really sensitive guy,” the filmmaker added. “He’s just a guy that is incredibly connected to the world around him and affected by it. So that doesn’t make for the most laid-back guy in the world, but it makes for a really interesting guy.”

Curtis being the dedicated father of a young girl resonated with Shannon, whose own daughter is 3. Of fatherhood, he said, “You don’t understand until it actually happens. Your imagination can’t prepare you for what a powerful experience it is. It’s literally like a new nerve is inserted into your body and it runs straight into your heart, and it’s directly related to this other person.”

Shannon’s quiet, tender moments in “Take Shelter” — a father playing with his daughter, a husband joking with his wife — reveal a side not often seen in his work. “It was nice to see this other side, this other quality, this family man,” said Shea Whigham, who plays Curtis’ best friend and also stars with Shannon on “Boardwalk Empire.”

Shannon, he said, is capable of enormous volatility in his work. “Because of his presence, I think people don’t know what to make of him sometimes.”

The actor has demonstrated that he’s as likely to deliver an explosive emotional outburst — as he does in a bravura scene at a Lions Club event in “Take Shelter” — as he is to convey vulnerability, a quality he brings to his role as an ex-biker and recovering junkie in the film “Machine Gun Preacher,” which opened in Los Angeles last week.

Shannon stars opposite Gerard Butler in the life story of Sam Childers, a reformed biker and addict who builds an orphanage in Sudan after undergoing a religious conversion. “Machine Gun” director Marc Forster said of Shannon’s performance, “That sort of edge he walked on, I thought the way he did that was just incredible.”

In addition to “Machine Gun Preacher” and “Boardwalk Empire,” which began its second season Sunday, Shannon will appear in the bike messenger thriller “Premium Rush” alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt in January. He is currently shooting Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” in which he plays the Kryptonian villain General Zod, which could catapult him to mainstream recognition.

But Shannon doesn’t spend much time thinking about that.

“One thing about this profession is you can’t ever rest,” he said. “You always have to keep working, keep trying to get better.”


'Machine Gun Preacher' Sam Childers larger than film

Michael Shannon's 'Revolutionary Road'

-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Michael Shannon in "Take Shelter." Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

How does Ortega's Michael Jackson testimony reflect on 'This Is It'?

September 28, 2011 |  9:00 am

Michael Jackson

It’s not often one sees the creative force behind “High School Musical” testify in an involuntary manslaughter case. But the litigation against Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, in the death of the pop superstar has brought Kenny Ortega to the witness stand.

Ortega -- said “High School Musical” force and the director of Jackson’s planned 02 arena shows and Sony Pictures' “Michael Jackson's This Is It” documentary that sprang from it -- was called to testify so he could offer his account of Jackson’s mental and physical well-being in the weeks and days leading up to the singer’s death on June 25, 2009.

In testimony on Tuesday, Ortega said that he observed Jackson as frail and not at all well in that period.

"My friend wasn't right," Ortega testified. "There was something going on that was deeply troubling me," he said of Jackson's appearance a week before his death.

Ortega further wrote in an email to concert promoters that "Today I was feeding [Jackson], wrapping him in blankets."

Ortega doubtless had good intentions in trying to shed as much light on Jackson’s death as possible. In so doing, however, the filmmaker may have raised a question about his own movie. “This Is It” is predicated on -- and indeed makes a strong case for -- the idea that the icon was present and healthy in rehearsals in the run-up to the shows, suggesting nothing troubling whatsoever.

In numerous “This Is It” scenes, we see Jackson not only performing in elaborate costumed numbers for the likes of songs such as “Smooth Criminal” but also offering a steady stream of feedback that reflects a man who’s anything but sick or checked out.

“You've got to let it simmer” he tells a keyboardist, with noticeable clarity and even poetry. He engages in a call-and-response solo with a young female guitarist that morphs from simple jam session to something more transcendent. And he stands behind monitors carefully scrutinizing set pieces, his keen eyes seeming to take in everything before him.  None of it points to a man on the decline who would very soon need help feeding himself -- which, in light of the testimony, is enough to make one wonder if what we saw  in the film was an incomplete or even misleading portrait.

Of course, it's possible that Jackson's decline was extremely rapid and that Ortega was describing what he observed after the moments seen in the film. But even if the periods are distinct -- and without an exact timetable, it's impossible to know -- it's still hard to square the upbeat tone of "This Is It" with the downbeat, even disturbing tone of Ortega's testimony. (We’ve sent an email to the director’s representative but have yet to hear back.)

All documentaries are selective; the notion that we’re seeing the subject with his guard fully down went by the boards decades ago. It's no more real than the idea that Jackson is actually the white-suited gangster from the “Criminal” piece. But “This Is It” was presented as a rare look at what was really going on behind the scenes. "Like you've never seen him before," Sony's tagline said. From Ortega's testimony, though, it's apparent there were a lot of things we'd never seen before that weren't anywhere near the film.


Conrad Murray trial off to an emotional start

Audio: Michael Jackson's haunting voice echoes in trial

Michael Jackson trial: Day 2 to start with 'This Is It' producer

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Michael Jackson in "This Is It." Credit: Sony Pictures.

With 'Lion King' No. 1, where is Jonathan Taylor Thomas?

September 27, 2011 |  4:42 pm

Jonathan Taylor Thomas' whereabouts are a mystery

A 3-D version of “The Lion King” -- the animated movie first released 17 years ago -- has now taken the top spot at the box office two weekends in a row. That unlikely feat has prompted many questions in Hollywood circles: How has the 1994 film had such enduring cultural appeal? Will studios now begin re-releasing a glut of older titles in 3-D? And -- obviously most important -- what in the name of Tool Time happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the one-time teen pinup who gave mellifluous voice to young Simba in the film?

As a former teenybopper who, admittedly, plastered JTT’s visage all over my bedroom walls, that last question had been haunting me for some time. Ever since he left his role on the popular sitcom “Home Improvement” to pursue higher education in 1998, JTT hadn't been seen much in public. I remember my middle-school friends and I feeling bereft when he decided to put acting on hold to attend college. For years, we had persuaded our parents to purchase issues of BOP magazine for us at Walgreens so we could tear out the JTT posters inside.

We had dreamed about what it would be like to one day grow up and marry him, collecting treasures together along the beach (just like he did with Farrah Fawcett in "Man of the House," of course).

But while a few years out of the spotlight would have been tolerable, 13 JTT-less years had become, frankly, too much to bear. Where had this modern-day J.D. Salinger disappeared to?

So I was quite pleased when, earlier this month, a new photo of JTT surfaced. Entertainment Weekly had somehow managed to lure the 30-year-old out of his cave for a “Home Improvement” reunion photo shoot. They'd even conducted a brief Q&A with him!

Alas, the interview offered little insight into the actor's current life. He said he’s been “going to school, and traveling quite a bit, getting to read a lot of books.” Really? Even if he was boning up on the collected works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, it shouldn't take that long, not for someone like JTT.

Desperate for information, I reached out to "Lion King" studio Disney. Might JTT want to do an interview to help promote the re-release, I inquired? Sadly, I was rebuffed. JTT, I was told, was not doing any press for the animated classic.

Broken but unbowed, I decided to email JTT’s agent. (Yes, he still has one, and she actually  represents a handful of popular Young Hollywood stars.) Would her client be willing to do a quick interview with me? “Unfortunately, he is not interested in participating,” was the dispiriting response I soon received.

I called her up in the hope of getting more information. “He was in school at Harvard and Columbia and he took some time off,” she replied. “He’s getting back to work. I have no comment on what he’s doing now.”

Her response confused me. Sure, JTT hasn’t starred in a film that had been released theatrically since 1998’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” -– an underrated gem, by the way, in which a thwarted Christmas trip results in a journey of searing self-discovery. Could he be embarrassed that he hasn’t had a high-profile job in recent years? If so, that was nonsense. Nothing you do should ever bring you shame, JTT.

The next step was to ferociously search the IMDB listings of his former costars who might be in touch with him. Suddenly--like the bear that popped out of nowhere at JTT and his friends in the suspenseful denouement of "Wild America"--it appeared: the personal email address of Zachery Ty Bryan! Bryan played JTT's older brother on "Home Improvement" and was bound to know where his on-screen sibling had been hiding out.  I was almost embarrassed I didn't think of it sooner.

I sent Bryan (or ZTB) a message inquiring about JTT's current life. He responded immediately with a bio of his own production company, saying only of his one-time fake sibling: "The EW shoot went great! It was wonderful to see everyone in person!"

JTT, if only you gave me that much.

I was out of options, and needed to get back to an assignment interviewing a young star who was, you know, actually relevant. My job often requires that I talk to the tweens popular with today's younger generation -- Justin Bieber, Taylor Lautner, Zac Efron. I’m often perplexed by the obsession with them. After my Nancy Drew impersonation of the past six hours, however, it seemed just a little bit harder to pass judgment.


A 'Lion's' tale

'Moneyball' is a hit, but 'Lion' is box-office king

'Lion King': Is moviegoing changing before our eyes?

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jonathan Taylor Thomas in 1998's "I'll Be Home for Christmas," the most recent feature-length film he's appeared in on the big screen. Credit: Alan Markfield

'Dookudu,' the biggest hit you've never heard of

September 27, 2011 |  2:49 pm


The most popular movies at the multiplex this past weekend included some familiar titles: "The Lion King,"  "Moneyball," "Drive" and "Dookudu: Daring & Dashing."


"Dookudu," an Indian cinema offering that blends action, comedy, romance and dance sequences  (don't they always?), scored three of the seven most lucrative engagements around the country, according to the trade newspaper Variety. At a multiplex in Fairfax County, Va., the movie took in a whopping $82,000 over the weekend, a sum surpassed only by a trio of  "Moneyball" engagements (at gargantuan venues such as AMC Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square in Manhattan and the ArcLight in Hollywood).

The Virginia multiplex was an outlet of the Phoenix BIG chain, which programs Indian films along with the "Abductions" and "Dolphin Tales" of the world. (The other two engagements, incidentally, came in Edison, N.J., and suburban Dallas, where the film took in $73,000 and $71,000, respectively, over the weekend.)

Making the feat more striking: "Dookudu" is a Tollywood film, the nickname for the Telugu-language cinema from India's Andhra Pradesh region. While Hindi-oriented Bollywood movies sometimes land on domestic box-office charts, reminding the American film industry of the shadow economy that is Indian cinema in the U.S., it's rarer for a Tollywood film to pull off the feat.

So shadowy is said economy that box-office reporting sites like Hollywood.com did not even receive weekend tallies from the film's distributor (which makes a total weekend tally from the film's 30 screens impossible to report). The distributor did not reply to an email from 24 Frames seeking comment.

[Update, 4:36 p.m. Sept. 27: Harish Sajja of distributor 14 Reels Ent. tells 24 Frames that the movie has grossed $1.4 million in just three days, thanks largely to word of mouth (and despite the fact that, without subtitles, even many Indians aren't able to understand it). The previous record-holder for a Tollywood film is $1.2 million--over three months. Sajja hopes the movie holds this weekend and stays in theaters through the fall, even though it will have to compete with the glut of American films unleashed in the autumn months."It's a miracle," he said. "Nobody knows the movie is going to cross over like this."]

 Already a hit in India, the film pairs the very popular Mahesh Babu with the single-monikered Tollywood starlet Samantha in a two-hander that clocks in--in true India-cinema fashion--at a lightning-quick 3 hours and 10 minutes.

You can catch a trailer below, complete with "He is daring; he is dashing" tagline and enough quick cuts to make Baz Luhrmann look like Merchant Ivory. (If you want to catch the movie in the Southland, you'll have to head down to Norwalk, where it's screening opposite summer holdovers like "Transformers" and "Bad Teacher.")

So what made "Dookudu" so popular?  According to one Indian cinema website, which cited "sleek action sequences" and entertaining one-liners," it was a triumph of casting as much as anything else.

"Obviously, the most important is the star of the film, Mahesh Babu; then the film is directed by Srinu Vytla, who has earned a name for making mass entertainers [sic]. The presence of popular comedians Brahmanandam and M.S. Narayana in the film is also an asset, and ‘Dookudu’ has a beautiful heroine Samantha Ruth Prabhu, sharing screen space with Mahesh for the first time." 

Well, that's enough for us.



Bollywood a bright spot for U.S. Indian cinema industry

'Moneyball' is a hit, but 'Lion' is box-office king

Telugu 'Thriller': A parody

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Dookudu: Daring & Dashing." Credit: 14 Reels Entertainment

Oscars: Cirque du Soleil sends up Academy Awards in 'Iris'

September 27, 2011 | 10:55 am


Cirque du Soleil's new production "Iris: A Journey Through the World of Cinema," may be an homage to movies, but there's one aspect of Hollywood that comes in for a bit of a ribbing in the show: the Oscars.

The mocking segment in the second act of "Iris" may hit a bit close to home for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars -- after all, both the awards telecast and "Iris" take place in the Kodak Theatre in the Hollywood & Highland complex.

The segment that spoofs the Oscars features two of the show's clowns, who act as the slap-happy hosts of an, ahem, unnamed awards show. The set features two tacky staircases, a microphone that doesn't work properly, and a huge, gold-painted award (fashioned as a loving cup) that falls apart.

At the 5 p.m. premiere show on Sunday, the "nominees" include a woman dressed in a get-up that could be described as part bee, part kewpie doll; a male clown in drag decked out in a red gown and blond wig; and two members of the audience. Whether the guy from the audience was a plant or not, he was pretty game when he was named the winner; he sauntered up on stage, thanking the audience and even acting sexy for the camera.

Though most of "Iris" is family friendly, the Oscar spoof gets a little R-rated -- especially in a bit dealing with the clown in drag who gets a little too friendly with a banana he had been hiding in his dress.

The Oscars have been held at the Kodak since 2003. Cirque plans a 10-year run for the $100-million extravaganza that is "Iris," but the production will go dark for a number of weeks around the Academy Awards to allow for the staging of the show. 

Cirque has made a number of changes to the Kodak to accommodate its production; whether any of the new bells and whistles will be incorporated into the Oscar telecast in February remains to be seen. But perhaps producer Brett Ratner will be inspired to include a segment in the show spoofing Cirque. After all, Hollywood loves a good revenge story.


Interactive: See behind the scenes of Cirque de Soleil's 'Iris'

Review of 'Iris'

Cirque has a Kodak (Theatre) moment

Academy tightens reins on Oscars race

-- Susan King and Julie Makinen

Photo: Eric Davis as himself and as the banana-loving actress in "Iris." Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

Dead Island takes big step to the silver screen

September 27, 2011 |  8:56 am

Dead Island
"Dead Island" was one of the most exciting trailers to hit the Web last year, and it wasn't even for a movie -- it was for a video game. Now it looks like that will change.

Lionsgate announced Tuesday morning that it has acquired the film rights to the zombie title and will begin developing it as a feature. There are no writers yet on what is essentially a film in very early development, but producer Sean Daniel ("The Mummy"), who was reportedly involved with a "Dead Island" movie project early on, will produce it, Lionsgate said.

When the trailer hit last February, reports that Daniel had come on board were dismissed by the publisher, as several of the parties affiliated with the game appeared to be in disagreement about who had the right to negotiate on the property's behalf.

Published by Deep Silver, the game was little known at the time the trailer hit, and in fact didn't even have a release date. But in the wake of the viral sensation, "Dead Island" landed a date, coming out to mostly positive reviews earlier this month, although some fans said it didn't live up to the promise of the trailer.

When it hit the Web, the trailer for the first-person action title nearly sparked a riot. Essentially a short film in all but name, it took a melancholy piano score and ran it under a battle between a family on vacation and the zombies who have taken over their resort. The piece had a sharp visual style, a heartbreaking moment and a devilish structure, all of which had fans calling for a film.

Lionsgate on Tuesday said in a statement that the movie will be "an innovation of the zombie genre because of its focus on human emotion, family ties and non-linear storytelling. "

There's still a big question, of course, as to of whether a three-minute trailer can be stretched to a 90-minute movie and still retain the spare power of the trailer. And we won't even get into the issue of how you then cut a trailer for that film that stacks up to the original spot.


Dead Island: The best trailer in years?

Will Dead Island make a good movie?

Dead Island publisher: We haven't sold rights to a Dead Island movie

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A shot from Dead Island. Credit: Deep Silver

Decoding 'Moneyball': Does the Pitt pic line up with real life?

September 26, 2011 |  3:23 pm


"Moneyball" was the highest-grossing new release of the weekend, with Michael Lewis' bestselling book about the unorthodox method of player analysis known as sabermetrics translating into a hit at the multiplex.

But some moments in the Brad Pitt baseball drama might puzzle even the most devoted fans of the real-life tale.

Who was that uncredited man who played stingy A's owner Stephen Schott? What happened to Beane's second wife, who was supposed to be played by "Cold Case" star Kathryn Morris? And just what was the song Pitt's Billy Beane and his daughter sang (not featured in the book, incidentally). Our handy guide for non-sabermetricians. [Warning: Spoilers below]

The female equation. In real life, Billy Beane has a second wife, Tara, with whom he has twins. But in the movie he comes across as a solo divorcee. Director Bennett Miller actually shot four scenes with "Cold Case" star Morris as Tara, and the movie even test-screened with those scenes included. But Miller and Sony wound up cutting all of them from the final film (though Pitt's Beane, oddly, still wears a wedding ring). The studio declined to comment on the move, though we can understand why they'd get slashed--showing Beane as a lonely divorcee makes a redemption story a lot more compelling.

Schott to hell. A key scene in the film has Beane lobbying the A's owner for a larger payroll. Schott turns him down unceremoniously, in a moment that sets much of the plot into motion. But you won't see the owner in the credits. So who is the mysterious miser? Bizarrely, he's Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, whom Miller decided to cast to lend more authenticity to the role of an executive. Those who have it in for the polarizing Kotick, though, might make some hay of the choice: In his day job, Kotick  has angered some game developers, and prompted lawsuits, with his controversial management decisions.

The joy of discovery. To watch the movie without reading Lewis first, you'd think Billy Beane stumbled upon sabermetrics when he met Paul DePodesta between the 2001 and 2002 seasons, which is also when he lost stars Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon to free agency (and had to find a new, lower-cost approach). In reality, Beane  hired DePodesta back in 1999, while the high-priced stars were still very much on the team.

Maybe more important,  sabermetric practices didn't suddenly come to the A's with Beane just before the 2002 season--they had already begun to be implemented in 1995 under previous General Manager Sandy Alderson. Oh, and Jason Giambi's brother Jeremy, the ne'er do well who the movie says Beane brought  to replace the athlete's slugging sibling in 2001? He was already on the team with his brother.

Strummin'. Admit it -- you had post-traumatic hipster flashbacks when Beane's daughter began playing that indie-pop ditty on the guitar. What is that song that's trying too hard to sound like the Moldy Peaches' contribution to the "Juno" soundtrack, you wondered? It's called "The Show" from an Australian singer-songwriter named Lenka--and was recorded, incidentally, long after the 2002 in which the film takes place. Beane may have been a baseball visionary, but his daughter was a prophet.

Streakin'.Why is the 20-game win streak the A's mounted in the summer of 2002 the high point of the movie instead of, you know, the playoffs? Because for all the feelgood underdog vibes in the film, the A's actually lost in a five-game divisional series that year--the exact same thing that happened to them the year before. That tempers the happy ending just a bit. (To his credit, Miller at least included the postseason in some fashion, in a kind of postscript scene.)

Brand DePodesta. Former Beane right-hand man Paul DePodesta, the numbers geek who shook up the A's (and then shook down the Dodgers), is depicted by Jonah Hill as ... Peter Brand. Why did pretty much everyone, from Beane to Scott Hatteberg, allow their names to be used, but DePodesta balked? Is it privacy--or just geek-inspired weirdness? 

DePodesta answered the question in an interview with Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke. "I remember thinking how unforgiving it might be to have someone else portray you to the rest of the world," he said. "It could be great, but it also could be very unnerving, and once I read the script and realized it was a piece of fiction, then I saw no reason for my name to be attached to it."


Paul DePodesta is captured to a T in 'Moneyball'

When is a baseball movie not a baseball movie?

'Moneyball' is a hit, but Lionsgate is box-office king

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony Pictures

Box office: 'Lion King' No. 1 again, tops Pitt, Lautner [video]

September 26, 2011 |  2:32 pm

Brad Pitt's new film Moneyball was No 2 at the box office this weekend

Hollywood was surprised when a 3-D version of "The Lion King" took the top spot at the box office last weekend. But few distribution executives predicted the movie would be No. 1 again this weekend with $22.1 million, beating out four new and diverse movies that debuted in theaters.

The 17-year-old animated classic beat out "Moneyball," a critical darling that still got off to a decent start with around $20 million. The baseball drama starring Brad Pitt has earned the actor some of the best reviews of his career, and Sony -- the studio behind the film -- is confident that positive word of mouth will make it successful in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Taylor Lautner had his debut as an action star in "Abduction," which grossed only a so-so $11 million. What does this say about his future as a leading man on the big screen? Check out this week's box-office video report for thoughts on the teen hunk and Hollywood's most recent hits and flops.


'Moneyball' is a hit, but 'Lion' is box-office king

'Lion King': Is moviegoing changing before our eyes?

Box office: 'Lion King' rules, Sarah Jessica Parker flops [Video]

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Brad Pitt stars in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony

'Red Dawn' remake to come out next year from FilmDistrict

September 26, 2011 | 12:28 pm

Photo: A scene from the original "Red Dawn" in 1984. Credit: MGM / United Artists.

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

A remake of the invasion movie "Red Dawn" — with its villains now digitally modified from Chinese to North Korean — will finally hit American shores next year.

The new version of the Reagan-era classic will be released in the U.S. by independent studio FilmDistrict, according to people familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly. FilmDistrict is finalizing a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that produced the movie in 2009.

In the original "Red Dawn," a group of teenagers in a Colorado town battle invading Soviet forces; in the remake, the invaders were changed to Chinese. But that decision turned the film into a hot potato.

After MGM emerged from bankruptcy in late 2009 and decided it wouldn’t release the movie, no other studio wanted to touch “Red Dawn” for fear of offending the government of China, a hugely important market in the increasingly global film business.

As a result, the movie’s producers last winter used digital technology and creative editing to change most of the invaders to North Koreans. (Staunchly communist North Korea is economically isolated and not a market for any American products.) Still, it took most of the year to find a distributor willing to take the movie on.

FilmDistrict Chief Executive Peter Schlessel declined to discuss “Red Dawn.” Given that final details are still being worked out, however, it likely won’t hit theaters until 2012.

The new “Red Dawn” cost about $60 million to produce. It stars Chris Hemsworth, who played the title character in “Thor,” and was directed by Dan Bradley, second unit director on the last two “Bourne” movies and the upcoming “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”

FilmDistrict, which is backed by finance and production company GK Films, launched in April with the horror hit “Insidious." Its most recent release is the Ryan Gosling L.A. noir film, “Drive.”

[For the Record, Sept. 28, 2:15 p.m.: An early version of this post incorrectly said the teenagers in the original film who battled invading Soviet forces lived in Washington. ]


Hollywood tried to stay on China's good side with 'Red Dawn' remake

China is on a cinema-building binge

Reel China: Christian Bale's 'Flowers' picked as Oscar submission

— Ben Fritz and John Horn

Photo: A scene from the original "Red Dawn" in 1984. Credit: MGM / United Artists.


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