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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Bradley Cooper

Sundance 2012: Bradley Cooper gets naughty in 'The Words'

January 21, 2012 | 12:47 pm

The Words
When you think of Bradley Cooper, the last place you might expect to see his new film play would be the Sundance Film Festival. But the "Hangover" alumnus was very much front and center Saturday morning at an impossibly jammed early industry preview of "The Words," a literary thriller starring Cooper as a hot young novelist harboring a secret.

Just as a blizzard arrived in Park City, Utah, so did a storm of distributors, all trying to get into the sneak preview. Buyers from every major specialized film company were on hand -- the theater was so packed, Harvey Weinstein couldn't get a seat until five minutes after the film started -- and unlike Friday night's troubled premiere of "Red Lights," no one left early. A big sale for "The Words" seems all but guaranteed as acquisition queries started coming in soon after the screening let out.

Cooper plays Rory Jansen, who has spent three years working on a novel -- it's deemed too "subtle," "interior" and "artistic" -- that some people admire but no one wants to publish. Rory's money and his determination are about to run out when he stumbles across an abandoned manuscript tucked inside a 1940s valise that he and his wife, Dora (Zoë Saldana), buy at a Parisian antique store. Rory agonizes over his options, but realizing "the reality of what he would never become," eventually decides to pass off the found novel, called "The Burning Tree," as his own. The novel is a huge success, and Rory is made -- or is he?

Photos: The scene at Sundance 2012

The movie, directed and written by actor Brian Klugman and screenwriter Lee Sternthal in their filmmaking debut, is framed by another author's reading of his book, called "The Words," by Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid). Clay's book recounts what happens to Rory, and what happens after the original creator of "The Burning Tree," played by Jeremy Irons, learns of Rory's plagiarism. The story flashes back to post-war Paris, when a younger Irons (played by Ben Barnes), falls in love with a French woman and uses their troubled marriage as the backbone of the only book he ever wrote. The rest of the cast includes Olivia Wilde as an aspiring writer who throws herself at Clay, and J.K. Simmons as Rory's father.

Unlike more than a few Sundance titles, "The Words" has both highbrow intentions and audience appeal. At least one buyer found the story obvious, but that opinion appeared to be in the minority. 


Sundance 2012: False start for 'Red Lights'

Sundance 2012: 'Beasts' sparks a flood of strong reaction

Sundance 2012: Sony unit buys 'Searching for Sugar Man'

Sundance 2012: Magnolia gets 'Queen of Versailles' in 2nd fest deal

--John Horn

Photo of Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons in "The Words." Credit: Jonathan Wenk.

'The Hangover Part II' trailer controversy -- monkey joke too much for moviegoers? [Updated]

April 6, 2011 | 12:03 pm

"The Hangover Part II" trailer, which premiered online last week, didn't seem too shocking, but evidently it gave at least a few people pause. Distributor Warner Bros. has requested that movie theaters yank the spot, which had been playing in front of the sci-fi thriller "Source Code," and destroy it. 

The MPAA approves trailers before they are placed in front of particular movies. In this case, the trailer for the "Hangover" follow-up -- which, among other scenes, includes a visual gag involving a water bottle and a monkey performing a simulated sex act -- was approved to run only ahead of R-rated movies. It shouldn't have run before "Source Code," which is rated PG-13, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

There were no known complaints from "Source Code" theatergoers about the trailer.

According to a document received by the blog /Film, a new trailer will appear in front of the R-rated horror film "Scream 4" when that movie opens April 15. While studios routinely release multiple trailers,  it's unclear whether Warner Bros. planned to release a new trailer for the "Hangover" sequel so quickly or whether the "Source Code" incident prompted that decision. 

The MPAA declined to comment, and a Warner Bros. spokesman did not immediately provide a comment.  [Update, 12:37 p.m.: Warner Bros. has issued a statement, saying, "In our haste to meet the placement schedule for this trailer, we failed to properly vet the final version with the MPAA. We acted immediately to correct the mistake and removed the trailer from screens." The trailer preceding "Scream," meanwhile, will be a version of the original trailer instead of a new piece of material.] The Todd Phillips-directed comedy opens May 26.

For the record, 12:50 p.m.: An earlier version of this post referred to a moment in a film trailer involving monkey genitalia; in fact, the trailer makes a joke about a monkey performing a simulated sex act.


'The Hangover: Part II' trailer takes us back to an earlier day

Bradley Cooper: I'm worried about 'The Hangover' sequel too

Ed Helms says don't expect a 'Hangover 3'

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Hangover: Part II." Credit: Warner Bros.

'The Hangover: Part II' trailer takes us back to an earlier day [Video]

April 1, 2011 |  7:00 am

Mike Tyson doesn't appear in the trailer for "The Hangover Part II," but his tattoo does, materializing on the face of Ed Helms' Stu. It's one of a number of callbacks to the original movie in the first full trailer, which hit the Web late Thursday.

In Todd Phillips' new installment, the group again raises their glasses in the air before a night of drinking and wakes up the next morning in unfamiliar and messy surroundings. There's an animal lurking about, although this time it's a monkey instead of a tiger. A man goes missing, only this time it's the brother of Stu's fiancee, instead of Justin Bartha's Doug. A mystery is once again pieced together with items found in pockets. And Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow is back, still rhyming and laughing maniacally.

At least the setting is different, as the drunken night brings the group to Bangkok, where they take in some tuk tuk rides and meet the locals.


Ed Helms says don't expect a "Hangover 3"

Director Todd Phillips talks "Hangover" sequel

Bradley Cooper: I'm worried aboout the "Hangover" sequel too

-- Steven Zeitchik
Twitter.com / ZeitchikLAT



'Limitless' asks a surprisingly relevant ethical question: What happens when drugs make us smarter?

March 20, 2011 | 12:04 pm


"Limitless" may have sold more tickets than any other movie this weekend with its story of a man (Bradley Cooper) who finds himself with startling mental powers after stumbling upon a new drug.

But for all the slickness of its premise, the film also raises vexing questions about the nature of identity and pharmaceutical enhancement. The NZT pills, as they're called, turn the human brain into a kind of supercomputer, enabling users to crank out novels, think their way out of dangerous situations, conquer Wall Street and otherwise achieve alpha supremacy.

On the surface the Neil Burger film is a cautionary tale: No drug can help us achieve that level of success, and if it did we wouldn't want to pay the price that would surely accompany its use.

Or would we? Burger, speaking for a profile in last week's Times, points out that most of us already use chemicals to enhance our performance, and barely bat an eye in doing so. "It's a thorny question. You drink coffee and were able to get the job because you were more alert when you went into that interview," the director said. "And college kids are already using drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, repurposing them in much the same way as characters in the movie use NZT."

Putting ourselves through a medical process to enhance mental capacity, in fact, may not be that different from what we do in the realm of cosmetic surgery -- it's just that, "instead of a nose job, [you get] a brain job," Burger said.

In so doing, we raise an existential question about the nature of self. "It's the question that baseball players face with steroids: Who hit the home runs, you or the steroids?" Burger said.

Of course, the larger (and perhaps reassuring?) issue is that such drugs, no matter how much we refine them, may never be able to improve on the human brain's key aspect. It's similar to the question raised by IBM's Watson. We can design a drug that increases efficiency, just as we can design a more ruthless computer processor. But can we design a drug that, on its own, can manufacture creativity where it didn't exist before?

"A lot of what drugs can do is quantitative enhancement. I have to remember all this material and I have to put it all on a test tomorrow. They're making you into a really good accountant," Burger said.

"Someone was saying these [people on mental-enhancement drugs] will be the leaders of the world. But the leaders of the world come up with creative solutions. The way the drugs are being conceived seems to be about processing information faster. And that's a very narrow way of thinking about it. Creative thinking comes out of failure, out of spacing out, out of staring at the wall and not processing a lot of information. It comes out of the juxtaposition of things that are completely wrong rather than things that add up."

-- Steven Zeitchik



Neil Burger ponders the fine line between success and failure

Bradley Cooper's Limitless breaks out in top 5 horserace

Movie Review: Limitless

Photo: Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper in "Limitless." Credit: Relativity Media


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