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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Chris Lee

Zach Galifianakis on 'Due Date' versus 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'

November 8, 2010 | 12:00 pm

PTA

If you caught "Due Date" over the weekend, the film may have sparked some fond memories of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the 1987 classic by John Hughes starring Steve Martin and John Candy. In both movies, two wildly incompatible travelers from opposite ends of the personality spectrum are thrust together by a perfect storm of bad mojo, dumb luck and financial roadblocks to embark on a madcap cross-country journey. A marathon of indignities, car wrecks, rough rides in the back of pickups and, of course, hilarity ensues. 

In "Due Date," Zach Galifianakis plays Ethan Tremblay, the annoying guy-with-heart who shares much in common with Candy's Del Griffith, while Robert Downey Jr.'s Peter Highman is the straight man, just like Martin's Neal Page.

Our own Chris Lee, who interviewed Galifianakis recently, asked him about how the two movies stack up.

Lee: "Planes Trains and Automobiles" -- how much did you guys talk about that movie during production?

Galifianakis: If you see two guys on a road trip that are the opposite of each other, of course that's going to come up. "PT+A" is such a classic movie, I can see where those comparisons will come from. But after people see the movie, I think that talk will stop.

Lee: John Candy leaves his towels on the floor, and you plunge your car off an overpass.

Galifianakis: This is a more extreme version. Again, Robert –- I think Steve Martin's character, which is so wonderful, it would have been tempting to go in that direction. Traveling business man. Trying to get home. Insurance guy. Probably a nice guy. Robert starts off being an angry guy –- which I think is different enough. ["Planes, Trains and Automobiles"] is one of the greatest movies. When John Candy takes his sock off on the plane, that's funny enough. But then he starts beating the bottom of his feet with his sock? It doesn't get much better than that.

Check out some of the similarities between the two films in this slide show.

RECENT AND RELATED:

Betsy Sharkey reviews "Due Date"

Photo: Steve Martin and the late John Candy starred in the 1987 movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."  Credit: Paramount Pictures

 


Zach Galifianakis: A literary lion reborn?

November 3, 2010 |  6:08 pm

Zach 

Zach Galifianakis had never really considered whether or not he bears any resemblance to American literary titan Ernest Hemingway.

“To Mariel Hemingway, maybe,” Gaifianakis said in an interview last week. “Not the other one.”

That changed, though, when Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin asked the actor-comedian –- who appears in the road-comedy “Due Date,” which hits theaters Friday -- to don a roll-neck sweater and pose in homage to Yousuf Karsh’s 1957 gelatin silver print photograph of “Papa” that hangs in New York’s Museum of Metropolitan Museum of Art. When that happened, the similarities were just too striking.

In a profile in Thursday’s Calendar section, Galifianakis discusses his role as comic foil/muse to writer-director Todd Phillips (“Due Date,” “The Hangover”) and addresses his reported role in nixing Mel Gibson’s cameo in “The Hangover 2.” And with the photo above, of course, channels Ernest Hemingway.

-- Chris Lee

Photo: Zach Galifianakis Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


'Jackass 3D's' Steve-O: 'I was really scared shooting this movie'

October 14, 2010 |  4:30 pm

 Jackass pic

Fans of the "Jackass" franchise will be heartened to learn that "Jackass 3D" -- the third installment of the lucrative shock-stunt nonfiction series that reaches theaters Friday -- is at least as stupid, disgusting and bombastic as 2002’s “Jackass: The Movie” and “Jackass Number Two” from 2006.

Which is to say that in "3D," as with the other films, marquee Jackasses Johnny Knoxville, Jason “Wee-Man” Acuña, Chris Pontius, Ehren McGhehey, Dave England, Bam Margera, Preston Lacy and Stephen “Steve-O” Glover still manage to combine needless risk, intentional self-harm and ritual humiliation to achieve high-concept/lowbrow slapstick of the first order. (As much is also laid out in our story about "Jackass" appearing in today’s Calendar section.)

But outside the sequel's 3-D tweak, the biggest  change is Steve-O Glover's sobriety.

Steveo In recent years, the hell-raising daredevil -- who famously jumped off London’s Tower Bridge into the River Thames and pierced his cheek with a giant fishhook, who stapled his genitals to his leg and climbed across a tightrope above hungry alligators wearing a bikini made of meat -- became so dependent on booze and such drugs as cocaine, ketamine, PCP and nitrous oxide that  he became suicidal and had to be put on a two-week psychiatric hold to prevent him from killing himself. (Through it all, Glover filmed his downward spiral, which is shown in riveting detail in the documentary "Steve-O: Demise and Rise.")

Glover says he was under the influence of cocaine throughout the filming of most of "Jackass: The Movie," frequently bingeing on drugs for several days before shooting his segments, and showed up so high to the premiere of the second film that he urinated on the red carpet. He has, however, been completely off drugs and alcohol for the last 2½ years and faced significant fears to film his stunts for “Jackass 3D.” 

"There was a lot of emotion about it," Glover said recently. “I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t lame.”

According to “Jackass 3D” director Jeff Tremaine, Glover’s participation in the sequel wasn’t simply contingent on him putting down drugs. His very survival depended on it.

Continue reading »

Are unrated horror movies the new 3-D?

October 7, 2010 |  2:07 pm

Spit on grave

A beautiful young woman travels to a charming cabin in secluded woods, where morally deprived locals inflict hideous acts of torture and degradation. Revenge ensues involving bear traps, baseball bats and rusty hedge clippers.

That pretty much sums up director Steven R. Monroe's reboot of the 1979 cult classic "I Spit on Your Grave," which reaches theaters on Friday.

But while the original was a controversial exercise in torture porn -- and was named to Time magazine's Top 10 Ridiculously Violent movies thanks to its extended scenes of gang rape and graphic depictions of murder -- the new "I Spit on Your Grave" is making headlines around Hollywood for a different reason: It's the second horror movie this month to be released in major markets without an MPAA rating.

Last Friday, an unrated version of "Hatchet II" was carried by 60 theaters in the nationwide AMC chain, the widest opening for an unrated film in a quarter-century.

Far from treating the absence of an MPAA rating as a liability, marketers of this new wave of horror are making it part of the sales pitch. "Unforgiving. Uncompromising," read title cards cropping up between scenes of ultra-violence in the "I Spit on Your Grave" trailer. "Unmerciful. Unapologetic." More violence and mayhem ensues. "Unrated," the narrator intones.

The trailer for "Hatchet II," meanwhile, declares: "...For the first time in over 25 years, a horror film is coming to American major cinemas uncensored, uncut, uncompromised. Gore like you've never seen in the theater before." The play is clear: turn the absence of a rating into a novelty, like 3-D.

Unrated DVDs are common enough to be forgettable. But getting an NC-17, or opting to go unrated, usually works like kryptonite against theatrical releases.

While attitudes are starting to change -- Darren Aronofsky's surrealistic junkie drama "Requiem for a Dream," for instance, reached 90 theaters in its unrated form and grossed a respectable $3.6 million -- unrated films have also misfired. After howls of injustice from Oscilloscope Films chief (and part-time Beastie Boy) Adam Yauch about the MPAA's NC-17, the Holocaust documentary "A Film Unfinished" was released unrated in just five theaters to gross a lackluster $135,000. And Lars Von Trier's graphic and deliberately provocative "Antichrist" -- a movie for which NC-17 does not begin to cover the spread -- arrived in theaters without rating to a measly $404,000 domestic take.

These new horror movies are trying to change that, though they may have to work harder: Despite its brazen campaign, "Hatchet II" averaged fewer than 10 people at any given screening on its opening weekend.

-- Chris Lee

Photo: "I Spit on Your Grave" poster. Credit: Anchor Bay


Edward Norton goes back to movie prison

October 5, 2010 |  9:45 am

Ednort

In "Stone," John Curran's psychological thriller that hits theaters Friday, Edward Norton portrays Gerald "Stone" Creeson, a convicted killer who tried to cover up the murder of his grandparents with a handy bit of arson.  Eligible for an early parole, all he has to do is convince Robert DeNiro's grizzled prison counselor that he's a changed man who has paid his debt to society.

Despite Norton's faux tattoos, a corn-row hairstyle that would make Snoop Dogg envious and a hayseed accent that seems to channel both Larry the Cable Guy and George W. Bush, for some movie fans there will be something instantly familiar about the character.

Edward Norton in a prison jumpsuit. ... Edward Norton behind bars. ... Edward Norton convicted of a serious crime. ... It's getting to be a pattern. Indeed, "Stone" marks the actor's fourth movie go-round playing a convict.

Considered one of the finest actors of his generation, Norton has dramatized incarceration more than just about anyone in Hollywood. So what, then, can we surmise about the Yale graduate -- a former history major known for rewriting scripts and backseat directing -- and his willingness to again and again portray guys who are either rotting in the slammer, newly paroled or are headed to the big house?

The easy assumption may be that the two-time Oscar nominee is drawn to the material. Never mind that with a patrician mien and self-styled intellectualism, he seems unlikely to even get pinned with a jaywalking ticket -- his filmography presents the actor as a four-time offender:

• In his 1996 screen debut, "Primal Fear," Norton inverted those character traits to portray Aaron Stampler, a stuttering altar boy charged with murdering a Catholic archbishop.

• For "American History X," Norton packed on 30 pounds of muscle (and got inked up with a large fake swastika tattoo) to play Derek Vinyard, a white supremacist who must serve three years of hard time for a hate crime.

• In the Spike Lee-directed drama "The 25th Hour," Norton played Montgomery Brogan, a drug dealer reflecting on his life one night before he's set to begin a seven-year sentence in Otisville Federal Prison.

And then, of course, there's "Stone." At a recent news conference for the film, Norton explained that his research to portray Creeson involved meeting with a number of inmates at a prison north of Detroit. "A lot of people ask what you pull on from your own life for a character," the actor said. "But that’s not how things work for me. I get more from people who have really lived these lives."

-- Chris Lee

Photo: Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton in 'Stone.' Credit: Overture Films


'The A-Team's' Rampage Jackson: I don't hate gay people or fat girls

June 9, 2010 |  1:46 pm

Rampage

When The Times' profile of “The A-Team’s” Quinton "Rampage" Jackson went online late last month, the newly minted action star -- who updates Mr. T’s B.A. Baracus role in Fox’s $110-million adaptation of the cheesetacular '80s action-comedy -- raised more than a few eyebrows in the film industry with his piquant appraisal of movie stardom.

"Acting is kind of gay," Jackson said on the movie’s set in Vancouver, Canada. "It makes you soft. You got all these people combing your hair and putting a coat over your shoulders when you're cold. I don't want a coat over my shoulders! I'm a tough [individual]!"

But while allegations of homophobia ricocheted around the blogosphere in the story’s aftermath, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight champion remained silent.

Until now.

Jackson has posted a rejoinder to the story on his website in an effort to provide some much-needed context about what compelled him to wax philosophical about acting in such a way and to go on a seemingly homophobic tirade in front of a reporter, after a crew member wandered into the star’s trailer and called Jackson a gay slur.

The post also calls into question a reporter's motive for quoting Jackson as he shouted homophobic

Continue reading »

With Beatles biopic, Oasis' Liam Gallagher will take a long and winding road

May 7, 2010 |  2:08 pm

Beatles

Brit-pop’s most iconic supergroup, Oasis has never been shy about its moist-eyed worship of the Beatles.

Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher – respectively, Oasis’ frontman and chief songwriter -- have been widely panned for cribbing the Fab Four’s guitar solos, bass lines and piano parts in their songs; composing lyrics like “I’ll ride with you in your BMW/You can sail with me in my Yellow Submarine”; and they’ve been needled by no less than Paul McCartney for being so blatantly "derivative."  Liam even went so far as to name his son Lennon. (It's worth noting that Noel is, as of last year, no longer part of the band...for now.)

So when the "Champagne Supernova" singer decided to take a stab at making movies, his first project (touted Friday in an exclusive in London’s Daily Mail) came as a surprise to precisely no one. Gallagher will announce at the Cannes Film Festival later this month that his first film as a producer is a biopic chronicling the Beatles’  1967 to 1970 heyday, culminating in the group’s break-up.

Liam The source material: Richard DiLello’s 1972 rock history, “The Longest Cocktail Party: An Insider’s Diary of the Beatles, Their Million Dollar Apple Empire and Its Wild Rise and Fall,” written by a self-described “house hippie” and former publicist for the group’s Apple Corps record label. DiLello was privy to all the stoned conversations and insane behavior surrounding the Beatles’ penultimate years together and the book is said to be a Gallagher brothers favorite, once described with characteristic Cockney brio by Noel as “[expletive] brilliant.”

Produced in conjunction with Revolution Films (prolific British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom’s U.K. production company), the announcement of Gallagher’s as-yet untitled movie arrives on the heels of first-time filmmaker Sam Taylor Wood’s John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival but never landed Stateside distribution and faded from global cineplex screens having earned a meager $2.5 million.

Of course, to make a proper Beatles biopic, it stands to reason that Gallagher will need no small amount of Fab Four music -- the licensing for which is controlled by the Sony/ATV catalog, a massive trove of hit music co-owned by the estate of Michael Jackson. The King of Pop famously outbid McCartney to acquire the publishing rights to the Beatles’ music in 1985 for $47.5 million.

It might all seem, as McCartney says, "derivative," but if Liam could bring some of the same showmanship and energy to his filmic imitations of the Beatles that he does in his musical efforts, we could be in for an entertaining, um, magical mystery tour.

In the meantime, let the parlor games about future casting begin! Sam Worthington as Paul? Cillian Murphy as John? James Franco as Ringo?

-- Chris Lee

Photos: The Beatles. Credit: Apple Corps; Liam Gallagher. Credit: David Fitzgerald


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Is 'A Prophet's' Tahar Rahim the next Al Pacino?

March 2, 2010 | 12:37 pm

Rahim

As The Times’ Kenneth Turan so ably points out in his review of the Cannes Film Festival-anointed gangster-drama “A Prophet” (“Un Prophète”), the movie was already a “phenomenon” even before it arrived in the U.S. last week.

One of five nominees currently in the running for a best foreign language film Oscar, the baroque and enthralling French prison movie -- which follows a 19-year-old French Arab sentenced to six years of hard time in a Parisian prison, where he rises through the ranks of power in the Corsican mafia -- picked up a British BAFTA award and a Golden Globe nomination, while a “Sight & Sound” poll of 60 critics around the world named “A Prophet” 2009’s best film.

55-a-prophet-poster-trailerintro Art house audiences have apparently taken notice of that groundswell of international critic love. In limited release, booked in only nine theaters across North America, the movie grossed a robust $170,000 over its opening weekend.

Central to that kind of box-office mojo here and around the world has been “A Prophet’s” young star, newcomer Tahar Rahim. The 28-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent won two Cesars (the French equivalent to the Oscars) for best actor and most promising actor over the weekend (the film also won for best picture and best director).

And in review after glowing review, Rahim has been compared to no less than a young Al Pacino in the first installment of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy. In their respective roles, both leading men burst onto the screen exuding a kind of physical meekness that belies the force of character their characters come to embody as mob dons. Never mind that Rahim’s highest-profile project to date had been a role in “La Commune,” a French miniseries with a beyond negligible Q-rating in the States -- his “Prophet” role is the kind of breakthrough star turn that’s sure to be thrown even more into dramatic focus come Oscar weekend.

For his part, the actor rejects the comparison out of hand, exclaiming (in heavily accented Franglais in a recent interview with 24 Frames): “It’s too much. People are using comparisons that are not possible. This guy has changed so much in cinema and I’ve just made one movie. He’s a genius.”

But according to “A Prophet's” writer-director, the French crime genre maestro Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “Read My Lips”),  who interviewed 40 actors before giving Rahim the role and, moreover, who is credited with handing such French dramatic stalwarts as Vincent Cassel  breakthrough parts -- Rahim’s ambiguous ethnicity and pronounced youthfulness gave him a leg up on the competition.

“There’s a very juvenile quality to him,” said Audiard (who, interestingly enough, calls the movie his "anti-'Scarface' "). “And he’s not physically very Arabic. He’s not an exact Arabic type. He could be Spanish. He’s a very young actor and he had to learn a lot for a very complicated part that was hard to make realistic.” (You can read more about Audiard's process making "A Prophet" in this recent Sunday Calendar story.)

Then, consider who’s got Rahim’s back in Hollywood. On the heels of “A Prophet’s” grand jury prize win at Cannes last May, he signed with Creative Artists Agency’s international movie star specialist Hylda Queally. The Irish-born industry heavyweight is currently responsible for stewarding the careers of such global movie icons as Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Cate Blanchett, among others.

For his next project, “The Eagle of the Ninth," directed by “The Last King of Scotland” helmer Kevin Macdonald, Rahim changed gears to appear opposite Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. “I’m the baddie,” Rahim said between drags of on a Camel Light, seated in the Beverly Hills back yard of the French consul general. “He’s the prince of an ancient Gallic tribe. I’m talking in ancient Gallic -- it was hard.”

And last week, the actor signed on to appear in "Bitch," the romantic-drama from one of China's most controversial directors, Lou Ye. The film reportedly follows a Frenchman (Rahim) whose Chinese lover follows him to Paris, leading to "an intense love addiction." Shooting is set to begin this month with an eye toward landing a spot in the Cannes 2011 line-up.

Rahim described his experience on “A Prophet” as having given him the chance to grow up, “emotionally, professionally, in every way.” And Rahim said he would have no compunction about reprising his role as Malik El Djebena in the all but inevitable sequel.

“I would like to work again with Jacques,” Rahim said, cracking into a huge smile at the thought. “If it’s another time with Malik’s character, that would be great. Me too -- I would like to know what happens to him!”

-- Chris Lee

Photo: Tahar Rahim in "A Prophet." Credit: Image.net


Measuring the 'Twitter Effect' on the Oscars

February 24, 2010 |  5:31 pm

Oscar

Part and parcel of being the social networking platform du jour, Twitter has become the place for plugged-in ‘Netizens to chest beat, navel gaze and occasionally ruffle the feathers of their followers -- all in 140 characters or less. Especially in Hollywood.

But for many of this year’s Academy Award nominees as well as various and sundry boldfaced names who find themselves caught in the glare of the Oscars spotlight, Twitter has another value: as a locus of real-time reaction to the vagaries of awards season.

In this story in Thursday’s Times, we examine the Twitter Effect on this year’s Oscars. The operative idea being that in an era when even 64-year-old Helen Mirren is known to tweet, people are using their ambient online presences to communicate with more immediacy, greater candor and without the filter of publicists in a way that would have been unimaginable pre-Information Age.

But for the inquiring minds wanting to cut straight to the tweet, herewith is a short list of Oscar nominees and people attached to the awards broadcast who have active Twitter accounts:

Oscars broadcast co-producer Adam Shankman -- twitter.com/adammshankman

Best director nominee Jason Reitman -- twitter.com/jasonreitman

Jesse James, husband of best actress nominee Sandra Bullock -- twitter.com/frankyluckman

Best director nominee Quentin Tarantino -- twitter.com/qjtarantino

Best supporting actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe -- twitter.com/GaboureySidibe

Best director nominee Lee Daniels -- twitter.com/leedanielsent

Best actress nominee Helen Mirren -- twitter.com/helenmirren

“Up in the Air” author Walter Kirn -- twitter.com/walterkirn

-- Chris Lee

Photo of Oscars from AMPAS.


Kevin Smith's pre-'Fatgate' admission: 'I broke a toilet.'

February 15, 2010 |  4:58 pm

Smith

At first glance, there wouldn’t seem to be a lot of obvious upsides to Kevin Smith’s getting ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat. Even if the director ranks among Twitter’s hottest trending topics, significantly goosing the number of media mentions for his new action-comedy, “Cop Out,” which hits theaters on Feb. 26.

But while the incident — and Smith’s subsequent Tweakout about the ordeal, dubbed “Fatgate” —  continues to generate headlines worldwide, it’s not the first time the “Clerks” writer-director has suffered an ignominious, weight-related embarrassment just days before theatrically releasing a new movie.

In 2008, just before the roll-out of his under-performing romantic comedy “Zach and Miri Make a Porno,” Smith suffered a similar humiliation: He admitted that his self-described “morbid obesity” had been responsible for the destruction of a household appliance. And then, as now, he milked it for all it was worth on his blog and in interviews.

“I broke a toilet,” he told The Times. “That’s how heavy I am. I can’t take all the credit. That was an old toilet and a very water-logged wall. But still, there’s no excuses, dude. I cannot cognitively reframe it and be like, ‘It wasn’t me. It was the toilet.’ It was definitely me! And that’s a wake-up call.”

Asked why he would volunteer such a potentially embarrassing story about himself, Smith demurred. “It’s a good story,” he said. “It’s tough not to tell even though I’m the fat clown at the center of it. Putting it out there is saying, ‘I get it. I understand.’ ”

In the immediate aftermath of the director’s Twitter tirade, various blogs weighed in on the matter. Gawker.com hailed the director’s Tweakout as “the best thing Kevin Smith has written since ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.’ ” TMZ, meanwhile, observed “Southwest Should Fit Wide Loads” in its headline about the incident.

Although it is too soon to gauge Smith’s impact on Southwest’s bottom line, anecdotal evidence suggests that he has galvanized his Twitter constituency by vilifying the airline’s treatment of Customers of Size.

“Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky? Totally cool,” Smith tweeted Saturday. “But fair warning folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SouthwestAir.”

The response from many of Smith’s followers has been unequivocal.

On Sunday, one named @chaseronio likened the director to no less than Martin Luther King Jr. in a tweet: “Ur the MLK of fatties."

“I have a Dream,” Smith twittered back with deadpan aplomb. “And two lunches (meatball parm & Trix). And a couple of Twinkies. And a Diet Coke.”

-- Chris Lee

RELATED:

POLL: Kevin Smith vs. Southwest Airlines

Photo of Kevin Smith by Jay L. Clendenin for the Los Angeles Times.


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