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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Current Affairs

'The Guard': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

August 31, 2011 |  4:37 pm

Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson in The Guard, Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

Comedies that actually make you laugh are always the rarest of commodities, especially in the summer, so it is satisfying to see “The Guard” not only surviving but expanding into nearly 20 theaters across Southern California. An impish and impudent black comedy that knows where it’s going and how to get there, it gives veteran actor Brendan Gleeson one of the tastiest roles of his career and introduces gifted writer-director John Michael McDonagh.

If that name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the older brother of “In Bruges” filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh. Fans of the younger man will recognize a similar sensibility, but “The Guard” has a brightness and high-energy feeling all its own. When the director says he envisioned something “in the classic tradition of John Ford and Preston Sturges,” he is not kidding.

McDonagh has taken a “Beverly Hills Cop” framing device, with Gleeson’s unconventional Irish cop giving conniptions to a cool FBI agent played by Don Cheadle, and added a great sense of character and place as well as drop-dead sarcastic dialogue that is wickedly comic and unapologetically profane.

Don’t let it pass you by.


'The Guard': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

Eric Rohmer's 'Le Rayon Vert': Kenneth Turan's critic's pick film

'Glee: The 3D Concert Movie': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

-– Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson in "The Guard." Credit: Jonathan Hession / Sony Pictures Classics

'Conviction' and Hilary Swank draw fire from slain woman's family

October 14, 2010 |  1:27 pm

Getprev Hilary Swank has called "Conviction," the Fox Searchlight film she stars in, a "feel-good" story.

But apparently, there's nothing about the movie, which hits theaters Friday, that makes Melrose and Charles Brow feel good. They're the children of Katharina Brow, a diner waitress who was found stabbed to death in her trailer home in 1980. A local troublemaker named Kenny Waters was charged with her murder, and spent 18 years in prison. But he was released after his sister, Betty Anne Waters, brought to light DNA evidence that proved his innocence. Subsequently, no one has been charged with Katharina Brow's murder.

That's the real-life story that's told in "Conviction," in which Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a single mother who put herself through law school to help her brother.

On Thursday, Brow's children held a news conference with their lawyer, Gloria Allred, to express their disappointment that they had not been contacted by the "Conviction" filmmakers or by Swank, who executive produced the film.

"We are angry and disappointed that in the making of the film, neither executive producer Hilary Swank nor anyone else connected to the film ever contacted us to see how we would feel about the fact that our mother’s murder is the basis for events which transpired as a result of her tragedy," Melrose Brow said.

She and her brother have requested a meeting with Swank, during which Brow says she would like to ask the actress a number of questions, including why the movie was made and how the film's profits will be used.

“I want to find out what the movie’s made and, as the profits come in, if they’ll use those profits to help us with trying to find out who the perpetrator is,” Brow said in an interview after the news conference. She and her family are not seeking compensation, but would like money to go toward a search for the killer, she said.

Fox Searchlight did not respond to an immediate request for comment. Swank's representative said the actress had no comment.

The Brow family has not had the opportunity to see "Conviction" yet because they have not been invited to any private screenings before its release, Allred said. Katharina Brow's murder, although the impetus for the film's plot, does not occupy much of the movie itself. In the film, after she is slain, Brow is shown in a mildly graphic scene, bloodied and sprawled across a floor. But little else is revealed about her in the movie.

In a recent interview, Swank said she had prepared diligently for "Conviction." She traveled to the East Coast to visit Waters, who drove Swank through her hometown of Ayer, Mass., pointing out "where she lived, where her trailer was, where she used to eat, the candy store she used to steal from," the actress recalled.

Swank said she took the responsibility of portraying the Waters family accurately on screen seriously. 

"I wouldn’t be able to live with myself [if] I somehow didn’t portray the story in a way that [Betty Anne] felt reflected her story," Swank said. "I was at the premiere with her in Toronto, and I don’t want the credits to roll and have her look at me and go, 'What are you thinking? That’s not how it happened at all.' So it’s an enormous responsibility. You can't take a lot of liberty with the storytelling."

--Amy Kaufman

Photo: Hilary Swank. Credit: Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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

June 9, 2010 |  1:46 pm


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 »

Will Northwest Flight 253 hero take flight in Hollywood?

December 29, 2009 | 10:44 am


Last week the world was introduced to Jasper Schuringa, the 32-year-old Dutchman who helped stop a suspected terrorist from igniting an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He made headlines after helping the cabin crew subdue 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallah, who allegedly tried (and failed) to detonate a plastic bomb as the plane prepared to land in Detroit. Other passengers then applauded Schuringa as he walked back to his seat, according to a CNN report.

But before last week, the formerly unknown hero had spent the last few years seeking a different kind of fame: as a filmmaker.

We wanted to find out more about Schuringa's film credits and wondered whether last week's incident might raise his profile in Hollywood. Schuringa isn't a registered member of the Director's Guild of America, but we did find him on IMDB, where he is listed as a crew member on two small films.

Most recently, he served as an assistant director on "Teed Off Too," a 2006 National Lampoon film that captures hidden-camera pranks pulled on unsuspecting golfers. In 2004, he was the first assistant director on "The Significance of Seventeen," a film about a man trying to figure out the importance of numbers as they relate to a moment when he is fated to meet a woman.

Although it remains to be seen whether Schuringa's act of heroism will do anything for his career behind the camera, he certainly seems to be getting the hang of playing hardball with the media.

In the meantime, here's Schuringa being interviewed on CNN:

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Credit: J.P. Karas / Associated Press

Is 'I see you' 2009's 'I drink your milkshake'?

December 23, 2009 |  4:16 pm

Each year, a select few movie lines vie for entry into the pantheon of immortal film dialogue -- the kind of random but inescapable catchphrases you hear commentators shouting out on “Sports Center” or coworkers mimicking at the office Christmas party. “Call it, friend-o.” “Go ahead, make my day.” “Show me the money!” Daniel Day-Lewis’ gasket-busting, dairy-imbibing taunt from 2007’s “There Will Be Blood." 

Our nomination for this year: “I see you." The phrase can be heard throughout “Avatar,” uttered time and again by the Na’vi (the film's nature-loving, spiritually attuned, 11-foot-tall, Smurf-hued panther people). 

To put “I see you” in its proper context, a primer on its usage is in order.

In “Avatar's" self-contained universe, you might urgently whisper “I see you” to, say, some giant predatory animal whose guts you have just splayed across the jungle floor. Or to a frisky alien princess (Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri character) with whom you would like to “mate.”

Vague and deliberately open-ended, “I see you” is meant to convey the Na’vis’ oneness with nature and deep connection with the spiritual realm. But that won’t stop the line from winding up on T-shirts for sale at a mall near you any minute.

It's not the only contender for aphorism of the year. Another dark horse entry comes courtesy of Lars von Trier’s art house horror flick “Antichrist.”

During a surreal scene in which Willem Dafoe’s anguished character is shown stumbling through the woods, he chances upon a fox busying itself with a macabre task: devouring its own flesh. The beast suddenly stops and tosses its head back. Then it growls another of the year’s catchphrases: “Chaos reigns.”

“Antichrist’s” U.S. distributor, IFC Films, reportedly tried to cash in on an early outpouring of fanboy goodwill toward “Chaos reigns” by making the phrase part of the movie’s ad campaign. As Variety succinctly said about the line: “Chaos reigns. And buzz abounds.”

-- Chris Lee


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