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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Jack Black

Jack Black, dramatic actor?

June 17, 2011 |  7:38 pm

Photo: Jack Black in "Bernie." Credit: Mandalay Entertainment Jack Black has hunted and gathered in Sodom, donned the cape of a Mexican wrestler and been tied down by a thousand Lilliputians. But outside a supporting part in the little-seen "Margot at the Wedding," he's never tried on serious garb before.

That changed at the Los Angeles Film Festival opening night Thursday, where Black showed a flair for drama and dark comedy at the world premiere of "Bernie," Richard Linklater's quirky film based on a true story from his native Texas.

The tenacious one plays the title character, a mustachioed, showtunes-loving aesthete living in a backwater East Texas town who, oh yes, is also a mortician and the companion of an eccentric wealthy widow (Shirley Maclaine) on whom he ultimately perpetrates a violent crime. It's by far the most ambitious role for Black — currently starring in "Kung Fu Panda 2" — not least because the actor has to make us laugh at the absurdity of his character while simultaneously conjuring both sympathy and condemnation.

Black said he wasn't specifically seeking a prestige turn. Asked in a phone interview why he chose the "Bernie" role, he chalked it up to Linklater, with whom he collaborated on the 2003 hit comedy "School of Rock." "It was about making the same magic with Rick again," he said.

In an interview on the red carpet Thursday night,  Black acknowledged a shift, but only understatedly, "It's a litte bit darker than my usual fare," he said.

Maclaine, though, made sure the actor got some props. "You're laughing at things you don't believe you're laughing at," she said of her "Bernie" co-star. "He's a really good actor. He's not just funny and a comic." (You can watch the video from the red-carpet interview with Maclaine and Black below.)

Black tends to speak in a metaphor that's quaint and almost East Texas-y in its own right. Asked if his role in the upcoming "Muppets" remake would see a return to goofball comedy, he said, "Yes, but I have to give my man Jason Segel credit, there's some dark chocolate in there too."

On the red carpet, Black called Linklater and Maclaine "the honey to my bees." And in the phone interview he said that while the director may seem like a pretty traditional "meat and potatoes" filmmaker, when "the pie came out of the oven, it was delicious."

We're not exactly sure what that means, though besides from making us a little hungry, his thoughts — and, especially, the "Bernie" performance — do make us wonder whether Black might soon break the streak of recent comedy wobblers and again try something more serious.


Richard Linklater stays provocative and independent with "Bernie"

Richard Linklater's "Bernie" to open Los Angeles Film Festival

Jack Black: I'm kind of like a modern-day Jerry Lewis

— Steven Zeitchik and Amy Kaufman



Photo: Jack Black in "Bernie." Credit: Mandalay Entertainment

L.A. Film Festival adds Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, more to lineup

June 3, 2011 |  2:12 pm

Jackblack Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine will bring some added star power to the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival with the announcement Friday that Richard Linklater's new film "Bernie," starring the two actors, will serve as the fest's opening-night film, along with a follow-up conversation after the screening.

The festival, through its Artists in Residence program, also has scheduled two additional screenings. One of the two artists in residence, Erykah Badu, has chosen to screen Ricky Gervais' "The Invention of Lying," followed by a conversation with the musician. Composer Daniele Luppi, who's worked with Danger Mouse and Gnarls Barkley, will present a screening of Sergio Corbucci's 1966 film "Navajo Joe" before doing a Q&A session focused on movies and music.

Two new gala screenings have been added to the festival lineup. Screen Gems' "Attack the Block," from the producers of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," will screen, as will Lionsgate's "The Devil's Double" from director Lee Tamahori.

"Bernie" stars Black as a mortician in small-town Texas who strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, played by MacLaine. Black and MacLaine are scheduled to engage in a "fun, game-show" style Q&A with moderator Leonard Maltin.

The festival will run from June 16 to June 26 in downtown Los Angeles.


2011 Los Angeles Film Festival lineup unveiled

Richard Linklater's 'Bernie' to open 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival

2011 Los Angeles Film Festival will welcome Guillermo del Toro, James Franco, Ryan Reynolds

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Jack Black.  Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Richard Linklater's 'Bernie' to open 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival

May 23, 2011 | 10:30 am

Bernie 2 Richard Linklater's new film, "Bernie," starring Jack Black as a Texan mortician, will open the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival, event organizers announced Monday. The independent film, which does not yet have domestic distribution, joins a lineup of both low-budget and largely commercial fare at the Los Angeles Times-sponsored festival, which runs from June 16-26 at L.A. Live.

The black comedy centers around an  undertaker (Black) who commits a crime but is still popular within the community, especially with one surly, wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine). The movie reteams Black with Linklater, who directed the comedian in 2003's "School of Rock." That was the last box office hit for the filmmaker, best known for his work on movies such as "Dazed and Confused," "Before Sunrise" and the subsequent "Before Sunset." His last directorial effort, 2008's "Me and Orson Welles," starring Zac Efron, received positive critical reviews but flopped upon its release in theaters.

The festival also revealed that it will welcome musician Quincy Jones and writer Frank Pierson for a conversation about the legacy of filmmaker Sidney Lumet. Meanwhile, the event's guest director, Guillermo del Toro -- whose "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" will close the festival -- will present a little-seen Italian film called "The Arcane Enchanter." Del Toro is presenting the 1996 release, written and directed by Pupi Avati, as an example of a film that influenced him.


2011 Los Angeles Film Festival will welcome stars Guillermo del Toro, James Franco, Ryan Reynolds and more

2011 Los Angeles Film Festival lineup unveiled

With 'Limpet' remake, Richard Linklater could take a new plunge

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jack Black stars in "Bernie." Credit: Los Angeles Film Festival.

Jack Black: I'm kind of like a modern-day Jerry Lewis

March 29, 2011 |  3:51 pm

JackJack Black put on a show for movie exhibitors in Las Vegas on Monday night, rolling around on the stage and pretending to be a martial arts expert to help promote the upcoming 3-D release "Kung Fu Panda 2."

"This movie kicks so much butt that's there's going to be a national butt shortage when this movie is unleashed on theaters," he told the audience.

Um, perhaps. But the comedian probably doesn't need to drum up that much support for the sequel, due out May 26, anyway: The 2008 2-D original was a blockbuster, grossing more than $630 million worldwide.

Not such a big hit, however? Black's latest movie, "Gulliver's Travels," which cost 20th Century Fox about $112 million to produce but has collected only $42.7 million since its release last December. (Overseas the film has been far more successful, and is inching toward the $200-million mark.)

Asked why he thought the movie resonated abroad, Black shrugged.

"I'm like Jerry Lewis," he joked. "My agent called and was like, 'Hey, it turns out it's a hit!' "

In any case, he says, he prefers acting in animated movies, in part because a voice actor has more fashion freedom. (His choice of outfit onstage in front of the movie exhibitors Monday -- whom he referred to as a "swashbucklin' crew" -- included a Hawaiian-print button-up and a T-shirt with a tiger emblazoned  underneath.)

"It's also so much faster. You can do a ton of scenes in one day, whereas in a live-action movie you're doing five hours straight of a scene that's one minute," he explained. "This is less of a dull process."

-- Amy Kaufman in Las Vegas


Photo: Jack Black promotes his upcoming film "Kung Fu Panda 2" at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

Sundance 2011: 'Fight for Your Right Revisited' brings the Beastie revolution

January 20, 2011 | 11:45 pm


The Sundance Film Festival’s "Short Program I" had no shortage of visceral kidney punches and visual shockers for the jam-packed audience at the Library Theater in Park City, Utah, on Thursday night.

Director Ariel Kleiman’s “Deeper Than Yesterday” provoked deep unease depicting the rage that lurks beneath man’s civility –- or at least the simmering hostility manifest in pasty-faced mariners deep beneath the ocean’s surface in a Russian submarine. “The Terrys” (directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Warheim) presents an extreme slice of White Trash excess (“ice” gets smoked, Zubaz pants are worn, a surprise pregnancy results in a not-quite normal baby). And “The External World” (directed by David O’Reilly) shows us a video game universe where Japanimation characters find themselves in disquieting –- but nonetheless hilarious -- predicaments that play up an almost shockingly complete list of comedic taboos: pedophilia, genocide, spontaneous combustion and gratuitous pooping.

But the short movie that a large contingent of the opening night showing had come specifically to see was “Fight for Your Right Revisited,” directed by an individual named Adam Yauch. That would be the guy better known as MCA from the seminal hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys.

Yauch’s aliases are myriad. He sometimes goes by an alter ego named Nathaniel Hornblower to direct short films and movies such as “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot” and “Awesome I … Shot That.” And at the Indie movie distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories, he goes by the title chief executive.

Yauch directed the 20-minute movie as a kind of bizarro companion piece to the Beasties’ smash 1986 frat boy anthem “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).”  The film follows actors impersonating the group in period-perfect costumes in the denouement to the wild party (where pies are thrown, Spanish Fly is dumped in punch and a TV is famously sledge-hammered) depicted in the video.

But not just any actors. Seth Rogen portrays the Beasties’ Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Elijah Wood embodies Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and a trash-talking Danny McBride channels '80s-era Yauch via four-day growth of beard and sleazy leather jacket.

The trio rob a bodega, spray beer all over passersby on a New York-esque (read: Hollywood movie studio backlot) street and generally raise havoc wherever they go, terrorizing a Who’s Who of movie bigshots in the process: Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Will Arnett among them -- but also Kirsten Dunst, Rashida Jones and Orlando Bloom (wearing a vintage Def Jam jacket in homage to the group's former record label). But the Beastie party mayhem doesn’t stop there. The “Beasties” are picked up by “metal chicks” portrayed by Chloe Sevigny and Maya Rudolph with whom they ingest whippets and drop liquid acid.

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Preview review: Jack Black is washed up in 'Gulliver's Travels'

June 4, 2010 |  9:00 pm

MV5BMjI1NDU1MjcxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODczNTM1Mw@@._V1._SX510_SY755_Jack Black has made his name playing the the lazy-but-lovable goofball who manages to defy the odds by stumbling into greatness. His new role in the film "Gulliver's Travels" is no different, except that by now we're a little tired of the act.

The film, out in December, is a modern spin on the classic novel by Irishman Jonathan Swift. Black plays Lemuel Gulliver, a mailroom clerk who works at a magazine and aspires to become a writer. After fooling an editor (Amanda Peet) into believing he's a talented travel writer, he's assigned a piece on the Bermuda Triangle. But as soon as he's sent off on the exotic assignment, his boat overturns on the high seas and he wakes up to find himself on the mysterious island of Lilliput, where he slowly becomes the giant hero of the land's miniature-size population.

Sadly, we're not all that enthused by the trailer. While we'll admit we laughed when Gulliver has a silent freak-out in an elevator after his brief flirtatious encounter with Peet's character, the rest of his jokes here didn't land.

The effects also look a little bit hokey -- the waves crashing over Gulliver's head before his boat flips over look painfully fake, as does Gulliver's huge figure towering over his interesting cast of pint-size co-stars, including Emily Blunt and Jason Segel.

Continue reading »


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