24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Nicole Sperling

Johnny Depp, Natalie Portman sign on for McCartney's 'My Valentine'

May 24, 2012 |  2:17 pm

If you have ever wanted to see Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp use their vast knowledge of sign language, now's your chance. Seems Paul McCartney has partnered with the two A-listers to translate the lyrics of his jazzy tune "My Valentine" for the hard-of-hearing crowd. McCartney's film, in which Portman and Depp appear via split screen and sign the lyrics in black-and-white, was first shown at a star-studded gala in Los Angeles.

Now the Weinstein Co. has announced that it will screen McCartney's video ahead of  "The Intouchables," which opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York.

Since it's a short film, it will not replace either of the trailers the company has attached to the French comedy, which has grossed over $340 million overseas. Rather, Weinstein will request that the theater owners play the film before the feature starts. The movie is about a quadriplegic, white Parisian millionaire who hires a black Senegalese troublemaker as his attendant. 

Since neither the millionaire nor the attendant is deaf, we're not quite sure what "My Valentine" has to do with "The Intouchables," but it does seem to help that Harvey Weinstein is pals with the former Beatle. The two got to know each other when Weinstein produced the 9/11 concert for New York and McCartney was the first musician to volunteer to perform.

Both films do run toward the saccharine — perhaps that's the common thread that united them in Weinstein's eyes.


Johnny Depp, Natalie Portman star in 3 new Paul McCartney videos

Paul McCartney gets his star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Grammys 2012: Paul McCartney rehearses 'My Valentine'

— Nicole Sperling



William Friedkin to serve as L.A. Film Fest's guest director

May 15, 2012 | 11:09 am

Killer joe matthew mcconaughey
William Friedkin, the Academy Award-winning director of 1971's "The French Connection," will serve as guest director of the Los Angeles Film Festival and will screen his new NC-17 movie, "Killer Joe," on June 15, organizers said Tuesday. "Killer Joe" will be shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Friedkin will participate in an onstage interview.

The film follows 22-year-old Chris (Emile Hirsch), who is in debt to a drug lord. He must hire a hit man to dispatch his mother, whose $50,000 life insurance policy benefits his sister (Juno Temple). Chris finds Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a creepy Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. When Chris can't pay Joe upfront, Joe sets his sights on Dottie as collateral for the job.

Festival organizers also announced that composer Danny Elfman, chef Michael Voltaggio and record producer Raphael Saadiq would serve as the festival's artists-in-residence, curating screenings and conversations related to their specialties. Elfman will present hand-picked film clips featuring his favorite scores on June 16, and will discuss how film music has shaped his career. Voltaggio, the famed "Top Chef" who owns the award-winning restaurant Ink in Los Angeles, will present Bib Giraldi's "Dinner Rush" on June 20, followed by a conversation.

Saadiq will present a screening of his choice on June 15, followed by a conversation with KCRW-FM's Chris Douridas.

The L.A. Film Festival runs from June 14 to June 24.


Woody Allen's 'To Rome With Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

Film Independent announces lineup for Los Angeles Film Festival

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Matthew McConaughey stars as the title character  in William Friedkin's movie "Killer Joe."  Credit: Skip Bolen/LD Entertainment

Is Jennifer Lawrence revisiting the wilderness-mama genre with 'Glass Castle'?

April 23, 2012 |  2:27 pm

While promoting “The Hunger Games” last month, Jennifer Lawrence quipped, “I don’t know what it is with me and maternal wilderness girls. I just love 'em.…” The 21-year-old actress was referring not only to her role as Katniss Everdeen in the uber-blockbuster that has now racked up more than $350 million but also to her Academy Award-nominated part as Ree Dolly in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” While the films are markedly different, both feature strong female protagonists who must take on a motherly role because their parents can't fulfill their responsibilities.

That trend seems to be continuing. Not even the intensity of playing Katniss has seemed to abate the actress’ passion for the “maternal wilderness girl.” According to Deadline Hollywood this morning, Lawrence is eyeing another such part in an adaptation of journalist and gossip columnist Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle.”

Lionsgate declined to comment for this story, but it seems Lawrence has little fear about being typecast. “The Glass Castle” is Walls’ chronicle of her unorthodox childhood as one of four children who had to fend for themselves after their eccentric parents proved unable. The book, published in 2005, spent some 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was a favorite among many book clubs.

Paramount Pictures scooped up the movie rights to the book the year it was published via its deal with Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B but was never able to turn it into a feature film. The project went into turnaround, and producer Gil Netter (“The Blind Side,”) bought it. According to screenwriter Marti Noxon, who is just signing her deal to work on the script, Lionsgate’s president of production, Eric Feig, pounced on the project before Gill and Noxon were able to take it out as a pitch.

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'Catching Fire' director: Lionsgate eyeing Cronenberg, Innaritu, Cuaron

April 12, 2012 | 10:56 am

Now that Lionsgate and director Gary Ross have parted ways, the studio behind "The Hunger Games"  franchise is in a rather unenviable position. Sure, they are likely to land a director for less then what it would have cost to have kept Ross in the chair, but now they must find someone who pleases both the gregarious fans who have turned the movie into such a juggernaut and, perhaps more importantly, appease Suzanne Collins, the author of the three-book series, who was a close collaborator with Ross during his tenure on the project.

The studio has been quickly cobbling together a list of directors who would fit their criteria. According to a source with knowledge of the list who isn't permitted to speak on the record, Lionsgate needs to find a director with enough credits and accolades to appeal to Collins, who is much more interested in quality filmmaking than box-office prowess. This director also needs to have an even keel; no petulant crybabies allowed. The studio wants to get the sequel, "Catching Fire," into production by August, and the task will require someone who can wrangle a large ensemble of actors, juggle the demands of a swift schedule and collaborate on a script with Collins and writer Simon Beaufoy.

The master list is seven or eight names long, all men, and all have some significant credits to their name. Lionsgate is basically hoping to re-create the "Harry Potter" moment when Warner Bros. brought Alfonso Cuaron to direct the third film in the series. (Chris Columbus left after helming the first two.) Cuaron was a creative choice who excited critics, journalists and author J.K. Rowling, who all were interested in what the director of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" would do with the series.

In fact, Cuaron is in the mix for "Catching Fire," along with David Cronenberg and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, among others. All have been working in the industry for decades and trend more toward darker, indie fare than commercial hits.

Cronenberg has frequently been offered big commercial gigs over the years, including "Return of the Jedi," "Top Gun," and "RoboCop," only to turn them down for arty, independently produced work, often in the horror genre. Though Cronenberg's best-known film is still 1986's "The Fly," the Canadian director has been making movies for decades, with his most recent work, the adaptation of Don DeLillo's "Cosmopolis" starring Robert Pattinson, likely to debut in Cannes next month.

For Inarritu, joining "Catching Fire" would mark a reunion with his producer from the Academy Award-nominated film "Babel" Jon Kilik, who is producing the "Hunger Game" series along with Nina Jacobson. While “Catching Fire” deals with the heavy themes of rebellion and children-on-children violence, it is still significantly lighter than Inarritu’s most recent work, “Biutiful,” the Javier Bardem-starrer that  chronicled a dying man’s attempts to make amends.

Cuaron entered the blockbuster genre with "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2004, but  despite great reviews didn't stick with the boy wizard beyond the one film. Rather, he took on ambitious fare within the studio system, including Universal Pictures' "Children of Men." The Mexican director recently finished production on "Gravity" for Warner Bros. The film, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is about a lone survivor of a space mission trying desperately to return to Earth to reunite with his family.

Any of the three men would be a reassuring choice for fans and Collins. And all three auteurs could have compelling takes on the material. Other names are sure to rise to the surface, but Cronenberg, Inarritu and Cuaron should give fans some reassurance that Lionsgate is doing its best to try to preserve their beloved franchise.

-- Nicole Sperling


'Hunger Games' director Gary Ross bows out of sequel

'Catching Fire': Is Gary Ross back to his old ways?

'Hunger Games': Gary Ross on hunting the job, Jennifer Lawrence

Top photo: David Cronenberg. Credit Chris Young/Associated Press

Lower photo: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Credit: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times

Fox alters 'Neighborhood Watch' campaign after Trayvon Martin death

March 27, 2012 |  2:48 pm

Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, stars of the upcoming summer comedy "Neighborhood Watch," at an NBA basketball game

Twentieth Century Fox has pulled its teaser trailer and in-theater posters for the upcoming Ben Stiller-Vince Vaughn comedy "Neighborhood Watch" in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting that has sparked national protests. The film is set for release in July.

Starring Stiller, Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as four suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch to get away from their families and wind up having to battle aliens, "Neighborhood Watch" couldn't be further from the tragic circumstances of the Martin case in Florida, in which an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Yet in the minute-long trailer, which debuted in theaters ahead of "21 Jump Street" and online just three days after the shooting, the four actors are seen cruising their leafy neighborhood in a minivan with Hill's character making a gun motion out the window. 

The in-theater promotional display shows a bullet-riddled street sign dripping with green goo. According to a Fox spokesperson, the materials were taken out of Florida theaters over the past week and will be removed from other theaters around the country in the coming days. Online, the trailer can still be found.

The studio wants to assure audiences that the film is in no way connected to the Martin case and will therefore accelerate to the second stage of its marketing campaign, one that focuses more on the alien invasion component of the film.

"We are very sensitive to the Trayvon Martin case, but our film is a broad alien invasion comedy and bears absolutely no relation to the tragic events in Florida," said a statement released by the studio. "The movie, which is not scheduled for release for several months, was made and these initial marketing materials were released before this incident ever came to light. The teaser materials were part of an early phase of our marketing and were never planned for longterm use."

The in-theater materials will be replaced with posters of the cast. Fox has not yet determined when a new trailer will debut.

This is not the first time a real-world event has coincided with a theatrical motion picture on a similar topic. Warner Bros. pulled Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" -- which featured a deadly tsunami -- from the Japanese market after Japan's earthquake and tsunami hit last year. The British release for Warners' "V for Vendetta" was delayed in 2005 after the London subway bombings eerily echoed a key plot point in the vigilante-themed film.


Ben Stiller's 'Neighborhood Watch' begins to attract a crowd

Weinstein Co. to release 'Bully' documentary without MPAA rating

Summer showdown: Is there room for 2 action movies on the same day?

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, stars of the upcoming summer comedy "Neighborhood Watch," at an NBA basketball game in January. Credit: John Bazemore/AP

'Fifty Shades of Grey' aims for the movies

March 26, 2012 | 11:19 am

The principals behind “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the erotic ebook that has become a literary sensation, have sold film rights to the novel and its two sequels to Universal Pictures and its Focus Features division. The sale means that one of the most buzzed-about books in years will become a film -- although with no writer, director, cast or production timetable in place, it could be several years before the movie hits multiplexes, if at all.

Centering on an S&M-heavy relationship between chaste recent college graduate Anastasia Steele and a 27-year-old billionaire named Christian Grey, E.L. James' “Fifty Shades” has become a New York Times bestseller exclusively on electronic book platforms, with the books being read and discussed among various circles of women, many of them mothers. (Paperback copies for what is dubbed “mommy porn” hit stores next month via Random House’s Vintage Books.)

Universal's Donna Langley and Adam Fogelson called the trilogy a "one-of-a-kind series of stories," while Focus Features' James Schamus called it "a romance of the most emotionally resonant, but delicate, order." Deal terms were not disclosed, though numbers as high as several million dollars have been reported.

James and her agent Valerie Hoskins had kickstarted a frenzy among Hollywood studios several weeks ago,  with Paramount Pictures going so far as to create a video featuring female employees explaining what the book meant to them, while a Fox 2000 producer flew to London to make her pitch. Universal,  which outmaneuvered more than half a dozen studios to land the racy property, gave its initial pitch last Monday.

While the Universal/Focus team was not considered a front-runner as the race unfolded, the company offered the scale of a studio and the nurturing more common at a specialty division. Focus also has a history of handling sexually provocative material, releasing the Chinese wartime romance “Lust, Caution” and the gay western “Brokeback Mountain.” (James intends to be involved with many aspects of the production, said one person familiar with the pitch who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.)

Executives who pursued the book described a story that tapped into the forbidden romance of “Twilight” and recalled the explicit sex scenes of “9½ Weeks,” the Mickey Rourke-Kim Basinger 1980s erotic drama. But it was hard to ignore the effect that the outsize box office this weekend for  “The Hunger Games,” another female-oriented book franchise, had on the sales mania.

And though the “Grey” female audience is older than "Twilight’s" core demographic, studio executives think the books play on the same virtues: a chaste young woman, a slightly dangerous man and a forbidden romance. (Indeed, the book originated as “Twilight” fan fiction.)

Still, although no executive wants to be held accountable for missing out on a literary phenomenon -- when it first went out, “The Hunger Games” generated interest from only a handful of studios, while Paramount opted not to turn “Twilight” into a film, to its ultimate chagrin -- it's unclear that "50 Shades of Grey" will have the same broad appeal as those hits. It’s unclear, for instance, whether producers can eliminate some of the book’s racier scenes to land an R rating without diluting the essence of the novels, as well as whether individual readers will want to share a private, guilty pleasure in the communal setting of a movie theater.

With the book and its sequels, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” now sold to Hollywood, the online guessing game will begin over who will play Steele. Already, the names Shailene Woodley and Dakota Fanning have surfaced; expect a lot more to get bandied around in the coming months.


Bestselling 'mommy porn': '50 Shades of Grey'

'50 Shades of Grey' has studios hot and bothered

Does '21 Jump Street' prove the '80s naysayers wrong?

--Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling


Photo: "Fifty Shades of Grey." Credit: Vintage Books

'The Hunger Games': Parents ask, should I take my kids?

March 22, 2012 |  1:56 pm

"The Hunger Games": Click to read the review

With all the hype surrounding the opening of “The Hunger Games,” it wouldn’t be surprising if your 7-year-old was as psyched to see the dystopian sci-fi drama as your mother-in-law. But the “games” of the title here spotlight kid-on-kid homicide, so choosing this PG-13-rated film as a date with your youngster might not be the best parenting move.

If your child is approaching puberty, though, Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of books centered on the futuristic world of Panem might have already been assigned as required reading by his or her middle-school English teacher. The first novel — and subsequent film — introduces readers to an autocratic, futuristic world built from the ashes of North America where a small, and lucky, percent of the population is housed within the sleek confines of the Capitol, and their garish and superficial lifestyles make the Kardashian sisters look introspective.

In contrast, the rest of the nation lives in impoverished outlying districts, subsisting to one degree or another on meager food rations. As an annual reminder of a past failed rebellion, the totalitarian government forces each of the 12 districts to put forward two children, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to compete to the death in the televised Hunger Games.

PHOTOS: Meet the main cast of 'The Hunger Games'

The film touches on many themes relevant to today’s culture, including the Occupy movement and the national obsession with reality television. Here, we offer a brief guide to what age the film is appropriate for and what conversations and concepts it might spark for parent-child discussions.

Who should see “The Hunger Games”?

Scholastic, the publisher of Collins’ trilogy of books, recommends the series for children 12 and older. The violence may not be any more gory than what has been seen in the “Harry Potter” movies but some educational experts suggest that since “Hunger Games” has a more sophisticated take on the delineation between good and evil than “Harry Potter,” children who can’t yet understand those nuances should probably not attend.

“Even if you think about the film as a tale teaching people about good and evil and the reality of death, it’s a little too dark for kids under 12,” said Greg Garrett, an English professor at Baylor University.

Use “The Hunger Games” as an opportunity to discuss America’s obsession with reality television.

The potential extremes of reality television are on display in “The Hunger Games.” Yes, we are rooting for Katniss Everdeen to succeed without sacrificing her soul, but it’s apparent that many of the observers, especially those residing within the Capitol, take pure pleasure in watching children gut each other in an arena.

Director Gary Ross takes the lesson one step further than Collins did in her novel by showing the control room and the adults who are manipulating the arena to make good television. It’s easy to imagine the producers of “The Bachelor” or “Survivor” sitting in a similar room maneuvering their contests — but not to a fatal degree — thus making it the perfect opportunity to discuss with children who may look up to the likes of Snooki and the Situation, how that exploitation is carefully disguised as entertainment.

“When you look at the emotional bloodshed that takes place on these shows and the vicarious enjoyment we take from that — one of Suzanne Collins’ points and I think it comes across very clearly in the movie — there is something demeaning that takes place when we feed off the emotions and the lives of the people we are watching,” Garrett said. “If I spend 10 minutes watching ‘Jersey Shore,’ I don’t only feel like a stupider person but a worse person.”

Continue reading »

'50 Shades of Grey' has studios hot and bothered

March 20, 2012 |  5:09 pm

'50 Shades of Grey'

Hollywood's top studios are rolling out the red carpet for little-known British author named E.L. James, the woman behind an overnight literary phenomenon titled "50 Shades of Grey."

The first in the trilogy of erotic e-books about a virginal recent college graduate and her lurid relationship with a billionaire in his late 20s, James' "Grey" has become a sensation among female readers. Now the studios are eager to capitalize on the popularity of the novel, hoping to retell the story on the big screen.

Over the last few days, top executives from Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Fox 2000, Universal and Paramount have -- or will -- deliver presentations, some of them highly elaborate, to convince James and her literary agent Valerie Hoskins that they are the best candidates to transform the popular material into a movie. (The three books are being sold as a package and would be developed as a potential franchise by the winning bidder.)

One person familiar with the pitch who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of negotiations told 24 Frames that, to convince James and Hoskins to go with them, Paramount Pictures executives put together a video featuring female executives reacting positively to the novels. (In an odd turn, Adam Goodman, president of the studio's film group, is bidding on the project against his wife, Jessica Goodman, who serves as executive vice president of Fox 2000 under Elizabeth Gabler.)

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. president of production Greg Silverman decided to go after the rights after the female executives at the company were espousing the book's steamy virtues, in addition to the personal endorsements he received from his wife and mother-in-law.

Universal Pictures Donna Langley and production exec Tracy Falco gave their pitch Monday, along with Sony's Amy Pascal. [Update, 5:32 pm, Tuesday: The majority of the studios already met with the author and her agent. Individual producers are scheduled to meet with the sellers later in the week. Red Wagon, Imagine Entertainment, Scott Stuber Productions and Adam Shankman’s Offspring Entertainment are among the contenders to land the property. A person familiar with negotiations said bids from all interested parties will be accepted by the sellers on Friday.]

The studios think the racy material can be turned into a movie a la “9 1/2 Weeks,” the sexy Mickey Rourke-Kim Basinger film from the 1980s that slowly grew into a home-video and international phenomenon. Others argue that this novel is actually a "female empowerment story" where a young woman is awakened sexually by the unconventional methods of her older, controlling lover.

James, a TV executive and mother of two, developed the “Grey” books from fan fiction she wrote online in tribute to Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" novels. The first “Grey” book has hit the New York Times bestseller list despite the dearth of physical copies in the marketplace. (A small Australian publisher first printed a small run of copies and Vintage Books, the division of Random House, will release all three titles in paperback April 17.)

The books are being read and discussed among circles of women, many of them mothers, around the country, including those who normally read more, er, upscale fiction. (The "Grey" books have been branded by some as “Mommy porn.”) Writing on Amazon, even a reader who identified himself as an older male noted the titillation factor. "My arthritis flared up just reading about [the female character's] sexual gymnastics," he wrote.

Though the “Grey” female audience is older than "Twilight’s" core demographic, studio executives think the books play on the same virtues: a young virginal woman, a slightly dangerous man and a forbidden romance.

While no executive wants to be held accountable for missing out on a literary phenomenon, it's unclear that "50 Shades of Grey" will have the same broad appeal as the “Twilight” films. At the story’s center is Christian Grey, the manipulative male lead, whose damaged sexual upbringing prompts him to engage in relationships exclusively with women who agree to become his submissive. (He asks his partners to sign an exhaustive contract before engaging in any sexual activity with them.) Naive college grad Anastasia Steele is conflicted about joining Grey in his world, and struggles with his rigid rules and sometime abusive behavior.

Several readers of the book say that its appeal lies in the fact that one can read it on devices like the Kindle or iPad without anyone else knowing what they're reading; whether that will play in a public setting like a movie theater is an open question. Also unclear is whether producers can eliminate some of the book’s racier sex scenes to land an R rating without diluting the essence of the novels.

One studio executive said that, as a result, the budget was being scaled down: The movie would cost between $35 and $40 million, more along the lines of the first “Twilight” film and considerably lower than the franchise’s recent sequels.


Bestselling 'mommy porn': '50 Shades of Grey'

Does '21 Jump Street' prove the '80s naysayers wrong?

Hollywood flop sweat: What caused the latest box-office duds?

-- Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik

Screaming girls, celebs and their kids at 'Hunger Games' premiere

March 13, 2012 | 11:42 am


The Nokia Theatre is a making a name for itself hosting premieres for teenage girls' filmic obsessions. The official premiere theater for the "Twilight" series, the 7,100-seat house has now added "The Hunger Games" to its charge, and the Monday night event featured a level of high-pitch screaming comparable to that induced by Bella and Edward.

After a long wait for everyone to get seated, director Gary Ross introduced the three leads of "The Hunger Games": Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Lawrence, her willowy form wrapped in a floor-length shiny gold gown, anticipated her cue too soon, and appeared briefly from behind the curtain, only to run behind it again while Ross finished his introduction. When she did come out, she nearly took a spill on the stage, apparently tripping on her dress. Hemsworth, a towering Aussie, delivered a mouthful of Outback mumble that was indecipherable even to Ross, who was standing right next to him. On the way off the stage, Hutcherson playfully stepped on the train of Lawrence's dress and she spun around and shook a fist at his nose.

The after-party, held under a tent on the top level of a nearby parking garage at L.A. Live, likely would have impressed even the persnickety denizens of the movie’s mythical capital.

PHOTOS: 'The Hunger Games' premiere

Buffet lines -- steaming with crab cake sliders, mashed potatoes and asparagus -- lined the perimeter of the giant black tent atop L.A. Live’s event deck. A supersize floral arrangement resembling a globe in a moss-covered tree shaded the central dessert table, brimming with butterscotch pudding, chocolate cookies and lime cheesecake cake pops.  And there were more bars than even Haymitch Abernathy could hope for.

But many of the guests were not oohing and aahing over the catering.

"Everyone who has a daughter between 12 and 18 is here," said Shawn Levy, the director of "Real Steel" and "Night at the Museum," as he watched an industry parade of familiar faces, many of them holding hands with young girls teetering on their just-bought high heels.

Phoebe Brown and Serena Sgro, both 14-year-old eighth-graders from Toronto, were on a mission. Hugging copies of “The Hunger Games” books, the two friends were searching the room for their quarry -- the series’ author, Suzanne Collins, and actors Isabelle Furhman, Jack Quaid and Lenny Kravitz -- to complete the set of autographs quickly filling the inside covers of their hardbacks.

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Kony 2012: 'Machine Gun Preacher' connection and Oscar chances

March 9, 2012 |  3:55 pm

Machine Gun Preacher

Kony 2012 has become an international phenomenon in a mere five days, with more than 50 million people watching the half-hour video created by the San Diego nonprofit Invisible Children. The documentary is a piece of social activism aimed at stopping the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, who over the last 2 1/2 decades has terrorized northern Uganda and its surrounding region with kidnappings, killings and torture, often aimed at children.

While the problem isn't a new one, the level of awareness achieved in the last week is astounding.

Last year, Relativity Media attempted to do its part to bring attention to Kony with its Gerard Butler-starring film "Machine Gun Preacher.” But not even a big star and the backing of a prominent studio could move the needle of awareness in a way that "Kony2012" has achieved.

“Preacher” centered on Sam Childers, a former biker gang member who dedicated his life to saving the children of southern Sudan from Kony’s army. He has built an orphanage and a few schools in the area through his Angels of East Africa foundation, which is supportive of the Kony2012 movement. (Kony is notorious for disfiguring young children, forcing boys to be soldiers and girls to be sex slaves.)

“Preacher,” written by Jason Keller and directed by Marc Forster, is a biopic of Childers, with southern Sudan and Kony as its backdrop. But grossing only $500,000, the film didn't connect with audiences, partly because the violence against children made it a tough sell for moviegoers.  

That doesn't seem to be the case with "Kony2012," a video that has already earned Invisible Children hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and re-energized the effort to bring Kony to justice.

President Obama last year authorized the deployment of 100 military advisors to “remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield," but there is concern that if the issue wanes from public consciousness, the advisors will be removed by year's end.

“I’ve been a part of this issue and have been fighting for a number of years to bring awareness to it,” said Keller, who traveled to Sudan with Childers as part of his research on the film. “The success of 'Kony2012' has a lot to do with how beautiful, touching and heartbreaking the video is. It really drives the issue home in an incredibly emotional, personal way. It’s also brilliantly offered people a simple way to get involved.”

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