24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Woody Harrelson

Home Theater: 'Kevin,' 'Rampart' disturbing yet compelling

May 15, 2012 | 11:57 am

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Looking to catch a film on Video on Demand or DVD or Blu-ray? Following are some of the newest options available to home theater aficionados.

'We Need to Talk About Kevin'
Available on VOD beginning May 15

Writer-director Lynne Ramsay's first movie since 2002's magnificent “Morvern Callar” is an adaptation of Lionel Shriver's novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and stars Tilda Swinton as the ostracized mother of a sociopath. In keeping with Ramsay's usual style, “Kevin” is impressionistic, jumping around in time from the heroine's perspective as she tries to figure out whether her son is a creep because she's always been cold to him or if she's cold because he's so awful. The approach works magnificently for the film's first hour, until Ramsay has to deal more directly with the plot, at which point the movie becomes less about common parental anxieties and more about living with a monster. Still, Ramsay is worth paying attention to even when her material lets her down. The film comes to DVD and Blu-ray from Oscilloscope on May 29.

Millennium, $28.98; Blu-ray, $29.99/$34.99

Woody Harrelson gives one of his best performances in “Rampart,” an ambitious character sketch set against the backdrop of the scandal-ridden late '90s LAPD. Director Oren Moverman and writer James Ellroy skip from incident to incident, as Harrelson's self-described fascist police officer Dave Brown beats up suspects, conspires with criminals and directly interferes with the case being built against him. “Rampart” contains enough characters and plot to fuel an entire season of an edgy cable drama. Harrelson is compelling as a character unyielding in his worldview. The DVD and Blu-ray include a featurette and a Moverman commentary track. Available on VOD beginning May 15.

'The Grey'
Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Director Joe Carnahan and his co-screenwriter, Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, bring Jeffers' short story “Ghost Walker” to the screen as “The Grey,” starring Liam Neeson as a depressed oilman who helps his coworkers survive after their plane crashes in Alaska. “The Grey” is tough and elemental, focusing on the brutal cold and an encroaching pack of wolves that threatens to tear these men apart. When they're not fighting for their lives, the wanderers sit around the fire and talk about fate, God, families and the mistakes they've made. The DVD and Blu-ray add deleted scenes and a fascinating Carnahan commentary. Available on VOD beginning May 15.

'Norwegian Wood'
New Video, $29.95

Haruki Murakami's cult novel “Norwegian Wood” is an aching nostalgia piece, about a man looking back at his college years in Tokyo in the late '60s, when he lost a friend to suicide and had love affairs with two women -- one morose, one vivacious. Writer-director Tran Anh Hung's film version captures a lot of what's special about the book: the sense of a magical time and place and how much the protagonist (played by Kenichi Matsuyama) sleepwalked through it while mired in his own melodrama. Jonny Greenwood's dreamy score and cinematographer Ping Bin Lee's luminous images cast a spell. The DVD includes an hour-long making-of featurette and a 10-minute look at the film's reception at the Venice Film Festival.


'Gangster Squad' highlights L.A. landmarks

'Casablanca' to screen on Facebook Wednesday

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

-- Noel Murray

Photo: Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin" Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Oscilloscope Laboratories

Golden Globes: Funny Woody Harrelson was 'liberated from concern'

December 16, 2011 | 12:29 pm

Woody Harrelson teases the audience that his new film Rampart has received a best picture Golden Globe nomination, when in fact, he was plugging it's opening day before announcing the nominees.
If the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. grows weary of Ricky Gervais’ act, they might want to think about bringing in Woody Harrelson as host next year.

Harrelson's self-deprecating humor at Thursday morning’s Golden Globe nominations announcement earned more laughs than any joke Gervais told during January’s ceremony. Example: When Gerard Butler finished reading the nominees for best motion picture actor drama, a list that did not include one particular actor from the fine indie film “Rampart,” Harrelson could be heard off-camera asking, “Didn’t you leave one name off, Ger?”

Then, when his turn at the podium came, Harrelson utilized the comic timing he honed during all those years on “Cheers.”

“Best motion picture drama,” Harrelson said, pausing before announcing the nominees. “ ‘Rampart’ ...  opens Jan. 27," he teased, leading the viewers to think "Rampart" had been nominated before plugging its opening. "Um … but I don’t see it on the list … there’s a lot of things left off today, I just want to say,” he went on.

Talking by phone after the nominations, Harrelson admits to feeling a little freer once he realized he wasn’t nominated.

“I was liberated from concern,” Harrelson says. “I knew I didn’t have to worry about offending anyone anymore.”

Asked about the HFPA’s oversight (“now that’s a beautiful word”) of his bad-cop thriller, Harrelson laughed. “It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t even want to get drawn into the caring about awards. It feels weird to be in competition with your fellow actors or other films. It’s just friggin’ lucky to do this. I don’t want to get into thinking that we deserve more.”

Given that he woke up at a quarter-to-four to make it to the Beverly Hilton, Harrelson sounds pretty wired during our conversation. Coffee?

“No, I don’t drink much coffee, and I’ll tell you why,” Harrelson says. “A couple of years ago, sittin’ where we live in Maui, they have this biodynamic coffee that’s as clean as it gets. So I said, ‘What the hell. It’s grown right there on the farm where we’re sitting.’ So we had some and it was about noon. And, literally, at midnight I was still bouncing off the walls. I called it a ‘happy cup.’ And I try to stay away from the ‘happy cup,’ except on special occasions.”

So what‘s the secret for his buoyant energy?

“Today I took a nap,” he says. “Coffee ain’t gonna do what a nap can do for you.”


Golden Globes: The complete list of nominees

Golden Globes: 'Extremely Loud,' 'Tinker Tailor' snubbed

Golden Globes: 6 nods for 'Artist'; 5 for 'Help,' 'Descendants'

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Presenter Woody Harrelson gives his new movie "Rampart" a plug onstage during nominations for the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Thursday. Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

African American critics name 'The Tree of Life' best film of 2011

December 12, 2011 | 11:10 am

Tree of Life was named the best film of the year by the African-American critics

"The Tree of Life," Terrence Malick's 1950s-set drama that ruminates on questions of family, faith and the universe, was named best picture of the year Monday by the African-American Film Critics Assn. The group also awarded two prizes to the stars of the civil-rights period piece "The Help," declaring Viola Davis best actress and Octavia Spencer best supporting actress.

Here's a full rundown of the group's awards, and some links to our recent coverage of these titles.

Best picture: "The Tree of Life." (Check out film critic Kenneth Turan's review of the film here.) The other films rounding out the top 10, following in order of distinction, are: "Drive," "Pariah," "Rampart," "Shame," "Moneyball," "The Descendants," "A Better Life," "My Week With Marilyn" and "The Help."

Best director: Steve McQueen, "Shame." (The director talks about his collaboration with star Michael Fassbender in this story.)

Lead actor: Woody Harrelson, "Rampart." (Here's a video in which the two-time Oscar nominee talks about approaching his character, an LAPD cop.)

Lead actress: Viola Davis, "The Help." (An interview with the actress, who recently graced the cover of The Envelope, can be found here.)

Best supporting actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help." (She talks about adjusting to the frenzy of award season in this feature.)

Best supporting actor: Albert Brooks, "Drive." (The actor recalls how he prepared to play a mobster in this story.)

Breakout performance: Adepero Oduye, “Pariah." (Read about all the ingenues in this year's awards race here.)

Best Documentary: "The Black Power Mixtape." (Learn more about the film, set in the 1960s and 1970s, in this article.)

Best screenplay: Ava DuVernay, “I Will Follow." (DuVernay, who grew up in Compton, talks about how her upbringing with her aunt inspired her to write and direct her first feature film.)

Best foreign film: Alrick Brown, “Kinyarwanda." (A review of the film can be found here.)

Best song: Jason Reeves & Lenka Kripac, writers, “The Show” from “Moneyball."

Best independent film: "Pariah."

Special Achievement: George Lucas, (Cinema Vanguard); Richard Roundtree, (AAFCA Legacy); Hattie Winston (AAFCA Horizon) and Institution, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Founded in 2003, the AAFCA tries to bring attention to films that appeal to black audiences, were created by or star African Americans or center on the black experience. Last year, the group named "The Social Network" best picture and gave its top acting honors to Halle Berry for "Frankie & Alice" and Mark Wahlberg for "The Fighter." None went on to win awards in those categories at the Oscars.


National Board of Review names 'Hugo' best picture

New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

L.A. Critics name 'Descendants' best film, laud 'Tree of Life' too

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain star in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight

'Rampart' ride-alongs left Woody Harrelson 'nervous and shocked'

December 3, 2011 |  4:58 am

Woody Harrelson Rampart

Woody Harrelson, Ice Cube and Sigourney Weaver all did law-and-order research for their roles in "Rampart," a film that presents a portrait of an LAPD veteran living life on the edge of chaos and crime.

Harrelson, talking during the Envelope Screening Series, said that his LAPD ride-along time was eye-opening and that he found a respect and connection with the cops after he got past the jolting things he witnessed.

 "Aside from all other research — reading every book or watching documentaries, movies, anything to do with cops and and just trying to absorb as much as I could about cops and also specifically about the LAPD and the history of it — I felt like the thing that helped the most was riding along with these
guys," Harrelson said. "And going from being a little nervous and shocked at what I was seeing to, you know, really respecting these guys and feeling the humanity in these guys and feeling like, 'I could be a cop.' " 



Woody Harrelson's "Rampart" turning point

'Shame': Michael Fassbender's chameleon power [Video]

'The Descendants': George Clooney on the first day of filming

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: "Rampart" (Millennium Entertainment) 

'Rampart': Woody Harrelson's 'turning point' moment in LAPD role

November 18, 2011 | 11:56 am



Woody HarrelsonWoody Harrelson is an actor who likes the edge -- revisit “Natural Born Killers” or “The People vs. Larry Flynt” if you doubt it -- but on the first day of filming for “Rampart” the two-time Oscar nominee admits he got a little lost while walking on the wild side.

In conversation at the Envelope Screening Series, Harrelson revealed that his first stab at portraying a rogue LAPD cop named Dave Brown was off-target. That led to an anxious conversation the next day with director Oren Moverman and costar Ben Foster.

“The next morning we watched the dailies,” Harrelson said. “I watched as much as I could and I went up to Oren and I said, ‘Uhhh, can we talk?’ We go in the other room and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, that didn’t work -- that just doesn’t work.’ We had this whole discussion where he was basically trying to lead me off of what I was trying to do. But I was trying to [say], ‘OK can you reshoot it because I can get this characterization thing down better.’ Then in comes Ben … .”

What happened next? Check out the video to hear how Harrelson got back on track for a role that has now landed him in the contender conversation for the upcoming Academy Awards.


'The Artist': Give it a try, you'll love the movie, cast promises

'Shame': Michael Fassbender's chameleon power [Video]

'The Descendants': George Clooney on the first day of filming

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: A 2010 Woody Harrelson portrait. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

'The Hunger Games': Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch with humor

October 6, 2011 |  2:25 pm

Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Woody Harrelson says he plays for laughs in his Haymitch character

When it comes to Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games," few characters are as darkly comic as Haymitch Abernathy, the jaded, seen-too-much type who once won the macabre "hunger games" competition and reluctantly guides Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in their own bid for survival.

There are several ways to go with a wizened mentor: You could play washed-up for drama or for laughs. Woody Harrelson, who incarnates Abernathy in Gary Ross' upcoming film adaptation, said he pushed in the direction of laughs as often as possible.

"It was my objective to give the character as much comedy as I could without it seeming not to fit," Harrelson told 24 Frames. "I tried to take a certain comedic aspect and give a sense, through that, that he's been through a lot and is anesthetizing himself as a result of that."

Harrelson said that, even when he was playing Haymitch straight, he tried to put a more original twist on the character, particularly when it came to his look. "I didn't want it to feel like just because he's an alcoholic that he would look just like any bum on the street. So there are things that go against your expectation of what a washed-up guy would look like," he said, somewhat cryptically.

The film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Liam Hemsworth as her hunting partner/love interest Gale Hawthorne and Joshua Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, her fellow competitor, is in post-production now. It's scheduled for a March 23 release. Some fans might worry that Collins' moody tone won’t survive the transfer to the screen, especially as the movie is repositioned as an all-ages crowd-pleaser.  But Harrelson said that fans shouldn't fret.

"The essence of the book is going to be in the film," Harrelson said, adding, "It's something we've never seen before. We have the best wardrobe, the best costume people, the best makeup people. There's a level of commitment to innovation that [filmgoers] have never seen. I think they're going to be very pleasantly surprised by it."


Hunger Games footage: Forests, fireballs and braids

Hunger Games seeking a broader audience as shooting wraps

Hunger Games could lift Lionsgate to a new level

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jennifer Lawrence on the set of "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate.


Toronto 2011: Film critic Betsy Sharkey on 'Drive' and 'Rampart'

September 12, 2011 |  9:54 am

Woody Harrelson in Rampart
Think of 2011 as the year L.A. Road Noir returned.

The seedy brilliance Michael Mann revved up in 2004's "Collateral," with Jamie Foxx's cabbie on a high-octane ride for his life through the slick streets of Los Angeles, has come roaring back this week at the Toronto International Film Festival with "Drive" and "Rampart."

These two films join "The Lincoln Lawyer," featuring Matthew McConaughey's legal back-street driver earlier this year, and director Chris Weitz's barrio-driven "A Better Life" this summer in ripping through the city, laying down their dreams and revenge like rubber.

What all the filmmakers recognize –- and capture -- is the beauty and the particular vibe of a city cut to ribbons by highways, overpasses, underpasses, littered back alleys and tree-lined boulevards. Life happens here.

In Toronto, it was "Drive" and "Rampart" putting everything on the line from behind the wheel. Director Oren Moverman, who put Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson on road trips to deliver death notices so powerfully in “The Messenger” a few years ago, has moved from East Coast rural byways to the heart of L.A.’s ghetto in "Rampart" to tell the story of a tainted LAPD beat cop trying to dig himself out of a very deep hole.

Foster is almost unrecognizable as a wheelchair-bound homeless guy, which gives space for Harrelson to be explosive as a cop with a zero-to-60 temper who would rather fight first and ask questions later. And it's great to see Robin Wright, steel and sadness etched in her face, driven by her own demons as a lawyer/barfly/love interest.

Meanwhile, the drive in "Drive," with director Nicolas Winding Refn putting Ryan Gosling behind the wheel, delivers a white-knuckle ride through L.A.'s grime and crime. Gosling cranks up the intensity to almost unbearable effect with the tick, tick, tick of a clock and the bad guys right on his tail. Through it all, Gosling's Driver is unblinking, unfazed as the city, indeed life, goes screaming by the window. And we get to see it all, with Refn masterfully scratching L.A.'s seedy underbelly.

Toronto audiences have lined up in droves to go along for both rides. Who can blame them?


"Drive": Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn share the ride

Toronto 2011: Woody Harrelson and Oren Moverman build a rampart

Campaign for Ryan Gosling's "Drive" gets turbocharged [Trailer]

-- Betsy Sharkey in Toronto

Photo: Woody Harrelson's bad cop drives hard in "Rampart." Credit: Merrick Morton

Toronto 2011: Woody Harrelson and Oren Moverman build a rampart

September 11, 2011 |  9:24 pm


Rampart woody harrelson oren moverman 2
Screenwriter Oren Moverman and comedy actor Woody Harrelson each made a notable transition with the 2009 drama "The Messenger." The film, about two army men (Harrelson and Ben Foster) dispatched to the homes of soldiers killed on the battlefield, was Harrelson's first major dramatic part in more than a decade (it landed him an Oscar nomination) and Moverman's first-ever directing gig.

The pair up the ante with "Rampart," a story about a corrupt cop that premiered Saturday night at the Toronto Film Festival and is seeking theatrical distribution. In "The Messenger," Harrelson puts on a uniform and tries, for the most part, to do the right thing. in "Rampart," he puts on a uniform and does almost anything but.

Featuring a script by Moverman and James Ellroy, "Rampart" tells of "Date Rape Dave" Brown (Harrelson), a loose-cannon LAPD officer who frequently colors outside the lines to practice his personal brand of violent, score-settling police work. Despite two ex-wives, Harrelson has created a not-terrible life for himself, living next door to those exes and his daughter. The walls start to close in on him, however, when he beats up a man who has driven into his police car and his pattern of unethical behavior begins to become exposed.

Continue reading »

Preview review: Woody Harrelson tests his powers in 'Defendor'

February 17, 2010 |  6:06 pm


At the Oscar nominee luncheon earlier this week, Woody Harrelson was asked about the status of a dark superhero comedy he has coming out titled "Defendor."

"Yeah, I did this movie called 'Defendor' and I was really excited because Sony picked it up in Toronto, and it's a wonderful movie," he said. "I love the movie. I get the feeling it's not gonna get much play, though."

We just saw the trailer and sadly, we're going to have to agree with Harrelson: it just doesn't look like a winner.

In the trailer, we see Harrelson as Arthur Poppington, an average guy who thinks he has superpowers and is determined to defend his city's criminal-ridden streets. Poppington, who labels himself the "Defendor," wears a bicycle helmet for protection and counts lime juice and marbles as his weapons. Unlike in his Oscar-nominated turn in "The Messenger," Harrelson seems out of place in the role, spacily wandering the dimly lit streets of the film's gritty urban landscape

The film does have an eclectic cast -- including "Grey's Anatomy" star Sandra Oh and Kat Dennings of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" -- but we're not sure any of the names harness enough star power to bring a large enough audience in to see this hybrid.

Could the film surprise and prove to be a niche gem? Or would Woody the bartender get more traction? Share your thoughts below.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Woody Harrelson stars in "Defendor." Credit: Sony Pictures.


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