Thursday, September 29, 2011

Upcoming Citizen Jane Film Festival has creative niche

COLUMBIA — Fire spinners, aerialists, acrobats and an "electric circus" dance part are part of the Citizen Jane Film Festival this weekend.

Starting Friday, about two dozen feature-length and short films and special events will be held at Stephens College, Ragtag Cinema and other locations. The theme for the fourth annual festival is "Cirque du Cinema."
Citizen Jane's goal is to increase the number of women working in film and expand their opportunities in the the field.

Hillary Carter touches up a sculpture known as "Lady Jane" on Thursday afternoon at Stephens College in preparation for the Citizen Jane Film Festival, which starts Friday
"But then on the community level, it’s just to celebrate this artistic town that we live in,” said Kerri Yost, chairwoman of Stephens' film department and co-chairwoman of the festival.
“It’s a really nice reminder of what a creative community we are and how well we work together,” she said.

Citizen Jane began as a lecture series in 2005 when Stephens added a film major. The college brought in guest speakers two to three times a semester to put what the students were learning into context, Yost said.
In 2006, Stephens hosted a weekend-long Fem Film Symposium to extend what it was already doing with the guest speakers. The Citizen Jane Film Festival premiered in 2008.

The festival dovetails with Stephens' mission to empower women.
"Citizen Jane grew out of Stephens — it's everything we're about," said Shelley Gabert, director of marketing and public relations.

The festival is deliberately held in the fall to complement the True/False Film Festival held in late February and early March, Yost said.

But Citizen Jane is also developing into a presence throughout the year. In addition to the lecture series, there is now a Citizen Jane Summer Film Academy.

The festival has grown every year since it started. Last year, almost 4,450 people attended, said Amy Schneider, acting director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. A survey the visitors bureau conducted for the first time last year at Citizen Jane showed three-fourths of attendees were women.

The survey also showed 44 percent of attendees were from out of town. Of those, about 74 percent said the festival was their primary reason for coming to Columbia and 65 percent stayed in town overnight, Schneider said.

"The festival brings another level of folks to Columbia that may not be coming if Citizen Jane wasn't here," Schneider said.

Yost enjoys talking with festival out-of-towners about Columbia.
“It’s refreshing to see how other people see our community, and our town and everything that goes along with it,” she said.

She predicted the festival will continue to grow.
"Sometimes when you live in a city and all these incredible things are going on around you, you don’t appreciate it as much as when you’re coming from outside," Schneider said. "I know that there are a lot of community members that do appreciate Citizen Jane, and I hope as it grows and as the years go on, that more and more people become aware of it."

She said one reason Citizen Jane was embraced when it started was that Columbia's arts community was coming into its own.
“If it weren’t for the community, we'd still be a kind of quiet symposium," Yost said.

Istanbul International Film Festival Kicks Off

This week the city of Istanbul is hosting a ground-breaking international film festival. Called "Crime and Punishment," it is focusing on military coups. Turkey is no stranger to coups with its military seizing power three times since 1960. Even though the army last took power in 1980, coups have remained a taboo subject.
People view an exhibition by leftist Turkish victims of the Sept. 12, 1980 military takeover that shows a replica of the gallows used to hang suspects, torture devices as well as letters, newspapers, clothes and photographs of comrades who died, went missing or were tortured, in Ankara, Turkey, September 11, 2011
The opening speeches of the "Crime and Punishment" festival address the painful legacy of Turkey's history of military coups, in which thousands of people were detained and tortured and hundreds more disappeared.

For decades that legacy was buried. The army was strictly off limits to journalists, documentary and filmmakers.

"For 20 years you could not talk about anything, you could not create about that issue," said festival film organizer Hulya Sungu. "It was just taboo. Actually it was so hard to organize this kind festival in Turkey without a Turkish film about military coups, because it was not so easy to make a movie about the coup itself. But we just tried to gather all of the country's movies, like Venezuela Argentina and Peru, get their military coup reflection on cinema, and get them together."

17 Hours

The festival opened with the Spanish film 17 Hours. Set in 1981, it tells the story of a failed military coup which lasted 17 hours, against Spain's fledgling democracy.

Director Chema de la Peria pointed out that in order for democracy to function, countries needed to confront their past.

"This film is a political thriller," he said. "It makes you think how your country can change one way to another. For people it’s very important to know that if you live in a country where you are free, it’s not very easy because some people have fight maybe have died for these human rights."

Issues of social injustice

Accompanying the films are a series of panel discussions organized by Istanbul University that allow the film festival to address wider issues of social injustice.

A scene from the Venezuelan film Brother is about two football players, playing for a team in the slums of Caracas. While not an ostensibly political or socially critical film, using sports helps to circumvent pressures from the authorities.

"If I want to be critical about what’s going on in my country, Yes, it would probably make it more difficult for me to make it about that," said film director Marcel Rasquin. "Because our country is in such political turmoil at the moment, we filmmakers are still being wise. I don’t like to consider my film is a social criticism, even though it does have a lot of social criticism. My film goes beyond that to the human aspects of it."

Problem with Censorship

The problems of censorship and self-censorship are issues that Turkish filmmakers are well aware of, says festival organizer Sungu.

Although, she says, the taboo on the military has been eased, problems remain.

"There are some issues with which we still have problems," said Sungu. "But  it not military coups, we can show everything about military coups now.  There are some issues , like ..Still we don’t get over the censorship of everything kind of movies."

Timing of festival

Despite the problems, Spanish director Chema de la Peria says the fact that Turkey is hosting this type of festival at such a critical time, is particularly significant. 

"For me it was very interesting that happened here in Turkey," he said. "Because I think the way democracy arrives to Turkey is the good example for all of the orient and the other Arabic countries. And Turkey is between the orient and the occident and it would be a good opportunity to lead this movement."

With most of the performances of the films sold out, the "Crime and Punishment" festival is already being seen as a success. Festival organizers are already planning for next year, aiming to address other contentious issues in Turkey.

Animal Safety on Movie Sets Still a Concern

Winter, star of "Dolphin Tale"
Animals in Movies
PAT BODNER: Animals have been used, and sometimes abused, in movie-making since the early days of the industry.  However, the American Humane Association has worked for many years to protect animals in films.  And, the digital age might make animal actors unnecessary.  Christopher Cruise has our story.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: The new film “Dolphin Tale” tells about a dolphin that loses her tail because of an injury from a crab-trap.  A doctor provides her with an artificial tail that saves her life.

The film is based on a real event. And the star of the film, Winter, is a real dolphin that lost her tail. The American Humane Society worked with the movie’s makers to make sure Winter stayed safe and healthy during filming. The animal protection group does this for all animal actors in America.

A thick book of rules and guidelines tells Hollywood moviemakers how to treat animals.  Karen Rosa leads the American Humane Society’s film and television group.

KAREN ROSA: “Everything from the smallest insect to the largest mammal. We believe that for the sake of entertainment, everybody should go home alive.”

This was not always the policy in the early days of film. In nineteen thirty-nine a horse was forced off a mountain, falling to his death, in the movie “Jesse James.”  The next year, guidelines were established to guarantee safe and healthy conditions for animals in movies.

SOUND – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
MAN: “He’s a smart one, isn’t he?”
That is from the new film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” The movie tells about the creation of super intelligent apes through science.  However, no real animals were among the performers. Computer generated imagery provided the chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans that movie goers see.

Clare Richardson is the president of the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund. She says computer generated imagery should decrease the use of animals in the film industry.

CLARE RICHARDSON: “I think we need to send a stronger message when we say, phase it out people, you don’t really need it.

Karen Rosa praises movie makers for the use of computer-made animals. But, she also says there is nothing like the real thing.

KAREN ROSA: “Capturing the real animal and its personality, the individual animal as well as the collective representation of the species, is unique and very special that it can be presented on film.”

Those on all sides of the issue seem to welcome the new technology, however. They say it helps protect animals and expands the creative possibilities of moviemakers.

Deschanel is the “New Girl” on Fox’s Latest Sitcom”

Fox's new television show starring Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl," premiered Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. According to USA Today, the premier scored 10 million viewers, a promising start.

From the big screen in movies like "500 Days of Summer" and "Yes Man," Deschanel is returning to television, where she caught her big break back in 1997 with a guest role on the television show, "Veronica's Closet," according to The Internet Movie Database.


New Girl
Deschanel's awkward, quirky Jess, who has just discovered that her boyfriend is cheating on her. Heartbroken, Jess searches for a new apartment and soon finds a home with three guys, who are hesitant to take her in until they hear that her best friend, Cece Meyers (Hannah Simone), is a model.
Her three new roommates include Coch (Damon Kyle Wayans, Jr.), an intense athletic trainer that has trouble talking to women, Nick (Jake Johnson), who is depressed after being dumped by his successful girlfriend and Schmidt (Max Greenfield), an eager womanizer. The relaxed chemistry between the actors is apparent from start to finish, drawing the audience into the show with ease.

However, while the script is witty and there are a few moments that will surely cause a few grins and maybe some chuckles, this show cannot be described as a landmark in sitcom history.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Damon Kyle Wayans, Jr. will not be on the show for long. In fact, he will appear only in the pilot, because he has left "New Girl" for ABC's second season of "Happy Endings." Actor Lamorne Morris will be replacing Wayans on the show as Winston, a former athlete that moves into the loft with Jess, Nick, and Schmidt.

For most of the episode, the roommates seem more than annoyed by Jess' eccentric quirks. When she wallows on the couch watching "Dirty Dancing" for the umpteenth time, for instance, Nick exclaims that "it has been a week of this madness" and he "can't take this" to Coach and Schmidt. Given this annoyance, it was particularly far-fetched when at the end of the episode, Jess' roommates care so much about her that they valiantly leave their party in order to comfort her after she has been stood up.

Despite a completely cheesy and cliché ending, the show was decent overall. Deschanel was cute and entertaining, if sometimes a bit over the top in her acting. The comedy, while not laugh out loud, was passably humorous.
Some people, like Entertainment Weekly's reporter Kate Ward, suggest that "New Girl" is just too similar to TBS' sitcom "My Boys," which premiered in November 2006 and ran for four seasons before it was cancelled in September 2010. Ward claims that "almost every character in ‘New Girl' has a ‘My Boys' counterpoint," except that the characters in "My Boys" were "multidimensional and funny" while those in "New Girl" are "obvious and bland."

While Ward believes that the characters in "New Girl" are not deep enough, it is important to take into account that pilots cannot go into too much detail, especially with the show being only a half an hour long.
A viewer often has to watch a few episodes to really become attached to a show as well as to see the layers and dimensions of each character's personality and background. So while it is fair to say that the viewers only know the characters on a superficial level so far, future episodes should give the characters more depth.
With a witty script and a few funny moments, "New Girl" does a decent job in catching viewers' interest. While not groundbreaking or outrageously hilarious, this new sitcom hosts a fun cast and has potential to last a good few seasons.

"New Girl" airs on Fox every Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Latest film reminds Foxx of his teaching moments

No one steals Jamie Foxx’s thunder, except for maybe his late grandmother.
He’s backing a new documentary about a great teacher called “Thunder Soul,” but still insists that his best educational moments came from his mentor and granny Estelle Marie Talley.
“Oh man, my grandmother was my first teacher and the best one,” he says. “She had her own nursery school at our house for 30 years. That’s why I was able to read as a fifth-grader by the time I went to kindergarten.
High school musicians from the 1970s
reunite some 35 years later to honor
their beloved band teacher in
“Thunder Soul,” from executive producer Jamie Foxx
“She was the one who was always there for me, but she was tough. There was no running around. No sassing her. No disrespect. She didn’t understand a lot of things, but she understood respect. I remember she made me play piano for 30 minutes a day when the other kids were out there playing football. I said, ‘Grandma, this is crazy.’ She said, ‘Think long range. Maybe you will develop.’ ”
Of course, Foxx went on to play piano legend Ray Charles. “How great that I win an Oscar because of my teacher,” he says.
He is executive producer of “Thunder Soul” (opening Friday), set at Houston’s Kashmere High School, where in the ’70s charismatic band teacher Conrad “Prof” Johnson took a lackluster band of jazz musicians and turned them into a funk powerhouse. Some 35 years later, they pull a “Mr. Holland” on him, get out their dusty old instruments and stage a tribute to the 92-year-old Prof who defined their lives.
“This film made me want to get out there, do better and make a difference,” Foxx says. “What more do you want?”

1 Were you involved in high school bands and music programs?
I was involved in the high school band, but it was a different time when I was coming up. Back then, we were lucky because there was an emphasis on music and the arts in education. It’s sad for me to see how now there are kids who don’t even get one music class a week. Sure, not every kid is going to turn out to be Mozart or Miles Davis. But a music program in a school gives kids hope. Maybe it gives another kid a spark. It gives kids new friends, pride and discipline. I remember the first time in school when I blew into a trumpet and got a sound. Wow! Accomplishment! I’m not Chuck Mangione, but I knew if I could do this then I could accomplish much more.

2 You’re about to film the new Quentin Tarantino movie, “Django Unchained” where you play a freed slave turned bounty hunter who goes to rescue his wife from a Mississippi plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
I’m really excited. This is a movie that’s a bit of a revenge tale, but it’s justified because there have been a lot of atrocities. It’s one of the most provocative scripts I’ve ever read in my life.

3 Do you have any music projects on the horizon?
Working on things, but right now I’m really excited about a new record label I have. I signed these young kids who are very talented, and we’re doing a compilation CD due out later this year.”

4 How is your daughter these days? It’s been a few years since we saw her as your Oscar date.
She’s actually 17 now.
Can you believe it? When did that happen? She’s a beautiful little girl who is growing up. As a dad, I deal with all the regular stuff. Ain’t nothing changes. Dads just have to teach their girls how to protect themselves at all times. I tell her, ‘Save a little love for yourself. Don’t give all your love away.’ Girls love too hard and you hear, ‘Daddy, I can’t go on...’ I say, ‘Save some love for yourself.’ ”

5 Are you a cool father?
There are times when I have to drop the Jamie Foxx stuff. I have to put Jamie Foxx away so he doesn’t overshadow her and what she needs and wants to do. Of course, I do use Jamie Foxx for good stuff like getting her Justin Bieber tickets. Then Daddy being Jamie Foxx is all good. Otherwise, there are times when I gotta back up and shut up.

The Movie Spew: Spielberg and Moses, Together At Last

Warner Brothers has been nursing along their biblical epic Gods And Kings for quite some time. Initially the movie was supposed to be based on Exodus (aka Old Man Moses with a Santa Claus beard) and Darren Black Swan Aronofsky was supposed to direct.
Warner Brothers Wants Steven Spielberg to Make a Moses Movie
However, that’s all changed and now a Green Lantern screenwriter has expanded the script into Moses' full life story and the WB has set their sights even higher for the potential director. They want none other Steven Spielberg (and no, they won’t accept his non-union Mexican equivalent Senor Spielbergo).
It’s a bold choice, but one that just might capture Spielberg’s imagination. After all, the guy grew up in an age when biblical epics ruled the big screen and the last major director to take on the Moses tale was none other than the great Cecil B. DeMille. I’m sure Spielberg is well aware of the cinematic potential of the movie and would appreciate the opportunity to create the film as an homage to the biblical epics of his youth.
Whether or not he accepts the gig remains to be seen, but even as an atheist I would love to see what Spielberg and a near limitless budget could do with the Moses tale. Hopefully the guy signs on and, more importantly, hopefully someone other than Leonardo DiCaprio plays Moses. We shall see.

Ridiculous Fees Are Reduced and Now The Lone Ranger Might Get Made
A little while ago Disney suddenly pulled the plug on their planned Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp. It was a weird decision given that it seemed like an absurdly commercial movie and the announcement came shortly after Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 brought the company over $1 billion dollars last summer.
Stephen King Is Writing a Sequel to The Shining (Now With Vampires)
The studio got cold feet about the proposed $260 million budget and the general concern that contemporary Westerns just don’t make much money (I’m sure the lackluster box office of Cowboys & Aliens didn’t help). However, it looks as though the film might still be made.
Apparently Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and director Gore Verbinski (who directed the first three Pirates movies) have met and agreed to lower their fees and now the budget has been reduced to $216 million and the film might still get made. I’m not sure how $200 million is required to revive a genre that was once the cheapest to produce in Hollywood, but there you go. Isn’t it nice to know that those three guys collectively were going to make an extra $44 million in fees that they are willing to just throw away? Ugh…
Stephen King Is Writing a Sequel to The Shining (Now With Vampires)
Finally this little slice of news gold might not be directly film related, but let’s face it — if it’s true, a movie is inevitable. Apparently horror icon Stephen King is writing a sequel to his classic novel The Shining. Shining 2: Psychic Bugaloo will be about that lovable psychic boy Danny from the original who is now all grown up.
Very little is known about the book so far, but during a recent public appearance King read an excerpt from the novel that involved Danny Torrance and a roving group of vampires called The Tribe. Obviously there are no vampires is in the original Shining, but it was rumored for a while that King was working on a Salem’s Lot sequel, so perhaps King’s latest book will revive several of his beloved early creations. Maybe Carrie and the clown from It will be happily married in this new book, with their child ready to start her first day of high school primed for a killing spree.
Okay, that’s going too far, but the concept of a Shining sequel with vampires should have horror fans frothing at the mouth with delight. A movie adaptation is almost inevitable given the enduring popularity of Stanley Kubrick’s original. (Which King hates by the way; he produced his own TV mini-series adaptation to set things right. I’m pretty sure he’s the only one who prefers that version though.) Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pablo Ferro at Cinefamily: Batshit Genius and YouTube Predecessor Whose Dr. Strangelove Trailer Was Better Than the Movie, Kubrick Said

Pablo who? You've seen his work. You've seen people ripping off his work. He's the artist / mastermind behind the Dr. Stranglove title sequence...you know that one, right? The one that visually summarizes the Cold War with a sexually suggestive mid-air refueling; an explicit casual encounter between two planes, if you will. Well, that's not Ferro's only foray into object fetishism...more on that one in a bit.

Pablo Ferro's famous Dr. Strangelove Title Sequence
Ferro had some of the most interesting jobs in cinema, and is known among the hip and the technical for his decades of title sequences, his trailers and his commercial work in the 1960s. He's the artist that Robert Evans banned from his lots for being weird and the one that Jonathan Demme, Hal Ashby, and Stanley Kubrick all agreed is a genius. He is a master of quick-cut editing and very likely invented multiple-screen images for film and television.

Frankly, if you look at some of the films he had any part in -- Bullitt, Citizens Band, Beetlejuice, To Live and Die in L.A. , Stop Making Sense, A Clockwork Orange, Zardoz, Harold and Maude, Bound For Glory, Being There, To Die For and Good Will Hunting -- the list probably resembles your hipper-than-you friend's Netflix, err, Qwikster (what they're calling that DVD service now) queue.
Last night Cinefamily, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Film Forum, invited Ferro to chat and show some of the rarer reels from his own personal collection, including an extremely rare cut of his own short The Inflatable Doll.

Will DiCaprio don a dress for 'J. Edgar'?

Video editor Dave Gostisha and movies editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper love movie trailers. Each Thursday, they'll highlight one for an upcoming film.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover in the upcoming Clint Eastwood film about the famed FBI director
Dave says: “J. Edgar” is director Clint Eastwood’s look at how power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but my takeaway is how freaky Leo DiCaprio looks in that old man makeup. Mommy issues, mob shootouts, criminals get busted, dudes holding hands, and everyone (actors and audience) ends up afraid of a scary old man. I can’t wait.

Gael says: Leonardo DiCaprio sporting a weird Bostonish accent as J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary first director of the F.B.I.? The awesome Judi Dench as his mother? Clint Eastwood directing? Vintage cars and clothing? John Dillinger's death mask? Secret files on Eleanor Roosevelt and the Kennedys? I am there, and that's even before they attempt to deal with Hoover's reported closeted homosexuality and possible cross-dressing. I've never really tried to picture Leonardo DiCaprio in a nice flowery sundress and matching hat, but you can bet I am now.

Fine, some facts: The Straight Dope says that while Hoover was likely gay, it's less likely that he actually cross-dressed. And we're hearing that the script, while not shying away from Hoover's secret life, may not address this particular rumor. Hollywood, sticking to the facts and skipping over the scandalous? What's up with that?

Newcomer Thomas Horn will make you cry in first “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” trailer

Teen Jeopardy champion Thomas Horn makes his feature film debut and apparently carries the whole movie in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, the 9/11-centric family drama that sees Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock as his parents. Based on the best-selling, critically acclaimed 2005 novel from Jonathan Safran Foer, Horn plays Oskar, an “eleven-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist, who searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks.” Max Von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman and Jeffrey Wright round out the star studded cast.

The Stephen Daldry film, set for release on Christmas Day, is one of the final question marks in this year’s Oscar race. Judging from this first trailer, it seems to be a heavy contender indeed. Could Horn get a Best Actor nom at the tender age of 13, for his first acting job ever? Seems impossible, but his acting proves up to the challenge from what we can see so far. Suffice to say, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” just shot straight to the top of our Most Anticipated Movies list.

Kevin Fiege And David Gabriel Talk About The Art Behind The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The new book is a complication collection of all the previously released "Art of" books that showcases the production artwork and behind-the-scenes work on these four Marvel masterpieces.
New Avengers promo poster
“The pre-production is unique here at Marvel Studios,” says Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios. “At many places, movies start with a blank sheet of paper and script pages. Here at Marvel we also have hundreds and hundreds of comics and illustrations that have come before. In one way it’s incredible and inspiring, but it’s also challenging to have to choose which of all these different incarnations to hone in on to make a movie work.”

Although the movies are liveaction, the Marvel-produced films rely heavily on pre-production artwork to delineate the right costume, the right scenes and the right tone for each project as it goes forward. The studio relies heavily on its in-house illustration department, headed up by Ryan Meinerding, to define the characters for the filmmakers.

“We follow our instincts, and our in-house illustrators Ryan Meinerding and Charlie Wen help guide us with their instincts,” Feige explains. “They’re two of the best artists I’ve met in my entire life, and the best artists in film in over 20 years. It’s amazing to have them here.”

The idea of “The West”: notes on the latest “Treasures From American Film Archives” set

My grandmother took a car trip out West when she was a college student in the ’30s, and she kept a kept a diary in which she recorded the mileage she and her girlfriends covered each day, along with what everything cost, and what they saw. She even wrote a little about a brief romantic encounter with a man she met. (“The sun was setting over the canyon, and I was with Don Dugan.”) That diary is a family treasure, both for its insights into my grandma and for how it documents the fairly unusual occurrence of a group of exclusively female tourists traveling a long distance by car during the Depression. 
The idea of “The West”: notes on the latest “Treasures From American Film Archives” set
A few years ago, though, I was reading the collected Gasoline Alley when I came across a stretch in which Walt and Skeezix took a motoring trip through the West. After a little further reading, I discovered that there was something of a mania for Western tourism 80 years ago, akin to the national obsession with crossword puzzles and hot jazz. After pioneers helped tame, settle, and violently seize the West in the latter half of the 19th century, another wave of Americans repeated the journey in the first half the 20th century, this time as spectators and historians. My grandma was one of a throng.

The fifth volume in the invaluable “Treasures From American Film Archives” series focuses on how early 20th-century cinema joined that throng as well, covering the West not just in the form of feature-length and two-reeler “Westerns,” but also via you-are-there actualities and newsreels, and industrial films intended to promote the region. The set’s three discs group together films with similar themes, whether they’re dealing with the revolution in Mexico, the struggles of Native Americans, the romance of the railroad, or some other subtopic related to western expansion. Not long after these movies were shot, Hollywood would go full-bore into the business of recreating the West as it was in the 19th century, building a rough visual vocabulary for the place where gunslingers and sheriffs and “dancehall girls” dwelled. But most of the films on Treasures 5 were shot on location, using buildings and landmarks that still existed at the time—such that even the narrative films feel like documentaries.

In the United States, we have a complicated relationship with our “manifest destiny.” On the one hand, settling the West was a phenomenal feat of collective vision and will, involving people risking their lives by venturing into the unknown for a fresh start. It’s a quintessentially American story. On the other hand, expansion sometimes required deceit and violence, wreaking havoc on the environment and on the indigenous. (And that’s pretty American, too.)

Sigourney Weaver's preference for 'pure' parts

LOS ANGELES - When "he" becomes "she" in a script, Sigourney Weaver sometimes gets the call. And so far, the movie sex changes have worked out well.
Originally, her Ripley role in Ridley Scott's Alien was written for a male lead. So was her xenobotanist physician Grace Augustine in James Cameron's Avatar. Her latest part in the action thriller, Abduction, was initially written for a man, as well.

Actor Sigourney Weaver attends the premiere of Lionsgate Films’ “Abduction” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on September 15 in Hollywood, California
In the movie, which opened Sept. 23, Weaver plays Dr. Bennett, a therapist and handler for Taylor Lautner's Nathan. He's a teen who comes to the shock of realization that he's living somebody else's life. When he's on the verge of exposing the real story, a team of killers strike, forcing him to hit the road. But it doesn't take him long to figure out he has to track down his biological father in order to survive, and find out the truth in the process. With Nathan on his quest is a friend (Lily Collins), one of the few people he can trust.
Besides Weaver, the John Singleton-directed movie is spiked with veterans, including Alfred Molina, Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs. Only the Oscar-honoured actress was assigned a role originally meant for the opposite sex, though.
"And I am not insulted at all, but I guess that's because I have been in years of therapy," said Weaver during an interview promoting Abduction at a Beverly Hills hotel.
In fact, she takes the role reversal as a compliment, and she always has.
"I think, when (writers are) putting a script together, they actually aren't thinking about the chemistry," she said. "I actually prefer the purity of a part that's written for a man, because I find that when it's written for a woman - usually by a man - it will always have some stupid breakdown scene, or some stupid thing that would never really happen.
"As a feminist, I go, 'Yes, we're taking over.' It's good, because women are playing these roles in real life, and I'm very happy to represent women in these other kinds of roles, even if they're villains."
She also enjoyed the company she was keeping on the Abduction set in and around Pittsburgh last year. She called Lautner "a bundle of energy" who is bound to have "a long career." And Singleton, according to Weaver, "is a student of film who really knows his stuff, which impressed me, because I have never taken a film course in my life."
She wasn't even concerned about her low-profile, though pivotal, part, in Abduction. "We decided that I wouldn't show much or give anything away."
Indeed, size doesn't matter these days. She's been the star of the Alien franchise and had top billing for most of her career. But she's finding a new energy in co-starring roles. "I love to mix it up."
That's exactly what the actress has done over the last few years. She's part of the ensemble cast in the L.A. police corruption expose, Ramparts, which is tentatively set for release later in the year. Opening early in 2012, Red Lights has her playing a debunker of paranormal activity investigating a world-renowned psychic played by Robert De Niro. Next April, Weaver can be seen co-starring with Bruce Willis as undercover socialites in the action drama, The Cold Light of Day.
"And in Vamps, I am an unrepentant vampire," said Weaver of the Amy Heckerling movie due out later in 2012.
And don't tell the actress that co-starring parts are easier. "People say, 'But this is a small part.' I don't believe that, and I think that they are much harder to do, because you don't have the whole movie to get the job done."
For instance, there was her small but key role as Dana in two Ghostbusters movies. Speaking of which, what's the status of Ghostbusters III? "I was hoping you could tell me," said Weaver, who hasn't read the Dan Aykroyd script.
However, she was told by Ghostbusters III producer and director Ivan Reitman that Dana's infant son Oscar has grown up to be a Ghostbuster in the new movie.
What Weaver knows for sure is that she refuses to do the third one if Bill Murray backs out. "I don't think it works without Bill."
Most agree. So all involved are waiting for the elusive Murray to make a decision before the film can move forward. It's all riding on him. "And I bet Bill's loving that," she said.
Meanwhile, Cameron's Avatar sequels will be filmed back to back, but not for a few years. Her involvement might be a moot point, anyway. Her character was eliminated at the conclusion.
"That's an interpretation," she said. "You saw something happen to me, but as (Cameron) says, 'In science fiction, no one ever dies.'''

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 Soundtrack Info, Artwork, and First Single

The official soundtrack for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 hits store shelves (and online outlets) on November 8th, and today the first single - Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" - dropped, offering some doo-wop sadness in place of the franchise's typical indie angst.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 Soundtrack Info, Artwork, and First Single
You can check out the new song below the full track listing and CD cover art. "After seeing the movie, I thought that it would be a perfect fit," Mars said told MTV. "The 'Twilight' movies for me [are] a love story. But it's a dark love story," he added, "and I think the best way to describe the song is: It's the darker side of love. I think that pretty much sums it up."

The full track list for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 soundtrack follows:

The Joy Formidable, "Endtapes"
Angus & Julia Stone, "Love Will Take You"
Bruno Mars, "It Will Rain"
Sleeping at Last, "Turning Page"
The Features, "From Now On"
Christina Perri, "A Thousand Years"
Theophilus London, "Neighbors"
The Belle Brigade, "I Didn't Mean It"
Noisettes, "Sister Rosetta (2011 Version)"
Cider Sky, "Northern Lights"
Iron & Wine, "Flightless Bird, American Mouth (Wedding Version)"
Imperial Mammoth, "Requiem on Water"
Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz, "Cold"
Mia Maestro, "Llovera"
Carter Burwell, "Love Death Rebirth"
Part 1 of Breaking Dawn is slated to be released in theatres on November 18, 2011. Part 2 will follow a year later on November 16, 2012.

Atomic worker advocates aghast at names in manual

CINCINNATI—Advocates for U.S. atomic workers sickened by radiation exposure say they're stunned that a federal claims training manual uses fictional characters' names, including an apparent reference to the disfigured villain of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" horror movies.
In this 1991 photo provided by New
Line Cinema, Robert Englund stars as the
inimitable Freddy Krueger in New Line Cinema's
chilling conclusion, "Freddy's Dead:
The Final Nightmare", 1991. Advocates for U.S.
atomic workers sickened by radiation exposure
say they’re stunned that a federal claims training
manual uses fictional characters’ names, including
an apparent reference to the disfigured
villain from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” horror movies
Deborah Jerison of Yellow Springs, Ohio, said she recently received the Labor Department manual in response to a Freedom of Information request made months earlier. Her late father worked at a now-defunct nuclear weapons plant in Miamisburg, Ohio. She heads a group that helps former atomic workers and their families pursue federal occupational illness compensation claims.
The manual she says she received uses case names derived from TV and movies, such as claimant "Freddie Krueger," spelled slightly different than the Freddy in the "Nightmare" series. The Krueger in the manual is reported as dying on Oct. 31 -- Halloween. The example suffered from "depression, dementia and skin cancer."
Jerison, whose physicist father James Goode died in 1960, said she didn't like seeing someone in a situation similar to his being depicted that way.
"This is a very dark subject and I can see where people would use humor to get through it, but this is bad," she said.
The Labor Department issued a statement Tuesday saying a former contractor prepared the manual several years ago for internal use only, and the references in question have been removed after review.
"We agree that the use of fictional characters with negative attributes could be perceived as insensitive," Gary Steinberg, acting director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, said in the statement. "An oversight of this nature does not reflect the values and principles by which we operate."
Another claimant is called Jack Bauer, the hero of TV's "24" drama. A pathologist is called Hannibal Lechter, an apparent reference to the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter of books and movies. TV doctors treating patients in the case studies include Dr. Amanda Bentley, a character on the series "Diagnosis: Murder, and Dr. Marcus Welby, who was a genial family practitioner on an ABC drama.
David Manuta of Waverly, Ohio, wrote to the Labor Department as a member of the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups, saying the references are examples of continued disrespect for claimants. The chemist worked at a Cold War-era uranium enrichment plant in southern Ohio.
He said Tuesday that he knows that "the younger generations" like to use humor, but he said it was out of place.
"It's absolutely offensive for those of us who have handled those nuclear materials," he said.
Jerison's father worked at The Mound plant that made triggers and detonators for nuclear weapons. She said she helped her mother pursue a claim for years, but the $175,000 in compensation didn't arrive until after her mother's death. About three years ago, she used part of that money that had been divided among Goode's children to start the nonprofit Energy Employees Claimant Assistance Project.
She had requested the claims training manual to gain information about the process from the government side. The compensation program was established in 2001, but it's unclear when the manual was published; its 24 chapters take trainees from the history of the nuclear energy to step-by-step instruction in conducting a claims hearing.

'Lion King' chases off Brad Pitt to remain No. 1

Brad Pitt was unable to put the cat out of first place at the weekend box office. Walt Disney's "The Lion King" reissue was No. 1 for the second-straight weekend with $22.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. That puts it just ahead of Pitt's baseball drama "Moneyball," a Sony Pictures release that opened at No. 2 with $20.6 million.
photo taken by AP Images for Time Warner Cable,
guests pose with the character Rafiki before a Time
Warner Cable and Disney screening of
"The Lion King" 3D at The El Capitan
Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Los Angeles
Debuting closely behind at No. 3 was the Warner Bros. family film "Dolphin Tale" with $20.3 million. "Dolphin Tale" stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.
The 3-D reissue of 1994's "The Lion King" has taken in $61.7 million since opening the previous weekend to a much bigger audience than expected. That's on top of nearly $800 million worldwide the movie made in its original run and a 2002 re-release.
The film has done so well that Disney plans to leave it in theaters longer than the two-week run the studio initially planned as a prelude to its Blu-ray home-video debut Oct. 4, said Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution.
The studio has not yet decided how long or how widely the film would play theatrically after the Blu-ray release, Hollis said.
"Consumers I think will be happy to consume it in multiple ways for this kind of franchise, as they have for the last 17 years," Hollis said.
"The Lion King" held up well despite a rush of four new wide releases this weekend.
"Twilight" co-star Taylor Lautner's action tale "Abduction" opened at No. 4 with $11.2 million. The Lionsgate release casts Lautner as a teen hurtled into a world of espionage as he tries to uncover the mystery of his past.
Another action thriller, Open Road Films' "Killer Elite," debuted at No. 5 with $9.5 million. The movie stars Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen as special-ops assassins caught up in a global revenge scheme.
"Moneyball" stars Pitt as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who shook up the baseball world when his tight budget forced him to look for new ways to scout players. Jonah Hill co-stars as an economist who helps turn the A's into a contender using statistical methods that identify undervalued athletes.
With good reviews and Academy Awards buzz for Pitt and his "Moneyball" teammates, Sony hopes the film will stick around in theaters well into the fall.
It was a solid start for a film that looked dead in the water after Sony benched a previous version of "Moneyball" just days before shooting was to start in 2009.
That incarnation would have been made by Pitt's pal Steven Soderbergh, who directed him in the "Ocean's Eleven" movies. But Sony pulled the plug in a squabble with Soderbergh over the script.
Soderbergh departed, but Pitt stuck with it, determined to bring Michael Lewis' best-seller "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" to the screen.
Much of the book dealt with the number-crunching sabermetrics system Beane adopted. To bring out the drama, Sony hired Aaron Sorkin, an Oscar winner for his screenplay on "The Social Network," to rework a script whose previous scribes included Steven Zaillian, an Oscar winner for "Schindler's List."
Bennett Miller, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind "Capote," was brought in to direct. Pitt also is a producer on the film.
"It wasn't the easiest code to crack. You had this really great book, but to translate it wasn't necessarily the easiest thing," said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution. "You really needed people who believed in it, like Brad, and writers who understood it, and a director to really make it something very visual and compelling for folks to see."
"Dolphin Tale" managed a solid start despite unexpected competition for family audiences from "The Lion King." Based on a true story, "Dolphin Tale" centers on a group of strangers who come together to save an injured dolphin.
"The Lion King," ''Moneyball" and "Dolphin Tale" managed a rare feat for typically quiet September, all finishing above $20 million for the weekend.
Hollywood's overall revenues came in at $122 million, up 21 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" led with $19 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
"This is one of the strongest September weekends I've ever seen," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "'Lion King' got people in the mood to go back to movies, especially the family audience, and look at the combination of that one and 'Dolphin Tale.' It shows that family audiences are willing to go to the movies whether it's summer or fall."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Lion King," $22.1 million ($1.9 million international).
2. "Moneyball," $20.6 million.
3. "Dolphin Tale," $20.3 million.
4. "Abduction," $11.2 million.
5. "Killer Elite," $9.5 million.
6. "Contagion," $8.6 million.
7. "Drive," $5.8 million.
8. "The Help," $4.4 million ($1.1 million international).
9. "Straw Dogs," $2.1 million.
10. "I Don't Know How She Does It," $2.05 million.
___
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:
1. "The Smurfs," $12.9 million.
2. "Friends with Benefits," $9.7 million.
3. "Johnny English Reborn," $7.4 million.
4. "Final Destination 5," $6.6 million.
5. "Crazy, Stupid, Love," $6.2 million.
6. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," $5.8 million.
7. "Horrible Bosses," $3.1 million.
8. "Abduction," $2.9 million.
9. "The Change-Up," $2.2 million.
10. "The Lion King," $1.9 million.
___
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

'Red Dawn' Movie Remake to Hit Theaters Next Year; Villians Digitally Altered

The longtime shelved remake of ’80s action thriller “Red Dawn” will likely be released sometime in 2012 by independent studio Film District, reports the Los Angeles Times.

'Red Dawn' Movie Remake to Hit Theaters Next Year; Villians Digitally Altered
Reportedly completed in 2009, the “Red Dawn” remake floated in limbo as longtime studio MGM went bankrupt (a development that also temporarily left the future of the James Bond series – perhaps the most successful English-language movie franchise in history – in limbo). However, Film District has struck a deal with MGM, and has also potentially benefited from the delay, as one of the “Red Dawn” stars, Chris Hemsworth, was elevated to fame this summer as the titular character in “Thor.”
Apart from a bankrupt studio, the “Red Dawn” remake has suffered another setback. In the original, 1984 film, a small Colorado town is invaded by Russians, who serve as the consistent villains throughout the film. With the idea of Russian Communists invading the U.S. laughably dated, the makers behind ‘Red Dawn 2.0′ initially made the new villains Chinese (which conveniently keeps the title relevant). However, as the remake readies for release, the film has been digitally altered to change the Chinese villains to North Koreans, as studio executives openly admitted that the portrayal of Chinese villains could harm business dealings between the U.S. and China.
“The studio suits are right to be concerned,” wrote columnist David Sirota, whose latest book, “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now,” features a section on “Red Dawn.” “China’s government only allows about 20 non-Chinese movies per year into its theaters, and in the late 1990s, the regime halted Walt Disney, Sony and MGM business in the country after those companies produced films deemed critical of China.”
The original “Red Dawn” shows the aforementioned small town being taken over by murderous, invading Russians. A group of high-schoolers (Wolverines!) and some adults eventually repel the invasion through gumption and guerrilla warfare. Apart from being a showcase for many emerging young stars at the time (Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey), “Red Dawn” is remembered perhaps as a flawed movie but also as a near-perfect time capsule for the last years of the Cold War in Reagan America.
FUN FACT: “Red Dawn” was the first film to receive a “PG-13″ rating, a new rating meant to find a middle ground between the restrictive (18 and older) “R” and all-encompassing “PG.” This is ironic considering that, at the time of its release, “Red Dawn” was regarded by the “Guinness Book of World Records” and the National Coalition on Television Violence to be one of the most violent movies ever made.

Festival du nouveau cinéma will screen latest from Von Trier, Almodovar, Wenders and Sarah Polley

MONTREAL - New films by Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodóvar and Wim Wenders are on the menu at the 40th Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC), Oct. 12 to 23. As usual, Montreal’s most discerning film festival culls the best of the year’s international film fest circuit to offer 292 movies from 45 countries, including 11 world premieres, 23 North American premieres and 10 Canadian premieres.
Von Trier’s Melancholia stars Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg in a drama about the end of the world; Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito) is a thriller featuring Antonio Banderas as a depraved plastic surgeon; and Wenders’s Pina is a 3-D dance film tribute to late German choreographer Pina Bausch.

Melancholia
The above films will screen in the Special Presentation section alongside the works of 22 other established directors, including Alexander Sokurov’s Faust (Russia; recent winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival); Almayer’s Folly, by Chantal Akerman (Belgium-France); Davis Guggenheim’s U2 documentary From the Sky Down (U.S.); Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo II (Canada); Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz (starring Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman); Paule Baillargeon’s 30 Tableaux (Quebec) and Asghar Farhadi’s
A Separation (Iran).
The International Selection features films in competition for the FNC’s Louve d’Or, including Quebec director Anne Émond’s feature debut Nuit #1 (recent winner of a special mention from the jury at the Toronto International Film Festival); Steve McQueen’s buzz-riding sex-addict odyssey Shame; Miaoyan Zhang’s Black Blood (China); Matias Meyer’s The Last Christeros (Mexico-Netherlands); Tolga Karacelik’s Toll Booth (Turkey) and Argyris Papadimitropoulos’s Wasted Youth (Greece).
The International Panorama section offers a varied batch of movies from around the globe, including Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba’s Chico & Rita, an animated film about a jazz-musician couple in ’50s Cuba; Fabiano De Souza’s Last Road to the Beach (Brazil) and Tobias Wyss’s Flying Home (Switzerland).
Groundbreaking and controversial films are on display in the Temps Ø section, including works by three Japanese directors: Sion Sono’s psychosexual, neo-feminist punk thriller Guilty of Romance; Takashi Miike’s 3-D adventure Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai; and Shinya Tsukamoto’s Kotoko (winner of the Orizzonti prize at the Venice Film Festival).
Other notable Temps Ø submissions: Our Day Will Come, by Romain Gavras (the French director of provocative music videos for M.I.A. and Justice); Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty (Australia); the world premiere of Assassin’s Creed: Embers, an animated film linked to the popular Ubisoft video game; New York experimental cinema star Marie Losier’s The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye; Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter (winner of the Cannes Critics Week Grand Prix) and Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, dubbed the first 3-D porn film, by Christopher Sun Lap Key (Hong Kong).
The Focus series screens Canadian films, including Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks’s NFB doc Surviving Progress; Ivan Grbovic’s Romeo Eleven and Rasta, A Soul’s Journey by Donisha Prendergast, granddaughter of Bob Marley.
For its 40th edition, the festival is holding a special Cartes blanches series, in which it asked 10 filmmakers who have shown works at the fest in the past to direct a short film (maximum four minutes) in HD. Participants include Denis Côté, Sophie Deraspe, Zacharias Kunuk, Catherine Martin, Bruce McDonald, Marie Losier and Denis Villeneuve.
As previously announced, the fest’s opening film is Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration of War and the closing film is Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar, Canada’s official Oscar submission for best foreign-language film.
Short films screening at the fest include works by Spike Jonze, Harmony Korine and the Brothers Quay; and by Quebec directors Pedro Pires (who has done visuals for Cirque du Soleil) and Nicolas Roy (whose Ce n’est rien was in competition at Cannes).
The FNC will also feature retrospectives on directors Amos Gitai (Israel) and Asghar Farhadi (Iran).
The Festival du nouveau cinéma runs from Oct. 12 to 23. Tickets go on sale Oct. 8. The Passe: FNC, which grants access to all movies except the opening and closing films, is on sale for $100 (regular price $125) until Oct. 5 at lavitrine.com.

DVD Extra: LaCava, Clara Bow and other western rareties


DVD Extra: LaCava, Clara Bow and other western rareties
"Treasures 5: The West,'' the latest DVD set of extremely rare films from the National Film Preservation Foundation, collects 40 shorts and features restored by various American film archives -- 10-hours' worth -- depicting seven western states, as well as a ringer shot in western Canada, spanning the years 1898 to 1938.
The majority are silent with newly composed music scores and scholarly commentary tracks. In addition to four more or less complete features, there are travelogues, documentaries (including a restaging of the capture of the Wild Bunch with the original lawman), newsreels, Kodachrome home movies, and promotional films (one in an early color process touting Del Monte products) in this cinematic treasure trove.
Two of the most interesting shorts -- "The Sergeant'' (1910) and "The Better Man'' (1912) -- were repatriated from a New Zealand film archive. Donations supporting their restoration were solicited through "For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon,'' for which Marilyn Ferdinand (Ferdy on Film) and my pal Farran Smith Nehme (The Self Styled Siren) corraled a large band of bloggers, including yours truly, in January 2010. We're amply credited in a book of copious program notes.
The set also includes one-reelers with Tom Mix, Broncho Billy and Mabel Nomand, with even Sessue Hayakawa turning up as an Indian's chief's son.
"The Lady of the Dugout'' (1918) stars legendary outlaw-turned-actor/filmmaker Al Jennings, who is heard discussing the film in an interview from 45 years later, when he was 94. It's well directed by future studio workhorse W.S. Van Dyke ("The Thin Man''). "Salomy Jane'' (1914), an impressive independent western -- co-directed by the ridiculously prolific William Nigh and co-photographed by future Oscar winner Hal Mohr on stunning locations -- features Beatriz Michelena, who is believed to be the first Latina screen star.
Western mythology gets a kidding in one of the comedy features in the set. The delightful if obscure "Womanhandled'' (1925), an early but impressive directorial effort by Gregory La Cava ("My Man Godfrey''), stars cowboy actor Richard Dix in a rare comic turn as a polo-playing playboy who pretends to be a westerner to impress a woman (Esther Ralston) he meets in Central Park who thinks New York men are mollycoddled. The fun begins when she pays a surprise visit to his uncle's Texas ranch -- where where they round up steers using flivvers -- while our hero is vacationing. Dix is obliged to re-create the old west in a hurry and hide the resident showgirls for her benefit. Funny stuff.

New Orleans author of 'Moneyball' on deck for next screenplay

After the success of "The Blind Side" in 2009 and "Moneyball" this month, New Orleans writer Michael Lewis will get a chance to do what he does best with his latest book to be tapped for the movie treatment: He'll write the screenplay.
New Orleans author Michael Lewis arrives at the Paramount Theatre of the Arts in Oakland, Calif., for the premiere of the movie 'Moneyball' on Sept. 19, 2011
"Liar's Poker" was Lewis' 1989 first book, recounting his experiences as a bond trader on Wall Street in the 1980s. According to an item this week in The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. -- the same studio behind "The Blind Side" and "Moneyball" -- has tapped him to write a script for a film adaptation.
The screenplays for "Moneyball" and "Blind Side" were written by others.
As it stands, the plan calls for "Liar's Poker" to be directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, the filmmaking duo behind this year's "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and the2009  New Orleans-shot romantic comedy "I Love You Phillip Morris."
The film adaptation of "Liar's Poker" has reportedly been in development on and off for years, but with a $20 million opening weekend for "Moneyball" -- to say nothing of the popular and critical success two years ago of "Blind Side," a film that earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar -- it appears to be on the fast-track.
It's not the only of Lewis' books getting attention in Hollywood. His latest work, 2010's "The Big Short," about the 2008 financial meltdown, is being developed at Paramount, with "Moneyball "star Brad Pitt and his Plan B shingle attached to produce, according to the Reporter.
Find a link to the Hollywood Reporter story below, as well as other recent stories on Lewis' "Moneyball."

Why Fantastic Fest is Theater of the Absurd for Movie Nerds

Austin’s rambunctious genre festival, Fantastic Fest, is churning through its seventh year with dozens of diverse new movies from around the world. And yet it’s sometimes easy to forget there’s actually a film festival going on.
Attendees often hang out in the desolate parking lot of the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar or next door at the Highball event space, the only places in the immediate vicinity to catch a breath between screenings. Each day rolls along like a single, prolonged activity filled with constant chatter and a whole lot of standing around. It’s too much fun to feel busy, but the experience can still be exhausting. That’s why the Fantastic Debates are a welcome addition, injecting a fresh shot of energy into the proceedings.


James Quinn McDonagh and Tim League, post-debate
 The most rambunctious item on its program, the Debates take place at the South Austin Gym. The program is simple: A variety of notable (and often quite random) characters engage in raucous arguments before donning boxing gloves and knocking each other around the ring. Last year’s event culminated with a showdown between Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Tim League and actress Michelle Rodriguez, after the two exchanged sharp words about “Avatar” with mock intensity. It’s a theater of absurd for movie nerds, which is Fantastic Fest’s entire raison d’être.
The latest edition topped that moment with a surprisingly pointed debate between former hobbits Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan about whether or not “World of Warcraft” was “a fucking waste of time.” (Monaghan won with his surprisingly in-depth explanation of the vast potential for digital adventure in the online role-playing game.) Local filmmaking duo Nathan and David Zellner (directors of the Sundance hit “Goliath”), who appeared in a lively sparring last year, returned after a to argue about whether or not robots were superior to humans.
The young man behind the viral hit “Fuck NASA” faced off against astrophysicist Andy Howell, whose faux-elitist knock (“the bar for Internet fame has been lowered”) elicited jeers from the crowd, even though they eventually determined he had the superior argument (or, rather, any argument at all; the “Fuck NASA” guy only succeeded at kickstarting a nonsensical “free energy” chant).
Then there was League, who faced a showdown with the hulking Irish bare-knuckle fighter James Quinn McDonagh, whose fury is at the center of the Irish fighting documentary “Knuckle,” which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. League valiantly argued in favor of the duo’s announced topic: “A Texan is tougher than an Irishman.” But McDonagh didn’t even bother with a rebuttal. “I’ve lost the debate,” he said, but spoke ill of League’s willingness to hit Rodriguez last year. Then they knocked each other around for two aimless matches before everyone went home happy.
These wild, sarcastic encounters show how Fantastic Fest aims to be not only about movies, but about the personalities that surround them. League casts himself as the riotous centerpiece of the mayhem, which occasionally overshadows the movies. A volunteer driving me to the Drafthouse last week said she was interested in event planning and had become involved with the festival because of its various activities, rather than the programming selection.
However, even the chaos of Fantastic Fest is informed by that reasonably strong program, whether or not people realize it. The Debates were sponsored by the distributor of “Knuckle,” ARC Entertainment. Monaghan came to town because he stars in the post-apocalyptic movie “The Day,” which played earlier in the evening. Outside the Highball at the end of the night, I heard fragments of conversations about Fantastic Fest movies that began their festival journeys back at Cannes, including Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia.” These movies were treated as high culture on the Croisette, but at Fantastic Fest they compete for space while facing very different standards.
Other entries I’ve enjoyed so far this year include “Urban Explorer,” a rough but ultimately satisfying “Hostel” rip-off, the Danish sex romp “Clown” and a microbudget Japanese pink film called “Invasion of Alien Bikini.” The synthesis of these more niche-oriented genre experiences and their crossover brethren create the main ingredients of Fantastic Fest, but the environment holds them together. You have to be on the ground here, either taking punches or watching them get thrown, to know the nature of this unseemly beast. Nobody can debate that.
Watch: Dominic Monaghan defends “World of Warcraft”

The New York Times Launches Political Comic Videos Online

Xtranormal, the revolutionary online approach to movie making, is pleased to announce its partnership with The New York Times. Pioneering the future of animated cartoons for online content publishers, the critically acclaimed national newspaper has chosen the viral movie making platform to bring its well-known satirical comics to life. Launched today, the first movie cartoon displays Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg bridging generational opinions on Groupon’s I.P.O. Buzz. The video titled “I.P.O. Blues” can be viewed at: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/i-p-o-blues/. “We’re excited to be working with Xtranormal’s tools to develop additional unique and creative programming for our audience,” says Chris Jones, executive director of product management, NYTimes.com.
The New York Times Launches Political Comic Videos Online
Spearheading this new interactive comic strip venture for The New York Times is Omid Malekan, author of the clever Xtranormal video, “Quantitative easing explained,” a viral sensation with more than 4 million views on YouTube. A former Wall Street trader, Malekan has worked in several different capacities within the financial industry over the past ten years. Malekan explains, ”Political cartoons and comic strips have always had an important place in traditional media, because they can say so much by depicting so little. Humor is also important when expressing an opinion, because in order for something to be funny, it has to be grounded in truth. Xtranormal technology takes this traditional craft into the digital era by bringing the characters to life in rich 3D animations and allowing them to literally speak their minds.”
Covering topical subject matters related to the world of finance and economic policy, The New York Times plans to release one new Xtranormally produced satirical short per week. Notably, these cartoons will introduce an interactive component, enabling readers to join in on the fun by posting feedback and comments.
“For years, cartoons have been an important feature of newspapers and magazines; our platform brings them to life and makes them even more engaging and fun on the web,” says Graham Sharp, CEO, Xtranormal. “The New York Times is clearly an innovator in the online world, and by producing a weekly satirical cartoon in this new way, it is using the latest technology to continue to differentiate itself from the rest.”
About Xtranormal
Xtranormal brings movie-making magic to the masses. Their motto, “if you can type, you can make movies,” inspires creativity and transcends generations – from a 4th grade student completing a video project, to a teacher making a class more engaging and an advertising firm creating a private label for a B2B client – their contagious technology has made them a viral sensation with millions of users inspired to make movies through the simple act of typing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shriekfest 2011: Exclusive Q&A with Filmmaker Dave Reda

Next up in Dread Central's Q&A interview series featuring several of the filmmakers whose work was selected as an official selection of the 2011 Shriekfest Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, is indie horror multi-hyphenate Dave Reda.

Shriekfest 2011: Exclusive Q&A with Filmmaker Dave Reda
Reda's an all-around talent and has found success in the independent horror scene as a director, actor, writer, producer and editor. His latest project, My Undeadly, is Reda's unique spin on the zombie subgenre whose trailer recently debuted here on DC.
You'll find our Q&A with Reda below, and make sure to check out My Undeadly at the Shriekfest Film Festival on Sunday, October 2nd, during "Shorts Program #3", which begins at 2:00 pm. To get your passes for the 2011 Shriekfest Film Festival, visit their official site here for all your ticket needs and more.

Dread Central: Discuss where you got the idea for the short film. With zombies being everywhere these days, how did you switch up your approach on this to give it your own twist?
Dave Reda: Exactly! Zombies ARE everywhere, and I really wanted to do something different with my film, take it somewhere else, and not make the same old zombie film or commercial you have seen a bunch of times. The idea came from wanting to do something different with the whole approach to a zombie film and from being a major horror fan. I wish I could say more but don't want to say too much and reveal too much before it screens.

DC: We'd love to hear more about how production went on My Undeadly and what the whole experience was like for you from start to finish.
Reda: Production was a whirlwind; I spent weeks looking for a DP for this project and found the incredible Brian Barrow a few days before we actually filmed. He did an amazing job, coming in so last second on the film. For the exterior shots I was excited to be able to use the Michael Meyers home from John Carpenter's Halloween so we could get the same iconic shot as an homage to his movie. And since it was right here in Pasadena, I had to go for it.
We shot the rest of the film all in one long night. The talented Alexis Staats did my zombie makeup for four hours; then we shot for the next ten hours straight. We had a super skeleton crew, and everyone did a few jobs to make this one happen, including both my AD Brian Katz and my Costumer Peter Redman, who were both running around doing lights, sound, and anything else they could. Michelle Tomlinson was fantastic on this one as well; I had written this part and film specifically for her, and she nailed it. Even when it got tough about 3:00 am, Michelle was still rocking it- she is a great talent and friend.

'Ben-Hur': Still going well beyond the material

Pity the poor film lovers who blew their entire month's movie budget on the latest "Star Wars" box set. This week, for roughly the same price, they could have owned a cinema milestone superior to "Star Wars" in just about every way — William Wyler's "Ben-Hur" (Warner Home Video, Ultimate Collector's Edition three-disc Blu-ray box set, $64.99; five-DVD set, $49.92; two-DVD anniversary edition, $20.97).
Don't misunderstand. The original "Star Wars" trilogy is a lot of fun and George Lucas corralled future generations of movie fans with his films' youthful spirit of wonder and adventure. But "Ben-Hur" is profound and ageless — not to mention challenging and stirring in its full-blooded depiction of man's capacity for both cruelty and redemption.

Handout art on 'Ben-Hur'
Like the Lucas fantasies, Wyler's screen classic turns on the eternal opposition of good and evil. But the big difference in the two visions is that one is set in a comic book universe of masked fiends and light sabers and matinee heroics, and the other takes place in a universe of family bonds and societies populated by fallible individuals trying to keep their balance on a plane constantly pitching between the degradation of tyranny and the possibility of liberation.
It's sad that film schools today are full of students who know all there is to know about Lucas but dismiss films like "Ben-Hur." If they looked deeper, they might see that Wyler did not view cinema as an end in itself, but as just another powerful artist's tool for digging into ultimate relationships between the mortal and the everlasting.
That is also the field in which General Lew Wallace once toiled with his original novel. It is subtitled "A Tale of the Christ," but you don't really have to be a Christian or a Bible student to find nourishment in its suggestion of values that extend well beyond our material world.
For the film's Blu-ray debut, technicians have returned to original negative elements to create a 1080p transfer that captures both the epic scope and the intimacy of Wyler's Oscar-winning masterwork.
"Ben-Hur" was one of only two films photographed in a process called MGM Camera 65, the widest aspect ratio (2.76:1) ever used theatrically. At nearly three times as wide as it is high, its picture has always posed challenges for video technicians.
But high-definition finally allows for the best resolution of picture details yet possible. There is none of the irising or shimmering of unresolved lines here, and both the brightness and color are pushed to their peaks with stunning vibrancy.
At last we can see into the dark recesses of the Roman slave galleons and note every bead of sweat on the muscles of the oarsmen as they speed into a sea battle with pirates. For the first time at home, Judah Ben-Hur's team of chariot horses is snowy white again, and not some cream- or wheat-colored offshoot as in past video versions.
Best of all is the new lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track, flawlessly reproducing the awesome Miklos Rosza musical score and dispersing it around the 5.1 stereo soundstage. (There's an option for listening to the isolated score on its own, though this is only in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and not quite as satisfying.)
Bonus extras are included on each of the box set's three Blu-ray discs. These include commentaries and "making of" documentaries from previous editions, along with various release trailers, rare screen tests, newsreel footage and the complete 1925 silent film version with Ramon Novarro — not presented in true high-def but commendably sharp and intact and good to have in the set.
New and exclusive supplements begin with a 78-minute "personal journey" through the film via Charlton Heston's 16mm home movies and reminiscences by the late actor's wife and grown children. Also included is a facsimile of a bound "diary" and scrapbook kept by Heston during the film's production, and a 64-page hardcover book of rare photos, movie stills and production art.
The five-disc DVD set contains all of the same extras plus the remastered feature in standard definition. The two-DVD "special edition" has just the remastered film and running commentary, plus a poster mail-in offer.
Fox World Cinema launch
"The world is more than we know," is one of the great lines from "Ben-Hur" that still resonates with movie-goers. Aiming to narrow the knowledge gap a bit is a new cinema line from 20th Century-Fox carrying the label Fox World Cinema.
We screened its first three releases, all available this week priced at $29.98 but offered at 37 per cent off at www.foxworldcinema.com. In general, we were more impressed by the three film's technical reach and storytelling inventiveness than by their mundane subject matter.
From Italy, Michele Placido's "Angel of Evil" is based on the memoirs of a Milan criminal, played here by sultry male model Kim Rossi Stuart. Like the recent "Carlos" and a hundred other films, this is one more attempt to glamorize gangsters and raise them to the level of sexy rock stars.
From China, "The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman" is an ambitious, multi-parted epic that follows the journey of a mystical blade through the hands of three different owners. Debuting filmmaker Wu Ershan goes way overboard on burlesque and stylistic flourishes but the look is often very interesting.
My favorite of the three was Rohan Sippy's Bollywood entry, "Dum Maaro Dum," another ambitious screen effort about a determined rogue cop's campaign to flush out an underworld drug czar and free the innocent college kid who is caught between them. Besides having characters you can root for, it presents dazzling musical interludes and action scenes with an array of flashy visual techniques.
Also new on DVD
"Sesame Street: Spoofs! Volume 1 and 2" (Warner Home Video, not rated, DVD $19.98). The lovable "Sesame Street" muppets present a variety of their best skits and songs sending up movies, TV shows, ads and more. The bits are culled from the series over the years but not all play equally well, though they should keep kids and fans of all ages chuckling and humming along.
"The Tempest" (Miramax Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, DVD $29.99; Blu-ray Disc $39.99). Julie Taymor has had some stunning successes in both theater and film with her staging of "Disney's The Lion King" and such movies as "Titus" and "Frida." Here she offers a film adaptation of her earlier staging of Shakespeare's genre-hopping classic to decidedly mixed results. The setting for the film (actually shot in Hawaii on the island of Lanai) is a truly magical location for the numerous interconnected stories, but the characters seem to dissipate in the open air. Helen Mirren breaks new ground as a female Prospero (renamed Prospera), but there's no narrative hook here to draw a viewer into the story.

New on DVD this week: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' is big, loud

The only major theatrical release making its way to home video this week is a big-budget action film from director Michael Bay.

In this publicity image released by Paramount Pictures,
Bumblebee is shown in a scene from "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

✪✪½ (out of ✪✪✪✪)
Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo. Paramount. Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

It’s no secret that Michael Bay is Hollywood’s go-to guy for loud, violent, special effects-laden blockbusters, so it should come as little surprise that his third entry in the “Transformers” franchise is exactly that.

Like Bay’s prior “Transformers” flicks, “Dark of the Moon” chronicles the ongoing battle between powerful, sentient, mechanical beings known as Autobots and Decepticons. The Autobots, led by the brave and scrupulous Optimus Prime, are good guys who work with U.S. leaders to make Earth a safer place. The Decepticons see humans as an inferior slave-race to be divided and conquered.

Although much of the movie is built around brutal robot-on-robot combat, Bay gives the film a human touch by including Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), a protagonist from the first two pictures. This time, Sam is partnered with a new girlfriend named Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whitely), a direct result of former co-star Megan Fox getting fired. In the interest of continuity, “Dark of the Moon” includes passing references to Fox’s character, Mikaela Banes, but she isn’t missed. That’s mostly because Fox was never asked to offer anything other than eye candy, and Huntington-Whitely fills that role nicely.

Truth told, people don’t matter much in Transformers movies because they’re boring when viewed next to machines that transform into sports cars one moment and massive steel warriors the next. Still, the stakes are high for the human race because the Decepticons have discovered a way to transport the remnants of their war-torn homeworld to Earth, effectively making our planet their own. That means it’s up to Sam, the U.S. military and the Autobots to prevent disaster.
None of the “Transformers” movies are brilliant, and “Dark of the Moon” doesn’t break that barrier. It does, however, stay true to the formula that allowed the first two films to make millions. That means the action starts early and never lets up, despite the fact that the movie runs more than two and a half hours.

That’s too long for a film like this, but one has to admit that Bay is an expert at staging big, bold special effects sequences, and he delivers one after another here. That doesn’t make “Dark of the Moon” inspired, but it does make it an archetypal summer action movie and, therefore, a decent viewing choice for anyone who isn’t ready for fall to kick in.

The Blu-ray and DVD coming out this week contains no special features, but a deluxe set with extras is expected in the coming months.