Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lady Gaga: VERY Available to Audition for Your New Movie

It should come as no surprise that Lady Gaga has aspirations to being in film someday—like nearly all pop stars in the year 2011, she is nearly as much actress as she is musician in her performances and general public persona. But Gaga isn’t content with using her fame and stature to secure herself roles in the latest blockbuster or art-house flick—as she explains in a preview from her upcoming appearance onEllen, she doesn’t want to cheat the process. “I wanna audition!” the pop star complains to Ellen. “I wanna work for it! When I get offered jobs and I don’t audition for them, I turn them down.”
She explained why the objection: “When I talk about acting, I’m always surprised no one ever asks me to audition…they’ll just say ‘I want her to do this movie’ and I’m just like why? You haven’t seen me act before.” Uh, Gaga, you know you make a lot of music videos that have elaborate stories and lots of extraneous dialogue (often in foreign languages for no reason)? It’s not film acting, but it’s still technically acting. Those videos are a lot more popular than you might realize—that thingwhere you and Beyoncé Honey Bee go on the lam and eat pastries and talk in non-existent aphorisms has been viewed nearly 130 million times, for one.
Meanwhile, what kind of movies does Gaga want to appear in? “My dream would be to be in a Woody Allen movie,” she says. The vest-and-tie look just might work for her.

Movie Review: Riveting performances in "Shame"

Steve McQueen , the director, definitely doesn’t pull his punches and Michael Fassbender, the actor, clearly doesn’t mind taking them.

In their first collaboration, 2008’s “Hunger,” Fassbender played Bobby Sands, the IRA member who starved himself. In their latest collaboration, “Shame,” Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a Manhattan thirty-something who also starves himself, but does so emotionally. That’s because he’s (A) addicte d to alcohol, (B) addicted to drugs, (C) addicted to sex or (D) addicted to love. Might as well admit it, the answer is (C), and the film’s no-holds-barred and all-parts-bared depiction of Brandon’s addiction has earned the film considerable controversy and an NC-17 rating.

While many critics are bound to have an orgasm over “Shame” – maybe that’s a poor word choice here – the general public is sure to struggle warming up to a film about people who don’t behave according to Miss Manners and who aren’t particularly likeable either. Drama ebbs and flows as well.

But who said life — or a film’s interpretation of life — has to be populated with only likeable people? “Shame” has more on its mind than pleasing audiences. If you want to see schmaltzy swill, go to “New Year’s Eve,” a lock to go ka-ching at the box office.

Like the challenging films of the 1970s, “Shame” focuses on a person behaving outside of society’s norms while trying to exist inside of them. It’s like performing a highwire act where you’re attempting to balance yourself while juggling chainsaws blindfolded. A wrong step lands you in an unhappy place.

Whether the subject matters turns you off, there’s no denying that Fassbender turns in a riveting performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. Talk about baring all — skin, soul, spleen.

It doesn’t take long to see that Brandon has issues. A little masturbation here, a lot of porn there. He later looks at a woman on the subway with a predatory stare that indicates he has more on his mind than finding out her zodiac sign.

When Brandon discovers his computer at work has been taken away, we know that its contents aren’t flooded with fantasy football statistics.

His life, while slightly off-kilter, has an orderliness to it, yet that gets disrupted by the arrival in his apartment of his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who has issues of her own. That their childhood bares little resemblance to “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” becomes apparent soon enough. When Sissy sings a dirge-like rendition of “New York, New York” at a bar, we see Brandon lose his guard. He tries not to make a habit of that.

Instead he goes from one sexual encounter to the next, battling with his addiction and not faring well. Some may wonder how having sex can be a bad thing. This film shows how. Brandon knows he has an illness. He just can’t find a cure. A particularly painful scene takes place when Brandon tries to have an intimate sexual experience with a co-worker (Nicole Beharie).

Psychologists should have a field day with this film, analyzing Brandon, Sissy and Brandon’s horn-dog boss David (James Badge Dale). So many peccadilloes, so little time.

People offended by graphic sex shouldn’t be within five miles of “Shame.” Interestingly, many of these people have no problem watching graphic violence. Go figure. People expecting titillation from the subject matter will be disappointed, too. This isn’t sex from Penthouse. This is sex from hell where the brief physical pleasure soon gets replaced by an insatiable need.

To be blunt, the film’s NC-17 rating has more to do with male frontal nudity than the sex scenes, which you can see in many R-rated films. To spark a debate, ask how David Fincher’s remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” avoided an NC-17 rating.

For those keeping track, “Shame” marks the fourth film for Fassbender this year. He played a young Magneto in “X-Men: First Class,” Rochester in “Jane Eye” and Carl Jung in “A Dangerous Method.” Most moviegoers know him for playing Lt. Archie Hicox in “Inglourious Basterds.” Talk about range. But it’s in “Shame” where he lets it all hang out, so to speak. If you like your souls tortured, Fassbender’s Brandon has his waterboarded. Fassbender has my vote for best actor.

As for McQueen, who co-wrote the script with Abi Morgan and is no relation to the late actor, he’s a force to be reckoned with. He just doesn’t direct films with a sense of daring, he directs them with a sense of danger, and in era where too many directors play it safe and sanitized, that ain’t a shame.

Unlikely Hero in an Underground Hideout, Away From the Nazis

Agnieszka Holland’s “In Darkness,” inspired by the real exploits of a Polish sewer worker and sometime burglar named Leopold Socha, who helped Jews during the Nazi occupation of Lvov (now Lviv, in Ukraine), provides the latest evidence that the Holocaust movie has become a genre in its own right. Even a true story can follow the familiar conventions of film narrative, and this tale of a righteous gentile selflessly assisting in the survival of a handful of persecuted Jews is no exception.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the movie. It is suspenseful, horrifying and at times intensely moving. But the ease with which it elicits these responses from the audience feels more opportunistic than insightful. Feature films about the Holocaust are often celebrated for preserving memory and raising awareness of the pervasive horror and occasional heroism of a fast-receding history. But who among the ticket-buyers is likely to be unaware of the broad outlines (and even the terrible particulars) of the Nazi genocide?
You do not go to a movie like this to learn, but rather to feel: to pity the victims, despise the villains, and identify with both the vulnerable and the brave. “In Darkness,” which was written by David F. Shamoon (drawing on the book “In the Sewers of Lvov” by Robert Marshall), obligingly supplies the desired emotions, which means that, in spite of its grim setting, it is finally more comforting than troubling.
Socha, known as Poldek, is played by Robert Wieckiewicz, a wonderful Polish actor with meaty features and an engagingly blunt manner. Early in the film Poldek and his young colleague (and criminal sidekick), Szczepek (Krzysztof Skonieczny), who use the sewer tunnels as escape routes and hiding places for their loot, stumble on a nightmarish scene in the forests outside town. What they see — a group of naked, terrified women being chased and shot by German soldiers — serves as a haunting reminder of the fact, amply documented in Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah,” that ordinary Poles knew what was happening to their Jewish neighbors.
The liquidation of the ghetto offers Poldek and Szczepek new possibilities for looting. They also discover that a small group of Jews have taken refuge in the underground waterways, hiding in the shadows amid the waste and vermin. Poldek helps them, first as a business proposition — they have money to pay him — and eventually out of a sense of moral obligation. His ethical awakening provides one of the film’s dramatic arcs as, like Oskar Schindler in the paradigmatic Righteous-Gentile movie “Schindler’s List,” Poldek evolves from self-seeking operator to humanitarian hero. He must overcome the skepticism of his wife, the ever-present threat of the Germans and the intrusions of Bortnik (Michal Zurawski), an old prison buddy who now wears the uniform of the Nazi-supporting Ukrainian militia.
Poldek’s Jews, meanwhile, huddle in darkness and enact their own parables of human nature under duress. They seem as carefully selected for diversity as the soldiers in a World War II platoon picture. There are, among others, a wealthy, sophisticated couple (Maria Schrader and Herbert Knaup); a philandering husband; a fallen woman; a pious man; a drug addict; two children; and a handsome, clean-shaven tough guy (Marcin Bosak, somewhat resembling Daniel Craig in “Defiance”). In the course of their 14 months in the sewers some will die, some will fall in love, and a baby will be born — all of it rendered in shadowy, glimmering half-light by Ms. Holland and the cinematographer, Jolanta Dylewska.
The visual contrast between the worlds above and below ground is handled beautifully and evocatively, and it gives “In Darkness” the dreamlike quality of a fairy tale. Constriction and freedom — and the assertion of individual will in cruelly oppressive circumstances — are themes Ms. Holland has explored before, in “The Secret Garden,”“Washington Square” and her earlier World War II drama, “Europa Europa.”
Those films were somewhat more attentive to psychological nuance. Here there is greater emphasis on the social complexities of wartime Lvov, which are represented above all by the linguistic polyphony of the dialogue. German, Yiddish, Polish and Ukrainian compete for attention, and the languages are markers not only of ethnicity but also of class and ideology.
This cacophonous music — more than the pushy, maudlin musical soundtrack — provides “In Darkness” with a kernel of authenticity, as does Mr. Wieckiewicz’s stoical performance. And as I have said, it is not a bad movie: it is touching, warm and dramatically satisfying. But that, given the subject matter, is exactly the problem.
“In Darkness” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Graphic violence and pervasive terror.
Opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Agnieszka Holland; written by David F. Shamoon, based on the book “In the Sewers of Lvov” by Robert Marshall; director of photography, Jolanta Dylewska; edited by Michal Czarnecki; music by Antoni Komasa-Lazarkiewicz; production design by Erwin Prib; costumes by Katarzyna Lewinska and Jagna Janicka; produced by Steffen Reuter, Patrick Knippel, Marc-Daniel Dichant, Leander Carell, Juliusz Machulski, Paul Stephens and Eric Jordan; released by Sony Pictures Classics. In Manhattan at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, Broadway at 62nd Street. In Polish, German, Yiddish and Ukrainian, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 23 minutes.
WITH: Robert Wieckiewicz (Leopold Socha), Benno Fürmann (Mundek Margulies), Agnieszka Grochowska (Klara Keller), Maria Schrader (Paulina Chiger), Herbert Knaup (Ignacy Chiger), Marcin Bosak (Yanek Weiss), Michal Zurawski (Bortnik), Krzysztof Skonieczny (Szczepek), and Julia Kijowska (Chaja).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hopkins to play Hitchcock

Sir Anthony Hopkins has signed on to play legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in a new biopic.
Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho is based on Stephen Rebello's book of the same name and the film will be directed by Sacha Gervasi.
Dame Helen Mirren is in talks to play Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, according to
The film will chronicle Hitchcock's experiences while filming the thriller Psycho in the late 1950s. The film became an instant classic when it was released in 1960 and many film fans argue it is the director's greatest movie.
The role will mark Sir Anthony's latest real-person portrayal - the British-born movie star has also played former US president Richard Nixon, artist Pablo Picasso, bike racer Burt Munro, former British leader David Lloyd George and writer Charles Dickens on screen. He is also currently playing literary great Ernest Hemingway in Hemingway & Fuentes.
Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho isn't the only film about the director's great works currently in early development - Sienna Miller has been cast as Tippi Hedren in an as-yet untitled film about the actress' relationship with the legendary filmmaker on the set of 1963's The Birds.

'The Amazing Spider-Man' Game Will be a Free-Roaming Movie Epilogue

Since the debut of what appeared to be free-roaming gameplay footage from Activision's upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man movie videogame tie-in at New York Comic Con, fans have been wondering where the release would fit in with the film's storyline. After all, where would Spider-Man find the time to fight a giant mechanical bug between bouts with the Lizard and sweet smooching times with his girl Gwen Stacy? In anticipation of the release of a closer look at the game on Spike TV's VGA's this weekend, Marvel has released a new piece of concept art showcasing Spidey facing yet another mechanized menace (perhaps a Spider-Slayer?). What's more, Marvel has confirmed that the game will serve as an epilogue to the film "occurring entirely after the events of the movie." The game also officially marks the return of free-roaming gameplay, as opposed to the more channeled action found in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time.

Judging from the three pieces of concept art we've seen so far and today's news, it looks like Peter Parker will be swinging everywhere from Oscorp offices to apartments to subway tunnels.


"The Amazing Spider-Man" is in development at veteran game studio Beenox, and features an original narrative crafted by Hollywood writer Seamus Kevin Fahey (episodes of "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" and the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica") that continues young Peter Parker's adventures following the events of the new film. Using the game's new Web Rush mechanic allows players to pull off a vast array of moves never before possible. With a story that takes players through many areas all over--and under--Manhattan, fans will feel what it's truly like to be a super hero, as they experience the cinematic adrenaline rush of web-swinging through the city and fighting crime using Spider-Man's spectacular acrobatic moves and attacks.
See a new piece of concept art from The Amazing Spider-Man videogame teaser, plus a teaser for the game's new footage to be screen at Spike TV's Video Game Awards this Sunday below:

Cinema Eye honors Frederick Wiseman film with Legacy Award

With Oscar season so invariably focused on the new and the now, it's refreshing when the occasional awards body casts a look backward to slightly older releases -- though they don't tend to go back 44 years. Trust the conscientious folks behind the Cinema Eye documentary awards to take up that cause with a Legacy Award for classic individual documentaries that, in their view, still carry resonance and influence today. This year's recipient: Frederick Wiseman's 1967 debut feature "Titicut Follies."
I've never had an opportunity to see Wiseman's film, an exposé of the grim conditions at a Massachusetts prison for the criminally insane, but it'd be interesting to see on what note he started his prolific and still-productive career. I'm familiar only with the director's later works, peaking with his staggering Paris ballet study "La Danse." His work of late has been preoccupied with human movement and performance; his latest, "Crazy Horse," about the titular Paris nightclub, continues in that direction. It opens in the US in January, neatly coinciding with the Cinema Eye presentation.
Edited press release after the jump. 
New York - The Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking today announced that the 2012 Legacy Award will be presented to the landmark 1967 documentary, Titicut Follies, a stark and graphic portrayal of the conditions that existed at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman will accept the award on behalf of the film at this year’s Cinema Eye ceremony.
“It’s hard for me to believe that Titicut Follies was shot forty-six years ago,” said Wiseman. “I’m thrilled to receive the Cinema Eye Legacy Award but it is tough for me to deal with the implications.”
The award will be presented on January 11, 2012 at the 5th Annual Cinema Eye Honors ceremony to be held at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York. A Stranger Than Fiction screening of Titicut Follies will be held the following week, on January 17, at the IFC Center, on the eve of the opening of Wiseman’s latest film, Crazy Horse, which debuts at New York’s Film Forum on January 18, before rolling out to theaters nationwide.
“Few filmmakers - in fiction or nonfiction - have created such an enduring body of work that is also, uniquely, their own as Frederick Wiseman,” said Cinema Eye’s Advisory Chair Andrea Meditch. “The legacy of Titicut Follies stands as a beacon to all of today's filmmakers for its unflinching honesty and the lingering power of John Marshall's camera and Wiseman's editing."
"Titicut Follies is a remarkable film, both for its unwavering look at a failed institution and as the template for the decades of Wiseman films that would follow,” said Laura Poitras, the Chair of the Cinema Eye Filmmaker Advisory Board, which voted to give the Legacy Award to Titicut Follies. “As filmmakers, we look to Wiseman as an inspiration and we are honored to salute the debut film of this vital American auteur."
This is the third year that Cinema Eye will present a Legacy Award, intended to honor classic films that inspire a new generation of filmmakers and embody the Cinema Eye mission: excellence in creative and artistic achievements in nonfiction films. The Legacy Award celebrates the entire creative team behind the chosen film. This year marked the first time that Cinema Eye’s newly established Filmmaker Advisory Board voted on the recipient of the award. Previous Legacy Awards went to Ross McElwee's Sherman’s March and the Maysles Brothers’ Grey Gardens.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top of the Queue: Jessica Chastain aged into Helen Mirren? Really?

“The Debt,” a smart thriller about past sins catching up to heroes and villains alike, comes out on DVD this week. The film switches between a trio of Mossad agents trying to capture a Nazi war criminal in 1960s Berlin and the same agents 30 years later, dealing with the fallout from the mission.
I liked the film, but I’m hoping the “deleted scenes” section of the DVD includes what seems like a key scene missing from the film — the scene where all three agents get major reconstructive face surgery.
That scene must exist, right? Because that’s the only possible explanation why the actors playing the older versions of the agents look absolutely nothing like their counterparts. It was extremely distracting.
Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren are attractive women, but Mirren couldn’t be Chastain’s distant aunt, let alone the same person. And what must have Sam Worthington, hunky “Avatar” star that he is, thought when he learned that bloodhound-faced Cieran Hinds was playing his older self?
It’s a recurring casting problem in movies — how does one find two actors who can plausibly play the same person at different periods of their lives, and put them in the same movie? When it works, it can be a real kick. But more often than not, it’s jarring.
Take “The Notebook.” This 2004 romantic drama has become synonymous with “weepy chick flick,” but it actually worked for me, and featured two terrific star-making performances by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The problem was the framing story, featuring James Garner and Gena Rowlands as the same lovers, now elderly, with Rowlands’ character suffering from dementia.
McAdams evolving into Rowlands, okay. But there is no way that the sharp-featured Gosling would someday turn into Jim Rockford. Just no way. (Actually, this visual disconnect sparked me to come up with my own alternate ending to the movie, in which Garner’s character was revealed not to be Gosling’s character, but the romantic rival played by James Marsden. That would have been plausible. But nobody consulted me.)
More successful, I think, was “Big Fish,” in which Billy Crudup comes to terms with his dying, flighty father, played in present day by Albert Finney and in fanciful flashbacks by Ewan McGregor. Physical resemblance aside, both actors have that same mischievous spark, and it worked.
Also effective was “Stand By Me,” which probably could have worked just as a period piece about four boys on a grisly quest in 1962 Oregon. But Richard Dreyfus adds a note of poigancy as the Wil Wheaton character, now a grown author writing down his memories. Dreyfus is barely in the movie aside from his voiceover narration, and yet you can’t imagine “Stand By Me” without the mix of Wheaton’s unsure face and Dreyfus’ empathetic voice.
The godfather of this sort of casting, of course, is “The Godfather” movies, in which we meet Don Corleone first as an avuncular kingpin in the first movie (Marlon Brando), and then as a lean, ruthless young criminal making his mark in the second (Robert De Niro). Although they look enough alike, this one works because underneath Brando’s mumble-mouthed patriarch, we see the cold criminal mastermind. De Niro stripped the character down to that hard-edged inner core.
Gloria Stuart played the older Kate Winslet in “Titanic,” which worked well enough. An actor named Harrison Young played the elderly World War II veteran in “Saving Private Ryan,” eventually revealed to be Ryan (Matt Damon) himself. Both are little more than cameos, adding a present-day framing device to a period drama to say “this really happened.”
One of the funniest examples of this casting was in the second Austin Powers movie, “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” when Austin goes back in time to the swinging ’60s. It didn’t work as well as the first movie (there’s a reason why people make fish-out-of-water stories, not fish-in-water stories), but there was a great cameo by Rob Lowe as Dr. Evil’s Number Two, played in the present day by Robert Wagner. Nice resemblance, eyepatch and all.
But my favorite example comes in the third Indiana Jones movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” which opens with a prologue featuring a teenage Indy (the late River Phoenix) fighting bad guys while on a Boy Scouting trip. What made this so great was Phoenix’s riotously on-target Harrison Ford imitation, from his half-barked line readings (“Everybody’s lost but me!”) to his use of what online film fans call Ford’s Wagging Finger of Doom.

The stars come out for New Year's Eve

Director Garry Marshall and actor Hector Elizondo are good friends and former jazz musicians. So it made sense to them to introduce the actors promoting Marshall's new romantic comedy, New Year's Eve, by pounding on a set of bongos as they separately entered a Beverly Hills hotel ballroom.

It was corny but cute, just like many of the filmmaker's movies, including New Year's Eve. Indeed, Marshall is becoming a movie man for all holiday seasons.

There was last year’s Valentine's Day, and now he's getting festive with his latest, which opens in theatres Dec. 9.
Can a back-to-back twin bill of Mother's Day and Father's Day be far behind? Maybe or maybe not. All Marshall knows for sure is that the key to a multi-story approach, holiday film or not, is to hire good actors.

"What is very startling is they can all act," said Marshall after the bongo beating. "So it all worked."
In New Year's Eve, Marshall dusts off his formula from Valentine's Day, presenting a series of intertwining vignettes underscoring love, loss and lust, during the renowned end-of-year celebration at Manhattan's Times Square.
And why wouldn't the director re-do what he's done before? Valentine's Day was a smash in 2010, earning more than $216 million US worldwide.

This time around, the ensemble includes a few Oscar-honoured actors. Robert De Niro plays a man on his deathbed. Halle Berry is his thoughtful nurse. Hilary Swank plays a stressed-out producer of the Times Square activities, and Michelle Pfeiffer is a dowdy secretary who decides to realize her resolutions.

That might be enough for any old romantic comedy, but this is a Marshall all-star love-fest, after all. So Jessica Biel shows up as woman about to give birth. High School Musical's Zac Efron plays a delivery dude with a plan. And Glee's Lea Michele is a backup singer who gets stuck in an elevator with a cynic (Ashton Kutcher). She also gets to sing. As does rock singer Jon Bon Jovi, typecast as a rock star.

And there's more. Katherine Heigl is a caterer forced to work on the party night of the year. Toronto comic Russell Peters and Modern Family's Sofia Vergara are her harried cooks. Rapper Ludacris co-stars as a cop at Times Square. Sarah Jessica Parker is an over-protective mother suffocating her daughter (Abigail Breslin). Josh Duhamel is a businessman nostalgic for the previous New Year's Eve.

And, of course, there is Elizondo, featured in his thirteenth Marshall movie. This time, he plays a mechanic assigned to fix the disabled Times Square countdown ball that signals a start to the new year.

To that end, Marshall shot some of his sequences during the 2010 Times Square end-of-year festivities, then later in March of 2011 in and around Manhattan. Certainly, the timing posed some problems for the performers.

"I had to hug them, not because they liked me, but because it was freezing," said Marshall, who has 1990's Pretty Woman and 2001's The Princess Diaries on his resume.

Elizondo agreed that the cold presented challenges. "What I was always looking forward to was the word, 'Cut,'" he admitted.

Mostly, they survived in good humour. That was especially true of Efron, who happily reunited with his Hairspray co-star Pfeiffer, by playing the messenger who tries to make Pfeiffer's secretary's wish list come true. During their mini-story, they ride a motorcycle together, and Efron said he "enjoyed the cuddling." They also kiss at midnight.

"I am the envy of every girl across the planet, at the ripe old age of 53," said Pfeiffer, referring to the High School Musical star's teen poster-boy status.

Michele, the Glee artist, understood the sentiment. She was looking for a non-musical role for her movie debut, but she couldn't resist the New Year's Eve offer. "I got to be a backup singer for Jon Bon Jovi, which is awesome," said Michele, who sings a solo rendition of Auld Lang Syne in the film.

Swank, an Oscar winner for serious roles in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby, says she was thrilled to finally get a job in a comedy. "Usually, I die in my movies," she said. "I don't live to see the credits."

Not this time. She had the added bonus of acting opposite one of her heroes, De Niro. In fact, she clearly remembers her first day on set with the actor. It was a hospital scene in which De Niro's character is in his bed, near death. She was standing next to the bed, getting into the actor's "method," as he lay there with his eyes closed.

A few minutes into Swank's process of immersing herself in the De Niro moment, she realized, when he came to, that he had not been in deep preparation, but was having a nap before the scene started.
"Oh my god," Swank recalled thinking to herself, "he was sleeping."
That's show business.

Will 'The Descendants' ever open in Springfield?

12:40 p.m. Dec. 6, 2011 | Updated The latest commercial for "The Descendants" proclaims that the film is now playing "everywhere."
Everywhere, that is, but Springfield.
This always happens toward the end of the year: movie studios release a slew of "grown up" films while simultaneously pursuing a press and advertising blitz. This is part of a strategy that's supposed to keep these high-end films front-of-mind when it comes time to vote for the Oscars and other awards.
The problem is, most such movies are released in just a few big cities, weeks (or even months) before they'll open in cities the size of Springfield. So while "The Descendants" has been receivinggreat reviews and director Alexander Payne appeared last week on "Charlie Rose," Springfield residents could not yet see the movie.
So when will it open here?
"'The Descendants' continues to open in new markets during the next few weeks and will open at the AMC Springfield 12 on Dec. 9," AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan said in an email.
Several readers have sent emails asking why AMC waited so long to open the film here, but Noonan said it wasn't the company's decision.
"The studio sets the plan for limited release movies," Noonan said. "Typically they open in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago first. We then work closely with the distributors to show as many runs at as many theaters as possible under the distributor’s release plan."
I asked Fox Searchlight Pictures, the studio behind "The Descendants," about their release plan. The company sent this statement in response: "A platform release allows time for positive word of mouth to generate. The success of many specialty and independent films such as 'The Descendants' rely heavily on grassroots efforts, creating momentum and building awareness that then can support the film's opening in additional markets."
This does not bode well for our odds of seeing some of the other grown-up movies getting a lot of buzz this season, such as "The Artist," "My Week With Marilyn," "Melancholia," "Like Crazy," "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Into the Abyss." I asked Noonan when (or if) they might open here.
"Many of these films are still in early release and, while schedules are always subject to change, should hit the Springfield market in January," Noonan said. He also said AMC is not carrying "Melancholia" because the film was released to home video at the same time it was a theatrical release.

Around the World in One Movie: Film Financing’s Global Future

The German craftsmen on Stage 15 in the Babelsberg studio were hard at work on a recent afternoon building a dystopian Korean slum, the thud of a nail gun and a whiff of sawdust in the air. Next door, Andy and Lana Wachowski, the American-born team behind the “Matrix” movies, were filming black-clad storm troopers from an imagined future for their latest feature, “Cloud Atlas.”

From its truly global parentage to its time-bending story told by three directors using two separate production crews, the movie is unabashedly strange. The narrative, which starts near New Zealand and circles the globe, is bewildering in its complexity, featuring characters in six eras who might share a soul migrating through time. And the project’s primary backers are from China, Korea and Singapore.
But “Cloud Atlas,” in all its glorious confusion, also serves as a guidepost to the future of the film business. Increasingly, sophisticated filmmakers who once relied on American studios for backing are turning to a globe-straddling independent finance system for their most expensive projects.
“Cloud Atlas,” with its $100 million budget and high-wattage cast, including the Academy Award winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, was an epic independent film too complicated, too expensive and perhaps too risky for any conventional studio to have backed.
To move forward, the project broke free of national boundaries. The investors from Asia and beyond contributed roughly $35 million, without which the film could not have been made. German subsidies account for $18 million more. In the United States, “Cloud Atlas” will be distributed, probably next fall, by Warner Brothers, which has made only a modest investment to date.
In many ways, the producers are drawing a blueprint for a new era of genuinely international filmmaking.
“We were just looking for a way to get it done,” said Grant Hill, one of the “Cloud Atlas” producers, “but I think there’s the basis for a model there.” He called the final push for financing an “exotic mixture” of deals, adding, “What a studio would have had to pay would have made it impossible.”
The change has been coming for several years. In 2010, the international box office was up 30 percent over five years, twice the growth in domestic sales. And foreign sales accounted for roughly 70 percent of total receipts, both for the industry at large and for some of the biggest American studio productions like “Avatar.”
Meanwhile, the Oscar for best picture, for three consecutive years, has gone to films — “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Hurt Locker” and “The King’s Speech” — that used globe-spanning financial networks to create stories aimed at global audiences. Movies like these will simply make a stop on American theater screens as they travel around the world.
A peek at the back lot for “Cloud Atlas” testifies to the need for a budget that defies the term “indie.” Behind the yellow shipping containers that are part of the futuristic Korean set is a fine 19th-century sitting room with a rose-lined garden path outside the front door. The interior of an old tall ship shares the soundstage with the exterior of a space-age hovercraft and Styrofoam boulders.
The performers, meanwhile, shift between jarringly different roles. “The biggest change for me as an actor is to have two different film units and two different film crews and to go between the two from one day to the next,” Ms. Berry said in a phone conversation.
She described playing “a Jewish woman in the 1930s” for the third director, Tom Tykwer, then becoming “an old tribal woman” for the Wachowski siblings the next day, and losing track of fellow cast members amid the layers of makeup and costumes.
“Some days I go into the trailer, I’ll be having a conversation — I won’t even know it’s with Hugh Grant until five minutes in,” Ms. Berry said.
The gestation of “Cloud Atlas” is a winding tale of emerging markets and perseverance that breathed life into an unlikely project, which, if successful, will probably provoke more change in the business of filmmaking.
In 2005, while on the London set of “V for Vendetta,” the actress Natalie Portman gave a copy of “Cloud Atlas” to Lana Wachowski (formerly Larry), who became intrigued with the novel’s six obliquely connected stories.
A year later, Lana and her brother Andy surfaced with a screenplay. Mr. Tykwer, a friend of the Wachowskis — the directors declined interview requests — joined in writing the numerous drafts of the script, which were shared with the book’s author, David Mitchell.
“After two years of hard work, we were still about 30 percent short” of the necessary money, Mr. Hill said. “At that point you go home unless you can come up with something new, not part of the traditional model.”
Rather than giving up, the producers translated the screenplay into more than half a dozen Asian languages and found that the film’s treatment of reincarnation resonated with potential investors in the East.
“The theme of the story is rebirth, and it comes straight from the basic ideal of Buddhism,” said Michelle Park, chief executive of the Bloomage Company, a Korean film distributor. Ms. Park describes her company’s investment as “unusually high” by Korean standards.
Money came from the Singapore container ship magnate Tony Teo; the Hong Kong film distributor the Media Asia Group, which made what its chief executive, John Chong, called the company’s “largest ever investment in a Western production”; and Dreams of the Dragon, a Beijing film company that had not previously invested in a major film. One of its owners, Wilson Qiu, in an e-mail, cited his “fascination with the source material.”
Others also claim pride of authorship. “From our perspective, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is a German film,” said Christine Berg, project manager for the German Federal Film Fund. Not only are the country’s subsidies substantial, but Mr. Tykwer, who achieved fame with his Berlin film, “Run Lola Run,” is in charge of the second crew.
One advantage of having disparate financing, said Peter J. Dekom, a veteran entertainment lawyer, is that it gives filmmakers greater creative freedom. “The more investors you have, the less control you feel from any one investor,” he said.
The idea of shooting on parallel tracks, with the Wachowskis directing one unit and Mr. Tykwer the other, grew from a realization that the stars were more likely to work for a steep discount if the shoot could be finished in half the time. Actors also play different roles in different time periods, keeping them busy and, on certain days, turning stars into extras.
“It’s sort of like guerrilla filmmaking in a way,” Ms. Berry said. “Even though there seems like there’s a lot of money, it’s not opulent. All the money’s going into the screen.”
Still, such an unusual project presents hurdles in capturing a mainstream audience.
The Wachowskis brought in about $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office for Warner Brothers with the Matrix series. But their “Speed Racer,” also for Warner, was a high-budget flop in 2008. This time, Warner agreed to distribute the film in the United States but was not a large contributor to its production budget.
“To have taken the whole movie, given the expense, would have been a very risky proposition for us,” said Warner’s top film executive, Jeff Robinov. Whether it was smart business to jump in only part way, Mr. Robinov said, “I can’t tell you until we’ve seen more.”
The Wachowskis are notorious for their secrecy, but they showed six minutes of footage at the American Film Market in Santa Monica last month.
“It looks phantasmagorical,” said Victor Loewy, a seasoned international film distributor who bid on the United Kingdom rights after watching the clip. “It’s so unlike anything I’ve seen in 40 years in this business.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Williamston man's movie, 'The Key' to debut at Celebration Cinema

Jack Schaberg's first two films were farcical looks at senior citizens in a retirement home or a man caught up in a half-baked insurance scheme.

His latest movie, "The Key," is decidedly darker.

"It's sort of a family drama suspense mystery," said Schaberg, of Williamston, who wrote, directed and produced the new film, set for a Dec. 8 screening at Celebration Cinema in Lansing.

Show times are 5:15 p.m.. 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.

The story line: On her 18th birthday, a girl who grew up without her father takes a call from either him or some other man telling her to get "the key" and to meet him at the airport.

So begins a 12-hour odyssey involving family secrets, treasure, bad guys and blackmail money.

The movie was filmed in Williamston, Mason, Fowlerville, Linden and Fenton with local actors who volunteered their time. Braedyn Miller, a Williamston girl, has a part in the film. Filming was done on weekends and the occasional week night starting in July 2010, Schaberg said. "It took about a year to get everything," he said. "I edited it as I went along."

An Okemos native, Schaberg earned a film degree from the University of Southern California but ended up working in the lumber industry.

He now works for a video production business in Okemos and makes movies in his spare time.

His first film, "We Know Care," (2006) featured a dim-witted couple who inherited a mansion and decided to open it as a bed and breakfast and retirement home, striking a deal with senior citizens to fix the place up.

His second film, "The End of Art," was co-directed by Lansing actor Bruce Bennett. A struggling artist and stay-at-home dad teams up with an insurance salesman in a double-indemnity scheme.

Released in 2009, the movie was shot partly in East Lansing, Williamston and Mason. Local actor Tony Caselli had a role in the film.

Schaberg said he came up with the idea for "The Key" about 15 years ago and decided he could make the film himself.

The movie was made on a shoestring budget with a Canon camera and a digital audio recorder.

"It was basically done for the price of gas money and food money," he said.

Someday, Schaberg said, he'd like to make movies full time. For now, it's a hobby and a passion

"You get to take an idea, turn that into a 110-page script and see the characters develop," he said. "Making a movie is sort of like building a house. When you get to sit in the theater and see it, it's very satisfying."

Weekend Box Office: Twilight Sparkles For Third Week In A Row

This weekend was quiet at the box office; the deep breath before the plunge. The string of holiday movies start to roll out next weekend, beginning with the latest over-cast super-ensemble romantic comedy New Year's Eve. But this week, with no new major releases, movie audiences took the weekend off. 

Thanks to the lack of competition those sparkly vampires and angsty werewolves of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 held on to the top spot for a third week in a row. The almost $17 million it added to its total pushed it up to $247 million in overall domestic sales and past Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to become the fourth highest grossing film of the year. Next week look for it to push past The Hangover Part II for third place. 

The one new movie in theaters this weekend was the much discussed Shamewhich debuted in just ten venues but managed a decent $361,000 haul. 

As the end of the year approaches, the box office's annual total continues to sag below numbers from three years ago. Increasing ticket prices in the midst of a struggling economy are finally catching up to the industry with a bleak out look for next year. 

For the full weekend top ten totals, take a look at the chart below:


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1$16,900,000Total: $247,300,000LW: 1     WR: 3  
THTRS: 4,046

The Muppets$11,200,000Total: $56,137,000LW: 2     WR: 2  
THTRS: 3,440

Hugo$7,625,000Total: $25,188,000LW: 5     WR: 2  
THTRS: 1,840

Arthur Christmas$7,350,000Total: $25,292,000LW: 4     WR: 2  
THTRS: 3,376

Happy Feet Two$6,000,000Total: $51,785,000LW: 3     WR: 3  
THTRS: 3,536

Jack and Jill$5,500,000Total: $64,308,000LW: 6     WR: 4  
THTRS: 3,049

The Descendants$5,200,000Total: $18,087,000LW: 9     WR: 3  
THTRS: 574

Immortals$4,394,000Total: $75,588,000LW: 7     WR: 4  
THTRS: 2,627

Tower Heist$4,100,000Total: $70,800,000LW: 10     WR: 5  
THTRS: 2,404

Puss in Boots$3,050,000Total: $139,522,000LW: 8     WR: 6  
THTRS: 2,750