Jun 29, 2008

Titanic life-jacket fetches 68,000 dollars in US auction


A life-jacket from the doomed transatlantic cruise ship "Titanic," which struck an iceberg in 1912 and sank, fetched 68,500 dollars at auction at Christie's in New York late Wednesday.

It is one of only six life-jackets still known to exist from the Titanic and had been kept in a trunk by a Canadian family, AFP reported.

Some 1,500 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic died when the White Star line luxury ship sank in the frigid northern Atlantic ocean on its maiden voyage.

About 700 people are believed to have survived the sinking, one of the worst maritime disasters ever.

Christie's said earlier that a similar life-vest sold in London in 2007 for 119,000 dollars, and put the value of the vest at between 60,000 and 80,000 dollars.

It is the first Titanic life-jacket to go on sale in the United States, and Christie's says the ties have not been cut, meaning it was probably not taken from a body but found on an isolated beach after the disaster.

The Christie's auction, dedicated to the history of transatlantic ocean liners, included 257 lots of items that included dish sets, maps, ship logs and various objects related to navigation.

A 1935 lithograph of the French passenger ship "Normandie" by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre was sold for 22,500 dollars.

A 1935 scale model of the "Normandie" went for 10,625 dollars, while a pair of lamps from the deck of the ocean liner" France" went for 625 dollars.

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Bard Pitt and Angelina Jolie donate $1 Million to war children fund


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have donated one million dollars to support the education of 8,000 children in Iraq and the United States affected by war, a charity said Wednesday.

The iconic Hollywood couple made the donation to the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict via their charity, the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

A statement from the Education Partnership said the money would be split evenly between US and Iraq non-profit groups who seek to provide education and support for children who have lost parents, homes or schooling opportunities.

"These educational support programs for children of conflict are the best way to help them heal," Jolie, who has visited Iraq twice in the past year, was quoted by AFP as saying in a statement.

Pitt added: "We hope to encourage others to give to these great organizations."

Pitt and Jolie have given millions to charities in recent years according to tax records. In March it emerged the actors had funneled more than four million dollars each to their foundation, which was set up in 2006 to aid humanitarian causes around the world.

Pitt, 44, and Jolie, 33, are currently reported to be in France ahead of the birth of twins. Pitt and Jolie met on the set of their 2005 film "Mr and Mrs Smith" and later began a romantic relationship.

Pitt was previously married to "Friends" star Jennifer Aniston, while Jolie has been married twice before.

Image: Newscom

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Britney Spears wins night rights to kids


Britney Spears on Tuesday won back the right to have her two young sons stay overnight with her. Spears appeared in court in Los Angeles with her ex-husband Kevin Federline for the custody hearing.

Spears, 26, lost visitation rights to the two children last year during a bout of erratic behaviour that followed her divorce from Federline. But she appears to have calmed down following her forced stay in a mental health facility and the appointment of her father as her conservator.

According to the celebrity website tmz.com, the family court judge, Commissioner Scott Gordon, agreed Spears was once again ready to read bedtime stories to the kids after the singer appeared in person and answered several questions.

"She was very businesslike," court spokesman Allan Parachini was quotyed by DPA as saying.

"Any judge is happy when litigants are making progress."

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Jun 25, 2008

Movie Review: Wanted


You could gargle bitumen and bin-juice for half an hour, and it couldn't leave a nastier taste in your mouth than this macho action thriller about a secret fraternity of assassins. It is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, evidently brought over to Hollywood on the strength of his wildly successful Russian movies like Day Watch. The stars are Angelina Jolie, sporting her now familiar default smirk, and our own James McAvoy stepping up to his first A-list role. The spectacle of their strange gym-built bodies, variously starved and pumped, and the boring, risk-free digital "stunts", can't distract you from just how dreary and insidious the whole business is. It looks as if it has been written by a committee of 13-year-old boys for whom penetrative sex is still only a rumour, and the resulting movie plays like a party political broadcast on behalf of the misogynist party.

James McAvoy plays Wes, an ordinary nerdy guy who has an office job which totally sucks. He's pathetic, a loser, on medication for anxiety attacks, of all the spurious and ridiculous ailments. His best friend is a bullying jock who is boning Wes's whiney and nagging girlfriend on the sly, and incidentally adding insult to injury by mooching cash off Wes for the necessary contraceptive materials. But Wes's untermensch life is turned around when Angelina Jolie pops up out of nowhere in a drugstore, saves Wes from a mysterious, spectacular attempt on his life, and shoves the gibbering soon-to-be-ex-nerd into her flashy automobile for a crash-bang chase along the city freeway, exchanging fire with the gunman.

Wes is evidently hated by the forces of darkness because, quite without knowing it, he is a ninja of topping people; his own father, a master assassin whom he never knew, has just been killed by the shadowy opposition. It is his fate to be a master killer, and it is the job of Jolie - known simply as "Fox" -to force him to step up, to accept his destiny and enter the Fraternity, a secret society of bespoke killers dedicated to taking out important bad guys. The Fraternity hides out inside what looks like a castle modelled on Balmoral, disguised as a community of weavers.

Their super-sexy way of shooting people - apart, obviously, from the usual technique of doing it with outstretched arm, gun tilted 90 degrees, face insouciantly pointing away from the victim - is to use a special bullet with corkscrew grooving. This, and a slight whiplash with the shooting arm, will cause the bullet to curve round corners, a setpiece which perhaps shows the influence of David Beckham. Wes of course blossoms into an alpha-male, and even gets some liplock action with Angelina, which looks like he's snogging a singed sofa.

Weirdly, though, it is Wes's pre-heroic life which is given the most passion by Bekmambetov. None of the violence and the action have a fraction of the beady-eyed intensity with which the director invests the moment where Wes quits his job and tells his boss to shove it. Because his boss is a fat ugly woman. This horrible bitch is always snapping at him and she gets her comeuppance in a big way, her obesity being a clear sign that she's asking to be brought low and laughed at. Her existence is briefly reprised at the end of the film, when one of Wes's bullets whistles through the doughnut she's gobbling.

I have to say I don't think I've seen a film recently which expresses hatred of women quite so openly, and fervently, as this one. In a way, Wes's boss is the most vivid female character in the film, more powerfully and pointedly conceived than the others: more than Wes's horrible, duplicitous girlfriend, who gets to be humiliated by seeing Wes kissing Fox and more than Fox herself, who is basically an honorary male. This is a film where womankind is represented by irrelevant sleek babes and obese comic foils, an ugly whorehouse aesthetic which really does sock over its contempt for femaleness very, very powerfully indeed.

Perhaps it's absurd to worry in these terms about a silly, disposable movie like this. And yet I can't help thinking that if a film treated any ethnic group the way this treats women, it would find itself in pretty hot water. And it's sad to see Angelina Jolie, a performer with style - who moreover did the assassin role with considerably more wit and charm in Mr and Mrs Smith - trundled out for this piffle. It's also sad to see James McAvoy offer an IQ-discount in a similar way. In an ideal world, the title would have the word "Not" tacked on to the front.

reviewed by Peter Bradshaw, published at http://film.guardian.co.uk

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Hong Kong fans fight to save Bruce Lee`s last home as museum


Fans of kung fu legend Bruce Lee are campaigning to save the Hong Kong home where he spent his final years as a museum, a news report said Wednesday.

The two-storey house in the city's exclusive Kowloon Tong residential district, where Lee and his family were living at the time of his death in 1973, is being sold by its owner to raise money for earthquake relief in China, the South China Morning Post reported.

The 530-square-metre residence in Cumberland Street was expected to fetch about 13 million US dollars when bids for it and four other properties owned by entrepreneur Yu Panglin close Wednesday.

Fans of Lee, who starred in films that include Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon, have appealed to the Hong Kong government to buy the house as a memorial to the city's best-known movie star.

Lee lived with his wife, Linda Lee-Cadwell, in the house, which he affectionately named the Crane's Nest. He died mysteriously at 32 at the peak of his stardom at the home of an actress friend in another part of Kowloon Tong.

Hong Kong officials, apparently wary of Lee's hell-raising reputation, have repeatedly resisted calls to create any permanent memorial to the movie star, and his home was used five years ago as a "love hotel," where couples rented rooms at hourly rates.

Bruce Lee Club chairman Wong Yiu-keung told the Post that it was "humiliating" that there was no proper place to commemorate the first Chinese celebrity to gain worldwide fame.

"It is humiliating enough to have the late star's former residence being turned into a love hotel," he said. "Hong Kong has been using Bruce Lee to promote the city, but what has Hong Kong done for him?"

Cultural critic Chip Tsao pointed out to the newspaper that Hong Kong's government was spending hundreds of millions of US dollars compensating chicken farmers after the latest bird-flu scare.

"Does Bruce Lee have a lower status than chickens?" Tsao asked.

A statue to Lee was erected a few years ago along the Victoria Harbour waterfront after years of pressure from his fans in Hong Kong and overseas.

However, his childhood residence and the Golden Harvest studio, where he filmed his most famous movies, have been demolished.

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Jun 22, 2008

Academy changes rules for Oscar best song gong


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science has adjusted its rules governing the Oscars to avoid a small number of films from dominating the best original song category and to ensure that the best foreign language films from around the world don't get overlooked.

Henceforth the number of nominated songs from each feature will be capped at two, although each individual film can spawn an unlimited number of songs for consideration.

In the 2006-07 original song Oscar race, both Dreamgirls and Enchanted fielded three nominations each. Neither won, incidentally: the prize went to Melissa Etheridge's I Need to Wake Up, from An Inconvenient Truth.

The Academy board also tweaked the regulations concerning foreign language films in a clear effort to avoid last year's situation in which the Palme d'Or winner 4 Weeks, 3 Months and 2 Days and the much-admired Persepolis were left out of contention.

Starting immediately with this upcoming season's 81st Annual Academy Awards hopefuls, a committee of members will select six films and an executive group of experts will be on hand to boost that number to nine by including widely respected titles that have been left out.

As in previous years, a second stage will then take place in which the shortlist of nine is whittled down to five nominations.

The 81st Annual Academy Awards is set to take place in Hollywood on February 22 2009.

source: http://film.guardian.co.u

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Bruno to debut in May next year


Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno, the British comic's follow-up to the wildly successful Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, is to hit cinemas in May 2009. Based on the character from Cohen's small screen shows in the UK and US, Bruno is a gay Austrian TV presenter with a four-inch-long bleached blond mohawk who works for the OJRF station. The Hollywood Reporter has previously reported that the movie's full title will be the somewhat unwieldy, Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt.

Eva Mendes is in talks to star opposite Nicolas Cage in the forthcoming remake of Bad Lieutenant, which is being directed by Werner Herzog. Mendes and Cage previously worked together on last year's comic book adaptation Ghost Rider. Abel Ferrara, the director of the original Bad Lieutenant, which starred Harvey Keitel as a corrupt New York cop, has gone on record to denounce the new version. Should Mendes sign on the dotted line she will presumably join the list of involvees who the Bronx film-maker thinks "should all die in hell".

The stars of current US box office No 1, The Incredible Hulk, have reportedly been told there will be two more movies in the series. Tim Blake Nelson, who plays a scientist who comes into contact with the gamma ray-infected material that changed Bruce Banner into the giant green monstrosity, is hoping his character will return as traditional Hulk enemy The Leader in future instalments. He said: "When I signed on to do the movie, when I went and had my meeting with [director] Louis Leterrier and Gale Anne Hurd, the producer, they said, 'We want you for all three movies,'. It's an honor to be able to play such a storied character. I'm very excited to do as much as they want me to do." [The Guardian]

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Paparazzo sues Woody Harrelson for $2.5 million


Woody Harrelson has been sued for $2.5 million by a paparazzo who accused the actor of assaulting him and breaking his video camera two years ago.

According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Josh Levine was filming Harrelson in Hollywood late one night in June 2006. He alleges the Academy Award-nominated actor choked him, broke his video camera and ordered his bodyguard to attack him.

Levine's suit says he still has mental, physical and emotional pain from the encounter. He is also suing the unidentified bodyguard.

Harrelson's publicist could not immediately be reached for comment. [the guardian]

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Movie Review: "The Edge of Love"


"I sleep with other women because I'm a poet, and a poet feeds off life!" The speaker is the super-sonorous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, played here by Matthew Rhys, and the line's cringe-making awfulness is sadly typical of this film: full of defiant bohemian giggling and exuberant artistic types drinking heavily, dancing together round tatty rooms to wind-up gramophones and plucking lit cigarettes out of each other's mouths: "Gissa drag on that, boy!"

It is an exasperatingly unfocused and underpowered movie that, like Churchill's famous themeless pudding, is unsure what it is supposed to be about. The dramatic crux, when it finally arrives, is a sensational scandal of the poet's life. During the war, Thomas and his wife Caitlin were living on the borderline of poverty in a cottage in Wales, in a sort of ménage with his old flame Vera Phillips, whose husband, Captain William Killick, was away seeing action in Greece. He returned with what we might now call post-traumatic stress disorder, livid to see that his wife had run through his savings keeping the wastrel poet Thomas in beer - and, in all probability, servicing him sexually to boot. A crime passionel was on the cards.

This is a very slow film for a simple reason. With the exception of Rhys - whose Welsh voice is real - the other actors' accents are fake. Very often, they are to be heard speaking like a 45rpm single played at 33rpm, and even when they're not too slow, the dialogue scenes are hobbled because the voices won't mesh.

As Vera, Keira Knightley swaps her natural cut-glass English voice for the chipped mug of working-class Welsh; she's speaking Welsh, look you, with Welsh emphases of Welshness. Cillian Murphy, an Irish actor, plays the English officer Killick, and so he dives vocally into a strange, suave rallentando every time he opens his mouth, making him sound even more like a serial killer than usual. And the English Sienna Miller, playing Caitlin Thomas, is supposed to be Irish, but sounds as if she hails from Karachi's Welsh community. Lindsay Lohan was originally slated to play the part, and her Brummie-Uruguayan accent would have been something to marvel at.

Before the scene removes to Wales, we find the principals in Blitz-hit London, where Thomas is working for the BBC making propaganda broadcasts, and Vera has a fantastically improbable gig, singing morale-boosting croony numbers down in the underground station, complete with gorgeous costume and follow-spot operator. Director John Maybury is addicted to single shots directly on Keira's face as she sings seductively into the lens, and we are clearly expected to swoon at her loveliness. The film repeatedly toys with the idea of Vera and Caitlin having a kind of gay liaison; there is, however, no chemistry between Knightley and Miller. They just look like highly competitive Notting Hill trustafariennes.

Yet for all this, the film isn't a complete waste, because of Matthew Rhys's natural presence and good-humoured address to the camera. He is an absurdly idealised version of the bloated, alcoholic Thomas, to be sure, but there is always something going on when he appears on screen. [http://www.guardian.co.uk]

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Los Angeles Film Festival


The Los Angeles Film Festival showcases the best of American and International independent cinema. With an attendance of over 80,000, the festival screens hundreds of narrative features, documentaries, shorts, and music videos.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

For more information contact:

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Digital cinema looking for gains in Amsterdam


Europeans looking for more traction at CinemaExpo

If the digital-cinema revolution took its time getting traction among U.S. exhibitors, the situation in Europe has been downright slo-mo.

D-cinema proponents say there has been a perfect storm of woes impeding progress in European territories: a tendency to lag behind U.S. rollouts, combined with a pullback in Hollywood studios' generosity in funding installations on both sides of the Atlantic and now the spreading global financial crunch.

"Everybody is suffering from the state of the financing market," said Gemma Richardson, a spokeswoman for London-based Arts Alliance Media. "We have five studios on board, so we're rolling. But we're trying to get everybody to pitch in and help, and that means from the pricing of equipment by the manufacturers and right on down the line."

An installations facilitator, Arts Alliance has been among those companies at the center of the European digital rollout.

"We're having conversations with the top cinema chains throughout Europe, and it's just a question of who wants to get in the game," said Howard Kiedaisch, Arts Alliance's New York-bred CEO and a former international executive at Universal and PolyGram.

Arts Alliance's deal this year with the French theater chain Circuit George Raymon marked the first funded through a virtual print fee arrangement with Hollywood studios. Through VPFs, studios agree to pay exhibs the equivalent of what print runs would cost for several years after converting to digital distribution.

Funding d-cinema installations by tapping studio largesse has been much more widespread in the U.S. But in the U.S. and Europe, Hollywood studios recently have insisted on much lower VPFs than was true in the earlier days of the U.S. digital rollout.

That's been a drag on how many circuits sign up for installations.

In some cases -- like a near $1 billion deal recently struck by four studios with the Belgium-based d-cinema service XDC -- impressive financing is in place. But third-party facilitators such as XDC or Arts Alliance still need to hammer out VPF-related agreements with individual exhibs.

"That's just what I call a hunting license," one d-cinema wag quipped of XDC's deal with Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount and Fox.

Europe's d-cinema rollout will figure in several sessions set for CinemaExpo International 2008. The annual exhibition trade confab kicks off Monday at the RAI convention center in Amsterdam.

Europe has only 1,300 screens equipped for movie-quality digital projection, with many of the installations involving lease-only arrangements with systems vendors and others funded with government subsidies. The U.S. has almost 5,000 movie-quality digital screens, dating from an initial round of deals in late 2005 and early 2006 orchestrated following a lengthy engineering phase by a Hollywood studio consortium.

"The reality is that only as of February of this year are we where the U.S. was in December of 2005," Arts Alliance's Kiedaisch said. "It should go faster now, because the U.S. rollout shows people digital cinema helps business once you have digital screens up and running."

Arts Alliance recently struck a deal with Spain-based Yelmo Cineplex to equip five screens in a Madrid multiplex set to open in July. Those installations won't tap into any VPF funding, but execs hope to do so eventually as Yelmo and Arts Alliance expand on their relationship.

Meanwhile, though 3-D installations necessarily lag digital installations -- you can't have the former without the latter -- the less-expensive, less-complicated 3-D rollout could gain quick traction once Europe's d-cinema footprint grows a bit.

"RealD is dependent on the roll-on success of digital cinema," said Michael Lewis, CEO of U.S.-based 3-D vendor RealD. "But 3-D has been the driver for getting digital out there, because right now there is one sunny area in the cinema business, and that's 3-D."

RealD, which operates more than 90% of the global 3-D screens, has almost 1,000 North American screens but just 192 elsewhere, including 116 in Europe. The company recently struck a contract to equip 600 screens operated in the U.K. and elsewhere by the Odeon/UCI and CineWorld circuits, but only slow progress will be marked on converting those screens until the chains sign off on VPF-related financing agreements.

Complicating Europe's VPF negotiations is the simple reality that more films are distributed there independently.

As a result, "exhibitors will just have to pay a larger share (of d-cinema installation costs) than in the U.S.," a d-cinema proponent noted.

Proponents of 3-D tout exhibitors' ability to charge more for 3-D movie tickets, as well as its ability to differentiate the theatrical experience at a time when home theater viewing is on the rise. As for d-cinema, it eventually will save studios on distribution costs and boosts exhibitors' ability to program advertising and alternative programming in their auditoriums.

"Everybody knows all the merits of digital," Kiedaisch said. "But it's important that anybody who wants to be around in three to five years helps drive the process. You can't just be an ostrich with your head in the sand." [www.hollywoodreporter.com]

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Film Review: The Incredible Hulk


It turns out Marvel Studios knows how to make solid movies out of Marvel Comics. The production arm of Marvel Entertainment is 2-for-2 in 2008, hitting home runs with "Iron Man" and now "The Incredible Hulk." "Iron Man" has more wit and style, but "Hulk" is a neat thrill ride with an intelligent script by Zak Penn and smart, well-paced direction by the French director of "The Transporter" series, Louis Leterrier.

The film does represent a sea change from Ang Lee's "Hulk" in 2003, which had the temerity to delve into Oedipal conflicts, repressed memory and scientific hubris. This movie emphasizes action over introspection, but star Edward Norton, who reportedly tinkered more than a little with the script, makes certain the hero still broods over the curse of his cells poisoned by gamma radiation.

The film is poised to carry the weekend buoyed by an unbeatable combination of buzz and hype. The franchise is safe -- a worry because of the sharp drop-off after the opening weekend of Lee's film -- and at the end, the Marvel folks hint that they might be thinking of a way to team Iron Man with the green fighting machine.
The movie brightly starts off long after former scientist Bruce Banner (Norton) has turned himself into a freak show in an unwitting experiment that produces a man who when angered becomes a green monster many times his size. Bruce is hiding out in a Rio favela, learning Portuguese and working as a day laborer in a bottling plant. He is training to curb his emotions, a kind of anger management that is going well until his nemesis, Gen. Ross (William Hurt), shows up with a military unit led by Russian soldier-of-fortune Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth).

The first of the large-scale action scenes has Bruce chased through the hill-clinging shanty town before getting very angry. He then works his way back to the U.S., where his former girlfriend, Dr. Elizabeth Ross (Liv Tyler), the general's daughter, and a cellular biologist (Tim Blake Nelson) might hold the key for his return to normalcy.

Meanwhile, Emil is given treatments by scientists to turn himself into a foe on an equal footing to the Hulk dubbed the Abomination. As we wait for the inevitable showdown, Bruce struggles to shake off the mantle of his Hulkness. So the story -- a combination of the Frankenstein and King Kong myths -- essentially is about a man trying to escape his superpowers. Yet the movie keeps throwing at him villains -- first the general and then the Abomination -- that force him to continue being the Hulk.

Some silliness leaks into the story. You wonder why Dr. Bruce keeps worrying about a neighborhood being "safe." When a guy can turn into a creature that repels bullets and flips Humvees like Frisbees, what's to worry? There is even confusion about what triggers green episodes. Previously, anger was the trigger. But this movie more than suggests that sexual excitement can cause a metamorphosis, which is not the same thing.

The confrontation between the Incredible Hulk and the Abomination is a CGI pig-out, so all contact with story or characters is lost. But the film has built up enough good will to withstand this third-act letdown.

Production: Universal, Marvel Studios, Valhalla Motion Pictures. Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt, Christina Cabot, Peter Mensah. Director: Louis Leterrier. Screen story/screenwriter: Zak Penn. Based on characters created by: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby. Producers: Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd, Kevin Feige. Executive producers: Stan Lee, David Maisel, Jim Van Wyck. Director of photography: Peter Menzies Jr. Production designer: Kirk M. Petruccelli. Music: Craig Armstrong. Visual effects supervisor: Kurt Williams. Costume designer: Denise Cronenberg. Editors: John Wright, Rick Shaine, Vincent Tabaillon.

source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film/reviews/article_display.jsp?&rid=11242

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American Teen


Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) spent ten months filming four high school seniors and their friends in Warsaw, Indiana, to make American Teen, a documentary that explains why high school hasn’t changed since High School. Frederick Wiseman’s 1968 documentary focused on institutionalized rituals. Burstein illustrates the continuing effect of those rituals on the teens’ relationships with family and friends. Her Millenials run the same obstacle course of parental interference, outdated curricula, and a social hierarchy built on homecoming queens and star jocks that Wiseman’s Baby Boomers had to scale in order to graduate. Burstein chose her subjects from among teens who volunteered and who may live to regret their decision: One breaks up with his girlfriend by sending her a text message, and another e-mails a topless picture of her friend to everyone in her address book. It’s high school, just the way you remember it.

If Burstein’s subjects appear stereotypical, her purpose in choosing them was obviously to explore the complexity behind the roles they either assign to themselves, or they were consigned to play, in the boot camp of conformity that is high school. The nerd, Jake Tusing, is an irrepressible romantic whose search for a soulmate seems surprisingly out of character. Colin Clemens, a basketball star; Megan Krizmanich, the daughter of a prominent surgeon; and Hannah Bailey, the artsy outcast who lives with her grandmother, are from very different social and economic circumstances, but what they have in common lies at the core of Burstein’s insight into the teens’ lives. They have parents who try to limit their horizons or relive their own lives through their children. In Burstein’s eyes, it’s the parents who are to blame for many of the pressures the teens grapple with, and for the unchanging atmosphere of high school.

Indiana was a conscious choice, and a good one: As anyone who has traveled the contiguous 48 knows, Warsaw is actually far more emblematic of the United States than, say, New York City or Los Angeles. Warsaw did present Burstein with a few challenges, mostly that all her subjects are white. Megan is from very comfortable economic circumstances, while Hannah lies at the other end of the spectrum and has the additional stigma of mental illness—her mother is bipolar. These differences distinguish the teens’ individual experience of high school and their aspirations for the future. Hannah wants to get out of Warsaw at any cost to attend a San Francisco film school she’s read about. Megan wants to get out, too, but for her the prestige of acceptance to Notre Dame holds the promise of an Antipodean escape.

Burstein, who cut 1,000 hours of footage to an excellent 95-minute documentary, catches the teens’ parents in controlling and often psychologically damning moments with their offspring. They are not just reliving their own youth through their children; this time around, they’re determined to get it right, even if they have to suppress their children’s desires and replace them with their own. Altering the crucible of high school would be too unsettling to the re-enactment of their own youth, so the parents also reinforce the educational system’s outmoded ideas of what constitutes success after high school. It’s clear from the glimpses we have of the teens’ lives at school that teachers and administrators simply perpetuate the status quo, upholding what they and the parents view as solid American values.

The Academy-nominated filmmaker (On the Ropes) observes the four seniors and allows them to speak directly to the camera. Hannah’s liberal ideals clash with the local culture, but her mother makes desperate attempts to keep her in Indiana. Megan is a brat, but when she slumps in a chair in front of her father’s desk, anxious over whether or not she will be accepted to his alma mater, she’s just a kid with a controlling father. He tells her she shouldn’t want Notre Dame for his sake, but in the same sentence reminds her that her two brothers haven’t found fault with it. Megan’s sister wasn’t accepted, and she later committed suicide. Colin’s father, a celebrated high school athlete, won’t pay for college, insisting that his son win a sports scholarship, the implication being that he wants Colin to achieve what he only aspired to. In each situation, punctuated with animated sequences that reflect the teenagers’ fantasies, Burstein recalls the bittersweet experience of being 18.

For some of Burstein’s teens, on the brink of that archetypal journey to selfhood, the road will eventually lead back to Indiana. It is the untrammeled paths, the farthest point from Indiana and all that it represents, that Burstein had trouble uncovering in American Teen.In fact, only Hannah aspires to it, and the filmmaker devotes the final image of the documentary to her. Notre Dame is not to be dismissed, nor is a sports scholarship, nor the teenage romance Jake hopes to nurture, but those are roads marked by the constricting tread of our predecessors. Hannah’s path promises transformation.

Critic: Maria Garcia

Running Time: 95 mins.
Color: Color
Production: An A&E IndieFilms presentation of a Firehouse Films and Quasiworld Entertainment production, in association with 57th and Irving.
Genre: Documentary
Film Width: 1.85
Sound: Dolby Digital (AC-3), DTS, SDDS
Language: English

Hannah Bailey | Colin Clemins | Megan Krizmanich | Jake Tusing | Geoff Haase | Mitch Reinholt | Ali Wikalinska

Director(s) Nanette Burstein
Writer(s) Nanette Burstein
Producer(s) Nanette Burstein | Eli Gonda | Chris Huddleston | Jordan Roberts
Executive producer(s) Patrick Morris | Molly Thompson | Nancy Dubuc | Lisa Pugliese | Robert Sharenow
Director(s) of photography Wolfgang Held | Laela Kilbourn | Robert Hanna
Edited by Nanette Burstein | Mary Manhardt | Tom Haneke
Music by Michael Penn

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Jun 21, 2008

Review: Most Critics Hate The Love Guru


I had absolutely no expectations that Mike Myers' latest comedy opus, The Love Guru, would be any more entertaining than watching my neighbors argue about hummus through their living room window (happened last night, no joke). So imagine my surprise when, as the movie's credits rolled, I found myself glad I had actually shown up for the press screening I'd seriously considered skipping about 22 times that day. Now I'm not saying I'd just witnessed the Second Coming here, but I did laugh quite a bit and actually felt inclined to bring up two or three scenarios to my girlfriend when I got home. The Love Guru is at worst an innocuous, silly satire of the trend-driven self-help industry, and it's at least worth the price of a DVD rental. Getting to watching it for free, as critics do, should have made the experience even less painful -- yet as I type this, The Love Guru is boasting an 11% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Seriously, critics of America? Eleven percent? You gave You Don't Mess with the Zohan a 34% approval rating despite that fact that, A) it's one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and B) there's not an iota of intelligence behind its inane, brain-cell-assassinating "jokes" (my girlfriend is still cursing about it). How does this make sense? It doesn't, which is why you shouldn't listen to most critics. Hell, I just attacked Zohan, but there's a good chance you liked it. In my opinion, that makes you a dolt. I can't help but feel superior to you. Does that mean you shouldn't enjoy it? Absolutely not. It's your right to be a dolt, and I don't have a right to attack your poor taste in movies.

I just do it because it's fun.

Back on topic: The Love Guru. In case you don't know the basic premise, here goes. Mike Myers is Guru Pitka, a second-rate spiritualist who wants nothing more than to be as popular as Deepak Chopra, because, deep down, he doesn't really like himself. When the Toronto Maple Leafs' beautiful owner (Jessica Alba) hires him to rehabilitate her heartbroken star (Romany Malco) before the Stanley Cup playoffs, Pitka sees nothing but an opportunity to land a guest spot on Oprah. Laughs and cameos ensue on the way to enlightenment, including a rather brilliant bit by Val Kilmer, who is either making fun of himself for being a space case or pimping his already addled reputation for extra cash.

The movie is nothing but a collection of absurd skits, the sort of thing that would've made Peter Sellers' nether-regions get all tingly. In fact, it's no less absurd or skit-driven than, say, Myers' earlier works, Wayne's World and the Austin Powers trilogy -- almost every scene in every one of these movies could stand alone on Saturday Night Live. I've never really met anybody who disliked these movies, even though Rotten Tomatoes boasts more than a few critics from major news outlets who hate on them for the same reasons they praise Seller's Pink Panther movies. Long story short, I'm here to say The Love Guru isn't a terrible night out despite what you've heard. When it's released on DVD, it'll be an even more fun night in. Then again, what do I know? I'm a critic who might also think you're a dolt. At least I'm honest about it.

reviewed by Cole Haddon
source: film.com

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Review: Get Smart Worth a Sunday Matinee


The main thing Get Smart has going for it is that it's not The Love Guru. Whatever else you hear on this site, know that Guru has pee and poop jokes by the bushel and is worthy of only our scorn and derision. That film IS not good news for fans of comedy, but it IS good news for a little title named Get Smart. After all, they've proven that attractiveness isn't based upon anything more than who you're surrounded by. This is why I normally travel around with a pack of gargoyles. You should too.

Get Smart was a TV show back in the '60s! Are you at all aware of this? Actually, this is one of those "Catch-22s" Heller talked about back in the day. If you're aware of it, I shouldn't have told you; but if you weren't, you probably don't care to know anyway. Curses. Luckily, I get paid by the word. Moving on, it seems to me that fans of the original show should be happy enough here. The film isn't a remake in terms of tone but it has similar elements fo' sho'. If the TV program were an octopus then the movie is calamari. You get the idea. You know, I'm not even sure a rabid fan of the original still exists. I mean, it was fine, but c'mon it was on air 40 years ago and it only went 138 episodes anyway. We're not talking Knight Rider here. (Note: that was a joke, I promise. Long live The Hoff.)

I'm a Steve Carell fan. Unabashedly. No bash about it. I'm also becoming a bigger fan of Anne Hathaway, though every time I mention her people say, in unison, "Egh." I don't know what about her turns the people off, but I personally found her lovely throughout the movie. She and Steve have nice chemistry together too; I could definitely see a few more spins out of this yarn. Why not? It has laughs throughout its running time.

Let's wrap this up on a low note! The one thing Get Smart is missing is the hilarious factor. The stomach hurting, the tears-streaming-sort-of-comedy that Superbad nailed. Actually, let's just list my good and bad comedies so you can aptly judge if my opinion is worth a damn:

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Will Smith Puts His Kids' (Film Premieres) First


Will Smith's new film Hancock opens the same day as his daughter Willow's flick, Kitt Ketteridge: An American Girl, where she stars opposite Abigail Breslin. So will there be tension in the household? Of course not. It's the Smiths. They're perfect. In fact, Will is cutting short his promotional duties for Hancock tomorrow so that he can join Willow at her film's premiere in LA.

I also have to say that Willow, who's seven, is already strikingly beautiful. She totally got the best of both parents (unlike some people ... coughRUMERcough). She is gonna be one hot little teenager. I wonder if she can act. Man, I sure hope she can. This girl has TONS of potential in the gossip world as she ages.

reported by The Evil Beet
Celebrity gossip with an evil twist.

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DVD Review: Tears of the Black Tiger


Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng's avant-garde western, Tears of the Black Tiger is equal parts parody and tribute to both spaghetti westerns and Technicolor-era love stories. The movie is about Dum, a gangster more commonly known as the Black Tiger. Dum and his best friend Mahesuan are employed by the local crime boss, Fai. Dum's life gets turned upside down after he finds out that the man he is sent to kill is engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Rumpoey.

By far, the most noticeable thing about this movie is its visual appeal. Most of Tears of the Black Tiger was shot on closed sets with painted backdrops. These backdrops were never meant to be realistic, instead they invoke a dreamlike utopian feel. The colors of the sets are vibrant pastels and make the film look almost as if each frame was hand-painted. The fantastic production design and equally lavish action sequences are more reminiscent of early Warner Brothers cartoons than they are of any live action films.

The action in this movie is exaggerated and the characters are larger than life. The gunfights feature grenade launchers and automatic weapons. The violence is stylized with every wound spraying bright red blood and thousands of bullets flying while the protagonists are miraculously unscathed. There is even a shot from the perspective of a bullet as it dispatches one of The Black Tiger's adversaries.

The romantic elements are just as melodramatic as the action sequences are extravagant. The love story in this movie uses all of the major clichés. When Dum and Rumpoey are reunited in Bangkok, Dum initially tells Rumpoey that she has him mistaken for someone else because he feels like he would only hurt her. Later in the movie there is a scene where Rumpoey and Dum promise to meet at a gazebo that they feel is "their spot." Also, Dum's change of heart when he realizes that the man he is sent to kill is Rumpoey's fiancé is something out of the proverbial melodrama handbook.

In many movies the surreal sets, fanatical violence, and overly sappy melodrama would be too unbelievable to be entertaining. In the case of Tears of the Black Tiger, the more absurd things get the more fun the movie becomes. Few movies pull off "zany" quite like Tears of the Black Tiger does. It is hard to tell if director Sasanatieng saw too many or not enough love stories and westerns. The final duel scene at the movie's end is without a doubt heavily influenced by Sergio Leone, but the way that this scene is executed is more derivative of Mel Brooks' work than Leone's. The sweetness of the love story is something out of the Rock Hudson/Doris Day era while the delivery is as unabashedly hokey as Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride. Tears of the Black Tiger is more spectacle than substance, but unlike most movies with this quality, this one works exceptionally well and is worth recommending to total strangers.

Director: Wisit Sasanatieng
Movie Genre: Western, Romance
Country: Thailand

more about asian film review visit http://www.asianfilmreviews.com

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Jun 14, 2008

The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution


The cover of Stacey Parks’ how-to book shows a silhouette of a figure holding what looks to be an Academy Award triumphantly over their head. It’s an odd bit of artwork for a book that covers the nuts and bolts basics of getting distribution for independent films in any way possible. The last time I checked, the Academy didn’t give awards to direct-to-DVD or video-on-demand premieres.

Using prose that’s dry enough to be a fire hazard during a drought, Parks gets across her message in an admirably blunt fashion: don’t get into the independent film business unless you love it with a passion. For one thing, it’s nearly impossible to find distribution for your film. If you do manage to get lucky and find a distributor, your odds of making your money back are shaky at best. Needless to say, this is not a cheerful, uplifting text with numerous success stories that celebrate the can-do spirit of the resourceful independent filmmaker.

Parks starts with an explanation of how the digital revolution, while making it easier for more people to make films, actually flooded the distribution market and drove down the price that distributors were willing to pay. She then moves on to the different factors that filmmakers should take into account before even writing one word of their screenplay. From researching what genre is selling to what cast you can (realistically) assemble that will have marketability, everything is looked at with a stern eye for the bottom line.

If you can get past the ever-present pessimism, Parks does offer up some practical advice that will help producers in their distribution efforts. From setting aside money in your budget for one A-list actor (or barring that, several B-listers with some downtime between VH1 shows) to making sure that your press kit doesn’t look like it was put together by a seven-year-old with crayons and construction paper, Parks is a fount of tough-love advice. Some of her suggestions will make the traditional art-house indie-lover tear their hair out. One such idea is to go with action or horror movies to give yourself a better shot at making a sale. Another is the advice that theatrical distribution will be nearly impossible, so it’s better to focus on alternate methods such as direct to DVD, video-on-demand and streaming video. You have to give Parks credit for acknowledging that the film business is just that, a business.

Some of the most interesting (and cynical) chapters concern the surreptitious tricks that you can play to hype your movie and build buzz. What cynical moves, you might ask? She offers up suggestions for how to take a bad review and turn it into a positive blurb for your poster or DVD cover by taking out one or two key words. Okay, nothing really new there. How about posting messages on Internet forums that look like helpful advice to other filmmakers, but are really not-so-subtle hints that you have a film available for distribution. Okay, that can be seen as a bit of shameless (but necessary) self-promotion. Oh yeah, then there was my favorite: leak a clip of your film to You Tube, then complain to any media outlet that will listen about how completely unauthorized this leak was to increase the number of views your footage gets. Obviously it’s not a new trick, but it is decidedly sneaky. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

There are some good interviews with distributors, filmmakers, sales agents and publicists. There is also a lengthy bonus section that covers what the filmmaker can expect from a contract with sales agents and distributors. Oddly enough, while Parks promises to explain these sample contracts with a minimum of legalese, she prints a distribution contract that is thirteen pages long with absolutely no explanation about what many of the confusing clauses mean. I needed a lawyer to help me understand what I was reading.

Despite my quibbles about her writing style (or lack thereof), Parks has delivered a clear-eyed and honest account of not only what it will take to succeed, but what will sink you (weak wills, weak stomachs and weak wallets need not apply), if you are one of those passionate few that dare to step into the role of independent filmmaker.

Reviewed by Matt Wedge. Matt Wedge is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.
source: www.filmmonthly.com

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The Incredible Hulk (2008)


Anyone read the newspaper headlines lately? "The Incredible Hulk on par with Iron Man!" I beg to differ. One could argue it doesn't even come close. While it has its popcorn moments, it's a far cry from the top dogs of Iron Man and Batman Begins for this sequel/remake/re-imagining/what the fuck is it?

I'm just going to come right out and say it. The nicest compliment I can give the flick is this: its way better than Ang Lee's version. But, isn't that by default? I wouldn't hesitate to put the 2003 Hulk into the top ten worst movies I've ever seen. And no, I'm not over-reacting. So, when you think about it, even shit like The Punisher (starring Dolph Lundgren) is better than that, so what does that say about The Incredible Hulk? Well, its not a very good movie. Its not a bad movie either, but its sub-par at best.

First off, I don't understand Edward Norton. He signs on to this movie claiming that he's a huge fan of the Hulk character. Then, he turns in the most bland performance known to man??? Where's the emotion, buddy? He's a great actor and I enjoy most of his previous work, but he brought nothing to the table as Bruce Banner. Matter of fact, he came close to ruining it by turning Banner into a huge a pussy. This guy just mopes around all day sad and depressed. I get the fact that he lost everyone he loved and was basically exiled from his home, but does he have to be a steaming pile of vagina? I hate to say it, but Eric Bana was better (despite my hatred for the original, I dug him as the jolly green giant). And then, after shooting the movie, Norton walks away from post-production over creative differences. Who does that? I mean, he showed up and shot the damn thing so he obviously knew what he was getting into. This reminds me of a few years ago when Wesley Snipes started shit with the same studio over being overshadowed in Blade 3 for younger actors. But, you read the script, signed a contract, shot the fucking thing and collected your paycheck, right?

Secondly, most of the cast was just wretched. Who was the genius that decided to put Tim Roth in this movie? Frankly, I thought he was dead. And it also annoyed me that he had his shirt off in 90% of his scenes. Put your fucking shirt back on, dude. You're almost 50 and that's gross. And I never once bought Roth or William Hurt as soldiers, not for a second. I try not to be picky about this sort of thing, but their tactics were terrible and they couldn't even walk right or stand up straight (you know, like real soldiers do?). Speaking of Hurt, he's certainly giving Jeff Bridges a run for his money for the "blandest actor of our time" title. And the scientist that experiments on Banner toward the end gets my vote for most annoying actor of the century. I prayed and prayed he would get shot in the head violently, but alas he survived. And even worse, he may have been transformed into a future villain. If there is a God in Heaven, they won't bring this guy back. Its not even worth mentioning his real name in this article. Fuck that guy!

There were plenty of other things that bothered me too, like cutting all the cool lines and shots that were in the trailer. That's right, kids. The trailer is filled with scenes of witty dialogue that doesn't appear in the actual flick, which makes little sense when the final product ends up being worse AFTER these scenes are cut. Don't you just hate that? Speaking of false advertising, the director stated in interviews earlier this week that Captain America might be making an appearance. Totally false. You shouldn't tease nerds like that, asshole. And sure, Tony Stark popped up for a second, which is cool I guess. However, he popped up to tease nerds yet again by hinting at an Avengers movie (some of you may have caught the Easter egg with Samuel L. Jackson after the credits of Iron Man). This frustrates me because I still believe an Avengers movie is never going to happen, or a good one at least. There's just too much riding on it. This new Hulk movie would have to be successful, as well as the upcoming Captain America, Nick Fury, Iron Man 2 and Thor. Then, whoever gets cast in all these roles would have to be offered a ton of money to star together. Shit, you think Ed Norton is coming back after walking away from the studio over this flick? Don't count on it. And even after all this, an Avengers movie would be enormous in scope which takes the budget up even higher. I just don't see all of this falling into place. Yes, I know Marvel has announced plans for all these films and to top it all off with an Avengers movie (in 2011), but just because these projects have been green-lit sure as hell doesn't mean they will all come to full fruition. And I promise I've had sex before. With a girl. And not through a computer.

Anywho, back to the flick. The worst thing the movie has going for it is the director, Louis Leterrier (Unleashed, Transporter 2). This guy has no idea what the hell he's doing. The scenes were poorly lit, the action scenes lacked any sort of creativity and the actors' performances were all over the place. If it weren't for the star power, this movie would've been a pure disaster at the box office and this dude would never work again. This goes the same for screenwriter Zak Penn who continues to butcher comic book movies with fucking dreadful dialogue. Seriously, somebody ban this dude from the Marvel universe. He already ruined Fantastic Four, Elektra and X3. And yes, of course he's writing the upcoming Captain America. Goodie. I never knew a person could write dialogue so bad that even Robert Downey Jr. himself couldn't deliver them well (in his quick cameo).

I know I've been dumping on the movie a lot, but there were a few things I enjoyed. Liv Tyler is just adorable, and she was the only cast member that I felt did a great job. She plays the concerned girlfriend role well, much better than Kirsten Dunst and Gwyneth Paltrow. The graphics were also a huge improvement over the original. The look and feel of the Hulk was dead on and I was truly impressed with the special effects on all levels. Too bad a good portion of them were ruined by shitty lighting and poor camera techniques. I also enjoyed the finale showdown between the Hulk and Abomination which is truly a sight to behold. Now that's some damn good entertainment! If only the rest of the movie could've sustained that level of excitementÉ

It's hard to recommend this movie as I was kind of let down by it. However, people should probably see it on the big screen to get the full package of the effects (kudos to the sound guys, too). Again, its not a bad movie. But don't expect it to be anything memorable as far as comic book movies go. Only one month until The Dark Knight. Almost there. [www.filmmonthly.com]

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Jun 13, 2008

Play Fun Game on Spicyside.com


Spicyside offer the most interesting online game. www.spicyside.com is a place where anyone can create a unique alter ego called a "spicy side" to wreak havoc on anybody and everybody who comes digitally near them.

There are many facilities for you that will make you feel comfortable playing the games in there. The most attractive facility is personalized avatars, face uploader, buddy list, chat functionality, and multi player gaming.

In slim jim, you can we can do such a thing. There are many facilities for you that will make you feel comfortable playing the games in there.

In the games, we are face on Spicy Town as the game’s background. The first thing we can do is change our avatar as we wish and we can even use our upload image.

As the online game, www.spicyside.com is offering everything we are looking for in games. We will get some challenges and emotional force that will lead us to a great sense of playing the games. Try it now.

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Jessica Alba gives birth to baby girl


The "Love Guru" co-star and her new husband, Cash Warren, are new parents, her publicist Brad Cafarelli said Monday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The 27-year-old actress gave birth to a healthy baby girl -- Honor Marie Warren -- on Saturday, Cafarelli said. He didn't provide further details.

Alba and Warren became engaged in late December following her announcement that she's expecting a baby with Warren, 31. They met on the set of the 2005 film "The Fantastic Four," which costarred Alba as the Invisible Woman and employed Warren as a director's assistant.

Outside of motherhood, this summer Alba joins Mike Myers in "The Love Guru" and will play a lingerie saleswoman who helps turn a loser's life around in "Meet Bill." Earlier this year, FHM readers magazine readers rated Alba the No. 3 sexiest woman alive (with "Transformers" star Megan Fox claiming the top spot).

What kind of mother will Alba be?

"I don't want to be my child's best friend," she recently told Fit Pregnancy magazine. "I want to be a mom. But I do want my child to come to me when they have problems and need to talk, so it's going to be about treading that line."

Alba's recently appeared in "Awake," "Good Luck Chuck" and "The Ten." She first gained fame as an action star on TV's "Dark Angel." [www.boston.com]

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Cinema's Most Expensive Movies


FemaleFirst looked back at some of cinema's biggest and most successful, or not, blockbusters to uncover which has the biggest budget.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End currently tops the chart as the most expensive movie ever made with an eye watering $300 million budget.

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But this budget was easily made back at the global box office when, despite the mixed reviews, it became the biggest film of 2007 grossing $960 million.

However at World's End was not the only big spending Pirates movie as Dead Man's Chest spent $225 million.Most Expensive Movies

But the second movie in this most unexpected franchise was the most successful and on a kitty of £225 million the film went on to gross over $1 billion at the global box office.


Similarly to Pirates the budgets of the Spiderman movies has steadily grown as the franchise gained momentum.

More about Cinema's Most Expensive Movies

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Australian film organization creates Ledger scholarship


Heath Ledger was known for giving aspiring Australian actors a hand in Hollywood. Now, an Australian film organization has established a scholarship fund in the late actor's name to continue those efforts.
more stories like this

"There's an entire tribe of Australians who have all benefited from his generosity," said Susie Dobson, president of Australians in Film, or AiF. "This (scholarship) captures Heath's spirit and serves our mission to help and celebrate Australian filmmakers."

Ledger -- who died at 28 of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January -- had served as an ambassador for the film organization and its board wanted to honor him after his death, Dobson said.

Director Gregor Jordan announced the establishment of the Heath Ledger Scholarship Fund last week at AiF's annual Breakthrough Awards, where he read a statement from Ledger's father, Kim Ledger.

"Although reluctant to lend his name to anything commercial, we know Heath would be proud of his attachment to this scholarship," Kim Ledger's statement said. "This scholarship in part does what Heath has done personally during the last 10 years and supported financially or in kind many friends, Australian actors, singers, directors or writers seeking to ply their talents in the USA."

Jordan also said that Michelle Williams, mother of Ledger's daughter, "would be very proud and happy to be the first benefactor" of the scholarship fund.

The first recipient will be announced next year, Dobson said.


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Angelina Jolie's pregnant passion


Angelina Jolie says being pregnant is great for her sex life.

The Oscar-winning actress - who is expecting twins with partner Brad Pitt - revealed her ever-expanding stomach means they have to make love in a variety of positions.

She said: "It's great for the sex life. It just makes you a lot more creative. So you have fun, and as a woman you're just so round and full."

Angelina - who has three adopted children, Maddox, six, Pax, four, Zahara, three, as well as two-year-old biological daughter Shiloh, with the 'Fight Club' star - admits the couple were surprised when they discovered they were having twins.

She said: "We weren't expecting twins. So it did shock us, and we jumped to six children quickly. But we like a challenge."

The 'Wanted' actress, who is due to give birth within the next couple of weeks, is determined to make sure the other kids don't feel left out when their new siblings arrive.

She added to Entertainment Weekly magazine: "They're old enough to feel included to change diapers themselves, to feed bottles themselves, like if I pump into a bottle. We're trying to find ways where it can be a fun group thing. Everybody gets special time so we can make sure we know where they're at."

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Jun 8, 2008

American Gangster: It Feels Good to be a Gangsta


The makers of American Gangster should count themselves lucky to have Denzel Washington, and more importantly Denzel Washington's face. It's quite an interesting face. Not exactly the face of a classic movie star, though he has their charm; not the face of a '70s Method actor, though he has their intensity. It is his face and his alone, quiet but expressive, hinting at things left unsaid. And in this film, more than any of his other roles that I can recall, it is a tired face.

Washington plays Frank Lucas, a real-life figure who in the period from 1969-74 ruled over the New York heroin trade by selling the purest smack ever seen on American streets at the lowest prices of the era, by virtue of smuggling it directly from Cambodia. His opposite number is Russell Crowe as Detective Richie Roberts of the Essex County, NJ police force, who finds himself effectively alone at the top of a federal hunt to topple Lucas's empire.

In truth, it's an unmistakably familiar story, but something about its execution here feels fresh anyway. I'm sure it's not only Washington's presence, but that certainly does help. Lucas is one of the very best examples in recent cinema of an archetype older than the talkies: the poor kid who gets in with the friendly local crime lord and ultimately becomes a crime lord himself. It's a classic "perversion of the American dream" tale that has by now become almost more ubiquitous than the standard Horatio Alger model that it so cheerfully corrupts.

Despite all that, despite the tendency towards mustiness in so many of the broad strokes and tiny details, Frank Lucas feels a little bit different than all of his dozens of predecessors, and there are many reasons why, but let me reiterate: Denzel Washington, and his wonderful actorly face, whereon rage and greed and contentment all play out with a certain world-weariness.

But as much as I love that actor in this role, it's certainly the case that the story is told very well on its own merits by writer Steve Zaillian (who comes very close to redeeming the stream of trash he's been splashing around in these 14 years since Schindler's List) and director Ridley Scott (who needs far more redemption than one film can offer; let's say that this makes up for A Good Year). On paper, it's obvious what the story is: Roberts tracking down Lucas, with a splash of Lucas's rise to power and Roberts's initial fall from grace that gives both men an urgent arc. In the film that's nowhere near as clear or neat as all that, and all sorts of story threads get tangled up with one another and it's not at all clear what the primary arc is supposed to be at all. Roberts isn't even aware of Lucas until the one-hour mark or longer, well after a great many scenes of Lucas establishing his empire in Brooklyn and southeast Asia.

It would be easy to accuse the story of being too slow, "boring" if you prefer, but the way that the story casually insinuates itself rather than springing out noisily right off the bat is quite refreshing and speaks to the aspect of the film that is perhaps most successful, its depiction of society. In a world where The Wire exists, it is both perfectly natural and completely unfair that we should expect every drama about drug lords to involve sprawling, microscopic studies of the ecosystem of the drug war and the city in which the battles are fought, and there is nothing about American Gangster more impressive than how well it's able to stand in that shadow of that conspicuously brilliant series. Not with the same scope, of course - it's 157 minutes compared to 12 hours per season - but for a nominal cop thriller, there is a whole lot of in-depth sociology bouncing around this film's fantastically-evoked image of New York in the 1970s.

To capture this setting, Scott dials down rather substantially on his customary stylistic excess, to the point where the directing is close to being merely "functional" or "competent," although those words fail to capture the brisk pace with which the director ushers us through the story. What it really is, when all is said and done, is referential: the film is shot using the unflashy you-are-there street level technique of an inexpensive period film, fittingly given that the story is basically a dressed-up blaxploitation saga. There's not a whole lot that is conspicuously stylish, but most of the film is shot with an unobtrusive neo-noir language of light and shadow that works in a way gauche trickery couldn't equal, at least not with the same eye towards efficient storytelling.

Efficient is not the same as concise in this case, but that's fine as long as the sprawling, sometimes messy story concerns itself with the details around the edges of the central duo. The ensemble cast is brilliant, although only Washington and Crowe are given any chance to stand out (and although he is much overshadowed by his co-star, this is Crowe's finest in a few years, at least). After a certain while, the movie does devolve into a Where's Waldo game of B-list cameos, but most of the character actors dotted throughout are very good at creating the necessary backdrop for the stars to square off.

The strange thing is that as things go on, the squaring off becomes increasingly less interesting than simply watching those fringes, and reveling in the detail with which the streets and housing projects have been recreated. While it's true that the film's sense of place would mean little without a story to rest on, it is also true that the film's story could only grow out of a well-defined place, and so the film becomes a holistic entity where text and mise en scène play off each other and build upon one another. This is a supremely well-crafted film. [source: http://antagonie.blogspot.com]

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Jun 7, 2008

Five Reasons We Love Colin Firth


1.) He is Mr. Darcy, the best man ever.
It's so undeniable that after novelist Helen Fielding fell in love with him during the 1995 miniseries Pride & Prejudice and modeled her modern-day Darcy after him in her Bridget Jones books, he came back to play the character in the movie adaptations. That's, like, destiny or something.

2.) He sings!
In The Importance of Being Earnest he crooned just one song, but he'll have lots more opportunities in Mamma Mia!, which now I'm gonna have to see even though the entire concept of it grosses me out -- a girl has to guess which of her mother's old lovers is her father? ick! -- because in it, Colin Firth sings.

3.) Pictures of his penis are on the internet somewhere.
He said so himself on The Daily Show recently. I am so not making this up. Now, I'm one of those girls who thinks that pretty much if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, and I don't get a huge thrill out of the idea of getting a glimpse of Little Colin via a grainy cell-phone cam (which was, ahem, whipped out by a strange fellow in a public restroom, as Firth told the story), but that he would tell such a story on global television speaks volumes to his self-confidence and sense of humor. Which, as lots of girls know, is way more important to a guy's attractiveness than what he looks like. Not that Colin's not adorable.

4.) He's so generous! The man does not stop working.
Check out his IMDb.com page and look what he's got on his plate: he'll appear in five movies in U.S. domestic release in 2008: the aforementioned When Did You Last See Your Father?, Then She Found Me, and Mamma Mia!, which is coming in July. And then there's The Accidental Husband with Uma Thurman, also this summer, and the Michael Winterbottom drama Genova, which was just at Cannes and is set for a late-2008 release. And he's got six movies on his slate for 2009! When does he sleep?

5.) Have I mentioned that he's Colin Firth?

MaryAnn Johanson (email me)
reviews, reviews, reviews! at FlickFilosopher.com


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Review: Kung Fu Panda is Big Fun


As the world's most influential movie critic I carry a heavy burden on my broad and chiseled shoulders. If I choose to cast a movie down into a vast, desolate darkness it could potentially cost the studio billions of dollars. Grim casualties of my dismissal would be the stars and starlets who would almost certainly be thrown out of their homes in the hours following the publishing of my scathing review. I imagine the SEAL foreclosure team creeping up in the dead of night, printed internet page in hand, ready to set flame to everything in sight (including antiques).

It's an awkward place for me to be in, as an arbiter of all that's good about film. For example, the news came down this week that Jack Black just had another kid. Do you think I want to be the guy who makes Jack Black's kid homeless? No. No, I do not.

Thankfully Kung Fu Panda just made my job easier by actually being a good film. This was a strange feeling after the bloated and overhyped Indy Jones and the Quest for Average Joe's Money and the furor that followed a review merely calling Iron Man "must-see."

But Panda is damned good! And I don't mean this in a "filtered through the prism of seeing it with a kid and suffering through" sort of way. I mean it's actually good. It's funny. It will make you say "Ha." You will have a good time, even if you're the sort who normally doesn't have a good time (see: Eeyore). It's silly in a way that so few movies are these days, and it's almost as if they hired actual writers with legitimate talent that cared about their craft and didn't phone it in while figuring that half the internet would stick up for them no matter what they put out. And yes I know that's a giant run-on sentence but we're busy deconstructing what a movie review is over here. Plus it's truly the way I would have audibly stated that sentiment, with a huge sigh predicating it and then a torrent of words. Because I don't get why more movies aren't this good, and why we continually make excuses for clearly inferior products under the guise of saying, "Well, it's just entertainment." Kung Fu Panda is entertaining, but it also has artistic merit. Am I confused as to why it took Jack Black and a movie about a martial arts Panda to knock it out of the park? Yes, for certain.

Kung Fu Panda is the story of a panda who dreams of breaking out of his father's soup kitchen (not what it sounds like) and becoming a master of kung fu. His dad (a bird of some sort) wants him to make soup and noodles for the people as generations of his family have. Po the panda has other ideas. When fate meets chance, Po is thrust into a web of intrigue and deadly combat. He's joined by a team that consists of a snake (Lucy Liu), a mantis (Seth Rogen), a tiger (Angelina Jolie), a monkey (Jackie Chan), and a crane (David Cross). There's a message for the kids embedded within and some fun with slo-mo animation. But most of all, there's heart. Kung Fu Panda is a film with a saucy, vibrant heart.

The laughs come from a variety of angles, as is to be expected from writers who penned a few episodes of King of the Hill. The film starts somewhat slowly with your standard fifteen minutes of Wile E. Coyote-style site gags. It builds momentum, and the one-liners Black offers at every turn start finding their mark around the 30 minute point. From then on the movie is a solid entertainment value, worth the investment of your time and treasure. The Dreamworks team has made a very purty product and deserves accolades galore.

So I'm calling this one a "see" and allowing everyone involved to keep their homes. This movie reviewin' gig has moments of true joy and this panda film was one of them this year. I wish everyone involved success. This is the best PG film I've seen in ... well, forever, and I would actually recommend this over The Zohan on just about every level. The panda plays, my friends, and it plays in a big way. Get on board or get run over by the freight train that is film.com. We have spoken. Let no man put our word asunder. [film.com]

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On DVD: Mama's Boy


When Warner Home Video's new DVD for Mama's Boy found its way into my mailbox this week, it caught me off guard. I'd just seen the trailer for it a few weeks ago on another DVD and thought, "Hey, I'll check that out." But it said Coming This November. "Oh, they're advertising a bit early. I guess I'll have to wait." Little did I know they meant last November, and that short of New Zealand, Turkey, and Romania, this film hadn't seen a theater screen. Not a good sign.

But when my wife and I sat down to watch Mama's Boy we found it very surprising. It wasn't a bad film at all. In fact, it was kind of cute. But it was immediately and abundantly clear exactly why this movie had been scrapped. It isn't a movie for most mainstream audiences. While Mama's Boy is a mainstream-style comedy that possesses a dry wit, it's popuated with unlikable characters. It's not that you hate them, but you don't ever like them. And that is a very bad thing for a mainstream comedy.

Jon Heder plays the titular mama's boy, eccentric Jeffrey Mannus, a 29-year-old wanna-be astronomer who responded to the death of his father at a young age by becoming inseparable from his mother Jan, played by Diane Keaton. But after mom hooks up with a new beau, Mert Rosenbloom (Jeff Daniels), Jeffrey reacts to the news poorly.

What follows is the typical out-of-control-spiral-into-the-darkside snipefest between Heder and Daniels -- a setup reminiscent of the classic Rushmore. Trouble is, Jeffrey's a jerk. A big, giant chucklehead. There are words for guys like this, but my editor prefers that I not use them. Seriously, imagine Jason Schwartzman from Rushmore, only even more pompous, arrogant, and without the real intelligence to back it up. Oh, I know this guy -- I've met many like him -- and Jeffrey is a great caricature of the type. But the movie barely manages to dangle the thinnest carrot of likability as a means to keep you watching.

And really, that's what prevents this from being a film for everyone. Because Jeffrey isn't the only barely likable character. The entire cast skirts the shores of dweebsville. Daniels plays one of those cheesy motivational speakers who spits out fortune-cookie answers that sound like they were read out of a Hallmark card. Keaton's Jan is spineless and plays into her demanding, loser son's every whim.

Anna Faris's Nora, the film's love interest, is a weak joke/commentary on the alterna-be culture. She's a singer writing an album about the evils of consumerism and corporations, while she's drinking coffee at Starbucks. Get it? Sigh. Fortunately, if you could capture sunlight in a jar and then coalesce it into a solid state, it would form Anna Faris. And they let Faris be Faris.

If there's one thing to be said about Mama's Boy, it's that the cast does an incredible job of overcoming their pathetic characters and making you feel for and kind of like them -- or at least you'll get where they're coming from.

As a comedy, the over-the-top, mainstream jokes tend to fall flat. But if you're paying attention to the wry, off-the-cuff remarks thrown out there by Faris, Daniels, Sarah Chalke, and an underused Eli Wallach, there's enough real humor that also serves as part of that keeping-you-endeared-to-them thing.

All in all, Mama's Boy is worth a watch as an interesting experiment in the type of character study you see more often in indie fare.

DVD extras are simply a routine commentary track by director Tim Hamilton and a collection of deleted scenes. Not a one of those deleted scenes is worth seeing, and together they make you believe that an editor or producer stepped in to save the film from itself through cutting, but the director insisted that they get placed on the disc.

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Jun 1, 2008

Savage Grace


Moore tackles challenging role with Grace

It has taken director Tom Kalin 15 years to return to the cinema after his debut hit Swoon with an ambitious undertaking that gives Julianne Moore one of her most challenging roles to date.

Spanning in six episodes the period between 1946 and 1972, Moore plays Barbara Daly, a woman ahead of her time and trapped by marriage to Brooks (Stephen Dillane) within the confines of the exceedingly wealthy Baekeland family. Kalin puts under the microscope her rocky marriage and her confused emotional relationship with her son (Eddie Redmayne), whose own sexuality is in turmoil.

Capturing the mood of the passing decades with impeccable flair, Kalin also ensures that the overheated histrionics never spill over in to melodrama. By the time he is ready to unveil the ultimate and shocking denouement, the ground already has been cleverly set for what has the feel of a classical Greek tragedy.

Distributor: IFC First Take
Cast: Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Eddie Redmayne, Elena Anaya, Unax Ugalde, Belen Rueda and Hugh Dancy
Director: Tom Kalin
Screenwriter: Howard A. Rodman
Producers: Iker Montfort, Katie Roumel, Pamela Koffler and Christine Vachon
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 87 min.
Release date: May 30


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Hollywood Chinese


Chinese makes for a smart and engaging look at Chinese Actors in Hollywood

Effectively organized, TV-style film essay about the role of Chinese actors in Hollywood’s mainstream is engaging, smart and phenomenally well researched. We’ve come to expect no less from veteran director Arthur Dong, whose works since 1980 have typically revolved around sexual identity, but here they skew towards ethnicity. Hollywood Chinese is both a treatise on the condition of bi-nationalism (Chinese-American) and a look at the effect media representations has on that identity, and by proxy, others. Theatrical won’t be a big moneymaker, but the film will find a good place on TV and in academic distribution.

Dong corralled some seriously heavyweight Chinese performers from the Hollywood and Indiewood communities for this film. While the directors and writers seem like trailblazers in this history of film, it’s the actors, who all struggled to get roles outside of the generic or exotic categories, who take center stage. The actors’ struggles with the intermittently closed- and open-minded film industry follow an interesting path alongside Chinese-American audience members’ ability to see themselves as part of the broader nation. While that last topic might sound like a generalization, each artist interviewed commented upon their identity as it related to the identity of Chinese and Chinese-Americans as seen in media.

It’s ironic this culture has been under-represented because as evidenced by Dong’s research, the history lesson goes deep. In Hollywood ChineseThe Curse of Quon Gwon. Written and directed in 1916-17 by a 20-year-old Chinese-American woman named Marion Wong, the film deals with issues like the compromise of traditional values and the values of a new community. Until a year or two ago, the film was unknown. Now, due in part to the awareness raised by this film, Curse has become a restoration project, and at least in the San Francisco film community, the name is in relative circulation.

Hollywood Chinese puts its money where its mouth is in many ways. Not only does it explore an avenue of film history that’s been diligently neglected for nearly a century, it unearths proof that this culture had been living in a constantly moving shadow for far longer than most of us could have known. Though the organization of the film is dutifully essayistic, this basic, somewhat static mode of presentation affords the film a veneer of straightforward, canon-like history that the subject matter has long awaited and very much deserves.

Distributor: Louise Rosen LLC
Cast: Joan Chen, Tsai Chin, Stephen Gong, James Hong, David Henry Hwang, Ang Lee, Christopher Lee, Justin Lin, Amy Tan, Wayne Wang and D.B. Wong.
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Arthur Dong
Genre: Documentary
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: May 2 NY, May 30 LA


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