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Seven Reasons Why Theaters Felt Compelled to Pull 'The Interview'

58 minutes ago

On the one hand, the holiday box office may get a boost (THR assesses the box office impact here), as Peter Jackson's third and ultimate "Hobbit" film opened Wednesday to $24.5 million. That's balm to exhibitors and an industry shell-shocked as it found itself the object of real threats — not just immediate but also longer-term — as its vulnerability to terror threats, long known within the business, became clear. Read: Four Reasons Why Theaters Should Play 'The Interview' This has serious implications going ahead, not only for movies but for all forms of potentially controversial expression. Reaction from the media and public has been largely negative -- free speech lawyer Alan Dershowitz calls it "Pearl Harbor on the First Amendment" -- but in fairness, theater owners were under enormous pressure once the direct threat was made. As horrifying as possible repercussions will be--and immediate, as director Gore Verbinski's North Korean-set. »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Review: The Mad Genius of 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' (Now on Netflix)

1 hour ago

To watch "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which debuted on CBS in 1986, is to find oneself tossed headlong into wonder. An amalgam of allusions, textures, and styles, creator and star Paul Reubens' cracked vision registers as both nostalgic and ahead of its time -- the bridge between the children's television of midcentury ("The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," "Captain Kangaroo," "Howdy Doody") and the new millennium ("Spongebob Squarepants," "Phineas and Ferb," "Adventure Time"). "This place is a madhouse!" the haughty, snooping Mrs. Steve (Shirley Stoler) proclaims in the series premiere, and she's right. "Pee-wee's Playhouse" asks viewers to hole up in their imaginations and throw away the key. Though I'm old enough to remember sitting on the floor in front of the television each Saturday morning, enveloped by "Playhouse," "Land of the Lost," and candlepin bowling as I sipped my »


- Matt Brennan

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Watch: Kate Winslet Breaks Barriers in First 'A Little Chaos' Trailer

1 hour ago

Focus Features snapped up North American rights to actor-turned-director Alan Rickman's "A Little Chaos" at Tiff. This romantic drama stars Winslet as a steely landscape designer who breaks sexual and class barriers when she's chosen to build one of King Louis Xiv's gardens at the new Versailles. Sabine also finds herself entangled romantically with renowned landscape architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). Costarring Jennifer Ehle and Stanley Tucci, "Chaos" suffered middling reviews at Toronto. Financed by Lionsgate UK and penned by Alison Deegan, Jeremy Brock and Rickman, the period romance will have its stateside premiere on March 27, 2015. What this does reveal is that the new Focus under Peter Schlessel wants to stay in the business of releasing this sort of arthouse material.  »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Before Sony's 'The Interview,' There Was 'Hitler—Dead or Alive'

2 hours ago

With all the current hue and cry over "The Interview" -- the comedy that Sony won't be releasing on Christmas Day -- I am once again reminded of "Hitler -- Dead or Alive," an ultra-low-budget 1942 B-movie starring Ward Bond as an ex-con who tries to collect a bounty on Adolf Hitler. No, I'm not making that up. Read More: Four Reasons Why Theaters Should Have Played "The Interview" Back when I taught a college course focused on war movies, I often screened the final minutes of this obscure oddity, to give students an inkling of American attitudes during the early days of Us involvement in World War II. Because even though the movie was an unabashedly cheesy Poverty Row production -- it dared to be a fantasy-fulfilling slice of cheese: At the end of the flick, Hitler is shot by Nazis who don't recognize him after Bond and his buddies shave off Der Führer's mustache. »


- Joe Leydon

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Tomm Moore Follows 'Secret of Kells' with Exquisite Animated Oscar Contender 'Song of the Sea'

2 hours ago

Produced by the Ireland-based animation studio, Cartoon Saloon, and distributed by Gkids, "Song of the Sea" is an animated Oscar contender for its exquisite hand-drawn beauty and stirring story about the last Seal-child trapped between two worlds. Ben and his enchanted little sister Saoirse (a Selkie) are hurled into a fading world of ancient legend and magic as they attempt to return to their home by the sea. The film takes inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land. "Song of the Sea" features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan, Pat Shortt, and Jon Kenny. The score is composed by Bruno Coulais and Irish band Kíla, who previously collaborated on "The Secret of Kells." "I had heard plenty of Selkie stories growing up and had seen the 'Secret of Roan Inish' but had »


- Bill Desowitz

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The Genius of Mike Leigh's System: Leigh & Cast on Gorgeous 'Mr. Turner'

2 hours ago

"Mr. Turner" (December 19) is a lushly mounted period biopic about a globally beloved painter, but it is also about art and commerce, creative integrity, institutional hypocrisy, damaged children, personal generosity, inspiration and love. At its center is a great romance. And all this from famously cranky Brit auteur Mike Leigh, who many tend to take for granted. (The film is now nominated for seven London Film Critics awards, including Best Picture.) We shouldn't, just because he always delivers. At 71 he's at the height of his powers. Labor of love "Mr. Turner" was not easy to get made. It's the apotheosis of the Leigh Method, the creative --and hugely influential--process he has honed and refined over decades, which allows his actors to collaborate for months--or a year even-- on building their characters and his screenplay. Think about the filmmakers, from Richard Linklater to Bennett Miller, to name two of his award-season rivals, »


- Anne Thompson

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Highlights from the Palm Springs Film Fest Lineup

2 hours ago

The fest boasts 192 films from 65 countries, including 65 premieres. More info here. World premieres include: "Don Quixote: The Gentleman of La Mancha" starring James Franco, Horatio Sanz, Luis Guzman and Line Shaye, "Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson," "Some Kind of Love" and "Twenty-Five Palms," a documentary on the 25th anniversary of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. International premieres include: "Arteholic" (Germany), a documentary featuring Udo Kier and Lars von Trier and more, Iceland's "The Grandad," Luxembourg's "Never Die Young" and Netherlands' "Accused." North American Premieres include: "40-Love" (Belgium), "Afterlife" (Hungary), "Beatles" (Norway), "See You in Montevideo" (Serbia) starring in Aramand Assante, "She’s Funny That Way" (USA) directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Imogen »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Review: Nick Broomfield's 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper' Provokes with Irritating Honesty

2 hours ago

There’s always been something irritatingly honest about Nick Broomfield’s documentaries, even when they’re not delivering what they’ve promised --- Margaret Thatcher, just for instance, who was never quite tracked down in “Tracking Down Maggie” back in 1994. But in his explorations of Extreme Americana -- exemplified by “Heidi Fleiss,” “Kurt & Courtney” and/or his two films on serial killer Aileen Wuornos -- he’s always an unabashedly goggle-eyed guest engaged in documentary tourism, who invades his own films, uses what he can get, glosses over what he can’t, but usually manages to peel a few scabs off the mottled surface of our national psyche, and psychoses. What the English director does in “Tales of the Grim Sleeper” is take a truism – that the Lapd’s relationship with the city’s minority communities historically sucks – and establish a story of lethal malpractice. When sometime-car-thief Lonnie Franklin was arrested in 2010 (and, »


- John Anderson

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A Look at Five Editing Frontrunners and Their Oscar Chances

3 hours ago

Like cinematography, editing stands out this awards season for the creative ingenuity of five frontrunners: the "continuous take" of "Birdman," the 12-year real-time odyssey of "Boyhood," the percussive intensity of "Whiplash," the parallel machinations of "Gone Girl" and the enigmatic humanism of "The Imitation Game." 1. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu may not want to give away the "continuous take" gag in his extraordinary "Birdman," but he's achieved the ultimate in Pov narrative. And his long-time editors Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione "stitched" "Birdman" together in a very unique way, compiling an assembly of rehearsal footage before principal photography and cleverly erasing the cuts with the VFX and post teams. The film's challenge: the number of tracking shots with hand-held cameras and Steadicams made »


- Bill Desowitz

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Sony Pulls Plug on 'The Interview' with "No Further Release Plans" as U.S. Links North Korea to Hacks

22 hours ago

Update: Variety reports: According to a Sony Pictures spokesman, "Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film," whether on DVD or VOD as hoped. This news comes mere hours after the studio pulled the $42 million comedy from theatrical release. Earlier: Responding to threats of violence from a terrorist group that the U.S. has now identified as linked to North Korea, Sony Pictures Entertainment first offered theater chains the chance to pull out of booking "The Interview," set to open Christmas Day, and after the nation's leading theater chains withdrew, the studio cancelled the release altogether. There's now a chance that the timidity of the theaters will allow the studio to grab this rare opportunity to test the premium VOD release of a major commercial movie--something theaters usually seek to avoid. In a statement, Sony said: “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their. »


- Anne Thompson

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The Ten Best Scenes of 2014

23 hours ago

"Boyhood" (Richard Linklater) Patricia Arquette as the mom of two kids over 12 years is movingly real and natural as the mother who shepherds her children through the breakup with their father (Ethan Hawke) and two turbulent marriages before emerging as a professional successful single woman--with an empty nest. Arquette's money scene comes near the end, when her son leaves for college and she admits, "I just thought there would be more." Arquette is a key window into this accessible and identifiable movie, for parents and children alike.  How rare that movies show what mothering is--the investment of time and energy and love and attention and yes, letting go when the time comes. This is the scene that will win Arquette the supporting actress Oscar, her first. --Anne Thompson "Goodbye to Language 3D" (Jean-Luc Godard) A spoiler with a purpose: In a handful of scenes which reinvent cinema, as he has »


- TOH!

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Before 'Big Eyes' and 'Mr. Turner,' Ten Best Movie Portraits of Tortured Artists

17 December 2014 11:46 AM, PST

Anyone who has watched a biopic about a renowned painter or sculptor knows that their talent rarely extends to maintaining healthy personal relationships – especially where romance is concerned. Or they allow themselves to be used and sometimes abused for the sake of their livelihood. This month offers two prime examples of beyond-the canvas peeks at painters with a spotty track record with the opposite sex. Opening on Dec. 19 is “Mr. Turner,” which focuses on the later years of the British landscape specialist J.M.W. Turner who died in 1851. As played by a perfectly cast Timothy Spall, this cantankerous genius -- given to emitting loud grunts and growls -- never married. Instead, he took two widows as mistresses. He treated the first with utter disinterest and vehemently denied that he fathered her two daughters. Then there is his devoted housekeeper, who he uses as a convenient sexual outlet whenever the urge strikes. »


- Susan Wloszczyna

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'Into The Woods' Reviews: Rob Marshall Directs a Solid, Satisfying Sondheim Fairytale

17 December 2014 11:26 AM, PST

You can't please everyone, but Rob Marshall's reinvention of the Stephen Sondheim fairytale-mashup musical is just what the doctor ordered if you seek late-December escapism: catchy songs, blandly reassuring plot points, decent visuals and Meryl Streep as a witch in a wig. It's no "Chicago," but "Into the Woods" should satisfy (or, at least, shouldn't piss off) Sondheim fans, who were spoiled by Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" in 2007. If we can all take off our Streep blinders for a moment, the rest of the musical-savvy cast is also strong. Emily Blunt is especially striking as the Baker's Wife, bringing bouncy comedy to this otherwise thankless role; Anna Kendrick is as overly earnest as ever as the ragamuffin Cinderella; and Johnny Depp as The Wolf gets in and out of the way before becoming annoying. While the trades have stamped the film with approval—it's likely to nab SAG »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Shonda Rhimes to Receive WGA Achievement Award

17 December 2014 10:28 AM, PST

Television powerhouse Shonda Rhimes—the creative force behind ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How to Get Away with Murder"—will receive the Writers Guild of America, West's 2015 Paddy Chayefsy Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement. Rhimes' vocal commitment (as also seen on her Twitter) to diversifying race and women onscreen will be recognized at an upcoming ceremony on Saturday, February 14, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. Her many accolades including a PGA Award, a WGA Award, an AFI Award, a Peabody Award, a Golden Globe, a Lucy Award for Excellence in Television from Women in Film, and numerous NAACP Image Awards for her writing and show-running. In 2013, Rhimes was appointed by President Obama to serve as Trustee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Read More: Will Shonda Rhimes Make Viola Davis a Star with "How to Get Away with Murder"? Named after one of the most. »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Rock Legend Patti Smith Discusses Her Passion for 'Noah' and Writing 'Mercy Is'

17 December 2014 9:09 AM, PST

But then the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer never ceases to break new barriers, which is why director Darren Aronofsky approached her for help with his song when they were serving as jurors at the Venice Film Festival. "He gave me such a daunting task," Smith admitted by phone from Rome, where she performed Saturday at the Vatican's annual Christmas concert. "It had to be a bit of oral history, an Old Testament message, handed down from generations, and it had to serve Noah [Russell Crowe], it had to serve his step-daughter [played by Emma Watson], and it had to serve the end of the film. And for those babies, his grand-daughters, it's the first song that they hear. So I really got to contemplate all of this in the writing of it. It was a challenge but when Darren told me about the film and what he was trying to do and deliver a »


- Bill Desowitz

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Watch: How Tilda Swinton Transformed for 'Snowpiercer'

17 December 2014 5:30 AM, PST

Can Tilda Swinton snag a surprise Oscar nod for her supporting performance as sinister Minister Mason in "Snowpiercer"? Unlike many of the year's more competitive categories, the Best Supporting Actress race isn't yet locked, so Swinton, Supporting Actress winner for 2007's "Michael Clayton," is in the club for this already iconic role. She wowed this year not only in summer hit "Snowpiercer," but also as a vampire in Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" and in Wes Anderson's Best Picture contender "The Grand Budapest Hotel" in a minor, but colorful, role. Our video interview with her is here. »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Angelina Jolie Loved Problem-Solving 'Unbroken,' Can't Wait to Play 'Cleopatra'

17 December 2014 5:00 AM, PST

Only when Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 biography "Unbroken" became a bestseller did the logjam start to break, partly because her "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" was turned into a improbable 2003 Universal hit. Finally, when Angelina Jolie--with one independent film behind her, 2011 Bosnian war drama "In the Land of Blood and Honey"--came on board, the movie really did move toward a green light. My Q & A with her is below.  Why it was so hard. Louie Zamperini crammed a lot into his life. There's young Louie the Italian-American trouble-maker turned runner and sports star who becomes a World War II bombardier who crashes into the ocean, surviving 47 days on a life raft with two crew members, rescued by the Japanese who submit him to two years at a prison camp. Then he battles alcoholism and becomes a born-again Christian who forgives his torturers. The main issue all along with getting the Zamperini biopic made, »


- Anne Thompson

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Four Reasons Why Theaters Should Play Sony's 'The Interview' Updated

17 December 2014 4:20 AM, PST

As someone who used to be an exhibitor, I'm glad I am not now an executive at one of the major chains. The Sony hackers have ratcheted up their threats by warning moviegoers to avoid any theater playing Christmas Day opener "The Interview." And now Sony has tossed the decision about playing it over to theater owners, giving them the option to pull their dates. With fourth-largest circuit Carmike Theaters already taking them up on their offer, it appears inevitable that the terrorists have won. Unquestionably security and safety issues should be a priority. And the date for "The Interview" coinciding with two of the biggest weeks of the year made booking it in theaters understandably more sensitive. But if, as now seems inevitable, the film disappears from the holiday schedule, it could yield some terrible consequences. Here's latest Nato reaction. And Los Angeles Times updates on theater chains. 1. If »

- Tom Brueggemann

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What's Up With Ewan McGregor, From 'Son of a Gun' to Sundance as Jesus? (Clips)

16 December 2014 4:10 PM, PST

The Scottish thesp will soon be seen in Sundance epic "Last Days in the Desert," a chronicle of Jesus' 40 days of fasting starring McGregor as both Christ and the Devil. "Last Days" is directed by Rodrigo Garcia, helmer of the handsomely made "Albert Nobbs" and earlier, more intimate passion projects "Nine Lives" and "Mother and Child," which tangled the lives of women in interconnected vignettes. One of the most hotly anticipated Sundance 2015 titles, "Last Days" was shot in five weeks by Emmanuel Lubezki, who reunites here with "The Tree of Life"'s Tye Sheridan, costarring alongside McGregor and Ciaran Hinds. In the above image, Ewan McGregor channels the ragged and starving Jesus, but it's hard not to think of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the cloaked Jedi Master of "The Phantom Menace." Whether Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" with Willem Dafoe or Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" with »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Best Supporting Actress Oscar Predictions 2015

16 December 2014 1:49 PM, PST

1. Patricia Arquette is the actress to beat. Her role as the mom parenting two kids over 12 years in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" could well be considered a lead. By moving her to supporting, IFC figured--correctly--that she had a better chance of winning the category. Arquette is movingly real and natural as the mother who shepherds her children through the breakup with their father (Ethan Hawke) and two turbulent marriages before emerging as a professional successful single woman--with an empty nest. Arquette's money scene comes near the end, when her son leaves for college and she admits, "I thought there would be more." Arquette is a key window into this accessible and identifiable movie, for parents and children alike.   While Arquette, 46, has been a standout actress for years in such films as "True Romance," "Ethan Frome" and "Lost Highway," "Boyhood" is her highest-profile role to date and would »


- Anne Thompson

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