Archive for 2011

The Social Network Returns To 700 Cinemas To Push Past The Elusive (And They Hope, Oscar Winning) $200m Mark

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

The Social Network Returns To 700 Cinemas To Push Past The Elusive (And They Hope, Oscar Winning) $200m Mark

“THE SOCIAL NETWORK” MAKES ITS WAY BACK INTO THEATERS AND DEBUTS ON DVD

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

“THE SOCIAL NETWORK”
SET TO CROSS $200 MILLION WORLDWIDE
AS ACCLAIMED MOTION PICTURE MAKES ITS WAY
BACK INTO THEATERS
AND DEBUTS ON DVD

CULVER CITY, Calif., January 5, 2011 – As The Social Network, the most critically acclaimed film of the year, is set to launch on DVD, the hit film is poised to pass $200 million at the worldwide box office, it was announced today by Jeff Blake, chairman, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution for Sony Pictures. To date, The Social Network has grossed more than $93 million in the US and $104 million overseas, and will pass the $200 million mark in the next few days. The DVD will be released on January 11, 2011, and contains more than eight hours of bonus extras about the motion picture. The film will also be re-released in approximately 600 theaters nationwide on January 7.

Commenting on the announcement, Blake said, “The Social Network has struck a chord with audiences all around the world. No invention defines our era like Facebook does, but what has made it break through as a motion picture is that it is a parable for our time. Everyone, everywhere, can relate to the human motivations of the real-life people who are depicted in the film. At the box office, this film showed true staying power, grossing more than four times its opening weekend gross – a rare accomplishment when the average for wide releases last year was below three times its opening weekend gross. It is always a great feeling to see a film connect with moviegoers, but this film is incredibly special to us – we are as proud of it as any film in our studio’s history.”

The Social Network has been embraced during this year’s awards season, with four honors from the National Board of Review, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor for Jesse Eisenberg. The film has also received six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score, and nominations for Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, as well as two nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, including Ensemble and Eisenberg for Best Actor, and nominations for Best Picture from the Producers Guild of America and Best Adapted Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America. The film has also been named Best Picture by 24 critics groups, including the New York Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critics Online, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the San Francisco Film Critics, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Dallas/Ft. Worth Film Critics Association, the Washington Area Film Critics Association, the Toronto Film Critics Association, the UK Regional Critics Awards, Sight and Sound, the Village Voice/LA Weekly Critics Poll, the African American Film Critics Association, the Black Film Critics Circle, the Southeastern Film Critics Association, the Houston Film Critics Society, the Detroit Film Critics Society, the Florida Film Critics Circle Awards, the St. Louis Film Critics Association, the Indiana Film Journalist Awards, the Utah Film Critics Association, the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. The film also appears on over 350 critics’ Top Ten lists.

The film has been named Best Picture of the Year by numerous publications, including The New York Times, New York Post, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post, Boston Phoenix, Cleveland Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Huffington Post, IFC.com, Miami Herald, Lincoln Journal-Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, MSN Movies, North County Times, Oklahoma Gazette, Omaha World Herald, Orlando Weekly, Sight & Sound, Time Out Chicago, Time Out New York, and Tulsa World, among many others.

In The Social Network, director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin explore the moment at which Facebook, the most revolutionary social phenomenon of the new century, was invented – through the warring perspectives of the super-smart young men who each claimed to be there at its inception. Drawn from multiple sources, the film moves from the halls of Harvard to the cubicles of Palo Alto as it captures the visceral thrill of the heady early days of a culture-changing phenomenon in the making – and the way it both pulled a group of young revolutionaries together and then split them apart. In the midst of the chaos are Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), the brilliant Harvard student who conceived a website that seemed to redefine our social fabric overnight; Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), once Zuckerberg’s close friend, who provided the seed money for the fledgling company; Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who brought Facebook to Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists; and the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence), the Harvard classmates who asserted that Zuckerberg stole their idea and then sued him for ownership of it. Each has his own narrative, his own version of the Facebook story – but they add up to more than the sum of their parts in what becomes a multi-level portrait of 21st Century success – both the youthful fantasy of it and its finite realities as well. The film is produced by Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Ceán Chaffin and based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich.

About Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; a global channel network; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of entertainment in more than 140 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.sonypictures.com.

Sessums Gifts Michelle Williams With Poetry Before Asking About On-Screen Sex

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Sessums Gifts Michelle Williams With Poetry Before Asking About On-Screen Sex

BYOB Humpday

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Jill Haworth, 65, Original Sally In “Cabaret”

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Jill Haworth, 65, Original Sally In “Cabaret”; Was In Exodus And Horror On Snape Island

Location Filming In L.A. Way Up For 2010

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Location Filming In L.A. Up 37% In December

When Tati Met Sparks

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

When Tati Met Sparks

SUNDANCE SELECTS TAKES WORLDWIDE RIGHTS TO ZEINA DURRA’S THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE!

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

MARCH 2011 THEATRICAL AND VOD RELEASE PLANNED

New York, NY (January 5, 2011) — Sundance Selects, the national video on-demand platform for independent film in the documentary and world cinema categories, announced today that the company is acquiring worldwide rights, excluding UK and Mexico, to director Zeina Durra’s humorous, atmospheric political drama THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! Durra, who also penned the script and served as a producer, premiered the film earlier this year at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in U.S. competition. The film, which recently won Best First Film at the 2010 Warsaw International Film Festival, will premiere in March 2011 both theatrically and on video on-demand. THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! was produced by Durra and Vanessa Hope, who previously was an executive producer on WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE, a documentary that was recently short-listed in the Documentary category of the 2011 Academy Awards.  Hani Farsi, Rami Makhzoumi, Matthew Chausse, Mohammed Alturki and Hamza Talhouni were executive producers on the project.

THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! offers an alluring and intelligent snapshot of a group of young people living in an upper-class NYC bubble but continually haunted by threatening news from overseas.  Durra’s feisty protagonist, a conceptual artist of Middle Eastern origin named Asya (Élodie Bouchez), drifts around a chic Manhattan subculture while constantly battling the conflicting worlds of assimilation and xenophobia. Asya along with her network of like-minded friends, a diaspora of young adults raised outside their cultural heritage, offers a truly fresh and complex view of a private New York City world that fashion magazines only hint at.

Jonathan Sehring, President of IFC Entertainment, commented that, “As a company that prides themselves on showcasing exciting new directorial talent, we could not be more thrilled to show this film to our audience.  Zeina Durra has created a picture that brings fresh perspective to the issues of post-9/11 politics, romance, and multiculturalism.”

Notes Durra: “I’m delighted to be working with Sundance Selects.  Their adventurous audience is perfectly suited to the film’s provocative discourse and subversive playfulness.”

The worldwide deal for THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! was negotiated by Arianna Bocco, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions & Productions for IFC Films with sales agent Andrew Herwitz of Film Sales Company.

About IFC Entertainment

A leader in the independent film industry, IFC Entertainment consists of multiple brands that are devoted to bringing the best of specialty films to the largest possible audience: IFC Films, Festival Direct, IFC Productions, and the IFC Center.  IFC Films is a leading distributor of independent film. Its unique day and date distribution model, ‘IFC In Theaters,’ makes independent films available to a national audience by releasing them simultaneously in theaters as well as on cable’s On Demand platform and through Pay-Per-View, reaching 50 million homes. ‘IFC Festival Direct’ features a wide selection of titles acquired from major international film festivals and offers them exclusively through Video on Demand.  IFC Center is a five screen, state-of-the-art cinema with luxurious seating and HD digital and 35mm projection that shows art-house films in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village.  IFC Entertainment’s companies are subsidiaries of Rainbow Media Holdings LLC.

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SCREEN MEDIA ACQUIRES PHASMA EX MACHINA FOR RELEASE IN 2ND QUARTER 2011

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

New York, NY (January 5, 2011) — Screen Media Films is proud to announce the acquisition of Matt Osterman’s debut feature “Phasma Ex Machina” from XYZ Films.  The critically acclaimed supernatural thriller is set to be released in the second quarter of 2011 on DVD/VOD under the updated title: “Ghost from the Machine.” The film has played in over a dozen international and US Film festivals including Fantasia International Film Festival, Telluride Horror Film Festival, and Arizona Underground Film Festival where it was awarded Best of the Fest. Critics including Dennis Harvey of Variety proclaim it “an impressive feature debut from writer/director Matt Osterman” and Colin Covert of the Star Tribune called it “sharply intelligent…this is a winner.”

In “Ghost from the Machine,” a young man tasked with raising his younger brother after the death of their parents, plunges himself into the murky science of the supernatural. Ignoring his responsibilities as a caretaker, he invents a machine intended to be a conduit to the other side. He reaches an unintended level of success that not only threatens his safety, but also of those around him.

The deal was brokered with Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films, Robert Baruc, President, Screen Media Films and David T. Fannon, Executive Vice President, Screen Media Ventures.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to bring the many anxious fans this original and intelligent twist on the traditional ghost story” said Baruc.

Said Nate Bolotin from XYZ Films: “Matt has created a fresh new look into the sci-fi genre and we are excited to be a part of what is sure to be his first of many engaging features.”

“Ghost from the Machine” was produced by Jennifer Kramer and co-produced by Jon Maichel Thomas. Bleiberg Entertainment is handling international sales of the film.

About Screen Media Films:

Screen Media Films acquires the rights to high quality, independent feature films for the US and Canada. Screen Media’s theatrical releases include The Private Lives of Pippa Lee starring Robin Wright and Keanu Reeves; La Mission starring Benjamin Bratt; and Merchant Ivory’s City of Your Final Destination starring Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney. Since 2001, Screen Media has released more than 150 titles including Lymelife, Sherrybaby, Noel and Bustin Down the Door. Screen Media Films is a wholly owned division of Screen Media Ventures, LLC.  With a library of over 1000 motion pictures, Screen Media Ventures is one of the largest independent suppliers of high quality motion pictures to U.S. and international broadcast markets, cable networks, home video outlets and new media venues. For more information, visit www.screenmediafilms.net

About XYZ Films:

XYZ FILMS is an LA-based film production and sales company founded by partners Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer, and Aram Tertzakian.  XYZ’s production slate includes action-thriller “Land of the Free” to be directed by Ric Roman Waugh; a heist film with Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”); and a crime thriller about automotive maverick John DeLorean with Alex Holmes (“House of Saddam”). Twitchfilm.net founder and editor-in-chief Todd Brown joined the company in 2009 as a partner and serves as its Head of Acquisitions.

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What Terrence Malick Had To Do With Good Will Hunting

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

What Terrence Malick Had To Do With Good Will Hunting

Huffington Post Responds To Vanity Fair Story About Its Alleged Origins

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Huffington Post Responds To Vanity Fair Story About Its Alleged Origins

The Art Directors Guild Nominations

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

The Art Directors Guild Nominations

NYC’s 10 Most Anticipated New Venues Of 2011 Include Cinema Spiffs

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

NYC’s 10 Most Anticipated New Venues Of 2011 Include Cinema Spiffs

Dick King-Smith, 88, Wrote “The Sheep Pig,” Kid’s Book Basis For Babe

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Dick King-Smith, 88, Wrote “The Sheep Pig,” Basis For Babe

Nick Cave, Crazy Genius

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011


UPDATE: A reader very kindly pointed out that the soundsuits are created by Nick Cave, an artist and educator based in Chicago, NOT by Nick Cave, the awesome singer/songwriter/musician whose music with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is part of the regular soundtrack of my life. Which is kind of a bummer … the docent I spoke with about the upcoming exhibit when we were at the museum had assured me that this was indeed THAT Nick Cave and he was also very excited about that, but apparently he was misinformed, as was I. Not that it’s his fault, I should have researched further than the SAM website and not just assumed. So, mea culpa.

BUT! The soundsuits are still amazingly cool, and from what I’ve seen they look even cooler in motion when they’re being worn for parades or dancing or what have you than how they look just standing there in stasis in the museum. So hopefully there will be some of that tied in with the Seattle exhibit as well. Post updated to reflect which Nick Cave is which.

The Seattle Art Museum is slated to have an exhibit in March called Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth, which will feature Cave’s “Soundsuits.” What’s a soundsuit? Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either. We saw a few samples in the African Gallery when we were at SAM to check out the Picasso exhibit this weekend and they are craaaaazy, but in a good way. Here’s a description from the SAM website:

Nick Cave tailors suits that are sculpture, clothing characters that spring out of his imagination. Stately guardians preside in shaggy, day-glow pink hair; polar bears wear sweaters that stick out in humorous places; and dancers are adorned with white beaded filigree crowns. Suits like this have never been seen before. Partly this is due to his choice of improbable materials—buttons, plastic tabs, hot pads, metal flowers, sandwich bags, spinning tops and crocheted doilies—which are used to make visually fierce and impeccably detailed suits.

For more info on Nick Cave’s Soundsuits, including other Soundsuit exhibits and sightings, you can check out this website.

The exhibit runs March 10–June 5, 2011 — which, lucky for you, happily coincides with the Seattle International Film Festival, which runs May 19-June 12. And if you don’t come up to Seattle for our film festival, well, you are seriously missing out, because SIFF would be one of my favorite fests even if I didn’t live here and get to take advantage of all six glorious weeks of it (25 days of fest proper, plus three weeks of press screenings leading up to it). It’s a great time of year to be in Seattle, and now on top of the film fest you get to see some crazy, wonderful, imaginative soundsuits. Awesome.

MW on DVDs: Howl, Doctor Zhivago, Gone with the Wind, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, The Quintessential Guy Maddin

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW

Howl (Three Stars)

U. S.: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, 2010

Howl
is a film inspired by the great Beat poem by that great Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg — and if it‘s not a great Beat movie, then it‘s still a very good one, powerful and decent, and a passionate plea for the role of the artist in a sometimes destructive society.
(more…)

The DVD Wrap: Machete, Dinner for Schmucks, Easy A, Howl … and more

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Machete

In this insanely hyperactive action flick, Robert Rodriguez delivers on the promise made in the faux “Mexsploitation” trailer that accompanied Grindhouse. It would be folly to attempt any synopsis of Machete, except to recall that Danny Trejo’s character is a former Mexican federal agent, seeking to exact revenge on the American druglord (Steven Seagal) who is responsible for the deaths of his wife and child. Since he’s in Texas, anyway, though, Machete accepts a contract to assassinate a rabidly anti-immigration senator (Robert De Niro). In fact, the assignment is a set-up.

Ostensibly, Machete has as large a target on his back as the senator. Unlike some movie anti-heroes, however, Machete isn’t invincible. If it weren’t for the assistance of some hard-core Chicanas (Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez) and a small army of low-riding homeboys, the local rednecks might have chopped him up with his own machetes and served him for dinner at the next Minuteman banquet.

Some critics have suggested that the trailer was the movie, only shorter. That’s probably true for fair-weather fans of grindhouse nouveau, but, loyal followers of Rodriguez and Tarantino’s oeuvre will undoubtedly have a blast. The action is non-stop, thoroughly goofy and well over the top. Like most contemporary grindhouse epics, too, appearances by actors familiar from other genres add much diversionary fun.

Besides De Niro, Alba, Rodriguez and Segal, who hasn’t appeared in a theatrical picture in years, the cast includes Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Jeff Fahey and Rodriguez regulars Cheech Marin, Daryl Sabara, Tom Savini, Michael Parks and Rose McGowan. (Machete is co-directed by his fave editor, Ethan Maniquis.) It’s Trejo’s show, however, and his machetes of mass destruction are all one needs to recommend it. The only bonus feature of note is the deleted scenes.

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Dinner for Schmucks: Blu-ray

My limited knowledge of Yiddish slang precludes me from parsing the difference between “schmuck” and the more mundane, “moron,” at least for the purposes of this review. For as long as I can remember, the use of the word “schmuck” in mixed company was discouraged, if only because it also meant “penis.” Dinner for Schmucks was adapted from Francis Veber’s more subtle pleasure, The Dinner Game. In contemporary Hollywood, subtlety is for suckers.

The basic concept works for both pictures, though. A group of self-satisfied friends meet on regular basis for dinner. Each is required to bring a guest so insufferably pompous, maddeningly boorish or terminally stupid that he’s crowned that week’s prince of fools. This premise wouldn’t amount to much if, at some point in the movie, the fools didn’t turn the tables on their mean-spirited hosts, begging the question as to who’s the real schmuck. And, of course, this is exactly what happens.

Steve Carell has made a career playing these kinds of self-absorbed doofuses, and his nebbish IRS agent, Barry, is custom made for exhibition in the dinner game. Among other irritating habits, Barry collects dead mice for future use in historical dioramas. Paul Rudd plays Tim, an ambitious executive whose boss (Bruce Greenwood) demands he prove his mettle by participating in the game. Tim knows the hapless diorama maker is his ticket to promotion after running into him with his car while Barry’s picking up a dead mouse in the street. Little does Tim know how stiff the competition for the dunce cap will be.

Director Jay Roach doesn’t trust the material enough to forgo a clunky romantic contretemps between Tim and his spectacularly beautiful girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak). It provides more evidence of Barry’s clumsiness, but, otherwise, prolongs the wait for the dinner party. That said, Dinner for Schmucks is far more entertaining than other recent boys-will-boys comedies, all of which are founded on a stupidity contest of one form or another. Carell gets ample support from Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement and Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords), Lucy Punch and Ron Livingston. And, yes, the entertainment provided by the so-called schmucks is hilarious. The hi-def edition arrives with the featurettes, “The Biggest Schmucks in the World,” “The Men Behind the Mouseterpieces,” “Meet the Winners” and “Schmuck Ups,” as well as deleted scenes.

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Easy A: Blu-ray

In the absence of any better ideas, some screenwriters have found success by adapting classic works of literature for teenage audiences. Cruel Intentions was inspired by Les liaisons dangereuses; Emma begat Clueless; Shakespeare provided the fodder for Romeo+ Juliet, West Side Story, O, 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s the Man. Will Gluck’s wonderful teen rom-com, Easy A, was informed, at least, by The Scarlet Letter.

Rising superstar Emma Stone plays Olive, a hip, if little-noticed high school girl, who sees her life paralleling Hester Prynne’s in the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. East Ojai High School may be the only public school in America where virginity is still something to which boys and girls aspire. In an effort to avoid one embarrassing revelation, Olive inadvertently sparks a rumor that leads her fellow students to believe she’s promiscuous.

After accepting more than her fair share of undeserved humiliation, Olive decides to profit from the misconception. In return for money, she allows closeted gay kids and other dweebs to use her as a beard. Despite the windfall, the ruse complicates matters with the only boy she wants to impress. Stone delivers writer Bert V. Royal’s waspish dialogue with great moxie and sympathy for Olive. The other characters are allowed to get in some licks of their own, as well.

I’m far from being a teenager, but I think Easy A was one of the best films of 2010, regardless of genre, and Stone’s performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination. True Grit star Hailee Steinfeld may already have nailed down the spot annually allotted an actress playing a teen role, though. Here, Stone gets plenty of help from Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, as her bemused parents, hunky Penn Badgley, snarky Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow and Malcolm McDowell. The Blu-ray package adds a great deal of bonus material, including commentary with Gluck and Stone; a pop-up trivia quiz; BD-Live connectivity; a making-of documentary; gag reel; audition footage; and featurettes, “The School of Pop Culture: Movies of the ’80s” and “Vocabulary of Hilarity.”

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Howl

Allen Ginsberg’s great primal scream of a poem, Howl, is at the center of Rob Epstein and Jeff Friedman’s film of the same title. As epic poetry goes, Howl is a million times less cinematic than, say, Beowulf, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales or, even, The Cat in the Hat. The filmmakers, though, use the debut reading of the poem as a stepping stone to other aspects of Ginsberg’s amazing life.

First, they dramatize publisher and book-seller Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 1957 obscenity trial. We’re also introduced to fellow Beats muses, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, who played key roles in the development of the poem. James Franco portrays Ginsberg with an eerie specificity, as he alternately reads Howl before an audience and tells the story of his life and coming-out to an interviewer. Finally, for better or worse, the poem has been animated by art director Eric Drooker. (It could easily exist as a stand-alone short film.) That’s a lot of material to stuff into a 90-minute bag, but Epstein and Friedman manage to pull it off in nimble style.

In our collective memory of him, Ginsberg sometimes resembles a harmless hippie Santa Claus, still worshiped by the counterculture as a founding father and accepted by the mainstream as a symbol of America’s “tolerance” of oddballs and rebels. As Howl points out, however, Ginsberg and his poem were the furthest things from mainstream in the mid-1950s. The Beats represented repudiation of post-war complacency and conformity, and, along with Kerouac, Ginsberg was its most visible diplomat. He openly celebrated his homosexuality at a time when it was illegal in most states and feared by a majority of Americans.

Beats and beatniks were ridiculed in the media for their shaggy appearance and despised by philistines for their taste in everything from shoes (sandals) to music (be-bop). Howl captures all that and more in documentary-like fashion. Franco is nothing short of terrific and he gets excellent support from John Hamm, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels, David Straithairn, Alessandro Nivola, Treat Williams, Bob Balaban, Jon Prescott and Aaron Tveit. The bonus material adds several making-of featurettes and backgrounders, including a reading of Howl by a much older Ginsberg.

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Beautiful Kate

Apparently, Hollywood has a problem with incest. The negative reflex explains why it took nearly 30 years for Newton Thornburg’s perfectly adaptable novel, Beautiful Kate, to make the move from page to screen, and why it took an Aussie production company to make it. After Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown acquired the rights to the story, she moved it from Chicago to the “bush,” in Australia’s Flinder Ranges.

Its protagonist is a young writer, Ned, who’s been asked by his younger sister to return home to pay a final visit with his estranged father. Ned arrives in the company of a pretty bimbo, Toni, whose presence disturbs the uneasy calm enough to bring the family’s dysfunctional history back into focus. Through flashbacks, we learn of Ned’s illicit relationship with his sexually aggressive twin sister and how it resulted in a pair of tragic deaths. Even on his death bed, the old man is a brute. He minimizes everything in Ned’s life and blames him for the collapse of the family ranch. It opens wounds that never completely healed.

One of the most popular actors in Australia, Ward wrote and directed Beautiful Kate. By transferring the story to a remote outpost in the middle of nowhere, she was able to show how such isolation impacted on the lives of characters making the transition from childhood to sexual maturity surrounded by a herd of randy sheep. As twins, Ned and Kate already were closer than the average brother and sister, if only because their father’s ugly behavior forced them to take shelter in each other’s arms. To reveal any more would spoil too much of the movie’s surprises.

Ben Mendelsohn and Sophie Lowe are quite good as the star-crossed twins, as are Brown, Rachel Griffiths and Maeve Dermody in important roles. Ward shows great promise as a director of features. She succeeds in capturing the sense of desolation felt by the young characters, while also showcasing some of Australia’s great beauty. There are deleted scenes, interviews and background material.

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Ticking Clock: Blu-ray
Bitter Feast
Gun: Blu-ray
Haunting of Amelia

The new year brings with it a flood of direct-to-DVD titles that share a lust for blood and bizarre plot twists.

In Ticking Clock, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays an investigative reporter who specializes in exposing police ineptitude in murder cases. This doesn’t endear the writer to police when people around him start dropping like flies and he’s the most likely suspect. We know, of course, that the reporter didn’t commit any of the grotesque crimes, but become as suspicious as the police when the Gooding’s character argues that time-travel is the only logical way the real killer could have gone undetected for so long a time. It also explains how the reporter is the only person who can prevent even more murders. A word to the wise: mixing time-travel and mystery-solving only works when it involves Sherlock Holmes.

If you’ve ever wondered why more critics aren’t attacked by the victims of their snarky wordplay and harmful condemnations, Bitter Feast is the movie for you. James Le Gros plays a chef whose cuisine has been attacked unmercifully by a bitter food blogger and stands to lose his TV gig and restaurant because of the put-downs. In response, the chef kidnaps the writer and forces him to meet food challenges that would be simple, if it weren’t for the handcuffs and knife wounds. The worse the dishes are prepared, the more torture is inflicted on the writer. Look for celebrity chef Mario Batali in a brief performance.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Val Kilmer make a formidable team in Gun, an extremely loud shoot-em-up set in Detroit. Jackson plays a thuggish gangsta’ out to control the illicit gun trade in the upper Midwest, while Kilmer is an ex-con looking for payback in the death of his wife. Director Jerry Terrero nicely captures the icy Rust Belt setting and the results of unharnessed fire power. Jackson’s story breaks little new territory, but moves along snappily. Less convincing is the thug’s boss, a sexy blond improbably portrayed by 23-year-old AnnaLynne McCord. To the directors go the spoils.

Haunting of Amelia (a.k.a., The Other Side of the Tracks) is a supernatural romance that can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be scary or sentimental. As such, it more closely resembles a Halloween special on the Lifetime network than a full-blown mystery or horror flick.

Ten years after a tragic train accident killed his girlfriend, restaurant employee Josh (Brendan Fehr) suddenly finds himself surrounded by people from his past. The anniversary of the accident coincides with a school reunion, so at least one of the appearances can be explained. The other visitor, an attractive brunette 10 years younger than Josh, takes a few more seconds to figure out. Haunting of Amelia benefits mostly from its woodsy Connecticut setting.

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Case 39

The always-welcome Renée Zellweger plays a social worker, Emily, assigned to the case of a little girl who was brutalized by her psycho stepparents. Too traumatized by the experience for another placement, the kid, Lilith (Jodelle Ferland), begs Emily to assume the role of foster mom. Predictably, little Lilith then begins to exhibit the same sorts of traits that might have caused her former guardians to stick her into an oven and turn on the gas.

Case 39 looks good, but, apart from some hideous deaths, there’s nothing really new here. Zellweger is joined by such fine actors as Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Cynthia Stevenson and Callum Rennie. The package includes 18 deleted scenes and featurettes on the special visual effects.

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Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season
Mannix: The Fourth Season

There’s thin pickin’s on the TV-to-DVD front this week. HBO sends out the fourth-season package of Big Love, during which Bill saved his son from bird-smuggling Mormon kidnappers, got deeper involved with casino intrigue and ran for political office. The polygamist’s decision to out himself in public causes much tension among the wives and prompts them to think and act for themselves, for once. The new season starts this month.

As played by Mike Connors (born, Krekor Ohanian), Armenian-American P.I. Joe Mannix was one of the most popular crimefighters in television history. This might have had something to do with the fact that he seemed like an average Joe, drove hot cars and got beat up a lot. His pretty African-American assistant, Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher), also is frequently put into harm’s way. The new set represents the fourth season in an eight-year run on CBS.

Behind Exhibs’ Dinner-And-A-Show Movie Push

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Behind Exhibs’ Dinner-And-A-Show Movie Push

Universal’s Lawsuit Over Re-Selling Promo CDs Struck Down

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Universal’s Lawsuit Over Re-Selling Promo CDs Struck Down

PGA-Nom’d Black Swan Producer Sells New Indie Sauce

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

“Get everybody to work for free.”
PGA-Nom’d Black Swan Producer Sells New Indie Sauce