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'Hurt Locker' Controversy: Why is the Military Upset about the Movie?

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Lockerpic

I was shocked — and I mean shocked — to discover today that there are some members of the military who think that "The Hurt Locker" is "Hollywood hokum," as my colleagues put it in a smartly detailed front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.

According to our dispatch, some people in the military are impressed by the film, starting with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who called it "authentic" and "very compelling." And then there are a number of active soldiers and veterans who have scoffed at its portrayal of the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, with one EOD team leader saying the film has "too much John Wayne and cowboy stuff."

Why do some members of the military think the film stretches the truth a little? Well, the easy response is this: What Hollywood film doesn't stretch the truth? Movies are dramas, not documentaries, and drama is always full of heightened reality, which is a fancy way of saying that movies are always crammed with invented action used to build tension and conflict. It's why the first people to criticize a film's authenticity are usually the people who've actually done the job or known the real person portrayed in the film.

A host of previous films portraying the military, dating back to "Platoon," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter, to name but a few, were all criticized in one way or another by former soldiers, who were the closest to the films' events and the most sensitive to seeing the grit of war softened or theatricalized by dramatic license. But the military is hardly alone.

Nearly every film about the civil rights movement was criticized by the people involved in the movement for inaccuracies, big and small. College basketball coaches hoot at the way coaches are portrayed in college basketball movies. Doctors roll their eyes at the way medicine is practiced in Hollywood medical dramas. And, of course, journalists are especially quick to take offense at the way their profession is portrayed in the movies, most recently in "State of Play," which took a drubbing for its fanciful portrayal of high-powered investigative reporting.

In case you've forgotten, "A Beautiful Mind" won an Oscar for best picture — despite the fact that it was roundly lambasted by people who knew math genius John Nash — for all sorts of imagined or invented scenes. And "The Hurricane," a biopic about the boxer Rubin (Hurricane) Carter was met with a hailstorm of invective by boxing writers and other journalists who were appalled by its historical evasions and factual inaccuracies.

So it's no surprise that the people closest to the events in "The Hurt Locker" are the ones most likely to be troubled by its sensationalization of real events. What seems to bother some people in the military the most isn't so much the film's gloomy view of the Iraq war, but rather the way its lead character is portrayed as a renegade and a loose cannon, not a quiet professional. But of course, that's the core nature of moviemaking. Hollywood filmmakers are drawn to non-conformists, not solid citizens. The free spirits and wild childs are the people we identify with and pay our money to see, not the people who play by the rules.

So I say let's not be so hard on "Hurt Locker." Its hero is an unbelievably brave, nerves-of-steel guy, but he's also simply the latest in the long line of mavericks who've populated our best movies. If I were Kathryn Bigelow, when a "Hurt Locker" critic says the movie is full of too much John Wayne stuff, I'd take it as a compliment. 

Photo: Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker." Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

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Categories: MOVIES, NEWS STORY

"The Dude" on Jeff Bridges: A Unique American Icon

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Jeff Dowd on Jeff Bridges: A unique American icon

February 26, 2010 |  5:58 pm
Bridges

Jeff Dowd is an indie film producer and promoter who is known to one and all as the Dude, having served in large part as the inspiration for Jeff Bridges’ immortal Dude character in the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski.” Dowd is always brimming with crazy ideas, political rants and is impossible to get off the phone once he gets up a full head of steam. As Roger Ebert once put it, Dowd is “tall, large and shaggy and a boil of enthusiasm.”

So when he checked in the other day, asking if he could offer a tribute to the great acting work Bridges has done over the years, I knew better than to say no. After all, pretty much wherever I go, I find Bridges fans of all stripes and sizes. When I was yakking the other day with Long Beach Press-Telegram basketball writer Frank Burlison, who’s my guru when it comes to high school basketball, just the mention of Bridges’ name sent Frank off on a 20-minute Cicero-style oration on the glories of the actor’s work over the year.

Since Bridges has been so refreshingly modest about his own craft, I thought it only fair to turn the microphone over to Mr. Dowd, who has a pretty intriguing take on what make Bridges such an unique acting talent and righteous human being. As Dowd says in his piece, Bridges has become an American icon who “fulfills the sacred function of the artist, saint, jester and the Holy Fool: helping us see through the illusions of the world.” In other words, a major dude indeed.

But don’t take my word — read what Dowd has to say for yourself:  

“I used to be somebody, now I’m somebody else” is a self-pitying lament from Bad Blake, the washed-up country singer who struggles to find his heart and soul, exquisitely portrayed by Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart.”

For movie-goers, who have been cinematically blessed watching Jeff Bridges for nearly four decades in 65 movies, “I used to be somebody, now I’m somebody else” is a reminder of how Jeff Bridges has fully inhabited such a wide array of characters and authentically captured their essence with a full palette of shades from light to dark. Bridges has taken us through a mosaic of perspectives of the uniquely American experience.

After four Academy Award nominations, it looks like Jeff Bridges may finally be singing late into the night with his new friend Oscar. Critical acclaim has been unanimous. Awards for his outstanding performance like the best actor award from his peers in the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globe have been rolling down Bridges’ lane faster than bowling balls. Yet there’s something about the appeal of Jeff Bridges and the characters he creates which goes deeper than his engaging performances, good looks, charm, humor, heart, brains and acting chops. That was the mystery that I may have stumbled into figuring out with a little help from my friends. Let’s flashback.

I vividly remember the first time I encountered Jeff Bridges in his big screen debut in “The Last Picture Show,” adapted from Larry McMurtry’s small Texas town classic American book by director Peter Bogdanovich. Bridges was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his measured portrayal of Duane Jackson.  It was the first time that Jeff didn’t come home with an Oscar — it was awarded to fellow cast member Ben Johnson for playing “Sam the Lion,” the mythological local Yoda Texan of his day. “Last Picture Show” was the first of many movies with Bridges that shed cinematic light on forever-changing America. 

A new generation of directors recognized Jeff Bridges could shape-shift into exceptional characters while creating iconic Americans the same way directors Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, John Ford and Preston Sturges did in their time with the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Joel McCrea, Henry Fonda and John Wayne–fellows who you could have a drink with and come away with something.

On Duane’s final night in Anarene, Texas, before he heads off for the Korean War, his buddy Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) takes him to the last picture show at the Royal Theatre, which is going out of business. The next morning, Duane dresses in his Army uniform, hands the car keys to his prized Mercury coupe over to Sonny. “Take care of her until I get back,” he says as he is about to get on the Trailways bus and innocently ship out to war.  Duane’s last line is “See you in a year or two if I don’t get shot.” 

When asked which of the great characters he has played people like most, Bridges exhales a laugh in B flat and exclaims “The Dude of course!” The curious nature of  “Lebowski’s” laid-back Dude becoming so beloved is what gave me a clue to solve the mystery of a deeper connection Jeff was making with people.

Up until 1998 I was moved and entertained by Jeff Bridge’s performances like everyone else. Then I got a phone call. Even though Jeff Bridges and I were both born only two weeks apart in California, it was Joel and Ethan Coen who mischievously crossed our stars while mixing up their “Dude … or His Dudeness … Duder … or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing…” creating an unforeseen stellar Dude cocktail which somehow would continue to burn beyond anyone’s imagination fueled by comedy as highly combustible as silver nitrate in film stock.

The Coens were making “The Big Lebowski” with John Goodman and Jeff Bridges.  But I didn’t know who was going to play my persona “The Dude.” Size-wise I’m on the cusp — it could go either way. If it was John Goodman I feared that Joel and Ethan would be taking fully loaded satirical pot shots at some Hollywood wacko. I’m a big and easy target. But I felt reassured when I learned it was Jeff Bridges who was going to play “The Dude,” because he always gets to the soul of a character — so figuring in two heaping spoonfuls of Joel and Ethan Coen’s cynicism and two slices of wry humor with Jeff at the wheel I might get lucky and be portrayed sympathetically as a fun, likable fool, not a total fool (I’m on the cusp on that one too).

The Dude in “The Big Lebowski” is not my story, it is Joel and Ethan taking a lot of of liberty with Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain’s Los Angeles crime dramas, which they fashioned into a buddies movie where most everything goes wrong while pumping the film full of laughing gas and an occasional acid trip. What remains of me that even my  friends were impressed and amused by was how Jeff Bridges’ Dude captured my body language, camaraderie, rebellious spirit, hang-loose style, mumbled ironic opinions and even my recurring flying dream. Joel and Ethan, who enjoy stacking the deck against their characters, chose to pan past my active real life and have more fun making the Dude an ill-prepared burnt-out slacker: “Quite possibly the laziest [man] in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.” How and why did this laid-back Dude become so admired and respected?

Even though Bridges had been doing it on screen for decades, when spending time on the set o
f “The Big Lebowski” I saw how Jeff was always as much of a supporting actor as a supported actor. Bridges’ down-home professionalism and desire and ability to connect with other great character actors like John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman are what make so many scenes in “The Big Lebowski” enjoyable to watch again and again even if you don’t watch the whole movie — you can watch a scene or sequence and get all the laughs you need for the day. That’s one reason it has become the default pop in and out movie of choice on many team and band buses and planes and a fun and familiar rest stop for weary channel surfers.

While doing shows, speaking and hanging out I have met a very diverse group of people who have shared with me a multitude of reasons why they like “The Big Lebowski.” But what I couldn’t figure out for a long time is all the folks who say to me “Dude. You are an inspiration. You changed my life,” of course by “You” they mean Jeff Bridges’ doppelganger Dude in the movie. But I wondered what it was in the Dude, a former activist who has become a pot smoking bowling slacker — not exactly an inspiring role model — that appeals to not only college students but professionals of all ages, soldiers and families. 

Much of that can be attributed to Bridges’ performance. Yet when I inquire, the answer goes beyond that and they lionize the Dude: “The Dude isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. He’s his own man.”   In a world where so many of us are muzzled at home, school or work — we appreciate the Dude “looking out for all us sinners,” as Sam Elliott’s cowboy says in the film.

It probably all starts with the mystery of Jeff Bridges and his deeper appeal. He has often played an everyman up against all odds “helping us see through the illusions of our world” — holy fools, who enlighten us frequently while tickling our funny bones. For decades Bridges has been an ever-changing mythological all-American Holy Fool fulfilling the role for us that every culture in history has created because we need those folks around to make sense of our world and our brief time upon it.

If we give the body of Jeff Bridges’ work the old Martian or “E.T.” test — what would a space alien’s impression be of America and its people be if they only watched Jeff Bridges movies? —  I think it would be a helluva a portrait: emotionally deep, textured, complex and ironic, often burning a mythological flame beneath. The body of Jeff Bridges’ America is broad and diverse as well as wonderfully specific in the characters he has played and the world they live in. We may not be at all like most of the characters but what they need, how they discover and attain it has universal appeal.

Bridges captured the transitional spirit of the ’70s in films like John Huston’s “Fat City,” the whimsical “Rancho Deluxe” and “Hearts of the West,” “Stay Hungry” and the conspiratorial “Winter Kills” with John Huston playing Bridges’ all big business father in a cautionary tale about the danger of healthcare conglomerates made three decades ago. In 1980s Bridges broad range went from dark in “Cutter’s Way” to light in his lovable “Starman.” Jeff, his brother Beau and Michelle Pfeiffer were intimate, delightful  and delicious in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.”

In the last decade of the 20th century, Bridges contends with Robin Williams’ Holy Fool in Terry Gilliam’s wild and extraordinary “The Fisher King,” does some of the best acting of his career in Peter Weir’s “Fearless” and gets a lot of laughs in “The Big Lebowski” while telling it like it is. In the new millennium he has played a president in “The Contender,” Kevin Spacey’s shrink in “K-Pax” and “Seabiscuit’s” dedicated owner, who helps the equine hero restore hope to America during the Great Depression. “Crazy Heart” ties the room together with Jeff’s nuanced and powerful performance, which Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan calls “the capstone role of his career.” Even if you are turned off by hard-drinking country musicians, don’t miss Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart,” which will fire up your heart and soul.

I believe that what goes around comes around, and after supporting so many others I think Oscar may be coming back around your way, Dude! I can’t help but wonder how much Jeff’s stable relations, starting with his parents and brother and continuing with his wife Susan, have to do with his friendly nature, success and, dare I say, happiness. I can reflect on Bob Dylan’s lyrics from “The Man in Me” that the extraordinary songwriter, singer, producer and music supervisor T Bone Burnett chose to put in “The Big Lebowski”:

 “Take a woman like you, to find the man in me. But, oh, what a wonderful feeling “

Jeff Bridges has become an American icon who has played unique characters in film after film which probe deep into the American psyche and condition. He fulfills the sacred function of the artist, saint, jester and the Holy Fool: helping us see through the illusions of the world. Jeff Bridges has helped us remember and realize that all the great things about life and its cast of characters and his films empower us with enough emotional fuel to take on yet another challenging day.

Here’s Bridges himself, singing “The Weary Kind”:

 

Photo of Jeff Bridges by Lorey Sebastian / Fox Searchlight

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Categories: ACTORS, INTERVIEWS

Trailer – 'How to Train Your Dragon' in HD

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

The animation looks FANTASTIC. Seriously how much more realistic can it get. I like the story, dragons are like puppies, just scratch them behind the ear and they love you. Can’t wait to take the little ones, they will love it…

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Categories: MOVIES

Kevin Smith on the Media's Coverage of 'Fatgate'

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Kevin Smith

February 24, 2010 | 12:30 pm

Smith

Kevin Smith has a big mouth and he knows it. When he got bounced off a Southwest Airlines flight for allegedly being too fat earlier this month, he quickly spread the news, via Twitter, complaining about the unfair treatment he felt that he’d received from the airline. And when the media treated the story as something of a lighthearted farce, the beefy 39-year-old filmmaker was soon loudly assailing the media for its snarky take on the whole event.

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Smith’s propensity to shoot from the hip has also gotten him in hot water in Hollywood. Years before Warners Picture Group President Jeff Robinov hired Smith to direct “Cop Out,” the new Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan buddy comedy that opens Friday, Smith had gone out of his way to insult the studio chief after they’d had a disastrous pitch meeting.

“I don’t even remember why things went so horribly — it was just like a bad first date,” Smith told me Tuesday, punctuating virtually every anecdote in our hourlong conversation with bursts of colorfully profane language. “Afterwards, I wrote somewhere that he was a balding studio clock puncher, which kinda’ cooled our relationship for a while.”

It turns out that Robinov managed to get over the insult. When Smith was at Comic-Con a couple of years ago, promoting his film “Zak and Miri Make a Porno,” Robinov happened to see the filmmaker when he was on a panel with such hotshot directors as Judd Apatow and Zack Snyder. “They’d all made movies that had made tons more money than any of mine, but Comic-Con was my home ice,” Smith recalls. “When I came on, everyone went crazy. They were my peeps. I guess Robinov was impressed, ’cause afterward he called to set up a meeting.”

Smith was still a little nervous when he showed up on the Warners lot, but Robinov put him at ease by saying, as Smith recalls, “When I leave this job, what I really want to do is produce your talk show.” Not long afterward, Robinov sent Smith the “Cop Out” script, then known by its original title, “A Couple of Dicks.” Smith loved the script, written by the brothers Robb and Mark Cullen, which felt like a throwback to the kind of buddy pictures Smith’s dad had taken him to see as a kid in New Jersey.

“I called Robinov back and told him it was funny, but I still didn’t realize why he’d sent it to me. I said, ‘What’s the deal? Do you want me to do a cameo as Dave the fat guy? If you want me to rewrite it, I ain’t buying, because it’s already really good.’ Finally, Jeff said, ‘It’s funny that you’ve made six guesses and you haven’t guessed director yet.’ It really floored me, because I’d never read anyone else’s script with an eye on directing. I always do my own stuff.”

But Smith realized that the raucous, R-rated buddy comedy was right in his wheelhouse. “It finally clicked — this is ‘Clerks’ with cops. Just two dudes hanging around, talking to each other, with the tent-pole action sequences thrown in to make some more money. It really reminded me of ‘Fletch,’ one of my favorite Michael Ritchie movies, where it was just a funny guy talking, along with the car chases. I finally went, ‘Hey, if there’s one thing I am trained to do, it’s shoot people talking a lot.’ ”

Smith is one of the pillars of the indie film world, having written and directed such quirky (and yes, talky) low-budget films as “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma.” But his career had been sputtering from a lack of inspiration in recent years, with “Jersey Girl” and “Zack and Miri” being disappointments, both with critics and at the box office. So he was ready to be a director for hire.

“A movie like ‘Fletch’ was a real role model for me,” he says. “It won’t cure brain cancer, but it goes down smooth, like a good milkshake. For years, I kept making movies that were like medicine. And finally, 15 years into my career, after ‘Zack and Miri’ collapsed at the box office, I realized I was spinning my wheels. I couldn’t write anything, I guess because I felt I didn’t have anything new to say. I mean, you have to write about your life, but what was I gonna write? That some fat guy’s movie tanked? I’m too happy now. If I’m not drawing from pain, and all I have is the rich man’s pain of privilege, then I had to find something new to do. I was staring at 40 and I was just ready to grow up.”

Smith also realized that it was getting more difficult than ever to find money for personal films. “The specialty film world is dead and dying like Krypton and I figured that I had to throw myself into the rocket and blast off the planet to survive. Steven Soderbergh had already done the hard work, showing the studio guys that these indie filmmakers could shoot good movies. And I have to say I was impressed by Robinov. I was only half right when I called him a bald clock puncher. He’s smart and really works his ass off.”

How did Smith get along with the notoriously prickly Bruce Willis? And what really bugs him about the media coverage of his dust-up with Southwest? Keep reading:

It is Robinov who has masterminded the Warners creative formula of pairing cutting-edge filmmakers with mainstream material, resulting in such successes as Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” and Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” as well as clunkers like the Wachowski brothers’ “Speed Racer.” It turns out that “Cop Out” had a complicated history. The script had originally been set up at another company with Robin Williams and James Gandolfini attached to star. When that combination fell apart, Warners picked up the script, hoping to team Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, with “The Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin at the helm.

But salary disputes and debates over the R rating caused a split, with the actors heading off to make an entirely different buddy picture called “The Other Guys,” scheduled to come out this summer from Sony. When Smith came on board, he inherited a movie budgeted at $75 million without any stars. One day the film’s producer, Mark Platt, called to ask what he thought of Bruce Willis. Smith responded with a string of unprintable expletives that he says represented a sign of great joy. Soon afterward, Tracy Morgan hopped on board. Once Smith persuaded the studio to let him make what he calls “his parents’  kind” of R-rated movie, which he describes as “one with some bad language, but not a lot of tasteless [oral sex] jokes,” the project had a new head of steam.

“We all took pay cuts to keep it R-rated, which with me meant I gave up 80% of my salary, but it was worth it,” he says, explaining that, thanks to some tax rebates, the movie cost roughly $37 million to make. He certainly wasn’t worried about his actors having good chemistry, always a key ingredient with a buddy picture. “Tracy just oozes chemistry,” he says with a hearty laugh. “He could have chemistry with a ceramic ashtray. Bruce loved him. He kept calling him kid, even though Tracy’s over 40, so there’s not really that big an age difference. But I think calling him kid meant Bruce liked him.”

Smith insists that he didn’t have any problems communicating with Willis, at least once he realized that Willis wasn’t going to do anything that he felt was out of his comfort zone. Smith illustrates the issue with an unbelievably raunchy metaphor involving a detailed description of oral sex, then teasingly said, “Try and get that into your old-media story.” I asked him if he could offer a PG-13 version of the story.

“Put it this way,” he said. “On the first day of shooting, I started to mess with Bruce, trying to get him to do something crazy, and he took out his gun and went bang — and shot me in the head. His point was pretty obvious. He’s done this part so many times that he knows what works and what doesn’t. He’s the caretaker of the Bruce Willis persona. He’s been a star for 25 years while most of his peers have fallen by the wayside, so he knows what works for his image. Basically, we all tried to make him laugh, figuring if we got Bruce just to smile once we’ve have something to tell our kids about.”

It would probably be fair to say that, judging from the rough, sometimes insulting treatment Smith got in the media after the Southwest Airlines debacle, that the filmmaker has a lot to learn about the care and feeding of his own image. Most people who were bumped from a flight for supposedly being too fat would’ve kept the incident to themselves. But not Smith, who went after Southwest with a vengeance, first on Twitter, then on his website, which has been filled with a host of heated diatribes directed at the airline.

Smith basically makes two points about the whole imbroglio: He was treated unfairly and he had every right to shout about it from the rooftops. “Look at the pictures of me at the ‘Cop Out’ premiere last night and tell me — is that dude really too fat to fly?” he says, though I’ve excised a couple of choice profanities. “Does that dude really need two seats? Southwest just messed up and then they sold the lie that I was too fat to fly to support a policy that’s unfair in a million different ways.”

What really ticked Smith off was the media reaction, which he thought was snarky, self-righteous and lazy, in the sense that nearly every story simply went for the jokes and the outrage, but only offered the most cursory examination of the airline’s actual policies. Having read all too many of the stories myself, I can’t say it was the media’s finest hour, though I suspect that most reporters felt that if Smith was treating the whole affair with broad humor, why shouldn’t they do the same.

Still, Smith remained incensed. “They’re really pathetic,” he says, punctuating his rant with even more expletives. “It really sickened me that after all the years I’ve been so open with the press that they didn’t bother to dig at all. I was unfairly bounced and discriminated against, but they never bothered to tell that story. They just went with the easy fat jokes. Every TV show imaginable asked me to go on, from Oprah to Larry King, but I turned them all down because I didn’t want to turn into Octomom. I told the Warners marketers — don’t put me in front of the cameras at the junket because you’re just gonna get four minutes of a guy screaming about an … airline.”

Smith is especially peeved at all the media people who believe that he brought this whole thing down on himself by incessantly tweeting about it instead of keeping his mouth shut. “That shows you how much the old media knows about today’s universe,” he says. “In the world of social media, where everyone has a cellphone camera, this was gonna get out whether I wanted it to or not. So I’m not letting anyone tell the story but me. Once the airline started lying, I did what any good comedian would do — use comedy to soothe my pain.”

Smith paused for a rare moment of reflection amid his no-stop rants. “I grew up fat, so I know that you have to stick up for yourself because I know that you’re gonna get called a fat guy whether you like it or not. So when you’ve been wronged, you have to speak out. It’s like asking someone whose been assaulted or raped — why’d you say something about it? It’s basically self-defense. I have to say that the whole situation sickened me. All I saw was hatred and snarkiness and cynicism.”

Fortunately, he’s had a happy experience making his first studio movie. “I’d do another one in a heartbeat,” he says. “It’s just a popcorner. I mean, no one’s gonna ask, ‘What’s the message of ‘Cop Out’? But we had a lot of fun. The studio gave us the box and all the dimensions and we found a way to fit all the good stuff in the box without breaking it, Who could ask for more?”

Photo of Kevin Smith by Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

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Categories: CREW, INTERVIEWS

Trailer – Jaden Smith fights in the 'The Karate Kid'

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment
February 24, 2010 |  7:00 am

Karatekid2

The 1984 teen film “The Karate Kid” told the story of a dorky outcast, played by Ralph Macchio, who was taught the sacred art of karate by the wise Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita) in order to defend himself against school bullies.

The film has since become such a cultural staple that when Sony announced it was remaking the movie, some skeptics wondered if a reboot could taint the original. The new film, which comes out in June, stars Jaden Smith (who also happens to be Will Smith’s son, who also happens to a producer on the movie).

Smith plays Dre Parker, a young boy whose childhood is disrupted when his mother (Taraji P. Henson) takes a job in China. After moving from the United States, Dre — like Ralph Macchio before him — is teased by schoolkids and seeks solace in a friendship with an older martial artist, here known as Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who teaches him the ways of kung fu against the backdrop of the Great Wall and other Chinese landmarks.

Jaden’s 11, and he’s kind of adorable. But he’s also really little — so little we’re skeptical about buying him as a newly minted martial-arts hero. Boyish is one thing; child-like is another.

So we went back and watched the trailer for the original and got a little bit nostalgic. Macchio, with his poofy ’80s hair and cut-off T-shirts, exudes just the right amount of cheese so the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. And the entire spectacle is grounded by Morita, who oozes a sage wisdom we’re not sure, at least judging by the trailer, that action star Jackie Chan will be able to pull off.

Will Jaden prove to be as big a box-office draw as his famous dad? Is there any way the remake will be able to live up to the landmark original? Share your thoughts in our poll.

— Amy Kaufman

Photo: Jaden Smith stars in “The Karate Kid.” Credit: Columbia Pictures

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Categories: TRAILERS

LA to Film Crews: Come Home to Film

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

LA to film crews: come home

February 24, 2010 |  9:00 am
Marketing

Hollywood has never been shy about self-promotion, except when it comes to touting its own backyard.

New York touts a “Made in N.Y.” program featuring local film and TV production crew members who share their work experience in the city.

Los Angeles, however, has been low key — some would say complacent — when it comes to singing the praises of filming close to home at a time when rivals beyond California’s borders are grabbing a bigger share of the production pie.

Now, a coalition of industry, labor and city officials wants to remedy the situation by launching a broad-based public education campaign that would herald the economic benefits of the film industry to Los Angeles — while thanking local residents for putting up with the occasional inconvenience of crews in their neighborhoods.

The details are still being worked out, but the marketing blitz, expected to be unveiled by April, would likely feature ads on billboards and bus benches, as well as public service announcements on radio and TV, and even in local movie theaters. Expect to see production trucks plastered with banners trumpeting how many jobs were created on a given show.

“With so much competition, L.A. and the region has to really step up and make the community aware of the value of our industry, and how many people earn their living from it,” said Pamm Fair, who chairs FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit film permitting clearinghouse that is spearheading the campaign. “We need to do everything we can to keep jobs here.”

The idea of selling L.A. as a filming destination isn’t new. In fact, city officials and film promoters have talked for several years about launching such a campaign, but it never took off.

Pressure to do something, however, has mounted as the region has lost thousands of production jobs to other locales, sapping an industry that still generates an estimated 250,000 jobs in Los Angeles County.

Although California’s new film incentives have helped to slow the decline, on-location filming last year suffered its steepest drop since tracking began in 1993, reflecting a long-term flight of filming not only to international rivals such as Toronto and Vancouver, but also to Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico.

The state’s share of U.S. feature film production plunged to 31% in 2008, down from 66% in 2003, according to the California Film Commission. And only 57% of all TV pilots were shot in L.A. in 2009, down from 81% in 2004, according to FilmL.A.

Cinematographer Ed Gutentag, who recently launched a website called shootmoviesincalifornia.com devoted to keeping film projects in-state, says a campaign to promote local production is critical.

“People need to be made aware of this before it’s too late,” said Gutentag, who is filming a documentary about the effects of runaway production on local crews. “This is a critical issue, not just for grips, electricians and camera operators, but all the businesses that service the industry.”

FilmL.A. will contribute about $25,000 to help the campaign get set up with a slogan and logo, but the goal is for much of the overall cost — estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — to be borne through donated services provided by film editors, producers, local talent and vendors. A theater chain has agreed to provide free use of its trailers at local theaters. Hollywood’s major unions also will be asked to pitch in, while the city is expected to offer use of its space for ads.

The city is considering expanding FilmL.A.’s marketing role, among other steps to help the film industry, such as offering free parking on city properties to film crews.

The nonprofit group handles film permits on behalf of the city and unincorporated areas of the county. Its predecessor, the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., previously played a larger role in marketing and promotion of the local industry, but that function was scaled back after a scandal forced the ouster of former chief Cody Cluff in 2004.

The fallout prompted a series of changes to improve oversight and management, including establishing independent audits and a board run by industry, labor and neighborhood representatives, rather than politicians.

-Richard Verrier

Posted via web from MovieDriver – Hollywood Teamster

Categories: CREW, PRODUCTION

Trailer – 'Brooklyn's Finest' Opens March 5th

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

In the course of one chaotic week, the lives of three conflicted New York City police officers are dramatically transformed by their involvement in a massive drug operation in Brooklyn’s Finest, a searing new crime drama from acclaimed director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day).

Burned out veteran Eddie Dugan (Golden Globe®-winner Richard Gere) is just one week away from his pension and a fishing cabin in Connecticut. Narcotics officer Sal Procida (Oscar® nominee Ethan Hawke) has discovered there’s no line he won’t cross to provide a better life for his long-suffering wife and seven children. And Clarence “Tango” Butler (Oscar® nominee Don Cheadle) has been undercover so long his loyalties have started to shift from his fellow police officers to his prison buddy Caz (Wesley Snipes), one of Brooklyn’s most infamous drug dealers. With personal and work pressures bearing down on them, each man faces daily tests of judgment and honor in one of the world’s most difficult jobs.

When NYPD’s Operation Clean Up targets the notoriously drug-ridden BK housing project, all three officers find themselves swept away by the violence and corruption of Brooklyn’s gritty 65th Precinct and its most treacherous criminals. During seven fateful days, Eddie, Sal and Tango find themselves hurtling inextricably toward the same fatal crime scene and a shattering collision with destiny.

The film captures the volatile and deadly world of one of New York’s most dangerous precincts through the eyes of the men and women pledged to protect and serve, as they face the wrenching choices that make them Brooklyn’s Finest.

Posted via web from MovieDriver – Hollywood Teamster

Categories: TRAILERS