Friday, August 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 9:24 AM
Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush check for a pulse, from "The Giver."

In The Giver, the big screen adaptation of Lois Lowry’s mega-selling children’s novel (opening weekend box office: not so mega), it’s all about “sameness:” uniform houses, clothes, bikes -- and jobs picked for the children by a community of elders. You’re assigned a task, and you stick with it. For life.

Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush -- he from Australia, she from Israel, and now living in L.A. – went through months of audition agony before they were told they had landed their respective roles as hero and heroine of the artfully staged Philip Noyce-directed feature. Thwaites, 25, figured he was too old to play a teenager. Rush, 17, lost confidence with every call-back.  But there they are, as Jonas and Fiona, on billboards and bus shelters around the country in the company of The Giver’s big-star elders, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.

On a swing through Philadelphia just before the Weinstein Company release opened, Thwaites (toting his Qantas Airlines-stickered guitar case) and Rush talked about their fledgling careers, and their first paid jobs.


Curb Your Enthusiasm Mr. Softee scene from Gary Craig on Vimeo.

POSTED: Thursday, August 14, 2014, 7:20 AM
Ben Stiller and Robin Williams in "Night At the Museum: Secret of the Tomb."

Robin Williams, the manic comedy genius whose ricocheting riffs rocketed him to stardom in concert halls, on TV and film, had completed work on four as-yet-unreleased films before his death, Monday, at age 63, an apparent suicide. The varied group of projects -- a  somber indie, a giant franchise installment, a kooky British comedy fantasy and a Yuletide-themed fractured family romp -- will all find their way to theaters and other platforms in the coming months.

Like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Walker and James Gandolfini, who left audiences with new material to consider months after their unexpected deaths, Williams’ posthumous output is considerable. His performances will be popping up onscreen into 2015, reminding audiences of his talent -- but, inevitably, of his absence, too.

Here’s what’s coming:

POSTED: Thursday, August 7, 2014, 7:08 AM
Photo via Fox Searchlight.

Yes, it’s been a pretty good year so far at the movies, from indie hits like Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel, to the Marvel blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Y.A. weepie The Fault In Our Stars. But there've been long stretches of assembly-line franchises, flat-footed dramas and flaccid comedies inbetween. 2014, not exactly film-going heaven.

Just wait for the fall. The lineup of big stars/big directors features angling for awards season attention include titles that have already wowed audiences in Cannes, and others slated to premiere at the Venice, Toronto and New York festivals in September and October. The buzz is especially buzzing for the following five:

BIRDMAN  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel) directs Michael Keaton in the tale of an actor, once famous for his portrayal of an iconic superhero (hmmm, Keaton, Batman, sound familiar?), struggling to bring a stage adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story to Broadway. Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis are in on the action.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 2:39 PM
“I’ll test my log with every branch of knowledge." -- David Lynch

David Lynch, whose deeply influential, deeply disturbing first feature, 1977’s midnight movie cult hit Eraserhead, was inspired by the filmmaker’s time living in Philadelphia, returns in September as the subject of a career retrospective at his art school alma mater, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

But before Lynch -- who lives and works in Los Angeles, making movies, paintings, sculpture, music and coffee (he has his own eponymous brand – you can buy the beans online) -- mingles with the crowd at PAFA’s Sept. 12 opening gala, he’ll sit down for a chat with the Philadelphia Film Society. On Wednesday, Sept. 10, the white-maned, chain-smoking renaissance man will be interviewed onstage at the Prince Music Theater, where he will no doubt recall his days walking,  biking, and driving around the City of Brotherly Love – in its less brotherly and loving days. (Lynch’s first Philly address was at 13th and Wood, right by the old police morgue.) Immediately following the talk -- with Lynch’s friend, the Los Angeles journalist Kristine McKenna -- PFS will present his 1997 noir thriller, Lost Highway. The PFS “David Lynch Revisited” series kicks off Sept. 3 with Eraserhead, and will insinuate itself into the Philadelphia Film Festival’s October programming, too. Other titles to be shown include Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992),  Inland Empire (2006),  Elephant Man (1980 -- a free outdoor screening), Blue Velvet (1986)  and Mulholland Drive (2001) .

For a complete schedule, and for time, ticket and theater info, click here, or go to the PFS  Roxy Theater Box Office, 2023 Sansom Street, Philadelphia PA, 19103. Unless otherwise noted, all films will take place at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 7:29 AM
James Garner. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Although James Garner, who died Saturday, age 86, is probably best remembered for his TV work -- for his sly, signature roles as a cowboy cardsharp in the late '50s western, Maverick, and as Jim Rockford, the gun-shy private eye in the 1970s series The Rockford Files – the actor’s film output was nothing to take lightly. (Although Garner’s screen persona was all about taking things lightly – in the most beguiling of ways.)

On Monday, July 28, Turner Classic Movies will shove aside its regular schedule to make way for a dozen of the lantern-jawed, Oklahoma charmer’s movies. (Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner, by the way.)  Missing from TCM’s lineup are the Roald Dahl  brain-twister, 36 Hours (1965), the jaunty POW thriller The Great Escape (1963), with Steve McQueen,  Clint Eastwood’s  aging astronauts drama Space Cowboys (2000) , and Murphy’s Romance (1985), the Martin Ritt-directed, Sally Field-costarring rom-com which won Garner his one and only Oscar nomination.

But there are a few essential ones here, foremost being The Americanization of Emily (1964), a sharp World War II anti-war piece from writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Arthur Hiller, with Julie Andrews as a proper Brit who is both turned off and turned on by Garner’s cynical Navy Reserve officer, scamming his way around London in the weeks leading up to D-Day. And Andrews and Garner reteamed in 1982’s gender-crossing comedy musical Victor/Victoria, from director Blake Edwards. In Mister Buddwing (1964), adapted from an Evan Hunter novel and directed with jazzy cool (in black-and-white) by the great Delbert Mann, Garner plays an amnesiac wandering around New York, wondering who he is – a forerunner to Harrison Ford’s Regarding Henry.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 4:48 PM
The Beatles de-plane in San Francisco, August 29, 1966, for their concert at Candlestick Park.

A new, as yet-untitled Beatles documentary, focusing on John, Paul, George and Ringo’s touring years, 1960-1966, is being readied for theaters, and Ron Howard -- the Oscar-winning director (A Beautiful Mind) who spent labor Day weekend, 2012, in Philadelphia shooting Jay-Z’s Made In America for the concert film of the same name – is doing the readying.

The Beatles doc, which will incorporate anecdotes and footage from fans, will follow Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr from their early gigs in dark, smoky dives in Hamburg  and Liverpool, to their triumphant stands at New York City’s Shea Stadium and San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. CNN’s The Sixties series just devoted an hour-long segment to the British Invasion, and featured the Beatles prominently, of course, while other TV and DVD projects have boasted Beatles concert and behind-the-scenes clips, but this will be the first Beatles theatrical release since 1971’s band breakup swansong, Let It Be.

McCartney, Starr, and widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison are all onboard the official Beatles release, collaborating with Howard and his producers. The goal is to have the film in theaters  by year’s end. Howard is in the post-production stages on his 19th century whaling ship survival epic, Heart of the Sea, starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Michelle Fairley. That’s due March, 2015.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:36 AM
"Blackhole" by Charles Burns

Things aren’t going well between humans and the primates in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the new sequel to the 2011 reboot of the classic late-’60s/’70s Planet of the Apes sci-fi franchise. Mistrust, wariness, bloodshed abounds. But Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Alexander, the teenage son of  good guy Jason Clarke, has found a way to bond with the simians – notably the sage old orangutan Maurice (a motion-captured Karin Konoval) . Alexander has been reading a book called Black Hole in his pup tent, and when Maurice drops by, the kid shows the furry orange ape a few panels, even reading dialogue aloud from the gorgeously creepy graphic novel about a strange plague that befalls a band of suburban teenagers in 1970s Pacific Northwest.  

Black Hole is the work of Philadelphia artist, illustrator and writer  Charles Burns, who had “signed off” on letting the 20th Century Fox film production use his book -- so long ago that he completely forgot about it.

 “It was one of those things that I agreed to, and I just spaced it out,” says Burns, who has not seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet-- it opens Friday – but thought the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, pretty cool.


POSTED: Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 3:04 PM
Amy Schumer attends the Ms. Foundation Women Of Vision Gala 2014 on May 1, 2014 in New York City. (Getty Images for Ms. Foundation)

Judd Apatow, the writer/director/producer and comedy uber dude responsible in no small way for the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Katherine Heigl, is behind the camera in New York City right now -- directing comedian Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. Based on the Comedy Central star’s screenplay, and reportedly the story of a woman trying to put the pieces of her botched-up life together again, the film boasts an oddball aggregation of Apatow alums, indie film thesps, sports gods, rappers, Oscar nominees and, yes, Harry Potter.

Here’s a partial lineup of who’s orbiting Schumer’s character, one way or another, in the film: Brie Larson, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Barkhad Abdi (the Oscar-nominated Somali pirate of Captain Phillips),  rapper Method Man, NBA all star LeBron James, storyteller and comic Mike Birbiglia, Marisa Tomei and Daniel Radcliffe. Although Apatow jokingly denied the Harry Potter star’s involvement in the film, a zillion cell phone photos of Radcliffe walking a mess of dogs through Central Park at exactly the spot where the Trainwreck crew happened to be shooting hit Twitter and Instagram, suggesting that the Brit, on stage on Broadway right now, does indeed have a role. Even IMDB says so.

Look for a 2015 release. Apatow's last film in an auteurial capacity was 2012's This Is 40. Schumer's famously raunchy stuff has mostly been observed on Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer, and other TV guestspots. Trainwreck will pretty much mark her feature film debut.
About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at srea@phillynews.com.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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