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To me one of the true revelations in the movie “The Help” is Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance as Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is a beautiful, perfectly manicured and coiffed Southern belle who wears the nicest clothes, works tirelessly for several charities, and has a large circle of friends. What else? Oh, she is a virulent racist and the true villain of the piece. One of the subplots of the story is Hilly’s attempt to enact a law in Mississippi that would require white families to build a separate bathroom for their “colored” help. Hilly is horrified at the thought of black people using her toilet (“they have different diseases than us”) and indeed, she fires her long-time maid when she believes that the woman has used the Holbrook’s whites-only commode.
Such a despicable character could easily have descended into a Cruella De Vil-like caricature with a lesser actress. But in my opinion, despite the over-the-top ugliness of Holbrook’s actions throughout the film, Howard manages to bring nuances to the role that, while not excusing her reprehensible behavior, provide a backdrop that speaks to the in-bred racism that was such a part of the Jim Crow South. I’m not saying that I “liked” Hilly Holbrook, but I did love Bryce Dallas Howard’s take on her. I hope people who have seen this film are talking about Hilly—I think her character provides far more opportunities for interesting discussion than if we'd been witnessing the actions of a crazed Ku Klux Klan member.
Isolation, improvisation and being faux-friends with Jesse Eisenberg
Perhaps best known for his work as the effortlessly entrepreneurial Tom Haverford on "Parks and Recreation" -- or as the swaggering, shouting stand-up Randy in "Funny People" -- Aziz Ansari is now playing the best pal. Of course, this being the crime-comedy "30 Minutes or Less," Ansari is playing the best pal to Jesse Eisenberg's wired-to-explode pizza delivery man, cringing at a safe distance even while standing by his friend. We talked with Ansari in L.A. about improvisation, Lunchables, tipping and how true equality means getting to play flawed characters.
This script comes across your desk and you're being told, 'Hey, you're the best friend; you're the straight guy, but it's your version of the straight guy.' How do you put that together?
Ansari: I got the script, and I thought the premise of the movie is about two regular guys that are best friends are forced to rob a bank while having a tumultuous time with the friendship. That was a good idea. Ruben really let me make the character my own and add whatever voices I had. So I was pretty comfortable with that, taking the part, even though on paper in a sense it's a statement part because I'm not the guy going through crazy things. I knew I could figure it out, and I think I did.
That chance to figure things out, that was moments like making up the crazy, 'This is how we paint our guns / when we're going to get shot in the face' song?
Ansari: There was things that I improvised that made it in, but there was funny stuff in the script for that character. It wasn't a boring straight man part/ There's been a lot of hilarious straight men performances recently. I think a lot of stuff Seth Rogen does is really funny in that vein. Michael Cera in 'Superbad.' I don't really think of it as written as a straight man part. We're both characters, but he's going through the crazy thing with the bomb.
Production reportedly halted due to overblown budget
UPDATE: Variety now reports that Disney may move forward with the project, but with a reduced budget. More to come.
In tonight's edition of "late-breaking Friday night shockers," Deadline reports that Disney has stopped production on "The Lone Ranger," their big Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer vehicle that was set to reboot the classic Western story of the duo of Tonto and the titular Lone Ranger.
The film has been a long-talked about project for director Gore Verbinski, which would have reteamed him with Depp after the two made the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. There was a protracted search for a fresh male star to play the Lone Ranger, with the studio ultimately deciding on Hammer (fresh off his work in "The Social Network" and currently working on Tarsem's Snow White project). Disney reportedly pulled the plug on the live-action production due to a giant budget, reported to have been as large as $250 million, as the studio wanted to get that figure down to at least $200 million. Disney’s large live-action slate may be to blame, with a number of films already eating up funds (including “John Carter of Mars” and “The Great and Powerful Oz,” which both have budgets between $200 million and $300 million). Another possible factor? The failure of the latest big budget Western to catch on with audiences - this summer's "Cowboys & Aliens" underperformed and "Lone Ranger" may be suffering because of it.
But the move is still incredibly surprising considering the amount of money that Verbinski, Depp, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have made for Disney in the past. Depp has starred in some of the studio’s biggest commercial hits (live-action or otherwise), including “Alice in Wonderland” and the four “Pirates” films. Verbiniski directed the first three “Pirates” films and Bruckheimer has produced the entire series. To say that these three have proven to be worth their weight in gold doubloons for the studio is an understatement, so it’s hard to fathom that their next project (and one all three have been quite invested in) has been giving the ol’ cowboy boot out the door.
The film already had a release date of December 21, 2012. Deadline points out that the date would have put the film against the first “Hobbit” film, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and “World War Z.” While this could have played a part in the studio’s decision, it’s much easier to reschedule a film than it is to shut it down entirely.
It’s unknown what will ultimately happen to the film – Disney and the filmmaking team could come back to it later (with a smaller budget) or try to sell it off (either wholesale or just in part) to another interested studio. Do you want to see this new version of "The Lone Ranger"? Or could you do without another Hollywood remake of a classic property?
Site is a fun diversion for movie buffs with a car fetish
There are simply too many iconic autos in film history to name - James Bond's tricked-out Aston Martins, the zippy Mini Coopers in "The Italian Job," Herbie the Love Bug, Steve McQueen's Mustang, the muscled-up choppers of the "Fast and the Furious" series - and that just covers a quick and dirty listing that doesn't even remotely do justice to even the top ten. But what about every instance of a cool car in a film? The second string Supras? The drive-by Dodges? Surely, there must be a place somewhere that can document and organize all those autos! Of course there is, and of course it's on the Internet.
The Internet Movies Cars Database (IMCDb, a nice riff on IMDb) catalogues every vehicle that appears in nearly 24,000 films (features, shorts, and documentaries) and television shows and puts them on to one obsessively organized website. And when we say "every vehicle," we mean it. Want to see every film an Infiniti Essence has appeared in? It's just a couple of clicks away. (And, if you really want to know, the IMCDb lists it as just two.) Want to see every vehicle that shows up in "The Hangover"? Just a couple more clicks, and boom, the site features screen caps of the film's many cars. The site also provides star ratings for each vehicle, based on how much time they have on screen and how integral they are to their respective film's plot.
The site is perfect for anyone who loves both cars and movies and has a serious desire to get information presented to them in an obsessively and intuitively organized way. The site values function over form, so it's not super-snazzy when it comes to features and overall presentation, but it's so easy to navigate that it's easy to get sucked in to its wealth of information. How many movies appearances does your favorite car make in films?
Craig Brewer's remake tries to set itself apart
A new documentary sheds light on Robert Kennedy’s groundbreaking trip to South Africa
Two years before he was murdered in Los Angeles, Senator Robert F. Kennedy made a trip to South Africa. He traveled to the country in June 1966 during the worst time for the people living under the brutal apartheid regime. The oppressive government of South Africa did not want to allow Kennedy into the country, and did so only because they feared he might well end up as the next President of the United States.
I just heard Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, talking about this trip on a moving segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” She was joined by Larry Shore, the director (along with fellow CUNY Professor Tami Gold) and producer of an upcoming documentary called “RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope.” The film contains never-before-seen archival footage of the trip along with new interviews conducted both here and in South Africa. Even though Kennedy's visit is barely known about in this country, the film opens with a reminder of just how an important it was for countless Black South Africans. About 40 men, born in the years following RFK’s visit, introduce themselves. Coming from different parts of South Africa, they all have one thing in common: their first name is Kennedy.
Film would be based on a pitch by 'Devil Wears Prada' writer
The live-action fairy tale craze shows no sign of abating, even with no less than three "Snow White" films in the works. Fortunately, Disney is laying off the raven-haired beauty and her seven wee friends in favor of another classic Disney Princess going the real route. According to Deadline, the studio is looking at director Mark Romanek to bring screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna's take on the "Cinderella" tale to the screen.
Romanek is best known for "One Hour Photo" and "Never Let Me Go," two decidedly darker films that may give a hint as to the aesthetic and tone Disney is looking for on this project. The director also has experience in television and music videos, so he has much to offer a film looking to really riff on a classic tale. The film is of course billed as a "re-imagining" that takes the story in a political direction, with the prince set for an arranged marriage that has to do with the machinations of his kingdom. All that changes when he meets Cinderella.
McKenna sold her pitch for the film to the studio last year for a reported figure somewhere in the seven-figure range. Disney was hot on the pitch considering the massive success of "Alice in Wonderland," so even though the deal was huge, it wasn't totally shocking. McKenna has worked primarily in breezy features, including "The Devil Wears Prada," "27 Dresses," and "Morning Glory." But McKenna has lately started skewing more grown-up, with a script for Cameron Crowe's upcoming "We Bought a Zoo" under her belt signifying more depth to her work, despite the fact that she also penned the upcoming Sarah Jessica Parker-starring "I Don't Know How She Does It" (which looks nothing short of utterly paint-by-the-numbers).
The Cinderella story has been brought to the screen so many times that the term "Cinderella story" is synonymous with any kind of romantic story that involves transformation - with works like "Pygmalion" (and, by extension, "My Fair Lady") to harder romantic comedies like "Working Girl" and "Pretty Woman" to basic reappropriated spins on the material like "Ever After" or "A Cinderella Story" falling under its umbrella. Does Hollywood really need another Cinderella story?
On Bombs, Comedy, His Upcoming 'Gangster Squad' and Not Holding Your Breath for 'Zombieland 2'
Fleischer's currently casting and in pre-production for "Gangster Squad," a '50s L.A. crime saga with Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone and Sean Penn. We spoke with Fleischer in L.A. about keeping the gas down for "30 Minutes or Less," how he cant really think art imitates life, and about how "Zombieland 2" may be a victim of its own success.
When did this project first come across your bow as something you might do?
Fleischer: I guess it was about a month or two after 'Zombieland.' It was before Christmas of last year. No, before Christmas of 2009. 'Zombieland' came out in October, so it would have been November, December of 2009. Obviously I had this completely revolutionary experience with 'Zombieland' where all of a sudden after being a struggling filmmaker who was dying to make his first movie, I was being presented with all of these beyond imaginable opportunities. I was a bit overwhelmed. Then I met with (producer) Stuart Cornfeld at Red Hour, and he shared that script with me. As soon as I read it, I was pretty sure that was the one that I wanted to do.
And you knew you wanted to work with Mr. Eisenberg again. Was that 'Done and done; I've got my guy?'
Fleischer: I love Jesse. I loved our collaboration on the first movie, and I was extremely excited to reunite with him.