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Thompson on Hollywood

Soderbergh and Mann: Too Smart for the Room?

As much as I want to see the Steven Soderbergh/Brad Pitt version of Moneyball, reality needs to return to the movie business. Soderbergh himself occupies a strange nexus within Hollywood. He once told me that he didn't want to direct movies out of the back seat of a limousine. And he is willing to play studio ball or indie ball, as he sees fit. At the same time, like all gifted directors, he wants to push himself, and the art form. But he often loses interest in what movie audiences might want. (UPDATE: On Soderbergh's upcoming Warners' agro-business comedy The Informant!, starring Matt Damon, which is set to debut at September's Toronto Film Fest, the director was eager to be "audience friendly," says co-financeer Groundswell CEO Michael London.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • July 1, 2009 2:30 AM
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Bruno: Beware Sacha Baron Cohen's Squirm Zone

In many ways watching Sacha Baron Cohen promote his new movie Bruno, from his GQ layout and MTV Awards Eminem stunt to the series of global premiere stunts, from London to L.A. to Sydney, is more fun than the movie itself. While his performance art gives us a bit of distance, in the movie Larry Charles and Baron Cohen push audiences way past their comfort zones. No matter how sophisticated or tough you think you are--straight, gay, male, female, young, old--it doesn't matter. Something in the movie will make you squirm. (Here's Todd McCarthy.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 30, 2009 5:29 AM
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Overture Ups Ante

As Overture Films lines up their 2009/2010 slate--hoping for a breakout--Wednesday they announced development of Celeste & Jesse Forever, a divorce rom-com co-written by and co-starring Rashida Jones (I Love You Man, Parks and Recreation) and Will McCormack (Must Love Dogs, Syriana). Team Todd (Austin Powers, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) is producing. (It's odd that Overture announced without a director in place.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 17, 2009 7:11 AM
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Six Lessons of Summer Box Office

First the media touted the uptick in 2009 theatrical business, now they're pointing to a downturn compared to last summer's b.o., a few big flops and the absence of blockbusters. "Through Sunday, summer B.O. revs stood at $1.46 billion, compared to $1.47 billion last year," reports Variety.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 17, 2009 3:04 AM
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Transformers' LaBoeuf: Troubled Star

What a difference two years makes. The picture on left of Shia LaBeouf ran in Parade Magazine when Disturbia made him into a star. The photo on the right ran this week in Parade in advance of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. (Here's http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117940483.html?categoryid=31&cs=1">Variety's review.) We all know that talent is only one component of a long and happy career. Stability is another. Or to put it another way, sometimes the sensitive tuning rod that is essential to a working actor's skill set isn't screwed on tight enough. LaBeouf speaks frankly about his demons. I wish him well in dealing with them.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 16, 2009 7:16 AM
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The Hangover Beats Up, Universal Loses on Land of Lost

Americans who are cinching their belts and making do with less flocked to cinemas over the weekend to watch a group of grown men exercising no restraint whatsoever. The Hangover was the perfect antidote to a nation on a fiscal diet.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 8, 2009 7:15 AM
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Don't Feel Sorry for Michael Bay

Nobody likes Michael Bay. Give the media a big fat target like a Forbes "who is richer" entry, and they will not resist piling on. New York's Vulture even calls him "the mogul of mindlessness." Lest we feel sorry for him, the guy owns Digital Domain and gets 10% of the gross on the Transformers movies (and 8% on the toys). And don't get your hopes up. By all accounts, this summer's installment, as over-pixellated as it looks, will not be a boxoffice disappointment when it opens June 24.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 5, 2009 7:26 AM
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MTV Movie Awards: Twilight, Bruno vs. Eminem

The MTV Movie Awards, hosted by Andy Samberg, were the usual lackluster, pseudo-hip, mainstream youth alternative to the Oscars--and huge Hollywood marketing opportunity. Summer movies from Paramount (Star Trek, Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra) and Warner Bros. (The Hangover) got promoed, but the big winner of the night was Summit Entertainment, which colluded with MTV and ardent fans to make the awards show a Twilight lovefest, with five wins.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 1, 2009 7:48 AM
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Cannes Day One: Up Up and Away

Cannes master promoter Thierry Fremaux knows what he is doing: the photo taken from the Debussy stage of the Cannes press corps wearing 3-D glasses will be seen everywhere. (They had to be returned.) I started out the morning in tears during Up , which as Disney chairman Dick Cook puts it, is Pixar's "most emotional film." Co-writers Bob Peterson and Pete Docter took the idea of an old guy who travels in a house carried aloft by balloons to find a lost South American paradise, and worked it over for a good two years before it passed enough muster to go into voice casting and animation.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • May 13, 2009 4:19 AM
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Star Trek Will Open Huge: $100 Million?

Star Trek will open huge, and some prognosticators are heralding the year's first $100 million weekend. That's not what the advance tracking shows, which is trending toward older males, or what Paramount wants anyone to believe. But word travels fast. And I will bet that the movie will outpace expectations. Even if the "brand"--everyone's favorite word these days--is damaged. Admittedly, my own daughter-of-a-Trekkie, Nora, 19, is not the slightest bit interested in plunking down her ten bucks.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • May 7, 2009 5:52 AM
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