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Thompson on Hollywood

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Ratner's Tower Heist Set to Topple Indie Docs & Dramas

Brett Ratner's timely Tower Heist taps into anti-Wall Street sentiment and is just what you'd expect: competent, breezy, escapist entertainment. The well-cast Madoff-inspired comedy--which stars Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda and Eddie Murphy in a supporting comeback bid-- is expected to take in $29 million this weekend, while A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas 3D could score $15.5 million.
  • By Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage
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  • November 3, 2011 6:34 AM
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War Horse Takes Preview Screening Route to Build Buzz

War Horse Takes Preview Screening Route to Build Buzz
Disney/DreamWorks is borrowing a page from Paramount's Young Adult pop-up screening playbook by previewing Steven Spielberg's drama War Horse around the country via sneaks, starting Tuesday November 1 (see cities and dates below). (Long-lead press and key critics groups will also see the film ahead of most media, who won't screen it until the end of November.) Positive heartland reactions are already coming in.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 2, 2011 9:27 AM
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John Lasseter Gets the 2453rd Star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame

While Disney was promoting the Blu-ray and DVD release of Cars 2 on November 1, the day Disney/Pixar animation czar John Lasseter happened to get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was still a happy day and a well-deserved honor. Disney's Rich Ross and Sean Bailey, Pixar's Ed Catmull, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, voice talent Owen Wilson, Bonnie Franklin, Patton Oswalt, John Ratzenberger and Don Rickles, as well as composer Randy Newman, all showed support for the guy Emily Mortimer called a "genius."
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 2, 2011 1:32 AM
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Foreign Box Office: Spielberg's Adventures of Tintin Opens Big Overseas

Sony and Paramount's move to open Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin overseas months ahead of its December stateside release --where the Herge comic books are beloved--is paying off. The performance capture film opened overseas with an estimated $55.8 million in 19 markets.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 30, 2011 5:20 AM
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  • 6 Comments

IN THE WORKS: Kidman's Family Fang; Murray Joins Coppola, Sheen; Arndt Writing Phineas and Ferb

Nicole Kidman and her Blossom Films banner partner Per Saari are teaming up again with Rabbit Hole co-producers Olympus Films. They are optioning screen rights to The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson's bestselling first novel about a group of performance artists whose children (who as children were regularly involved in their parents' bizarre activities) return home as resentful and maladjusted adults and are asked to participate in their parents' final performance. Here's more on what else Kidman and Wilson have in the works.
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • October 28, 2011 7:52 AM
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Brad Bird Talks Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol: IMAX vs. 3-D, Animation vs. Live Action, Trailer

Several animation directors are trying their hand at live action of late, most notably Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), who talks to Bill Desowitz about Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which boasts a new trailer and featurettes starring daredevil Tom Cruise (below).
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • October 27, 2011 12:11 PM
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  • 1 Comment

IN THE WORKS: Independence Day Sequels Want To Take Your Money, Even if They Don't Pay for Smith

Fox will make not one but two Independence Day sequels, fifteen years (and counting) after the original Will Smith pic raked in $800 million across the globe. It's not a new idea -- the studio had wanted to green light a sequel for some time, but both Smith and director Roland Emmerich demanded huge paychecks. So Fox focused on developing scripts and declared that the franchise could proceed with or without them.
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • October 27, 2011 6:09 AM
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John Orloff Talks Anonymous, Shakespeare, Emmerich, Ifans, Redgrave, Stratford vs. Oxford

John Orloff Talks Anonymous, Shakespeare, Emmerich, Ifans, Redgrave, Stratford vs. Oxford
One of the surprises of the season is Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, which opens Friday amid ongoing controversy over its premise: that William Shakespeare did not write his plays and poems, and the Earl of Oxford did. Screenwriter John Orloff has been obsessed with this mystery since his college days; the screenplay served as his ticket of admission to Hollywood. First, Shakespeare in Love put Anonymous on the back burner, to be resurrected decades later by German digital master Emmerich, best known for such action adventures as Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Emmerich helped, for better or for worse, to turn Orloff's identity crisis into a rip-roaring Elizabethan succession drama, with Queen Elizabeth --played by the always riveting Vanessa Redgrave--at the center of dangerous head-lopping court intrigue. Emmerich was able to deploy his considerable digital filmmaking chops to shoot this elaborate period piece in Germany with an ensemble of character actors-- led by Redgrave and Rhys Ifans, in an uncharacteristically glamorous role--for just $30 million (think George Lucas or Zack Snyder). Emmerich even filmed one scene with three actors at different times and locations and merged them seamlessly. (We reveal the scene below, with trailer.) The movie could nab some tech nominations. Here's Orloff's Q & A for Sneak Previews.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 27, 2011 5:31 AM
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Peter Bart on Clint Eastwood and J. Edgar

Peter Bart on Clint Eastwood and J. Edgar
Clint Eastwood, the wily old coot, has long been adept at winning friends in influential places, and knows how to work the press better than anyone. His usual early-screening suspects include such critics as Scott Foundas and Todd McCarthy. Perhaps betraying his lack of awareness of how behind-the-pay-wall Variety is, Peter Bart was one of the hand-picked folks tipped to an advance Carmel Film Festival showing of J. Edgar, which opens the AFI Fest November 3 before hitting theaters November 9: At a moment when Hollywood is flailing about with tired remakes, Clint Eastwood, one of its more senior filmmakers, seems more determined than ever to stake new ground. His gripping new film "J. Edgar" is the polar opposite of contemporary studio product -- a searing biopic about a megalomaniacal right-wing ideologue. Under his four-decade reign, J. Edgar Hoover used the FBI to blackmail presidents and manipulate the media to mold his image as the nation's lone protector against gangsters and "Bolsheviks." Top politicians and reporters were scared to reveal that J. Edgar (superbly played by Leonardo DiCaprio) was a mama's boy with a gay lover. Eastwood's picture opens Nov. 9, so I am not going to review it here other than to say that it's consistent with Clint's legacy. His protagonists are a study in surprise -- who else would roam from Dirty Harry to Walt Kowalski (of "Gran Torino"), from Josie Wales to Nelson Mandela, from the troopers of Iwo Jima to a "Million Dollar Baby."
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 24, 2011 9:40 AM
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Media Watch: Isaacson's Steve Jobs Biography, Reviews, 60 Minutes Profile

Media Watch: Isaacson's Steve Jobs Biography, Reviews, 60 Minutes Profile
Clearly, we can't learn enough about the late Steve Jobs, so his official biographer Walter Isaacson's new book Steve Jobs--over 600 pages--which is published today, two and half weeks after his death, should help to feed our hunger for more details about the fascinating co-founder of Apple. Here's an excerpt about Jobs and Gates.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 24, 2011 8:18 AM
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