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Will Smith is clearly not someone who is accustomed to failure. He had a hit hip-hop song on the radio when he was still in high school and has been wildly successful ever since.
From the outset of his career, Smith’s trademark as a star has been his ability to project the confidence that there’s nothing — whether it’s an alien invasion, a robot uprising, a legion of post-apocalyptic mutants or simply parents who just don’t understand — that he can’t conquer through the sheer power of his charisma and casual machismo. He has ridden that air of unwavering self-assurance to more than $6 billion in worldwide grosses, making him one of the most reliably bankable stars in an industry that boasts a decreasing number of them with every passing year.
But in the wake of his 2013 flop, “After Earth” — a big-budget sci-fi adventure film in which he costarred with his son, Jaden — new chinks suddenly appeared in Smith’s armor. The film, reviled by critics and dismissed as a vanity project with what many saw as tinges of Scientology, opened in third place and went on to gross just $60 million — a devastating result for an actor who had come to be regarded as a veritable one-man summer-blockbuster machine.
Wounded by the debacle, Smith spent more than a year away from the big screen, finally returning last weekend with the darkly comedic con-artist caper film, “Focus.” Inevitably, the film’s opening was closely examined for indications of whether “After Earth” represented just a momentary setback, like Smith’s 1999 bomb, “Wild Wild West,” or a harbinger of his waning star power.
The results were ambiguous. “Focus” opened at No. 1 with $18.7 million, a solid start for a $50-million R-rated production outside of Smith’s typical wheelhouse. But the tepidly reviewed film was hardly an unalloyed victory, marking the lowest opening weekend for the actor since 2008′s “Seven Pounds.” Even as Smith sat atop the box office, think pieces still hit the Web with headlines like “Is Will Smith Over?” and “Five Ways to Fix Will Smith’s Box Office Slump.”
“Because it’s Will Smith, the intensity of scrutiny is like no other because he has set the bar so high,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for the research firm Rentrak. “Everything that’s perceived as a misstep is suddenly like the sky is falling. I think it’s unfair, but it’s the nature of the beast.”
An important determinant of Smith’s ongoing box-office viability may be the industry’s broader shift away from star-driven vehicles and toward marketing-driven franchise films with preestablished audience appeal, movies in which the brand, more than any single actor, is the real draw.
“When you look at movies like ‘The Avengers’ or ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ or ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’ it’s about the ensemble and the sort of grandiose nature of the film,” said Bruce Nash, who runs the box-office statistics analysis site the Numbers. “That’s where we’re at with tent-pole movies now. You can’t just have Will Smith as a fighter pilot fighting aliens anymore.”
For Smith, the opportunity to play a duplicitous con artist in “Focus” represented a stab in a new direction after a period of introspection spent reappraising the kinds of films he wants to make.
“Specifically at this time in my life, as I’m pushing more and struggling more for authenticity and openness and alignment, it was exciting to have a character who doesn’t care about any of that,” the actor told The Times recently. “I enjoyed going in the opposite direction, from where I was in my life. Going the wrong way, studying the wrong way, helps clarify the right direction.”
Even as he’s searched for that right direction, in the three years since his last genuine smash, 2012′s “Men in Black 3,” Smith — a star who always appeared to exert the utmost control over his own image — seemed to lose his grip on his narrative. Once the sniping over “After Earth” died down, the public’s attention shifted to Smith’s children, Jaden, 16, and Willow, 14, whose film and music careers have been diligently, some might say aggressively, managed and promoted by the actor and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — and much of that attention was unfavorable.
It’s unclear, though, how much damage any of this focus on Smith’s off-screen life may have done to his on-screen career, particularly when one zooms out to the wider international box office, where he remains a major draw. As dismally as “After Earth” performed domestically, it still managed to earn more than $240 million worldwide.
Then there is simply the inexorable factor of time. Smith is 46, and although — like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, who are both in their 50s — he’s still more than capable of credibly starring in action vehicles, a shift toward more character-driven projects may be not just advisable but inevitable. Smith, who has done occasional smaller projects in between the giant blockbusters, will next star in “Concussion,” a sports drama focusing on the issue of head injuries in the NFL that opens on Christmas Day.
“You can’t be the big action hero forever,” Nash said. “Perhaps ['Focus'] is fitting into a sort of long-term plan where Smith is looking to be a little bit more of a character actor versus the machine-gun-toting action star.”
That said, summer 2016 will find Smith back in action/tent-pole mode again, though this time in an ensemble movie based on a comic book series called “Suicide Squad.”
Perhaps, then, the proper question isn’t, Is Will Smith still the same megastar he once was? In today’s Hollywood, the more pertinent question may be: Is anyone?
Times staff writer Mark Olsen contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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Wayne Federman is a comic, actor and writer who has performed on “The Tonight Show” and appeared in such films and TV series as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
And he may be the only comic who has his own annual international film festival.
The film buff got the idea for the Wayne Federman International Film Festival after he saw comic and actor Patton Oswalt present a screening in 2008 at the New Beverly Cinema of the 2006 comedy “The Fist Foot Way.”
“I was learning about the film through the eyes of a comedian,” noted Federman. “I thought this might be a fun thing to do: to have comedians pick films they loved and were inspired by. Comedians, when you put them in front of a crowd, tend to be funny, so I thought it was a good match-up.”
First he had to find a venue.
“Los Angeles and New York were the only places we could do this kind of festival because of the talent and proximity to these film collections and libraries,” Federman said.
A few years ago, Federman attended a birthday party screening of the 1966 feature film version of “Batman” for a writer friend at Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre. He had found the right place for his festival.
After pitching Cinefamily on the idea, he went to Garry Shandling. Federman had played his brother on “The Larry Sanders Show.”
“I told him the idea and his face lit up,” recalled Federman. “He said, ‘I would love to show ‘The King of Comedy’ [a Martin Scorsese-directed dark comedy starring Robert De Niro].’ I scheduled it around his availability.”
Besides Shandling, the first festival featured Andy Kindler presenting Albert Brooks’ 1981 romantic comedy, “Modern Romance”; Kevin Pollak chatting about the 1979 comedy “The In-Laws”; Paul F. Tompkins discussing Mike Leigh’s 1999 “Topsy-Turvy”; and Margaret Cho talking about John Schlesinger’s 1965 British drama, “Darling,” starring Julie Christie in her Oscar-winning performance.
“It went really well,” said Federman, who interviews all the comics. “Watching Garry Shandling watch ‘The King of Comedy’ and talk about it and how it informed ‘The Larry Sanders Show,’ I felt you really got to learn about the person.”
Subsequent festivals have attracted the likes of Sarah Silverman (“Crimes and Misdemeanors”), Aziz Anzari (“Back to the Future”) and Jeff Garlin (“Sweet Smell of Success”).
The fourth edition of the festival kicks off Thursday with its first NC-17 selection, the 2010 Danish comedy “Klown,” presented by Sacha Baron Cohen.
“I have not only never seen it, I have never heard of it,” Federman admitted. “I thought he was going to pick up some Peter Sellers movie or a Monty Python. So this was out of the blue. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Comic Doug Benson, who appears at Cinefamily’s theater with his Doug Benson Movie Interruption program, will present Blake Edwards’ 1961 classic, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” on Friday. “He said, ‘I’ve never seen it,’” Federman said. “It gets him a chance to see the movie. Myself, Doug and a few other comedians will interrupt the movie as it’s playing and do funny commentary.”
Comic-actor Paul Scheer (“Fresh Off the Boat,” “The League”), who hosts the popular movie podcast “How Did This Get Made?,” will present the 1984 comedy classic “Ghostbusters.”
“It’s one of my favorite movies,” Scheer said. “I did see it when it came out at the drive-in when I was 8 or 9 years old…. I have seen ‘Ghostbusters’ once or twice with a crowd, and its always fun.”
Chris Hardwick (“The Nerdist,” “The Talking Dead”) will screen the 1985 Chevy Chase comedy “Fletch” on Saturday night, with Will Forte presenting the 2010 comedy “MacGruber,” in which he stars, later that night.
Lauren Lapkus (“Orange Is the New Black”) will be on hand Sunday evening with Penny Marshall’s 1988 hit, “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, and Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) will present the 2005 British horror film “The Descent” on Sunday night.
Federman has discovered that the audience is a true hybrid of stand-up comedy fans and film geeks.
“We get both crowds. I think the real appeal of the festival is getting to see somebody be passionate about something they like.”
The 4th Annual Wayne Federman International Film Festival
Where: Cinefamily at Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
Thursday: “Klown” at 7:30 p.m.
Friday: “Doug Benson Movie Interruption: Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at 7:30 p.m. and “Ghostbusters” at 10:30 p.m.
Saturday: “Fletch” at 7 p.m.; “MacGruber” at 10:15 p.m.
Sunday: “Big” at 7:30 p.m.; “The Descent” at 10:30 p.m.
Price: Admission is $14; free for Cinefamily members.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
I knew a movie involving one of the biggest disappointments in my youth might be made someday. Still, my heart began to sink when a screening of “McFarland, USA” rolled around to its climax.
At a cross-country race almost 30 years ago, the gun sounds and the seven boys from McFarland High burst across the starting line amid a stampede of runners from around the state.
The actor playing me takes off too fast and begins to fade halfway through the three-mile course. After three runners from McFarland cross the finish line, they peer back, searching for me, their usual fourth man, but I had fallen deep into the pack.
All season we had dreamed of winning California’s first high school cross-country state championship. But by going out so fast, I had endangered our dream. It took one of our usually slower runners to sprint mightily down the stretch. He took my place, and McFarland miraculously still won.
The dream came true for them, but not me.
“I told you we would win with or without you,” our coach, Jim White, told me on the bus ride home from Fresno. It was a dismal day for me at Woodward Park, Nov. 28, 1987.
Ten years later, I was a reporter at this newspaper when a movie company purchased the rights to an article about McFarland, a small, poor and predominantly Mexican American town in the farming heartland, going for an unprecedented sixth straight state championship.
But watching the low point in my young life exposed in a Hollywood film reopened a bitter memory I had tucked away long ago with my running shoes.
In real life, I consoled myself by reasoning that even though my place had not counted in the state championship, I had been the fourth man on a team that had won a dozen or so “invitational” races that year, some harder than the state meet.
But I found no mitigation for my pain in the movie, which portrays the team as an upstart group of runners who start out losing races but improve quickly to win the state championship.
The inspirational message of the movie is essentially true.
Our coach, played by Kevin Costner, built a sports powerhouse largely with the children of farmworkers in a lackluster part of the state. His teams won nine championships in 14 years. Many of us found our way to college and livelihoods away from the fields.
But like any movie based or inspired by a true story, not everything in “McFarland, USA” is literally true.
The scenes of the state race are the most prominent for Johnny Ortiz, the actor playing me. In the rest of the movie, he takes a back seat to the actors portraying the runners who performed better at the race.
For me, the story of the championship year and a path to a better life started in middle school. Mr. White was our physical education teacher, and that’s when he first encouraged us to run cross-country.
I lived in a dilapidated one-bedroom house across the street from my church with a couple older brothers who worked in the fields. McFarland was a more balanced community of Latino and white residents then. Besides Mr. White, other good-hearted adults looked after the town’s needy youth.
Jim Price, a janitor at the high school, let me live with his family. And Rita Peebles, a cook in the cafeteria, slipped five bucks into my pocket before every away meet so I wouldn’t go hungry when the bus stopped at McDonald’s.
I ran track in the spring of my freshman and sophomore years but played football in the fall. Which is why, when Mr. White was trying to persuade me to switch to cross-country for my junior year, he jokingly told me that they would win the inaugural state championship “with or without you.”
In the movie — and reality — McFarland did barely win state when our usual sixth man, Danny Diaz, whose place in races had not counted all season, moved up to fifth, the last runner whose place counts.
Disney Pictures can thank me, I guess, for creating some true drama.
To this day, I don’t know why I went out uncharacteristically fast. If I had run as well as I did the previous week on the same course when we won the regional championship, the state race would not have been a nail-biter. We would have crushed the team that finished second.
After high school graduation I went to junior college half an hour up Highway 99 and continued running. Then I transferred to Humboldt State. I began to lose track of my teammates and my town. I haven’t been through McFarland in at least 15 years.
Two of us were absent when Disney spent two weeks on location and filmed the rest of my teammates going for a jog in the fields where we used to train. Short captions for each of them at the end of the movie say they became college graduates, teachers, cops and mentors to kids in town.
The state championship aside, “McFarland, USA” suggests my teammates became winners in life. And by that measure, maybe I can let go for good the sour memory of the state race. A caption says what became of me, a sort of champ in my own life too, I guess.
Cardenas, a staff sergeant in the Army, lives in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife and daughter.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
The Will Smith romantic caper “Focus” opened at No. 1, kicking “Fifty Shades of Grey” out of the top spot over the weekend but still falling short of box office projections.
“Unfortunately, snow just beat us up in a big way, especially in the South,” said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president and general sales manager for Warner Bros., which released “Focus.” The film is estimated to have made $19.1 million in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday.
“Absent that tough weather,” Goldstein said, “we would have ended up over $20 million.”
The film, which cost about $50 million to make, fared well enough among moviegoers to earn a B-minus grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore. The majority of audiences were female (53%) and older than 25 (88%). Critics gave the film a 56% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Given the mid-range budget, the film’s result is right on target,” Goldstein said.
“Focus” follows con artist Nicky (Smith), who trains and eventually falls for Jess (Margot Robbie). Three years after they break up, the duo reunite in Buenos Aires, where both have come to con the same billionaire.
It marks Smith’s return to the big screen after “After Earth” flopped in June 2013. The $135-million Sony sci-fi flick, which co-starred Smith’s son Jaden, opened to just $27 million.
Meanwhile this weekend, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and ”SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water” held steady in the top three.
“Kingsman,” released by Twentieth Century Fox, added about $11.8 million, bringing its total domestic haul to about $85.7 million.
Based on a comic book, the “Kingsman” film follows a street kid (Taron Egerton) whom Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recruits into a secret spy organization. Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine also star.
“SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water,” which made $11.2 million over the weekend, has benefited from being the only major family film in the market. Since opening in the February, the film has made $140.3 million in the U.S. and Canada.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” dropped 51% from last week, sending it from first to fourth place. It added $10.9 million to its $147.8-million domestic haul.
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and based on E.L. James’ erotic novel, the Universal Pictures film follows kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his love interest Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson).
The film has maintained its momentum overseas, however, where it’s No. 1 for the third weekend in a row, distributor Universal said. Its international cumulative total is $338.4 million, and Universal projects the film will cross the $500-million mark worldwide in the coming week.
“The Lazarus Effect” launched this weekend with $10.6 million, good for fifth place. The low-budget horror film was co-produced by Blumhouse, the company behind the “Purge” franchise, and Mosaic, for just $5 million. Relativity Studios acquired it for $3.3 million.
The film follows a group of researchers led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and fiancee Zoe (Olivia Wilde) who discovers how to bring the dead back to life.
About 52% of moviegoers were female, and 60% were 25 and younger. The film earned a B-minus grade on CinemaScore and 14% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Meanwhile, fresh off Oscars wins, “Still Alice” and “Birdman” climbed at the box office.
Sony Picture Classics’ “Still Alice,” for which Julianne Moore took home an Oscar for best actress, was up 24% from last weekend. The film came in ninth at the box office on a weekend gross of about $2.7 million. It has made almost $12 million to date in the U.S. and Canada.
The film, written and directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, co-stars Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart. Moore plays Alice, a professor grappling with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Fox Searchlight expanded ”Birdman” into hundreds of additional theaters after the film won four Oscars, including best picture. It came in at No. 12 for the weekend on a gross of nearly $2 million, soaring 125% from the previous weekend. The film has made $40.3 million in the U.S. and Canada.
For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99
Available on VOD
The “Hunger Games” franchise went from “massive worldwide hit” to “critically acclaimed” with its second installment, “Catching Fire,” which goes deeper into the human consequences of the series’ dystopian class conflict. The third chapter, “Mockingjay Part 1,” brings back “Catching Fire” director Francis Lawrence and features one of the last screen performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman, yet it’s a disappointment compared to its predecessor. The film is so narratively complex that it’s almost all set-up, giving star Jennifer Lawrence little to do. Nevertheless, it’s a provocative lead-in to the upcoming “Hunger Games” finale, showing how even when she’s fighting with the good guys, Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen is treated as a tool and a symbol. It’s those kind of richer themes that have made these movies so successful. The DVD and Blu-ray explores this further via a commentary track, deleted scenes and featurettes.
Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $34.99
Available on VOD Tuesday
Steve Carell has gotten most of the attention in “Foxcatcher” for his uncharacteristically dark, Oscar-nominated performance as an insecure, eccentric American aristocrat who funds an Olympic wrestling program. But Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum are just as strong as champion athletes whose loving rivalry drives this chilling, subtle study of social climbing and status obsession. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman have taken a true-crime story and have stripped it of its more lurid qualities, making a muted character piece that considers the root causes of a tragedy. The DVD and Blu-ray add deleted scenes and a closer look at what really happened at Foxcatcher Farm.
The Better Angels
Anchor Bay, $22.98
First-time writer-director A.J. Edwards’ film is a beautiful portrait of Abraham Lincoln as a boy, with a style heavily influenced by producer Terrence Malick, whom Edwards worked closely with on “The Tree of Life” and “To the Wonder.” But the film’s aims are different that Malick’s, leaning away from spiritual/philosophical musings and more toward capturing the hardship and pleasures of life in the woods in the early 19th century. This is a slow-paced but appealingly contemplative movie, treating a great man’s formative years as a historical coming-of-age story.
Outlander: Season 1, Vol. 1
Sony, $38.99; Blu-ray, $55.99
The premium cable channel Starz has found a sizable audience for “Outlander,” a romantic fantasy series produced by Ronald D. Moore (who previously shepherded the cult favorite “Battlestar Galactica” revamp), based on Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling novels. Caitriona Balfe plays a WWII-era British army nurse who slips back in time 200 years and finds herself embroiled in political intrigue in the Scottish Highlands and in the arms of a dashing fighter played by Sam Heughan. Part “Game of Thrones,” part “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Outlander” succeeds by treating its premise not as camp but with genuine curiosity, exploring what it means to be a smart, skilled woman in a more primitive world. The 16-episode first season resumes April 4. In the meantime, the first eight episodes are on DVD and Blu-ray, accompanied by deleted scenes and featurettes.
Big Hero 6
Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99
Available on VOD
Superhero movies are ideally suited to animation, but every time a live-action “Avengers” or “Dark Knight” becomes a billion-dollar-grossing hit, it’s harder for the genre to return to its natural home. Perhaps the massive success of Disney’s “Big Hero 6″ — and an Oscar for best animated film — will change that. Based on an obscure Marvel Comics super-team, “Big Hero 6″ follows a directionless teenage genius who assembles a group of tinkerers, scientists and enthusiasts to help him get revenge on the villain who killed his brother. The character designs range from cute to cool — or both, in the case of the squishy, helpful robot Baymax — but the real attraction here is the action, which is kinetic and exaggerated in a way that even CGI-enhanced live-action blockbusters can’t match. The DVD and Blu-ray include multiple featurettes about how the filmmakers went about turning a comic book into a cartoon.
Beyond the Lights
20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99
Available on VOD
One of last year’s most pleasant surprises, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s romantic drama is an unusually sensitive take on modern pop stardom and how it feels to be saddled with other people’s expectations. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a young British R&B singer who’s been mired in the exploitative record industry since her teens and takes a break to pursue an affair with an L.A. cop (played by Nate Parker), who’s been groomed since birth for a career in politics. Prince-Bythewood explores the challenges both lovers face in trying to reinvent themselves and also emphasizes their sensuality and passion. “Beyond the Lights” is a visually beautiful movie about two good people who worry that they’re too locked in to their life paths to follow their hearts. The DVD and Blu-ray add a commentary track, deleted scenes, featurettes and a longer cut of the film.
Sons of Anarchy: The Complete Series
20th Century Fox, $169.98; Blu-ray, $299.99
FX’s biker drama failed to fulfill its early promise, largely because creator Kurt Sutter chose to indulge in tedious bloodletting down the stretch rather than follow the slow-boil tension of the first five seasons. Nevertheless, the show remains one of the most popular scripted programs in the history of cable television, and now the whole shebang — the good years and the not-as-good — are available in impressive DVD and Blu-ray box sets, containing every episode plus copious behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. It’s a fitting package for a mighty, if flawed, television achievement.
In the Land of the Head Hunters
Milestone, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95
In 1913 and 1914 — years before the release of Robert Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North” — photographer-ethnographer Edward S. Curtis shot some film of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of British Columbia and weaved it into a fictional story about an epic quest for love, released in theaters as “In the Land of the Head Hunters.” In the 1970s, the surviving footage from Curtis’ picture were recut and re-released as a short documentary, “In the Land of the War Canoes.” Now, a restored version of the original movie and the altered 1970s cut are available in a fascinating DVD set from Milestone, with a commentary track and more than two hours of contextual featurettes. It’s essential viewing both for cinema scholars and for people who want to see what seal-hunts and arcane tribal ceremonies looked like in the early 20th century.
More than three decades after Harrison Ford starred as android-hunter Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” the 72-year-old actor is set to reprise the role in a sequel.
Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners,” “Incendies”) is in negotiations to direct the film, which is scheduled to begin filming in the summer of 2016, Alcon Entertainment announced Thursday.
In the 1982 sci-fi thriller, Ford played ex-L.A. cop Rick Deckard, who gets pulled out of retirement to hunt down a handful of escaped replicants (humanoids created by corporations to do unwanted off-world jobs) who hijacked a spaceship to return to Earth and murder their makers at the Tyrrell Corp.
The sequel is set several decades after the original film’s conclusion and is based on an idea by Ridley Scott and “Blade Runner” co-writer Hampton Fancher; the screenplay is penned by Fancher and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”).
“We are honored that Harrison is joining us on this journey with Denis Villeneuve, who is a singular talent,” said Alcon Entertainment co-CEOs Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson in a press statement. “Hampton and Michael, with Ridley Scott, have crafted a uniquely potent and faithful sequel to one of the most universally celebrated films of all time, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with this amazing, creative team.”
Alcon Entertainment acquired the rights to the franchise in 2011 from producer Bud Yorkin, who will co-produce the sequel along with Kosove, Johnson and Cynthia Sikes Yorkin. Frank Giustra and Tim Gamble will serve as executive producers.
Rutger Hauer in “Blade Runner.” (Warner Bros.)
Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner.” (Warner Bros. / LACMA)
Rutger Hauer in “Blade Runner.” (Warner Bros.)
Edward James Olmos in “Blade Runner.” (Warner Bros.)
Daryl Hannah in “Blade Runner.” (Warner Bros.)
Joanna Cassidy as Zhora in Warner Bros. Pictures movie “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.”
A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.”
Harrison Ford as Deckard in Warner Bros.’ “Blade Runner.”
Harrison Ford as Deckard in Warner Bros.’ “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.”
Harrison Ford as Deckard in Warner Bros.’ “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.”
Harrison Ford and Hauer Rutger in the Ridley Scott movie “Blade Runner.”
Poster for movie “Blade Runner.” (Warner Bros.)
“Blade Runner,” which was nominated for two Academy Awards, was adapted by Fancher and David Peoples from Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
RECENT AND RELATED
At almost every juncture in “Out of the Dark,” a ghost thriller set in Colombia, something textured and evocative — a poor village, a dark old house, a menacing jungle — is beautifully photographed. Nearly everything else (story, direction, performances, scares) is thuddingly telegraphed.
The effect is a movie lovely to look at but on-the-nose and crushingly dull, a pair of qualities a ghost yarn can’t live on.
Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman play a married couple who move to remote fishing village Santa Clara, Colombia, so she can manage the paper factory her father (Stephen Rea) has been running for decades.
When their daughter Hannah appears targeted by apparitions of bandaged, scarred children, it’s not hard to figure out that the kids have something to do with a deadly incident involving the big, bad mill years ago.
Writers Javier Gullón and David and Alex Pastor approach what is essentially a socially conscious haunting with maddeningly linear determination, while director Lluís Quílez is too in love with Isaac Vila’s rich location cinematography to make the tale meaningful or suspenseful. In hurrying to hammer home its point about big business and threatened environments, “Out of the Dark” forgets to be interesting.
“Out of the Dark.”
MPAA rating: R for violence, terror, disturbing images.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.
Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Troubled veteran Eddie Ray Routh was convicted of capital murder late Tuesday in the slaying of two men, including Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL whose life inspired the blockbuster “American Sniper.”
Routh, 27, was sentenced to life without possibility of parole for fatally shooting Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield at an outdoor gun range in 2013. Routh’s lawyers had argued that their client was not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury took less than three hours to reject their argument and convict the defendant.
Considered the most lethal sniper in American military history, Kyle served four tours of duty in Iraq and chronicled his experiences in a 2012 autobiography. Warner Bros. acquired film rights to the bestselling book, with Bradley Cooper attached to play Kyle. Steven Spielberg was originally to direct the film but dropped out, and Clint Eastwood took the reins, working from a script by Jason Hall.
Kyle was killed while the film was in development, and Hall even attended the serviceman’s memorial. The movie intersected with news events in unusual ways. The judge dismissed potential jurors because of fears their views were informed by movie-related publicity, and Routh’s lawyers sought to delay the proceedings while the film remained popular in theaters.
Taya Kyle, who offered emotional testimony at the trial of her husband’s killer, also made appearances on behalf of the film, providing a stark real-life reminder of the abstractions of a movie screen. “I have a feeling the trial is going to be a beat-down,” she told The Times over the holidays as the movie was beginning to roll out. “And yet there’s no place I’d rather be. Everywhere I can be supporting Chris and standing up for him. I will always be there.”
Released on Christmas Day, “American Sniper” has proved a box office sensation, grossing $430 million worldwide. It was also nominated for five Oscars, including best picture, and won one, for sound editing.
In recent weeks, as Routh’s trial approached and the film continued its box office ascent, “American Sniper” ignited widespread debate. Detractors have criticized it for glorifying war and serving as pro-U.S. propaganda, while supporters have praised it for exploring the toll that combat takes on soldiers and their loved ones.
Among the voices immediately reacting to Routh’s conviction was Kyle’s fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell, whose own life inspired the hit movie “Lone Survivor.” On his Facebook page, Luttrell wrote, “Justice served for Chris and the Littlefield family.”
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