‘Fury’ pushes ‘Gone Girl’ from top spot at box office

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The new World War II film “Fury” starring Brad Pitt battled to the top of the weekend box office, pulling in an estimated $23.5 million in the U.S. and Canada and pushing “Gone Girl” out of the No. 1 spot.

Strong reviews and word of mouth propelled “Fury.” As of Sunday, the film had notched an 80% positive rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. It received an A-minus grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore.

About 60% of the audience was male, and about 51% was older than 35.

“Fury,” which was backed by Sony’s Columbia Pictures with QED International and LStar Capital, cost about $68 million to make.

“We’re so proud of this film…. It’s a really good start for us,” said Rory Bruer, distribution president for Sony Pictures. “It’s a film that’s going to provoke discussion, and I think people who would maybe not be the first on the list to go see a movie about war will be really blown away by it.”

The David Ayer-directed film follows Sgt. Don Collier (Pitt), who leads a U.S. Army tank crew (played by Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal) across Nazi-controlled Germany.

Sony moved up the release date for the film, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 14, the weekend after Paramount’s “Interstellar” and Disney’s animated “Big Hero 6″ are set to open.

With its new release date, “Fury” topped George Clooney’s World War II film “The Monuments Men,” which opened to $22.7 million in February. But “Fury” lagged behind “Inglourious Basterds,” another Pitt-starring war film, which opened to about $38 million in 2009.

“It’s so important to have the emotion that goes with a war movie and the understanding that it’s not just about the action,” Bruer said. “There is a tremendous amount of action in ‘Fury’ — it’s very visceral — but on the other hand, it’s absolutely about camaraderie and family.”

“Gone Girl” stayed strong in second place. The David Fincher thriller added $17.8 million to its gross, raising its total in the U.S. and Canada to about $107 million.

Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, the Fox drama follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) after his wife (Rosamund Pike) goes missing.

So far, the film has wooed fans of Flynn, Fincher and Affleck as well as critics. It received a B grade from CinemaScore and an 88% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“It’s really become the water cooler movie,” said Chris Aronson, 20th Century Fox’s head of domestic distribution.

Fox’s new animated film, “The Book of Life,” opened to $17 million. The film, co-financed by Fox and Reel FX, cost about $50 million to make. The studio expected an opening weekend of $15 million to $20 million.

Written and directed by Jorge Gutierrez, the animated film follows Manolo through a quest through different worlds to rescue his true love and defend his village. The PG-rated film is produced by Guillermo del Toro and voiced by a cast that includes Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube and Christina Applegate.

“It was a labor of love for everyone that was involved,” Aronson said. “You could tell they really loved this project and it resonated across the board with audiences.”

The film drew a 57% female audience, and about 54% of moviegoers were younger than 25. “The Book of Life” resonated especially well with Latino filmgoers, who made up 30% of the audience.

It received an A-minus grade from CinemaScore and a 79% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sunday.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” soared, grossing $415,000 in just four theaters. That per-location average of $103,750 was the second highest of the year, behind “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and ahead of “Boyhood.”

The critically acclaimed film follows a washed up superhero actor (Michael Keaton) trying to get his mojo back with a Broadway play.

“We are truly amazed and gratified at the reception that ‘Birdman’ has received so far,” read a statement from Frank Rodriguez, Fox Searchlight’s head of distribution. “And even though we knew people loved the film from its successful festival screenings, we still did not expect the picture to have the second highest per-screen average.”

The film will expand to 18 new markets this Friday.

“Dear White People,” Justin Simien’s satire about race relations, also did well in limited release. It grossed $344,136 from 11 theaters for a per-screen average of $31,285. As of Sunday, the film had notched a 97% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Another new release, the adaption of the Nicholas Sparks book “The Best of Me,” didn’t fare as well as previous Sparks movies. The film, starring James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan, opened to $10.2 million.

By comparison, “Dear John” starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, opened in February 2010 to $32.4 million and displaced “Avatar” from the top of the charts. “Safe Haven,” which hit theaters on Valentine’s Day 2013, pocketed $34 million over a five-day holiday weekend.

Though moviegoers flock to see romantic films for Valentine’s Day, had “The Best of Me” been slated for February, the film would have had to face competition from “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

“The Best of Me” follows high-school sweethearts Dawson (Marsden) and Amanda (Monaghan), who reunite 20 years later for a friend’s funeral. Before his death in November, Paul Walker had been cast in the role of Dawson.

The film, which cost about $26 million to make, is the third Sparks adaptation for Relativity Media, which partnered with Sparks and Di Novi Pictures for this release. Because of pre-sales and tax credits, Relativity said, its exposure for the film is just $5 million.

Though it notched a paltry 7% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film did receive a B-plus grade from CinemaScore. It drew an audience that was about 70% female.

“We have had great success with Nicholas Sparks over the years and are always glad to be in business with him,” read a statement from Relativity. “We are confident the film will play well over the coming weeks given its word of mouth and strong CinemaScore.”

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Boston Terrier Christmas Postage Stamps on Pinterest

Super cute assortment of really unique and adorable Boston Terrier postage stamps for your Christmas cards!

‘Dumb and Dumber To’ a no-brainer sequel 20 years in the making

Jim Carrey was sitting in a hotel room four years ago, flipping channels on the proverbial idiot box, when he stumbled across something truly, sublimely dumb.

Rewatching one of his earliest and silliest movies, 1994′s “Dumb and Dumber,” Carrey was hit with a sudden wave of fond feelings for the over-the-top buddy comedy that had helped rocket him to stardom. He picked up the phone and called Peter Farrelly, who had written and directed the movie with his brother, Bobby, to talk about making a follow-up.

“Jim called me out of the blue and said, ‘I want to do that kind of movie — that’s exactly what I want to do,’” Peter Farrelly, 57, remembered with Bobby, 56, on a recent afternoon. “I said, ‘Done!’”

This wasn’t the first time someone had proposed bringing “Dumb and Dumber’s'” dimwitted best friends, Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), back to movie theaters. Indeed, given the original film’s $247-million worldwide box office haul and still-beloved status, it didn’t take a Mensa-level genius to see the possibilities. But as it turned out, getting that sequel onto the screen proved difficult to a degree that, in an industry increasingly focused on revisiting well-known franchises, some might find dumbfounding.

For “Dumb and Dumber To,” which arrives Nov. 14 — nearly 20 years to the day after the first movie opened — the road to the big screen has been a long, strange trip involving two major studios, a misbegotten prequel, an ugly lawsuit and an untold number of stops and starts. “I always knew it was going to happen,” Peter Farrelly said, “but there were many, many, many days when it looked like it might not.”

It remains to be seen, of course, how the movie will fare with audiences — 20 years is a long time to wait for the next installment in a franchise that’s not called “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones.” But after so many twists and turns, Carrey, 52, is just glad the film finally came to fruition.

For the actor, whose career has had its own share of twists and turns, the difficulties in making “Dumb and Dumber To” highlight what he sees as a shift toward a “more corporate, more impersonal, less maverick” culture in today’s film business. “There’s been a constant feeling of, ‘Why isn’t anyone making this movie?’” Carrey said, adding, “It got done despite a whole lot of cowardice all the way around.”

‘Gone Girl’ finds David Fincher at delightfully twisted best

Based on a whopper of a bestselling novel (more than 2 million copies moved in the first year alone), with a major star in the lead and a top-of-the line director behind the camera, the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” couldn’t be a bigger deal. Which is why you are reading this review a full week before the film’s theatrical release.

For so great has been the interest in this deliciously twisted David Fincher film starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the couple from hell that reviews are appearing nationwide to coincide with its Friday night world premiere as the prestigious opening event of the New York Film Festival.

For once, however, all the fuss is justified. Superbly cast from the two at the top to the smallest speaking parts, impeccably directed by Fincher and crafted by his regular team to within an inch of its life, “Gone Girl” shows the remarkable things that can happen when filmmaker and material are this well matched.

Fincher, whose work can be gratuitously disturbing (“Seven”) as well as formally impressive (“The Social Network”), is by nature a chilly director, a temperament that meshes well with the unsettlingly bleak view of human nature that “Gone Girl” is all about.

Novelist and screenwriter Flynn must have been briefed by the Shadow himself about the evil that lurks in the hearts of men (and women), not to mention the lies, manipulation and self-interest that live there too. But the fact that Flynn’s subjects are essentially love, marriage and personal relationships gives “Gone Girl” a human connection that was absent in Fincher’s off-putting last work, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Sticking closely to Flynn’s dazzlingly complex plot and its cascade of surprises (there are so many that the two-hour-and-25-minute running time barely contains them), “Gone Girl” is the kind of portrait of a marriage that might have resulted if Alfred Hitchcock had watched a lot of Ingmar Bergman before getting down to work.

The setting is the depressed but imaginary Midwestern town of North Carthage, Mo., where Nick Dunne (Affleck) is introduced on July 5, also described in an on-screen title as “the morning of.”

Looking distraught and distracted, Nick heads to The Bar, a (what else but) bar he owns with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), where he throws down an early-morning shot. It’s a drink he will very soon be needing.

For when Nick returns home on this, his fifth wedding anniversary, the door is open, the living room’s glass coffee table has been reduced to fragments and his wife, Amy (Pike), is gone, gone, gone.

Quick on the scene are Det. Rhonda Boney (an excellent Kim Dickens) and Officer James Gilpin (Patrick Fugit, the star of “Almost Famous” back in the day), who methodically go about trying to figure out what happened to Amy and who might be responsible for whatever that was.

But that is only half of “Gone Girl’s” narrative. The film goes back and forth from the investigative present to extensive flashbacks of the past, snapshots that are brought to life through Amy’s voice-over reading of her very personal diary.

Back we go half a dozen years to Nick and Amy meeting in Manhattan, two glib and verbal magazine writers who fall truly, madly, deeply in love and enjoy two blissful years of marriage, doing movie things like making love in the back of a bookstore with no one around to notice. “We’re so cute,” Amy comments at one point in a typically tart Flynn line, “I want to punch us in the face.”

The voice-over also lets us know that Amy is the model for Amazing Amy, a mega-selling series of kids’ books written by her parents (David Clennon and Lisa Banes) about a character who succeeded where the real Amy often fell behind. The competition made the real Amy crazy but also left her with a healthy trust fund.

It’s at this point that reality intrudes. Both Nick and Amy lose their jobs, her trust fund takes a hit, his mother gets cancer, and the end result is that the couple move to North Carthage, Nick’s hometown and a place that total New Yorker Amy simply cannot abide.

Meanwhile, in the day-by-day present, Nick is starting to look more and more like a suspect (today’s savage media circus is one of the film’s targets), partially because his frat-boy good looks and charm don’t play well on the air.

Affleck, who’s had his own personal deer-in-the-headlights moments, gets Nick’s combination of arrogance and likability exactly right, and Pike (memorable in “An Education” and “Jack Reacher”) is completely his equal in a performance that defies expectations at every turn.

“Gone Girl’s” twisty plot wouldn’t be as effective as it is if the casting of all the subsidiary characters weren’t as good as the leads, and Laray Mayfield, who has cast Fincher’s films since 1999′s “Fight Club,” has done a superb job placing actors like Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski and Casey Wilson, as well as Coon, Dickens, Fugit, Clennon and Banes, in this intricate mosaic.

The same is true for Fincher’s veteran production team, including cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, editor Kirk Baxter, production designer Donald Graham Burt, costume designer Trish Summerville and the music and sound design team of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Ren Klyce. They’ve allowed the milk of human kindness nowhere near this production, but that is the way it had to be.

Twitter: @KennethTuran


‘Gone Girl’

At the New York Film Festival

MPAA rating: R, for scenes of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity and language

Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Playing: At New York Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall this Friday, then in general release starting Friday, Oct. 3

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Netflix’s ‘Crouching Tiger’ experiment: Is it a game-changer?

On Monday evening, Netflix announced plans to move into the narrative feature business. The company said in a statement that it was teaming with Weinstein Co. on the latter’s sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the 2000 Ang Lee martial-arts epic that was a smash at the time of its release–it remains the highest-grossing foreign-language movie in U.S. history–but hasn’t been a touchstone for some time.

The sequel, subtitled “The Green Legend,” was announced last year, and production was already under way in New Zealand (sans Lee). The news, of course, is Netflix, which will make the film available to subscribers day-and-date next August as Weinstein releases the film in Imax theaters globally.

This was, in a way, only a matter of time: Netflix, frustrated by a windowing system it sees as stifling its on-demand ethos, has been nibbling around narrative features for a whie. It created longform television with cinematic qualities in shows like ”House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” then acquired and marketed documentary features such as “The Square.” This is the next logical step.‎ (Netflix executives have been hinting at this for nearly a year.)

Anything Netflix does is news, in large part because the company has proved that it’s adept at creating both original material and buzz, if not exactly a verifiable audience.

And certainly a high-profile movie that would go into theaters and online at the same time is noteworthy. But is it a game-changer –‎ something that, in success, will hint at and even hasten a very different future? Here are a number of questions that inform that answer.

How novel is something like this?

There have been big filmmakers who’ve tinkered with day and date (Steven Soderbergh) and big stars who’ve tried same (check your weekly cable listings). But this is unquestionably being done on a larger scale. Martial arts movies require bigger budgets than most indie dramas or comedies, and they travel better and play well on a big screen, all of which not only sets this experiment apart but give Netflix a reason to think the movie could have life at theaters in a way that most day-and-date movies don’t.

On the other hand, it’s important to realize that, for all the hype, this isn’t a Marvel movie — it’s a sequel to a film that’s 15 years old and not on many moviegoers’ minds. It lacks some key original elements (more on that in a moment). And it comes in a genre that has a history of playing first or primarily in homes (whether on DVD or that bootlegged Bruce Lee VHS tape you got from your friend in 1987). A “Crouching Tiger” sequel, in other words, is not “The Avengers 2” or “Star Wars Episode 7,” which is the business the studios are really worried could be upended.

How theatrical is theatrical?

The push from Netflix into original feature content is notable. But perhaps even more critical is the deal with Imax. Most day-and-date releases get a release in a handful of big-city theaters and measure their theatrical success in seven figures (the $7 million for Richard Gere’s “Arbitrage” or the approximately $5 million for Weinstein’s own “Snowpiercer” this summer, both considered breakouts). Imax aims bigger — it’s global, for one thing, and there are more than 800 theaters so equipped around the world.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean “Crouching Tiger 2” can make a big play. In part that’s because a number of theater chains already said they won’t play it–Regal, for example, which with 86 Imax screens accounts for about 10% of all Imax theaters–and in part because of the next question…

Can major home and theatrical viewing coexist?

In theory, of course they can, and this is what executives — particularly at Netflix, but not jut them — like to say. Some people, the line goes, enjoy the communal big-screen experience and others just want to snuggle up with their tablet or laptop. “Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film,” Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in the statement.

But there’s long been a push-pull here, and if it’s not outright cannibalistic, it’s also not exactly complementary either. The reason most movies made for VOD are small is simple–small is where they play best. And the reason certain movies, particularly big-budget effects spectacles, make much of their money on the big screen is because that’s where they play best. There’s a kind of mutual exclusivity at work: If a company wants a movie that at once plays well on the big screen — indeed, that by its existence almost compels people to watch it there — it needs to offer something your laptop or tablet doesn’t. And once it does that, the experience is going to degrade on a screen of five or 10 inches. It’s hard, in other words, to have it both ways.

Netflix hopes that it can reach a lot of consumers with streams in markets where there is no nearby Imax theater. And it well may attract some to this (presumably less-optimal) experience. But the larger logic remains somewhat at odds. Consumers these days embrace big like Imax and small like iPhone. But will they embrace them both for the same movie? That’s a lot less clear.

Will the movie be the second coming of “Crouching Tiger” or a more a generic sequel?

Time will tell, but auspices frequently offer a clue. This production is a partial return to the first film. Based on another book in Wang Du Lu’s “Crane-Iron Pentalogy” that provided source material for “Crouching Tiger,” it also brings back star Michelle Yeoh from the original — but not Chow Yun-fat or ‎Zhang Ziyi. ‎Yuen Wo-Pin, the martial-arts pioneer who handled the choreography in the first film, is back, but this time as a director. Lee, critically, is not. (The new film also has a rather unexpected array of producers, including “Battleship” director Pete Berg and the director of Weinstein’s upcoming “Imitation Game” awards contender, Morten Tyldum; you can make up your own mind on those.) 

DreamWorks Animation sale could help it at box office, analysts say

DreamWorks Animation has evolved from a fledgling studio into a $700-million-a-year multimedia powerhouse, but Wall Street analysts said Sunday that the proposed acquisition by Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp. could help the studio weather an increasingly volatile run at the box office.

SoftBank offered to buy the Glendale-based studio for $32 a share, according to a person familiar with the talks — well above the company’s current share price, which closed at $22.36 on Friday. The deal values DreamWorks at $3.4 billion.

Analysts noted that SoftBank’s capital could give DreamWorks the financial stability it has been lacking as a stand-alone studio dependent on the fortunes of two or three new releases each year.

Although the Jeffrey Katzenberg-led studio is behind box office favorites such as “Shrek” and “Madagascar,” it has also experienced recent misses such as “Turbo” and “Rise of the Guardians.”

With this kind of business model, “every film has to be a huge hit or you’re in trouble,” said Steve Hulett, a business agent for the Animation Guild, which represents many DreamWorks employees.

Unlike rival studios owned by media conglomerates, DreamWorks has little cushion when one movie flops. The company posted a $15.4 million loss in the second quarter and has reported three write-downs in the last two years.

“SoftBank’s deep pockets provide access to capital for DreamWorks’ hit-driven business,” said Laura Martin, a senior media analyst with Needham & Co. in Los Angeles.

Tokyo-based SoftBank controls Sprint Corp. and recently dropped a bid to acquire T-Mobile. DreamWorks Animation, meanwhile, has been attempting to diversify its operations with interests in television, theme parks, live entertainment and digital media.

“I think they are sort of doing a 21st century version of what Disney did in the 1950s, when they went from being just an animation studio to doing live action,” Hulett said. “They diversified, and that’s the only thing you can do if you want to be a long-term player. Now it probably makes sense to sell.”

Added Martin: “This is a great deal for DreamWorks shareholders because it’s a generous premium to their public share price, and we expect DreamWorks shareholders to approve the deal.”

Other analysts, however, were more skeptical.

“DreamWorks has been a steady content creator for a pretty sustained period of time, and the ramp-up in production hasn’t yielded the success that they hoped for,” said Rich Greenfield, a senior media analyst with BTIG, which has a sell rating on DreamWorks. “I think Disney and Pixar, with lesser output, have been far more successful and far more profitable. The question from us is, why now? What are you buying?”

To be sure, the deal poses some risks for SoftBank, given DreamWorks’ track record at the box office and the history of foreign investors in Hollywood.

Denzel Washington’s ‘The Equalizer’ tops ‘The Boxtrolls’ at box office

Denzel Washington brought his might to the box office yet again with his latest action film, “The Equalizer.”

The R-rated movie, based on the gritty 1985-89 CBS series starring Edward Woodward, topped all other films with an estimated weekend gross of $35 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Produced by Sony Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, the film cost about $55 million to make. The studios had predicted a modest $25 million to $30 million opening.

“From the first minute we saw footage of this film, we knew we had something that was special,” said Rory Bruer, distribution president for Sony Pictures. “It’s been a really great weekend.”

The Washington box-office results shouldn’t come as a surprise: Washington’s last 10 wide releases, including “Flight” (2013) and “Deja Vu” (2006), have each opened to more than $20 million.

“The Equalizer” is the latest collaboration between Washington and director Antoine Fuqua, who worked together on the hit “Training Day.” That 2001 film, which won Washington an Oscar, topped the box office and grossed $22.5 million in its opening weekend. It went on to take in a total of $76.3 million in the U.S. and Canada and more than $100 million internationally.

The gender breakdown for “The Equalizer” was fairly balanced, with male moviegoers making up 52% of the audience. About 65% of audiences were older than 30.

“I think [Washington] is one of those rare actors that really appeals to everyone,” Bruer said. “He and Fuqua also work beautifully off each other and bring stories to a new level.”

The movie received a grade of A-minus from audience polling form Cinemascore and earned generally positive reviews from critics. Bruer said he wouldn’t be surprised if the film got a sequel.

In its sophomore weekend, 20th Century Fox’s “The Maze Runner” took second place, adding $17.5 million to its domestic gross. The film, which finished first in its opening weekend, has earned $58 million to date.

The film follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who is deposited into a community of young men in a postapocalyptic world. After learning that they are trapped in a maze, he joins fellow “runners” to try to escape.

The film, directed by Wes Ball, cost about $34 million to make. It earned generally positive reviews from critics and received a grade of A-minus from audience polling firm CinemaScore. Based on the bestselling young-adult novel by James Dashner, the film has been especially popular among people under the age of 25.

Focus Features’ stop-motion animated film “The Boxtrolls” exceeded studio estimates and came in third with about $17.3 million. It was the strongest debut for Laika, the production company behind Academy Award-nominated films “Coraline” and “Paranorman.”

“Denzel Washington is one of the most bankable guys in the industry but ‘The Equalizer’ is a R-rated title for adults. … There was plenty of room for us to do very well with a broad, charming family film,” said Jim Orr, president of distribution for Focus. “I think they existed very nicely together.”

The film follows a family of quirky creatures who have raised a human boy named Eggs.

As expected, it resonated most with families with children under 18. Female moviegoers made up about 57% of the audience.

The movie received a grade of B-plus from Cinemascore. As of Sunday, it had notched a 71% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“We have great hopes for it,” Orr said.

Comedy-drama “This Is Where I Leave You” was fourth, adding $7 million in its second weekend. Its box-office total to date is about $22.6 million.

“Dolphin Tale 2” rounded out the top five, adding $4.8 million, bringing its three-weekend gross to $33.7 million.

The Liam Neeson thriller “A Walk Among the Tombstones” dropped a whopping 67% in its second weekend, falling to No. 7. The film grossed $4.2 million, making its gross to date $20.9 million.

Also remaining in the top 10 were Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

At No. 8, “Guardians of the Galaxy” added $3.8 million. With a cumulative domestic gross of $319.2 million, the film has exceeded the total domestic grosses of “Iron Man” ($318.4 million), “Iron Man 2” ($312.4 million), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” ($259.8 million) and other blockbuster titles.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” nabbed the 10th spot, adding about $1.5 million to its total gross. The film has collected $187.2 million to date.

In limited release, CBS Films’ “Pride” saw a solid opening of $84,791 in six locations. The gay and labor rights drama received an A grade from Cinemascore. As of Sunday, it had notched a 93% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

A semi-happy ending for ‘Once Upon a Time’

Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director’s Cut

Warner Bros., $14.97; Blu-ray, $34.99

The long, tortured history of Sergio Leone’s 1984 masterpiece reaches a semi-happy end with the release of a new 251-minute, restored version on DVD and Blu-ray (with a Richard Schickel commentary track and a documentary). Leone’s ambitious adaptation of Harry Grey’s novel “The Hoods” stars Robert De Niro and James Woods as longtime friends who experience shifting fortunes in their criminal enterprises between the 1920s and the ’60s. After the long version of the movie with its artfully jumbled chronology won raves at Cannes, the American distributors hacked it down and streamlined it, though in the decades since, still-incomplete longer versions have come out on home video. The new version — reconstructed with the help of Martin Scorsese — is the closest yet to Leone’s vision and is one of the cinematic events of the year.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Paramount, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

It’s hard to argue against a movie that’s made a billion dollars worldwide without sounding like a spoilsport, but with Michael Bay’s latest giant robot brawl, the question isn’t whether it was worth seeing in summer 2014 but whether anyone will care 10 years from now. Set five years after “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the new film introduces a new hero — a small-town single dad and tinkerer, played by Mark Wahlberg — but is otherwise indistinguishable from the earlier “Transformers” pictures. The quick-cut editing is near-incomprehensible, the jokes and dialogue are corny, and although Bay brings a sense of awe to the sight of massive robots wreaking havoc, the trick becomes less impressive by the second hour. “Age of Extinction” is fleetingly diverting, but it lacks heart and inventiveness — and is ultimately unmemorable. The DVD and Blu-ray set are generous with extras, piling on three hours of featurettes.


Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD Tuesday

After spending a decade-plus making big-budget studio pictures, Jon Favreau returns to his indie roots, making his warmest, funniest, most personal picture since “Swingers.” In addition to writing and directing, Favreau stars as a popular L.A. chef who quits his job and travels across the country in a food truck, making Cuban sandwiches with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and son. Favreau is a little too alarmist about Internet trolls and critics, and it takes too long for the movie’s plot to kick in, but otherwise this is a charming and well-acted film, with strong supporting turns by John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson, among others. (Audiences agree: “Chef” is one of the most successful indie films of 2014.) The “Chef” DVD and Blu-ray adds deleted scenes and a commentary track with Favreau and his culinary consultant, Roy Choi.

Third Person

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

Writer-director Paul Haggis ventures back to the “everything’s connected” melodrama of his Oscar-winning “Crash,” telling three stories about couples in crisis, bound by a single, unexpected thread. The surprise ending of “Third Person” is ridiculous, and although Haggis has a top-shelf cast at his disposal (including Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Olivia Wilde), the film’s unrelenting grimness and seriousness squeeze the life out of it. Nearly every character has a dark secret — each darker than the last — as though bleakness alone could make “Third Person” important. The “Third Person” DVD and Blu-ray comes with a Haggis commentary track, plus an interview and a featurette.


Are You Here

Millennium, $28.99; Blu-ray, $29.99

Cold in July

MPI, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Space Station 76

Sony, $26.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

24: Live Another Day

20th Century Fox, $49.98; Blu-ray, $59.99

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Crop of ‘New Dangerous’ filmmakers take edgy to new levels

It’s a word that began popping into my head as I was seeing films at the beginning of the year, and it has returned to my mind repeatedly ever since. Despite dispiriting signs pointing to decline in the industry and drift to other platforms, there has also been an ongoing undercurrent of energy, excitement and rupture that goes against notions of an art form in decline.

This is the New Dangerous.

Films such as “Nightcrawler,” “Dear White People,” “Obvious Child,” “Listen Up Philip,” “Men, Women and Children,” “Tusk,” and “Birdman” share little in regards to story, style or structure, but they are all marked by a sureness and self-awareness. “Dangerous” is the word that comes to my mind because these are movies that refuse to settle down or behave properly. They do their own thing.

Rapper Andre Benjamin has a Jimi Hendrix experience

Rapper André Benjamin had to learn to walk pigeon-toed before he could even begin to transform himself into guitarist Jimi Hendrix for writer-director John Ridley’s new biopic, “Jimi: All Is by My Side.” He started mumbling a bit more when he spoke too. But there’s one thing Benjamin didn’t anticipate when he agreed to depict the man behind Hendrix the icon, a sensitive, introverted sci-fi geek who was so terrified of singing he often turned his back on the audience.

“He wore heels,” Benjamin says, “so I had to learn to walk in heels. He also permed his hair, so I had to wear curlers. Heels and curlers, around my house, like all the time.”

Benjamin’s own rise to fame as OutKast’s Andre 3000 was markedly different than the rock legend he portrays, but like Hendrix he’s known for pushing boundaries — from his outlandish outfits to wonderfully bizarre wordplay (“Shake it like a Polaroid picture!”).

He arrives at a recent interview in a neon orange knit cap, white round sunglasses (indoors) and a baggy camouflage jacket over another baggy Army jacket over another article of clothing too buried to identify.

Yet for all his flamboyance on stage and album, Benjamin, 39, is a soft-spoken, thoughtful guy — not unlike the man he plays in the film. “I can relate to the story of an artist trying to become an entertainer,” Benjamin says. “Onstage, you have all these wild antics and have fun. When you’re in that world, you’re something different.”

“Jimi was an antihero,” says Ridley, who won an Oscar for his “12 Years a Slave” screenplay. “A typical Hollywood hero is very declarative — I’m gonna conquer the world! But he was just like, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ It took all these people around him to say you can do the thing you want, there just has to be some ownership of it. It was an evolution.”

A large part of that evolution takes place in 1966, the transformative year in which “Jimi: All Is by My Side” (out Friday) takes place. It’s when Keith Richard’s girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogene Poots) sees backup musician Jimmy James playing in a R&B band at New York’s Cheetah Bar. Blown away by his raw talent, she persuades the unsure artist to come to England.

Hendrix tears up London’s club circuit, impressing “cats” like Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. A few groovy hats and velvet jackets later (the wardrobe here is fabulous), he takes back his birth name to become Jimi Hendrix. In a final push toward greatness, Keith introduces him to future manager and producer the Animals’ Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley). By the close of the two-hour film, Hendrix is headed to his breakout moment in America, the Monterey Pop Festival.