Now showing: ‘Suffering for their art’ films like ‘Birdman’ and ‘Whiplash’

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“The chief enemy of creativity,” Pablo Picasso once said, “is good sense.”

He might have added that it doesn’t get on so well with healthy living or emotional well-being either. The birth pangs of art have been a staple of the examined life since humans began examining it. Vincent van Gogh lost an ear in such a pursuit. Syd Barrett lost his mind. Ernest Hemingway lost his life.

Such torment has been catnip for film personalities, from John Garfield’s “Humoresque” in 1946 to “8 1/2,” “Amadeus” and “Black Swan.” The idea of artists grappling with the pain and delusions of their fragile psyches has been as encoded in the cinematic DNA as clinical madness has been in the real genome.

But directors seem especially preoccupied with the subject lately. Visit your local movie theater this fall and you might think you mistakenly walked into the office of the Juilliard psychologist.

Popping up everywhere are movies about people buckling under their own artistic weight — the kind that comes with being a certain type of jazz musician (“Whiplash”), actor (“Birdman”), novelist (“Listen Up Philip”), painter (Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner”), actor again (Chris Rock’s upcoming “Top Five,”) concert pianist (the Ethan Hawke-directed fall-festival documentary smash “Seymour”), actor once more (Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria”), rock singer (the Michael Fassbender-starring “Frank”), documentary filmmaker (Noah Baumbach’s upcoming “While We’re Young”) and actor again (Al Pacino’s “The Humbling”).

The disciplines vary; the personalities run the gamut. Yet all of these movies rest on one key dramatic idea: being a creative person is really, really hard.

In an age when iPhones have created armies of Annie Leibovitzes and anyone with a Typepad account is instantly a writer, stories about artistic struggle are on everyone’s minds a little more, including directors.

Or maybe some creative people just don’t want to stretch too far.

“The truth is that filmmakers like me can’t always step out of our own lives,” said “Listen Up Philip” director Alex Ross Perry, not really joking.

Pebble Smartwatch Review For Women

Before we get into what a Pebble smartwatch is and how it works – if you’re a woman and you want a review from the perspective of a review from a real woman that wears a Pebble watch, be sure to read this Pebble Watch review for women – by a woman.

San Fransokyo architects built a new world for Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6′

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The San Fransokyo cityscape in “Big Hero 6″ is an urban mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. (Disney)

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For the movie “Big Hero 6,” filmmakers combed the streets of San Francisco to find this Victorian architectural gem in Haight-Ashbury that served as the inspiration for Aunt Cass’ cafe. (Disney)

la ca 1021 big hero 6 132 San Fransokyo architects built a new world for Disneys Big Hero 6

Disney artists then “wonkified” an image of the house by stretching it and exaggerating it. This concept art, inspired by the Victorian house, was drawn by Scott Watanabe. (Disney)

la ca 1021 big hero 6 133 San Fransokyo architects built a new world for Disneys Big Hero 6

The final result is the Lucky Cat cafe on a steep hill lined with cherry blossom trees. Disney’s Paul Felix and Scott Watanabe obtained data on every building in San Francisco and began Japanifying them. (Disney)

la ca 1021 big hero 6 142 San Fransokyo architects built a new world for Disneys Big Hero 6

“Big Hero 6″ concept art of a San Fransokyo street — the view from the Lucky Cat cafe. (Scott Watanabe / Disney)

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Disney artists based their San Fransokyo architecture in “Big Hero 6,” left, on real-world architecture. (Scott Watanabe / Disney)

la ca 1021 big hero 6 149 San Fransokyo architects built a new world for Disneys Big Hero 6

Disney artists based their San Fransokyo architecture in “Big Hero 6,” right, on real-world architecture. (Scott Watanabe / Disney)

Before the directors of the new Walt Disney Animation movie “Big Hero 6″ settled on their story, they created the world in which it’s set: a jammed, vibrant place called San Fransokyo.

A mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo set in the not-too-distant future, San Fransokyo is a dense, hilly city with cable cars and cherry blossoms, Victorian row houses and glittering neon billboards.

The filmmakers’ idea — never stated in the film — is that in a parallel universe after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the city split off and an influx of Japanese immigrants helped rebuild it.

San Fransokyo is a quintessential example of the craft of world building, the process of constructing a wholly imaginary universe for films, television, video games and other media, that involves creating the look of everything from buildings, vegetation and vehicles to the way light refracts and how people look, move and talk.

A version of production design on steroids, world building is enjoying increasing recognition as an art form thanks to the ambitious worlds created for such fantastical live action films as “Avatar” and the “Harry Potter” series, and video games like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Halo.”

Concept art for "Big Hero 6" showcases San Fransokyo during the day. (Disney)

Concept art for “Big Hero 6″ showcases San Fransokyo during the day. (Disney)

Though science fiction films as far back as “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner” depicted created worlds, ever-more sophisticated computer graphics programs, including one Disney developed in-house and is debuting with “Big Hero 6,” have enabled creators to bring more densely designed worlds to the screen.

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams from a loose adaptation of a little-known Marvel Comic by Duncan Rouleau and Steven Seagle, “Big Hero 6,” which opens Nov. 7, follows a rebellious robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) and a guileless, inflatable healthcare robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) as they’re drawn together by a devastating event. Four other motley heroic characters Hiro meets in the science lab round out the team of “6” in “Big Hero 6.”

The film marks the first time another division of Disney has taken on a Marvel property since the media giant acquired the comic book company behind “Captain America” and “The Avengers” in 2009.

Disney artists based their San Fransokyo architecture in "Big Hero 6," right, on real-world architecture. (Scott Watanabe / Disney)

Disney artists based their San Fransokyo architecture in “Big Hero 6,” right, on real-world architecture. (Scott Watanabe / Disney)

Much of the appeal of taking on an obscure comic rather than one with an avid fan base, Disney Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter said when he announced the film, was the opportunity for Disney’s artists to put their own stamp on it.

“John believes your story’s going to change over the course of the years it takes to do these movies,” Hall said at the Burbank studio. “But your world is something you’re going to live with the whole time. … We put a stake in the ground and said, ‘OK, we want this world to be very lived in, very rich, very detailed.’ … The idea is to pack the frame full of a visual wealth so you feel like people have been living here for a long time.”

Hall first pitched the film to Lasseter in 2011, and the story evolved over the years to focus on the relationship between Hiro and Baymax. The completed world in “Big Hero 6″ is a vast one, with 83,000 buildings and more than 200,000 streetlights — it’s so complex, in fact, that the worlds of the last three Disney Animation movies, “Frozen,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Tangled,” could easily fit within it.

As a starting point, Hall, Williams, production designer Paul Felix and art director of environments Scott Watanabe obtained the San Francisco assessor’s data of every building in the city and began Japanifying them.

A Victorian home on a picture-esque corner near Haight-Ashbury inspired the Lucky Cat cafe, which Hiro lives above with his aunt and brother. In the “Big Hero 6″ version, artists stretched out and exaggerated — or “wonkified” in Disney shop parlance — the shapes of the house. They added a figurine of a Maneki-Neko cat and Japanese signage, steepened the hill and lined the street with Japan’s signature cherry blossom trees.

 

A real Victorian home in San Franscisco's Haight-Ashbury district served as a model for the Lucky Cat cafe. (Disney)

A real Victorian home in San Franscisco’s Haight-Ashbury district served as a model for the Lucky Cat cafe. (Disney)

The filmmakers found inspiration in everything from intricate Japanese manhole covers to karaoke bars, vending machines and electrical wires.

“There are no found objects in animation,” said “Big Hero 6″ producer Roy Conli. “You literally have to create the grain of the wood.”

“Big Hero 6’s” makers had a new tool at their disposal, a program developed at Disney called Hyperion that lights a scene, automatically performing the calculations of how sunlight streaming in the window of Hiro’s messy bedroom, for instance, will bounce off multiple surfaces, diffuse and pick up color.

It sounds simple, but the process allowed the makers of “Big Hero 6″ to create a more ambitious and artfully designed world, one where the glow of streetlights shimmers on wet pavement in a car chase and a fiery blast illuminates the city.

“The audience isn’t necessarily conscious of why they’re enjoying being in a place,” Watanabe said. “Sometimes the best environment is the one you don’t notice.”

– Rebecca Keegan | @ThatRebecca

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‘Citizenfour’ a compelling look at Edward Snowden’s actions

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

This in essence is the message of “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’ highly anticipated documentary on Edward Snowden’s decision to expose the National Security Agency’s ravenous appetite for clandestinely collecting the personal data of ordinary citizens. If left unchecked, the film persuasively posits, this lust for information on an unprecedented scale could mean the end of privacy as we know it.

Because Poitras was among the first people Snowden contacted, because she became involved in the process, this is first and foremost an advocacy documentary with a compelling you-are-there quality. It puts us in the room where Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, his key conduit to the outside world, conferred in Hong Kong’s Mira Hotel over eight days as they made decisions about what was to be published and why.

These extensive hotel conversations are terribly exciting, but they take up so much of “Citizenfour’s” running time they also result in a more limited film than viewers may be expecting. What we get is as much an edited record of those historic high-tension days as an examination of the issues surrounding electronic surveillance. “Citizenfour” is a formidable viewing experience, but it’s not necessarily a problem-free film.

Poitras, a superb documentarian whose previous work includes “My Country, My Country” and “The Oath,” was already working on a documentary about governmental surveillance when, in a scenario worthy of John le Carre or even Eric Ambler, she was contacted by a source identified only as “Citizenfour.”

Insisting on fierce security protocols over and above the ones Poitras, herself a target of surveillance, already employed, Citizenfour and the filmmaker exchanged email messages for months, some of which appear on the screen and are read by Poitras in a calm, poised, quietly effective voice.

Citizenfour encourages Poitras and Greenwald, a journalist for Britain’s the Guardian, to work together. After some six months of complex email conversations, the three of them meet in that Hong Kong hotel to make final plans.

‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ a painterly epic

“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” submerges us in a world of transporting beauty. A hand-drawn, painterly epic that looks like a watercolor sketchbook come to life, it is further proof that the wonders of Japanese animation truly never cease. Based on a 10th century folk tale about a magical creature who comes to live with a hard-working bamboo cutter and his wife, it is the first work in 14 years by venerable 78-year-old Isao Takahata, the co-founder, with the great Hayao Miyazaki, of Studio Ghibli. As animation intended for adults as much if not more so than for children, “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” was definitely worth the wait.

@KennethTuran

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1′ clip teases Gale, Peeta rivalry

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Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Woody Harrelson stars as Haymitch Abernathy in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Coin (Julianne Moore) in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Natalie Dormer stars as Cressida in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Jeffrey Wright stars as Beetee in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Mahershala Ali, left, and director Francis Lawrence on the set of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Liam Hemsworth as Gale in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Natalie Dormer as Cressida in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Wes Chatham as Castor in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Mahershala Ali as Boggs in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Eldon Henson as Pollux in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Evan Ross as Messalla in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Sam Claflin as Finnick in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Woody Harrelson as Haymitch in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Jeffrey Wright as Beetee in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Donald Sutherland as President Snow in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

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Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

A new teaser for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″ hints at the growing animosity between the men in Katniss Everdeen’s life.

The 30-second video clip, released Tuesday, depicts Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), her childhood friend turned potential romantic interest, in District 13 surrounded by weapons as the rebels prepare to make war against Panem’s oppressive regime, helmed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

But Snow seems to have his own weapon — the captured Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Peeta, of course, is Katniss’ other potential lover and her partner in the Hunger Games arena, where the pair twice fought in televised battles to the death (in the box office blockbusters “The Hunger Games” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) aimed at keeping Panem’s people in line.

“Everyone needs to lay down their weapons immediately,” Peeta says in what appears to be a public service announcement from the Capitol.

The announcement lets Katniss know he survived after he was left in the arena while she was whisked out by the resistance movement at the end of the second film, but Peeta’s demands draw Gale’s ire.

“Everyone has a choice, Katniss, and I’d rather die than say what he just said,” Gale tells her angrily.

The teaser also reveals a glimpse of District 13’s armed resistance as Katniss agrees to fight for the rebels.

“The Hunger Games” films are based on the bestselling young adult book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. “Mockingjay – Part 1″ is the third and penultimate film in the series, due in theaters Nov. 21. The film will premiere in London on Nov. 10, Lionsgate announced Wednesday. The final film, “Mockingjay – Part 2,” is slated for a Nov. 20 release. “Catching Fire” director Francis Lawrence (no relation to star Jennifer Lawrence) is directing both films.

Check out the trailer and images from the film in the gallery above.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli surfaces with ‘Tale of Princess Kaguya’

For many fans of Japanese animation, the name Studio Ghibli has become synonymous with the fantastic worlds and deeply felt emotions of director Hayao Miyazaki. This is, in part, because Miyazaki’s founding partner in the studio, Isao Takahata, went 14 years without making a feature film.

With “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” playing now in Los Angeles, Takahata, who turns 79 on Oct. 29, has returned with a film both light and heavy, with its delicate, painterly look supporting an emotional intensity.

In the time since his previous film, Takahata has not simply sat still. Among other projects, he has published numerous books, including a survey of historical animation and one on fine art.

“I’m quite a dilettante,” he during a recent phone call from Tokyo. “I like all kinds of things.”

Takahata first had the idea for the film decades ago, and that exacting, unhurried sense of curiosity and exploration comes through in the film. The project took eight years of recent work from start to finish with its hand-drawn images by the Studio Ghibli team and assistance from computers for backgrounds and animation.

“In order to really understand where Studio Ghibli is coming from, I think you really have to be familiar with Takahata’s films as well as Miyazaki’s,” said Dave Jesteadt, director of distribution at GKIDS, which is releasing “Princess Kaguya.” The company has put out numerous Studio Ghibli titles and will also be releasing “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” a documentary on the making of Miyazaki’s recent “The Wind Rises,” by the end of the year.

“If Studio Ghibli is your favorite band, then Takahata has the deep cuts from the back catalog,” Jesteadt said. “And it presents a really interesting contrast to some of the films people are familiar with when they think of Ghibli.”

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is drawn from a 10th century Japanese folk tale known as “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.” In the film, a poor rural man who makes his living cutting bamboo discovers a small baby girl growing inside a stalk. Though the girl is said to be from the Kingdom of the Moon, the man and his wife raise her as their child. As she grows, she rebuffs many wealthy suitors, holding out hope to be with a local boy she knows from her youth, until she is eventually torn away from her Earth-bound life and family and forced to return to her otherworldly home.

The film opened in Japan at the end of last year and went on to the Cannes Film Festival before playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, and has been met internationally by near-universal critical acclaim. The Times’ Kenneth Turan hailed it as “a parable about what matters in life and what does not.” While calling the film “a staggering masterpiece,” critic Glenn Kenny, writing at RogerEbert.com, called the film “both very simple and head-spinningly confounding, a thing of endless visual beauty… a true work of art.”

The look of the film has generated just as much talk as the storytelling, with an organic flowing quality that is for many reminiscent of the soft colors and fluid, impressionistic images of watercolor painting.

“I wanted to give life to the line,” Takahata said regarding the film’s distinctively ephemeral look, an extension of techniques he first explored with his previous feature, 1999′s “My Neighbors the Yamadas.”

“Well, certainly I have no word to describe the style that I use. I don’t have a name for it,” he added. “Even with watercolors, there are many styles, so I wouldn’t want to label it as watercolor.

“Of course it helps to have very well-drawn features, but what I like to have come from the film is the feeling of the moment, the feeling of the characters. So in this film of ours, we used lines and forms that are not maybe completely finished, but my whole intent was to really convey the feeling of that moment, of that story.”

Though it may seem unusual that Takahata is dismissive of his own abilities to draw, he is quick to note that Walt Disney did not draw on his most famous films. “If you want to make an animated film from your own drawings, I think you would become very narrow and limited by your own style and abilities. The role of the director is to gather very talented people, and to direct his vision.”

In a documentary made for Japanese television on the making of “Princess Kaguya,” Takahata is captured barely pausing from his own work to watch a broadcast of the news conference at which Miyazaki, an Oscar winner for “Spirited Away,” announced his retirement. Miyazaki may be better known — he is receiving an honorary Oscar at this year’s Governors Awards — but it is the push-and-pull of the long relationship between him and Takahata that has allowed them both to achieve greatness.

“I have said that Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement announcement shouldn’t be a surprise,” Takahata said. “I still have hopes for him, that he can perhaps make another film. I really want him to.”

Though Miyazaki, 73, declared “The Wind Rises” his last film, the older Takahata feels no such compulsion. Their differing approaches to the twilight of their careers underscore how, even though the pair may be great friends and colleagues — they have known each other more than 50 years — they are very different as filmmakers. Takahata’s work is marked by a moodiness that is in contrast to Miyazaki’s sense of wonder. There is also perhaps some sense of competition fueling their work.

“I don’t want to say that I want to retire or that I have retired,” Takahata said. “I still have films that I might want to make, but there’s a reality of whether I can make them or not at my age. I’m very fortunate to work with very talented people, and I certainly don’t plan on retiring and don’t want to say that I am retired.”

The fervent fandom around Studio Ghibli could be seen last summer when comments from a news conference in Japan by producer Toshio Suzuki were misunderstood in translation to mean that Studio Ghibli was closing. (It’s not.) Yet the outpouring of concern and emotion over the possibility created an uproar.

Now, they have much to cheer with at least this one more film from the quiet master of Takahata. With rave reviews, the film looks to be competitive in the race for the animated feature Oscar.

“If this happens to be his last film,” said Jesteadt, “I think everyone involved just feels like this is a wonderful, amazing masterpiece of a film, one of the best films we’ve been fortunate enough to release. To be involved in any way is incredibly special.”

‘Moana’: Disney unveils first look at South Pacific animated feature

Concept art for "Moana," an upcoming feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios. (Disney)

Concept art for “Moana,” an upcoming feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios. (Disney)

Walt Disney Animation Studios has revealed a first look at “Moana,” an animated feature slated to hit theaters in late 2016.

Billed as an “epic comedy-adventure,” the CG-animated movie will transport Disney fans to the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, where spirited teenager Moana sets sail in search of a fabled island.

“Moana” is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the filmmaking duo behind “The Little Mermaid,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “Aladdin.” The tale follows Moana, a born navigator, and her hero, the legendary demigod Maui, as they set off on an impossible mission to fulfill Moana’s ancestors’ quest. Along the way, they encounter enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore, according to Disney.

“Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” Musker said in a press statement. “She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”

The concept art, unveiled Monday, depicts Moana and Maui at sea. Check it out above.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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

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.”

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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!