Alejandro G. Inarritu on ‘navigating the labyrinth’ of ‘Birdman’

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Alejandro G. Inarritu’s black comedy “Birdman” plunges viewers into the not-entirely-earthbound world of Riggan Thomson, a washed-up former superhero actor played by Michael Keaton who’s trying to get his mojo back by mounting a Broadway play.

Along the way, the film blurs the lines between reality and fiction — playing off Keaton’s own “Batman” past, for example, or disguising any visible edits — and also explodes them with fantastical imagery and seamless, sometimes disorienting leaps in time.

In an exclusive video, which you can watch above, Inarritu and his cast discuss how they brought “Birdman” to life.

“I wanted the audience to be navigating the labyrinth of what [Riggan] is going through,” Inarritu says of the film, which he calls his most challenging project.

Because he employed long takes and couldn’t rely on the safety net of cutting, Inarritu had to be precise in staging the film, and his actors had to nail their marks.

“Everything was absolutely meticulously prepared,” the director says. “Every step, every word, every camera move, every single thing, we had to really rehearse.” At the same time, he adds, “I try to be truthful and honest with the performances and the emotions and the things that are happening.”

Check out the video for more from Inarritu, Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and others.

Follow @ogettell for movie news

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

‘Overnighters’ an intimate chronicle of boomtown job seekers

The labor migrations that have shaped the United States are far from done. They’re a charged reality that continues to transform lives and communities, as an exceptional new documentary brings home powerfully.

Working alone, filmmaker Jesse Moss implanted himself amid an influx of hopeful newcomers to a tiny oil-patch town in North Dakota. “The Overnighters” is his intimate and often wrenching chronicle of lives in transition: With not enough work to go around and few housing options, the job seekers find themselves within a boomtown’s limits but as outsiders looking in.

The director zeros in on embattled clergyman Jay Reinke, who gives the would-be workers shelter and a sympathetic ear — to his congregation’s rising alarm. As men from across the country and beyond descend on the town of Williston, drawn by eureka reports of oil drilling (thanks to fracking), the pastor opens his Lutheran church and its parking lot to those who need a place to sleep. Reinke feeds and counsels them, and his wife and children support his commitment and even welcome a few of the men into their home.

Reinke is the kind of man who greets the morning with a song and who can’t stop himself from waving to a passing Amtrak train. But he’s no Pollyanna: Witness his reaction when a neighbor calls the migrants “trash” and later when a ground-shifting scandal erupts. Enemies arise and lessons in tolerance come full circle in breathtaking ways.

Moss’ film addresses many things, not least second chances. It’s the rare documentary in which truly unpredictable events unfold and no assumption is safe.

“He’ll take you as you are,” a beneficiary of Reinke’s compassion says. In a film of disquieting moral complexity, that’s not just a statement but a challenge.

————

“The Overnighters.”

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, brief strong language.

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Playing: Landmark’s Nuart, West Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

The high art of ‘The Shining’: A guest essay by ‘Horns’ director Alexandre Aja

horns 10 The high art of The Shining’: A guest essay by Horns director Alexandre Aja

Director Alexandre Aja on the set of “The Hills Have Eyes.” (Lacey Terrell / Fox Searchlight)

In the spirit of Halloween, Hero Complex reached out to select filmmakers to solicit their fondest memories of classic horror. Below, Alexandre Aja, whose new Joe Hill adaptation “Horns” starring Daniel Radcliffe opens Friday, fondly recalls the influence that Stanley Kubrick’s iconic take on Stephen King’s “The Shining” has exerted over his own work.  

The first time I saw “The Shining” it changed my life.

There was a video club right down the street from us, a two- or three-minute walk from our house. As soon as I was old enough, my mother gave me permission to go to the video club and rent films. Even then I loved movies. I knew there was that section at the end of the store where they had all the horror movies. I remember the poster for “Evil Dead II” was the scariest thing I’d seen. I knew I was too young, I was kind of a scared kid and I had big nightmares so I didn’t even want to try to rent one of those.

Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." (Warner Bros.)

Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” (Warner Bros.)

One day when I was about 7, I went to the video store. I was supposed to rent “Superman 2″ and I don’t know what happened, there was some mistake that the video club guy made. I ended up taking “The Shining” without knowing it.

When I put the tape in the VCR, from the first shot, I knew I wasn’t watching “Superman 2.” I knew something weird and special was about to happen. I couldn’t move. I was like maybe 4 or 5 feet away from the TV, but I couldn’t walk towards it to stop it. I was fully mesmerized.

I watched maybe a half an hour but it was enough time to present the twin sisters and a vision of the elevator with all the blood floating out. I talk a lot about the immersive experience as the ultimate quest in making all my movies, but I think my desire to be INTO a movie, living it and not just watching it, came from that first experience of being sucked into that flow of images that Stanley Kubrick put together, where each element, from the music to the sound design to the choice of focal length, everything created an experience from which there was no escape. It was way beyond my expectations.

I finally managed to step forward to stop the VCR and for years after that, I kept thinking about “The Shining.” I couldn’t get it out of my mind and then it became one of my all-time favorite movies, one of the films I consider to be the most perfect. It’s a movie I watch often and every time I do I realize how different the interpretation of the movie can be, going from a thrilling horror ride to a deep reflection on the human soul and who we are.

Years later I was researching a project about the Minotaur/labyrinth mythology. I came across this explanation — what if the Minotaur didn’t actually exist? What if after days of starving and being lost and dirty and wondering, you would end up seeing yourself in a mirror and that mirror would reveal a monster you were not expecting and that monster is you. You are the Minotaur. And that interpretation also fits “The Shining.” The labyrinth and the monster are of course very present in “The Shining.” That idea fascinated me and became a very influential theme in all of my movies. Facing an extreme situation, how we can turn into the worst or we can turn into the best?

The other huge influence is the mix of different genres within the same movie. When I first watched “The Shining,” I was of course scared to death. And years later I was still super scared but also appreciated Jack Nicholson’s operatic approach to the role. His portrayal of Jack Torrance was so over the top and crazy that it became one of the best dark humor moments in film history. It’s shocking AND funny. I love that black comedy and I tried to bring it to my first short film and “Piranha” and even more so in “Horns.” It comes from my love for and appreciation of “The Shining” and Jack Nicholson’s performance.

Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick on the set of "The Shining." (Warner Bros. / Los Angeles Times Archive)

Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick on the set of “The Shining.” (Warner Bros.)

Years after I saw the movie I discovered the book. It is so different from the Kubrick movie, but it’s also a fascinating example of adaptation. Apparently Stephen King never really liked the movie. I understand that, because the movie diverges from the novel so much. But I think the Kubrick movie and the book can exist side by side. I think you can appreciate the Stephen King masterpiece as well as the ultimate movie masterpiece that Kubrick made.

It showed me a way to approach book adaptations, not to just do a word-for-word retelling but something that would be self-sufficient, that could exist as a companion to the book. From remaking “Maniac” or “The Hills Have Eyes” or adapting “Horns” from the novel, I feel that each of these movies can be enjoyed and still let the audience appreciate the original movie or novel as well.

Perhaps my favorite shot of all time is Jack Torrance at the Overlook Hotel sitting at the bar rubbing his face in his hands, saying, “My soul for a beer” and the camera reversing to show Lloyd the barman entering from hell  — at least that’s my interpretation — and serving him a whiskey on the house.

There are many analyses of the movie and ultimately everyone brings their own interpretation to it. There isn’t just one explanation. It isn’t often that several people watching the same movie will have a completely different evaluation of it. That’s a great definition of art.

– Alexandre Aja

Follow us on Twitter: @LATherocomplex

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Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

trio2 Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

“Avengers” actors Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans welcome the newest hero, actor Chadwick Boseman, who will be the Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

crowd el capitan interior Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

Fans and media gathered at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood to hear Marvel Studios announce its upcoming slate of films. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

519565043 ae 8434 06c869806e2af78a3a37457d541b1d89 Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

Fans line up for the Marvel Studios fan event at the El Capitan Theatre. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

feige strang Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announces the “Doctor Strange” film onstage. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

marvel capitan Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

Fans line up for the Marvel Studios event at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

marvel calendar Marvel unveils movie lineup: Captain Marvel, Black Panther, more

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige stands in front of a screen spotlighting the opening dates for Marvel’s newly announced slate of films. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney)

Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans will be starring in their own films as part of Marvel’s Phase Three wave of comic-book blockbusters.

The announcements about Marvel’s upcoming movie projects took place Tuesday in Hollywood at the El Capitan Theatre at a special event attended by the company’s brass and key filmmaking partners.

Marvel's "Black Panther" is slated for November 3, 2017. (Marvel)

Marvel’s “Black Panther” is slated for November 3, 2017. (Marvel)

Marvel movie chief Kevin Feige identified key dates for new releases that will make up Phrase Three. They included:

May 6, 2016 — “Captain America: Civil War”
Nov. 4, 2016 — “Doctor Strange”
May 5, 2017 — “Guardians of the Galaxy 2″
July 28, 2017 — “Thor: Ragnarok”
Nov. 3, 2017 — “Black Panther”
May 4, 2018 — “Avengers: Infinity War Part I”
July 6, 2018 — “Captain Marvel”
Nov. 2, 2018 — “Inhumans”
May 3, 2019 — “Avengers: Infinity War Part II”

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who earned raves in roles as Jackie Robinson and James Brown in earlier films, will play Black Panther.

He joined Marvel stalwarts Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans on stage at the conclusion of the presentation, where the latter two teased their rivalry in the next Captain America film, which will follow the Civil War story line first introduced in the comics in 2006 that saw Iron Man and Cap on opposite sides of a debate over registering superheroes with the government.

“With Black Panther, he is definitively a big part of ‘Civil War,’” Feige said. “We will meet him for the first time in Civil War in costume.”

The announcement comes two weeks after DC Entertainment revealed its own superhero lineup (including plans for Wonder Woman and Cyborg stand-alone films) during Time Warner’s investors conference.

“We wanted to do this at Comic-Con but things were not set,” Feige said during a Q&A with members of the press after the event.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Steven Spielberg enlists Mark Rylance for title role in ‘The BFG’

Steven Spielberg has found his Big Friendly Giant.

Mark Rylance, the Tony and Olivier award-winning stage actor, will play the title role in the director’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s book “The BFG,” DreamWorks Studios has announced.

Published in 1982, “The BFG” tells the story of a young orphan who teams up with a benevolent giant and the Queen of England to save the world from evil, man-eating behemoths.

Rylance, an acclaimed British thespian who served as the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London for a decade, also has a supporting role in Spielberg’s upcoming untitled Cold War thriller starring Tom Hanks.

Rylance’s previous film credits include “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “Angels and Insects,” but he is primarily known for his work on stage, such as “Jerusalem,” “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III.” It will no doubt be interesting to see how he translates the physicality and immediacy of his theater work to the screen for Spielberg’s films.

“As I witnessed on stage, Mark Rylance is a transformational actor,” Spielberg said in a statement. “I am excited and thrilled that Mark will be making this journey with us to Giant Country. Everything about his career so far is about making the courageous choice, and I’m honored he has chosen ‘The BFG’ as his next big screen performance.”

DreamWorks acquired the rights to “The BFG” in 2010, and screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who last collaborated with Spielberg on “E.T.,” penned the adaptation.

Production is scheduled to begin early next year, and the film is to hit theaters July 1, 2016, with Disney distributing in the U.S.

Follow @ogettell for movie news

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Adorable New Fisher Price Christmas Toy Sets!

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‘Doctor Strange’: Benedict Cumberbatch in talks for Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme

Benedict Cumberbatch. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Benedict Cumberbatch. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Marvel has identified Benedict Cumberbatch as the leading candidate to star in “Doctor Strange.”

The actor behind genre greats Khan, Smaug and Sherlock is in final talks for the role, sources confirmed Monday.

Rumored for a July 2016 release, the upcoming Marvel project is part of the studio’s phase three roster of comic book blockbusters and will be written and directed by Scott Derrickson (“Deliver Us From Evil,” “Sinister”).

The film will bring to the screen Stephen Vincent Strange, the former neurosurgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme who is the Marvel Universe’s greatest protector against magical peril – and one of his fellow superheroes’ most sought-after advisors.

(Marvel)

(Marvel)

First appearing in a Stan Lee-written and Steve Ditko-drawn story in “Strange Tales” No. 110 in 1963, the brilliant magician has fought such foes as the dread Dormammu of the Dark Dimension and the dream-powered Nightmare, all while sporting a red cape with a spectacularly high collar.

He has also been seen as a member of groups including the Defenders, New Avengers and Illuminati.

Marvel has teased a possible Doctor Strange project in its recent films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Thor: The Dark World.” In the former, an espionage agent being interrogated by Cap, Black Widow and Falcon mentions Stephen Strange in a list of potential threats to and targets of the evil terrorist organization Hydra. And in the “Thor” sequel, Dr. Selvig’s chalkboard references the Crossroads, an interdimensional nexus that features heavily in “Doctor Strange” stories in the comics.

Cumberbatch’s casting comes after rumors that Joaquin Phoenix was being considered for the part. The English actor is no stranger to genre roles, with credits including “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “The Hobbit” films and BBC’s hit series “Sherlock.”

What do you think about the casting? Let us know in the comments.

– Noelene Clark and Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex | Facebook

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