Director Brett Ratner takes on ‘Rush Hour 3’


It’s a bright March afternoon on the set of Rush Hour 3, and the mood is tense. After shooting last winter on location in Paris, the production has returned to Los Angeles behind schedule and over budget. The Supermarine Executive Air Terminal of the Santa Monica Airport has been transformed into the Paris–Le Bourget airport, and on the tarmac, stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan rehearse what is to be the film’s final scene — a friendly farewell between their characters, LAPD Detective James Carter and Hong Kong police inspector Lee.  

More than 100 days into a shoot that has entailed multiple complicated action and stunt sequences, this should be a cinch. But at the playback monitor, Brett Ratner, the director who has guided the Rush Hour series since the beginning, feels something is off. 

(Source LA Weekly)

Director Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007)


Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, who became an icon of arthouse cinema with films such as "L'avventura" and "Blowup," died Monday in Rome. He was 94.

The enigmatic British-made drama "Blowup" (1966) took the Palme d'Or in Cannes, was Oscar-nommed for director and original screenplay and became a surprise international hit. 

A striking visual stylist who excelled at depicting the alienation of modern life through sparse dialogue and long takes, Antonioni enjoyed a greater following with critics and intellectuals than with general audiences. Along with Federico Fellini, he helped turn postwar Italian film away from neorealism and toward a personal cinema of imagination. 

(Source: Variety)




Starring: KenWatanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase and Shido Nakamura.

Written by: Iris Yamashita

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

142 mins


Letters from Iwo Jima is the companion film to Flags of Our Fathers, both directed by Clint Eastwood, but from different perspectives on the war.  Iwo Jima , which won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Foreign Language, focuses on the Japanese warriors, their plans of defending their soil as well as their personal battles dealing with the war itself, their fellow soldiers and their feelings for the loved ones they left behind. 

Among the most poignant and telling scenes from the movie is after an American soldier’s letter from his mother is read, and Kazunari Ninomiya, the young hero of the movie, begins crying, saying how the American letter and his own mother’s letters were almost the same.  This seems to be the true spirit of the movie, the notion that we are all the same animal with similar hopes and dreams that, at some points, are forced to go to extremes


The first special feature of the two-disc collection is called Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima (21:00). This is a very worthwhile watch with interviews of just about all major figures providing great insight.  It’s easy to miss out on things when watching a foreign language film, and this feature helps clear away a lot of the fog. “The Americans believed they were coming back (home).  The Japanese were told they weren’t coming back,” Eastwood says. Indeed, the difference between the two cultures seemed to be the focal point of this special feature. Tom Stern, the Director of Photography, states “(It’s) most interesting when you see the two together (Americans and Japanese) because it really gives you the totality of the event…I came up with the idea that it was a noble journey to oblivion…These characters under incredible duress had a nobility about them.”

In addition to Eastwood and Stern, other names and quotables include:

Paul Haggis – producer, co-writer:  “(It’s important to) empathize with people who would be villains in other films.”

Iris Yamashita – Japanese-American screenwriter:  “(I) tried to find personal accounts, but there are not many survivors of Iwo Jima .  I think I found a couple.”

Deborah Hopper – Costume Designer:  “A lot of actors come to me and this is the way they find their characters – through the clothes.”

Joel Cox – Editor:  “I had a script in English and so I tried to figure what they were saying in the Japanese language and edit accordingly.”  

The Faces of Combat: The Cast of Letters from Iwo Jima (18:38) is the second special feature on the DVD. Of all the special features, this is the one that deals with the history of the event the most.  Through meeting the cast we learn that, in Japan , they are not taught about the Battle of Iwo Jima.  Eastwood says, “They don’t talk about it.  Just now it seems they’re starting to revisit their history.”  It seems that much of the cast learned about the battle through the filming of the movie. 

Meeting the cast in this feature is one of the greatest joys of viewing this DVD.  Collectively, the Japanese actors were humbled and grateful for the opportunity to not only work with Clint Eastwood, but to learn about their past.  Says Casting Associate Matt Hoffman, “A lot of the Japanese, they take this very spiritually.”   Actor Ken Watanabe said, “We felt obliged to try to listen to the voices of the voiceless spirits,” then went as far as to say, “We felt like we could give up our own lives to make this film.”

Through interviews, we also learn much about how each actor finds their character and, in general, how the movie was made.  Most actors studied whatever they could get their hands on to learn what it would take to embody a Japanese soldier in WWII.  They speak of working with the props department for advice on guns, how they were getting paid to act just as a soldier got paid to fight, and even the longing to go home (Ironically, much of the film was shot in Malibu).

Images from the Front Lines: The Photography of Letters from Iwo Jima (3:26) is a slideshow of some pretty amazing photos taken during the shooting of the film, anywhere from Eastwood directing the actors to shot of nasty battles in the trenches.  It only lasts a few minutes, but don’t be surprised if your eyes get a little wet. You’re not alone. Appropriately, the image that comes to Americans when they think of this battle is never shown or even mentioned.

The November 2006 World Premiere at Budo-kan in Tokyo (16:06) is basically what you would expect from a world premiere for a major film, except it was in Japan .  There were many autographs, interviews and cheering fans outside the theatre.  On the inside, the filmmakers were introduced to several thousand people and took turns talking about the film and how much they hoped to stop war in general.  The same goes for the November 2006 Press Conference.  They’re nice features, but nothing you don’t see or hear in the first two.  If you have an extra hour on your hands, check them out; if not, you’re not missing a whole lot.

Overall, this is great stuff, especially the first two special features. I think it was a wise choice not to include any type of overlapping production or director commentary, simply because it would conflict with the subtitles. 





Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007): An Appreciation of his Art


In 1974, I got a job interviewing movie directors with films premiering in New York for a magazine called Millimeter.  Over two years, I got to interview around two dozen active Hollywood pros - some great ones like Altman, Polanski, Rafelson, and Frankenheimer and some mediocre ones.  When I asked them, "Who's your favorite director?" about ninety-nine percent instantly replied, "Ingmar Bergman." 

I offer this as an empirical fact, but it is far more important as a statement about a kind of status that Bergman enjoyed, that for various reasons can not exist today. 

(Source: Movie City News)



Culinary protagonists keep it fresh and real


SOMETHING fresh happens onscreen in "No Reservations," the newest in that newly burgeoning genre, American foodie cinema, and it's not the sea bass poached in a court bouillon with sautéed batonnet of carrots and zucchini (though that fish with vegetables cut into baton shapes looks pretty fresh). 

Beyond the batonnet, viewers may discern a sea change in the way moviemakers are portraying a now glamorous profession (or hobby). After an awkward and self-conscious start ("Spanglish" anybody?), American filmmakers are at last presenting cooks who are fully and believably food-obsessed. "No Reservations" and the recent "Ratatouille" pivot on plots that spring organically from characters blessed with a keen palate and driven by a need to feed people and feed them well. And an upcoming animated film, "Bee Movie," encourages children to think about whence their supermarket food comes -- bringing the food world's focus on provenance issues to the next generation. 

(Source: Los Angeles Times)

Fast cutting style in ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ creates unique action experience


When director Paul Greengrass and the filmmaking team made Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Ultimatum," which opens Friday, there was a deliberate effort to create a departure from other movies of the action genre by avoiding cliches.The result was rapid cuts and a general sense of uneasiness in a high-octane thrill ride for the third and final film in the "Bourne" franchise.

"It's a very conscious effort to avoid the cliches, and with all the quick cutting, there are so many choices that you make, you almost create a new kind of grammar when you do it," producer Patrick Crowley says.

Editor Christopher Rouse says the team aimed to expand on what director Doug Liman started in 2002's "The Bourne Identity," the first film of the franchise.

(Source: Hollywood Reporter)

Hollywood loves making the same movie twice?

 Truman Capote
Two-faced... Toby Jones (left) and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in, respectively, Infamous and Capote.

Spare a thought for the hapless representatives of the French wine industry, with their flared nostrils, unfocused gaze and maudlin air. It transpires that their greatest moment of shame - the blind tasting scandal of 1976, in which a panel of experts plumped for the California grape over theirs - is coming back to haunt them. And not once, but twice. Judgment of Paris, the movie trumpeting itself as the "official version", looks reassuringly full-bodied and traditional and is based on a book by one of the experts. By contrast, Bottle Shock stars Alan Rickman and Danny DeVito, sounds altogether more fresh and fruity, and is probably redolent of spring meadows or lemongrass or something.

It is curious, considering how cautious and market-researched the film industry is, to realise how many times this has happened; how many times a production team has alighted on some out-of-the-way topic only to discover a rival group rolling up at the exact same moment. "It's very strange," writer-director Doug McGrath told the New Yorker last year. "Generally I have my finger on whatever the opposite of the Zeitgeist is." McGrath was, of course, referring to his latest film, Infamous, which covered the same ground that the Oscar-winning Capote had itself covered just a few months earlier.

(Source: The Guardian)

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