‘Precious’ the movie divides black audiences

Long before it opened, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" had racked up plaudits for its groundbreaking depiction of the inner life of a black, overweight, ghetto-dwelling teenage girl. But since its release, a story-outside-the-story has developed that's equally fresh and complicated: black people's reaction to the movie and what it means.

Verdicts about high-pitched movies from black viewers and public figures are usually swift and decisive -- "Do the Right Thing," "The Color Purple," and the recent Robert Downey Jr. performance in "Tropic Thunder" come to mind. But that's not what happened this time out. That's partly because the embrace of "Precious" by the white film establishment has been a bit disorienting for black folk, even off-putting. But it's also because the tough stuff in "Precious," whether you like the movie or not, is striking chords of recognition for many black people that are making them not angry or enthusiastic, but uncertain. That's new territory.

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Director James McTeigue shoots for film noir take on ‘Ninja Assasin’

James McTeigue, the Aussie filmmaker behind the big screen adaptation of “V for Vendetta,” is back with "Ninja Assassin," which hits theaters on Wednesday. Korean pop sensation Rain plays Raizo, who was kidnapped as a child by the Ozunu Clan and trained to be a deadly assassin. The film, produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers — whom McTeigue worked with for many years on “The Matrix” trilogy -- was inspired by the ninja scenes featured in the Wachowskis' 2008 film "Speed Racer."  Hero Complex contributor Yvonne Villarreal spoke with the filmmaker.

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Runaway productions find tax incentives may be less than stellar

For years, the closest the city of Holland, Mich., got to big time show business was its annual Tulip Time Festival. That all that changed in April 2008 when the state enacted a film and TV incentive package highlighted by a refundable tax credit of up to 42% of in-state production spend and a 25% tax credit for film and digital media infrastructure investments.

Shortly thereafter, TicTock Studios set up shop in a downtrodden neighborhood on the south side of town and started churning out low-budget films, first "Tug," starring Haylie Duff, then "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's directorial debut "What's Wrong With Virginia," starring Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris. Today, it occupies 10 structures within a two-block radius, including an old office building that has been turned into production and casting offices and a rundown transmission shop that has been cleaned up, painted bright red, and transformed into prop shop.

"It almost has that feel of an old Hollywood backlot, where everyone is milling around on bikes and golf carts," says TicTock CEO Hopwood DePree, a Holland native who spent a decade and a half in Hollywood as a struggling actor, writer and director before returning in 2007. 

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Top 10 Thanksgiving Movies

On Thanksgiving Day, after all the exhausting preparations and eating a hearty meal at the table most people like to relax on a comfortable chair and watch a good movie. Below are 10 of my favorite movies that feature Thanksgiving scenes. I like comedies the most, so of course they'll be at the top of my list.

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Director John Woo on making ‘Red Cliff’

JOHN WOO HAS DREAMED of adapting "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" his entire life. The Hong Kong-born director first read the epic Chinese novel as a boy, and 40 years later he has finally turned the story into "Red Cliff," which is the top-grossing movie in Asia.

READ HIS THOUGHTS ON MAKING RED CLIFF

Robert Sean Leonard on ‘House’ and the movies

Fans of Dr. James Wilson, Robert Sean Leonard's character on "House," have a lot to look forward to in the Nov. 30 episode – titled "Wilson."  Leonard's screen time has increased this season, since Hugh Laurie's Dr. House moved in with Wilson, but that's nothing compared to the upcoming episode.

"He's examined more," Leonard said, in a phone interview Tuesday morning from Hidden Valley.  "You see my assistant, who you've never met. You see the oncology floor; you see where I work.  I have my own patients, my own assistant and my own day that doesn't include House.  So you basically follow Wilson around for a few days and see what his life is like."

The episode features "The West Wing's" Josh Malina as Tucker, a cancer survivor and an old friend of Wilson's. After Tucker experiences partial paralysis, Wilson seeks out the help of House's team in diagnosing Tucker's condition.  However, when Tucker takes a turn for the worse, Wilson struggles to separate his work from his personal connection with the patient.  "I've got some moral decisions to make," Leonard said of his character.  "Any time the character is in a moral quandary is interesting. That's been true from the Greeks on down."

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INTERVIEW: ‘Ninja Assassin’ director James McTeigue talks

The 1980s were the heyday of the ninjas. "The Ninja" by Eric Van Lustbader topped the book charts, and movies like "American Ninja" were the flickering fantasy in every boy's eyes. Heck, even "Magnum P.I." had episode with ninjas in them. Then, as ninjas are wont to do, they disappeared.

Dark Castle and Legendary Pictures are hoping the time is right for the return of these stealthy assassins with "Ninja Assassin," which gushes (and I mean gushes) its way into theaters Nov. 25, hoping to slice into the audience that is not going to see "New Moon." The movie is directed by James McTeigue, who also directed "V for Vendetta." Both movies were produced by the Wachowskis, who first worked with the Australian when they hired him to act as first assistant director on "The Matrix."

Heat Vision had a chance to talk to McTeigue at the movie's premiere afterparty, which was, fittingly, at Yamashiro's, the Japanese castle-restaurant overlooking Hollywood.

READ INTERVIEW AT FILM JOURNAL

The Actor’s Director as Actor

Sydney Pollack (1934-2008) was an affable authority figure in Hollywood, a former acting teacher who directed 21 features and many more television episodes, and produced 47 movies during his half-century career. But his best work may well have been a supporting performance in another director's film, his 20 minutes of screen time as Victor Ziegler in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

Several times during his career Pollack was cast as a very particular type: the charming, unscrupulous—and distinctly Jewish—New York professional. InTootsieHusbands and WivesMichael Clayton, and Eyes Wide Shut, he played men whose authority came directly from their knowledge and mastery of enclosed high-power worlds. He also had a gift for playing a great bullshit artist, a sweet-talker who could make the listener feel they were part of a conspiracy, even though he was in total control.

Not coincidentally, all these traits come in handy for a film director, and in real life, Pollack knew how to manage people with large talents—and egos—including Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, and the stars of Eyes Wide Shut, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

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Disney Studios restructuring might alter the industry

If you thought President Obama moved quickly, that's nothing compared with the first 50 days of the Ross administration.

In less than eight weeks, Rich Ross has swiftly stamped his imprimatur on Walt Disney Studios. The novice movie chairman and his boss, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger, want to create a new business model for Hollywood to address the sweeping changes that are roiling the entertainment industry, including slumping DVD sales and the growing role the Internet plays in movie marketing.

Seeking to recast the studio for the digital era, Ross and Iger have set in motion a plan to dramatically challenge entrenched practices, potentially pitting Disney against theater owners, retailers and other business partners. The gambit, if it works, could be emulated by other studios.

If it backfires, it could undermine what has historically been the creative heart of Disney.

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Cinematographers discuss their craft

They're the unsung heroes of any film shoot. Heading into awards season, The Hollywood Reporter's Carolyn Giardina and Matthew Belloni gathered six of the top cinematographers in the business -- Dion Beebe ("Nine"), Roger Deakins ("A Serious Man"), Greig Fraser ("Bright Star"), Stephen Goldblatt ("Julie & Julia"), International Cinematographers Guild president Steven Poster ("The Box") and Eric Steelberg ("(500) Days of Summer," "Up in the Air") -- to talk shop.

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