Sir Anthony Hopkins didn’t want to star in a “spinning heads” movie, much less slip into another creepy villain role so soon after last year’s The Wolfman. It was only after director Mikael Håfström, best known for the haunted-hotel thriller 1408, convinced Hopkins that he wasn’t trying to remake The Exorcist that Sir Anthony agreed to play Father Lucas, a mercurial man of the cloth, in The Rite, which opens Friday.
In the ’80s, there was no shortage of Hollywood he-men, guys who regularly toppled small armies and rescued whoever seemed worthy of rescuing. Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Seagal. Their names were synonymous with action, but not necessarily acting.
Times have changed. The musclebound enforcers of yesteryear have given way to caped crusaders and masked mutants, and the actors who play the new breed of superheroes are not reformed bodybuilders but plausible Oscar hopefuls: Robert Downey Jr, Edward Norton and the like. Yet here, as if to prove there’s still room for an old-fashioned big-screen brawler, stands Jason Statham.
After five successful collaborations including Che: Part Two (2008), the corporate whistleblower comedy The Informant! (2009) and the star-studded Ocean's Eleven trilogy, director Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon will reteam for the upcoming thriller Contagion, about a team of doctors hired by the Center for Disease Control to prevent the outbreak of a lethal virus. Better yet, Damon, along with co-stars Kate Winslet and Jude Law, will be filming their latest adventure in San Francisco, starting Feb. 9.
As much as death looms as the inescapable reality in all our lives, few would care to learn of their imminent passing, much less confront its approach at the movies. Yet for Mexico’s Alejandro González Iñárritu, best known for the Oscar-nominated dramas Amores Perros (2001) and Babel (2007), it was that commonly evaded consciousness of mortality that inspired his latest offering, Biutiful.
Despite casting No Country for Old Men star Javier Bardem as the doomed centerpiece of his morbid but ultimately uplifting film, which opens Friday, Iñárritu is a realist, keenly aware that death is a tough sell when considered as something more than an abstract concept.
With nominations for the 2011 Academy Awards set to be announced today at 5:30 a.m. PST, there is no time like the present to rattle off a series of fearless (albeit modestly informed) predictions in the five major categories. Without further ado:
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
There was a time, in the 1970s, when stories of middle-class alienation and dreamers struggling to get ahead were invariably set in New York. Lately, such accounts of white- and blue-collar angst have moved 200 miles up I-95 to the Boston suburbs, where the fight to survive isn’t exclusively the domain of street hustlers and last-chance athletes.
With Noir City 9 descending on the Castro for the next 10 days and San Francisco's 13th Independent Film Festival arriving in early February, the new year is already heating up for local cinephiles. Here, as always, are some of the finest selections currently playing at an indie theater (and, in this week's edition, a Loews cineplex) near you.
1. Barney's Version
It wasn’t that John Wells, executive producer of groundbreaking TV dramas including ER and The West Wing, had never considered making the jump to the big screen. He had received offers, but none of them felt right. Then his brother-in-law fell victim to corporate downsizing, and Wells started writing and researching and seeking out thousands of the unemployed, to share with him accounts of life on the frontlines.
“The stories were self-deprecating, tragic and humorous, but above all dignified,” he says. “That integrity was the common thread in all the people I spoke to, from the couple hundred I met to the couple thousand I found online. I knew I had to present their experiences with the same qualities.”
Perhaps Norman Bates said it best: “We all go a little mad sometimes.” And though Bates, the dangerously eccentric inheritor of his family’s motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho, will neither be featured nor, we hope, attending the ninth San Francisco Film Noir Festival, which opens at the Castro tomorrow, his cryptic wisdom will echo in every one of Noir City’s 24 selections.
This year’s theme? Who’s Crazy Now, celebrating two-dozen tales of stark, raving madness, all with gloriously restored 35-milimeter prints, presented over 10 nights of double features priced at an insanely reasonable $10.
By now, it doesn’t take a well-honed Spidey sense to recall that, almost exactly a year ago, Tobey Maguire (35), Kirsten Dunst (28) and director Sam Raimi (age unimportant) parted ways with Sony Pictures and Marvel over the studio's decision to send superhero alter ego Peter Parker back to high school, essentially changing horses midstream and rebooting a billion-dollar franchise still seemingly at the peak of its powers.
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