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Comics of Asian Descent Put Themselves Onstage via @NYTimes

Variety Archives -

Variety Archives -

Mack Chico


2009/06/02 at 12:00am

‘Where’s Waldo?’ to be found on the big screen

'Where's Waldo?' to be found on the big screen

Several studios were in on the search, but Universal and Illumination Entertainment were the ones who found “Where’s Waldo?”

U and Chris Meledandri‘s family film unit have acquired screen rights to turn the “Where’s Waldo?” book series into a live-action family pic. Deal was worth high-six against seven figures. Meledandri will produce.

Among other bidders, Warner Bros. chased the property for Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne’s Unique Features banner. The rights were brokered by Classic Media’s Eric Ellenbogen, who’ll be executive producer.

Written and illustrated by Martin Handford, the “Waldo” books have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. The books contain complex, full-page illustrations of large crowd scenes in which the main character is somewhere hidden, dressed in a red-and-white shirt, a hat, glasses and a walking stick.

U and Illumination will seek to create a movie with strong global appeal.

Series launched in 1987 in the U.K., spawning a TV skein, comicstrip and videogames.

Handford’s business partner Mike Gornall will also be involved in the film in some capacity.

Deal comes as Illumination readies its first picture, “Despicable Me,” for a July 9, 2010, release via Universal. Voice cast includes Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Danny McBride, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews.

Next up for Illumination is “Flanimals,” an animated film based on the children’s book series created by Ricky Gervais, who’ll voice the lead character in the film scripted by Matt Selman (“The Simpsons”).

Mack Chico


2009/05/24 at 12:00am

Michael Haneke wins Palme d’Or at Cannes

Michael Haneke wins Palme d'Or at Cannes

In awards that ran the gamut from the widely predicted to the jaw-dropping, Michael Haneke‘s “The White Ribbon,” a stark, black-and-white drama set in a rural German village on the eve of WWI, received the Palme d’Or from the jury of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival on Sunday.

Haneke, who had previously won the director award for “Cache” (2005) and the Grand Prix for “The Piano Teacher” (2001), received his first Palme from a visibly delighted Isabelle Huppert, president of the jury. Huppert had won Cannes’ actress gong for “The Piano Teacher.”

“Happiness is a rare thing, but this is a moment in my life when I am truly happy,” Haneke said in his acceptance speech.

The Grand Prix went to French helmer Jacques Audiard‘s tough prison drama, “A Prophet,” which had been a frontrunner for a major prize since screening early on in the fest.

The top two prizes rep a coup for Sony Pictures Classics, which acquired North American rights to “The White Ribbon” before the festival and will distribute “A Prophet” in multiple territories including the U.S.

Sole kudo to an American-helmed film, in a competition light on U.S. fare, was the actor prize for Christoph Waltz for his multilingual tour de force as the Nazi “Jew Hunter” in Quentin Tarantino‘s German-U.S. production, “Inglourious Basterds.” The 52-year-old, Vienna-born thesp was previously unknown outside Germany, where he’s spent most of his career in TV.

“I owe this award to (my role as) Col. Landa,” said Waltz in his acceptance speech, “and his unique and inimitable creator, Quentin Tarantino.”

To a standing ovation in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, French vet Alain Resnais, who turns 87 next month (and was in competition with the elegant tragicomedy “Wild Grass”), received a lifetime achievement award for his work and contributions to the history of cinema. The visibly frail helmer declared it “completely surprising,” a possibly ironic reference to his stormy past relations with the fest (starting with 1974’s “Stavisky … “), from which he’s previously won only one award, the Grand Prix for “Mon oncle d’Amerique.”

While many other Cannes fave auteurs were completely passed over by the jury — including Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee and Palme laureates Ken Loach and Jane Campion — Danish maverick Lars von Trier‘s latest headline-grabber, “Antichrist,” at least walked away with an actress kudo for Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s performance as a mother whose grief over her child’s death takes a psychotic turn.

Sharing the jury prize were Brit director Andrea Arnold‘s slice-of-lifer “Fish Tank” and South Korean helmer Park Chan-wook‘s vampire meller, Thirst.” Arnold scooped the same award three years ago with her debut feature, “Red Road.”

Australian helmer Warwick Thornton’s well-received Aboriginal teen drama, “Samson and Delilah,” nabbed the Camera d’Or for first film.

Though several of the awards had largely been predicted and were generally seen as well deserved, many of the others were seen as among the quirkiest in recent memory.

All three of the Asian kudos drew heavy booing from the assembled press corps. Biggest scorn was reserved for the director prize for Filipino Brillante Mendoza‘s rape-and-dismemberment drama “Kinatay” (of which even admiring jury member Hanif Kureishi admitted, “I don’t ever want to see it again, myself”), followed by jeers for “Thirst” and mainland Chinese director Lou Ye’s “Spring Fever,” which copped screenplay (generally seen as its weakest element).

These awards appeared to have reflected deep divisions within the nine-member jury, which, apart from Huppert, included directors James Gray, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Lee Chang-dong, writer Kureishi, and actresses Robin Wright Penn, Shu Qi, Asia Argento and Sharmila Tagore.

Before the awards ceremony, rumors were already circulating that jury discussions had been particularly fraught. One member described it as the worst jury experience he’d ever had, while another was said to have described Huppert as a “fascist.” Onstage, Huppert, looking visibly tense, referred to “an unforgettable week” and “several hours, uh, several moments of deliberation.”

Show’s host, comedian Edouard Baer, jokingly suggested that the onstage jury might “perhaps exchange telephone numbers and addresses” before parting. However, at the press conference afterward, several members went out of their way to stress that deliberations were “harmonious” and democratic.”

Somewhat less harmoniously, the ecumenical jury, which gave its annual award for spiritual values in filmmaking to Loach’s “Looking for Eric,” bestowed an “anti-prize” on von Trier’s “Antichrist.” Cannes fest director Thierry Fremaux was quick to denounce the dubious honor, calling it a “ridiculous decision that borders on a call for censorship,” particularly from a jury headed by a filmmaker, Romania’s Radu Mihaileanu.


Palme d’Or

“The White Ribbon” (Michael Haneke, Germany-France-Austria-Italy)

Grand Prix

“A Prophet” (Jacques Audiard, France)

Lifetime achievement award

Alain Resnais, “Wild Grass” (France)


Brillante Mendoza (“Kinatay,” France-Philippines)

Jury prize

“Fish Tank” (Andrea Arnold, U.K.), “Thirst” (Park Chan-wook, South Korea-U.S.)


Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds” (U.S.-Germany)


Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Antichrist” (Denmark-Germany-France-Sweden-Italy-Poland)


Mei Feng, “Spring Fever” (Hong Kong-France)


Main Prize

“Dogtooth” (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece)

Jury Prize

“Police, Adjective” (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)

Special Prize

“No One Knows About Persian Cats” (Bahman Ghobadi, Iran), “Father of My Children” (Mia Hansen-Love, France)


Camera d’Or

“Samson and Delilah” (Warwick Thornton)

Special Mention

“Ajami” (Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani, Israel-Germany)

Critics’ Week Grand Prix

“Farewell Gary” (Nassim Amamouche, France)



“The White Ribbon” (Michael Haneke, Germany-Austria-France-Italy)

Un Certain Regard

“Police, Adjective” (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)

Directors’ Fortnight

“Amreeka” (Cherien Dabis, Canada-Kuwait-U.S.)


Palme d’Or

“Arena” (Joao Salaviza, Portugal)

Special Mention

“The Six Dollar Fifty Man” (Mark Albiston, Louis Sutherland, New Zealand)


First Prize

“Baba” (Zuzana Kirchnerova-Spidlova)

Second Prize

“Goodbye” (Song Fang)

Third Prize

“Diploma” (Yaelle Kayam)

“Don’t Step Out of the House” (Jo Sung-hee)


“Looking for Eric” (Ken Loach, U.K.-France-Italy-Belgium-Spain)


Aitor Berenguer, sound mixer (“Map of the Sounds of Tokyo,” Spain)

Mack Chico


2009/05/12 at 12:00am

Antonio Banderas in ‘The Big Bang’

Antonio Banderas in 'The Big Bang'

Antonio Banderas is set to star in The Big Bang,” a neo-noir detective story to be directed by Tony Krantz.

Richard Rionda Del Castro, Krantz and Erik Jendresen will produce the film, based on a script by Jendresen (“Band of Brothers”). Production begins in Spokane, Wash., in September.

Banderas stars as an L.A. private detective who’s hired to find a missing stripper. The trail leads to the New Mexico desert, where the private eye finds a trail of bodies and contends with a brutal Russian boxer, three LAPD detectives and an aging billionaire looking to perfect the nuclear physics equivalent of the Big Bang.

Exec producing will be Patricia Eberle, Richard Salvatore and Ross Dinerstein.

Rionda Del Castro’s Hannibal Pictures is financing and handling foreign sales at Cannes. U.S. representation is being handled by WMA and Endeavor.

Pic marks the first theatrical feature for Krantz, one of the few ex-agents to make that leap. Krantz, who spent 15 years packaging series at CAA and later heading Imagine TV, previously directed two Jendresen-scripted films — “Sublime” and “Otis”– that were designed to go direct to video through Raw Feed, a venture Krantz co-created.

Krantz now owns Flame Ventures, whose slate includes a NASCAR Imax film in 3-D that Krantz will direct, and “The Conversation,” a series for AMC based on the Francis Ford Coppola film that is being written by Jendresen and Christopher McQuarrie.

Banderas most recently completed a starring role in Woody Allen‘s as-yet-untitled next film.

Mack Chico


2009/05/08 at 12:00am

Katie Holmes to star in Guillermo del Toro thriller

Katie Holmes to star in Guillermo del Toro thriller

Katie Holmes will star in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” a thriller for Miramax Films that was scripted by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins.

Del Toro is producing with Mark Johnson and the film will be directed by del Toro protege Troy Nixey.

The film will shoot this summer in Melbourne as a “Guillermo del Toro Presentation.”

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is based on a 1973 ABC telepic about a young girl who moves in with her father and his girlfriend and discovers they are sharing the house with devilish creatures.

Nixey, a comicbook artist, is making his feature directing debut. Del Toro sparked to “Latchkey’s Lament,” a Nixey-directed short that captured the tone del Toro wanted for “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”

Del Toro and Johnson are also teamed with Gary Ungar to produce “Hater,” an adaptation of the David Moody horror novel that will be directed at Universal by Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Orphanage”).

Holmes most recently completed “The Extra Man,” directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

Del Toro is busy readying “The Hobbit,” which he’s writing with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. That film shoots next year.

Mack Chico


2009/05/06 at 12:00am

‘Deadpool’: the next ‘X-Men’ spinoff

'Deadpool': the next 'X-Men' spinoff

Twentieth Century Fox has begun development on “Deadpool,” an “X-Men” spinoff that will be crafted as a star vehicle for Ryan Reynolds, who played the character in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

The character is one of the most popular in Marvel Comics’ X-Men universe. Deadpool is Wade Wilson, a mercenary who, dying of cancer, submits himself to the Weapon X genetic alteration experiment and emerges as an indestructible semi-sane anti-hero. Reynolds seemed destined to play the character. In one reference in the Marvel Comics, Deadpool is described as a mix between “a Shar Pei and Ryan Reynolds.”

In one of the “Easter egg” endings of “Wolverine,” Deadpool is seen rising from the rubble and whispering “Shhh” to audiences.

The film will be produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Marvel.

Fox is also in the formative stages of a “Wolverine” sequel that will encompass the samurai storyline that was hinted at as Wolverine sat in a bar in Japan as the film concluded.

Separately, Fox is developing “Magneto,” a film about the X-Men villain with a script by Sheldon Turner, and “X-Men: First Class,” which Josh Schwartz is penning.

Reynolds next stars with Sandra Bullock in the Anne Fletcher-directed “The Proposal,” which Disney releases June 19. He also completed the Kieran and Michele Mulroney-directed “Paper Man.”

Mack Chico


2009/04/30 at 12:00am

Oliver Stone to direct ‘Wall Street’ sequel

Oliver Stone to direct 'Wall Street' sequel

Greed is good, once again.

After weeks of rumors, 20th Century Fox has set Oliver Stone to return as helmer of the sequel to his 1987 hit Wall Street.” Shia LaBeouf is also in the mix for “Wall Street 2.”

LaBeouf is negotiating to join Michael Douglas, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko in the original pic. The sequel will once again involve a young Wall Street trader, and the recent economic meltdown spurred by rampant greed and corruption will fit prominently into the plot.

Allan Loeb will write the script. Edward R. Pressman is back as producer.

Mack Chico


2009/03/26 at 12:00am

Nicole Kidman joins new Woody Allen film!

Nicole Kidman joins new Woody Allen film!

Nicole Kidman will star in Woody Allen‘s next film, joining the already announced cast of Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto and Naomi Watts.

The as-yet-untitled film is produced by Letty Aronson, Steve Tenenbaum and Jaume Roures. It is financed by Mediapro, the Spain-based company that also funded “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

Sony Pictures Classics will release Allen’s next completed film, “Whatever Works,” which opens theatrically on June 19.

Mack Chico


2009/03/26 at 12:00am

Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn & Jim Carrey are ‘The Three Stooges’!

Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn & Jim Carrey are 'The Three Stooges'!

MGM and the Farrelly brothers are closing in on their cast for “The Three Stooges.”

Studio has set Sean Penn to play Larry, and negotiations are underway with Jim Carrey to play Curly, with the actor already making plans to gain 40 pounds to approximate the physical dimensions of Jerome “Curly” Howard.

The studio is zeroing in on Benicio Del Toro to play Moe.

The film is not a biopic, but rather a comedy built around the antics of the three characters that Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Howard played in the Columbia Pictures shorts.

The quest by the Peter and Bobby Farrelly to harness the project spans more than a decade and three studios. They first tried at Columbia, again at Warner Bros., and finally at MGM, where Worldwide Motion Picture Group chairman Mary Parent championed the cause and bought the WB-owned scripts and made a deal with Stooges rights holders C3.

Production will begin in early fall for a release sometime in 2010. The Farrellys, who wrote the script, are producing with their Conundrum partner Bradley Thomas, and Charlie Wessler.

C3 Entertainment principals Earl and Robert Benjamin will be executive producers.

Project will get underway after Penn completes the Asger Leth-directed Universal/Imagine Entertainment drama “Cartel.” He hasn’t done a comedy since the 1989 laffer “We’re No Angels.”

The Farrellys have long had their eyes on Del Toro to play Moe. Del Toro, who’s coming off “Che,” showed comic chops in the Guy Ritchie-directed “Snatch.”

The surprise is the emergence of Carrey to play Curly. Howard established the character as a seminal physical comedian, from the first time he appeared in the first Stooges short in 1934 until he suffered a stroke on the set in 1946.

Mack Chico


2009/03/20 at 12:00am

First review of ‘Broken Embraces’

First review of 'Broken Embraces'

Variety’s review of Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces:

Partly a film about films and partly a film about love, Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces” can’t quite decide where its allegiances lie. A restless, rangy and frankly enjoyable genre-juggler that combines melodrama, comedy and more noir-hued darkness than ever before, the pic is held together by the extraordinary force of Almodovar’s cinematic personality. But while its four-way in extremis love story dazzles, it never really catches fire. The Spanish helmer’s biggest-budgeted and longest movie to date will get warm hugs from local auds on release March 18; headed for Cannes in May, it goes out Stateside via Sony Pictures Classics later this year.

There’s a sense here that Almodovar, who’s now a stylistic law unto himself, may be more interested in stretching himself technically than in engaging with issues of the wider world. Card-carrying fans can prepare themselves for a rare treat. But those who hoped the pic would extend the quieter, more personal mood shown in “Volver,” as the 59-year-old helmer moves into the late phase of his career, will be disappointed to find that “Embraces” is made not of flesh and blood, but of celluloid.

Harry Caine (Lluis Homar, “Bad Education”) is a blind screenwriter and former director whose real name, which he abandoned after losing his sight in a car crash, is Mateo Blanco. News arrives of the death of corrupt stockbroker Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez), who once produced a movie Blanco directed, “Girls and Suitcases.”

Blanco’s former production manager, Judit (Blanca Portillo), who holds a candle for him, seems nervous at the news. And then a pretentious young man calling himself Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano), who turns out to be Martel’s son, asks Blanco to help write a script that’s intended as an act of vengeance against his neglectful father.

The film now flashes back to 1992, when Martel fell for his secretary, a wannabe actress-cum-part-time call girl, Lena (Penelope Cruz). By 1994, he and Lena are an item. However, when Lena auditions for “Girls and Suitcases,” Blanco also falls for her.

Chagrined, Martel gets his son (also Ochandiano, here as a wildly gauche, camp teenager) to spy on Blanco and Lena under the guise of making a docu about the shoot. Watching Martel’s life fall apart, as a lip reader (Lola Duenas) decodes Lena and Blanco’s conversations in the boy’s footage, is hilarious. But any compassion for Martel evaporates in the laughter — one of several moments when the film deliberately undermines a particular mood.

Following a disastrous trip to Ibiza, Martel and Lena break up, and Martel initiates a slow, costly revenge designed to destroy Blanco. Hereon, much of the action takes place amid the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, opening things visually even as the drama becomes more and more claustrophobic.

Script moves fluidly back and forth in time, with superb editing by regular Jose Salcedo, and some of the witty, pointed dialogue is among Almodovar’s best. The labyrinthine plot is thick with twists, turns and resonances. But a couple of questions linger — especially that the revelations in the final reel would hardly have remained under wraps for 14 years, given Blanco’s suspicions.

Cruz delivers a compelling, subtle perf as a woman continually aware that the shadow of tragedy hovers over her. But because her character is effectively split into three — Magdalena the grieving daughter, Lena the actress and lover, and Pina in “Girls and Suitcases” — auds will struggle to locate an emotional center behind the thesp’s dizzying range of costumes and wigs.

Homar, who literally wears Almodovar’s own ’90s wardrobe, makes a commanding screen presence as Caine/Blanco, but the character’s reactions to his multiple tragedies (including being blinded) seem stoical to the point of catatonia. Gomez and Portillo are solid in theslightly smaller roles of Martel and Judit, respectively. Multiple cameos — including one by the helmer’s producer brother, Agustin — are enjoyable, though none help move the story forward.

Visually, the pic is an exquisite treat. Every richly hued wall is covered with eye-candy artwork, every doorway reps a second level of framing, and there is beauty even in the scattered contents of a drawer or in a pile of torn-up photos. Closeups are regularly used, particularly of Cruz’s hypnotically photogenic features.

Cinematic references abound. Several scenes featuring dangerous staircases recall Henry Hathaway‘s ’40s noir “Kiss of Death.” Pic’s title alludes to the Pompeii scene in Roberto Rossellini‘s 1954 classic, “Voyage to Italy,” which Lena and Blanco watch in Lanzarote. And the entertaining “Girls and Suitcases” is a clear homage to Almodovar’s 1988 hit, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Score by longtime collaborator Alberto Iglesias superbly evokes the moods and movies “Embraces” is so in thrall to.

Camera (color, widescreen), Rodrigo Prieto; editor, Jose Salcedo; music, Alberto Iglesias; art director, Antxon Gomez, sound (Dolby Digital), Miguel Rejas. Reviewed at Kinepolis, Madrid, March 13, 2009. Running time: 128 MIN.

Mack Chico


2009/02/27 at 12:00am

Antonio Banderas joins Woody Allen film

Antonio Banderas joins Woody Allen film

Antonio Banderas has been added to the lengthening cast of Woody Allen‘s next pic, a still-untitled project set to roll this summer in London, according to producer Mediapro.

The Spanish actor joins the already-announced Naomi Watts, who will co-star with “Slumdog Millionaire” discovery Freida Pinto, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins.

This will be Banderas’ first gig with Allen.

Film will be produced by Letty Aronson, Steve Tenenbaum and Jaume Roures, a principal at Barcelona-based Mediapro, which will also finance the movie.

Aronson’s Gravier Prods. co-produced “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” with Mediapro.

The London project kicks off a three-pic co-production deal between Allen and Mediapro.

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