By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, January 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
He’s back. Now that his marriage and political fortunes have gone up in smoke, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a game attempt to re-ignite his career as a Hollywood action hero with his first lead role in a decade. In The Last Stand, The Governator re-enters the fray as a kind of unplugged Terminator, an old-school sheriff in a sleepy Arizona border town who ends up battling a fugitive Mexican drug lord in an armed stand-off that unleashes more firepower than the Alamo. Landing in the thick of the current debate on gun control, the timing couldn’t be worse, especially with Arnie using a school bus as a lethal weapon, along with a vintage arsenal of big, bad-ass guns that turn the sheriff’s one-horse town into an NRA fantasy camp.
The Last Stand‘s formulaic scenario, of a crusty lawman hauling himself out of semi-retirement, could be seen as Arnie’s Unforgiven, but with way more cheese and no gravitas. At best, it’s a guilty pleasure. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 9:41 AM - 0 Comments
As the red carpets get rolled up, here are the moments that made me cringe, plus the 5 best ones that left me giggling with delight
MOST AWKWARD MOMENTS
1. The skies cleared just in time for the afternoon Artists for Peace and Justice lunch hosted by Paul Haggis and Jude Law on September 8. It was a casual event–Alexander Skarsgard wore jeans and a sweater–held in the backyard of the University of Toronto president’s estate in Toronto’s affluent Rosedale neighbourhood. Spirits were high. Why wouldn’t they be? There was great food and drink, plus Arcade Fire and K’naan were slated to perform, along with Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace and his wife and fellow musician, Chantal Kreviazuk.
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 7:42 PM - 0 Comments
Jessica Allen picks her favourites
We may not get every A-lister—E-Talk and the other big media outlets eat up red-carpet time—but we make the most of who we get. On Day 1, for example, instead of Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the premiere of Looper, we got Bruce Willis.
On Day 3, at the Silver Linings Playbook premiere, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper walked by, but film director David O. Russell stopped to talk.
No matter what, Maclean’s photographer Kara Dillon manages to capture the elusive stars.
On Day 4, Quartet director Dustin Hoffman and star Maggie Smith lingered to chat since we’d actually seen the film. And Billy Connolly … he was … well, just watch the video.
Our luck didn’t let up. On Day 5, on the carpet of Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, both leading ladies Rachel McAdams and Olga Kerylanko chatted with Maclean’s. I won’t lie: McAdams, who was raised in the same hometown as me, remembered me from years of serving her in restaurants on Queen Street West, where she was–without exception–amiable, delightful and generous to staff. One time, maybe six years ago, she hugged me good-bye. I haven’t showered since.
I’ve been like a fly on the wall at after-parties of bold-face names — observing some of Hollywood’s biggest players in their natural habitat. (For example, Harvey Weinstein and Dustin Hoffman at the after party held for Quartet. Or the Day 2 parties for Anna Karenina and Spring Breakers, which couldn’t have been more different.)
And if the glam of TIFF parties are not your scene, check out our Outsider’s Guide to the Festival by Sarah Lazarovic.
TIFF 2012 hasn’t all been roses, of course. There have been some real awkward moments. Seeing how there are still five days to go, I’m going to wait to share. Wish me luck on topping a golden one with Anna Karenina star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who I annoyed the hell out of with a red carpet question. We’ve got video to prove it.
In the meantime, here’s a collection of my favourite photos of couples (married, or otherwise) that Kara’s taken at TIFF 2012. Because it’s a heck of a lot easier to navigate TIFF with a little help.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM - 0 Comments
Jessica Allen with Billy Connolly, Dustin Hoffman, and an up-and-coming actress named Maggie Smith
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, September 13, 2010 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
Ran into Norman Jewison at Hotel le Germain, at a swish champagne reception for Saturday night’s TIFF premiere of L‘Amour Fou, the Yves St. Laurent documentary. I happened to mention I’d seen Barney’s Version, telling him that after all these years, producer Robert Lantos has finally got it right. Then I remembered that Jewison was one of the original directors Lantos had tapped to make the movie. And Norman, the master raconteur, began to regale me with stories of what happened to his version of the Mordecai Richler novel when he had a run at it about a decade ago.
“Mordecai wanted Brad Pitt to play Barney,” he told me.
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“No, he was serious. Mordecai wanted Brad Pitt!”
The veteran Canadian filmmaker went on to explain that Richler had envisioned a movie that would focus on the young Barney Panofsky, the bohemian libertine in Paris. Jewison says he was more interested in the older Barney, and his final romance with his third wife, Miriam. He says he wanted to cast Dustin Hoffman as Barney—Hoffman ended up playing Barney’s dad in the movie that finally got made years later.
“I always thought Dustin Hoffman was the only actor who could play Barney,” says Jewison, adding that he tried to talk Hoffman into the role but the actor didn’t find the story compelling enough. (At this point, Jewison goes into a lovely imitation of Dustin Hoffman hemming and hawing).
Back then, the director explained, there wasn’t a script. Before his death, in 2001, Richler was working on a script for Lantos. But Jewison says he tried to persuade him to give it up, telling him he was a novelist, not a screenwriter, and that he should step down and “get a really good technician to write the movie and give it some structure.” But Lantos stood by Richler, says Jewison, who eventually moved on to another project.
Anyway, that’s Norman’s version; I’m sure Lantos has his own. After Richler’s death, the producer burned through a string of screenwriters, including an Oscar winner. Lantos chased the riddle of filming the novel with the persistence of a detective trying to solve a cold case, and the passion of Barney pursuing the love of his life. In the end, two relatively unknown Canadian talents—Montreal writer Michael Konyves and Toronto-born director Richard J. Lewis—cracked the adaptation and brought it to the screen, with splendid results.
The irony in all of this is that when Lantos met Dustin Hoffman to coax him into playing Barney’s dad, Hoffman’s initial reaction was that he loved the script but he should play Barney, although he knew he was kidding himself, and that by then he was too old. (He’s 73.)
Barney’s Version, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, had a gala North American premiere at TIFF last night. For more on the making of the film, read my story in Maclean’s: Barney, unbound. And I’ll get to hear Lantos’s side of the story first hand, when I interview him onstage at an event staged by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television on the 40th floor of the Royal Bank tower on Thurs. Sept. 16.
UPDATE: For Robert Lantos’ version of these events go here.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, September 10, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
Thirteen years, five screenwriters, one hell-bent producer: ‘Barney’s Version’ was worth it
His first meeting with Dustin Hoffman did not begin well. Canadian producer Robert Lantos met the Oscar-winning actor for a drink at a Brentwood bistro, near Sunset Boulevard in L.A., hoping to persuade him to play Barney Panofsky’s father in the film version of Barney’s Version, Mordecai Richler’s last novel. As Lantos recalls, they had barely sat down when Hoffman said, “I want to be really clear. I’m not going to make this movie.” After telling Lantos that he looked like a nice man and had an impressive resumé, he went on to make his case: “First of all, I should be Barney. Why should I play a small part? It’s a tiny part. And who’s your director? Who is he?” Lantos gently reminded Hoffman, who’s 73, that the lead role was out of his range. “I said, ‘Could you imagine yourself being 30 onscreen?’ But we got past that quickly. He was just saying it to get it off his chest.”
Ironically, Hoffman had already passed up his chance to play the title character in a Mordecai Richler movie long ago—Lantos tried to cast him in Joshua Then And Now (1985). The producer even met him for a drink after seeing him onstage in Death of A Salesman. But Hoffman had no recollection of it. Nor did he remember sharing a table with the producer at the 2005 Golden Globes, where Annette Bening won an award for the Lantos film Being Julia. Hoffman spent that night talking to her husband, Warren Beatty, “and never seemed to take notice of me,” Lantos recalls. And five years later this unmemorable producer was asking him to play a tiny part as an old man in a movie by an unknown Canadian director.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:45 PM - 0 Comments
The phrase ‘important motion picture’ gets bandied around a lot, especially as we approach the Oscars, where art tends to be judged by the weight of its subject. Important motion pictures are supposed to do more than make you feel good. They’re supposed to make you feel you’re doing good, just by watching them. The problem is, so many movies billed as important are merely self-important; and righteous drama can make for tedious viewing. This week offers a choice of two important motion pictures—Defiance and The Class—plus a light comedy that’s quite content to be of no importance whatsoever, Last Chance Harvey. As the true story of a Holocaust rescue mission, Defiance has its merits. But the one that I urge you to see is The Class (Entre les murs); I can’t recommend it too highly. It takes place almost entirely in a high school classroom, where a white liberal teacher is confounded by the insolence of his multi-ethnic students. Although it’s set in France, it should be required viewing for every parent, student and teacher in North American. The Class is one of those rare movies that actually is important. Which doesn’t mean it has to be seen out of duty. It’s as entertaining as it is essential. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 5:35 PM - 0 Comments
The weekend’s big movie for fully grown children isYou Don’t Mess With the Zohan, the new Judd Apatow-branded comedy starring Adam Sandler as an Israeli commando who becomes a Manhattan hairdresser. But your faithful correspondent hasn’t seen it. Blame it on Cannes. The film was screened while I was flying home. Then my immune system promptly crashed and burned, leaving me too ill to attend a second Toronto screening. Lesson learned: I vow to never again attempt surviving on four hours sleep a night for two weeks running. I did find the time to watch the Zohan trailer, however, and it seems to require no further explanation. Word on the street from friends who did preview the entire movie: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is more of an Adam Sandler movie than a Judd Apatow movie.
For those in the mood for an old-fashioned action picture, this weekend offers two choices: Kung Fu Panda, an animated feature for the whole family, and Mongol, a period epic for those who don’t mind their popcorn splattered with a little blood and gore. Both exploit the ancient warrior codes of the East, and are laden with philosophical aphorisms. Both also happen to be rare examples of entertainment that’s relatively irony-free.
Kung Fu Panda
I caught the afternoon premiere of this animated blockbuster as a break from all the dire and serious drama in competition at Cannes. The previous day, I’d watched Jack Black, who voices the panda, cavort on the Carlton pier with a gang in bear suits. (‘Kung Fu Pandering’ blog & video). I’d also saw Black hold court with co-stars Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman at a zoo-like press conference for the film, where Black played the class clown, a pregnant and regal Angelina talked about having children, and Hoffman, the old sage , lamented the current state of the industry, saying that “Hollywood in the 70s was making the same kind of movies that the indies are making today.”
And Kung Fu Panda? Well, for a kiddie animation spectacle I’d give it more than a passing grade. There are some terrific set pieces of animated martial arts, notably one involving chopsticks. There’s a fabulous escape scene that involves a vast, diabolically designed dungeon. The filmmakers, who are keen martial arts fans, were aiming to mix the grace of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the slapstick mayhem of Kung Fu Hustle. And they’ve succeeded up to a point.
But the script is rather ham-fisted and moralistic. The picture lacks the all-ages wit and dazzle of a masterpiece like Ratatouille. Perhaps we’ve become too picky with animation. Now that we’ve seen what’s possible, we want to be blown away by more than visual virtuosity. We want to see a film that seems in and of itself miraculous, reinventing the genre with the kind of magic that makes you wonder how on earth it found it way to to the screen. Kung Fu Panda is not on that level.
The story revolves around a clumsy, overweight panda named Po (Jack Black), a geeky fan of martial arts who is resigned to a future in his family’s noodle shop—until a fluke designates him as a chosen warrior to fulfill an ancient prophecy. A jaded guru (Dustin Hoffman) has the job of training Po so he can fulfill his destiny to become a kung fu master. Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross and Jackie Chang voice a menagerie of jealous rivals called the Furious Five. They’re a weird mix—from a tiger (Jolie) to a praying mantis (Rogen). Deadwood‘s Ian McShane brings black-hearted menace to the the role of villain. (Try to imagine Hannibal Lecter as a snow leopard.) Among the actors, Black may have found his ideal incarnation as an lard-ass panda. And Hoffman, who has somehow avoided voicing animation up until now, delivers the movie’s stand-out performance, filling out the gruff stereotype of his role with the kind of idiosyncratic detail that has become his signature.
The script is full of empowering advice for nerds, underachievers and fat kids. It’s a familiar message—with enough effort, anyone can be a superhero. I suppose the same doctrine informed Ratatouille, and countless other cartoon features. But in this case, the script lacks the quicksilver dexterity of the visuals. There’s not much subtlety in a movie that puts an obese panda bear with a eating disorder through kung fu boot camp—first dangling food in front of him as an incentive, and then showing how, once he becomes absorbed in the task at hand, he’ll lose interest in stuffing his face.
This ambitious epic from Russian auteur Sergei Bodrov is just as unsubtle in its own way. But I found this heroic epic about Ghenghis Khan more rewarding. Perhaps that’s because it’s not kiddie fare. For a closer look at Mongol , go to my piece in this week’s magazine: Ghenghis, patron saint of the steppe
By Jeff Harris - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 1:51 PM - 0 Comments
Juilette Binoche epitomized the “blonde bombshell” look at Breaking and Entering
premiere, along with…
Juilette Binoche epitomized the “blonde bombshell” look at Breaking and Entering
premiere, along with co-star Jude Law — who had an impish grin for festival paparrazzi. The Dixie Chicks came to town with a hot documentary that followed the backlash after their dig at President George Bush. From Ashton Kutcher to Zach Braff, see all the celebs that invaded Toronto this past September.