star, actor, director, movies

Most expensive Christmas tree costing $15 million stands tall at Spanish resort....   30%

The hotel collaborated with fashion designer turned baker Debbie Wingham to create the Christmas tree which is said to be worth a whopping £11.9 million ($15.4 million) for display at the resort.

'Yoni Netanyahus mistake nearly led to disaster': U.K. historian sets the record straight on Operation Entebbe  

The PM's slain brother was not a central figure in the operation, Saul David, on whose book the film '7 Days in Entebbe' was based, tells Haaretz

L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee head asks $82.5 million for Beverly Hills mansion  

Casey Wasserman, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, has slashed the price of his Beverly Hills mansion to $82.5 million.

Russell Weiner pumps new energy into Hermosa Beach home for sale  

The Rockstar drink creator cuts his asking price to $18.95 million.

Former Celtic Aron Baynes gets full price for stately Boston townhome   35%

After being traded from the Celtics to the Suns over the summer, NBA big man Aron Baynes has sold his Boston-area townhome for his full asking price of $1.699 million.

Jumanji: The Next Level review: Fails to live up to its surprising predecessor   8%

The sequel does get close to matching the charms of the first film – but only in the final reel, when you can sense the credits about to roll

Marriage Story and The Irishman Propel Netflix to Most Golden Globe Nominations  

Streaming services had a big day with Netflix leading the TV and film categories. Apple’s centerpiece series, “The Morning Show,” and its two stars all received nominations.

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver's Arizona mansion sells for record $19.25 million  

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has sold his mansion in Paradise Valley, Ariz., for $19.25 million, setting the record for the priciest home sale in Arizona history.

Weinstein not seeking sympathy by using walking frame at court, lawyer says   -27%

Judge tells disgraced film producer a warrant will be issued for his arrest if he fails to appear for trial

Whisky galore! Largest ever collection could fetch up to $10 million   10%

Scottish auctioneers hope to sell off 3,900 bottles of rare whisky for up to 8 million pounds ($10.3 million) next year in what they said would be the largest private collection of the tipple ever to...

The Vatican invested over $1 million in steamy gay Elton John biopic, Men in Black report   -15%

The Vatican reportedly made some questionable and head-scratching investments, including in real estate, lifestyle products, and R-rated and franchise film ventures, through a fund in which they hold a majority stake.
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Ryan Reynolds and company sink into the silliness of '6 Underground'   -9%

The first thought watching something like "6 Underground" -- an idiotic Netflix movie starring Ryan Reynolds -- is "What were they thinking?," until you realize thinking had little to do with it. The apparent goal was to make an action film for people who find "Fast & Furious" movies too heavily plotted, only to create what feels like a bad Michael Bay-directed parody of a Michael Bay movie.

Parasite director piling up the accolades   3%

Bong Joon Ho’s social thriller has captured the zeitgeist for film critics worldwide.

Chinese developer buys land for mega project in downtown Los Angeles   -8%

City Century paid $121 million for the site across the street from L.A. Live with plans to build a $1-billion housing and retail complex called Olympia.

The First Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer Emphasizes the Eerie  

The clip, featuring Finn Wolfhard, is short on jokes and plays more like a horror film. Jason Reitman directed.

The Most Enthralling Movie of the Year   50%

When Marianne (played by Noémie Merlant), the heroine of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, paints, the viewer can feel every dab on the canvas and hear every brushstroke as her workmanlike effort creates a graceful piece of art. After a while, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), the woman Marianne is painting, sidles up to gaze at what she’s produced. “When do we know it’s finished?” Héloïse asks. “At one point, we stop,” Marianne replies. As the film progresses, artist and subject are drawn into a romance that fuels the former’s talent but, because of 18th-century close-mindedness, is doomed to end. The story’s crucial tension lies in Héloïse’s question: not knowing when that end will come.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is primarily a romance. But it’s also a film about the deeply personal process of creativity—the pain and joy of making one’s emotions and memories into a work of art. The film is a grand leap forward for Sciamma, already one of France’s most exciting emerging directors. For me, it is the most enthralling cinema experience of the year.

Sciamma’s first three films—Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011), and Girlhood (2014)—were all contemporary tales of adolescence and coming of age in modern France, told with frank sensitivity. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a level more ambitious, mostly because of its dramatic setting: a remote island off the coast of Brittany in the late 18th century. Marianne, the daughter of a celebrated painter, is brought over from the mainland by a countess (Valeria Golino) who is desperate to marry her daughter Héloïse to a Milanese nobleman. The match requires a portrait, but Héloïse has refused to sit for one, so Marianne is contracted to pose as her companion while secretly painting her from memory.

It’s a convoluted setup for a complicated relationship, in which Marianne is compelled to observe every intricacy of Héloïse’s personality and movements in order to capture her spirit in a portrait. Over and over again, the camera switches to Marianne’s point of view as she picks up on subtle things about Héloïse—the way she walks, the way her hair moves, the way she positions her arms as her mood changes—that find their way into Marianne’s painting. Eventually, Héloïse learns the truth about Marianne’s assignment. Meanwhile, the artist’s professional observation turns into something deeper and more tender, an attraction that is deeply felt rather than merely imitated on canvas.

Both Marianne and Héloïse are remarkably free spirits for their era, the former earning her keep as an artist and the latter refusing to submit to her mother’s attempts to marry her off. But their independence is itself confined; their relationship can flourish on this remote island, but would never be condoned by the outside world. So Portrait of a Lady on Fire becomes an elegy for passion burning brightly before it’s snuffed out, and a demonstration of how art can memorialize that depth of feeling.

At one point in the film, Marianne, Héloïse, and the countess’s maid Sophie (Luàna Bajrami) read the tragic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus nearly succeeds in rescuing his true love from the underworld but traps her there forever when he turns around for one last look at her. Sophie is outraged at his foolishness, but Héloïse understands. He’s picking the cherished memory of his partner over an uncertain future—a sad choice but an undeniably poetic one.

Though the mythic forces of the underworld are not at work in this film, the practical impossibilities of Marianne and Héloïse’s romance function as a similarly insurmountable barrier. Despite this undertone of sadness, the script and the central performances are alive with desire and delight—there’s energy pouring out of every scene Marianne and Héloïse have together. In a film told with sweeping visual scope, Sciamma plunges the viewer into a story and setting of the deepest intimacy. The final result is invigorating but tragic, a snapshot of the inevitable, painfully beautiful ending that Marianne predicted.

Harriet Tubman: 4 things to consider about her life and the movie 'Harriet'  

"Harriet" producer Debra Martin Chase says she sees how closely connected the film's storyline is to the plight of migrants in the U.S. today.

Hot Property: Jimmy Rollins gives up a base to Bruno Mars' producer  

Former baseball player Jimmy Rollins has sold his home in Encino to Grammy-winning songwriter-producer Philip Lawrence for $10.55 million.

How Super Mario Bros doomed video-game movies for a generation  

Ed Power looks back at how the big-screen version of Nintendo's 'Super Mario Bros', which turns 25 this week, set all future video-game films up for a fall

Playmobil: The Movie is biggest box office flop of all time  

Film starred Daniel Radcliffe, Anya Taylor-Joy and Meghan Trainor

WATCH Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers engage in head-spinning dogfight over Urals   -3%

Russian Air Force pilots were caught on film while flying their heavy Su-34 jets over the snow-covered countryside near Chelyabinsk, in the Urals. The exercise was to hone their flying and missile-launching techniques.
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Filmmaker Caroline Link on directing 'When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit'   -5%

The Oscar-winning director has just released "When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit," based on the novel by Judith Kerr. She told DW about the challenges of turning the autobiographical Nazi Germany escape story into a film.

Weinstein bail raised to 3.8m after bail violations over electronic tag  

Harvey Weinstein’s bail has been increased from a million dollars (£750,000) to five million (£3.8 million) over allegations that he violated bail conditions by mishandling his electronic ankle monitor.

Free Guy trailer: Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer fight their way through a video game  

Killing Eve actor makes her Hollywood debut in action-comedy film

Selling James Bond: why No Time to Die is a product placement dream   -10%

The trailer is not only a shopfront for the film but also for some of the world’s priciest brands

The official trailer for the new Bond film, No Time to Die, was released only on Wednesday but has already been viewed tens of millions of times, which is an efficient sales job for a film its producers hope will make at least $1bn.

Appetites have been whetted and nerves calmed in the run-up to the film’s release in April after a bumpy production. The budget for the movie – Daniel Craig’s last in the lead role – is estimated to have exceeded $250m (£190m), having rocketed after the departure of the director Danny Boyle in August 2018, who left at the 11th-hour citing “creative differences”.

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Whats the Point of the Turner Prize, Anyway?   16%

The prize’s winner-takes-all model, borrowed from book and film awards, sits uneasily with contemporary art.

International investors pile into Pakistan   2%

Pakistan's sovereign bonds have never been a highly valued commodity, but global investors pumped $642.5 million into local currency bonds in November. The question is, how long will it last?

'Bombshell' spotlights the women who ended Roger Ailes' reign   -7%

Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman play the women who ended Roger Ailes' Fox News reign in a film that sharply captures the win-at-all-costs corporate environment that enabled his alleged misconduct with impunity.

Intel eyes Israeli startup Habana Labs amid flurry of tech activity  

Teable buys Indegy in $95 million deal, Gong raises $65 million and VC Crescendo raises initial capital

My Penguin Year tells a compelling tale of an extreme adventure  

Lindsay McCrae missed the birth of his son to film in Antarctica. It made him appreciate the role that male penguins play in raising the chicks.

Controversial scene deleted from 'Panipat'  

Ashutosh Gowariker's 'Panipat' has been the talk of the town since its announcement. The film is based on the third battle of Panipat fought between the Marathas and the Mughals.

Jennifer Lopez responds to fan who urged fellow passengers on plane to watch Hustlers   30%

Lopez was nominated for Golden Globe for work in film yesterday

Local councils eye $40m as liquidators sue Fitch over toxic Lehman products   20%

The fallout from the toxic products made famous in the film The Big Short and sold to local councils continues with a fresh court case filed against ratings agency Fitch.

Robert De Niro's Deer Hunter archive in pictures  

The film caught the trauma of the Vietnam war. Forty years on, its star has opened his personal archive for a new book, One Shot: The Making of The Deer Hunter, offering a glimpse of never-before-seen material

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Aladdin star Mena Massoud says he hasnt had a single audition since Disney reboot   16%

Live-action version of classic film has grossed more than a billion dollars since release

Maggie Smith: Harry Potter and Downton Abbey weren't 'what youd call satisfying'   10%

The actor has said that, while grateful for the work, ‘I didn’t really feel I was acting in those things’

Dame Maggie Smith has said her work in the Harry Potter films and on Downton Abbey “wasn’t what you’d call satisfying”.

The actor, 84, played schoolmistress Minerva McGonagall in the boy-wizard films and the waspish Violet Crawley in the period drama. Discussing the earlier years of her career, she told ES magazine: “It seemed to take ages to get away from light comedy.”

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Music exec L.A. Reid lists Westside showplace for $22.9 million   20%

Music executive L.A. Reid has listed his modern mansion on the Westside of Los Angeles for sale at $22.9 million.

Rian Johnson Turned the Whodunit on Its Head   50%

Any fears one might have about the impending demise of cinema can be assuaged by a meeting with the director Rian Johnson. For one, there’s his passion and clarity in speaking about his new film, Knives Out. The murder mystery, starring Daniel Craig, debuted in theaters over Thanksgiving weekend, making a healthy $41.7 million in its first five days. And then there was the way Johnson’s eyes lit up when I told him that the newest trailer for Cats, another highly anticipated film, had just been posted online. “Oh, we have to watch it together!” he yelped.

Johnson has a gift for taking well-worn genres and finding something new in them. He broke into Hollywood in 2005 with the hard-boiled high-school noir Brick before moving on to a con-man comedy caper (The Brothers Bloom), a time-traveling sci-fi thriller (Looper), and an inventive Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi). The filmmaker’s enthusiasm for the intricacies of the whodunit story is on display in Knives Out, which sees Craig playing a debonair southern detective named Benoit Blanc trying to unravel the mystery of a millionaire’s grisly death. The movie is as satisfying as any of the classics that inspired it, but it’s unafraid to update those formulas for a modern era.

The director spoke with me about finding a new angle on an old story, the best whodunits of yesteryear, and why everyone’s sweaters in Knives Out look so cozy. (And, yes, we watched the Cats trailer, during which Johnson cheered and gasped with an occasional interjection like, “It’s the Jellicle Ball, motherfuckers!” and “Get that money, Ian McKellen!”)

This conversation has been edited.

David Sims: When I saw Knives Out at the Toronto International Film Festival, you came out to introduce it and said something like, “Who’s ready for a good old-fashioned whodunit?” Of course, the film is that, but you’ve messed with the genre in all these ways. Is that how you begin your creative process—taking something familiar and seeing where it goes?

Rian Johnson: Sort of! The idea for me, in terms of the genre element, is getting back to what I love about it in as powerful and pure a way as possible. [To] clear out all the cobwebs and get to the actual impact of whatever the genre is.

Sims: So you try to boil down to that emotion?

Johnson: The example I use is my first movie, Brick. It’s the way I felt when I read Dashiell Hammett for the first time, like I’d been punched in the stomach. It felt electric to me. The idea of taking how familiar we are with film noir and putting it into a different context. You have to do something so that audiences’ senses wake up a little bit.

Sims: This isn’t a dead genre exactly; there had been the throwback-y Murder on the Orient Express a couple of years ago.

Johnson: Which I thought was great! But when you see a whodunit, you tend to see it as a period piece, because it’s usually an Agatha Christie adaptation. So the idea of doing an original one and setting it in the America of 2019—not just giving it a modern skin but really plugging into today—there was something about that that seemed genuinely exciting.

[Read: ‘Knives Out’ is no ordinary murder mystery]

Sims: Yet with the traditional tropes of a fancy house and a family of rich people, which Knives Out has. Did you always have the family in mind for this movie?

Johnson: With this movie I was thinking about the form of the whodunit and the inherent weakness of that form, which is that it’s just clue-gathering leading up to a surprise. So the initial idea was as simple and abstract as putting a Hitchcock thriller in the middle of a whodunit, but still turning it back into a whodunit at the end. So I still get the pleasure of the denouement with the detective in the library.

Sims: I read the article you wrote for the L.A. Times about Alfred Hitchcock’s disdain for the Agatha Christie–style whodunit, which relies entirely on a surprise ending. Do you think that’s because in a Hitchcock movie, the director takes the role of Poirot, distributing the information for the audience?

Johnson: No, I think it’s about the experience the audience has. Hitchcock was all about giving the audience the most thrilling time in the theater possible. I think it was entirely just his theory of suspense—the notion that it’s more exciting to lean forward than to lean back and stroke your chin.

Sims: Because waiting for the reveal at the end can be boring. Clue is an inherently boring board game.

Johnson: Clue is fucking boring. [Laughs.] I love the movie, but I sat down to play the game as an adult, remembering it being so much fun, and I was like, “Really? Is this all we do?”

Sims: It’s just walking around and asking questions.

Johnson: You do a lot of walking! It’s like what Kevin Smith says about Lord of the Rings: Lotta walking! I think as a kid we just loved the tokens, the gun with the multiple barrels.

Sims: But you’re still drawing from that style of storytelling—the Clue style where everything hinges on the ending, even if you’re putting a Hitchcock thriller in a whodunit.

Johnson: Which, by the way, in Christie’s best book, she did exactly what I’m describing. In all of Christie’s best books she put another engine in the car.

Sims: So what’s your “second engine” in Knives Out?

Johnson: Here’s a character you care about [the underdog hero Marta Cabrera, played by Ana de Armas], she’s in peril in this damn impossible situation, and how can she possibly get out of this? It’s empathy-based suspense.

Rian Johnson, pictured on the right with Chris Evans (left) and Ana de Armas (center), wanted Knives Out to capture autumn in New England. “I told my costume designer, Jenny Eagan, to go nuts. Make everything cozy: sweaters, blankets, rugs,” he said.

Sims: Marta is a twist on a classic character in the whodunit, too. “The help” is always present, but they’re often villainous or one-dimensional and off to the side.

Johnson: It is interesting how that’s always an element—it’s something Gosford Park used to great effect.

Sims: That’s an amazing movie; it’s an arch spoof of the whodunit, but one where the mystery really matters and the ending is very emotional.

Johnson: Gosford Park keys into something that’s kind of baked into the genre, which is that it’s uniquely suited to talking about class. And in the same way most whodunits are period pieces, it’s usually British class that [these films focus on]. So the idea of applying that to America seemed very interesting. Then I got the idea of making Marta the central character, putting her in the role of that Hitchcock hero, and I was off to the races.

Sims: Knives Out’s narrative arc is unusual because of her. Usually in these kinds of movies, the detective lays out all the information; he’s the genius, he’s the master of putting together the puzzle. But the audience is watching your detective [Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig] come around on what’s wrong with the family he’s investigating—there’s more of a moral arc.

[Read: The unlikely hero of Rian Johnson’s ‘Knives Out’]

Johnson: Though Poirot does have a moral engagement, too. The thing that’s specific to whodunits, as opposed to the fiction of Hammett or [Raymond] Chandler, is that there’s no moral ambiguity. Everything is set right by the detective at the end of it and put in its proper place. The morality comes from Poirot having sadness that this kind of thing could happen in the world, and that he can’t stop it.

Sims: Poirot has a delicacy to him, an appreciation of something well done. Whereas your movie is more chaotic.

Johnson: A little more messy. [Laughs.]

Sims: Which is very American!

Johnson: But I wanted to retain that element. I wanted the movie to have a good heart, to end not in a cynical place, especially given all the stuff we were going to be layering through it. I really felt like it was important that the audience walk out of the movie smiling and bobbing their heads; it’s why I play “Sweet Virginia” [by the Rolling Stones] over the credits. But that ties back to my essential pleasure with the genre—you rarely end a whodunit in a very dark way, And Then There Were None being a big exception.

Sims: Did you always want Daniel Craig as your Poirot type? What appealed to you about him?

Johnson: I had met Daniel a few times over the years, and I knew he had a good sense of humor. That’s the No. 1 thing, beyond even the audience’s expectations of him as Bond—I sensed that he was eager to do this. That’s one of the big things that makes me happy about the movie, that you can tell how much fun he’s having.

Sims: I hope the answer is no, but was there ever a point at which you said his southern accent was too much?

Johnson: No, though I’m sure my producer was sweating. Jamie Lee Curtis reminded me recently that in the script I described [Benoit Blanc’s] accent as “the gentlest southern lilt possible.” But when we got on set, I was just having so much fun watching [Craig]. I think in the movie, it probably takes a few minutes to adjust to him having that voice, but I could listen to him forever.

Sims: I’ve been watching a lot of whodunits since seeing Knives Out, and one I’d never seen before was Deathtrap [Sidney Lumet’s 1982 comic thriller starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve].

Johnson: Oh, so good. How did that treat you?

Sims: Wonderfully! But that movie—like so many whodunits, like yours—is mostly set in one location and could risk feeling stagey. The way Lumet uses simple camera movements, and cuts closer and closer to the characters’ faces …

Johnson: And the richness of the set; the set is incredible. When Knives Out was on the page, that was a concern that I had to address. On the page, it’s just a lot of people in rooms talking; it’s going to feel like a small movie. But I was picturing Deathtrap and Sleuth [a 1972 Joseph L. Mankiewicz thriller also starring Caine].

Sims: Another house movie.

Johnson: Right, it’s set in a mansion that’s supposed to be the inside of this eccentric mystery writer’s brain—we even found a Jolly Jack the Sailor from Sleuth and stuck it in the foyer of our house. First and foremost, the movie is about the actors. But [with] the richness of the environment around them, I was never worried [Knives Out] would feel closed in.

Sims: Did you ever want Knives Out to have an active camera, to feel visually eccentric?

Johnson: I’m doing quite a bit with the camera that I hope is mostly invisible to the audience. It’s not a movie where I felt I had to throw the camera around or modernize it in that way. I have this cast, I have this beautiful house; my job is to use the camera when I feel like I need to, but mostly give them a stage to work on.

Sims: My other Deathtrap question is about Christopher Reeve, who was in the middle of his run playing Superman.

Johnson: God, he’s so good.

Sims: He wears these beautiful sweaters that show off [his physique]. So I immediately made the connection to Chris Evans, Captain America, and these sweaters his character is wearing in Knives Out.

Johnson: [Laughs.] You know what? I never made that connection, which is crazy! But you’re right; that cardigan that he’s wearing in that movie …

Sims: So you were just thinking that this should be a warm, autumnal movie.

Johnson: It’s fall in New England, basically. Which to me, because I grew up on the West Coast, there’s an exoticism to that. So I told my costume designer, Jenny Eagan, to go nuts. Make everything cozy: sweaters, blankets, rugs. In fact, talking about Clue, Jenny deserves a lot of credit—the fact that she was able to make each of the characters as distinct as the cards in the Clue game without feeling costume-y. They feel modern, and that’s quite a feat.

Sims: So you’ve made this film; it’s a fun, grown-up movie, and I feel like everyone is talking about how hard it is to make a movie like this these days, whether or not that’s true. Everyone is wringing their hands over the future of cinema. Do you think those fears are overstated? How do you survive in this system?

Johnson: I was going to say yes, it’s an overrated concern, but I’m sure there are market forces that make that true and that you can look at numbers that confirm it. Speaking to my experience [with Knives Out], this is the easiest I’ve ever had a movie come together, period. I feel like every year there are a lot of filmmakers working in this realm and continuing to do it successfully, like my buddy Edgar Wright, making movies this size, original stuff that hits. I feel like cinema has been “dying” since the birth of cinema, and there’s always something to wring your hands about. But at the end of the day, weeds grow through the concrete, man. We’re always going to find a way to make interesting stuff.

Sims: One more thing I have to ask you before I go—what do you think of the Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian?

Johnson: Oh, it’s fantastic! It’s so cute! I haven’t watched the show yet; I’ve only seen pictures and stuff. I caught a glimpse of [the puppet] on set when I visited, and the producer I was with immediately looked at me and said, “You gotta keep that under wraps.” [Laughs.] Okay, let’s watch the Cats trailer.

'Avengers' director Anthony Russo seeks action on Los Feliz digs   70%

In Los Feliz, "Avengers: Endgame" director Anthony Russo is asking $3.5 million for his charming home of nine years.