A Tale of Two Animation Studios

Add Comment on May 30, 2009 by Gary Gentile

DreamWorks Animation could be called the Susan Boyle of the animation world—long considered the underdog to powerhouse Pixar, but never, never to be underestimated. DreamWorks recently announced that it was stepping up production to five feature films every two years, including sequels to such hits as Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. That’s an ambitious undertaking considering that Pixar Animation Studios, a unit of The Walt Disney Co., releases only one big screen film a year. “I think they’re up to that challenge,” says Chuck Sheetz, a professor of animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.

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Better With Age

Add Comment on May 29, 2009 by Christian Toto

Actress Lorna Raver is ready for her close-up—at last. Raver, a movie and television veteran who entered the business nearly 20 years ago, is front and center in Sam Raimi’s new horror film Drag Me to Hell. She plays the old woman who casts a nasty curse on leading lady Alison Lohman. It’s the kind of showy supporting part that could land her plenty of follow-up work. It wouldn’t be the first time a character actor used a juicy role to restart or even ignite a career. Jenelle Riley, film and television editor for Back Stage, hopes Raver has a publicist to handle her newfound fame.

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The Art of Counterprogramming

Add Comment on May 26, 2009 by Christian Toto

Studios know it’s all but impossible to steal the thunder away from their competitors when said competitor releases a Terminator Salvation or Star Trek on any given weekend. But there’s still an art to counterprogramming against a certain blockbuster, an inexact science that can provide damage control and, in some cases, yield unexpected results. Last summer showed the strategy can work brilliantly when done just right. On July 18, 2008 the year’s biggest film hit theaters, the Batman sequel The Dark Knight. The same weekend, Universal deposited Mamma Mia! into cineplexes.

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Trip to the 'Museum'

Add Comment on May 25, 2009 by Gary Gentile

The success of the second Night at the Museum film has the real-life Smithsonian hoping some of that Hollywood magic will rub off on them. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian conquered the Memorial Day weekend box office, taking in an estimated $70 million. The Ben Stiller comedy has popular museum exhibits come to life after hours, recreating the hit formula of the 2006 film, which was set at the fictional Museum of Natural History in New York. The first movie boosted attendance at the real American Museum of Natural History by more than 20 percent, according to some estimates.

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Unknown Heroes

Add Comment on May 25, 2009 by Gary Gentile

The news that Chris Hemsworth would play the blonde Nordic god Thor in the superhero movie of the same name was greeted with a one-word reaction: who? Keen observers will recognize Hemsworth as the doomed U.S.S. Enterprise captain George Kirk—father to James T. Kirk—in this summer’s Star Trek. But other than a few TV roles, the 25-year-old Australian actor is as unknown as unknown can be. So why cast someone with only 15 minutes of big screen time under his belt to star as the golden-haired, hammer-wielding god of the Marvel Comics universe?

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Haneke's Latest Tops Cannes

Add Comment on May 24, 2009 by Richard Mowe

The mild-mannered Austrian director Michael Haneke, a darling of global cineastes on the strength of that intriguing puzzle of a film Hidden ( Caché ), scooped the Cannes Film Festival's top prize the Palme d'or last night for his latest work, The White Ribbon. Jury president Isabelle Huppert, the French actress, insisted on presenting the award herself, marking the first time a jury president has presented the prize since Clint Eastwood gave the award to Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction.

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Drag Me to Horror

Add Comment on May 22, 2009 by Christian Toto

Quick - name the director of the new Friday the 13th remake, The Uninvited or Quarantine, some of the more visible horror movies released in recent months. Now, who directed Frost/Nixon, Changeling and The Departed ? Much easier, right? Today’s horror movies are typically helmed by lesser known talents, or music video directors itching for their first big gig. The A-list directors—Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese to name three—avoid the genre like a horde of flesh-eating zombies.

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