Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SUNDANCE; HARD-CORE MOVIE WATCHING, PARTYING AND SWAG-GATHERING

  
  Just back from Park City, Utah, where more than 50,000 people packed into the little town  (population 7,500)  for ten days of hard-core movie watching, partying and swag-gathering at the Sundance Film Festival.  
   Hollywood big-wigs, celebrities, their entourages, film fans and filmmakers have turned the winter wonderland nestled in the heart of Utah's Wasatch Mountains, into an adult playground where debauchery and misbehaviour are as normal as movie matinees and red carpets.
   This year the festival is bigger than ever before as major corporations like Hewlett Packard, Acura, Bang & Olufsen and Eddie Bauer have got in on the act by taking over the shops along the city's Main Street and turning them into party venues and lounges to get their products into the hands of celebrities.
    Party-hopping is a favourite late night sport as filmmakers and studios vie to lay on the best, most talked about soirees although things can sometimes turn nasty as evidenced when police were called to a nightclub at 3.30am after a female Paramount Pictures executive claimed she had been assaulted by actor Emile Hirsch, who is in town to promote his movie Ten Thousand Saints. Hirsch's representatives have not commented and police are still investigating.     
Iggy Azuela in concert
   Businesses are cashing in while the town is packed with visitors, and on the first weekend of the festival, long lines of would-be customers waited patiently outside overcrowded bars and restaurants that were charging people $20 just to get in. 
  Music plays a large part in the festival nowadays and while there Theo Kingma, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and I took in an Iggy Azuela concert at the Live Park City venue. We were fortunate enough to be in the VIP section where drink flowed freely and hostesses were on hand to make sure we had everything we wanted. 
Drinks, anyone?
Theo gets cozy with Nicole Kidman
 Because of the city's proximity to Los Angeles, celebrities were in town in droves to publicise their movies, promote themselves and to reap whatever they could pick up from the "swag suites" set up to fete the famous with spa treatments, designer clothes, liquor and valuable electronic goodies.   
  Theo and I chatted with Nicole Kidman and Cynthia Nixon, the former Sex and the City co-star who had two films screening at Sundance. 
   Oh yes. The films.   
    This year 4,105 feature films applied to be screened and only 123 were selected, making the festival tougher than ever to get into and also even more important, as two of this year's Oscar nominees, Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance last year.
   The Sundance movie this year being tipped to be around at next year's Oscars is Brooklyn, which stars Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who moves to Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s. It also featurees Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters and has alreaady been picked up by Fox Searchlight for distribution.
 So keep an eye open for it. 


   


ends

Sunday, January 25, 2015

BUBU THE OWL JOINS THE SUNDANCE FUNDRAISERS

 
This time of year the little ski town of Park City, Utah is overflowing with film fans and the attendant filmmakers, publicists, journalists, hustlers, agents and stars, all drawn by the Sundance film festival and the possibility of  being in on next year's surprise big hit movie.   
  Last year two Oscar nominees, Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance and this year 123 films are vying for recognition out of more than 4,100 that were submitted.
  But, of course, although people will tell you it is the art that matters it is money that is at the root of everything in Sundance.  Big corporations have taken over most of the stores on Main Street for promotional purposes and at the other end of the spectrum, would-be filmmakers are trying to raise enough dollars to make their dream idea come true.
   In that vein, while walking up Main Street after a chat with the always-friendly Nicole Kidman (her Sundance movie is called Strangerland, by the way) I met up with Bubu the owl who, with his handler from the Earthwings oragnisation, was soliciting donations in order to make a nature documentary. 
  I hope my $2 will help and I'll look out for the movie at Sundance next year.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

JOHNNY DEPP FLOPS AGAIN: HE IS 'VERY, VERY BAD.'

Depp and Paltrow in Mortdecai.
   Johnny Depp has made his fifth consecutive film flop with Mortdecai, an unfunny "comedy" set in England and co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow.
    The actor has received some of the worst reviews of his career following the flops Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows and The Rum Diaries.
   It’s been four years since his last hit, the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, though he is currently on screen as The Wolf in the Disney musical of Into the Woods.
  In Mortdecai he plays a British aristocrat and shady art dealer on the trail of a stolen Goya. The movie, which also features Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum and Oliver Platt, cost $40 million to make and, like Depp,  has received scathing reviews.
  Here is a selection:
Newark Star-Ledger critic Stephen Whitty:
“Depp — who used to be at least an interesting actor, remember those days? — attacks the part with the same sort of giggly glee he probably once showed playing dress-up with grandma’s Sunday best. The whole thing’s a great laugh to him, rather embarrassing to everyone else forced to watch.”
Vulture critic David Edelstein:
“Having combed Roget’s Thesaurus in vain for a suitable adjective to describe the Johnny Depp comedy Mortdecai, I’m forced to say it’s just … bad. The direction by David Koepp is bad, the screenplay by Eric Aronson very bad — though if Aronson were a bubbly American 15-year-old attempting a British caper-comedy after thrilling to a lot of old movies (which is how the script plays), I’d tell him it wasn’t too bad because puberty is difficult enough. Depp is very, very bad.”CinemaBlend critic Mike Reyes:
“The brightest spot of ‘Mortdecai’s’ failure is that there’s now a Johnny Depp film on the books that makes ‘Transcendence’ look like an infinitely better night at the movies.”
RogerEbert.com critic Peter Sobczynski:
“With other bad films, you can sort of understand what the intentions of the filmmakers might have been before things went wrong. ‘Mortdecai,’ on the other hand, is one of those rare birds that is so off-putting in so many ways that all I could do for the most part was wonder how so many presumably intelligent people could be persuaded to sign on to produce and appear in something that could not have possibly seemed like anything other than a total mess from its earliest stages.”
USA Today critic Brian Truitt:
“With a varied wardrobe of retro men’s finery and a hirsute upper lip, the title character of the silly comedy ‘Mortdecai” is the center of a whirlwind of horrible British accents, too much gagging, not enough good gags and weak dialogue that, while not exactly terrible, is terribly boring.”Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw:
“The poster is awful. The premise is awful. To be frank, quite a lot about it is awful: a middle-aged comedy caper of the kind not seen since Peter Sellers’s final outings as Clouseau and Fu Manchu. But in its dopey and silly way, it does deliver one or two daft laughs.”
New York Times critic Stephen Holden:
“‘Mortdecai’ might as well be called ‘The Johnny Depp Movie,’ because its preening star, wearing an ascot and a walrus mustache that becomes a tiresome running joke, is the whole show. And what a frantically dull spectacle this vanity project is.”
New York Post critic Kyle Smith:
“Director David Koepp evidently has such confidence in the comedy that he considers the haphazard plot to be incidental, but the two elements are both so boring in their incoherence that they amplify each other’s stultifying effects. Amid the random plot turns, the jokes sound like mistranslations of one-liners that were only vaguely funny in some other language: ‘I eschew discomfort,’ ‘You’re barking up the wrong Englishman,’ ‘You look like you have a vagina on your face.’ ‘Mortdecai’ typifies playful English wit in much the same way as Wimbledon is known for its monster truck rallies.”


Friday, January 16, 2015

GINA SAYS 'THANK YOU' WITH CUPCAKES

Gina's note
The Golden Globes are over for another year and the red carpet has been rolled up and stored but the inquests and clebrations go on.
 Winners are busy telephoning, writing and emailing their thanks to voters while nominees who didn't win are putting a brave face on it.
  I was delighted that the bubbly and cute Gina Rodriguez won a Globe as best comedy actress for her show Jane the Virgin and even more delighted to receive a hand-written note from her accompanied by a box of cupcakes.
with Gina last year
   I was also surprised to get a telephone call out of the blue from DreamWorks boss Jeffrey Katzenberg thanking me for his Golden Globe win for How to Train Your Dragon 2.
   I'm still waiting for calls/notes/gifts from Eddie Redmayne, Amy Adams and Julianne Moore!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

READY FOR THE GLOBES

  After a week of preparation the Beverly Hills Hotel is almost ready to host the 72nd Golden Globe awards.
  As a precaution the entrance to the red carpet has been tented to shield the arrivals from any rain but forecasters are predicting a sunny afternoon.
  Inside the ballroom rehearsals have been going on all day Saturday with the hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and some of the presenters, including Salma Hayek and Ricky Gervais.
with Ricky Gervais and HFPA president Theo Kingma
  Ricky is doing double duty at the Globes as both a nominee for his TV show Derek and also as a presenter of the Globe to the best supporting actress. 
   As a fee for his services Ricky demanded a six-pack of Fosters which I bought from the Main Street Market in Venice and presented to him when he arrived.
  Apart from Ricky's six-pack there may not be any Fosters on hand but there'll be no shortage of food and drink as apart from the awards show dinner two bars will be open through the afternoon and evening in the adjoining lounge along with a Petrossian caviar stand, Godiva chocolate display and Moet et Chandon bar serving special cocktails as well as champagne.
   And when the show is over guests will have their pick of SIX parties hosted by movie and TV studios in different parts of the hotel. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

JIFF, J-LO AND THE CONSUL-GENERAL TOO



J-Lo: no Valentine's plans
Quite a day! It started while I was at the Beverly Hilton helping to arrange for the delivery of a truckload of caviar for Sunday's Golden Globes and I came across Jiff. The extremely cute Jiff, according to his card, is an actor/model dog so it was appropriate he should pose for his picture by a Golden Globe.
 Then I dropped in at the Four Seasons for a chat with Jennifer Lopez, who is starring in a new film, the creepy psychological thriller The Boy Next Door. J-Lo told me of her Valentine's Day plans (she says she doesn't have any) before posing for a quick photo and then rushing off to her next appointment.
Jiff the actor/model dog
 From there I headed to the British Consul-General's house in Hancock Park where the C-G, Chris Connor, was throwing a party for two British Golden Globe nominees, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who both star in the Stephen Hawking story The Theory of Everything. Because the party coincided with Hawking's birthday (and that of Gallileo 300 years earlier) a celebration birthday cake was cut and handed around.
 Jones and Redmayne with Consul-General Chris Connor

 Both Eddie and Felicity must be heartily sick of going to parties, answering the same questions, shaking countless hands and posing for innumerable pictures, which they have been doing since the movie opened at the Toronto Film Festival in September, but being true troupers they give no sign of impatience or boredom.
  Personally I'm backing Eddie to win both Golden Globe and Oscar as best actor for his amazing portrayal of Hawking. And because she's so nice I hope Felicity wins, too.      

Monday, January 5, 2015

A PARTY WITH GEORGE CLOONEY AND A DEMILLE

Clooney with Cecilia DeMille Presley and Mark Vieira
 I joined a group of fellow journalists at a reception for George Clooney at Craig's in West Hollywood at the weekend. The bar-restaurant
was new to me but not to George, who said he goes there every year for a party after the Golden Globes. Maybe he shouldn't have let that slip out as up until now it has been a well-kept secret.
 During the evening George, who will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes on Sunday, was surprised by the legendary filmmaker's granddaughter, Cecilia DeMille Presley, who presented him with with a lavish coffee table book, Cecil Be DeMille: The Art of the Hollywood Epic which she wrote with Mark Vieira..
  "My grandfather would have loved George," she told me. "He's fun, has a wonderful sense of humour and is a good actor. What's not to like about Clooney?"
   Clooney was on his own, explaining that his lawyer wife is currently in Egypt where she is negotiating for the release of one of the three al-Jazeera journalists jailed after being found guilty of spreading false news and supporting the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood organisation in June.
  "We'll get them out eventually but it might take time," George told me.