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Hollywood Film Festival finalizes lineup, adds movies celebrating L.A.

The Hollywood Film Festival, revamped as a showcase of socially conscious cinema, has finalized its lineup with Celebrate Hollywood, a program of seven films that were shot in Tinseltown or that reference show business.

The category will include "Alex of Venice," actor-director Chris Messina's drama about a workaholic attorney forced to reinvent her life after her husband leaves; "The Dramatics," Scott Rodgers' comedy about a stressed-out actress who lands a starring role in a sexually explicit miniseries; and "Becoming Bulletproof," Michael Barnett's documentary following a group of disabled actors who set out to make a western.

"Celebrate Hollywood provides opportunity to pay homage to the motion picture capital and its impact on entertainment," HFF executive director Jon Fitzgerald said in a statement. "As the festival grows and becomes more relevant in the community, and as incentives continue to be given for filmmaking in Hollywood, we expect this will become one of the more...

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'Taken 3' trailer: This time, Liam Neeson is on the run

The hunter has become the hunted in the new trailer for "Taken 3," the next -- and supposedly final -- installment of the hit action franchise starring Liam Neeson as a butt-kicking family man with a "very particular set of skills." (Watch the trailer above.)

You'd think that ex-special-forces operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) deserves a breather after saving his daughter (Maggie Grace) from human traffickers in "Taken" and rescuing his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) from vindictive mobsters in "Taken 2."

Alas, just when he thinks he's out, they pull him back in: Mills arrives home one day to find his former spouse murdered and himself framed for the crime. The only way to clear his name and protect his daughter is, of course, to punch, kick and shoot through anyone who stands in his way, whether LAPD, FBI, CIA or some other unlucky acronym.

Judging from the trailer, "Taken 3" -- also styled oh-so-edgily as "Tak3n" -- has plenty to offer fans of the first two films, which combined to gross more...

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Netflix's 'Crouching Tiger' experiment: Is it a game-changer?

On Monday evening, Netflix announced plans to move into the narrative feature business. The company said in a statement that it was teaming with Weinstein Co. on the latter’s sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the 2000 Ang Lee martial-arts epic that was a smash at the time of its release--it remains the highest-grossing foreign-language movie in U.S. history--but hasn't been a touchstone for some time.

The sequel, subtitled "The Green Legend,” was announced last year, and production was already under way in New Zealand (sans Lee). The news, of course, is Netflix, which will make the film available to subscribers day-and-date next August as Weinstein releases the film in Imax theaters globally.

This was, in a way, only a matter of time: Netflix, frustrated by a windowing system it sees as stifling its on-demand ethos, has been nibbling around narrative features for a whie. It created longform television with cinematic qualities in shows like ”House of Cards” and “Orange Is the...

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'Inherent Vice' trailer: Paul Thomas Anderson does Thomas Pynchon

The first trailer for "Inherent Vice," Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel, has been released by Warner Bros. (watch it above). Set in late-1960s Los Angeles, the film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Larry "Doc" Sportello, a pot-smoking private investigator enlisted by his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) to investigate a plot involving her billionaire boyfriend.

The cast also includes Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Benicio Del Toro. The film is Anderson's follow-up to the 2012 drama "The Master." "Inherent Vice" is set for release Dec. 12.

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Cameras roll on 'Magic Mike XXL,' Michael Strahan among new blood

"Magic Mike XXL" has added another Mike to its cast, and he's definitely of the extra-extra-large variety: Michael Strahan, the NFL player turned talk show host, will shake his moneymaker in the upcoming sequel to the 2012 male-stripper movie inspired by the life of Channing Tatum.

Strahan, the onetime New York Giant and Super Bowl champ, confirmed his participation Monday morning on his show "Live With Kelly and Michael." As he recounts in the video above, the role originated as a joke when Tatum appeared on the program in 2012 and Strahan (then a guest host) showed the "Magic Mike" star some of his own moves. Since then, Tatum has repeatedly asked Strahan to take part in the sequel, which will hit theaters July 1.

The original "Magic Mike" proved to be a surprise hit, earning strong reviews and grossing $167 million worldwide on a slim $7-million budget. Riffing with co-host Kelly Ripa on Monday, Strahan admitted to being a bit nervous about joining "XXL" but also assured America...

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'Interstellar' shoots for the stars, and broad appeal, in new TV spots

As Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" prepares to launch on Nov. 7, the marketing campaign for the space drama is ramping up with a series of intriguing TV spots released over the weekend. The clips feature tantalizing new footage, particularly of Matthew McConaughey, and illuminate a bit more about the movie, which in typical Nolan fashion has been shrouded in mystery. They also highlight how much the campaign for a movie from one of the most bankable directors in Hollywood is nonetheless relying on its main actor.

The common thread in the new spots (viewable above) is that they focus on the heroics of leading man McConaughey, who plays a single dad, former pilot and engineer named Cooper. He's been called upon to lead an expedition through a wormhole to find a hospitable new planet for humanity, because Earth is turning into a giant dust bowl. To do so, though, he'll have to leave behind his two children.

McConaughey has been at the center of "Interstellar's" previous teasers and...

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'The Equalizer': How reliable a draw is Denzel Washington?

As “The Equalizer” proved once again this week with a strong $35-million opening, Denzel Washington is one of the most reliable stars in Hollywood. But when it comes to box office, some of his movies are more reliable than others.

Since turning into a full-fledged A-lister in, more or less, 2000, with the $115-million-grossing “Remember the Titans,” Washington has had 15 movies open wide. All but one of them debuted to at least $20 million (“Out of Time” fell short), and none except one opened above $40 million (“American Gangster” debuted to $44 million). Even for an actor who generally takes on a certain kind of action-thriller (“Titans” and “Flight” are the only of the group that at least loosely fit the bill) that’s a remarkable record of consistency, especially in today’s Hollywood. Tom Cruise, for instance, frequently takes on similar roles too, and his openings have swung from $16 million to $64 million over the last decade.

There’s a particular kind of convergence that creates...

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Box office: 'The Equalizer' neutralizes the competition on Friday

The new action-thriller "The Equalizer," starring two-time Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, got off to a strong start dominating the box office Friday.

The R-rated film, based on the gritty 1985-89 CBS series starring Edward Woodward, earned an estimated $12.6 million -- including its $1.45-million take Thursday night -- for a per screen average of $3,894.

"The Equalizer" is Washington's third biggest opening day behind 2007's "American Gangster" ($15.9 million)  and 2012's "Safe House" ( $13.6 million). The film reunites Washington with Antoine Fuqua, who directed him to his second Oscar in 2001's "Training Day," which made over $100 million internationally.

Last week's No. 1 film, "The Maze Runner," dropped to second with an estimated $5.2 million for total of $45.7 million.

The weekend's other new major release, the animated "The Boxtrolls," placed third with an estimated $4.9 million with a per screen average of $1,424.

The Jason Bateman-Tina Fey comedy, "There is Where I...

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NYFF 2014: In 'Gone Girl,' David Fincher tackles a mystery, and a marriage

[Warning: Some descriptions in the below item could play the role of spoiler. Proceed at your own risk.]

Since it was announced several years ago that David Fincher would be directing an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s "Gone Girl,” pundits have naturally explained it as the director’s Hitchcock turn, an auteur of the dark confronting one of the most talked-about mystery novels in years.
 
But, perhaps fittingly for a filmmaker who's frequently subverted the thriller genre, the “Zodiac” helmer’s  take on the 2012 bestseller is as much about marriage as it is a possible crime involving Nick and Amy Dunne. Fincher’s movie gives full weight, and then some, to the non-murderous themes that Flynn explored both in the novel and her script.

As it tells a time-jumping story of a couple that leave New York for small-town Missouri upon falling on economic hard times, “Gone Girl” offers plenty of thrills and turns. If you've read ‎the book, you know about them; if you haven't, best not to spoil...

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How does 'Jimi: All Is by My Side' compare to 2014's other music bios?

Filmmakers have long been drawn to stories of iconic musicians, and it's easy to see why: They come pre-packaged with charismatic characters, a rise-to-fame story arc (with the occasional fall from grace), a built-in audience and a killer soundtrack. None of that guarantees a compelling movie, though, and for every hit like "Ray" or "Walk the Line," there's a miss like "The Runaways" or "The Doors."

The latest musical biopic to step into the spotlight is "Jimi: All Is by My Side," which comes on the heels of "Get on Up" and "Jersey Boys" earlier this year. Here's a look at how the three films match up.

Who is it about?

"All Is by My Side": Singer, songwriter and guitar god Jimi Hendrix.

"Get on Up": James Brown, the Godfather of Soul and Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.

"Jersey Boys": Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito, better known as the Four Seasons.

 

Who directed it?

"AIBMS": John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "12 Years a Slave." It's his...

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Kenneth Turan's DVD picks: European classics in black and white

Black-and-white films don't always get the respect they deserve these days, but a trio of top-of-the-line Criterion releases of European classics showcases what a glorious medium it can be.

Earliest of the group is 1925's "Master of the House," a rare satiric domestic comedy from Denmark's Carl Theodor Dryer, best known for such spiritual films as "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "Day of Wrath" and "Gertrud."

Two French films look equally good in black and white. Robert Bresson's 1959 "Pickpocket" is inevitably austere, but George Franju's 1963 "Judex" is both an involving crime drama in its own right and also a tribute to Louis Feuillade's gripping 1916 original.

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'Chef,' the movie, the DVD ... the restaurant? Favreau, Choi cook again

Jon Favreau didn’t have a big advertising budget to promote his independent film “Chef.” So to keep it in the conversation months after its May release, the director and actor turned to one of its stars: the Cuban sandwich.

After earlier pop-ups inspired by the film’s Cuban food truck El Jefe, Favreau was at it again Tuesday night demonstrating how to cook the film’s centerpiece dish at a DVD release party at the Sunset Tower Hotel on the Sunset Strip.

Flanked by his culinary coach Roy Choi, a chef who knows his way around a food truck, Favreau described how to construct the gooey sandwich with the care and cadence of a Food Network host.

“Three slices of pork, two slices of ham, supermarket Swiss cheese, two pickles, mustard from end-to-end, butter on top and then Lipitor,” the “Iron Man” filmmaker said over a pair of portable gas stoves used to crisp sheets of braised pork. “It’s not an everyday meal.”

In the film, the sandwich symbolizes the rebirth of forlorn chef Carl Casper,...

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