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Film — past, present and future
Box office: 'Hobbit' leads pack; 'Night at the Museum,' 'Annie' follow

Peter Jackson’s "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," injected a bit of pre-holiday merriment at the box office this weekend, grossing $16.6 million in the U.S. on Friday, and $51 million to date for Warner Brothers since the film's Wednesday opening.

The good cheer was needed. Hollywood's spirits have been dampened by the unprecedented cyber attack on Sony and theater threats that prompted the studio's controversial cancellation of the Christmas Day release of "The Interview" amid fears that moviegoers would stay away from the year's holiday movies.

The strong “Hobbit” opening, with $2.2 million from its Friday haul coming from IMAX alone, put it far ahead of the week's other releases.  “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” which went into the weekend with projections for a $20-million weekend, grossed $5.6 million on Friday. The 20th Century Fox comedy, the third in the “Night at the Museum” franchise starring Ben Stiller, was one of Robin Williams’ last films.

In third...

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Hollywood producer Arthur Gardner dies at 104

Longtime Hollywood producer Arthur Gardner, a voting member of the motion picture academy as a centenarian, died Friday of natural causes at Sunrise Beverly Hills Assisted Living, said his son, Steven. He was 104. 

Gardner joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences more than a half-century ago when he first became a producer.

The last film he produced was "Safari 3000" in 1982. 

"He wouldn't do anything in life but be in the business," Steven said of his father's love for Hollywood. 

Born Arthur Goldberg in 1910, Gardner was raised in Wisconsin and moved to Los Angeles in 1929 at 18 with dreams of becoming an actor. Like many Jewish actors at the time, he changed his name because of fears of anti-Semitism, he told The Times in an interview. 

One of the first movies he was cast in was "All Quiet on the Western Front."  It was a small role, but during that time he met George Cukor, the filmmaker who would go on to direct "A Star Is Born" and "My Fair Lady," Gardner told The...

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Sony hack: Obama and Lynton point fingers on surreal day

One of the more surreal weeks to hit the movie industry in recent memory got even stranger Friday as the president of the United States of America spent part of his last press conference of the year giving a shout-out to Seth Rogen and James, er, "Flacco."

Huh?

President Obama was discussing the FBI's formal announcement Friday morning blaming North Korea for the devastating cyberattack that has cost Sony Pictures Entertainment tens of millions of dollars.

Obama said the hackers "caused a lot of damage, and we will respond." But the commander in chief also said he thought Sony "made a mistake" in canceling the release of "The Interview," the satirical film starring Rogen and James, ahem, Franco that precipitated the hack attack.

While he had strong words for the studio, the president went easy on the comedic duo.

"I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring...

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'Get Hard' trailer: Kevin Hart prepares Will Ferrell for prison

Will Ferrell is going from a mansion to the big house in the first trailer for "Get Hard," and Kevin Hart is helping him prepare for the none-too-pleasant move.

Set for release March 27 from Warner Bros., the R-rated comedy stars Ferrell as James King, a Bernie Madoff-like swindler who's sentenced to 10 years in the slammer for fraud. Hart plays his hardworking car washer, Darnell, whom King ignorantly assumes is an expert on incarceration.

With a month to get his affairs in order, King offers Darnell a pretty penny to whip him into shape before he's shipped to San Quentin, and though he probably knows more about soap suds than shanks, Darnell obliges. If you can't guess what happens next, it includes shouting, pepper spray, mad-dog faces, a makeover for the aforementioned mansion and a simulated prison riot. (Watch the trailer above.)

In addition to Hart and Ferrell, "Get Hard" stars Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson and rapper-actor Tip "T.I." Harris. The film marks the directorial debut...

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'Ida,' 'Leviathan,' 'Force Majeure' on Oscar foreign-language shortlist

Poland's "Ida," Russia's "Leviathan," Sweden's "Force Majeure" and Estonia's "Tangerines" were among the films selected for the shortlist for the Oscar foreign-language film category on Friday.

The other films on the shortlist were Argentina’s “Wild Tales,” Georgia’s “Corn Island,” Mauritania’s “Timbuktu,” the Netherlands’ “Accused” and Venezuela’s “The Liberator.” The titles were whittled down from a record 83 submissions accepted for consideration.

Of the films in the running that were left out, the biggest surprise was Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night,” with international star Marion Cotillard and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Among the most acclaimed filmmakers in the world, the Dardennes have never been nominated for an Academy Award.

Canada’s “Mommy,” directed by 25-year-old Xavier Dolan, was also a surprise omission. Israel’s “Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem Gett,” nominated for a Golden Globe, was also absent, as was Turkey’s “Winter Sleep,” winner of the top prize...

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'Annie' remake takes hard knocks from critics

Movie critics are feeling more tricked than treated by director Will Gluck's contemporary update of "Annie," which stars Jamie Foxx as a New York City billionaire who takes in a foster kid (Quvenzhane Wallis, of "Beasts of the Southern Wild") to advance his mayoral campaign. Ironically, a film that hinges on a cynical, calculated ploy is being called out as just that.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey wrote, "Gluck's glam, grim re-imagining of the Depression-era musical about the hard-hearted rich man and the little girl who melts him is truly depressing." She added, "Cynicism lurks around every corner, hides behind nearly every smile and overtakes the story. Though some of Broadway's 'Annie' remains ... very little about the new version feels good."

On top of disliking the film's materialism, Sharkey groused that "even the musical numbers feel flat, especially the new ones that seem tossed in for no reason other than to make the Billboard pop charts," and that "with the exception of Foxx, no...

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