Now Playing
B985 FM
Last Song Played
80s 90s & NOW
On Air
No Program
Now Playing
B985 FM
Last Song Played
80s 90s & NOW

movies

200 items
Results 21 - 30 of 200 < previous next >

Review: 'Man Down' waits too long to deliver worthy message

Until then, the story is told through disjointed flashbacks that make it hard to know what's going on and who to root for. Director Dito Montiel bounces between boot camp, active duty in Afghanistan and life in post-apocalyptic America, with star Shia LaBeouf's haircut and beard scruff the only real indicator of where we are in time.

LaBeouf's performance is powerful, maybe his best to date, but it's unduly burdened by an erratic story structure that doesn't engender empathy for his character.

He plays Gabe, a Marine who enlisted with his lifelong best friend, Devin (Jai Courtney). When we first see the two men, they're dirty and bearded, not in uniform, brandishing guns in a bombed-out city as they desperately look for Gabe's son. Gabe carries a worn picture in his pocket of his wife, Natalie (Kate Mara), and their towheaded little boy, Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell, heartbreaking in the final scenes).

Suddenly, uniformed, clean-shaven Gabe is in an office being questioned by a military counselor (Gary Oldman, disappointingly flat). The counselor is asking about "the incident," and Gabe is stoic.

Then it's basic training at Camp Lejeune, where Gabe and Devin are new recruits being toughened up by an unrelenting drill sergeant. Natalie sweetly shaves Gabe's head as he prepares to ship out to Afghanistan.

Now, Gabe and Devin are back from the war, bearded and dirty, wandering dystopian streets and threatening a homeless man as they look for Gabe's family.

Now, clean-shaven Gabe is driving his son to school as they playfully decide to use the military term "man down" as secret code for "I love you." He promises to send letters from Afghanistan.

Now, stoic Gabe drops a reluctant tear while talking to the military counselor.

The meandering structure creates a little too much mystery for the audience to know where to place its allegiances. Did the Marines have something to do with the disappearance of Gabe's son, so Gabe and Devin have gone rogue? Or did Gabe harm his son, and that's why he's being questioned by a military counselor? That distinction is key if we want to root for the good guy.

Screenwriter Adam G. Simon's nonlinear story parses out details in such a way that we don't know enough about Gabe's situation to experience his emotional arc until the very end, which feels like a lost opportunity given its heart-wrenching heft. Without that context, it's hard to fully appreciate LaBeouf's nuanced performance. We don't understand what we're looking at until it's over.

"Man Down" ultimately has a lot to say about the debilitating effects of war and the dismal reality for many veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. It just waits too long to say it.

"Man Down," a Lionsgate release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "some disturbing violence, and language throughout." Running time: 92 minutes. Two stars out of four.

___

MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

'La La Land' named best film by New York film critics

Damien Chazelle's Los Angeles musical "La La Land" was named best film of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle.

The group announced their picks Thursday on Twitter, spreading around their awards to a variety of Oscar contenders. The top award came as something of a twist after the critics' early choices leaned toward Barry Jenkins' coming-of-age portrait "Moonlight" and Kenneth Lonergan's grief-filled drama "Manchester by the Sea."

"Moonlight" won awards for best director (Jenkins), best cinematography (James Laxton) and best supporting actor (Mahershala Ali). "Manchester by the Sea" took best actor for Casey Affleck, best screenplay for Lonergan and best supporting actress for Michelle Williams. Williams was honored jointly for her performances in "Manchester by the Sea" and Kelly Reichardt's "Certain Women."

Best film was the sole award for "La La Land," which opens next week. Chazelle's film, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, also led the Critics' Choice Awards nominations on Thursday with 12 nods.

Those three films — "La La Land," ''Moonlight" and "Manchester by the Sea"— have been the favored critics' choices in the early going of Hollywood's awards season. "Moonlight" led the Gotham Film Independent Awards on Monday. "Manchester by the Sea" topped the National Board of Review Awards on Tuesday.

Each group, however, has its own quirks and other favorites — Denzel Washington's "Fences" and Martin Scorsese's late-arriving "Silence," among others — are also in the mix. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association will make their picks.

The NYFCC, a body of several dozen New York-area critics, named Isabelle Huppert best actress for her lead performances in Paul Verhoeven's "Elle" and Mia Hansen-Love's "The Things to Come." Best first-film was a tie between Kelly Fremon Craig's teen comedy "The Edge of Seventeen" and Trey Edward Shults' micro-budget family drama "Krisha."

Special awards were also singled out for Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese's longtime editor, and the 25th anniversary restoration of Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Q&A: Gosling and Stone on 'La La Land' & their movie romance

Bogart and Bacall. Tracy and Hepburn. Stone and Gosling.

The hugely charming Los Angeles musical "La La Land" seals it: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have entered the ranks of great cinematic couples. Their easy rapport together was first hinted at with "Crazy, Stupid, Love," and carried through the crime drama "Gangster Squad."

Those, though, were only appetizers to Damien Chazelle's "La La Land," in which they star as two flailing aspirants trying to make it in LA. Stone plays an actress, Gosling a jazz pianist. They sing. They dance. They patter like Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

"La La Land," a resurrection of joyful 1930s studio musicals on contemporary LA streets, is an impassioned argument for the movies, in all their widescreen glory. And part of that vintage Hollywood experience includes big ol' movie stars.

In an era that has struggled to produce them, Stone and Gosling stand apart as two of our best answers. In "La La Land," they're our version of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, maybe not quite as light on their feet (who is?), but more natural and funnier.

How far will they push their on-screen chemistry? "Do you think people would let us do anything together again?" Stone asked her co-star during an interview earlier this fall. "I don't think we'd be allowed."

After greeting warmly (Gosling had been shooting "Blade Runner 2049"), the actors sat down to reflect on why they go so well together, their own tortured paths to Hollywood success and just how deep their movie love runs.

AP: Did either of you hesitate about working together again?

STONE: That was an exciting aspect that it was our third thing together. The characters also have by the end five years between them and I think we'd probably known each other that long by that point. It's kind of nice to not have to find that when the story depends so much on the connection between the two of them.

AP: Did you feel a connection right away on your first film together?

GOSLING: We've been asked to improvise a lot in the films that we've done together. I think even in our first audition we were asked to improvise. That just kind of connects actors in a way that just saying dialogue doesn't do.

AP: The film portrays some soul-crushing auditions. Were they familiar?

STONE: The first audition was inspired by Ryan's story.

GOSLING: Yeah, where I had to cry and this lady took a call in the middle of it. And then just told me to go on, "Pick up where I left off." That was part of what was great about making this film was Damien encouraged us to bring our experiences to these characters.

AP: How do you feel about being a part of proudly big-screen film like "La La Land" at a time when television is seen as eclipsing the movies?

STONE: I don't think films are less than TV now, but there are some amazing characters on TV, so I understand why people want to do TV. When movies are at their full glory, I think it's pretty mind-blowing. What do you think, Ry?

GOSLING: When I first met with Damien, it wasn't about this. It was just kind of a general meeting. He has a very infectious love of movies but also of the experience of going to the movies. He talked a lot about wanting to make movies that you couldn't watch on your iPhone, that you really wanted to see in a theater with an audience.

AP: Your love of movies seems clear, since you've previously acknowledged stuffing DVDs down your pants.

STONE: You put DVDs down your pants?!

GOSLING: (laughing) VHS. Look, in these kinds of situations, you're encouraged to say anything. And it's celebrated. And then you pay the price for that later.

STONE: Was it to be closer to your favorite movie?

GOSLING: No. It was one story a long time ago where I had to hide an R-rated movie from my parents. It was very intimate. This is the danger of this kind of thing that you do because it haunts us.

AP: Well, it's a very vivid example of movie love.

GOSLING: I do love movies but I love making them more. I've never found something professionally that engages me as much as that. You work with such a large group of people and it's this constant problem solving process that gets you to this end, whatever that is. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's always a crapshoot.

STONE: For me, watching movies is what makes me want to make movies. I'm so inspired by watching movies. The process of making it is engaging but I get so reinvigorated every time I see a great movie. Then I feel like I'm the character in the movie for the rest of the day. Then I realize I can't play that same character I just watched.

AP: What was the first film that you mimicked that way?

STONE: "The Jerk." Also "Hocus Pocus." It was a combination of "The Jerk" and "Hocus Pocus," so it shows my age and not my age. (Turns to Gosling) What was yours?

GOSLING: "Hocus Pocus."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Q&A: Gosling and Stone on 'La La Land' & their movie romance

Bogart and Bacall. Tracy and Hepburn. Stone and Gosling.

The hugely charming Los Angeles musical "La La Land" seals it: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have entered the ranks of great cinematic couples. Their easy rapport together was first hinted at with "Crazy, Stupid, Love," and carried through the crime drama "Gangster Squad."

Those, though, were only appetizers to Damien Chazelle's "La La Land," in which they star as two flailing aspirants trying to make it in LA. Stone plays an actress, Gosling a jazz pianist. They sing. They dance. They patter like Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

"La La Land," a resurrection of joyful 1930s studio musicals on contemporary LA streets, is an impassioned argument for the movies, in all their widescreen glory. And part of that vintage Hollywood experience includes big ol' movie stars.

In an era that has struggled to produce them, Stone and Gosling stand apart as two of our best answers. In "La La Land," they're our version of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, maybe not quite as light on their feet (who is?), but more natural and funnier.

How far will they push their on-screen chemistry? "Do you think people would let us do anything together again?" Stone asked her co-star during an interview earlier this fall. "I don't think we'd be allowed."

After greeting warmly (Gosling had been shooting "Blade Runner 2049"), the actors sat down to reflect on why they go so well together, their own tortured paths to Hollywood success and just how deep their movie love runs.

AP: Did either of you hesitate about working together again?

STONE: That was an exciting aspect that it was our third thing together. The characters also have by the end five years between them and I think we'd probably known each other that long by that point. It's kind of nice to not have to find that when the story depends so much on the connection between the two of them.

GOSLING: It's also nice when you know the people you're working with. Most of the time, everyone's a stranger. It's fine. That's your job to make it seem like you have a relationship. But it certainly makes it a lot easier when you have one. And you listen to the way that person says their line more closely. You watch the way they're playing the scene because you know each other. You're more engaged in the scene than you would be otherwise.

AP: Did you feel a connection right away on your first film together, "Crazy, Stupid, Love"?

GOSLING: We've been asked to improvise a lot in the films that we've done together. I think even in our first audition we were asked to improvise. That just kind of connects actors in a way that just saying dialogue doesn't do.

AP: Emma, you started in improv comedy.

STONE: That was the thing I loved to do the most. I thought I was just going to do comedy forever. I've always really loved to improvise but maybe strangely less so as time goes on. (She laughs.) Sometimes it's nice to have a script nailed down. But comedy improv is pretty different from dramatic improv. Comedy improv is a lot of heckling.

AP: You both seem to a certain degree like comedic actors at heart.

STONE: It's the best. It's my favorite. Not to the exclusion of other types of films, but I do love comedy. That will always be my first love. (Turns to Gosling.) What do you think?

GOSLING: Well I don't have as much experience with it...

STONE: But you're so good at it.

GOSLING: What's nice about it is you want to feel that whatever you're doing is working. With comedy, it's funny or it's not.

AP: The film portrays some soul-crushing auditions. Were they familiar?

STONE: The first audition was inspired by Ryan's story.

GOSLING: Yeah, where I had to cry and this lady took a call in the middle of it. And then just told me to go on, "Pick up where I left off." That was part of what was great about making this film was Damien encouraged us to bring our experiences to these characters.

AP: Were they traumatic experiences?

GOSLING: Yeah, but it was so nice to see it realized in a movie and see Emma doing it. We made some lemonade out of lemons.

AP: Did either of you ever think about giving up?

STONE: I definitely thought about it. It was like a twice a year thing. Every six months there was a little meltdown. I've also thought about giving up in the middle of shoots before. "Well, after this one, I'm just never going to work again. That's going to be fine. I'm never, ever going to work again because this is clearly not for me."

GOSLING: About two week before shooting. "Can I still get out of this? They have time to find someone else." It can be very discouraging. It's kind of built in a way to discourage you. In some ways now being outside of it, I realize how inefficient it is, the auditioning process. It seems to reward people who are good at auditioning, which doesn't really have anything to do with what happens when you get on set. The kind of people who are really great in a film I think you'll find are for the most part pretty bad at auditioning. Yet they never feel they need to tinker with that system at all.

AP: How do you feel about being part of a proudly big-screen film like "La La Land" at a time when television is seen as eclipsing the movies?

STONE: I don't think films are less than TV now, but there are some amazing characters on TV, so I understand why people want to do TV. When movies are at their full glory, I think it's pretty mind-blowing. What do you think, Ry?

GOSLING: When I first met with Damien, it wasn't about this. It was just kind of a general meeting. He has a very infectious love of movies but also of the experience of going to the movies. He talked a lot about wanting to make movies that you couldn't watch on your iPhone, that you really wanted to see in a theater with an audience.

AP: Your love of movies seems clear, since you've previously acknowledged stuffing DVDs down your pants.

STONE: You put DVDs down your pants?!

GOSLING: (laughing) VHS. Look, in these kinds of situations, you're encouraged to say anything. And it's celebrated. And then you pay the price for that later.

STONE: Was it to be closer to your favorite movie?

GOSLING: No. It was one story a long time ago where I had to hide an R-rated movie from my parents. It was very intimate. This is the danger of this kind of thing that you do because it haunts us.

AP: Well, it's a very vivid example of movie love.

GOSLING: I do love movies but I love making them more. I've never found something professionally that engages me as much as that. You work with such a large group of people and it's this constant problem solving process that gets you to this end, whatever that is. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's always a crapshoot.

STONE: For me, watching movies is what makes me want to make movies. I'm so inspired by watching movies. The process of making it is engaging but I get so reinvigorated every time I see a great movie. Then I feel like I'm the character in the movie for the rest of the day. Then I realize I can't play that same character I just watched.

AP: What was the first film that you mimicked that way?

STONE: "The Jerk." Also "Hocus Pocus." It was a combination of "The Jerk" and "Hocus Pocus," so it shows my age and not my age. (Turns to Gosling) What was yours?

GOSLING: "Hocus Pocus."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

China's iQIYI and Sony to produce online series in Mandarin

A Chinese online video site announced Thursday it will be working with Sony Pictures Television to produce a Mandarin-language action thriller for online viewers.

Chinese and foreign producers have increasingly teamed up in recent years to make movies for distribution in both markets, but the deal between iQIYI and the division of Hollywood studio Sony Pictures is a rare example of collaboration between Chinese and Hollywood companies to produce programming for the Chinese audience.

Streaming sites in China showing Chinese and foreign films and TV shows as well as user generated content have become hugely popular in recent years. Companies like iQIYI, which is owned by Chinese search engine Baidu, have also developed their own shows.

iQIYI said at a news conference that the co-production will be a three-part adaptation of an American drama called "Chosen," which aired in the U.S. on an online streaming video service owned by Sony called Crackle.

iQIYI said it was expected to feature top Chinese stars while also using international actors and production professionals. Production is expected to begin in spring 2017 with an anticipated launch in the fall. It will be produced by Sony's Playmaker Media with support from Australian regional fund Screen NSW.

Chinese and Hollywood companies are increasingly working together to produce content and market Hollywood movies. Sony said in September that it had teamed up with China's Wanda Group, which owns theater chains around the world, to cooperate on big-budget movies.

iQIYI earlier this week announced it had signed a licensing agreement with Hollywood studio Lionsgate to give it exclusive streaming rights in China to upcoming Lionsgate movies and some library titles.

Hollywood is keen to extend its reach to China to make more bucks from the world's second biggest movie-going market, while Chinese producers want to learn technological know-how and storytelling techniques from abroad.

That is why iQiyi also announced on Thursday a mentoring program that aims to enlist world-class directors to act as mentors to Chinese filmmakers as they attempt to appeal to China's increasing numbers of online viewers.

Its first sign-up is low-budget horror film producer Roger Corman, who attended Thursday's news conference. The 90-year-old American producer of films including "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" and "Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader" will lead a team of young Chinese filmmakers and act as producer on a sci-fi film made for viewing on the internet or mobile phone called "Invasion."

Sundance unveils diverse slate of competition films

Jenny Slate reunites with her "Obvious Child" director in the '90s-set "Landline," Sam Elliott plays a stoner Western film icon in "The Hero," Aubrey Plaza gets serious in "Ingrid Goes West," and Jennifer Aniston teams up with the future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, in the Gulf War drama "The Yellow Birds" in some of the films in competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Institute on Wednesday unveiled its first batch of films set to premiere at the annual Park City-based Festival founded by Robert Redford, including a new thematic thread of environmentally focused programming.

There were 66 narrative and documentary films selected for the U.S. Competition, the World Competition and the NEXT section, which highlights works from new directors. Breakout hits like "Whiplash," ''Fruitvale Station," ''Beasts of the Southern Wild," and "Weiner" all premiered in that section in recent years.

At the 2017 Festival, Lily Collins stars in the anorexia drama "To the Bone" from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" writer Marti Noxon; Jason Schwartzman reteams with his "Listen Up Philip" director Alex Ross Perry in "Golden Exits"; and "Moonlight" breakout Trevante Rhodes stars alongside Alfre Woodward in "Burning Sands," about violent fraternity hazing. There's also a new film from "Pete's Dragon" director David Lowery, "A Ghost Story," which brings him back together with his "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

"Eclectic" is the only word to describe the batch for Festival Director John Cooper, who with his team selects films for their originality and who the stories are about.

"What we saw in contrast to the polarizing state we're in in our country is the human side, the whole story of who we are coming through in many, many stories that will be playing at Sundance this year," Cooper said. "We see a lot of inclusion, we see a lot of boldness, we see a lot of places and people in front of the camera and behind the camera."

As with many years, the documentary competitions are stacked with timely explorations of hot-button issues, like policing looked at through the case study of the Oakland Police Department following Ferguson in "The Force," and an account of the Ferguson uprising told by the people who were there in "Whose Streets." There will also be documentaries about the Hulk Hogan/Gawker trial and the JonBenet Ramsey case.

"From the passion and chaos of creativity, independent filmmakers make decisions to harness that energy, break new ground and tell their stories," Redford said in a statement. "This year's Festival reflects every step of that journey, and shows how art can engage, provoke and connect people all over the world."

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 29. More films will be announced in coming days.

___

Online: www.sundance.org/festival

Natalie Portman explores the mysteries of Jackie Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy did not have a conventional speaking voice. It's part New York, part prep school Mid-Atlantic, and it's jarring to most modern ears. Natalie Portman remembers her first few days on the set of "Jackie," going all in on that very specific accent and looking up to see her director Pablo Larrain's wide-eyed bafflement.

"Pablo's face was like 'uhhhhh...'," Portman said laughing.

They were filming a recreation of the television special "A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy," where CBS News correspondent Charles Collingwood followed the first lady around with cameras as they spoke about each room and her pricey restoration. Larraín stopped during one take and played footage of the actual tour just to check. He was amazed at how spot-on Portman's interpretation actually was.

Still, "at the beginning it was shocking," Larrain said.

It was also, he notes, different from how Jackie Kennedy sounded in other circumstances. She had a public voice and a private voice, which Portman was able to study through Kennedy's recorded interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

The film "Jackie," out in limited release Friday, explores the nuances of these public and private sides of the enigmatic figure in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband in 1963 as she plans the funeral, exits her home, comforts her children and tends to her husband's legacy.

It's what compelled screenwriter Noah Oppenheim to make her the subject of his first script.

"Most often she is perceived through the lens of being this style icon, this beautiful woman at her husband's side. People are fascinated by their marriage and his infidelities. But I didn't feel like she had ever gotten enough credit for understanding intuitively the power of television, the power of imagery and iconography and her role in defining how we remember her husband's presidency," Oppenheim said.

It was she, a week after the assassination, in an interview with Theodore H. White for LIFE magazine, who first uttered the word Camelot in reference to their time in power.

"I always assumed that the Kennedy administration had been referred to as Camelot from the beginning, that they were this young, handsome couple and American royalty," Oppenheim said. "The fact that she came up with Camelot is incredible. That one reference accomplishes more than any list of policy accomplishments ever could have in terms of cementing in people's minds who Jack Kennedy was."

The film, however, isn't out to provide answers. It relishes in Jackie being this inscrutable figure, showing the subtle differences in her interactions with the people around her, including a priest (John Hurt), the journalist (Billy Crudup), her longtime friend Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard).

"(Oppenheim) told her story through these different relationships and the different roles she played around the people in her life at different times. I think that's really powerful ... Consistency or arc is really a narrative fiction. Human beings are not like that," said Portman, who is earning some of the best reviews of her career for her performance.

Larrain wouldn't do the film without Portman. The script had been around since 2010 before getting the attention of Darren Aronofsky, who was set to direct his then-fiancé Rachel Weisz in the role. After exiting, Aronofsky stayed on to produce and was the one who made the somewhat unconventional ask of Larrain, a Chilean filmmaker, to consider it.

When Portman met with Larrain, she said it was akin to "being dared" to do the film.

"He was like, 'we're going to do this together or we'll both walk away,'" she said. "I was like 'all right, this is good. Let's take each other's hands and jump.'"

The tone, thanks to studied editing of Sebastian Sepulveda and a striking score by Mica Levi, can sometimes seem more like a psychological thriller than a conventional character study. Larrain delights in the beauty of bringing an audience to "that indeterminate place."

Portman, on the other hand, knows she's at the disposal of her directors and often isn't aware of the exact tone until she sees the finished product.

"When we were making 'Black Swan,' I thought I was making a completely different movie from the one I saw. I thought we were making something almost like a documentary and then I saw it and I was like 'What? What is this!?' I literally had no idea," she said. "I thought it was like a realistic portrait of a psychological breakdown of a person and it was not at all. You can totally misunderstand tone, but still it can work."

The film, heavy with historical and emotional significance, did allow for some levity, though, compliments of that White House Tour.

"We enjoyed that so much," Larrain said. "It was just talking about furniture and chairs. And she would even make the same mistakes Jackie did."

Portman: "We laughed a lot. Pablo kept being like 'be more excited about the chair!' She's REALLY excited about the chair."

Larrain: "But it was necessary because it shows a kind of splendor. I think when you are portraying such a tragic and critical moment, you need to have splendor to really understand that."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Netflix enables offline access to content

What began as a mail-order rental outlet has gone almost entirely digital. Netflix has moved into making its own shows and feature films. And with growing mobile consumption, Netflix conquered the app world as well. 

>> Read more trending stories  

Though the streaming service has not previously let users download programs to watch offline, that's all about to change.

The California-based company announced in a news release Wednesday that it will begin allowing customers to download shows to watch on the go. 

Eddy Wu, Netflix's director of product innovation, wrote, "While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we've often heard they also want to continue their 'Stranger Things' binge while on airplanes and other places, where internet is expensive or limited."

Netflix will soon roll out a new version of the app with the download feature available, and several shows, including "Narcos," "Orange is the New Black" and "The Crown," are already available for download.

The new feature is included in all plans and available for phones and tablets on Android and iOS.

Read more at Netflix

'Moana' a Disney hit but portrayal irks some in the Pacific

Disney's animated movie "Moana" debuted to critical acclaim and box office success over the Thanksgiving weekend, but some people in the South Pacific dislike how it depicts their culture.

Of particular concern is the movie's portrayal of the demigod Maui, who is shown as enormous and egotistical, albeit with a good heart. That has been jarring for some in Polynesia, where obesity rates are among the highest in the world and where Maui is a revered hero in oral traditions.

Criticism from the Pacific has likely stung Disney, which went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the movie was culturally appropriate after being accused of racism in previous movies such as "Aladdin" (1992). For "Moana," the filmmakers traveled to the Pacific and met with anthropologists, historians, fisherman and linguists, part of what they came to call the Oceanic Story Trust.

The fictional movie takes place 3,000 years ago in the islands of Polynesia, an area that includes Hawaii, Tonga and Tahiti. The star is 16-year-old Moana, voiced by Hawaiian actress Auli'i Cravalho, who goes on an ocean voyage with Maui, voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

The movie made $82 million over the five-day weekend, placing it behind only "Frozen" (2013) for a Thanksgiving debut.

Disney suffered an early embarrassment when it decided to sell costumes of Maui, which featured brown shirts and long pants with full-body tattoos. Disney put the costumes in stores in time for Halloween, but quickly pulled them after critics compared them to blackface.

Producer Osnat Shurer, speaking by phone from Berlin where she was promoting the movie, said the moviemakers spent five years working closely with people in the Pacific to create what they believe is a beautiful representation.

"The costume fell short of that," she said. "As different things grow around the movie, sometimes they don't hit the same mark."

Shurer said that when it came to figuring out the character of Maui, they found that different islands, villages, and even households, had different impressions of him.

"To some he's a Superman, to others he's a trickster," she said.

In all the stories, she said, Maui was clearly larger than life. At first, however, they envisioned him as a little smaller, and bald. But he just seemed to grow as the movie progressed. She said animators try to find the essence of a character and then exaggerate those features.

"We knew we wanted him to be big and wanted him to be strong," she said. "But he also moves with an incredible lightness."

She said she hopes Pacific Islanders see the movie with an open mind.

"I feel good about the movie we've created and that it can withstand scrutiny," she said. "All I can say is we did it with love and respect."

In New Zealand, the movie does not debut until after Christmas. But Teresia Teaiwa, a senior lecturer in Pacific studies at Victoria University of Wellington, said she was concerned about the portrayal of Maui.

"Before Disney, I've seen a lot of other representations, and Maui is a hero," she said. "I think it's clear from the trailers I've seen that he's a buffoon in Disney. It's a dramatic shift. He was a trickster but not a buffoon."

Teaiwa said if Disney really wanted to be culturally correct they would have paired Maui with a female deity, as he is in most legends, and not with a teenager.

"They wanted to get it right commercially without getting it wrong culturally," Teaiwa said. "But there are some things that they clearly didn't mind getting wrong."

She said there seemed to be a U.S. stereotype of Pacific Island men as huge, perhaps because the main exposure to them seemed to be through activities like NFL football.

Teaiwa said she was appalled by the Maui costume, particularly because some ethnologists from early last century had managed to collect the preserved, tattooed skin of Pacific people who had died.

"I thought it was macabre. I thought it was really creepy," she said of the costume. "It gave me the shudders to see something like that produced so lightly and in such a trivial way."

New Zealand politician Marama Fox, the co-leader of the indigenous Maori Party, said most Disney heroes tended to look far more muscular than Maui.

"I still don't think that's an accurate depiction of what Maui would look like or should look like," she said. "And it's a little bit of cultural misappropriation."

But asked if she planned to see the movie, Fox, a mother of nine, said she had little choice.

"How am I going to keep my kids away from singing Maori people and Polynesians?" she said. "Of course they're going to want to go and see it."

Review: In 'Jackie,' a fractured Kennedy fable

Pablo Larrain's "Jackie," a work of probing intimacy and shattered stereotype, is an electrifyingly fractured portrait of the former First Lady. Gone is the image of the wan, serene Jackie. Here, instead, is a savvy public-relations operator, a steely widow in grief and a woman redefining herself amid tragedy. "I'm his wi--" she begins saying after Dallas. "Whatever I am now."

The more complicated view of the mysterious Kennedy is inspired partly by the revelatory private interviews conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and released in 2011. She was not purely her pillbox-wearing public image, not merely a totem of grace, the candid tapes revealed.

Throughout "Jackie," we feel her discomfort at playing a starring role in an American fairy tale turned nightmare. The disharmony, sounded by Mica Levi's knotted, gloomy score, is always there between persona and person. "We're the beautiful people, right?" she sarcastically quips. Exiting Air Force One, she deadpans to her husband (Caspar Phillipson), "I love crowds." In Larrain's hands, Kennedy's pained public performance is a kind of sacrifice. "Jackie" is at once a deconstruction of the Jackie Kennedy fable and a dramatization of its making.

Penned by Noah Oppenheim ("The Maze Runner"), "Jackie" evades the traditional biopic format like a disease. It's organized around the Hyannis Port interview with flashbacks to events large and small before the assassination, during it and after. Many of the scenes, quiet and empty, are shot less like flashbacks than like Kennedy's own splintered, haunted memories.

Some, like her televised White House tour (recreated with black-and-white precision), are familiar. Others are strikingly surreal. Kennedy silently marching through a vacant White House, her pink suit bloodied from the shooting, is an unshakable image that feels straight out of Kubrick.

And then there's Kennedy stomping through rainy Arlington, her heels digging into the wet ground. Seeking a spot for what will be the Eternal Flame, she is, through force of will, staking a plot in history for her husband. "Have you read what they've been writing?" she first greets the reporter. "It's no way to be remembered."

Portman's Kennedy is, from the start, probably thornier and more uneasy than the woman ever was. Portman and Larrain have sharpened her and superimposed her story on a rigorously crafted but resolutely cold surface. "Jackie," though endlessly fascinating, can feel like a character study conducted on a surgical table.

Larrain, the talented Chilean filmmaker of the Oscar-nominated "No" whose equally complex "Neruda" is also out soon, is interested in dissecting Kennedy but not solving her. "I'll settle for a story that's believable," says Crudup's reporter. The truth, Kennedy says, is out of reach.

What is within the grasp of "Jackie" — aside from a compelling, intricate performance from a fully committed Portman — is a sense of how difficult it may have been for Kennedy to make things look so easy. With preternatural poise, she served as a bulwark of decorum and order against the chaos of the times. It's chilling now to hear the advice of Kennedy family friend William Walton (the great Richard E. Grant) after Lee Harvey Oswald is gunned down. He tells Kennedy to take the kids to Boston and "build a fortress." ''The world's gone mad, Mrs. Kennedy."

"Jackie," a Fox Searchlight release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "brief strong violence and some language." Running time: 100 minutes. Three stars out of four.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

200 items
Results 21 - 30 of 200 < previous next >