Selasa, 24 September 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Early Oscar buzz for Oprah Winfrey


The talk show host earns critical praise in Lee Daniels' The Butler.

OPRAH. Oscar. Oscar. Oprah.

Yes, it might be a bit early to riff on David Letterman's ill-fated, Uma-Oprah 1995 Academy Awards monologue bit.

Then again, with Oprah Winfrey's movie Lee Daniels' The Butler sitting atop the box office with a 10-day take of US$52mil (RM166.4mil), and Winfrey herself earning solid critical praise for her first acting turn since 1998's Beloved, the conversation has already started, like it or not.

And, given the brand name in question, that debate will be spirited, intense and, to some extent, managed by Winfrey herself, as she has the built-in advantage of owning her own television channel and magazine.

"She's an overpowering presence in our culture. You can't pretend otherwise," film critic Leonard Maltin says. "But that's what makes her work in The Butler impressive. She succeeds in making you forget that she's Oprah Winfrey so you can accept and embrace the character she's playing."

That character, Gloria Gaines, is the conflicted, proud wife of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a White House butler who serves seven presidents. Gloria grows discontented by the long hours required by her husband's job. "You and the White House can kiss my ...," she tells Cecil at one point. "I don't care what goes on in that White House. I care what goes on in this house."

Though Gloria isn't the title character, director Daniels affords her plenty of screen time – even when she isn't speaking. Often in group scenes where she has little to say, Daniels keeps the shot tight on Winfrey, affording her the opportunity to reveal the inner life of her complicated character.

"Those eyes are mesmerising," Daniels says, while admitting, at the same time, that not everyone seeing the rough cut of the movie shared his enthusiasm for those long close-ups of Winfrey.

"You know what it is? She's got Bette Davis eyes. They were hypnotic, and I was seduced."

Will Oscar voters be similarly beguiled? Academy members can be star-struck too, particularly when the talent in question comes from outside the usual circle of filmmaking friends and acquaintances.

Musicians have been the most-rewarded interlopers over the years, with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Phil Collins and Melissa Etheridge winning Oscars for original song over the last two decades.

And though he didn't technically win an Academy Award, Al Gore received a thunderous ovation when he took the stage after the documentary about his campaign to educate the public on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, won the Oscar.

Oprah Winfrey stars opposite Forest Whitaker (right) in The Butler.

Winfrey stars opposite Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels' The Butler.

On the acting side, Jennifer Hudson jumped from American Idol to Oscar-winner for her supporting turn in the 2006 movie musical Dreamgirls. Omnipresent music star Justin Timberlake received a for-your-consideration campaign for playing Napster founder Sean Parker in David Fincher's 2010 drama The Social Network, though he fell short of receiving a nomination.

Winfrey has been to the dance before, earning a supporting actress nomination for her high-spirited turn in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple in 1986. She further established her acting credentials, playing a former slave in Jonathan Demme's 1998 film adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel Beloved. The movie – and Winfrey – received generally positive reviews but was a commercial disaster, earning just US$22.8mil (RM??) at the box office.

Since then, Winfrey's influence has continued to grow with multiple platforms – the Oprah Winfrey Network; O, The Oprah Magazine; Oprah Radio on XM; the website – which she has used to promote The Butler and, in theory, could continue to use to campaign for the movie and herself through the awards season.

As with any powerful figure whose name has become part of the pop culture vernacular (Oprahfication, anyone?), Winfrey has her detractors too.

All things equal in a contest like the Oscars where voters' personal tastes and biases enter the equation, envy sometimes plays a part. Several academy members last year privately said they wouldn't vote for Spielberg or his movie Lincoln because, in the words of one balloter, "he already has enough recognition for three lifetimes."

Daniels says he doesn't really understand that kind of thinking, but does remember initial skepticism among some members of the movie's cast and crew about Winfrey's acting ability.

"I think some of the actors came to the set with eyebrows raised," he says. "I didn't care. I knew where we were going and I knew she could deliver. And they found out too once they got in the room with her."

Should Winfrey end up nominated, the second happiest group would probably be ABC network executives, knowing Winfrey generally draws a crowd and would likely boost the show's ratings.

Some 72% of The Butler's opening weekend ticket-buyers said Winfrey increased the likelihood that they'd see the movie.

"She's the most powerful woman on the planet," Daniels says. "I don't want people thinking I'm an Oprah psycho-fan, even though I happen to be one. Sometimes, I'm still amazed she's in the movie." – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Lee Daniels' The Butler opens in cinemas nationwide on Sept 26. Pick up a copy of Star2 on Sunday for our cover story on Oprah Winfrey.

Chris Hemsworth gives viewers an adrenaline Rush


Chris Hemsworth shifts gear to play an F1 driver in new film.

HAVING bulked up for Thor: The Dark World, Chris Hemsworth found himself having to lose some of that extra weight really quickly before he started filming Rush.

Directed by Ron Howard, Rush sees Hemsworth portraying race car driver James Hunt, in a four-year period of the Englishman's life leading up to Formula One World Championship in 1976.

While Hunt stood an inch shorter than the 190.5cm Hemsworth, Hunt was a lot slimmer – so, you know, he'd fit in the small space of the racing car.

In a transcript provided by TGV Cinemas, Hemsworth shared: "For Thor I was 98kg and I got down to 84kg for this film, and it was hard work. It's funny, my wife was pregnant at the time and I felt I had more symptoms of pregnancy than she had – I was moody, hungry and tired – because I was overtrained and underfed. But I had to get rid of all of that weight because I was obviously too big."

Well, his effort definitely paid off as the Australian actor not only fit into an F1 car, he also got to drive it in scenes that are less dangerous.

According to the blue-eyed actor, the first time he got to drive such a powerful machine, he felt the roar of the engine and how the car vibrated.

"You are locked into this little cocoon and your shoulders are rubbing the sides of the cabin and you feel that this car is an extension of your body.

"And there's such a sense of power because it's right at your fingertips. You also realise how vulnerable you are because of the precarious nature of the machines. It's an incredible feeling. Once you get into that machine you immediately understand the addiction to that world and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. It hits you in the gut."

Besides taking a peek at Hunt's life, Rush also explores the intense rivalry between Hunt and fellow driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) on the race track. They were pretty much considered the rock stars of racing at that time – two professionals, both at the top of their games, each with a different personality and lifestyle. It is said that in the 1970s, driving race cars was a lethal profession as safety was not top priority, unlike now.

Hemsworth was intrigued as to how this affected Hunt, an adrenaline-junkie with a reputation for drinking and enjoying the company of women off the track.

"What was it that attracted them to that kind of world? I think there was an immediacy that the sport gave them. Nothing forces you to be in the moment more than the threat of death and that highly adrenaline charged race."

Chris Hemsworth plays the English race car driver James Hunt in the Ron Howard film, Rush.

Chris Hemsworth plays the English race car driver James Hunt in the Ron Howard film, Rush.

Hemsworth theorised that Hunt (who died of a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 45) lived a fast life off the track to keep the excitment going after the race was over.

"James was a man who didn't want to conform to any standard or expectation for a few different reasons. There was something I admired about the lack of self-censorship he had. He took it too far in many instances but, look, for me working in a business where you've got to be constantly careful about what you do or say and then reading about this guy and listening to audio interviews with him, he just didn't care (laughs).

"And you kind of go, 'I couldn't get away with that!' Love or hate what he did, you've got to respect him throwing it to the wall with everything that he did."

Thirty-year-old Hemsworth has had his career on track since his Hollywood debut in the 2009 films Perfect Getaway and Star Trek (as George Kirk). His popularity was sealed when he was picked to play the God of Thunder in the 2011 film, Thor. He reprises the role for the upcoming Thor sequel, out on Oct 31, and also in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015).

Married to Spanish actress Elsa Patanky, who gave birth to their first child last year, Hemsworth is currently attached to a number of projects.

One is Cyber, a film directed by Michael Mann, shot partially in Malaysia. The muscular actor was shooting scenes in a number of places in the Klang Valley all of last month before he flew to London early this month to promote Rush.

After Cyber, he follows up with another collaboration with Ron Howard in the director's next film, In The Heart Of The Sea, which is based on an event involving a whaling ship in 1820.

"The first thing I thought when I finished Rush was, 'When can I get back onto a set with Ron, he's the best'. I mentioned In The Heart Of The Sea to him, he read it, and loved it and things took off from there." 

Rush opens in cinemas nationwide on Thursday.

Check in to top (movie) hotels


Some hotels around the world have provided the best backdrops for iconic movies. Here's a list of the top 10.

MOVIE fans may experience deja vu upon entering the lobby of the Regina in Paris, France, the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, Japan or the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States, which have all provided shooting locations for iconic films, whether contemporary or classic.

The hotels below offer guests a chance to walk in the footsteps of the stars.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo and Chateau Marmont

Director Sofia Coppola chose the Park Hyatt in Tokyo as the setting of her first feature-length film, Lost In Translation, released in 2003. The film featured Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson lounging in the rooms and bar of the luxury five-star hotel.

Seven years later, the director filmed Somewhere at the iconic Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles. Since opening its doors in 1929, this hotel has become a Hollywood legend, known as a haven for actors behaving badly.

Scarlett Johansson in Lost In Translation, which was mainly filmed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, Japan.

Scarlett Johansson in Lost In Translation, which was mainly filmed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, Japan.

The Grand Hotel Cabourg

Several scenes of Anne Fontaine's Coco Before Chanel (2009) were filmed in this historic hotel in Normandy, France, a frequent haunt of French literary legend Marcel Proust. A room in the Grand Hotel Cabourg was even renovated especially for the needs of the film.

French actress Audrey Tautou portrayed the legendary French designer in the film, lounging in the luxurious seaside hotel.

The Bellagio

Among the most famous hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada, the United States, the Bellagio is particularly well known for its fountains, which come to life every day with spectacular light, water and music shows.

The extravagance of the hotel has attracted more than one filmmaker, providing a setting that embodies the over-the-top spirit of Las Vegas. Ocean's Eleven (2002) and The Hangover (2009) are just a few of the movies that have contributed to the Bellagio's reputation as one of Sin City's most iconic establishments.

In the first The Hangover film, the good friends (from right, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper) wake up from a night of extreme 'fun' at the Hotel Bellagio in Las Vegas.

In the first The Hangover film, the good friends (from right, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper) wake up from a night of extreme 'fun' at the Hotel Bellagio in Las Vegas.


Hotel Giraffe

In the first film adaptation of the HBO show Sex And The City, when Carrie Bradshaw pays a visit to the love of her life, Mr Big, she is actually stepping into the Hotel Giraffe on Park Avenue in New York. Director Michael Patrick King chose a room in this contemporary and refined hotel as the set of Mr Big's apartment.

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach

In Brian de Palma's classic gangster film Scarface (1983), Al Pacino lives it up at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in Florida, lounging at its poolside tiki bar.

With its 1,500 rooms, the hotel also served as the backdrop for several scenes of The Bodyguard (1992), starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. The Fontainebleau was built in 1954 by Morris Lapidus, an architect who contributed to the iconic resort-style associated with Miami since the late 20th century.

Grandhotel Pupp

When James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, checks into Montenegro's Hotel Splendide in Casino Royale (2006), he is actually at the Grandhotel Pupp, in the Czech Republic. The 18th-century hotel, located in the resort town of Karlovy Vary, includes rooms decorated in both traditional and contemporary styles.

The Beverly Wilshire

In the late 1980s, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere played one of cinema's most memorable couples in Pretty Woman. The film takes place in Los Angeles, for the most part within the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons hotel just off Rodeo Drive.

Several scenes were filmed in the hotel's penthouse suite, with its incredible view over the city.

This iconic scene from Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, was set at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles.

This iconic scene from Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was shot at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles.

The Taj Lake Palace

Occupying an 18th-century white marble mansion, the Taj Lake Palace served as the set of several scenes from the 1983 Bond film Octopussy.

The monumental hotel is located at the centre of Lake Pichola, in Udaipur, India, and is said to offer splendid sunset views over the water. Several famous guests have stayed here, including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman.

Hotel Regina

Luc Besson chose this four-star Parisian hotel as a shooting location for his iconic thriller Nikita (1990), while American filmmaker Doug Liman set up here to film The Bourne Identity (2002).

Visitors can retrace Matt Damon's steps in the role of Jason Bourne through this hotel, built in 1900 for the World Expo.

Since then, the Regina has also appeared in French director Jean-Paul Salome's Female Agents (2008) as well as in Stephen Frears' 2009 film Cheri, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. – AFP Relaxnews


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