Shrek "Forever After" - The Final Installment  

Posted by: Gwen Stewart in ,

SOONER or later every fairy tale reaches its happily ever after. For “Shrek,” the long-running animated fantasy franchise about a curmudgeonly ogre (voiced by Mike Myers), his human-turned-ogre wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and his pals Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), that time is now. On Friday, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount will release “Shrek Forever After,” the fourth — and, the studios say, final — installment in the series, in which the titular green guy is thrown into an alternate version of his Far, Far Away kingdom where he never existed and life turned out much differently for his pals. Before the storybook shuts for good, Dave Itzkoff asked some of the “Shrek” stars about the series and what its ending means to them

Russell Crowe as the Legendary English savior ROBIN HOOD  

Posted by: Gwen Stewart in ,

RIDLEY SCOTT had seen better days. True, he was at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago while studio types fluttered about making sure that the fruit platters were just so. But he was about to be press-ganged, fed to roomfuls of reporters who would ask him how his latest film, “Robin Hood,” compares to “Gladiator” (it does and it doesn’t) and whether he and Russell Crowe bickered on the set. (Not really, theirs is just a full-contact collaboration.)

But before that ritual began, the English-born Mr. Scott got to warm up with ...another interview. We had been scheduled to meet at his Los Angeles office the day before, but he had been up all night, in extremis from one of his extremities, specifically his recently installed knee replacement. “They tell you you will be up and about in no time, and that is just pure,” um, nonsense, he said, as he eased his way into a sofa and, very carefully, placed his new joint up onto a table.

For the moment he looked very much the 72-year-old veteran of more than 20 feature films, including “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Black Hawk Down” and “American Gangster.” But a single question about the provenance of “Robin Hood” and he was up in a flash, moving about the room and using a cane as a field commander might to plan his next campaign.

“Robin Hood,” like “Gladiator,” allows Mr. Scott to use his modern visual and sound technique to make ancient combat brim with menace. And he plays with the Hollywood archetype embodied over the years by Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery and Kevin Costner by making his “Robin Hood,” in effect, a prequel.

Mr. Scott’s film is an origins story of how Robin Longstride, a journeyman archer in service of the king, became Robin Hood. Spirited away to a French monastery at a young age, Robin’s path is changed when King Richard is mortally wounded, and Robin decides to head out for the French coast with a newly formed posse of merry men to make their way to England.

They happen upon an ambush, and Robin is tasked by a dying man to return a sword to Nottingham, a once-proud village now forced into a hand-to-mouth existence under oppressive taxation. There he meets and clashes with Marion Loxley (Ms. Blanchett), the widow of the man who owned the sword. With steady nudges from the father (Max von Sydow), Marion and Robin fall in love and fight both for and against a country they cherish, now led by the feckless and narcissistic King John. In this version of “Robin Hood,” Robin is a loyal if conflicted subject, and it is gradually revealed to the archer that fate has put him exactly where he belongs.

Mr. Scott explained as much as he settled back in on the couch, but then Hollywood’s taste in films is mentioned and he is up again, gesturing and declaiming. “One studio head said to me, ‘I make movies I don’t even want to see,’ ” he said. “I find that entirely depressing and told him as much. I only want to make movies that I want to see.”

Lately, however, his choices have not always been embraced by moviegoers. Of his past five films, only one (“American Gangster”) took in more than $100 million at the domestic box office; others, like “Body of Lies” and “A Good Year,” tanked. 

While commercial success is not always a given, critical reaction is much more of a constant: some critics line up to point out that they think the big vessel is a little on the empty side.

“In a Ridley Scott film, the setups are so much more exciting than what he eventually delivers,” said David Edelstein, film critic for New York magazine, who had yet to see “Robin Hood” and added that he very much admired Mr. Scott’s work in “Black Hawk Down” (2001). “He is wonderful at creating an atmosphere of anticipation. I just don’t think it always pays off.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Scott has brushed aside criticism like so many rubber-tipped arrows, in part because he has supreme confidence in every aspect of his craft. He has been a set designer, a camera operator and an art director. He directed hundreds of commercials before the release of his first British feature in 1977, “The Duelists,” and his first Hollywood effort two years later, “Alien,” which created not only a franchise but also a reconsideration of the sci-fi genre. Mr. Scott has great relationships with the actors he has had great relationships with and little time for others. Sigourney Weaver said he showed more concern for the props and sets on “Alien” than the actors working amid them. But Mr. Crowe has made it his business to keep signing up to work with Mr. Scott. “Robin Hood” is their fifth collaboration: in addition to “Gladiator,” they have made “American Gangster,” “Body of Lies” and “A Good Year.”

“He comes prepared to work,” Mr. Crowe said in a telephone interview. “He can tell you exactly how many horses he has, how many severed heads he has on hand in the props department, how many cameras he needs for a shot. He is the boss, and by having that command of infrastructure, he is able to create entire other worlds.”
Mr. Crowe said that Mr. Scott was actually a shy person who enjoys spending quality time with oil paints, which is a bit of a surprise, and a warrior on the set, which is not.

“We were at Fresh Water beach in England, filming a massive scene where the French army was landing and the tide was coming in furiously,” he said. “We are setting and resetting, and there are, I don’t know, 14 barges and 500 extras as French infantry, and one of the backs of the boats kept swinging into the frame where it wasn’t supposed to be. And Ridley jumped into the waves and grabbed this 15-ton barge with both hands, bum knee and all, and starts trying to push it out of the shot. When it was clear he was not going to win his lone battle against the barge, he looked back at the beach and the hundreds of extras and said, ‘Well, what are you waiting for?’ That’s leadership.”

Even now, the peripatetic Mr. Scott does a lot more than direct, serving as producer on a variety of film and television projects. Scott Free, with headquarters in both London and Los Angeles, has a lot of Scotts: Brother Tony (“Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder,” “Crimson Tide”) is in post-production with “Unstoppable,” starring Chris Pine and Denzel Washington, a thriller about a runaway train. Sons Jake (“Welcome to the Rileys” with James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart) and Jordan (“Cracks” with Eva Green) are in the mix as working directors.

Footage Restored to Fritz Lang's ‘Metropolis’  

Posted by: Gwen Stewart in

For fans and scholars of the silent-film era, the search for a copy of the original version of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” has become a sort of holy grail. One of the most celebrated movies in cinema history, “Metropolis” had not been viewed at its full length — roughly two and a half hours — since shortly after its premiere in Berlin in 1927, when it was withdrawn from circulation and about an hour of its footage was amputated and presumed destroyed.

But on Friday Film Forum in Manhattan will begin showing what is being billed as “The Complete Metropolis,” with a DVD scheduled to follow later this year, after screenings in theaters around the country. So an 80-year quest that ranged over three continents seems finally to be over, thanks in large part to the curiosity and perseverance of one man, an Argentine film archivist named Fernando Peña.

The newly found footage, about 25 minutes in length and first exhibited in February at the Berlin Film Festival, is grainy and thus easily distinguished from an earlier, partly restored version, released in 2001, into which it has been inserted. But for the first time, Lang’s vision of a technologically advanced, socially stratified urban dystopia, which has influenced contemporary films like “Blade Runner” and “Star Wars,” seems complete and comprehensible.