home At The Movies Ask The Don Don's Picks

Q: I'm a writer trying to make it. I need to know how I can get myself out there?

A:

Gee I wish you luck because it’s very hard to make a living as a screenwriter and even tougher to get that vital first break. Most production companies won’t accept unsolicited scripts but the Screen Producers Association of Australia has a very useful online service where you can list scripts and say you are looking for a producer. Check out their website: http://meltingpot.spaa.org.au.  I assume you have not had any formal training in screenwriting? If so the Australian Film, TV and Radio School, the Sydney Writer’s Centre and the Sydney Film School are among the centres which offer screenwriting courses. Also you could apply to take part in Aurora, Screen NSW's feature film development program.


Q: I have heard the cast of The Hobbit have to go back to NZ to film more scenes for the third movie, but are any of them working on something else in the meantime?

A:

Yes, the cast is assembling again for the third edition, The Hobbit: There And Back Again, which is due for release in 2014. And yes, most of the actors have been doing other things in between Hobbits. For example: Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays The Necromancer) is filming the drama August: Osage County alongside Meryl Street, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor. Martin Freeman voiced the lead character in animated comedy Saving Santa. Orlando Bloom has signed to star with Kirsten Dunst and Dominic Cooper in Cities, a thriller set in London, Mumbai, and New York. Ian McKellen has filmed his scenes in the wonderfully titled The Curse of the Buxom Strumpet, a zombie comedy set in the 18th Century, co-starring Gillian Anderson. Hugo Weaving  plays a cop in Australian writer-director Ivan Sen’s murder mystery entitled Mystery Road and he’ll appear as a warden who tries to rehabilitate an Iranian-born prisoner in Craig Monahan’s upcoming drama Healing.


Q: Hey Don, do you think that Hollywood is under threat of being overtaken by the cable networks in terms of original programming?

A:

Not at all. I do think in the past seven or eight years that US cable TV has overtaken the free-to-air networks as the pre-eminent source of original programming, typified by shows such as Girls, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and Entourage. Moreover, some of the most creative types in Hollywood move back and forth between movies and TV, such as J.J. Abrams, the mastermind of the series Alias, Lost, Fringe, Alcatraz, Person Of Interest and Revolution, who directed Mission: Impossible 3 and the rebooted Star Trek. Another crossover king is Joss Whedon who directed and scripted Marvel’s The Avengers and created the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.


Q: What are the best animal movies of all time?

A:

I’m no expert as I often find animal movies- live action or animated- to be too cute or corny. Among those I really liked were Babe (the first one; director George Miller blew it with the mean-spirited and unfunny sequel), Ratatouille, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, the Ice Age and Madagascar franchises, Turner & Hooch and Mousehunt. Animal lovers may prefer films such as Cats & Dogs, The Fox and the Hound, Lady and the Tramp, The Black Stallion, 101 Dalmatians, Seabiscuit, National Velvet, Lassie and the classic Lassie Come Home, The Adventures of Milo and Otis and Free Willy.   


Q: I loved the Fifty Shades trilogy and was wondering whether the producers are any closer to deciding on the cast?

A:

Despite endless speculation about who’ll play Anastasia Steele, no one has been confirmed yet. Among the actresses who were said to be in contention are Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel, Leighton Meester, Lucy Hale, Amanda Seyfried and Emma Roberts. Various names have been touted for the role of Christian Grey including Ryan Gosling, Zac Efron, Magic Mike’s Alex Pettyfer and The Vampire Diaries’ Ian Somerhalder. Universal and Focus Features, which paid $US5 million for the rights to the trilogy, have appointed as the producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, who collaborated on The Social Network. But no writers have been hired yet and I’d suggest the casting won’t be confirmed until a director comes aboard.


Q: I have been a bit out of touch with watching movies lately and was wondering what's the most popular foreign film released recently?

A:

The Artist is the top-earner for the year so far, grossing more than $4.4 million. Apart from that very few foreign films have scored at the box-office. Only two have cracked $1 million: Danish import A Royal Affair and Iran’s A Separation. Released last December, French  comedy The Women on the 6th Floor raked in $2 million.


Q: Hi Don, my grandparents saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and found it to be a bit crude (even though it seemed that it was targeted at the older generation). How hard is it to make a movie for an older demographic that doesn't involve sex-crazed oldies hyped up on Viagra?

A:

Your grandparents must be very old fashioned if they found the movie crude in parts. I thought it was both frank and funny in acknowledging that many mature folks don’t lose their sexual appetites. Numerous movies in recent years have appealed to boomers without touching on sex. I mean, I don’t remember any bonking or Viagra references in The King’s Speech, The Queen, The Iron Lady, Mamma Mia!, Julie & Julia, Miss Potter and Pride and Prejudice.


Q: I'm normally not a fan of Australian movies but The Sapphires is getting good reviews. What did you think of the movie?

A:

Sorry to hear you’ve lost faith in Australian films but I understand why, since Oz cinema in recent years often hasn’t been inspiring. I heartily recommend The Sapphires: it’s a winning blend of romance, drama (revolving around racial prejudice and the Vietnam War) and great cover versions of 1960s soul music. A real feel-good movie with terrific performances by Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell as The Sapphires and Chris O’Dowd as their boozy Irish manager.


Q: Don, I have to get your opinion on the new Superman pic? Would love to know!

A:

Based on the teaser trailer and the talent involved, I’m pretty excited about Man of Steel. The combination of Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan, who wrote the story, virtually guarantees the movie will be visually stunning, lavishly mounted and creatively ambitious. For me Henry Cavill in the title role is an unknown quantity as I haven’t seen his work in Immortals or TV’s The Tudors. But casting Amy Adams as Lois Lane,  Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Clark Kent’s adoptive parents, Michael Shannon as the villainous General Zod and Russell Crowe as Superman's father Jor-El is potentially a dream cast. The movie opens in June 2013.



Q: Have any actors made a comeback after being out of the business for 20-30 years?

A:

Well I can’t find any who returned to acting after such a lengthy absence but there have been many who spent long periods doing other things, mostly on drug and alcohol binges. Mickey Rourke quit acting in 1991 to go back to boxing, his original career before he started in TV and films in the early 1980s. He gave up the fight game after suffering numerous injuries and apart from 2005’s Sin City he appeared in a string of mostly forgettable films until his celebrated comeback in 2008’s The Wrestler. Robert Downey Jr. struggled with heroin and cocaine addiction from 1996-2001  but started to rebuild his career with 2003’s The Singing Detective and the following year with Gothika. Drew Barrymore starred in her godfather Steven Spielberg's E.T. at the age of five but by 11 she was drinking heavily and at 13 was into cocaine.  A three-month stay with singer David Crosby and his wife helped Drew get her life and career back on track. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave up acting in 2003 for a new role as Governor of California. As Arnie might say, he’s “b-a-c-k” in The Expendables 2 and action-thriller The Last Stand. Daniel Day Lewis went into semi-retirement after The Boxer in 1997 until 2002, when Martin Scorsese persuaded him to star in Gangs Of New York.


Q: When will Bollywood take over the world?

A:

Well, with respect, that’s never going to happen. After Slumdog Millionaire there was a false sense of optimism in some quarters that we’d see a flurry of Indian-set or themed movies making their mark internationally. There’s no doubt Bollywood has influenced many Western movies such as Moulin Rouge! , The Love Guru and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, as the Hollywood studios have no qualms about stealing or borrowing ideas from anywhere. But outside its homeland, Indian cinema will always have niche appeal in specialty theatres and on DVD.


Q: Don, we are heading to see Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea this weekend. It sounds a fascinating concept. What other movies have been made about people becoming refugees/boat people?

A:

Apart from documentaries, many dramas have examined the issue of refugees. Among them are the 2007 Australian film Lucky Miles ( which looked at the plight of Iraqi and Cambodian refugees who were abandoned by an Indonesian fishing boat in a remote part of the WA coast);  The Kite Runner (the story of two Afghans who escaped to the US);  Welcome (a French film depicting the desperate efforts of refugees trying to reach the UK from France);  Turtles Can Fly (focusing on refugee children near the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of the US invasion); and War Dance (the saga of three children living in a displacement camp in northern Uganda as they compete in the national music and dance festival).


Q: Hi Don, I watched the very delightful documentary Babies the other day. Such an interesting concept: what is on the agenda for the filmmakers?

A:

The director, Thomas Balmès, plans to shoot a doco entitled Happiness, which looks at the impact of television on the remote, mountainous kingdom of Bhutan. Backed by the BBC, the project focuses on an eight-year-old boy living in the tiny village of Laya, whose 900 residents this year are finally getting electricity and TV. The producers of Babies went on to make HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami, a comedy-adventure film about a TV reporter who teams up with a zany veterinarian on the hunt for a feisty, furry-tailed creature in the jungles of South America.


Q: I noticed a newspaper article about the third Hemsworth brother, Luke, who plans to head to Los Angeles to join his younger brothers Liam and Chris. Who are the other successful families of Australian actors or directors?

A:

Well, we have Barry Otto and his daughters Miranda and Gracie; Kylie and Dannii Minogue; Gia and Zoe Carides; Bert and Patti Newton and their son Matthew; Toni Lamond and son Tony Sheldon; Terence Donovan and son Jason; and Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward’s daughter Matilda Brown. Among others are brother and sister Kodi and Sianoa Smit-McPhee, whose dad is actor Andy McPhee; brothers Anthony and Jonathan LaPaglia; Gus Mercurio and son Paul; and director Jane Campion and her actress daughter Alice Englert. 



Q: Hi Don, I love Edward Norton but I haven't seen him in much lately; what's on his horizon movie wise?

A:

Ed plays the villain in The Bourne Legacy, which seeks to reinvent the franchise with Jeremy Renner as the new hero; it opens here on August 16. And he’s an irresponsible scout master in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, an eccentric teenage love story that features newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward with Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton (August 30).    



Q: Why do we have so many great cinematographers?

A:

Good question! Many cinematographers started out shooting newsreels, documentaries, TV dramas and low budget films, where they learned how to shoot quickly and with few resources. So after proving their mettle on Australian films, dozens were hired by Hollywood studios and independent US producers. At any one time at least 40 are working overseas. Among the Oscar winners are Dean Semler (Dances with Wolves, 1990), John Seale (The English Patient, 1996), Andrew Lesnie (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001), Russell Boyd (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2003) and Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha, 2006).



Q: Don, Richard Gere hasn't appeared too much on the movie radar lately, what's he been up to?

A:

After a quiet period during which he was involved in campaigning for his favourite causes including the preservation of Tibetan culture and supporting tribal peoples, Gere has three films lined up for release. In Arbitrage he plays a hedge fund magnate who leads a double life, appearing with Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon and rising star Brit Marling. In the animated film Henry & Me he voices a stranger who takes a sick young boy on a magical adventure where they meet past and present New York Yankee legends. He’s also part of an all-star cast of an untitled film consisting of sketch comedies to be directed by Peter Farrelly, Brett Ratner and Elizabeth Banks, among others. The cast includes Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Chloë Grace Moretz, Anna Faris, Gerard Butler, Naomi Watts and Uma Thurman.



Q: Don, do you think we will see an end to the vampire-loving movie genre anytime soon?

A:

The disappointing box-office result for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows proves the genre is risky if the movie isn’t compelling, despite Johnny Depp’s charisma and his usual ability to draw audiences. But there’s plenty of life left in the vamps as IMDB.com lists more than 45 upcoming titles led by Fox’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D, which imagines the US President waged a lifelong war on vampires, starring Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rufus Sewell, which opens here on August 9. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is slated for November. Among the other blood suckers in production or in development are Byzantium, Dracula 3D, House of the Damned 3D, Only Lovers Left Alive, Undying Love, Vampires in Venice and Vamps.



Q: Hi Don, my wife and I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and just loved, loved, loved it. What is next on the actors' and director's agendas?

A:

The wonderful Judi Dench reprises her role as M in the latest Bond movie Skyfall, which debuts in November.  Tom Wilkinson is a villainous railroad tycoon in Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger, which has Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto.  The busy Bill Nighy will be seen in the Total Recall remake, the thriller I, Frankenstein and Bryan Singer’s adventure/fantasy Jack the Giant Killer. Apart from Downtown Abbey, Maggie Smith co-stars with Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay in Quartet, a comedy set in a home for retired opera singers which marks the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman. Celia Imre was in the Titanic miniseries while Penelope Wilton, another Downtown Abbey regular, co-stars in the movie The Girl, which looks at the relationship between filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and actress Tippi Hedren.  Director John Madden has shot the pilot for a Showtime (US) drama series entitled Masters of Sex, which features Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as the 1960s human sexuality pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson.



Q: Hi Don, just saw the wonderful film, Albert Nobbs. Such an interesting concept; how close was it to reality?

A:

Good question. The film was adapted from a stage play, The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, itself based on George Moore’s short story, published in 1895, about a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to work and survive in 19th Century Dublin. Close played the character in the off-Broadway production in 1982 and laboured for years to get the film financed.  Some people have speculated that Moore might have met such a person and written a fictionalised piece about that life. I think Close was inspired to make the film because she saw Nobbs as an embodiment of disaffected individuals who have lost sight of their identity. “I know there are people like that in the world; a lot of invisible, isolated people,” she told The Guardian. “And I think they deserve to have their stories told.”



Q: Hi Don, there seems to have been a mixed bag of Oz films lately, some successes (ie, Red Dog) and some bombs (ie, Any Questions for Ben?). What's on the horizon for Oz releases?

A:

I’m looking forward to Kath and Kimderella, in which Fountain Lake’s foxy ladies embark on what’s described as a “ritzy fairy tale of love, lust and revolution,” opening in September;  the comedy Mental from writer-director P.J. Hogan, which reunites him with his Muriel’s Wedding discovery Toni Collette alongside Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Rebecca Gibney and Kerry Fox (October); and The Sapphires,  the 1960s-set saga of four young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal missionand who are discovered by an unlikely talent scout and branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes (August), which got glowing reviews in Cannes. Among other titles that look promising are The King is Dead!, Rolf de Heer’s  dark comedy about neighbours, amphetamines  and large men with baseball bats,  starring  Dan Wyllie, Bojana Novakovic and Luke Ford; Not Suitable for Children, an amusing rom-com which features Ryan Kwanten as  a carefree guy who discovers he’ll be infertile in three weeks and tries frantically to convince his  ex-girlfriends  to try for a baby; Dead Europe, based on a novel by Christos Tsiolkas about a Greek Australian whose life unravels when he confronts his family’s cursed legacy on his first trip to Europe; and 6 Plots, a thriller about a  teenager who wakes from a drugged sleep and gets a call on her mobile informing her that six friends have been buried alive and it's up to her to rescue them.



Q: Who would be the best person in the movie industry to get in touch with for a 12-year-old girl regarding movie acting?

A:

Gee, it's hard to recommend one individual. My advice would be for the girl to take part in as many school plays as possible and to join an amateur drama group, being careful to balance her schoolwork with her passion for acting. There are numerous talent agencies which handle the careers of young folk which her parents could approach after she gets some experience in plays. At high school she could speak to a career's adviser and check out the courses available at institutions such as NIDA and WAPA. Another option is the Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in Sydney. Most of all she needs to be willing to study the craft and to possess lots of grit and determination to succeed in a highly competitive field.   Also, I would urge her to look at acting in all forms, starting with the theatre and later in television, because it's very rare for people to get their first break in movies. 



Q: Hi Don, I watched Friends with Benefits the other night and found it quite dismal in terms of plausibility and storyline, yet I like both main actors. How damaging is it to an actor to be in such a dud movie?

A:

Great question! Some actors seem impervious to multiple box-office flops. Nicolas Cage is high on the list of stars who keep working despite making numerous duds including Season of the Witch, Bangkok Dangerous, Drive Angry, Next, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Wicker Man and Lord of War. Clive Owen’s reputation seems not to have been greatly tarnished by the turkeys Killer Elite, Trust, The Boys Are Back, Duplicity and The International. Eddie Murphy struck out in A Thousand Words (unreleased in Oz), Imagine That, Meet Dave, The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Showtime. Charlize Theron has a chequered career with misses such as Young Adult, The Burning Plain, Battle in Seattle, Sleepwalking and Aeon Flux. Of course you can’t solely blame the actors for some of these failures and studios seem willing to keep rolling the dice on proven money-makers such as Murphy.



Q: I haven't heard anything about Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom in yonks. Where have they been hiding?

A:

Johnny has hardly been hiding! True, few people bothered to see him in The Rum Diary but he plays a newly liberated vampire in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, which opens here on May 10, he’s Tonto alongside Armie Hammer in the title role in The Lone Ranger and he’s set for a fifth edition of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Orlando has been busy working in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (he’s Legolas, as you no doubt know), he’s been cast as the poet Robert Graves in the UK drama The Laureate, he’ll play a Cape Town cop in the crime saga Zulu and a guy who struggles with his wife (Kirsten Dunst) to buy their first home in London in the financial thriller Cities.



Q: Hi Don, I saw the wonderful production of Wicked and wondered if there is any chance it will be turned into a movie? Which plays have been brought to the big screen and vice versa?

A:

In 2010 Universal was reported to be developing a feature based on the musical with producer Marc Platt, and among the directors who were said to be under consideration were J.J. Abrams, James Mangold, Rob Marshall and Glee creator Ryan Murphy. Composer Stephen Schwartz said Glee’s Lea Michele would be “fantastic” as Elphaba, the bad witch. Since then the project seems to have stalled and IMDB.com lists it as a 2014 release.  Literally hundreds of plays have been turned into films including War Horse, Doubt, Cabaret, Grease, Evita, Chicago, Play It Again, Sam, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, The Odd Couple, Equus, Sleuth and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  As for films that transferred to the stage, the list includes Legally Blonde, The Lion King, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dirty Dancing, Edward Scissorhands, Mary Poppins The Musical and Rain Man.



Q: Don, reading your response to the best food movies ever made I couldn't believe that you hadn't mentioned Chocolat! Which leads to my question - what are the upcoming must-see French movies of the year?

A:

Yes, my bad, Chocolat was worth mentioning. Quite a few French movies are heading for cinemas. It’s hard to say which might rate as must-see but among those that look promising judging by the talent involved and/or the storylines are The Chef, a comedy starring Jean Reno as a veteran chef who wages war with his restaurant group's new CEO; Declaration of War, a drama about a couple whose lives are shattered when their infant son is diagnosed with a brain tumour; Beloved, the saga of a mother and daughter spanning 43 years, starring Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni and Ludivine Sagnier; and Elles, featuring Juliette Binoche as a journalist whose work forces her to question her own life and family.



Q: In the last year I have seen three Justin Timberlake movies (In Time, Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits) and I have to say that he is a much better actor than anticipated (although his character in Bad Teacher was awful) so I wanted to know what is on the cards for him for the rest of 2012?

A:

I agree, Justin really can act, although some of his career choices aren’t smart. We will next see him alongside Clint Eastwood in the Warner Bros. drama Trouble with the Curve, which opens here in October. In his first acting role since 2008's Gran Torino, Eastwood plays a baseball scout whose eyesight is failing. He and his daughter (Amy Adams) embark on a final road trip to Atlanta to check out prospective talent. Justin plays a former-pitcher-turned-scout who’s Amy’s love interest.



Q: Hi Don, I was wondering if the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, The Woman in Black, is ever going to be released in Australia as I know it has been released overseas and have seen the world release dates but nothing for Australia? Why is that because I was so looking forward to seeing it and entertainment daily shows clips and interviews from it as well.

A:

Roadshow just told me the movie will open on May 17, a change of heart by the distributor because it had planned to release the film direct to DVD, bypassing cinemas. That seemed a surprising call in light of the film’s success in the UK. In just three weeks it raked in £14.6 million ($A21.7 million), hailed by the producers at Hammer as the territory’s highest grossing British horror film of the last 20 years, and its takings have climbed to more than  £20 million. Released in the US in February, the movie adapted from a Susan Hill novel has collected $US54 million, a tidy sum. You might think those results plus Radcliffe’s appeal would have guaranteed a cinema release in Oz but horror films typically don’t perform strongly here and distributors reckon it’s increasingly difficult to recoup the hefty costs of marketing some films while DVD revenues are in free-fall. Hence we’ve seen a stream of titles go straight to DVD and pay TV in recent months, including Drive Angry, Colombiana, Straw Dogs, 30 Seconds or Less, Apollo 18, Winnie the Pooh, The Big Year, Dream House and The Sitter.  So I assume Roadshow re-did its sums on The Woman in Black and figured it can make money from a cinema release. Daniel's fans here can breathe a sigh of relief.


Q: Hi Don, I am thinking there were not too many surprises with the Oscars winners. Is that always the case though?

A:

There have been numerous controversies surrounding the Oscars over the years, as much over those who were overlooked as those who got the trophies. Among the most curious snubs, legendary directors Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock never won Oscars for their films; Kubrick was a joint recipient of the best special effects Oscar for 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Hitch received the honorary Irving G. Thalberg award in 1967. In 1942, Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane was beaten for best picture by John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley.  After being named best actress for Butterfield 8 in 1960, Elizabeth Taylor called the film "a piece of obscenity” and vowed she would never watch it.  Marisa Tomei's  gong for best supporting actress for  My Cousin Vinny in 1992 stunned many people who thought the other contenders including Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives), Joan Plowright (Enchanted April) and Vanessa Redgrave (Howard's End) were more deserving.

Al Pacino collected his one and only best actor trophy, for Scent of a Woman, in the same year, amazing those who felt his work in The Godfather, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon was far superior but was overlooked by the Academy.  I’ve never understood why Driving Miss Daisy was accorded Oscars for best picture, screenplay and actress Jessica Tandy in 1990 but director Bruce Beresford wasn’t even nominated.  Going way back, Mary Pickford confounded many people when she was named best actress for Coquette in 1930. Cynics said she lobbied for the award by entertaining members of the Academy, of which she was a founding charter member, over tea.



Q: Hi Don, you recently mentioned Babette's Feast in one of your answers. I truly loved that quote, "Oh Babette, how you will delight the angels!" What have the director and actors in that movie done since?

A:

Danish writer-director Gabriel Axel was 68 when he made Babette’s Feast in 1987, based on Karen Blixen’s novel. After that he directed just three movies, Christian (1989), Prince of Jutland (1994) and Leïla (2001). Stéphane Audran, who played Babette, has worked mostly in TV; her most recent movie, according to IMDB.com, was French romantic comedy The Girl from Monaco in 2008.Among other cast members, Jean-Philippe Lafont (Achille) worked in TV but didn’t make another film; Birgitte Federspiel (Martina) starred in a few TV series and short films and died in 2005, aged 79; Bodil Kjer (Philippa) also focussed on TV before her death in 2003, aged 85; and Jarl Kulle (General Lorens) appeared in a further four films and died in 1997, aged 70. So for most of the talent involved, Babette’s Feast represented a career pinnacle which was not repeated.



Q: Hi Don, I read that Paris Jackson is going to be in a film: what's it about and who else is it?

A:

Yes,  Michael Jackson’s 13-year-old daughter is to make her debut in a live action/animated movie entitled Lundon’s Bridge and the Three Keys, based on a series of  young adult fantasy books by Dennis H. Christen.  Paris will play heroine Lundon O’Malley, a young girl from Clearwater Florida, in the saga of a dolphin who turns into a human, a teenage boy who morphs into a dragonfly and a jellyfish queen who becomes an evil fairy godmother. This modern-day adventure sees  an unsuspecting family become a weapon in fighting a war that rages on the land and under the sea. The full cast hasn’t been announced but among those who’ve been signed are Shawn King, Joey Fatone, Ted Lange and Dennis Christen.
 



Q: Don, the new Working Dog movie Any Questions for Ben? is getting mixed reviews; what's next on their agenda, and also Josh Lawson's?

A:

Yes, mostly negative reviews from what I’ve read, and the film flopped at the Australian box-office. I can see why:  as a comedy it’s far less clever, engaging and amusing than The Castle and The Dish, their previous film which came out 12 years ago.  Working Dog’s Santo Cilauro has said the production company is set to begin another feature film mid-year but hasn’t revealed anything about the project. As for Josh, who lives in Los Angeles, he has several movies in the pipeline including Dog Fight, a Jay Roach-directed comedy that stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians in South Carolina; $quid: The Movie, an Aussie comedy about two guys who encounter a giant squid during a New Year's Eve costume party; and Freeloaders, a US comedy about a group of slackers whose blissful existence in a rock star's mansion is threatened when the muso decides to sell the house. Josh also has a recurring role as Doug Guggenheim in the US TV series House of Lies, which I believe doesn’t yet have an Australian broadcaster but will be available on DVD.    
 



Q: You mentioned that Bridesmaids' stars only got a bonus of $100K, which seems disgraceful given its box office takings. Is that kind of payment common and surely the studio realises it's cutting off its nose to spite its face in terms of a sequel and making them more $$?

A:

Absolutely right- Universal was short-sighted and stingy in that instance. Usually the studios are far more generous and smarter in rewarding the stars of successful films.  According to Vanity Fair, Eddie Murphy received a $4 million bonus for Shrek Forever After, Sandra Bullock got an extra $20 million including a slice of DVD and pay-TV revenues for The Blind Side and Jon Favreau collected $12 million as a bonus and profits share for directing and producing Iron Man 2. If the Bridesmaids’ sequel goes ahead you can bet the talent will command richer deals.
 



Q: What have been the best food-related movies ever made?

A:

Well that’s a matter of personal taste, of course, but I savoured the mouth-watering moments of Ratatouille, Like Water for Chocolate, Babette's Feast, Big Night and Eat Drink Man Woman. For those with a yen for the macabre, Eating Raoul, Delicatessen, La Grande Bouffe and Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? spring to mind. Others may prefer the gastronomic delights of Julia & Julia, Eat, Pray, Love, the German romantic comedy Mostly Martha and its Hollywood remake No Reservations.
 



Q: After much resistance I finally watched Bridesmaids and loved it just as my friends and the reviews predicted I would. Do you think that the SNL folk have another movie idea up their sleeves considering the success of the film?

A:

Universal is understandably keen to make a sequel to Bridesmaids but it won’t involve Kristen Wiig or her co-screenwriter Annie Mumolo. The Hollywood Reporter suggested Wiig was peeved when the studio gave her and five other cast members a bonus of just $100,000 each- small potatoes considering the movie earned $288 million worldwide. Producer Judd Apatow has said he won’t consider a sequel unless someone comes up with a concept that’s as “good or better than the first one," which has yet to happen. Melissa McCarthy says she wouldn’t consider a sequel if Wiig isn’t involved, labeling that as a “terrible idea.”  Wiig will next be seen alongside Annette Bening in the dramedy Friends With Kids and this year she’s filming the drama The Comedian with Robert De Niro for director Sean Penn. Bridesmaids director Paul Feig has signed to direct The Better Woman, a romantic comedy about a career woman who befriends an older woman whom her ex is dating.



Q: Hi Don, what do we have to look forward to for our viewing pleasure this year? What's your prediction for the successful genres of this year?

A:

In the January and February newsletters I’ve highlighted more than 50 movies: hopefully the majority will be worth watching. As for the 10 titles I most want to see: The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hunger Games, The Amazing Spider-Man, the final Twilight (cos it’s just gotta be better than the last edition), the latest 007 adventure Skyfall, The Artist, John Hillcoat's Wettest Country, Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines and, cos I love the TV series, The Kath and Kim Filum. As for the most popular genres, I guess we’ll see a continuation of the reigns of superheroes (eg The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises), 3D animation (eg Brave, Rise of the Guardians, new chapters of Ice Age and Madagascar) and rom-coms.



Q: I hated Midnight in Paris and think that it was literally one of the worst movies I have ever seen yet it got rave reviews. What is its appeal?

A:

Well, to each his own. I loved the movie and thought Owen Wilson, whom I usually don’t like, was perfect as the guy who time travels. It’s Woody Allen’s highest-ever earner at the worldwide box-office and I’m sure it appealed to people who aren’t fans of the Woodman. I suppose the re-creation of Paris in the 1920s and earlier decades, peopled with various literary figures, struck a chord with mature audiences more so than with young folk to whom it may have seemed unreal or far fetched.  



Q: I loved Love Actually and I was wondering whether there were any English movies coming out that were of a similar nature?

A:

I’ve scanned a list of upcoming English rom-coms and on the face of it there’s nothing that resembles Love Actually in concept or tone. The line-up includes First Night, which stars Richard E. Grant as a rich industrialist and frustrated opera singer who stages an opera, Mozart's Cosi Von Tutti, at his country retreat; and Hysteria, the story of the guy who invented the world's first electromechanical vibrator in 1880 as a cure for female hysteria, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy and  Rupert Everett. We’ll have to wait until 2013 to see Bridget Jones’s Baby.  



Q: Don, my daughter and I just love Parenthood the TV series, is there any plan for a movie or will it continue as a TV series?

A:

The series was renewed for a third season last year, produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer who did the 1989 movie. I’ve not heard of any plans for a new movie.



Q: Don, saw The Help the other day and just loved it. What's in store for the stars and the writer?

A:

A: Tate Taylor, the writer-director who adapted Kathryn Stockett’s novel, is working on a project for DreamWorks entitled Peace Like a River based on the debut novel by Leif Enger, which is narrated by an eleven-year-old boy who suffers from severe asthma and lives with his unusual family in a small Minnesota town in 1962. He’s also collaborating on a screenplay with actress Melissa McCarthy (who was in Bridesmaids and TV’s Mike & Molly), whose subject he won’t reveal. As for The Help’s stars, Emma Stone is the female lead in The Amazing Spider-Man; Viola Davis is in Stephen Daldry’s 9/11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which opens here in February; Octavia Spencer has filmed an action comedy entitled Girls! Girls! Girls! and a drama, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife; and Jessica Chastain, the hottest of the lot, has lined up Wilde Salome, The Dark Fields, Wettest County and an untitled Terrence Malick project.



Q: I recently saw Sydney White, starring the delightful Amanda Bynes, and it made me wonder what she has been doing since then and what are her plans?

A:

A: Around the time she was promoting Easy A in 2010, she announced she was retiring from acting at the ripe old age of 24. The bombshell came in a series of tweets, starting with, “Being an actress isn't as fun as it may seem" and "I've never written the movies & tv shows I've been apart of I've only acted like the characters the producers or directors wanted me to play." About 40 minutes later, she declared, “I don't love acting anymore so I've stopped doing it," adding, "I know 24 is a young age to retire but you heard it here first I've #retired."  Since then I think she’s been as good as her word and I’ve not seen her name attached to any film or TV project. Still she’s young and talented so I would not rule out a comeback.



Q: Don, are there any plans to make a Happy Feet 3?

A:

Gee, I seriously doubt it in view of Happy Feet Two’s disappointing US boxoffice results. The sequel made $US21.2 million in its first weekend there, just over half of Happy Feet’s $41.5 million debut on the same weekend in 2006. That’s not a great response to an expensive movie with a voice cast led by Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Elijah Wood. At the film’s Melbourne premiere director George Miller was quoted as saying he hadn’t ruled out a third edition but I’d be surprised if Warner Bros and Village Roadshow were willing to roll the dice again even if part 2 is a big hit in Oz. Miller will be fully occupied in 2012 filming the Mad Max sequel Fury Road, which stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Before HF2 opened, Miller told one interviewer he had absolutely no ideas for a storyline for a follow up. He said, “If something comes up that’s really exciting and I can convey that enthusiasm to other people, then there would be a third one.”  Most of the employees at Dr D Studios, the production house jointly owned by Kennedy-Miller Mitchell Films and Omnilab Media which did Happy Feet Two, have been laid off so Miller would need to recruit a new team for any further animated films.



Q: What is the official title of the person that gets the approval for music to be used in movies?

A:

A: The music supervisor usually handles the negotiation and licensing of outside music used for a film and related business matters such as negotiating record contracts for the soundtrack album and publishing deals for the film's music. Among prominent supervisors are Randall Poster (credits include The Hangover 1 & II, Love and Other Drugs, Due Date; Nick Angel (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Johnny English Reborn, The Boat That Rocked); and P.J. Bloom (Eat Pray Love and TV’s Glee and United States of Tara).



Q: I just saw In Time and as rom-coms are usually my favourite genre I surprisingly loved it, especially the way the futuristic storyline mirrored our current society, so I was just wondering what is next for the writers?

A:

In Time was written and directed by New Zealand-born Andrew Niccol, who wrote the screenplays of The Terminal and The Truman Show and directed and scripted Gattaca and Lord of War. His next movie is The Host, an adaptation of the science fiction novel by Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer. Short synopsis: “One soul, the Wanderer, is fused with a captured human named Melanie Stryder, in an attempt to locate the last pocket of surviving humans on Earth.” It’ll star Max Irons (Red Riding Hood, Dorian Gray) and Saoirse Ronan.



Q: Who would you say has been Molly Ringwald's 1990s and 00s equivalent?

A:

If you mean an actress who’s strongly identified with coming-of-age movies, I’d say Kristin Stewart, based not just on Twilight but also on films such as The Runaways, Adventureland and Into the Wild. Among others whom you could put in a similar category are Drew Barrymore and Winona Ryder in the 1990s and, currently, Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Dakota Fanning, Vanessa Hudgens and Emma Roberts. 



Q: Remember the Titans is one of my favourite movies of all time. What films can you recommend that are similar in terms of dealing with racial issues?

A:

If you haven’t seen it I’d check out The Help, which looks at bigotry in America’s Deep South in the 1960s. In terms of classic movies that address that theme, I’d recommend Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning, Ali, The Color Purple, Cry Freedom and The Power of One.  



Q: I recently saw What's Your Number? and suddenly remembered how much I love the delicious Chris Evans - what are his plans?

A:

He’s playing Captain America again in Marvel’s superheroes movie The Avengers alongside Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. It’s due to open here in April. And Chris has just made a deal to replace James Franco in The Iceman, a drama based on the Anthony Bruno book about Richard Kuklinski, a contract killer for the mob.



Q: Hi Don, you previously mentioned that Drew Barrymore is going to be directing the film How to be Single. Do we know who is going to be starring in the film?

A:

Nope, there’s been no word on casting since the movie was announced as a New Line production in March. Drew’s been busy as an executive producer of the TV series Charlie’s Angels (which has been just been cancelled mid-season in the US) and starring in the movie Big Miracle, the story of a struggling reporter (John Krasinski) and his environmental activist ex-girlfriend (that’s Drew) who spearhead efforts to free three California whales that were trapped in the Arctic Circle in 1988.  You may have seen that Forbes magazine recently rated Drew as Hollywood’s most overpaid actress after her flops Going the Distance, Everybody's Fine and Lucky You. That’s a bit unfair because she co-starred in and produced the hit He’s Just Not That Into You but the mag didn’t count that because it deemed she wasn’t the principal star.



Q: What is Olivia Newton-John doing these days? To be honest I can't remember her being in anything other than Grease.

A:

I just saw a trailer for A Few Best Men, a romantic comedy in which she plays the mother of the bride. Directed by Stephan Elliott (best known for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and scripted by Dean Craig (who wrote the hysterically funny UK comedy Death at a Funeral), the film opens here on Australia Day and chronicles the chaos-filled wedding between an English guy and an Aussie girl. The cast includes Kevin Bishop, Kris Marshall, Rebel Wilson and Xavier Samuel. You’re right, Liv has made very few films since Grease, Xanadu and Two of a Kind. I don’t know why: I think she could have had a successful movie career if she’d pursued that avenue.



Q: What films have spent the most amount of money on special effects?

A:

I’ve never seen a breakdown of the special effects element of movie budgets: I suspect that data is kept in house. But almost all the most expensive films of recent years (ignoring oldies like Cleopatra, which in today’s dollars ran up astronomical sums) had huge special effects components. The top 10, according to The Numbers website, is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, with a budget of $US300 million, followed by the two parter The Hobbit ($270 million each), Tangled ($260 million), Spider-Man 3 ($258 million), The Dark Knight Rises, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($250 million each), Avatar ($237 million) and Superman Returns ($232 million).       



Q: What exactly is it that producers, directors and creators do?

A:

Good question, because the role or definition of the producer has changed dramatically over the years. If you watch an old movie you might see only one or two producers in the credits, reflecting an era when the producer was all-powerful and made all the key creative decisions and hirings. Now you’ll often see a dozen or more so-called producers, executive producers and associate producers listed as Hollywood hands out these credits like confetti, even for people who were only peripherally involved. The producer credit should refer to the key people who assemble a project from the inception, hire the writer(s) and director, raise the finance and follow the film through to the distribution. The director is the man or woman who’s responsible for turning the script into what you see on screen, including the film’s overall look, lighting and production design, the performances and the music.   



Q: Don, what's Adam Brody done since the OC? Rachel Bilson has been seen on TV since, but no Adam?

A:

Adam’s been busy with a string of movies, mostly indie fare, including Jennifer’s Body, Scream 4, Cop Out, The Romantics and The Oranges. Next  year he’ll be seen alongside Keira Knightley and Steve Carell in the rom-com Seeking a Friend for the End of the World; and with Malin Ackerman and Susan Sarandon in a comedy entitled Hemlock Drive. 



Q: Hi Don, what is in the pipeline for the producers of Red Dog as it's such a great local and successful film? Likewise for the successful, but very black, Snowtown movie?

A:

Red Dog producer Nelson Woss told me he’s working on two new canine adventures, both based on well known books, one a period piece, the other contemporary, neither related to Red Dog. He’s also developing with Red Dog’s US screenwriter Daniel Taplitz a true crime story set in the world of Australian reptile smugglers, and with UK producer Steve Norris on Kenyan Runners, a film based on the true story of Brother Colm O’Connell, an Irish missionary who trained many of Kenya's Olympic athletes.

Red Dog director Kriv Stenders is developing five projects including a musical set in the world of synchronised swimming; a WW2 romantic drama based on a short story by Filipino-American writer Sabina Murray; and a low budget post-Apocalyptic love story which he’s writing. Also in the pipeline are two projects written by Andy Cox, his collaborator on Lucky Country: a sunken treasure comedy set in the Indonesian islands and a romantic comedy focussing on a guy who has Tourette’s syndrome.

Snowtown director Justin Kurzel and his brother Jed plan to co-write and direct Ivan Lendl Never Learnt to Volley, based on the true story of a 13-year-old boy and his father who drove him too hard for sporting success with tragic consequences.  



Q: Hi Don, how successful do you have to be before you can negotiate a cut of the movie's profits and not just take home a salary from being in the movie?

A:

I think such deals are pretty common because the Hollywood studios are so dependent on landing the hottest talent- actors, producers and directors- for their increasingly expensive movies. The vast majority of the stars and key creatives named in Vanity Fair’s 2010 list of Hollywood’s top earners negotiated back-end deals. For the most powerful and sought after, this means they get a cut of revenues from the first dollars earned at the box-office. For the rest it refers to a slice of the net profits after a film has recouped its production and marketing costs. Among those on the gravy train, according to the mag, are James Cameron, Johnny Depp, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tim Burton, The Hangover writer-producer-director Todd Phillips, Adam Sandler, Robert Downey Jr, Will Smith and Sandra Bullock.       
 



Q: Hi Don, I read that they are making a Beetlejuice 2 movie, what other sequels are planned?

A:

Gee whiz, literally too many to list. Among those due for release in the next 6-9 months are Paranormal Activity 3, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1, Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Happy Feet 2, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Muppet Movie. Beyond that, Scary Movie 5, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, American Pie: Reunion, Wrath of the Titans, The Amazing Spider-Man, Star Trek 2, GI Joe 2, Step Up 4, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, Bond 23 and I could go on and on….   



Q: What do you think draws more people to a film, reviews or stars?

A:

Depends on the movie. Stars like Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts are almost always
guaranteed to sell tickets regardless of how their films are reviewed. Films with lesser-known casts, those that deal with challenging subjects and foreign fare do need positive reviews to boost their profiles and help persuade cinemagoers to turn up.



Q: Is Marvel's The Avengers the first time a number of films have been brought together like this? And if it does well do you think there will be more cases of this type of series?

A:

I’m no expert on the history of superhero movies but I think The Avengers is unusual, if not unique, in combining so many characters in one film, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. Disney, which is opening the film here in April 2012, showed clips at its D23 Expo in Anaheim on August 20. The cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, and the director is Joss Whedon. As to whether we’ll see more movies featuring multiple superheroes, I think that’s highly likely if The Avengers is a big hit. But only a handful of companies which own a number of properties could do it- like Marvel and DC Comics.



Q: Hi Don, I recently saw Nikki Blonsky on the US TV series Huge which was cancelled after the first season; what is next for her?

A:

I don’t know: the usually reliable industry database IMDB.com hasn’t listed any upcoming projects for her. In July she was forced to deny media reports that she was working in an upmarket New York shoe store, tweeting, "So much false reporting! & false quotes. No career changing! just experimented 4 (for) a day working (at) a friends boutique 2 see what it was like." Her most recent film, Waiting for Forever, a romantic comedy starring Rachel Bilson and Tom Sturridge, in which she had a supporting role, was released in the US in February and bombed.



Q: Hi Don, what is Steve Carell going to do now that he has finished working in The Office?

A:

Continuing making Hollywood movies. His next comedy, Crazy, Stupid Love, opens here on September 29. After that he’ll star in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World as a guy who hits the road to reunite with his high school sweetheart after his wife leaves him while an asteroid heads to Earth; and in Great Hope Springs as a marriage counsellor who treats a middle-aged couple played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.



Q: Reese Witherspoon seems to have always been the bigger boxoffice drawcard but what is her ex-husband Ryan Philippe doing?

A:

Ryan is working on a bunch of movies including The Bang Bang Club, a drama based on the true-life experiences of four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa; Setup, a heist drama co-starring Bruce Willis, James Remar and 50 Cent; and Straight A’s, in which he plays a former drug addict who’s pressured by his deceased mother's ghost to return home to the family he abandoned.



Q: How long, if ever, do you think it will be before mainstream Hollywood once again places the majority of its faith in original productions rather than relying so heavily on pre-existing franchises?

A:

Well never is a long time but I fear that while the studios are convinced they can make big money, with relatively little risk, with proven properties built around pirates, superheroes, pandas, penguins, chipmunks, apes, vampires, spies and so on, they will continue to devote most of their budgets and resources to these so-called tentpoles. There’ll always be a place for original material but the volume of production won’t tilt in that direction until some of these big budget films fail and studios get the message that audiences are tiring of umpteen iterations of a formula.



Q: Hi Don, now that the Harry Potter franchise has finished, what's in store for the stars?

A:

Daniel Radcliffe’s next movie is The Woman in Black, a thriller in which he plays a lawyer who travels to a remote village to organise a recently deceased client's estate and is confronted by the ghost of a scorned woman; it’s due to open in early 2012. We’ll next see Emma Watson in a supporting role in My Life With Marilyn, which looks at the tense relationship between Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, and in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a sex, drugs and relationships drama in which she co-stars with Logan Lerman and Paul Rudd. It's also rumoured that Emma is in line to star in a live action version of Beauty and the Beast to be directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Perhaps surprisingly, Rupert Grint is the busiest of the three with roles in WW2 drama Comrade, Eddie the Eagle (he’s the lead, England's first ski jumper to enter the Winter Olympics), thriller Cross Country and Wartime Wanderers, based on the true story of members of the Bolton Wanderers football team who enlisted for duty in WW2.



Q: What has Guillaume Canet been doing recently?

A:

His next movie is War of the Buttons, yet another remake of a drama based on Louis Pergaud’s 1912 novel which chronicled the fierce conflict between two gangs of boys in neighbouring villages. As a director, his most recent film was Little White Lies.



Q: Don, Bridesmaids seems to be a big hit. What's next in chick flick movies?

A:

There’s quite a lot to look forward to including Friends with Benefits, a rom-com starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as no-strings-attached sex buddies; a new interpretation of Jane Eyre featuring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench and Sally Hawkins; yet another version of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, with the relatively unknown Kaya Scodelario as Catherine and James Howson as Heathcliff; What’s Your Number? with Anna Faris as a gal who decides to revisit her ex-boyfriends, all 20 of them, in hopes of finding the man of her dreams; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1; and New Year’s Eve, a kind of sequel to Valentine’s Day starring Robert De Niro, Ashton Kutcher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Swift, Michelle Pfeiffer and Hillary Swank.



Q: I was watching Alias recently and realised that Bradley Cooper was one of the regular cast members so he obviously had a life before The Hangover. What other roles did he have before Hangover fame?

A:

He was a regular in the TV series Nip/Tuck for three seasons and he appeared in the movies He’s Just Not That Into You, Yes Man and the anthology New York, I Love You.



Q: I haven't seen anything with Drew Barrymore in it for a while. What is she working on at the moment?

A:

Drew’s last film, Going the Distance, was a box-office dud. We’ll see her next January in Everybody Loves Whales alongside John Krasinski in an adventure about the rescue of three California gray whales that were trapped under the ice of the Arctic Circle in October 1988. He plays a small-town news reporter and she’s a Greenpeace volunteer. Drew has also signed to direct How to Be Single, based on a Liz Tuccillo novel about Julie Jenson, a New Yorker who travels the world to find out if anyone has a better idea of how to handle being single. She falls in love, has her heart broken, learns heaps and returns to find her friends are grappling with bad blind dates, loveless engagements, custody battles and single motherhood. It’ll be Drew’s second directing effort following Whip It.



Q: I'm assuming the US has the largest film industry so I was wondering what countries would be ranked second, third and fourth in terms of the next biggest film industries?

A:

In terms of dollars, yes the US is by far the biggest. In terms of volume of production, Nigeria is the world leader. According to a UNESC0 study, Nollywood (as its industry is known) churns out about 2,400 films a year. Most are quickies, shot in two or three weeks, on miniscule budgets, an average of $15,000, and many aren’t released in cinemas but sold to individuals for about $1.50 each. India’s Bollywood releases about 1,000 locally produced films each year. I’m not sure who’d be ranked fourth: perhaps the combined output of China/Hong Kong.



Q: I recently visited Universal Studios which was a lot of fun but I was appalled to see how much money is "used" (wasted) in the entertainment industry. Do you know of any film studios or large entertainment corporations that donate money to charity or have their own charity?

A:

Every Hollywood studio apart is part of a multi-national conglomerate so it’s difficult to quantify how much each studio donates to charity. Last year the Walt Disney Co. donated more than $US198 million in cash and in-kind support to various charities around the world. All studios support The Motion Picture & Television Fund, which provides temporary financial assistance to needy industry people and operates the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Los Angeles. Among other high-profile fund-raisers, Universal Studios Hollywood has a philanthropic division, The Discover A Star Foundation, which has given more than $5 million to organisations involved in children’s health and caring for the homeless.



Q: I love Reese Witherspoon but I recently saw her in How Do You Know and was not impressed. What other films is she in that are coming out this year?

A:

Right, Reese wasn’t at her sparkling best in How Do You Know but nor was anyone else involved. I mostly blame the writer-director James L. Brooks for this witless caper. To my mind Reese was OK in Water for Elephants although it was a stretch to believe she and Rob Pattinson would be lovers in Depression-era US, or in fact at any other time. We’ll see her early next year in This Means War, another rom-com in which best friends Chris Pine and Tom Hardy fight for her affections, in the process destroying much of New York City. The director worries me: McG.   



Q: Hi, Just wondering if there are any updates as to exact date for True Blood Season 4 in Australia? I know you said mid-2011 but an exact date would be awesome as it is started in America on June 26.

A:

Season 4 premieres August 18 at 8.30pm on Showcase immediately following the encore screening of Season 3.



Q: I can't understand why movies are often credited as someone's production but also list other companies as producers and may also be identified as a 20th Century Fox film. What does all this mean?

A:

Good question! Financing movies is such a complicated and costly business, the studios often partner with one or more independently-owned production companies which co-fund and produce the films. That’s why you often see in the opening credits the logos of outfits such as Relativity Media, Legendary Pictures, Summit Entertainment (the Twilight studio) and Alcon Entertainment. Also, some stars co-produce films with the majors via their own production entities such as Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison.  


Q: I recently saw No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher and loved it. What other chick flicks are set to be released this year?

A:

Among those that look promising based on casting and synopsis are: Bridesmaids, a raunchy comedy starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and John Hamm, a big hit in the US which opens here on June 16; Larry Crowne, starring Tom Hanks as a community college student who develops a crush on Julia Roberts as a professor who’s having a mid-life crisis; Friends with Benefits, a rom-com about casual hook-ups featuring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis and Emma Stone; One Day, which spans 20 years in the relationships of a working class gal played by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as a wealthy playboy; and a new version of Jane Eyre starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.


Q: I love Disney films but hate cartoons. Can you tell me what new Disney films are coming out this year?

A:

OK, excluding the animated offerings, the studio’s release schedule includes the documentary African Cats and three DreamWorks productions distributed by Disney: Fright Night 3D; The Help, a 1960s-set drama featuring Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard; and Real Steal, a futuristic action movie starring Hugh Jackman. Disney has cut back on its output to focus on the so-called tentpoles and franchise films.


Q: Now that the vampire phase is starting to die out do you have any predictions for the next big thing to his Hollywood?

A:

Firstly, I doubt we’re seeing the demise of the vamps. Next year we’ll see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's novel which imagines poor Abe’s mum was attacked by a vampire, starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Neil Jordan has cast Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as mother and daughter vampires in Byzantium, scripted by Jane Eyre’s Moira Buffini; and Jim Jarmusch is planning an as-yet untitled vamp romance reportedly starring  Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton and Mia Wasikowska. As for the next big thing, I fear we’re in the midst of an outbreak of zombie movies with at least 40 films featuring flesh eaters in production or planned. Among them: Boy Scouts vs. Zombies, a Goonies-type tale of a Boy Scout troop that rallies to try to save girl scouts from a zombie outbreak on an overnight camping trip; World War Z, starring Brad Pitt as one of an army of soldiers fighting off invading undead hordes, with Marc Forster set to direct; Warm Bodies, based on an Isaac Marion novel about a tormented zombie that falls for one of his victim’s girlfriends, starring Nicholas Hoult and, it’s rumoured, Teresa Palmer, directed by Jonathan Levine, who did the quirky The Wackness; and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, also adapted from a Seth Grahame-Smith novel. Apart from that, the success in the US of Bridesmaids may inspire more raunchy films starring  females, which I'd welcome!


Q: Hi Don, I just saw a trailer for the new Planet Of The Apes prequel and it didn't look too bad. Being a huge Planet fan, I was wondering if there is any chance of Showtime Action showing the director's cut of Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1972) which is said to be a much darker film, or even better, all six Apes films in a row to celebrate the release of the new one. It would be great to have an Ape-A-Thon in HD; your thoughts on the matter much appreciated, Cheers, Tony.

A:

I’m not an Apes fan but I am interested in seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it opens here in August in light of the quirky casting (James Franco, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton and Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto), the present-day setting in San Francisco and because I really liked director Rupert Wyatt’s The Escapist. As for your idea of an Apes marathon, the Showtime programmers say they are looking at the possibility of airing an Apes festival on Showtime Action in the next 12 months. If that happens, they will try to source special versions or director's cuts which weren’t available for previous screenings.



Q: I was wondering whether Babe was James Cromwell's first movie. I cannot remember him in anything prior to this; yet ever since he seems to be every second US President, CEO or other high positioned person. He seems to have had plenty of work. Can you detail his career?

A:

Nope, James had notched numerous credits in film, TV and on stage before he did Babe, although playing Farmer Hoggett certainly gave his career a big boost globally. His first movie was Murder By Death (1976) with Peter Falk, Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness and he was in Revenge of the Nerds II and Romeo is Bleeding. His TV breakthrough was playing Archie Bunker's buddy Stretch Cunningham in All in the Family in 1976 and he guest starred in numerous series including Maude, Barney Miller, Dallas and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In recent years he’s appeared in Secretariat, W., TV’s 24 and Six Feet Under, Spider-Man 3 and The Queen.



Q: Hi Don, Months ago I saw The Book Of Eli at cinemas and thought it was good, nothing amazing or disappointing. But having watched it on TV last night, I changed my mind, this movie is very well made with good effects, good acting and a good plot; the director really brings more than just a post-Apocalypse action movie. What were your thoughts on the movie? Has there been any talk of a new one? Although there was not a key sign that led you to thinking there will be a second, there is the girl who leaves at the end: where could she be going?

A:

I agree, it’s a cool movie with fine performances from Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis, although I found the tone quite bleak. I doubt there’ll be a sequel. For one thing, the movie cost $US80 million and raked in $157 million at cinemas worldwide, so after you deduct the exhibitors’ share and distribution costs I’m guessing it could only have made a small profit, at best, from DVD and TV sales. Also, when Kunis was promoting the film she said when asked about a sequel, “I don't foresee it happening and I haven't heard anything.  I don't think there should be a sequel. I think the purpose of the story ends. It's done.”  By the way, she said she thinks the film ends with the girl going home to fix the world she grew up in and to try to create some stability.



Q: I understand there are quite a few comic book characters being bought to the big screen - what do you think of the trend?

A:

I am underwhelmed.



Q: I recently saw The Loved Ones, an Australian horror movie. My expectations were high due to its applause from the public and reviewers and I was not disappointed, I actually got more than I expected. This movie is absolute gore and beauty. What are your thoughts on it?

A:

I missed it but thanks for the tip- will watch out for it on DVD or pay TV.



Q: How many of the Oscar-winning films have been longer than 2 hours quite a lot - I would reckon? Are we getting less patient with long films despite their appeal?

A: Among the best picture winners of marathon length, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ran for 222 minutes (without the end music), Gone With the Wind (1939) was 221 minutes, Ben-Hur (1959) 212 minutes and The Godfather Part 11 (1974) 200 minutes.  I’m not sure precisely how many winners ran for more than two hours but they include The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 200 minutes, Unforgiven (1992) 131 minutes, and Braveheart (1995) 177 minutes. As to your second question, yes I think audiences generally, especially those with a short attention span, are less tolerant of long-running movies.

Q: I loved Rango, it's so different and unique. What is in the pipeline for the creators of Rango?

A: Like many fans, I’d love to see a Rango sequel. While he was promoting the film, director Gore Verbinski said there had been no discussions about a follow-up, explaining, “If you just had a kid, would people say, 'How about twins?' We’re still recovering."  Verbinski has said he plans to team up with Johnny Depp again next year in The Lone Ranger, which he describes as ‘sort of Don Quixote told from Sancho Panza's point of view," after Depp shoots Dark Shadows, a feature based on the cult  1960s supernatural TV series to be directed by Tim Burton. Rango’s versatile screenwriter John Logan has three upcoming films: Coriolanus, his adaptation of Shakespeare’s play; Hugo Cabret, Martin Scorsese’s 3D thriller about an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris; and Bond 23, which will be directed by Sam Mendes.

Q: Don, now that Justin Bieber has released his documentary, are there any plans for him to move into the big screen in a movie? Surely any film company would want to cash in on his fame?

A: I’m not sure that at the age of 17 Bieber is a ‘bankable’ movie star just because he’s a very popular singer and lots of people saw his concert docu. I know he’s dabbled in acting with appearances in CSI but he’ll need to prove his acting ability in at least one or two movies. Justin has said he’d like to star in a remake of the movie Oliver! and has spoken about plans to do a semi-autobiographical movie based on how he was discovered and a possible role in a Will Smith movie. But, as far as I know, all that’s just wishful thinking at this point.

Q: Hi Don, Armistead Maupin has released two new books in his Tales of the City series; are there any plans to make TV series or movies out of them? I would love to see Laura Linney play Mary Ann again.

A: Plans for a two-hour version of the fourth Tales novel, Babycakes, were first reported in 2003 and Maupin wrote a script but nothing eventuated. I’m not aware of any producer taking an option on his latest opus, Mary Ann in Autumn.

Q: Given Shrek's amazing box office success, are there more sequels in the future or has the concept been milked as much as it can?

A: DreamWorks’ Animation aims to exploit the franchise’s popularity with the spin-off Puss in Boots, which follows the combative cat as teams up with Humpty Dumpty and the street-savvy Kitty Softpaws to steal the famed goose that lays the golden eggs. Antonio Banderas is voicing the character again and the rest of the voice cast includes Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris and Guillermo del Toro. It’s due to open here in December.

Q: Caught Bran Nue Dae the other night: What is in the pipeline for the actors/directors of the film? Is Dan Sultan planning another foray into the world of film?

A: The producers made a documentary, The Story of Bran Nue Dae, which explains how the project originated as a stage play by Broome writer and musician Jimmy Chi and his band Kuckles, based on the experiences of these artists growing up in the 1960s. The filmā??s director, Rachel Perkins, is producing the drama series Redfern Now for ABC TV, developed in collaboration with Jimmy McGovern, the English creator and writer of The Street, Cracker and The Lakes. Itā??s been hailed as the first contemporary TV drama series written, directed and produced by indigenous Australians. Sultan seems to have ruled out an acting career, telling the Brisbane Sunday Mail, ā??I learned a hell of a lot and it was a really great experience, but I don't think I'd ever do it again, because I realised while doing it that I'm not an actor. I met a few actors on set and I saw how talented and dedicated they are, so it's not something I wanna go on record saying I can do.ā?

Q: What is your opinion of 3D TV? Is it here to stay or a flash in the pan?

A:

My guess it will be a long, slow haul given the very high cost of 3D-enabled TV sets and the paucity of 3D programming. Besides, as most of us have invested in wide-screen LCD or plasma TVs in the past few years, are we prepared to throw them away and lash out for a 3D receiver? Toshiba, which rolled out the first glasses-free sets last December, reportedly sold fewer than 500 units in the first month and Samsung has acknowledged the current 3DTV technology is “relatively weak.” Apart from Nine experimenting with 3D TV for the NRL State Of Origin and Grand Final, Seven with the AFL Grand Final and SBS with the World Cup, I don’t think any network has yet committed to offering regular programming in th new format. Diehard sports fans may be early adopters but I suspect most of us will be happy with 2D TV for the foreseeable future.
 



Q: Don, I saw Tomorrow, When the War Began recently. Wanted to know who / what you though the invaders were. Everyone has their own personal opinion about them, just wanted to know what you thought.

A:

Well, those invading soldiers certainly showed Asian features beneath their helmets but as you know the movie never reveals where they came from. John Marsden, who wrote the novels, has steadfastly refused to give any clues about the attackers’ origin because he says he didn’t want to reinforce the “racial beliefs” of any readers. He said the film’s producers chose how to depict the invaders and insists “I had no input” into that.



Q: Don, the Justin Bieber movie that is coming out, I personally think what a joke, what are your thoughts about it?

A:

Um, I really haven’t given it much consideration as I’m a long way removed from the targeted audience but I expect his legion of fans (almost all female and younger than him, I suspect) will turn up when Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D opens here on April 7. I note that it grossed $US29.5 million in the first weekend in the US, more than twice the opening of the Jonas Brothers' 3D concert movie but a bit less than Hannah Montana 3D. The US critics were surprisingly positive, registering a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus was: “As a tour documentary, it's rather uninspired -- but as a 3D glimpse of a building pop culture phenomenon, Never Say Never is undeniably entertaining.” I’ll take their word for it.



Q: Hey Don, having read the awesome trilogy The Hunger Games I looked into The Hunger Games movie and found that is coming...But who is playing the characters? Director? Is it the same storyline and when will they start filming?

A:

The independent US studio Lionsgate, which bought the film rights to the novels, has hired Gary Ross to direct the movie and is aiming for a March 2012 release date in the US. Sounds like a good choice to me because Ross’ credits include Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Suzanne Collins, who wrote the books, is doing the screenplay so I think we can assume it will faithfully follow the novels. The Los Angeles Times reported that Ross got the gig after he shot a video of his kids and their friends explaining why Collins' books mean so much to them.  "What was amazing was how insightful these kids were about this book and about Katniss Everdeen as a character," the film’s producer Nina Jacobson told the Times. "It was so clear that Gary was interested in what the fans cared about." She said auditions would start in early 2011 and shooting is due to begin in the northern spring. A casting director has just been hired and True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld and Kick-Ass's Chloe Moretz have said they're keen to play Katniss. I think either would be great!

 



Q: Hi Don, any early buzz on the new Captain America film which has the gorgeous Richard Armitage as the baddie?

A:

Marvel has released several photos from the movie including one of Chris Evans as the title character wearing a red, white and blue freedom fighter outfit which one web commentator dubbed as ‘action hero pyjamas.” Apart from that I’d say there’s been relatively little buzz about the film, which opens here in July. I must confess I hadn’t heard of Armitage, looked up his credits and noticed he’s primarily worked in TV (eg Spooks, Robin Hood and Moving On) but he's snagged the role of the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s two-part epic The Hobbit.



Q: Hi Don. I would love to know when season 4 of True Blood will be shown in Australia. Thanks

A:

True Blood season 4 will debut in mid-2011 on showcase.



Q: Hi Don, with no Aussies winning a Golden Globe, does this completely cut their chances of Oscar glory? Is winning a Globe a cast-iron guarantee of bagging an Oscar as well?

A:

No and most definitely no! There’s a common misperception about the value of the Golden Globes and of those awards as a predictor of the Oscars. The views of the 85 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which doles out the Globes) rarely co-incide with the voting patterns of the 5,000 members of the Academy. Only once in the in the last six years has the winner of one of the Globe’s top film prizes gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and that was Slumdog Millionaire. Some of its nominations this year were typically bizarre, such as the three nods for the dreadful The Tourist and one for Burlesque. Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke accurately summed up the over-hyped Globes when she said, “The entire entertainment industry props up this pathetic broadcast because it's seen as a night-long marketing tool. Therefore, it's ridiculous for anyone to consider the movie categories as a window on the Oscar frontrunners.”



Q: What are your top 10 films for the past decade?

A:

Gee, tough question: So many wonderful movies in that period. After giving it some thought, my top 10 in no particular order is as follows: The King’s Speech (cos I’ve just seen it), No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Departed, The Dark Knight, The Pianist, The Wrestler, The Hurt Locker, The Lives of Others and, for some much-needed light relief, The 40 Year-Old Virgin.



Q: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are both terrific in The King's Speech and Geoffrey seems to get nearly as much screen time as Colin, so why can't they both be nominated for a best actor Oscar?

A:

It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Only rarely have two actors in the same film been nominated for best actor or actress, which is why the producers are pushing Firth for best actor and Rush for best supporting actor. The last time two actors from the same movie received best actor nominations was in 1984, when F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were recognized for their performances in Amadeus; Abraham won. At the 1935 Oscars, Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone all were nominated for best actor for Mutiny on the Bounty but lost to Victor McLaglen for The Informer. Among actresses, it’s only happened five times: Anne Baxter and Bette Davis for All About Eve (1950), Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor for Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine for The Turning Point (1977), MacLaine and Debra Winger for Terms of Endearment (1983), and Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for Thelma and Louise (1991).



Q: What do you think will be the trend in movies for the next decade?

A:

I wish I had a crystal ball that could accurately predict the future of cinema: I’d make a fortune! I think we will increasingly see a wide divide between the big studio tentpoles (heavily reliant on special effects, with endless remakes and sequels) and the original, distinctive and compelling work which is largely the province of independent filmmakers who have the resources, and resourcefulness, to operate outside the studio system. I hope the rise in digital delivery, which theoretically means almost anyone can make a movie and distribute it online, doesn’t result in a flood of rubbish. As ever, movies with a heart and a vision and that are targeted at a specific audience (young, old, male, female, whatever) have the best chance of success.



Q: Loved Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs; what is his next movie?

A:

Source Code, in which he plays a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. Opening here in April, the movie co-stars Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright and is the second directing effort from Duncan Jones after his very cool sci-fi drama Moon.



Q: Hi Don, How many more movies can the Fokkers make? They seem to be milking the concept!

A:

I’ve not seen Meet the Parents: Little Fockers but if it’s as funny and entertaining as the trailer suggests (yes, I know trailers can be misleading) and it makes money, a fourth instalment may well happen. Blythe Danner, who plays Robert De Niro's wife, certainly hopes so. "We are rooting for the next one to be Mother Fockers because we think it's been enough now,” she said. “After three films the boys have just had, I've had it up to here. Mother Fockers is a very catchy title.”



Q: Hey Don, having read the awesome trilogy The Hunger Games I looked into The Hunger Games movie and found that is coming...But who is playing the characters? Director? Is it the same storyline and when will they start filming?

A:

The independent US studio Lionsgate, which bought the film rights to the novels, has hired Gary Ross to direct the movie. Sounds like a good choice to me because Ross’ credits include Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Suzanne Collins, who wrote the books, is doing the screenplay so I think we can assume it will faithfully follow the novels. The Los Angeles Times reported that Ross got the gig after he shot a video of his kids and their friends explaining why Collins' books mean so much to them. "What was amazing was how insightful these kids were about this book and about Katniss Everdeen as a character," the film’s producer Nina Jacobson told the Times. "It was so clear that Gary was interested in what the fans cared about." She said auditions would start in early 2011 and shooting is due to begin in the northern spring.



Q: I have heard about a great TV series The Walking Dead. Will it be coming to Australian TV and when?

A:

I don’t know: Showtime hasn’t bought the series about a cop who leads a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies, but it may have been acquired by another broadcaster.



Q: Hi Don, it's almost the silly season again, what are the must-see movies of the summer?

A:

Well, that depends on your age group and tastes, of course. Broadly speaking, I think young folk will be curious to see DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind, Disney’s sequel TRON: Legacy and perhaps the latest Narnia instalment, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (assuming it’s better than the dreary last one). Folks in search of laughs may embrace Meet the Parents: Little Fockers; the spectacle of Jack Black as a modern-day version of the character who gets washed up on an island inhabited by tiny folks called Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels; and Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in buddy comedy The Dilemma. Those who enjoy serious fare may be drawn to watching Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech as the Aussie speech therapist who’s hired to cure the crippling stutter of King George VI; Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a troubled couple in Blue Valentine; Natalie Portman as a tortured ballerina in Black Swan; and the Coen brothers remake of True Grit, which stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.



Q: Don, I know this is fresh news but are there any plans for Aung San Suu Kyi's life to be documented on film?

A:

An organisation called the Cinema for Peace Foundation has stated it’s backing a film on her life, with the working title The Divided Heart. Apart from that, it wouldn’t surprise me if a US broadcaster or producer in an industry which is often quick to cash in on topical events made a ‘quickie’ telemovie about her.



Q: Don, now that the penultimate Potter film has been released, what's in the pipeline for the main characters away from the franchise?

A:

Assuming you mean the actors, not Harry, Ron and Hermione (!), each has been busy on other projects. Daniel Radcliffe stars in the upcoming British horror movie The Woman in Black as a lawyer who travels to a remote village on behalf of a recently deceased client and is pursued by the ghost of a scorned woman, and he plays a British-born photographer who was killed while covering a story in Somalia in The Journey is the Destination. Rupert Grint will be seen in Eddie the Eagle as the hapless British ski-jumper who was the country’s first-ever representative in that sport, in the 1988 Winter Olympics, where he finished last. Emma Watson has a supporting role in My Week with Marilyn, a film about Marilyn Monroe’s experiences in England while she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl.



Q: When will we be able to choose an ending to a movie from 3-4 choices?

A:

I’m not sure whether, or when, that kind of technology will be available in cinemas to enable patrons to choose between multiple endings. But numerous movies released on DVD have featured alternate endings, including Titanic, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Clerks, First Blood, There's Something About Mary and The Butterfly Effect.



Q: Even before Resident Evil: Afterlife was released in Australia I heard a rumour that they have already started work on the script for another instalment, making it the fifth in the series. Is this true and what might the plot be?

A:

I don’t think it’s at the script stage yet but director Paul W.S. Anderson said before Afterlife opened in the US that if it was a hit, he’ll do a fifth film. That looks certain now after the film raked in more than $US269 million worldwide, by far the most lucrative of the series. Anderson said he wanted Leon Kennedy to make an appearance and Jill Valentine to be the villain under control by umbrella. Milla Jovovich told the Vulture website that fans would have some input in the sequel, stating, “We’ve been talking to a lot of fans on Twitter and stuff, so it’s probably going to be one of the first movies where we really talk to fans to see what they want, and what characters they want to see.”



Q: Are we getting Mildred Pierce or Boardwalk Empire?

A:

Yes! The mini-series Mildred Pierce, which stars Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, and the 12-part series Boardwalk Empire will be seen on showcase in 2011.  Both shows are major events from the US premium drama producer HBO.



Q: Hi Don I'm guessing since we haven't heard news on series 4 of Satisfaction that it's been cancelled, correct?

A:

Showtime hasn't yet made a formal decision about a new season of Satisfaction. The show is resting until the decision is made as to whether or not to re-assemble the cast and production team to make another season.



Q: How often have actors played themselves in movies?

A:

Many times. Recent examples: Paul Giamatti played an actor of the same name in Cold Souls, Jean-Claude Van Damme was himself in the spoof JCVD, ditto Bruce Willis and Sean Penn in the little-seen comedy What Just Happened. Going back a while, we had Being John Malkovich, Tom Jones in Mars Attacks!, Billy Zane in Zoolander, Peter Falk in the German movie Wings Of Desire, Howard Stern in Private Parts and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Action Hero.



Q: Do you know when season 3 of Sons of Anarchy will be airing in Australia? Also do you know how many seasons they are making? My husband and I are huge fans; is the series as big in other countries as it is here?

A:

Season 3 will air here in late February after an encore screening of Season 2. There’s been no announcement yet about Season 4 but Showtime is confident the show will be renewed. That decision will probably hinge on the ratings for season 3 in the US, where it’s screening on the cable network FX. The premiere episode drew 4.13 million viewers, a strong start but down 7% from last year's second season premiere. On his blog the show’s creator Kurt Sutter says it’s selling very well internationally.



Q: Hi Don, what are the best upcoming movies for our Christmas/summer viewing pleasure?

A:

Well, on paper I have to say the line-up doesn’t look as exciting or packed with goodies compared with the past few years, but I’m keen to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I; the Coen brothers remake of the John Wayne classic Western True Grit, with Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin; Doug Liman’s Fair Game, a thriller starring Naomi Watts as a CIA agent whose cover was blown while she was investigating the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq; David Fincher’s The Social Network, the story of how Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) created Facebook; and Darren Aronofksy’s Black Swan, about the neuroses and sexual dramas of a ballerina (Natalie Portman) who’s on the brink of simultaneous triumph and breakdown.
 
Judging by the reviews, my must-see list also includes The King’s Speech, the story of England’s Prince Albert (Colin Firth) and the Australian-born speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who helped him to stop stammering; The American, which stars George Clooney as an assassin who hides out in Italy; and Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.


Q: I was listening to an interview with the author of Dexter the other day (Jeff Lindsay) and he was saying he was pretty pleased with the TV interpretation. What are some writers who were not so happy with movie/tv interpretations?

A:

Yes, there are numerous instances of writers who’ve disowned screen adaptations of their works. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky distanced himself from Ken Russell’s Altered States, which was based on a Chayefsky novel. Joss Whedon was commissioned to do drafts or rewrites of Speed, Waterworld and Twister, all of which he later disowned. Alan Moore, who created Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, has rejected every movie inspired by his work. Paul Rudnick wrote the initial drafts for Sister Act but he quit before it was completed and distanced himself from the film by choosing the pseudonym "Joseph Howard" for the writing credit. John Irving was critical of the screen adaptations of his novels The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire amd A Prayer for Owen Meany (which was filmed as Simon Birch.)



Q: Hi Don, do you know what Edward Norton is working on?

A:

Ed’s been busy despite a kerfuffle over Marvel’s decision not to cast him again as The Incredible Hulk in The Avengers, which prompted him to say, “We really couldn't work it out on a business level, and I know that's disappointing to some people but it's nobody's fault.” We’ll next see him alongside Robert De Niro and Milla Jovovich in the thriller Stone, in which he plays a convicted arsonist who tries to engineer his release by setting his wife up with a corrections officer; and Leaves of Grass, which features him in the dual role of identical twin brothers, one of whom is murdered. Also, there’s talk of a sequel to Rounders, which would reunite him with Matt Damon, and he’s in talks to direct, write and star in a movie called Motherless Brooklyn, based on the Jonathan Lethem novel about a detective who has Tourette’s Syndrome.



Q: Given it was released in cinemas over a year ago, I was wondering if the film Precious will ever be coming to showtime?

A:

Yes, it’s scheduled to go to air next June.



Q: Hi Don, can you tell me how music is selected for movies? I look at some movies and they have the best soundtracks. Who chooses the music and when is it chosen? Is it a post production thing?

A:

The director hires the composer, who usually starts work after the film has been shot and he or she is shown an unpolished "rough cut." Less often, the director briefs the composer on the kind of music he wants before shooting starts. Among the most famous movie composers and their works are Henry Mancini (Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther), Ennio Morricone (Once Upon A Time In The West, The Untouchables), John Williams (Jaws , Harry Potter, Star Wars), John Barry (numerous James Bond movies), Howard Shore (The Lord of The Rings , The Aviator and The Silence of the Lambs) and James Horner (Titanic, Braveheart, Aliens).



Q: Just wondering who is the bigger box-office earner, Angelina or Brad? Both have impressive resumes.

A:

Good question! Pitt’s films have earned more than $5 billion worldwide, led by Troy ($497 million), Mr and Mrs Smith ($478 million), Ocean’s Eleven ($450 million) and Ocean’s Twelve ($363 million). Jolie’s films have racked up more than $3.4 billion excluding Salt, which opened in the US on July 23. Her tally includes Kung Fu Panda ($632 million), which I wouldn’t class as a star vehicle given its ensemble cast of voices, as well as Mr and Mrs Smith, Wanted ($341 million) and another animated title, Shark Tale ($367 million).



Q: Apart from playing Miranda in Sex and the City what other roles has Cynthia Nixon tried her hand at?

A:

The database IMDB.com lists more than 60 film and TV credits for the 44-year-old actress. Among the movies she’s appeared in are An Englishman in New York, Lymelife, Igby Goes Down, Marvin’s Room, The Pelican Brief and Addams Family Values. She has guest-starred in TV series such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, ER, Touched By an Angel and Nash Bridges.



Q: Loved Where the Wild Things Are: what is next in the pipeline for them?

A:

Director Spike Jonze has made two short films, The Vampire Attack (starring Max Records, the kid from Wild Things, with Spike as the vampire) and I’m Here. He’s also produced Higglety Pigglety Pop!, an animated/live action short adapted from a story by Maurice Sendak, who wrote Wild Things. The latest project from Dave Eggers, the co-writer of Wild Things, is Zeitoun, which chronicles one man's extraordinary experiences during and following Hurricane Katrina; it’s being turned into an animated movie by director Jonathan Demme.



Q: I recently watched the French movie Hunting and Gathering starring Audrey Tatou and Guillaume Canet. Guillaume was fantastic. What other films is he in that have been released in Australia?

A:

Canet has starred in stacks of European movies including Tell No One (which he also directed), Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas), Farewell, The Key, Rivals, Darling, Hell, A Ticket to Space and The Business Trip. I’m not sure which ones have been released in cinemas but I think most, if not all, would be available on DVD. Among his upcoming films is Last Night, a drama in which he co-stars with Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes and Sam Worthington, about a married couple whose relationship comes unstuck when the wife encounters a past love while her husband takes a business trip with a colleague whom he fancies. I’d expect that film will get a cinema release here.



Q: I just watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the first time. I really don't understand the hype. Supposedly it is what Matthew Broderick is most known for. I'd say he's better known as SJP's man bag. Why was the movie so popular?

A:

I dimly remember the movie. At the time -1986- it was hailed as a career-making performance by Broderick, and numerous critics praised it as a sweet, warm-hearted, coming-of-age comedy. The director John Hughes was on a hot streak after Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. Maybe it’s one of those movies which captured the zeitgeist when it was released but hasn’t stood the test of time.



Q: Why do we have to put up with censorship on pay TV? It has the parental lock-out system to cover the R rating. It annoys me when an R rated film comes on only to find bits and pieces missing here and there, it really spoils the movie. Example, Evil Dead is coming to pay TV finally and I fear the possessed characters in it won't be the only thing being chopped up. It's just a shame to see R rated classics touched at all.

A:

I agree wholeheartedly: As adults we should be free to watch 'adult' material, just as when we go to the cinema or watch DVDs. The problem doesn't lie with the pay TV broadcasters. The Australian government decided when pay TV was introduced that the highest classification permitted is MA15+ for all broadcasters except a handful deemed to be 'narrowcasters' (eg World Movies). So pay TV stations classify all content, including movies, according to the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association's Code of Practice, which is developed, reviewed and registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Only Parliament can change the rules which state, "Programs classified as R18+ will not be broadcast by Licensees until Parliament has approved the broadcast of such programs on subscription television." You could lobby your MP but I wouldn't hold my breath because no government seems willing to allow R18+ material to be aired on pay TV.



Q: Will there be a season 4 for Satisfaction?

A:

There’s no word yet on a fourth season.



Q: When will the third season of Big Love be on Showtime? I am a huge fan.

A:

It will go to air early next year.



Q: I recently saw Alice in Wonderland 3D and was surprisingly impressed by the standard of the movie and its 3D nature. Do you think that 3D is here to stay and grow or will it just be a fad?

A:

There’s no doubt 3D is fast becoming the dominant medium for Hollywood blockbusters, with dozens of films shot in the third dimension due for release in the next couple of years. The format won’t ever suit, or be viable, for most independent producers, especially for intimate dramas and small-scale comedies. Will 3D prove to be an enduring fixture? That depends largely on whether filmgoers believe it’s worth paying a premium of several dollars every time they see a 3D movie, and that in turn will hinge on whether Hollywood can avoid making too making costly failures which might sour the whole 3D experience.



Q: Is it just me or do Australians seem to be everywhere in Hollywood at the moment, on the big and small screen?

A:

That’s hard to quantify. Aussies continue to work in the US and in other international movies and TV projects but I haven’t noticed a sudden upsurge, and that would go against the trend of a relative handful of our compatriots securing starring roles in any particular year. Among the recent success stories, I’ve noticed Alex O’Loughlin (The Back-Up Plan), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Chris Hemsworth (the upcoming Thor) and Ryan Kwanten (TV's True Blood). By the way, unlike sections of the Australian media, I’m not proclaiming Russell Crowe as Australian.



Q: High School Musical 3 left an opening for a new class of high school musicians. Is there another HSM in the making?

A:

Yes, the Disney Channel will air High School Musical 4: East Meets West sometime this year: I haven’t seen any air-date announced. It’s described as a classic love triangle set against the cross-town school rivalry between the East High Wildcats and West High Knights. Disney promises a new cast of characters. The screenplay was written by Peter Barsocchini who wrote the first three movies. Apart from that, Ashley Tisdale will be seen again as the diva Sharpay Evans in a new telemovie, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, which is due to screen in 2011.


Q: Hey Don, watched Hairspray the other night; what has Nikki Blonsky done since?

A:

Quite a lot. She played a character named Poppy in 19 episodes of the US MTV series Valemont, about a girl who infiltrates an East Coast college to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her brother. She had a supporting role in Waiting for Forever, an independent movie directed by James Keach, which stars Rachel Bilson and Tom Sturridge in a romantic tale about a jobless guy who’s in love with an actress. Next she’ll be seen in Huge, a TV series for the ABC Family network. Aptly given Nikki’s stature, she’ll play a bright, funny young woman whose parents send her to a weight-loss camp called Wellness Canyon.



Q: What is the crew from Slumdog Millionaire working on now?

A:

Director Danny Boyle’s current project is 127 Hours, the true story of mountaineer Aron Ralston, whose right forearm was pinned for nearly five days under a boulder during a climb in Utah in 2003. He used a dull knife to amputate the limb, then scaled a 65-foot wall and hiked out before meeting a family who gave him water and food. James Franco is playing Ralston. Boyle co-wrote the screenplay with his Slumdog collaborator Simon Beaufoy. Simon has also written Truckers, an upcoming DreamWorks Animation film about a society of tiny beings who live in a department store, underfoot and unseen by the humans who shop there.



Q: Hi, Could you please advise when Australia will be seeing True Blood Season 3? It starts in America in June.

A:

Sure, season 3 launches on showcase at 8.30 pm on August 19.



Q: Hi Don, what is James Cameron working on now?

A:

Apart from counting the many millions of dollars he’s earned from Avatar, he’s busy preparing a four-disc ‘ultimate edition’ Blu-ray version of that film, which is due out in the US in November, and developing a batch of projects. Among them are a 3D version of Titanic, which is scheduled for release in 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sailing; Sanctum, a 3D underwater survival drama inspired by an expedition of 15 divers to an underwater cave system below the Nullarbor, directed by Alister Grierson (Kokoda), with Cameron as executive producer; Battle Angel, based on a series of Japanese manga graphic novels set in the 26th century, 300 years after an Apocalyptic war; and Fantastic Voyage, a remake of the 1966 sci-fi classic, with Paul Greengrass as the mooted director.



Q: Is there any chance that there will be a movie made based on the Outrageous Fortune TV series?

A:

According to IMDB.com, an Outrageous Fortune movie was screened in 2006: I think it was a movie-length episode which aired on TV in New Zealand. I’m not aware of any current plans for a movie, but the series has inspired a US remake entitled Scoundrels, starring Virginia Madsen as the matriarch of a family of criminals who decides it's time to go straight after her husband (David James Elliott) is sentenced to a long jail term. I assume it will air in Oz eventually.



Q: Hi Don, I am just wondering why some movies don't make it to the cinemas after they have been advertised at other cinemas on the screen and also on posters? Whiteout is one example: it has been publicised on posters and in ads at cinemas, but was then released on DVD.

A:

Distributors set release dates and supply trailers and posters months in advance, often before they’ve seen the finished film. Sometimes after they’ve seen the completed movie, they decide it’s not strong enough to justify the expense of a cinema release, and it goes straight to DVD. That’s what happened with Whiteout.



Q: Hi Don, has Jurassic Park 4 started filming? Is it going to be released soon?

A:

No and I doubt it. Universal commissioned the script for a fourth edition from William Monahan and John Sayles in 2004. Since then, the project was reportedly killed off after the death of Michael Crichton, then revived, and now I’m not sure of its status. Back in January, Joe Johnston, who directed the third (and worst) instalment, declared, “There is going to be a Jurassic Park IV. And it's going to be unlike anything you've seen. It breaks away from the first three — it's essentially the beginning of the second Jurassic Park trilogy.” That’s what he said when he was promoting The Wolfman, which is such a lousy, ineptly made movie I’d hope he won’t get the gig if there is a fourth Jurassic. Besides, he’s tied up for the next 16 months or so directing Captain America: The First Avenger, based on the Marvel comics super soldier, which is due out in July 2011.



Q: A few years ago a comedy series called Bad Cop, Bad Cop starring Michael Caton was aired. I have searched high and low to find the series in retail stores only to be told that it was never released for sale. I know that if the series was aired again and released for sale it would do well. Do you know why it was never released and if it is likely to in the near future?

A:

The series was produced by Southern Star and it screened on the ABC in 2002. A Southern Star rep confirms the series hasn’t ever been released on DVD and is unable to say if, or when, it might be. I suspect that if the producers believed they could make money from the DVD, it would have been available by now.



Q: I am a huge fan of foreign films, and in particular, French films. Do you predict that any foreign films will be a Western success this year?

A:

Gee, without a crystal ball it’s hard to predict which French movies might draw audiences internationally in 2010. Based on the track records of the directors and the synopses, I’d guess there could be half a dozen contenders. Among them are François Ozon’s Le Refuge, which stars Isabelle Carré as a recovering junkie who hides out at her family's country house while awaiting the birth of her dead boyfriend's baby; Christophe Honoré's Making Plans for Lena, which features Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni) as a divorcee who has to decide if she can cope with two kids on her own; Christian Carion's spy adventure Farewell; Lucas Belvaux's thriller Rapt, about the abduction of a rich businessman; and Mademoiselle Chambon, a love story about a man who’s attracted to his son's schoolteacher. Swedish hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which opened here on March 25, is a terrific movie about a journalist who investigates the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl nearly 40 years ago; there’s talk of a Hollywood remake to be directed by David Fincher.



Q: Molly Ringwald was very popular in the 80s; who would you say were her 90s and 00s equivalents?

A:

Great question! While a lot of actresses and celebrities (eg Lindsay Lohan) have had a similar ‘wild girl’ image, few are as talented as Molly was in her prime. She managed to combine being an original member of the infamous Brat Pack, alongside the likes of Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez, with a stellar career in John Hughes’ movies Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club. Her specialty was playing smart but moody, awkward and angst-ridden characters. I don’t think anyone has quite emulated Molly’s talents, but there are some parallels between her career and lifestyle and those of Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder, Alicia Silverstone and the late Brittany Murphy.



Q: Hi Don, Wanted was an awesome half-realistic, half not action-packed movie that had some top names. Is there word that Wanted 2 is on the way? And rumour has it Angelina Jolie is coming back because she didn't die in the first movie?

A:

When I read reports last year that director Timur Bekmambetov was looking for ways to bring back Angelina’s character Fox for the sequel, I did wonder what miracle of reincarnation he had in mind. Turns out that’s a moot point because in February it was confirmed the actress has dropped out of the sequel, if she was ever officially “in,” and instead she’ll star in Gravity, a space thriller to be directed by Alfonso Cuarón. In March, Wanted co-creator Mark Millar said he still hopes the sequel will go ahead and there’ll be some "plot modifications" to introduce a new character.



Q: Who have been the leading pairing in movies in each decade, eg Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis?

A:

It’s hard to categorize by decade because the careers of most of the legendary couples spanned decades. To your list I’d add Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Rock Hudson and Doris Day, Abbott and Costello, and, going back to the 1930s and 40s, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Laurel and Hardy, and Myrna Loy and William Powell. In recent years I can’t think of too many prominent duos, apart from Shrek and Donkey.



Q: Hi, I watch the movie credits and have always wondered what a gaffer does?

A:

He (or she) is the electrician in charge of lighting on the set, reporting to the director of photography. The term apparently originated in the early years of the film industry when stages had canvas roofs that were opened and closed to permit varying degrees of light, moved by large gaffing hooks which had been used to land large fish.



Q: Hi Don, why does it take so long for movies to be released? I see that the Smurfs movie is not being released until January 1 2011?

A:

The US studios juggle release dates for a variety of reasons, often to avoid going head-to-head with movies targeted at the same demographic, and sometimes due to problems during production or post-production (eg The Wolfman’s release date was postponed several times). Sony originally intended to launch The Smurfs movie in the US in December 2010, but shifted it to July 2011 because the December date would have clashed with the debuts of The Green Hornet, Tron Legacy and Yogi Bear. The live action/animated 3D comedy based on the characters created by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford (Peyo), directed by Raja Gosnell (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Scooby-Doo) is due to launch in Oz on July 28 2011.



Q: Who is the most successful actor/actress to come from New Zealand?

A:

If you had the chance to ask Russell Crowe, I suspect he’d say he is. Among the other Kiwis who’ve done good internationally are Sam Neill, Anna Paquin, Lucy Lawless, Martin Henderson, Melanie Lynskey, Temuera Morrison, Karl Urban and Keisha Castle-Hughes.



Q: I watched Never Been Kissed the other day and wondered what had happened to Michael Vartan. Was the ending of Alias the ending of his career?

A:

True, his career hasn’t exactly flourished since Alias but he hasn’t been idle. The French-born actor has appeared in the TV series Big Shots and Hawthorne and in several films including Monster-in-Law, Oz horror pic Rogue, and his latest, an indie comedy entitled High School, with Adrien Brody, Andrew Wilson and Colin Hanks.



Q: Hey Don, well out of all the Golden Globe nominees, I'm sure Avatar or The Hurt Locker will take it, but I believe in District 9, an amazing masterpiece that captured everybody in the world. Any chance you know of a second one and its plot etc?

A:

I too loved District 9, I think there’s a very good chance of another film based on that wonderfully eccentric character Wikus- and it may be a prequel. Writer-director Neill Blomkamp told the Los Angeles Times in January he’s open to the idea of a follow-up “if the story works and there's a reason to do it.” He said, “Wikus is so funny to me, I'm very interested in a sort of passive racist like that. If you go forward it's more of a traditional film but if you go backward I'd be intrigued in that. I'm not so interested in aliens coming back and blowing things up but [a prequel] might be interesting.” Another edition would be a way off because Blomkamp has signed up to make an as yet untitled sci-fi film for QED, the company which backed District 9.



Q: Hi Don, you have probably heard or seen the movie Zombieland, a surprise movie that really delivered; it leaves an open ending for a new one. Do you have any news if they will create a second hilarious masterpiece?

A:

You’re right, Zombieland is what the industry calls a ‘sleeper’- a hit that almost no one expected. Sony quickly signed deals with producer Gavin Polone and director Ruben Fleischer for a sequel, and it will be in 3D. The studio hopes Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg will return as a pair of post-apocalyptic survivors.


Q: Having just seen Sherlock Holmes, which we really enjoyed, the ending left the way for a sequel; rumour has it Brad Pitt will play Moriarty- is this true?

A:

I don’t think so. It was widely and wrongly reported last September in the UK press and online that Brad had flown to London to play Moriarty in the first film. Perhaps that sparked subsequent rumours that Pitt will play the character in the sequel, but that hasn’t been confirmed. Warner Bros. hasn’t officially green-lit the follow-up but the studio did commission a screenplay by Kieran and Michele Mulroney and shooting is expected to start this June, with Guy Ritchie at the helm again and Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law reprising their roles. Somehow I doubt Pitt would play a supporting character and in any case he rarely plays villains.


Q: What are the "must see" movies coming out this year?

A:

Well it depends on your taste and preferences, of course, but I am most looking forward to Iron Man 2, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Oscar contender The Hurt Locker, Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, and, just for laughs, Little Fockers.


Q: Hurray to the new Nanny McPhee movie... why has it taken so long for a sequel to be made?

A:

Mainly because it took Emma Thompson more than two years to write the screenplay for the follow-up, which she refers to as a new story, not a sequel. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang follows Thompson’s magical nanny as she helps a young mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who’s struggling to run the family farm while her husband is away at war. It opens on March 25.



Q: Who has the bigger film industry: Hollywood or Bollywood?

A:

It depends how you measure it. By output, Bollywood is bigger, churning out up to 1,000 films a year on an average budget of $US5 million; despite that volume, it’s estimated that up to 50% of each year’s crop aren’t released in cinemas in India. Hollywood, meaning the greater US film production industry (majors and independent producers) released 520 films in 2009, 20% fewer than the prior year’s 605. Measured in dollars, of course, Hollywood is a much bigger industry, raking in 75% of the revenues from the world’s cinemas.



Q: What can you recommend as good horror movies coming out in the next year or so?

A:

Horror isn’t my favourite genre so I’m not really qualified to recommend anything. But in scanning the release schedule, the following might appeal to you: Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman; Aussie directors Michael and Peter Spierig’s vampire movie Daybreakers, starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Vince Colosimo and Claudia Karvan; and new versions of Predators, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.



Q: Can you give me any brief of the new Resident Evil 4 movie supposedly coming out in 2010?

A:

Sure, Resident Evil: Afterlife is due to launch in the US on August 27, 2010, and it’s slated here for October 7. Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, the fourth instalment will again star Milla Jovovich as Alice, along with Ali Larter, Spencer Locke and Wentworth Miller. The plotline: In a world ravaged by a virus infection, turning its victims into the Undead, Alice continues on her journey to find survivors and lead them to safety. Her deadly battle with the Umbrella Corporation reaches new heights, but Alice gets some unexpected help from an old friend. A new lead that promises a safe haven from the Undead leads them to Los Angeles, but when they arrive the city is overrun by thousands of Undead and Alice and her comrades are about to step into a deadly trap.


Q: Hi Don, with so many actors pulling such big salaries to work on movies, how many of the movies are actually making a profit? Do the box office and merchandise takings always mean profit for the studios? What have been some of the biggest financial flops of all time? Do you think there is a standard recipe that guarantees box office success?

A:

Thanks to Hollywood’s creative accounting, no one knows for sure the ratio of hits-to-misses among the US studios. Years ago I read an estimate that the studios banked on just one movie in eight being a hit- and doing such blockbuster business that it compensated for all the flops. As a rough industry rule of thumb, typically 50% of a film's revenue was derived from its release in cinemas, usually enough to cover its production costs, and the remainder from DVD and video sales, TV networks etc. But as the DVD market is tumbling worldwide, that safety net has shrunk. Hence most studios have cut back on production and tried to contain budgets. As for the biggest duds of all time, the list includes Cleopatra, Ishtar, Town & Country, Heaven’s Gate, Leonard Part VI, Hudson Hawk, Howard the Duck, Battlefield Earth, The Postman and Cutthroat Island. As for a standard recipe: there is none. If there were a magic formula, Hollywood would be mass producing hit after hit.



Q: Hi Don, was just wondering, after seeing the shorts for the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie, what is the most successful animated movie of all time?

A:

That accolade belongs to Shrek 2, which racked up nearly $US920 million in ticket sales worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo: $441 million in the US, $479 million internationally.



Q: So what is on the agenda for Ozā??s own Sam Worthington now? Just loved him in the Avatar trailer; and they were such cute creatures!

A:

Sam’s really on a roll, one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. He has at least six films lined up, including The Debt, the tale of Mossad agents pursuing a Nazi war criminal; Last Night, a romantic drama with Keira Knightley and Eva Mendes; Last Man, an SAS action-adventure set in Vietnam; and The Candidate, the remake of a Danish thriller about an aspiring lawyer who wakes up in a hotel room to discover the woman he met the night before dead in the bathroom. In Clash of the Titans, he’ll play a god raised as a man who battles to save his family from Hades; and he’ll star in the futuristic sci-fier The Last Days of American Crime.



Q: Can you name some prominent actors whose children have gone into the acting profession? Which family has had the greatest influence?

A:

Sure, there have been heaps of distinguished acting dynasties. Let’s start with the Redgraves. Sir Michael Redgrave - whose father, Roy, had been a silent film star in Australia - married actress Rachel Kempson, and they had three children, Vanessa, Corin and Lynn. Vanessa Redgrave, one of the few actors to win an Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, Tony and an Olivier, married director Tony Richardson in the 1960s. The couple had two children, Natasha and Joely. The Barrymore family has often been referred to as the Royal Family of acting. Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew had three children, all of whom pursued acting careers: Lionel, Ethel and John. John’s son John Jr. was Drew Barrymore’s father. Then there’s the Fonda clan: Henry, and his offspring Jane and Peter, and Peter’s daughter Bridget. Kirk Douglas had four sons: Michael, Eric (who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2004), Joel and Peter (both producers). Among others: Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson; Tom and Colin Hanks; Lloyd, Jeff, and Beau Bridges; Robert and Alan Alda; Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow.



Q: What kidā??s movies can you recommend for the upcoming Christmas holidays?

A:

Depending on the ages of the kids, there seems to be a pretty good assortment, based on the trailers and, in some cases, US box-office and reviews. For younger sprogs and families: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel; The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first traditionally animated movie since 2004, a comedy with an African-American heroine set in New Orleans, from the creators of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin; and new 3D versions of Toy Story 1 and 2. For teenagers and adults: Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze’s haunting live-action movie based on Maurice Sendak’s children’s novel; Fantastic Mr Fox, Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated film of Roald Dahl's 1970 story about a fox clan and friends eluding human predators; The Tooth Fairy, starring Dwayne Johnson as a tough minor league hockey player who gets sentenced to one week’s hard labour as a tooth fairy; and Old Dogs, with Robin Williams as an unlucky-in-love divorcee and John Travolta as a fun-loving bachelor, whose lives are turned upside down when they’re unexpectedly entrusted with the care of six-year-old twins.



Q: Just caught Avenue Q live on stage last week and absolutely loved it. Is there any chance of a movie version being made?

A:

That’d make a wonderfully off-the-wall film, wouldn’t it, the antithesis of The Muppets movies? There have been Internet rumours linking various people including Trey Parker (South Park) and Adam Herz (American Pie) with a film version, but nothing official.



Q: Hi Don, is there likely to be a sequel to Across the Universe? Such a great film, it introduced my daughter and her generation to The Beatles.

A:

I agree, it was a terrific movie. When it was released, director Julie Taymor said she’d love to do a sequel. “I only used, like, 33 songs,” she told E! “I think there’s about 200, so there’s so much more I can do and work with.” Alas, there’s been no further talk of another movie—I suspect because audiences didn’t really embrace Across the Universe. Despite the great music and performances, the film sold a measly $US29 million worth of tickets worldwide.



Q: Have many TV stars successfully moved to movies and vice versa?

A:

Well, there have been heaps of actors who’ve successfully jumped from the small to big screen. Among them: Clint Eastwood (who got his start in Rawhide), Will Smith (Fresh Prince of Bel Air), Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies), Denzel Washington (St. Elsewhere), John Travolta (Welcome Back Kotter), Leonardo DiCaprio (Growing Pains), George Clooney (Sisters, ER), Robin Williams (Mork and Mindy), Michael J. Fox (Family Ties, Spin City), Jim Carrey (In Living Colour) and Bruce Willis (Moonlighting). Film stars often work in TV these days, attracted by superb productions made by the pay-cable channels such as HBO and Showtime.



Q: Hi Don, what is next on the agenda for the delectable Zac Efron?

A:

Currently he’s filming The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, in which he plays a guy who’s mourning the death of his younger brother and takes a job as a caretaker at the cemetery, where he ‘talks’ to his brother each night. After that he’ll star in Jonny Quest, a live-action feature based on the short-lived 1960s Hanna-Barbera animated series about a young adventurer.



Q: Hi, what have the crew who produced/created Black Sheep done since? Whilst I donā??t normally like gory movies, Black Sheep was hilariously scary.

A:

I haven’t seen the movie but I love the tagline: Get ready for the Violence of the Lambs. It marked the debut of New Zealand writer-director Jonathan King, who came from the music-video business. He followed that with a film entitled Under the Mountain, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It’s the story of teenage twins who are shipped off to their aunt and uncle's place after their mother dies suddenly, and soon figure out something creepy is going on beneath each of New Zealand's massive volcanoes.



Q: Which writers get the most say in the scripts for their films?

A:

Good question. I think the highest-paid writers, those who can command $4 million or more per script, have the most leverage, but that also depends on each writer’s relationship with the director, who usually has the right of final cut. The big-money scribblers include Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (The Mask of Zorro, Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean I, II, and III, National Treasure), David Koepp (Angels & Demons, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, both Transformers, Mission: Impossible III), Ron Bass (Rain Man, Sleeping with the Enemy, My Best Friend's Wedding), David Benioff (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Troy, The Kite Runner) and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon franchise, The Last Boy Scout).



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