CAMPION APPLAUDED IN CANNES
New Zealand director Jane Campion has returned to Cannes, where she became the first (and only) woman ever to win the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or (for her 1993 film The Piano). Following a press screening of her latest film, Bright Star, which tells of the romance between the 19th century poet John Keats and neighbor Fanny Brawne, Campion told a news conference that female directors continue to experience persistent discrimination within the industry. "The studio system is an old boy's system, and it's difficult for them to trust women to be capable," she remarked. At this year's festival only two other women besides Campion are represented among the 20 directors competing for the top prize -- Britain's Andrea Arnold and Spain's Isabel Coixet. "So good luck to my female friends in the competition. They represent half the population [who] gave birth to the whole world," Campion said. Initial reviews have praised Campion's film, with several critics at Cannes suggesting that it may win her a second Palme d'Or. Writing in the British trade publication Screen Digest, critic Allan Hunter predicted that it "will be warmly embraced as a prestige item with awards potential. The measured pace and restrained emotional temperature of the piece could restrict the market to an older, more sophisticated arthouse audience but Bright Star should still shine as an irresistible quality attraction."
MOVIE REVIEWS: ANGELS & DEMONS
Clearly there are far more demons than angels among the ranks of critics reviewing Ron Howard's Angels & Demons, the sequel to his The Da Vinci Code (which most of them also condemned). Claudia Puig in USA Today comments that the dialogue in the movie "reeks of cliché." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun describes it as "glib and hollow." And John Anderson in the Washington Post says that the whole plot "is such a slab of cheese it ought to come with a box of crackers." Damning it with faint praise, A.O. Scott in the New York Times writes, "This movie, without being particularly good, is nonetheless far less hysterical than Da Vinci. ... Mr. Howard's direction combines the visual charm of mass-produced postcards with the mental stimulation of an easy Monday crossword puzzle. It could be worse." Similarly Liam Lacey says in the Toronto Globe & Mail: "Angels & Demons is no less preposterous than The Da Vinci Code, but it's a serviceable summer action movie." But Tom Maurstad remarks in the Dallas Morning News: "Saying that Angels & Demons is a lot better than its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code, is like saying that this swine flu outbreak isn't nearly as bad as the last. It is better, but that still doesn't necessarily make it good." And Wesley Morris comments in the Boston Globe: "Asking whether the new movie is better than the first is natural if moot. Would you prefer to drown in a swimming pool or an ocean?" On the other hand Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times awards the film three stars and remarks that the movie unspools "at breakneck speed, with little subtlety, but with fabulous production values." And Kyle Smith concludes in the New York Post: "Angels & Demons has some exciting sequences, a spectacular ending with a terrific twist and a grounding in the debate about science versus religion that could hardly be more timely. It's got enough going on to sustain five blockbuster thrillers. That is its blessing and its curse."
HOLLYWOOD HELPS INDIA SHOOT ITS MOST EXPENSIVE MOVIE
The Stan Winston special effects house is creating a robot that will be a "replica" of Indian film star Rajinikanth, one of India's leading stars, for a film budgeted at $24 million, the most expensive film ever shot on the Asian subcontinent, according to a Reuters report. The film, Robot, is not being shot by producers in Mumbai, the site of India's Bollywood, but in Chennai, and it will use the Tamil language instead of Hindi. What makes the production particularly unique is that it amounts to a marriage between Indian film producers and Hollywood talent. Besides the Winston studios, the credits include Hollywood costume designer Mary E. Vogt, who created the costumes in Batman Returns and Men in Black, fight-scene designer Woo-Ping Yuen, whose credits include Kill Bill and The Matrix, and an unnamed Hollywood make-up artist assigned to co-star Rai Bachchan. The production is being backed by the Indian TV network Sun. Reuters said that the movie is currently in its fourth month of production and will take another year to complete.
FOUND IN LA MANCHA?
Producer Jeremy Thomas has confirmed widespread rumors that he and Terry Gilliam are at work reviving Gilliam's disaster-plagued 2000 production of Don Quixote. The story of the ill-starred movie -- plagued by weather disasters, a disabling injury to its star, and other on-set mishaps -- was told in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha. Thomas told the British trade publication Screen Daily at the Cannes Film Festival that he had spent the past 10 months retrieving the rights to the film (which had passed to the company that insured the film after the production was halted) and that Gilliam will direct it. "We're both really excited to get it underway," he said. He indicated, however, that he has not yet talked to Johnny Depp, who had originally been set to star in the movie, to determine "whether he wants to be involved."
IMAX BOOSTS STAR TREK'S GROSS
More than 10 percent of Star Trek's opening gross of $79.2 million came from just 2.1 percent of the screens showing it -- those in the IMAX format, the giant-screen company said Thursday. The $8.5 million in ticket sales represented the biggest opening weekend for any IMAX release. The company made its announcement as an online controversy developed over comments by Aziz Ansari, a star of NBC's new sitcom Parks of Recreation, posted on his Twitter site and his blog, complaining that the IMAX screen he saw the movie on was only a "slightly bigger-than-normal screen and NOT the usual standard huge 72-foot IMAX screen." The theater which showed the movie using a digital projector on the smaller screen amounted to what Ansari called "fake IMAX." His reaction: "I just got ripped off for $5.00 [the premium charged for IMAX screenings]. Do I get my money back?" Reports indicate that a majority of the new IMAX screens are far smaller than the original ones. In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Goldstein, who writes a column coincidentally called "The Big Picture," described Ansari's rant as "citizen journalism at its best" and remarked that it "touched a populist nerve."