POLANSKI DOC MAKER STUNNED BY D.A.'S "I LIED"
The director of the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired said Thursday that she was "perplexed" by former L.A. Deputy District Attorney David Wells's admission that he had lied to her during an interview featured in her film. Wells recanted his story that he had held a private meeting with the judge in the case prior to Polanski's sentencing and urged him not to accept a plea bargain and instead impose a harsher prison sentence on the director for having unlawful sex with a minor. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Wells said that he had embellished his role in the case because he thought the interview would only be shown in France. In her own statement, filmmaker Marina Zenovich said that she had filmed a one-hour interview with Wells in 2005, that he had signed a release, and that "at no time did I tell him that the film would not air in the United States." She said that he had corroborated his account in an interview with the New York Times only a year ago. "I am astonished that he has now changed his story. It is a sad day for documentary filmmakers when something like this happens," she concluded. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Count District Attorney Steve Cooley on Thursday responded to criticism by some filmmakers and French officials of his efforts to bring Polanski to trial. "It doesn't matter if it's Roman Polanski or anyone else, I think that those things should be treated like anyone else," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It doesn't matter if you're a big-time movie director."
MGM GETS A BREAK FROM LENDERS
Burdened by a heavy debt load that has barely allowed it to remain a functioning studio, MGM on Thursday said that its lenders had agreed to allow it to defer interest payments for the next three months so that it could continue its participation in the development of The Hobbit. MGM currently has a deal with New Line to co-produce the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. The Hollywood Reporter observed today (Friday) that the current MGM ownership group, led by Providence Equity group and TPG, is expected to allow lenders to convert debt into equity. Once the lenders become owners, the trade publication said, another sale of the studio is likely to take place.
MOVIE REVIEWS: ZOMBIELAND
Clearly Zombieland is not the kind of movie Roger Ebert can sink his teeth into. "Vampires make a certain amount of sense to me, but zombies not so much. What's their purpose?" He asks, in his Chicago Sun-Times review, followed by other questions about the nature of zombies. "I ask these questions only because I need a few more words for this review," he explains. Here's one horror film that critics have taken to heart, probably because it's not so much a horror film but a comedy version of a horror film -- that kind that had its antecedents in Abbot and Costello Meet the Wolfman. "It's just wicked fun," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. Kyle Smith in the New York Post praises it as "the funniest broad comedy since The Hangover. And if you thought the British Shaun of the Dead was the zombie comedy to end all zombie comedies, Gary Thompson in the Philadelphia Daily News is here to tell you that it was not. "Its Americanized mutation," he writes, "is an unexpectedly funny repatriation of the form." Woody Harrelson is receiving much praise for the comedic chops -- in both senses of the term -- that he displays in the movie. "Is there a cooler guy in the movies this minute than Woody Harrelson?" Roger Moore asks in the Orlando Sentinel.. And Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "Harrelson is the best thing in the movie. Because Harrelson never tips his hand and shows the intelligence that guides his performances, he rarely gets the credit he deserves. ... He shows us the limits of the character's thinking, a totally distorted vision of himself and the world, and he's very funny." There's also a cameo appearance by Bill Murray. And, returning to Roger Ebert's filler conclusion: "I will close by observing that Bill Murray is the first comedian since Jack Benny who can get a laugh simply by standing there."
MOVIE REVIEWS: WHIP IT
Whip It set in the world of roller derby with Drew Barrymore (who also produces and directs) and Ellen Page skating up a storm, follows the outlines of countless other movies about characters who find success in sports despite enormous odds. Nevertheless, A.O. Scott observes in the New York Times, "Familiarity is not always a bad thing." In this instance, he notes, "the cast shows enough agility and conviction to make [the clichés] seem almost fresh." Besides, adds Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News, "sometimes it's better to make the right movie within a genre than to tackle something out of your range. Barrymore knows both her limits and her values and, to her credit, stays true to each." Likewise Linda Barnard writes in the Toronto Star, "Despite a thin, predictable script courtesy of Shauna Cross's source novel Derby Girl, there's something very likable about Whip It and its strong, sometimes goofily sweet female cast." But Barrymore receives special praise in her directing debut. "Drew Barrymore's first go at directing has all the grit and guts of a regulation sports movie, but it also has an honest warmth to it," writes Amy Biancolli in the San Francisco Chronicle. Betsy Sharkey applauds in the Los Angeles Times: "There are many sly satisfactions to be found in Barrymore's smartly done directing debut." And Wesley Morris concludes in the Boston Globe: "Barrymore has so thoroughly laced Whip It with her own lunatic affections for women and the human race in general that it ought to be sold as an antidepressant."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE INVENTION OF LYING
What would a world be like if lying did not exist? That is the question answered in The Invention of Lying, starring Rickey Gervais. For example, as Roger Ebert recounts in his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, a retirement home is called "A Sad Place Where Homeless Old People Come to Die." Pepsi ads say: "For when they don't have Coke." He says that while watching the movie, a sudden truth came over him. "I thought -- oh, yeah, that's right: It's October. Good movies are allowed again." But Manohla Dargis, after writing in the New York Times that the film has the "makings of a classic," then adds, "Alas, making is not doing. And while the movie is a conceptual pip filled with quotable laughs and gentle pokes at religious faith at its most literal, it also looks so shoddy that you yearn for the camerawork, lighting and polish of his shows, like the original The Office, because, really, these days TV rarely looks this bad." But Kyle Smith in the New York Post regards the whole affair as an attack on Christianity. "Let's see how long it is before Gervais, or any other Hollywood star, delivers a feature-length assault on Islam," he concludes.