A roundtable chat with Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman of “Barney’s Version”

A Brit who’s been successfully playing Americans for decades and a charmingly laid back Canadian with a definite air of California dude-ism about him, actors Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman might seem like a somewhat random pairing. Even in the new film version of the late novelist Mordecai Richler’s tragicomic swan song, “Barney’s Version,” their characters make for some pretty strange bedfellows. On the other hand “Driver and Speedman” does sound like the title of a late seventies cop show.

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Ms. Driver portrays the second Mrs. Panofsky, an otherwise unnamed Jewish Canadian princess who marries the very flawed Montreal TV producer Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti, who picked up a Golden Globe for the part Sunday night), only to find her new husband oddly distant, starting on the very day of their wedding. That’s because that’s also the day Barney meets – and goes completely nutso over – the woman who will eventually become Mrs. Panofsky #3 (Rosamund Pike). In Mrs. Panofsky’s corner: her outspoken ex-crooked policeman father-in-law (Dustin Hoffman), who speaks approvingly of her “nice rack.”

Speedman, for his part, is Barney’s multiple drug using novelist pal, Boogie. Best known for handsome-guy roles in the “Underworld” films opposite Kate Beckinsale and as the male lead in “Felicity” opposite Keri Russell, Speedman’s Bernard “Boogie” Moscovitch is a frequently charming rascal/jerkwad who both fails and assists his best friend in rather spectacular fashion, eventually starting a chain of events that may or may not lead to his murder by Barney.

Speedman entered the room first in typically low-key fashion, acting every bit the likable thirty-something surfer dude or ski-bum he could easily be cast as. Ms. Driver followed along, making a flirtatious joke about Speedman’s good looks and generally providing jovial company for a room full of entertainment writers one Beverly Hills winter’s day.

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L.A., New York online, and Boston Critics speak and “The Social Network” is the word + the AFI’s Top 10 (updated)

Jessie Eisenberg in

Three major critics groups gave out their awards on Sunday and, while there were differences, the common thread isn’t going to give Facebook boy billionaire Mark Zuckerberg any relief for his PR agita. The awards also have some good news for Best Actress contender Natalie Portman and possible Best Supporting Actor shoo-in Christian Bale. Among the Best Actor possibilities, however, it was a split with between actors portraying Zuckerberg and his fellow real-life guys turned movie characters, Aron Ralston, and King George VI.

Simply because of geography, the Los Angeles Film Critics is probably the most influential group. The awards here, however, were the quirkiest of the three, with a split of sorts between “The Social Network” and this year’s cinephile cause celebre, “Carlos,” which may well be shut out of the Oscars altogether for a number of reasons. Though a shorter cut of the reportedly action-packed-yet-thoughtful multi-lingual French film about the real-life left-wing terrorist of the 1970s has been playing to general plaudits, a 5.5 hour television version of the film by Olivier Assayas has had shorter but successful engagements here at the American Cinematheque and is much on the mind of many of us film geeks (I just blew another chance to watch it all in a theater and I’m not happy about it.)

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Assayas and “Network” director David Fincher tied while Fincher’s movie won Best Picture with “Carlos” as the runner up and also the Best Foreign Film winner. Aaron Sorkin won for his “Social” screenplay while Colin Firth won best actor for “The King’s Speech,” the first runner-up in the category was Edgar Rameriz for playing Carlos, yet another real life person.  Kim Hye-Ja from the cinephile-approved Korean thriller “Mother” and Niels Arestrup from France’s violent “A Prophet” won in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories. While those awards are unlikely to be replicated by the Oscars, Jacki Weaver’s hopes for a possible Oscar nomination and even a win for the Australian critical and festival hit, “Animal Kingdom,” are looking up ever more with another Best Supporting Actress award. The LAFC site has the complete list of winners.

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Box office preview: Can the ghostly demons of “Paranormal Activity 2” defeat the ghastly pranksters of “Jackass 3D”?

My Ouija board and jolly Carl DiOrio both agree that, yeah, Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity 2” has a very decent chance at unseating last weekend’s record setting debut of it’s “Jackass 3D.” While it may seem like an impossible-to-replicate one-off, apparently some care has been taken to avoid the kind of pitfalls that befell such unfortunate sequels as the non-mock-doc “Blair Witch 2.”

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Even more shockingly, 17 of the 21 Rotten Tomatoes critics that have so far reviewed this seemingly destined to (creatively) fail sequel are saying quite the opposite, praising the film for a reportedly clever set-up that ups the ante and even somehow manages the return of Katie Featherston from the original “Paranormal Activity.” Given they’re competing with themselves on two unconventional, low budget projects, it seems like a sure bet Paramount will have a very good weekend and there will be smiling faces on Melrose Monday morning. That’s especially so considering the $1 million reported budget for the horror sequel — which is huge compared to the $15,000 originally spent on Oren Peli’s smash, but tiny in a world where $20 million films are considered to be low-budget. The profits will come very quickly for this one.

“Jackass 3D” should suffer a significant drop as it’s the kind of movie that tends to blow it’s b.o. wad (boy, that sounds gross) on the first weekend. Still, given it’s $50 million opening weekend, that means that “Paranormal Activity 2” will have to get something well over $20 million to top it, assuming the drop isn’t truly catastrophic. A photo-finish — or in this case a creepy security camera finish — is far from impossible.

Matt Damon seeks out the Also dealing with otherworldly matters is Clint Eastwood‘s “Hereafter” from, as always, Warner Brothers. With Matt Damon leading an ensemble cast in another multi-story drama, the film is expanding from a very limited run last weekend to a wide 2000+ theater release. In a bit of critical topsy-turvy, the movie is not getting anyway near the critical goodwill of this week’s quickie horror sequel. It’s dividing reviewers, with “top critics” from major publications being significantly more friendly to the film. A good example would be Roger Ebert, whose written quite skeptically on his blog about an afterlife, a topic that’s he’s obviously been forced to deal with in the most personal way by real-life events. His conclusion about Eastwood’s movie, written by Peter Morgan of “The Queen” and the hugely underrated, “The Damned United,” are almost opposite to our own Jason Zingale and he’s given the film an outright rave review.

Things movie-wise are otherwise slow, with most of the activity this week in limited releases being in expanding films that have already been out for awhile. Among the movies adding scores of theaters nationwide are the very hot documentaries and meh-ish reviewed drama with a whiff of made-for-basic-cable to it, “Conviction.”

Sam Rockwel and Hillary Swank have

  

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