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Sunday, December 21, 2014, 5:56 p.m.
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Screen Gems

By LEVI AGEE SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published January 24, 2014 at 3:23 a.m.

If you missed the opening week of films and festivities at the Ron Robinson Theater, you are still in luck. The opening of free events closes with a screening of director Jay Russell’s Ladder 49, starring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix, at 7 p.m. Saturday.

My editor and your favorite film writer - Philip Martin - will be holding a discussion with Russell, a North Little Rock native, post-screening in the 315-seat theater. I’m curious if Russell will have any interesting stories about working with both lead actors who seem to carry a lot of interesting drama on and off screen. Phoenix, who was stellar in last year’s Her, was involved in a bizarre public relations stunt/documentary about retiring from acting and becoming a rap artist. Travolta (who in my opinion can’t hold a candle to Phoenix’s talent) still has an entertaining career and intriguing connection to Scientology. It is also interesting Phoenix would later go on to star in P.T. Anderson’s The Master, a thinly veiled sendup of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Russell will also be making an appearance Tuesday at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway as a visiting filmmaker thanks to the College of Fine Arts and Communication’s Artist in Residence series and collaboration with the Little Rock Film Festival. Instead of a movie about firefighters, UCA is screening Russell’s technically more ambitious The Water Horse: Legend From the Deep. (I have no knowledge of any Scientologists or drama queens who may have worked on that film, but you can bet that any budding filmmaker will be hard-pressed not to inquire what it was like working on such a visual effects-laden film like Water Horse.)

If you can make it to either of these events, you should. Russell is as affable as he is knowledgeable.

For more information about the Ladder 49 screening and after-party at the Ron Robinson Theater, call (501) 918-3000 or find Ron Robinson Theater on Facebook. (A website for the theater is in the works.) For more information about the screening at UCA, contact Bruce Hutchinson at (501) 450-3419 or email bruceh@ uca.edu.

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 01/24/2014

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