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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: 3-D

CinemaCon: Ang Lee's 3-D 'Life of Pi' inspires early Oscar talk

April 26, 2012 |  3:08 pm

"Life of Pi"

LAS VEGAS -- 20th Century Fox showed off footage from a handful of splashy summer blockbusters, including Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway. But studio co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos made it clear that they're hopeful their biggest movie this year will be December's "Life of Pi," Ang Lee's 3-D adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel.

"Ang wants to raise the bar," Rothman said. "The medium skips forward again [with 'Life of Pi'], and you will believe the unbelievable."

Indeed, the footage shown from the film seemed to inspire a resounding positive reaction from the crowd. In it, 17-year-old protagonist Pi finds himself on a cargo ship with his family and a slew of zoo animals when a storm begins to rage in the middle of the night. The young man rushes to the ship's deck to witness the intense weather first-hand when he ends up being thrown overboard and into a lifeboat with a zebra and a Bengal tiger. The 3-D technology was especially impressive in the underwater scenes, where Pi floated lifelessly for nearly a minute, and in moments when waves of bubbling water and animals came rushing toward him.

Despite the encouraging response from the crowd -- many of whom were even brought to tears and seemed quick to proclaim the movie a possible Oscar contender -- Lee immediately walked on stage and told the audience: "It's unfinished! When you see the movie, it will be a lot more moving."

In an interview after the screening, the "Brokeback Mountain" filmmaker said being compared to directors like James Cameron and George Lucas -- two directors who appeared along with Lee in a promo reel screened at the event -- made him uncomfortable.

"To be honest with you, I like to be modest," the 57-year-old said. "I would like people to get surprised about my work, instead of it being over-hyped. That's what I'd be more comfortable with. But it's a big picture. I have to go with the flow."

Lee said it was the performance of young Indian actor Suraj Sharma, chosen from more than 3,000 hopefuls, that ultimately inspired him to move forward with the technically challenging production -- even though Sharma couldn't swim when he was first cast.

"I met him, I tested him, and he held his breath for 20 seconds. So I got him a swimming coach, work-out coach -- every coach," the filmmaker said with a laugh. "He gives an emotional performance in a movie that has the look of a family film, but it's also a movie about big ideas. I hope people will spend weeks talking about it -- that's my idea of a family film."

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--Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: "Life of Pi" Credit: Rhythm and Hues / 20th Century Fox


Ang Lee says his 3-D learning curve on 'Life of Pi' was huge

April 25, 2012 |  7:09 pm

“Life of Pi’s” Pi (played by Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker

LAS VEGAS -- Ang Lee didn't make the decision to film "Life of Pi" in 3-D lightly. For months, he agonized over whether the technology would enhance the story or come across as a gimmick. In the end, it was the number pi that inspired him to make the leap.

Making an expensive 3-D film based on an intellectual, philosophical book required Lee to take "a leap of faith to see the circle that the pi indicates," the filmmaker said at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, the Oscar-winning director joined Martin Scorsese in conversation, speaking candidly about the future of 3-D and its importance in the industry.

Despite his belief in the format, Lee was open about his struggle to adapt to the technology. While filming "Life of Pi," he said, the 3-D cameras were cumbersome, and he compared working with them to "operating a refrigerator." While directing 17-year-old actor Suraj Sharma, Lee thought he was giving appropriate instructions until he watched the footage in 3-D. "I'd have to go back to him and bring his performance down because it just enhanced it so much more. It's like a new film language," Lee said, describing his learning curve as "humongous."

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'Titanic 3D' will convert you too: Betsy Sharkey's film pick

April 19, 2012 |  8:00 am

"Titanic 3D"
It may drive his crews crazy, but the fact that James Cameron is an infamous perfectionist pays off nicely in the conversion of his Oscar-winning 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” into 3-D.

The filmmaker did more than test the technology-roiled waters with “Avatar” in 2009, when he rewrote the navigation chart with a rich dimensionality that was groundbreaking. But what happens when the director re-imagines the past with the aid of the new tools?

All good things.

“Titanic” was gorgeous when it landed 15 years ago, but watching it set sail in 3-D is breathtaking. Just as satisfying as the brilliant new colors and a ship that seems at times suspended in the air is watching Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet falling in love again -- passion and heartbreak are better in 3-D too.

The technology, and the choices Cameron and his team make on when and where to employ it, allows certain moments to completely overtake the senses. The iconic shot of the windblown young lovers on the prow of the ship feels close enough to touch.

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-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo caption: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as ill-fated young lovers in "Titanic 3D." Credit: Paramount Pictures.


Kate Winslet's breasts censored from 'Titanic 3D' in China

April 12, 2012 | 12:31 pm

"Titanic"

"Titanic 3D" was an instant box-office hit when it opened in China this week, but audiences there didn't get to see one of the movie's most famous scenes -- Kate Winslet reclining nude as Leonardo DiCaprio paints her portrait.

China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television censored the scene in the new, 3-D version of the film, just as it did in the movie's first theatrical run there in 1998. But because many Chinese fans initially saw pirated versions of "Titanic," many were familiar with the scene and chagrined by the omission.

"I've been waiting almost 15 years, and not for the 3-D icebergs," said one disappointed moviegoer in a widely circulated microblog post quoted by China Daily.

Pleasing Chinese audiences is increasingly important for movie studios, as the country has become one of the leading foreign markets for Hollywood films.

When "Titanic" was released in China 14 years ago, the movie played in only 180 theaters. This week, "Titanic 3D" was screened in 3,500 locations in the country.

On its opening day Tuesday in China, "Titanic 3D" sold $11.6 million worth of tickets, more than a quarter of the $44 million the original grossed in China during its entire theatrical run.

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--Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Titanic." Credit: Paramount Pictures


'Titanic' & 'American Reunion:' Is the nostalgia clock ticking?

April 9, 2012 |  7:00 am

"American Pie."
Sometime in the late 2020s, a canny producer will try to revive "The Hunger Games." He will graft on the technology of the moment (a smell-enhancing app for your next-generation Google Glasses, natch) and find a new narrative thread to bring back the duo of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, now nearing 40 and hankering for their fifth collective Oscar.

Overcome with goodwill about the franchise of their formative years, a handful of thirtysomething moviegoers will rush out to see the "Hunger Games" reboot. But the teenagers that comprise the bulk of the filmgoing audience will be baffled by a franchise that reminds them of their parents and instead flock to a newer phenomenon (a superhero horror comedy starring the prepubescent son of Daniel Radcliffe and Rosie Coker, and costarring Justin Bieber, somehow still pre-pubescent in 2029).

OK, so that's as hard to imagine as, say, Tiger winning another major. Still "Hunger Games" did this weekend what, given the cyclical ways of pop culture, others may well one day do to it. In its third weekend of release, the Jennifer Lawrence film crushed not one but two '90s revivals,"Titanic" and "American Pie." Nirvana, indeed.

Few wallets were hurt in the making of "Titanic 3-D"; conversion costs for the reissue ran about $18 mil and were shouldered by two studios.  But with barely $17 million in premium ticket prices collected over the three-day weekend, you wouldn't exactly call the James Cameron re-release popular. especially given how much love we had for it the first time around. (In contrast, a 3-D revival of "Beauty and the Beast," which upon initial release made only a fraction of "Titanic's" original $600 million, actually opened to higher numbers.)

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'Titanic 4DX': Foreign audiences to smell, feel ship's sinking

April 4, 2012 |  1:51 pm

Titanic The salty scent of ocean air, the frigid winds of the North Atlantic, the jarring bump of a 46,000-ton ship hitting an iceberg — for international audiences who wish to add yet another dimension to the 3-D re-release of James Cameron's “Titanic,” there is “Titanic 4DX.”

A South Korean company called CJ 4DPlex Co. has created a theme park ride-like experience to accompany screenings of “Titanic 3D” in 26 theaters in South Korea, Mexico, China and Thailand starting Thursday.

4DX places theater audiences inside a film’s environment using motion, wind, fog, lighting and scent-based special effects. Launched in 2009, 4DX is also being applied to such recent movies as “The Hunger Games” and “John Carter” and the upcoming “The Avengers.” (It’s unclear what the sinking Titanic smells like, but we bet there will be liberal use of the “short bursts of sharp air” and “face water” features — not to mention the pitch and roll seats.)

Cameron and his studio partners spent 60 weeks and $18 million to make a 3-D version of “Titanic,” the 1997 blockbuster about a young couple, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), who fall in love aboard the doomed luxury liner. Screenings of “Titanic 3D” in the U.S., where it opened Tuesday night, will not include 4DX’s extrasensory enhancements.

But CJ 4DPlex has opened an office in Hollywood and plans to expand to U.S. theaters, ultimately reaching more than 800 auditoriums worldwide by 2016, according to a news release issued by the company.

“We work with the world’s leading studios and filmmakers to bring movie magic alive for audiences,” CJ 4DPlex Chief Executive Ho Seung Lee said in the release. “Presenting ‘Titanic,’ one of the greatest films ever made, in 4DX is a great honor, and we are excited to usher audiences onboard to meet Jack and Rose.”

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 --Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in "Titanic." Credit: 20th Century Fox.


Word of Mouth: 'Wrath' tries to right 'Clash's' 3-D wrongs

March 29, 2012 |  4:18 pm

"Wrath of the Titans"

The Hollywood gods spoke. And they did not approve of "Clash of the Titans."

Even though 2010's sword and sandals was a global blockbuster -- its nearly $500 million worldwide haul made it the year's 11th highest-grossing release -- its industry critics made a lot more noise than the ticket buyers. The focus of their ire? The hasty "Clash of the Titans" 3-D conversion, undertaken at the last minute to take advantage of higher 3-D ticket prices.

While James Cameron is spending more than a year turning his 1997 smash "Titanic" into a 3-D presentation for its April 4 re-release, the makers of "Clash of the Titans" spent a mere six weeks hurriedly converting the mythological spectacle into 3-D.

DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg said the film's makeover "snookered" ticket buyers, while "Avatar" creator Cameron said of the conversion, "There was no artistry to it whatsoever."

Arriving on Friday, the "Clash of the Titans" sequel, called "Wrath of the Titans," attempts to atone for the first film's shortcomings.

Although the new, $150-million "Titans" film also was converted from 2-D into 3-D, any number of shots and visual effects sequences were designed from the very beginning for stereoscopic presentation. What's more, the filmmakers spent a year on the 3-D upgrade, working hard to ensure that the conversion was done as well as possible.

Even if "Wrath of the Titans," which stars "Avatar's" Sam Worthington, silences its 3-D critics, it will have a hard time making a big splash at the box office, as it must fend off "The Hunger Games" juggernaut. The reviews for the film have been better than they were for "Clash of the Titans," but the "Wrath" notices are still mixed to negative.

In this week's Word of Mouth column, John Horn looks at the sequel's prospects, and previews his report in this video:

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Photo: Danny Huston, left, and Sam Worthington in "Wrath of the Titans." Credit: Jay Maidment / MCT


'The Hunger Games:' Five lessons from its box-office success

March 26, 2012 |  7:00 am

"The Hunger Games," starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by Gary Ross, grossed $155 million at the box office this weekend while earning strong reviews

We all knew Jennifer Lawrence's "The Hunger Games" would be big. But if you actually guessed $155 million in domestic receipts in the office pool, we can only imagine how well you're doing in your March Madness brackets.

So with the film's massive opening -- the third-biggest ever and the biggest ever for a non-sequel, discounting inflation -- what nuggets are glean-able from the popularity of the Suzanne Collins adaptation? A partial rundown:

Literacy rates. As film source material goes, novels' stock has been dropping faster than Duke's title chances did in the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year. Toys, games and sequels of long-dormant properties have in recent years been considered the way to go if you wanted a big hit. But a bestselling book is, perhaps more than ever, the strongest marketing tool a studio can have. Any doubters need only look at the box-office chart: With "The Hunger Games," four of the top six opening weekends in history come from books.

PHOTOS: Meet the main cast of 'The Hunger Games'

The indie effect. The Sundance and mainstream film worlds have been diverging more than intersecting lately -- just look at all the flops that came out of the 2011 crop. It takes a long time for movies, and actors, to make the winding journey from indieville to Hollywood success, if they make it at all. But "The Hunger Games" offers a counter-argument: Just two years ago at Sundance, the two biggest breakouts were "Winter’s Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right." They starred -- and catapulted to success -- two total unknowns by the name of Jennifer Lawrence and Joshua Hutcherson.

Director's paradise. In the post-Christopher Nolan era, there's a lot of attention paid to who producers of a major franchise hire to direct their film. And let's face it: Gary Ross wasn't exactly a hot commodity coming in to "The Hunger Games." In fact, he hadn't directed a movie in nearly a decade. Yet with the teen action pic, he made a movie that not was only a mega-blockbuster but garnered solid reviews (71% positive, according to Movie Review Intelligence).

Kids will be kids. Sure, you could make a tidy sum by selling a movie about kids to kids. But will adults see a youth-oriented film not named "Harry Potter"? If there are some pleasures and themes for them, it turns out they will. Though "The Hunger Games" is about teenagers and is a property devoured by same, more than half the audience for the Lionsgate film this weekend was above the age of 25.

Things look better in 3-D? Perhaps the biggest rebuttal this weekend to a piece of conventional wisdom. For the last few years, the thinking has gone that the gloss of 3-D -- not to mention the higher ticket prices -- was the way to really profit from a movie. But "The Hunger Games" had the biggest-ever opening for a non-sequel by telling its story in good old-fashioned 2-D.

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--Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate


3-D 'Jurassic Park' coming to theaters in July 2013

March 15, 2012 |  3:42 pm

"Jurassic Park" coming in 3-D

Steven Spielberg’s dinosaurs will roar again — but this time in 3-D.

Universal Pictures confirmed Thursday what long has been rumored: Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” will be re-released in 3-D, with the stereoscopic version set to come out in July 2013.

The 1993 drama about a science experiment gone bad was one of the first movies that used computer effects to create believable creatures. The film spawned two sequels, and ushered in a number of similar over-sized monster movies, including remakes of “Godzilla” and “King Kong.”

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-- John Horn

Photo: Ariana Richards, Sam Neill and Joseph Mazzello in "Jurassic Park." Credit: Amblin Entertainment / Universal Pictures


The week in film: 'The 'Vow and 'Star Wars' in 3-D [video]

February 10, 2012 |  6:55 pm

Vow

The next five days bring a surprisingly heavy volume of winter movies. By the time Valentine's Day rolls around, two films, the Rachel McAdams-Channing Tatum romantic drama  "The Vow" and McG's amorous actioner "This Means War," will have taken aim at the date-night crowd.

Meanwhile, George Lucas brings back "Star Wars - Episode One: Phantom Menace" in 3-D this weekend, the first of six planned re-releases for the movies in that space-opera franchise. The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik examine the spurt of February films, and their prospects, in this edition of 24 Frames' week-in-review video.

 

 

 

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams get amorous in "The Vow." Credit: Screen Gems


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