24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Action movies

'Attack the Block' director on killing off kids, 'E.T.' and more

August 2, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Attack the Block John Boyega

While Jon Favreau's big-budget, star-studded "Cowboys & Aliens" earned less-than-rave reviews and what could be described as a shrug at the box office, a much smaller alien movie also released last weekend is quickly becoming a critical darling.

"Attack the Block," the story of a group of inner-city London kids who defend themselves against an outer-space menace, has an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 86 positive reviews out of 97. The film opened Friday in eight theaters, earning $130,000 total and a per-theater average of $16,306 -- a decent start for the modestly budgeted movie starring a slate of first-time and little-known actors.

Over on our sister blog Hero Complex, the film's young star John Boyega, who plays Moses, described his character's journey from hoodlum to hero as he leads a group of teens in their battle against the giant, furry space beasts. It was Boyega's first big-screen role.

"Attack the Block" also marked the directorial debut of Joe Cornish, who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's upcoming comic-book adaptation, "The Adventures of Tintin." 24 Frames sat down with Cornish to talk about "Attack the Block."

Q: It's hard to root for your protagonists at the beginning of the film. They're a bunch of punk kids who rob a lady at knifepoint.

A: There's no doubt that what they're doing at the beginning is a bad thing, and the film is making no apologies. And we knew we were doing something a little bit edgy and a little bit risky to start a movie like that. It's unusual. Most contemporary movies bend over backwards to make their protagonist as sympathetic as humanly possible -- you know, the underdog, the guy who's never quite made it, with the beautiful wife and the gorgeous children, and then they're kidnapped or murdered. But we flipped it around. We wanted to challenge the audience. When people asked me that question when we were developing the script, I would say, "Well, look. You're allowed to hate them." When the title of the movie comes up, "Attack the Block," and that second wave of meteors is coming down, you're allowed to go, "Good. Eat those [expletives]." You know what I mean? But the thing that drove me to write it was to take that energy and then try and turn it round. We're not being cheesy. It's not a huge, soppy, redemptive arc. It's (hopefully) subtle and truthful. ... At the end of the movie, Moses knows the consequences of his actions. He understands that he is in charge of his life. He understands that his choices will directly affect him and his hopes and his potential. So yeah, we've absolutely made it with heart and sincerity, and as a positive story.

Q: What do you think happens to Moses after the movie?

A: I think the rule of the law is pretty strict. I think he would be prosecuted for what he did at the beginning. When the full story came out, I think his positive actions would at least balance his negative actions. But I don't know. I like the ambiguity. I like the question mark. ... You have to bring your own intuition and bring your own morality. That's going to freak out some viewers who are used to everything being laid out for them. This is a movie for smart people, for open-minded people. I like the fact that we don't answer those questions.

Continue reading »

Around Town: True crime, reel comedy, cowboys, aliens, rock docs and more

July 21, 2011 |  5:30 am


Crime takes over the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theatre this weekend with an eclectic roster of favorites beginning Thursday with the 1970 drama "The Honeymoon Killers," about the famed Lonely Hearts Killers Raymond Fernandez (Tony LoBianco) and Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler). Humphrey Bogart gives one of his most complex performances in Nicholas Ray's acclaimed 1950 film noir, "In a Lonely Place," screening Friday along with Robert Altman's 1973 version of Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye" with Elliott Gould as gumshoe Philip Marlowe. Saturday's early evening screening is Luis Bunuel's surreal 1962 film, "The Exterminating Angel," with David Lynch's offbeat 2001 mystery thriller, "Mulholland Drive," screening later in the evening.

LACMA's Saturday monster movie matinees continue with the 1959's "Journey to the Center of the Earth," with James Mason and Pat Boone; the Tuesday matinee at LACMA features MGM's all-star 1933 comedy "Dinner At Eight," directed by George Cukor.  http://www.lacma.org

Two comedies starring Steve Martin at his wild and crazy best -- 1979's "The Jerk" and 1986's "Little Shop of Horrors" -- screen Thursday at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. The laughs continue Friday evening with a series of shorts starring the great silent comedians Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

Continue reading »

Around Town: Rock docs, disco tributes, sci-fi favorites and more

July 14, 2011 |  6:00 am


The American Cinematheque screens "Barry Lyndon," Stanley Kubrick's lavish 1975 epic, at the Egyptian Theatre on Thursday evening in Hollywood. The drama, based on William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, stars Ryan O'Neal in the title role and won four Academy Awards, including one for John Alcott's cinematography. On Friday, the Egyptian celebrates the 25th anniversary of David Cronenberg's revisionist take on the sci-fi classic "The Fly," starring Jeff Goldblum in the title role, with a screening that's part of a double bill with John Carpenter's 1982 film "The Thing." On Saturday, the Egyptian presents its yearly tiki celebration with a screening of the 1951 South Sea melodrama "Bird of Paradise," starring Debra Paget, Louis Jourdan and Jeff Chandler, in addition to live music and a fashion show.

The Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica celebrates the 1991 film "Hudson Hawk" on Thursday evening with special guests, including director Michael Lehman and writer Daniel Waters, schedules permitting. On Friday, the Aero kicks off its three-day centenary celebration of Ginger Rogers -- "Backwards and in High Heels" -- with two of her best musicals with Fred Astaire from 1936: "Swing Time" and "Follow the Fleet." On tap for Saturday are 1935's "Top Hat" and 1937's "Shall We Dance"; Sunday's offerings are 1934's "The Gay Divorcee" and 1938's "Carefree." http://www.americancinematheque.com

"The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye," a film about Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV founder Genesis P-Orridge and his unique relationship with his late wife, opens this year's "Don't Knock the Rock" music festival Thursday at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre. The festival, founded by filmmaker Allison Anders and her daughter Tiffany Anders, runs through late August. Highlights include the world premiere of "Rhino Resurrected: The Incredibly Strange Story of the World's Most Famous Record Store."

Continue reading »

New James Bond movie coming to theaters next year -- and another maybe not long after that

April 13, 2011 |  5:39 pm

James Bond fans holding their breath about the fate of the superspy franchise can exhale a little. MGM and Sony have announced a deal under which the companies will co-finance and release the next two Bond pictures.

After numerous false starts, the deal will return Daniel Craig to the screen as the suave if tortured hero on Nov. 9, 2012. (Sam Mendes will direct the new picture, which could also star Javier Bardem in the villain role.) As my Company Town colleagues report, the two companies will share financing costs, and Sony will release the movie in all but a few select worldwide territories; MGM will release the film in the remaining territories.

A second film, known informally as Bond 24, will also fall under the new deal. Details of that are still a ways off, though the deal announced Wednesday offers hope that there will be fewer snags and delays than have afflicted Bond 23. MGM financial issues and other obstacles have led to a long gap between films; there has been no new Bond movie since "Quantum of Solace" was released in 2008.

With the new deal, there is, however, an embarrassment-of-riches question. Sony is also behind "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation, which also stars Craig. If that movie, directed by David Fincher, takes off, a franchise could be in the offing with Stieg Larsson's other Millennium Trilogy tomes. That would require that Craig, Sony and MGM choose between prioritizing Bond 24 and the second film in the Larsson trilogy.


Sony, MGM finalize James Bond, co-financing partnership

New James Bond gets a little closer to the screen

The James Bond musings churn on

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Daniel Craig as James Bond in "Casino Royale." Credit: MGM

Stunt master Simon Crane takes flight with a new movie

April 13, 2011 |  1:55 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Few moviedom figures have had such an effect on action films without ever directing one as Simon Crane. The veteran stunt coordinator has choreographed the chases in numerous James Bond films, orchestrated Leonardo DiCaprio's running through soaked decks in "Titanic" and helped Angelina Jolie jump trucks in last summer's "Salt."

Crane was set to make his directing debut with "Kane & Lynch," a video game adaptation starring Bruce Willis, but he opted out. He's still aiming to direct "Echelon," a Europe-set, Jason Statham-starring action thriller involving a piece of coveted intelligence.

Now there's an intriguing new project in the mix for Crane. He's attached to direct a new film titled "High Wire."

The movie is written by James Solomon, the screenwriter of this weekend's Lincoln assassination drama "The Conspirator." Solomon describes "Wire" as a New York-set thriller with a strong emotional component. The independent will be produced by Nick Saunders, a former assistant to Orlando Bloom.

In an email, Crane acknowledged that he was onboard, though he noted it was still early and that "Echelon" would likely come first.

In the age of computer-generated effects, many stunt coordinators have lost the art of physical action. Soon one will get a chance to try to recover it himself.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Angelina Jolie and Simon Crane on the set of "Salt." Credit: Myles Aronowitz / Columbia Pictures

Why does the disaster-movie genre keep averting a terrible fate?

March 14, 2011 |  7:00 am


In the spring of 1998, some who followed the movie industry believed that the epic-disaster film was about to meet its untimely end.

Just a couple of years before, a pair of hits had seemed to exhaust any interest we might have had in watching humanity fall prey to jaw-dropping destruction. "Twister" and "Independence Day" had finished one-two at the year-end box office, combining for a then-remarkable half-billion dollars in U.S. receipts. If we harbored a desire to watch spectacular doom, those movies would seem to have satisfied it, and then some.

But within the space of just two months in the spring and summer of 1998, we were graced with not one but two global-disaster movies. They both proved surprisingly popular. The comet-hurtling-toward-Earth spin on the genre, "Deep Impact,"  became a hit in May, taking in $350 million around the world. That should have meant we had little enthusiasm left for the asteroid-hurtling-toward-Earth entrant "Armageddon" when it came out just two months later. And yet the Michael Bay movie did even better, tallying $550 million worldwide and becoming the second-highest-grossing release in the U.S. that year.

The just-when-you-thought-it-was-over resurgence happened again recently. In 2006 Wolfgang Petersen's "Poseidon" fizzled, and then in 2008, Keanu Reeves' remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" -- a different twist on the theme but with the same the-world-will-end overtones -- flamed out. It looked likely to stop in its tracks anything else remotely resembling a disaster movie. And yet less than a year later, disaster-movie specialist Roland Emmerich came out with "2012," which went on to become one of the highest-grossing non-sequels of that year. (It also tallied nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars around the world.) Catastrophe cinema was again alive and well.

When it comes to the disaster-movie genre, the comeback, it seems, is almost as much of a given as the troubled family man who must save the world to save himself. No matter how many times humanity is rescued from an asteroid, comet, tornado or alien spacecraft, there's always one more threat coming up right behind it. And there are millions of us who will pay good money to see it happen.

The pattern was in evidence again this weekend when Jonathan Liebesman's alien-siege film, "Battle: Los Angeles" rolled out across the country. Hollywood's most recent disaster spectacle, "Skyline," was an unmitigated flop this fall, auguring, it seemed, a fallow period for the genre.  And the reviews for "Battle" were almost uniformly negative. Yet the film opened to $36 million. It was the top live-action opening so far in 2011 and a categorical  triumph over the weekend's two other wide releases, which offered far less durable trends in 3-D ("Mars Needs Moms") and werewolves "(Red Riding Hood").

Cunningly cut trailers and a cast made up of a diverse group of minority actors might have played a role in the success of "Battle: Los Angeles." So might have the popularity of war-scenario video games and the film's bedrock patriotism. And cultural theorists will point to the sublimated fears about a planet in peril to explain why we find these types of movies endlessly attractive.

Of course, though that last factor explains the success of "The Day After Tomorrow" in 2004, or "War of the Worlds" -- which Steven Spielberg and others viewed as a 9/11 movie -- in 2005, it hardly explains the flourishing of global-disaster movies in the 1990s, when much of the West lived prosperously and peacefully.

The best explanation, instead, may be the simple one: No matter  where we are culturally, there's a part of us that likes watching most of the world blow up (and having a white knight rescue us before it blows up entirely). There's always room for a global-disaster movie. It's the dessert of cinema.

Many of us blame Hollywood for giving us the tried-and-true as often as it does. But after seeing how resilient some of these movies are at the box office, it may make sense to look not to distant planets but to our own appetites for the reason that giant asteroid reliably heads toward our movie theaters every few years.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Battle: Los Angeles is weekend box-office winner

Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Critical Mass: Battle: Los Angeles

Photo: A scene from "Battle: Los Angeles." Credit: Sony Pictures

Trailer for 'Battle: Los Angeles' fires new salvo [video]

January 12, 2011 | 11:32 am

The latest trailer for Sony's "Battle: Los Angeles" probably won't strike you as the most original concept in the history of cinema. But for what's essentially "War of the Worlds: 2011 Edition," it's pretty appealing stuff. The early scenes of fiery explosions and earthly panic (with requisite close-up of tortured-but-heroic military man Aaron Eckhart) all land. And a later montage of melancholy depicting various scenes of destruction and rescue hits a surprisingly emotional note. The only problem: The end of the trailer seems to give away the climactic battle scene.

The March movie, from up-and-coming director Jonathan Liebesman, comes on the heels of "Skyline." That film, a lower-budget fall offering in which aliens also invade L.A., was directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause, who also did some of the effects on this film. The brothers have taken pains to note the differences between the two movies. Sony might want to do that too: That film bombed, in more ways than one.

--Steven Zeitchik




Stephen Sommers won't dress for battle on 'G.I. Joe' sequel

January 5, 2011 |  2:13 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Sommers was a divisive choice to direct "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra," the 2009 movie that became a global hit despite lukewarm reviews (and prompted Sommers to offer some, er, words of his own to critics).

Those who were on the fence about the filmmaker can unhook themselves: After reports this summer that Sommers would be returning to direct a planned sequel, it looks like he won't be doing that after all.

Two agents who represent other filmmakers have said they'd recently been approached about their clients coming on to helm the movie and were told that Sommers would not be getting behind the camera. Paramount declined to comment.

Sommers, best known for directing "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns," was the subject of whispers about problems on the set of the first film but seemed to put them to rest with the news that he would direct the sequel. The filmmaker has a "Tarzan" reboot in development but no movie that's ready to shoot imminently.

The 2009 "G.I. Joe," which starred Channing Tatum as soldier Duke Hauser and Dennis Quaid as team commander Gen. Hawk, tied up many loose ends but left some avenues open for a sequel. The project had heartened fans when Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick, the writers on hit "Zombieland," came on to pen a draft of the G.I. Joe sequel a year ago.

— Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: 'G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.' Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Rock's 'Faster' becomes a Twitter experiment

November 24, 2010 |  2:34 pm

Movie studios have increasingly been using Twitter in their marketing campaigns. Paramount paid to put "Paranormal Activity" as a Trending Topic so that the movie sat at the top of the hot list of subjects Twitter users were talking about.

Other movies have  used Twitter to conflate fact and fiction. Natalie Portman's Nina Sayers character from  "Black Swan," for instance, has a Twitter account, with updates fashioned out of bits of dialogue and characters points from the story. ("You've got to believe me ... they want to replace me," Ms. Sayers tweeted a few days ago.)

But no movie that we know of has tried what "Faster," this weekend's Dwayne Johnson action-revenge flick, tried Tuesday: paid for a promoted link in the Trending Topics section in the hope that people might confuse it, just a little, with something else.

The movie's more generic title allowed studio CBS Films, with the promoted trending topic, to lasso in those who were simply hash-tagging the word "faster" in the context of Thanksgiving -- tweeters who wished the long weekend would come #Faster, that Black Friday would come #Faster, that airport security lines would move #Faster -- mixed in with those tweeting about the film itself.

In some cases, the simple presence of #faster as a trending topic prompted users to ask what it was, and others to respond with an explanation. But in other instances the studio was hoping that the simple presence of the word out in the Twittersphere will make people more attuned, even subconsciously, to the movie title -- and maybe make them a little more open to choosing it when they went to the multiplex this weekend.

A CBS Films spokesman said the attempt was to turn the challenge -- that multi-meaning title -- into an advantage and "take ownership of the word without the campaign being obtrusive."

We won't know until after the weekend how the unconventional move played. But the campaign has already ensured that "Faster" has its place in social-media history: It's the Twitter era's first-ever subliminal-advertising movie campaign.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT (Not a movie title)

Photo: "Faster." Credit: CBS Films

Making action movies unstoppable (and coherent)

November 4, 2010 | 12:08 pm

If you've seen chases and explosions on the big screen recently, there's a solid chance they've been put there by Mark Bomback, a young writer who is fast becoming one of the key architects of Hollywood's big action offerings.

Bomback, who earlier in his career worked on horror movies such as "Godsend," was the lead writer on "Live Free or Die Hard," the pyrotechnic-happy return of John McClane to the big screen.  Bomback also wrote the Dwayne Johnson action movie "Race to Witch Mountain" and another upcoming Rock movie, the hitman shoot-'em-up "Protection." He solidifies his reputation as the action architect next week with "Unstoppable," Denzel Washingon's melange of high-speed chases and explosions.

Bomback will soon be on his own runaway train: According to those familiar with the project,  Bomback will  take his pen to the adventure film "Shadow Divers." Fans of underwater movies will remember the Robert Kurson bestseller, based on a true story, in which  wreck divers discover a German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey in 1991.

The project has been around for a while -- Ridley Scott was going to direct it at one point (it looks like "Red" director Robert Schwentke is now the man to give it a whirl) -- but the addition of a high-profile writer like Bomback could speed up its path to theaters.

Action-movie writers lead split existences: They're called upon, maybe more than anyone else working in movies, to imagine lives very different from their own. (Which may be why they sometimes conflate those lives, like this screenwriter, who ended up becoming a gun runner in his spare time.) And they don't get the love that other writers get, what with words not exactly the top priority in most action films.

More on the act of sitting still while creating constant motion (and getting only a modicum of love in the process) from Bomback next week.

 --Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Chris Pine tries out some railroad derring-do in "Unstoppable." Credit: Robert Zuckerman / 20th Century Fox


Unstoppable: Hollywood's movie-star movies keep biting the dust

Denzel Washington a revelation in Book of Eli

Denzel Washington and Chris pine turn out for the Unstoppable premiere




Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: