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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Brett Ratner

'Tower Heist': A clue to this year's Oscars?

August 5, 2011 | 10:15 am


Brett Ratner came to mainstream prominence with the "Rush Hour" franchise, then got under fanboys' skin with the 2006 superhero sequel "X: Men: The Last Stand." But what kind of director is Ratner these days?

It's a more pressing question now than it was just 24 hours ago, what with Ratner being named as one of the two men who will produce this year's Oscars. And it's a question to which this recently released trailer for the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy comedy "Tower Heist" — which comes out Nov. 4, just about a month before the critics groups begin naming their favorites — might provide an answer.

The trailer begins as a kind of class yuk-fest, morphs into a seemingly serious-minded thriller and then settles into the sort of interracial buddy comedy that made Ratner famous. Despite the pedigree of the cast, there aren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments — Murphy just can't get over how Stiller once was a nerdy white kid — but one does get a sense of the Ratner oeuvre while watching it, if only because parts of it so obviously recall "Rush Hour."

And there's at least some solace to take in this: No matter what goes down during this year's award season, when the Oscars get underway there will at least be one movie that Ratner can poke fun at. Maybe.


Brett Ratner: Oscar fan who recognizes his outsider status

Rush Hour director Brett Ratner to producer the Oscars (really)

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from "Tower Heist." Credit: David Lee / Universal Pictures.

Brett Ratner: Oscar fan who recognizes his outsider status

August 4, 2011 |  6:52 pm

Brett Ratner

Brett Ratner, chosen Thursday as co-producer of the 2012 Oscars, has never gotten any Academy Awards love for his films ("Rush Hour," "Rush Hour 2," "Rush Hour 3" and  "Red Dragon," to name a few). But he says he's a huge fan of the telecast, a show he's been watching since he was 10 years old with his family.

"I remember sitting on the couch watching the Oscars with my mom, my grandparents, my great-grandparents," he said Thursday in an interview. "It brings great memories and I'm hoping to give that experience to people at home around the world."

Though Ratner has directed and produced movies, he's never earned much praise from the critics. It's a status the 42-year-old recognizes. "I'm not invited to the Vanity Fair dinner where they watch the Oscars -- or even the Oscars themselves  --so I sit at home and watch it with a bunch of close friends."

Ratner, who has no experience in live television, vowed to work harder on the show than on anything he's done in the past. However, the director still seems baffled by the academy's decision. He said he asked Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson why they wanted him for the job.

"They said: 'You love comedy. You love to laugh, and we want to bring entertainment value and comedy to this show,' " said Ratner, who produced this summer's "Horrible Bosses" and directed the upcoming Ben Stiller movie "Tower Heist." "I'm a laugher and a lover of comedy. That is what's going to make the show work."

Hopefully, we'll be laughing for the right reasons.


Brett Ratner to produce the 2012 Oscars (really)

Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones to receive honorary Oscars

An honorary Oscar for Oprah: Did April 1 come twice this year?

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Director Brett Ratner with Pierce Brosnan on the set of 'After the Sunset' in 2004. Credit: Glen Wilson/New Line Productions

'Rush Hour' director Brett Ratner to produce the Oscars (really)

August 4, 2011 |  6:05 pm

Brett Ratner

In a surprise move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen Brett Ratner, director of popcorn films including "Rush Hour" and "X-Men: The Last Stand," to produce the 2012 Oscar telecast, along with veteran show producer Don Mischer, academy President Tom Sherak announced Thursday. 

Ratner, 42, is a filmmaker whose youthful movies are often hits at the box office and misses with critics. He produced the R-rated summer comedy "Horrible Bosses" and will see his next directoral effort, the Ben Stiller movie "Tower Heist," hit theaters in November. In choosing him, the academy has made a sharp break from previous producers, including last year's co-helmer, producer Bruce Cohen, who took home a best picture Oscar for "American Beauty" and was nominated for "Milk." 

Ratner, who's never been nominated for an Oscar, seemed stunned by the move. "One of my dreams was just to be a member of the academy. I was shocked when they let me in after 'Rush Hour,' "  he said during a joint phone call with Mischer. "And now I sit on the  -- what's it called? -- the executive council of the directors' branch, or committee, and we are the ones who vote on which directors get to come in. That's unbelievable. I just love film and wanted to be a filmmaker, but this went beyond my dreams."

Ratner said he was first approached about the job by Sherak a few weeks ago but spent some time mulling it over, and meeting with Mischer, before accepting.The two were scheduled to sit for 45 minutes at the Beverly Glen deli getting to know each other and wound up spending three hours together throwing out ideas.

Ratner said he was comforted that Mischer, who has long experience in live television, would be by his side. "Don's experience and his knowledge of the process and how to execute something like this" is imporant, said Ratner. "I'm sure if it was just me, they'd be even more doubtful then they already are, saying what the hell does he know about a 3-hour live telecast. Having Don here gives me a lot of confidence and as you know I already have a little bit of that."

Ratner has never directed live television but has helmed features, documentaries and music videos, qualifications Mischer believes make him a good partner for the job. "Brett's a risk-taker and loves a challenge. Ideas just flow from him. He's going to make it fun."

For years, the academy has been seeking ways to bolster the sagging ratings for the Oscar telecast, choosing two young stars, Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host the show this past February.

But the show was largely panned by critics and rounded up just 37.6 million total viewers, slumping 10% compared with 2010, according to the Nielsen Co., although those numbers were above the 2008 and 2009 telecast. Worse, the 2011 show also tumbled in the key category of adults ages 18 to 49.

The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.


Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones to receive honorary Oscars

Oscar pundits in our forums back 'Ides of March' and 'War Horse'

An honorary Oscar for Oprah: Did April 1 come twice this year?

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Director Brett Ratner on the set of the movie "Red Dragon." Credit: Universal.

Brett Ratner's Herculean task?

July 14, 2010 |  6:38 pm

Exclusive: Brett Ratner was once reported to be the director of the new "Conan" movie for Avi Lerner and his Millennium/Nu Image. Now it looks like Ratner could make a movie for the action maven based on a different classic hero: Hercules.

Ratn Ratner is in talks to direct Lerner's long-developed tale of the mythological god (Hercules to the Romans, Heracles to the Greeks). The producer has been developing the movie for more than three years, with the project gaining new momentum of late, though it's still in the development stage. Little is known about the specifics of the new version, though it's expected to bring Lerner's classic action ethos to the larger-than-life character.

Is Ratner a good choice? The director has taken on action comedy in "Rush Hour" and superhero action in "X-Men: The Last Stand," both of which have echoes in "Hercules," though "X-Men: The Last Stand" engendered some sharp reactions from the online fan community. We'll see how they react to this one.

Swords-and-sandals are showing surprising swagger at the global box office -- "Clash of the Titans" made nearly half a billion dollars around the world, prompting a sequel, and even domestic disappointment "Prince of Persia" was a huge hit overseas.

Hercules has been the subject of a number of foreign films, and Disney made an animated movie in the 1990s, but the character hasn't had a live-action American treatment since the mid-1980s, when Lou Ferrigno played the character. And of course Arnold Schwarzenegger played Hercules 40 years ago in "Hercules in New York." We don't see him coming back, though.

 --Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Brett Ratner. Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images


Brett Ratner and 'Conan': Premature Exhilaration

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Ben Stiller could plan a heist, as 'Ocean's Eleven'-style movie could go from black to white

February 16, 2010 |  5:30 pm

"Trump Heist" is one of those films that could be a brilliant update or so much high-concept high jinks -- or maybe a little bit of both.

Stiller The film (which may eventually be called "Tower Heist" -- that pesky legal department) is about a group of con-men who devise a plan to swindle the residents of New York's upscale Trump Tower, where they also work. It's basically a black "Ocean's Eleven" (not our phrase -- that's how development people in Hollywood are talking about it), with stars like Chris Rock, Chris Tucker and Eddie Murphy all previously mentioned in connection with the film.

But now the project from Universal and frequent production collaborator Imagine could be getting a bit of an, um, face-lift: Ben Stiller is in talks to play the lead heist-meister, the role Murphy would have played. A new draft of the script will be written -- likely by a writer Stiller has worked with in the past whom he'll bring on for this film. Universal declined comment. [UPDATE: Sources say that the studio has brought on Noah Baumbach, the "Squid and the Whale" writer who directed Stiller in the upcoming "Greenberg," to do a little bit of work on the latest draft. Said draft was written by "Mrs. Doubtfire" writer Leslie Dixon, who also worked on Stiller's "The Heartbreak Kid."]

The project might have a different feel with Stiller in the lead role of what was a black-oriented comedy -- he's not exactly Eminem -- though with Murphy a crossover star in his own right, it may also not be that dramatic a switch. As for timing, well, the project has been through the paces -- director Brett Ratner has been talking about it for some time now -- but the filmmaker could now make it a priority.

"Heist" has brought on a who's who of Hollywood screenwriters over its development history --  including "Inside Man" writer Russell Gewirtz, Hollywood veteran Rawson Marshall Thurber, and, most notably, "Ocean's Eleven" writer Ted Griffin. (Thurber has a Stiller connection, too, writing and directing "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," which saw Stiller play the villain White Goodman).

Hollywood has a history of giving movies with white stars a black treatment; Murphy was previously part of one such effort with "The Nutty Professor" franchise. This one puts an extra quarter-turn on the idea -- it's a white movie re-imagined as a black movie that may now be reconfigured with a white lead.

There are some business implications, too, as Universal is throwing in lately with Stiller. Although his production company Red Hour is now on the Fox lot, the actor is reprising his Gaylord Focker role for the studio's "Little Fockers" next holiday season and also takes a more dramatic turn as the lead character in "Greenberg," a Noah Baumbach film that Universal specialty division Focus Features will release next month. Stiller has done action in films only sporadically (in "Tropic Thunder" and 2004's "Starsky & Hutch"), but a good con-man tale is hard to resist, in black or white.

--Steven Zeitchik and John Horn

Photo: Ben Stiller. Credit: Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times


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