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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Disney

Around Town: Snow White, Casablanca at Oscars Outdoors

June 14, 2012 |  6:00 am

Snow

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduces its "Oscars Outdoors" screening series  Friday evening with the 1942 Oscar-winning romantic classic "Casablanca," followed by Walt Disney's seminal 1937 animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,'' Saturday evening.

The screenings take place at the academy's new open-air theater on its Hollywood campus. All of the June screenings are sold out, but there will be a standby line the day of the event.  http://www.oscars.org

Cinespia's outdoor screening series at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is in full swing this summer with Cheech and Chong's highly combustible 1978 comedy, "Up in Smoke," scheduled for Saturday evening. http://www.cinespia.org

New Beverly Cinema kicks off the weekend with the antic 1944 Frank Capra comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace," based on the long-running Broadway hit. The film, which stars Cary Grant, screens Friday and Saturday.

With Woody Allen's latest, "To Rome with Love," opening next week, the New Bev presents two of the his "early funny ones" Sunday and Monday: 1975's "Love and Death" and 1972's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask)." http://www.newbevcinema.com

The UCLA Film & Television Archive's celebration of Universal's 100-year anniversary presents the granddaddy of all-star disaster films, 1970's "Airport," on Friday evening at the Billy Wilder Theater. George Seaton wrote and directed this Oscar-best-film nominee based on the novel by Arthur Hailey about a suicidal bomber (Van Heflin) aboard a transatlantic flight. Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, Jean Seberg and Helen Hayes, who won the supporting actress Oscar as a stowaway, are among the many stars. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu

Veronica Gelakoksa, author of "Pig 'n  Whistle," and Los Angeles Magazine columnist/preservation and vintage culture expert Chris Nichols will talk about the famed L.A restaurants of the 1920s-'40s after a screening Saturday afternoon of the 1945 film noir classic "Mildred Pierce" at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre. Joan Crawford won her Academy Award for her role.

The 1945 theme continues early Sunday evening at the Egyptian with the Art Directors Guild Film Society's screening of MGM's lavish all-star musical "Ziegfeld Follies," which was directed by several of the studio's directors, including Vincente Minnelli. Guests include Oscar-nominated costume designer Bob Mackie and cinematographer Michael Lonzo.

The Cinematheque's Aero Theatre's latest installment in its "Grit and Whimsy III: The Best of Recent Belgian Cinema" continues Wednesday with the 2009 drama "Altiplano." http://www.americancinematheque.com

Oscar-winning composer and sometimes actor Paul Williams will be on hand Friday evening at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre's tribute, which features two films for which he composed the scores: 1979's "The Muppet Movie," which includes the tune "The Rainbow Connection," and 1974's "The Phantom of Paradise."

Cinefamily also celebrates the 45th anniversary of the milestone Monterey International Pop Music Festival with a screening Sunday evening of D.A. Pennebaker's 1968 classic documentary "Monterey Pop." The film's producer, Lou Adler, and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas (who appear in the film) will be on hand. http://www.cinefamily.org

Los Angeles Filmforum presents Peter Greenaway's 2007 drama "Nightwatching," starring Martin Freeman as Rembrant, Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre. http://www.lafilmforum.org

The Los Angeles Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats present a 1942 Mexican comedy "Los Tres Mosqueteros," starring the legendary Mario Moreno — best known to the world as Cantinflas — Wednesday evening at the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. There will also be a pre-show panel. http://www.laconservancy.org

Related:

"Movie academy goes casual with plan for outdoor summer screenings"

 

 

Susan King

Photo: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" screens Saturday at "Oscar Outdoors." Credit: Disney.

 

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Alan Horn: Can Disney's new boss reinvent the studio?

June 1, 2012 |  1:46 pm

Tom Hanks, left, with Alan Horn at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Ant Bully"

You didn’t need a secret decoder ring to decipher the message Bob Iger sent to Hollywood this week when he announced the hiring of former Warner Bros. studio president Alan Horn as Disney’s new studio chief: Disney is back in the movie business.

For years, many showbiz insiders have viewed Disney as an alien planet, a realm whose ruler — Iger — had little emotional connection to the film industry. In his interviews and earnings call chats with financial analysts, Iger was often dismissive of the movie business, viewing it as an antiquated appendage to Disney’s increasingly forward-looking media empire.

BigpictureBut the arrival of Horn, who was unceremoniously pushed out of his Warners job in April 2011, is a game changer. It’s a sign that Iger, who has spent the last several years hiring (and then firing) untested executive talent, notably the recently departed studio chief Rich Ross, realizes Disney needs a seasoned hand and a soothing presence who can revive its relations with top Hollywood talent.

In the creative community, the reaction to the Horn hiring was nothing short of ecstatic. As one veteran agent put it: “It’s like James Dolan hiring Phil Jackson to coach the Knicks. You feel like Disney is back in the game.”

Continue reading »

Henry Selick on his 'medium dark' stop-motion movie for Disney

April 27, 2012 | 12:24 pm

Henryselick

Henry Selick, a giant in the pocket-sized world of stop-motion animation, is almost finished with production on his next film, an as-yet-untitled project for Walt Disney Co.

The director of "Coraline" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has been supervising a crew of about 150 craftspersons and animators from his new studio, Cinderbiter, based in an old chocolate factory in San Francisco's Mission District. The film will be Selick's first since signing an exclusive deal with Disney in 2010.

"It’s an original story of mine," Selick said of the film, which has so far remained shrouded in secrecy.

The project will hew to the spooky-sweet tone of Selick's previous work, he said.

"It won’t come from totally left field," he said. "What I personally gravitate toward tends to be fantasy, medium dark -- not too dark -- fairy tales and sci fi. Stop-motion takes something on the page that’s really dark and adds a little sweetness to it, a living toys realm."

Selick, who attended the California Institute of the Arts with Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and Pixar director Brad Bird in the 1970s, said he consulted with the animation studio's creative leaders several times while developing his script. Taking story notes from Pixar's candid "brain trust" was a new and sometimes arresting experience for Selick, who historically has been more of a lone tinkerer as a director.

"The first time, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if I can handle this, Why did John [Lasseter] agree to help me make my films?' " he said. "But then I found out it’s that way with everybody, even their best filmmakers. When you see what they produce, it’s like, 'OK, [I] don’t take any of it personally.' ''

The gist of the notes, Selick said, was, "Don’t get caught up in eye candy. They said, 'Let’s try to make your story as clear as possible and give it as much heart as it deserves.' "

Selick described the 2013 release date listed by IMDB.com for his film as "tentative."

RELATED:

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'Pirates: Band of Misfits' helps stop-motion endure

Photo gallery: A brief history of stop-motion animation

--Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Henry Selick with a puppet from "Coraline." Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times


Rich Ross ousted at Disney: What went wrong?

April 20, 2012 |  1:10 pm

Rich ross disney

I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly why Rich Ross got the ax as head of Disney Studios on Friday after barely 2 ½ years in the job. But like a lot of people in Hollywood, I’d also be lying if I said I knew why he got the job in the first place.

Ross was a pure-blooded TV guy. He had a long, successful stint running the Disney Channel, which is a huge profit center in the Disney universe. Then, in fall 2009, Disney chief Bob Iger unceremoniously showed studio head Dick Cook the door, ending his four-decade career at the company. People in showbiz were amazed when Iger plucked Ross from relative obscurity to take over the studio. But the message from Iger was clear: Disney needs new blood.

Actors, directors and other talent may move between TV and film with ease these days. But showbiz executives tend to become specialists at an early age; TV is TV and film is film. And in a business where relationships make the world go 'round, Ross had no real juice with any top Hollywood talent.

BigpictureIger, however, believed it was time to shake up the cobwebby confines of Disney. It’s been clear for years that Iger, a onetime TV guy himself, is impatient with all of the old ways of doing business in Hollywood, which is why he was the first studio chief to butt heads with theater owners over moving up the release dates of DVDs.

Unlike a host of top executives who have lost their jobs because they made bad movies, Ross, I’d argue, is out on the street largely because he’s the fall guy for a series of questionable executive hirings at the studio. After all, Ross was only doing Iger’s bidding by shaking up the studio. All sorts of executives have come and gone, leaving the place in the hands of people who had no real experience doing the jobs they were asked to do.

Continue reading »

Angelina Jolie-starring 'Maleficent' gets March 2014 release date

April 9, 2012 |  2:11 pm

Maleficent

2012 is the year of retelling “Snow White” with a spotlight on the evil queen (as played by Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror” and Charlize Theron in “Snow White and the Huntsman”), but two years from now, the villain of “Sleeping Beauty” will get her own lead role in “Maleficent.” Disney announced Monday that the Angelina Jolie-starring film will hit theaters on March 14, 2014.

Exploring the origins of the evil fairy godmother in 1959’s animated “Sleeping Beauty,” this live-action feature will reveal what leads Maleficent to curse Aurora to spindle-induced slumber.

Coming from a trio of filmmakers who all worked on Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” the movie is written by Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”), produced by Joe Roth (“Knight and Day,” "Snow White and the Huntsman") and will be the directorial debut of Robert Stromberg, who won art direction Oscars for “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Jolie publicly confirmed her participation last month, when she told Entertainment Weekly that the project is "not anti-princess, but it’s the first time they’re looking at this epic woman… I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve already got my horns fitted. My kids are very happy."

RELATED:

Angelina Jolie shrugged off Oscar leg jokes

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– Emily Rome

Photo: Maleficent in Disney's 1959 animated feature. Credit: Walt Disney Studios


Disney's 'John Carter': Why did it fail?

March 12, 2012 |  9:30 am

John Carter, starring Taylor Kitsch, was a flop for Disney at the box office this weekend. Click for more photos.

By now, the arguments seeking to explain Disney's "John Carter" debacle have flown so fast they've almost contradicted themselves.

The Taylor Kitsch-starring science-fiction epic, which grossed just $30.6 million this weekend on a budget of more than $250 million, should have played more heavily to the sci-fi crowd, one argument went (the film didn't go to Comic-con and dropped "Mars" from its title). Or maybe it was the opposite -- Disney should have made the film look and feel more accessible. Those indecipherable creatures in its billboards and its television spots emphasizing the arcana of Barsoom battles didn't exactly scream an all-ages must-see.

The truth is that both sides are a little right. Disney could have played harder to the base and potentially made the film work -- presuming, of course, that the budget and expectations were commensurately modest from the outset. 

PHOTOS: Costliest box office flops

Or, having made an absurdly expensive movie, it could have tried to figure out better ways to bring everyone along. As it was, viewership came in at ratio of 3:2 in favor of those over the age of 25 -- not exactly the youthful audience a studio wants in this and-the-teenagers-shall-lead-them era of movie consumption.

Needless to say, Disney marketers were also working with a film that didn't exactly blow anyone away. Directed by Andrew Stanton, "John Carter" was panned on many fan blogs and garnered a measly 48% positive on Movie Review Intelligence, drawing poor reviews even from those who tend to give duds a pass.

But although there's plenty of blame to go around on both the creative and marketing sides, there's another factor: the source material itself. Disney could have made a better movie and sold it more persuasively to a skeptical public. But it was dealing with a stacked deck from the start.

PHOTOS: Costliest box office flops

"John Carter" is based primarily on "A Princess of Mars," the first in Edgar Rice Burroughs'  early 20th century 11-volume series of Barsoom novels. It's a touchstone work of science fiction -- so touchstone that many viewers don't know what it is.

More to the point, it's an epic, which can be a tough sell no matter the studio or marketing strategy. In today's climate, big action-adventure movies work, but they're not usually epics -- more like movies based on a very simple concept (like, cars that turn into robots that fight each other).

Actually, "John Carter" is even tougher material than a typical epic, because it's the beginning of an epic -- not a film conceived as a stand-alone, self-contained piece, a la "Avatar."

The irony in all this is that "John Carter" follows in the tradition (and indeed, its source material helped inspire) the most successful science-fiction epic in the history of cinema, "Star Wars," with both movies featuring interplanetary combat and sprawling fictional universes, and also marrying spectacle with identifiable heroes.

Disney and Stanton didn't come within a galaxy of fashioning "Star Wars" from Burroughs' work. But it's not clear that today's "Transformers"-ready multiplex audience would have been hugely open to it even if they had.

RELATED:

The planets may not be aligned for "John Carter"

Big-budget "John Carter," Eddie Murphy comedy bomb

"John Carter:" Critics not over the moon for science-fiction epic

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Taylor Kitsch in "John Carter." Credit: Disney


'John Carter': Critics not over the moon for Mars action epic

March 9, 2012 |  2:07 pm

John Carter

One of the big questions raised by the new science-fantasy adventure "John Carter," based on the old pulp stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and starring Taylor Kitsch (TV's "Friday Night Lights") as a Civil War hero transplanted to Mars, is whether director Andrew Stanton (Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E") and his team could bring something new to an old and influential story. For movie critics, reactions have been mixed.

The Times' own Betsy Sharkey describes the film as "hit and miss, and miss, and miss." Sharkey laments that "a great story" has been "badly sucked dry" and that "Stanton can't find a way to make Burroughs' now-familiar fantasy themes feel fresh." Part of the difficulty, Sharkey notes, is that so many films have already mined Burroughs' work over the years: " 'Star Wars,' 'Star Trek,' 'Avatar,' 'Superman,' to name just a few." And unlike Kitsch's movie counterpart, the actor does not manage to save the day — so effective on "Friday Night Lights," he "simply fades here," Sharkey says.

Continue reading »

'Phineas and Ferb' gets the 'Toy Story' treatment

October 27, 2011 |  6:11 pm

Phineas and Ferb


EXCLUSIVE: Fans of Disney Channel property "Phineas and Ferb" learned earlier this month they would get a theatrical movie on July 26, 2013. Now they might be heartened to learn that movie is becoming as big a deal as that summer date suggests.

Disney is hiring Michael Arndt to write a draft of the script, said a person familiar with the movie who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.  Arndt brings some heat--he's of course the writer of "Toy Story 3," for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and also won an Academy Award for writing "Little Miss Sunshine" back in 2007.

The initial "Phineas and Ferb" script has been written by show creators Swampy Marsh and Dan Povenmire, who have spent recent months working on that script and continue to work on the show. Unlike "Toy Story"--and the cable series itself--the "Phineas and Ferb" movie will be a mix of live action and animation. A Disney spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Although the plotline for the "Phineas and Ferb" movie is still being developed, the film is becoming a priority at Disney. The project will now be produced by Mandeville Films, the company behind another upcoming Disney tent pole, "The Muppets."

The TV series, now in its third season and with more than 130 episodes under its belt, tells the story of stepbrothers Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher, who spend their summer holiday working on fanciful inventions, as well as their sister Candace, who's always intent on getting them in trouble with their mother. Meanwhile, the family platypus, Perry, leads a double life as a secret agent fighting the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

Disney has been working to turn the property into its next big marketing vehicle: In June 2010 it revved up plans to retail as many as 200 Phineas and Ferb-related items — including boxer shorts and skateboards.

The show continues to prove its popularity with solid weekly ratings, while a "Phineas and Ferb" television movie drew nearly 8 million viewers this summer.
 
Most Disney Channel movies are made for television but some, like the third "High School Musical" film, make the jump to the big screen. Plenty of animated television hits have done well as features, from "The Simpsons Movie" at Fox to "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" at Disney Channel rival Nickelodeon, the latter of which took in more than $85 million in the U.S. back in 2004.

Disney, meanwhile, has had both filmic and merchandising success with its own, non-Pixar animated movies: The fairy tale-inspired "Tangled" grossed $200 million in the U.S. last season.

RELATED:

Review: 'Phineas and Ferb'

'Phineas and Ferb' to be Disney's next big marketing vehicle

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "Phineas and Ferb." Credit: Disney XD


Disney plans 3-D re-releases of 'Little Mermaid,' 'Nemo'

October 4, 2011 | 12:51 pm

  Nemo

Blame (or thank) Simba. In the wake of the success of “The Lion King 3D,” which has earned $80 million in the U.S. in the last three and a half weeks, Disney has announced theatrical re-releases for four of its animated catalog titles in 3-D — “Beauty and the Beast,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters Inc.” and “The Little Mermaid.”

The four films will unspool over the next two years, beginning in January with “Beauty and the Beast,” the 1991 hit that became the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar for best picture. “Finding Nemo,” first released in 2003 and the fourth-highest-grossing animated movie of all time, will follow in 3-D in September 2012. “Monsters Inc.” (2001) will premiere in 3-D in January 2013, six months ahead of its own prequel, “Monsters University,” a new Pixar film due in June of that year. Finally, “The Little Mermaid” will debut in September 2013.

“The Lion King,” a 1994 film that Disney converted to 3-D for less than $10 million and re-released in September as part of a promotional push for its October Blu-ray release, became a surprise hit for the studio, beating out new releases to become the No. 1 movie two weeks in a row. The re-release has made "Lion King" the third-highest-grossing animated movie of all time domestically, with a haul of more than $408 million.

“Great stories and great characters are timeless, and at Disney we’re fortunate to have a treasure trove of both,” Alan Bergman, president of Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to give audiences of all ages the chance to experience these beloved tales in an exciting new way with 3-D –- and in the case of younger generations, for the first time on the big screen.”

RELATED:

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Moviegoers may end up paying more to see 3-D films

-- Rebecca Keegan


Twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo "Finding Nemo." Credit: Disney Enterprises Inc. / Pixar Animation Studios


With re-release, can 'Ghostbusters' pull a 'Lion King'?

September 22, 2011 |  2:19 pm

  Photo: Bill Murray, left, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in "Ghostbusters." Credit: Sony PicturesIt worked for lions, so why not for Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd too?

Sony announced Thursday that it was bringing back 1984's "Ghostbusters" for a weekly engagement in theaters in October, continuing the revival theme embodied by last week's re-release of the box office hit "The Lion King."

For three consecutive Thursdays beginning Oct. 13, director Ivan Reitman's action-comedy will play in about 500 theaters around the country, the studio said. The Los Angeles-area venues have not yet been announced.

Reitman's classic starred Murray, Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as a trio of paranormal specialists who remove ghosts from New York City buildings, and built to a climactic showdown with the larger-than-life (and larger-than-skyscrapers) Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. A sequel was released in 1989.

The Halloween-themed presentation is being touted as a chance for filmgoers to see an improved viewing experience. "This is a special celebration of the movie, giving the fans a chance to see it on the big screen in perfect digital presentation," said Sony Distribution President Rory Bruer, noting that the re-release will benefit from sound and projection technology that had not yet been created 27 years ago. 

With the move, Sony will try to replicate Disney's current success in dusting off "The Lion King." The 1994 musical hit has grossed nearly $40 million since being re-released last weekend. Most of those dollars, however, have come from new 3-D showings; "Ghostbusters" is not getting a 3-D conversion. 

Whether nostalgia and a slightly enhanced viewing experience will be enough to compel filmgoers to see "Ghostbusters" again remains to be seen. (Other classics have tried similar gambits over the years, including limited runs for "The Godfather" and an upcoming 3-D re-release of films in the "Star Wars" franchise.)

It's hard not to see another motive in the revival. As a third "Ghostbusters" film from the lead writers of TV's "The Office" remains in limbo (in part because of Murray's equivocation), a "Ghostbusters" re-release could prime the pump for a new film -- and, maybe, show the quirky star that it's worth coming back for it.

RELATED:

'The Lion King' roars again in 3-D

'Lion King' climbs to No. 1 after 17 years

Dan Aykroyd says 'Ghostbusters' may start filming in winter

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Bill Murray, left, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in "Ghostbusters." Credit: Sony Pictures


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