24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: John Horn

Trailer Trash: New preview for Ben Affleck's 'Argo' [Video]

May 25, 2012 | 12:40 pm

Affleck's next movie, "Argo," scheduled for Oct. 12, presents the hardest test yet of his expertise behind the camera, as he steps into a genre -- Middle Eastern conflict -- that has felled any number of skilled filmmakers
Ben Affleck isn't off to a bad start as a movie director.

His directorial debut, 2007's "Gone Baby Gone," received overwhelmingly positive reviews, while 2010's "The Town" earned equally great marks and grossed more than $154 million globally.

Affleck's next movie, "Argo," scheduled for Oct. 12, presents the hardest test yet of his expertise behind the camera, as he steps into a genre -- Middle Eastern conflict -- that has felled any number of skilled filmmakers. 

Based on the true story of an Iranian rescue operation that feels more like "Tropic Thunder" than anything military intelligence could dream up, "Argo" stars Affleck as the architect of the mission. 

Here's a look at the latest trailer, complete with our Trailer Trash commentary:

 

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Stale-looking "That's My Boy" is a raunch risk for Adam Sandler

-- John Horn

Photo: Ben Affleck in "Argo." Credit: Claire Folger / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / GK Films


Trailer Trash: Sony's new spot for 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

May 23, 2012 | 12:28 pm

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is a reboot of a reboot.

Ten years ago, Sony Pictures reintroduced “Spider-Man” with amazing results. The three Peter Parker films grossed a combined $2.5 billion around the globe.

But Sony grew worried that the movies were getting too expensive and needed a fresh start. So the studio replaced original director Sam Raimi with Marc Webb, the 37-year-old maker of 2009's popular independent romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer.” Star Tobey Maguire was switched out for Andrew Garfield, the star of “The Social Network,” who is eight years younger than Maguire.

The resulting movie, called “The Amazing Spider-Man,” arrives in theaters July 3.

So far, it's been a great year for superheroes. "The Avengers" just crossed $400 million in domestic theaters after just two weeks. In North America, "The Avengers" is now the sixth highest-grossing release of all time, passing "Toy Story 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Later this summer, Batman is back (maybe for the last time?) in "The Dark Knight Rises."

In our new 24 Frames video feature above, we take a look at the latest "Spider-Man" trailer, and assess the film's ambition and obstacles.

 

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'Amazing Spider-Man:' Andrew Garfield's angst [Trailer]

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--John Horn

Video: "The Amazing Spider-Man" trailer. Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment


James Bond 'Skyfall' trailer released [Video]

May 21, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Sony has released its first teaser trailer for the long-delayed James Bond film "Skyfall," starring Daniel Craig and directed by Sam Mendes
James Bond may be used to action. Director Sam Mendes is rather new to the game.

But Monday's first teaser trailer for the long-delayed "Skyfall," in which Mendes ("American Beauty," "Road to Perdition") takes on a huge Hollywood franchise for the first time, does not spare the kind of pyrotechnics that Bond fans expect their 007 movies to have.

"Skyfall" stars Daniel Craig, coming off "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the flops "Dream House" and "Cowboys & Aliens." It's his third Bond film and the first since 2008's tongue-twister "The Quantum of Solace," which grossed $586.1 million globally, about on par with 2006's "Casino Royale." Plot details are not clearly spelled out in the trailer, but it does suggest that Bond is on the wrong side of the glass in an interrogation scene. It's unclear why the word "Skyfall" triggers bad memories when Bond is asked about it, but it appears to be a mission that didn't go that well.

There are fleeting glimpses of Judi Dench's M, and Bond girls Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris. As for memorable dialogue (the screenplay credit is likely to be shared, but "Gladiator's" John Logan did extensive work on the project), it's pretty slim pickings, the best being Bond saying in what sounds like a Hemingway parody, "Some men are coming to kill us. We're going to kill them first."

"Skyfall" is scheduled to open Nov. 9.

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-- John Horn

Photo: Daniel Craig in "Skyfall." Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Skyfall2012 / Danjaq / United Artists Corp. / Columbia Pictures


'Battleship' debuts weakly at the box office [video]

May 21, 2012 |  5:00 am

BattleshipThe headline writers had fun.

The makers of “Battleship” didn’t.

In a dramatically weak opening, the alien invasion drama grossed just an estimated $25.3 million in its domestic premiere, as “Battleship” took in less than half the returns of “The Avengers” in its third weekend.

The Marvel superhero story continued its stunning run at the ticket window, becoming the highest grossing global release in the history of the Walt Disney Co., with total receipts of $1.18 billion.

“Battleship” has done moderately well overseas, grossing $226.8 million to date, but with a budget of $209 million and gloomy prospects domestically, Universal Pictures will struggle just to break even on the production. 

Two other new films in wide release opened softly. Paramount’s Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Dictator” grossed $17.4 million but did better in international markets, while Lionsgate and Alcon Entertainment’s pregnancy plot “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was orphaned by ticket buyers, with sales of a paltry $10.5 million, well below expectations.

As for the “Battleship” headlines, here are a few of the cruelest:

‘Battleship’ Capsizes with $25 Million Launch

‘Battleship Sinks, ‘Dictator’ Drowns

‘Battleship’ Fires Blanks

‘The Avengers’ Torpedoes ‘Battleship’

‘Battleship’ Pulls Up Lame at Box Office


RELATED:

Box office: 'Avengers' helps sink 'Battleship'

'Avengers' final opening weekend tally: $207.4 million

'Battleship' keeps Taylor Kitsch afloat after 'John Carter' debacle

--John Horn

Photo of Rihanna in "Battleship." Credit: Universal Pictures.

 

 

 

 


Indie films find financial backers online through Kickstarter

May 10, 2012 |  8:00 am

Somewhere Between

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

Paul Li is a Bay Area doctor whose show business experience is mostly limited to visiting the multiplex. Yet Li, through the website Kickstarter, managed to help underwrite the coming theatrical release of the Chinese adoption documentary “Somewhere Between.”

Li joined with about 1,400 other donors to raise more than $100,000 to finance “Somewhere Between's” U.S. distribution. “It really struck a very emotionally resonant chord,” said Li, who with his wife is raising an adopted Chinese-born daughter. “It really connected with me on a personal level.”

Increasingly, outfits such as Kickstarter and its chief rival, Indiegogo, are helping ultra-low-budget productions make their way into movie theaters.

Looking to raise money to finance a movie's production or distribution, a filmmaker will take his or her project to the Internet, pitching not only its premise but also a specific fundraising goal and deadline. There's no chance that the donors will make any monetary return on their gifts, but they can receive plenty of perks — from free DVDs to invitations to movie premieres — to encourage contributions.

“The kind of art and culture that we like are things that tend to be more on the margins and aren't easily funded,” said Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler. “Normally, people put money into things because they're gonna make money and that's a primary motivation. But the kinds of things that we like ... they just want to exist and to be heard.”

It's called crowd-funding — the fundraising campaigns usually entail hundreds of small contributions rather than a handful of large gifts — and Kickstarter and Indiegogo are being used to finance all manner of creative endeavors, but they are particularly addressing a perilous bottleneck in the independent film world.

Last year, 469 independent films were released theatrically, a huge increase from 2002's total of 270 titles. The most prominent art house distributors — companies such as Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics — typically handle only a dozen or so movies a year each. Although million-dollar sales deals generate film festival headlines, the vast majority of movies receive puny distribution offers (or none at all), leaving their backers swimming in red ink with little chance at breaking even.

After premiering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, “On the Ice” received good reviews and a couple of distribution nibbles, but none that would cover more than a fraction of the Alaskan coming-of-age drama's $1-million budget.

So, the film's makers decided to fund their own distribution and turned to Kickstarter to raise $80,000. The campaign succeeded, and “On the Ice” rolled into a handful of theaters this February, where it has grossed more than $70,000 to date. While those sales still leave “On the Ice” well short of making a profit, the theatrical release should boost DVD sales.

“The Kickstarter money allowed us to hire a public relations firm, to make a trailer, to have posters — all the things you need to do to put your movies into theaters,” said Lynette Howell, one of the film's producers. “And it's still in theaters. It just keeps going.”

Kickstarter campaigns must reach their funding goal by a deadline set by the project's creators, or all funds go back to donors. On Indiegogo, filmmakers who come up short can return funds to donors or pay a 9% fee to keep the balance. For projects that reach their goals, Indiegogo charges a 4% fee, while Kickstarter levies a 5% charge. Furthermore, Kickstarter accepts donations from all around the world,  but the recipient of any donation must have a U.S. bank account.

Linda Goldstein Knowlton, the director and producer of “Somewhere Between,” said she wasn't sure her $800,000 film should try for a theatrical release until it started winning festival prizes, including the people's choice award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. “It's really hard to distribute a documentary theatrically if you're not Michael Moore,” she said. “But the response to the film was beyond our dreams. It plays well with a crowd.”

All the same, the reaction from potential distributors was muted. “Even without seeing it, they feel it's a very niche thing,” Goldstein Knowlton said.

Continue reading »

Film academy will open outdoor theater with 'Field of Dreams'

May 2, 2012 |  6:15 pm

Field of Dreams

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that it would christen its new Hollywood amphitheater and event space with an outdoor screening of the baseball classic “Field of Dreams."

The invitation-only screening will be held May 19. The 1989 film, which immortalized the line “If you build it, he will come,” was written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson, who has been active in academy leadership.

The presenters of the Academy Awards purchased the 3.5-acre lot near the intersection of Vine Street and Fountain Avenue in 2005 for $50 million, intending to build a world-class movie museum there. The scaled-down museum will now be housed in an old department store building next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with whom the academy is partnering on the long-delayed project. 

The academy did not announce any other programming for the venue.

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--John Horn

Photo: Ray Liotta, left,  and Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams." Credit: Universal Pictures


'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' vs. 'Avengers': A risky Hollywood move

May 1, 2012 |  5:18 pm

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
In Hollywood, it’s counterprogramming. In the real world, it’s borderline suicide.

When the big studios release their most anticipated blockbusters, any number of distributors dare to open their smaller movies on the very same weekend. The idea is to offer moviegoers — usually more upscale, grown-up patrons — a clear alternative to the big popcorn titles, which typically cater to teenagers and young adults. 

This weekend, for example, Fox Searchlight will introduce its $12-million comedy “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a look at seven British retirees embarking to India, directly opposite Disney and Marvel’s $220-million “The Avengers,” an action-packed spectacle with Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk.

In theory, the counterprogramming idea makes sense and can work for smaller films. In recent history, however, the results have been mixed to terrible — with one exception — especially in the cases of  wide releases pitched against the three biggest weekend premieres of all time.

Last summer, on the same weekend that Warner Bros. unveiled “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” to a record opening of $169.2 million, Disney tried to grab little kids who cower at the sight of Lord Voldemort with “Winnie the Pooh.” But the animated bear yarn unraveled fast, grossing just $26.7 million in limited release. In limited release that same weekend, Eros International’s Indian film “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” opened to respectable business, ultimately selling $3.1 million in tickets.

On the second biggest opening weekend of all time — Warners Bros.’ debut of “The Dark Knight” in 2008, which took in $158.4 million — Universal scored one of the biggest counterprogramming successes ever. Its ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!” ultimately grossed $144.1 million. “Space Chimps,” an animated release from 20th Century Fox, never took flight, grossing just $30.1 million. In limited release that same weekend, First Look’s “Transsiberian” performed reasonably well, netting $2.2 million.

Earlier this year, opposite Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games,” which grossed a third-best opening of $152.5 million, no movie dared open in wide release. In a limited national release, Samuel Goldwyn’s “October Baby” ultimately grossed $5 million, Sony Pictures Classics' “The Raid: Redemption” grossed $3.9 million and Music Box’s “The Deep Blue Sea” grossed $874,000.

Fox Searchlight, which co-financed “Marigold Hotel” with Participant Media, doesn’t really need the film to cripple “The Avengers” in local theaters. Having opened in Europe several weeks ago, “Marigold Hotel” already has grossed more than $70 million overseas.

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— John Horn

Photo: Judi Dench, left, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Credit: Ishika Mohan/Fox Searchlight.

 

 


Anthony Hopkins vanishes (mostly) into 'Hitchcock'

April 25, 2012 |  4:34 pm

Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock

Almost 32 years after his death, Alfred Hitchcock is still shocking audiences — but the petrified patrons are not in any movie theater. Instead, the invited guests (actually paid actors) were inside a Pasadena mansion during the second week of filming for “Hitchcock,” a fictionalized look at the English filmmaker during the preparation, filming and release of 1960’s “Psycho.”

Hitchcock — or a very approximate facsimile — was on a recent day throwing a bomb into an otherwise genteel tea party, handing out a batch of gruesome crime scene photographs to announce his intentions to tell a grisly tale of murder and mutilation.

The Fox Searchlight production, which could be ready by year's end, stars Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife and creative collaborator, Alma Reville. The cast includes Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. It is the first narrative feature directed by screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Sacha Gervasi (“Anvil! The Story of Anvil”).

Hopkins’ transformation, accomplished with the help of prosthetic makeup by Howard Berger and Peter Montagna and a fat suit from costume designer Julie Weiss that turns the slim Hopkins into a 300-pound giant, is not intended to hide the Oscar-winning actor completely.

“We don’t want Anthony Hopkins to disappear under the makeup,” Gervasi, who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," said during a break in filming. “And we don’t want him to sound exactly like Hitchcock, either. That wasn’t the point.”

Instead, the goal was to give moviegoers a little bit of both the real and the illusion — a slice of Hitchcock here, a taste of Hopkins there, all the while probing the director’s complicated state of mind. During a break in filming, Hopkins said that he met Hitchcock late in the director's life at the restaurant Ma Maison. "He had no idea who I was," said Hopkins, whose acting career was just taking off at the time.

The "Hitchcock" plot follows the troubled financing of “Psycho," the director’s battles with Hollywood censors and Hitchcock’s desire to prove to his doubters, his wife and himself that he still had an edge. The screenplay, whose writers include Hitchcock biographer Stephen Rebello, includes references to Edward Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber who was partial inspiration for Buffalo Bill, the villain at the center of Hopkins’ “The Silence of the Lambs.”

In the scene at the Pasadena estate, Hitchcock disbursed photographs detailing some of Gein’s more abhorrent acts, hoping to start the “Psycho” drumbeat. It appeared to be working.

At one point, a gossip columnist in attendance asked of Hitchcock, “Am I the only one who finds this offensive?” Without missing a beat, Hitchcock replied, “I was hoping everyone would.”

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-- John Horn

Photo: Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in "Hitchcock," now filming. Courtesy Fox Searchlight.


'Argo,' 'Quill' and 'Nocturnal Agony': Take our movie title quiz

April 19, 2012 |  4:09 pm

"Lawless"

Movie names are no small business, and are often tested and changed repeatedly, but that doesn’t mean they always make sense.

Recently, the prohibition drama “The Wettest County” (based on Matt Bondurant’s book “The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story,” which was perhaps too long to fit on a marquee) was renamed “Lawless,” which sounds like a generic thriller. Mel Gibson's prison drama "Get the Gringo" was originally known as "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," which suggested a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy.

Some title changes work. “Pretty Woman” was once known as “3000” (Julia Roberts’ fee for an evening of prostitution) and Bullock's “While You Were Sleeping” was originally the awful “Coma Guy.”

But any number of upcoming movies have titles that are either hopelessly generic or frustratingly inscrutable. Here’s a list of some of 2012’s most problematic movie names. See if you can guess what they are intending to describe (answers on the next page):

 

'NOCTURNAL AGONY'


 

'QUILL'


 

'SAFE HAVEN'


 

'ARGO'


 

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--John Horn

Photo: Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in "The Wettest County" "Lawless." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Continue reading »

Mel Gibson's 'You don't look Jewish' line falls flat

April 19, 2012 |  3:30 pm

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson’s problems with anti-Semitism don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and the actor-filmmaker did little to improve his image at a Wednesday screening for his new film, “Get the Gringo.”

In an otherwise softball-question-filled conversation with Harry Knowles after the film’s premiere in Austin, Texas, the movie blogger asked if any of the lead “Get the Gringo” filmmaking team had any problems working with Gibson, who went on an anti-Semitic rant when arrested for driving under the influence in 2006 and recently was accused of “hating Jews” by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas.

“Get the Gringo” director Adrian Grunberg, a longtime Gibson colleague who said he wears both a Star of David and Christian necklace, said he and the “Lethal Weapon” star got along fine.

Stacy Perskie, another veteran Gibson collaborator who co-wrote the script for the prison drama with Grunberg and Gibson, then said that he was Jewish, to which Gibson replied, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.” The line elicited a smattering of groans.

But Knowles declined to follow up or ask Gibson about his feud with Eszterhas, prompted by the shelving of a planned collaboration between Gibson and the “Basic Instinct” screenwriter on a historical drama about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee.

There was one other opening for Gibson to apologize for any of his well-publicized transgressions. Knowles asked Gibson whether there was a most important career lesson he had learned. Gibson thought for a moment and replied, “Career lesson? Always remain an audience member. That’s the truth.”

"Get the Gringo" premieres on DirecTV on May 1; it will not be shown in theaters.

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-- John Horn

Photo: Mel Gibson in "Get the Gringo." Credit: Icon Productions.

 


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