24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sequels

'Hunger Games:' Gary Ross won't direct 'Catching Fire'

April 10, 2012 |  7:47 pm

Garyross

Proving the adage that there’s nothing as complicated in Hollywood as a hit, Gary Ross won’t direct “Catching Fire,” the second installment in Lionsgate's massively popular “The Hunger Games” franchise.

After several weeks of reports that the parties were haggling over money and deal points, both studio and director made statements in an email from Lionsgate that sought to dismiss those reports even as they confirmed that they were parting ways.

Ross led the statement, saying that “Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct 'Catching Fire.'  As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule."

The second installment of the Jennifer Lawrence-starring franchise based on Suzanne Collins' book series is scheduled to come out in November 2013. That’s about 19 months away — not a luxurious timetable, but hardly a bang-bang one either.

Ross went on to call directing “The Hunger Games” “the happiest experience of my professional life.” Then, addressing the reports, he said, “Contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.”

Lionsgate followed the Ross statement by saying that it was “very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct ‘Catching Fire,’" adding that he “did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work.” It also said, "This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future."

The news will inevitably spark a new round of speculation, calling to mind another famous director-studio separation after a hit: Catherine Hardwicke’s high-profile departure from Summit’s “Twilight Saga.” As in that case, the studio in question was run by Rob Friedman (Summit and Lionsgate were recently combined into one entity), though there are also some differences. Hardwicke’s “Twilight,” for instance, did not earn reviews as strong as Ross’ “The Hunger Games.”

The guessing game can now begin in earnest on which director should take on "Catching Fire," which centers on Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark after they leave the Arena in the titular games. The film already has a shiny pedigree in one respect: Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe, is penning the new film.

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Gary Ross at "The Hunger Games" premiere in Berlin. Credit: Britta Pedersen / European Pressphoto Agency

 


‘Avatar 2:’ How long will we realistically have to wait?

April 6, 2012 |  5:27 pm

 

Ava
James Cameron junkies get their fix this weekend with the release of “Titanic 3-D.” But how long will moviegoers have to wait for something new from the master of the interplanetary and the blue-tailed?

When it initially announced "Avatar 2" a little over a year ago, studio Fox was hopeful for a 2014 release. But Jon Landau, Cameron's producing partner and sometime interview-giver-in-chief, created a small stir this week when he told the website Empire that the sequel, which is expected to take place largely underwater, may not be ready until 2015.

"We're not naming dates, but I think 2014 will be a tough date for us to make. It's about getting it right," said Landau, noting that effects work has begun on the film. (Landau added that "movies make release dates; release dates don't make movies," a position that only a studio filmmaker named James Cameron has the luxury of taking.)

Landau's  comments sounded alarm bells throughout the blogosphere, though the truth is that it's more optimistic than the date range the producer offered in his last round of interviews, when he intimated it could be 2016 before the film is ready.

Cameron isn’t known for speed at this stage of his career. Though he made four movies between 1989 and 1997, it took him 12 years to get his next movie completed, with "Avatar" not hitting theaters until 2009.

Cameron's meticulous work style is amplified by his clout — studios wouldn’t generally tolerate years of waiting from, well, nearly any other filmmaker. It helps to have the two highest-grossing movies of all time ("Avatar" and "Titanic").

Also not moving things along is the fact that Cameron has been spending a lot of time lately under the sea. After journeying solo to the depths of the Mariana Trench, he’s next joining up with a crew in Guam, where he'll make two more dives. Then he’ll come up for air and begin pre-production on “Avatar 2.” As the filmmaker conceded to my colleague Rebecca Keegan recently, "My purpose in making a movie is to make enough money so I can dive.”

Add to these factors the new film’s underwater setting and all the logistics that implies, and don't be surprised if 2016 is where we end up. A James Cameron release is often just around the corner, except not quite.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Avatar." Credit: 20th Century Fox


Will Ferrell's ‘Anchorman’ sequel: Can it work?

March 29, 2012 |  1:56 pm

Anch

The announcement from a burgundy-suited, white-shoed Will Ferrell on “Conan” last night that an  “Anchorman” sequel was on its way prompted cheers from fans who have followed the project’s ups-and-downs for years.

What exactly changed at studio Paramount, which had long flouted the flutist and balked at a Ron Burgundy follow-up  (and, more to the point, the price thereof) remains a discussed question in Hollywood.

Certainly the cast had become pricier as the stock of Ferrell and Steve Carell rose after the 2004 film. Studios will resist paying a lot for a sequel of anything that isn’t a blockbuster.  “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” took in $85 million, which isn’t bad for a comedy with emerging stars but well behind of a lot of other comedies that never got a second go-round.

But the principals may have softened as they took a look at their positions. Outside of “The Other Guys,” Ferrell is coming off a string of disappointments in recent years, including the current "Casa de Mi Padre,” which makes him and his agents a lot less likely to stand on ceremony.

And Paramount had reason to warm up to the idea: It currently has only four movies scheduled for all of 2013, and no comedy franchises scheduled at any point.

One question now is how director Adam McKay and Ferrell (who will likely write together) will take aim at the new story. Will it be set in the present (and would that require changing the 70's hallmarks of the Burgundy character)? And if it remains set in a previous decade, how will the new movie figure in the "Ridgemont High"-ish postscript that had Burgundy landing at a national cable-news channel, Carell’s mentally challenged Brick Tamland becoming a presidential adviser and Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana finding a gig as host of a libidinous reality show called “Intercourse Island”?

But the biggest question may be Ferrell himself. His deluded blowhard seemed reasonably fresh when we saw it eight years ago. Will it seem that way now? The actor has trotted it out a number of times since (“Semi-Pro,” “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory"), retaining the character and simply changing the costume. 

At least a lot of anchormen still seem clueless.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Will Ferrell in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Credit: Paramount Pictures


J.J. Abrams eager for 'Star Trek' sequel but says he won't rush it

July 28, 2011 | 12:08 pm

Trek

"Star Trek" fans were heartened this weekend when one person involved in the 2009 reboot said that the planets were finally aligning for a sequel. A movie that continues the prequel adventures of the young crew of the USS Enterprise could potentially begin shooting next year, producer Damon Lindelof told several outlets, with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the rest of the crew back on board.

On Wednesday, J.J. Abrams, who is expected to return to direct the new movie, told 24 Frames that the process is finally kicking into gear but that he and his team need to remain deliberate about it.

"What works, in the feature world and television, is something that has real staying power," Abrams said. "We're working hard on that, making the kind of headway that frankly I wish we were able to make months ago. But you can't do everything."

Photos: 'Star Trek': You'd never guess these stars were Trekkies

The schedules of many of the principals has indeed been stacked with other projects. Abrams has spent much of the time since the first "Star Trek" concentrating on "Super 8," his throwback monster movie that has become a breakout hit earlier this summer. He's also had a full plate on the television side, shepherding the new Fox prison series "Alcatraz" and new CBS conspiracy-thriller "Person of Interest" (more on "Person of Interest" shortly).

"Star Trek" writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, meanwhile, have been working on their drama "Welcome to People," while Lindelof has been working on Ridley Scott's "Prometheus." All three were involved in this weekend's "Cowboys & Aliens."

Kurtzman and Orci have said that parts of the new "Star Trek" movie have been sketched out. But based on Abrams' comments, there's clearly a lot more work to be done, which would mean that the sequel won't start shooting until sometime in 2012 at the earliest.

Paramount is itching for a new "Star Trek" installment, what with the last film taking in $386 million around the world and earning critical plaudits to boot. (The studio had tentatively said the movie could come out next June; that's obviously not going to happen.)

Abrams acknowledged that he felt pressure to up the pace but said he felt he needed to push back. "There was a lot of desire [on the studio side] to fast-track a new 'Star Trek' and have it be shooting already," Abrams said. "And in theory we could have done that. But what all of us [the creative team] were concerned about is the release date be the master we were serving.

"Nothing is more disheartening than something going in front of the camera before it's ready. The crew can feel it and the cast can feel it. It's just a heart-attack machine."

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— Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Zachary Quinto, left, and Chris Pine in "Star Trek." Credit: Paramount Pictures.


With 'Cars 2,' has Pixar become like everyone else (and is that a bad thing)?

June 27, 2011 |  9:30 am

Cars2
For the last decade, Pixar has pulled off one of the great runs in movie history. Until this weekend, it had released eight films, and every single one of them became a runaway blockbuster (at least $200 million in domestic box office) and a critical darling (not a single one got below 70% on the Rotten Tomatoes website).

It was a run, like Joe DiMaggio in the batter's box or Roger Federer at a Grand Slam semifinal, that seemed impossible for the company to keep replicating, and seemed even less likely to ever be broken by anyone else. (It lasts even longer if you throw in the company's trio of 1990s movies, which didn't all hit $200 million but were financial successes just the same.)

But all hot spells must come to an end, and indeed, one of Pixar's two streaks ended this weekend. "Cars 2" did open to $68 million, putting it on pace for another $200-million gross. The movie, however, left critics cold, garnering only a 34% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as my colleagues Patrick Day and Rebecca Keegan note in an article in Monday's Los Angeles Times. 

Audiences came out, but they came out to a movie that, at least by one measure of quality, was muddling around down there with the rest of summer's moneymaking mediocrities. "Cars 2's" Rotten Tomatoes score was just half of its two-digit box-office total, a disparity that puts it in the same camp as "Green Lantern" (Rotten Tomatoes score: 26%. Opening-weekend: $53 million.)

In a way, the fact that "Cars 2" attracted audiences despite the weak reviews could feel more unsettling than if it had performed poorly at the box office. The lesson of Pixar's long run has not only been that a massively sized, big-budget Hollywood operation can consistently create films of quality, but that this quality was integral to its success. Other studios often churn out indistinguishable, derivative entertainment that makes gobs of money. But at John Lasseter's Pixar, impeccable storytelling and huge popularity move in perfect alignment. The company puts out high-end films, and we come out because of that.

Continue reading »

Bryan Singer: An 'X-Men: First Class' sequel could be set in Vietnam, or amid the civil rights movement

June 7, 2011 |  8:49 pm

Xmenfi
As "X-Men: First Class" completes nearly a week of release, thoughts wander, well, much further ahead, all the way to a sequel.

Though they're not confirming any new development, executives at studio Fox have certainly hoped that the movie's performance warrants a new installment. Like every big Hollywood company these days, Fox craves a franchise, and young actors such as Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy were cast at least in part so they can grow with the series.

The plot of Matthew Vaughn's movie -- which tells of the origins of the mutant superhero group against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- does pave the way for a follow-up. [Minor spoiler alert: Please skip ahead to the next paragraph if you'd like to avoid finding out details]. It ends in a time  when the tension between mutants and humans has only just begun, and the franchise's main relationship between Dr. Charles Xavier and Magneto has yet to harden into archrivalry.

But even if "First Class" turns into an international smash, picking up the trail could be tricky. Once you've gone back and shown where a group like the X-Men came from, it's an open question how much mileage you can get from continuing to show where they came from.

Then again, prequels can come in bunches -- "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" was followed by two more. And "X-Men" does offer some juicy possibilities.

Producer Bryan Singer, at least, has a few ideas about where the franchise could go from here.

In an interview last week, the filmmaker who conceived of the new film told 24 Frames that he sees future installments tracking the evolution of the mutants as they navigate -- or even offer parables about -- 20th century America.

"I don't know if every movie has to be a history lesson. But there's a lot of history to cover. If we sequelized this, it could inhabit a whole world of the 20th century," he said. "When ['First Class'] happened, Kennedy had not been assassinated and the Vietnam War hadn't happened yet."

Nor, he said, would it need to deal just with military matters. "What's really interesting about the '60s setting is the civil rights movement," he said.

The filmmaker noted that the principal "First Class" characters of Magneto and Xavier -- who respectively advocate for armed struggle and peaceful co-existence -- lend themselves to the real-world struggle for racial equality. "What's fascinating about these two characters is that they're really the Malcolm X and Martin Luther King of comic mythology," he said.

Singer is aware of the dangers of overdoing a franchise. Of the third X-Men movie, "X-Men: The Last Stand," which he was involved with only early on, he said, "Some things worked. I'm not sure all of it worked." And he believes the 2009 spinoff "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," with which he was not involved, had its issues. "'Wolverine' told a story, but it didn't always feel like a story that was very essential or interesting."

But he embraced the idea of moving forward with a sixth "X-Men" film, especially if it meant the chance to continue weaving in real-world events. "You don't need to hit people over the head with them in every movie or every scene," he said. "But having them at the core of the conflict is what I think makes it all work."

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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Photo: James McAvoy, left, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult in "X-Men: First Class." Credit: 20th Century Fox

 


Bradley Cooper: I'm worried about the 'Hangover' sequel too

March 15, 2011 |  8:31 pm

Hangov
With studio comedies one of the more inconsistent genres these days (quick, name a great one from the last year), fans could be forgiven for worrying whether "The Hangover Part II" will measure up to the original. After all, with its R-rated outrageousness and mysterio-comedy conceit, Todd Phillips' 2009 film became a pop-cultural sensation and minted a few new stars to boot.

But if moviegoers are a little concerned about the Memorial Day follow-up, they might be interested to know one of the franchise's stars is also anxious. "As we inch closer to release, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trepidatious," Bradley Cooper told 24 Frames, referring to the sequel's commercial prospects. "The Hangover Part II" will have its work cut out for it as it tries to top, among other things, the $277 million in domestic box office of "The Hangover."

Cooper, who stars in this weekend's "Limitless," did go on to check off the reasons he felt the new movie -- which centers on the group's trip to Thailand for the wedding of Ed Helms' character, Stu -- merited all the accolades showered on the first film, and then some. It wasn't quite a Mark Messier-like guarantee, but he offered more than a few reasons why he thought Phillips and the cast (which also includes Justin Bartha, Zach Galifianakis and Mike Tyson) outdid themselves.

"The script was better than the first one. The scope is larger. [Shooting it] went smoother than it did the first time in terms of letting spontaneous moments happen," Cooper said. "And Bangkok is like Vegas on steroids."

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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Photo: "The Hangover Part II." Credit: Warner Bros.


Producers of new 'Blade Runner' movie: Here's what we can do with our film (oh, and we'd love to bring back Ridley Scott)

March 2, 2011 |  8:04 pm

Blade

As Ridley Scott shoots "Prometheus," the don't-call-it-an-Alien-prequel, another Scott classic could be making its way to the big screen. The producers behind "The Book of Eli" and "Insomnia" announced this afternoon they were putting the finishing touches on a deal to acquire the rights to Scott's dystopian classic "Blade Runner."

The company, Alcon Entertainment, is acquiring rights that will allow them to make a movie with elements from both Scott's 1982 movie and the Phillip K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" on which it's based.

The company isn't buying remake rights — in fact, co-founder Broderick Johnson says "we never would want to remake it — but they do think there's a  rich vein of material for a prequel or sequel, which they will be entitled to make. (They'd also be allowed to build off scenes from the original.)

"The 'Blade Runner' lore is kind of irresistible," Alcon co-founder Andrew Kosove told 24 Frames from Atlanta, where he and Johnson are on the set of their Queen Latifah comedy "Joyful Noise." "And the extraordinary pace of technological advancement since the movie came out means that there are a lot of opportunities to do something fresh."

A story of "replicants" (robots that are indistinguishable from humans) who return illegally to a dystopian Los Angeles, the Harrison Ford-Sean Young original mines neo-noir conventions and also explores religious themes, while Ford's Rick Deckard chases down said replicants.

Although the movie was not a commercial success upon release, it became an enduring hit on television and home video, and fans are likely to find themselves both intensely curious about a new film while taking very seriously any attempt to tinker with it.

Kosove and Johnson say they're aware of that affection and don't treat it lightly. "The risk is not just getting a movie made but coming up with a story that really justifies coming back one to one of the great science-fiction stories," Kosove, who with Johnason is producing the movie with original co-executive producer Bud Yorkin, said.

There may be more immediate issues, though.

The original was set in 2019, a year that seemed very far away in 1982 but that seems pretty close now. A prequel wouldn't allow for a setting too many years beyond our own. (The producers say they're not concerned because technology changes quickly and anyway, Johnson says, this would be set in an alternative universe.)

Still, filling in parts of the back story of a tale we already know isn't easy, as George Lucas could tell you.

As for a sequel, the trick, the pair say, would be to find new elements that are neither too close to or too far from the story laid out in the original.

There's also the question of whether the first film has become too influential for its own good.

"A lot of filmmakers have borrowed from 'Blade Runner' in the intervening years, and we want to make sure we don't look like we're borrowing from the movies that borrowed from it," Kosove said. "Coming up with something original on our part is a real threshold issue." He added: "We know there are tremendous challenges here."

Although Alcon has financing for their films and a deal to distribute its pictures through Warner Bros, the process is still early and tenative; there is, at this point, no screenwriter or director. And as for the elephant — or director — in the room?   "We haven't met Ridley," Kosove said. "but the thought of re-engaging with his artistic vision is very exciting, and [him directing] is something we think would be wonderful."

It's hard to avoid thoughts of "Tron," another techno-themed 1982 movie that also wasn't a hit in its time. For all their differences, both movies anticipated social and technological changes, but only came to be appreciated for it later.

Of course, from a commercial standpoint a sequel to that one worked out pretty well.

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "Blade Runner: The Final Cut." Credit: Warner Bros.

 


'Percy Jackson' sequel could be on its way

March 1, 2011 |  6:58 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Fans waiting for a sequel to "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" may not have to wait that much longer.

Fox 2000, the 20th Century Fox label behind the adventure franchise, is putting a follow-up project to the 2010 young-adult film in active development and could shoot it as early as this summer, according to a person who has been briefed on the project's status but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The movie would be subtitled "The Sea of Monsters" and derive from the second book in Rick Riordan's five-book series.Monst

The studio has hired Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski -- who wrote "Ed Wood" and "Agent Cody Banks" -- to write a script for the new film, which they are currently doing. But the person cautioned that the project is still very much at the development phase; the movie, for instance, does not yet have a director.

Chris Columbus, who helmed the first installment, is not expected to return, although he will produce the picture, as will "Breaking Dawn" producer Karen Rosenfelt, who also produced "Lightning Thief."

The lead cast members, headed by Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, will come back, according to the person who was briefed.

A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment.

The first film introduced the world to  an ordinary boy who discovers that he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon, and that many elements from ancient Greek mythology still exist today. (The film aged up the character from 12, which he was in the novel, to 17.) Riordan's second book follows Percy and his group of friends as they head to the titular sea to find the mythical Golden Fleece and to free a friend who has been captured there.

A "Percy Jackson" sequel had been a question mark since the original came out a little over a year ago. Riordan's books are hugely popular, with the series spending more than three years on the New York Times bestseller list. The original film was a modest hit, fueled by its performance overseas: It grossed a decent $89 million in the U.S. but pulled in an additional $137 million around the world.

Young-adult movies tend to spawn sequels relatively quickly, as studios worry that both a cast and an audience can grow out of a franchise. But one person familiar with the project said that Fox believes that the ongoing popularity of the books is more than sufficient to overcome a potential two-year lag between films.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Book jacket from "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea Monsters." Credit: Hyperion Books


Sarah Jessica Parker: I want a 'Sex and the City 3' (but not as a prequel, and maybe not now)

February 16, 2011 |  6:21 pm

Parker
The prospects for another "Sex and the City" movie have been in question ever since the diminished box-office dollars and lukewarm reviews for "Sex and the City 2" began coming in last spring. But Sarah Jessica Parker, who produced as well as starred in the two Michael Patrick King creations, said this week she's not willing to give up on the franchise just yet.

"I would go back," said Parker, speaking to 24 Frames on the New York set of her new movie, the working-woman comedy "I Don't Know How She Does It." "I think there's one more story to tell. I know there is."

The second "SATC" ended with Parker's Carrie Preston and Chris Noth's Mr. Big reconciling their marriage differences after said nuptials faced a threat from Carrie's former beau Aidan. Over six TV seasons and two movies, however, there have been no children (yet) for the former Miss Bradshaw, something that a third film could explore.

But Parker, taking on her biggest film role with "I Don't Know How She Does It" -- in which she stars in pretty much every scene -- said she may not be interesting in reprising her iconic role at this point in her career.

"I'd definitely tell that [third] story, and I know Michael would do it right. But maybe not now. Maybe in five years, you know?" she said.

Parker explained that the impulse to wait came from a desire to feel challenged in her work.

"It's not that I want to get away from [SATC]. In a million years, who could get away from it it?" she said. It's just that "if I'm not scared again that's not good for me. That's literally no good for me. If I'm not terrified and nauseous and worried the first two weeks of production, then what's going to happen? You could wither on the vine. It's like if you can't use your leg. It just atrophies."

Some reports have said that a new movie would, in the manner of so many Hollywood franchises, take the shape of a prequel, with Blake Lively taking on the role of a young Carrie Bradshaw. (Candace Bushnell is set to publish "Summer and the City," about a 19-year-old Carrie's move to New York that said movie would be based on.) Parker said she was pretty taken aback by those reports.

"I was like, Wha-a-a-a-t?' " the actress said. She said she wasn't opposed to the idea of a "Sex and the City"-type story with twentysomethings -- she just didn't feel it should feature specifically SATC characters, especially since both the TV series and the movies explained some of those characters' backstories.

"There are a lot of important and interesting stories that 21-year-olds can tell," Parker said. "I don't begrudge any 21-year-old the opportunity to tell their stories. They prove to us on an everyday basis that they're interesting. Even their narcissism is interesting. Even their inertia is interesting. Even their tonal speech patterns are interesting.

"But I don't think we can pretend to go back," she continued. "It's creating two histories. It's like, 'Oh I didn't know that about Carrie Bradshaw.' "

--Steven Zeitchik, reporting from New York

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City 2." Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / New Line

 


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