24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Warner Bros.

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.”

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Mel Gibson's 'Maccabee' movie put on hold [updated]

April 11, 2012 |  5:28 pm

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson's planned collaboration with "Basic Instinct" screenwriter Joe Eszterhas on a historical drama about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee has been put on hold after Warner Bros. decided it was not ready to film the current script, the studio said Wednesday.

Gibson, who went on an anti-semitic rant when he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2006 and was criticized for depicting Jews negatively in 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," was to produce and potentially direct but not star in the Maccabee film. He will likely instead direct but not star in a movie about the Vikings written by Randall Wallace, who wrote Gibson's Oscar-winning "Braveheart" in 1995, a spokesman for the actor said.

A Warner Bros. spokesman said the studio was "analyzing what to do with the project" after the latest Eszterhas script was rejected. Gibson's involvement in the film had been criticized by Jewish leaders, with the Anti-Defamation League saying it "would be a travesty to have the story of the Maccabees told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people’s religious views."

Warner Bros.' options include hiring a new writer or shelving the project. Maccabee led a revolt against the Seleucid Empire around 160 BC and is considered one of the greatest Jewish warriors of all time and his accomplishments are celebrated on Hanukkah. News of the film's status was first reported by the website the Wrap.

[UPDATE, 5:20 p.m.: The Wrap subsequently posted a letter from Eszterhas to Gibson dated April 8 saying that the actor never intended to make the movie because "You hate Jews." The spokesman for Gibson told 24 Frames the actor planned to issue a "letter of response." A manager for Eszterhas did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.]

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— John Horn

Photo: Mel Gibson. Credit: Kirk McKoy.

 

 

 

 


Word of Mouth: 'Wrath' tries to right 'Clash's' 3-D wrongs

March 29, 2012 |  4:18 pm

"Wrath of the Titans"

The Hollywood gods spoke. And they did not approve of "Clash of the Titans."

Even though 2010's sword and sandals was a global blockbuster -- its nearly $500 million worldwide haul made it the year's 11th highest-grossing release -- its industry critics made a lot more noise than the ticket buyers. The focus of their ire? The hasty "Clash of the Titans" 3-D conversion, undertaken at the last minute to take advantage of higher 3-D ticket prices.

While James Cameron is spending more than a year turning his 1997 smash "Titanic" into a 3-D presentation for its April 4 re-release, the makers of "Clash of the Titans" spent a mere six weeks hurriedly converting the mythological spectacle into 3-D.

DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg said the film's makeover "snookered" ticket buyers, while "Avatar" creator Cameron said of the conversion, "There was no artistry to it whatsoever."

Arriving on Friday, the "Clash of the Titans" sequel, called "Wrath of the Titans," attempts to atone for the first film's shortcomings.

Although the new, $150-million "Titans" film also was converted from 2-D into 3-D, any number of shots and visual effects sequences were designed from the very beginning for stereoscopic presentation. What's more, the filmmakers spent a year on the 3-D upgrade, working hard to ensure that the conversion was done as well as possible.

Even if "Wrath of the Titans," which stars "Avatar's" Sam Worthington, silences its 3-D critics, it will have a hard time making a big splash at the box office, as it must fend off "The Hunger Games" juggernaut. The reviews for the film have been better than they were for "Clash of the Titans," but the "Wrath" notices are still mixed to negative.

In this week's Word of Mouth column, John Horn looks at the sequel's prospects, and previews his report in this video:

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Photo: Danny Huston, left, and Sam Worthington in "Wrath of the Titans." Credit: Jay Maidment / MCT


Live chat with 'The Lucky One's' Nicholas Sparks on Oct. 13

October 7, 2011 |  6:30 am

Live chat with Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks, whose book "The Lucky One" is getting the big-screen treatment in April, will be joining us for a live online chat on Thursday, Oct. 13, starting at 10 a.m. PDT.

Sparks is a popular and prolific author with more than a dozen novels to his name, the latest of which, "The Best of Me," hits shelves Oct. 11. His previous titles include "The Notebook," "A Walk to Remember," "Dear John" and "The Last Song." The upcoming adaptation of "The Lucky One," starring Zac Efron as a Marine trying to find a mystery woman who he believes was his good luck charm during the war in Iraq, is Sparks' seventh book to be made into a movie.

Warner Bros. has also bought film rights to "The Best of Me," a tear-inducing tale of former high school sweethearts who reunite 25 years later. Sparks is co-producing the movie with Denise DiNovi, who produced "The Lucky One," and filming is scheduled to start in 2012.

To schedule a reminder for the chat, just fill out the form below. And be sure to join us Thursday.

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— Noelene Clark

Photo: Nicholas Sparks in 2010. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times.


At Venice, is 'Contagion' following 'The Town's' awards playbook?

August 31, 2011 |  3:19 pm

Anna Jacoby-Herron and Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh's virus drama Contagion

When Warner Bros. Pictures premieres Steven Soderbergh's globe-trotting virus drama "Contagion" Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, it will be launching a campaign for a movie that shares many attributes with the studio's hit from fall 2010: Ben Affleck's "The Town," which also made its debut at the starry European fest.

Despite very different subject matters, "The Town" (starring Affleck and Jeremy Renner) and "Contagion" are both accessible dramas with strong ensemble casts. Plus, "Contagion" (which stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet, among others) also boasts that critical quality of certain fall releases: strong commercial appeal mixed with potential awards support.

Warner Bros. worldwide president of marketing Sue Kroll sees the similarities between the two films.

“They are similar in that they both have popular appeal, a great mix of cast and a very accessible subject matter told in a really wonderful, interesting way. They are incredibly well-crafted, well-acted, well-directed films but they can broaden out and may end up reaching a much wider audience,” Kroll says.

"Contagion" needs a strong commercial bow before it can be considered an Oscar candidate, and with its stateside opening set for Sept. 9, Venice serves as a strategic launching pad worldwide for the movie. "The Town" opened in the U.S. last Sept. 17 and grossed $154 million worldwide, and Warner Bros. ran a concerted Oscar campaign for the film. The picture missed the cut for the 10 best picture nominees, but Renner was nominated in the best supporting actor category.

"Contagion" has a chance for even greater box office success, considering the film features a much larger geographic scope and a cast with more international stars, including Marion Cotillard, Jude Law and Chin Han.

Plus, who doesn't love a good pandemic?

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-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Matt Damon and Anna Jacoby-Herron in a scene in "Contagion." Credit: Claudette Barius / Reuters


Tweety and Daffy Duck returning to theaters -- with original voice Mel Blanc

June 8, 2011 |  5:08 pm

Daffy's Rhapsody 
Warner Bros. is producing three new 3-D cartoons with its classic Looney Tunes characters to show in theaters before the studio’s movies –- two of them featuring the talent of legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, who has been dead for nearly 22 years.

Blanc, who for decades provided the voices of such beloved characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, will be heard again via two recordings he made in the 1950s, the studio said Wednesday.

One of them, “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat,” performed in the voice of Tweety, sold millions of copies when it was released in 1951. The song will be featured in a new cartoon using the same title, with Sylvester -- of course -- on the prowl for the little bird.

The other song is "Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody" from 1950, in which Blanc gives voice to the famed fowl explaining that the reason he’s “daffy, and so gosh-derned riff-raffy, and so screwy and laffy, is because those hunters won’t leave me alone.” It will be used in a new cartoon with Daffy and Elmer Fudd, “Daffy’s Rhapsody,” that Warners plans to release Nov. 18 alongside the feature film “Happy Feet 2.”

The third theatrical cartoon will feature the Road Runner and his long-time nemesis, Wile E. Coyote. They also were featured in three theatrical shorts that the studio released last year.

All three cartoons are being made in computer-animation rather than the hand-drawn style of the original Looney Tunes. They’re being directed by Matthew O’Callaghan for Warner Bros. Animation.  Release dates for “Puddy Tat” and Road Runner have not been set.

Melblanccrop Blanc, known as “The Man of 1,000 Voices,” worked in show business for more than 50 years. In addition to his stable of Warner Bros. cartoon characters, he also was the voice of Barney Rubble on “The Flintstones,” created the famous laugh for Woody Woodpecker and performed a variety of characters on Jack Benny’s radio and TV shows. Blanc died in July 1989 at the age of 81.

“This will probably be the last time that Looney Tunes fans will have an opportunity to see an original Mel Blanc short featuring these characters,” said Sam Register, an executive vice president at Warner Bros. Animation.

--Lee Margulies

Top photo: Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck in "Daffy's Rhapsody." Credit: Warner Bros. Animation. Bottom photo: Mel Blanc. Credit: Associated Press

 


With trailer for 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2', Harry begins his final wand wave [Video]

April 28, 2011 |  1:31 pm

On Wednesday, we got the first taste of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" with a trailer (the first of what will likely be several) showing a flurry of action, dragons, explosions and, of course, wand-play.

This final chapter will wrap up the major quest begun In "Part I," in which Harry set off on an odyssey to destroy Horcruxes, objects containing fragments of the soul of Lord Voldemort, discovering powerful objects that could help win the war against evil.

The series has grown from a simple foray into a magical world into a full-fledged dark fantasy with world-ending implications, and that dire mood is set early in the trailer. Unfortunately, with the frenetic series of action sequences, those who have seen only the movies and shied away from the bicep-building books may be a little lost  on some plot points.

Still, we do get a tantalizing sense of what's to come, particularly as we're teased by images of the battle of Hogwarts, one of the central events of the movie for anyone not named Harry Potter.

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-- Jevon Phillips


McG and Bryan Singer pull a Joss Whedon and go Web

September 21, 2010 |  5:22 pm

EXCLUSIVE: This one's not strictly a piece of movie news. But given how we've been hearing for a while that film directors will be be turning to the Web both as a source of income and an outlet for creativity, it caught our attention.

Two up-and-coming-directors are joining two established filmmakers for a pair of Web series that will be financed and distributed by Warner Bros., sources familiar with the projects say.  

Mcg First, "Sorority Row" director Stewart Hendler is coming on to direct "H+," a futuristic story about a virus that wipes out a significant portion of the human population. The story takes place a decade in the future, when many people have had their minds wired to the Internet 24/7, leading to the disastrous viral incident and a new social order.

Bryan Singer, director of "Superman Returns" and "The Usual Suspects," along with "House" production company Bad Hat Harry, were earlier announced as producers, and they remain involved in that capacity. (The project had initially been pitched to Bad Hat as a TV series by executive producers and writers John Cabrera and Cosimo De Tommaso before it was reconceived for the Web.)

Meanwhile, Thor Freudenthal, director of breakout hit "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," is also taking on a new Warner Bros. Web series. Titled "Aim High," the Heath Corson-Richie Keen project is described as an international-espionage series set in a high school, with the main character a teen operative simultaneously conducting hits and falling in love with a girl in his class.

Adding to the filmic credibility: McG's Wonderland Sound + Vision is producing the series.

Warner Premiere, the production arm of Warner Home Video, is financing both pieces of programming through its digital unit  -- the division previously had concentrated on animated content but has been looking to move into live-action  -- along with Dolphin Entertainment, the tween-programming specialists behind "Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide."

Other heavy-hitting names are involved too: Peter Murrieta, the former showrunner of tween-fantasy hit "Wizard of Waverly Place," is producing "Aim High."

Both series are expected to be a paid piece of programming available on a host of online platforms, with each totaling roughly an hour. Shooting is likely to begin this fall on each, and expect releases as early as 2011 via Warner Premiere sister unit Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

Ever since Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along" became an online sensation two years ago, fans and Hollywood have been waiting for top television and film names to start making the jump to the Web. Among other advantages, the development of online series can move a lot faster than the glacial pace of film.

The talent influx hasn't quite happened yet -- among other concerns, there's the matter of paying movie directors and actors Internet prices -- but the addition of these names should give the category a boost.  The Web may gain ground on conventional entertainment yet.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: McG. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press


Drew Barrymore and Justin Long will go a greater distance

August 12, 2010 |  3:56 pm

Going
The marketing has just started rolling out for the romantic comedy "Going the Distance," but in case you were rushing online to book tickets, don't do that just yet. Warner Bros. is moving back the release date for the romantic comedy by one week to Sept. 3, Labor Day weekend.

It's not the first change for the film, which originally was dated for Oct. 8 before it was moved up to the summer. The new date is historically a pretty poor weekend for moviegoing. (Last year it saw the release of "Gamer," "Final Destination" and "All About Steve" -- average four-day box office: $13 million.)

But the studio wanted a little more breathing room after the female-targeted "The Switch" and "Eat Pray Love," which open one and two weeks before, respectively. In a statement, Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said that “moving to the Labor Day weekend not only allows us to take advantage of the long holiday weekend, but gives us some distance from the other female-driven films releasing in August." And the Sept. 3 date has no other wide releases besides the male-skewing Robert Rodriguez extravaganza "Machete."

Fellman also said that the new date allows for "an opportunity to build more awareness and word-of-mouth for a movie we believe has strong appeal for a broad audience."

The "Going the Distance" campaign might need some new energy. Documentarian Nanette Burstein's feature debut, which looks at the comedic and dramatic dimensions of a couple's long-distance relationship, is tracking poorly among the core female demographic. According to pre-release audience surveys, more women younger than 30 are interested in seeing the mid-budget crime action movie "Takers" and genre title "The Last Exorcism," neither of which is seen as nearly as female-centric as "Distance."

As for men, well, let's just say that according to those same surveys, men are roughly as interested in "Going the Distance" as they are in "Eat Pray Love."

--Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in 'Going the Distance.' Credit: Warner Bros.



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Warner Bros. goes gangster

June 29, 2010 | 11:35 am

Gangst
Those hankering for more "Departed"-like movies from Hollywood -- original movies with well-paced action, a strong sense of place and a cross-section of colorful characters -- will probably get their itch tickled when "The Town," Ben Affleck's Boston-set crime drama, hits in the fall.

Now it looks as if they could be getting another scratch as "Tales from the Gangster Squad," an action movie conceived as an ensemble piece for a group of top-level actors, picks up momentum.

The film, based on a series of 2008 articles in the Los Angeles Times by Paul Lieberman, examines an LAPD unit that's set up in the 1940s to fend off the growing influence of the East Coast Mafia in the city. Of course the police group becomes very powerful, the battles with the Mafia escalate, and mayhem and betrayals ensue. (You can read Lieberman's series here.)

Sources say that Will Beall, an up-and-coming writer (he wrote a novel called "L.A. Rex" that Scott Rudin optioned, and which Beall then adapted for Rudin) was hired as the "Gangster Squad" screenwriter and has just completed his draft of the script. The film has a strong pedigree: it's set up at Warner Bros., which has made a cottage industry out of textured gangster pictures with both "Departed" and "The Town," and is being produced by Dan Lin and Kevin McCormick (who as Warners studio executives worked on "The Departed").[UPDATE -- Yes, "The Departed" is a remake of a Hong Kong movie. We saw that film, 'Infernal Affairs.' We liked it a lot. But Scorsese's version was still original by many definitions of the term -- it's not a remake of anything the great majority of its audience saw or were previously familiar with, as many Hollywood blockbusters are (and which was very clearly the movies we were contrasting it  with here). And the director's take, as well as Bill Monaghan's script, offered much of its own spin and interpretation. As did the actors. So yes, it's based on an obscure film. And it's an original.]

"Gangster Squad" is conceived as a vehicle with big stars a la "The Departed," though for non-remake movies at the studios these days budget is always a priority, so it's an open question how many high-priced types will be able to come on, and at what price. Look for a well-known director to come on board too (no names yet, but filmmakers and their representatives are beginning to get wind of it).

A year ago this week brought the last entry in the big-budget studio gangster movie, Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," a movie that was a creative disappointment and also didn't earn back its hefty budget. But that was more of a character piece than an action movie. At the right budget and with a healthy amount of thrills and action, "Gangster Squad," mob pictures in general and even the anti-remake boomlet could be back on the streets.

-- Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: LAPD officers inspecting the scene after a drive-by shooting. Credit: Los Angeles Times file photo


RECENT AND RELATED:

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Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

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