24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: March 2011

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Live chat with David Schwimmer on Friday

March 29, 2011 |  6:59 pm


Ever since the end of "Friends," David Schwimmer has been spending more and more time on the other side of the camera. He's directed TV movies, series TV and made his feature directing debut in 2007 with the romantic comedy "Run, Fatboy, Run."

His latest film, "Trust," premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last fall and is very much a change of pace. Clive Owen and Catherine Keener play a suburban couple whose teenage daughter falls victim to a sexual predator whom she chats with online.

On the day the R-rated film opens in limited release, Schwimmer will join us for an online chat of our own (though we promise this one will be safe for all audiences), in which he'll be answering questions about "Trust" or anything else that you'd like to ask. So join us right here Friday at 11 a.m. PDT.


Photos from the "Trust" premiere in Toronto

-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: David Schwimmer, left, directs Clive Owen on the set of "Trust." Credit: Chuck Hodes / Millennium Entertainment

Jack Black: I'm kind of like a modern-day Jerry Lewis

March 29, 2011 |  3:51 pm

JackJack Black put on a show for movie exhibitors in Las Vegas on Monday night, rolling around on the stage and pretending to be a martial arts expert to help promote the upcoming 3-D release "Kung Fu Panda 2."

"This movie kicks so much butt that's there's going to be a national butt shortage when this movie is unleashed on theaters," he told the audience.

Um, perhaps. But the comedian probably doesn't need to drum up that much support for the sequel, due out May 26, anyway: The 2008 2-D original was a blockbuster, grossing more than $630 million worldwide.

Not such a big hit, however? Black's latest movie, "Gulliver's Travels," which cost 20th Century Fox about $112 million to produce but has collected only $42.7 million since its release last December. (Overseas the film has been far more successful, and is inching toward the $200-million mark.)

Asked why he thought the movie resonated abroad, Black shrugged.

"I'm like Jerry Lewis," he joked. "My agent called and was like, 'Hey, it turns out it's a hit!' "

In any case, he says, he prefers acting in animated movies, in part because a voice actor has more fashion freedom. (His choice of outfit onstage in front of the movie exhibitors Monday -- whom he referred to as a "swashbucklin' crew" -- included a Hawaiian-print button-up and a T-shirt with a tiger emblazoned  underneath.)

"It's also so much faster. You can do a ton of scenes in one day, whereas in a live-action movie you're doing five hours straight of a scene that's one minute," he explained. "This is less of a dull process."

-- Amy Kaufman in Las Vegas


Photo: Jack Black promotes his upcoming film "Kung Fu Panda 2" at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

Johnny Depp's 'The Rum Diary' finally gets a pour

March 29, 2011 | 10:56 am

"The Rum Diary," the Johnny Depp-starring version of Hunter S. Thompson's semi-autobiographical novel, is finally coming to theaters.

Diary The movie will be released by start-up distributor FilmDistrict, which announced Tuesday that it would bring out the movie Oct. 28. Graham King, who founded FilmDistrict, helped produce the picture before he founded his distribution arm.

The film wrapped production in 2009 in Puerto Rico but had been caught in distribution limbo. Thompson's book, which he wrote in the early 1960s, faced a much larger delay: It took nearly 40 years to get published.

Set at a Puerto Rican newspaper in the 1950s, "Rum Diary" centers on Paul Kemp (Depp as the Thompson stand-in) and is a story of personal and professional intrigue -- and heavy drinking -- among American expats. It's based loosely on Thompson's own experiences on the island.

Depp and Thompson were close in the last years of the author's life, with the author said to have shown the "Rum Diary" manuscript to the actor.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Rum Diary." Credit: Simon & Schuster


Oliver Stone moves away from politics. Is that a good thing?

March 29, 2011 |  7:45 am

It's been a long time since Oliver Stone has made a film about a subject that isn't rooted in fact. Eleven years, actually, during which time he explored Latin American leaders ("South of the Border"), the global financial collapse ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"), the U.S. war in Iraq ("W.") and Sept. 11 ("World Trade Center").

Now, with several outlets reporting that Universal Pictures is poised to finance and distribute Stone's "Savages," a thriller involving pot growers that could shoot as early as this summer, Stone takes a step back from explicit politics. The movie, which so far stars Aaron Johnson and Benicio del Toro, centers on a pair of marijuana growers so adept that a drug cartel kidnaps their female friend to force the growers to work for them.

Anytime Oliver Stone is concerned, his own history inevitably becomes both a selling point and hurdle for marketers (one can imagine the director's own admission to past drug use will surface as this movie is rolled out). But how will the film itself turn out?

Some online commentators have begun to cheer Stone's departure from politics, though when you consider the director's last three movies not rooted in recent history ("Alexander," "Any Given Sunday," "U Turn"), it remains to be seen whether that deviation is a good thing.

In fact, his most influential and perhaps best work comes when he makes films that are animated by the zeitgeist but just aren't freighted by historical details -- the Vietnam War cultural digestion of "Platoon," media-age violence in "Natural Born Killers," the master-of-the-universe bravado of "Wall Street." 

In that sense, at least, the marijuana-trade setting of "Savages" fits right in.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Oliver Stone's unlikely right-wing appeal

With Hitler remarks, Oliver Stone provokes, then apologizes

Oliver Stone, a man you can respect even as you shake your head

Photo: Oliver Stone and Hugo Chávez. Credit: "South of the Border"

Exclusive clip: Kim Cattrall brings sex to the trailer park in 'Meet Monica Velour'

March 28, 2011 |  5:20 pm

We've grown so accustomed to seeing Kim Cattrall tarted up in the New York fashion world's latest as Samantha in the "Sex and the City" movies that it's a bit of a shock to see her dressed like a normal person. But that's exactly how she appears in this clip from the upcoming comedy "Meet Monica Velour," opening April 8.

Cattrall plays Monica Velour, '80s-era porn star turned trailer park single mom, who has been reduced to stripping in grimy clubs across America's heartland to make ends meet. But that kind of tough reality doesn't mean much to geeky Tobe, played by Dustin Ingram, who seeks her out and eventually befriends her.

The film has been playing the film festival circuit since premiering at the Tribeca Film Fest last spring, where it recieved better than average reviews.

In this exclusive clip, young Tobe gets to see a bit of the salty reality by behind his adolescent fantasies.


Photos from the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival

2011 Tribeca Film Fest to close with Edward Burns' latest

Tribeca Film Fest announces Spotlight and Cinemania slections

-- Patrick Kevin Day

Eric Bana and 'Up in the Air' co-creator will collaborate

March 28, 2011 |  4:23 pm

Those enamored of 2009 Oscar nominee "Up in the Air" have been waiting with some anticipation to see what co-writer Sheldon Turner will do next.

Turner's dramatic thriller "By Virtue Fall" has, after all, been in various stages of development for a while now. The Golden Globe winner has been set not only to write but also direct "Virtue," which looks at two ATF agents who find themselves on opposite sides of the friendship divide after one sells out the other.

Eric Bana and Colin Farrell were both reported last year to be interested in the independently financed picture, and "Hurt Locker" producer Nicolas Chartier had been on board to produce. Farrell wound up opting out, and Chartier says he's no longer involved with the project. But Bana is now very much on board, telling 24 Frames he hopes to make it his next movie after he finishes shooting "Blackbird," the thriller he's currently making with Olivia Wilde. (Of his character, Bana says drolly, "He's not a great guy.")

[Update, 5:49 p.m. The project has now been set up with Bill Block's international sales company and financier QED and is  set to star James Spader, Ryan Phillippe and Carla Gugino, according to a person who was briefed on the project but who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. Jennifer Klein, who is producing the movie, declined to comment.]

Turner has been a prolific writer who has penned screenplays for directors as diverse as Michael Mann and Thomas Bezucha, though his best-known produced credit is of course for Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air." (Turner also wrote the Adam Sandler remake of "The Longest Yard.")

"Virtue" occupies more genre territory than "Up in the Air." But given how Turner melded the serious and the entertaining on "Air" (he came up with, among other flourishes, Clooney's memorable line about anyone who's ever built an empire), it's one to keep an eye on.


Screenwriting credits, floating up in the air

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Up in the Air." Credit: Paramount Pictures

Woody Allen conjures up mystery after midnight [trailer]

March 28, 2011 |  1:14 pm

If it's spring it must be time for a new Woody Allen movie, and another beautifully shot location.

The trailer for "Midnight in Paris," which opens the Cannes Film Festival in just over six weeks, reminds that that time is upon us again. Indeed, as the trailer unfolds for the ensemble picture (Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard and Michael Sheen all star), we see the titular city in the bright light of the morning, the golden light of the afternoon, the twinkling lights of the evening. (The romantic dramedy is the first Allen movie to be set partly or wholly in Paris in more than a decade.)

We also get the couples-out-in-a-restaurant setting that's an Allen trademark -- and, more notably, the first glimpse of Owen Wilson as the Allen stand-in character. Wilson is a man conflicted by an unidentified torment, with an appealing mystery about where exactly he disappears to when it's well, you know.

--Steven Zeitchik




Where does 'Sucker Punch' leave Zack Snyder?

March 28, 2011 |  7:30 am


He had a promising debut, a monster hit, a slight disappointment and a slightly larger disappointment. And in the last few weeks he's become one of the more polarizing directors out there.

But now things really get interesting for Zack Snyder.

The provocative filmmaker will in a few months begin shooting "Superman: Man of Steel," a reboot of perhaps the most beloved character in the history of movies (a point underlined Sunday with the news about Snyder's choice of Amy Adams to play Lois Lane). But just where exactly do Snyder's fan cachet, and box-office drawing power, lie in the wake of this past weekend's "Sucker Punch"?

The helmer of "Dawn of the Dead" (the promising debut), "300" (the monster hit) "Watchmen," (the slight disappointment) and "Legend of the Guardians" (the slightly larger disappointment) unveiled his girls-with-guns action-adventure this weekend. The Babydoll vehicle evoked some harsh words from critics, which could set up a hurdle with at least one group for the 2012 release of "Superman," albeit a group that doesn't much figure into the marketing of a Hollywood tent pole.

Although the "Sucker Punch" box-office results showed that Snyder still has plenty of supporters -- the movie opened to about $20 million, the second-lowest number of his career but a respectable figure that was in line with pre-release expectations -- the film also caused divisions among fanboys and fangirls, with some naysayers taking the opportunity to assess Snyder's "Superman" chops.

"Sucker Punch is a loud, gaudy, fetishistic, bombastic piece of cinema," wrote Ain't It Cool News contributor Ambush Bug. "It's also hollow, remedial, and bereft of substance ... as the minutes passed, bringing me closer to the time for the credits to roll, all I could think of was how wrong of a choice this director is for a Superman film." (Overall, the movie garnered a decent if not overwhelming B- CinemaScore among general audiences.)

Snyder riles up film-goers the way few other directors do -- it could be that some people really have their stomach turned by his movies, or it could just be that, like a sort of Comic-con version of "Dogtooth," Snyder movies somehow began eliciting both love and hate early on, and the arguments now just perpetuate themselves. Not every superhero director can be Christopher Nolan.

It's hard to say where the road turns next for Snyder. Warner Bros., which is behind both "Superman" and "Sucker Punch," drew a distinction between the two films, with Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of distribution, telling my colleague Amy Kaufman that "a film like 'Sucker Punch' brought out [Snyder's] core fan base, but he has a lot of potential, and with a bigger, broader title, he can attract a wider audience, as he has in the past."

Much of the success of this mission will course depend on the quality (and, given one of the reviewer knocks on "Sucker Punch," the narrative coherence) of "Superman: Man of Steel." It should be noted that hardcore fans are often skeptical toward casting and filmmaker choices at first but come around when a movie opens. And plenty of directors, of both comic-book movies and every other genre, have managed to turn around even groups hard-wired to oppose them (see under: Oliver Stone and conservatives on "World Trade Center").

Still, once a filmmaker loses currency with the fan community, it's not always easy to get it back. That seems especially true for a property such as "Superman," where even those storytellers who come in with buckets of goodwill can run into problems (just ask Bryan Singer). Snyder has his work cut out for him. It just may not be superhuman work, at least not yet.

-- Steven Zeitchik
Twitter.com / ZeitchikLAT


"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" tops the box office

Hero Complex: Amy Adams will be Lois Lane

Critical Mass: "Sucker Punch"

Amy Adams brings experience, and a modern spin, to Lois Lane in "Superman: Man of Steel"

Photo: A promotional photo for "Sucker Punch." Credit: Warner Bros.


Amy Adams brings experience, and a modern spin, to Lois Lane in 'Superman: Man of Steel'

March 27, 2011 |  8:18 pm

My colleague Geoff Boucher broke the news earlier today that Amy Adams will play Lois Lane in "Superman: Man of Steel," Zack Snyder's reboot of the superhero franchise.

Among other things, the news represents a departure from some of the other superhero roles of late, which have tended to go to lesser-knowns. (Superman himself will of course be played by Henry Cavill, a relative newcomer to the big screen.)

The Adams casting also comes at a time when the actress has been headed to a more dramatic place.

After a career of largely sweet and sunny roles ("Junebug," "Enchanted," "Leap Year" and "Julie & Julia"; "Doubt" remains the major exception), Adams showed more dramatic chops as a tough-as-nails Lowell, Mass., bartender in "The Fighter," which garnered her her third Oscar nomination. Incidentally, Adams is more experienced at this point in her career than Margot Kidder, who when she was cast as Lois in the 1978 "Superman" in her late 20s had mostly genre movies under her belt.

Kidder, like the original Golden Age comics character, brought a more thick-skinned approach to Lois — in Adams terms, it was more Charlene Fleming than Giselle.

Which way Adams tilts the Superman character remains to be seen. Snyder does tell Boucher that, for all the attention to the original source material, he wants Lois, like Superman, to have a modern appeal, "relevant and real and ... empathetic to today’s audience."

— Steven Zeitchik



Hero Complex: Amy Adams will be Lois Lane

Henry Cavill as Superman: Why are Brits so appealing as American superheroes?

Photo: Amy Adams in "The Fighter." Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Saiorse Ronan on 'The Hobbit': 'Hopefully they have a part for me'

March 25, 2011 |  7:40 pm


Production on "The Hobbit" is already under way in  New Zealand with a diverse cast. But don't rule out the possibility of a star of a previous Peter Jackson film winding up in the two-part epic.

Saiorse Ronan, the breakout "Atonement " actress who worked with Jackson on the 2009 spiritual drama "The Lovely Bones,"  says that while her much-rumored casting in the fantasy franchise isn't "confirmed," she's optimistic that she'll be starring amid the dragons and wizards.

"Pete is adding a lot of characters in the film adaption," she said. "Hopefully they have a part for me."

The 16-year-old, whose action thriller "Hanna" comes out  April 8 (more on her and that shortly), declined to reveal what part she'd play in "The Hobbit." Instead, she offered that "on IMDB they say I'm playing an elf [specifically Itaril, a character not in the novel that was described in casting reports as a young female fighter who falls in love with an elf lord]. "We’ll just have to figure it all out."

Speaking in Los Angeles, Ronan said that the primary reasons she'd want to be involved in the films is Jackson and chance to return to New Zealand, where "Bones" was shot.

"It would be great to go back. I love Pete," she said. "It’s such an amazing family unit down here because it's such a small country, and they use a lot of the same crew [for each film]." (Ronan is currently traveling to promote "Hanna" but could easily jet down to New Zealand once her tour is over.)

Ronan said she hasn't yet read the "Hobbit" script but did read the J.R.R. Tolkien original and found herself enraptured.

"It’s magical and it’s a fantasy, but the characters in this story are also so real," she said. "Bilbo’s such an insecure man. He’s comfortable in his life but he’s kind of reaching out for something else even though he won't admit it."

She expects Jackson to bring a different touch than with his previous Tolkien adaptations. "It's a little bit lighter than 'Lord of the Rings,' and Pete is quite a lighthearted man," she said. "He likes to have fun."

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Sairose Ronan in "The Lovely Bones." Credit: DreamWorks


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The Hobbit escapes the trolls

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