24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: September 2011

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'What's Your Number?' writers on sex, comedy and slacker heroines

September 30, 2011 |  6:25 pm

In “What’s Your Number?,” which opens today, Ally Darling (Anna Faris) embarks on a quest for her best ex after reading a magazine article warning that women who have had 20 or more lovers have lost their chance at finding a husband. Screenwriters Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, who adapted their screenplay from the book “20 Times a Lady” by Karyn Bosnak, come from the world of TV, where Allan has been a writer on “Scrubs” and Crittenden on “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and “Arrested Development.” Allan and Crittenden talked with 24 Frames writer Rebecca Keegan about their slacker heroine, the gender politics of humor and the best country in which to be a slut.

Question: This movie raises the question of whether there is an acceptable number of people to have sex with. Why did you use that question as a vehicle to tell a story?

Allan: It’s a great conversation starter. I personally don’t think there’s an acceptable number. In some of the research we did, in certain parts of the world, it’s ridiculous that you even discuss it. In the case of Ally, who is a character, you can pause and take stock of how many people and what that means and why you’re sleeping with certain people. You might come to the conclusion that you’re having a good time and there’s nothing wrong… or you might come to the conclusion that maybe I should slow down, and I’m jumping into bed with these people for the wrong reason.

Q: Where were the places where no one cared?

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Is Taylor Lautner doomed not to go beyond 'Twilight'?

September 30, 2011 |  5:59 pm

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart's big-budget ambitions are debatable, but there's little doubt that the third leg in the "Twilight" tripod, Taylor Lautner, harbors them in a big way. He's been saying as much all over town, dropping Tom Cruise missiles to anyone who'll listen.  Meanwhile, John Singleton, the director of Lautner's new film, "Abduction," says that the "goal" of their collaboration is to show "that Taylor can actually carry a picture — that he's truly a star."

But the box-office performance of "Abduction," the 19-year-old's first role of any substance outside his trademark vampire franchise, suggests otherwise. In the week since it opened, the action-thriller has tallied only about $13.5 million -- far from picture-carrying numbers.

How do those figures stack up to Lautner's on-screen counterpoint? Pattinson's "Remember Me" took in nearly $11 million over the same number of days ... and was regarded as proof that hunger for the actor in non-vampiric parts runs about as deep as a Cullen's appetite in a vegan market.

What's more, in Lautner's case, he was neither going smaller nor more dramatic, as Pattinson was in "Remember Me," robbing him of what would have been a good explanation for the underwhelming box office. In fact, Lautner was doing In "Abduction" pretty much what he's been doing as Jacob Black in "Twilight": playing a teenager with mostly good impulses trying to vanquish bad guys.  If he can't carry this film, what can he carry?

To be fair to the young actor, plenty of his more established elders have the same trouble these days. Watch Johnny Depp struggle outside "Pirates of the Caribbean," or Lautner's idol, Tom Cruise, in a movie not named "Mission: Impossible."

Somehow this feels different, though. When Cruise was an up-and-comer, he was able to turn otherwise solid but nondescript films into sensations.  (Picture "Top Gun" without him.) That's not exactly the case here. "Twilight" is a movie that very well would have been a hit without Lautner; in fact, it arguably helped him as much as he helped it, providing him with ample star power. He's yet to demonstrate he can do much with it.


Taylor Lautner, post-'Twilight,' stars in 'Abduction'

'Moneyball' is a hit, but Lion is box-office king

Taylor Lautner's acting template: Tom Cruise?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Taylor Lautner in "Abduction." Credit: Lionsgate

The week in film: '50/50,' 'Margaret' and 'What's Your Number?' (video)

September 30, 2011 |  4:02 pm


The new cancer comedy "50/50" from Summit Entertainment has required the distributor to walk a fine line when it comes to communicating the fairly sober plot of the film -- which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the inspired-by-life story of screenwriter Will Reiser, who was diagnosed the disease at a young age -- with its uplifting spirit. Indie movie specialist Fox Searchlight has faced an arguably more fraught situation with the release of "Margaret," a film from the Oscar-nominated Kenneth Lonergan that's taken six years to debut. Fox enters the box-office fray this weekend with "What's Your Number?" a more conventional romantic comedy starring Anna Faris and "Captain America's" Chris Evans; will the success of the summer's breakout hit "Bridesmaids" bolster its commercial prospects?

Watch Los Angeles Times reporters Rebecca Keegan and Nicole Sperling discuss the latest happenings in Hollywood.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt: "50/50" is a great movie title

After six years "Margaret" finally arrives in theaters

The "Bridesmaids" ripple effect: female filmmakers are swearing by the film's success

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Writer Will Reiser and actor Seth Rogen on the set of "50/50" Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / Summit Entertainment


'50/50' overcomes the odds for many critics

September 30, 2011 |  2:33 pm

Bryce Dallas Howard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a scene from '50/50'
Cancer is no laughing matter — except, apparently, in the new comedy "50/50," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer (the title refers to his chances of survival) and Seth Rogen as his wisecracking, big-hearted best friend. The film, which was inspired by screenwriter Will Reiser's personal experiences, is finding favor with most critics.

The Times' Kenneth Turan writes that "'50/50' walks a very tricky line. As a comedy about a young man with cancer, it needs to be serious enough to be real as well as light enough to be funny. Though it falls off the wagon at times, it maintains its balance remarkably well." Turan credits Jonathan Levine's artful direction and an expertly assembled cast (with a nod to Francine Maisler, who also cast "Moneyball"), and says that "the key element in '50/50' is the screenplay by Will Reiser, a young writer who, as has been widely reported, was inspired by his own experience as a twentysomething diagnosed with a rare type of cancer."

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Who should pay for 3-D glasses? [video]

September 29, 2011 |  2:51 pm

Sony Pictures' decision earlier this week to stop footing the bill for 3-D glasses in 2012 has ignited a debate in Hollywood about who should absorb the cost -- theater owners, the companies that make the glasses, or maybe even consumers. In this video, I discuss the dust-up -- and one proposed high fashion solution for moviegoers. It ain't gonna be pretty, folks.


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

Box office: 'Lion King' no. 1 again

--Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Theatergoers watch a live 3-D broadcast. Credit: Bret Hartman / For The Times


'The Big Lebowski': It's an art show, man

September 29, 2011 | 12:26 pm


The movie "The Big Lebowski" left a definite imprint on popular culture, spawning everything from an online religion called Dudeism to a surge in White Russian cocktail orders. Now Orange County artist Joe Forkan is unveiling a particularly high-minded tribute to the Coen brothers' 1998 film.

Forkan's "The Lebowski Cycle" is a series of 14 paintings and drawings inspired by two sources -- masterpieces of Western art and the Coens' comedy about an avid bowler named the Dude (Jeff Bridges), who is a victim of mistaken identity.

Forkan's painting above depicts a scene from the film in which the Dude and his bowling buddies, played by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, try to decide how to handle the loss of a favorite throw rug that "really tied the room together." The piece takes as its thematic inspiration a 1784 painting by French artist Jacques-Louis David, "Oath of the Horatii," in which three Roman brothers are also forging a plan.

"In the movie, they play it like it's a drama," said Forkan, who is an associate professor of art at Cal State Fullerton. "There’s no mugging for the camera. Everything has this level of seriousness. In the 'Oath of the Horatii' they’re talking about the future of Rome. In the film they’re talking about a rug that got peed on, but they’re as serious about that as the characters in the painting were. I liked that level of drama in these images that were also loaded with humor."

PHOTOS: Joe Forkan's 'Big Lebowski' paintings

Forkan will be discussing the paintings in the series -- and the classical works that inspired them -- in a gallery talk tonight at 7 at Orange Coast College's Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion, where the paintings are on display until Oct. 28. For a closer look at Forkan's work, check out our slideshow.


'The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans' explores The Dude phenomenon

'The Big Lebowski' reunion

--Rebecca Keegan


Image: "Oath of the Horatii (After David)." Credit: Joe Forkan

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: '50/50' is a great movie title

September 29, 2011 | 10:47 am


"50/50" is a buddy comedy about cancer, but you wouldn't know it from the title. And that's on purpose. The executives at Summit Entertainment changed the original title of Will Reiser's script "I'm With Cancer" in an effort to not alienate audiences from the film's tough subject matter.

In fact, if you didn't know ahead of time that the film was a cancer movie, you might not be more informed after taking a look at the poster. Sure, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shaving his head, but it's not exactly clear why. And the tag line "It takes a pair to beat the odds" conjures up ideas of gambling. Add in Seth Rogen in the background, and you'd think Gordon-Levitt lost a bet--not that he's shaving his head in preparation for this upcoming chemotherapy treatment.

The studio grappled with other titles for the comedy, which is generating positive reviews ahead of its release on Friday. "Get Well Soon" was discussed as one possible alternative. But "50/50," according to star Gordon-Levitt, is a perfect title. Said the 30-year old actor, "I like the title '50/50' so much better then 'I’m With Cancer.'

"Before the movie was titled that, my mind kept coming back to the idea of what if someone told me I had a 50% chance of dying," the actor said during a recent interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. "I would be thinking about coin flips all the time. I also like it because the phrase '50/50' invokes a relationship and that’s what the movie is really about, much more so than cancer.

He continued: "Yes, the story is about a guy who has cancer but it’s really about the relationships he has in his life: his friend, his mom, how he’s dealing with women. That’s really the heart and soul of the movie."

To hear more from Gordon-Levitt, read this interview with the actor, who's currently at work filming Christopher Nolan's upcoming Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises."


Toronto 2011: Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns emcee

Will Reiser and writing about what you know: getting cancer

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Anna Kendrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in "50/50." Credit: Ed Araquel/Summit Entertainment


Around Town: Classic TV, Irish Film Festival, Tracy-Hepburn

September 29, 2011 |  6:00 am


A celebration of a classic TV series, a screen movie team and contemporary Irish cinema are among the eclectic movie offerings this week.

The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood pays tribute Saturday evening to the 50th anniversary of the seminal 1961-66 CBS comedy series “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Van Dyke and Carl Reiner, who created the series and played the egomaniac TV star Alan Brady, will be on hand to discuss the show with comedy writer/director Garry Marshall, who worked on the series. Three episodes from the Emmy-winning series will be screened.

On Sunday, the magic of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn will be celebrated with a double bill of two of their films: 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which was Tracy’s final film, and 1949’s “Adam’s Rib.” “Dinner” costar Katharine Houghton will be on hand, as well as Tracy biography James Curtis.

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Loyola's movie marathon: Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

September 28, 2011 |  7:12 pm

Michelangelo Antoninoni's Le Amiche

A smorgasbord of cinematic treats is being served up all day Friday as Loyola Marymount University's Mayer Theater hosts a marathon of films restored by the great Italian film archive the Cineteca di Bologna.

The day starts at noon with Michelangelo Antonioni's early feature, 1955's "Le Amiche," followed at 2:30 p.m.  by one of the classics of Italian neo-realism, Vittorio De Seta's brooding "Bandits of Orgosolo." Also on that program are two of the director's marvelous documentary shorts.

Things lighten up at 5 p.m. with a collection of 1914 Charlie Chaplin shorts made at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studio and shot all over Los Angeles. The day closes  at 7:30 p.m. with one of the landmarks of African cinema, 1973's "Touki Bouki" ("The Hyena's Laugh") from Senegal's Djibril Diop Mambety.  

The movies are free but reservations are necessary. Loyola Marymount is just south of the intersection of Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards. Information at (310) 258-7200.


'Citizen Kane': Kenneth Turan's DVD/Blu-ray pick [video]

'Detective Dee': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

'The Guard': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: From left, Eleonora Rossi-Drago (as Clelia), Valentina Cortese (as Nene), Anna Maria Pancani (Mariella) and Yvonne Fureaux (as Momina De Stefani) in Michelangelo Antonioni's "Le Amiche." Credit: Courtesy of Titanus, Rai Cinema and Cineteca di Bologna.

'Citizen Kane': Kenneth Turan's DVD/Blu-ray pick [video]

September 28, 2011 |  3:14 pm

Citizen Kane

Few films have the reputation of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane." Critics both individually and in groups have called it the greatest movie ever made, and a new 70th anniversary DVD release, including a first ever Blu-ray disc, allows viewers to either introduce themselves to the film for the first time or revisit it as an old friend.

The three-disc set includes nearly four hours of bonus material, including the documentary "The Battle over Citizen Kane" and an HBO feature, "RKO 281," which covers the same material in dramatic form.

Also in the box are a 48-page hardcover book and a reproduction of the film's original 1941 souvenir program.


'Detective Dee': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

'The Guard': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Orson Welles, center, stars as Charles Foster Kane in "Citizen Kane." Credit: File photo.


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