24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: 20th Century Fox

Ang Lee says his 3-D learning curve on 'Life of Pi' was huge

April 25, 2012 |  7:09 pm

“Life of Pi’s” Pi (played by Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker

LAS VEGAS -- Ang Lee didn't make the decision to film "Life of Pi" in 3-D lightly. For months, he agonized over whether the technology would enhance the story or come across as a gimmick. In the end, it was the number pi that inspired him to make the leap.

Making an expensive 3-D film based on an intellectual, philosophical book required Lee to take "a leap of faith to see the circle that the pi indicates," the filmmaker said at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, the Oscar-winning director joined Martin Scorsese in conversation, speaking candidly about the future of 3-D and its importance in the industry.

Despite his belief in the format, Lee was open about his struggle to adapt to the technology. While filming "Life of Pi," he said, the 3-D cameras were cumbersome, and he compared working with them to "operating a refrigerator." While directing 17-year-old actor Suraj Sharma, Lee thought he was giving appropriate instructions until he watched the footage in 3-D. "I'd have to go back to him and bring his performance down because it just enhanced it so much more. It's like a new film language," Lee said, describing his learning curve as "humongous."

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‘Chronicle’ director: Our film isn’t about good vs. evil

January 12, 2012 |  8:33 pm

With “The Devil Inside” now the first hit of 2012, can a similar low-budget genre movie follow in its footsteps?

That’s the hope harbored by the filmmakers behind “Chronicle,” a movie that similarly uses the found-footage device to depict surreal events.

The Fox release, which comes out on Feb. 2, tells of a group teenagers who discover they’ve acquired superpowers. At first they just use it for practical jokes, but soon one of them decides to trot them out for more dangerous purposes, and the story takes a darker turn.

Most similar to “Devil” -- and, perhaps, most familiar to a generation raised on YouTube -- is that the movie’s events are being shot by an unseen amateur filmmaker. (You can check out the trailer here.)  The overall impression, as it often is with the conceit, is that we’ve come across a tape documenting events whose participants are no longer around to describe it themselves.

“The plan was to make a film that played like a personal documentary,” director Josh Trank, who also directed some scenes for the DVD of “Paranormal Activity 2,” told 24 Frames. “We’re not saying it’s real; in fact we’re very up front that it‘s fake. But we do think it's a fresh way to comment on the world.”

It remains to be seen whether the found-footage conceit continues to resonate. But for now, observers say it’s a novel way to add a level of urgency, particularly for a culture saturated in reality television.

Trank, who directed the film from a script by the up-and-coming Max Landis (son of John), said he sought to strike a balance between serious themes and the creepy thrills of seeing, say, a teenager use superpowers to make a teddy bear levitate in front of a young girl.

“I’d like to think that it’s more in the ‘District 9’ world of genre movies, a commercial context for relatable ideas,” Trank said. “Superpowers in our movie are a way to express a teenage drama. It’s a movie about inner conflict and personal problems, not good versus evil."

-- Steven Zeitchik



'Chronicle:' Like 'Paranormal Activity,' but with superpowers?

'Devil Inside' is latest film to use found footage

Does "Devil Inside" suggest a new filmmaker-studio relationship?

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

'Titanic 3D': James Cameron introduces trailer for his '97 epic [video]

November 16, 2011 |  2:46 pm

In an era when film trailers debut before many eyeballs on cellphone screens, how do you market a movie whose story is well known and whose chief selling point is the big screen, 3-D experience?

In the case of "Titanic 3D," the 3-D conversion of James Cameron's 1997 epic due in theaters in April, distributors Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox are trying a mixture of personal appeal and nostalgia.

In a version of the trailer that debuted only on "Titanic's" Facebook page today, Cameron stepped in front of the camera to introduce the film. "I'm excited to be bringing 'Titanic' back to the big screen again," he said, before thanking the movie's 10 million Facebook fans "for staying true to 'Titanic.' ''

For most moviegoers around the globe, the elements of the trailer will be intimately familiar: a 22-year-old, tuxedo clad Leonardo DiCaprio at the foot of the ship's grand staircase, 21-year-old Kate Winslet posing nude for a portrait, the massive passenger liner plummeting vertically into the North Atlantic as Celine Dion belts out "My Heart Will Go On."

The two studios are spending $18 million converting the film, a winner of 14 Academy Awards and the highest grossing movie of all time until Cameron's "Avatar" knocked it from its perch in 2009. They are banking on fans coming back to theaters, just as they did for Disney's recent 3-D conversion of "The Lion King," as well as those who were either too young or too far from theaters to see "Titanic" on the big screen in the first place, such as audiences in burgeoning film territories like China and Russia.

"Titanic 3-D" will be released worldwide April 6.



3-D makeover coming to aging Hollywood blockbusters

What classic movie would you like to see in 3-D [poll]?

Box Office: Pitt, Lautner beaten by 17-year-old 'Lion King'

 -- Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Titanic." Credit: Paramount Pictures / 20th Century Fox

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': An Oscar push for Andy Serkis

November 4, 2011 |  4:19 pm


Andy Serkis' performance as the sentient chimpanzee Caesar in this summer's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is getting a supporting actor push from 20th Century Fox. If he is nominated, Serkis will be something of a digital barrier-breaker in the Oscar race — he delivered the role with the help of visual-effects artists at Weta Digital, using the same performance-capture technique that helped create the tall blue aliens of "Avatar."

Serkis spoke with the Los Angeles Times from the New Zealand set of "The Hobbit," where he's reprising his role of Gollum from the "Lord of the Rings" movies and serving as a second unit director.

"Every single actor’s performance on screen is enhanced by a team of other people’s work," Serkis said.  "Editing choices, the take that’s chosen, the music that plays underneath a particular scene, the makeup that you’re wearing, it’s all collaborative. There isn’t a single shot in any movie which isn’t a team effort. If you want a pure actor’s performance, then you have to go to the stage."

For a glimpse of what Serkis' performance looked like before it was digitally enhanced, see the video below. For more on his work and Fox's campaign, see our story in Saturday's newspaper.



'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': Andy Serkis hails Caesar

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': Weta's proof of concept scene


— Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Andy Serkis as Caesar and costar John Lithgow in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Credit: Weta Digital/20th Century Fox.

From ‘I’m.mortal’ to ‘In Time,’ from ‘War of Gods’ to ‘Immortals’

October 31, 2011 | 10:06 am

Henry Cavill in

Picking a movie title is often a fraught affair. Just ask sci-fi alum Andrew Niccol, whose latest journey into the future, “In Time,” hit theaters Friday.

That wasn’t always the title 20th Century Fox had penciled in for the movie. The Justin Timberlake-starrer was previously titled “Now” and, before that, “I’m.mortal." 

As Fox was working on Niccol's film back in spring 2010, Relativity Media was preparing its own fall 2011 film, a Greek epic by Tarsem Singh (“The Fall,” “The Cell”). It was initially dubbed "War of Gods."

The “I’m.mortal” title hadn’t been registered with the Motion Picture Assn. of America yet when “Immortals” switched its title from “War of Gods” in April 2010.  Relativity, Niccol said, demanded Fox give his sci-fi flick a new name to avoid confusion with their Nov. 11, 2011, release. 

Niccol recalled his aha moment when he came up with "I'm.mortal." “I was so happy when I finally saw that ‘I’m mortal’ is inside the word ‘immortal,” the writer-director told 24 Frames. “And then someone goes and steals it from you,” he added with a laugh. (Not everyone, though, was as enthusiastic as Niccol was about "I'm.mortal" — online opinions about it ranged from “sure-to-be-tweaked” and “dumb” to “cute, quirky.” )

Re-titled “Now” last fall, the movie became "In Time" in May.

“[‘Now’] was just more difficult for people to grasp. So we made it something even more accessible,” Niccol said.

As for that title revision for Singh's movie, Relativity and the filmmakers decided "Immortals" was a more original-sounding title that better spoke to the novel take on Greek mythology than "War of Gods."

“We love ‘Immortals.’ It’s a strong title. It sounds like an event movie and very epic,” a spokesperson for Relativity Media said.

Niccol is no stranger to having to think up new titles. His 1997 cult favorite, “Gattaca,” was filmed under the name “The Eighth Day,” a reference to Genesis and the genetic engineering that defines the film’s “not-so-distant future.” When a Belgian film with the same name, “Le huitième jour,” made it to theaters before Niccol’s movie, he was forced to come up with a new title. He decided on the name of the spaceflight corporation in the story, Gattaca, derived from the four letters of DNA bases.

“That [title] actually got better, I think. It was just so unique,” Niccol said. “It’s sort of lasted the test of time.”

Whether “In Time” and “Immortals” stand that test of time remains to be seen, but their test at the box office comes first. "In Time" opened Friday to challenge "Puss in Boots" and "Paranormal Activity 3," finishing in third. Starring the new Superman, Henry Cavill, "Immortals" opens Nov. 11 against Leonardo DiCaprio's "J. Edgar" and Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill."


‘In Time’: Time is money in the Justin Timberlake sci-fi film

‘In Time’: Young actors on the secrets to playing old characters

Comic-Con 2011: ‘Immortals’ brings young Greek gods to the screen

— Emily Rome

Left photo: Henry Cavill and Joseph Morgan in "Immortals." Credit: Jan Thijs

Right photo: Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried in "In Time." Credit: Stephen Vaughan / 20th Century Fox.

Should 'In Time' star Justin Timberlake cry himself a river?

October 31, 2011 |  8:45 am


Many things could be said of Justin Timberlake's nascent acting career, but one thing he can't be accused of is playing it safe.

Since Timberlake made the decision to put sexy back, or at least on hold, and pursue acting, the former bubblegum pop star has gotten far away from his music roots. He's played a swaggery Silicon Valley salesman ("The Social Network'), a fast-talking but sensitive paramour in an offbeat romantic comedy ("Friends With Benefits"), a passive substitute teacher ("Bad Teacher")  and, this weekend, an impoverished hustler-hero (Andrew Niccol's "In Time").

What he hasn't been especially good at is turning his movies into hits. The two live-action films that performed well, "Social Network" and "Bad Teacher," did so largely on someone else's back. The two movies that relied more on his presence to sell tickets, on the other hand, performed modestly. "Friends With Benefits" was part of the have-not section of the class of R-rated comedies this summer (though it did OK internationally). And, this weekend, "In Time" looked to be out of same with a middling $12 million in box office.

The most obvious conclusion is that Timberlake isn't a leading man. He could carve out a nice character-actor career, but the clock is ticking down fast on him enjoying any Will Smith-like crossover success.

A look at Timberlake's resume doesn't entirely negate the point; as some critics have pointed out, he's an appealing presence, but rarely a sophisticated or overpowering one.

But it's also far too soon to write the obituary on his non-melodic efforts. As he hits his 30s, Timberlake is trying to move out of his comfort zone a lot faster and more often than many of his pop-music contemporaries (Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, who star largely in tune-driven flicks), which will naturally up the flop quotient. In fact, even when Timberlake is starring in a music-themed movie, as he will in the recently announced biopic of record producer Neil Bogart, "Spinning Gold," he's doing it with a hint of the unexpected. (He did that in "Get Him to the Greek" too, where he also played the industry man instead of the performer.)

As "In Time" hit the shoals, it was hard to avoid a comparison to another actor who crashed this weekend. In the 1990s, "The Rum Diary" star Johnny Depp was also a teenage heartthrob seeking a film career. Like Timberlake's "Benefits" turn, he looked to break out with an offbeat romantic comedy (or three), and, weirdly, even made a commercial misstep in a chase-thriller with a ticking-clock conceit ("Nick of Time").

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'Chronicle': Like 'Paranormal Activity,' but with superpowers?

October 21, 2011 |  6:26 pm

"Paranormal Activity 3" will dominate the box office this weekend. But why should Paramount have all the fun?

So goes the thinking at rival 20th Century Fox, which is set to make its own entrance into the low-budget genre-movie game with a film called "Chronicle."

Directed by the newcomer Josh Trank and written by emerging screenwriter Max Landis (Shawn Levy's in-development "Frankenstein," and son of John Landis), the February release centers on a trio of prankster teenagers who discover they have superhuman powers. It's "Kick-Ass" meets 'Jackass."

The newly released trailer is below, and while this sort of shaky-cam, found-footage-y storytelling can be a mixed bag, there's certainly plenty here to intrigue. For starters, the superpowers are, refreshingly, used not for some kind of global domination but for seemingly ordinary teenage pranks — and then, as the stakes rise, for something more dangerous (but still human).

The movie — budgeted at about $15 million, according to a person familiar with the project — no doubt hopes to follow in the footsteps of another low-budget genre film released in winter, "Cloverfield," in addition to the Halloween-pegged "Paranormal."

As it happens, the movie has another "Paranormal" connection — Trank was discovered when he directed additional scenes for "Paranormal 2" that were used in the marketing of that film. Fox no doubt hopes less is more on "Chronicle." Films fans do too.


'Paranormal Activity' scares by the numbers, critics say

The week in film: 'Paranormal Activity' and 'Margin Call'

'Paranormal Activity 3' to frighten rivals

— Steven Zeitchik



Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' to go deep next year, in 3-D

September 21, 2011 |  2:56 pm

Ang lee
Most of the movies Hollywood plans to release in 3-D in 2012 share similar subject matter -- superheroes, aliens, superheroes battling aliens. But "Life of Pi," Ang Lee's adaptation of the bestselling spiritual book about a boy stranded alone on a boat with a tiger, will be one of the first largely character-driven movies to test the format, according to Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman and CEO Tom Rothman, who spoke to an audience of video game, visual effects and other entertainment industry professionals at the 3D Entertainment Summit in Hollywood on Wednesday.

"This book is hard to imagine as a movie," Rothman said of "Life of Pi," which Lee began shooting early this year in Taiwan and India with first-time actor Suraj Sharma as Pi. "It's got two characters, one a young Indian boy and the other a tiger. There's also a boat. And a lot of water. And that is basically it."

Rothman said of the approximately 35 3-D Hollywood movies due in 2012, "most of that quantity is genre-oriented, more male driven. 'Life of Pi' is decidedly not that."

Calling the movie "a tremendous gamble" for his studio, Rothman said Lee, who won an Academy Award for directing the 2005 drama "Brokeback Mountain," "was adamant that that movie be in 3-D."

"Ang believes he can use 3-D to envelop the audience, to transport the audience on what is a very metaphysical journey," Rothman said. "It's a different language of storytelling. He's using the stereoscope to adjust the audience's relationship to that character."

The adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 book, from a script by David Magee, will come to screens in December 2012. 

Another 3-D movie in production with appeal outside the fanboy set is Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which is also due for release in 2012.


Last Gasp of the Gatsby House

'Life of Pi' suffers another blow

-- Rebecca Keegan

James Franco's 'Apes' redeems the reboot

August 8, 2011 | 10:43 am

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A little more than a year ago, there were a lot of summer '11 movies that filmgoers could look forward to. Rival comic-book vehicles such as "Thor" and "Green Lantern" were gaining buzz, and so was a star-laden novelty such as "Cowboys & Aliens." There were also, inevitably, new installments in the "Transformers" and "Harry Potter" franchises.

Two movies that almost no one was talking about? "X-Men: First Class" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." The films, both from 20th Century Fox, were being accelerated to the multiplex (both had barely begun casting), possibly to their detriment. Most big studio movies, after all, take years to bake; great reinventions often take even longer.

Maybe more important, both movies fit squarely in the category of the reboot, Hollywood's euphemism for a do-over of a brand that had only recently run its course, as had happened with Brett Ratner's "X-Men: The Last Stand" five years before and Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" a decade prior. (In these instances, both of the reboots were also prequels, though they of course don't need to to be.) And for all of Hollywood's embracing of the reboot, the category had very little track record, let alone anything resembling a successful one.

Yet, this weekend, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" wildly exceeded expectations. The movie scored on nearly ever count: It grossed $54 million, one of the highest summer totals for a movie that wasn't a straight sequel. Critics embraced it -- the James Franco film garnered a robust 81% on Rotten Tomatoes and earned raves from the likes of my colleague Kenneth Turan. And fans really liked what they saw, giving the movie an A- on CinemaScore.

The $54 million for "Apes" was also the second-highest opening for any action-adventure movie this summer that didn't have the benefit of higher 3-D ticket prices. The highest? "X-Men: First Class." That movie scored even higher with critics, notching 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. (There's a corporate-comeback story in all this too -- Hollywood insiders will note Fox's strong summer after the twin disappointments of "Knight & Day" and "The A-Team" in 2010 -- that I'll leave to my colleagues at Company Town.)

Some purists -- this blogger included -- like to decry the reboot as a sign that Hollywood is running out of ideas. But "Apes" and "X-Men" show that we may have been wrong. A reboot can work if the mythology is reinvented creatively -- if we can, in other words, sit in the theater and feel like there was a reason a studio should revisit this story beyond a marketing executive decreeing it so.

What may unite "X-Men" and "Apes" further is that both rolled the dice on directors from outside the studio system -- Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") and Rupert Wyatt ("The Escapist") each honed their vision with movies outside the Hollywood mainstream. This method isn't foolproof -- Marvel brought on Kenneth Branagh to direct "Thor" and elicited a far more mixed reaction -- but judging by the way many touted the inventiveness of "X-Men" and "Apes," it certainly didn't hurt.

It's a coincidence, but a telling one, that "Apes" came out just one week after "Cowboys & Aliens." Jon Favreau's movie was all about the kind of gamble many of us feel Hollywood should be taking -- a clever idea based on carefully devised source material, not simply a known brand -- as opposed to the reboots it increasingly undertakes. Yet Favreau's so-called original often didn't feel all than new, while, after this weekend, a pair of reboots do.


"Apes" swings to top spot at the box office

Movie review: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

Hero Complex: Andy Serkis hails Caesar

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" triumphs with critics

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Credit: 20th Century Fox


LucasFilm's long-delayed 'Red Tails' coming in January [Trailer]

July 29, 2011 | 12:56 pm

It's been a long road for "Red Tails," the film about the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II that George Lucas produced and financed through his LucasFilm. Starring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and a slew of young up-and-comers including David Oyelowo ("The Help") and Michael B. Jordan (best known for his role in the television show "Parenthood"), "Red Tails" began production in 2009 only to get slowed down in the edit bay.

The film required reshoots, and director Anthony Hemingway had to move off the project to resume his duties on the HBO series "Treme." As such Lucas and producer Richard McCullum oversaw the reshoots --with Hemingway's approval.

The film now has a release date: Jan. 20, 2012 -- the Friday following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday -- courtesy of 20th Century Fox, the studio that's released all of Lucas' films. Check out the trailer below.


From the L.A. Times archives: Lucas on 'Red Tails' in 1990

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: George Lucas and the stormtroopers. Credit: Richard Lewis/EPA


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