24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Amy Kaufman

L.A. Film Festival: Kazan, Dano mix business with pleasure in 'Ruby Sparks'

June 18, 2012 |  5:39 pm

Ruby Sparks stars Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano

Zoe Kazan was midway through writing the screenplay for the new film "Ruby Sparks" when her boyfriend, actor Paul Dano, raised an important question: "You're writing this for us, right?"

"I guess I am," Kazan replied.

Her finished product tells of a novelist named Calvin and his girlfriend, Ruby, a woman of his own invention who appears to literally come to life for him, and the film received a warm audience reception at the Los Angeles Film Festival during a secret screening Sunday evening.

But in a question-and-answer session after the Fox Searchlight movie, which opens in theaters July 25, Kazan said finding filmmakers who would back the script with her and Dano in the leading roles proved to be a challenge.

While both actors have appeared in a slew of positively-reviewed independent films — he in "Little Miss Sunshine," both in "Meek's Cutoff" — neither is exactly considered a box office draw.

"Everyone I met with said, 'We'll never get this made with you and Paul in the leads — it's impossible,'" recalled Kazan, 28.

Eventually, though, they did secure funding and "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris signed on to helm the film. But Kazan struggled with giving them the freedom they and her castmates needed to play with her script.

"It was very easy for me to be present with Paul — saying lines wasn't so hard, it was having actors drop full portions of things and not have that register on my face at all which was hard," she said.

Dano, meanwhile, insisted he had no trepidation about working with his romantic partner.

"When I watch the movie, it doesn't look like us to me, which is a real blessing, I think," the 27-year-old said. "Sometimes on the drive home from work, one of us got a little cranky: me."

"Paul and I had already been together almost four years," Kazan said of the experience. "So I liken it to having a baby. It was really stressful and wonderful and meant so much to us. But I don't know if I want a second baby."

— Amy Kaufman



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L.A. Film Festival: William Friedkin's ferocious sensibility

Photo: "Ruby Sparks" stars Zoe Kazan, left, and Paul Dano. Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' beats Cruise, Sandler films [Video]

June 18, 2012 |  4:00 am

Madagascar 3 was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
Two of Hollywood's biggest stars couldn't pull in as many ticket sales as "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" did at the box office this weekend, because the cartoon was the No. 1 pick yet again.

For the second consecutive weekend, the 3-D animated flick featuring a band of zoo animals topped the box office. The DreamWorks Animation movie raked in an additional $35.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $120.5 million.

Meanwhile, a new musical featuring Tom Cruise and a raunchy comedy starring Adam Sandler flopped. "Rock of Ages," which stars a high-profile cast including Cruise, Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin, only debuted with a lackluster $15.1 million. Sandler's R-rated "That's My Boy" fared even worse, starting with a weak $13 million.

So why didn't audiences turn up to see two of the country's biggest movie stars? Check out this week's box office video report for more details.

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: A scene from 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

Los Angeles Film Festival puts diversity on the screen

June 14, 2012 |  7:00 am

Beasts of the southern wild
The Los Angeles Film Festival has long catered to all kinds of movie lovers: This year, the event will open with art-house staple Woody Allen’s latest romantic comedy and close with Channing Tatum writhing around in his skivvies in Steven Soderbergh’s stripper picture “Magic Mike.”

But the 18th annual festival, which begins with Allen’s “To Rome With Love” on Thursday night at downtown’s L.A. Live and runs through June 24, has embraced diversity in other ways. The Los Angeles Times-sponsored event will feature more than half a dozen movies dealing with African American themes, two of which — “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Middle of Nowhere” — will be spotlighted as gala screenings with the full red carpet treatment.

The selections were culled from more than 5,000 submissions and come from 30 countries, eight of which are in Latin America. The lineup includes 19 feature films directed by women, and the festival also will convene a special panel discussion among women in the animation business.

INTERACTIVE: Cheat Sheet - Los Angeles Film Festival

Stephanie Allain, who was named the director of the festival in late January, says she’s proud of this year’s emphasis on the work of women and people of color.

Continue reading »

Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' lures families to multiplex [Video]

June 11, 2012 |  4:00 am

Both kids and adults showed up in healthy numbers to the box office this weekend, as both the animated "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" and Ridley Scott's R-rated "Prometheus" each opened to $50 million or more.

The weekend's big winner was "Madagascar 3," which debuted with $60.4 million, while "Prometheus" started off with $50 million in ticket sales. As a result of the weekend's strong business, receipts were up 29% compared with the same three-day period in 2011.

With strong sales both domestically and abroad, DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar 3" will probably go on to replicate the success of its blockbuster predecessors. As for "Prometheus," the sci-fi epic could end up being one of the biggest hits for director Ridley Scott in over a decade.

For more on the weekend's results, check out the latest box office video report above.


"Madagascar 3" goes on a European road trip

'Safety Not Guaranteed' has decent debut, but 'Lola' struggles

Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' beats 'Prometheus' with $60.4 million

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: A scene from "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." Credit: DreamWorks Animation

'Catching Fire' producer to fans: Finnick field remains wide open

June 5, 2012 |  2:58 pm

The producer of the Hunger Games says casting is nohwere close to finished for Finnick
Amid a frenzy of rumors surrounding his possible role in the next installment of "The Hunger Games," Taylor Kitsch last week told us he won't be playing the attractive Finnick Odair in "Catching Fire."

Finnick, who shows up for the first time in "Catching Fire," is described by author Suzanne Collins as a handsome 24-year-old womanizer who excels at athletic pursuits. According to E! News, other actors still up for the part include Garrett Hedlund and Armie Hammer. But a producer of the sequel says even those whispers are "so not true."

“That’s the thing that’s crazy -- people are like way ahead of where we are,” Nina Jacobson told us on the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday. “We’ve not narrowed things down by any means. It’s funny to see how things can take on a life of their own.”

But are the filmmakers taking fan input into account while seeking out their Finnick? Not entirely, says Jacobson.

“It means something that people can see [an actor] in that light, so you know [the actor] will be accepted by a lot of people, on the one hand,” she said. “On the other hand, you have to kind of ignore it. You have to just sort of act like you’re sitting in a room and you want to just pick the person who gives the best audition and looks and feels most like the part.”

Since its release in March, "The Hunger Games" has collected over $645 million worldwide. The next installment is due in November 2013. "That's pressure," Jacobson acknowledged with a smile. "But it's a good kind of pressure."


‘Hunger Games’: District 12 for sale

Taylor Kitsch: I'm not playing Finnick in 'Catching Fire'

'Hunger Games,' 'Twilight' hurt Lions Gate earnings before they help

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jennifer Lawrence stars in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate

Kristen Stewart's 'Snow White' debuts with $56.3 million [Video]

June 4, 2012 |  1:48 pm

Kristen Stewart proved she appeals to more than just "Twilight" fans at the box office, as her latest film beat industry expectations over the weekend.

"Snow White and the Huntsman," which also stars Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, debuted with a better-than-anticipated $56.3 million. 

The good news for Stewart was that the movie attracted an older audience, 52% of whom were over the age of 30. That indicates that the 22-year-old actress may have appeal beyond the young female fan base that typically turns up to see the vampire series.

For more on the respectable opening of "Snow White," check out this week's box-office video report.


"Snow White" has surprisingly strong $56.3-million debut

Five lessons from the success of Kristen Stewart's 'Snow White'

"Snow White and the Huntsman" is a tale darkly told, critics say

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Kristen Stewart stars in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Credit: Universal Pictures

Taylor Kitsch: I'm not playing Finnick in 'Catching Fire'

May 31, 2012 | 12:59 pm

Taylor Kitsch will not play Finnick in "Catching Fire"

With casting for the second installment of "The Hunger Games" franchise underway, fans of the dystopian sci-fi series have been breathlessly debating who will play an integral character in "Catching Fire."

Finnick Odair, described by author Suzanne Collins as an Adonis-like womanizer, first appears in "Catching Fire" and has a complex relationship with heroine Katniss Everdeen. So admirers of the series were thrown into a tizzy this week when E! News reported that filmmakers had narrowed down the casting to three heartthrobs: Taylor Kitsch, Armie Hammer and Garrett Hedlund.

But you can knock one of those dreamboats off the list, because Kitsch says he won't be joining the cast of the mega-successful film series.

"Not going to happen," the 31-year-old actor wrote in an email on Wednesday. Kitsch, who is coming off the poor box office performance of the big-budget films "John Carter" and "Battleship," would seem to have fit the bill for the athletic, good-looking character.

As for "The Lone Ranger" star Hammer and "TRON: Legacy" lead Hedlund, the studio behind the franchise, Lionsgate, said it would not confirm, deny or comment on any casting in progress.


'Battleship' debuts weakly at the box office [video]

Taylor Kitsch puts 'John Carter' disaster behind him

How did 'Battleship' escape the 'John Carter' flop furor?

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Taylor Kitsch. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

'Marigold Hotel' crosses $100 million at worldwide box office

May 31, 2012 | 11:47 am

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel crossed the 100 million mark at the box office
Moviegoers worldwide continue to check into "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," as the film surpassed $100 million at the global box office Wednesday.

The movie, centered on British retirees who go on a trip to India, had already racked up $70 million abroad before it debuted in the U.S. in early May. Since, the picture's international tally has risen to $81.4 million, while the film has sold nearly $20-million worth of tickets domestically.

Internationally, the movie has performed best in the United Kingdom, grossing over $30 million in the region where many of its stars — including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson — hail from.

In America, meanwhile, the movie has resonated with older moviegoers. On the film's opening weekend, distributor Fox Searchlight said that 90% of the audience was 35 and older, while 60% of the crowd was female.

The movie is now the seventh-highest-grossing title ever for Fox Searchlight, which financed the picture with Participant Media for $12 million.


India is key part of cast for 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

Already a hit overseas, 'Marigold Hotel' has strong U.S. debut

Word of Mouth: Fox Searchlight hopes seniors check into 'Marigold Hotel'

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Dev Patel stars in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Kristen Stewart: I'm not trying to distance myself from 'Twilight'

May 30, 2012 | 12:23 pm

Kristen Stewart stars in Snow White and the Huntsman

In the four years since Kristen Stewart began playing the role of Bella Swan in the "Twilight" franchise, the actress has only appeared in three films outside of the massively popular series.

The most popular of the nonvampire fare was the 2009 comedy "Adventureland," which at its height played in around 1,800 theaters nationwide and ended up collecting $16 million -- nowhere near the kind of money a "Twilight" film rakes in. Her subsequent turns as Joan Jett in "The Runaways" and a stripper in "Welcome to the Rileys" were even less widely seen; the latter film grossed only $158,898.

Which all makes her latest role as the princess in "Snow White and the Huntsman" that much more significant. The big-budget spin on the classic fairy tale, out Friday, will mark the first time that most American moviegoers will get to weigh in on whether or not they buy Stewart as anyone but Bella.

Still, the actress says taking on "Snow White" wasn't a calculated move to change her on-screen image.

"People are going to think that it's me trying to either distance myself from 'Twilight' or try to prove myself beyond it or whatever," the 22-year-old said Tuesday evening at a screening of the $175-million production. "But it's [just] good timing. I think it's all fallen off the truck in a really lucky way. But it's totally not my doing."

Asked if she felt "Snow White" marked a new phase in her career, Stewart said it didn't.

" 'Twilight' means so much to me, but it doesn't stand out in terms of -- " she paused, looking for the right words. "Everything I do needs to be really important. ['Snow White'] is neither better or worse than anything I've done."

Her latest film, which also stars Charlize Theron, is the second picture based on the children's tale to hit theaters this year; "Mirror Mirror," Relativity's lighter take on "Snow White," struggled at the box office after its release in March. But Stewart said she thinks her version of the film will resonate with fans because it's a "fundamental story" that makes "you care about people."

"Not to be totally over-sentimental about it, but it's got a nice message -- and a very, very simple one. It just kind of makes you feel good about being human."

Stewart will show off a different side of herself in an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which premiered to generally positive reviews at the Cannes International Film Festival last week and will hit U.S. cinemas later this year. Meanwhile, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2” -– the final film in the series -– will open in November.


Kristen Stewart: I loved scaring myself in 'On The Road'

Kristen Stewart on her 'Twilight' fame: 'It's like you don't exist'

Charlize Theron reveals a running gag from the 'Snow White' set

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Kristen Stewart stars in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Credit: Universal Pictures

Box Office: 'Men in Black 3' blasts away competition [Video]

May 29, 2012 |  2:02 pm

Men in Black 3 grossed 70 million dollars at the box office this weekend
After four weeks atop the box office, "The Avengers" finally had to settle for the runner-up position.

"Men in Black 3" dethroned the superhero flick, raking in $70 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend. The movie ended up grossing around $203 million worldwide by weekend's end -- roughly $50 million less than industry projections had indicated the film would debut with.

Meanwhile, the low-budget horror flick "Chernobyl Diaries" had a dismal opening, collecting a weak $9.3 million. To make matters worse, the few moviegoers who saw the film hated it, assigning it an average grade of D+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

There were some success stories in the independent film world, however. Both Wes Anderson's 1960s-set quirky dramedy "Moonrise Kingdom" and the French foreign-language film "The Intouchables" performed well in limited release.

For more on this week's hits and misses at the multiplex, check out our latest box office video report.


'Men' fights well but misses a prediction

'Men in Black 3' was no easy sequel to make

'Moonrise Kingdom' sets per-screen-average box office record

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Will Smith stars in "Men in Black 3." Credit: Sony Pictures


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