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Category: Ben Stiller

Fox alters 'Neighborhood Watch' campaign after Trayvon Martin death

March 27, 2012 |  2:48 pm

Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, stars of the upcoming summer comedy "Neighborhood Watch," at an NBA basketball game

Twentieth Century Fox has pulled its teaser trailer and in-theater posters for the upcoming Ben Stiller-Vince Vaughn comedy "Neighborhood Watch" in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting that has sparked national protests. The film is set for release in July.

Starring Stiller, Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as four suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch to get away from their families and wind up having to battle aliens, "Neighborhood Watch" couldn't be further from the tragic circumstances of the Martin case in Florida, in which an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Yet in the minute-long trailer, which debuted in theaters ahead of "21 Jump Street" and online just three days after the shooting, the four actors are seen cruising their leafy neighborhood in a minivan with Hill's character making a gun motion out the window. 

The in-theater promotional display shows a bullet-riddled street sign dripping with green goo. According to a Fox spokesperson, the materials were taken out of Florida theaters over the past week and will be removed from other theaters around the country in the coming days. Online, the trailer can still be found.

The studio wants to assure audiences that the film is in no way connected to the Martin case and will therefore accelerate to the second stage of its marketing campaign, one that focuses more on the alien invasion component of the film.

"We are very sensitive to the Trayvon Martin case, but our film is a broad alien invasion comedy and bears absolutely no relation to the tragic events in Florida," said a statement released by the studio. "The movie, which is not scheduled for release for several months, was made and these initial marketing materials were released before this incident ever came to light. The teaser materials were part of an early phase of our marketing and were never planned for longterm use."

The in-theater materials will be replaced with posters of the cast. Fox has not yet determined when a new trailer will debut.

This is not the first time a real-world event has coincided with a theatrical motion picture on a similar topic. Warner Bros. pulled Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" -- which featured a deadly tsunami -- from the Japanese market after Japan's earthquake and tsunami hit last year. The British release for Warners' "V for Vendetta" was delayed in 2005 after the London subway bombings eerily echoed a key plot point in the vigilante-themed film.


Ben Stiller's 'Neighborhood Watch' begins to attract a crowd

Weinstein Co. to release 'Bully' documentary without MPAA rating

Summer showdown: Is there room for 2 action movies on the same day?

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, stars of the upcoming summer comedy "Neighborhood Watch," at an NBA basketball game in January. Credit: John Bazemore/AP

Ben Stiller, Warren Beatty, others toasted at saucy, sincere Britannia Awards

December 1, 2011 |  2:02 pm

Ben Stiller at the Britannia Awards

Movie stars are shuttled to so many glamorous red-carpet events during awards season it can be a challenge to remember the significance of each boozy get-together.

Just ask Ben Stiller. On Wednesday night at the Britannia Awards in Beverly Hills, the actor was honored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, whose Los Angeles branch gave him the Charlie Chaplin award for excellence in comedy. He was one of five entertainment world fixtures to receive prizes at the ceremony, which also feted Warren Beatty, Helena Bonham Carter, Pixar chief John Lasseter and director David Yates.

Stiller -- who was introduced by his “Tropic Thunder” costar Robert Downey Jr. -- spent most of his acceptance speech making jabs at BAFTA and its relative obscurity stateside. When he heard he’d won a prize from the organization, he joked, he wondered if BAFTA stood for “Black Astronauts Flight Training Association.”

“Then they told me, ‘Ben, it’s an awards show, and it’s going to be broadcast on the TV Guide Channel,’” he said, meaning to refer to the TV Guide Network, which will televise the ceremony on Sunday. “And I said, ‘Say no more. You had me at broadcast. You really had me at TV Guide Channel. I’ve been looking to break into half the TV screen for a long time.’”

Though the Britannias are held by BAFTA, they honor performers and executives from any country -- just so long “as they can speak English like a normal person,” kidded the evening’s emcee, Alan Cumming.

The event, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, had a casual vibe, with both presenters and honorees interspersing their speeches with expletives. Helen Mirren, who gave Bonham Carter the prize for British artist of the year, called her the goddess of “couldn’t give a [expletive]-dom” before complimenting her outlandish fashion sense and "bird’s nest" hairstyle.

But others were more earnest on stage, like Yates -- who received a special video message from absent “Harry Potter” stars Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint.

Continue reading »

Around Town: Superman flies again and the New Wave returns

December 1, 2011 |  7:00 am


A Francois Truffaut retrospective, an animation festival and a screening of 1978’s “Superman” are among this week’s highlights.

The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre celebrates the legacy of one of the founders of France’s New Wave cinema, Francois Truffaut, who died at the age of 52 in 1984. “The Film Lover: A Francois Truffaut Retrospective” commences Friday evening with his first feature film, 1959’s “The 400 Blows,” his critically acclaimed autobiographical drama about a troubled young boy, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud in a stunning performance). The second feature is Truffaut’s third entry in the Antoine Doinel series, the 1968 romantic comedy “Stolen Kisses,” with Leaud and Delphine Seyrig.

Truffaut pays homage to one of his icons, Alfred Hitchcock, in his 1968 mystery thriller “The Bride Wore Black,” starring Jeanne Moreau in the title role, which screens Saturday. Also on tap is his 1962 masterwork, “Jules and Jim” with Moreau and Oskar Werner. The retrospective concludes Sunday with his 1960 film noir, “Shoot the Piano Player” with Charles Aznavour, and 1980’s World War II drama “The Last Metro,” with Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. http://www.americancinematheque.com

Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theatre gets highly animated this week. The “Animation Breakdown” begins with “An Evening With Don Hertzfeldt” on Thursday, featuring the L.A. premiere of his latest animated short, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” The filmmaker will be appearing in person. On Friday, Cinefamily shines the spotlight on Polish animation with several shorts by noted animators including an exclusive presentation of the Brothers Quays’ latest film, “Maska.” Saturday afternoon’s offering is a sneak preview of Pixar’s newest short film, “La Luna,” six months before its theatrical release. Later in the afternoon, Cinefamily presents a cast and crew reunion of the Cartoon Network series “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.”

Continue reading »

Box Office: 'Puss in Boots' pounces on 'Tower Heist' [Video]

November 7, 2011 |  3:55 pm

Puss in Boots was the No 1 film for the second weekend in a row
Heading into the weekend, it was expected that "Tower Heist" would hijack the No. 1 spot at the box office from any rivals.

But the animated 3-D film "Puss in Boots," which debuted in the top position last weekend, maintained a far better than projected hold at the multiplex. Ticket sales for the film dropped only an unprecedented 3% to $33 million, bringing the film's total to $75.5 million in North America, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures.

That left the Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" in second place with a soft $25.1 million. That was better than the soft $13.1 million "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" started off with. But the so-so results for "Tower Heist" may not be a good omen for Murphy, who is set to host the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony in February.

Could this weekend's results be a bellwether for the 2012 Oscar ratings? Watch this week's box office video report for more details.


A long-planned 'Heist'

'Puss in Boots' showcases work by India animators for DreamWorks

'Puss in Boots' steals No. 1 spot at the box office from 'Tower Heist'

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: A scene from "Puss in Boots." Credit: DreamWorks Animation

Five improbably important questions posed by 'Tower Heist'

October 21, 2011 |  2:30 pm

Two weeks from today, Brett Ratner comes out with his Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist." While the arrival of a new Ratner objet d'art doesn't usually raise significant questions--the geopolitical overtones of "Rush Hour 3" notwithstanding--his new movie has implications far beyond its action set pieces and quipped one-liners.

How the Universal release--about a group of workers at a luxury Manhattan apartment building trying to steal back their money from a Bernie Madoff-like tycoon--performs commercially will have a surprising amount to say about celebrity, the movie industry and, gulp, even Occupy Wall Street populism.

Here are five questions you never thought a Brett Ratner movie would answer.

Murphy's Law. Eddie Murphy hasn't had a live-action hit in years. His last few vehicles, "Meet Dave" and "Imagine That," couldn't come close to shooting the banana out the tailpipe. But this movie could present Murphy how we like and remember him from his heyday: cracking jokes, pulling his slick impersonations, flashing the pearly whites. In fact, by all trailer appearances, his character, a small-time criminal who's recruited into Stiller's justice-minded gang, gets him back to his "Beverly Hills Cop" roots. He's an outlaw on the side of right, his means justified by his ends and his quips. If it's a hit, get ready for the comeback stories. If it isn't, the odes will turn to obituaries.

Oscar the Grouchy.The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences set off plenty of grousing this summer when it made the stunning announcements that Ratner would produce the Oscars and that the mostly off-the-radar Murphy would host them. If "Tower Heist" flops, there will be awkward jokes and questions from now until late February. If it succeeds, the academy could look smart, demonstrating that Ratner and Murphy can resonate with the broader public--the same public the show needs to goose its ratings.

VOD premiums. Universal was forced into an embarrassing about-face when theater owners objected to its plan to put out the movie via on-demand just three weeks after its theatrical release. But the game may not be over yet. Sure, if the movie flourishes, theater owners could claim they're still the best way to bring out a new release. But if it doesn't, it could provide ammunition for studios to try something else the next time out

Occupy Multiplexes. "Heist" is one of the first mainstream entertainments since the financial crisis of 2008 to take on the subject of Wall Street and fat cats (never mind the millions raked in
by those making the film). How broad is sympathy for the OWS movement? Yeah, it's a big commercial comedy. But if the movie resonates, it could show that the sympathy is broader than some claim.

Static comedy. "30 Minutes or Less," "Cop Out," "Killers"-- a good era for the action-comedy this ain't. Enter Ratner, who, love him or hate him, has one of the most lucrative action comedy franchises in
history with "Rush Hour." With this film, he looks to save the genre, one high jinks-filled, odd-couple argument at a time.


Universal on 'Tower Heist': Never mind

Exhibitors clash with movie studios: Is this a war nobody can win?

'Tower Heist': A clue to this year's Oscars

--Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: "Tower Heist." Credit: Universal Pictures

Universal's 'Tower Heist' VOD fiasco: What went wrong?

October 12, 2011 |  5:38 pm

Tower heist
Universal Pictures has ended up with egg on its face after the embarrassing collapse of its experiment to make the upcoming Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy comedy "Tower Heist" available on VOD three weeks after its Nov. 4 theatrical release. The plan was to test market the Brett Ratner-directed film in two cities to see how many people would pay $60 to watch the movie at home in the comfort of their living room.

The plan backfired. A host of exhibitors, including Cinemark and National Amusements, announced that they wouldn't play the film at all, arguing that the experiment would surely somehow cut into their ticket sales. Of course, the VOD plan was limited to two mid-market cities (Portland, Ore., and Atlanta), but by using the nuclear option, exhibitors wanted to make it very clear to Universal's competitors that they would suffer equally dire consequences for any similar experiment.   

I will have more to say about this in a forthcoming column, but here's a few things to chew on that have made industry insiders question whether Universal botched the experiment from the start.


First off, "Tower Heist" was probably the wrong movie to pick in an experiment where cooperation of exhibitors was needed. Even though it has two name-brand stars in leading roles, it arrives in a month -- November -- that is already loaded with commercial films. In fact, there is already another comedy, "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" on the same date, with another big comedy arriving a week later in the form of Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill."

So if you're a theater owner, you would hardly be in danger of missing your numbers by refusing to play  "Tower Heist." That gave a lot of leverage to exhibitors willing to punish Universal. Even worse, from a leverage point of view, Universal is currently the weak sister of the Big Six studios. It has no major releases on its calendar for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and for that matter, no big event movie hitting theaters before "Battleship" next May. So if exhibitors wanted to punish a studio, Universal is the easiest one to pick a fight with.

But here's the real issue that created trouble for Universal. The studio's new corporate bosses at Comcast were clearly driving this experiment because if VOD works, it will be a great way to take advantage of Comcast's huge cable TV assets, giving them even more quality programming to offer their customers. That may help Comcast's bottom line, but it creates all sorts of headaches for Universal with its talent relations. After all, it was the top executives at Universal, not Comcast, who had to field angry phone calls from exhibitors. And it was Universal that was under siege by talent reps for Stiller, Murphy and Ratner, all hysterical about seeing their new movie being used as a guinea pig in an experiment that could lead to substantially reduced box-office grosses.

It just goes to show: In the new vertically integrated entertainment universe, what works for one end of the business doesn't necessarily work for the other. You'd think that Universal would have figured out what a potential mess this could be early on. But it clearly went ahead anyway. What's the lesson here? Theater owners may be dinosaurs when it comes to embracing new technology, but here's the thing about dinosaurs -- when they stamp their feet, it can really knock you for a loop.


Universal on 'Tower Heist': Never Mind

Would you pay $60 to watch an Eddie Murphy movie from home?

Sony's 3-D glasses showdown with exhibitors: Who will blink first?

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Ben Stiller, left, and Eddie Murphy in "Tower Heist." Credit: David Lee / Universal Pictures 

Would you pay $60 to watch Eddie Murphy from home? [Poll]

October 5, 2011 |  4:14 pm


My colleague Ben Fritz has just posted this bombshell: Comcast-owned Universal has decided to make this fall's Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" available via on-demand three weeks after it's released on Nov. 4.  You'll have to pay $59.99, and you'll have to live in Atlanta or Portland, Ore., where the program is being piloted, but if you do (and have Comcast), you'll be able to see the movie without leaving your home.

The move represents a major step in the increasingly dynamic, and complicated, relationship between theatrical and television viewing. As Fritz writes, the experiment "marks the first time a major studio movie will be available to watch in-home while still playing in thousands of theaters."

Universal's choice of film seems carefully calculated. This isn't so small a movie that no one will pay for it. But a Brett Ratner comedy is not such a major filmgoing event that it will rankle theater owners in the way that, say, an "Avatar" or "Harry Potter" might. (The fact that it will be available on the fourth  weekend, after harder-core fans will no doubt already have bought tickets to see it, might also ease the sting, though theater owners could very well yet respond by pulling the film from theaters in those cities.)

All of this means that the results of the theaters-versus-television experiment won't be as conclusive as if this were, say, a guaranteed blockbuster that hit television the same weekend. And 60 bucks ain't cheap. Sure, pay-per-view wrestling gets away with it, but that's a live event you can't see anywhere else.

Still, the effect is to lower the limbo bar. A few months ago, studios tried a program with DirecTV that allowed television viewers to see movies like "Sucker Punch" 60 days after they came out (for $30). Now we're at three weeks. The next time, a studio may try two weeks, or sooner. The big question is whether people will pony up for it. Would you?



Tower Heist to hit video on-demand three weeks after theatrical release

Tower Heist: A clue to this year's Oscars?

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Tower Heist." Credit: Universal Pictures.

BAFTA Los Angeles to honor Ben Stiller

August 23, 2011 | 11:04 am

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles is honoring  Ben Stiller ("There's Something About Mary," "Night at the Museum") with the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy at the 2011 Los Angeles Britannia Awards Nov. 30 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

"Ben Stiller is a master of comedy who, just like the legendary filmmaker for whom this award is named, embodies the remarkable multi-hyphenate talents of actor, writer, director and producer," said Nigel Lythgoe ("So You Think You Can Dance," "American Idol"), chairman of BAFTA Los Angeles.

Helena Bonham Carter, John Lasseter and David Yates will also be honored at the BAFTA Los Angeles event hosted by Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming.

For more information, go to Baftala.org


What is BAFTA Los Angeles?

Ben Stiller's 'Neighborhood Watch' begins to attract a crowd

Will and Kate reign over Hollywood at BAFTA's 'Brits to Watch'

-- Susan King

Photo: Ben Stiller. Credit: Alfie Agius


Ben Stiller's 'Neighborhood Watch' begins to attract a crowd

June 30, 2011 | 12:13 pm


EXCLUSIVE: "Neighborhood Watch" is one of those movies that kicks around Hollywood for a while then  gets jolted into action when some big stars take an interest in it.

The story of an urbanite who gets more than he bargains for -- in the form of extraterrestrial activity -- when he moves to the suburbs and joins the neighborhood watch was in development several years ago with Will Ferrell. But the science-fiction comedy got a new lease on life when Seth Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg came on to write a new draft of the script and Ben Stiller decided to  take the lead role that Ferrell once occupied.

Now the film, which is set up at 20th Century Fox, is getting another jolt. "Tropic Thunder" and "Iron Man 2" writer Justin Theroux has been brought on to write a new draft, and Fox has met with Vince Vaughn with the aim of bringing the "Wedding Crashers" star aboard, said two people familiar with the project who asked not to be identified because the movie is still in the development phase. [Update, 12:48 p.m.: A person close to the production said that Vaughn is now formally negotiating for the role, which means that if terms of a deal can be worked out, he will indeed star opposite Stiller.]

The Stiller-Vaughn pairing would mark a high-profile comedy reunion. The two played nemeses -- as the underdog Peter La Fleur and the conniving White Goodman -- in 2004's "Dodgeball," a movie that took in $115 million at the U.S. box office (a fact doubtless not lost on Fox, which made and released that film too). A Fox spokeswoman did not immediately have a comment.

Apart from Stiller and Vaughn, "Neighborhood Watch" is an opportunity for other comedic actors to strut their stuff, particularly in a time when bigger-budget original comedies aren't getting made very often.There's an older black character as well as a young dad role that could be filled by a 20-something white comic actor. Earlier this month, producers brought on Akiva Schaffer, a veteran of "Saturday Night Live" and sketch-comedy group Lonely Island, to direct the movie, which is being produced by "Night at the Museum" diretor Shawn Levy. The movie could potentially shoot as soon as November.

For comedy fans, the film would represent a return for Stiller to a non-sequel comedy -- he hasn't done one since 2008's "Thunder" -- and a move away from the romance-flavored comedies that Vaughn has taken to of late.


From the archives: 'Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story' movie review

Ben Stiller and 'Saturday Night Live' veteran look to team on new comedy

Ben Stiller, Edie Falco in 'House of Blue Leaves' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

--Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling

Photo: Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in "Dodgeball: a True Underdog Story." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Ben Stiller and 'Saturday Night Live' veteran look to team on new comedy

June 14, 2011 |  3:37 pm

Ben Stiller

EXCLUSIVE: Ben Stiller starred in a very small dramedy and a very big comedy ("Greenberg" and "Little Fockers," respectively) in 2010. Now he could make a reasonably sized science-fiction comedy.

The actor, who's already been weighing a remake of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," is considering starring in  "Neighborhood Watch," a long-planned film that's set up at Fox, say two sources familiar with the project who asked not to be identified because were not authorized to talk about it publicly.

The film also is in the process of locking in a director: Akiva Schaffer, the Lonely Island and "Saturday Night Live" veteran is in negotiations, said the sources.

Should Stiller take the role, he would play the lead character, an urbanite who gets more than he bargains for -- in the form of extraterrestrial activity -- when he moves to the suburbs and joins the neighborhood watch. A new draft of the script was recently finished by Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg. A Fox spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

"Watch" would reunite Stiller with Shawn Levy, the "Night at the Museum" director who is producing the film. The actor will next be seen onscreen in "Tower Heist," a Brett Ratner action comedy that comes out in November.

Schaffer is best known as one peg of the sketch-comedy troupe that created viral-video shorts such as "Lazy Sunday" and "Iran So Far" along with Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone. "Neighborhood Watch" would be his sophomore feature directing effort, after he helmed the low-budget comedy "Hot Rod" back in 2007.

"Neighborhood Watch's" development chain reads like a who's who of feature-comedy names. Stiller would be stepping into a part that was once set for Will Ferrell, with whom he has appeared in movies such as "Anchorman" and  "Zoolander." In that previous incarnation of the film, Ferrell was to star and David Dobkin, the helmer of 'Wedding Crashers," was to direct; more recently, "50 First Dates" director Peter Segal was poised to get behind the camera.


'Little Fockers' tries to overcome the hat-trick curse

'Little Fockers' premiere: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman hit the red carpet

Ben Stiller, Edie Falco in 'House of Blue Leaves' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

-- Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling

Photo: Ben Stiller at the Chrysalis Butterfly Ball in 2010. Credit: Alfie Agius


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