24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Dimension Films

Horror movie 'Shelter' seeks refuge

February 18, 2011 |  6:12 pm

The trailer for the psychological horror film "Shelter" touts the pedigree of its participants: "The producers of 'The Ring.' " "The writer of 'Identity.' " "Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore."

But none of those elements are enough to keep the film on the release calendar.

Earlier this week, the Weinstein Co., which had been scheduled to release the movie via its Dimension label on as many as 1,000 screens next Friday, yanked it from the calendar. It has not given the movie a new date, which suggests it could be months or even longer before the film sees a theater, if it ever sees it at all.

"Shelter" examines a young man (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) with multiple-personality disorder who's being studied by a psychiatrist (Moore). As her investigation unfolds, she begins to discover that the multiple personalities are all past murder victims, and the story begins to take on religious and exorcism overtones; it's "Primal Fear" by way of 'The Rite." (You can watch the U.K. trailer below.)

February would seem just the right time for "Shelter;" It's when the calendar is typically clear enough to make room for midbudget genre material. And the movie's pedigreed cast -- Rhys Meyers is a Golden Globe nominee, as the trailer reminds us, and Moore has plenty of art-house credibility --gives it a boost over generic horror fare.

The movie also is directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorg Stein, who have at least a little bit of a name ever since they landed the gig to direct "Underworld 4."

So why is "Shelter" gone from the U.S. calendar?

A person close to the situation who was not authorized to speak about it publicly said that the movie was pulled because it had opened in a number of international territories, including the U.K. and Japan, many months ago. And theater chains, intent on encouraging day-and-date releases, were disinclined to play a movie that had already opened overseas and was even available on DVD in some countries. A Weinstein Co. spokeswoman declined to comment.

The movie could yet be released in American theaters if enough chains relent, the person close to the  situation said. It could also get a more limited theatrical release, or even wind up going direct to video.

Theater-owner discontent notwithstanding, it won't be lost on some readers that the Weinstein Co., already known for juggling the release date of one film when another blossoms into a hit, is in full-blown "King's Speech" mode.

The Tom Hooper dramedy expanded to more than 2,000 theaters three weeks ago and has shown little signs of letting up. The Weinstein Co., which not long ago was teetering on the financial brink and whose reserves of cash had been question, has been spending heavily  on both a general and Oscar campaign for "Speech." That marketing spend has paid off, propelling it to nearly $100 million in domestic box office. A horror picture along the lines of the "The Rite," on the other hand, is a far less sure bet: That film barely tallied $30 million.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in "Shelter." Credit: Dimension Films

When producers attack: 'Piranha's' Mark Canton takes on James Cameron

August 31, 2010 | 11:33 am

"Piranha 3D" may not have conjured up a huge number of scares, but the meta-story around the Dimension Films release is turning into entertaining bloodsport.

After first releasing a fake Oscar video from members of the cast, the Weinstein Co. division is now sending out word about one of the producers, Mark Canton, responding angrily to James Cameron's (slight) knock on the film.

Piran In a much larger VanityFair.com interview about his views on 3-D, the "Avatar" re-release and his latest work, Cameron says that he didn't like the way "Piranha 3-D" used the technology. Cameron, who worked for a few days on the sequel to the Joe Dante original before being fired from the production, said that "I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the '70s and '80s."

That was all Canton needed to pounce like, well, a piranha. In a 15-paragraph screed sent to reporters Tuesday morning that led with  "Jim, are you kidding or what?" and "Mr. Cameron, who singles himself out to be a visionary of movie-making, seems to have a small vision regarding any motion pictures that are not his own," Canton makes his broadside against the director.

Part of Canton's invective is personal, "What it comes down to, Jim, is -- that like most things in life -- size doesn’t really matter. Not everyone has the advantage of having endless amounts of money to play in their sandbox and to take ten years using other people’s money to make and market a film ... like you do. Why can’t you just count your blessings?"

Part of it goes to Canton's irritation that Cameron is claiming ownership of Hollywood's z-axis craze. "Let’s just keep this in mind Jim -- you did not invent 3D. You were fortunate that others inspired you to take it further."

Then it gets into what Canton, who produced "300" and a host of Hollywood films over the last few decades, really thought about Cameron's piece de resistance. "To be honest, I found the 3D in 'Avatar' to be inconsistent and while ground breaking in many respects, sometimes I thought it overwhelmed the storytelling," he said. "Technology aside, I wish 'Avatar' had been more original in its storytelling."

And finally it comes down to, well, getting attention for the film, of course. "My sense is that Mr. Cameron has never seen Piranha 3D ... certainly not in a movie theatre with a real audience. Jim, we invite you to take that opportunity and experience the movie in a theatre full of fans -- fans for whom this movie was always intended to entertain. ... [You have] no clue as to how great and how much of a fun-filled experience the audiences who have seen the film in 3D have enjoyed."

One gets the sense from the e-mail that Canton is genuinely upset, though it doesn't hurt publicity efforts for "Piranha" to engage in a fight with a much bigger fish like Cameron.

But the real irony here is that Cameron's original comments may have targeted what audiences actually like about "Piranha." Part of the movie's appeal comes from its throwback campiness. Director Alexandre Aja basically said as much when he told our colleague Gina McIntyre that his intention was for an '80s era pop pleasure  modeled as a kind of "Gremlins" for adults. The idea, he said, was for "a very simple, efficient concept to reboot or reinvent that kind of disaster movie, creature movie from the '80s, that kind of guilty-pleasure movie that delivers on every front." Canton may have felt it more personally, but Cameron's attack seems largely bloodless.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: An image from "Piranha 3D." Credit: Dimension Films


"Piranha 3D" director says his movie is Gremlins for adults

"Piranha 3D," the Oscar campaign

Movie review: "Piranha 3D"

'Piranha 3D,' the Oscar campaign

August 17, 2010 |  7:08 pm

The novelty wears a little thin in this spoof video for the blood-in-the-water comedy "Piranha 3D," in which the movie's actors plead for an Oscar. But Paul Scheer ("You got so many of them; just give us one") and Adam Scott ("There's enough CG in this movie to nominate us for best animated feature") elicit a chuckle, just as the notion of a thousand bikini-clad spring-breakers getting their heads bitten off elicits a chuckle. Next up for the movie's cast: a nighttime swim with Tom Sherak.

--Steven Zeitchik

An American werewolf goes back to London, this time with a number

August 4, 2010 |  4:44 pm

Before Taylor Lautner gave shirtless life to Jacob Black in "Twilight," before Michael J. Fox got all hairy and started taking jump shots in "Teen Wolf," David Naughton was getting lupine in London for John Landis.

The filmmaker's' "An American Werewolf in London" was a hit years ahead of the fashion for grafting the conventions of comedy and romance onto werewolf and vampire pictures; in fact, it some ways it gave rise to the practice.

Maybe it's this nostalgia that's prompting Dimension Films to develop a reboot of "An American Werewolf in London."  The Weinstein Co. division bought remake rights to the 1981 classic, which starred Naughton as a U.S. tourist who believes he's being hunted by a werewolf, from Landis in June 2009.

Now the company is in talks with a writer, Fernley Phillips, best known for scripting Jim Carrey's "The Number 23," to give it a modern spin, sources say.

You can imagine fans and executives sparking to the idea of a new "Werewolf." The name alone brings plenty of recognition, and the idea of combining a hugely popular monster genre with comedy has proved creatively fertile in recent years (see "Shaun of the Dead").

Of course, sending up werewolves might seem redundant, what with Lautner already providing plenty of unintentional comedy. And Phillips does raise a bit of a question, as "23" was seen as a rather straightforward suspense thriller (Carrey plays a man who believes a novel is written about him) and "Werewolf" brought the comedy in bushels.

But unlike some of its genre counterparts, Dimension isn't above slyly sending up some of the conventions of horror and monster movies, as it does in the "Scream" franchise. Landis' version riffed at least a little on the 1935 horror flick "Werewolf of London". And if nothing else, a new version will wash out the taste of "An American Werewolf in Paris," the Gallic (and galling) follow-up from 1997.

“Werewolf” isn’t the first '80s genre comedy getting the remake treatment. DreamWorks is remaking the vampire comedy "Fright Night,”  Paramount is developing a new "Teen Wolf" and Dimension itself is trying to stay in the game with a new "Scream" film from Wes Craven. Some people out there are thinking of a '"Beetlejuice" remake, aren't they ...

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'An American Werewolf in London' poster. Credit: Universal Pictures.

Craig Gillespie to direct Fright Night remake

Dimension looks to engage in its own Paranormal Activity

Will audiences ever want to see the Twilight stars do anything else?

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Dimension looks to engage in its own 'Paranormal Activity'

May 4, 2010 |  6:01 pm

EXCLUSIVE: As negotiations between The Weinstein Co. and Disney continue to wear on over the Miramax slate and library, the New York-based film company is forging ahead with the business of developing and making movies.

Dimension Films, the genre label run by Bob Weinstein, is making a deal to develop "The Mummy Archives," described as a more artful and modestly budgeted version of "The Mummy," the insanely lucrative Brendan Fraser franchise.

Monta The film will focus on several young people who are haunted by a mummy curse, with the action playing out very much in the unseen realm, as both the audience and the characters frequently experience the effects of the curse without seeing it explicitly.

The project comes with some appealing names: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, a young Spanish genre director who attracted quite a bit of heat a couple years back for his Spanish-language thriller "The King of the Hill" ("El Rey de la Montana," which the Weinstein Co. released in the U.S.), is in final negotiations to write the screenplay and direct the film. Douglas Wick, the veteran producer behind mega-hits such as "Gladiator," generated the idea and is in final negotiations to produce the film through his Red Wagon Entertainment banner.

In its 11 years of existence, Universal's "Mummy" franchise has generated more than $1.2 billion in global box office across three films. But those movies are CG-dependent and pricey to make, and in the wake of "Paranormal Activity," studios are looking for the big breakout that doesn't cost big money (including companies like Dimension that have always been budget-conscious). The budget for "Mummy Archives" is expected to be in the $5-million range, a number that allows for some lean and mean storytelling but isn't high enough to spook anyone.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: El Rey de la Montana. Credit: The Weinstein Company

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.


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