24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Iron Man 2

Producers Guild of America honors Stan Lee

November 9, 2011 | 12:01 pm

The Producers Guild of America announced Wednesday that Marvel Comics' Stan Lee, whose co-creations include "Spider-Man," "The Incredible Hulk" and "Iron Man," will receive the 2012 Vanguard Award at the 23rd Annual Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 21 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Lee, 88, has also executive produced such films as those of the "Spider-Man" franchise, the "Iron Man" films, "Thor" and "The X-Men" franchise.

The Vanguard Award recognizes achievements in new media and technology.

"Stan Lee's creative vision and imagination has produced some of the most beloved and visually stunning characters and adventures in history," said PGA Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim in a statement Wednesday.

Previous recipients include George Lucas, John Lasseter and YouTube founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Will Wright.


"Patt Morrison Asks: Comics genius Stan Lee"

 "'Romeo and Juliet: The War': Stan Lee's Cosmic Shakespeare"

-- Susan King  

Photo: Stan Lee. Credit: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

An emotional night for Robert Downey Jr.

October 15, 2011 | 12:20 pm

Robert downey
When Robert Downey Jr. urged Hollywood movers and shakers Friday night to forgive his friend  Mel Gibson "his trespasses," it certainly created a lot of buzz at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But it was hardly the only emotional moment at the the 25th annual American Cinematheque Award gala.

Celebrity after celebrity -- including Jodie Foster, Guy Ritchie, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Favreau and Jack Black --- talked about the double Oscar nominee's courage in turning his life around after years of drug addiction that led to him serving time in prison.

The evening also included countless clips of Downey's work over the last quarter century, including his early films "Weird Science," "Back to School" and "Less Than Zero"; his Oscar-nominated turns in "Chaplin" and "Tropic Thunder"; and of course "Sherlock Holmes," "Wonder Boys," "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and both "Iron Man" blockbusters.

But it was his wife, Susan Downey, and his father who provided some of the most poignant moments.

Robert Downey Sr., a director, showed a clip of his son's acting debut at the age of 5 in "Pound," which featured actors playing dogs in a pound. Sporting  longish hair and an impish grin, the younger Downey played the role of a puppy who is adopted. The elder Downey said that he and his wife couldn't afford a babysitter so they brought their son to work that day and a star was born.

Yet the elder Downey said: "The moment you turned your life around was more heroic than any movie. I am proud to be your father."

Susan Downey, who produces the "Sherlock Holmes" films and is expecting the couple's first child early next year, explained that "creativity is in his blood."

Pausing, she touched her belly and added, "no pressure kid."

Her husband beamed.

Robert Downey Jr. revisits his film career

Mel Gibson gets a boost from Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr.'s wife is pregnant with their first baby

-- Susan King

Photo: Robert Downey Sr. addresses the audience during the 25th American Cinematheque Award benefit gala honoring his son, actor Robert Downey Jr., on Friday in Beverly Hills. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

Why Jon Favreau is moving away from 'Iron Man' (and how it will affect the franchise)

December 14, 2010 |  6:57 pm

My colleague Geoff Boucher at Hero Complex catches up with Jon Favreau to get the lowdown on his move away from the "Iron Man" franchise and toward Disney's "Magic Kingdom."

The main impulse, Favreau tells HC in a revealing interview, is to "find something that lights a fire" inside him and "blow[s] people away, which is easier to do with a project that isn't loaded with built-in expectations."

And "Iron Man?" Marvel could well commence a search for a new director (the lack of a developed script at once both helps and hurts this cause), and convince Favreau loyalist Robert Downey Jr. to go along with it. But the truth is that as large a property as "Iron Man" is, it's not at all clear that the franchise can or needs to go on anytime soon.

There is, first, the storytelling aspect -- where does a third "Iron Man" go with no cliffhanger wrapping up the second film? -- but also the issue of the larger Marvel universe. The first two Iron Man films (along with "Thor" and "Captain America") have been about building the mythology for "Avengers." Now that it's done that (the supergroup of superhero movies will shoot in 2011 and hits in 2012), the Marvel movies could really splinter into whatever direction they need to (likely in the direction of the most lucrative characters).

Throw in the fact that third movies often fall off in popularity after the second film (especially a second film with a mixed reception) and there's not only a lack of narrative urgency but an absence of financial urgency as well.

Of course, studios rarely walk away from a money-minting franchise without a fight. Marvel may yet find a way and a reason to continue. And if not, well, there's always a reboot.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Iron Man 2.' Credit: Paramount Pictures.


Jon Favreau trades 'Iron Man' for a trip to Disneyland


Can 'Iron Man' stop the 3-D conversion menace?

May 10, 2010 |  6:32 pm

Expectations are a funny thing in the movie business. Generate too few and your film comes and goes quietly. Generate too many and you're in an even tougher spot --  basking in the limelight but also fielding the hard questions and the second-guessing.

It's impossible to call the $128.1 million that "Iron Man 2" raked in this weekend anything less than a smashing success. That number is enviable for any sequel, let alone a movie that was handcrafted on set by its director and lead star, as so many of the reports had Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. doing.

But the movie fell notably short of the opening-weekend numbers yielded by several other superhero sequels, including of course "The Dark Knight" and "Spider-Man 3." That inevitably has raised the Monday-morning quarterback question of whether "Iron Man 2" might have gone the "Dark Knight" distance if it had gotten a "Clash of the Titans"-style 3-D conversion, boosting grosses with higher ticket prices. At a time when every movie's gross is being vaulted by a surf in the 3-D world, the argument goes, "Iron Man 2" could have ridden the wave and met those (admittedly very high) box-office expectations.

In an interview with Ben Fritz on The Times' Hero Complex blog, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said that the company had considered a conversion but, among other things, didn't feel it had enough time before the May 7 release date to do that conversion justice.

Like all studios, Marvel is at the center of some strong cross-currents, with so many competitors rushing headlong into 3-D. So it's understandable that Feige and his company would have explored the option. But the point Feige's own movie makes is that if studios are rushing forward, audiences aren't rushing with them, While it's impossible to know exactly how fans would have felt about a 3-D version of "Iron Man 2," they certainly embraced this version, giving it an A on the all-important word-of-mouth measurement tool CinemaScore. Certainly showing the movie in 2-D didn't hurt. One could even make the case that it might have helped, with audiences liking it as much as they could because they didn't feel a new technology was being waved in their face (literally).

The argument from the top of studios' corporate ladders has been that their business needs 3-D to to eliminate risk and stay solidly profitable. But "Iron Man 2" did all that, earning not just an eye-popping amount -- a 30% gain over the first picture, up there with the best of the second installments -- but doing it in the most generous way possible. The movie's distribution plan, and revenue splits, allowed it to spread the love to distributor Paramount, to its own coffers and to new owner Disney, who all will come out well in the black. And that's not even getting into the international numbers.

Marvel is looking at 3-D for its other films -- "We will be doing it at some point," Feige said -- and we have a nagging feeling that "Iron Man 3" will add a third dimension as well. Let's hope that any 3-D treatment at least applies only to movies that haven't begun shooting, like said "Iron Man" sequel and "Captain America," not "Thor," which has (and which Marvel would be forced to convert).

And here's hoping that maybe the studio chooses to avoid the whole craze and opts to rake in the cash the old-fashioned way, or at least the old-fashioned tentpole way: with a movie people want to see. A $128.1-million weekend has a way of making a strong case, in any dimension.

--Steven Zeitchik (follow me on Twitter at @ZeitchikLAT)

Photo: Mickey Rourke as Vanko in "Iron Man 2." Credit: Marvel.com

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.

Chris Nolan and J.J. Abrams trailers, under lock and key

May 7, 2010 |  9:18 pm

When did trailers for action movies get good? And when did they go behind the velvet rope? Two new trailers for two secretive projects come attached to "Iron Man 2": for Christopher Nolan's "Inception" and J.J. Abrams' "Super 8." (Is there a movie on Earth that wouldn't want to be in that pre-Robert Downey Jr. slot? The rich indeed get richer.)

The "Inception" piece, featured above, is the better of the two, not least because it finally casts light on what the movie is about (dream policing and subconscious thievery, it turns out). You can watch it here, though it's meant to be discovered and watched only after one plays this online game. Movie marketers might wonder why in the name of Catwoman a studio would cut a trailer and then hide it inside a video game. But when your name is Chris Nolan, less is often more, and a velvet rope may be the best invitation of all.

The other trailer, for Abrams' "Super 8," is less persuasive. Little is given away in this initial teaser about this recently announced 2011 creature movie that may or may not be a follow-up to "Cloverfield" (it probably isn't); it basically lets you know that someone or something scary once escaped after a train crash near Area 51. But we don't see much beyond the train crash, except for said something trying to bust its way out of a crate, which makes the "It Arrives" pronouncement that accompanies it feel a little overblown, or even cliche (though the "Super 8" closing is intriguing enough).

The trailer's popped up on YouTube, but Paramount has done its best to remove it, or at least not to offer it online yet. (The versions that do exist were clearly pirated with a hand-held camera from inside a movie theater, so we won't link to it). But the strategy is a little perplexing.

Unless you're trying to get people into theaters to see "Iron Man 2" because of the trailer, why not make it available? From the looks of it, it's more gritty than cinematic, and doesn't absolutely need to be seen on a big screen. And a trailer isn't a piece of content you're trying to get people to pay for, like a "Daily Show" episode. It's a piece of marketing. What's the point of withholding it?

In any event, the marketing for the closely watched film has begun. Or not begun.

-- Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

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.

'Iron Man 2' premieres in Hollywood, and expectations slip on a shiny suit

April 27, 2010 |  3:00 am

"Figure out what the audience wants and give it to them," Robert Downey, Jr., said from the podium outside the El Capitan Theatre at the "Iron Man 2" premiere Monday night.

Downey may have been kidding, in that knowing, smirking, I'm-in-on-the-joke-too way of his that defies you not to like him. But the statement may also have well captioned the evening, summing up how the presentation of the franchise has neutralized many criticisms of its popcorn charms. Downey and Marvel know the commercial juggernaut they have here, and as they've done since they started rolling out the movie at Comic-con last summer (and as Tony Stark himself might do), they not only flashed that confidence but turned it into a selling point.

Downeyjr Indeed, the premiere of the Marvel-produced, Paramount-distributed, Justin Theroux-penned sequel delivered the pleasing to the crowd, as director and co-star Jon Favreau, standing on a makeshift podium on Hollywood Boulevard, introduced the litany of stars, from Mickey Rourke to Gwyneth Paltrow to Samuel Jackson to Downey himself. (Check out the red-carpet video from sister blog Ministry of Gossip, as well as the ongoing pre-release countdown from our sister blog, Hero Complex.)

Then out came "The Ironettes" (like the Rockettes, only with a superhero motif) who did a heels-up, devil-may-care number to parallel an on-screen performance from one of the film's first sequences. (The El Capitan setting of the premiere, incidentally, showed just how entwined Disney is with studio/producer Marvel, which it acquired last year, which also meant the premiere was the first known superhero movie to begin with a live organist performance, as nearly all screenings at the El Cap do.)

We'll of course wait for the Los Angeles Times' critics and other reviewers to offer their assessments of the movie, but our own quick reaction was of a film rich in flash, generous in wit (never before has such a fast-talking, confidence-brimming wiseacre donned a superhero costume) and thin on meaningful storytelling (but thick with the false-start kind). Several colleagues we spoke to afterward similarly did not find themselves in a pose of jaw-dropping awe but, like us, they felt the film has a sense of confidence in its own mission that almost wills you into liking it (or distracts you from its convolutions).

Palt What this movie will offer its broad quilt-work of fans is of course the key question. For a film that will be one the biggest of the summer and possibly the biggest three-day opener of all time, "Iron Man 2" has a tricky job, commercially speaking. It needs to satisfy those who crave more of the mythology introduced by the first film, but it also needs to stand alone as it aims to bring in even more people than the first (and squash that movie's $98-million opening and $318-million total).

And as it does all of this, it needs to set up future movies in the Marvel canon, particularly the ensemble-oriented "Avengers," which it devotes a fair amount of time to doing, at the risk of complicating the storytelling (we'll stay away from major spoilers, but here's a small one; skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it -- Downey's Tony Stark offers to come in as a "consultant" to the Avengers group being organized by Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury. That doughnut scene from the early footage is only the beginning.)

If the wisdom based on some of the early tracking has it that "Iron Man 2" has the potential to be a blockbuster of epic proportions, Monday night did little to tamp down those expectations. When you have the flashy goods, you may as well show them off. Both Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. could tell you that.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Upper photo: Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey at the "Iron Man 2" premiere. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Lower photo: Gwyneth Paltrow at the "Iron Man 2" premiere. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Can 'Iron Man 2' beat 'The Dark Knight'?

April 6, 2010 |  3:56 pm

Exactly one month from Wednesday, Tony Stark, Pepper Potts and the other personalities of "Iron Man" will return to make witty mayhem in the superhero sequel.

And exactly three days after that, we could have a new domestic box-office record.

Stark himself, never lacking in suave self-confidence, probably wouldn't make such a bold boast. But it's entirely feasible.

According to just-released tracking surveys, director Jon Favreau's second installment in the Marvel franchise is showing astonishing levels of interest and awareness well ahead of its three-day opening next month. There are enough statistical indications to think that the first-weekend gross could top the $158.4-million haul for "Dark Knight", the current record-holder for the biggest (non inflation-adjusted) opening weekend and the gold standard for movie debuts. 
Continue reading »

Does fewer Super Bowl movie spots mean better Super Bowl movie spots?

February 7, 2010 |  3:18 pm

Super Bowl movie spots haven't featured much these past few years besides things getting blown up, as though one has wandered from the (semi) wit of beer and snack food spots smack into Michael Bay's editing room. In three of the most popular live-action spots last year -- for "Transformers," "G.I. Joe" and "Star Trek" -- a total of exactly eight lines of dialogue were uttered (and with gems like "You don't stop, you don't hide, you run," Noel Coward it wasn't).

So it may not be the worst thing in the world that we're seeing fewer ads this year, as only three studios (campaigns for approximately seven movies) splurge on the $3-million buys. Studios instead are relying on the more cost-effective province of Comic-Con and the Web.  (Paramount, responsible for all three of the aforementioned spots, has opted for just those avenues for "Iron Man 2," holding back on a Super Bowl ad for the film despite the massive success of an "Iron Man" commercial two years ago.)

Still, the reaction to the trailers does have a way of foretelling quality and commercial reception, which is why ads for the likes of "Shutter Island," "Alice in Wonderland" and, possibly, "The Prince of Persia" will be watched closely when the game kicks off momentarily. In the meantime, behold one of the 2009 gems. It's a low bar; someone, for the love of Peyton, please kick it over.

--Steven Zeitchik


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: