24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: J.J. Abrams

Around Town: Films, screenings and more in L.A. this week

January 4, 2012 | 12:17 pm


This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

With Gary Oldman getting strong reviews and Oscar buzz for his performance as spy George Smiley in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” the Arclight in Hollywood is offering a six-film retrospective of the British actor’s career beginning Monday with 1986’s “Sid and Nancy,” in which he played punk rocker Sid Vicious, followed by Oliver Stone’s 1991 “J.F.K.,” which features his tenacious performance as Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oldman’s performance as a U.S. congressman in 2000’s “The Contender” is on display on Tuesday, along with his “biting” turn as the most famous vampire in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 “Dracula.” Scheduled for Wednesday is his turn as playwright Joe Orton in 1987’s “Prick Up Your Ears,” directed by Stephen Frears, followed by “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

After the "Tinker, Tailor" screening, Oldman will participate in a Q&A with Matt Holzman, host of KCRW’s “Matt’s Movies.” The admission to the retrospective is free, but tickets are only available via RSVP through www.OldmanRSVP.com. www.arclightcinemas.com

The American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre concludes its annual “Screwball Comedies” Festival Thursday evening with Howard Hawks’ 1941 romantic comedy “Ball of Fire,” starring Barbara Stanwyck in her Oscar-nominated performance as a nightclub singer on the lam who hides out with a group of encyclopedia nerds. Gary Cooper plays the nerd working on slang who falls for Stanwyck.

The second feature is the 1937 classic “The Awful Truth,” for which director Leo McCarey won the best director Oscar. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, who earned an Oscar nomination, star.

On Friday, the Aero celebrates the centennial of New Mexico’s statehood with Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 Western “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” with Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Nick Redman, Peckinpah’s biographer and documentary filmmaker; Peckinpah’s assistant Katy Haber; editor Garth Craven; and the film’s co-star, Charles Martin Smith, will discuss the movie after the screening.

Director J.J. Abrams and members of his cast and crew will be appearing Saturday evening at the Aero Theatre for a screening of Abrams' sci-fi coming-of-age 2011 box office hit, “Super 8.” Sunday evening, the Aero presents the 2010 French comedy-drama “Eight Times Up,” which explores the topic of unemployment. Director Xabia Molia and star and co-producer Julie Gayet will appear in person.

Every year the Cinematheque presents the “Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominee Series.” The Globes take place Jan. 15. This year's programming begins Monday evening at the Aero with Angelina Jolie’s feature film debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” which is in Bosnian with English subtitles. The series continues Tuesday with Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” which marks a reunion with one of the Spanish director’s early muses, Antonio Banderas. The critically lauded Iranian film, “A Separation,” which has already earned several critics’ accolades, screens Wednesday.

The Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre presents its seventh annual “Focus on Female Directors” evening on Thursday. Among the films screening are Maryna Vroda’s “Cross,” which won the 2011 Palme d’Or for best short film; Jess Holzworth’s 2011 “Gamma Ray,” with Chloe Sevigny; Mitsuyo Miyazaki’s award-winning 2011 USC student film, “Tsuyako”; and Penelope Spheeris’ 1998 “No Use Walkin’ When You Can Stroll.” Spheeris and other directors featured in the program will be appearing.

Two cult coming-of-age classics, 1985’s “The Goonies” and 1986’s “Stand By Me,” are scheduled for Friday evening at the Egyptian.

On Saturday evening, Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will be leading a discussion after the screening of “The Honeymooners: Lost Episodes 1951-1957.”

The current film “My Week with Marilyn” explores the turbulent production of the 1957 film, “The Prince and the Showgirl,” starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. On Sunday the Egyptian will screen “The Prince and the Showgirl,” along with the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy masterwork, “Some Like It Hot,” with Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. www.americancinematheque.com

The UCLA Film & Television Archive commences its three-month retrospective on Oscar-winning actor Spencer Tracy on Saturday evening at the Billy Wilder Theatre with “Inherit the Wind,” Stanley Kramer’s 1960 film version of the hit Broadway play based on the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, for which Tracy earned an Oscar nomination as an attorney based on Clarence Darrow. Fredric March also stars. James Curtis, author of the new Tracy biography, and “Wind” co-star Donna Anderson will be in attendance.

Scheduled for Sunday is his first feature film, 1930’s “Up the River,” which also marked the feature debut of Humphrey Bogart, followed by the 1930 Vitaphone short, “The Hard Guy.”

The archive’s Wednesday program at the Million Dollar Theater in downtown Los Angeles is the campy 1966 prehistoric drama “One Million Years B.C." starring Raquel Welch in very revealing outfits and the 1940 version “One Million B.C.” with Victor Mature. www.cinema.ucla.edu

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 satire “Weekend” visits the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre on Thursday through Wednesday in a new 35mm print. On Monday, Cinefamily presents a feature length edition of Season One of David Cross’ IFC series “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,” followed by a Q&A with the actor (“Arrested Development”), who created and writes the series, which begins its second season Friday evening. www.cinefamily.org

And on Saturday the Los Angeles Filmforum teams up with Cinefamily to present “Wallace Berman’s Underground Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, Screening 9." Toni Bail and Russ Tamblyn are scheduled to appear in person, schedule permitting. www. lafilmforum.org

The New Beverly Cinema showcases Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, “Into the Abyss,” on Thursday evening, followed by Errol Morris’ 1999 doc, “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr." Two by Pedro Almodovar are featured Friday and Saturday -- his 2011 drama “The Skin I Live In” followed by 2009’s “Broken Embraces” with Penelope Cruz. Saturday’s midnight movie is David Fincher’s 1999 “Fight Club,” with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

Sunday and Monday’s offerings are Luc Besson’s 1997 action-adventure “The Fifth Element,” with Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker, as well as 2001’s “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.”

Mark Romanek, schedule permitting, will appear in person Wednesday at the New Beverly for a screening of his 2010 drama, “Never Let Me Go.” Also screening is Francois Truffaut’s only English-language film, 1966’s “Fahrenheit 451,” based on the novel by Ray Bradbury. www.newbevcinema.com

The 7th Annual Santa Clarita Valley Film Festival kicks off Thursday and continues through Sunday at the Repertory East Playhouse in Old Town Newhall and features comedies, dramas, animation and shorts, plus works by budding filmmakers in junior high and high school. www.SCVFilmFestival.com

The 9th Annual Venice Film Festival, which explores the history of films made in Venice, Calif., takes place Thursday at the Seven Dudley Cinema at Beyond Baroque. laughters.com/7dudleycinema.html.

The Free Tunisia Organization is presenting the New Tunisian Film Festival Tuesday through Thursday at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. The festival also marks the one-year anniversary of the Tunisian uprising. Among the films to be screened are “Fallaga 2011,” “Making of,” “Fausse Note” and “Rouge Parole.” www.levantinecenter.org/event/tunisian-film-festival.

Stanley Donen directed the acclaimed 1967 romantic comedy-drama “Two for the Road,” with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, which screens Tuesday afternoon at the Skirball Cultural Center. www.skirball.org

[For the record, 4:03 p.m. Jan. 5: This post originally listed Spencer Tracy's retrospective as a two-month engagement launching on Friday. The retrospective is three months and launches Saturday.]


'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy': Betsy Sharkey's film pick

-- Susan King

Photo: Tom Hardy, left, and Gary Oldman in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Credit: Jack English/Focus Features

Hamilton Awards to 'Super 8,' 'Transformers,' 'Cowboys & Aliens'

November 7, 2011 |  4:21 pm

JJ Abrams, Michael Bay and Jon Favreau at the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards

Three titans of sci-fi/action movies –- J.J. Abrams, Michael Bay and Jon Favreau –- found some time to chat backstage Sunday night at the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards. It was all light talk and photo ops until the ceremony began, when the filmmakers wandered in separate directions, pulling pieces of paper out of their pockets –- speeches they had written for presenting awards to collaborators on recent projects. Abrams asked to borrow a pen from a publicist, making some final revisions. Favreau stood some feet away, mouthing his speech to himself.

The awards, presented by the Hamilton Watch Co. and Los Angeles Confidential magazine, honored several filmmakers for their work this year. There also was a lifetime achievement award for Vic Armstrong, best known as Harrison Ford's and Christopher Reeve’s stunt double. At the event held at the Conga Room at L.A. Live, presenters were filmmakers and actors who had collaborated with the honorees on various projects.

Abrams presented the film editors award to his longtime collaborators Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, who were honored for Abrams’ summer hit “Super 8.”

“I found two collaborators who could do it all,” Abrams said in his speech. He went on to explain that he wanted to work in the film industry not just to make movies “but to make movies with people like this.”

The two editors were also appreciative and sincere about the director when they talked with 24 Frames on the event's red carpet. Markey said, “I don’t think we would be here without him. I certainly feel we owe a lot of our success to him."

Bay was at the event to support Scott Farrar, who received the visual effects supervisor award for Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which shot to No. 4 on the list of highest-grossing movies of all time.

Host Isaiah Mustafa introduced Bay as a man whose films have “grossed over 400 kajillion dollars,” and the director paid tribute to Farrar with a story about a Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. conference when a reporter asked him if he ever wanted to make an art movie.

“I said, 'Bumblebee is art. Do you have any idea how many hundreds of artists it takes to make these movies?’” Bay recalled.

Favreau presented Russell Bobbitt with the property master award for his work on “Cowboys & Aliens.” Bobbitt talked about his first conversation with Favreau about the film: When he learned that it would be a western, plus it would have aliens, his mouth dropped. He gave the audience a silent, gaping stare and said, “That was what my response sounded like.

“And opening day,” Favreau quipped, taking the opportunity for a self-deprecating jab about the movie’s ultimately poor box-office performance.

“Twilight” star Robert Pattinson also poked  fun at himself, though with a, well, different approach than the filmmakers who had been reviewing their speeches backstage an hour or so before. The actor presented Chris Weitz with an award for directing “A Better Life.”

Following Mustafa’s introduction of Pattinson (in which he claimed the room’s occupants would be screaming were it filled with teenage girls instead of industry VIPs), Pattinson said, “I’d prefer to have the room be full of screaming girls -– then no one could hear how bad I am at speeches.”

Pattinson, whom Weitz directed in “Twilight: New Moon,” began to launch into an explanation of what an artist Weitz is, then cut himself short, saying, “I feel ridiculous. The last time I talked with Chris I was like, ‘Want to go to Coachella and do some mushrooms?'”

Weitz’s first words upon walking up to the microphone onstage were an emphatic “Mushroom soup.”

Armstrong’s lifetime achievement award was presented by Ford, who said he felt like one of the luckiest men in Hollywood when “30 years ago I was hired to do Vic’s dialogue.” The stunt coordinator and stunt double’s award at the event came about five months after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted against creating an Oscar category for stunt coordinators. Armstrong was also given a lifetime achievement award in 2005 by the Taurus World Stunt Awards.

Sunday’s event also honored Yasmina Reza for writing “Carnage” and Agustín Almodóvar for producing “The Skin I Live In.” See below for full list of award recipients.

Award winners:

Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, film editors, “Super 8”

Mark Ricker, production designer, “The Help”
Russell Bobbitt, property master, “Cowboys & Aliens”

Emmanuel Lubezki, cinematographer, “The Tree of Life”
Evelina De Gaudenzi, short film competition winner
Scott Farrar, visual effects supervisor, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
Janie Bryant, costume designer, “Mad Men”

Yasmina Reza, screenwriter, “Carnage”

Agustín Almodóvar, producer, “The Skin I Live In”

Chris Weitz, director, “A Better Life”

Vic Armstrong, lifetime achievement in stunt choreography


'Cowboys & Aliens': Five lessons to take away

'Super 8' seeks an audience among the summer tent poles

Indiana Jones, Superman and Bond: Vic Armstrong’s life in stunts

-– Emily Rome

Photo: J.J. Abrams, left, Michael Bay and Jon Favreau at the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards, presented by Los Angeles Confidential magazine and the Hamilton Watch Co., at the Conga Room. Credit: Todd Williamson / WireImage

'Star Trek,' by way of Wall Street and romance

October 20, 2011 |  2:07 pm

It will be a while before a new "Star Trek " movie hits--it won't even start shooting until at least 2012. But those yearning for a taste of the USS Enterprise might sate their craving with a visit to the local art house, where a pair of actors from the 2009 reboot are set to bring out new movies.

"Margin Call," a financial-crisis drama that Zachary Quinto produced and stars in, opens this weekend. (The man who plays Spock tells my colleague Rebecca Keegan that he's "training, working on getting in some serious shape" for a "big sequence" in the "Star Trek" sequel.)

And next week comes "Like Crazy," a tale of tormented young love that stars Anton Yelchin, the actor who incarnated Russian teenage prodigy Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams' '09 picture.

The L.A.-raised Yelchin loses the accent and, in some cases, the words, in his new emo romantic tale. (More on that one shortly.) But after heavily promoting the indie over the past few months, he's getting back into a "Star Trek" frame of mind, he told 24 Frames.

"For me, it's seeing what else i can do to the character, charting some growth," he said of his preparations. "So I'm re-watching all the shows and and trying to get to that place."

Chekov was played by Walter Koenig in the original series, his relative youth and Monkees haircut appealing to a younger audience. Yelchin, too, is the junior of costars such as Chris Pine and Quinto; he's 22, while the men who play Kirk and Spock are in their early 30s. Both Koenig and Yelchin's  mispronunciation of certain words offered comic relief in Abrams' sci-fi tale.

The filmmaker told us this summer that he and his team were working methodically but deliberately on the new movie. "There was a lot of desire [on the studio side] to fast-track a new 'Star Trek' and have it be shooting already," Abrams said. "And in theory we could have done that. But what all of us [the creative team] were concerned about is the release date be the master we were serving. Nothing is more disheartening than something going in front of the camera before it's ready."

Abrams was careful about offering plot details. But fans frustrated by the secrecy might take comfort in knowing that, well, the actors aren't in a much better position. "They keep us in the dark until the last possible moment too," Yelchin said.


Zachary Quinto getting into Spock shape for sequel

J.J. Abrams eager for 'Star Trek' sequel but says he won't rush it

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Anton Yelchin in "Star Trek." Credit: Paramount Pictures

J.J. Abrams eager for 'Star Trek' sequel but says he won't rush it

July 28, 2011 | 12:08 pm


"Star Trek" fans were heartened this weekend when one person involved in the 2009 reboot said that the planets were finally aligning for a sequel. A movie that continues the prequel adventures of the young crew of the USS Enterprise could potentially begin shooting next year, producer Damon Lindelof told several outlets, with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the rest of the crew back on board.

On Wednesday, J.J. Abrams, who is expected to return to direct the new movie, told 24 Frames that the process is finally kicking into gear but that he and his team need to remain deliberate about it.

"What works, in the feature world and television, is something that has real staying power," Abrams said. "We're working hard on that, making the kind of headway that frankly I wish we were able to make months ago. But you can't do everything."

Photos: 'Star Trek': You'd never guess these stars were Trekkies

The schedules of many of the principals has indeed been stacked with other projects. Abrams has spent much of the time since the first "Star Trek" concentrating on "Super 8," his throwback monster movie that has become a breakout hit earlier this summer. He's also had a full plate on the television side, shepherding the new Fox prison series "Alcatraz" and new CBS conspiracy-thriller "Person of Interest" (more on "Person of Interest" shortly).

"Star Trek" writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, meanwhile, have been working on their drama "Welcome to People," while Lindelof has been working on Ridley Scott's "Prometheus." All three were involved in this weekend's "Cowboys & Aliens."

Kurtzman and Orci have said that parts of the new "Star Trek" movie have been sketched out. But based on Abrams' comments, there's clearly a lot more work to be done, which would mean that the sequel won't start shooting until sometime in 2012 at the earliest.

Paramount is itching for a new "Star Trek" installment, what with the last film taking in $386 million around the world and earning critical plaudits to boot. (The studio had tentatively said the movie could come out next June; that's obviously not going to happen.)

Abrams acknowledged that he felt pressure to up the pace but said he felt he needed to push back. "There was a lot of desire [on the studio side] to fast-track a new 'Star Trek' and have it be shooting already," Abrams said. "And in theory we could have done that. But what all of us [the creative team] were concerned about is the release date be the master we were serving.

"Nothing is more disheartening than something going in front of the camera before it's ready. The crew can feel it and the cast can feel it. It's just a heart-attack machine."


'Star Trek' app: Does your iPad need an Enterprising spirit?

'Star Trek': Twitter users give James T. Kirk the death he deserved

Video: Damon Lindelof talks about What's next for the 'Star Trek' Starfleet

— Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Zachary Quinto, left, and Chris Pine in "Star Trek." Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'Super 8'

June 30, 2011 |  7:41 am


Writer-director J.J. Abrams has a way of meshing sci-fi with ordinary people to create extraordinary entertainment, which he’s done extremely well in “Lost” and in 2009’s explosive “Star Trek.” He goes with adolescent charm in his latest, “Super 8,” which lands a group of small-town preteens in the middle of crises both major -– a military coverup of an alien life force on the loose-- and minor –- who will win the affections of Alice, played by Elle Fanning, who once again shows she has all the acting chops of her talented older sister, Dakota. (For early Elle at her best, pick up 2004's "The Door in the Floor" on DVD. The actress, only 5 when it was filmed, is mesmerizing. And it has the added treat of an exceptional performance from Jeff Bridges.)

The “caught on tape” element drives the action and helps the kids unlock the mystery, set in 1979 during a time of such electronic innocence that it makes the film feel like a slice of nostalgic heaven. Friendships are face-to-face, not Facebook. In this movie-within-a-movie, Joe (Joel Courtney) mans the Super 8 and his best friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths), is the director. But there is friction on the set as Abrams has something to say about an early auteur with a cinematic vision.

Kyle Chandler’s single dad, a local cop trying to outwit the military bad boys and keep up with Joe, brings an earthy, ordinary-guy appeal and grown-up problems. Ron Eldard as Alice's deadbeat dad helps keep the tension tight. It might be easy to take a pass on this as just another kid’s movie. It’s more. “Super 8” is smartly satisfying, super no matter your age. 

-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: From left, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Ron Eldard in J.J. Abrams' sci-fi drama, "Super 8." Credit: Francois Duhamel/Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/MCT

'Super 8': Maybe bringing back the 1980s is a good idea after all

June 13, 2011 |  8:30 am


For the last few years, as seemingly every third 1980s film has been put through the clanking gears of Hollywood's remake machine, many filmgoers have lamented the move away from original concepts. "Hollywood, tear down this retread wall," has been the cry of those irked by the movie industry's obsession with all things Reagan era.

This weekend, "Super 8" provided a rebuttal. It turns out you can get what many critics believe is a smart, sweet movie -- and a hit to boot -- by channeling that period.

Although it's set in 1979 and doesn't share a specific title with any movies from the "me decade," "Super 8" is a 1980s film to the core. It plumbs the depths of that pre-Internet, early-fanboy era as much as any film in recent memory. And it contains more references to "E.T," ""Stand by Me" and "The Goonies" -- for many who came of age in the 1980s, the holy trinity of popcorn cinema -- than a VH1 special.

Yet despite the film's determinedly backward glances, critics generally liked it (an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), with prominent reviewers saying things such as "If you're wondering what's missing from so many big-budget, effects-driven Hollywood movies, the answer lies in J.J. Abrams' 'Super 8.'"

Audiences, meanwhile, came out in sizable numbers. The movie's $37-million weekend is the biggest opening of any live-action movie not based on a preexisting brand this year -- a list that, while small, includes "Bridesmaids," "Just Go With It" and "Battle: Los Angeles." "Super 8" also had the best opening in nearly 20 years for any film Steven Spielberg has produced or directed that wasn't based on an existing brand, topping efforts such as "A.I." and "Saving Private Ryan."

That kind of success doesn't mean that an entire decade is ripe for the ransacking, of course. But it does prove that there's a purity to some of its storytelling that can translate today. And while in a brand-obsessed Hollywood remakes aren't exactly produced out of idealism, that doesn't mean they can't yield something interesting.

Later this summer we'll get more literal '80s visitations in the form of "Fright Night" and "Conan the Barbarian." Who knows how good these movies will be, and whether we'll greet them with an embrace or an eye-roll? But "Super 8" at least shows that with the right filmmakers holding the right intentions, a little nostalgia may not be a bad thing.


Box Office: "Super 8" is No. 1

The critics love "Super 8" for what it represents

How much was "Super 8" influenced by '80s films?

 -- Steven Zeitchik

 Photo: A scene from "Super 8." Credit: Paramount Pictures


Frame Grab: 'Super 8' star Joel Courtney's small-town charms

June 13, 2011 |  4:00 am

Sometimes that actor playing the wide-eyed innocent is nothing like his character. And sometimes, as in the case of "Super 8" lead Joel Courtney, he's pretty much the same way in real life.

Courtney stars as Joe Lamb, a model-building movie lover who has recently lost his mom, in J.J. Abrams' new coming-of-age movie that was a hit with audiences over the weekend. With a wide-eyed vulnerability and a quiet composure, Courtney's character gives viewers of the Steven Spielberg-produced movie someone to rally behind. 

In real life, the polite 15-year-old has the same unprepossessing manner, with none of the flippancy or attitude you might expect from an adolescent -- let alone an adolescent who has spent the past year working with some of the most famous filmmakers on the planet.

Courtney, who had never before acted in anything more than a school play, sounded a concerned and slightly earnest note about the 5,000 other teens he beat out for the part.  "I feel bad -- a lot of kids had a lot more experience than me," he said by phone Saturday from his home in Moscow, Idaho.

Like the Ohio town of the film, Moscow is a decidedly small place. The largest nearby city is Spokane, Wash., a two-hour drive away, and there's little in the way of Hollywood accouterments. Courtney and his family attended the film's premiere in Westwood on Wednesday evening, then went back to Idaho and spent opening night watching the movie at one of Moscow's two small movie theaters.

"A lot of people from my school and church were there," said the teen, the youngest of four siblings who's about to start his freshman year of high school. But his classmates and fellow churchgoers didn't give him a hard time about his newfound Hollywood status, or mention it at all, really. "They let us leave all that down in L.A.," he said.

Courtney's odyssey to the silver screen began when he came to Los Angeles last summer to visit his 19-year-old brother, Caleb, who has acted in independent films. Joel had modest ambitions. "I just wanted to make $100 on a commercial," he recalled.

Instead, at the suggestion of a Seattle acting coach he and his siblings had previously worked with, Courtney found himself at a nationwide casting call for the lead role in Abrams' film. After an audition in which Courtney was asked to read fake scenes from the movie (Abrams and Spielberg are very keen on secrecy), casting agents and filmmakers called him back 11 times. When he finally got to the set -- the film shot in West Virginia in the early fall, which meant some time off from school -- Courtney admits he found himself a bit confused.

Continue reading »

How much was 'Super 8' influenced by 1980s films? J.J. Abrams and the stars weigh in [Video]

June 12, 2011 | 12:47 pm

As audiences turn out to see "Super 8" this weekend, the movie has attracted not just younger audiences but adults nostalgic for the popular 1980s films the J.J. Abrams project evokes.

Indeed, such movies -- including producer Steven Spielberg's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me" and Richard Donner's "The Goonies" -- were of such importance to Abrams that the studio had the young stars of "Super 8" watch them before production began on the film.

"Paramount had us watch those movies because so many of the references J.J. made were to those movies," explained one of the film's kid stars, 14-year-old Ryan Lee, at the movie's premiere in Westwood Wednesday evening.  "And after we would watch those movies, we’d be like, ‘Ohhh, that makes sense now.’"

As 15-year-old Joel Courtney, who has the largest role of any teen in the film, came to understand it:  "‘E.T.’ kind of brings a little bit of sci-fi to it. ‘Goonies’ brings that group of kids to it. And ‘Jaws’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ brings that terror to it."

But when asked what Abrams wanted his child stars to take away from the '80s movies, the filmmaker had a different point of view.

Continue reading »

As the wraps come off 'Super 8,' will fans come?

June 8, 2011 | 11:52 am


Ever since its trailer made its Super Bowl debut, J.J. Abrams' "Super 8" has kept a low marketing profile. Contrary to most summer releases, the Steven Spielberg-produced coming-of-age horror film has opted for mystery over ubiquity as its preferred promotional tool.

As the movie's release looms this weekend, that's starting to change; Paramount, for instance, has just announced a sneak preview Thursday on about 250 screens in conjunction with Twitter. But will audiences respond to the unconventional campaign?

The 1979-set film, which centers on a likable  group of preternaturally mature middle-schoolers who witness an unusual train accident and then must cope with what they've seen -- is Abrams' homage to "E.T.," "The Goonies" and other genre-tinged youthful dramedies from the 1980s. While many of us view those films as timeless hits, it's far from clear how a teenager raised on today's less sentimental, more effects-driven summer movies will feel.

So far the research suggests that younger audiences haven't quite sparked to the movie. As my colleague John Horn writes in his Word of Mouth column in tomorrow's Times, the under-25 set has been less responsive in pre-release surveys. "[P]eople who remember 1979 are more likely to want to see 'Super 8' than those for whom it’s ancient history," Horn writes. As are, one might add, filmgoers over 30 who fondly remember movies from three decades ago and will likely relish the chance to see one again in a movie theater.

Paramount is positioning the movie as a multigenerational offering. That may well turn out to be true. But while most family hits these days are movies the kids primarily want to see that parents can enjoy too -- this spring's "Rio," for instance -- "Super 8" has to do it the other way: First get parents excited, and then have them convince their kids to take the walk down memory lane with them. But then, this movie's been doing things a little differently for a while now.


The force isn't with most film promos

Word of Mouth: Super 8 seeks an audience among the summer tent poles

At MTV Movie Awards, Super 8 courts the youth vote

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from "Super 8." Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Super 8' star: Steven Spielberg offered me some good life advice [Video]

June 6, 2011 |  2:18 pm

From Drew Barrymore to Shia LaBeouf, Steven Spielberg has a long history of mentoring child actors. He continued that practice on the set of "Super 8," the J.J. Abrams-directed sci-fi drama he produced that hits theaters Friday.

Set in the 1970s, the film centers on a group of young friends with an affinity for moviemaking who witness a train crash while shooting their own picture. All of the kids cast in the movie -- with the exception of Elle Fanning -- were novices, which means the experience of promoting the movie has been a new one for the ensemble. Spielberg and Abrams, though, have been serving as advisors throughout the process.

At the MTV Movie Awards, Joel Courtney, the film's 15-year-old lead, looked oddly formal, decked out in a suit while others around him sported leather jackets, Ed Hardy T-shirts and Converse sneakers. "I really didn't care what I wore. But J.J. wanted me to wear this," he said in a video interview (check out the full clip below, and others after the jump). "I hope I get advice from him for the rest of my life. He's such a cool guy."

Asked what counsel he'd received from Abrams and Spielberg, Courtney ticked off their words of wisdom as though it was a series of mantras. "They told me not to get a big head. Not get entitled. Stay humble. Remember who you are. Stay in school. Keep a social life so your friends can keep you, like, down to earth."

On that note, Courtney could take a page from costar Fanning, 13, who has managed to juggle a burgeoning acting career while still in junior high. "I go to a regular school, so when I'm not doing movies, I'm in class, and when I am doing movies, I have to do all the tests, all the schoolwork, everything my classmates are doing so I can keep up," she said.

Abrams was more ... general when asked how he shepherded a group of young 'uns. "I'm happy to help them however they need help," the filmmaker said vaguely.

Continue reading »


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