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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Johnny Depp

‘Dark Shadows’: Has America fallen out of love with Johnny Depp?

May 14, 2012 |  7:45 am

Vampire movies are fading. Tim Burton has taken an odd left turn. “The Avengers” was going to be an unstoppable force no matter what opened against it.

There are no shortage of reasons why “Dark Shadows” sputtered at the box office this past weekend, grossing just $28.8 million. (To put it in context, it was Burton’s lowest total ever for a wide opener — even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” took in nearly double that amount. Or as my colleague Amy Kaufman put it, chalking up the movie's failure at least partly to things Marvel, “‘Avengers’ sucked the life out of ‘Dark Shadows’ … [leaving] the vampire comedy looking pallid.”)

Certainly it was hard to ignore the halo effect of the Downey-fest on any weekend comer. But equally conspicuous was the sight of Johnny Depp in yet another domestic disappointment. Since overperforming in “Alice in Wonderland” more than two years ago, Depp has been involved in seemingly one misstep after another.

He signed on to an art-house actioner in “The Tourist,” which flopped at the U.S. box office and became known mostly for its cringe-worthy Golden Globe nomination for best musical or comedy. He followed that up with what appeared to be a reliable breadwinner in a fourth ”Pirates of the Caribbean” movie last summer — only to see it become the lowest-grossing domestic performer of the franchise.

A new Hunter S. Thompson stab, “The Rum Diary,” was a flop even by the author’s modest standards, tacking in just $13 million at home.

And now there’s "Dark Shadows," a dismal movie for reviewers — its 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 15 percentage points below “Transformers,” to give you an idea — and an equally bad performer by commercial standards. Even “Public Enemies” nearly matched its opening-weekend total.

But Depp isn’t completely faltering. International audiences seem to love him more than ever.  Though it flopped here, the most recent “Pirates” was the second-highest-grossing film of the franchise internationally. “The Tourist” was a downright smash overseas, tallying  $210 million, three times as much as it grossed at home.

“Dark Shadows” didn't blow international audiences away when it opened in more than three dozen markets this weekend. But with about $37 million, the remake of the campy American soap has tallied more abroad than it has here.

It may be premature to say that Depp is turning into a kind of Oscar-friendly Steven Seagal, a man more popular overseas than at home. But America certainly seems to have gotten over its obsession with Depp (who now of course spends a lot of time in Paris), an obsession that during his "Edward Scissorhands" / "Gilbert Grape" heyday made him either a box-office force or a teen pinup, or both. At 48, he's clearly making choices that international audiences are responding to a lot more than American ones.

Next up for Depp is “The Lone Ranger,” which hits theaters in May 2013. it will be the ultimate test of Depp's appeal. Few stories get more American than that. And Depp has never  seemed like less of a U.S. favorite.


 'Avengers' crossed $1 billion worldwide; Depp has soft debut

Dark Shadows is short on storytelling, not style, critics say

Is Tim Burton losing his touch?

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Johnny Depp in "Dark Shadows." Credit: Warner Bros.

'Dark Shadows' is short on storytelling, not style, critics say

May 11, 2012 |  3:30 pm


Dark Shadows
"Dark Shadows," Tim Burton's adaptation of the cult 1960s soap opera of the same name, features many of the director's trademarks, including a gothic setting, an offbeat sense of humor and Johnny Depp sinking his teeth into the lead role, this time as the temporally displaced vampire Barnabas Collins. Critics' reviews have been mixed, with an underlying current suggesting that one's appreciation of the film will depend on their taste for Burton's idiosyncrasies.

The Times' Kenneth Turan, who calls Burton's filmmaking style "very much an acquired taste," writes that "Dark Shadows" is "an uncertain combination of elements that unsuccessfully tries to be half-scary, half-funny and all strange." The production design, by Burton collaborator Rick Heinrichs, is "wonderful," and "Depp's performance is so unwavering in its commitment to eccentricity that it is hard not to be fitfully entertained." On the other hand, Turan says, the film is tripped up by Burton's "woeful lack of concern with story and drama."

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CinemaCon: Footage of 'The Hobbit' draws mixed reaction

April 24, 2012 |  3:14 pm

Preview of "The Hobbit" shown at CinemaCon
Last year at the theater owners' CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, James Cameron put together a lengthy presentation touting the virtues of faster frame rates. This year, exhibitors were able actually to see the new technology put to the test in a feature film with 10 minutes of footage from Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Jackson has shot the new film, due out in December, at 48 frames per second. For roughly 80 years, the standard industry frame rate -- the frequency at which images are projected -- has been 24 frames per second (Hence the name of this blog). Cameron, incidentally, has vowed to shoot the sequel to "Avatar" at an even quicker rate of 60.

In a filmed video message from New Zealand shown to exhibitors Tuesday, Jackson implored theater owners to project his new film at 48 frames per second. The new speed, he said, gives the "illusion of real life, where movement feels smoother, and you're not dealing with strobing."

Indeed, the footage shown did seem hyper-realistic. An opening aerial shot of dramatic rocky mountains appeared clearer than the images in most nature documentaries. But the effect was different when applied to scenes with actors dressed in period costume, whose every move -- and pore -- was crystal clear. Such realism put off some trade show attendees, who complained the footage didn't feel enough like a traditional film.

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'The Dictator' moves off 'Dark Shadows' release date

April 9, 2012 |  3:13 pm

The Dictator moved off of Dark Shadows date
It turns out that even "The Dictator" is fearful of the power of Johnny Depp.

To avoid sharing a release date with Depp's "Dark Shadows," Paramount Pictures has decided to release the comedy about a dictator from a fictional Middle Eastern country on May 16 -- five days later than originally planned.

Paramount decided upon the last-minute move because the studio felt both the film starring Sacha Baron Cohen and "Dark Shadows" were comedies that would have to fight for the same audience. The Depp movie, produced by Warner Bros. and directed by Tim Burton, follows a vampire who is transported from the 1700s to the 1970s. A recent trailer for the picture revealed the film may have a lighter bent than previously imagined, featuring Depp's out-of-place character becoming acquainted with '70s staples like television and the Carpenters' hit single "Top of the World."

Now, "The Dictator" will play on a weekend against Universal Pictures' action film "Battleship" -- which is hoping to attract both genders and all ages -- and Lionsgate's female-centric "What to Expect When You're Expecting." Though  the movie about pregnancy is also a comedy, Paramount believes that it will appeal to young women and that "The Dictator" will do best with young men.

"The Dictator" was initially scheduled for release  May 11, and "Dark Shadows" later moved to the date. As my colleague Patrick Goldstein recently noted, Warner Bros. is "the most aggressive studio when it comes to jumping onto other studio dates." The studio is planning to release a number of its upcoming films on the same date as other studio blockbusters, including "Hangover 3," which will hit theaters on the same day as Universal’s “Fast & Furious 6.”


Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Dictator' targets Ryan Seacrest

Sacha Baron Cohen as the Dictator? Fine by Oscars' Brian Grazer

‘Dark Shadows’ set-visit exclusive: Johnny Depp, Tim Burton back in black

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Sacha Baron Cohen and Megan Fox star in "The Dictator." Credit: Paramount Pictures

People's Choice Awards: 'Harry Potter' finale a fan favorite

January 12, 2012 | 12:35 am

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
With no competition from a "Twilight" film at this year's People's Choice Awards, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2" was free to clean up. The final installment of the wizarding franchise won awards — all of which are chosen by the general public through online voting — for favorite movie, favorite action movie, favorite ensemble movie cast and favorite book adaptation.

The "Potter" magic wasn't quite strong enough to win Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint or Tom Felton the award for favorite movie star under 25, which went to Chloe Moretz (of "Hugo"); perhaps the "Deathly Hallows" stars split the vote against one another. Radcliffe also lost out in the category of favorite movie actor, which saw perennial winner Johnny Depp crowned once again. Depp added a win for favorite animated movie voice for his title character in "Rango."

Emma Stone, who starred in "The Help" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love," took home two awards: favorite movie actress and favorite comedic movie actress. And it seems Twi-hards had a bit of say after all, as the Robert Pattinson-starring "Water for Elephants" won favorite drama movie, despite receiving mixed reviews and failing to set the box office on fire.

Following is a list of all the movie nominees and winners:

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Golden Globes: 'Rango' director Gore Verbinski tries something new

December 15, 2011 | 10:53 am

Gore Verbinski directs Rango
For “Rango” director Gore Verbinski, the first time was a charm. His first film to venture into the realm of animation garnered a Golden Globe nomination for best animated feature.

“We tried to do something different,” Verbinski said of the film, which tells the tale of a pet chameleon who finds himself with big shoes to fill as the new sheriff in an Old West town. Johnny Depp, a frequent collaborator with Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3”), voices the title character.

“I have this faith that under all the business of show business, that there’s this kind of sense that people want something new,” Verbinski said. “I believe it’s our job to try to do things a little differently, so [being nominated] kind of reaffirms that in a way.”

Up next for Verbinski is “The Lone Ranger,” a film based on the iconic western hero. Armie Hammer (“The Social Network,” “J. Edgar”) will play the title role with Depp as Tonto, his trusty sidekick.

Regarding the film, Verbinski said, “I feel that it’s been talked about so much, I think it’s time to go make it now. Again, we’re going to try and do something a little different. I think Armie is going to be fantastic and really perfect for the role. I’m trying to do this tonal mismatch — imagine Jimmy Stewart trapped in a Sam Peckinpah movie.”


Golden Globes: The complete list of nominees

Golden Globes: 'Extremely Loud,' 'Tinker Tailor' snubbed

Golden Globes: 6 nods for 'Artist'; 5 for 'Help,' 'Descendants'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Gore Verbinski, center, directs voice actors in "Rango." Credit: Stephen Vaughn / Paramount Pictures

People's Choice Awards nominations 2012

November 8, 2011 |  2:57 pm

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks are among the 2012 People's Choice nominees
Moviegoers weren't interested in shelling out their hard-earned money to see Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in "Larry Crowne" at the box office over the summer.

But judging by today's People's Choice Awards nominations, the two are still some of the most popular stars in the country. Both Roberts and Hanks secured nods for the 2012 ceremony, whose winners will be voted upon by the public. Also among the actors and actresses selected as fan favorites were Johnny Depp, Jennifer Aniston, Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson.

There was, predictably, much love for both the "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" franchises: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2" was nominated as movie of the year, favorite action movie, favorite book adaptation and favorite ensemble movie cast; Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Tom Felton were all deemed some of the most popular stars younger than 25; Taylor Lautner, meanwhile, earned a nod for favorite action star.

PHOTOS: 2012 People's Choice Awards nominees

Those who want to vote for their favorite stars can do so at PeoplesChoice.com until Dec. 6; winners will be announced during the telecast on Jan. 11. 

A full list of nominees follows.

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WM3 documentary 'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory' to open in L.A.

November 3, 2011 |  4:14 pm


The latest documentary about the fate of the case of the West Memphis 3, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," isn't scheduled to be broadcast on HBO until early next year, but fans of the series in Los Angeles might want to make the trek to Laemmle's Fallbrook 7 in West Hills where the film opens Friday for one week only.

The limited run is designed specifically to give the film the opportunity to qualify for an Oscar nomination.

Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky first brought attention to the plight of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr. -- teenagers who were convicted of the gruesome 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark. -- with the 1996 documentary "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills." Though the filmmakers initially intended to make a film about disaffected youth -- the prosecution and local media made much of the fact that the convicted teens wore black clothing and listened to heavy metal music -- what they found were three innocent young men who had been convicted of a crime they didn't commit.

"Paradise Lost" spurred international interest in the story of the three jailed men, who became known as the West Memphis 3, and Berlinger and Sinofsky felt compelled to make a follow-up film, 2000's "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" to advocate for Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley to be released from prison and exonerated. The films garnered support not only from such celebrities as Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Peter Jackson and Henry Rollins, but also sparked the formation of grassroots groups like the website wm3.org.

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Box Office: 'Puss in Boots' tramples Timberlake, Depp [Video]

October 31, 2011 |  1:54 pm

Puss in Boots was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend

The animated 3-D film "Puss in Boots" easily climbed to the top of the weekend box office, grossing $34 million. Though that was far more than any other new film collected at the multiplex, the opening was still relatively soft for a movie from DreamWorks Animation. In recent years, the studio's popular family films have typically debuted with at least $40 million in ticket sales.

Meanwhile, it wasn't a great weekend for either Justin Timberlake or Johnny Depp. Singer-turned-actor Timberlake's sci-fi action flick "In Time" collected only a moderate $12 million, prompting questions about his clout as a leading man. And Depp's passion project, "The Rum Diary," flopped. Even the actor's star power couldn't attract moviegoers to the picture, which is based on a novel by Depp's longtime friend, the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

For more on the weekend's hits and misses, check out the latest box-office video report.


'Puss in Boots' walks all over the box-office competition

Should 'In Time' star Justin Timberlake cry himself a river?

Spielberg's 'Tintin' off to a solid start at European box office

-- Amy Kaufman


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

Should 'In Time' star Justin Timberlake cry himself a river?

October 31, 2011 |  8:45 am


Many things could be said of Justin Timberlake's nascent acting career, but one thing he can't be accused of is playing it safe.

Since Timberlake made the decision to put sexy back, or at least on hold, and pursue acting, the former bubblegum pop star has gotten far away from his music roots. He's played a swaggery Silicon Valley salesman ("The Social Network'), a fast-talking but sensitive paramour in an offbeat romantic comedy ("Friends With Benefits"), a passive substitute teacher ("Bad Teacher")  and, this weekend, an impoverished hustler-hero (Andrew Niccol's "In Time").

What he hasn't been especially good at is turning his movies into hits. The two live-action films that performed well, "Social Network" and "Bad Teacher," did so largely on someone else's back. The two movies that relied more on his presence to sell tickets, on the other hand, performed modestly. "Friends With Benefits" was part of the have-not section of the class of R-rated comedies this summer (though it did OK internationally). And, this weekend, "In Time" looked to be out of same with a middling $12 million in box office.

The most obvious conclusion is that Timberlake isn't a leading man. He could carve out a nice character-actor career, but the clock is ticking down fast on him enjoying any Will Smith-like crossover success.

A look at Timberlake's resume doesn't entirely negate the point; as some critics have pointed out, he's an appealing presence, but rarely a sophisticated or overpowering one.

But it's also far too soon to write the obituary on his non-melodic efforts. As he hits his 30s, Timberlake is trying to move out of his comfort zone a lot faster and more often than many of his pop-music contemporaries (Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, who star largely in tune-driven flicks), which will naturally up the flop quotient. In fact, even when Timberlake is starring in a music-themed movie, as he will in the recently announced biopic of record producer Neil Bogart, "Spinning Gold," he's doing it with a hint of the unexpected. (He did that in "Get Him to the Greek" too, where he also played the industry man instead of the performer.)

As "In Time" hit the shoals, it was hard to avoid a comparison to another actor who crashed this weekend. In the 1990s, "The Rum Diary" star Johnny Depp was also a teenage heartthrob seeking a film career. Like Timberlake's "Benefits" turn, he looked to break out with an offbeat romantic comedy (or three), and, weirdly, even made a commercial misstep in a chase-thriller with a ticking-clock conceit ("Nick of Time").

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