24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: McG

'This Means War': Hybrids' grueling battle

February 17, 2012 |  2:42 pm

One of a mainstream movie’s highest aspirations is to straddle genres so effectively that men and women turn out in equally strong numbers. It’s also one of a mainstream movie's most difficult tricks.

This weekend’s “This Mean War” is the latest to try -- and struggle in the process. A romantic comedy action thriller (that’s also a love triangle), “War” looks at what happens when two CIA agents fall for, and pursue, the same woman. Directed by the action veteran McG ("Charlie's Angels, "Terminator Salvation”), it stars two up-and-comers in Tom Hardy and Chris Pine and one established star in Reese Witherspoon, which would seem to be a pretty good casting recipe.

But the movie has been tracking poorly and looks likely to finish the weekend in fourth place, according to Times box office guru Amy Kaufman, behind even two movies that opened last week ("The Vow" and "Safe House"). That’s a rare position for a new release (“Abduction,” the Taylor Lautner flop, had the dubious honor last fall, finishing fourth behind one new release and two holdovers). “War” hasn’t received much help from critics, either; only 40% of them have given it a positive review, according to the aggregation site Movie Review intelligence.

If the film disappoints, the postmortems will come thick and fast. Some will point to its director, who has proved successful at churning out hits, but only when working with established brands like "Terminator" and "Charlie's Angels." Others will note a marketing campaign that early on favored the action scenes and the two lesser-known male stars who populate them, and tilted only recently to the Witherspoon-y love themes.

“This Mean War” has a long development history -- it was actually set up at Fox all the way back in 1998, right around when the studio was releasing “Titanic” (the first time). Over the years the project drew some better-known male stars, at one point attaching Bradley Cooper. Different actors might have given this movie a higher profile. Maybe. Or maybe not. When a Hollywood studio tries to attract everyone, it can often end up with no one.


Movie review: 'This Means War'

Movie projector: 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' to scorch the competition

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Tom Hardy, left, and Chris Pine in "This Means War." Credit: 20th Century Fox


The week in film: 'The 'Vow and 'Star Wars' in 3-D [video]

February 10, 2012 |  6:55 pm


The next five days bring a surprisingly heavy volume of winter movies. By the time Valentine's Day rolls around, two films, the Rachel McAdams-Channing Tatum romantic drama  "The Vow" and McG's amorous actioner "This Means War," will have taken aim at the date-night crowd.

Meanwhile, George Lucas brings back "Star Wars - Episode One: Phantom Menace" in 3-D this weekend, the first of six planned re-releases for the movies in that space-opera franchise. The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik examine the spurt of February films, and their prospects, in this edition of 24 Frames' week-in-review video.





Movie review: 'The Vow leaves' you wanting more

The Vow fails to live up to its promise critics say

Star Wars 3-D and every other 3-D movie on the planet coming in the next year

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams get amorous in "The Vow." Credit: Screen Gems

McG and Bryan Singer pull a Joss Whedon and go Web

September 21, 2010 |  5:22 pm

EXCLUSIVE: This one's not strictly a piece of movie news. But given how we've been hearing for a while that film directors will be be turning to the Web both as a source of income and an outlet for creativity, it caught our attention.

Two up-and-coming-directors are joining two established filmmakers for a pair of Web series that will be financed and distributed by Warner Bros., sources familiar with the projects say.  

Mcg First, "Sorority Row" director Stewart Hendler is coming on to direct "H+," a futuristic story about a virus that wipes out a significant portion of the human population. The story takes place a decade in the future, when many people have had their minds wired to the Internet 24/7, leading to the disastrous viral incident and a new social order.

Bryan Singer, director of "Superman Returns" and "The Usual Suspects," along with "House" production company Bad Hat Harry, were earlier announced as producers, and they remain involved in that capacity. (The project had initially been pitched to Bad Hat as a TV series by executive producers and writers John Cabrera and Cosimo De Tommaso before it was reconceived for the Web.)

Meanwhile, Thor Freudenthal, director of breakout hit "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," is also taking on a new Warner Bros. Web series. Titled "Aim High," the Heath Corson-Richie Keen project is described as an international-espionage series set in a high school, with the main character a teen operative simultaneously conducting hits and falling in love with a girl in his class.

Adding to the filmic credibility: McG's Wonderland Sound + Vision is producing the series.

Warner Premiere, the production arm of Warner Home Video, is financing both pieces of programming through its digital unit  -- the division previously had concentrated on animated content but has been looking to move into live-action  -- along with Dolphin Entertainment, the tween-programming specialists behind "Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide."

Other heavy-hitting names are involved too: Peter Murrieta, the former showrunner of tween-fantasy hit "Wizard of Waverly Place," is producing "Aim High."

Both series are expected to be a paid piece of programming available on a host of online platforms, with each totaling roughly an hour. Shooting is likely to begin this fall on each, and expect releases as early as 2011 via Warner Premiere sister unit Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

Ever since Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along" became an online sensation two years ago, fans and Hollywood have been waiting for top television and film names to start making the jump to the Web. Among other advantages, the development of online series can move a lot faster than the glacial pace of film.

The talent influx hasn't quite happened yet -- among other concerns, there's the matter of paying movie directors and actors Internet prices -- but the addition of these names should give the category a boost.  The Web may gain ground on conventional entertainment yet.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: McG. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

Dead-man cop movie 'R.I.P.D.' tries to come alive

August 5, 2010 |  8:01 pm

The Dark Horse comic "R.I.P.D." would seem like perfect movie fodder: It's popular, it involves juicy  crimes and concerns people long dead who are still able to dole out justice. Oh, and Ryan Reynolds, he of rapidly growing fanboy credibility, is attached to star in it.

Universal, which has a deal with the publisher, thinks it's a good idea too, and has been trying fervently to get the movie going. The film, whose title stands for Rest In Peace Department, centers on two dead cops with dark secrets who patrol the underworld.

RipdBut the last few weeks has seen the kind of action befitting, well, a comic book. The entertainment site Pajiba notes today that McG has been circling and could shoot the film after his current romantic comedy, "This Means War."

At one point little more than a week ago, it actually looked like McG could make "R.I.P.D." as his next movie. He liked the property, and he, producers, the studio and Reynolds were all simpatico.

But then the rain turned to a deluge. After weeks of uncertainty, Fox decided to make "This Mean War." McG, who has long made "War" a priority, couldn't put it aside for  "R.I.P.D.," so he went immediately to begin prepping the Sam Worthington-Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

That puts Universal and producer Neal Moritz back to the director drawing board (there had been talk of Rawson Marshall Thurber early on, but he's is out of the picture, as is the initial director, David Dobkin, who at most will produce). The studio could still wait until McG frees up and shoot the movie sometime next summer. But we hear it's eager to get moving and could well begin the hunt for a new director now, with the idea of shooting in the winter.

Then again, there's really no need to rush it. From what we hear there may not be a shooting script, and Reynolds' schedule is an issue too. (With "Green Lantern" about to wrap, he looks to shoot buddy comedy "The Change-Up" and Robert Rodriguez's "Deadpool" -- that one is looking very likely -- over the coming months, and also has to go out to promote "Lantern" in the spring.) So he probably will have a quick slot at the beginning of 2011, and then not be free until late spring or summer.

Besides, this isn't exactly easy material -- it's dark but character-driven, and having a star and director get along may be more important than getting it going a few months earlier. Would still be pretty great to see it hit the screen, though, whenever it happens.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: RIPD. Credit: Dark Horse

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