24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Robert Zemeckis

Around Town: 'Mad, Mad World' and other comedy classics

December 29, 2011 |  6:00 pm

"Animal Crackers" at the Aero Theatre

The American Cinematheque is ringing in the New Year with some wild and crazy comedy classics.

The Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre is serving up a 70-millimeter print of Stanley Kramer’s lengthy, wacky all-star 1963 comedy, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” starring such comedy legends as Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Edie Adams, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Dick Shawn,  Phil Silvers, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas and even Spencer Tracy. They're all embroiled in a cross-country chase to find $350,000 in stolen money. Kramer’s widow, Karen Sharpe Kramer, and his daughter, Kat Kramer, will introduce the film.

The Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre continues its annual “Screwball Comedy Classics" with two Preston Sturges gems he made in 1941: “Sullivan’s Travels,” with Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake, and “The Lady Eve,” starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda and Charles Coburn. The genius of Carole Lombard is on display Friday evening at the Aero with the 1936 screwball classic “My Man Godfrey,” for which she received her only Oscar nomination. The film also stars her ex-husband, Willilam Powell, who also earned a lead actor nod. She’s even funnier in the second feature, the 1934 Howard Hawks’ comedy, “20th Century,” in which she matches wits and quips with John Barrymore

And the Aero goes Marxist on New Year’s Day with a Marx Brothers double bill: 1932’s “Horse Feathers” and 1930’s “Animal Crackers,” in which Groucho sings “Hooray for Captain Spaulding.” Wednesday’s screwball offerings are William Wyler’s enchanting and rarely screened 1935 comedy, “The Good Fairy,” starring Margaret Sullavan and penned by Preston Sturges, and 1936’s “Theodora Goes Wild,” with Irene Dunne in her Oscar-nominated turn as a young woman from a small town who writes sexy bestsellers. www.americancinematheque.com

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Tuesday matinee also features a Howard Hawks masterwork, 1940’s “His Girl Friday,” with a perfectly cast Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy. www.lacma.org

For those looking for a bit more dramatic fare, the Egyptian is presenting a 70mm print of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most acclaimed thrillers, 1958’s “Vertigo,” with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. Bernard Herrmann supplied the evocative score, parts of which pop up in the current hit “The Artist.” On Sunday, the Egyptian is offering a triple bill of Robert Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future” trilogy, starring Michael J. Fox as the irrepressible time traveler Marty McFly. www.americancinematheque.com

Francois Truffaut’s homages to Alfred Hitchcock, 1968’s “The Bride Wore Black” and 1969’s “Mississippi Mermaid,” screen Thursday and Friday at the New Beverly. The acclaimed “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the documentary “Project Nim” are scheduled for Sunday through Tuesday. Werner Herzog’s documentary “Into the Abyss” and Errol Morris’ 1999 “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter” are on tap for Wednesday. www.newbevcinema.com

The controversial 2000 Japanese film “Battle Royale,” directed by Kinji Fukasaku, continues through Tuesday at Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theatre. Scheduled for Wednesday is the 1927 silent “The Loves of Casanova,” directed by Alexandre Volkoff. www.cinefamily.org



"Reliving the Madness"

— Susan King

Photo: Harp Marx, center, gets his point across in "Animal Crackers." Credit: Universal.

Robert Zemeckis finally looks to take 'Flight'

June 3, 2011 |  6:36 pm

It's been more than a decade since Robert Zemeckis has made a live-action film. But fans who've been hoping for the director to move away from his recent performance-capture period could soon get their wish.

According to a source familiar with the project, Zemeckis' next movie will be the live-action airplane drama "Flight," about a pilot who rescues his passengers from a dangerous situation but who turns out not to be as heroic as he appears -- he's an addict whose negligence was partly responsible for the danger in the first place.

Zemeck News initially surfaced about "Flight" about six weeks ago. But the project's fate had been thrown into uncertainly as both studio Paramount and the director decided if they wanted to move forward with it.
Now, however, the drama is on track and aims to shoot in the fall, said the source, who asked not to be identified because the project was still being developed. The movie has Denzel Washington attached as the pilot, but a  deal and scheduling issues must still be worked out. [Update Saturday, 12:32 pm: A second source says that the movie will indeed shoot in the fall and that Washington's deal will close shortly.]

A Paramount spokeswoman and the film's producer each declined to comment.

The project looks to take precedence over several other Zemeckis films, including a time-travel movie called "Replay" and a "Roger Rabbit"-esque hybrid called "The Animated American." Both pictures would take Zemeckis back to the future, one more literally than the other.

Zemeckis' filmmaking prospects have been the subject of much speculation in movie circles, and it's understandable why. After a string of generation-defining hits early in his career -- "Back to the Future," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Forrest Gump" -- he's been a lot less influential of late as he's moved toward performance-capture pictures and away from live-action films.

The filmmaker produced the hybrid live-animated "Mars Needs Moms," which bombed earlier this year. His last directing effort was the middlingly received "A Christmas Carol" in 2009, which followed the similarly underperforming  "Beowulf" in 2007. Disney spiked his update of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" several months ago after "Mars" tanked. All of his recent projects fit with his well-documented preoccupation with technology and special effects.

"Flight" fits with a different Zemeckis preoccupation: The filmmaker is a registered pilot.

The director hasn't done a purely live-action film since the Tom Hanks desert-island tale "Cast Away." That movie, which grossed a whopping $424 million around the world, capped a period in which he also helmed well-received movies with adventure and science-fiction elements, including "Romancing the Stone" and "Contact." Now he's heading back in that direction.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Robert Zemeckis in Hollywood in March. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


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