24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Russell Brand

Kristen Bell: Russell Brand is a game changer, like Richard Pryor [Video]

April 12, 2011 |  6:16 pm

With "Arthur" opening poorly this past weekend, some in the movie industry have questioned whether Russell Brand has what it takes to be a leading man.

But the comedian does have at least one defender in Hollywood: Kristen Bell, who costarred with Brand in his American film debut, 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

Asked at the premiere of "Scream 4" on Monday night if she thinks Brand is cut out to carry big studio films, Bell said she believes the actor's comedy is sometimes misunderstood.

"Not everybody gets him, and they don't have to. Not everybody got Richard Pryor, but he's still one of the best comedians out there," said the actress, who played the girlfriend of Brand's outlandish rock star Aldous Snow in the comedy. (Video above.)

"Arthur," a remake of the 1981 comedy starring the late Dudley Moore, cost Warner Bros. about $40 million to produce but only raked in $12.2 million upon its debut. The film drew largely negative reviews, with many critics declaring that  Brand's over-the-top persona can overstay its welcome in anything more than a supporting part.

"If you make something that nobody hates, then nobody loves it. And I think that's a really good rule to live by," Bell said of the critical response. "[Russell] elicits emotions out of people, and whether you like it or not -- whether he's too daring for you or not -- I think he's a really good guy."

--Amy Kaufman



Russell Brand makes his case for leading-man status

Will the 'Arthur' box-office results put the kibosh on '80s remakes?

'Arthur' director defends his remake


Will the 'Arthur' box-office results put the kibosh on '80s remakes?

April 11, 2011 |  7:00 am


If you're keeping score, it's successful '80s remakes: 2, unsuccessful '80s remakes: 2.

The tally was evened up over the weekend when "Arthur" failed to click with audiences. Russell Brand's take on the alcoholic playboy that Dudley Moore made famous in 1981 barely hung on to second place on the weekend box-office chart, behind the second week of an original bunny comedy ("Hop") and just ahead of an original father-daughter action movie ("Hanna"), for a disappointing total of $12.6 million.
Putting aside the rather different case of hard-core genre films, the '80s movie remakes that could be called successful now include "Clash of the Titans" and "The Karate Kid," while "Fame" is the other unsuccessful one. (The score doesn't really improve when you throw in reboots of '80s TV shows such as "The A-Team.")

You could pick at the creative choices made by Warner Bros. and director Jason Winer, but in analyzing the "Arthur" failure, it's hard to avoid the remake factor. Filmmakers thought they were getting a ride inside the safe confines of a known title, which is pretty much the main rationale for a remake in the first place. They were, instead, battered by comparisons with the original.
That's certainly the case with critics, and judging by the comments that poured in last week about the movie, many ordinary people also felt Hollywood was tinkering with something that wasn't broken.
"The most significant changes? Dudley Moore and Sir John Gielgud have passed away, and a studio executive greenlit this misbegotten remake," wrote one 24 Frames commenter. (Fun thought experiment: Would the reaction have been more generous if the new Brand comedy was pretty much the same movie but with a different title?)

It's probably too early in the remake renaissance to draw broad conclusions -- or, for that matter, for studio executives to put all of their '80's remakes on ice. But it's not too soon to wonder if the remakes that work best come from originals that were liked -- but not revered. Whatever you thought about the new "Karate Kid," you didn't hear a lot of people talking about how Hollywood shouldn't try to replicate the acting feats of Ralph Macchio. Ditto for Harry Hamlin and "Clash of the Titans." (It's also worth noting that "Arthur" was Hollywood's first remake in recent memory of a film that targeted an upscale adult audience. It may, after this weekend, also be one of the last.)
"Footloose," "Conan the Barbarian" and "Fright Night" loom as the next batch of '80s remakes. None of them are hallowed names -- though among a certain set, "Footloose" comes close -- and thus few risk running into the "Arthur" problem. Still, the weekend offers little evidence that familiarity could help. In fact, it looks more and more like it could hurt.

--Steven Zeitchik


Critical Mass: "Arthur" stumbles, but not because he's drunk

Russell Brand's "Hop" leaps way over his new film

"Arthur" director defends his remake: It allows us to make a movie we couldn't have otherwise made

Photo: Russell Brand in "Arthur." Credit: Warner Bros.

'Arthur' director defends his remake: It allowed us to make a movie we never could have otherwise made

April 8, 2011 |  7:21 pm

If you heard about an "Arthur" remake and felt skeptical, you're not alone: Director Jason Winer was also uncertain about the need for a new Russell Brand take on the Dudley Moore classic.

"I felt the same way when I first heard that they were remaking it. I was like, 'Why?'" Winer told 24 Frames about his movie about the carefree drunk forced to choose between love and money. "For our generation," he said, turning to a thirtysomething reporter and describing how he used to watch the movie after school when it aired on HBO, "we have fond memories of it as kids and it's natural to be skeptical about remaking it. But I  think at least half of the audience haven't even heard of the original, or if they have, they haven't seen it.

"The other reason is that every once in a while the right actor comes along to do one of these things. And then it's like, 'Oh my goodness.' And if there's one guy who can reinvent this for a new generation, it's Russell," he said (alluding to Brand's outsize personality and his real-life struggles with substance abuse).

But Winer said that perhaps his greatest motivation was, counterintuitively, a remake's capacity for more creative freedom.

"This type of movie, which is an irreverent comedy that combines elements of romance and drama, is not something the studios feel comfortable making today -- except if it's a familiar title," the director said. "As critics and as filmmakers, we like to criticize a remake. The irony is that in this case it lets us do a genre the studios wouldn't otherwise be comfortable with."

The movie, one of the first in this remake-crazed era to tackle an adult-targeted film, has run into plenty of unfavorable comparisons with the original from critics and others. Winer, a first-time feature director who is one of the principal creative forces behind hit ABC show "Modern Family," said in the interview (which was conducted before much of the critical reaction began coming in) that one of the biggest challenges he faced was deciding what to retain and what to discard from the original.

The new Warner Bros. release does deviate from Steve Gordon's original in plenty of instances, as we document in this piece. But one element it maintains (note: spoiler alert; skip ahead if you don't want to know) is the third-act death of Hobson, the only permanent figure in Arthur's life. Such a plot turn would have been a tough sell in any other context, Winer said.

"If we were making an original movie, we never would have been able to have Hobson die. A studio would have tested it and said, 'Can't you just make her get better?' But now we could say to the studio -- 'Well, it's in the original.'"

Among the changes that Winer and screenwriter Peter Baynham did make was turning Hobson, played in an Oscar-winning turn by John Gielgud in the original, into a woman, played by Helen Mirren. "One of the big problems of how to remake this movie is how you get out from under the shadow of Gielgud's performance," Winer said. "And the nanny dynamic is not only funny but it reinvents it."

Perhaps the biggest switch (warning -- another spoiler alert): While the original ends with Moore's alcoholism intact, Brand goes to AA and gets sober. Winer says he knew some will criticize him for a recovery-centric ending but says his move had a certain logic.

"We're not trying to make up a parable about an alcoholic. But there is some sense of responsibility that has more to do with growing up than it has to do with not drinking," Winer said. "The way Arthur grows up is by realizing he doesn't need to heighten everything or blunt everything with alcohol."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Helen Mirren and Russell Brand in "Arthur." Credit: Warner Bros.


Russell Brand's Arthur: How much has changed in 30 years?

Movie review: 'Arthur'

Russell Brand makes his case for leading-man status


Critical Mass: 'Arthur' stumbles, but not because he's drunk

April 8, 2011 |  2:31 pm


The critics are not being kind to "Arthur," the remake of the 1980s comedy starring Dudley Moore as a lovable New York City millionaire and bumbling drunk. The new film stars Mr. Katy Perry himself, Russell Brand, as the bumbling drunk and changes the gender of his butler to a woman (Sir John Gielgud in the original; Dame Helen Mirren in the remake), but despite this crucial bit of recasting, it's the changes in our views toward alcoholism over the years that are really getting the critics going.

Times critic Betsy Sharkey thinks the script for the "Arthur" remake has been too cleaned up. Which is shocking, considering that it was written by one of the guys behind the very politically incorrect "Borat" in 2006. Even so, Sharkey writes, "The sanitizing is handled so artlessly it seems driven by fear of offending rather than by any true cultural sensitivity. So, for the addiction crowd there's a new AA story line."

Continue reading »

Russell Brand's 'Arthur' remake: Just how much has changed in 30 years?

April 8, 2011 |  5:00 am

This weekend, Russell Brand stars as Arthur Bach, the character Dudley Moore played in the 1981 comedy “Arthur.” In the 30 years since Moore made the wealthy boozehound playboy famous, attitudes have changed about a whole range of subjects — conspicuous consumption, alcoholism, Liza Minnelli. How have the movie’s key moments been interpreted through a modern lens for the remake? Here’s a handy crib sheet. (Warning: Spoilers below.)

Meet the man

“Arthur” circa 1981

When we’re first introduced to Arthur, he’s cavorting around New York City in the back of a Rolls Royce. Drinking and laughing maniacally, he picks up a prostitute, then takes her to dinner at the Plaza, where he proceeds to make a joke about childhood molestation.

“Arthur” circa 2011

When we’re first introduced to Arthur, he’s worshiping at the altar of a different god. He and his attaché dress up as Batman and Robin, then proceed to lead the cops on a high-speed chase around Manhattan in a Batmobile. Arthur is taken to jail, where he proceeds to bail out his cellmates and give them money.

The love interest

“Arthur” circa 1981

Arthur meets the love of his life, Linda (Minnelli), when, on a trip to Bergdorf's, he spots the blue-collar waitress shoplifting. The two then pretend to know each other to outwit the schlubby security guard who nabs her.

“Arthur” circa 2011

Shoplifting? That’s for early ’80s miscreants. Greta Gerwig’s Naomi, playing the Minnelli character, has a noble job — giving tours that show the wonders of New York City architecture. She’s just misunderstood by the cops, who don’t like her unlicensed ways. Naomi and Arthur pretend to be acquainted. Naomi returns to a life of whimsy.

The other woman

“Arthur” circa 1981

When Arthur tips to Linda that he’s become engaged to another woman for financial reasons, she expresses few outward signs of hurt and continues to interact with him. She’s only somewhat miffed when he suggests keeping her as his mistress. When he finally calls off the wedding, she happily jumps into his car.

“Arthur” circa 2011

When Arthur tips Naomi that he’s engaged to someone else, she is shocked, then cuts off contact with him. She’s equally appalled when Arthur brings up the mistress option. Calling off the wedding proves insufficient too; Arthur must make a grand showing at Naomi's book reading before she grudgingly takes him back.

The family bonds

“Arthur” circa 1981

Arthur has a father who has emotionally neglected him and a manservant named Hobson (John Gielgud) who cuts him down with one-liners. When Hobson falls sick, Arthur shows his affection by bringing him a basketball.

“Arthur” circa 2011

Arthur has a mother who has neglected him emotionally and a nanny named Hobson (Helen Mirren) who cuts him down with one-liners. When Hobson falls sick, Arthur shows his affection by bringing her a large stuffed bear.

Arthur grows up

“Arthur” circa 1981

Arthur drinks through most of the movie, stops drinking during Hobson’s illness, then jumps right back to it. He ends the movie smitten and soused.

“Arthur” circa 2011

Arthur drinks through most of the movie, stops drinking for a while when Hobson dies, then jumps back for a moment — before heading to AA. He ends the movie smitten and sober.

--Steven Zeitchik


Movie review: Arthur

Russell Brand makes a leading-man case

Russell Brand: A new brand

 Photo: Russell Brand as "Arthur." Credit: Warner Bros.


Russell Brand makes his case for leading-man status

April 7, 2011 |  7:30 am

Russ2 Does Russell Brand have the acting chops to be taken seriously as a leading man? Moviegoers will help answer that question Friday when the comedian's remake of the 1981 classic "Arthur" hits theaters.

In the comedy-drama, Brand -- who in real life is a former alcoholic, as well as a drug and sex addict -- takes on the role of the booze-loving millionaire. The part garnered the late Dudley Moore an Oscar nomination 30 years ago, a fact that only motivated Brand.

"There wasn’t any hesitation because of that, and I hope that doesn’t sound in any way nonchalant or arrogant," the 35-year-old said in an interview at Las Vegas' CinemaCon last week, where he was named Comedy Star of the Year. "I really loved Dudley Moore and the original. Of course I felt cautious, but the part of it that Dudley Moore had done it -- that just made me excited."

The big question, of course, is what the role will mean for Brand's career. (We further explore that issue in a profile of the actor in Thursday's Calendar section.)

While his performance in the movie does contain moments of subtlety and depth, Brand's Arthur often exudes the same wild energy that characterized Aldous Snow, the rock star he played in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek."

But Nicholas Stoller, who directed Brand in those Judd Apatow-produced films, said he’s confident the actor has the ability to tackle a variety of roles.

“I feel like he’d be a really good villain in something,” the filmmaker said. “Right now, I think he’s doing what all movie stars do, which is make sure everyone knows what their persona is and do a bunch of movies with it, and then branch out to different fare.”

Like many actors, Brand also says he’d like to direct -- but won't leave his current profession to do it.

“I’d be in the film as the main person -- I’d definitely be in it,” he said, flashing his toothy grin. “I wouldn’t be all solemn in a sweater looking on, figuring out what might have been. I’d be out there, showing off.”

During production of "Arthur," Brand was able to strut his stuff for his wife, pop star Katy Perry, who often came to the set with her parents.

"Katy has germinated some aspects of her character to do what she does, and there’s nothing disingenuous about what I do as a performer. But you can’t be like that all the time," he added. "When we’re at home in Los Feliz we’re just normal -- and it is going down to Alcove or Arclight or the bloody coffee shop I can never remember the name of -- Intelligentsia. It’s very, very ordinary, thank God. Because I think that’s what my life is lacking.”

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Russell Brand in Hollywood. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

Is 'Hop' a one-off success or the beginning of a talking-animal comeback?

April 4, 2011 |  7:00 am


Even seasoned box-office observers were caught off guard this weekend when "Hop" came out of nowhere not only to win the weekend but also to top the opening of every other 2011 release with an estimated $38.1 million at the box office.

That mark takes into account movies as different as "Paul," Beastly" and "Lincoln Lawyer" ("Hop" bested the opening-weekend takes of all of them ... combined) and also puts the movie ahead of top 2011 grossers, including  "Battle: Los Angeles" and "The Green Hornet," that had the advantage of 3-D ticket prices. "Rango," the film closest to "Hop" on the box-office chart, also wasn't released in 3-D, which may suggest a blog post unto itself. (It's worth noting that overall box office continues to slide; it was down 30% compared with the same weekend last year.)

But perhaps most surprising about the triumph of the Easter Bunny picture is the fact that the subgenre of the talking-animal hybrid film -- movies with real actors and cartoon animals, epitomized in the last few years by "Alvin & the Chipmunks" -- has been in the doldrums lately.

Over the last 12 months, hybrids such as "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," "Yogi Bear" and "Marmaduke" all had dismal openings. It was starting to seem as though a modern trend that essentially began 13 years ago with "Dr. Dolittle" (in which the animals were real but also spoke), continued the following year with "Stuart Little" (where the animal was animated) and reached its apex over the following decade with all manner of gabby cats, dogs and guinea pigs (yes, "G-Force" is one of the category's top earners) was coming to a squeaky end.

But it's still far too soon to proclaim the talking-animal picture back. Marketing tie-ins abounded for "Hop," including Kodak (a rather clever spot), Burger King (more traditional for a kids' movie) and the all-important Wal-Mart. The Easter connection, though it perhaps may not have played an overwhelming role in the film's success, didn't hurt either.

And it's hard to underestimate the uncanny knack that producer Chris Meledandri has for predicting and shaping audience tastes -- his batting average is starting to rival Pixar's Ted Williams-like record. (Meledandri has been behind animated hits such as "Ice Age" and "Horton Hears a Who!" as well as last year's "Despicable Me.")

Maybe most important, "Hop" passed the Pee Wee Herman Test -- it was goofy and appealing enough for kids (candy-pooping bunnies, e.g.) but with enough adult material slipped in to allow parents to feel good about going. (Underscoring the point: the movie's references to the likes of David Hasselhoff and "Fatal Attraction," its contributions from "Simpsons" veteran Mike Reiss, the voice casting of Russell Brand and even incidental plugs on the likes of "The Colbert Report.")

It's possible that the next talking-animal movie will try to replicate the "Hop" template. It's more likely, though, that the prospect of simultaneously getting the endorsement or involvement of Wal-Mart, Russell Brand, mainstream parents and Stephen Colbert comes along about as often as a certain holiday animal.


Hop bounds into first place

Movie review: Hop

Hop director Tim Hill: Our movie almost didn't make it

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "Hop's" protaganist, E.B., is voiced by Russell Brand. Credit: Universal Pictures


'Hop' director Tim Hill: Our movie almost didn't make it

March 31, 2011 |  7:43 pm

Unlike most of their peers, directors of animated-live action hybrids live largely in the Hollywood shadows. Their names are rarely front and center even though they have among the the trickier jobs in the movie business -- balancing studio demands, creative needs and effects logistics.

Tim Hill learned of these issues firsthand when he got behind the camera for this weekend's "Hop." The buddy (bunny?) comedy  tells of a slacker twentysomething (James Marsden) and the Easter Bunny's reluctant heir apparent (an animated rabbit voiced by Russell Brand). The Universal movie is the second offering from Illumination Entertainment, the "Despicable Me" production company headed by Chris Meledandri.

Even by hybrid standards, the challenges kept coming on "Hop," with the movie almost not making its Easter-themed release date. On a recent afternoon, Hill, who previously directed "Alvin & the Chipmunks," opened up on those challenges.

24 Frames: Part of what's tricky with a hybrid movie is that you're essentially directing two films for the price of one. Does that make for a difficult experience for a filmmaker?

Tim Hill:  It does. You shoot half your movie, and then when you stop it's kind of a false summit. You think, "Whew, that's over." And then the mountain's so much higher. There are 10 or 15 minutes of full CG in this movie that hadn't even been conceived until after we stopped shooting. And we only had 10 or 11 months to make the movie and, once we stopped shooting, six months.

And you had the added issue of the Easter tie-in -- it wasn't like the film could get pushed to Christmas.

TH: The way you calculate this kind of movie [coming in] is you say, "What's the most time-consuming, what am I going to get screwed on?" You start to identify the hotspots that are really going to kill you. And in this case there were a lot of them. Animation you can change as you go -- it's not like live-action. You're spitballing way after you should be, and that's when we got into the "Oh [crap], are we going to make it?" And they [animation and effects studio Rhythm & Hues] finally said, "We're not going to be able to deliver your movie."

Yikes, did it actually get to that point?

TH: It was a crisis, basically. I think what they were doing is drawing a line in the sand. So we got it to them and then we said, "Where are we?" And they said, "This we can do and this we can't do." So there were a lot of things we still wanted to do and they would say, "We can't do that." They had hundreds of people working, but there wasn't enough time.  They have to animate and go through so many processes. That's why it takes animated films two or three years to make instead of a year. They said, "You can throw all the money you want at us, but we can't do it."

So it wasn't about them hiring more people?

TH: No, they had people in  India, they had a worldwide effort to bring out this movie. It was crazy. It really felt for a while like something was going to suffer. I got really worried. Either the acting would suffer or the characters would suffer, or everything would come out of the oven too soon. It would need a couple more passes that would make it better. Because I am pretty picky. So I'd say that there are a few shots in there where, I don't necessarily cringe, but I'm like "Oh, I remember we had to final that one because of the time."

When did you first get the sense this would be such a crunch?

Continue reading »

Preview review: Jonah Hill and Russell Brand in 'Get Him to the Greek'

February 12, 2010 |  4:45 pm


We've long been anticipating "Get Him to the Greek," the movie from Judd Apatow protege Nicholas Stoller who worked with Jason Segel on the enjoyable breakup comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Thankfully, the trailer for the new Universal film -- a kind of spin-off of "Sarah Marshall" -- doesn't disappoint.

Russell Brand and Jonah Hill are both back in this movie. In "Sarah Marshall," Hill's sycophantic character idolized rock god Aldous Snow (Brand). In this film, Hill plays a different character, Aaron, who still admires Snow but this time lands a gig working as his assistant.

The first few seconds of the trailer make it clear that many of our favorites from the Apatow gang will be back-- Aziz Ansari and, of course, Hill. In the trailer, Aaron's bright idea is to put on an anniversary concert with Snow at the famed Los Angeles venue the Greek Theatre.  Sean "Diddy" Combs plays a hard-edged music executive looking for a way to make a buck (and seems to be able to pull off the comedy -- "I got six kids! You know how many Air Jordans six black kids wear?" he screams to a room of underlings).

Diddy sends Aaron to London to retrieve Snow, and a comedy of errors ensues, many of which are pretty raunchy -- Aaron having sex on a toilet in a nightclub and later sneaking Snow's illegal drugs into the country with an interesting, er, anatomical trick.

But there are still plenty of questions. After "Funny People" fell flat, will the Apatow-produced film be able to bring the laughs? Can the movie succeed without Segel in front of the camera? After two years of hosting the MTV Video Music Awards, are you Russell Brand-ed out? Share your thoughts (and comic asides) below.

-- Amy Kaufman

[For the Record, 2:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Jonah Hill's character in "Get Him to the Greek" was the same character he played in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Hill did appear in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," but is playing a new character in "Get Him to the Greek."]

Photo: Jonah Hill and Russell Brand in "Get Him to the Greek." Credit: Universal Pictures.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: