24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sequels

'Men in Black III' production pushed back again

February 15, 2011 |  2:29 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The theme song goes, “Here come the Men in Black.” But they’re not coming so fast.

After a hiatus of nearly two months, "Men in Black III," the third installment in the sci-fi/comedy franchise, was to resume production this week in New York. But studio Sony and the film's producers have pushed back the production date again. Shooting is now delayed to March 28 owing to ongoing script issues, according to a person close to the 3-D production who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

The delay comes on the heels of a previous postponement and hiatus. The Will Smith sequel was initially set to start shooting in October. But producers delayed the start date by nearly a month (a New York Post report at the time noted creative disagreements between Smith and filmmakers, a report that Sony denied). About a month later, producers opted to break production of the film into two phases: the first part, set in the present, would begin in November and wrap before the holidays (it in fact did that), but the second part, set in 1969, would not begin shooting until mid-February.

In the meantime, "Catch Me If You Can" screenwriter Jeff Nathanson was brought in to do new work on the script, working off a previous draft by "Tropic Thunder" writer Etan Cohen.

It's very unusual for a production of such scale to take a holiday break of nearly two months. At the time, producer Walter Parkes and a Sony spokesperson said that a mix of seasonal concerns and tax incentives, not creative disagreements, were responsible for the break.

"We had to start shooting this year to take advantage of New York State tax incentives, but we also needed to be able to shoot certain exteriors in warmer weather," Parkes told 24 Frames last year. "So back in July we had the idea to keep the start date but build in a hiatus so we could essentially extend the production to late spring.”

The person close to the production said that although producers had hoped they could begin shooting this week, the lack of a ready script made that impossible. Parkes and a Sony spokesman were not immediately available for comment.

The plot for the new film, which is being directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (helmer of the first two installments), takes the franchise further into whimsical territory. In addition to Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as the wisecracking Agent K in the present (the part already shot). Josh Brolin, through a time-travel twist, plays a young Agent K from 1969 who encounters countercultural figures such as Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono, according to a person who read a version of the script in November.

It's unclear if the delays will affect the movie's planned May 2012 release date. [UPDATE, 3:38 PM: A Sony spokesman says the release date will not be affected by the production delay.]

After years of rumors, "Men in Black III" began to come together in 2009, as Sony looked to reprise the magic that made the franchise a global blockbuster. The initial two movies -- the first of which was released in 1997 and the second in 2002 -- tallied a whopping $1.03 billion in combined worldwide box office.

In a recent interview, Brolin told 24 Frames that the delays were making him a little impatient. "It’s one of those things where they say, 'OK, I’m going to go in a week' and then they say, 'Actually, it’s going to be two weeks.' OK, that’s all right. And then they go, 'OK, it’s going to be three,' " he said. "I mean, come on already."

— Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling


Photo: Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smtih in "Men in Black." Credit: Sony Pictures.


Here comes the 'Men in Black' hiatus

Seven intriguing movie storylines for 2011

January 3, 2011 |  5:30 am

January brings New Year's resolutions, holiday hangovers and, apparently, a lot of "The Dilemma" commercials. Although the Vince Vaughn vehicle isn't a huge storyline in moviedom, there are a number of narratives in and around the film world set to unfold in the coming months. Here are a baker's half-dozen to keep an eye on.

The "Twilight" crowd, the morning after: They've branched out into other roles before. But 2011 will bring moments of truth for all three lead actors in the "Twilight" franchise: Robert Pattinson in the period circus drama "Water for Elephants" (coming in April), Taylor Lautner in the teen fugitive thriller "Abduction" (coming in September) and Kristen Stewart in the adaptation of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (date TBD). The last two movies in the franchise that made them famous are shooting now. Which of the trio can fashion the most productive post-Forks career?

The Battle of the Greens: When footage of Seth Rogen's comedic "The Green Hornet" screened at Comic-Con last summer, it drew a tepid response, paling in comparison to Ryan Reynolds' more muscular "The Green Lantern." But in the last two months, the tide has turned: The Rogen movie, coming out later this month, is testing well, and the trailer for the springtime Reynolds movie elicited some perplexed reactions. Is there room for two green superheroes? Or will only one of the films take the ring?

Reboot Redux: We've seen a fair number of reboots already, but 2011 will bring a slew of them: a new "Planet of the Apes," a new "Smurfs" movie, a new "Conan the Barbarian." Some say enough with the rummage sale, but reboots like "Star Trek" and "The Karate Kid" have performed well. Can the streak continue?

"The Hangover" hangover? It was one of the biggest surprises of 2009. But the sequel has been filled with more hiccups than a Bjorn-held baby. First there was a fracas over the casting, and then non-casting, of Mel Gibson. Then came the news last month of a serious injury to a stunt man. Can Todd Phillips successfully take his endearingly ragtag group of man-children from Vegas to Thailand, or would he have better luck at the Bally's craps table?

A tree grows in Malick-ville: Rarely does a movie not based on a comic book generate this much advance hype. But more than four months ahead of the release of "The Tree of Life," the buzz is already nearing crescendo levels for Terrence Malick's long-developing autobiographical epic. Will it live up to the standards of the director's "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven?" Or will its meditative tone make even "The New World" seem like a potboiler?

How super "Super 8"? With J.J. Abrams writing and directing and Steven Spielberg producing, it's one of the most high-profile collaborations in modern commercial fimmaking. It's also one of the most secretive. The 1979-set film, scheduled for a June release, may or may not be about an alien invasion, supernatural occurrences or any of another number of phenomena. Is it the second coming of "Star Trek" or a marketing idea in search of a story?

Beavering: It was a much-ballyhooed story long before a trailer was even released. The story will only heat up as the months become weeks for the release of "The Beaver," the first Mel Gibson movie to come out since he allegedly verbally abused ex-lover Oksana Grigorieva, and one with some additional challenges given its beaver-puppet themes. Will the actor turn out to do publicity? And will the public forgive him if he does?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment


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Something's fishy: 'Piranha 3D' spawns a sequel

August 23, 2010 |  4:21 pm

Piranha-3d "Piranha 3D" may have only bit off a small portion of box office receipts this weekend, but the cash-strapped Weinstein Co. is already ready to take another dive into risky waters.

On Monday -- after an opening weekend during which "Piranha 3D" lured in a moderate $10 million in ticket sales -- Dimension Films said a sequel to the movie about flesh-eating fish is already "in the works." (News, undoubtedly, not being received well by Lake Havasu locals.)

A press release about the sequel touted the film's "80%-82% favorable reviews" on Rotten Tomatoes, along with "rave reviews from top critics" as evidence of the film's success.

Still, with news coming so quickly after the film's release, the announcement seems somewhat -- well, fishy.

Just a year ago, immediately after the opening of the Weinstein Co's "Halloween II," (which also fared modestly at the box office) the independent studio's co-chairman Bob Weinstein said a 3-D sequel was being developed. The release date for the potential "Halloween 3D?" Summer 2010. 

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: A vicious fish from "Piranha 3D." Credit: Dimension Films


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Preview review: The girls -- and Aidan! -- reunite for 'Sex and the City 2'

April 9, 2010 |  1:39 pm


We woke up this morning to hear one of our favorite sounds reverberating across the Internet -- the soothing opening notes of the "Sex and the City" theme song. That's right, ladies, a new trailer for "Sex and the City 2" has landed, and we have a lot to say about it.

In the sequel to the 2008 hit film, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) are back to answer the question of what happens after you tie the knot. Carrie isn't finding herself in marital bliss with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), Miranda and Charlotte are trying to navigate motherhood and Samantha is, unsurprisingly, trying to slow down the aging process.

First things first: from the trailer, it seems like a majority of the sequel is going to take place in Abu Dhabi, where the girls decide to go on an exotic trip.

"We need some glamour!" Carrie coos.

"One week in Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid, just the four of us!" suggests Samantha.

This seems to be a real question mark (when did the Middle East become the go-to region for a group of sophisticated ladies in need of some R&R?). Plus, the idea that Carrie would really have her own couture turban to wear while riding a camel is a little bit ridiculous.

Sure, the first film had that jaunt to Mexico, (we're still fantasizing about that amazing villa with the infinity pool) but it was brief. Let's not forget that these films stemmed from a popular television series in which New York City played a key role. And the central parts of the first film -- like the disastrous wedding to Big -- all took place in beautiful, sweeping New York landscapes. We liked that the trailer gives us a glimpse at some of our favorite "Sex and the City" landmarks, like the diner where the girls always congregate, but we want more Big Apple.

Also: Um, Aidan (John Corbett) is back?!?!? And Carrie runs into him on the streets of Abu Dhabi? As preposterous as that plot line is, we're happy to see everyone's favorite nice guy back to compete for Carrie's affections. It doesn't hurt that he looks like he's aging well.

There are also some interesting cameos -- Penelope Cruz as a sexy Latin temptress trying to lure Mr. Big away, the campy Liza Minnelli as the star performer at Stanford's white wedding, and Miley Cyrus as...well, who knows.

Truthfully, from this early and admittedly limited glimpse, we don't think this film looks as good as the first one. And there should have been more of a gap between the first film and the second -- it doesn't seem like enough has changed in the women's lives to warrant such a quick update. Nevertheless, we're still going to be lining up to see the film come May. We can't deny the nostalgia we feel when we see the foursome start stomping down a sidewalk next to one another, decked out in fabulous fashions. Even when the clothing and the story lines get out of hand, it's the ladies' real friendship that keeps us coming back for more.

What do you think? Are you clamoring for more "Sex and the City," or are the girls past their prime? Vote in our poll.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: The ladies are back in "Sex and the City 2." Credit: HBO Films.

Premature Sequelization: Sequel culture runs amok. And this time it's personal.

April 7, 2010 |  7:00 am

Time was, months or even years might pass before a studio decided it was interested in a sequel to a popular film. But these days, the culture of franchises in Hollywood is such that studios are taking flyers on follow-ups months before the first film gets released. Pretty soon they'll be committing to a sequel before they even decide to make the original.

Jaws The news Wednesday that Disney has already commissioned the writers of the December movie "Tron Legacy" to write a second (and possibly third) film in the rebooted franchise is only the latest example. Last year Warner Bros. created a stir when it seemed to move forward with a "Hangover" sequel two months before the film was released.

Then came Sherlock Holmes, which signed new writers to tackle a second Conan Doyle-derived tale as many as three months before the holiday film hit theaters. And a few weeks ago we reported on producers and executives bringing back the writers of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" for another go-round before the first movie came out.

In some ways, there's a logic to what studios are trying to do. Companies shell out millions on development anyway; if executives think they have a hit on their hands, they may as well put a marker on an existing property. There's also a timing issue: Hits are scarce and investors want results quickly, so better to maximize every bit of available time.

A quick turnaround on a sequel is also, not coincidentally, a savvy political move. If you're a studio executive worried about whether a film will be a hit, pushing forward a sequel is as good a way as any to telegraph confidence to your colleagues and bosses (and also, presuming the studio wants the news out there, to audiences).

But in watching sequel-mania hit earlier and earlier, it's tempting to ask these cowboys to slow down. Part of the defense for premature sequelization is inevitably that a studio isn't really committing to anything; they can, after all, always change the script or chuck it and start over if they don't like it.

But developing a sequel months before a movie comes out sends a questionable, if not hubristic, message to audiences -- "We're thinking about cramming another movie down your throat, and before you've even told us if you've liked the first one."

It also risks suffocating a process that, while always at least part calculation, in some circumstances can be organic.  The best sequels grow out of not just the original film but the reception to it. Plenty of movies whose sequels outdid the original -- everything from "The Godfather" to "Spider-Man" -- happened that way because writers got a chance to consider both the mythology and the reception to it. Start writing a new film before you fully know what you have with the first one and you risk missing what makes the original worthwhile (and worthy of a sequel in the first place).

We get that there's a desire to go quickly. But there are also reasons to wait, and not really much downside to doing so. Take your time, Hollywood. We're not going anywhere.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "Jaws" sequel DVD cover. Credit: Universal Pictures Home Video

Fox will make a 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' sequel

April 2, 2010 |  8:54 am

EXCLUSIVE: Last week, we told you that the elements were coming together for a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid' sequel. Now we can report that Fox 2000 has greenlighted a sequel to its pre-teen hit, based on the second book in author Jeff Kinney's bestselling prose/comic series.

Diar The production will work from a new script from Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who wrote the shooting script of the first movie, and will take a fair amount of input from Kinney himself. Star Zachary Gordon will come back too, in a plot that will closely follow "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," the book that findss Greg and both his friends and antagonists back for a second year in middle school. Producer Nina Jacobson is also returning.

The box office for the film's second weekend of release showed a not insignificant drop of 55%, but given that a movie budgeted at $15 million has now earned $40 million in a little more than two weeks of release, the property is a windfall for the studio. And with a third and fourth book published and a fifth on the way later this year, "Wimpy" could turn into a nice little franchise for the studio.

Fox will probably need to hire a new director for the next film, though; it's unlikely Thor Freudenthal would come back behind the camera. There's also no start date as yet, although given the propitiousness of the March release date this year, don't be surprised if the film pops up again next year at this time.

-- Steven Zeitchik

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Photo: Book jacket for 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Credit: Amulet Books


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