24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Star Wars

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

Super Bowl ads: Why Volkswagen returned to 'Star Wars'

February 1, 2012 |  3:29 am


Few Super Bowl commercials have been as highly anticipated as the "The Dog Strikes Back," the (potentially) "Star Wars"-themed spot for Volkswagen that airs during this weekend's game. Teased in this initial promo that features dogs barking the "Imperial March," the new movie-referencing ad, which you can watch below, sees a suburban dog coming to life when a red Volkswagen passes by. (It wraps up with the motley crew of colorful characters from the franchise's Chalmun's Cantina debating whether the Darth Vader kid from last year was better ... before a surprise guest shows up to settle the matter.)

In the above video, the creators behind this year's spot explain how and why they furthered their "Star Wars"-themed story, dog fat-suits and all. Like last year's commercial, the new ad is directed by Lance Acord, a well-known cinematographer who was nominated for a BAFTA for his work on "Lost in Translation," shot Spike Jonze films such as "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Adaptation" and also produced this year's Sundance hit "Robot and Frank."

And like the competing Ferris Bueller homage for the Honda CRV, his commercial airs during the Patriots-Giants game this Sunday -- and is likely to elicit party chatter along the lines of the debate seen in Mos Eisley's pirate bar.


Super Bowl ads: Ferris Bueller takes day off for Honda

Matthew Broderick on his Ferris Bueller ad: I'm part of a virus

Vidoes: Matthew Broderick and more Super Bowl commercial teasers

-- Steven Zeitchik

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

March 3, 2011 |  5:53 pm

Fox today announced that the first installment in its "Star Wars 3D" re-release series is indeed coming in 2012 -- and rather early in the year, in fact.

A converted version of George Lucas' "Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace" will come out in just about 11 months, on Feb. 10. Interestingly, the Natalie Portman-Ewan McGregor space opera will open against another film that could appeal to the same adventure-oriented audience, Ryan Reynolds' and Denzel Washington's "Safe House."

There are still few details on what the new release will contain (Lucas, incidentally, hopes to open a converted "Star Wars" film each year), although given all the DVD extras we've seen for the franchise over the years, we could probably expect some additions here that go beyond a new axis.

The early-year release of "Phantom Menace" should give it plenty of room before that other 1990s tentpole comes back in 3-D, James Cameron's "Titanic." (That movie isn't expected to come out until April 2012.)

Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be some 3-D overload before we even get to February.

A quick look at the release calendar shows a whopping 15 3-D releases already dated for the August-December period alone, movies as different as "Conan the Barbarian," "Fright Night" and "Adventures of Tintin." In fact, between now and Thanksgiving, no more than two weeks will go by without a new 3-D movie opening. Come February, the question may be whether viewers will want to see not only more "Star Wars" but more 3-D.

--Steven Zeitchik



Is 'Star Wars 3D' a good idea?

'Star Wars' and 'Titanic' 3-D -- How much is too much?

What happened to Harrison Ford?

Photo: Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in "Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace." Credit: 20th Century Fox

What happened to Harrison Ford?

November 15, 2010 |  7:00 am


He traversed distant galaxies with Chewbacca, shot sword-wielding assassins with Marion Ravenwood and outfoxed federal marshal Samuel Gerard all by himself.

But these days all those things may as well have happened to a different actor than Harrison Ford, who in the last decade has robbed banks, sought rare cures, captained Russian subs and investigated murders of hip-hop stars, all in the land of obscurity. ("Firewall," "Extraordinary Measures," "K-19: The Widowmaker" and "Hollywood Homicide," if you were trying to guess what movies those were.)

This weekend's release of "Morning Glory" painfully underscored Ford's marginality. The actor plays a grizzled, serious journalist who's forced, through the unique power of Hollywood cause-and-effect, to take a job as a bantering morning host. The comedy-drama  about the state of the news business was marketed heavily using Ford's name and visage, and the actor gamely went on the likes of "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to promote it.

For all the critical jibes, Ford is actually not bad in the role, stalking around with a dour face while doling out digs to his co-anchor like, "Do they have rehab programs for bitter beauty queens with self-esteem issues?" But few, apparently, wanted to see him do that. The movie failed to reach even $10 million in domestic box office this weekend. If you show some chops but no one is there to see it, did you really show them?

What's most disappointing about "Morning Glory" is that, after a decade without a comedy, Ford's turn in something more spry was supposed to mark a new chapter by getting him back to his crowd-pleasing ways. But the movie's disappointing performance adds one more nail in a coffin that's been enveloping Ford's career, "Buried"-style, for years. The actor has been striking out repeatedly as the heroic action figure and didn't fare better when he went somber as a medical miracle worker in "Extraordinary Measures" earlier this year. Now it turns out we don't want to see him in a comedy either, not even when he's playfully riffing on his own taciturn persona.

In his heyday, Ford was much more than an action hero, of course; he was winning over audiences with dramas such as "Regarding Henry" and even gaining decent notices in romantic comedies like the "Sabrina" remake -- exactly the kinds of roles he should be excelling at as he nears 70 and can't leap into waterfalls anymore.

What happened? Did we outgrow Ford? Or was his range never as great as we thought it was?

Some would say that this is all a function of bad choices and that, to salvage his career, the actor should go back to action roles, maybe self-deprecating ones. (The Jack Ryan reboot is a natural candidate). The one time he did that in the last few years, after all, was with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," and the fans turned out. But with the bad taste that movie left in some mouths, it's hardly clear that would work either.

In a sense, Ford has had the opposite career of his "Star Wars" costar Mark Hamill. Unlike Ford and his prolific output, Hamill hasn't been in a major motion picture in more than two decades. That's not exactly Hamill's own choice, but it's had an oddly positive effect on his reputation. While Ford's series of poorly received movies has lately relegated the actor to self-parody, Hamill has paradoxically remained in a good pop-culture place, his image unravaged by time or bad roles.

Ford next stars in the science-fiction-western hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens," a movie that stays close to his trademark action heroism but branches out in enough new directions that we might be willing to embrace him again. He should hope we do -- he's running out of genres to come back with.

Photo: Harrison Ford in 2008's "Crossing Over." Credit: Dale Robinette / The Weinstein Co.

--Steven Zeitchik



Movie review: 'Morning Glory'

The force is still with Mark Hamill

'Megamind' stops 'Unstoppable,' 'Morning Glory' in their tracks


'Star Wars' and 'Titanic' 3-D: How much is too much?

October 1, 2010 |  8:41 pm

Filmgoers who've rolled their eyes at the reboot craze and the idea of old movies coming back in new guises hadn't counted on the trend going a step further: Old movies coming back in old guises.

That's more or less what we got this week as Fox and George Lucas confirmed that all six films from the "Star Wars" franchise will be heading back to theaters starting in 2012 (this time in 3-D, of course). And then we were hit by it again today with a story that James Cameron's "Titanic 3-D" will likely, as other reports had suggested, also roll out early in that year of Mayan doom.

"Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" will be released sometime in the first four months of the 2012 with as little as four or five weeks separating it and the revamped DiCaprio-fest, according to those familiar with plans for "Star Wars" who asked not to be named because they had not been authorized to speak on Lucas' behalf.

Some of the reports about "Star Wars" in 3-D left the impression that Lucas and his Industrial Light and Magic were committing to six films in the new dimension. But the sources with knowledge of the plans said the 3-D conversion would happen one film at a time, not all at once, which means that in effect there's no hard commitment beyond "Phantom Menace." If that film's release doesn't hit box-office thresholds, Lucas could theoretically defer or scrap his plans.

It's understandable why he might: The conversion process won't be cheap, and unlike Cameron, Lucas is footing the bill himself. At 796 minutes of running time, the entire six films will cost about $80 million to convert even at the conservative estimate of $100,000 per minute. Chump change for Lucas, perhaps, but still not a bargain.

In any event, at most only one "Star Wars" film per year will be released, the sources said, which should put the original 1977 "Star Wars" in theaters in 2015 at the earliest.  (A spokesman for Fox, which is distributing "Star Wars," declined to comment, and a spokesman at Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic could not be reached by press time.)

Since the news on "Star Wars" broke, there's been the inevitable backlash focusing on this as another attempt by Lucas to wring more profit out of -- er, adapt "Star Wars" to -- the latest and greatest Hollywood trend after doing that with animation and prequels. And it's hard not to see this as one more bite at the apple for the filmmaker, who with this property has chomped down on more low-hanging fruit than Adam and Eve.

Continue reading »

Is 'Star Wars 3-D' a good idea?

September 28, 2010 |  7:29 pm

It's more entertaining than a Darth-Luke light saber duel to imagine how the "Star Wars" faithful will react to the news that the sci-fi franchise is coming back, and along the Z-axis this time. Blind rapture? Abject skepticism? A Jabba the Hut-size pile of confusion?

But like it or not, here it comes: "Star Wars" in 3-D.

Fox, undeterred by its middling re-rerelease of "Avatar" this past summer, will take on the mothership of all re-releases. It's putting George Lucas' epic back in theaters after a massive conversion of the space opera to 3-D. "The Phantom Menace" will come first (as it does chronologically) in 2012, with the five pictures following it in sequence. Lucas has come around on the format, making several comments of late that he may be willing to give conversion a shot. And now, apparently, he is.

There's plenty to chew over here — the box office ripple to all the other tentpoles in the coming years not least among them — as a piece of cinema history will crash up against a piece of technology present. Yes, new generations and all that. But is it also true that part of our cultural memory is getting reworked for studio profit? Not since colorization has a technological advance been capable of creating such controversy.

— Steven Zeitchik



Star Wars saga in 3-D will start in 2012

Photo: Mark Hamill and "Yoda" in "The Empire Strikes Back. Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Cannes 2010: With Dennis Lehane and Channing Tatum on board, Mark Hamill starts a new chapter

May 17, 2010 |  9:05 pm

We've generally been too busy running to interviews and screenings to relay every bit of project news announced at the festival -- going to the buffet, sometimes you have to skip the lettuce -- but one new slate caught our eye today.

Mark Hamill, he of "Star Wars" (and numerous stage productions) fame, is becoming a producer and has signed on some juicy projects to get him going. His company, Berkeley Square Films, is being launched by Paul Tamasy, who wrote the upcoming Mark Wahlberg-Christian Bale boxing drama "The Fighter"; the film-world figure Daniel Figuero; and a host of finance types, with Hamill sitting on the board and offering significant creative input.

Dennis Lehane, probably the best thriller novelist working today (he of course penned the books on which "Shutter Island" and "Mystic River" were based), is making his screenwriting debut with "Depravity," a thriller about people who dare one another to go further than they imagined that will be co-written with Tamasy, who'll direct the movie as well.

The company has also attracted some star power: Channing Tatum is set star in a recovery drama called "What's Left of Us," based on a hard-hitting memoir novel called "High on Crack Street." 

And both Tamasy and fellow "Fighter" writer Eric Johnson will collaborate on "Bullet," about a boy, a greyhound he rescues and the brutal world of dog racing.

All of these come on the heels of the adaptation of the Dark Horse comic "The Black Pearl," which Berkeley Square is also producing and which Hamill is attached to direct.

In an interview with 24 Frames, Hamill said he believes that one can design commercial projects with a little more soul and intelligence if they're designed in an independent context. "What we're trying to do is say you can you supplant visceral kind of thrills with cerebral thrills," he said. "If you keep your overhead low enough you can take gambles."

-- Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes, France


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