The Hot Blog Archive for March, 2013

Weekend Estimates by B.O. Klady: Recalculation

Kind of a sad weekend for near-misses. Easter is taking a bite out estimates for Tyler Perry and The Host. DWA’s first Fox release, The Croods, launched right between Hotel Transylvania and How To Train Your Dragon, but its second weekend is behind both of the other releases’ second weekends… though again, Easter. Oz was surely hoping for $20m by the end of this weekend. Nope. In its fourth weekend, it’s almost where Alice was after two. And Alice did about 50% more in its fourth weekend than Oz is doing. The good news is that Oz, worldwide, has now covered its marketing costs and distribution fees. Now, on to the cost of the film!!!

On the happier side, The Call is heading to $50m+, which will make it a success for a Sony pick-up. Spring Breakers will pass $10 million tomorrow and could get close to $20 million in theatrical. Sony Classics is about to go over $2 million on The Gatekeepers, a doc, and will get over $1.5m on No, a feature about a Chilean election.

The Place Beyond the Pines had a 4-screen launch that is, objectively, very similar to Spring Breaker‘s 3-screen launch of a couple weeks ago. My guess is that there will not be similar media hysteria benefiting Pines. Why? Expectations are higher, given that Cianfrance’s last film did over $10m. Also, no ass for media to hyper-rationalize. (I have no problem with self-serious people having the taste of a 13-year-old boy sometimes… just with pretending that their inner pubescent is there for the cutting edge of art.)

Less happy at the arthouses, three movies with seemingly salable elements; On The Road with Kristin Stewart, Ginger & Rosa with Elle Fanning, and The Sapphires, which is a terrific feel-good story. All three worked the festival circuit and got a lot of hum… and then got cold waiting for someone to show up for the buffet this month. I’m not saying that any of these movies was going to break out and do mega-arthouse biz, but all three feel like they missed windows of opportunity. They built interest via publicity, never expected to spend on marketing, then waited so long that the original momentum was moot. Kind of a shame.

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Friday Estimates by G.I. Klady

G.I. Joe: It’ Not Really A “2” Because We Changed All The Characters Except One Who We Kill Off Pretty Early Because Unless He Was Going To Strip, We Didn’t Think He Was Worth The Pay Raise For The Sequel is opening okay… just behind where the first one did.

This is The New Normal for sequels. It used to be that a massive hit would be followed with a sequel, expecting a 30% drop-off at the box office. Then we had a DVD-era period when the expectation was that a sequel could outperform the original by a significant margin, especially overseas. The overseas expectation lives on. But now, a lot of sequels are being made with the anticipation of a similar or smaller domestic box office number and the prayer of a higher international number. Many, like G.I. Joe, attempt to cut budget to make the modest box-office success (or even small money loser) of the original film work for the sequel (all the whole hoping that “those suckers” overseas will go in bigger numbers).

G.I. Joe/Cobra hit $150m domestic. G.I. Joe/Rock & Willis looks more like $125m. But even for G.I. Joe, the story of domestic just ain’t the story that matters.

Temptation is looking like Tyler Perry’s 2nd best opening ever for a non-Madea film, right after Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? Perry doesn’t traditionally do the 3x Friday number that is often expected. More like 2.5x. Easter probably won’t be a huge factor, as opening weekend tends to lean heavily on Fri/Sat for Perry. Look for about $22.5 million for the 3-day.

The Host has a to be a bit of a disappointment for Open Road. One just never felt the big liftoff of the new Stephenie Meyer series that others have had. But it will be the 2nd biggest opener for the young AMC-affiliated distributor. And we’ll see whether this one gets leggy.

Speaking of legs… and asses… and boobs, oh my!, The Host will pass the total domestic gross of Spring Breakers today. I wonder what Host‘s box office would look like if it got 1/3 the drooling, self-congratulatory media attention that SB has gotten. (And keep in mind, I like Spring Breakers. I’m just embarrassed by the level of discourse on this film by so many who take themselves so seriously.)

In the arthouses, the new Derek Cianfrance/Ryan Gosling film is doing nice numbers that will be wildly overtouted by indieWIRE and others. I hope for Focus/Derek/Ryan/Bradley that $75k per on 4 screens doesn’t get so overblown as a GREAT NUMBER that the return to earth on expansion seems disappointing. Blue Valentine did almost $10m… with sex to sell and an award season as propulsion. I’d love to see The Place Beyond The Pines do over $10 million, which would be a big victory for a tough movie to market to audiences who haven’t quite decided that Cianfrance is the next Malick or Almodóvar or some other such master of the indie universe. Ironically, like a blockbuster, the future box office for this guy’s work will likely be driven by international, I suspect (wasn’t on Blue V), perpetually a $6m – $13m player in domestic, but with the potential to do even better in territories that love ambiguity and edge. Big name actors will line up to work with him.

The Croods is still a question mark. Will it slog its way to $200m? Seems unlikely, but you never know. If it lands on a Megamind $150m, will people take to animation cobblestone with pitchforks and torches? The biggest question to me is whether DreamWorks’ plan to go to 3 films a year is already a carwreck idea seeking its first wall to smash into.

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BYOB: The Eleventh Commandment

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Weekend Estimates by Spring Klady

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Friday Estimates by Crood Clady

I’m running out the door to go see Jurassic 3D, so a very brief take…

Croods opening is okay, not great. The question will be whether it catches on. Fox, as a marketer, and DWA, as a producer, both have made Shinola out of shit with animated legs… and foreign. This is one not to make a real call on at all before next weekend.

Olympus has FilmDistrict’s best launch numbers, even in a post-Berney era. Boom boom… blow up that White House.

Admission is opening right in line with a bunch of Paul Rudd comedies. Tina Fey was supposed to be The Draw, but love her as I and many other do, it’s not clear she can open a movie.

And Spring Breakers‘ Friday per screen on the expansion is $1,721. The Friday of The Master‘s expansion to 788 screens had a per-screen of $1,773. So Spring did a little better. The question is, who is paying to see this movie? Is this an arthouse phenom or are kids—aside from Ted Hope’s 12-year-olds and other über-sophisticates by birth—paying to see this film? I say $15m or so in theatrical and much, much more in VOD and DVD. This thing will be iconic for teen/20s… just not in theaters.

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Review: The Place Beyond The Pines

For me, The Place Beyond The Pines is classic melodrama… the kind Hollywood made in black-and-white and for a moment, some luxurious Sirkian color. To call it Shakespearean is not too much. Really, it may be the best analogy. But if Baz Luhrmann takes Shakespeare and reconsiders his themes through the brash color and sounds of a movie musical, Derek Cianfrance’s prism is the raw, reality-laden perspective of a Cassavetes or Lumet or even Albert Maysles or Diane Arbus.

It’s very hard to explain this movie to you without spoiling it, as the story structure is a surprise in and of itself.

So let’s try this…

The film is about fathers and sons. The two majors characters, played by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, both have to deal with both sides of that issue at different times in the story. Is life better with your father by your side or can the pressure be as bad, if not worse, that feeling that void? Can we avoid the parts of ourselves that come with our genetics? Are we in the hands of fate?

Ryan Gosling’s last performance in a Cianfrance film, Blue Valentine, was a big part of his emergence. But many people still argue about that guy. A complete ass? Trying but failing? Stuck in a situation he isn’t able to control? It’s not that there is ambivalence about the character, so much as there are deeply passionate opinions that conflict with one another.

The same with be true of Gosling’s “Luke” here. As charismatic as Gosling often is, this is a guy who wears trouble like an aftershave. A kissing cousin of Catlin Adams’ “Patty Bernstein” (The Jerk), he’s the kind of guy who likes to wander ’round, never in one place, he roams from town to town. But when he returns to Schenectady, NY after a year touring with the sideshow, “Romina” (Eva Mendes) has a surprise for him. And unlike The Wanderer, he doesn’t hop right on his bike and ride around the world. He has no idea how to be a committed father… but he’s desperate to try.

Eventually, he will encounter “Avery Cross” (Bradley Cooper), who has a stable life and family legacy in Schenectady. But he’s trying to find his place outside of his family, even as he starts his own.

Movies being movies, there is a reason for these two particular people to meet… a part of the ongoing tale, which will only come together as the next generation matures.

For me, this is Bradley Cooper’s best movie work so far, a leap ahead of his tremendous Silver Linings Playbook performance, if only because this character, at times, really has to carry the film without the distraction of a parade of funny or charming supporting characters. SLP was emotional, but this is like scraping the inside of a rusty can at times. And he carries it off as well as anyone could.

And Dane DeHaan continues to rack up monster wins, movie after movie. Everything that is slightly gawky and overly long about Leo DiCaprio is that much more so in DeHaan’s case. But the kid just owns the screen. Eva Mendes goes raw and makes it work. And Ben Mendelsohn & Harris Yulin are both like the best subway straps in the world… they keep you solidly on your feet when things are in an uproar, whether it’s Mendelsohn as a scumbag with honor or Yulin as Your Honor with a side of scumbag. They are not safe actors, but within the context of a film, they offer a safe, interesting stability for the audience.

One of the lovely things about Cianfrance is that his casting in small roles, whether veteran actors (like Ray Liotta here) or real people he hires to be some minor variation on themselves, is impeccable. This makes each film so much richer.

Gosling, as ever, just IS. The guy is what Steve McQueen must have dreamed about being, getting the roles they didn’t write for McQueen back when. At least, that’s my perspective on McQueen. Gosling brings to his work, for me, the thing that people who love McQueen talk about feeling from him.

It’s hard to imagine anyone truly disliking this film. And in an odd way, loving it right off seems like a bit too easy. It’s an odd structure and doesn’t give up everything easily. But once you go with it and get to the end, I think most people will want to circle back and take a little more. And again. And again. A film that will grow on you and with you.

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Review: Spring Breakers

I’ve been sitting on this one a bit… because it’s a hard movie to read consistently. Reducing it to Maxim: The Motion Picture is as reductive and unreasonable as suggesting that middle-aged men (the vast majority of paid film critics) are immune to the power of 94 minutes of firmly jiggling ass that can be called art because the director can legitimately (if not unanimously) be tagged as an uncompromising artist.

The center of the film is as wild-eyed a performance as James Franco has ever delivered. Excellent. But the women around him—Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine—are barely doing more than “being” on camera. That’s not always easy. And Hudgens, in particular, seems to want to push her personal envelope. But it mostly feels like Korine set up a safe zone on set and got these young women to behave as a lot of teens act on real spring breaks.

To say that the four young ladies are interchangeable is too much. But it speaks to the story, their characters and the uniqueness of their performances (or lack thereof) that as 2 of the 4 exit at one point in the film, their character motivations are clear (established from the first seconds of the movie), but the significance of their characters to the movie seems completely irrelevant.

But that is Spring Breakers. It’s a lot like Maxim, with plenty of unclothed young flesh, but very little real sexual threat. It’s got plenty of violence, but not a sense of any real pain being attached to all of the shooting (the hard R version of Small Soldiers). It calls Selena Gomez’s character “Faith” and lingers on the issue of faith… but never comes close to exploring real faith. Everything is plastic. Everything is false. Nothing means much.

Yet… it is entertaining. Audiences laugh. Franco is outrageous. Situations are outrageous. And it feels like it means something… girls in bikinis and day-glo balaclavas must means something, right? It means something when it’s Pussy Riot. But these girls are not about anything… except going on spring break.

If I had to say what I think the movie is about, it’s spring break kitsch, these girls following the yellow-stained road through Oz, with Franco as The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, AND The Lion. What does a teenaged girl think spring break is? What a gangsta is? What drug wars are? What death is? It’s a journey into a fantasy of what real life is, seen through the prism of girls who think single parenthood, hoarding, debutantes with sex tapes, etc, is glamorous entertainment.

We all bring our personal perspectives to the movie theater. I am reminded of watching Sudden Impact with a friend who said she didn’t like Clint Eastwood, who then proceeded to giggle her ass off during the movie (which includes the legendary line, “Go ahead, make my day”) and claiming afterwards that she “hated it.”

For me, the movie was as much about Dirty Harry and Eastwood as it was about its content. I was a fan of all 3 previous films and had considered the politics in depth, etc. Where did Sudden Impact fit in? What did it mean in the Reagan era?

But my resistant friend? She was undeniably entertained. But she didn’t want to be entertained that way. She didn’t care about the film history context or the political. So is Sudden Impact a great movie exclusively in its own right? Probably not. It’s entertaining. But in many way, it is a parody of itself and was pretty much the end of the line of that era of cop movie, supplanted a few years later by the buddy cop/self-loathing cop genre embodied by Lethal Weapon.

For those critics who are talking about Spring Breakers as though it was an important film, I suggest they go back to Project X (27% on RT) and reconsider, because as much as I didn’t like Project X, there are really only 2 major things separating the films conceptually. 1. James Franco (which is not nothing). And 2. Project X is about boys being venal, pig idiots who are self-romanticized and Spring Breakers is about boys who are venal, pig idiots who are romanticized by girls. In other words, SB allows us XYs room to forgive ourselves and PX does not.

Of course, that analysis, like Spring Breakers itself, is both true and oversimplified.

If you are a movie person, you should see this film… and not just so you can be a part of the conversation… but because the issues around it are at the core of complex thinking on film… not matter what side of the issues you find yourself embracing or rejecting.

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BYOB: Food Poisoning

It’s been a lovely weekend.

By now, you should have had a Spring Breakers review and a preview of Danny Boyle, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel talking Trance in a DP/30. But something I ate (be wary of bbq’ed chicken) had other plans for us all. Looking forward to feeling better tomorrow. (fingers crossed)

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Weekend Estimates by Klady

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Friday Estimates by Klady

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Porn Congratulates The New Pope

Safe for YouTube… iffy for work…

BYOB 31413

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BYOP: Happy Pope Day

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The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin