The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

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DVD Geek: Snowpiercer

So, the science is at best dubious, the drama, while engagingly performed, is hardly profound, and the story, even aside from the fantasy parts, is illogical and is a mad amalgam of genres. Why, then, is Snowpiercer so entertaining? The answer is simple, it’s a train movie.

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The Weekend Report

Exodus: Gods and Kings swept into the marketplace with an estimated $24.5 million to lead weekend movie ticket sales. The session’s other national newcomer was raw romantic comedy Top Five that bowed to $7.1 million. The exclusive bow of Inherent Vice generated a potent $336,000 box office from five pads and modest expansions for The Imitation Game and Wild maintained both pictures’ commercial momentum.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Exodus will “win” the weekend easily, but right there in between December releases with hope of Christian audience interest The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Golden Compass, both of which were considered flops at the time. This does not preclude word-of-mouth from arriving for Exodus. But the launch leaves much to be desire. Likewise, Top Five, which has every indication of getting very, very strong word-of-mouth started slow, even on just 979 screens. Paramount clearly saw this problem coming in tracking and slowed the roll (out) to build the chatter on the film. They will know whether that paid off by next weekend .Inherent Vice lands on five pads with a per-screen that should inhale about $80k for the weekend.

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Gurus o’ Gold(-n-Globes)

The Gurus pay tribute to The Golden Globe nominations (due Thursday morning), but projecting the Picture, Actor & Actress races. And of course, this week’s update on Oscar’s Best Picture race.

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The Gronvall Report: Screenwriter Graham Moore on THE IMITATION GAME

Graham Moore is no slouch. He was only 29 when his debut novel, “The Sherlockian,” hit The New York Times bestseller list in 2010. Now his first feature film, The Imitation Game, is pegged for awards group plaudits in this year’s very crowded Oscar race. Adapting Andrew Hodges’s nonfiction book “Alan Turing: The Enigma,” screenwriter Moore (also the film’s executive producer) has crafted a biopic that may have a few purely fictional elements, but nonetheless sheds light on a real-life war hero whose professional achievements were long clouded–in the popular imagination, at least–by personal scandal in his final years.

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DVD Gift Guide II: Guardians of the Galaxy, Wonder Years, Jacques Tati, Spielberg, Red Skelton and More

As difficult as it might be to imagine gifting a fan of mainstream films with a collection of comedies by a French filmmaker and actor, I have no qualms about suggesting you stock up on Criterion Collection’s The Complete Jacques Tati for stocking-stuffing. Funny is funny and one needn’t be fluent in French—or a film scholar—to dig Tati’s many talents. He can be fairly compared to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and other great Hollywood actors of the silent era, as well as Marcel Marceau and, yes, Jerry Lewis. His alter ego, Monsieur Hulot, with his trademark raincoat, umbrella and pipe, is simply one of the most recognizable comic characters in the world.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Box Office

After The Hurt Locker won with less than $15 million in the box office till… after The Artist won with $32 million… And even 12 Years A Slave at $50 million and 4 well-respected contenders over $100 million… does “a wasted vote” exist anymore?

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The Weekend Report

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 made the hat trick as it topped session moviegoing with an estimated $21.7 million. In what’s been traditionally one of the slowest weekends on the calendar. Distribution propped up the self-fulfilling prophecy by largely avoiding new product apart from low-budget horror adventure The Pyramid that grossed only $1.3 million. On the bright side, limited launch of Wild opened to a sturdy $622,000 from 21 screens and The Imitation Game continued to post strong numbers with the addition of four engagements. The significant expansion of The Homesman also generated OK results.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

On one of the weekends of every year which distributors avoid like the Bermuda Triangle of old, no new wide releases. Fox shoves The Pyramid out onto 589 screens and may get past $1 million for the weekend. Otherwise, last weekend’s Top 10 jostles for position. And Searchlight’s Wild starts its trek on 21 screens and has its eye on $24k per screen for the weekend.

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Gurus o’ Gold: The Rise of Selma

The Gurus are back from the holidays with a look at Best Picture and Best Director, where Ava Duvernay is red hot and some of the big names aren’t diddly squat.

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The DVD Wrapup: Penance, 100 Foot Walk, Copenhagen and more

Anyone who simply can’t wait for every new season of shows like “True Detective,” “American Horror Story” and “The Killing” ought to check out the sensational Japanese mini-series, “Penance.” Shown in New York last spring as a single five-hour movie, it is best suited for the small screen in series form. Easily translatable, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it adapted for American television someday, just as the creepy French mini-series “Les revenants” was shown intact on Sundance and re-imagined for American audiences by ABC as “The Returned.”

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Trouble With Biopics

We’re close to an all-biopic Oscar season. Maybe that’s why it’s such a blur right now. The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Selma, Unbroken, Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner, Big Eyes, and American Sniper are all specifically biopics. Boyhood and Birdman are fiction, but have major biographical elements driving them. Lots of bios.

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The Weekend Report

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 held top spot over the extending Thanksgiving holiday with an estimated $56.9 million. Turkey days featured two new national releases that came up short of expectations. Animated Penguins of Madagascar bowed in second spot with $25.7 million and the sequel of revenge Horrible Bosses 2 ran fifth at $15.5 million. Exclusive newcomers included Oz horror yarn The Babadook with $18,800 from two engagements. The biggest clues were left by Oscar hopeful The Imitation Game, that bowed to $484,000 on just four secret estates.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Mockingjay continues to rule the roost and is now looking to catch up to the domestic gross of the first Hunger Games, but not the second (which it is still behind by 24%). It’s now past $400m worldwide. newcomer/spinoff The Penguins of Madagascar is looking soft, due for a Saturday uptick, but not close to Big Hero Six opening numbers, even if you adjust expectations because of the Wednesday launch. Interstellar had an uptick this weekend, even as it dropped more than 10% of its screens. And newcomer/sequel Horrible Bosses 2 is no Horrible Bosses… but how different they really are at the box office won’t be known until the end of next weekend, once we’ve digested Thanksgiving.

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The DVD Wrapup: Monte Hellman, Les Blank, Dirty Movies, Lines of Wellington, Drunk History and more

Traditionally, the one sure way to kill a genre film’s commercial appeal is for a critic to label it “existential” or “experimental” or compare it to the films of Antonioni. No matter how much a Western or road picture was embraced by intellectuals, if it didn’t draw a crowd to the drive-in or local bijou, no amount of arthouse revenues could save it or advance the career of the artiste. Monte Hellman broke into the movie business in 1959 with a string of genre films made under the Corman banner: Beast From Haunted Cave, The Terror and a pair of back-to-back collaborations with Jack Nicholson, Back Door to Hell and Flight to Fury and The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind. Five years would pass before Universal attempted to tap into the counterculture market with his “existential road movie,” Two-Lane Blacktop. Forty years later, this unqualified financial disaster would enter the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, where The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind someday may find themselves as well.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: First Major Event

Guild nominations are rarely outside of the well-established box. It takes a series of those events in coordination to change the game. Critics awards… lovely. But enjoy them for what they are, because they may not match nominations, much less winners.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Thanksgiving Week

This week, The Gurus offer up opinions on Best Picture and the two Supporting Acting categories. Also, what movies should voters try to see this holiday weekend before nominations commence? It’s a pretty big list, which is a sign of a strong year of movies, if not easy awards choices.

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The Weekend Report

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 generated the biggest box office bow (wow) of the year with an estimated $123.2 million salvo. The franchise’s third outing was always expected to be boffo albeit tracking indicated it would not attain the $158 million level of the prior chapter. Nonetheless, some held out hope for a gross close to $150 million. In light of the anticipated b.o. tsunami, competitors steered clear of the date with even limited, niche and exclusive debuts pared way back. But there was an encouraging $23,500 gross for the offbeat California-shot, Iran-set hipster vampire tale A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night from two playdates. The sesh also featured small expansions for The Homesman, Foxcatcher and The Theory of Everything with the latter two maintaining hefty screen averages.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

A little move called Mockingjay: Part 1 shocked the movie world on Friday by a) having the biggest opening day of 2014, b) having the weakest opening day of the Hunger Games franchise, c) being unwatched by anyone in the movie world who doesn’t have a financial stake in it. In other box office news… well… is there any other box office news?

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The DVD Wrapup: Into the Storm, Automata, Wind Rises, Summer’s Tale, Brazilian Western, Alive Within, I Am Ali, Worricker, Monkey Shines and more

Ever since Western film critics and animation buffs helped convince Walt Disney Company to showcase the work of Hayao Miyazaki, by distributing titles from Studio Ghibli outside Japan, niche audiences here have applauded his takes on mankind’s struggle to balance nature and technology, the strength and wisdom of his female characters, and maintaining a pacifist stance in world enamored of war. They also have admired the ways fantasy and supernatural themes are integrated into manga-influenced stories of almost breathtaking visual beauty. Knowing Americans’ genetic predisposition to not reward movies that carry subtitles, Disney has arranged for casts of prominent voice actors to mute any objections to them.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire