MCN Originals Archive for March, 2014

The Weekend Report

Is Noah a Divergent? Is God dead? Does The Governator have a need for speed? These questions and more will be answered by The Muppets & Peabody & Sherman when they check into The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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Wilmington on Movies: Noah

Will Russell Crowe ever again get a part that so suits his special screen persona and gifts — that natural genius he seems to have for projecting awesome tormented heroics and mad obsessions — as the one he plays in his new film: Noah, the Lord’s visionary servant in Darren Aronofsky’s sometimes crazy and often wonderful version of the biblical story of The Great Flood? Or a film that so stupendously sets those gifts off ?

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Friday Box-Office Estimates

Hope floats for Noah with a $14.9 million opening excursion; Divergent flaunts its dystopia with $8.9 million for its second weekend and a $77 million cume. The Muppets were soft as felt at $2.6 million. The Grand Budapest Hotel checks into 977 rooms for fourth place, adding $2.3 million to its $17.9 million tab.

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The DVD Wrapup

Wolf of Wall Street, King of Comedy, Great Beauty, The Past, Junk, Punk Singer, The Swimmer, Let the Fire Burn and more.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Nebraska; Foreign Correspondent; 2 Guns

Nebraska is a great funny-sad road movie full of all-American offbeat lives, oddball comedy and bleak black-and-white landscape beauty

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The Torontonian Reviews THE RAID 2

Where The Raid was relentless, The Raid 2… well, relents, over two-and-a-half hours, to tell a convoluted tale of underworld crime families and corruption.

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Wilmington on Movies: Muppets Most Wanted

There was never a TV puppet show quite like “The Muppet Show” — or a romantic couple of any kind quite like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy the hamme fatale — or a supporting troupe like Fozzie the Bear, Gonzo, Animal, the Two Old Curmudgeons, and all their funny, fuzzy friends. And I’m happy to say that the new Walt Disney movie Muppets Most Wanted continues that splendid renaissance of Muppetry we saw in the 2011 Disney picture The Muppets. It’s not necessarily as good, because it doesn’t have the built-in emotional charge of being a Muppet revival movie about the revival of the Muppets — a storyline which, for those of us who’ve been familiar for years with the handmade troupe of the great late muppeteer Jim Henson (and Frank Oz and the rest) quickly became hilarious and touching and something to cheer for.

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The Weekend Report

The much-ballyhooed debut of Divergent handily led weekend moviegoing with an estimated $56.2 million.That left newcomer Muppets Most Wanted with poor seconds of $16.5 million. But the session curve ball belonged to the inspirational God’s Not Dead that played largely heartland multiplexes and grossed a significant $8.7 million.

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Wilmington on Movies: Divergent

Despite the best efforts of Burger and of his cast and crew, this is an often-dull cliche-fest with unoriginal scenes and terse, unexciting dialogue, embedded in huge gray spaces of predictable plotting and flat dramaturgy. The book, by contrast, is smooth, fast, crisply written and emotional — and it benefits greatly from the fact that it’s dominated by Tris’ voice as the narrator. The story isn’t very original, and it’s basically the same in both book and movie (it may even be the same dialogue). But, in the picture, the moviemakers try to convey Tris’ inner life by focusing on close shots of Shailene Woodley’s face, as she tries to adjust to Dauntlessness, or gets a crush on Four, or jumps off or climbs up another building or reacts to all the dystopian stereotypes. I don’t think it worked — for the often minimally emoting Ms. Woodley or for the movie, which could really use a lot more voiceover.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Divergent took Friday by just shy of 5x the #2 film in the nation, Muppets Most Wanted. One wonders what Disney was thinking, as they had such a nice success with the last Muppet movie by reaching wider than the under-12-year-old audience. A weak market every place else, especially on the indie circuit, where Nymphomaniac Volume 1 delivered a weak launch, though better than the Canadian release of Nymphomaniac 2. The top per-screen launch was Cheap Thrills with a $5,100 Friday, but only on a single screen.

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The DVD Wrapup

American Hustle, Frozen, Mr. Banks, Mandela, Swerve, Hidden Fortress, Nuke ‘Em High, Vajra, Monsters and more.

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Wilmington on Movies: Catherine Deneuve — The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; On My Way

I met her finally at Cannes, as part of a roundtable discussion interview, and I sat next to her, and, for an hour, the beggared the college fantasies instilled by that face in the poster. At the end, I talked to her for a few more moments, and she smiled her smile, the one I never saw on my wall, and I left, happy for that brief moment. God, what a lovely smile!

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The Weekend Report

There may have been a Need for Speed in the marketplace but the cross country carnage came up short of top gear and finished with the bronze and an estimated $17.7 million. The session’s top dog was in fact the animated canine Mr. Peabody & Sherman that posted $21.4 million.

The frame’s only other national deb was the urban comedy The Single Mom’s Club that performed to expectations with an $8.4 million box office. Among the limited openings the big screen version of TV cult favorite Veronica Mars was off to a good start with a $2 million tally from 291 locations while the psychological thriller Enemy grossed a fair $233,000 from 53 playdates.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

I feel the need… the need for a bit of good fortune to get to a $20 million opening. And is Tyler Perry’s The Single Mom’s Club The Chicken (a movie being opened after the studio bailed on an ongoing relationship) or The Egg (a clear signal of the end of a long-running success story)? That is the question.

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Wilmington on Movies: Need for Speed

Need for Speed—a movie based on a popular video game about outlaw street-and-highway racing—is a big, bad, flashy, terminally dopey muscle car of a movie, which tries to be a Fast and Furious-style actioner and ends up being Rushed and Ridiculous instead. Not that I’m filing any briefs for the Fast and the Furious movie franchise, an overwrought high-octane saga in which scowling, fiercely intent super-drivers whiz and careen and roar past each other in unlikely and dangerous racing locales and outrageous CGI-enhanced stunts. Smash hit as it may be, that is a movie series which has given me no pleasure at all despite its vast expenditures of cash, blistering road action, and apparently well-satisfied audiences.

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The Daily Buzz podcast from South By Southwest (3/11/14)

On The Daily Buzz from SXSW (taped earlier in the week); Festival head Janet Pierson, The Heart Machine, Spandau Ballet and Hot Topics.

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The DVD Wrapup

Inside Llewyn Davis, Book Thief, Patience Stone, Mademoiselle C, Homefront, Ozploitation, Rogue, Vikings and more.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is about trying to be a human being in a world that turns people into puppets and prisoners and corpses. It’s about trying to survive in a world teetering on oblivion and the brink of apocalypse. It’s about how all we admire most can be destroyed or lost, and how we may survive despite it all. And it’s about little pink and green pastries with saws inside, and how to keep the customers happy and how to remember your friends. It’s about how books and movies can preserve what we love.

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The Daily Buzz podcast from South By Southwest (3/9/14)

On today’s The Daily Buzz from SXSW, Ethan Hawke, Rob Thomas, and segments on female directors, documentaries, and genres.

If you’re in Austin, you can catch The Daily Buzz on KOOP 97.1FM at 10pm every night or tape-delayed on KCPW in Salt Lake City later in the week. Otherwise, you can check it out only here at MCN.

Also on MCN: DP/30 with Leigh Janiak, who is featured on today’s Daily Buzz.

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The Daily Buzz podcast from South By Southwest (3/8/14)

Here is the daily podcast from Austin, TX, covering what’s going on in the festival of BBQ, beer, and movies this week. Today’s podcast includes Jason Bateman, whose Bad Words had its US premiere on opening night, as well as filmmakers from Song From The Forest, Wild Canaries, and Big Significant Things. If you’re in Austin, you can hear The Daily Buzz on KOOP at 10pm every night or tape-delayed in Salt Lake City. Otherwise, you can check it out daily, only here at MCN.

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MCN Originals

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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