MCN Originals Archive for August, 2014

The Weekend Report

Traditionally one of the industry’s slowest sessions, the Labor Day weekend provided the usual summer’s end blahs with two new genre pics. The horror yarn As Above/So Below opened in fourth spot with an estimated $.8.3 million (all figures represent the 3-day portion of the weekend) and the spy thriller The November Man was a jot behind at $7.6 million.

The frames top grosser were Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with respectively $16.3 million and $11.7 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Guardians of the Galaxy, now the top domestic grosser for the summer, returns to the top of the box office chart in one of the weakest movie weekends of the year. And the newcomers assure that status will remain with two sub-$9m 3-day openings. On the indie side, Cantinflas will crack the Top Ten for the weekend with around $6k per-screen on 382 screens.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Pre-Venice/Telluride/Toronto Best Picture Field

It’s time for another award season to begin. And The Gurus o’ Gold are back. This week, a look at the field before the fall festivals launch. Each Guru was asked to pick 15 titles, in no order, that they see as the top contenders for Best Picture this season. Besides setting the field, it is worth noting that in the last four seasons, every film that has gone on to win Best Picture has been selected on this chart by all the Gurus or by all Gurus except for one. Take that for what it’s worth.

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The Weekend Report

Guardians of the Galaxy rocketed back to the top of the movie going hart with an estimated $17.7 million, fending off a trio of foes. Of the freshmen, only the YA adaptation of If I Stay demonstrated any real commercial strength with a third place entry of $16.4 million. The combo of football and “inspiration” tallied $8.8 million for When the Game Stands Tall and mostly firing blanks, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, plugged $6.3 million.

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The Gronvall Report: Ira Sachs On LOVE IS STRANGE

Irony is a weapon that’s most effective when wielded lightly, rather than with sledgehammer force. In the engrossing, richly textured indie drama Love is Strange, directed, co-written, and co-produced by Ira Sachs, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), New Yorkers who’ve been lovers for 39 years, tie the knot under their state’s recent Marriage Equality Act. But shortly after their nuptials George loses his teaching job at a Manhattan parochial school because of that institution’s opposition to gay unions. Instead of binding them closer, their wedding now drives Ben and George apart, as their sudden financial hardship forces them to sell their co-op and find separate, temporary lodgings with others.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

The weekend winner will be Girls Gone Weepy entry If I Stay, Chloe Moretz’s 2nd film as a big-head poster lead. Opening day is 5% ahead of Carrie. Meanwhile, things are rough for The Weinsteins, as When the Game Stands Tall, a last drop of the pre-Rothman Tri-Star miscellaneous releasing arm, out opens Sin City 2, which is 78% off the first film on opening day.

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The DVD Wrapup: Only Lovers Left Alive, Spider-Man 2, Fading Gigolo and more

If you plan to watch only one more vampire movie this year, make it Only Lovers Left Behind. Like Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In and Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, Jim Jarmusch’s dreamy undead romance stands apart from the crowd of horror pictures whose sole intention is to make audiences cringe.

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The Weekend Report

A trio of new releases couldn’t unseat last weekend’s top titles, resulting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Guardians of the Galaxy leading the session with estimated respective box office of $27.9 million and $24.6 million. Newcomers lined up right behind with Let’s Be Cops grossing $17.6 million, The Expendables 3 with $16.1 and YA adaptation The Giver trailing at $12.7 million.

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The DVD Wrapup: Railway Man, Boredom, Cold Lands and more

It’s not that Americans don’t already assume the worst about the CIA and mostly don’t care about the techniques used to glean useful intelligence, with much disinformation thrown in to save another beating. Fact is, our elected officials simply don’t want their constituents to know how little control they had over what happened in the execution of the war on terrorism. I was reminded of this by Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man, which graphically describes the application of torture on British POWs in World War II by Japanese soldiers and officers. In a very real sense, it serves as a companion piece to The Bridge on the River Kwai.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

We are in the dregs of summer as the movies open that look, smell, and feel like franchises, but are either on the decline or were never meant to ascend. The Expendables 3 is falling off twice as fast from the sequel as the sequel did off the original. Let’s Be Cops, despite real-world events, looks like a money-maker in spite of what reads as a weak start. And audiences have given up on the YA wannabe, The Giver. Meanwhile, Guardians passes $200m on the way to top domestic gross of the summer (still likely under $300m) and the turtle who are mutant and ninja have the expected second Friday drop and will pass $100m today.

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The Weekend Report

Ever try to put a stake through a turtle’s heart? Just when you thought the franchise had gone moribund Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stunned with an estimated $65.1 million debut that led session moviegoing. Three other films opened nationally to varying results including predictable returns of $17.8 million for the tornado commandos of Into the Storm, a soupçon better than expected $11.2 million for The Hundred-Foot Journey and a franchise-killing $6.2 million for Step Up: All In

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Wilmington on Movies: The Hundred-Foot Journey

Helen Mirren, of Great Britain is a great movie actress and Om Puri, of India, is a superb actor—and together, as they share the stage and the kitchens for their new film The Hundred-Foot Journey, they whip up quite a tasty dish: a lip-smacking love story and a culinary comedy treat.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

A big Friday for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. How strong will Saturday hold? Also, a decent drop for Guardians… the best of this summer for the $90m+ openers. And three other new entries open wide and get a kick in the teeth, the biggest of which is the effects actioner Into The Storm, which won’t manage $20 million for the weekend. The Hundred Foot Journey may survive the overly aggressive release… if it is still in theaters in a couple weeks when its audience tends to turn up. And Step Up is stepping down as a franchise.

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The DVD Wrapup: Finding Vivian Maier, Around the Block, Ping Pong Summer, L’amore in Citta, Without Warning, Need for Speed, I’ll Follow You Down, Bitten … More

The thing to remember about Vivian Maier is that, while something of a hoarder, she wasn’t a recluse. Not only was Chicago her oyster, but she also travelled internationally and recorded the habits and fashions of people representing all social classes.

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The Weekend Report

Add a franchise to the list. Guardians of the Galaxy swept up roughly half of weekend box office biz with a commanding estimated $93.2 million debut. That left the other national newcomer Get On Up working hard to secure third position with $14.1 million. Among exclusive bows there was encouraging initial response for the dark Irish walk along the Via Doloroso, Calvary, with $71,600 from four confessionals. The frame also featured noteworthy expansions for Boyhood and Magic in the Moonlight.

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Wilmington on Movies: A Most Wanted Man

Bachmann is a cynic, a spoiled idealist, an addict who chain smokes cigarettes, downs whiskey after whiskey and speaks in a rumbling monotone glib growl laced with world-weary innuendo. For his sins, he’s been assigned to the anti-terrorist office in Hamburg, a snake pit of spying and double-dealing in which murder runs rampant and catastrophes like the 9/11 World Trade Center attack are planned. You could not possibly see this part performed better than Philip Seymour Hoffman does here.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Guardians of the Galaxy opens strong. James Brown works about half as hard as Jackie Robinson. Calvary charges into the top-ten indie opening.

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The DVD Wrapup

Noah, Herzog, Grace Kelly, Deneuve, Curtains, Cuban Fire, Yellow Sun, U.S. of Secrets and more.

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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