MCN Originals Archive for September, 2014

The Weekend Report

The Equalizer vanquished the opposition with an opening tally estimated at $35.2 million. The session’s other national deb, Laika’s stop-motion animation The Boxtrolls, bowed to $17.3 million, ranking third overall.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

The Equalizer opened right in the middle between Denzel Washington’s two biggest solo-star openers, The Book of Eli and Safe House, suggesting that this could be his third $100 million movie… and if not, just short of it. Also opening, The Boxtrolls, edgy stop-motion from Laika, featuring an amazing vocal performance by Sir Ben Kingsley. The opening day is slightly better than the last Laika, Paranorman, which suggests that the trick to pushing these films over $100m domestic still has not been solved.

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The DVD Wrapup: Godzilla, Girl in Yellow Boots, Last Passenger, My Name Is A, Calling, Come Morning, Reign, Hillbilly Butcher … More

To paraphrase a much tortured aphorism from the Savoyard intellectual Joseph de Maistre, “Every generation has the Godzilla it deserves.” In fact, every new generation since 1954 has gotten several new fire-breathing lizards, however, whether we deserved one or not. First introduced in post-WWII Japan as the King of the Monsters, the daikaiju and other giant monsters were Japan’s metaphorical response to America’s war-ending bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even then, the gargantuan creature looked as if it had escaped from a toy factory. And, yet, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and other irradiated critters captured the fancy of movie audiences around the world.

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

Do the fall festivals matter? The Gurus chime in with their look at the Best Picture race, which has changed, particularly with the rise of 2 titles, but still finds the pre-fest Top 7 all residing int he Top 9 of this new chart.

Also, the actors and actresses who got the biggest festival bumps.

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20 Weeks of Summer: Was The Summer DISASTER Actually A Win? (Part 2: Sony/Universal/WB)

Three of the six majors were UP for the summer in gross worldwide revenues. Fox was up by $920 million, Paramount was up by $626 million, and Sony was up by $28 million. Of the other three, Disney was down by $869 million, Universal was down by $1.26 billion, and WB was down by $991 million. But with all that “down,” only one movie at these three studios was a significant loser financially.

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20 Weeks of Summer: Was The Summer DISASTER Actually A Win? (Part 1: Disney/Fox/Paramount)

Twenty-four movies. That is the direct output of the wide-release movies from the six major distributors this last summer. Do you want to think about this summer based on numbers or do you want to get all emotional about it? Because if you think facts matter, start with the fact that there were 33 wide-release movies from the 6 major distributors last summer (2013). If all you are basing your reports of a summer disaster on is one specific, not very rich stat, you probably don’t care.

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The Weekend Report

It was a week of sweeping out the old and welcoming the new, starting with a trio of new national releases. Young adult adventure The Maze Runner topped the frame with an estimated $32.3 million while the competition played below expectations. Downbeat thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones bowed with $13.1 million while Shawn Levy’s R-rated dramedy of a grieving family, This is Where I Leave You, bantered to $11.7 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Fox is back for another dip in the YA pond with The Maze Runner and the results are a touch better than the first Percy Jackson entry. Liam Neeson is five years into his role as the man from whom people should not be taken… and this looks to be his weakest wide opening (with one 2010 exception) since then. And ensemble comedy This Is Where I Leave You(formerly “The J Word”) is another soft opening in a year of soft openings for WB, their weakest since Transcendence. Yellow Day and Hector & The Search For Happiness will have the best per-screen among runs under 130 screens.

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The DVD Wrapup: Think Like a Man Too, Richard Lewis, Battery, Eraserhead, Chain Saw, Spartacus, Roosevelts, POWs … More

Watching comedian Richard Lewis in Bundle of Nerves, I naturally flashed back to a night, more than 25 years ago, when I first saw him perform live. It was in an intimate room in a Chicago hotel famous for the many legendary comics and musicians who had previously stayed there and whose ghosts may still be haunting the stage and lobby. What I remember most was laughing non-stop throughout the show and, at one point, almost falling on the floor. I’d seen Lewis on the late-night talk shows and he was even funnier in person.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Skeleton Twins

Many American plays and movies about families are horror stories of a sort. That’s true of some of the masters of the form, like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill—and it also goes somewhat for Craig Johnson’s The Skeleton Twins, in which Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, two brilliant comic actors taking a whirl at drama, play a pair of New York-born suburban twins, Milo and Maggie, who’ve been alienated for a decade (since their mid-‘20s) and are now drawn together by what was very nearly a double tragedy: near-simultaneous near-suicides of both because of unhappy love lives.

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The Torontonian reviews This Is Where I Leave You

Like a middling episode of House-“Arrested Development,” Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You—adapted from the Jonathan Tropper novel of the same name—is a dysfunctional family dramedy lacking in laughs and an emotional punch to really bring it home. The film gets by on its likable cast, but the fact that this film merely passes despite such a talented crop of comedic talent should speak to a general failure, or at least a sense of disappointment.

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Wilmington on Movies: Honeymoon

Suppose you drove off for a romantic rendezvous in your parent’s isolated cabin in the woods, and the honeymoon quickly degenerated from an idyll into something…else. Suppose you went off together to be alone and wild and erotically indulgent and your lover began behaving like someone or something….else.

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Wrapping TIFF 2014

It was a really good TIFF. Solid.

What was missing, really, were the home run hitting feature films. (Great docs… but we expect that.)

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Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: It’s a Wrap

Officially there were 366 features shown at the just completed edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. I saw about 30. So it should come as no surprise that few of this year’s public and jury prize winners managed to elude my grasp.

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The Weekend Report

It was anticipated as a close race between debuting movies No Good Deed and Dolphin Tale 2 with the former given the edge. In the end Deed exceeded expectations with an estimated debut of $24.4 million and the sea tail opening to $16.6 million in what’s being viewed as a depressed market in need of a pick me up. The crime meller The Drop opened to fair results of $4.4 million that ranked fifth overall.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

When Sony made the decision not to screen No Good Deed for critics, it pissed off critics and didn’t bother ticket buyers one little bit. Idris Elba, staked by Thor, PacRim, and a series of Screen Gems doozies that have opened well, gets out of the box strong (like it or not). Meanwhile, Dolphin Tale 2, which is a WB output deal movie, opens about 18% behind the original, which projects to a $15.5m weekend. Meanwhile, The Guardians have hit $300 million domestic (#1 US) and is closing in on $600m worldwide (#8).

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The Torontonian reviews It Follows

One of the most enjoyable aspects of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows—alongside its brilliant cinematography and chilling scares—is the inventive premise, which is as much to fun to describe as it is to watch (tell your friends about the “sexually-transmitted ghost” movie and watch their faces turn from disgusted to wildly amused).

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Wilmington on Movies — Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

The first movie was better. Or it played better. Based on Miller’s “Sin City” graphic novels–which took the tricks and tropes of film noir (both the literary and cinematic varieties) to a point of stylistic near-meltdown—the movie was a shadowy, violent, blisteringly cynical comic book rock ‘n roll parody-melodrama hoot: an orgy of movie lust and celluloid violence and pulpy eloquence that was all about the crooks, thugs, lonely men, strippers, whores, men with guns or hotly-pursued dames and femme fatales who hung out at Miller’s evil Neverland.

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The Daily Buzz Podcast @TIFF 2014: The Yes Men

Fans of comic documentaries can rejoice. If you’ve never heard of the Yes Men, you’re in for a treat; if you’ve followed their antics in earlier films, you’ll delight in a new barrage. Either way, you’ll find in this film a fresh reflection on the question: How does one sustain a life of activism?

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The DVD Wrapup: God’s Pocket, Captain America, For No Good Reason, Pumpkinhead, Fed Up, Midnight Special, Goldbergs, New Who … More

Anyone who may have wondered what was lost with the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman–last February, at 46, to a drug overdose–shouldn’t have to look very far to study his impressive body of work. Once a prince of the indie realm, Hoffman more recently balanced his schedule with key supporting roles in such studio blockbusters as Mission: Impossible III and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as well as dramatic turns on Broadway. Never someone who could be mistaken for a classic Hollywood leading man, Hoffman’s presence was felt in every scene in which he appeared.

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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