MCN Originals Archive for June, 2016

The DVD Wrapup: Aferim!, WTF, Rams, Family Fang and more

Although slavery hasn’t been a taboo subject for exploitation by Hollywood filmmakers, it took Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave to fully dramatize the brutality and dehumanization inherent in the long-accepted practice for a new generation of viewers. From Romania,Aferim! tells a completely unexpected story about slavery, this time as practiced against Gypsies, Tartars, Jews and Muslims in Eastern Europe from the mid-1300s to the mid-1800s.

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Rush to Judgment: The Legend Of Tarzan

The things that are wrong, or wrong-headed with the latest incarnation of The Legend of Tarzan, are myriad and numerous.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Shallows

The Shallows is a genuinely scary movie thriller that spooks you because, in a way, it seems so real — this tense, taut movie manage to get by without ghosts, monsters, supernatural maniacs or The Devil, indeed without almost anything that absolutely couldn’t happen (maybe) in the real world. Like Jaws, it’s the white-knuckle, full-throttle story of a battle between human vs. shark: a visually voluptuous thriller, set in a mostly deserted stretch of Australian coast, about a great white shark that traps a young surfer and medical student on an ocean-bound rock and buoy only about 200 yards from shore — a deserted beach near an ocean that is mostly empty except for that trapped girl and that toothy shark and one other creature we‘ll introduce later. (You’ll like him.)

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Pride, Unprejudiced: The Look Of Silence

“The films avoid a kind of journalistic or historical account. They provide only enough information as required for the viewer to understand the next scene. The film doesn’t become a primer about Indonesian history. I think the films avoid being about Indonesia as such, by focusing on the perpetrator and the men around him in The Act of Killing, and one family in The Look of Silence. Instead of becoming smaller, they grow, because they could be your brothers.”

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The Weekend Report

The story was Dory as the Blue Tang clan of Finding Dory boop boop ditem whatem an estimated $73.2 million in its second weekend. That was bad news for Independence Day: Resurgence that settled into second with $41.6 million. The session’s other two national openers saw upbeat results for The Shallows , churning $16.2 million, while Civil War lesson Free State of Jones struggled to $7.5 million.

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Reviews: Free State of Jones and Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Free State of Jones harkens back to the Civil War era and its aftermath for an arcane and fascinating piece of time that eluded even Ken Burns. Set in Jones County, Mississippi, It centers on disaffected Southerners struggling through a war and a cause unrelated to their daily existence but nonetheless demanding sacrifice they find unduly oppressive.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

The world is under attack again… this time, it’s a blue fish swimming right through and past a Will Smith-less ID4-2. Finding Dory is way out in front of any animated film in domestic and will actually be the biggest 10-day grosser of the year at the end of this weekend, passing Captain America: Civil War. Dory is pretty much guaranteed to pass BvS: Apology Tour 1 to give Disney the Top 4 grossers of the year worldwide before August 1. Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest, The Shallows, opens right between his last two films, which starred Liam Neeson. Decent, but hardly a bell-ringer. Free State of Jones is another soft opener for STX, a company filled with veterans with smarts that picks hard-to-market movies that prove, repeatedly, to be hard to market. Swiss Army Man blows away all the other indie openers with a per-screen on three that looks to top $40k.

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The DVD Wrapup: Knight of Cups, Greek Wedding 2, Wondrous Boccaccio, Anesthesia and more

Knight of Cups couldn’t have been made by anyone less contemplative or obsessed with the dialectics of beauty than Malick. Before capturing the attention of the film world with the visually stunning and deeply moving Badlands and Days of Heaven, he apprenticed under some of the industry’s savviest professionals. His stellar education in the humanities would only come to the fore, however, after three individual hiatuses, totaling 32 years.

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Wilmington on Movies: Central Intelligence

Central Intelligence surprises you — or surprised me, at any rate.

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Pride, Unprejudiced: Knight Of Cups, Anomalisa, Embrace Of The Serpent

Guilt as gossamer, memory as wraith, woman as other, love as labor lost: Terrence Malick’s seventh released feature, Knight of Cups, years in the shaping, is dense yet featherlight, elusive yet specific, a wonderment comprising one once-worldly man’s memories, the tide of a single life pummeled by remorseless undertow.

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The Weekend Report

Finding Dory propelled to a record estimated $136.4 million. There was also good news for the other national debut—pumped-up action comedy Central Intelligence—with a  finish of $34.4 million. The frame’s only significant expansion was Genius , which maintained its bottom line. Lobster continues to be a surprise success with a current cume of $6.7 million, rivalling its international run of $8.5 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Finding Dory opens with a 34% bump over the previous best Pixar opening ever (Toy Story 3). Buy how will this be reflected in the 3-day gross, given the 2010 marketplace vs today’s? Based on last summer’s Minions, Dory is swimming towards $137m opening… but no one will know for sure until later today. A little Hart and a big Johnson pays off with an opening day slightly off of Hart’s top showing, Ride Along. Still, it should give WB its second weekend in a row with a $35m+ opening, its third such launch in a year with 5 titles opening between $9m and $20m. And Tickled has a shot at $10k per screen on two.

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Wilmington on Movies: Genius

Thomas Wolfe was an American literary phenomenon: a North Carolina-born novelist and prodigy who hoped to write books of Shakespearean verbal grandeur, of Tolstoyan dramatic scope and Dickensian humanity, and to live a life to fit those vast ambitions. He’s also an artist who tends to be ignored or underrated these days. A pity, because whenever you read one of his huge novels (especially “Look Homeward Angel” and “Of Time and the River”), his talent and his mixed but munificent literary gifts flame right off the page at you.

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The DVD Wrapup: 45 Years, 10 Cloverfield Lane, London Has Fallen, Wenders/Franco, La chienne and more

Once upon a time in Hollywood, movies that featured elderly characters played by venerable stars could be counted on to attract a decent-sized slice of the box-office pie and command the attention of awards voters.

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Pride, Unprejudiced: A Brighter Summer Day; Hail, Caesar!

Its multitude of astonishments include a sure, novelistic mastery of accruing details in an expansive shape that is built upon observation of the smallest moments, gestures, blood-boiling fixations, fetish objects, mortal desires, moral frustrations.

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Weekend Estimates

The Conjuring 2 manifested an estimated $40.4 million, with game-inspired Warcraft at $24.3 million, while Now You See Me 2 prestidigitated $22.8 million.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Conjuring 2

People who like scary ghost horror movies, from Frankenstein to The Haunting, probably are partial, at least a little, to that awesome, icky sensation of being plunged into sucking swamps of cinematic dread, then rescued (maybe spuriously, maybe not) at the very last possible millisecond—a sensation you may feel quite a few times in The Conjuring 2.

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Friday Estimates

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DVD Wrapup: Zootopia, Hail Caesar, 13 Hours, Anomalisa, The Confirmation, Touched With Fire, One More Time, Tom Waits and more

The messages in Disney’s new animated gem, Zootopia, are so overtly liberal, I’m surprised none of the Republican candidates for president didn’t it condemn it during their debates for being subversive. Of course, there’s still time for Donald Trump to propose constructing a wall around the Burbank studios, lest undocumented-alien bunnies, sheep and foxes attempt to enter the country illegally. On that count, anyway, politicians who choke on words like inclusivity, empowerment, diversity and co-existence are several days late and at least a billion dollars short.

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Los Angeles Film Festival 2016 Wrap

The good news for LAFF is it emerged with a relatively strong program, albeit based upon my limited personal experience. I’ll just add the fact that I didn’t see as many films as was my intention. Still, such films as Blood Stripe, Kicks and 11:55 fulfilled a mandate of diversity without employing it as a crutch.

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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