MCN Originals Archive for September, 2016

The DVD Wrapup: Blood Simple, Cat People, Shallows, Neon Demon, Sirk X 2, Warcraft, Kamikaze ’89 and more

Before Blood Simple hit the festival circuit in September, 1984, at Deauville and Toronto, it’s safe to say that Joel and Ethan Coen couldn’t get arrested in this town. On the advice of Sam Raimi, they knocked on doors in Los Angeles, New York, the Twin Cities and Austin, hats in hand, trying to interest someone, anyone in checking out their two-minute teaser for the film. It’s what filmmakers did in the days before Kickstarter. Any money they raised went straight to their headquarters in Texas, where a cinema community was in its infancy and a few dollars went a long way.

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Pride, Unprejudiced: DEKALOG, THE NEON DEMON, CITY OF GOLD

Made for Polish television for 1988 broadcast, the ten short films of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s glorious masterpiece, Dekalog, are loosely based on the ten commandments, loosely enough that the then-47-year-old filmmaker resisted identifying which installment was based on which commandment

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The Weekend Report

The Magnificent Seven prevailed as top choice in the marketplace with an estimated $34.8 million. The frame’s other national opener, the animated Storks, took second with $21.4 million. Limited and exclusive bows featured a toe-dipper for the African-set drama Queen of Katwe of $303,000 prior to next week’s national launch. The delayed release of Australia’s The Dressmaker arrived to a positive $183,000  at 36 shops. Its international gross has been around $23 million since its Down Under bow in November 2015.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Denzel looks to take back his month from Mr. Hanks, opening The Magnificent Seven to more than Sully on opening day. Storks doesn’t fly, unable to crack the $20 million barrier (perhaps because kids don’t really know about storks delivering babies anymore?). Nothing much in limited/exclusive, where the biggest titles will all be under $7k per-screen for the weekend.

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The DVD Wrapup: Free State of Jones, Beauty & Beast, Bettie Page, Pele and more

At 139 minutes, Gary Ross’s frequently exhilarating, sometimes grueling Free State of Jones dramatizes one of the most unlikely and virtually unknown – outside Mississippi, anyway – chapters in Civil War history. Unlike Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave and the recent re-adaptation of “Roots,” viewers averse to sadistic violence and racial epithets weren’t required to gird their loins for what was to come.

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24 Weeks To Oscar: Lots of Festivals, Few Surprises

So… seven films got Best Picture nominations after festival launches last year… launched from seven different festivals.

In other words… there is no awards magic to any of these festivals (though they all have their own magic). What works is what works. Period. Exclamation point!

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The Weekend Report

Sully was redeemed again with a strong estimated hold of $21.7 million. The anticipated horse race with Blair Witch didn’t happen, with the ghoster a distant second with $9.6 million. Also disappointing among national releases was the $8.2 million bow of Bridget Jones’ Baby, while Snowden was on target, tracking at $7.9 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Sully holds well but movie resurrections don’t come close, as Blair Witch and the Bridget Jones don’t crash, but don’t get to their destinations. Another familiar name, Snowden, came with lower expectations and could float higher in weeks to come.

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The DVD Weekend: Popstar, Civil War, Bigger Splash, King Jack, Standing Tall, Marguerite, Marauders, Tower Records, Vaxxed, Raising Cain and more

It’s possible that Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer — collectively known as Lonely Island – wrote their occasionally very funny music mockumentary, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, thinking it could re-create the commercial, critical and pop-cultural success accorded This Is Spinal Tap. If so, they probably should have set their sights on someone less prone to self-parody than the ever-ridiculous Justin Bieber, who is more worthy of a three-minute sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” The great thing about Rob Reiner’s 1984 comedy was that viewers couldn’t always be sure when the band was making fun of heavy metal music, the musicians themselves, their fans or the industry. They still can’t. It isn’t unusual to hear a cut from Spinal Tap’s fictional “Smell the Glove” album on SiriusXM’s Underground Garage channel, played alongside the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, the Ramones and Patti Smith. Any memory of the songs on the Popstar soundtrack vaporizes within minutes of hearing them.

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Toronto Review: LA LA LAND

When a movie like La La Land is so buzzed about, even lauded, it can feel as you’re trying to write a review, you’re only chiming in, rather than saying anything fresh or interesting. “It’s a Best Picture racehorse,” you’ll read; “It’s a prizewinner in any regard,” handicappers agree; “It’s an astounding, fantastic, emotionally overwhelming American m-o-v-i-e movie,” your musically-inclined movigeoing friends (or parents) will sing. It’s great. It’s grand. I loved it. You will too.

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Pride, Unprejudiced: The Fits, DePalma

Oh glorious subjectivity. Motion and emotion trounce text in The Fits, debut writer-director-producer Anna Rose Holmer’s patient, powerful, dreamy debut feature. Center frame is a young wonder named Royalty Hightower as an alienated eleven-year-old tomboy named Toni, who strives to become one of The Lionesses, a dance team in the West End of Cincinnati. Repetition, routine, formation.

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Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie – Part 3

Toronto is one of the fastest growing cities in North America, increasing population by 200,000 a year on average in the past decade with no sign of letting up. The downtown core can’t cope with mounting traffic and new subway routes to alleviate congestio are unlikely. And for locals and visitors alike, it was tougher because six blocks of King Street West (where the TIFF Lightbox sits) were turned into a pedestrian mall with food trucks, vendors, live concerts and teeming crowds. They’ve been doing it for at least three years and there’s no question it adds to the general festival experience.

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Toronto Review: Arrival

With Arrival, director Denis Villeneuve has realized a beautiful, life-affirming piece of science fiction as visually strong as it is thematically layered, featuring astonishing performances and knockout sound design to carry it through the upcoming season. Any qualms about the Québécois-turned-international director’s Blade Runner sequel can be dismissed.

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Weekend Estimates

Sully soars while Sony’s low-budget entries impress at slots two and three.

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Friday Estimates

Sully takes flight with a Friday fare of $12.1 million; When The Bough Breaks swings $5.1 million and Don’t Breathe‘s cume surpasses $61 million.

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Toronto Review: Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals, the second feature from fashion designer-turned-director from Tom Ford, opens with individual shots of four nude women, each in the rawest of slow-motion, as they twirl and dance for the camera. The corpulent body types of these women are atypical for this style of burlesque, making their exposed skin and innumerable imperfections commentary for artist Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), a woman depressed in her second marriage to Hutton Marrow (Armie Hammer).

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Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie: Day Two

The Toronto International Film Festival opening day announcement was all about the escalators not working at the Scotiabank Theaters. Film festivals are not all about the art of cinema. The Scotiabank complex, has 18 screens. The climb is the equivalent of four flights and the grade is as severe as the London Undergroun’sd. I wondered why they simply didn’t reverse the working escalator and discovered they couldn’t because the “up” escalator operates on two motors and the “down” only has a single motor. Even if this is resolved overnight, it still has to be approved by a city inspector and I’m told there’s an epidemic of broken escalators in the city.

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The DVD Wrapup: Now You See Me, Bodyguard, Tale of Tales, Equals, Genius, Hockney, Lamb, Night Manager, South Park and more

An audience’s communal willingness to suspend disbelief while watching an illusionist perform live is a far more entertaining exercise than suspending disbelief in the service of a large-budget, effects-dependent movie, if only because a trick might occasionally go haywire or a normally docile tiger could unexpectedly attack its handler. We exist at a time in cinematic history when blunders and missteps are freely shown during the closing credits of a feature or as part of a DVD’s bonus package. The industry’s dependency on green screen and CGI technology, to achieve economic and creative goals, has become so commonplace that it’s possible to long for the days when stuntmen made us believe that A-list stars routinely risked everything to make us laugh, cry or tingle with excitement. The conceit behind Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2 requires us to accept the unlikely, if thoroughly appealing premise that a quartet of superstar magicians could combines their individual talents to play Robin Hood or save the world from powerful forces beyond our control.

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Confessions of A Film Festival Junkie: Toronto Day One

I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival since when it was still called The Festival of Festivals, a moniker discarded in 1994. There have other changes across the years, of course. It’s been a long time since TIFF could be shorthanded as a “plucky” or “upstart” festival.

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Pride, Unprejudiced: LOVE & FRIENDSHIP, MONEY MONSTER

Stillman’s fleshing-out of “Lady Susan,” Jane Austen’s unfinished, epistolary first novel, is an onrushing delight, captured in bright and creamy light, with which he quickly confesses minor disappointment—a sound cue, fluffed timing on a joke—but the film is as straightforward in its reliance on the spoken word as a contemporary series like “Love,” or more to point, his keenly observed, neatly structured, dialogue-furnished three early features, “Metropolitan” (1990), “Barcelona” (1994) and “Last Days Of Disco” (1998).

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MCN Originals

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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton