MCN Originals Archive for October, 2016

Wilmington On Movies: Inferno, The Girl On The Train

Inferno, the third in Ron Howard and Tom Hanks’ series of Dan Brown-derived high-end action movies, aspires to classy trash. At least it tries — mashing references to the works of the great classical Italian poet Dante Alighieri (“The Divine Comedy”) with the not-so-great works of the financially astute airport bestsellermeister Brown (The Da Vinci Code), amid imagery that suggests a nightmare attraction on the National Geographic Channel.

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The Weekend Report

Never underestimate a woman scorned. Boo! A Madea Halloween maintained the top spot in the marketplace for a second weekend with an estimated $16.8 million. It scared the sole weekend national newcomer (and once-presumed champ) Inferno that settled for poor seconds of $14.9 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

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The DVD Wrapup: Hunt for Wilderpeople, Skiptrace, Nerve, Vampire Ecstasy, Gored, Dark Water, The Id, Norman Lear and more

I’ve complained before about the lack of attention given to uniquely entertaining indie movies by distributors, even after being greeted with near-unanimous approval by audiences and critics at festivals. Indulge me while I endorse another film that has broad audience appeal but could easily get lost in the VOD-DVD shuffle. Set in a supremely scenic corner of Peter Jackson’s backyard (a.k.a., New Zealand), Taika Waititi’s coming-of-age Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows a state-raised Maori boy who’s nearly run out of options when it comes to being taken in by foster families and non-penal shelters for abandoned kids. Rotund, lazy and belligerent, Ricky (Julian Dennison) is handed over to a middle-age couple living on the edge of the “bush” – a term not at all representative of the environmentally diverse Tongariro National Park – at the center of the country’s North Island. If Waititi’s name sounds familiar, it’s for his peculiarly Kiwi entertainments as Eagle vs. Shark, “Flight of the Conchords” and What We Do in the Shadows. He’ll get his shot in the Major Leagues with – surprise! – the next chapter in the comic-book epic, “Thor: Ragnarok.” Let’s hope he doesn’t lose sight of the little picture.

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The Weekend Report

It was scary stuff as Boo! A Medea Halloween had an edge over Jack Reacher: Never Go Back with the debuting films opening to respective estimates of $27.6 million and $23 million. The other two national openers included a chilling $14 million for Ouija: Origin of Evil and an even more chilly $5.5 million for the spy spoof Keeping Up with the Joneses.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Tyler Perry puts on the Madea face again, this time with numbers slightly behind the last two big hits but well above the most recent Madea, which was Santa soft. Look for a weekend number in the low 20s. The return of Jack Reacher was met by action yawns, though it was a 74% better start than the first in the series, which makes its profits internationally. Did we need a second Ouija? Apparently not. But it will still make money. And Keeping Up With The Joneses tanked. Not a great movie, but much better than that. Four terrific performers who can’t open a movie.

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The DVD Wrapup: Through the Looking Glass, Café Society, Our Kind of Terror, Buying Democracy and more

If, as was the case in the 1970-80s, such writers and directors as Paul Mazursky, Michael Ritchie, Neil Simon, Herbert Ross, Elaine May, Nora Ephron, Mike Nichols, Francis Veber, and Larry Gelbart were still competing for the same adult audiences, Woody Allen wouldn’t stand so alone in the American filmmaking firmament. Neither would his detractors feel as if they have to make excuses for buying tickets to see his annual film.

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The Gronvall Report: Author Deborah E. Lipstadt On DENIAL, David Hare And Rachel Weisz

“If the filmmakers had to choose what material to fit into an hour and fifty minutes, I think they did it very, very well. The things that impressed me so much, as the person to whom it happened, and as an historian, was their emphasis on truth, on getting it right.”

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Pride, Unprejudiced: Hooligan Sparrow, Café Society

The shards of surveillance of secret police, of intimidation by plainclothes operatives and the sheer oppressive weight meant to crush resistance are equally horrifying, and captured with kaleidoscopic perseverance.

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DVD Geek: Medium Cool

In 1968, it was clear that something would happen on the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. With Medium Cool, Haskell Wexler and his collaborators assembled a viable romantic story, a Cinderella Liberty tale where a news cameraman (Robert Forster), chases after a kid who steals his bag then winds up falling for the kid’s hardworking but struggling mother (Verna Bloom). But, along with sending his character to pre-Convention events, Wexler also got Forster press credentials and into Chicago’s International Amphitheatre as rules votes and other events were unfolding at the Convention. Although it makes me wince, Wexler also put Bloom onto the streets as cops were attacking protesters.

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The Weekend Report

There’s no Accountant for taste as the Ben Affleck thriller topped weekend viewing with a debut estimated at $24.5 million. The Kevin Hart concert film What Now? appeared to have a razor-thin lead to take second spot ahead of The Girl on the Train with a $12 million tally. And gamer adaptation Max Steel was lost in the ether with a dismal $2.1 million launch.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Accounting for taste, Ben Affleck’s latest (and unlikely to be last) super-genius fantasy, The Accountant tallies $9 million. Kevin Hart shouts his way to $4.7 million with What Now, while Girl on the Train tracks to a 58% dropoff, for $3.9 million and a $38.5 million cume.

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First Blush Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (spoiler-free)

Essentially, Ang Lee made the absolute cutting edge version of a “Playhouse 90″ episode with some extra bells and whistles, and color.

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The DVD Wrapup: Infiltrator, Blood Father, Violent Cop, Sherpa, Les Cowboys, Hills Have Eyes and more

If it weren’t for the likelihood that American audiences already know as much about Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel as they’ll ever care to learn, Brad Furman’s compelling drug-war drama, The Infiltrator, might have managed to break even at the box office. Instead, fine performances by Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Diane Kruger (“The Bridge”), as undercover U.S. Customs agents Robert Mazur and Kathy Ertz, will pretty much go for naught.

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DVD Geek: Walking Dead Season Six

“The Walking Dead” zombies probably should be identified as “classic Romero zombies.” The drama is compelling because it uses a fantasy horror premise to magnify human conflicts and emotions that otherwise could not be so readily highlighted. And to this invigorating drama, there is the constant suspense of a zombie attack. You never know where or when it is going to happen

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Settling Into The Starting Gates

By this time next week, the only unseen contenders in the race will be Allied, Collateral Beauty, Hidden Figures, Fences, Passengers, and Silence. And I expect, sight unseen, three of those six titles to be nominated for Best Picture. This is not an insignificant group.

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The Weekend Report

The Girl on the Train was first to arrive at the station with an estimated $24.6 million fare. The session featured two other national newcomers. The controversial historical drama The Birth of a Nation opened in sixth with $7 million. Teen comedy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life was a jot behind at $6.8 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

The train! The train!

Solid opening, but not overwhelming. About 30% off of Gone Girl… which still (projected out) makes GOTT a $100m domestic grosser. Birth of a Nation opens to a tepid number. Could get to a domestic gross total that matches the Sundance purchase price, which could cover marketing. Slightly better opening than Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, the worst performing wide opening of the week.

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The DVD Wrapup: Innocents, Swiss Army Man, Purge: Election Year, Diary of a Chambermaid, The Wailing, Homestretch and more

The silence and shame that accompanies the infant’s birth would suggest that the nun had been impregnated by the devil – or, perhaps, the Holy Ghost — and no word of it should leave the convent’s walls.

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DVD Geek: Johnny Guitar

Dispensing with archetypes that populated so many westerns, Nicholas Ray’s memorable 1954 Republic Pictures production, Johnny Guitar, released as an impressive Olive Signature Blu-ray is filled with vivid, unpredictable characters.

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MCN Originals

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A Spirited Exchange

“In some ways Christopher Nolan has become our Stanley Kubrick,” reads the first sentence of David Bordwell’s latest blog post–none of which I want or intend to read after that desperate opening sentence. If he’d written “my” or “some people’s” instead of “our”, I might have read further. Instead, I can only surmise that in some ways David Bordwell may have become our Lars von Trier.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum On Facebook

“Jonathan has written a despicable thing in comparing me to Trump. He’s free to read or not read what I write, and even to judge arguments without reading them. It’s not what you’d expect from a sensible critic, but it’s what Jonathan has chosen to do, for reasons of a private nature he has confided to me in an email What I request from him is an apology for comparing my ideas to Trump’s.”
~ David Bordwell Replies

“Yes, I do apologize, sincerely, for such a ridiculous and quite unwarranted comparison. The private nature of my grievance with David probably fueled my post, but it didn’t dictate it, even though I’m willing to concede that I overreacted. Part of what spurred me to post something in the first place is actually related to a positive development in David’s work–an improvement in his prose style ever since he wrote (and wrote very well) about such elegant prose stylists as James Agee and Manny Farber. But this also brought a journalistic edge to his prose, including a dramatic flair for journalistic ‘hooks’ and attention-grabbers, that is part of what I was responding to. Although I realize now that David justifies his opening sentence with what follows, and far less egregiously than I implied he might have, I was responding to the drum roll of that opening sentence as a provocation, which it certainly was and is.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum Replies

“In my own mind, I’ve always been a writer and the fact that I act is, well… it’s been very enjoyable and I love doing it. It has been good for me, but in my own mind I’m just a writer with a bizarre activity—acting—that I undertake.”
~ Wallace Shawn