MCN Originals Archive for November, 2016

The DVD Wrapup: BFG, Pete’s Dragon, Baked in Brooklyn, Weng Weng, T.A.M.I./T.N.T. and more

With great numbers already recorded for Disney’s Moana, it’s difficult to look back at the last two years and imagine studio executives not being completely thrilled about what they’ve accomplished. Several releases have exceeded or threatened to hit the billion-dollar barrier and critical response has generally been friendly, even for those titles with lower financial expectations.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Beginning Is The End

You know it’s already over, right?

No, I’m not saying we know who is going to win Oscars this year. We don’t. But we know who is realistically in the running, and who is not.

To use a sports metaphor, we are in the playoffs. But teams still have to play the games.

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DVD Geek: Valley of the Dolls, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Vamp

There is bad, and then there is really bad. Valley of the Dolls is a bad movie. The histrionics of the characters pass for drama, while simplified progressions of successes and failures, both in careers and in romance, pass for narrative. But the plot is coherent, and the acting, although pushing the edges of sensibility, is valid. Dolls is appealing as high camp, with its most indulgent performances and importune dialog being accepted after the fact as a comical alternative to the real world, especially because of its show business milieu.

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The Weekend Report

The box office went unseasonal as Moana ascended to the top of the charts with an estimated $55.6 million debut for the three-day portion of the Thanksgiving holiday frame. Three other wide releases made the turkey trot debut with OK response for the Second World War era espionage thriller Allied that grossed $12.7 million. However, Bad Santa 2 had a paucity of Christmas cheer with a $6 million bow and the Howard Hughes inspired Rules Don’t Apply was decidedly elusive with a $1.6 million tally.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

A mixed bag on Thanksgiving weekend at the box office. It’s early to get a full read on Moana as its launch outpaces Frozen, but it is a rarity for a big animated movie to open on Thanksgiving weekend. Tea leaves are blurry. Likewise, the question of Doctor Strange remains open, as its 24 days to get to $200 million domestic is right in the middle of the Marvel pack. And Fantastic Beasts is pacing right along with the 2nd and 3rd Potter films so far. Allied opens soft, pacing with Australia, though it would be worth noting that Australia did over $200m worldwide and Allied could well do the same. Arrival is the strong hold of the week. Bad Santa 2 peed on Santa’s leg. Lion and Miss Sloane deliver in exclusive runs.

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Thankful 2016: 20 Years In

This is the 20th Thankful column and I am still grateful for so much. But what a long, strange trip it has been.

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The DVD Wrapup and Gift Guide: One-Eyed Jacks, Hell or High Water, Kubo, Mia Madre, The Land, Holiday Horror, Poldark and much more

Brando delivers a performance so distinctively nuanced –it runs the gamut from bizarre to brilliant – that it’s been indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who’s seen it. Ditto, his delivery of the lines, “Get up you scum-sucking pig! I want you standing when I open you up,” “You may be a one-eyed jack around here, but I’ve seen the other side of your face” and “Get up, you big tub of guts!”

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Gurus o’ Gold: Thanksgiving – Episode 2

In the second charts of the week, The Gurus look at Best Picture and offer their suggestions for what you must see this holiday weekend as well as what unexpected nominations would excite them. Have a wonderful holiday!

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Gurus o’ Gold: Thanksgiving – Episode 1

In this first of two pre-Thanksgiving Gurus outings, not a lot of change in Picture and the Supporting acting categories. The only real mover in Picture is… Arrival.

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The Weekend Report

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them wasn’t just Pottering around, with an estimated $74.3 million debut way ahead of the pack. The session’s other new wide openers sputtered, as The Edge of Seventeen enrolled at seventh with $4.6 million and inspirational boxing saga Bleed for This only punched $2.3 million. The expansion of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk crawled to $933,000.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Unexpectedly, Fantastic Beasts seems soft in the perspective of 5-day Harry Potter openings. Still, what may well be a $100m+ opening weekend would be foolish to doubt. The big Friday opening took steam out of the market, especially for family and action. The Edge of Seventeen has been a passion project for STX, but not much of a start. Tough to figure out what else they could have done to get it rolling. Great start for Manchester by the Sea. Solid for Nocturnal Animals.

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The DVD Wrapup: Finding Dory, Jungle Book, Shirley Clarke 4, Better Call Saul, Christmas Stuff and more

The only critical knocks I’ve seen against Finding Dory were prompted by a perceived diminishment, however slight, in Pixar’s trademark gags and a story that bears too much resemblance to the original. Even so, the aggregate score on Metacritic.com stands at a lofty 77 and, last month, the worldwide box-office tally passed the billion-dollar barrier.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Who Directed That Masterpiece?

The election took The Gurus by surprise this week, but they have consulted with The Oscar Deities and are back in the saddle. This week, Best Picture and Best Director.

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The Weekend Report

Doctor Strange continued to cast his spell on the world with the top spot in the domestic arena estimated at $43.4 million. The session saw three new national releases with the alien Arrival slotting in position three with $24.1 million and right behind the urban family comedy Almost Christmas grossing $15.5 million. The haunted house thriller Shut In had a much fainter pulse of $3.7 million.

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Confessions Of A Film Fest Junkie

Over the past fifty years, it’s been tough to program a film festival in Los Angeles. It took Gary Essert years to secure financing and convince the Hollywood establishment that the long-gone FilmEx was benign, not a radical assault to crumble studio walls. That was back in 1971, and his pioneering festival was first significant showcase of international cinema in the City of Angels.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Doctor Strange is building with unusually strong weekday numbers and a strong Friday hold Marvel’s latest entry is looking more like a high-200s domestic grosser than a low-200s, which would make it the only non-Iron-Man-starring product besides Guardians to explode out of the gate. Trolls holds solid. Arrival lands, although not overwhelmingly. (A movie meant to build.) And Almost Christmas opens less strongly than Will Packer’s This Christmas, but is aimed at Thanksgiving week. Also holding, Hacksaw Ridge. Big two-screen start for Ang Lee’s motion-emotion experiment of Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk.

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Remembering Leonard Cohen

I met Leonard Cohen many times over the years. He lived close to my neighborhood and I’d see him shopping at Ralph’s or having dinner with his family at Le Petit Greek in Larchmont. But my relationship and odd connection dates back to the early 1970s when I was still living in Canada.

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The DVD Wrapup: Star Trek/Wars, Indignation, Private Property, Morris From America, Viktoria, Mes Aynak, Initiation and more

If these holiday-ready set demonstrate anything conclusively, it’s that distributors of DVD/Blu-ray/VOD titles are way ahead of consumers and equipment manufacturers on the technological curve, at least when it comes to promoting the visual and audio potential for home theaters. Unlike Ultra High Def and Blu-ray 3D units, technologically advanced pictures, like Star Trek Beyond and the upgraded edition of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens, are priced to sell right now.

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20W2O: Keep To Your Knitting

Oscar punditry reads a lot like the months and months and months of expertise voiced on cable TV and via print/online media for 18 months leading to the November 8 absurdity of a Trump election. And the voices after the results settled in last night reminded me so much of the post-Oscar (and often, pre-Oscar) whining.

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Wilmington On Movies: DOCTOR STRANGE

I might prefer something adapted not from a classic comic but, say, a great novel, or a profound drama or a truly witty comedy, but we don’t call the shots.

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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