MCN Originals Archive for March, 2017

The DVD Wrapup: 20th Century Women, Silence, Just a Sigh, Art Bastard, Blow-Up, MST3K and more

Because she doesn’t feel confident in her ability to raise a teenage son in such an environment, Dorothea entrusts the finer points to Abbie and Julie. Jamie probably would be better served if he apprenticed under William, but Dorothea sees him as someone who can’t be completely trusted around women. (Mills says he was raised in much the same way by his sister and other women in his mom’s orbit.) Neither has she shaken off the residue of growing into adulthood during the Eisenhower era, when parents were expected to be arbiters of their kids’ behavior. With the age of it-takes-a-village parenthood looming on the horizon, Dorothea needs as much help as Jamie. Although his expository narration occasionally eliminates the element of surprise, watching Bening negotiate the shoals of Dorothea’s life can be thrilling.

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Smashing Wide-Release Theatrical Windows: Murder or Suicide?

The theatrical business is not dying. There are no actual stats that suggest it is.

Perhaps distributors are not foolishly chasing new revenue, but are consciously aware that sipping the Kool-Aid may lead to the death of a significant portion of this industry. Maybe they just want to be in a different business.

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The Weekend Report

Beauty and the Beast diminished by half but nonetheless towered over the competition with an estimated $89 million weekend. That left the incoming Power Rangers securely in second spot with a $40.1 million debut. The session’s two other newcomers had meh results with the Alieneque sci-fier Life opening to $12.4 million and the TV staple CHIPS puttering on the big screen to $7.5 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

The second weekend of a tale as old as time not only beating out two space-y films, but beating the two combined. The Beauty is looking at the #4 all-time slot for best second weekend to boot. Power Rangers, which spent a ton on advertising, is not a bust. But box office prognosticators are flying blind on where this one is going. Will it play on Saturday and across the globe? Life is a brutal opening, given its ambition. And CHiPs is another waste of Dax Shepard and Michael Pena and of WB’s time.

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The DVD Wrapup: Julieta, Sing, Kind of Murder, Nightless City, Multiple Maniacs, Cinema Paradiso, 45RPM, Ali & Nino, American Princesses, Split and more

While any new movie by Pedro Almodóvar is cause for celebration, Julieta stands out for several reasons. Upon its screening at Cannes, critics were quick to point out that it not only marked a return to the women-centric dramas for which he’s been associated for the entirety of his 40-year, 20-feature career. It’s also one of only a very few titles that he’s adapted from a literary source or shared a writing credit. Based on three stories by Canadian writer Alice Munro — “Chance,” “Soon” and “Silence,” from her 2004 collection “Runaway” – Almodóvar originally planned to adapt them as his first English-language screenplay, possibly starring Meryl Streep. He didn’t feel comfortable pursuing that,  and re-set the film for locations in Spain. If reviewers missed the director’s outrageous comedy and other trademark touches, loyalists savored his insider riffs on Spanish telenovelas, Hitchcockian tropes and film noir, as well as Julieta’s distinct visual style and complementary color palette.

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The Weekend Report

Twas Beauty killed the Beast to an estimated record-breaking debut of $171.7 million. The frame’s other new wide release, the James Gunn-penned eerie thriller The Belko Experiment was a slim counterprogrammer with a $4 million launch.

Exclusive newcomers included Terrence Malick’s allegorical musical romantic triangle Song to Song with $51,700 from four bookings and the long-gestating sequel T2: Trainspotting that bowed domestically on five screens to $177,000 following two months of overseas exposure that’s injected $34 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Tale as old as 1991… loved to say the least… throngs come out for Belle, critics ring death knell, Beauty and the Beast

It’s the fourth biggest opening day outside of the summer/holiday windows. $155 million seems like the floor for the weekend. This kind of huge success seemed inevitable when incisive critics started reviewing Disney’s business model instead of the movie. Canaries in the coal mine.

In exclusives, Boyle & Malick will each go over $10k per screen in throwaway releases.

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The DVD Wrapup: Fences, Elle, Passengers, Solace, Film/Not Film, Robert Flaherty, Drunk History and more

A few eyebrows were raised when playwright-screenwriter Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) was hired to build on a draft written by Wilson before his death in 2005. Finally, though, Wilson was given sole authorship of the adapted screenplay, as well as an Academy Award nomination, while Kushner is credited as co-producer. It explains why Fences sometimes feels as if it were transplanted directly from the stage and the establishing exteriors are limited to a few shots of Troy and Bono working in the streets of Pittsburgh, his visit to downtown headquarters to be promoted to driver and a shot of kids playing stickball. The movie never feels stagebound or contrived, however. Wilson’s genius for turning conversations into poetry is as evident as ever.

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Arrival never waits for the viewer to catch up, even as it cleverly and even stupefyingly shifts from language to emotion, to remind the viewer that regardless of our destiny in the stars, the very core of our reason for existence is family.

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The Weekend Report

Kong: Skull Island, the only nationwide opener, sounded the right chord with an estimated $61.1 million debut.

Exclusive newcomers were led by Cannes’ Personal Shopper with a $80,700 credit line at four boutiques, and Brit import The Sense of an Ending, which grossed $42,400 from four sites.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Godzilla opening day 2014: $38m. Kong: Skull Island… a little better than half of that. If the opening trajectory holds, Kongwill open to almost $50 million and will fight to get to $100m domestic. The question is, will the rest of the world bail out this turkey… uh, monkey? And a nice rebound weekend for exclusives: three films will do over $10,000 per-screen, led by Personal Shopper.

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The DVD Wrapup: Moana, Brand New Testament, Weissensee Saga, 100 Streets, and more

Disney recruited a variety of experts on Polynesian history and culture to ensure authenticity and pre-empt what had become almost pro-forma accusations of cultural insensitivity in earlier features. Throughout the production process, revisions to everything from language and characterizations, to hair styles,, tattoos and ancillary products, were suggested and made. The result is a wonderfully entertaining family movie whose Oceania influences are reflected in the color palate, music, dance, dress, physical backdrops and customs.

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Wilmington On Movies: Table 19

Table 19 may be too good-humored and civilized. Movie comedy works better when we sense it’s capable of a bit more savagery and bile, or at least more comic realism. But even when Table 19 turns a little mean, it never strikes us really as getting out of hand.

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The Weekend Report

The debut of Logan cut a mean figure estimated at $85.5 million to easily lead weekend movie going. Other national releases saw good returns of $16.2 million for the faith-based The Shack and a crash landing of $4.7 million for the brooding drama Before I Fall.

Also disappointing in limited wide release was the relationship comedy Table 19 with $1.6 million. New imports from India all flat lined and the best of the myriad exclusive freshmen was the dramady The Last Word with a $33,900 tally from four screens. In Canada the animated Ballerina expanded into English-language venues to solid returns of $718,000.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Fox had its second very successful hard-R Marvel opening in 13 months, defining a unique place for itself in the Marvel eco-system unlikely to be explored by Disney. Logan opened to X-Men: Days of Future Past numbers, which did $90m for the opening weekend, $234 domestic and $748m worldwide. So, well behind Deadpool domestically, but catching up in international.

Also opening to modest but not-too-exciting numbers, Sony’s The Shack and Open Road’s Before I Fall.

And Moonlight gets an Oscar bump that should amount to a couple million this weekend, while Hidden Figures and La La Land continue normal drops, still topping the Best Picture winner.

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The DVD Wrapup: Moonlight, Doctor Strange, Arrival, Before Trilogy, Chronic and more

Moonlight is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical text, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” written in 2003 to cope with his own mother’s death from AIDS. Never produced, it was ten years before Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) – who grew up only a few blocks from McCraney, in Miami’s poverty- and crime-wracked Liberty City projects – was pushed to begin work on a second film. The characters are informed by people who influenced both men at various times in their lives. If Moonlight feels hyperreal, it’s because McCraney and Jenkins endured many of the same powerful forces as Chiron and Kevin.

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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