MCN Originals Archive for April, 2017

The Weekend Report

The third weekend of The Fate of the Furious again led weekend viewing with an estimated $19.4 million and a global gross that crossed into the rarified realm of $1 billion box office. The session had but one wide national release but it was international day-and-date newcomers that stole the thunder. The storm came from the Hispanic comedy How to Be a Latin Lover that ranked second with $11.8 million and highly-anticipated Indian historic epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, which smashed global records, including a U.S. debut of $10.3 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Here’s something you don’t see every week… a Telugu-Tamil-Hindi-Malayalam language film release coming in #2 on the charts. These narrow releases do solid business and are on the chart almost every weekend. But rarely are the major U.S. distributors pushing so softly that you see a title in the Top 3. The #3 for Friday was another crossover, as Lionsgate pushes out a film to their developing Spanish-language market starring popular Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez. The third newcomer is STX’s The Circle, which has Beauty & The Hanks, but marketing that spoke no one’s language.

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Summer 2017: Here We Go (Wide)!

As for esthetics… who knows?

What I do know is that there are at least 14 movies that I am really, really looking forward to seeing. If most of those are worth the time, it’s a pretty great summer.

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The DVD Wrapup: Girl With All the Gifts, Girl From Brothel, Underworld V, Detour, Catfight, We Are X, Borowczyk, Three Brothers and more

The more I learn about the business of distributing DVDs, Blu-ray and VOD, the less sense key business decisions make. Take, for example, Colm McCarthy and writer Mike Carey’s very representative horror flick The Girl With All the Gifts. Apart from being extremely well made and unusually thought-provoking, it features a performance by Glenn Close that almost has to be seen to be believed. Looking a bit like her cross-dressing butler Albert Nobbs – for which she won an Obie and received an Oscar nominated – but with an authoritative bearing not unlike her Nova Prime, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Close plays Dr. Caroline Caldwell, a no-nonsense biologist determined to find a vaccine for a zombie plague. The novelty of such casting, alone, would appear to be sufficient cause for an arthouse release. After debuting at last year’s Locarno, Stuttgart Fantasy Film and Toronto festivals – where it received excellent reviews — The Girl With All the Gifts was accorded little more than an Internet premiere, in January. Then, apparently, no one could figure out what to do with the darn thing,

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A Farewell To Jonathan Demme

He will be remembered mostly for his many achievements as a film director, but I am sure he would feel no slight to be remembered as simply a great human being.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (spoiler-free)

Guardians 2 is the epitome of a sequel to an unexpected smash hit.

With the sequel, James Gunn gets the room to run. An extra million here or there? Great. An even more complicated storyline than the original? Hell, audiences loved that convoluted ride… not going to argue much. Etcetera. Elements that audiences loved in the original? Pile ’em on!

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The Gronvall Report: Jason Connery and Company on Tommy’s Honour

The hero’s gait is definitely jaunty, with a bit of swagger. Tommy Jr. tilts full speed ahead for most of the movie, slanting toward the future; he may not know what that future is, but it’s not going to be what insufferable toffs like Boothby dismiss as “nothing.” In today’s golf, you’re looking at highly paid, elite athletes—although considering what the broadcasters make, more power to the players if they can get it, right?—but the sport in Tommy’s Honour is about the common people.

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The Weekend Report

Not truly turb0charged, but way out in front, The Fate of the Furious cruised to an estimated $38.6 million to lead in its second weekend. A clutch of new releases proved disappointing overall, though Disney’s annual wildlife doc Born in China (opening on Earth Day) was comparatively okay with a $5 million debut.

The rest of the national debuts were below par with distaff revenge thriller Unforgettable bowing with $4.7 million, and the Armenian genocide romantic drama The Promise struggling to $4.1 million. Also grim was the Blair Witch-like Phoenix Forgotten at $1.8 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

A big, but not unexpected Friday-to-Friday drop for The Fate of The Furious, as the domestic engine of this franchise fades while the rest of the world keeps revving. Newcomers barely register, as barely-marketed Unforgettable, Disney doc Born in China and political passion project The Promise will each open to under $5 million for the weekend. Only one exclusive release will even hit $10k per-screen.

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STRIKE! (oh oh oh oh oh oh) What Is It Good For?

The mostly-unlikely-to-occur Writers Guild Strike that is being threatened is a blurry mess. If you read media reports about what is happening and why it is happening, you get a parade of takes so varied that a showrunner would scream at a writer to find the damned idea they are writing about for 22 minutes,…

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The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

As McDonald’s struggles once again to figure out how it wants to be perceived in markets in the U.S. and around the world, The Founder reminds of us of what made the concept so revolutionary in the first place. There’s a scene in John Lee Hancock’s appealing biographical drama in which Ray Kroc visits an early franchisee, where the operator has chosen to change the menu’s emphasis on hamburgers, fries and shakes and garishly promote its chicken entrees. The look on Kroc’s face made me think that he might take a cue from the New Testament and banish the blasphemers from his golden-arched temple, turning over tables and upending trash cans. Heaven only knows what he’d do if he returned to Earth, today, and visited my local McDonald’s, My guess is that he’d prefer spinning in his grave than sampling an Angus Mushroom & Swiss on a “premium bakery style bun.”

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The Weekend Report

It was top gear as the debut of The Fate of the Furious left the pack eating dust with an estimated $100.1 million. It was the only egg opening wide in this year’s Easter roll. A couple of limited releases strived to get into the marketplace (and failed) including the animated Spark: A Space Tail, which grossed $108,000 and golfing origin tale Tommy’s Honour with $220,000.

Exclusive freshman saw an up-tempo start for biodoc Chasing Trane with $15,200 on a solo riff. Also strong were the political “what if” Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer that grossed $100,000 at five sites and a potent $114,000 bow for period adventure The Lost City of Z from four expeditions.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

The Fate of the Furious opened well in North America by every standard but the last F&F movie, Furious 7. But the rest of the world, particularly China, is making up for that in a big way, where Fate is having a $200 million weekend, which, even with Universal only getting a quarter of that, amounts to a huge worldwide opening. The rest of the Top 10 is holding well in spite of the big new opener. A $100 million opening just doesn’t stretch the marketplace to anything close to its max anymore. The Lost City of Z, Maudie and Chasing Trane all opened well in limited.

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Review: The Fate of the Furious (spoiler-free)

Stuff happens… and then there is a sequence in New York that doesn’t just strain credulity, but muddles it, shreds it, chews it up, swallows out, and craps it out. Really, this is the filmic opposite of the chase in The French Connection.

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The DVD Wrapup: Lion, Toni Erdmann, Worlds Apart, Daughters of the Dust, Ludwig, Cathy’s Curse and more

Films made about children appropriated by authorities and handed over to politically connected or wealthy families as orphans aren’t all that unusual. Lion’s happy ending is what sets it apart from other stories.

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The Weekend Report

The Boss Baby again edged out Beauty and the Beast for weekend bragging rights with two family movies grossing respective estimates of $26.4 million and $24.7 million. Smurfs: The Lost Village opened with a softish $13.7 million while the octo-heist yarn Going in Style had a surprisingly resilient $12.3 million launch. Best of the exclusive debs were the monster-relationship drama-comedy Colossal, which grossed $121,000 at four playlots and stiff-upper-lipped Brit Their Finest with $78,400.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

It will be a close race for the Meaningless Box Office Title, as Boss Baby and Beauty & The Beast start the weekend neck & neck. Saturday will tell the tale, but Sunday estimates of the weekend for the two films will be as political as they are mathematical. Newcomers Going in Style and poorly-timed Smurfs: The Lost Village will also battle for position, though only for a soft third. Ghost in the Shell falls into the abyss (domestically). Three new limited releases with high profiles land, with the strongest looking like the Anne Hathaway “monster movie,” Colossal.

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False Trends: The End Of Movie Stars

It is factually unreasonable to expect any movie star to open any movie that isn’t led with IP goodness to over $75 million. Really, anything over $50 million is extraordinary. $20 million is still a solid standard for movie stardom. And there are as many of those as ever.

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False Trends Sidebar: How The Myth Of The Death Of The Movie Star Came About

When Hollywood started saying, “no,” the agents – who create 70% of the press in this town – freaked out. The sky was falling. They couldn’t deliver the way they were delivering. And that is when the “movie stars are over” mythology started taking hold.

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The DVD Wrapup: Rogue One, Office Party, Three, Story of Sin, Actor Martinez and more

The first things longtime fans will notice is the absence of a crawl, as well as an overture by a composer not named John Williams, although his aural fingerprints can be heard throughout the score. Buffs probably were already aware of the absence of Jedi in the cast of characters and the difference in narrative tone from the other episodes. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and co-writers Chris Weitz (Cinderella) and Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Identity) have emphasized that “Rogue One” was conceived as a war story with a sometimes ambiguous moral code.

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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