Friday, May 31, 2013

Alamo Drafthouse releases no-talking, no-texting PSA starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

Our friends at Alamo Drafthouse have a very clear no-talking, no-texting policy at their theatres. Remember the viral sensation they created when they posted the discombobulated voicemail from a viewer who was mad she got kicked out of their theatre for texting? For their latest PSA, they recruited Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, playing their Before Midnight characters. Enjoy.

Don't Talk - Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke - CENSORED from Alamo Drafthouse on Vimeo.

'After Earth' and 'Now You See Me' unlikely to overtake 'Fast & Furious 6'

Jaden Smith is a rising star. He played opposite his dad, Will Smith, in The Pursuit of Happyness, and then led The Karate Kid to a $55 million opening. The prospects for his latest, After Earth (3,401 theatres), are not quite as bright. Projections have the movie opening in the $35-$40 million range, which would put it behind the second weekend of Fast & Furious 6. But then again, I think there is a chance that the movie could overperform, even with the terrible reviews coming in. Our Daniel Eagan, for one, dismissed the feature as a "somber, soapy, only occasionally effective sci-fi adventure." That said, although the father-son tale is intense, meriting its PG-13 rating, it could still appeal to families with kids who are a bit past the sweet spot for animated features. Marketing has completely left out the fact that M. Night Shyamalan directed, a sign of how this once brand-name director has fallen in audiences' estimation.

After earth will smith jaden smith

A group of magicians pull off a heist in Now You See Me (2,925 theatres), which our critic Harry Haun calls a "fun ride if you don’t look where you have been or where you are headed." In other words, just sit back and enjoy the magic, and don't worry too much about the "big leaps from
logic" or unbelievable plot twists. The estimates for this sleight-of-hand feature are modest, with an expected opening in the teen millions.

Now you see me 2

There are already a few great indies out right now--Frances Ha and Before Midnight are on track to be the biggest successes, but there's also Fill the Void, Stories We Tell, What Maisie Knew, Kon-Tiki, and Mud, which is still going strong. This week, two more indies with strong prospects release. The eco-thriller The East (4 theatres), which stars Another Earth's Brit Marling, was a movie I loved, and so did our critic David Noh, who dubs it a "gripping, intelligent and deeply socially conscious thriller" that is the "best feature
inspired by the Occupy movement," with an "all-around technical smoothness and visual certitude that is a real
yet unstressed joy to anyone interested in truly good
moviemaking." A strong per-screen average in its debut will set this movie up well for the rest of the summer.

Kings of summer 1

A kind of Stand By Me on stylistic steroids, The Kings of Summer (4 theatres) charmed Noh, leading him to call it the "perfect summer movie for 2013." Centering on three boys who escape to the woods, build a house, and live (somewhat successfully) off the land, the coming-of-age tale has "verve, freshness, laughs and effective moments of rue." The very accessible movie should resonate with young indie-seeking crowds.

On Monday, we'll see if After Earth manages to overperform expectations, if Now You See Me can pull off some box-office magic, and weigh in on the performance of the new and returning specialty releases.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Friday film recommendation: See 'The East'

The East is currently tracking as one of my favorite films of the year. The thriller centers on a young woman who takes an undercover assignment as a corporate spy, trying to infiltrate an anarchist collective known as The East. I'm not the only one who likes the movie: 75% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes are giving the thriller a "fresh" rating. Why is it so great?


1. Brit Marling. She's completely compelling in the role, especially because it requires her to act without the help of dialogue. She's often in the position of saying one thing while thinking another in her head, which really shows off her talents as an actor. In her Village Voice review, critic Amy Nicholson muses "I'd love to see Marling play Bond," a reflection of how easily she plays self-assured.

What's even more interesting is that Marling used to work for Goldman Sachs, the type of corporation that would be considered the enemy by the anarchist collective she infiltrates in the movie. Marling co-wrote the story with Zal Batmanglij, who also directs, and the project was inspired by the months they spent living like freegans and hanging out with anarchists.

2. It's infused with an Occupy Wall Street flavor. A number of movies have tried to take advantage of the recession and its aftermath, from Margin Call, which received an Oscar nomination for its screenplay, to the revenge-filled, pulpy failure Assault on Wall Street. The East doesn't reference any specific current events, but it taps into the feelings of injustice and anger over the lack of accountability present in corporations. It's all the more relevant for taking this more oblique approach.

3. Low-budget feel, high-budget thrills. The East needed to be released through an indie distributor--given its message, it would feel disingenuous otherwise. (Of course, Fox Searchlight and Fox News are just two different branches of the same parent company). But this movie has even more muscle behind it, with Ridley Scott among its producers. Scott's movies (Black Hawk Down, Prometheus) often hinge on suspense, though they tend to prize action over interpersonal drama. However, he's also the one who made Sigourney Weaver the lead in Alien, one of the most prized female action heroes of all time. The thrills in The East have a polish to them that suggests the hand of someone like Scott, and it's interesting to see the mix of an indie sensibilities with the production power of a Hollywood legend.

The East comes out on Friday, joining a roster of excellent specialty releases. It looks like it's going to be a great summer for indies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The twist in Steven Spielberg's 'American Sniper'

In early May, Steven Spielberg signed on to direct American Sniper, despite talk just two months earlier that the director's next DreamWorks project would be about the border conflict in Kashmir. Decorated SEAL and sniper Chris Kyle wrote the book of the same name based on his experiences over multiple deployments to combat zones, including Iraq. With over 150 confirmed kills, he became the military's most deadly sniper. Bradley Cooper had picked up the film rights to the bestseller, which takes a sometimes flippant tone about the job of killing. Sounds like a straightforward military movie, right? No.

Spielberg American Sniper

In this week's New Yorker, a feature elaborates on the full story and tragic ending to Kyle's life. After leaving active duty in 2009, Kyle struggled with PTSD and maladaptive behaviors connected to his stress, like heavy drinking. He started organizing activities like antelope hunts with other veterans to help them transition to life at home. A desperate woman at his kids' school heard about Kyle, and begged him to help her son, Eddie Ray Routh, who was also struggling with PTSD. In early February, Kyle and another man took him to a shooting range. There, Routh turned the gun on them and killed Kyle and his friend. Now Kyle's story has a sad epilogue that wasn't present in the original property acquired by Cooper.

There's another twist in the New Yorker story that could call into question Kyle's book. He told a number of stories, like of a time he killed two carjackers and was let off by the police, that have since been called into question. Kyle may have been a teller of tall tales. Will Spielberg accept these embellishments, or film a movie that's more in line with the confirmed facts?

Before director Kathryn Bigelow's successes with Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, military movies tended to bomb at the box office, and few received outstanding reviews from critics. Now, with the war wrapping up, the tide is changing, and Spielberg's film could be part of that shift. Stylistically and thematically, I picture the movie having shades of Munich and the post-invasion scenes in Saving Private Ryan, but I also see him injecting some of the melancholy home life present in E.T. In order for this movie to work, I think the screenplay (currently being penned by Paranoia's Jason Dean Hall) will have to alternate between combat sequences and those on the homefront, to better set up what will happen to Kyle at the end. But is there even a lesson or order to the madness of his death?

The story reminded me of the senseless killing of Robin Williams' character by a patient in Patch Adams. After Kyle's murder, his wife Taya has aligned herself with the NRA, maintaining her support for guns. The New Yorker piece hints that the severity of Routh's delusions indicate that he may not have even had PTSD, but perhaps been bipolar or schizophrenic. But then again, many people with diagnoses of PTSD have murdered people, often spouses, after returning home. Spielberg has a complex story on his hands, with no happy ending. But for this veteran director to abandon another project, he must feel he has the key to unlock this story and bring it to the big screen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'Fast & Furious 6' races through $120 million opening

Over Memorial Day weekend, the clear winner was Fast & Furious 6. The latest model in this octane-fueled franchise turned in the best opening yet for the series. Over the four-day period, Fast & Furious 6 earned $120 million, two-and-a-half times as much as its closest competitor, The Hangover Part III. The three-day opening was also $10 million higher than Fast Five, which debuted to $86 million in April 2011. It's rare to see franchises endure and get better over so many incarnations, but that's the case here. In its favor was an "A" rating in exit polls and high attendance among minorities, who likely connect with the diverse cast. A third of ticketbuyers were Hispanics.

Fast and furious 6 car

While Fast & Furious 6 did better than the sequel before it, The Hangover Part III had an opening weekend that was over 50% lower than The Hangover II. In the five-day period since its Thursday opening, the comedy earned $63 million, compared to the $135 million earned by its predecessor during the same period. That's under the estimated $80 million projected by Warner Bros., while still a decent showing for an R-rated movie over the Memorial Day holiday.

Opening in fourth place, Epic scored a $42.6 million opening. Animated features usually play a long game, as families show up months after a film's release. Kids gave this movie an "A+" rating, so that may help the tale about forest creatures in coming weeks. In a month, however, Monsters University will start to siphon away family audiences.

Epic 2

This weekend was a good one for indies. The summer usually yields at least one indie hit, and this weekend saw the release of a few contenders. Before Midnight debuted to $322,000 over the four-day period, and its three-day per-screen average was $50,000 per location, a great start for the indie romance that is also the third film in a series. Most specialty films don't inspire sequels, but when they do, it appears they reap the same returns as mainstream franchises. The well-regarded

Fill the Void also made a strong opening, averaging nearly $20,000 per screen in three locations. The story of an Orthodox young woman sheds light on a religious world often closed off from outsiders, heightening its appeal. In its second week, Frances Ha went up 300%, pulling in $546,000 from 60 locations, which posted an average of $9,000 per screen. That's great news for the Greta Gerwig-led indie, which could end up being director Noah Baumbach's biggest success yet.

In seventh place, Mud rose 9% over the four-day period for a total of $2.4 million. With a cumulative total over $15 million, the movie is now Roadside Attractions' best-performing release.

On Friday, Will and Jaden Smith topline the apocalyptic After Earth, magicians pull off a heist in Now You See Me, and indies The East and The Kings of Summer join the fray.

Cannes awards top prize to a frank and intimate love story

J. Sperling Reich offers an up-close look at the Cannes jury's awarding of the Palme d'Or to a groundbreaking drama.

After 12 days that served to highlight the major aesthetic, narrative and commercial differences between modern American and European movies, Blue Is the Warmest Color, an entry from the latter, took home the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Rather than awarding the Palme d'Or solely to the movie's French-Tunisian filmmaker, Abdellatif Kechiche, the festival jury headed by Steven Spielberg took the unusual, and possibly unprecedented, step of including the film's two lead actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, when handing out the trophy. To anyone who has seen Blue Is the Warmest Color, such a move will make perfect sense.

Based on Julie Maroh's graphic novel of the same name, the film tells the story of Adele (Exarchopoulos), who at the outset of the story is a 17-year-old high-school student struggling with her own sexuality as she enters adulthood. Adele soon meets and falls in love with Emma (Seydoux), a blue-haired art student just a few years older. Over the course of three years, their intense love affair promots a sexual awakening and understanding in Adele that ultimately leads to her own self-awareness and heartbreak.

Kechiche has the audience spend nearly three hours with his characters, often framing Exarchopoulos and Seydoux in tight shots where all of the emotion in a scene must be captured through facial expressions. Based on the extended and graphic sex scenes, which in no way could have been simulated, there was no room or escape for either of the actresses, who had to fully commit to their roles. One journalist I spoke with from Lille, France, where the film was shot, said that she witnessed Seydoux mentally deteriorate during the course of production as she tried to please the demanding and obstreperous Kechiche.

The performances are so powerful, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux seemed a lock to share the Best Actress award at the festival. That's why when Bérénice Bejo (best known for her Academy Award-nominated turn in The Artist) was announced as the winner for her role in Asghar Farhadi's The Past, everyone, including the actress, seemed surprised.

The jury's decision to name Exarchopoulos and Seydoux in awarding the Palme d'Or may dampen the praise for Kechiche as the auteur behind Blue Is the Warmest Color, but, as Spielberg pointed out in Cannes after the awards ceremony, it was absolutely necessary. "It was such an obvious important inclusion because of the synergy created by the maître en scène and the characters of Adele and Emma," the jury president said. "If the casting had been three-percent wrong, it wouldn't have worked like it did for us. Had anything been just a little bit left of center, it wouldn't have had such a positive resolution. It was the perfect choice between those two actresses and this incredible, very sensitive and observant filmmaker. We really felt, all of us, that we needed to invite all three artists up on the stage at the same time."

Which is precisely what the jury did. The jury also included the likes of actress Nicole Kidman, actors Daniel Auteuil and Christoph Waltz and filmmakers Ang Lee and Cristian Mungiu. Though none would talk specifically to the decision-making behind specific awards, the selection of Blue Is the Warmest Color for the Palme d'Or and the inclusion of the actresses in the prize seemed to be unanimous.

That a film most in Cannes referred to as "the three-hour lesbian movie" should win the top prize during a year in in which gay marriage is being debated all over the world and legalized in France in the midst of the festival is merely coincidence, according to Spielberg. Rewarding Blue Is the Warmest Color with the Palme had nothing to do with what the press has dubbed a "pink revolution."

"Politics was not a companion in our decisions and in our discussions about any of the films. Politics was not in the room with us," Spielberg insisted.

Romanian filmmaker Mungiu agreed. "We were trying to give awards for cinema and the stories and not for any kind of political statements. We decided the Palme d'Or because we saw a lot of truth there [in the film]. We never talked too much about the subject, if it's important that it's a gay film or not. It's not a gay film at the end. The cinema is wonderful in the film. HIs understanding of cinema. His desire to go beyond the regular limits of cinema and to test the limits of what a filmmaker can do."

And does a film featuring extensive nudity and graphic sex have any chance of being seen in certain parts of the world, including America? Spielberg said the jury didn't even take such issues into consideration. "For me, the film is a great love story," he observed. "It's a great love story that made all of us feel like we were privileged, not embarrassed, to be flies on the wall, privileged to have been invited to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning in a wonderful way where time stood still because the director didn't put any constraints on the narrative, on the storytelling. He let the scenes play as long as scenes play in real life. We were absolutely spellbound by the brilliance of the performances of those two amazing young actresses. We didn't think about how it was going to play. We were just really happy that somebody had the courage to tell the story the way they told it."

Spielberg and company didn't completely ignore films from the Americas and Asia when selecting award winners. The Coen Brothers' widely praised Inside Llewyn Davis, set amidst the world of the emerging New York folk-music scene in the 1960s, was honored with the Grand Prix, generally considered to be the runner-up prize in Cannes. The Prix du Jury went to the switched-at-birth drama Like Father, Like Son from Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda. Best director was given to Amat Escalante of Mexico for Heli, which was a bit of a shocker given that the film seemed mostly derided in Cannes. The ambitious A Touch of Sin by Chinese director Jia Zhangke was tapped for best screenplay.

Best Actor, which many festivalgoers had predicted would go to Michael Douglas for his portrayal of Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra, went instead to Bruce Dern for his noteworthy performance in Alexander Payne's black-and-white drama Nebraska. The film features Dern as an aging alcoholic who winds up on a road trip through his old hometown with his grouchy son. Don't be surprised if Dern's name is mentioned more frequently as next year's Oscars roll around.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorable encounters with the foreign press at Cannes 2013

FJI correspondent J. Sperling Reich reports on two memorable press conferences at the 2013 Cannes Film Fest.

Over the years, the Cannes Film Festival has played host to some of the most memorable filmmaker press conferences on record. There was the time Vincent Gallo arrived to speak with the international press corps about his film Brown Bunny, to a chorus of boos and hisses. Or the controversy in 2011 when Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, in Cannes for Melancholia, said he sympathized with Hitler and called himself a Nazi. Von Trier was made persona-non-grata at the festival and was forced to issue an apology, which he later retracted.

Not all press conference highlights are disastrous incidents, however. Some years the most lasting memories are delivered during the press conferences which are lighthearted, fun and those that illicit the most laughter or spontaneous applause. With journalists gathered from all over the world, many of whom become tongue-tied when speaking to giant movie stars and filmmakers in their non-native language, a noteworthy moment that will be recounted for years is always just around the corner.

That was precisely the case at this year's festival on a number of occasions, beginning with an exchange between a German journalist and the Coen Brothers, who were in Cannes with their latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis, a period piece set in New York's emerging folk-music scene during the early 1960s. Justin Timberlake, who plays a folk singer in the movie, and T Bone Burnett, who produced the music, were among those in attendance.

Inside llewyn
German Journalist: I have a question about the humor in the film. We Germans are not known for having a great sense of humor. (laughter)

Joel Coen: They call him Curly and yet he has no hair. (more laughter)

Journalist: Before the war there were great comedies made in Germany and very funny songs. Somehow the humor left with the war and the Holocaust and Billy Wilder went to Hollywood. Now in Germany they wonder if the humor was German or if it was Jewish and there are academic conferences about Jewish humor. What do you think? Does it exist, and if so how would you describe it?


Justin Timberlake (breaking the silence): I smell a trap! (explosive laughter)

T Bone Burnett: You don't want to run off the smart people first of all.

Coen: Yeah, there's nothing like a holocaust to put a stake in the heart of a certain kind of humor. (laughter) I really don't know how to answer that.

Burnett: I have to say that is a provocative and fascinating question and I want to investigate that. I'm very interested in that question. I'm serious.

Timberlake: Well-played. Well-played.

Spontaneous moments like that often play a part in making a Cannes press conference one that journalists covering the festival talk about for years to come. It wasn't a big surprise that the press conference for Max Rose turned into a laugh-fest, with both the legendary Jerry Lewis and actor-comic Kevin Pollak on the dais. In the film about an elderly jazz pianist, the two comedians tackle dramatic roles. Their press conference provides an example of just how quickly a boisterous Cannes session can be brought right back down to earth.

Journalist #1: It's a great honor to ask you a question about your career. Could you speak to us about the artistic and human relationship with your partner Dean Martin?

Jerry Lewis: He died, you know. (massive laughter)

Kevin Pollak: They see a lot less of each other.

Lewis: (responding to a few disapproving glances) What?! He may not know!

Pollak: It is a news conference after all. (continuous laughter)

Lewis: Because when I arrived here and he wasn't here, I knew something was wrong! (uncontrollable laughter)

Swedish Journalist: (wearing a bright red turtleneck—in balmy Cannes—the same color as Lewis' shirt and over continued laughter) I really hate to be given the mic right now, but it's very nice to be here. You talked about the fact that this script was the best one you've seen in 40 years.

Pollak: Yeah, much like that turtleneck, by the way.

Swedish Journalist: You did a film in Sweden in the early ’70s with people like Harriet Andersson and Pierre Étaix. It's called The Day the Clown Cried.

Jerry Lewis: (curtly and heavily exhaling) I remember the title.

Swedish Journalist: I've heard that you've been almost angry when people have asked you about it. I have heard that you have it locked in a vault. I've heard that we'll never see this film.

Jerry Lewis: (interrupting) That's exactly where it's going to stay.

Swedish Journalist: Can you tell us a little bit more about it. Why is it going to stay inside the vault?

Jerry Lewis: Because I thought the work was bad. (long pause to wait for laughter which never comes) Hello?! (laughter) And because I wrote and directed the film and didn't make it accessible. I didn't make it available. It didn't make anything. It was all bad. And it was bad because I lost the magic. And that's all I can tell you about it. (growing increasingly aggressive) You'll never see it. No one will ever see it because I'm embarrassed by the poor work. Every creator has the right of choice and he has the right to make final decisions that relate to the work. And I made a decision, I don't know of a lot of people that would have done it, but that's of no consequence. I did it because I believed in the work and the way it should have been and it wasn't. I don't have the ability to send out poor work and get paid for it. I can't do that. And that's the only thing I will discuss when that title comes up. Thank you.

It's hard to believe Jerry Lewis could take the laughter out of a room, especially in France, which is precisely why we'll be hearing about his appearance at this year's festival for years to come.

Friday, May 24, 2013

'Fast & Furious 6,' 'Hangover III' and 'Epic' race for Memorial Day audiences

Last year on Memorial Day, the only major player was Men in Black 3. This year, three wide releases are competing for audiences. That could mean more people show up to the movies, but it also means there will be some cannibalization between films.

Hangover Part III car

The Hangover Part III and Fast & Furious 6 have a somewhat overlapping audience: young males. The Hangover Part III (3,555 theatres) opened yesterday to try to get a jump-start on the weekend, and also because it's the weaker film. Tracking only 22% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, this "unstylish action
flick with comic asides" (as described by our Michael Sauter) is not faring well with critics. More importantly, many viewers were disappointed by The Hangover Part II. If people already feel as if they've been burned by the franchise, it's unlikely they'll turn out again. In a way, though, it seems this comedy can't win. The sequel was criticized for being too similar to the first film, yet Sauter faults the three-quel because it "changes up the franchise formula—and not in a good way." It seems like these sequels just can't win, so Warner Bros. is making a good decision to make this the (alleged) end to the franchise.

Fast and furious 6 vin diesel

Fast & Furious 6 (3,658 theatres) is the franchise that keeps on giving. It seems like viewers have had more faith in the franchise than the studio, because screenwriters have to keep resurrecting characters they prematurely gave the boot. In this movie, it means placing a character in Japan to fill in a plot hole from a previous sequel, according to critic Daniel Eagan. Like 74% of Rotten Tomatoes critics, he enjoyed the "long, loud and expensive" movie, which "delivers
what series fans want, although not quite as quickly or cleverly as
before." Fast & Furious 6 will be the fastest out of the gate this weekend, and its four-day total could easily top $100 million.

Epic movie

The first animated film in over two months, Epic (3,882 theatres) should be seeing kids and their parents lining up for an outing. Yet there's a feeling among forecasters that this animated feature will have a tepid reception, especially if parents are savvy enough to realize there are plenty of other animated features in the pipeline for this summer, including Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, Turbo, Planes, and The Smurfs 2. Our critic, Frank Lovece, had the opposite reaction, calling Epic "one of the best features so far from Blue
Sky Studios," and the movie itself full of "thematic richness."

It's rare for an indie romance to turn into a trilogy. But that's the case with Before Midnight (5 theatres), which picks up on the romance between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, this time while the duo is in Greece . Also in the mix this weekend is the latest from documentarian and workhorse Alex Gibney, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (4 theatres), which Eagan dubbed "brilliant but maddening."

After the four-day weekend, we'll be back on Tuesday to assess the impact of this jam-packed weekend.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

'Only God Forgives' and 'Nebraska' have mixed receptions at Cannes

Two movies with U.S. theatrical releases later this year are receiving mixed reviews from Cannes. At the festival, writer/director Alexander Payne's Nebraska elicited some tepid reactions. The Drive
Nebraska-Movie-follow-up from Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives, was booed by at least some members of the audience.

Paramount Vantage has given Payne's Nebraska a November 22 release date, right in the heart of awards season. Based on the screening, THR predicts the distributor "should be able to ride accolades for this very fine Cannes competition entry to respectable specialized returns in fall release." Not everyone was impressed, though. Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells called the movie a "a double. Maybe even a single" in a tweet, dubbing it a "minor Payne." "Thompson on Hollywood" also called the film "wistful but slight." But both Variety and THR gave generally positive notes. They may have been looking over each other's shoulder, because both made separate references comparing parts of the father-son road trip to The Last Picture Show and the movies of Preston Sturges. The black-and-white drama stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte as father and son, and a cast of relative unknowns reportedly fills out the supporting characters nicely.


The violence in Only God Forgives may have been the biggest turnoff to Cannes audiences. Variety's Justin Chang noted that "early rumors that Only God Forgives had been slotted in competition at the producers’ insistence" seemed confirmed by the movie's poor showing, while also conjecturing that "it would no doubt have been greeted with less hostility" in the "Midnight Screenings or the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar." New York's "Vulture" blog observed that most of the negative reactions had to do with the "ultra-violence," while joining a chorus of other critics hailing Kristin Scott Thomas' performance as Gosling's character's mother. Only God Forgives comes out July 19th through Radius/Weinstein Co, which should cover both Winding Refn cinephiles and violence-hungry VOD audiences. THR, for one, predicts the feature "will not disappoint devotees of the Nicolas Winding Refn church of fetishistic hyper-violence."

For more out of Cannes, check our posts by J. Sperling Reich on Screener.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Forget piracy, could Google Glass inspire a new film aesthetic?

Google Glass is still in an expanded beta stage. Select people dubbed "Glass Explorers" can pay $1,500 for a pair of the glasses that take pictures and record video, but the equipment is not yet available to the public. Even pre-launch, the combination of the groundbreaking technology and Google's name have made the device a hot topic. The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has already expressed concern about the glasses, which would make pirating a movie that much easier. That may be true. But after looking at this (must-see) demo video, I think that Google Glass will influence Hollywood in a much more substantial way. Google Glass stands to be a huge influence on film aesthetic in years to come.


Starting with The Blair Witch Project in 1999, the amateur or found footage style has proliferated in movies, especially in the horror genre, because it lent a sense of raw authenticity that married well with scares. The look was inspired by home movies, which had a shakiness and motion that was easily identifiable. Now Google Glass is on track to be the new "home movie," and indie filmmakers will likely be the first to copy this aesthetic.

Movies have long had point-of-view shots, but those taken by Google Glass are at a whole new level. Using what appears to be a wide-angle lens, Google Glass can simulate the exact point-of-view of a person, including realistic shots of hands. Compare that to traditional point-of-view shots. They have a hard time getting close enough to show the body of the actor (plus, how would that work--have the actor be the camera operator?). The Glass shots have a more realistic angle and look even closer than those taken by the popular helmet cams of snowboarders and skiers, the only other widely used POV cameras I can think of.


Seeing a hand reach out to grab a fellow trapeze artist, or a spot-on cockpit view, is a huge departure from classical form. But I think that omission is purely related to technological capability. Traditionally, point-of-view shots do not to look  down or directly in front of the actor, but off in the distance, at a character or object. Director Alfred Hitchcock is considered a master of subjective point-of-view shots, but just imagine what this sequence from Psycho might have looked like with a bit of the Google Glass aesthetic. Or Gus Van Sant's 2003 movie Elephant, which featured extreme long takes that followed behind actors, obscuring any emotions on their face. If that movie were made post-Google Glass, I would be extremely surprised if Van Sant didn't strongly consider incorporating this aesthetic. Besides their demo video, Google also partnered with designer Diane Von Furstenberg during fashion week in September, and this video offers a hint at some of Glass' applications. Point-of-view shots have long been a part of Hollywood form, but the visceral sense of closeness imparted by Google Glass unlocks a myriad of opportunities for filmmakers. What about a dance documentary that includes the Google Glass perspective of the dancer? Or an action film where people can see the hero's hands fire a weapon as he looks off into the distance? Or a victim struggle with an assailant in a horror film? One thing's certain: Hollywood will not be ignoring Google Glass.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Using Pinterest to sell movie tickets

Today, Variety posted a feature on Pinterest's potential to sell movie tickets, an emerging arena being dubbed "p-commerce." Pinterest is a largely female space, and was originally fueled by a demographic not frequently identified as early adopters, young, tech-savvy Mormon housewives. It's where people post cutesy recipes, fashions, and DIY projects. Where can movies fit into this landscape?

Searches for "Iron Man 3" and "Great Gatsby" on Pinterest yield dramatically different results. Iron Man 3 pins mostly consist of red carpet photos and a few links to boys' costumes. Great Gatsby is richer ground for the female-dominated site, with plenty of Gatsby-inspired costumes, jewelry, and theme party ideas. Warner Bros.' official Great Gatsby page highlights stills, related photo shoots and sets, while there isn't one to be found for Iron Man 3. If you search by boards, however, there are hundreds of fans who created
Pinterest boards for both films.

Pin on "Iron Man 3 Inspired" eye makeup


From an e-commerce perspective, Pinterest is doing great, reportedly
accounting for 25% of online retail traffic and 20% of social commerce.
That's a solid groundwork. But just because people click through for
links to L.L. Bean doesn't mean they will do so for an event like a
movie ticket, which often requires coordination and setting a date.
Plenty of people walk up to the box office and buy a last-minute movie ticket, but on the Internet, movie tickets are not an impulse

Pin on Great Gatsby-themed Birthday Party


That said, there's a potential to leverage the amazing amount of fan
interest and fan-produced content, from homemade posters to pins about Great Gatsby-themed
wedding cakes and jewelry. As superhero and comic book movies have
dominated in the past decade, marketers have focused on reaching those
fanboys. Pinterest may prove an excellent marketing vehicle to reach
potential audiences for female-geared features. But e-commerce is a
stretch. In its infancy, Facebook too was heralded as a marketplace for
e-commerce. But it turned out that people wanted to keep their purchases
and their updates to friends separate. Pinterest does have an edge over
Facebook because users
associate with each other through their like-minded interests in
fashion, cooking, and other Pinterest-friendly topics. It's natural to
go ahead and purchase a blouse or recipe book that others are endorsing
on the site, while it's not seamless to do so on Facebook. Users are already engaging with movies on Pinterest, using the site as a forum to express their interest in movies. The
question is whether this interface can also be a natural fit as a place for people to buy

Soderbergh's 'Behind the Candelabra' strikes a chord at Cannes

Why is Steven Soderbergh's latest bypassing North American theatres? J. Sperling Reich reports from Cannes.

Though the Sundance Film Festival has made a habit of programming movies, especially documentaries, produced by premium cable networks, for a television movie to make it into competition at the Cannes Film Festival is nearly unheard of. Sacrilegious, even.

Not so this year, as Steven Soderbergh's biopic of pianist and entertainer Liberace, Behind the Candelabra appears in the official selection despite having been produced by HBO. Maybe the movie's inclusion is due to the fact that it will open theatrically outside of North America. Maybe it's the festival's admiration for Soderbergh's work. No explanation was given, and after the film screened for critics early Tuesday morning, it became apparent none was needed.

Behind the Candelabra depicts the last decade of Liberace's life and his romantic relationship with a young man 40 years his junior, Scott Thorson. The film features Michael Douglas playing Liberace in one of the best performances of his career, alongside Matt Damon as Thorson. At the conclusion of the initial screening in Cannes' Grand Théâtre Lumière, if audience members weren't talking about what a shame it is neither actor will be Oscar-eligible for their work in Behind the Candelabra, they were certainly thinking it.

Not that Soderbergh and producer Jerry Weintraub hadn't tried to get the film made at a studio, it's just that none would green light it. "I think the feeling just was when we were going around with it four or five years ago…they weren't convinced that there's an audience for this film except for people who are gay," Soderbergh explained. "When they sort of looked at the economics, when you’re going to spend $25 million to release a movie, which means you have to make $50 million to get your 25 back, I think there was a sense that it was a very risky proposition."

Speaking at a press conference for the film in Cannes, Douglas took this theory one step further. "I don't think the problem with Behind the Candelabra was because of the gay issue, it's just that studios don't like to be bothered with smaller pictures," said the actor. "They don't seem to like to have to worry about smaller pictures and smaller budgets, and therefore cable television in the States has become an access point."

Soderbergh pointed out that, more and more, some of the best storytelling and filmmaking can be found on television. Over the last ten years, this has caused a migration of not only audiences to outlets such as HBO and other cable networks, but also some of the most talented actors, writers and directors. "Certainly there is a lot of great TV being made in the States right now and I feel like in terms of cultural real estate, TV is really taking control of a conversation that used to be sort of the exclusive domain of movies," Soderbergh observed. "I don't view this as good or bad, it just is what it is. It's an interesting new model if you're someone who likes your stories to go narrow and deep. It's a novel on screen. I think it's exciting."

So does Richard LaGravenese, Behind the Candelabra's screenwriter. "You can have ambiguity in television that you're not allowed in film," he explained. "Television is expanding and films seems to be constricting. At least Hollywood studio films. TV is where a writer can write his novel. You can have episodes that are purely character-driven without plot that are just about nuance and shades of the human condition that you can't do in film anymore."

When it came to actually making Behind the Candelabra, Soderbergh said he never gave a second thought to whether it was being produced for television or theatrical release. He simply set out to make the film he had always envisioned. He didn't even change the already modest budget, once HBO came on board to finance the project. "Fortunately when we were making the film, we had already set in motion the ability to release the film theatrically outside the U.S." he noted. "There was never any discussion about trying to do any sort of maneuvering to get a theatrical release in the U.S. Our attitude at the end of the day is that more people are going to see it. That was really all we were concerned about."

And winning the top prize in Cannes, the Palme d'Or, would only increase the film's audience appeal. With the jury handing out awards comprised of filmmaker Ang Lee, actress Nicole Kidman and headed by director Steven Spielberg, it isn't outside of the realm of possibility. It would certainly be ironic, since Behind the Candelabra could conceivably win the Palme d'Or this Saturday evening, a mere 24 hours before it premieres on HBO on Sunday evening, May 26.

Cannes showcases two eye-opening Chinese films

FJI correspondent J. Sperling Reich continues his reports from Cannes with a look at two provocative films from China.

Lately, it has been nearly impossible to avoid any news publication, industry-focused or even general-interest, that isn't writing about the rise of the Chinese motion picture industry and prognosticating on when it will overtake North America as the box-office champion. This is hardly the reason three films from China appear in the official selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In fact, at least two Chinese filmmakers have brought movies to Cannes that paint very bleak portraits of modern-day China. Rather than a country ascending economically and politically, Jia Zhang-Ke's A Touch of Sin and Flora Lau's Bends depict a fractured society in which a lopsided division of wealth has created a population of ever more desperate and repressed citizens.

Many festival-goers have expressed surprise a Chinese filmmaker could produce a film that is in any way critical of the country, which A Touch of Sin most certainly is. Jia has chosen an omnibus format to tell four separate, though loosely linked, stories whose underlying themes revolve around the corruption and violence brought about by the emergence of capitalism and money. According to the director's statement in the press notes, each of the stories is based on an incident "well-known to people throughout China.”

The first story is that of a minor who decides to seek his own deadly justice against village officials who are not sharing in profits from the sale of a state-owned coal mine. This is followed by a segment about a migrant worker's realization that wielding a gun provides a certain amount of power. The third story centers around a woman working as a receptionist at a spa who goes on a murderous rampage after an important client tries to sexually assault her. The final tale is that of a young man trying find his place in the world through a series of jobs, ultimately leading to his own suicide.

This fourth story is drawn from reports that have made their way outside of China about numerous suicides taking place at Foxconn, manufacturer of Apple's iPhone. The portion detailing the receptionist is drawn from an infamous 2009 account of a nail salon worker named Deng Yujiao who stabbed and killed a local government leader after he propositioned her and treated her like a prostitute.

Bends, on the other hand, is a more cerebral film raising the question of identity within Chinese society. It interweaves two connected stories: those of a rich Hong Kong socialite named Anna and her chauffeur, Fai. The movie is set on the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border and shows signs of the tensions between Mainland China and Hong Kong. As Anna tries to conceal her family's financial demise, Fai becomes consumed with finding some way to get his pregnant wife into Hong Kong so she can give birth to their second child outside of Mainland China. As the story progresses, an unlikely and unspoken bond forms between the two characters.

It's hard to believe the Chinese government would want these kinds of stories to be detailed in a film shown domestically, let alone one screened at one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. Yet Chinese journalists assured the rest of the international press corps here in Cannes that the films would indeed be released theatrically in China. Some suggested the only censorship that might take place would be the removal of a few hyper-violent shots in A Touch of Sin.

That would be ironic given Jia’s explanation of why his movie contains so much violent imagery and narrative. "China is still changing rapidly, in a way that makes the country look more prosperous than before," wrote Jia in his director's statement. "But many people face personal crisis because of the uneven spread of wealth across the country and the vast disparities between the rich and the poor. Individual people can be stripped of their dignity at any time. Violence is increasing. It's clear that resorting to violence is the quickest and most direct way that the weak can try to restore their lost dignity."

Both A Touch of Sin and Bends were positively received when they screened early in the festival, which might not mean very much back in China. After all, upon discovering his luggage had been stolen out of his hotel room, China Film Group vice president Zhang Qiang tweeted, "This film festival is not worth mentioning!"

Monday, May 20, 2013

'Star Trek Into Darkness' nearly matches 2009 opening of original

When Star Trek opened to $75 million in 2009, the performance was considered stellar for the franchise reboot. Sequels usually do even better, so Star Trek Into Darkness' $70.5 million opening (and $84 million over the four-day period) now seems lackluster, especially with many predicting that Spock & Kirk would help bring the feature over $100 million its first weekend. Abroad, however, the movie should have stronger prospects. The original earned two-thirds of its worldwide gross from domestic markets, since foreign awareness of the U.S. television show was not high. The sequel opened to $80 million overseas, so at least for now, domestic and international totals are nearly split. Besides the overseas bright spot, the movie was also a hit in IMAX, which accounted for $13.5 million of totals.

Star trek into darkness zachary quinto 1

The performance of Iron Man 3 was untouched by Star Trek. The Robert Downey Jr.-led feature dipped 51% to $35 million. That's actually less of a drop than last week, when it fell 58% from opening weekend. The Great Gatsby also dropped by half, placing third with $23.4 million. The Leonardo DiCaprio-led feature is on track to cross $100 million soon, but with a budget of $105 million, this feature will need a strong box office to compensate for its high budget.

Holding on to eighth place for the second weekend in a row, Mud earned $2.1 million, just 15% less than last week. The Mississippi River-set thriller stars Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon. In one month, it's racked up $11.5 million, making it one of the more successful indies of the year.

Releasing in four theatres, Frances Ha averaged $33,500 a screen for a total of $134,000. That's about on target with writer/director Noah Baumbach's previous release, Greenberg, which had a slightly higher per-screen average but only released in three locations. That film starred Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig, while this one has just Gerwig, a lesser-known name, so that alone is enough for me to declare Frances Ha's opening more auspicious.

On Thursday, the Wolf Pack returns to Las Vegas to wrap up the comedy trilogy in The Hangover Part III. On Friday, Memorial Day weekend kicks off with Fast & Furious 6, which will release opposite Epic, the first fresh animated content in ten weeks.

Friday, May 17, 2013

'Star Trek Into Darkness' on its way to a $100 million weekend

Opening on Wednesday night in over 300 IMAX locations, Star Trek Into Darkness debuted to $3.3 million, similar to The Great Gatsby's early take for Thursday night screenings last week. Totals for Thursday haven't been tallied yet. Now playing in 3,868 theatres, the sci-fi sequel is expected to earn a weekend haul upwards of $100 million. One reason that the Wednesday night totals were so low was because Paramount only made the decision to release that evening last week--long after most fanboys would have made their Fandango purchases.

Star trek into darkness benedict cumberbatch

The 3D and IMAX feature has strong reviews, just like the 2009 original reboot. The 2009 Star Trek earned a 95% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the sequel is running 87% positive. I felt both movies were equally good, and if anything, the lower ratings this time around are just due to people raising the benchmark about what they expect a J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek movie to be. The stakes are personal this time around. "One major improvement of Into Darkness is
its more vivid villain," our critic Kevin Lally notes. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the adversary with "tremendously
imposing fierceness and icy elegance," making the movie not only a battle of brute force but of cerebral maneuvering.

Just like with Iron Man 3, no other wide release wanted to play second fiddle to Star Trek Into Darkness. Given the similarity between the two films, Iron Man 3 should experience a larger-than-average drop this weekend, while last week's The Great Gatsby should dip only in relation to its so-so word-of-mouth.

Frances ha greta gerwig
For indie-seeking audiences, director Noah Baumbach's latest may be in black-and-white, but it's already being considered his most accessible work to date. Greta Gerwig stars in Frances Ha (4 theatres), a counterpoint to "Girls" that should appeal to urban 20-somethings and cinephiles alike. In my review, I praised the "spot-on, exquisitely crafted portrait of a floundering 20-something," and this is one movie I'm definitely rooting for. Another indie of note is the "genre gem" Black Rock, "a thriller riff" that gets "the job of entertainment
done very well," according to our reviewer Doris Toumarkine. If the idea of innocent hikers being hunted by deranged army vets sounds fun to you, start standing in the ticket line.

On Monday, we'll see if Star Trek Into Darkness exceeded the $75 million opening of its 2009 predecessor, and if Frances Ha's unspooling suggests an indie success.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cannes reception bodes well for June release 'Bling Ring'

The Cannes crowd reportedly gave a chilly reception to The Great Gatsby, but early reviews for Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring have been more positive. It's worth noting that these reactions come from the very same crowd that booed her 2004 effort, Marie Antoinette. The A24 Films release comes out in the U.S. on June 14, and I think it could do big business, drawing in young crowds who think they're getting another Mean Girls along with cinephiles interested in Coppola's latest.


and THR came in with opposite reactions, though both had positive things to say. THR called the work "beautifully shot but light on social commentary," while Variety opined that "when future generations want to understand how we lived at the dawn of the plugged-in, privacy-free, Paris Hilton-ized 21st century, there will likely be few films more instructive than The Bling Ring." THR appears to be in the minority with this view, but it's interesting that one critic argues there is no larger statement, while the other thinks the work is emblematic of a generation.

Coppola based her screenplay on an article in Vanity Fair about the real-life Bling Ring, a group of kids who decided to rob celebrities of their clothes and Birkin bags. They hit Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, and Megan Fox before they were finally caught on surveillance cameras and stood trial. Emma Watson leads a cast of unknowns who play the rest of the five-fingered discount crew, and Leslie Mann plays the goofy, hippie mom who homeschools Watson and her best friend and adopted sister (Taissa Farmiga, who is the younger sister, by 21 years, of actress Vera Farmiga). Coppola has always been fascinated by celebrity, but she usually focuses on the ennui of the already famous. This time, she focuses on the wannabes. Growing up just outside the world of the rich and famous, they have a sense of entitlement about their actions. Coppola wisely doesn't mock them within the film, leading to a "intriguingly intuitive and atmospheric movie," according to the Guardian.

A24 is the same distributor that released Spring Breakers, and their trio of releases so far have focused on youth, transgression, and celebrity, to varying degrees. In an roundup, The New York Times' A.O. Scott grouped together Spring Breakers, The Great Gatsby, and The Bling Ring, calling them "fables of acquisition" that speak to the current articulation of the American Dream. If Bling Ring indeed hits a cultural sweet spot, it's possible the movie could catch on beyond the "target hipster demo" predicted by Variety.

Oscar rivals Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee share the love at Cannes

Correspondent J. Sperling Reich reports on the mutual admiration society of two recent Oscar rivals on the Cannes 2013 jury.

One could easily mistake directors Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg as competitors rather than colleagues. After all, just a few short months ago Lee and Spielberg were both vying for one of the most coveted awards a filmmaker can receive: an Academy Award for Best Director. Though many Oscar prognosticators had picked Spielberg to win the award for his film Lincoln, it was Lee who walked off with the trophy for Life of Pi. For the next two weeks, however, the two auteurs will be collaborating with seven other noteworthy members of the movie industry as judges at the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival.

Web-cannes-diary-gettySpielberg is no stranger to Cannes. His first feature film, The Sugarland Express, appeared in competition at the festival and won him the award for best screenplay. He returned in 1982 with E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, in 1986 with The Color Purple, and again in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, all of which appeared out of competition. Now Spielberg has been charged with presiding over the Cannes jury as president, an honor he has not been able to accept previously because, as he explained to members of the press, he is usually busy shooting a film each May.

Lee is no Cannes slouch either. His 1994 film Eat Drink Man Woman appeared at the festival, as did The Ice Storm three years later. In 2000, Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the talk of the festival. His last film to appear in competition was Taking Woodstock in 2009.

The announcement that Lee would be joining Spielberg on this year's Cannes jury raised a few eyebrows. Can two big-league filmmakers such as Spielberg and Lee work on the same jury with opinionated filmmakers such as Romania's Cristian Mungiu as well as Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz? On the first day of the festival, Spielberg assured the public the idea of any rivalry between Lee and himself was completely false.

"Ang and I have known each other for a long time and we have never been competitors, we have always been colleagues," Spielberg declared. "That will just continue. I worship Life of Pi, therefore I worship Ang Lee as well. I admire all of Ang's movies."

Sitting quietly a few feet away, Lee confirmed, "Steven and I, we're good friends. I worship him. I don't think any result will change how I feel about him."

Both filmmakers seemed to want to put the recent Academy Awards issue behind them and get on with the business at hand in Cannes. "Cannes is a prestigious film festival. It's full of opinions. It's artistically driven. More highbrow," Lee explained. "Oscar is kind of a competition of a particular group of 6,000 Academy members. It has the element of popularity. It's sort of work and business and popularity and societal. You don't know how the wind blows that year politically."

Spielberg picked up on Lee's reference to politics in discussing the difference between the Oscars and the awards presented at the end of each Cannes Film Festival. "The nice thing about this is there is no campaigning," said Spielberg. "It's such a relief that we're going to be seeing movies and we're going to be caucusing and we're going to be deliberating final results and we don't have to go through the campaigning, which as you know follows awards season in America like a political cycle. We had campaigning for the 2012 election and there's always campaigning for the Oscar election and there' no campaigning here and that is a breath of fresh air for me."

Spielberg was well-prepared to answer questions about whether he could get the eight other jurors to come to agreement when deciding which of this year's films should receive the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or. "I'm going to have to look at the Sidney Lumet film 12 Angry Men again as a tutorial for the final day of deliberation," he said jokingly.

Besides those already mentioned, rounding out this year's Cannes Film Festival jury are director Lynne Ramsay, writer Naomi Kawase, and actors Daniel Auteuil and Vidya Balan.

Please also check out FJI correspondent Jon Frosch's reports from Cannes by visiting his blog.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rachel McAdams falls in love with a time traveler (again) in 'About Time'

If About Time is as sweet as it looks in the trailer, it might just redeem Rachel McAdams from appearing in the horrible time travel romance The Time Traveler's Wife. The two-minute preview sets up a plot that has just enough twists on existing time travel movies to make it interesting. Domhnall Gleeson plays a man who learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that everyone in his family has the gift of time travel. There's both Groundhog Day elements, where he uses his ability to time travel to redo moments with women where he messes up the first time, and larger thoughts about fate--in one scene, it's implied that the effects of a car crash can't be reversed, and in another, he meets the woman he's married in an earlier scene (Rachel McAdams), only to discover she doesn't recognize him. The above-average level of intricacy makes this sound intriguing.


There hasn't been a lot of Internet chatter about this release, which will come out November 8 through Universal. That's a strong time slot, which indicates that the trailer may be able to deliver on its promise. McAdams is already a proven romantic lead, with two big hits, The Notebook and The Vow, under her belt. But those movies co-starred Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum, respectively, who are male romantic stars in their own right. In this feature, the story is told from the man's perspective, and Gleeson isn't as well-known. The redhead actor first rose to fame with his role as the gawky Bill Weasely in the Harry Potter series. He's since appeared in the well-regarded Never Let Me Go and last year as Levin in Anna Karenina. In the movie, he plays down his looks in the Bill Weasley direction, making him appear like the guy who can never get the girl--at least until he has time travel on his side.

The screenwriter and sometimes director Richard Curtis is helming the project, which seems like a bonus. He both wrote and directed Love Actually, which is part of the romantic comedy canon for those who love the genre. He's also written the scripts for Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and both the Bridget Jones series and all the Mr. Bean movies. The combination of McAdams, Gleeson, and Curtis may add up to an end-of-year romantic comedy that actually delivers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kate Winslet tries on role in 'The Dressmaker'

The Cannes Film Festival isn't just about showing movies, but finding investors for current projects. Embarkment Films announced that it is shopping international distribution rights to Kate Winslet's The Dressmaker at the festival. Jocelyn Moorhouse (How to Make an American Quilt, Proof) is directing the 1940s-set movie, which will start production in the fall.

Winslet will play a woman who returns to the small town she grew up in, clad in the sharpest outfits the 1940s had to offer. She was accused of murder there years earlier. Many of the townspeople
Kate-Winslet-Titanicshun her, while others find themselves intrigued by her outfits and start adopting her style. After transforming the townspeople, she also exacts revenge on those who implicated her in the terrible crime. Variety calls her character an "avenging angel," which suggests there may be some supernatural elements.

Seeing a sleepy town with backwards values open itself up is fun to watch, even if it's been done many times before, in movies ranging from Pleasantville to Chocolat. There's also a sense that The Dressmaker may include a feminist awakening similar to how The Help had a racial awakening, as characters were satisfyingly brought up to a more modern sensibility.

Winslet's last big roles were in Contagion and Carnage, back in 2011. She'll be seen again in Labor Day, coming out this fall, and is currently filming a role in Shailene Woodley-led Divergent, an adaptation of a Hunger Games-style novel for young adults. She's also appearing with Stanley Tucci in a movie about landscape designers competing for a contract in Versailles, A Little Chaos.

Moorhouse, who also wrote the script for the project, doesn't have as many directing credits as I would expect for someone who made American Quilt a modest success. Whether that's by chance or design, who knows, but I certainly am looking forward to a work that combines the talents of Moorhouse and Winslet.

Monday, May 13, 2013

'Gatsby' goes over the top with a $51 million opening

There were hints that The Great Gatsby was not going to open big. Critics have been a bit mixed on the movie, and Warner Bros. moved it from a December release date to May, which some took to mean the studio was making a vote of no confidence. After opening to $51 million, about 25% higher than most estimates, Warner Bros. likely feels their decision to move the Baz Luhrmann-directed film paid off. Really, it's just more of a fkuffy summer spectacle than the kind of movie that could make an awards play. Since Gatsby is required reading for most American high schoolers, the content was extremely familiar while being presented as a visual feast. Music from Jay-Z and the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio gave the movie an extra boost. However, it turns out the audiences agreed with critics, giving the feature a so-so "B" rating in exit polls, so Gatsby may fade faster than if it had been a hit among audiences.

Great Gatsby Carey Mulligan DiCaprio

Beating the opening weekend of Gatsby, Iron Man 3 brought in another $72.4 million,
a 58% decline from the previous week. For a movie that opened so high,
that's actually a decent hold. Receipts from foreign territories will
help bring the picture over $1 billion worldwide before next Friday.

Is it possible that black audiences might have chosen to see The Great Gatsby (with its Jay-Z-produced soundtrack) instead of Peeples this weekend? Despite two well-known TV stars, Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington, and a "Tyler Perry Presents" label, the comedy bombed with just $4.8 million. Lionsgate should be able to do better than that, given its experience marketing Perry's works, but maybe that was just the problem--the audience for Perry's work didn't care for this feature, which was only produced by him. In 2011, a similar black-targeted wedding comedy about class differences, Jumping the Broom, opened to $15 million, so this is way off the target.

Peeples dinner table craig robinson kerry washingotn

Playing in two U.S. markets, the highly regarded documentary Stories We Tell averaged $15,000 per location, a great start for the feature, which will likely play well on VOD and beyond.

On Thursday, the second mega-blockbuster of the season, Star Trek Into Darkness, will start peeling off the audience for Iron Man 3.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Will the glitter of 'Gatsby' outshine the second weekend of 'Iron Man 3'?

This weekend, Iron Man 3 will continue to coast back down from its sky-high debut. Given its incredible $175 million opening weekend, even week two is likely to exceed the opening of the overstuffed, glittery The Great Gatsby (3,535 theatres), the latest from director Baz Luhrmann, who specializes in visual excess. It's also Mother's Day on Sunday, and it's likely that this movie will beat Iron Man 3 when families choose Mom's pick. The light wedding comedy Peeples will also stand to benefit from Mother's Day outings.

Great Gatsby Tobey Maguire

Critics have been divided about Gatsby. It's currently tracking 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a positive or negative review seems to hinge on the author's opinion of Luhrmann's excess. Our critic Rex Roberts predicts that his take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel will "generate a buzz with young audiences," especially since it's required reading in most high school classrooms. "Bold, brazen and splendiferous," it's "gorgeous to watch if you enjoy this sort of spectacle." Whatever the result of the final product, interest in Gatsby is high, and it could reach $40 million.

Peeples kerry washington craig robinson

Craig Robinson from "The Office" stars opposite "Scandal's" Kerry Washington in Peeples (2,041 theatres), a Meet the Parents transported to the milieu of the African-American elite. As a man (Robinson) prepares to propose to his girlfriend (Washington) on her family's gilded turf, he uncovers crazy secrets about the supposedly refined family. They're so outrageous, critic David Noh wonders "how any of them got away
with their behavior for so long: secret, sometimes kinky sex lives;
denied breast augmentation; kleptomania; booze and drug addiction;
and a hidden nocturnal life for the Judge as he prowls the
beach." That's just a hint of the humor in store for viewers. An opening in the $15-20 million would be right on target for the comedy.

After success in limited release, Mud will undergo a second expansion into 854 theatres this week. The Matthew McConaughey-led feature has already earned $5 million, and it could add at least 50% to that total in its third week.

On Monday, we'll see how Gatsby's visual feast went over with audiences, and how much progress Iron Man 3 made towards the $1 billion mark.

Documentaries find a new theatrical home in New York City

Veteran FJI correspondent Doris Toumarkine reports on a new home for documentaries coming to downtown New York City.

“All digital, all docs, all the time, all new!” could be the rallying cry for a unique theatre planned for downtown Manhattan.

Hoping to also give a trend-setting spin to traditional movie exhibition, New York’s DCTV (Downtown Community TV), a leading documentary film education, production and resource center, broke ground Tuesday on DCTV Cinema, what is envisioned as this country’s first Academy Award-eligible “all docs/all the time” public theatre. (North of the border, Toronto’s all-doc Bloor Hot Docs Cinema has been operating for a couple years.)

The groundbreaking ceremony (really more a sand-tossing affair) took place at DCTV’s beautiful headquarters (bordering Chinatown and Tribeca), where the four-decades-old, nonprofit doc educational and support hub is housed in a late-19th-century French Renaissance chateau-style building that was once a firehouse.

Only two short blocks below downtown’s Houston Street, DCTV Cinema, to be built on the building’s first floor, will further establish the broad east-west Houston stretch as an indie theatre axis (although far less glittery than the marquee-lined 42nd Street of years ago), where venues like Film Forum, the Angelika and Sunshine Cinema have long attracted off-Hollywood fans.

DCTV co-founders/co-executive directors and husband-and-wife team Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno, who launched DCTV in 1972 and moved the facility in 1979 to the current building they now own at 87 Lafayette Street, greeted the impressive gathering of groundbreaking notables. Among those who manned the symbolic shovels after giving short speeches were doc royals Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine) and Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and several politicos like Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the area’s NYC Council member Margaret Chin.

In his brief ceremonial testimony hailing both the DCTV Cinema and the doc genre, ever plus-sized Moore quipped to Spurlock that “Super Size Me was a huge inspiration to me.” Moore underscored to the crowd Manhattan’s importance in the history of movie exhibition and also reminded that “people really love nonfiction, but film nonfiction [as a genre] has been treated like a weird cousin.”

In spite of the expert shoveling, the DCTV Cinema, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, is not expected to open until early 2015. A spacious lobby serves as entryway to the 73-seat auditorium, which, said Alpert in an interview with FJI, will also feature a large screen. Regarding the screen size and other specs pertaining to equipment, he said that DCTV has brought in a house engineer who is working with various consultants on infrastructure. “The process is complex, like it is for a hospital.”

But many DCTV Cinema specifics are already known. In addition to fulfilling all rules for official Academy Award-qualifying runs, the venue will be fully DCI-compliant and boast state-of-the-art 3D and 4K digital projection systems. But times require a nimble approach: Alpert predicts that 8K resolution will be here in four years and 3D is losing its traction.

No matter where the technology takes DCTV Cinema, the theatre will have capabilities for the sharing of live events with millions of people around the world via the Internet and for accommodating Internet conversations amongst people anywhere in the world with those in the auditorium.

About this focus on forward thinking and hyper-interactivity for the space, Alpert states, “We’re trying to cast a very wide net, so this will be a place where the tech measures up to the quality of the work. There aren’t as many fine theatrical settings as there should be for documentaries and this is one attempt to rectify that.”

And just as DCTV’s mission has been to democratize access to digital film technology and instruction for filmmakers and students, its DCTV Cinema will go democratic for filmgoers with “reasonable” ticket prices.

Unlike so many analog/celluloid stragglers and purists in film, Alpert is a staunch digital loyalist. “We have never worked in film,” he says with pride. “I have no anachronistic nostalgia for it, no fondness whatsoever, and have always loved the low costs and instant gratification of video.” Of course, analog projectors for DCTV Cinema are out of the question.

Alpert acknowledges that with the opening a few years away and technology changing rapidly, “we’ve already revised our equipment list three times.”

The theatre’s shows may mostly go day-and-date with Web and on-demand availability, depending on licensing rights.

As for the theatre’s staff, Alpert says he’ll have a house manager and an administrative person with tech savvy who will also serve as curator and programmer. A tech staff will be both full and part-time. “But we want to raise a good amount of money to assure the staff we’ll need.”

The budget for the new cinema build and equipment is around $2.5 million, he says, and funds have come from a mix of public, private and not-for-profit organizations and foundations.

Alpert also acknowledges Sony Electronics as a longtime and “generous and faithful” supporter of DCTV that has been providing state-of-the-art equipment, especially the latest cameras. He notes, “We’re like a laboratory for them and they also know that we’re putting their equipment to good use for society.” Appropriately, Sony Broadcast president Alec Shapiro was another of the ceremony’s shovel-wielding honored participants.

DCTV Cinema has an advisory council to guide the way, a group that includes top doc filmmakers Moore, Spurlock, Liz Garbus, Barbara Kopple, Alexandra Pelosi, and Alan and Susan Raymond; HBO Documentary Film president Sheila Nevins; producer Abigail Disney; and actors Brooke Adams and James Gandolfini. DCTV’s traditional board of directors will continue to provide oversight.

Alpert and Tsuno were close to opening a theatre in 2007, but the usual funding, logistical and approval delays and other hurdles got in the way.

Alpert says his main beef about documentaries’ relationship with cinemas is that “there are too few opportunities to see documentaries in theatres.” But the genre as theatrical fare was given a huge lift by the “watershed” successes from Moore and Spurlock, he believes. “These guys are the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of documentaries in theatres.”

Queried about the possibility of copycatting the DCTV Cinema concept into similar doc-exclusive theatres in other downtowns where revitalization is needed (Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc.), Alpert, expressing his strong NYC roots, says he’s got all he can handle in New York, but “Moore is looking into this. He really could make this happen.” (Later, Moore, with mogul-like evasiveness, told FJI that such attention now is only on his Traverse City, Michigan State Theatre, which offers both fiction and nonfiction, old and new.)

Asked how he expects to get doc fans to fill DCTV Cinema seats, considering so many small-screen options that lure all film fans to easy viewing on TVs and smaller devices, Alpert answers, “I’m agnostic about where documentaries are watched, where they’re consumed; they could be watched on fingernails. But why we’re spending so much money on this theatre, on things like equipment, comfortable seats and good food, is that we want to create a great communal experience for people into docs. You’ll want to come to DCTV Cinema.”

Build it and I’m sure we will.