Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best would-be movie adaptations of 2013

As your newsfeeds and Digg accounts can attest, the end of the year is a time for Best-Of lists, a time that extends the spirit of Thanksgiving, as we take a moment to  appreciate the (over)abundance of media we’ve consumed these past 12 months.  

This year, in addition to our list of the Top 10 Films of 2013, we wanted to express our reflections with an eye towards the future. Combining an equal love of books and film, the below group of four books and one essay published in 2013 are those we believe would make for noteworthy – creatively interesting, or popular – films in the years ahead.

Here are our bids for the best would-be movie adaptations of 2013:

D.T. Max: Every Love Story is A Ghost Story: The first biography of David Foster Wallace (or DFW, to the late author’s dedicated base of fans, many, many of whom can be found in Brooklyn) chronicles the troubled writer’s struggle with the depression that would ultimately overwhelm him.  DFW’s magnum opus Infinite Jest, as well as his collection of essays Remember the Lobster, remain popular as ever, if not more so, as (and as is generally the case with modern mythologizing) the further we get from Wallace’s ’97 suicide, the more closely he becomes associated with the cult of artistic genius arrested, in the vein of Kurt Cobain or James Dean.

It’s important to note, however, we weren’t the first ones to think a DFW film would tap the zeitgeist: There’s already a movie about the author in development, an adaptation of the book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. An account of the five days writer David Lipsky spent accompanying Wallace on his book tour for Infinite Jest, Yourself has Jason Segel playing DFW.  We believe Ghost Story would lend itself to a more straightforward character study, perhaps narrowing in on that section of Wallace’s life when he was working on rather than promoting Infinite Jest, arguably his most popular work. There are certainly many ways to approach or rather represent a man who’s been alternately canonized (“gentle,” “kind,” “wise”) and vilified (“pompous,” “grandstanding” “a jerk”), but we believe one of the more rewarding approaches would involve mining Ghost Story’s extensive – in the sense of author Max’s access to personal letters and the like – insight to produce a film that makes conveying Wallace’s paradoxes its primary focus.

In other words, this would be the “thinker” or art-house DFW film.

Cheryl Sandberg: Lean In
This nonfiction book written by the former Chief Operating Officer for Facebook sparked a feminist controversy when it first hit shelves earlier this year. A sort of guidebook for the gentler sex in the workplace (if you want to succeed, don’t act like the gentler sex), Lean In outlines those steps women should take as well deconstructs those myths Sandberg thinks they shouldn’t believe.

In terms of how this non-narrative book could lend itself to a film adaptation, we were thinking something along the lines of the 2012 movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which used the popular mommy-to-be handbook as a jumping off point for a fictional story. A film about a young woman who receives a promotion at a tech company (tech tends to be a  male-dominated industry) and then has to contend with the modern issues Sandberg raises would be both timely and trendy. Let’s give Isla Fisher a part that puts her comedic skills and everywoman likability to good use – and gives her more of an edge than the confectionary Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Alice McDermott: Someone
Someone is just what its title suggests: In its portrayal of one “unremarkable” woman’s life, from childhood through old age, the story is both generic and, as this is a particular human life, inimitable. This film would be another art-house offering, as there’s no easily taglined plot to the story – the action is driven more by time than, well, action. But if cast correctly, including three great actresses, a girl, a woman, and an older woman, to play protagonist Marie at various points in her life, the cinematic version of Someone could bring a heightened immediacy to the novel’s theme of human universality. It would also pose a creative challenge to translate the author’s lovely prose into visual equivalents.

As NPR points out in their review, Marie “doesn’t undergo any kind of dramatic transformation,” which is something of a narrative no-no in both modern books and movies. But we happen to think a realistic portrayal of a real character would be simply really great.

Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
Slightly more high-concept than Someone, The Goldfinch was rated by the NYT Book Review as one of the best books of the year. An orphan steals a painting from the museum he was forced to hide in during a terrorist attack. Then he tries to keep out of foster care and away from “the man” by staying with a friend. Then his father finds him and takes him to Vegas. Then he becomes involved with the underworld art set and ends up in Europe. A lot of other things happen too, meaning there’s plenty of action and memorable characters to make Goldfinch a broadly appealing bid at the box office.

Galya Diment: Two Lolitas (Vulture essay)
The Oscar-bait. Dorothy Parker may or may not have seen an early copy of Nabokov’s Lolita prior to its publication, but she certainly wrote an eerily similar short story that appeared in the The New Yorker. Famous wit Parker contending with her fading star, and ascendant Nabokov trying to find a home for his rebel Lolita, are two juicy parts. This is the film Laura Linney and Bill Murray should have made instead of Hyde Park on Hudson.


Monday, December 30, 2013

‘Hobbit’ leads holiday charge, contributes to record b.o.

Five new films may have opened on Christmas day, but it seems audiences preferred to seek out known successes, rather than take a chance on novel fare. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug won the weekend for the third week in a row with its $29.9 million haul, while Disney’s hit Frozen, now in its fifth week, skated past last weekend’s tough competitor American Hustle as well as Anchorman 2 to earn the second highest gross ($28.8 million). Though Smaug continues to track behind last year’s Hobbit prequel, it nonetheless joins Gravity as the only two films this year to have retained their No. 1 standing for three consecutive weekends. As for Frozen, which has surpassed even the most optimistic expectations, it boasted the third highest  fifth-weekend gross ever, just behind the $30 million Titanic earned its fifth weekend in theatres, and Avatar’s $42.8 million.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
chuckled its way to the No. 3 slot with $20.2 million. So far, the comedy has earned $83.7 million domestically. Will Ferrell’s long-gestating sequel should easily surpass the first Anchorman’s $85.7 million cume within the next few days.

In fourth place, David O. Russell’s American Hustle made like stars Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper and danced its way to a cool $19.6 million. The film has so far enjoyed (almost) universal critical acclaim and positive word-of-mouth. More awards nominations seem imminent, which should significantly boost its already impressive $60 million cume. Pundits believe an overall take of $100 million is likely.

The only new release to have landed within the weekend’s Top 5 – and then just barely – was Martin Scorsese’s much hyped The Wolf of Wall Street. The Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer earned $18.5 million, or $34.3 million for the five-day holiday spread. There are those who believe the film’s low Cinemascore rating of a “C” bodes poorly for its continued box office success, predicting a quick flameout within the next week or two. Others, however, think Street’s controversial depiction of stunted adolescence/hubristic debauchery will continue to draw viewers, especially if the rumors prove true and the film earns an Oscar nod or several.

Saving Mr. Banks, which has struggled to find its audience these past few weeks, finally clicked with holiday moviegoers. The true story of how Walt Disney successfully won the film rights to Mary Poppins from persnickety author P.L. Travers earned $14 million, a great uptick of 50%.

Unfortunately, with the exception of The Wolf of Wall Street, the full story of the holiday’s new releases isn’t as uplifting. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty did OK business with its $13 million weekend gross and $25.6 million five-day haul. Those figures are respectable, though they pale in comparison with past Ben Stiller hits Night at the Museum and the Meet the Parents movies. Still, at least Stiller and his collaborators weren’t part of the very, very expensive 47 Ronin, directed by and starring Keanu Reeves, which tanked with $9.9 million ($20.6 million over the five days).  They also had nothing to do with Grudge Match, a flop with $7.3 million ($13.4 million five-day), nor, thankfully, with Justin Bieber’s docu-bomb, Believe ($2 million/$4.3 million). As Mitty himself is well aware, it’s all about perspective.

Even given the aforementioned string of less-than-boffo bows, though, the day’s big news is all about 2013’s box-office success. Final numbers have yet to be tallied, but as of yesterday the domestic box office was just $1.6 million shy of the $10.837 billion record set in 2012. With today and tomorrow still to go, it’s safe to assume 2013 will be another one for the books.

Monday, December 23, 2013

'Llewyn Davis' and '12 Years' lead FJI ten best list

My 2013 list of films that were actually worth my time is much longer than any year’s in recent memory. The general consensus is that ’13 was an outstanding year in movies, to the degree that the Motion Picture Academy will have no trouble filling their expanded Best Picture category with ten worthy contestants.

Here’s my own personal honor roll of the best of the best:

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis: This astringent look at the New York City folk-music scene in 1961 is one of my favorite Coen Brothers films. Oscar Isaac’s title character is ill-mannered, condescending and abrasive, yet you still root for this talented but pig-headed musician to catch the break he deserves. The Coens’ filmmaking and evocation of the period are Inside-llewyn2
    immaculate, and they’ve surrounded Isaac with a lively supporting cast, especially dependable John Goodman as a hilariously confrontational junkie jazz musician.

  2. 12 Years a Slave: Steve McQueen’s devastating drama is something rare: an unflinching account of our nation’s horrible legacy of slavery as seen from the vantage point of the enslaved. The mesmerizing Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves the Oscar for his highly empathetic portrayal of a free black man in 1840s New York who is drugged and sold into a degrading life of bondage. I can’t recall having a stronger emotional reaction to a film than I did at the story’s heart-shaking conclusion.

  3. Gravity: Especially as seen in IMAX 3D, Alfonso Cuarón’s groundbreaking sci-fi thriller is a truly immersive experience. Sandra Bullock’s performance as an astronaut struggling to survive after a catastrophic collision with space debris is a revelation. The viewer becomes one with her odyssey in this visual tour de force that really seems to have been shot “on location” in outer space.

  4. The Past: It’s a puzzlement that Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s new film isn’t one of the nine finalists for this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign-Language Film. Once again, he turns Past1
    the complex relationships of men and women into a many-layered drama that has the surprise and gripping tension of a taut thriller. Bérénice Bejo, so delightful in The Artist, is another revelation as the mercurial woman at the center of the story.

  5. Before Midnight: Like Michael Apted’s “Up” series, the every-nine-years collaboration of director Richard Linklater and actors/co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy has evolved into a remarkable chronicle of how people evolve with the passage of time. This third in the series finds the onetime magically romantic pair settled into domestic life with twin daughters, their flirtatious conversations now transformed into something more weary and barbed. It climaxes with a searing hotel-room encounter that recalls the psychological savagery of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage. It’s a bold, brave turn for an ongoing story whose nonstop talk remains altogether compelling.

  6. Stories We Tell: Canadian actress Sarah Polley, who directed that marvelous Julie Christie drama Away from Her, looks inward for this formally innovative documentary about the mysteries within her own family. Polley’s mother was herself a vivacious actress who died when she was eleven; along with her desire to learn more about this special woman, the director also seeks to deny or confirm family scuttlebutt that her beloved dad Michael is not her biological father. Polley’s extremely personal film takes a number of surprising turns, abetted by her own audacious filmmaking sleight-of-hand.

  7. Short Term 12: Destin Daniel Cretton’s low-budget drama was the indie surprise of the year—a subtle and compelling look at life inside a group home for troubled teenagers, inspired by the director’s own experience working in such an institution. Rising young actress Brie Larson is terrific as a counselor with issues of her own, and the entire cast creates the impression that you’re watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary, not a piece of fiction.

  8. 20 Feet from Stardom: For sheer delight, few 2013 films could beat this documentary about the “unsung” tribe of backup singers who bring so much of the magic to popular recordings. Morgan Neville’s film makes us think about the connections (or lack of same) between talent, luck, ambition and stardom, while providing a well-deserved showcase for gifted performers like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer amidst a wealth of irresistible performance clips.

  9. American Hustle: David O. Russell’s follows his crowd-pleasing Silver Linings Playbook with this ambitious, high-energy, twisty tale of the con artists behind the Abscam corruption American-hustle
    sting of the late 1970s. With a kinetic style influenced by Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, this fast-paced wallow in polyester, perms and pulsating disco is buoyed by a quintet of diverting star performances by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and a scene-stealing Jennifer Lawrence.

  10.  No: The political TV ad campaign that ousted Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1988 is the subject of this slyly satirical film from director Pablo Larraín. Gael Garcia Bernal plays the ad man who masterminds the “No” (anti-Pinochet) strategy which beats the odds by underplaying serious political content in favor of more traditional marketing tricks. The film was shot with antiquated cameras that make it nearly impossible to distinguish new footage from the riotous actual commercials of the period.

And, for the record, my runners-up in this very strong year include Blue Is the Warmest Color, Lone Survivor, In the House, Call Me Kuchu, Captain Phillips, Philomena, Rush, Fruitvale Station, Nebraska and Her.

Burgundy falls in the battle of the sequels

In hindsight, all those commercial spots may have been (a tad) overkill. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues earned a solid, though not stellar, $40 million its first five days in theatres, this past Wednesday-Sunday. It grossed $26.8 million from the weekend alone, a figure that falls just shy of the first Anchorman’s $28.4 million bow. These numbers are more or less on par with what Paramount had predicted, though given the trumpeting fanfare building up to the movie’s release, many pundits are still calling it an underwhelming debut.

Their sense of disappointment may have something to do with the fact that Anchorman 2 failed to win the weekend. Instead, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug once again took home the treasure, or title of the weekend’s top earner. Like its predecessor, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Smaug fell 57% its second weekend in theatres. The fantasy flick took in $31.4 million to bump its overall cume to $127.5 million. Look for second-place Anchorman to gain a little more steam this coming weekend, however. As noted on Friday, the weekend before Christmas is a notoriously slow period, while business tends to pick up considerably over the holiday. Anchorman shouldn’t slip too much over its sophomore outing, and could even tally out with as much as $120 million by the time it closes.

Frozen and American Hustle jockeyed neck-and-neck for the third-place slot for much of the weekend. The latest numbers, however, have Frozen barely eking out the lead. Disney’s bid for a return to the glories of its princess-movie heyday earned $19.5 million to Hustle’s $19.1 million. The latter is a great haul for a specialty release, and trumps David O. Russell’s The Fighter, which grossed $12.1 million when it expanded over this same weekend in 2010. If Oscar predictions prove true, Hustle will also likely benefit from an upcoming awards-season boost. The film is on track to earn roughly $100 million in total.

Saving Mr. Banks
rounds out the weekend’s top 5 with $9.3 million. While the true story of how beloved children’s story Mary Poppins came to the big screen has been underperforming (Stateside, that is; author P.L. Travers’ fellow Brits have been loving the film), Banks isn’t the domestic bomb that kids’ movie Walking with Dinosaurs proved to be. The CG feature grossed just $7.3 million. As with Anchorman, business will probably pick up over the holiday, though it’s unlikely Dinosaurs will drum up more than $50 million by the end of its run.

Finally, Bollywood offering Dhoom 3 set a new record with its $3.3 million North American debut. That’s the highest opening gross ever for a Bollywood release in the United States.

Happy holidays!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Oscar reveals 2014 foreign-language shortlist

Some are pleased, many significantly less so, with the recently announced selection of films still in the running for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Academy members whittled down the list of 76 entries to nine, a mix of shoo-ins and surprise omissions sure to rankle critics.

Among the movies that will advance to the next and final round of voting before the Academy Awards are Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (Italy), The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), and The Grandmaster (Hong Kong).

The Past, directed by Asghar Farhadi, whose A Separation took home the prize in 2012, is arguably the most glaring exclusion. Though some critics say the film doesn't quite meet the bar Farhadi set for himself with A Separation, the movie has nonetheless garnered nearly universal acclaim (96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) for both the director and his stars, including The Artist’s Berenice Bejo.

Chile’s popular Gloria, and Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda, the first feature ever filmed in the region, let alone by a woman, were also notably snubbed. They’ll soon be joined on the sidelines by four of the nine films listed below, as ultimately only five movies can be nominated in the best foreign-language category. These finalists will be determined after one more round of voting takes place among specially selected committees in New York and LA.

No matter how difficult, it seems we must let go of The Past in favor of rooting for those works that still have a shot at gold. Which of the below has what it takes?

Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Felix van Groeningen, director
Like the characters it portrays, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a heartfelt but sloppy and overheated mess. Moving at times, but a mess nonetheless.

Full review

Bosnia and Herzegovina, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, Danis Tanovic, director

Cambodia, The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh, director

Denmark, The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, director

It’s very polished, with confusing themes (the culture of hunting, the nature of lying and gossip, the power of forgiveness?), and has narrative lapses that torpedo credibility. But should the film not get the reviews and word of mouth required to fire up the box office, the intense performance from star Mads Mikkelsen (A Royal Affair, Clash of the Titans, Casino Royale, etc.) could prove a good hedge.

Full review

Germany, Two Lives, Georg Maas, director

Hong Kong, The Grandmaster, Wong Kar-wai, director

The Grandmaster works best if you've never seen a kung fu movie before. If you have, Wong Kar Wai's film may strike you as a beautiful and expensive missed opportunity.

Full review

Hungary, The Notebook, Janos Szasz, director

Italy, The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino, director

The film will inevitably draw comparisons to Fellini classics like La Dolce Vita, 8 ½ and Roma, but the Fellini halo effect could prove especially advantageous. While fun and entertaining, Sorrentino’s Roman holiday, a long stretch at well over two hours, is a more challenging excursion.

Full review

Palestine, Omar, Hany Abu-Assad, director

‘Anchorman 2’ to have a classy weekend

The man who managed to make the trinity of obnoxiousness – misogyny, dimwittedness and frustratingly perfect hair – hilariously lovable in 2004 is back for another crassly classy good time. Will Ferrell has reprised his role as ‘70’s newsman Ron Burgundy for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which opened wide in 3,450 locations on Wednesday.

Ferrell and director Adam McKay’s first Anchorman was by no means a box-office success, earning roughly $85 million domestically and failing to generate any international business to speak of. The film only found a dedicated audience once it was released on DVD, quickly becoming the kind of cult favorite many a high-schooler spent his, and her, lunch period quoting.

Hollywood, however, was a little slow to catch up. Anchorman may have found new life post-theatrical release, but given its tepid b.o. performance, studio execs at Paramount were initially hesitant to green-light a sequel. The fact that several of the film’s stars have become more popular over the last decade – most notably Steve Carell, who helmed his own cult hit, TV series “The Office – probably played a large role in overcoming the kind of bottom-line hesitancy that kept Anchorman 2 in limbo for years. Not that Paramount, once committed, minded waging an expensive marketing campaign on the movie’s behalf. Have all those Dodge Durango commercials piqued viewers’ interest? The weekend before Christmas is notoriously tough for new releases, but Anchorman 2 is still expected to earn between $40 and $50 million for the five-day spread.

Actually, so is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Few pundits have been able to discuss Smaug without mentioning its inability to generate the same kind of boffo revenue as its predecessor, last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (even though Smaug has earned superior reviews). Yet Peter Jackson’s second Lord of the Rings prequel is still drawing sizable crowds. It wouldn’t be a Christmas miracle if Smaug managed to out-gross Anchorman 2 this weekend.

CG-animated kids’ film Walking with Dinosaurs will likely land at the bottom of the weekend’s list of top earners. Frozen continues to pose fierce competition, and will probably keep Dinosaurs from grossing more than $10 or $12 million.

Specialty enthusiasts who do not live in either New York or LA (a tough position for a specialty enthusiast) will be treated to Christmas-come-early today. Both American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks are expanding, to 2,500 and 2,200 locations, respectively. David O. Russell’s Oscar favorite had the fourth-best per-theatre average when it opened in limited release last weekend. Given the loud buzz surrounding the flick, it should earn upwards of $15 million.

Last but by no means the least interesting, Spike Jonze’s Her, about a man who falls in love with a computer operating system (not as crazy as it sounds, considering the computer’s voice belongs to Scarlett Johansson), also bows in six locations today. The film is on track to expand wide on January 10th.   

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Battering 'the best'

Considering the many nomination announcements in recent weeks, including those for the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards, as well as the unveiling of the 2014 New York Film Critics Awards winners, it seems this year’s Oscar frontrunners can boast clearly defined leads. To recap: The NYFCC named American Hustle its Best Picture of the year, while, with four nominations, 12 Years A Slave garnered the most SAG nods. The Golden Globes divided its love equally between the two contenders, nominating each for seven awards. In other words, American Hustle (which opens wide tomorrow) and 12 Years Slave are the industry’s sweethearts, and America -- or at least her film critics -- loves them. Right?

Not quite. Peter Debruge of Variety recently published a screed that attributed Hustle’s popularity to a fortuitous alignment of its stars – all of the film’s major names are at the top of their games, and, in the case of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and director David O. Russell, fresh off last year’s award-winning Silver Linings Playbook, at the height of their popularity, guaranteeing their collaboration would generate a certain amount of fanfare. But Hustle, Debruge contends, doesn’t deserve the praise: It’s a hot mess. Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice doesn’t lambast 12 Years A Slave, but she does challenge the positive consensus. “Is there any blood in its veins?” she asks.

If the old adage “you can’t please everyone” won’t surprise anyone, some might be taken aback by the contemporary negativity surrounding other roundly popular, and what are now considered canonical, films. TIME magazine, for instance, had this to say about greatest-film-of-all-time Vertigo back in 1958: “The mystery is not so much who done it as who cares.”

Inspired by this spirit of contrariness -- or maverick insight, if you prefer -- we’ve compiled a list of against-the-grain reviews for some of the most critically lauded and beloved films of all time. Taste certainly does lie in the eye of the viewer.

We like to think the one who called Audrey Hepburn awkward had a cataract.

Gone With the Wind – Reviewed by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. for The Atlantic, 1973

And how badly written it is! There is hardly a sharp or even a credible line. It is picture-postcard writing, as it is picture-postcard photography (and, for that matter, picture-postcard music). Melanie and Scarlett, the women's-serial rewrite of Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp, are too much: one too good to be true, the other too wicked. As Ms. Scarlett, Vivien Leigh gives a thin and shallow performance. She does not enrich the part by the slightest idiosyncrasy or originality. It is far more external and far less interesting as a rendition of a Southern bitch than Bette Davis' Jezebel or Miriam Hopkins' Temple Drake. Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard are beyond belief.

Full Review

Casablanca – Reviewed by TIME magazine, 1942

Nothing short of an invasion could add much to Casablanca.

Rebel Without a Cause – Reviewed by Box Office Magazine, 1955

Others, and presumably they will be a vast majority, may be prone to opine that the story has few, if any, believable characters, situations or passages of dialogue.

Thus handicapped by the script's utter implausibility, which is alleviated not one whit by the strained direction of Nicholas Ray, Dean's delineation is far below the arrestingly high standards set by the above-mentioned portrayal in "Eden." His supporting cast, both its juvenile and adult components, are projected with even less effectiveness.

Full review

Vertigo – Reviewed by TIME magazine, 1958

The old master, now a slave to television, has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares.

Lawrence of Arabia – Reviewed by Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, 1962

The fault seems to lie, first in the concept of telling the story of this self-tortured man against a background of action that has the characteristic of a mammoth Western film. The nature of Lawrence cannot be captured in grand Super-Panavision shots of sunrise on the desert or in scenes of him arguing with a shrewd old British general in a massive Moorish hall.

The fault is also in the lengthy but surprisingly lusterless dialogue of Robert Bolt's over-written screenplay. Seldom has so little been said in so many words.

Full Review

My Fair Lady – Reviewed by Geoff Andrew  for Time Out: London

Hepburn is clearly awkward as the Cockney Eliza in the first half, and in general the adaptation is a little too reverential to really come alive.

Full Review

Rosemary’s Baby – Reviewed by Renata Adler, The New York Times, 1968

Everyone else is fine, but the movie—although it is pleasant—doesn't quite work on any of its dark or powerful terms.

I think this is because it is almost too extremely plausible. The quality of the young people's lives seems the quality of lives that one knows, even to the point of finding old people next door to avoid and lean on. One gets very annoyed that they don't catch on sooner. One's friends would have understood the situation at once. So that for most of its length the film has nothing to be excited about.

Full Review

Chinatown – Reviewed by Gene Siskel for The Chicago Tribune, 1974

As much as I admire the work of both (Roman) Polanski and (Jack) Nicholson, I found "Chinatown" tedious from beginning to just before the end. . . .

The majority of problems are to be found in Polanski's direction of Robert Towne's ("The Last Detail") script. The opening shot of almost every scene has been so artificially overcomposed as to make one aware of Jack Nicholson wearing '30s clothes while standing in a room decorated to look like a '30s room while talking to stereotypes plucked from an assortment of '30s movies.

The Silence of the Lambs – Reviewed by Dave Kehr for The Chicago Tribune, 1991

It`s easy to understand why [director Jonathan Demme] might want to shake off the cute and cuddly image that has settled on his work (though his films have always contained a beckoning dark side, an edge of violence and despair).

But ``The Silence of the Lambs`` does more than avoid sweetness and light. It`s a gnarled, brutal, highly manipulative film that, at its center, seems morally indefensible.

Full Review

The Artist – Reviewed by Jaime N. Christley for Slant Magazine, 2011

The idea of making a film about the American cinema between 1927 and 1933 seems as daunting a prospect as making a film about the entire cinema—in other words, the difference between conceiving the magnitude of a galaxy and the magnitude of the universe. You might as well make a 100-minute film about the Renaissance. Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist neatly sidesteps this unsolvable dilemma by ignoring everything that's fascinating and memorable about the era, focusing instead on a patchwork of general knowledge, so eroded of inconvenient facts that it doesn't even qualify as a roman à clef.

Full Review

American Hustle – Peter Debruge for Variety, 2013

How has “Hustle” conned so many intelligent people into declaring it a masterpiece? This is a messy C-minus movie at best, one that makes Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain” look downright disciplined by comparison.

Full Article

12 Years A Slave – Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek for The Village Voice, 2013

It's all so perfect, so right.

But is there any blood in its veins? 12 Years a Slave is a pristine, aesthetically tasteful movie about the horrors of slavery. Aside from a characteristically nuanced lead performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor—plus an oak-tree-tall supporting one by Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as a breath of movie-star vitality from Brad Pitt in a very small role—it's a picture that stays more than a few safe steps away from anything so dangerous as raw feeling. Even when it depicts inhuman cruelty, as it often does, it never compromises its aesthetic purity.

Full Review

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Notfilm: When Samuel Beckett met Buster Keaton

A Broadway production of Waiting for Godot, starring knights and X-Men collaborators Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, marks the second Samuel Beckett revival in New York City in as many months. Godot famously bears the influence of both music hall variety acts and slapstick comedies. A routine in which Vladimir and Estragon mix up their bowler hats evokes a bit filmed several times over the years by Leo McCarey (it pops up in Duck Soup with the Marx Brothers).

Fifty years ago Beckett made his only visit to the United States to oversee the shooting in New York City of his only screenplay, called Film. Directed by Beckett's friend Alan Schneider, Film starred the silent comedy icon Buster Keaton. Beckett and Keaton—one of the most unlikely collaborations in cinema history.

Although Film went on to win the Film Critics' prize at the Venice Film Festival, it has always been controversial, to fans of Beckett and Keaton alike. The recent discovery of outtakes, a deleted scene, and tape recordings of Beckett, Schneider, and Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset discussing the production could change our opinion of the project.

Producer Dennis Doros of Milestone Films is raising funds through Indiegogo for Notfilm, a documentary about the making of Film. This is the first time Milestone, known for distributing movies like Killer of Sheep, The Exiles and The Connection, is investing in a production. Archivist Ross Lipman, who is directing the documentary, has helped restore works by filmmakers as varied as Bruce Conner and Sid Lavarents.

While working on the recent UCLA Film & Television Archive restoration of Film, Lipman stumbled across a cache of material in Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset's Fourth Avenue apartment. Stored under Rosset's kitchen sink: film reels with outtakes and a deleted scene from Film. Also found in the apartment: audio recordings of production meetings Beckett, Schneider and Rosset held before shooting. Very few recordings of Beckett are known to exist, let alone the Nobel Prize-winning author discussing his work.

Lipman and Milestone are not only restoring and assembling the discoveries in a documentary feature, they are adding supplementary material, like an interview Lipman recently filmed with Judith Douw, Beckett's assistant for much of his New York stay back in 1964. In Lipman's words, "Judith is one of those extraordinary ladies of the avant-garde—a ravishing beauty in her day, now glowing at an age where she seems straight out of a Beckett play herself. She's also wonderfully eccentric in way that is so uniquely New York, and she had some surprising revelations which bear on my understanding of Film."

You can contribute to this important project through Indiegogo or through the Los Angeles Film Forum, which is offering a tax-deductible sponsorship program.

As Doros noted in an e-mail, this is just the opening salvo in "Milestone's efforts to restore Rosset's entire film work, including his 1947 film Strange Victory and the Zero Mostel/Burgess Meredith version of Waiting for Godot that Schneider also directed."

Contacted recently, McKellen and Stewart admitted that they had yet to see Film. But both agreed that Beckett's interest in silent film comedy was serious, and played a part in how they interpret their roles. McKellen noted that Beckett was very specific in his stage directions for the routine with the bowler hats.

Keaton fans should jump at the opportunity to see new footage of one of the true icons of cinema. And by contributing to the Notfilm campaign, we can help Milestone in its important task of producing and distributing more documentaries and restorations.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Black List reveals best of 2013's unproduced

Earlier today The Black List unveiled its top picks for the year’s best unproduced screenplays. Holland, Michigan by Andrew Sodroski earned the most number of votes out of a pack that includes such enticingly titled projects as Randle is Benign, The Shark Is Not Working, Time & Temperature, The Boy and His Tiger, and the we’re-pretty-sure-we-know-what-this-is-about (and-we’re-excited-for-it) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Since 2005 The Black List, founded by Franklin Leonard and Dino Sijamic, has compiled an annual roster of screenplays that is meant to represent the best of the industry’s exponential pile of unproduced works. The organization tends to be spot on. Of the past five Best Picture winners, three were made from Black-Listed scripts: Argo, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King’s Speech. Juno, The Social Network, The Descendants, and Django Unchained all won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, and were all once listed on The Black List.

The upcoming Fathers and Daughters, starring Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul, was a Black List selection from 2012, as was the Hillary Clinton biopic, Rodham, currently in development at Lionsgate.

See if you can spot 2015’s Best Picture winner out of this year’s group of 72 (listed in no particular order) below:


PATIENT Z by Michael Le

MAKE A WISH by Zach Frankel


A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

QUEEN OF HEARTS by Stephanie Shannon

HOLLAND, MICHIGAN by Andrew Sodroski


DUDE by Oliva Milch

PAN by Jason Fuchs

SUPERBRAT by Eric Slovin & Leo Allen

SEED by Christina Hodson

CAKE by Patrick Tobin

DIABLO RUN by Shea Mirzai and Evan Mirzai

SEA OF TREES by Chris Sparling

FRISCO by Simon Stephenson

WHERE ANGELS DIE by Alexander Felix

SUGAR IN MY VEINS by Barbara Stepansky

SECTION 6 by Aaron Berg


BROKEN COVE by Declan O'Dwyer

TIME & TEMPERATURE by Nick Santora

POX AMERICANA by Frank John Hughes

THE FIXER by Bill Kennedy


THE LINE by Sang Kyu Kim

BEAST by Zach Dean

THE REMAINS by Meaghan Oppenheimer


AMERICAN SNIPER by Jason Dean Hall

THE POLITICIAN by Matthew Bass and Theodore Bressman

BEAUTY QUEEN by Annie Neal

REMINISCENCE by Lisa Joy Nolan

FREE BYRD by Jon Boyer

DIG by Adam Barker

MAN OF SORROW by Neville Kiser

THE GOLDEN RECORD by Aaron Kandell and Jordan Kandell

NICHOLAS by Leo Sardarian

FROM HERE TO ALBION by Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirivani


CLARITY by Ryan Belenzon and Jeffrey Gelber

ELSEWHERE by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis

THE KILLING FLOOR by Bac Delorme and Stephen Clarke

REVELATION by Hernany Perla

THE CROWN by Max Hurwitz

THE CIVILIAN by Rachel Long & Brian Pittman

AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE by Richard Naing and Ian Goldberg

THE SHARK IS NOT WORKING by Richard Cordiner


FAULTS by Riley Stearns


I'M PROUD OF YOU by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue

SOVEREIGN by Geoff Tock and Greg Weidman

DOGFIGHT by Nicole Riegel

INK AND BONE by Zak Olkewicz



BURY THE LEAD by Justin Kremer

EXTINCTION by Spenser Cohen

SPOTLIGHT by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

THE MAYOR OF SHARK CITY by Nick Creature and Michael Sweeney

THE END OF THE TOUR by Donald Margulies

FULLY WRECKED by Jake Morse & Scott Wolman

PURE O by Kate Trefry

CAPSULE by Ian Shorr

SHOVEL BUDDIES by Jason Mark Hellerman

BURN SITE by Doug Simon

THE COMPANY MAN by Andrew Cypiot

SWEETHEART by Jack Stanley

INQUEST by Josh Simon


LINE OF DUTY by Cory Miller

‘Smaug’ smolders at weekend b.o.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug performed as expected this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday, even with weather conditions that were once again less than conducive to venturing outside. The Lord of the Rings prequel didn’t match the boffo opening of its predecessor, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and that movie’s $84.6 million haul, though it was still the weekend’s top earner by a Middle-earth mile. Journey raked in $73.7 million domestically, which is more or less on target with last Friday’s predictions.  Although its gross also fell short of previous December blockbusters I Am Legend, which opened to $77.2 million, and Avatar ($77 million), Smaug is tracking very strong overseas. In fact, it’s out-performing the first Hobbit territory by territory, having reaped $131.2 from 49 markets.

In second place, Disney’s Frozen continues to skate along as an unqualified success for the Mouse House. The tale of two princesses dipped 32% to earn $22.2 million, upping its domestic gross to $164.4 overall.

Many had expected Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas to earn that No. 2 slot, which Frozen continues to keep warm. Unfortunately, this latest outing for Perry’s wisecracking granny was a disappointment, even more so when held against the director’s other films. Madea bowed to $16 million, Perry’s third-lowest opening yet. It's the lowest opening of any film to feature Madea. Yet even with such a soft bow and those poor reviews, Perry/Madea should still have a fairly merry $50 million Christmas on his hands.

Out of the Furnace will have most likely seen its way out of theatres by then. The weekend’s No. 4 earner took in just $2.3 million after free-falling 56% from last week. So far, the film has earned an anemic $9.5 million.

Luckily, the movie’s star, Christian Bale, has another lauded project to distract him. His other, more high-profile film, American Hustle, is just beginning a successful theatrical run. Having opened in six locations, Hustle scored a great $690,000 for a per-theatre average of $115,000. Fellow awards contender Saving Mr. Banks didn’t fare quite as well, though its $421,000 haul from 15 theatres is nothing to turn up a finicky nose at. It’ll likely play better once it opens wide this Friday.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The ‘Hobbit’ to tower over ‘Madea’

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas will go head-to-head at the box office this weekend, although the matchup is not exactly a nail-biter. As the second prequel in the incredibly popular and successful Lord of the Rings franchise, Hobbit is pretty much guaranteed a stronger bow. Last year, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Smaug’s predecessor, earned $300 million domestically and an unearthly $1 billion worldwide. Critics, however, didn’t love it, and even fan reactions were mixed, certainly in comparison with the kind of accolades heaped upon director Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy. Journey’s success was largely due to its ability to leverage the popularity of these films, while Smaug has a more difficult road ahead of it as it works to prove it’s better (more fun, less dragging) than its predecessor. Luckily, critics seem to think it is. The Desolation of Smaug will probably earn $15 million less than Journey and open to around $70 million or so. The fact that such a staggering gross would still be considered a qualified success speaks to the ridiculous earning potential of – and ridiculous expectations surrounding – these movies.

Though it isn’t expected to trump The Hobbit, Madea’s box-office odds are still looking pretty merry. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas is the director’s 14th movie in the past eight years. Eight of Perry’s 13 movies have opened to $20 million or more. A more fun fact: The only other directors to have had as many $20 million openings are Robert Zemeckis, who has had nine, and Steven Spielberg, who can boast 11. In total, Perry’s oeuvre has earned $674 million domestically, with his top three films all featuring his Madea character, or Perry dressed up as a smart-mouthed granny. Odds are Madea will chuckle up a little less than $30 million.

and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are still going strong and will probably land at nos. three and four, respectively. Specialty enthusiasts and Academy Awards speculators, though, are more concerned with Disney and Jennifer Lawrence’s other movies opening in limited release this weekend: Saving Mr. Banks and American Hustle. Viewers are expected to be drawn in like moths to the Oscar-gold flame surrounding these two. Awards buzz is thick around Lawrence, who plays a broadly cockamamie housewife in Hustle, and Emma Thompson as the persnickety Mary Poppins author, P.L. Travers, in Banks. The latter film is opening in 15 locations ahead of its wide release next weekend, while Hustle will screen in six theatres.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Golden Globes gives most nods to 'Slave,' 'Hustle'

If the New York Film Critics Circle is Team American Hustle, having named David O. Russell's manic, crowd-pleasing dramedy its Best Film of the year, and the Screen Actors Guild is Team 12 Years A Slave, having nominated Steve McQueen's lauded period piece for the most number of awards, then the Golden Globes is neutral Switzerland. The Globes is the latest organization to sound off on those films and performances it believes outshone the rest of the film industry's output in 2013. At seven each, American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave have walked away with the same number of nominations.

Clearly these two are the frontrunners, but what about the rest of the nipping-at-their-heels contenders? Forest Whitaker is notably absent from the below list, while Kate Winslet is a new addition to the conversation. There's still over a month before the Oscars announce their bids, however, leaving plenty of time for the players (or rather, their studio handlers) to rearrange themselves on the great awards chessboard.

2014 Golden Globe Nominations: Motion Pictures

Best motion picture, drama
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Actor in a motion picture, drama
Chiwetel Ejiofor,12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All is Lost

Best Actress in a motion picture, drama
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day

Best Director – motion picture
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Best Screenplay – motion picture
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Jeff Pope Steve, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell and Eric Singer Warren, American Hustle

Best motion picture, musical or comedy
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Best Actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Best Animated Feature film
The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Best Foreign Language Film
Blue Is The Warmest Color (France)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Past (Iran)
The Wind Rises (Japan)

Best supporting Actress in a motion picture
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Best supporting Actor in a motion picture
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Best Original Score – motion picture
All Is Lost - Alex Ebert
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Alex Heffes
Gravity - Steven Price
The Book Thief - John Williams
12 Years a Slave - Hans Zimmer

Best Original Song – motion picture
"Atlas," The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
"Let It Go," Frozen
"Ordinary Love," Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
"Please Mr. Kennedy," Inside Llewyn Davis
"Sweeter Than Fiction" One Chance

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SAG Announces 2014 Nominees

With four nods, including a Best Actor bid for Chiwetel Ejiofor and one for the coveted Best Cast, 12 Years A Slave has racked up the most 2014 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

In the next tier down, SAG awarded three nominations each to Dallas Buyers Club, August: Osage County and Lee Daniels' The Butler. Nebraska, American Hustle and Captain Phillips have all earned two nods per film.

The list of this year's movie nominees is outlined in full below. Combined with last week's NYFCC awards, which film do you think has the edge at this year's Oscars?

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
BRUCE DERN / Woody Grant – “NEBRASKA” (Paramount Pictures)
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / Solomon Northup – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
TOM HANKS / Capt. Richard Phillips – “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS” (Columbia Pictures)
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY / Ron Woodroof – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)
FOREST WHITAKER / Cecil Gaines – “LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
CATE BLANCHETT / Jasmine – “BLUE JASMINE” (Sony Pictures Classics)
SANDRA BULLOCK / Ryan Stone – “GRAVITY” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
JUDI DENCH / Philomena Lee – “PHILOMENA” (The Weinstein Company)
MERYL STREEP / Violet Weston – “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (The Weinstein Company)
EMMA THOMPSON / P.L. Travers – “SAVING MR. BANKS” (Walt Disney Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
BARKHAD ABDI / Muse – “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS” (Columbia Pictures)
DANIEL BRÜHL / Niki Lauda – “RUSH” (Universal Pictures)
MICHAEL FASSBENDER / Edwin Epps – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JAMES GANDOLFINI / Albert – “ENOUGH SAID” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JARED LETO / Rayon – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld – “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (Columbia Pictures)
LUPITA NYONG’O / Patsey – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JULIA ROBERTS / Barbara Weston – “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (The Weinstein Company)
JUNE SQUIBB / Kate Grant – “NEBRASKA” (Paramount Pictures)
OPRAH WINFREY / Gloria Gaines – “LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
PAUL DANO / Tibeats
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / Solomon Northup
SARAH PAULSON / Mistress Epps
ALFRE WOODARD / Mistress Shaw
AMERICAN HUSTLE (Columbia Pictures)
AMY ADAMS / Sydney Prosser
CHRISTIAN BALE / Irving Rosenfeld
LOUIS C.K. / Stoddard Thorsen
PAUL HERMAN / Alfonse Simone
JACK HUSTON / Pete Musane
JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld
ALESSANDRO NIVOLA / Federal Prosecutor
MICHAEL PEÑA / Sheik (Agent Hernandez)
JEREMY RENNER / Mayor Carmine Polito
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (The Weinstein Company)
CHRIS COOPER / Charles Aiken
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / “Little” Charles Aiken
EWAN McGREGOR / Bill Fordham
JULIA ROBERTS / Barbara Weston
SAM SHEPARD / Beverly Weston
MERYL STREEP / Violet Weston
DENIS O’HARE / Dr. Sevard
LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER (The Weinstein Company)
MARIAH CAREY / Hattie Pearl
JOHN CUSACK / Richard Nixon
JANE FONDA / Nancy Reagan
CUBA GOODING, JR. / Carter Wilson
LENNY KRAVITZ / James Holloway
JAMES MARSDEN / John F. Kennedy
DAVID OYELOWO / Louis Gaines
ALEX PETTYFER / Thomas Westfall
VANESSA REDGRAVE / Annabeth Westfall
ALAN RICKMAN / Ronald Reagan
LIEV SCHREIBER / Lyndon B. Johnson
ROBIN WILLIAMS / Dwight D. Eisenhower
OPRAH WINFREY / Gloria Gaines

The SAG awards will be broadcast live on TNT and TBS on Saturday, January 18 at 8pm ET/5pm PT.

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

August: Osage County

Dallas Buyers Club

Lee Daniels' The Butler


Captain Phillips

Monday, December 9, 2013

‘Frozen’ ices weekend competition

Undeterred by the weekend’s frigid temperatures and, in many areas, first major snowstorm of the year, audiences showed they were all about that ice by lining up for Disney’s Frozen. The animated hit grossed $31.6 million, enough to bypass The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (which took in $27 million) for the weekend’s top slot. Frozen dropped just 53% to earn the best post-Thanksgiving haul ever. Previous record-holder, Toy Story 2, took in $27.8 million in 1999, while three years ago, Frozen’s Mouse-House sister Tangled grossed $21.6 million over this same weekend. In total, Disney’s latest success story will likely earn around $250 million domestically.

Frozen’s worthy competitor Catching Fire continues to do spectacular business, on track to leave with upwards of $400 million by the time its theatrical run has come to an end, although many pundits were surprised by the film’s steep downturn this weekend. The Hunger Games sequel dipped 64%, which is worse than both of the last two Twilight movies.  No need to cry for Katniss, though: The action flick has, so far, earned a total of $336.7 million domestically, with another few weeks of solid earning potential ahead of it.

The same can’t be said of the weekend’s No. 3 slot and only new major release. While no one was particularly surprised Out of the Furnace failed to prove itself a hit, the extent of its failure was greater than expected. With a dismal $5.3 million bow, the revenge thriller is an unqualified bomb. Those who had compared it to last year’s Killing Them Softly, which earned $6.8 million and was also a disappointment, were expecting Furnace to fare a little better and gross about $10 million or so. Audiences, however, may have felt there was enough bleakness to be viewed outside their windows, and decided to opt for something lighter.

Something like Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, which inched past the $100 million mark to become the 6th R-rated comedy to reach the milestone this year. The Coen Bros. Inside Llewyn Davis also did banner specialty business, debuting to $401,000 from just four locations, two in New York and two in LA. Its per-theatre average of $100,250 is the 18th best ever, or 8th best for a live-action film. The movie will next expand on the 20th, although its wide release isn't slated until some time in January. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

‘Furnace’ to fall behind ‘Frozen’ & ‘Fire’

The weekend after Thanksgiving is typically a quiet one for the nation’s box office, and this year, only one new release is opening wide. That would be Out of the Furnace, a gritty, bleak revenge drama starring the gritty, bleak Batman, Christian Bale, as well as Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, and Woody Harrelson. Expectations aren’t quite as dour as the film’s subject matter, location and production stills, but they’re not overly hopeful. To compare, Killing Them Softly was in the same position this time last year, as a new release bowing after the holiday weekend. It boasted a big movie star, Brad Pitt, but failed to leverage the actor’s perceived wide appeal. Softly opened to $6.8 million. Furnace isn’t tracking great with critics, either, (52% rotten on infallible taste barometer Rotten Tomatoes), though it’ll likely fare better than Brad’s failed bet. Screening in 2,101 theatres, odds are, it’ll earn around $10 million.

That kind of haul would likely place it at No. 3, behind last weekend’s reigning champions Frozen and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. General consensus has Games finally slipping from the top slot, to the gain of family friendly Frozen. This will be the action flick's third weekend in theatres, while Frozen, now in its sophomore outing, has youth and a bit more novelty on its side. Comparable franchise series Twilight and Harry Potter both experienced a significant downturn in sales over this same weekend, on average dropping about 60%. Games, however, has consistently done better business than either of its blockbuster peers, meaning its dip shouldn’t be quite as severe - probably about 50%. Both the princess and the provocateur (there’s a college term paper for you) should earn figures in the mid-to-high $30 million range, with Frozen gaining the edge.

Art-house aficionados have been edge-of-their-seats with anticipation over the new Coen brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis, opening in four locations in LA and New York today.  The film, allegedly inspired by the experiences of folk singer Dave Van Ronk in 1960’s Greenwich Village, has been earning rave reviews (95% fresh on RT). Not to mention, its hooky, ridiculous protest song “Please Mr. Kennedy” has steadily been making its viral way into the hearts, and that part of your brain that’s like fly paper to a catchy tune, for a few days now. It doesn’t have the foot-tapping appeal of a “Man of Constant Sorrow,” from the brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? But it does have “Girls” actor Adam Driver as a real-life space cowboy.  Between the siblings’ cachet, the film’s positive buzz, and the below clip, Davis should significantly out-earn its predecessor, A Serious Man, which opened to $41,890 in 2009.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sundance announces 2014 slate

The Sundance Film Festival will celebrate its 30th this year, though it doesn't look as if its appeal has waned any with age. Big names like Ben Kingsley, Kristen Stewart, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Kendrick, Sam Shepard, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, and John Slattery (making his feature directing debut) all have films in competition. First-timers with advance hype include Justin Simien, the writer and director of you-had-me-at-the-title Dear White People.  Sidebar category “Next,” featuring films shot on shoestring budgets and/or touting progressive themes and techniques, has also expanded, to 11 movies. They join 56 films in the documentary and dramatic categories to comprise those features in competition – with more on the way.

All films announced so far are listed below – with videos, where available!
(Descriptions courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.)

Camp X-Ray
(Director and screenwriter: Peter Sattler) — A young woman is stationed as a guard in Guantanamo Bay, where she forms an unlikely friendship with one of the detainees. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Payman Maadi, Lane Garrison, J.J. Soria, John Carroll Lynch.
Cold In July
(Director: Jim Mickle, Screenwriters: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici) — After killing a home intruder, a small town Texas man's life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence. Cast: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell.
Dear White People
(Director and screenwriter: Justin Simien) — Four black students attend an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over an “African American” themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in postracial America while weaving a story about forging one's unique path in the world. Cast: Tyler Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon Bell.
Fishing Without Nets
(Director: Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey, David Burkman) — A story of pirates in Somalia told from the perspective of a struggling, young Somali fisherman. Cast: Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad, Abduwhali Faarah, Abdikhadir Hassan, Reda Kateb, Idil Ibrahim.
God’s Pocket
(Director: John Slattery, Screenwriters: John Slattery, Alex Metcalf) — When Mickey's stepson Leon is killed in a construction "accident," Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body. But when the boy's mother demands the truth, Mickey finds himself stuck between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please, and a debt he can’t pay. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro.
Happy Christmas
(Director and screenwriter: Joe Swanberg) — After a breakup with her boyfriend, a young woman moves in with her older brother, his wife, and their 2-year-old son. Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg.
(Director and screenwriter: Kat Candler) — When motocross and heavy metal obsessed, 13-year-old Jacob's delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother Wes with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent father must finally take responsibility for their actions and each other in order to bring Wes home. Cast: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Jonny Mars, Walt Roberts.
Infinitely Polar Bear
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Maya Forbes) — A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier. Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide.
Jamie Marks Is Dead
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Carter Smith) — No one seemed to care about Jamie Marks until after his death. Hoping to find the love and friendship he never had in life, Jamie’s ghost visits former classmate Adam McCormick, drawing him into the bleak world between the living and the dead. Cast: Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, Judy Greer, Madisen Beaty, Liv Tyler.
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
(Director: David Zellner, Screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner) — A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune. Cast: Rinko Kikuchi.
Life After Beth
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth. When she mysteriously returns, he gets a second chance at love. Soon his whole world turns upside down... Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser.
Low Down
(Director: Jeff Preiss, Screenwriters: Amy Albany, Topper Lilien) — Based on Amy Jo Albany's memoir, Low Down explores her heart-wrenching journey to adulthood while being raised by her father, bebop pianist Joe Albany, as he teeters between incarceration and addiction in the urban decay and waning bohemia of Hollywood in the 1970s. Cast: John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Flea.
The Skeleton Twins
(Director: Craig Johnson, Screenwriters: Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman) — Estranged twins Maggie and Milo coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and confront the reasons their lives went so wrong. As the twins' reunion reinvigorates them, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship. Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason.
The Sleepwalker
(Director: Mona Fastvold, Screenwriters: Mona Fastvold, Brady Corbet) — A young couple, Kaia and Andrew, are renovating Kaia´s secluded family estate. Their lives are violently interrupted when unexpected guests arrive. The Sleepwalker chronicles the unraveling of the lives of four disparate characters as it transcends genre conventions and narrative contrivance to reveal something much more disturbing. Cast: Gitte Witt, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Stephanie Ellis.
Song One
Estranged from her family, Franny returns home when an accident leaves her brother comatose. Retracing his life as an aspiring musician, she tracks down his favorite musician, James Forester. Against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s music scene, Franny and James develop an unexpected relationship and face the realities of their lives. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen, Ben Rosenfield.
(Director and screenwriter: Damien Chazelle) — Under the direction of a ruthless instructor, a talented young drummer begins to pursue perfection at any cost, even his humanity. Cast: Miles Teller, JK Simmons.

Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory
(Director: Michael Rossato-Bennett) — Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease and dementia — many of them alone in nursing homes. A man with a simple idea discovers that songs embedded deep in memory can ease pain and awaken these fading minds. Joy and life are resuscitated, and our cultural fears over aging are confronted.
All The Beautiful Things
(Director: John Harkrider) — John and Barron are lifelong friends whose friendship is tested when Barron's girlfriend says Barron put a knife to her throat and raped her. Not knowing she has lied, John tells her to go to the police. Years later, John and Barron meet in a bar to resolve the betrayal.
Captivated – The Trials of Pamela Smart
(Director: Jeremiah Zagar) — In an extraordinary and tragic American story, a small town murder becomes one of the highest-profile cases of all time. From its historic role as the first televised trial to the many books and movies made about it, the film looks at the media’s enduring impact on the case.
The Case Against 8
(Directors: Ben Cotner, Ryan White) — A behind-the-scenes look inside the case to overturn California's ban on same-sex marriage. Shot over five years, the film follows the unlikely team that took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cesar’s Last Fast
(Directors: Richard Ray Perez, Lorena Parlee) — Inspired by Catholic social teaching, Cesar Chavez risked his life fighting for America’s poorest workers. The film illuminates the intensity of one man’s devotion and personal sacrifice, the birth of an economic justice movement, and tells an untold chapter in the story of civil rights in America.
Dinosaur 13
(Director: Todd Miller) — The true tale behind one of the greatest discoveries in history.
(Directors: Katy Chevigny, Ross Kauffman) — E-TEAM is driven by the high-stakes investigative work of four intrepid human rights workers, offering a rare look at their lives at home and their dramatic work in the field.
Fed Up
(Director: Stephanie Soechtig) — Fed Up blows the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss, revealing a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
(Director: Brian Knappenberger) — Programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz achieved groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing. His passion for open access ensnared him in a legal nightmare that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26.
Ivory Tower
(Director: Andrew Rossi) — As tuition spirals upward and student debt passes a trillion dollars, students and parents ask, "Is college worth it?" From the halls of Harvard to public and private colleges in financial crisis to education startups in Silicon Valley, an urgent portrait emerges of a great American institution at the breaking point.
(Director: Mark Grieco) — Colombia is the center of a new global gold rush, and Marmato, a historic mining town, is the new frontier. Filmed over the course of nearly six years, Marmato chronicles how townspeople confront a Canadian mining company that wants the $20 billion in gold beneath their homes.
No No: A Documentary
(Director: Jeffrey Radice) — Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD, then worked for decades counseling drug abusers. Dock's soulful style defined 1970s baseball as he kept hitters honest and embarrassed the establishment. An ensemble cast of teammates, friends, and family investigate his life on the field, in the media, and out of the spotlight.
The Overnighters
(Director: Jesse Moss) — Desperate, broken men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. A local pastor's decision to help them has extraordinary and unexpected consequences.
Private Violence
(Director: Cynthia Hill) — One in four women experience violence in their homes. Have you ever asked, “Why doesn't she just leave?” Private Violence shatters the brutality of our logic and intimately reveals the stories of two women: Deanna Walters, who transforms from victim to survivor, and Kit Gruelle, who advocates for justice.
Rich Hill
(Directors: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos) — In a rural, American town, kids face heartbreaking choices, find comfort in the most fragile of family bonds and dream of a future of possibility.
Watchers of the Sky
(Director: Edet Belzberg) — Five interwoven stories of remarkable courage from Nuremberg to Rwanda, from Darfur to Syria, and from apathy to action.

52 Tuesdays
Australia (Director: Sophie Hyde, Screenplay and story by: Matthew Cormack, Story by: Sophie Hyde) — Sixteen-year-old Billie’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition, and their time together becomes limited to Tuesdays. This emotionally charged story of desire, responsibility, and transformation was filmed over the course of a year—once a week, every week, only on Tuesdays. Cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Imogen Archer, Mario Späte, Beau Williams, Sam Althuizen. International Premiere
Norway, Netherlands (Director and screenwriter: Eskil Vogt) — Having recently lost her sight, Ingrid retreats to the safety of her home—a place she can feel in control, alone with her husband and her thoughts. But Ingrid's real problems lie within, not beyond the walls of her apartment, and her deepest fears and repressed fantasies soon take over. Cast: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt. World Premiere
Ethiopia (Director and screenwriter: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari) — Meaza Ashenafi is a young lawyer who operates under the government's radar helping women and children until one young girl's legal case exposes everything, threatening not only her career but her survival. Cast: Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere. World Premiere
The Disobedient
Serbia (Director and screenwriter: Mina Djukic) — Leni anxiously waits for her childhood friend Lazar, who is coming back to their hometown after years of studying abroad. After they reunite, they embark on a random bicycle trip around their childhood haunts, which will either exhaust or reinvent their relationship. Cast: Hana Selimovic, Mladen Sovilj, Minja Subota, Danijel Sike, Ivan Djordjevic. World Premiere
God Help the Girl
United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Stuart Murdoch) — This musical from Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian is about some messed up boys and girls and the music they made. Cast: Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Cora Bissett, Pierre Boulanger. World Premiere
 Cast: Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Cora Bissett, Pierre Boulanger. World Premiere
Liar’s Dice
India (Director and screenwriter: Geetu Mohandas) — Kamala, a young woman from the village of Chitkul, leaves her native land with her daughter to search for her missing husband. Along the journey, they encounter Nawazudin, a free-spirited army deserter with his own selfish motives who helps them reach their destination. Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Geetanjali Thapa, Manya Gupta. International Premiere
United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Hong Khaou) — The world of a Chinese mother mourning the untimely death of her son is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger who doesn't speak her language. Lilting is a touching and intimate film about finding the things that bring us together. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Pei-Pei Cheng, Andrew Leung, Peter Bowles, Naomi Christie, Morven Christie. World Premiere.
Lock Charmer
Argentina (Director and screenwriter: Natalia Smirnoff) — Upon learning that his girlfriend is pregnant, 33-year-old locksmith Sebastian begins to have strange visions about his clients. With the help of an unlikely assistant, he sets out to use his newfound talent for his own good.Cast: Esteban Lamothe, Erica Rivas, Yosiria Huaripata. World Premiere
To Kill a Man
Chile, France (Director and screenwriter: Alejandro Fernandez Almendras) — When Jorge, a hardworking family man who's barely making ends meet, gets mugged by Kalule, a neighborhood delinquent, Jorge's son decides to confront the attacker, only to get himself shot. Even though Jorge's son nearly dies, Kalule's sentence is minimal, heightening the friction. Cast: Daniel Candia, Daniel Antivilo, Alejandra Yañez, Ariel Mateluna. World Premiere
Bulgaria, Romania (Director and screenwriter: Maya Vitkova) — Although determined not to have a child in Communist Bulgaria, Boryana gives birth to Viktoria, who despite being born with no umbilical cord, is proclaimed to be the baby of the decade. But political collapse and the hardships of the new time bind mother and daughter together. Cast: Irmena Chichikova, Daria Vitkova, Kalina Vitkova, Mariana Krumova, Dimo Dimov, Georgi Spassov. World Premiere
Germany (Director: David Wnendt, Screenwriters: Claus Falkenberg, David Wnendt, based on the novel by Charlotte Roche) — Meet Helen Memel. She likes to experiment with vegetables while masturbating and thinks that bodily hygiene is greatly overrated. She shocks those around her by speaking her mind in a most unladylike manner on topics that many people would not even dare consider. Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Meret Becker, Axel Milberg, Marlen Kruse, Edgar Selge. North American Premiere
White Shadow
Italy, Germany, Tanzania (Director: Noaz Deshe, Screenwriters: Noaz Deshe, James Masson) — Alias is a young albino boy on the run. His mother has sent him away to find refuge in the city after witnessing his father's murder. Over time, the city becomes no different than the bush: wherever Alias travels, the same rules of survival apply. Cast: Hamisi Bazili, James Gayo, Glory Mbayuwayu, Salum Abdallah. International Premiere

20,000 Days on Earth
United Kingdom (Directors: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard) — Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international culture icon Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, this film examines what makes us who we are and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit. World Premiere
Concerning Violence
Sweden, U.S.A., Denmark, Finland (Director: Göran Hugo Olsson) — Concerning Violence is based on newly discovered, powerful archival material documenting the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the Third World, accompanied by classic text from The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. World Premiere
The Green Prince
Germany, Israel, United Kingdom (Director: Nadav Schirman ) — This real-life thriller tells the story of one of Israel’s prized intelligence sources, recruited to spy on his own people for more than a decade. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries. World Premiere.
France, Finland (Director: Thomas Balmès) — Peyangki is a dreamy and solitary eight-year-old monk living in Laya, a Bhutanese village perched high in the Himalayas. Soon the world will come to him: the village is about to be connected to electricity, and the first television will flicker on before Peyangki's eyes. North American Premiere
Love Child
South Korea, U.S.A. (Director: Valerie Veatch) — In Seoul in the Republic of Korea, a young couple stands accused of neglect when "Internet addiction" in an online fantasy game costs the life of their infant daughter. Love Child documents the 2010 trial and subsequent ruling that set a global precedent in a world where virtual is the new reality. World Premiere
Mr. leos caraX
France (Director: Tessa Louise-Salomé) — Mr leos caraX plunges us into the poetic and visionary world of a mysterious, solitary filmmaker who was already a cult figure from his very first film. Punctuated by interviews and previously unseen footage, this documentary is most of all a fine-tuned exploration of the poetic and visionary world of Leos Carax, alias Mr. X. World Premiere
My Prairie Home
Canada (Director: Chelsea McMullan) — A poetic journey through landscapes both real and emotional, Chelsea McMullan’s documentary/musical offers an intimate portrait of transgender singer Rae Spoon, framed by stunning images of the Canadian prairies. McMullan’s imaginative visual interpretations of Spoon’s songs make this an unforgettable look at a unique Canadian artist. International Premiere
The Notorious Mr. Bout
U.S.A., Russia (Directors:Tony Gerber, Maxim Pozdorovkin ) — Viktor Bout was a war profiteer, an entrepreneur, an aviation tycoon, an arms dealer, and—strangest of all—a documentary filmmaker. The Notorious Mr. Bout is the ultimate rags-to-riches-to-prison memoir, documented by the last man you'd expect to be holding the camera. World Premiere
The Return to Homs
Syria, Germany (Director: Talal Derki) — Basset Sarout, the 19-year-old national football team goalkeeper, becomes a demonstration leader and singer, and then a fighter. Ossama, a 24-year-old renowned citizen cameraman, is critical, a pacifist, and ironic until he is detained by the regime's security forces. North American Premiere
SEPIDEH – Reaching for the Stars
Denmark (Director: Berit Madsen) — Sepideh wants to become an astronaut. As a young Iranian woman, she knows it’s dangerous to challenge traditions and expectations. Still, Sepideh holds on to her dream. She knows a tough battle is ahead, a battle that only seems possible to win once she seeks help from an unexpected someone. North American Premiere
We Come as Friends
France, Austria (Director: Hubert Sauper) — We Come as Friends views colonization as a human phenomenon through both explicit and metaphoric lenses without oversimplified accusations or political theorizing. Alarmingly, It is not a historical film since colonization and the slave trade still exist. World Premiere
Web Junkie
Israel (Directors: Shosh Shlam, Hilla Medalia) — China is the first country to label “Internet addiction” a clinical disorder. Web Junkie investigates a Beijing rehab center where Chinese teenagers are deprogrammed. World Premiere

Appropriate Behavior
U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Desiree Akhavan) — Shirin is struggling to become an ideal Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual, and a hip, young Brooklynite, but fails miserably in her attempt at all identities. Being without a cliché to hold on to can be a lonely experience. Cast: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer, Scott Adsit, Anh Duong, Arian Moayed. World Premiere
Drunktown’s Finest
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sydney Freeland) — Three young Native Americans—a rebellious father-to-be, a devout Christian woman, and a promiscuous transsexual—come of age on an Indian reservation. Cast: Jeremiah Bitsui, Carmen Moore, Morningstar Angeline, Kiowa Gordon, Shauna Baker, Elizabeth Francis. World Premiere
The Foxy Merkins
U.S.A. (Director: Madeleine Olnek, Screenwriters: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Madeleine Olnek) — Two lesbian hookers work the streets of New York. One is a down-on-her-luck newbie; the other is a beautiful—and straight—grifter who's an expert on picking up women. Together they face bargain-hunting housewives, double-dealing conservative women, and each other in this prostitute buddy comedy. Cast: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Alex Karpovsky, Susan Ziegler, Sally Sockwell, Deb Margolin.
A Girl Walks Home Along at Night
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour) — In the Iranian ghost town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, depraved denizens are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnó, Milad Eghbali. World Premiere
Imperial Dreams
U.S.A. (Director: Malik Vitthal, Screenwriters: Malik Vitthal, Ismet Prcic) — A 21-year-old, reformed gangster's devotion to his family and his future are put to the test when he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles. Cast: John Boyega, Rotimi Akinosho, Glenn Plummer, Keke Palmer, De'aundre Bonds.World Premiere
Land Ho!
U.S.A., Iceland (Directors and screenwriters: Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz) — A pair of ex-brothers-in-law set off to Iceland in an attempt to reclaim their youth through Reykjavik nightclubs, trendy spas, and rugged campsites. This bawdy adventure is a throwback to 1980s road comedies, as well as a candid exploration of aging, loneliness, and friendship. Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Nelson, Alice Olivia Clarke, Karrie Krouse, Elizabeth McKee, Emmsjé Gauti.World Premiere
Listen Up Philip
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alex Ross Perry) — A story about changing seasons and changing attitudes, a newly accomplished writer faces mistakes and miseries affecting those around him, including his girlfriend, her sister, his idol, his idol's daughter, and all the ex-girlfriends and enemies that lie in wait on the open streets of New York. Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Josephine de La Baume. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Tim Sutton) — A strange singer drifts through the mythic city of Memphis, surrounded by beautiful women, legendary musicians, a stone-cold hustler, a righteous preacher, and a wolf pack of kids. Under a canopy of ancient oak trees and burning spirituality, his doomed journey breaks from conformity and reaches out for glory. Cast: Willis Earl Beal, Lopaka Thomas, Constance Brantley, Devonte Hull, John Gary Williams, Larry Dodson. World Premiere
Obvious Child
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Gillian Robespierre) — An honest comedy about what happens when Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern gets dumped, fired, and pregnant, just in time for the worst/best Valentine's Day of her life. Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross, Gabe Liedman, Richard Kind. World Premiere
Ping Pong Summer
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Tully) — 1985. Ocean City, Maryland. Summer vacation. Rap music. Parachute pants. Ping pong. First crushes. Best friends. Mean bullies. Weird mentors. That awkward, momentous time in your life when you're treated like an alien by everyone around you, even though you know deep down you're as funky fresh as it gets. Cast: Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, Robert Longstreet, Marcello Conte.World Premiere
War Story
U.S.A. (Director: Mark Jackson, Screenwriters: Kristin Gore, Mark Jackson) — A war photographer retreats to a small town in Sicily after being held captive during the conflict in Libya. Cast: Catherine Keener, Hafsia Herzi, Vincenzo Amato, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ben Kingsley. World Premiere