Archive for November, 2014

Box office race is a foregone conclusion

November 30th, 2014 - admin

The ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ is heading for an easy win at the North American Thanksgiving weekend box office after grossing $24m on Friday.  It represents a so-so 55% fall from last week’s opening but doesn’t compare favourably with the $31.5m that its predecessor, ‘Catching Fire’, racked up on the corresponding Friday last year.  The YA blockbuster should finish the five-day session around $82m.


DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ finished second on Friday with a slightly disappointing $10.5m during its third day in play.  An ‘A-‘ CinemaScore from first night audiences should draw family audiences on Saturday and Sunday but the animation adventure is still unlikely to finish the long weekend much above $37m.


The session’s other wide opener, ‘Horrible Bosses 2’, made little impression.  The R-rated comedy earned a poor $6.1m on Friday and will struggle to reach $24m over the five days even allowing for its reasonable ‘B+’ CinemaScore.
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Natalie Portman in negotiations for Steve Jobs biopic

November 30th, 2014 - admin

Natalie Portman is in talks to join Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic, which has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes this week with Universal coming aboard after Sony’s shock withdrawal.  Things could get even better for the project if Boyle succeeds in persuading Michael Fassbender to play the lead but there is no news yet on the status of negotiations.  ‘Social Network’ screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, has adapted the script from Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography.

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‘Manson Girls’ enters production in February

November 30th, 2014 - admin

Susanna Lo (‘Black & White: A Love Story’) will commence filming next February on her long gestating ‘Manson Girls’, starring Tania Raymonde, Monica Keena and Bill Moseley.  It will follow her as yet unreleased ‘Rabid’ and dramatises the events surrounding the girls’ part in Charles Manson’s notorious Helter Skelter killing spree.  TriCoast picked up worldwide sales rights at this month’s AFM.

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Mockingjay dominates box office ahead of Thanksgiving weekend

November 28th, 2014 - admin

YA blockbuster,  ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ grossed $14.55m on Wednesday to remain in control of the North American box office one day before Thanksgiving but still fell below Liongate’s expectations.  The third instalment of the franchise finished $6m beneath its predecessor, ‘Catching Fire’, on the corresponding date last year, and continues the trend set during last weekend’s debut notwithstanding a powerful ‘A-‘ CinemaScore from first night audiences.  It’s all relative, of course, with the the film’s domestic running total already hitting $157.56m alongside a stellar performance overseas.


Both newcomers, ‘Penguins Of Madagascar’ and ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ were left  behind on $6.25m and $4.25m respectively.

Independent Spirit Awards 2015

November 27th, 2014 - admin

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Cinema Guild takes ‘About Elly’

November 26th, 2014 - admin

Better late than never, Cinema Guild has taken North American distribution rights to Asghar Farhadi’s mystery drama, ‘About Elly’, winner of best director at Berlin five years ago.  Another distributor originally acquired the film shortly after its world premiere but folded before the theatrical release.  It was Farhadi’s predecessor to ‘A Separation’, which went on to win 80 awards, including the best foreign language film Oscar.

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Ulrich Seidl developing period drama

November 26th, 2014 - admin

Ulrich Seidl is developing a period drama set amongst the 18th century Austrian underclasses where crime becomes the only means of survival.  It will be an international co-production and focuses on a real life outlaw, Herr Grasl, who risked execution fighting for the suppressed.  Seidl’s documentary, ‘In the Basement’, is still doing the festival rounds after premiering at Venice last August.

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The Imitation Game

November 25th, 2014 - admin

Lively direction and superb performances paper over the cracks in Morten Tyldum’s engaging account of Alan Turing cracking the Nazi’s Enigma code and suffering an appalling legitimised persecution after the war; a national hero defeating Hitler but powerless against fascism Manchester police style, with British pride and shame wrapped into one.


And Tyldum’s parallel editing makes the most of the binary opposites, depicting both episodes side by side with some familiar tropes and clichés thrown in for good measure; brilliant award season bait – and many observers have already bitten – but not so good for the film’s long term endurance.


Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as the outsider ‘odd duck’ mathematical genius brought into the inside at Bletchley Park by a reluctant old school Commander intolerant of his social foibles, falling somewhere between arrogance and autism in a Cumberbatchian Sherlock way.


But sometimes the most unlikely do the unimaginable, the film’s patronising slogan/script motif tells us – it even grates first time – and Turing arguably did more than anybody to win the war, not only decoding global encrypted commands from Nazi HQ but calculating a formula for determining how much of the intelligence the Brits could use safely without giving the game away; all via his new machine, a general purpose computer prototype.


He received invaluable support from Joan Clarke, who defies the period’s inherent sexism doing something herself that the army couldn’t imagine, and thanks to a committed performance from an excellent Keira Knightley, some of the film’s best moments explore a platonic love with it being barely mentioned.


A more serious prejudice sees Turing convicted of ‘gross indecency’, an euphemism for homosexuality, and suffering an horrific chemical castration, which, as it turned out, was something that made his life unbearable in the saddest and most literal sense.


Apart from some well handled flashbacks to Turing’s schooldays with Alex Lawther catching the eye as the young genius, we see little of his secret life, which is pity and smacks of commercial intervention.


And we could have done without an unnecessary ‘fifth’ Soviet spy sub-plot and an even more contrived melodramatic set up with Turing’s colleague having a brother on board a ship that Turing chose not to save.


That said, this is a very watchable film where, for the most part, the flaws are more a matter for later reflection.

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Mockingjay enjoys stunning int’l opening

November 25th, 2014 - admin

YA blockbuster,  ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, amassed a stunning $154.3m during its opening five days at the international box office for the best launch of the year.  The third instalment of the franchise was active in a powerful 85 international markets with the UK being its most successful with a spectacular  $19.8m, a 5% increase on ‘Catching Fire’.  After factoring in North America, it has already cleared $275m globally.

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‘Mockingjay’ falls below expectations

November 24th, 2014 - admin

Lionsgate’s ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, grossed $123m at the North American weekend box office for the year’s highest opening but trailed the franchise’s first two instalments by $29m and $35m respectively with a higher than expected drop.


The east coast freeze may have kept some at home, particularly early in the session, but, for the most part, franchise fatigue seems to account for the comparative underperformance.


On the positive side, first night audiences awarded it a powerful ‘A-‘ CinemaScore, only just below the other instalments and word-of-mouth should assist with a strong holdover during the Thanksgiving weekend.


Critics were less enthusiastic – 68% on RT against a high 84% and 89% for the first two – but reviews were still strong enough to avoid an adverse impact moving forward.


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Film Movement acquires ‘Amour Fou’

November 22nd, 2014 - admin

Film Movement has picked up US distribution rights to Jessica Hausner’s Cannes title, ‘Amour Fou’ and plans a theatrical release next March.  Christian Friedel and Birte Schnoeink play the 19th century Romantic poets, Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel, in a dramatisation of their suicidal pact to defeat death through love.  It’s the follow up to Hausner’s crtical success, ‘Lourdes’.

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Mixed messages for ‘Mockingjay’

November 22nd, 2014 - admin

Lionsgate’s ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ made a comparatively slow start on Friday at the North American box office but there is still time to recover.  The Y.A. action adventure grossed $55m from 4,151 theatres (including Thursday night previews), being 17% and 22% below the franchise’s first two instalments respectively and leaving it on pace for a $125m opening weekend, below market expectations.  But, putting things into perspective, it would still be the year’s highest debut.


Critics were less enthusiastic than with the first two but it still aggregated a decent 68% on RT.  More importantly, first night audiences awarded it a powerful ‘A- CinemaScore and, with Thanksgiving weekend pending, word-of-mouth should sustain a healthy run.


The east coast freeze would have kept some at home; particular on Thursday night when it only earned $17m.  Overseas, where there are no such problems, the film has made a flying start.

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McQueen changes direction

November 22nd, 2014 - admin

In a radical change of direction, Steve McQueen will remake the 1980’s TV series, ‘Widows’, as his big screen follow up to last year’s Oscar winner, ’12 Years A Slave’.  Pre-production should get under way next month and it will feature four gangster widows finishing an armed heist started by their dead spouses.  McQueen is writing the script.

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‘Mockingjay’ hit by weather

November 22nd, 2014 - admin

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ landed in North American theatres on Thursday night with a $17m haul, slightly below market expectations.  It’s the Y.A. franchise’s slowest start after the first two instalments boasted previews at $19.7m and $25.2m respectively but the east coast freeze would have been a factor.  Exceptional social media interest – YouTube, Facebook and Twitter racking up an unprecedented 602m clicks – suggests that the best is still to come.

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Clive Owen boards ‘Nebraska’ screenwriter’s debut feature

November 20th, 2014 - admin

Clive Owen has joined Patton Oswalt and Tim Blake Nelson in the cast of ‘The Confirmation’, the debut film from the Oscar-nominated ‘Nebraska’ screenwriter, Bob Nelson.  Touching upon some of the same themes as ‘Nebraska’, a young boy and his estranged father establish an understanding during unusual circumstances.  Filming has just started in Canada.

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Mr Turner

November 20th, 2014 - admin

Timothy Spall picked up best actor at Cannes for his career-topping performance as JMW Turner in Mike Leigh’s meticulous biopic of the great Romantic painter; adopting an hilarious conversation killing guttural grunt but always speaking volumes with his fierce jowls and protruding lower lip.


This is Turner at the height of his powers as times-were-a-changing in 19th century Europe; a transition that Turner assimilated into his paintings en route to a new pared down semi-abstraction, which proved too much for the conservative art establishment and an arrogant/obtuse Queen Vic.


And he combined a blunt coarseness with a commanding authority that proved all conquering in high society and his private life, the epitome of the self-made Victorian man but, in Turner’s case, drifting unnervingly from master to metaphorical monster, at least, when judged by today’s standards.


We see him using a passive housekeeper for careless sex – just about on the right side of consent – and treating his former mistress and their children as an annoyance but showing genuine tenderness towards his father and a Margate landlady whom he later married; such contradictions emanating from an egocentricity that some would say is a prerequisite for ‘greatness’.


And Turner’s own attitude towards other canonical artists is fascinating; defending Claude’s 16th century classical landscapes to the hilt during a parlour debate but mocking his own contemporary, John Constable, albeit with a hint of the perverse back handed compliment; ignoring other peers almost entirely, too insignificant even for ridicule.


Leigh joins the party with some sardonic finger pointing of his own, portraying John Ruskin as a patronising hoity-toity buffoon with an absurdly exaggerated aristocratic lisp – how cwuel – and, obviously, pouring scorn on all critics at that same time.


It was a horrified Ruskin who allegedly destroyed a portfolio of Turner’s secret pornographic paintings after the artist’s death and the film’s most sombre scene has Turner unable to contain his own self-loathing when painting a young prostitute offering extras in a backstreet brothel.


This is the third time that Leigh has moved away from his stylised contemporary dramas and he has superbly recreated Victorian London and the settings for Turner’s paintings alongside Spall’s brilliant characterisation of the man himself.  There’s just one small gripe – a buffoon’s PoV, Mr Leigh – Turner’s death scene, which echoes his father’s death earlier in proceedings, is disproportionately long and loses a little dramatic impetus along the way.  But otherwise, it’s a fine achievement.

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I Cannot Write My Essay

November 20th, 2014 - admin

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De Niro joins David O. Russell’s entrepreneur drama

November 18th, 2014 - admin

Robert De Niro has joined the cast of David O. Russell’s next but one feature, ‘Joy’, after being in discussions for some time.  It’s a biopic of the self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur, Joy Mangano, and will receive a high profile Christmas 2015 release.  Jennifer Lawrence re-teams with Russell and De Niro from ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘American Hustle’ to play the lead.

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