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World festival roundup: Highlights of the upcoming fall and winter season promise a wide range of cinematic treats around the world. Festivals listed in chronological order.
Aug. 27-Sept. 7
World Film Festival
Fest will open with the world premiere of “Muhammad,” the 171-minute epic from Iranian director Majid Majidi, shot by Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Mwff has received a record number of short films — over 1,200 (an increase of 42% over 2014) from some 64 countries, “evidence of the vitality of today’s young filmmakers,” notes Mwff president Serge Losique. Fest is adding a Chinese Cinema section with more than 10 new features.
The fest, above, nestled in the mountains of Colorado, has always been an intimate, casual, carefully curated event that isn’t just a competition but also a celebration of the best in film. Even though the festival doesn’t announce its lineup until the day before it begins unspooling, »
- Iain Blair
Spoilers Ahead! Don't read this unless you want the twist revealed.
"The Gift," a mystery-thriller released August 7, stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton, who also steps in as first-time director. No blood and guts in this flick, one of the many positives about the movie, which kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I watched it.
Jason Bateman plays a successful family man who moves to California with his wife, played by Rebecca Hall, after landing a new job there. Everything seems fine, life is great -- and getting better! -- until an old high-school acquaintance shows up. Unbeknownst to us, Bateman was a bully in high school and spread a nasty rumor he made up that caused Edgerton to suffer mental and physical abuse at the hands of his own father; 25 years later Edgerton comes for payback.
What I really liked about this »
- Wendell Escott
[major spoilers for The Gift; spoiler-free review here]
“Bad things can be a gift,” says Gordo (Joel Edgerton) to his old high-school classmate, Simon (Jason Bateman), and Simon’s wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). What does Gordo mean by this? Is he referring to the fact that he has been bugging them to the point where it could be considered menacing? Is that somehow a “gift” that is going to make their lives better? Of course not. What is the gift of the movie’s title? It’s probably not the bottle of expensive wine Gordo leaves on their doorstep (when he wasn’t given their address) soon after he bumps into them and renews Simon’s acquaintance. And it’s probably not the much more expensive fully grown koi he later deposits in their fish pond. While these range from weirdly stalkerish to wildly inappropriate (and mysterious: we have no idea how Gordo could have possibly afforded an »
- MaryAnn Johanson
The Napa Valley Film Festival has tapped former USA Today Chief Film Critic Claudia Puig as program director.
Puig will serve as a consulting programming director and industry liaison for the rest of 2015, and then take on the full responsibilities of program director at the beginning of the 2016 festival planning cycle.
“After 15 years as a film critic, I became increasingly intrigued by the film festival world and what makes compelling film programming,” Puig said. “Some of the best and most original movies I’ve seen have made their debut at film festivals. Joining the Napa staff is especially exciting — only in its fifth year, the Napa Valley Film Festival is growing by leaps and bounds with its ambitious, forward-thinking and innovative programming, panels and events.”
The festival will take place November 11 to 15 in Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga.
It disclosed its Narrative and Documentary feature film line-ups for juried »
- Dave McNary
Chicago – Of the various genres of films, the psychological thriller is one of my holy grails. A story that highlights the psychology of its characters and their wobbly emotional states, few modern filmmakers dare to compete with the masterminds – Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and more recently David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky – or fail when trying to.
Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” – along with films like “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Se7en,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Pi,” “The Shining,” “Memento,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Misery” and “The Usual Suspects” – do the genre true justice. Fast forward to today, though, when we ask ourselves: Who is Joel Edgerton?
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
“From the producer of Insidious, Sinister and The Purge…” proclaims the trailer for The Gift. You already know where this is going – a cheap production with a couple of well-known actors slumming it for a paycheck where upcoming horror is signposted a mile away, culminating in an over-the-top gorey finale that fails because any built-up tension has been undercut by a fake-out jump scare every ten minutes. Next.
But wait, The Gift isn’t that movie. Everything about the advertising suggests it’s a vacuous thriller made to pad out the multiplexes for people who want chills over thrills during the blockbuster season (or, in a lucky turn of events for the Insidious producers, anyone who is wisely avoiding Fant4stic). Instead, it’s a well-written psychological thriller that prompts a tricky moral debate alongside its meticulously-built tension.
- Alex Leadbeater
In a weekend that featured four new movies hitting theaters, last weekend's winner Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation took the top spot for the second weekend in a row with $29.4 million, beating newcomer Fantastic Four, which earned $26.2 million. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation dropped just 47% in its second weekend in theaters, with a $7,372 per-screen average in 3,988 theaters. Fantastic Four opened much lower than expected, possibly due to a spate of negative reviews.
Many box office analysts had Fantastic Four earning between $30 million and $40 million in its opening weekend, but it didn't come close to hitting that mark. The 20th Century Fox superhero movie wasn't received well by the nation's critics, with a paltry 9% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with just 13 positive reviews out of 151. It isn't known how much Fantastic Four cost to produce, but the opening weekend numbers are far below the initial projections.
The Gift opened in third place this weekend with just over $12 million, »
Actor turned writer/director Joel Edgerton gives audiences a nicely wrapped present with his directorial feature film debut, The Gift. Edgerton delivers a great performance along with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall in a movie that delivers all the elements of a good thriller. It's refreshing to watch an entertaining movie that's devoid of any superheroes or a reboot of a previous movie. Here are six other reasons to see this movie.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Super User)
Tom Cruise, that immortal God of luscious hair and death-defying stunts, clobbered the Fantastic Four this weekend, as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation took home the top spot at the box office, earning $29.4 million. Josh Trank’s widely-derided Fantastic Four, which was even chastised by its own director (in a tweet he subsequently deleted), earned $26.2 million, which is it the lowest opening weekend gross for a superhero movie since the 2012 monstrosity Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, starring Nic Cage’s flaming skeleton head.Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut, The Gift, earned rave reviews and a healthy $12 million. The film stars Edgerton as a creepy guy who inflicts psychological torture upon Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. Just as creepy, albeit unintentionally, is the National Lampoon reboot Vacation, which attempts to revive the Chevy Chase series that was popular two generations of moviegoers ago. It made $9.1 million. Marvel’s Ant-Man rounds out »
- Greg Cwik
Best known for his work in front of the camera, Joel Edgerton wrote and directed The Gift, a borderline Hitchcockian stalker drama in which nothing is quite as it seems. The Callens, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn, (Rebecca Hall) are a couple who seem to have it made - moving on from their old life in Chicago, they've just relocated to a swanky house in Los Angeles. Simon is due for a big promotion at work and Robyn is eager to start a family in their beautiful new home.
However, a chance encounter with Gordon 'Gordo' Mosley, (Edgerton) a former high school classmate of Simon's, upsets the status quo. He welcomes them to the neighbourhood with small tokens of friendship and offers to help set up the entertainment system, »
One of the moment’s men to watch is Australian actor Joel Edgerton. After writing last year’s Ozpocalypse thriller The Rover, he writes and stars in this feature-directing debut. It’s a production of chiller specialists Blumhouse (Insidious), and the ads, with their slogan “Dare you open?”, suggest something routinely creepy. (What could be in that gift-wrapped package? Dead kittens? A spare limb of the Human Centipede?)
The Gift proves to be considerably more sophisticated. Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman play a couple who move into a sleek modernist house in La. They run into Gordo (Edgerton), Bateman’s old schoolmate, who seems over-eager to welcome them to town. We think we’re in for a routine home-invasion thriller, but Edgerton takes the story in unexpected directions. Bateman gets »
- Jonathan Romney
Joel Edgerton’s The Gift starts out like so many other thrillers before it — with an attractive, well-to-do couple purchasing a big new house — and then beats its own, uniquely tense and twisted path from there. It never flinches from that path, either. Where other films would have opted for cheap thrills, The Gift remains focused on the phantoms within. For most of its running time, its villains aren’t people, but doubt, fear, guilt, and rage. It’s that rarest of psychological thrillers: one that actually lives up to the words psychological thriller.The couple in question, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), have moved to the Los Angeles area after some time in Chicago, because he’s just gotten a fancy new job. They seem loving, but haunted. She, we learn, is somewhat emotionally fragile, possibly due to a miscarriage she had back in Chicago. He, meanwhile, »
- Bilge Ebiri
Marking the directorial debut of Joel Edgerton (also on writing duties), The Gift takes the usual stalker thriller formula and adds some impressive twists and turns, with the tale of young married couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) who relocate from Chicago to California, near to where Simon grew up. The couple soon meet, completely by chance, the socially awkward but kind Gordo (Egerton), a former schoolmate of Simon’s, who soon slots himself in their lives, bestowing gifts on them and dropping by their house with increasing regularity. Helpful at first, it soon becomes clear there may be something sinister behind his motives. For his first time behind the camera, Edgerton proves a deft hand at delivering an increasingly unnerving, suspenseful and psychological thriller, maintaining a potent mixture of tension and dread throughout. From the opening frame, it’s a slow build as Gordo seems fairly innocent at first, »
- email@example.com (Tom White)
“Fantastic Four” is struggling to find its footing at the box office this weekend, suggesting that not even superheroes are immune to poor reviews.
Early estimates show the 20th Century Fox release struggling to hit $30 million for the weekend, which is well below the anticipated mid-$40 million mark. Should the estimates keep plummeting, the opening could prove disastrous for the studio, which spent $120 million on the pic.
Thursday night previews for “Fantastic Four” pulled in a lukewarm $2.7 million at 2,900 locations.
The last major superhero release to premiere under $35 million was Sony’s “The Green Hornet” in 2011 ($33.5 million).
In addition to “Fantastic Four’s” not-so-fantastic 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a damning tweet from the film’s own director, Josh Trank, suggested that even he was disappointed with the final cut. Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Miles Teller star in the reboot.
- Marianne Zumberge
Stx Entertainment released their new horror/thriller film, "The Gift," into theaters today, August 7th, 2015, and all the major, top movie critics have submitted their reviews. It turns out that it did resonate quite well with most of them, getting an overall 78 score out of a possible 100 at the Metacritic.com site. The film stars: Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and Rebecca Hall. We've posted blurbs from a couple of the critics,below. Kevin P. Sullivan from Entertainment Weekly, gave it an awesome 91 score, stating: "The real joy of The Gift is getting to that twisted goodness, because more than anything, Edgerton’s script and direction demonstrate a keen understanding of tension and what puts an audience on edge." Gary Goldstein from the Los Angeles Times, gave it a 90 score. He stated: "Although the film builds an effective sense of dread and contains its share of unnerving visuals and well-timed scares, »
- Andre Braddox
Considering Joel Edgerton acted as the director/writer/producer and star of The Gift, it’s safe to say that the newest Blumhouse release was sincerely presented as his vision. Bleak, unnerving, and at times, difficult to stomach, The Gift is a thrilling exploration of the consequences of how we treat one another. The yuppie couple of Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have recently relocated to Los Angeles when they have a chance run in with Simon’s old high school classmate, Gordo. The scenario is relatable, as anyone who returns to their hometown can attest to experiencing, but there’s something off about Gordo. Shortly after the encounter, Gordo begins showing up unannounced and leaving random housewarming gifts on the doorstep. It quickly becomes apparent that he has overstayed his welcome and the lives of Simon and Robyn may be in jeopardy.
Edgerton’s script is a »
- BJ Colangelo
Fox’s “Fantastic Four” faces an uphill climb at the box office following savage reviews and controversy, picking up $2.7 million from 2,900 Thursday night locations.
The superhero reboot currently holds an abysmal 9% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and director Josh Trank didn’t help the bad buzz when he tweeted that the film would have enjoyed better notices if the studio hadn’t meddled. Those 140 characters have since been deleted, but not before they went viral.
Despite being a critical piñata and the inspiration for some career harakiri, “Fantastic Four” is expected to top box office charts, making upwards of $40 million. It carries a $120 million pricetag, and stars Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Miles Teller, who went in for some digital era ridicule after an Esquire reporter applied the shiv in a profile piece.
It’s a packed weekend at the multiplexes. Also opening this Friday, Stx Entertainment »
- Brent Lang
The Gift, 2015.
Written and Directed by Joel Edgerton.
A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.
Joel Edgerton makes his directorial debut with The Gift (alongside writing and starring in the film), which is easily the surprise hit of the summer. What easily could have been a formulaic thriller regarding a mentally unstable friend from the past creepily stalking a couple, is actually a much more sinister and unnerving tale interested in exploring three dynamic characters that not only feel grounded and real, but are used as vessels to promote some provocative discussion on morality, bullying, and trust.
This isn’t the clear-cut narrative that the trailer suggests, »
- Robert Kojder
Psychological thrillers had their heyday in the 90’s with films like Fatal Attraction, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and plenty of others. What was interesting was their core viewing audience were women. Typically, the films would revolve around an affair or have some sort of sexual context that would give just enough gossipy sleaze to middle America. Earlier this year, you may remember a film being released that seemed like it was somehow transported from the 90’s called The Boy Next Door, another Blumhouse joint like The Gift, starring Jennifer Lopez. If you already forgot about it, Jenny from the Block is a high school teacher who is seduced by a high school student and then the student’s obsession turns nasty. While I haven’t seen the film, this film seems to use the knowledge that people have of true life stories they have seen or heard of »
- Andy Triefenbach
It’s nearly impossible to say anything about what makes The Gift so good without revealing its two crucial, spine-tinglingly effective plot twists. The best any critic can really do in reviewing the flick is to say: The Gift is very, very good. Just stop reading and go see it now. But since I’m obligated to shake down something more than fifty words about the film, here are a few things that can be said about The Gift without blowing its surprises.
For its first third or so The Gift is a perfectly entertaining 1990s-style thriller. A bright and successful young couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), move from Chicago to Simon’s hometown – Los Angeles. Everything seems rosy at first for the pair. Simon’s just gotten a lucrative job and they’ve found a swanky new house, complete with a koi pond along the front walk. »
- Patrick Dunn
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