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Box Office: 'American Sniper' rules again at no. 1 as 'Mordecai' bombs

41 minutes ago

To say "American Sniper" is a phenomenon is something of an understatement.  Clint Eastwood's best picture nominee grossed another $64.3 million over the weekend for a massive $200.1 million to date.  That's down just 27.9% from last weekend, a remarkable feat for a film in over 3,000 theaters that isn't an animated family film. Showing how potent 2015 may be, "Sniper" may surpass 2014's top grosser "Guardians of the Galaxy"( which grossed $333 million) as early as Oscar Sunday. Debuting at no. 2 was the Jennifer Lopez thriller "The Boy Next Door."  With a reported production cost of just $4 million, this Universal Pictures release took in $15 over its first three days.  It will probably need to surpass $30 million to get on the road to profitability, but it's a solid success for Lopez who continues to dip her toe in and out of the movie business. "Paddington" dropped to no. 3 with another $12.3 million and $40 million in just 10 days. »


- Gregory Ellwood

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Review: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig bring comedic fireworks to 'Mistress America'

7 hours ago

Park City - No one needs to worry about Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig experiencing a sophomore slump.  After collaborating behind the camera for 2012's "Frances Ha," the duo have reunited for "Mistress America," a hilarious new comedy that premiered Saturday evening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.  And, yes, for those that care, this one is in color. While Gerwig also plays a main character on screen, the movie is actually told from the point of view of Tracy (Lola Kirke from "Gone Girl" and "Mozart in the Jungle"), a freshman writing major at Bard College who is having those familiar first semester problems of fitting in and making friends.  She does find one ally in Tony (Matthew Shear) after they both fail to make it into the prestigious Mobius Literary Society. That joy is short-lived once Tony surprises her by finding a jealous girlfriend in the form of Nicolette »


- Gregory Ellwood

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Review: James Franco is the right guy to play gay-or-not in true story 'I Am Michael'

9 hours ago

Park City - I would guess there is no working actor right now more suited to playing the lead in "I Am Michael" than James Franco. Walking into the film this morning, I didn't know what it was about. That's how I like to try to see as many movies as possible at Sundance, because it leaves the opportunity for surprises. As soon as it started, though, I recognized the material, and I became intrigued to see how they were going to approach telling the story of MIchael Glatze, who is best known for being a former high-profile advocate for gay rights who "went straight" in a very public way after a health scare, eventually becoming a Christian pastor and proclaiming himself heterosexual. That's a tough story to tell without demonizing either side of things, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to see a movie that played Glatze as a hero. »


- Drew McWeeny

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Review: 'Slow West' features a gruff Michael Fassbender and absurdist Western violence

10 hours ago

Park City. This doesn't happen often, but I had to stay after the Sundance Film Festival premiere screening of "Slow West" to listen to the Q&A with director John MacLean to get a sense of what the intended tone was for his World Cinema Dramatic Competition entry.  Large portions of the second half of the 1870-set Western made me laugh, sometimes fairly hard, but I couldn't quite tell if the aspiration was parody or misgauged sincerity. The answer? Neither. Maclean said he was going for something almost fairy-tale-esque at the bloody climax of "Slow West," which means that something heightened was an aspiration, even if fairy tales very rarely leave me laughing.  Sometimes you're just not receiving signals on the frequency that a movie is transmitting and I accept that just may be the case, especially since the first questioner praised "Slow West" for its realism. Realism, eh? The »


- Daniel Fienberg

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Review: Margot Robbie shines in subtle end-of-the-world film 'Z For Zachariah'

11 hours ago

Park City - Until this week, I didn't even know there was a book called "Z For Zachariah," much less that it was by the same author as the wonderful "Mrs. Frisby and The Rats Of Nimh." When we posted a clip from the new film adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's book, it immediately became clear from your reactions here and in e-mail that the book has passionate fans, and that many of them were upset by what seemed to be a whole new character invented for the film. I couldn't respond because I don't know the book at all, and to be honest, what matters to me is whether the film works on its own. You don't need to know a book to know whether or not a film plays, and in the case of "Z For Zachariah," the film most definitely plays. Craig Zobel, whose previous films »


- Drew McWeeny

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Review: 'The Amina Profile' finds intrigue in a mystery of online identity

11 hours ago

The events in "The Amina Profile," playing in Sundance's World Documentary Competition, are not being revealed for the first time in Sophie Deraspe's film. If you Google Amina Arraf and her A Gay Girl in Damascus blog, the arc of the story plays out on the first search page. It was a widely reported story, but not universally reported, which makes for a complication in discussing "The Amina Profile." Do I discuss what the actual movie is, even if it means stripping aside some secrecy? Or do I play coy, pretend this documentary is like "The Sixth Sense" and I'd be violating its integrity by revealing too much while, thus, give it only half the intellectual consideration it probably deserves? I'm going with the former approach, because while obfuscation is cute and fun, "The Amina Profile" is an interesting movie that probably will have a better chance at exposure »


- Daniel Fienberg

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'Birdman' wins PGA Award, next stop Oscar?

12 hours ago

Ever since "The Hurt Locker" triumphed over "Avatar" at the 2010 Producers Guild Awards, it has been rather obvious to me that this precursor announcement is the skeleton key to understanding how the Oscar vote will likely play out. Why? Because — as we've noted a number of times — the PGA is the only group that shares the preferential ballot system the Academy employs. So what won this year? "Birdman" won, that's what. And for those who were chalking this up as a boring, telegraphed Oscar season… So, what does this mean for the rest of the season? It means, clearly, "Birdman" could well be poised to take the Best Picture Oscar next month. I, for one, thought "The Imitation Game" would be the one to unseat "Boyhood" this evening and assert itself as the industry favorite. I even thought "American Sniper" had an outside shot. I wasn't looking at "Birdman," though, »


- Kristopher Tapley

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'Better Call Saul!' creators: 'It was not just a joke, but a potentially good idea.'

13 hours ago

As I said in my review of AMC’s “Better Call Saul!” I approached the “Breaking Bad” prequel with some skepticism about whether it could work, before ultimately being pleased with the first three episodes. Two other men who had deep and long-lasting concerns about the viability of the project? That would be “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and producer Peter Gould, who wrote the episode that introduced Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman. As the two men discuss in this interview I did at press tour, a Saul spin-off was something they had been talking about — half in jest, half not — going back to “Breaking Bad” season 3, but the actual show went through many iterations before it evolved into its current form as a light-hearted drama series dealing with a younger Saul (or Jimmy McGill, as he went by back then) trying to establish himself as a defense lawyer in Albuquerque. »


- Alan Sepinwall

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Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Blake Shelton

14 hours ago

Look: maybe this won’t be so bad? This has been a pretty stellar season of “Saturday Night Live,” by far the best and most consistent since I’ve started covering it here at the start of Season 36. So who could blame the show for picking a host based on corporate synergy rather than comedic talent? Plenty of hosts serve a larger purpose than “comedic quality” when they appear, and at least we are sure that Blake Shelton isn’t ashamed of making a fool of himself. (We have his cringe-inducing holiday specials as evidence of that.) Look: Shelton is an incredibly charismatic host on “The Voice,” but nothing I’ve seen there screams that he’ll be well-suited for hosting “SNL.” Still, my fears are really based on nothing but fears: hosts as varied as Bruno Mars and Eli Manning have turned in more-than-credible jobs as host, and I »


- Ryan McGee

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Alexander Skarsgard 'refreshed' by 'Diary' lead: 'A girl allowed to think about sex'

17 hours ago

Park City, Utah - Alexander Skarsgård has noticed a difference between the men and women's coming-of-age tales on screen, particularly when it comes to sex. And that's what the "True Blood" actor found refreshing about his latest "Diary of a Teenage Girl." The actor was on hand to walk the red carpet for the premiere of the Sundance film, alongside co-stars Kristen Wiig and Bel Powley, plus director Marielle Heller. He said it was because of the graphic novel and Heller's adaptation that he was turned onto the project, about a 15-year-old girl (Powley) growing up in San Francisco in the '70s who has an affair with her mother's boyfriend. "There's been tons and tons of coming-of-age stories, but I've never read a book or seen a film about a young girl that is so real, and not sentimental, and it's not judgemental," Skarsgård said, calling diary "unique." "It's »


- Katie Hasty

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James Marsden says congrats to 'powerful' actor Tye Sheridan for new role as Cyclops

17 hours ago

Park City - A new actor has been named to play Cyclops in the next "X-Men" movie, and James Marsden is impressed. Marsden, who has been the long-time Cyclops in the popular superhero films, was on hand at the Sundance Film Festival to comment on Tye Sheridan stepping into his shoes, to play the younger version of Cyclops in forthcoming "X-Men: Apocalypse." "He's a wonderfully talented actor who blew me away in 'Mud'," Marsden said from the red carpet of "The D Train" premiere. He said he has "never seen a kid that young be that present and that powerful. I congratulate him." Marsden also talked about his character Oliver Lawless in the Jack Black co-starring "D Train." Oliver has local notoriety for having landed himself in a television commercial, making him a somewhat celebrity for his high school reunion. Black -- according to Marsden -- is not »


- Katie Hasty

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Review: When Felicity Jones is the best part of 'True Story' we've got problems

20 hours ago

Park City — There is a moment in Rupert Goold's "True Story" that is truly captivating. After watching her husband be manipulated from afar, Jill Finkel (played marvelously by Felicity Jones), goes to meet accused murderer Christian Longo (James Franco) at the county jail where he's incarcerated. In less than five minutes Jill uses the tale of 16th century composer Carlo Gesualdo, who murdered his wife and baby in cold blood, to unmask Longo as the killer she knows he is and to make it clear his charade will only get so far as long as she's around. It's a moment that demonstrates how talented the current Oscar nominee for Best Actress is in what has been a thankless role up until his point in the film. It also underlines how frustrating a film "True Story" is that the best scene in the movie doesn't include star Jonah Hill and barely involves Franco. »


- Gregory Ellwood

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Review: 'The Hunting Ground' give campus sexual assault harrowing Kirby Dick treatment

21 hours ago

Park City. Documentarian Kirby Dick has done oddball character studies, intellectual biographies and targeted the motion picture ratings system. But if 25 or 50 years from now Dick is most remembered for scathing polemics exposing epidemics of sexual assaults in America's most powerful institutions, well that would be a pretty honorable thing upon which to hang one's hat.  Targeting the Catholic Church ("Twist of Faith") and the military ("The Invisible War"), Kirby Dick has proven himself a master of visceral polemics that inspire outrage and culminate in aggressive calls to bear witness and take action. But Dick's approach to institutional sexual abuse isn't just to shine light on a subject and give exposure to victims.  When "The Invisible War" premiered at Sundance in 2012, I wrote, "'The Invisible War' may depress you and make you cry, but it'll also probably leave you inspired. It's a portrait of courage as much as victimhood. »


- Daniel Fienberg

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Review: 'The Witch' offers up a singular, upsetting vision of a family imploding

24 January 2015 5:30 AM, PST

Park City - One of the downsides of spending a life mainlining genre films is that there comes a point where you start to feel like you've seen everything and there's no way to be surprised. "The Witch" surprised me. Quite a bit. Writer/director Robert Eggers deserves accolades for crafting something that feels timeless. His "New England folk tale" begins with a family standing before a Puritan court in a small plantation town in 1630. William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) stand accused of blasphemy, and William refuses to bend to the will of the court, convinced that he is a true Christian in a way that none of them can be. They are ejected from the community, and William sees it as an opportunity. He leads his family out into the wilderness, where they find a cleared area on the edge of a massive forest. They build their home there, »


- Drew McWeeny

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Review: James Marsden steals the outrageous comedy 'The D Train' from Jack Black

24 January 2015 2:34 AM, PST

Park City — The concept of "The D Train," which premiered Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, may sound somewhat familiar. An everyday family man who has never moved out of his hometown discovers the most popular guy in high school is now a successful actor in Hollywood. Our hero decides to go to Los Angeles to convince his idol to return for their high school reunion. If he comes back, said hero will finally be "the man" and earn some respect from his former schoolmates. Sure, it hasn't exactly been made before, but there are numerous elements in the premise you've no doubt seen over the past few decades on both the small and big screen. What makes "D Train" unique is the commitment from directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul to center the storyline around one outrageous moment and then completely ride it out to an even more jaw-dropping conclusion. »


- Gregory Ellwood

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Review: 'The End of the Tour' sees Jason Segel do right by David Foster Wallace

24 January 2015 1:36 AM, PST

Park City - It would be wrong to pigeonhole Jason Segel as simply a comedic actor. Whether playing the romantically scorned Nick in "Freaks and Geeks" (or Peter in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), the psychotically romantically scorned Eric on "Undeclared," the romantic but, in a key arc, grieving Marshall on "How I Met Your Mother," Segel has always been able to infuse his clowns with a grounding of real pain or disappointment or passion. But thinking back over Segel's resume, it was hard to point to any role that indicated Segel might be a chameleon. He's always come across as too large in stature, too modern in tone to be invited to do period films or biopics or really any kind of project skewed towards the dramatic.  I'd never have described Segel as limited in his acting range, but whether by his choice or Hollywood's perception of him, Segel's CV was »


- Daniel Fienberg

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10 Stories You Might Have Missed: 'Doctor Strange,' Eminem, Paula Abdul & 'Sytycd'

24 January 2015 12:14 AM, PST

In this week's edition of 10 Stories You Might Have Missed: Chiwetel Ejiofor is in "early" talks with Marvel for "Doctor Strange," co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Plus, more stories from this week: "Powers" gets a premiere date, Amazon gets in the movie-making biz, Will Arnett returns to Netflix, Paula Abdul heads to "So You Think You Can Dance," NBC gets a star-powered "Apocalypse," Eminem releases a new video, Aphex Twin drops a surprise new Ep, "Mockingjay" is an official champion yet again and the founder of Tangerine Dream has passed away. Check out those stories and more below. What moved the needle for you, news-wise, this week? Do you want to see Ejiofor in "Doctor Strange?" »


- Katie Hasty

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Review: Bland 'A Walk in the Woods' is 'Grumpy Old Outdoorsmen'

23 January 2015 11:43 PM, PST

Maybe if "Wild" hadn't done such a solid and visually rich job of portraying one woman's determination to restart her life by hiking 2000 miles, the banal platitudes and strange visual monotony of two older guys' determination to restart their lives by hiking 2000 miles in "A Walk in the Woods" wouldn't seem so subpar. Maybe if Robert Redford hadn't done such harrowing, committed and honest work as a man battling nature in "All Is Lost," Robert Redford's lax, barely engaged work as a man meandering through nature in "A Walk in the Woods" wouldn't seem so subpar. Maybe if "A Walk in the Woods" weren't having its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, a venue that doesn't always demand artistic or narrative experimentation but certainly rewards the work of risk-taking, it's bland and peculiar artistic and narrative flatness wouldn't seem so subpar. But here we are in Park City, »


- Daniel Fienberg

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Review: 'Stockholm, Pennsylvania' can't survive the dreaded suspension of disbelief

23 January 2015 10:20 PM, PST

Park City — Nikole Beckwith's new drama, "Stockholm, Pennsylvania," which premiered Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, asks a number of questions surrounding the provocative subject matter of child abductees. How would a young woman who has spent 17 of her 23 years captive in a basement adjust to living in the real world? And, more controversially, is this a better "life" than what she was experiencing before? For Lea (Saoirse Ronan), returning to a family she has no memory of isn't just jarring, it's an alien experience. Beckwith begins by reintroducing Lea to her parents Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and Glen (David Warshofsky), who are, understandably, overjoyed to see their only daughter after so many years. In an extended sequence set in the family living room, we immediately realize Lea — born Leanne — has no real understanding of what has happened to her, the outside world or how she should act in the company of these two relative "strangers. »


- Gregory Ellwood

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Review: 'Banshee' - 'A Fixer of Sorts'

23 January 2015 8:00 PM, PST

A quick review of tonight's "Banshee" coming up just as soon as I grab that hood ornament... "Banshee" is a show that doesn't particularly lend itself to weekly analysis, but "A Fixer of Sorts" was the show operating at such peak efficiency that it warrants mention. First, the Burton/Nola fight was insane, both for the graphic brutality of it — each of them suffering injuries that would have killed or at least crippled them in a more grounded series — and just the way it was shot, particularly the sequence when the camera appears to do a full orbit around the car while they're fighting inside it. I don't know if that was really a single take or if there's a digital cheat in there somewhere, but it looked amazing. And yet even as those two are tearing each other to shreds, there's still that unexpected thoughtfulness that makes "Banshee" more than just well-executed pulp exploitation. »


- Alan Sepinwall

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