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Arthouse Audit: 'Beware of Mr. Baker' Best Opener as 'Silver Linings Playbook' Leads Expanding Films

2 December 2012 12:47 PM, PST

Yet another initially successful NY opening of a doc about a performer ("Beware of Mr. Baker") competes with important expansions of several major awards contenders across the country. "Silver Linings Playbook" kept at about the same level of theaters as last week, and held quite well. While both "Hitchcock" and "Anna Karenina" took many more theaters, performing at a solid specialty level, neither has as optimistic prospects as "Silver Linings Playbook." Meantime, although they aren't playing in specialized theaters for the most part, three new other releases, all aimed at specific groups, opened this week. The Indian film "Talaash" (Reliance Big) grossed nearly $2 million in 172 theaters - even biger than "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" two weeks ago (good enough for 8th place its week). China Lion's "Back to 1942" (whose cast includes Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins) did $100,000 in 20, and »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Weekend Box Office Top Ten: Pitt's 'Killing' Opens Softly, Holdovers Soar

2 December 2012 10:00 AM, PST

On what is usually one of the slowest weekends of the year-- post-Thanksgiving, when adults are holiday shopping--moviegoers flocked to a wide variety of strongly performing holdovers. The top ten grossed around $100 million, up a strong 40% from last year.  "Breaking Dawn" ended up #1 narrowly over "Skyfall." But once again, it is a core group of adult-oriented films that made the difference, "Lincoln" and "Life of Pi" among the smaller dropoffs. Those two films in particularly should see their already bright Oscar chances helped by strong audience response. Also among major contenders, long-running "Argo" finally fell from the top ten, but passed $100 million this weekend. Though not quite making (as of now) the top ten, "Silver Linings Playbook" also thrived with an even smaller drop in a still more limited run, suggesting that it is poised to join the group of popular as well as critically successful films. »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Haneke's 'Amour' Leads European Film Awards, Wins Film, Director, Actor and Actress

1 December 2012 2:03 PM, PST

The European Film Award-winners were led by Michael Haneke's "Amour," which cleaned up in the four main categories: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva). Full list below. More than 2,700 members of the European Film Academy voted on this year's awards. The ceremony was held in Malta. European Film 2012: Amour France / Germany / Austria, 127 min Written & directed by Michael Haneke produced by Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka & Michael Katz European Director 2012: Michael Haneke for Amour European Actress 2012: Emmanuelle Riva in Amour European Actor 2012: Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour European Screenwriter 2012: Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg for Jagten (The Hunt) Carlo Di Palma European Cinematographer Award 2012: Sean Bobbitt for Shame European Editor 2012: Joe Walker for Shame European »


- Beth Hanna

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Saturday Box Office Preview: Weekend Dominated by Holdovers

1 December 2012 1:08 PM, PST

A strong group of Oscar contending/older audience films led to a surge in what is usually the dead post-Thanksgiving weekend. With the same top five films as last weekend (although the final order might be slightly different), the top ten films Friday night grossed about 50% better than last year. As always happens, individual grosses fell steeply from their holiday-induced levels last week. "Breaking Dawn" for now remains number one, though "Skyfall" might still eke out a win. Both fell around 70% from a week ago (normal considering the playtime), as did the so-far underperforming "Rise of the Guardians." But two other Oscar contenders held up better. Steven Spielberg's already phenomenally successful "Lincoln" fell only 60% while Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" dropped 63% with virtually no theater count change. With the rest of the weekend stabilizing, these figures suggest that both films should be able to play solidly »


- Tom Brueggemann

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'This is 40' Review and Round-Up: Judd Apatow and Crew Deliver Pain and Laughs

1 December 2012 12:59 PM, PST

With "This is 40," Judd Apatow's fourth feature film as a writer-director, the prolific producer ("Girls," "Pineapple Express," "Freaks and Geeks") has never been more in control of his medium. This relationship comedy returns to Pete and Debbie, the Los Angeles married couple introduced in "Knocked Up" (Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd). It's tight, concise, hilarious, painful and spot-on accurate. Apatow's last film "Funny People," while often brilliant, seemed meandering and out-of-control. This time he's the master, balancing cringe-worthy embarrassing moments--often crude, the film is R-rated for multiple uses of the F and C-word--with honest, well-observed hilarity about suburban family life. John Lithgow and Albert Brooks as Debbie and Pete's respective fathers are both superb. If Academy voters weren't so biased against comedy--and this year's Oscar race wasn't so packed with high-end »


- Anne Thompson

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Review: 'Killing Them Softly' Has Bold Style, Skips Heartbeat

30 November 2012 3:44 PM, PST

Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly," adapted from George V. Higgins' 1974 crime novel "Cogan's Trade," takes place in an atrophied post-Katrina New Orleans in 2008. Brad Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, a hitman whose preferred method of execution is explained in the film's updated title. As Dominik plays boldly with style, the heart of this formally impressive genre exercise slowly stops beating -- killed not softly but showily. Aviator-shaded Cogan arrives to investigate a Mob-protected poker game that has been looted. Unfortunately for the game's overseer, Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), he once successfully organized a heist of his own card room, and the players know it. In the wake of a second heist, Markie's in the hot seat. The culprits of the second robbery are Frankie and Russell (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn), a pair of wobbly-voiced lowlifes hired by an outside party to raid the game. They're smart enough to know that the. »


- Beth Hanna

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Weekend Preview: Slim Pickings Beyond Andrew Dominik's 'Killing Them Softly' -- Unless You're Into Jean-Claude Van Damme

30 November 2012 2:39 PM, PST

This lackluster weekend for movie openings may leave you wanting to catch up on the Thanksgiving releases you missed. That said, Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly," an alternately engrossing and heavy-handed hitman drama starring Brad Pitt, is the strongest of the bunch. Beyond that, the options are disparate: a feminist take on Marilyn Monroe from HBO star Liz Garbus, "Love, Marilyn," wan horror title "The Collection," or Van Damme-Lundgren vehicle "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning," which some critics find worth reckoning with (and some don't). Check out reviews, details and trailers below. "Killing Them Softly" Dir. Andrew Dominik, Us | The Weinstein Company | 78% Fresh | Cast: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn | Movieline: "If gangsterism is just capitalism in a more raw form, then Jackie is the creature best suited for this world. He knows the rules and enforces »


- Beth Hanna

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Producers Promise Changes for 2013 Oscar Show, as Host Seth Macfarlane Announces 'Oscar Experience College Search' at mtvU 'Stand In' Series

30 November 2012 1:21 PM, PST

The producers of this year's Oscar show, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, actively pursued TV writer/producer/comedian Seth Macfarlane as the host, they told me. "Of course we wanted Tina Fey!" they responded, but they knew that she was already committed to doing the far less stressful Golden Globes.  And they are changing up the Oscarcast considerably. They've been studying shows of Oscar past to see what worked--and didn't.  As musical producers it makes sense that they admire 1969's Gower Champion and 2009's Bill Condon and Larry Mark kudocasts. And they're also willing to bring back performances of Oscar-nominated songs. Basically, if Adele gets her surefire nomination for "Skyfall," they're game. One change: there's no Billy Crystal-style opening montage short this year. And Macfarlane, the creator of hits "Ted" and "Family Guy," is working with his own writing team this time around. »


- Anne Thompson

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Best of the Week: 'Les Mis' & 'Zero Dark Thirty' Enter the Fray, Awards, Reviews, Interviews & More

30 November 2012 1:09 PM, PST

This week on Toh!, we discuss powerful newcomers "Les Miserables" and "Zero Dark Thirty" on Oscar Talk, interview cinematographer Roger Deakins on "Skyfall," look at the awards season challenges faced by the Weinstein Company and much more! Reviews: "Zero Dark Thirty": Review and Early Roundup, Bigelow, Boal and Cast Talk Don't Mess with Granny in Finnish Oscar Entry "Purge" Now and Then: "Heaven's Gate," Catastrophe or Classic? Awards: Oscar Talk: "Les Mis" and "Zero Dark Thirty" Are Powerful Contenders, Whither "Django Unchained"? Immersed in Movies: Cinematographer Deakins Talks "Skyfall" Weinsteins Face Challenging Oscar "Playbook" Oscar Watch: Makeup and Hair Contenders Foreign Oscar Watch: Nicolaj Arcel Talks Denmark's "A Royal Affair" Interviews: Oscar Doc Watch: Dror Moreh's "The »


- TOH!

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Producers Guild Doc Nominees Include Oscar Frontrunners 'Gatekeepers' & 'Searching for Sugar Man'

30 November 2012 12:54 PM, PST

The Producers Guild of America has nominated five documentary motion pictures. The documentary field is large and competitive this year, so any spotlight will help Oscar voters make tough choices. Never have so many worthy docs been produced and released into the indie marketplace. The Academy doc branch has already submitted their Oscar short list of 15 which should be announced shortly. The International Documentary Association awards will be announced on December 7 (stay tuned for our report). This week's Oscar Talk podcast delves into the doc race. The PGA nominees are: "A People Uncounted" (Director Aaron Yeger; Producers Yeger, Tom Rasky, Marc Swenker, Stephen Chandler Whitehead), "The Gatekeepers" (Dror Moreh; Moreh, Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky), "The Island President" (Jon Shenk; Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen), "The Other Dream Team" (Marius Markevicius; Markevicius, Jon Weinbach) and "Searching for Sugar Man" »


- Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage

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Immersed in Movies: Composer Patrick Doyle Talks Pixar's 'Brave'

30 November 2012 11:25 AM, PST

Patrick Doyle isn't new to animation but his first taste of working with Pixar on "Brave" brought him even closer to his Scottish roots. Doyle, in fact, was in Scotland when he was first approached to compose the quintessentially ethnic score accentuated by Highland bagpipes. That was three and a half years ago when Brenda Chapman was still at the helm (she was subsequently replaced by Mark Andrews during the last 18 months of production). But much of the film was in already in place: Merida's conflict with her mother, Queen Elinor, the magic and monstrous Mor' Du, and the flavor of medieval Scotland. "I wrote 'Song of Mor'Du' fairly early on and that was a main constant," Doyle recalls. "And how much of it was used was entirely up to the story. I made many trips to Pixar and saw evolutions of the drawings and these revolutionary costumes." Chapman described »


- Bill Desowitz

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David Lynch Talks Digital Transition & Elusiveness of Filmmaking: 'She Is the Idea. You Are in Love.'

30 November 2012 10:11 AM, PST

After receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from the 20th Plus Camerimage cinematography festival in Poland, David Lynch sat down with the Hollywood Reporter to talk about the ups and downs of the digital transition, the possibility of making another feature film, the new friend of the indie filmmaker and more. Highlights below. On seeing film clips from his life's work: "First of all, I think I’ve gotten some lifetime-achievement awards before. But I thought it would be something I’d be kind of separated from. I don’t know what happened, but I was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn’t believe that I’d done it; it was pretty impressive, really." On the digital transition: "It will not cause any problems. What it will do is let people express ideas that they love, whereas before they could not afford to express these ideas. Now they can. The problem is, »


- Beth Hanna

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New Details Revealed About Netflix Competitor Redbox Instant -- Subscription Costs, Possible Date of Launch

30 November 2012 9:43 AM, PST

New details were revealed today about "Redbox Instant by Verizon," Redbox's unwieldy-named, soon-to-be-launched online streaming and DVD service -- and Netflix competitor. Redbox Instant is set to go live at some point before the end of the year. While the service is being tested secretly on private Beta, a help section about the new site is publicly available online. Based on this, the instant video detectives over at GigaOm discovered the following: Subscriptions start at $6 per month. This gives users access to the complete catalogue of titles (which is exected to be much smaller than that of Netflix). For $8 per month, four "Redbox credits" are applied to the subscriber's account per month, allowing rental of four DVDs from Redbox kiosks. Like Netflix, Redbox Instant will use Silverlight for video streaming. Redbox Instant will be initially available on the web, Android and iOS devices, XBox 360 and some Samsung TVs and Blu-ray. »

- Beth Hanna

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Oscar Talk: 'Les Mis' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' Are Powerful Contenders, Whither 'Django Unchained'?

30 November 2012 9:38 AM, PST

On this week's Oscar Talk podcast, Kris Tapley and I review the Oscar impact of post-9/11 CIA thriller "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to Oscar-winner "The Hurt Locker," and soaring musical "Les Miserables," Tom Hooper's follow-up to his Oscar-Winning "The King's Speech." Both are strong competitors, we agree, though critics and audiences are still to weigh in. Next up this weekend: screenings start on Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited "Django Unchained" and Peter Jackson's less anticipated "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." We also delve into the incredibly competitive documentary feature race, picking our frontrunners. (I review "Zero Dark Thirty" and cover Q & A here; more in my Oscar Predicts chart.) »


- Anne Thompson

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CBS Green Lights Stephen King's 'Under the Dome' for TV Series to Air Summer 2013

30 November 2012 9:09 AM, PST

CBS has ordered 13 episodes of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television TV series adaptation of Stephen King's 2009 sci-fi novel "Under the Dome," about a small New England town suddenly and inexplicably sealed off under a gigantic transparent dome. Niels Arden Oplev, who helmed the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," is set to direct the series' first episode. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, who review the book here, compare it more to "The Mist" than "The Stand," which has been giving adapter Ben Affleck a tough time. The screenwriting team includes King himself, along with Neal Baer, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider and Brian K. Vaughn ("Lost"); all of whom will serve as executive producers on the show. CBS, aware that apocalyptic sci-fi shows like "Walking Dead" are cleaning up on cable, picked up the series from Showtime It's scheduled to air »


- Beth Hanna

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Trailers from Hell: Brian Trenchard-Smith on 'Game of Death,' Starring Bruce Lee & Heavily Disguised Doubles

30 November 2012 7:52 AM, PST

Happy Birthday, Bruce Lee! week concludes at Trailers from Hell with director Brian Trenchard-Smith introducing "Game of Death," released five years after Lee's death in 1973 and containing only 11 minutes of footage from the original production. Released five years after Bruce Lee's death, this elaborate salvage job incorporates only 11 minutes of Lee footage from his original production, which he had put on hold to star in Enter the Dragon. The rest of the time his character is played by heavily disguised doubles, while the majority of the cast play auxiliary roles in what amounts to an entirely new story. There are varying international versions of this film as well as several pseudo-sequels and ripoffs. »


- Trailers From Hell

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Iconic Images from French New Wave in Raymond Cauchetier's Photos De Cinéma Exhibit

30 November 2012 3:25 AM, PST

Raymond Cauchetier's photographs of the French New Wave are treasures of the period. His photographs, from the sets of films such as Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (he was the official on-set photographer) and François Truffaut's "Jules et Jim" are iconic. Gorgeous exhibition collection Photos De Cinéma is on view at Santa Monica's Peter Fefferman Gallery until December 6. »


- Sophia Savage

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Eleven Live-Action Short Films Advance in Oscar Race

29 November 2012 5:36 PM, PST

The Academy announced today that eleven live-action shorts will advance in the voting process for the 85th Oscars. A tie in nominations balloting resulted in eleven films, as opposed to ten, for the shortlist. 125 films originally qualified for this category. Full list below. Listed in alphabetical order: “A Fábrica (The Factory),” Aly Muritiba, director (Grafo Audiovisual) “Asad,” Bryan Buckley, director, and Mino Jarjoura, producer (Hungry Man) “Buzkashi Boys,” Sam French, director, and Ariel Nasr, producer (Afghan Film Project) “Curfew,” Shawn Christensen, director (Fuzzy Logic Pictures) “Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw),” Tom Van Avermaet, director, and Ellen De Waele, producer (Serendipity Films) “Henry,” Yan England, director (Yan England) “Kiruna-Kigali,” Goran Kapetanovic, director (Hepp Film Ab) “The Night Shift Belongs to the »


- Beth Hanna

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Fifty Shades of a Porn Lawsuit: Universal Suing Over XXX Adaptation of E.L. James' Novel

29 November 2012 3:24 PM, PST

"Fifty Shades of Grey: a XXX Adaptation," from Smash Pictures and James Lane, is a porn adaptation of E. L. James' uber-popular novel that is in development at Universal. The studio is now suing the porn house for its "willful attempt to capitalize on the reputation of the book," to which Universal owns the movie rights (to the tune of $5 million). In La Weekly's quasi-review of the "XXX Adaptation," they assert:"While parodies are the only way adult film studios can make any money these days, making a 'Fifty Shades' version is truly the only way to put the three erotic novels on film in their Bdsm glory without MPAA censorship and film industry finger-wagging." Smash's Stuart Wall also points out that their version will stay "very true" to the book, whereas Universal will inevitably go mainstream. They have a point. But Universal bought the rights. THR has more. »


- Sophia Savage

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Casting Watch: Steinfeld Has 'Three Days to Kill' with Costner

29 November 2012 1:01 PM, PST

Sixteen-year-old "True Grit" star Hailee Steinfeld has been cast in the lead role opposite Kevin Costner in an action film to be helmed by McG. The project is scripted by stylish French action director Luc Besson and currently has the working title "Three Days to Kill." Costner will play a secret service agent who discovers he is dying and must complete a final mission: Reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (Steinfeld), and navigate the side effects of the experimental, life-prolonging drugs he's taking. Steinfeld was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010 for her turn in the Coen brothers' "True Grit." Here's our interview. »


- Beth Hanna

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