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'Mandela' Opens Strong with Weak Reviews, Spike Lee's 'Old Boy' Collapses, '12 Years a Slave' Passes 'Blue Jasmine' as Year's Best Indie Performer

1 December 2013 1:16 PM, PST

With so many adult-oriented films playing in wide release over the holiday weekend, it was more difficult for narrower releases to gain traction. One, the second Weinstein potential awards contender in a row to open in just two cities, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," exceeded expectations while the other, Spike Lee's remake of "Oldboy," performed weakly in several hundred theaters. Recent limited openers "The Book Thief" and "Philomena" made it to the Top 10, while previous placers "Dallas Buyers Club" and "12 Years in Slavery" did not. Meanwhile "Nebraska" is broadening much more slowly. Opening "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" (Weinstein) - Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2013, Hamptons 2013, AFI 2013 $100,300 in 4 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $25,075 While the sole( new awards-oriented platform this weekend came in below the level of "Dallas Buyers Club," "Nebraska," or "Philomena" (which all had PSAs over $30,000 for their New York/Los Angeles »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Rip Paul Walker, Who Was Two Weeks Away from Sharing with Audiences the Finest Performance of His Career (Trailer)

1 December 2013 10:57 AM, PST

Chalk it up as a tragic irony of an untimely demise: At the time he was killed Saturday in a Los Angeles auto mishap at the ridiculously young age of 40, Paul Walker was less than two weeks away from seeing how movie audiences and VOD viewers would respond to what arguably was the finest performance of his career up to that point, as a desperate father who triumphs over death. (Trailer below.) In "Hours," writer-director Eric Heisserer’s suspenseful indie drama, Walker plays Nolan Hayes, a loving husband who rushes his pregnant wife to a New Orleans hospital just before sunrise on Aug. 29, 2005 – just as Hurricane Katrina begins its brutal assault on the Crescent City. Unfortunately, Nolan’s wife dies during childbirth. Even more unfortunately, his prematurely born daughter must remain inside a ventilator for at least 48 hours. The New Orleans levees break, the city streets are flooded, the hospital »


- Joe Leydon

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Top Ten: 'Catching Fire' and 'Frozen' Gobble Up the Holiday Weekend Box Office

1 December 2013 10:45 AM, PST

Two huge films gobbled up almost 75% of the holiday weekend top 10 box office. The second week of "Catching Fire" and the wide opening of "Frozen" both amassed huge totals that blew all the other films away. However, the weekend total of $192 million fell $6 million short of last year, when six films grossed over $15 million for the three days (because of a calendar shift, in 2012 actually a week earlier) compared to only three this year. Beyond the three top films, a variety of new releases, expansions and holdovers strictly modest business, contributing to the small drop. However, year-to-date now is once again close to parity to last year, with December -- competing with a very strong performance in 2012 -- holding the key to the annual total. It looks unlikely to beat last year at this point. 1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) - Week 2; Last weekend #1 $74,500,000 (-53%) in 4,163, theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $17,896; Cumulative:. »


- Tom Brueggemann

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'Catching Fire' and 'Frozen' Dominate Decent Post-Thanksgiving Friday

30 November 2013 11:51 AM, PST

It's both feast and famine in the Top 10 this weekend, with two films, Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and Disney's animated "Frozen" (Buena Vista) accounting for most of the action yesterday. The $76 million total is impressive but falls short of the same day last year ($79 million) which had a much wider array of top films ("Breaking Dawn - Part 2," "Skyfall," "Lincoln," "Rise of the Guardians" and "Life of Pi" in the top 5). But below these two films was a big drop. "Catching Fire" and "Frozen" both look like they will top the previous record for the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend ($82 million for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") by some margin. "Fire" grossed $31,250,000 for the day, down from $70 million for its combined Thursday night-Friday take last week, but still very strong. It is already at $253 million. With the aid of holiday playtime, this is $45 million ahead of what "The Hunger Games »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Best of the Week: Indie Spirit Noms Shake Up Awards Race, Things I Learned at First 'American Hustle' Screening, Oscar Contender Interviews and More

30 November 2013 11:39 AM, PST

The top stories of the week from Toh!Awards:Documentary Nominations Roundup: Which Films Are Leading the Pack?Indie Spirit Nominees, Frontrunners, Disappointments, Oscar Impact: "12 Years a Slave," "Nebraska," "All Is Lost" Lead the PackBox Office:"Philomena" Off to Strong Start, "Nebraska" Second Weekend LagsWeekend Top Ten: "Catching Fire" and "Frozen" Take OffFeatures:50th Anniversary of JFK Assassination: Why It Was Only Lee Harvey Oswald Who Shot President Kennedy (Video)"Best Man Holiday," "Black Nativity" and "Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas" Join Banner Year for Black FilmmakersCrafts Roundup: The Year of Cinematographers Capturing Turmoil On ScreenHappy Thanksgiving! Ten Dysfunctional Family Films to Bring You All Together -- Or NotOn Landing My First Job in the Business on Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets"Interviews:After Years in Shadow, Indie Spirit Nominee "20 Years from Stardom" Lets Backup Singers Take Center Stage (Updated)Breaking Down How "Catching Fire" Became a »


- TOH!

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Breaking Down How 'Catching Fire' Became A Record-Breaking Blockbuster

29 November 2013 1:23 PM, PST

Never underestimate producer Nina Jacobson, who once ran production at Disney and knows how to surround herself with smart people, from "Hunger Games" author Suzanne Collins to indie producer Jon Kilik. It wasn't easy to turn Suzanne Collins' first book in her "Hunger Games" trilogy into a global blockbuster, nor was it easy to navigate through the departure of director Gary Ross to find his replacement, Francis Lawrence, amid a change of management at the studio, Lionsgate. But Jacobson carefully steered the $140-million "Catching Fire" to its takeoff last weekend, when it broke records, and is soaring into the holiday stratosphere. We spoke on the phone during a break on her breathless round of premieres around the world in London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Paris, La and New York. Anne Thompson: How did you manage to take this movie through a departing director? Nina JacobsonSimon Beaufoy ["Slumdog Millionaire"] was writing for Gary Ross, »


- Anne Thompson

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Documentary Nominations Roundup: Which Films Are Leading the Pack?

29 November 2013 11:53 AM, PST

Heading into the critics group voting next week, which documentaries are leading the pack in terms of nominations? The Academy doc branch has already filed their ballots for the top 15 shortlist (our Toh! predictions for the 15 Oscar docs are here). Based on nominations from PGA, the Indie Spirits, the Ida, the Gothams and the Cinema Eye Honors, here's what we got. Joshua Oppenheimer's harrowing yet mesmerizing "The Act of Killing" (review) appears to be the clear frontrunner: it has picked up Best Documentary nominations from the Indie Spirits, the Gothams, the Ida and Cinema Eye. Meanwhile, Sarah Polley's family mystery "Stories We Tell" (interview) is sitting strong with top honor nominations from Ida and Cinema Eye. Same goes for third-trimester abortion documentary "After Tiller" (review), with nods from the Indie Spirits and Cinema Eye. Ditto Egyptian revolution doc "The Square" (interview), with noms from the Indie Spirits and. »


- Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna

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Michael Mann's Upcoming Cyber Thriller, Starring Hemsworth, Gets a Release Date Updated

29 November 2013 11:33 AM, PST

Update: Michael Mann's upcoming thriller (formerly titled "Cyber"), starring Chris Hemsworth and currently in post production after a shoot in Hong Kong, has been given a release date by Universal. Mann fans may be a little disappointed to hear they'll have to wait until January 16, 2015 for this one. Fingers crossed it gets moved up. Here's an official synopsis:untitled Michael Mann PROJECTSet within the world of global cybercrime, Legendary’s Untitled Michael Mann Project follows a furloughed convict and his American and Chinese partners as they hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta. Directed and produced by Michael Mann, the film stars Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei and Wang Leehom, and it is written by Morgan Davis Foehl and Mann. Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni produce alongside Mann, while Alex Garcia and Eric McLeod will serve as the executive producers. »


- Beth Hanna

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Composer Nicholas Britell Talks the Powerful Spiritual-Field Songs in '12 Years a Slave'

29 November 2013 11:20 AM, PST

Composer Nicholas Britell ("Gimme the Loot") provides a powerful musical accompaniment for Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" with a series of spiritual-field songs and stringed waltzes (which are currently available on the Columbia Records soundtrack). These originals and recreations enable us to better understand and appreciate the rich musical heritage that sprung from such inhumanity. "My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)," an original, opens the movie, appropriately enough, with slaves chopping sugar cane in rhythmic sync, while another original, "Yarney's Waltz," is a string tune in the spirit of the period. However, in arranging three other traditionals -- the fiddle tune, "Devil's Dream," the cast's version of "Roll Jordan Roll," and the Virginia Reel, "Money Musk" -- Britell was compelled to go on a vital research expedition, since there are no recordings or notations from the era. "It was a rare chance to explore the music of the 1840s," Britell recounts. »


- Bill Desowitz

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Trailers from Hell: Ti West on Conspiracy Theorist Comedy 'Sneakers,' Starring Kingsley, Poitier, Ackroyd and Redford

29 November 2013 11:15 AM, PST

Who's Afraid of Richard Pryor's Sneakers? concludes at Trailers from Hell, with director Ti West introducing 1992 conspiracy theorist comedy "Sneakers." Two decades after its release, society may have finally caught up with this film, computer hackers and the currently topical Nsa. With a uniquely quirky cast (including Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier and Dan Aykroyd) supporting star Robert Redford, this high tech caper film was, unsurprisingly, a box office success. The playfully paranoid script was co-written by its director, Phil Robinson (Field of Dreams). »


- Trailers From Hell

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Watch: In New Clip from 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' Isaac, Timberlake and Driver Sing 'Please Mr. Kennedy'

29 November 2013 11:08 AM, PST

Check out a new clip from the Coens' "Inside Llewyn Davis," where Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver have a recording session for a pretty humorous number, "Please Mr. Kennedy." Driver steals the scene with his guttural and bizarro noisemaking. Watch below. The film, which nabbed the jury prize out of Cannes and has deservedly had critics swooning ever since, finally hits theaters in limited release December 6. Check out where we placed it on our Toh! ranking of all 16 of the Coen brothers' films. »


- Beth Hanna

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Indie Spirit Nominated 'After Tiller' Is an Observant, Even-Handed Portrait of the Country's Remaining Third-Trimester Abortion Doctors

29 November 2013 10:51 AM, PST

Debut directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson have accomplished a tricky thing with “After Tiller,” their documentary on the few openly practicing doctors of third-trimester abortions in the Us which recently scored an Indie Spirit nomination for Best Documentary. They cut out the white noise, and focus on a simple question: Who are these unusual individuals?In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated while at church in his Kansas hometown. Since his death, there are only four doctors in the United States openly providing third-trimester abortions -- Dr. LeRoy Carhart in Maryland, Dr. Warren Hern in Colorado, and Dr. Susan Robinson and Dr. Shelley Sella in New Mexico. These physicians, all of whom were either friends or acquaintances of Dr. Tiller’s, know the risks they run as they continue their practices. They have had to endure vicious defamation, and the possibility of physical harm is never far from their minds. »


- Beth Hanna

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Indie Spirit Nominated 'Crystal Fairy': Michael Cera and Gabby Hoffmann Take a Psychoactive Voyage

29 November 2013 10:48 AM, PST

"Crystal Fairy," which recently scored Indie Spirit nominations for the John Cassavettes Award and Best Female Lead (Gaby Hoffmann), was written and filmed while director Sebastian Silva and Michael Cera were in Chile waiting for production of their film "Magic Magic" to continue. A film of spontaneous perfection was born. It is not neat but it seems to be driven from a genuine impulse. Because it's 2013, this spontaneity comes with a healthy dose of irony and cynicism, but the film moves from flashes of heartfelt despair to abounding joy and back again. In one of the first scenes, Cera's drug-obsessed hipster Jamie watches a stupidly cerebral hippy (Gabby Hoffmann) dancing by herself in a cramped apartment party in Chile. She's flailing her limbs, wild hair flying, seemingly unaware of rhythm or surrounding objects. Snidely to a friend, he calls her a "lonely tornado." Then, ostensibly to get closer to the train wreck, »


- Maggie Lange

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Watch: Trailer for 'The Legend of Hercules,' Plus New Poster

29 November 2013 10:04 AM, PST

The latest trailer has arrived for Summit's "The Legend of Hercules," slated for a January 10 release. It stars Kellan Lutz (of the "Twilight" franchise) in the title role as the Greek half-man half-god who must overcome his existence as a slave by using his outsized strength. Gaia Weiss stars as the Princess of Crete, along with Scott Adkins, Liam McIntyre, Liam Garrigan, Johnathon Schaech, Roxanne McKee and Rade Serbedzija. Watch below. At the helm is Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger").  Meanwhile, another Hercules project is in post-production over at Paramount, with the Herculean-proportioned Dwayne Johnson headlining, and Brett Ratner directing. That film is currently eyeing a July 25, 2014, release. »


- Beth Hanna

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Happy Thanksgiving! Ten Dysfunctional Family Films to Bring You All Together -- Or Not

28 November 2013 9:49 AM, PST

The holidays are nigh, so here are ten dysfunctional family films to bring you all together (or drive you apart). The dysfunctional family film can run the gamut from depressing ("Capturing the Friedmans" or "Cries and Whispers," anyone?) to surprisingly warm ("Hannah and Her Sisters"). Below, we've categorized our ten titles into the Dark Meat and the Light(er) Meat -- because everyone has their own preference.  The Dark Meat, by Ryan Lattanzio:"The Color Wheel" (2011) Dir. Alex Ross Perry Dream team Alex Ross Perry and Carlen Altman created one of the most memorable indies of recent years with "The Color Wheel." They play Jr (Altman) and Colin (Perry), two late-twentysomething siblings who hash out their neuroses and push each other's buttons on the road to moving Jr out of her professor boyfriend's apartment. Honest and hilarious, and shot in 16mm, this unflinching sendup of millennial malaise takes a queasy »


- Beth Hanna and Ryan Lattanzio

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'Charlie Countryman' and 'Wolf of Wall Street' Make Sex Scene Trims for R Rating; Evan Rachel Wood Vents Against MPAA

27 November 2013 5:05 PM, PST

Martin Scorsese's new movie "The Wolf of Wall Street" which starts screening for press and awards voters the week after Thanksgiving, has already been shown to the MPAA ratings board-- which would not grant an R rating until the director trimmed some sexy material. The movie still came in at a whopping two hours 59 minutes, so it doesn't look like he cut very much after the film was pushed back to December 25. That makes it the longest of his films. (Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" clocks in at a relatively sane two hours forty.) Actress Evan Rachel Wood was dismayed when she saw the final cut of "Charlie Countryman" and took to Twitter Wednesday to vent her displeasure. ‏"Thanks for listening," concluded @evanrachelwood. Here's an edited version of her tweets: After seeing the new cut of #CharlieCountryman I would like to share my disappointment with the MPAA, »


- Anne Thompson

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This Holiday Weekend, See Musicals 'Black Nativity' and 'Frozen'

27 November 2013 2:01 PM, PST

From Langston Hughes adaptation "Black Nativity" to Disney's animated musical comedy "Frozen," there is plenty of family fare to see this holiday weekend, unless you want to catch up on awards contenders. Starring an acclaimed Idris Elba, the Nelson Mandela biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" also opens, as does Spike Lee's beefed up "Oldboy" remake, panned by most critics. Trailers after the jump.Kasi Lemmons' exuberant reinvention of the classic holiday musical "Black Nativity" boasts an impressive ensemble, from Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett as old-fashioned Harlem parents to the fabulous Jennifer Hudson as their breakaway child, who sends her son home for the holidays.  Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee's epic icy adventure "Frozen" marks the glorious return of the Disney princess musical, this time voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel (of Broadway fame), Jonathan Groff and Ciaran Hinds. It looks to be a surefire »


- Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio

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The Liberation of Harrison Ford, Character Actor: "It's risky every time you go out" (Exclusive Video)

27 November 2013 1:28 PM, PST

Harrison Ford is an iconic actor who can still draw crowds in an Indiana Jones sequel -- but at age 71, he is starting to enjoy his rights as a character actor in such roles as Branch Rickey in "42" and Colonel Graff in "Ender's Game." You have to credit Ford with one of the most extraordinary 25-year runs as an A-list movie star in Hollywood history, from his break-out in George Lucas' "American Grafitti" in 1973 through iconic roles in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" franchises and the Jack Ryan series that ended with "Clear and Present Danger' in 1994. He was a dishy romantic lead in "Witness," "Working Girl" and "Regarding Henry," but made his fortune as an action hero in tentpoles such as "The Fugitive" and "Air Force One."  But he was nominated for the best actor Oscar only once, for Peter Weir's "Witness," back in 1985. That »


- Anne Thompson

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Emmanuel Lubezki Talks the Virtual Cinematography of 'Gravity,' How a Peter Gabriel Concert Helped Him Visualize the Film and More

27 November 2013 11:15 AM, PST

With three out of the last four Oscars for cinematography going to hybrid movies, is it any wonder that Emmanuel ("Chivo") Lubezki is the frontrunner for "Gravity"? Especially after Lubezki and his collaborators devised a brilliant new lighting system for simulating the physics of space in the game-changing and emotionally-gripping blockbuster. But for Lubezki, his introduction to virtual cinematography for Alfonso Cuaron's existential space thriller was essential, given the demands of the zero-g recreation and the need for Framestore to animate nearly everything in CG. "The most challenging part for me was the integration between the virtual cinematography and the live-action [using the Alexa]," the cinematographer recalls. "And so the first thing we did was to storyboard, then do a previs of the entire movie, and then to add all of these layers into the previs. That was out of necessity as a working methodology and to light all of the animation. »


- Bill Desowitz

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Trailers from Hell: Larry Karaszewski on Comedy Classic 'Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip'

27 November 2013 11:05 AM, PST

Who's Afraid of Richard Pryor's Sneakers? continues at Trailers from Hell with screenwriter Larry Karaszewski introducing "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip," Pryor's now classic "concert" film wherein he prowls the stage of the Hollywood Paladium for 82 remarkable minutes, gleefully riffing on the roller-coaster turns of his tumultuous personal life (including his cocaine addiction and self-immolation) while effortlessly embodying a multitude of characters, in particular his guilt-tripping friend Jim Brown and the grizzeled sidewalk philosopher, “Mudbone”. Sidesplitting and enormously touching, Pryor and his foulmouthed poetry were embraced by audiences across the board. »


- Trailers From Hell

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