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'Mr. Turner' Draws Older Pre-Christmas Crowd; Wider Releases Thrive

1 hour ago

The overall field is dominated by the sensational performance of "Wild"--sixth-best among all films on just over 1,000 screens. The specialized market is showing strength while broader releases struggle to meet last year's performance. In 2013, the pre-Christmas weekend among limited films was led by "Philomena" at $1.2 million. And these films look to rebound further next month with a boost from the Oscar nominations. Among strong performers, most impressive is TWC crowdpleaser "The Imitation Game," which is exceeding the most optimistic projections. Opening "Mr. Turner" (Sony Pictures Classics) - Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 93; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, AFI 2014 $108,638 in 5 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $21,728 While Mike Leigh's acclaimed film, which was just named as best film of the year by Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times--Timothy Spall has collected Best Actor prizes at Cannes, the New York »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Toh!'s Top Ten Films of 2014 (Updated)

23 hours ago

2014 was a remarkable year for movies big and small, and in spirit, here are top 10 lists from Thompson on Hollywood staffers and contributors. Anne Thompson: 1. "Birdman" Alejandro González Iñárritu took on the most audacious cinematic feat of the year —and corralled a posse of actors with balls, lead by Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone, to nail his dissection of Hollywood and the fragile balance between ego and id—shot in exhilarating long takes. 2. "Boyhood" Richard Linklater dreamed up the story of a boy growing over 12 years, from six to 18, and cast Ellar Coltrane as the kid and Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his parents. No one else could have conceived, written and directed this daredevil feat.  3. "Mr. Turner" Mike Leigh took his genius method and applied it to his passion project about the great English painter Jmw Turner, channeled to perfection by Cannes Best Actor winner Timothy. »


- TOH!

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How This Year's Pack of Holiday Openers Impacts the Oscar Race

20 December 2014 11:00 AM, PST

Below, listed alphabetically, are all the films in the awards mix opening over the next two weeks, at least in Academy voter hubs Los Angeles and New York. If you don't live there, good luck seeing most of these before the Golden Globes (Jan.11) or Oscar nominations (Jan. 15). They will reach most major markets by Oscar night Feb. 22.   I recap the three unreleased titles on the Foreign Language short list with American distributors at the end. American Sniper (Warner Bros.) 12/25 - New York, Los Angeles 1/16 - Wide Following the pattern set by previous Clint Eastwood awards contenders as well as the similar "Lone Survivor" last year, this is opening narrow on Thursday before its wide availability next month.  Big Eyes (Weinstein) 12/25 - Wide Originally intended as a mid-level opening, TWC just announced (likely because of the opportunity afforded by Sony's "The Interview" pull-out) that this will have a much wider, »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Friday Box Office: 'Hobbit' Finale Bests First Day of 'Night at the Museum' and 'Annie'

20 December 2014 10:57 AM, PST

Exact comparisons to the previous two Peter Jackson adaptations of the Tolkien classic are tricky since the first two opened on Fridays (roughly a week earlier) and with less competition.  But the $51 million total so far added to the $122 million banked from its foreign haul through Thursday makes this already a success, more so with the best moviegoing days of the season still ahead. The other two openers posted encouraging if not yet decisive numbers (the real indication of how strong films will ultimately perform won't come until next Thursday and right after). And both are family films, meaning their response today will be more telling. That said, "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" (20th Century Fox) at $5.6 million bested "Annie" (Sony) at $5.3, though the latter played on 669 fewer theaters. Both have a chance to thrive ahead. But despite the positive results (badly needed balm for a reeling »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Meet the Director of Foreign Oscar Frontrunner 'Timbuktu'

19 December 2014 2:24 PM, PST

He shows, using a cast of professional and non-professional actors, how decent people's lives are dramatically upended by these dictatorial radical Islamists, who outlaw music and other forms of pleasure and force women to wear gloves, among other things. He shows us a decent, loving family of cattle herders who live outside the town in bucolic harmony with nature and their neighbors. The man and woman are happy and content with their young daughter and their life. When the jihadists come, this harmony is tragically disrupted. The movie was entered in Competition at Cannes and played Toronto and New York; Cohen Media Group will release it stateside on January 25. Whatever its Oscar fate, don't miss it.  This marks the first time Mauritania has submitted a film for the Oscar.  Anne Thompson: What is the Oscar conversation in Mauritania? Abderrahmane Sissako: The nation waits for this, it’s an extraordinary »


- Anne Thompson

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Academy Delivers Unexpected Foreign Film Shortlist of Nine

19 December 2014 10:00 AM, PST

Six of the nine were selected by the several hundred Phase I L.A. Academy voters who watched the requisite number of films and graded them. The last three were added by powerful foreign czar Mark Johnson's hand-picked "Executive Committee," which is designed to prevent the presumably more mainstream voters from overlooking an artful Cannes prize winner such as "Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days." Needless to say it is always good sport to figure out which films the Academy voters picked, and which were the committee selections. And what would have been the larger group's last three?  Expected shortlist entries include two from Sony Pictures Classics: popular comedy "Wild Tales" from Argentina, and Russia's corruption expose "Leviathan." Other critics' faves were Mauritanian jihad drama "Timbuktu," Polish post-holocaust drama "Ida," and Sweden's exploration of a marriage, "Force Majeure." These are »


- Anne Thompson

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Emmanuel Lubezki on Achieving the One-Take Illusion of 'Birdman,' What's Next for Iñárritu

19 December 2014 6:00 AM, PST

The funny thing about  "Birdman" is that Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki initially resisted shooting the one-shot wonder proposed by director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. The Oscar winner for "Gravity," of course, is known for tackling long takes, but this movie -- and a comedy, no less -- seemed like a stunt and an uncomfortably difficult one at that. But as a result of his remarkable achievement, Lubezki has become the frontrunner for his second Oscar in a row after taking awards from the La Film Critics, New York Film Critics online, an Indie Spirit nomination, among others.  "I didn't want to make a gimmicky film for no reason or just to do it in one take to show off," explains Lubezki. "But Alejandro's script had the seed of the idea in it and was perfectly written, it reads like one continuous take, where you go into the madness of Riggan Thomson [Michael Keaton] and the collapse of his life. »


- Bill Desowitz

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Watch: Directors Reveal Themselves at the THR Awards Roundtable

18 December 2014 7:17 PM, PST

Watch this THR interview roundtable, and guess what? The one who comes off the best is the most likely to be nominated: American indie Linklater, whose "Boyhood" is clearly admired by the others in the group, especially Leigh, Tyldum and Nolan, who give him cred for having the balls to not only conceive but commit to this 12-year low-budget feat, which demanded that he abandon being in control or knowing the outcome.  Brit Nolan and Norwegian outsider Tyldum come off as the most intense and demanding of the bunch. Jolie laughs as Nolan, who reveres Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott and George Lucas, recounts having a blast filming on a glacier in 100-mile-an-hour winds in Iceland as his crew complained bitterly. Tyldum describes his total commitment when he shoots--and the bizarre intimacy he has with his lead actor. It's not always the nice guys who finish first when it comes to directing. »


- Anne Thompson

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Meet the Sundance Jury Members

18 December 2014 2:22 PM, PST

And the closing ceremony --which will be live-streamed on January 31--will be hosted by comedian Tig Notaro, whose documentary "Tig" will world premiere at the fest. The Short Film Awards will be announced on January 27 at Park City’s Jupiter Bowl. U.S. Documentary Jury Eugene Hernandez Eugene Hernandez is the deputy director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, where he leads strategy and operations for the institution, and is also the co-publisher of the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the official publication of the organization. He previously served as the director of digital strategy, where he oversaw all digital platforms and content. Prior to the Film Society, Hernandez co-founded Indiewire in 1996 and as editor-in-chief built the company over 14 years to become the leading online community and editorial publication for independent and international films and filmmakers. Additionally, he has worked extensively as a consultant »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: Behind the Scenes of Ebertfest with Spike Lee, Steve James, Oliver Stone and More (Exclusive)

18 December 2014 1:44 PM, PST

Writer/director Steve James' documentary portrait of the late, great film critic Roger Ebert, "Life Itself," is now a top Best Documentary Feature Oscar contender, and in spirit, here's an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at last year's Ebertfest, which continues to be held annually in his honor. The fest showcases films new and old, including many of Roger's favorites. The fest is now approaching its 17th year. Passes for Ebertfest 2015 (April 15-19) in Champaign, Il — at its home base The Virginia Theatre — are now on sale. »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Watch: Visit 'Foxcatcher' Farm with the Real John Du Pont

18 December 2014 12:59 PM, PST

No one knows for sure why wealthy Olympic wrestling patron John Du Pont flew off the rails in the winter of1996, abruptly murdering wrestler David Schultz in the driveway of his 800-acre Pennsylvania estate. But director Bennett Miller does his best to unpack the many psychoanalytic layers of the incident, and of the menacing, quirky psyche of John Du Pont. In this "sizzle reel" of sorts, we get a sense of who this enigmatic man — celebrated for his legacies as an "ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist" — really was. (He's played by Steve Carell in the film.) Here's what videographer Dave Speace had to say: "I shot this video in 1988 for an awards banquet. Du Pont donated money to Crozier-Chester Hospital for their new trauma center. The hospital held a banquet in his honor where this video was shown! So if you are going to see the movie... Foxcatcher, you can learn a little about who he was. »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Seven Reasons Why Theaters Felt Compelled to Pull 'The Interview'

18 December 2014 12:08 PM, PST

On the one hand, the holiday box office may get a boost (THR assesses the box office impact here), as Peter Jackson's third and ultimate "Hobbit" film opened Wednesday to $24.5 million. That's balm to exhibitors and an industry shell-shocked as it found itself the object of real threats — not just immediate but also longer-term — as its vulnerability to terror threats, long known within the business, became clear. Read: Four Reasons Why Theaters Should Play 'The Interview' This has serious implications going ahead, not only for movies but for all forms of potentially controversial expression. Reaction from the media and public has been largely negative -- free speech lawyer Alan Dershowitz calls it "Pearl Harbor on the First Amendment" -- but in fairness, theater owners were under enormous pressure once the direct threat was made. As horrifying as possible repercussions will be--and immediate, as director Gore Verbinski's North Korean-set. »


- Tom Brueggemann

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Review: The Mad Genius of 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' (Now on Netflix)

18 December 2014 11:33 AM, PST

To watch "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which debuted on CBS in 1986, is to find oneself tossed headlong into wonder. An amalgam of allusions, textures, and styles, creator and star Paul Reubens' cracked vision registers as both nostalgic and ahead of its time -- the bridge between the children's television of midcentury ("The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," "Captain Kangaroo," "Howdy Doody") and the new millennium ("Spongebob Squarepants," "Phineas and Ferb," "Adventure Time"). "This place is a madhouse!" the haughty, snooping Mrs. Steve (Shirley Stoler) proclaims in the series premiere, and she's right. "Pee-wee's Playhouse" asks viewers to hole up in their imaginations and throw away the key. Though I'm old enough to remember sitting on the floor in front of the television each Saturday morning, enveloped by "Playhouse," "Land of the Lost," and candlepin bowling as I sipped my »


- Matt Brennan

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Watch: Kate Winslet Breaks Barriers in First 'A Little Chaos' Trailer

18 December 2014 11:31 AM, PST

Focus Features snapped up North American rights to actor-turned-director Alan Rickman's "A Little Chaos" at Tiff. This romantic drama stars Winslet as a steely landscape designer who breaks sexual and class barriers when she's chosen to build one of King Louis Xiv's gardens at the new Versailles. Sabine also finds herself entangled romantically with renowned landscape architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). Costarring Jennifer Ehle and Stanley Tucci, "Chaos" suffered middling reviews at Toronto. Financed by Lionsgate UK and penned by Alison Deegan, Jeremy Brock and Rickman, the period romance will have its stateside premiere on March 27, 2015. What this does reveal is that the new Focus under Peter Schlessel wants to stay in the business of releasing this sort of arthouse material.  »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Before Sony's 'The Interview,' There Was 'Hitler—Dead or Alive'

18 December 2014 10:59 AM, PST

With all the current hue and cry over "The Interview" -- the comedy that Sony won't be releasing on Christmas Day -- I am once again reminded of "Hitler -- Dead or Alive," an ultra-low-budget 1942 B-movie starring Ward Bond as an ex-con who tries to collect a bounty on Adolf Hitler. No, I'm not making that up. Read More: Four Reasons Why Theaters Should Have Played "The Interview" Back when I taught a college course focused on war movies, I often screened the final minutes of this obscure oddity, to give students an inkling of American attitudes during the early days of Us involvement in World War II. Because even though the movie was an unabashedly cheesy Poverty Row production -- it dared to be a fantasy-fulfilling slice of cheese: At the end of the flick, Hitler is shot by Nazis who don't recognize him after Bond and his buddies shave off Der Führer's mustache. »


- Joe Leydon

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Tomm Moore Follows 'Secret of Kells' with Exquisite Animated Oscar Contender 'Song of the Sea'

18 December 2014 10:39 AM, PST

Produced by the Ireland-based animation studio, Cartoon Saloon, and distributed by Gkids, "Song of the Sea" is an animated Oscar contender for its exquisite hand-drawn beauty and stirring story about the last Seal-child trapped between two worlds. Ben and his enchanted little sister Saoirse (a Selkie) are hurled into a fading world of ancient legend and magic as they attempt to return to their home by the sea. The film takes inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land. "Song of the Sea" features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan, Pat Shortt, and Jon Kenny. The score is composed by Bruno Coulais and Irish band Kíla, who previously collaborated on "The Secret of Kells." "I had heard plenty of Selkie stories growing up and had seen the 'Secret of Roan Inish' but had »


- Bill Desowitz

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The Genius of Mike Leigh's System: Leigh & Cast on Gorgeous 'Mr. Turner'

18 December 2014 10:39 AM, PST

"Mr. Turner" (December 19) is a lushly mounted period biopic about a globally beloved painter, but it is also about art and commerce, creative integrity, institutional hypocrisy, damaged children, personal generosity, inspiration and love. At its center is a great romance. And all this from famously cranky Brit auteur Mike Leigh, who many tend to take for granted. (The film is now nominated for seven London Film Critics awards, including Best Picture.) We shouldn't, just because he always delivers. At 71 he's at the height of his powers. Labor of love "Mr. Turner" was not easy to get made. It's the apotheosis of the Leigh Method, the creative --and hugely influential--process he has honed and refined over decades, which allows his actors to collaborate for months--or a year even-- on building their characters and his screenplay. Think about the filmmakers, from Richard Linklater to Bennett Miller, to name two of his award-season rivals, »


- Anne Thompson

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Highlights from the Palm Springs Film Fest Lineup

18 December 2014 10:29 AM, PST

The fest boasts 192 films from 65 countries, including 65 premieres. More info here. World premieres include: "Don Quixote: The Gentleman of La Mancha" starring James Franco, Horatio Sanz, Luis Guzman and Line Shaye, "Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson," "Some Kind of Love" and "Twenty-Five Palms," a documentary on the 25th anniversary of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. International premieres include: "Arteholic" (Germany), a documentary featuring Udo Kier and Lars von Trier and more, Iceland's "The Grandad," Luxembourg's "Never Die Young" and Netherlands' "Accused." North American Premieres include: "40-Love" (Belgium), "Afterlife" (Hungary), "Beatles" (Norway), "See You in Montevideo" (Serbia) starring in Aramand Assante, "She’s Funny That Way" (USA) directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Imogen »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Review: Nick Broomfield's 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper' Provokes with Irritating Honesty

18 December 2014 10:19 AM, PST

There’s always been something irritatingly honest about Nick Broomfield’s documentaries, even when they’re not delivering what they’ve promised --- Margaret Thatcher, just for instance, who was never quite tracked down in “Tracking Down Maggie” back in 1994. But in his explorations of Extreme Americana -- exemplified by “Heidi Fleiss,” “Kurt & Courtney” and/or his two films on serial killer Aileen Wuornos -- he’s always an unabashedly goggle-eyed guest engaged in documentary tourism, who invades his own films, uses what he can get, glosses over what he can’t, but usually manages to peel a few scabs off the mottled surface of our national psyche, and psychoses. What the English director does in “Tales of the Grim Sleeper” is take a truism – that the Lapd’s relationship with the city’s minority communities historically sucks – and establish a story of lethal malpractice. When sometime-car-thief Lonnie Franklin was arrested in 2010 (and, »


- John Anderson

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A Look at Five Editing Frontrunners and Their Oscar Chances

18 December 2014 9:15 AM, PST

Like cinematography, editing stands out this awards season for the creative ingenuity of five frontrunners: the "continuous take" of "Birdman," the 12-year real-time odyssey of "Boyhood," the percussive intensity of "Whiplash," the parallel machinations of "Gone Girl" and the enigmatic humanism of "The Imitation Game." 1. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu may not want to give away the "continuous take" gag in his extraordinary "Birdman," but he's achieved the ultimate in Pov narrative. And his long-time editors Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione "stitched" "Birdman" together in a very unique way, compiling an assembly of rehearsal footage before principal photography and cleverly erasing the cuts with the VFX and post teams. The film's challenge: the number of tracking shots with hand-held cameras and Steadicams made »


- Bill Desowitz

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