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Film Reviews: Opening This Week (Aug. 26-30, 2013)
1 September 2013 4:49 PM, PDT
A critical digest of the week’s latest U.S. theatrical releases. Where applicable, links to longer reviews have been provided.
Once one reaches a certain age, the procession of teen pop idols becomes a cruel reminder of the passage of time and the inevitability of death. For any non-teenager attending Morgan Spurlock’s concert documentary “One Direction: This Is Us,” intimations of mortality will be felt most strongly during the “classic cover song” section of the group’s set, wherein the boy band reaches all the way back to Blondie’s “One Way or Another” and Wheatus’ 2000 golden oldie “Teenage Dirtbag.” Yet the film’s central fivesome prove charming pallbearers throughout the film, which alternates between inspired and insipid as it hits its hagiographic marks. Directioners should show up in full force.
Read the full review
Distributor: Focus Features »
- Variety Staff
Weinstein Co. Picks Up John Curran’s ‘Tracks’ for U.S.
1 September 2013 3:17 PM, PDT
Film is based on a memoir by Robyn Davidson from a script by Marion Nelson. Story centers on how Davidson repaired her life after the collapse of her marriage by trekking through the Australian desert.
The news was first reported on Deadline.
CAA, Thorsten Schumacher, managing director of HanWay Films, and Craig Emanuel of Loeb & Loeb brokered the deal on behalf of the filmmakers with TWC’s COO David Glasser and president/managing director of European acquisitions Robert Walak.
- Rachel Abrams
Autlook Acquires ‘Master of the Universe’
1 September 2013 2:43 PM, PDT
London — Vienna-based sales house Autlook has acquired worldwide rights for Marc Bauder’s documentary “Master of the Universe,” which won Locarno’s Critics’ Week prize.
“’Master of the Universe’ gives a face and voice to the anonymous guild of bankers. The top banker’s in-depth analysis makes us emotionally empathize with him. An urgent and important access to the mindset of a ruling class,” Abdalla said.
Abdalla and Jager will be in Toronto to present the film to those buyers who were not in Locarno.
The deal was negotiated between Bauder and Autlook’s theatrical director Salma Abdalla and its CEO Peter Jager. »
- Leo Barraclough
Serbia Selects ‘Circles’ as Oscar Entry
1 September 2013 1:40 PM, PDT
London — Serbia has selected Srdan Golubovic’s “Circles,” which won the Special Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at Sundance, as its entry for the foreign-language pic Oscar.
The film centers on the murder of Marko, a Serbian soldier who saved the life of a Muslim civilian in Bosnia. The pic follows three parallel stories in Serbia, Germany and Bosnia today, where three people who witnessed the killing are faced with live-changing decisions.
The pic also played in the Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Ecumenical Jury prize.
International sales are repped by Memento Films Intl.
The Oscar selection was made by the 14 members of the expert committee of Serbia’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. ”Circles” received nine votes and Miroslav Momcilovic’s “Death of a Man in the Balkans” got five votes, according to the website In Serbia. »
- Leo Barraclough
Kim Ki-duk Takes Knife to ‘Moebius’ for Censors
1 September 2013 12:29 PM, PDT
Getting to the Lido was easy for South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, who presents his “Moebius” in the Venice festival’s out of competition section Tuesday. Getting his picture a release at home was altogether harder.
As is Kim’s wont, “Moebius” tells a frank tale that delves deep into the dark, obsessive side of the Korean psyche.
The story involves a fight over the husband’s infidelity, ending in the woman dismembering her son.
It was too much for the Korean Media Rating Board, which said “Moebius” failed two of its seven tests of decency — due to its “high levels of sex and nudity” and “scenes of incest,” which it considered as behavior that should not be imitated.
“The story and contents of the movie are highly violent, terrifying and harmful to underage audiences. The unethical and unsocial expressions of sexual activity between immediate family members make it only »
- Patrick Frater
‘Joe,’ ‘Philomena,’ ‘Tracks’ Ignite Big Buzz at Venice Film Festival
1 September 2013 12:01 PM, PDT
“Philomena,” “Tracks” and “Joe” (pictured) looked like early standouts for buyers as a buoyant Venice festival, energized by a bullish reception for Warner Bros.’ opener “Gravity,” hits the midway mark.
While deals begun at Venice traditionally close at Toronto, the attendance of Harvey Weinstein, Glen Basner, Stuart Ford and Nicolas Chartier on the Lido underscores just how seriously some of the world’s top indie players still take the positioning of a film at the world’s oldest festival. Led by the Match Factory, Elle Driver and Films Distribution, three of the European arthouse-crossover sales agents with the most movies on the Lido, a clutch of U.S. and European companies had also begun to spark offers at the sophomore Venice Film Market.
Attendance is up 34% to 1,605 guests for the four-day market.
- John Hopewell and Nick Vivarelli
Glazer, Johansson Pic ‘Skin’ Underscores FilmNation Film Philosophy
1 September 2013 11:43 AM, PDT
Glen Basner’s FilmNation Entertainment has sold out the vast part of the world on Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin,” starring Scarlett Johansson, one of the highest-profile films at this year’s Venice festival.
In major territory deals, Bim Distribuzione has closed Italy, Studiocanal nabbed the U.K., Senator took Germany, A-Film bought Benelux, Roadshow Films took Australia/New Zealand and Sun Distribution Group grabbed Latin America.
Elsewhere, Top Film Distribution has Cis, Eastern European Acquisition Pool grabbed Eastern Europe, Hgc took China and Fine Films nabbed Japan.
The distributors are, for the most part, companies which handle both speciality and commercial films, Basner said. And their high profiles and market expertise will be tested as “Under the Skin” is a film that seems difficult to buttonhole. »
- John Hopewell and Nick Vivarelli
Director Ti West Aims for Mainstream With ‘Sacrament’
1 September 2013 11:28 AM, PDT
Written by West, “The Sacrament” follows two journos shooting a doc about man’s attempt to locate his missing sister. They find her in a rural cult preparing for a mass suicide, and the trio are soon racing to escape with their lives.
“Having made all types of supernatural horror films over the years, I really wanted to make something grounded in realism. Something confrontational. The approach is much grittier, more dramatic and emotional,” West said. “I want people to be frightened but also allow them to understand how and why the cult »
- John Hopewell
Oscar Race for Best Actress Already Overcrowded
1 September 2013 11:12 AM, PDT
Women often complain that there aren’t enough good movie roles for actresses, and they’re right.
This year, the meaty roles may not be plentiful, but they’re impressive: It’s only September and the best-actress race is already overloaded with contenders.
The Venice Film Festival, which kicked off Aug. 28, offered two strong possibilities: Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” and Judi Dench in “Philomena,” two very different but very impressive tour de force performances.
In May, Cannes offerings included “Blue is the Warmest Color,” in which Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos starred in the Palme d’Or-winning film, while the fest’s actress prize went to Berenice Bejo in “The Past.” Also winning big praise was “The Immigrant,” with Marion Cotillard. That’s six possibilities already.
- Timothy M. Gray
Arab Film Fests: The Big Three Work to Boost Regional Biz
1 September 2013 11:06 AM, PDT
The Arab world’s film festival landscape is undergoing changes, partly due to the disruptive impact of post-Arab Spring turmoil in such countries as Egypt but mostly prompted by a concerted effort across the Gulf region to ensure that sprocket operas there serve as effective drivers for a large part of the Middle-East film industry.
The desire for young and large petrodollar-fueled fests such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha to reconceive themselves as better building blocks for the region’s budding moviemaking efforts was clearly visible at Cannes in May. That’s when the Doha Film Institute, having severed its ties with Tribeca, announced it had tapped Palestinian director Elia Suleiman (pictured) as artistic adviser and transformed the 5-year-old fest from a globally focused event to one dedicated solely to first and second-time directors in a completely new structure, which now comprises two separate events — one for emerging helmers, »
- Nick Vivarelli
Box Office: ‘One Direction’ Takes Early Lead Over ‘Butler’
1 September 2013 9:35 AM, PDT
Labor Day weekend box office turned in a nail-biting battle for No. 1, with Sony’s music doc “One Direction: This Is Us” taking an early lead, estimating $20.5 million in four days, enough to beat “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which the Weinstein Co. projects will earn $19.5 million Friday-Monday.
The weekend’s race for box office bragging rights will be a photo finish: It’s very likely that the two films could switch rankings when studios release their revised four-day estimates on Monday. If “The Butler” winds up winning, it will be the first film this year to be No. 1 at the box office for three straight weekends.
“I definitely think they’re both in the $20 million-plus range for the four days,” admitted Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer. “But it’s all good really.”
Indeed, the weekend perf for “One Direction,” a low-risk venture for Sony, positions the film well financially, especially »
- Andrew Stewart
Miyazaki to Retire
1 September 2013 6:59 AM, PDT
Venice – Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki will retire after making eleven features that have secured him a spot among the world’s most beloved and visionary toon meisters.
This sad news was announced by Koji Hoshino, head of Studio Ghibli to stunned reporters during a presser at the Venice Film Festival where Miyazaki’s latest work, “The Wind Rises,” screened to enthusiastic response.
Hoshino did not give any further details, saying only that Miyazaki will be holding a briefing in Tokyo next week.
The famously reclusive Miyazaki, who is 72, was not present at the fest.
- Nick Vivarelli
Hollywood Star Vehicles Chase European Audience Award
1 September 2013 5:10 AM, PDT
London — English-language fare with Hollywood stars make up more than a third of the nominees for the European Film Academy’s People’s Choice Award, which will be voted for by film fans across Europe.
Nominees include “Anna Karenina,” starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, “The Best Offer,” toplining Geoffrey Rush and Donald Sutherland, “The Impossible,” which stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and “Love Is All You Need,” starring Pierce Brosnan.
Half of the pics were shot in the English language, reflecting a shift by European filmmakers toward English-lingo movies.
- Leo Barraclough
Venice Film Review: ‘Parkland’
1 September 2013 3:30 AM, PDT
A painful retelling of the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President Kennedy in which the two least important players seem to be JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald, “Parkland” dramatizes the immediate impact of that tragedy on the lives of civilians, professionals and others tangentially involved. Comparisons with “Bobby” can’t be helped, since it took a similar approach to the equally shocking death of Robert F. Kennedy, though that film seems like a masterpiece compared with this inadvertently tacky restaging of events. Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, this Oct. 4 release will swiftly be forgotten in the face of more tasteful mementos.
If you’ve ever wanted to know the expression on Abraham Zapruder’s face when his Super 8 camera captured history’s most famous snuff film, or to see the footage reflected in his eyeglasses right after it has been developed, “Parkland” is your movie. Writer-director »
- Peter Debruge
Telluride Film Review: ‘Starred Up’
1 September 2013 1:03 AM, PDT
If you can’t understand half of what the characters say in “Starred Up,” not to worry. It’s an artistic choice on the part of director David Mackenzie (“Young Adam”), who clearly sees language as secondary in this brutal full-body immersion into the British prison system. There’s something primal about the way these inmates communicate, mixing their heavily accented British prison slang with bursts of spontaneous aggression. It’s a harrowing place to do time, but a surprisingly effective stage for a father-son reconciliation, and though the unintelligibility issue will severely limit its reach, this powerful dysfunctional-family saga is too well acted to go unreleased.
As prison films go, “Starred Up” hits all the usual bases with blistering naturalism: There’s brawling in the corridors, sexual tension in the showers and corruption among the guards. But the plot defies the genre, and its two central performances rank on »
- Peter Debruge
‘Castro’s Daughter’ Movie Finds Director (Exclusive)
31 August 2013 11:22 PM, PDT
Siegel-Magness will also produce through her Smokewood Entertainment banner along with Mankind Entertainment ’s John Martinez O’Felan and Joe Lamy. The screenplay, described as a coming-of-age story, was written by Bobby Moresco (“Crash”) and and Nilo Cruz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-wining play “Anna in the Tropics.”
Fernandez was born in 1956 to Fidel Castro, three years before he took power. She fled Cuba as a dissident in 1993 disguised as a Spanish tourist and later wrote her memoir “Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba.”
Fernandez currently has a Miami-based radio show “Simplemente Alina.”
Cruz, a Cuban native whose family left Cuba in 1970, is co-producing and will consult with Siegel-Magness.
“Alina Fernandez is an unsung hero who has carried the invisible flag for freedom and democracy,” Siegel-Magness said.
The deal was »
- Dave McNary
Talent Manager J.J. Harris Dies
31 August 2013 6:20 PM, PDT
Talent manager J.J. Harris died Friday at her Los Angeles home. She was 62.
A spokeswoman for Harris’ company, One Talent Management, said Harris had died of natural causes and that funeral arrangements were pending.
She had worked at the William Morris Agency before joining United Talent Agency as a partner shortly after its formation in 1991. Harris remained at UTA until 2003, when she formed a management company with Heather Reynolds.
Harris was the CEO of One Talent Entertainment. She and Theron parted way amicably last year; Harris had repped her dating back to the middle 1990s at UTA. »
- Dave McNary
Venice Film Review: ‘The Quispe Girls’
31 August 2013 4:58 PM, PDT
Three indigenous sisters in the barren Altiplano of northern Chile confront their increasing isolation in Sebastian Sepulveda’s starkly handsome debut, “The Quispe Girls.” Based on a true story from 1974, when the claws of Gen. Pinochet’s dictatorship were being felt even in the remotest parts of the country, the pic plays on the intimacy of the sisters in contrast to the monumentality of the landscape, crushing them in its immense solitude. Given the current flourishing of Chilean cinema, and the reps of producers Pablo and Juan de Dios Larrain, “Quispe” should find welcoming slots in fests worldwide.
Life on the enormous mountain plateau of northern Chile has always been harsh, though native communities had settlements and made a living as shepherds. As part of Pinochet’s bid for absolute rule, he ordered police to confiscate flocks, forcing the population to move to more controllable areas. This is the background »
- Jay Weissberg
Film Review: ‘Instructions Not Included’
31 August 2013 4:13 PM, PDT
Yet another iteration of a sentimental scenario that already was whiskery way back when Charlie Chaplin served as father figure for “The Kid,” “Instructions Not Included” is a sporadically amusing but unduly protracted dramedy that slowly — very slowly — devolves into a shameless tearjerker during its third act. Pic may prove popular with fans of Mexican TV actor/personality Eugenio Derbez, who directed and co-wrote it as a star-vehicle showcase. Even so, it’s questionable whether something so blandly formulaic will do much to expand that fan base.
It doesn’t help much that Derbez is less than entirely convincing in early scenes, playing his character, Valentin, as a roguish ladies’ man who compulsively loves ‘em and leaves ’em while cavorting in his native Acapulco. He’s a great deal more persuasive, here and elsewhere, as a borderline scaredy-cat who has never quite recovered from his father’s tough-love attempts to »
- Joe Leydon
Early Oscar Buzz: ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Prisoners’ Rock Telluride
31 August 2013 2:22 PM, PDT
The 40th edition of the Telluride Film Festival has provided solid awards-season launches for “12 Years a Slave” and “Prisoners” — both last-minute additions to the lineup as “sneak” screenings.
“12 Years a Slave,” the 19th century real-life drama from Fox Searchlight, produced a standing ovation and rave reviews on Friday night.
“I think it might be more productive if we all just had a group walk around the block or something,” Pitt added.
But it was Ejiofor who drew the most praise with Oscar pundits, some already putting the actor down as the front-runner to win Best Oscar this awards season. »
- Dave McNary
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