As the Dust Settles

FOCUS-TRAILER_0Remember when the studios rushed to book all the winning films back in theatres the week after the Oscars, or expanded the runs of the films still playing?

Yeah, they don’t do that any more. Everything’s either out on disc already or coming soon, so instead we’re getting nearly a dozen new openings. I’m feeling like it might be time to play the six-word review game again!

After the Ball: Cinderella plus cross-dressing equals fun, apparently. [Susan]

Ballet 422: Behind the scenes at the dance. [Glenn]

Big News from Grand RockCorner Gas subplot becomes entire movie!

Concerning Violence: Archival documentary captures Africans resisting colonialism. [No review online yet, which is weird]

The Duke of Burgundy: Love is strange. Like, really strange. [Susan]

Elephant Song: Greenwood good. Dolan bad. Film dull.

Focus: A fun caper picture. No lie.

Gett: The Trial of Vivane Amsalem: Divorce, Israeli style — specifically, Orthodox Jewish. [Rad]

Girlhood: Observational French drama finds small truths. [Susan]

The Lazarus Effect: Don’t revive the dead. C’mon. Don’t.

Monsoon: Vacation videos disguised as a documentary.

Playing It CoolThe F Word remade by sociopaths.

And that is that. Sorry, I have a busy day ahead of me …

Achievement Unlocked

the-lazarus-effectOh, I’ve interviewed Community people before — Ken Jeong and Jim Rash in 2013, and of course Dan Harmon last spring — but this week’s NOW interview with Donald Glover is my first conversation with a core cast member. And it was giddy-making, even if it was just a phoner and we mostly talked about his new horror movie The Lazarus Effect.

I also talked to Adrian Martinez, who’s kind of the comic MVP of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s Focus, and that was nice too. And I wrote a Top Five for this week’s Canadian Screen Awards. Who says we ignore our own?

Well, Hell

lead_largeSo, yeah. Birdman, Or (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Finally Pulls One Over On The Academy) won Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Oscars last night, shivving Richard Linklater’s Boyhood wherever possible — except for Best Supporting Actress, which went to Boyman‘s Patricia Arquette instead of Birdhood‘s Emma Stone — and generally demonstrating that when it comes to the Academy, you cannot fucking go wrong with a movie about how great it is to be a committed artist in this business we call show.

Oh, also you should play someone with a disease, as Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore did, or eat the frame like J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. That works too.

I wrote a few hundred words about it for the NOW site. Read ‘em if you want. Whatever. Everything is decidedly not awesome.

Oh, wait: Hot Tub Time Machine 2 tanked over the weekend while McFarland and The DUFF did okay, so maybe it’s just the Oscars that have lost their minds. The rest of us seem more sensible.

A Lull, By Design

2013-09-05-901082013185120_media1The Oscars are upon us, so this weekend’s studio offerings are specifically designed not to distract us from important cinema. I guess I can see the wisdom — and it’s not like they’re uniformly disposable. Except for the one about the time machine, that is.

The DUFF: Mae Whitman is no one’s idea of a Designated Ugly Fat Friend, which is why she’s perfect for the role of a high-school senior shocked to find herself described that way in Ari Sandel’s sharp-edged comedy.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2: Remember how those assholes went back in time and acted like assholes? This time, the assholes are acting like assholes … in the future! Uuuuuuugggghhh.

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine: Michele Josue’s documentary looks at the young man who became a gay-rights martyr — and whose horrific death led his mother to reinvent herself as an activist. Susan finds it unexceptional — but still sadly necessary.

McFarland: Disney’s annual feelgood sports movie casts Kevin Costner as a white coach who formed a winning running team at a predominantly Latino high school in California. A good story, very conventionally told — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Siddharth: Richie Mehta’s urgent Indian drama has spent a year and a half on the shelf; frankly, it’s a wonder it’s getting a theatrical run at all. It’s good; go see it. Rad agrees.

The Wrecking Crew: Denny Tedesco’s documentary on the Los Angeles session musicians who backed the great West Coast acts of the 60s and 70s has been knocking around since 2008, but the success of Twenty Feet from Stardom makes it marketable. Susan found it decent enough, assuming you dig the music.

And there you go. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for Oscar commentary on Sunday night, and I’ll have a big wrap piece on the NOW site come Monday morning. And for the love of all that’s holy stay warm, would you?

Well, Slap My Face And Call Me Sally

1D274906429135-x_tdy_fifty_shades_trailer_140724.blocks_desktop_largeGrabbing  the middle-American zeitgeist by the throad with a velvet glove, or something, Fifty Shades of Grey set records this holiday weekend, opening to $85 million and adding an additional $9.4 million on Presidents’ Day Monday. So, congratulations to Sam Taylor-Johnson for making a sure thing into a sure thing; now, please go make a movie I want to see.

The counterprogramming choices landed just right, with Kingsman: The Secret Service opening with a four-day haul of $42 million and the SpongeBob Squarepants sequel earning $40 million in its second week of release. American Sniper took fourth place with $16.5 million, breaking the $300 million mark on Sunday, while Jupiter Ascending wheezed into fifth with just $9.2 million.

Will the tanking of the Wachowskis’ latest effects fantasy Norbit Eddie Redmayne out of a Best Actor Oscar? Nah, probably not; Bradley Cooper can do that all by his lonesome.

Right Square In The Feels

5.190061Valentine’s Day weekend gets a little weird this year, as Universal opens its Middle American bondage picture and everyone else races to counterprogram an alternative date movie. Let’s see how that works out.

Fifty Shades of Grey: I had to miss this for Kingsman on Wednesday night — and Susan’s review isn’t encouraging — but I’m going to have to catch up to it eventually just to see what drew Sam Taylor-Johnson to the project, I guess.

In Her Place: Canadian filmmaker Albert Shin’s directorial debut is a tense, claustrophobic South Korean domestic drama, and Rad is all for it.

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Matthew Vaughn’s retro spy picture is perhaps a little too much in love with its source material. Also, it’s kind of ugly inside.

The Last Five Years:  Richard LaGravenese’s open-hearted musical lets the stellar Anna Kendrick and the decent-enough Jeremy Jordan play out a modern romance in duelling chronologies. I bought in.

Timbuktu: Abderrahmane Sissako’s drama about a small community coping with the imposition of Sharia law will be embraced as a cautionary tale by right-wingers looking to wave the Scary Muslim flag. But it’s a lot more complex — and humane — than that.

The Voices: Ryan Reynolds gives the performance of his career in Marjane Satrapi’s batshit character study, about which you should know as little as possible before going in. I’ve probably said too much already.

What We Do in the Shadows: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary might be the funniest movie you see this year. And yes, I know it’s only February.

Counter-intuitive anti-Valentine argument: Catch In Her Place or What We Do in the Shadows this weekend, because they might not be around next weekend. Okay?

The Best of the Fest

IfyWgThis week’s NOW finds me reaching back into the maelstrom of TIFF 2014 — five months ago, almost to the day. The result is a whole bunch of movie-star-type interviews, accompanied by online director Q&As.

For The Voices, I talked to Ryan Reynolds and Marjane Satrapi. For The Last Five Years, it was Anna Kendrick and Richard LaGravanese. And for What We Do In The Shadows, it’s Jemaine Clement and Stu Rutherford, and also Clement’s co-director/writer/star Taika Waititi — which only took like five days to go live. Sorry about that.

I also wrote a few things about the TIFF Next Wave festival, because  when it rains …

A Changing of the Guard

3bbd06cefc72ee402c50b750bdddcb85497c6af4American Sniper is no longer the number-one movie in North America, and we may all thank SpongeBob SquarePants for dethroning it.

The happy yellow guy’s second feature film enjoyed a $56 million opening weekend, knocking Clint Eastwood’s freak blockbuster down to second place with a still-really-impressive $24.2 million. And American Sniper‘s fourth-weekend gross was still more than enough to beat Jupiter Ascending‘s $19 million opening, marking a real gut punch to the Wachowskis’ goony space opera.

Seventh Son made a piddly $7.1 million to take fourth place, while Paddington chugged cheerfully along in fifth with $5.37 million. Not heroic numbers, no, but enough for a boatload of marmalade sandiwiches.

My other other gig.