Holiday Weekend

SteveCarellFoxcatcherIt’s Friday! And live from Manhattan, here’s your expected review roundup, because I do care. I really do.

(Also there aren’t that many movies opening and I can write this post in advance.)

Foxcatcher: Bennett Miller’s bleak true-crime drama is impeccably acted and beautifully photographed. It’s also consumed by its own self-importance and artifice, but you can’t have everything.

Getting to the Nutcracker: In the grand tradition of leaping into Christmas material while the last of the pumpkin pie is still in the fridge, here’s a documentary about the preparation of a Los Angeles production of the beloved holiday ballet. Glenn approves.

Heartbeat: Rad hated Andrea Dorfman’s romantic dramedy at TIFF so, so much; Susan is a little less hard on it, but even so. Yeesh.

The Last Impresario: London theatrical producer Michael White is so charming that he managed to convince filmmaker Gracie Otto he deserved his own documentary. Nice work, that.

Women Who Flirt: China Lion’s latest import stars Zhou Xun as a young woman who decides to pursue a former classmate, but can’t figure out how to put herself out there. It’s a comedy, I think. Rad is, as they say, not amused.

And that’s it! Enjoy your leftovers, American readers! Everybody else, have a turkey sandwich in sympathy.

The Boss of It All

hb2-father-an-sonIn this week’s NOW, I have a nice little sit-down with Christoph Waltz, who somehow got himself cast in Horrible Bosses 2. Lovely guy, great conversation; wish we’d had more than ten minutes, but you know how these things are.

I also take a look at the Blood in the Snow Festival, which showcases Canadian horror. There;s some good stuff on offer — as well as one really, really terrible thing, but at least its heart is in the right place.

I’m off to New York for the weekend, but don’t worry; I’ll keep you updated on my activities via Twitter and the Friday movie roundup will publish as usual. I’m responsible like that.

Festive Specials

1404153734000-XXX-HORRIBLE-BOSSES-2-MOV-jy-640-It’s the Wednesday before American Thanksgiving, which of course means the studios are rolling out their big guns. Except they aren’t, strangely enough — there are just two movies opening today, Warner’s comedy sequel Horrible Bosses 2 and DreamWorks Animation’s animated spinoff The Penguins of Magadascar. I guess everyone’s still expecting Mockingjay Part 1 to demolish everything in its path?

My review of Horrible Bosses 2 will be in this week’s NOW, along with an interview with one of its Oscar-winning stars. There, the tease has been dangled. Stand by.

No Games, Still Hungry

mockingjya-part-1-gale-katnissThe odds being ever in its favor, The Hunger  Games: Mockingjay Part One opened big this weekend, grossing $123 million to easily outpace everything else at the megaplex.

No, it isn’t even close to the series high of $158 million set by last year’s Catching Fire, but it’s still the biggest opening of the year — and it can’t possibly hurt the prospects for that other, less box-officey Jennifer Lawrence picture opening next week.

Big Hero 6 came in a distant second with $20.1 million, and Interstellar placed third with $15.1 million.

Last week’s top draw, Dumb & Dumber To, dropped to fourth with a pretty feeble $13.8 million, while Gone Girl earned $2.8 million to hold onto fifth place.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Only if “Stay out of Katniss Everdeen’s way” wasn’t something you already knew.

All Is Katniss, Katniss Is All

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-jennifer-lawrence-liam-hemsworthOh we can talk about this documentary or that indie, but this weekend is all about The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Part I. And rightly so, because Jennifer Lawrence is pretty goddamn fantastic in it, to the point where I actually started to care about this series for the first time ever.

Honestly, I’ve spent seven hours in this world and I still don’t give a damn about it … but Lawrence is a force of nature, and finally gets to do more than just look noble or angry. Susan liked the movie around her, too.

Also opening this week: An indie and a documentary. And some other stuff.

Hermitage Revealed: Is this a documentary about the venerated art museum, or a glorifed promotional video? Glenn suggests it is the latter, and not a very good one.

The Homesman: Tommy Lee Jones directs himself and Hilary Swank (and a few other notable talents) in a messy but compelling frontier drama that feels of a piece with Meek’s Cutoff, oddly enough.

Low Down: Having bounced around the release schedule for a few weeks, Jeff Preiss’ modest character piece — starring John Hawkes and Elle Fanning as a co-dependent father and daughter in 1970s Los Angleles — finally opens. So that’s nice.

Point and Shoot: Marshall Curry’s latest documentary is a penetrating psychological study of a man who doesn’t know he’s being studied. Which is kind of amazing.

Also, Mike Nichols died yesterday and I wrote some words about him for NOW. He’ll be missed.


The Most Happy Fellow

Tommy-Lee-Jones-in-The-Homesman-570x294In this week’s NOW, I fulfill the lifelong dream of every entertainment journalist and interview Tommy Lee Jones.

I am only slightly being sarcastic. Jones is a famously difficult interview, cranky and dismissive, and most journalists have at least one story of the man being a total dick to them.  Some of those stories are pretty funny, too.

But spend enough time around press junkets and you become very sympathetic to the actors who have no patience for vapid questions about whether they’re planning to make another Fugitive sequel or why they only appear in Men in Black 3 for ten minutes or whatever.

Anyway, I was willing to give Jones the benefit of the doubt; I try really hard not to ask stupid questions, and this interview was centered on a movie he’d co-written and directed as well as acted in, so clearly it was important to him. Maybe we’d manage to have a decent conversation.

And I would say we kind of did. Check it out, and listen to the audio clip at the bottom, and you tell me.

Oh, and I also wrote some words about the Regent Park Film Festival. That was a lot less tense.

Dumber. Always Dumber.

dumb-dumber-to-trailerPeople don’t learn. That’s the only explanation I can offer for the triumph of Dumb & Dumber To over the weekend — or, in a maybe-more-palatable configuration, a lot of children have grown up with Harry and Lloyd on cable, and now they’re ready to check them out on the big screen.

But yeah, the Farrelly brothers’ return to glory topped the weekend box office, grossing $38 million despite largely negative reviews … though it’s heartening that last week’s champion, Big Hero 6, was right on its heels with $36 million. Interstellar took third with a respectable $29.1 million; Beyond the Lights placed a distant fourth with $6.5 million.

Is there a lesson here? Probably not, other than “Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are somehow still box-office gold”. Although in that case, I’ve finally figured out how to get people to watch a Sleuth remake.

Dogs over Wolves

goodbye-to-languageIt’s a busy week, release-wise, but the only thing anyone expects to make money is Dumb & Dumber To; everything else is being served up as counterprogramming. Hey, it’s still a more interesting spread than next week’s lineup, which is basically the new Hunger Games movie and nothing else.

The Better Angels: In which A.J. Edwards answers a hypothetical question no one was asking: What if Terrence Malick made a movie about the early life of Abraham Lincoln? (Answer: It would almost certainly be better than this.)

Beyond the Lights: Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker make the goo-goo eyes at one another while the world (and writer-director Gina Pryce-Bythewood) contrive to keep them apart in this charming — but limited — showbiz romance.

Dumb & Dumber To: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels and the Farrelly brothers are back at it. I was unable to attend.

Emptying the Skies: Glenn really liked Douglas and Robert Kass’ documentary on endangered bird species being poached for food in Europe when it played Planet in Focus last year; now that it’s getting a commercial run, you might want to check it out too.

Goodbye to Language 3D: As a storyteller and polemicist, Jean-Luc Godard may be full of shit — and so is at least one of his characters — but his revolutionary approach to stereo cinematography makes this absolutely essential viewing for anyone who cares about film as art. Dammit.

Keep On Keepin’ On: Jose generally approves of Alan Hicks’ documentary about the legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and his protege, blind pianist Justin Kauflin, though he finds it a little more conventional than its subjects.

Rosewater: Jon Stewart makes a very impressive filmmaking debut with the story of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-born journalist (and Daily Show interviewee) who spent four months in prison in 2009. And no, you haven’t seen this movie before. Not exactly.

Wolves: David Hayter’s directorial debut is soooo bad. So very, very bad. And it’s not even bad in the fun way, where you can enjoy it. It’s just wretched. Leave it be.

So, to sum up, have a fun weekend. Please don’t see Wolves.

Bearing Witness

cdn.indiewireIn this week’s NOW, I talk to Gael Garcia Bernal about his work as a journalist turned political prisoner in Jon Stewart’s Rosewater; the movie also gives us this week’s Top 5, which rounds up five other political docudramas. (There’s really no excuse for me leaving out Battle of Algiers. I don’t know how I could have forgotten it.)

I also wrote a thing about the 2014 edition of the European Union Film Festival, which starts on Saturday. Oh, and if you’re looking for something to do tonight, consider coming to the Lightbox for Rendezvous with Madness’ short films program at 9:30pm; I’ll be moderating a Q&A with some of the filmmakers afterwards, which ought to be interesting.

My other other gig.