Back into the Muck

shia-labeouf-furyAfter two weeks of the cool, chilling Gone Girl, audiences chose to embrace the blood and thunder of Fury this weekend.

David Ayer’s ultraviolent WWII actioner opened to a $23.5 million gross, while David Fincher’s couples’ thriller dropped down to second place with $17.8 million.

Guillermo del Toro’s animated fantasy The Book of Life took third with $17 million; Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day placed fourth with $12 million and the Nicholas Sparks weeper The Best of Me opened to a disappointing $10.2 million to land in fifth place.

Maybe people are getting tired of the patented Sparks formula. That’d be nice.

Mass Effect

Best-of-Me-trailerYeah, there are far too many movies opening this month. This week is busy, but next week is nuts — trust me, you’ll see. For now, though, let’s just deal with what’s in front of our faces.

The Best of Me: I am contractually exempt from seeing movies where Nicholas Sparks appears in the credit block, so we sent Rad to this latest timeless weeper. He was very brave.

The Book of Life: You know, you hear “Guillermo del Toro’s Day of the Dead movie” and you imagine something else. Instead, it’s an elaborate CG family movie which Rad calls “a magnificent mess”. I’m intrigued — though I’d really like to see the three-hour version.

Felony: The last time I saw Joel Edgerton, he was about to start work on this Australian cop thriller. He also said he was hoping to change the title to something ridiculously evocative, like A Tear on My Pillow.  Looks like that didn’t take.

Fury: David Ayer — writer of Training Day, director of Harsh TimesEnd of Watch and Sabotage – switches from the policier to the WWII tank picture, and still manages to tell the exact same story he always does. That’s some kind of accomplishment.

The Green Prince: Nadav Schirman’s documentary tells the story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, recruited by the Mossad to spy on his Hamas leader father for Israel. Susan has some issues with Schirman’s choices, but gives the film a pass.

The Guest: Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett follow You’re Next with another playful genre exercise, this one built around two terrific performances from Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe. And the release-date shuffle means it’s opening just in time for Halloween, where it belongs.

Rudderless: UPDATE! I completely forgot that William H. Macy’s modest drama was opening today, and that I reviewed it, which seems awfully insulting. But it’s that kind of picture — a small project that radiates decency and compassion without ever really registering harder. It’ll play well on VOD.

St. Vincent: I’m not nearly as high on Theodore Melfi’s dramedy as some, but I will say this: If Bill Murray doesn’t get an Oscar out of it, Harvey Weinstein needs to take a long, hard look at his life choices.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: Isao Takahata’s animated adaptation of a Japanese folk tale plays like a delicate epic, if you can imagine such a thing. And it was a pleasure to see the man who made Grave of the Fireflies deliver something that didn’t leave me in pieces afterward.

These Final Hours: A young man and a much younger girl forge an unlikely friendship in the last day of human existence in the Australian answer to Last Night and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Tu Dors Nicole: I’ve never been the biggest fan of Stephane Lafleur’s films, but Rad is dazzled by his latest, which follows two young women through a lazy Quebec summer.

Watchers of the Sky: Edet Belzberg’s documentary examines the attempts to understand genocide as a war crime over the past century; Andy feels it stands with The Act of Killing as both a documentary and a catalyst for social change.

Until next week …

A Late-Arriving Guest

Tguest34562he new issue of NOW finds us finally running my TIFF interview with Dan Stevens — and an attendant web Q&A with filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett — now that The Guest is finally opening in Toronto after multiple rescheduled release dates. And hooray for that, because it’s an awful lot of fun.

But wait, there’s more! I also talked to Melissa McCarthy when she came through the festival with St. Vincent; we spent far too much time discussing The Nines, a great weird thing she made with John August and Ryan Reynolds back in 2007. (Which, it turns out, is on Blu-ray! Buy that!)

Oh, and I took a look at the ImagineNATIVE film festival, which gets underway early next week. Could have used a lot more space on that one, but then I say that every week.

Lowered Stakes

cdn.indiewireIn one of those moments that gives you hope for the future, David Fincher’s Gone Girl kept the un-good Dracula Untold from topping the weekend box-office, which with any luck will make Universal reconsider its fairly stupid plan to build a shared universe out of its classic-monster properties.

(Said shared universe would presumably stitch together Luke Evans’ unimpressive Dracula with Hugo Weaving’s newly anointed Wolf Man and have them stare daggers at Brendan Fraser for two hours while waiting for some new version of Victor Frankenstein to arrive. Bleah.)

But yes! Gone Girl made $26.8 million to Dracula Untold‘s $23.5 million, so pulp-literary adaptations win out over CG monster mashes and all is right with the world.

Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Day came in third with a just-okay $19.1 million, while The Judge opened in fifth with $13.3 million. And the Conjuring prequel Annabelle dropped to fourth with $16.4 million, because scary dolls are a lot less scary on their second weekend.

Okay then.

Bleah, Bleah, Bleah

Dracula UntoldOctober means endless openings — though once again The Guest was bumped from release at the last minute. Which is actually okay, since every delay brings it closer to Halloween, when the movie itself is set. I could think of worse release strategies.

In the meantime, here’s a list of what is arriving in theatres today. Some of them are even worth your time.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: The beloved children’s book becomes a movie! Because all is entropy and everything you love dies! Also, Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner make faces in it. Rad was unmoved.

Bjork: Biophilia LiveSusan is wowed by the Icelandic pixie’s latest concert movie. Co-director Peter Strickland made Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy, so I can see how that would happen.

Dracula Untold: No, Universal’s latest monster reboot isn’t very good, but at least it isn’t very good in a different way from the incoherent flailing of The Wolfman. I mean, I guess that’s a net positive.

God Help the Girl: Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch makes a musical. It is a mess, but if you’re a fan you might enjoy some of it. God knows I tried to.

The Judge: Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall are so frickin’ good in this movie — and Vincent D’Onofrio and Vera Farmiga are as well — that it almost doesn’t matter that the movie itself isn’t that great.

Kill the Messenger: Speaking of actors being good in movies that aren’t exactly punching at their level, Jeremy Renner does a fine job of playing California journalist Gary Webb in Michael Cuesta’s middling biopic. Also very good, in smaller roles: Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Michael Sheen.

Mudbloods: This is a documentary about the brave lads of the UCLA Quidditch team, which demonstrates that you really can make a documentary about anything. Rad ain’t buying it.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared: Susan doesn’t have a lot of time for Felix Herngren’s Swedish satire, and from the way she describes it I can’t say I would either.

And there we are. Enjoy your Turkey Day, everyone!

The Legend Is Real

10520409_1539193362984978_284915736_nOn the cover of today’s NOW: Robert goddamn Duvall, ladies and gentlemen. This one was pure pleasure, both to research and to write; play the audio clips to understand how much fun it is just to sit and listen to the man speak. (I especially love his pronunciation of the word spoon.)

I also take a look at his five best roles as part of the package — though this particular Top 5 could have gone to a Top 15. And here’s my TIFF interview with Duvall’s equally engaging co-star Robert Downey Jr., just because you’ve been good all week.

And in the film section proper, I preview the Reel Indie Film Festival, which takes over the Royal as of next Tuesday. Because I am a comprehensive sort of fellow.

Of Walruses and Things

justin-long-in-tusk-movie-10Today is a very busy Friday, so you will forgive me for playing the six-word review game.

Annabelle: A Conjuring prequel. About the doll. [Glenn, later today]

Art and Craft: A forger confronts reality. Sort of.

The Good Lie: Not the Witherspoon joint you’d think.

Gone Girl: Fincher, Affleck, Pike. Slick, crisp, crackling.

Harmontown: Dan Harmon. Community genius. Miserable bastard.

Kite: The week’s worst movie. Just awful.

Left BehindNot the week’s worst, thank Christ.

Men, Women & Children: Jason Reitman worries about the Internet. [Andy]

Mommy:  Magnificent wanker gonna wank magnificently, yo. [Susan]

My Old Lady: Good actors, thin premise, no joy. [Glenn}

Tusk: Kevin Smith horror comedy. So, yeah.

And there we go! Gotta run, catch you later.

The Good Guy

1297227728130_ORIGINALIn this week’s NOW, I cover The Good Lie from a couple of angles. There’s an interview in the paper with Philippe Falardeau, a very nice person who’s about to level up substantially on the world stage, and a web Q&A with stars Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal and Kuoth Weil. (No, Reese Witherspoon is not the movie’s star. The poster is lying to you.)

I also take a look at the second half of TIFF’s Jean-Luc Godard retrospective, and throw a little love at the Goethe Institute’s series looking at the cinematic legacy of the Berlin Wall, a quarter-century after its collapse. I’ll be introducing the first one — Christian Petzold’s excellent Barbara – tonight at 6:30 pm at the Lightbox. Perhaps you would care to join me?

Well Then

the-equalizer-denzel-washington-chloe-grace-moretzAntoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer, which is not a good movie per se but is kind of okay in a sleazy, sadistic sort of way, opened strong with $35 million this weekend.

This means either that people want to see Denzel Washington murder people in ugly ways, or that they’ll show up for pretty much any ’80s television property. Either way, we’ll be getting another one. I hope you’re happy.

In other news, The Maze Runner dropped to second place with $17.5 million — chased closedly by The Boxtrolls, which opened in third place with $17.2 million. This last bit is very encouraging, as The Boxtrolls looks like fun and I really liked Graham Annable when we hung out at TIFF Kids this past spring. Go see that, would you?

My other other gig.