The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2013

COLD Trailer… But Brilliant… For Killing Them Softly

If they had used this trailer, the film sure wouldn’t have been slapped in exit polls… many of those people wouldn’t have gone… but others would have and they would have seen this terrific movie.

(trailer tweeted by Megan Ellison, producer)


Weekend Estimates by Captain Klady

Weekend Estimates

Captain Phillips opens right behind The Departed, which did a little under 5x opening. How the captain plays in the word-of-mouth market we will soon find out. But a strong opening… ironically on the heels of Marc Weinstock’s exit from Columbia. Odd how that almost always happens.

Gravity is a phenom. It will soon be the #1 non-holiday fall opener of all time. It just goes to show that when you have the goods, you can come out at any time and score big.

Machete Kills is a wait for Home Entertainment title, even for most Rodriguez fanboys.

The Saratov Approach was the big winner in the arthouses, with just 23 screens. Ukrainian in English. #2 arthouse movie, the Christian faith film, Unlimited, on 5 screens. I had never heard of either until the numbers landed.

The great Blue Is The Warmest Color did just under $2500 per on 17 screens. Escape From Tomorrow did $1320 per on 30. Lots in the $1k per to $3k per range… which is about 100 to 300 people showing up over the course of the weekend. Rough terrain.


First Blush Review: Her (spoiler-free)


Spike Jonze always ends up at Love.

I’m not saying that any of the film journeys Jonze has taken us on are anything less than iconoclastic. I’m just saying that in the end, whether it’s a journey through a celebrity’s head or twin screenwriters & orchid thieves or literal monsters on an island with a young boy or a man who falls in love with an artificial intelligence, the trip always leads to a re-opening of the emotional door to simple, normal, human love.

In Being John Malkovich, Jonze’s first feature in collaboration with Charlie Kaufman, those around the central character find true love while the lead is left desperate and still grasping for it in the end. But by the end of Adaptation, our lead is finally connecting with love. Where The Wild Things Are adapts Sendak into the tale of a child dealing with the rage that his parent’s divorce thrusts upon him and closes with Max finally at peace with his parents.

And now, Her, in which Jonze finishes the work he started with the 2010 short, I’m Here, exploring the vast new emotional landscape of cyber-life… and still finding the string back to intimate love.

I don’t want to do any spoiling of the film for those reading this. But the key idea that I found to be driving the film from beginning to end of the film is not what cool, new electronic gadget has the potential to interact with humans, but that when all is said and done, there is no escaping what we think of as human nature… whether you are man, woman, beast, or machine.

As for the particulars of the movie, Joaquin Phoenix gives an epic performance that should put him in the discussion with many of the year’s best performances. I don’t know how things worked on the set of this film, but working against a voice alone much of the time, he allows the camera the same intimacy he allows the voice. And it’s a gentle, untricky turn. Scarlett Johansson is really the second lead and she does it just right. Amy Adams is the kind, sweet, real woman who stands as a good example of what men should want in the Jonze universe. And for me, the sweet surprise of the film was Olivia Wilde, who with this brief performance and her turn in Rush, has shown herself ready to deliver a lot more than a pretty face as an actor… she’s showing range and vulnerability and the thing great actors have when they don’t appear to be acting, just being. Rooney Mara is lovely, though mostly an object for the lead (and audience, at times) to obsess on, though the one thing that stuck in my craw a little throughout the film was the idea that she and Mr. Phoenix’s character had grown up together, in spite of a decade age difference. Maybe that was intentional and adds subtext, but I didn’t get it this time through. Jonze’s imagined cityscape, created with production designer K.K. Barrett and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema is a perfect balance of the incredibly familiar and the not-so-familiar-at-all. It’s just futuristic enough not to be futurist… just to feel like what’s next.

Yes, the movie does speak to the cyber-culture and the many ways in which we have disconnected from one another. But with Jonze, as ever, that is just the ground on which the love story takes place. And the message, which I am thinking is the message in all of his work, is that love, first and last, no matter how wild the journey to get to it, is what feeds the human (or non-human) heart.

Dude makes a funky valentine.


Friday Estimates by Floating Klady II

Friday Estimates  2013-10-12 at 8.49.04 AM

The snowball is rolling downhill for Gravity. (no pun intended… and if it was meant to be a pun, what the hell kinda pun would it be?) Looking at the next 5 biggest October openers of all time, 6s & 7s on the 2nd Friday… Shark Tale almost got to 8. Gravity is near 13. Basically 50%-66% better 2nd Friday than any of the other big October openers. And that is the real story of this film. Brilliantly opened by Warner Bros, it is now the official must-see of the season. And while there are some good movies 0 like Captain Phillips – that will score in the next month, the box office is pretty much open road for Gravity until Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Solid launch of Captain Phillips. Aside from those titles, October is really the realm of horror movies and action and kids films. If you are looking for October comps, look to dramas The Departed, which opened to $27m in 2006, and Training Day, which opened to $23m in 2001. Then there’s Scott Rudin’s other October hit, The Social Network, which opened to $22.5m in 2010. So this is really quite a strong opening for this film.

Not so strong, Machete Kills isn’t going to get to $4 million for the weekend. There’s such a small niche for this film… and Gravity ain’t helping, even with the core audience. Look for a Rodriguez rebound with Sin City 2.

Prisoners is holding nicely, though there is little doubt that it too is suffering the event that is Gravity. And Insidious 2 is holding surprisingly well for a scare flick.

The indie weekend is not knocking anyone down. When movies like Blue is The Warmest Color (aka Life of Adele) are just barely going to top $2k per screen for the weekend – even taking the length into consideration – one has to wonder what’s going on at the art house. The question of whether VOD and the focus on home rather than theatrical is cannibalizing indie theatrical is getting all too easy to answer, even with occasional exceptions.


DP/30: Kickstarter Diary, Day 1

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Trailer (10/10/13): The Monuments Men


Kickstarting DP/30

The purpose of this Kickstarter effort is more fully laid out on our Kickstarter page, but the short story is that we are shooting over 200 half-hours a year now and while I am pretty happy with the show, I desperately want to bump up the quality of production. That means some new equipment and some additional staff. I have been eating the expense of the show for years and will continue to do so, but rather than wait for moments of need to replace/upgrade cameras, lights, sound, etc, it makes a lot of sense to me to try to do it all at once. And Kickstarter makes the most sense right now to achieve that goal whiie we are still in 2013.

Please take a look at the offering and let me know your thoughts.

Happy to get your feedback… positive and negative.


Discuss The Trailer: American Hustle


On Turning 49 & My Right Eye: Part II

It’s not much of a landmark, 49.

But it has been an interesting year and I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while.

Back in June, I wrote about my right eye getting punched by my son and messing with my vision. Eventually, this led to an ophthalmologist wanting to put yellow dye in my veins so he could see the detail of blood flow in my eye. And when his assistant took my blood pressure in a routine, pre-precedure way, we all got a surprise to find that I was feeling fine and my blood pressure was at 250/150.

A quick trip to the Cedar-Sinai emergency room led to a series of tests, a new addition to my life (a daily pill), and a period of anxiety as my wife and I investigated all the particulars on our own. (Note: Doctors prefer you don’t self-diagnose on the internet.)

Now I have a cardiologist, who thankfully found a fully operational, unthreatened heart beating in my chest. (I know… some of you are amazed that there was one.) It’s a very interesting moment to watch your own heart beating in an ultrasound.

I also have healthy kidneys, liver, and lungs… no diabetes issues… slightly high cholesterol… a bit too much meat on these 49-year-old bones… and my eyes are working pretty much back as they were before this all started. And the best news is that my couple-times-a-week headaches have completely vanished since we started treating the high blood pressure.

And here is the real reason for telling you this story. If you are anything like me, going years on end without seeing a doctor, even with health insurance, you should go for a basic check-up, at least. They call high blood pressure “the silent killer.” And mine, with no apparent symptoms aside from the ongoing but mostly improved eye issues that started with a punch to the eye, was crazy high… dangerously, heart attack-y, stroke-y high. In my case, it probably would have been a stroke, as my heart had adjusted to the additional pressure without any damage being done.

I don’t like going to doctors because I feel like they are often upsellers. If they see any reason, all of a sudden you’re taking pills and getting procedures. I know I am not alone in that feeling. But if my son hadn’t punched me in the eye and a series of doctors hadn’t given me good care, I might well have had a stroke this summer. At 48.

The alternative… the reality… is that I feel better, I know what the condition of my organs is, and I can worry a little less about being a burden on my wife and child at a relatively young age (or just dying, for that matter). The only thing that is really left on the Turning 50 list is a colonoscopy and while I am in no rush, I do know now that I will feel better when I know that the mechanics have been under the hood.

So I urge any of you reading this who are putting off that trip to the doctor to get the check-up… even if you are young like I was just a year ago. I wasn’t feeling ill. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I did have those occasional headaches, which I thought were sinus-related (not so much). But aside from knowing that I was carrying around at least 10% more weight than I should have been on this frame, my health was a non-issue. But I was wrong about that. And now, all those healthy parts that kept me from suffering in any noticeable way while I had seriously high blood pressure are still healthy and the blood pressure is under control.

Health threats and birthdays tend to focus people. And it has done so for me. DP/30, as you know all too well, is the thing I hold dearest in terms of work these days. And I am pretty sure we will be attempting a modest Kickstarter campaign in the next short while to make improvements to the show. After a lot of consideration, I still love a lot about how the show works, but I want better images, better sound, and better lighting. Over these last 5 years or so, I’ve evolved from stumbling onto something cool and new, to getting pretty good at doing both the interviews and the rapid set-ups, to being professional about it, to now feeling a responsibility to both myself, the talent, and the show itself, to make it of a production quality that can stand with any taped interviews on or off the web.

I also want to get back to writing more, though I have to say, in the current era of movie/tv media, it’s hard to get past The Bubble. I don’t want to spend a lot of time reflecting on the reflections of others. But it gets more difficult every day. As the quality and depth of content continues to degrade (with exceptions, obviously), the social event of a movie or TV show becomes more an more gladiatorial. I don’t mind fighting, but I don’t have any urge to fight about personalities… mine or anyone else’s. Over the years, I have had more than my share of presuming what someone thinks because they wrote this or that. And I do think there are moments of groupthink and trends that eat real thought.

No group is more hypersensitive than journalists… and especially critics. But I am interested in the ideas that are being spread in our world. I could not care any less about who is spreading them… though those with more clout have the potential to do more damage with misleading, lazy ideas. And not coincidentally, those who see themselves as having more clout also tend to be those who often see their impulsive, under-reported ideas as being above reproach.

Anyway… the stakes are getting lower and lower and the loudness required to be heard is getting higher and higher and, while I am a sucker for these fights sometime, they usually leave me heartsick. I am not shy about saying what I think and speaking your mind publicly is not a game for wimps. But the list of people I really disrespect is short… even if the list of people who think I don’t respect them enough seems rather long. The vast majority of time, when I disagree with someone else’s perspective, I just disagree. It’s not personal. And I love a good fight about issues… not about personalities. I am not even that hard to persuade to change my perspective… if there are facts and ideas that carry the day. Just because I find one thing in an article offensively misleading doesn’t mean I hate the author nor the other 90% of an article. But, you know… people…

Twitter has become my 1st outlet, really, as I find the issues worth discussing smaller and smaller… small enough for 140 or 280 characters. This is conscious on my part. Just because I can write 800 words on something doesn’t mean that I need to write 800 words. And as the importance of so much of this seems to shrink in a sea of opinions from EVERYONE, my tolerance for reading myself drone on about some of my pet issues has diminished as well.

I am unrested, tan, and ready. And every day, I am happy to see what’s next.


Weekend Estimates by Klady

Weekend Estimates 2013-10-06 at 9.16.18 AM

Gravity is not only a hit out of the gate, but I suspect we will see unusually long legs on this one. The biggest challenge will be holding enough 3D and IMAX screens to let it play all the way out. If I were Warner Bros, I would be planning another big 3D and IMAX push for mid-January into February on the heels of (without crowding) the next Hobbit movie. People want to see the film in 3D and IMAX and given the now pretty solid expectations of a lot of Academy love, certainly in nominations, there is money to be made there.

For a little perspective on the weekend itself, it’s less than a 10% improvement on the previous top October weekend and it does have as marked a 3D bump advantage as any film since Avatar. Still, there should be no reserve shown with champagne flowing at Warners and especially in their marketing department. I truly believe this is Sue Kroll’s highest achievement at the studio. There is no franchise to sell… no sequel… no history at all. And it’s not an easy idea. It’s a spoiler-fest. And like the movie itself, the campaign hit both women and men with great skill. Yes, it’s easier when you have the media behind you so relentlessly. But this and Magic Mike really deserve special places of honor on the wall of the marketing offices. They are the kinds of campaigns they will teach in movie marketing classes (if there are such things).

Now… the only downside was that the studio definitely cannibalized their other strong release in the market, Prisoners, which took a 48% hit, playing in the hardcore demo of over-25s for Gravity, though Gravity will, I think, see its demo continue to widen (younger and older) as word-of-mouth continues. Mostly, the (deserved) Bullock/Cuarón lovefest sucked all the media oxygen out of the room for the last week-plus, so you don’t see much lingering on Prisoners.

Nor did most people probably know that Runner Runner was even opening. Besides the title, which I hate, they just got unlucky on this one. Good date choice, bad date luck. No one was waiting for the next Justin Timberlake/Gemma Arterton film with an Affleck guest spot… which is not to say that the actors aren’t appealing. But they need some serious media attention on top of advertising to get the opening where it needs to go. And that was not available this week. And Fox didn’t do anything extraordinary to force the issue. But it was never going to be a cakewalk for this one. Fortunately for the film, it’s already doing better overseas.

The are two other new openers in the million-dollar-plus club, both in mid-range releases (300-800, I guess). On top was Pulling Strings, which appears to be in English, but is focused on the Spanish-speaking market. It is about 1/3 the size of Instructions Not Included, but this is a market that Lionsgate is now working hard and this seems like a pretty decent result on just 387 screens. The other was Roadside’s output-deal-release, Grace Unplugged, a Christian-themed film, that did okay. It is the best opening in that niche this year.

It was a pretty soft weekend for openings in the arthouse market. No one did better than a $10,100 per-screen… and that was on just 2 screens. The widest new release in this niche was Parkland, which managed just $1210 per on 257 screens for $310k or so.


SNL Sketch Of The Night

First Blush Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) (spoiler-lite)

I’ve created this new category for myself as I am not sure whether I will feel exactly the same after seeing Ben Stiller’s take on Walter Mitty a second time. I might like it more. I doubt I would like it any less. That said…


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is easily Ben Stiller’s best work behind the camera. It’s smooth, smartly imagined, and never (at least in the reality sequences) trying too hard to sell the audience. Stiller is actually quite good in the role. Kristin Wiig is just off-center enough to work very effectively as his object of desire. Supporting turns by Kathryn Hahn and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson were exceptional. And Sean Penn, in an extended cameo, gives a performance that is so clean and simple and quiet that it feels as intimate as anything he has ever done in front of the camera. Cinematography, production design, costuming… all top-notch.

And here is my problem with the film… For me, the movie gets trapped in the Walter Mitty Gimmick, almost all of which is in the first act, and it unbalances the rest of a movie that is very low-key, beautiful, and personal. As I sat in the theater and realized where they were going with the Mitty Gimmick, I started wondering—too late, no doubt— whether they could just cut most of it (probably the most expensive content in the film) right out. Because it’s too big for the rest of the movie and the one overt failure in the film is the lack of strong transitions from Stiller’s Mitty being overwhelmed by the Mitty Gimmick and not using it at all.

Here’s a specific example… which is a SPOILER, although not what I would consider a significant one….

There’s an elevator sequence in which Adam Scott’s Transition Manager is being a jerk and Walter imagines insulting him to his face. We’re good with that. But then it turns into an all-out action sequence. There is nothing wrong, really, with the production of the action sequence. But it is completely out of some other movie on an emotional level. And it never becomes a part of the film’s spirit because as we get into the rest of the film, none of the Mitty Gimmicks really track. The lesson of the movie—to oversimplify—is to be heroic within your nature, not in some cartoon way. All all of the Mitty Gimmicks basically turn into cartoons.


As Mitty starts to allow himself to live large in the real world, the film starts to feel, ironically, not unlike Sean Penn’s Into The Wild. The thing Chris McCandless was looking for in Alaska is not unlike what Mitty starts to discover in the world. I am not saying that Stiller achieves what Penn did in that film. But it’s a hell of a lot closer than I would have ever imagined of Stiller.

It’s almost as though Stiller is going through a transition as an artist and he isn’t quite able to give up the ghost. But he should. He’s a better filmmaker without it.

And again, I’m not saying that the Mitty Gimmick should be killed off completely. But that moment when you zone out and the best line you will never say comes to you is very human and that, in this case would have been enough.

Even the opening sequence of the film—nothing spoiling here—in which we meet Walter Mitty in his gray=and-white world. It’s got some beautiful images. But it feels a bit like a gimmick at first. And because of the grandeur of the Mitty Gimmicks, when colors start coming into his life, the audience is not quite as bowled over as intended.

There is some other really wonderful stuff in the film. The idea of using LIFE Magazine as the backdrop is inspired. The cell phone Greek chorus of the E-Harmony guy works really well. The truly exotic locations were very refreshing.

There is a bunch of other stuff I could pick on—mostly transitions—within the film. But the film has a good heart and enough style to get over those cliched or overly-easy moments.

But the first act Mitty Gimmicks haunted the rest of the movie for me… without a payoff. They just left me waiting for some reintegration. But Stiller clearly has bigger fish to fry. And he does a really nice job doing that. I don’t know it’s really Private Ryan Syndrome, where you wait for the entire balance of the film for anything as intense as those first 20 minutes. It’s more like those sequences just feel out of place once you know what the film is really about.

Overall, this movie, in terms of the award season, is still a question mark for me. Critics could willfully go either way. They/We could claim it’s trying too hard for a comic actor/director and pick it apart or they could give it a big hug for marking growth in Stiller’s world view.

Audiences could make it a big hit… which is not to say the “commercial hit” tag that Oscar consultants for other films have tried to hang around its neck. The film is more emotionally ambitious than that. But can it be The Blind Side or a less spiritual Life of Pi for audiences? I can’t discount that possibility.

As noted from the top, I am very curious to see the film again and to see how the Mitty Gimmicks play for me now that I already know where the rest of the film is headed and where the gimmicks are not headed. As I recently experienced with Prisoners, the first viewing left me thinking a lot about the political subtext while the second viewing had me considering the religious subtext. Films with real ideas driving them tend to change with perspective. And this film qualifies in that way.

P.S. The sequence I was really sad not to see was Kathryn Hahn singing “There Are Worse Things I Can Do” on stage.


Guillermo del Toro does The Simpsons Opening

See how many movie references you can catch… glorious fun…

Friday Estimates by Gravy Tie Klady

Friday Estimates 2013-10-05 at 9.29.53 AM


The Hot Blog

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon