Posts Tagged ‘Let Me In’

The DVD Wrap: Welcome to the Rileys, Conviction, No Tomorrow, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, Let Me In and more …

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Welcome to the Rileys: Blu-ray

As yet another Sundance festival sails slowly into the sunset, swag bags stowed safely below deck, it’s worth recalling the large number of films that seemed destined for greatness in the rarified air of Park City, but lost traction at sea level. Can’t count that high, you say? For indie filmmakers fortunate enough to have their films included in the festival, reality tends to kick in once “ET” and “TMZ” no longer are interested in taking your picture and the lines on those contracts have gone unsigned.

MW on DVDs: Let Me In, Alice in Wonderland, Conviction, and Never Let Me Go

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011


Let Me In (Three Stars)

U. S.; Matt Reeves, 2010 (Anchor Bay)

Matt Reeves’ American remake of the widely praised Swedish kid-vampire movie Let the Right One In — its title now shortened to Let Me In — is not a bad movie, as modern vampire movies go. It’s not unintelligent, crass or hokey. Nor is it a big fancy expensive gory-glossy-teen-romance like Twilight, or a mindless travesty like Vampires Suck.

Let Me In’s delicate portrayal of childhood angst, its more sensitive tale of an outsider romance between two alienated 12-year-olds — culled by Reeves from the original film made in 2008 by novelist-screenwriter John Ajvide Lindquist and director Tomas Alfredson — has been cited often for its moody lyricism, its respect for its audience‘s intelligence, and praised by many critics as a good, maybe great, genre piece.

I can see justification for some of the nearly universal praise the movie has gotten. But, truth to tell, I also found Let Me In somewhat unpleasant, unscary, slightly pretentious and relatively unmoving — good at times, but not perfect, or near-perfect.

Let me out. Perhaps I’m wrong. My reaction surprised me because — though I haven’t yet seen the Alfredson-Ajvide-Lindquist original — I’d been looking forward to both. I’m predisposed toward my Swedish cinema ancestors, and fully supportive of their famous propensity for gloom and suffering, appreciative of their coups of mood, landscape, intense acting, milieu and deep drama. (Ingmar Bergman, Victor Sjostrom and Jan Troell are three of my all-time favorite filmmakers). And I was even partial to Matt Reeves’ previous movie, the brilliantly gimmicky false-home-video “let it run” horror show Cloverfield.

But something about Let Me In alienated me almost from its first scenes, including the grisly nocturnal hospital episode that kicks things off. In it, a burned, blood-caked man (Richard Jenkins) — shown in grim, chilly shots that resemble cinema verite for ghouls — is brought into a room (not the emergency room, it seemed, where he obviously would have been taken) and later joined by a cute, determined little girl, maybe his daughter, named Abby (Chloe Moretz) who wreaks havoc and disappears. A taciturn policeman (Elias Koteas) arrives, investigates, begins to suspect a satanic cult behind this and other recent murders. Maybe he’s right. But the images of that flayed, burned, dying man and the runaway little girl hang over the movie from then on.

We are in another time and place — in Los Alamos, New Mexico (bomb-testing territory) in 1983, in the depths of winter and of the Reagan era. (We soon see the President himself, greatly communicating, on good and evil, on TV.) Flashbacks show us our other main identification figure, besides little Abby: an incongruously doll-like little 12-year-old boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who lives with a drunken mother (Cara Buono) and peers at his neighbors in an apartment complex (Abby is one) with a ‘scope through his darkened window, like the young voyeur in Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love from The Decalogue, or like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.

He’s a bit of a creep, but the movie doesn’t play him that way, drawing him instead as a victim in search of affection and human love. And a victim he certainly seems — at least initially. Owen, an only child of a neglectful alcoholic mother, is being tormented by bullies at school, who obsessively razz and assault him. His new neighbor, Abby, we soon learn, is a vampire. (No surprises there.) And the burned man was not her father, but her familiar, a creature charged with finding Abby blood snacks and blood feasts.

“We can’t be friends,” Abby tells Owen, near a jungle gym. But of course they do become friends, headed toward maybe more. And, of course, Owen‘s sadistic tormentors are in trouble. The arena of menace and carnage for them all is a huge indoor swimming pool, next to a dark room of metal lockers, where Owen is attacked and where revenge brews.

It sounds eerie, and it looks eerie too. Greig Fraser’s (Bright Angel) cinematography and the Michael Giacchino (Up) score plunge us into twisted-up edgy melancholy. The attacking bullies (led by Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak) are nasty little shits. Koteas’ snoopy cop bristles with threat. The very air seems cold and dead, heavy with dread, and Jenkins looks like man grown tired of hell, but stuck in his contract. There are some very, very effective moments and scenes in Let Me In — never more so than during the moments when the youngsters are huddled together, hiding, in darkness, alone against the world.


But this movie’s romance and tenderness did nothing for me, and they should have. (Twilight,“ I hasten to say, does nothing, or less than nothing, for me either.) I liked these kids sometimes, but they seemed weirdly disconnected from their states, their beings. When Abby turns vampire, she’s a bit like the demon-possessed swivel-headed Regan in The Exorcist, a fiend with mad eyes and a gorgon’s voice, who’ll rip you apart. I liked being shocked by The Exorcist. I didn’t like it in Let Me In.


Here’s the trouble with the story. It wants to make us feel for these outsider kids. But it’s sadistic and self-pitying in a way I found off-putting, steeped in a trash-strewn gloom that uneasily mixes real-life sadness, viciousness and deadly supernatural fantasy. The kids are attractive, but they show little empathy or feeling, except for each other. When Owen bashes his lead attacker with a pole on a school outing, and cuts his face open, it’s strangely callous, even though it also prefigures the carnage we know is probably to come. And I never felt much real suspense. Even the driven cop (even played by Koteas) didn’t seem much of a threat.

Let Me In, in a way, is probably being seen as the anti-Twilight, which, in a way, it is. But I liked the film vampire legend better when the vampires were genuinely evil and deeply frightening — as they were in Murnau‘s Nosferatu, Dreyer‘s Vampyr, the Tod Browning-Bela Lugosi Dracula, and in the Christopher Lee Hammer Horror shows, or even among the scuzzy bloodsucking rebels of Kathryn Bigelow‘s Near Dark — than more recently, when the vampires began to clean up the cobwebs, dust off their capes and become more romantic or sympathetic figures, as with Frank Langella’s Count, or Gary Oldham‘s for Francis Coppola (the best of this approach) or the hunks of Twilight. (Let Me In by the way, revives the Hammer brand.)


In a way, Let Me In (and maybe Let the Right One In before it) represents the ultimate example of a sympathetic vampire: an attractive, loving, vulnerable-looking little girl whose vamp talents may save a little boy from his tormentors. But doesn’t this sympathy and half-happy romance throw our emotions off kilter? Let Me In might have been better, more powerful, if it had had a really shocking ending, if Owen had recoiled from Abby, and she had been forced to kill and eat him, and wept over the bloody chunks.


The best argument for remaking good foreign films here is that at least you‘re starting with good material. Even if I didn’t like it as much as others, Let Me In has good stuff in it, good ideas, a good mood, a good source. Good blood, I guess. And if my reaction to it seems perverse or even skittish, remember that I grew up in a small Midwestern village with only about 1,114 people. Stephen King wasn‘t around, Twilight wasn‘t around. I don’t think we had any vampires.

Extras: Commentary by Matt Reeves; Deleted scenes; Trailers.



Alice in Wonderland (60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo Special Edition) (Two Discs) (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson, 1951 (Walt Disney)

Of all the many adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s enchanting yet oddly disturbing children’s story — the Don Quixote of fairytales — this Walt Disney feature cartoon is one of the most sheerly likable. The animators bestow a voluptuous color on the John Tenniel-derived images. The songs (“I’m Late,“ “The Unbirthday Song”) are lively, pe-Shermanesque. The boisterous cast of Wonderlanders includes Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn, Jerry Colonna (“Greetings gate! Let‘s palpitate”), Sterling Holloway, Verna Felton, and, as Alice, pert little Kathryn Beaumont — who is also featured on this DVD’s extras.

Mysteriously, Disney himself apparently didn’t like this movie much, though he’d adapted Alice before, in a series of live action/animation shorts back in the ‘20s, B. M. (Before Mickey). As a child, I found Carroll straight up both a mesmerizing and eerie experience, when I read him at seven or so. Except for the terrifying Cheshire Cat, the Disney version doesn’t have the weird intensity that makes the book not just a child’s, but an adult classic. Maybe that’s what worried Walt. ‘Shrooms, anyone?

Extras: Color TV Walt Disney intro; Guide to Wonderland; Games; Deleted Cheshire Cat song, “I’m Odd.”


Conviction (Three Stars)

U. S.: Tony Goldwyn, 2010 (20th Century Fox)

Movies about travesties of justice always boil my blood — and I felt a lot of the old simmer and rage while watching “Conviction.“ (This whole review, by the way, is potentially SPOILER ALERT, but you probably know the story anyway, and if you don’t, knowing it won’t really hurt the movie much. But, if you want, quit reading here. See the picture anyway.)

Tony Goldwyn’s real-life crime and courtroom saga, which is a very good job all around, is about the unjust incarceration (for murder) of a reckless working-class guy named Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), who was suspected of killing a lady friend, got framed for the murder by a vindictive cop, Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo), a bully who didn’t like his manner, and got him sent up for life — but whose determined, loving, indefatigable sister, Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) refused to give up on him.

Instead, Betty Anne studied law, became a lawyer, dug up every record, re-interviewed the witnesses, and finally after nearly two decades, and after her own family and marriage fell apart, connected with Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher) and Peter Neufeld’s Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence to clear wrongly incarcerated, even condemned, prisoners. It was still a chore, because, as in many cases like this, the police and the prosecutors don’t like to admit mistakes.

The movie should make you happy on several levels. It shows us believably, that love counts, that the little guy can beat back even the most stubborn abuses of power, and that no matter how huge the task and long the odds, the heart and brain may find a way.

Swank plays Betty Anne with just the right mix of guts, slightly pain-in-the-ass grit and raw devotion — and though I hesitate to say it so semi-schmaltzily, she creates a character here both achingly real and a real role model. Swank has probably gotten her quota of Oscars for a while. But Rockwell, who gets both the good and bad sides of Kenny — he makes us like him, makes us understand why Betty Anne loves him, but also shows why he can be dangerous — is worth the prize talk he’s generated. I just hope he’s nominated in the lead actor Oscar category, which is winnable for him, and not supporting actor, a seemingly more probable slot, but a game-plan that’s not really fair to most of the other supporting candidates — then forced to compete against this movie’s lead male role, against something so deep and rich, and, as any actor will tell you, the best acting part this movie has to offer.

Elsewhere, Melissa Leo (a powerhouse in Frozen River) is a chillingly blank-eyed Officer Taylor, and Minnie Driver is the best, toughest, warmest gal-pal Betty Anne, or this movie, could have. The smaller roles are equally high caliber — like Gallagher as the sharp-eyed Scheck, or Juliette Lewis in one of her sleazy-sexy roles as a bad witness. And the movie has that actor-friendly, perfectly staged Sidney Lumet feel I’m sure Conviction director Goldwyn wanted.

Back in 1999, Goldwyn made a moving family drama called A Walk on the Moon, set in 1969 in the Catskills, and back-dropped by Neil Armstrong’s moon landing and Woodstock. Goldwyn’s very talented screenwriter then was Pamela Gray, and she also wrote Conviction, which has some of the same qualities, the same laser eye on part-dysfunctional but loving families, the same sure structure, the same kind of meaty roles. I’m sure all the actors were glad that her name, and her words, were on the page. Thanks to Gray and all of them, and thanks above all to Betty-Anne Waters, this is a bio-drama full of feeling, strength and the right sense of justice.

Except for one thing.

SPOILER ALERT (seriously, this time).

Roger Ebert brings up something important in his review, that had puzzled me, and that may actually be a notable script flaw. In the final pre-credits notes, we learn what happened to the main characters, but not what happened to Kenny. According to Roger, Betty Anne’s brother died in an accident a half-year or so after being released from jail, while going over a high wall on the way to his mother’s house.

When I read this, I was stunned. Why in the world wasn’t this information in the movie? Was it cut out of the script, or the film? Was it nixed by some exec with a rulebook and a happy-ending fetish? It’s hard for me to believe that Goldwyn and Gray would have wanted that scene, or even just at mention in the crawl, deleted — or that Rockwell and Swank would want it gone either.

Doesn’t anybody in power realize what a potentially great sequence they threw away (Kenny saying goodbye, and then Kenny taking the leap, falling, dying), what an unforgettable piece of real-life drama and irony they just ignored? The ending right now in Conviction is a piece of more conventional uplift. The real-life ending (if that’s it) just rips your heart out, tears your guts open — besides reinforcing and driving home as strongly as possible the movie’s core theme of injustice, and of how it can ruin lives, and why it’s so necessary to fight it every chance you get.

By the way, Peter Neufeld, of Neufeld and Scheck, and the Innocence Project, is an old college friend of mine, and a fellow movie buff; I once tried to get him a spot on the UW Memorial Union Film Committee, with Joe McBride, Gerry and Danny Peary and the rest of us. Now, I’d just like to thank him and his partner Barry for the incredibly good jobs they keep doing. And thanks too to all the people who made Conviction, for the good work they did here as well, in this picture, in this heartfelt story. They really meant it; we can tell.


Extras: Conversation with Tony Goldwyn and Betty Anne Waters.



Never Let Me Go (Two and Half Stars)

U.K.; Mark Romanek, 2010 (Fox)

This adaptation of an austere, melancholy science fiction novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (who wrote the book from which Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala made the splendid Remains of the Day) gives us a world where test tube babies are bred to become organ donors for the terminally ill. Icy premise, awful world. In scenes well-written by Alex`Garland, well-directed by Mark Romanek (who made the 1985 sleeper Static), and very well-acted by all, we follow three of the donors-to-be — big-hearted Kathy (Carey Mulligan), her howling great love Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and her sexy over-competitive friend, and Tommy’s seducer, Ruth (Keira Knightley) — through lively but troubling school years (Charlotte Rampling is their cool headmistress), with broken hearts haunted by a cassette with Helen Monheit singing, pleading “Never Let Me Go,“ to a mournful adulthood, full of recurring, cloudy ocean-side beach scenes where a somber sky is spread above abandoned sands, and waves lap, lap the shore.


I confess I am one of those viewers who finds this very well-made movie somewhat unaffecting and even alienating because nobody makes a break for it — because we never even seem to hear a false rumor of revolt, but instead watch these sympathetic people walk placidly, inexorably, toward what’s called “completion.” Is it a Holocaust analogue? Is it programmed cloning? Is it the worst example of the secret psychic chains of the old British class system? Is it some warped desire not to be accused of excessive melodrama by upper-class British literary critics? Is it incomplete writing?


Whatever, it inhibits empathy. For me, at least. And as someone who would have liked very much to donate a kidney to his dying mother, I find health care nightmares devastating.

Extras: Featurette; Mark Romanek photos; Trailers.

Weekend Box Office Report – October 17

Sunday, October 17th, 2010


Jackass 3D was better than all right with an estimated $49.3 million that easily ranked it at the top of the weekend movie going charts. Another freshman, the seasoned action-comedy Red, ranked second with $21.9 million. The session’s third national debut in medium-wide release was the inspirational N Secure with an OK $133,000 bow.

Among niche and regional bows the polemical documentary I Want Your Money failed to bring out the vote with a $236,000 tally from 537 screens. Telegu-language Brindaavanam rang up an impressive $10,320 average from 20 venues while Bollywood entry Aakrosh was a washout with a $46,400 gross from 24 screens.

Among the week’s exclusive newbies the clear favorite was Hereafter with a $37,380 per screen from six early peeks. There were also impressive openings for the three-hour plus portrait of a terrorist Carlos of $33,700 from single dates in Manhattan and Montreal and a sturdy $101,000 gross for the ripped from the headlines Conviction at 11 cells.

Overall weekend box office revenues topped $130 million for a sizeable 42% boost from seven days back. However, it fell 4% below last year’s tally and the 2010 box office has shrunk to just 2% better than the prior year’s gross for the same period.

Industry trackers had pegged the stereoscopic version of Jackass at roughly $30 million prior to its opening. But they obviously were deaf to bygone wag Henry Mencken’s observation that “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” The recently under-served young male audience were eager to don Polaroid glasses and see the aging stars of the reality skein making fools of themselves and others up close and personal.

Pundits also undervalued Red with early estimates in a $15 million to $18 million range. The single joke premise of over the hill spies conscripted back into service (more intentionally mawkish than The Expendables) skewed older but obviously had some appeal for a younger crowd in search of something marginally less mind numbing that required optical gimmicks.

The glacial expansion of Waiting for “Superman” continued to display stamina but it’s clear that Never Let Me Go has peaked and that the rapid expansion of Nowhere Boy left the early years of John Lennon stranded outside the Cavern Club. Stone was experiencing a better than expected hold as it increased its exposure from six to 41 venues.

The frame’s two award contenders – Hereafter and Conviction – constructed solid foundations for their platform bids. Still the early signs suggest a better than anticipated commercial run for the former with the latter yarn requiring a lot of TLC to reach a wider audience.

Among holdovers the second lap for Secretariat showed signs that audiences were discovering the heartfelt saga and The Social Network continues to be propped up by award buzz rather than Facebook fascination.


Weekend Estimates – October 15-17, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Jackass 3D Par 49.3 (16,010) New 3081 49.3
Red Summit 21.9 (6,740) New 3255 21.8
The Social Network Sony 10.8 (3,910) -30% 2771 63
Secretariat BV 9.4 (3,070) -26% 3072 27.4
Life As We Know It WB 9.2 (2,910) -37% 3150 28.8
Legend of the Guardians WB 4.2 (1,670) -39% 2502 46
The Town WB 4.0 (1,700) -37% 2368 80.6
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 3.1 (1,240) -54% 2529 11.9
Easy A Sony 2.6 (1,140) -39% 2314 52.3
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 2.3 (1,110) -50% 2045 47.8
N Secure FreeStyle 1.3 (2,730) New 486 1.3
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 1.3 (1,660) -38% 757 4
You Again BV 1.2 (750) -53% 1588 22.7
Case 39 Par Vantage 1.2 (840) -56% 1406 11.9
Devil Uni 1.0 (1,100) -46% 891 31.6
Let Me In Overture .83 (690) -66% 1211 11.1
Alpha and Omega Lions Gate .81 (840) -46% 969 22.6
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .74 (4,060) 17% 182 2.5
Toy Story 3 BV .52 (1,480) -6% 350 412.8
Inception WB .35 (1,180) -29% 297 289.7
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance .34 (780) -73% 438 59.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $125.70
% Change (Last Year) -4%
% Change (Last Week) 42%
Also debuting/expanding
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .33 (1,550) 554% 215 0.41
Never Let Me Go Searchlight .32 (1,390) -7% 232 1.65
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .27 (2,440) 1% 112 1.26
I Want Your Money FreeStyle .24 (440) 537 0.24
Stone Overture .23 (5,780) 199% 41 0.34
Hereafter WB .22 (37,380) 6 0.22
Brindaavanam Blue Sky .21 (10,320) 20 0.21
Buried Lions Gate .13 (1,270) -41% 103 0.76
Conviction Fox Searchlight .10 (9,200) 11 0.1
Aakrosh Eros 46,400 (1,930) 24 0.05
Carlos IFC 33,700 (16,850) 1 0.03
Knockout Eros 18,100 (700) 26 0.02
A Better Tomorrow CJ Entertainment 5,800 (5,800) 1 0.01
Down Terrace Magnolia 2,900 (1,450) 2 0.01
Samson and Delilah Ipix 2,300 (1,150) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – October 14, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (24) 1380.1 16.40%
Fox (16) 1284.6 15.30%
Paramount (14) 1242.3 14.80%
Buena Vista (15) 1129.6 13.40%
Sony (23) 1111.7 13.20%
Universal (17) 765.4 9.10%
Summit (9) 425.1 5.10%
Lionsgate (12) 410.1 4.90%
Overture (7) 78.2 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (5) 72.1 0.90%
Focus (7) 71.4 0.90%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.1 0.70%
Sony Classics (20) 52.9 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (266) 222.3 2.60%
8407.3 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Weekend Box Office Report – October 10

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Nobody Nose Anything

The Social Network surprised pundits with a better than expected hold and won the weekend movie going chase with an estimated $15.3 million. Three national debs were on its tail with lackluster returns. The rom-com Life As We Know It faltered in the clutch with $14.6 million while the much ballyhooed turf saga Secretariat posted $12.4 million, and there was a lack of stereoscopic shock for My Soul to Take with $6.9 million.

There was also a lack of oomph for the comic oddity It’s Kind of a Funny Story with $2 million tally-woo from 742 engagements.

In the niches Telegu-language Khaleja had a buoyant bow of $343,000 from 24 screens and OK returns of $72,700 for French thriller L’Immortel in Quebec. There were also a raft of exclusive bows with Darwinian winners that included the young John Lennon of Nowhere Boy grossing $51,300 at four venues, the squeezed of non-fiction Inside Job with $37,500 at two interviews and psychological thriller Stone with $71,400 from six couches.

Overall business once again took a dip with 2010 box office now less than 2% ahead of last year’s pace and industry mavens sweating out a quick reversal of fortune.

Tracking reports had pegged the uplifting tale of racing Triple Crowner Secretariat as the weekend’s odds-on favorite with estimates in the range of $16 million to $18 million. But its appeal to women and an older demo that remembered the four-legged wonder of the early 1970s failed to bring ‘em out in its maiden performance despite a considerable marketing push.

Life As We Know It was expected to be about a length behind Secretariat but pulled ahead right from the opening gate. It opened ahead of the pack on Friday with a $5.2 million bow but quickly lost ground to The Social Network as the weekend advanced.

And My Soul to Take fell smack in the middle of estimates in the $6 million to $8 million range. All three of the newbies skewed toward distaff viewers and there’s little question the marketplace is in dire need of something for the boys.

Weekend revenues pushed to roughly $92 million that represented a 4% dip from seven days back. It was a considerably steeped 16% fall from 2009 when the launch of Couples Retreat topped the charts on a $34.3 million first salvo.

On the expansion track, the “what’s wrong with our education” doc Waiting for “Superman” is holding up well and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger continues to draw in aficionados. But the dour Never Let Me Go appears to have peaked early in the awards season. Among the new entries the highly enjoyable Tamara Drewe proved to be the surprise commercial disappointment with a dull $4,300 engagement average from four initial exposures.


Weekend Estimates – October 1-3, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The Social Network Sony 15.3 (5,520) -32% 2771 45.9
Life As We Know It WB 14.6 (4,630) New 3150 14.6
Secretariat BV 12.4 (4,050) New 3072 12.4
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 6.9 (2,670) New 2572 6.9
Legend of the Guardians WB 6.8 (2,100) -38% 3225 39.2
The Town WB 6.3 (2,310) -36% 2720 73.7
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 4.5 (1,600) -55% 2829 43.6
Easy A Sony 4.1 (1,450) -39% 2847 48.1
Case 39 Par Vantage 2.6 (1,160) -55% 2212 9.5
You Again BV 2.4 (1,030) -58% 2332 20.7
Let Me In Overture 2.4 (1,160) -54% 2042 9.1
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 2.0 (2,670) New 742 2
Devil Uni 1.7 (1,210) -51% 1442 30
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate 1.4 (890) -51% 1616 21
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 1.2 (1,210) -56% 1012 58.8
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .63 (6,120) 54% 103 1.4
Toy Story 3 BV .55 (1,400) 140% 393 412
Inception WB .52 (1,290) -43% 403 289.2
Takers Sony .39 (950) -50% 412 56.8
Catfish Uni/Alliance .37 (2,590) -37% 143 2.2
Khaleja Ficus .34 (14,290) 24 0.39
Never Let Me Go Searchlight .33 (1,990) 77% 167 1.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $86.30
% Change (Last Year) -16%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .25 (3,380) 15% 73 0.84
Buried Lionsgate .21 (2,300) 118% 92 0.5
L’Immortel Seville 72,700 (3,030) 24 0.07
Stone Overture 71,400 (11,900) 6 0.07
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. 51,300 (12,820) 4 0.05
Inside Job Sony Classics 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Route 132 Alliance 37,300 (1,430) 26 0.06
I Spit on Your Grave Anchor Bay 30,800 (2,570) 12 0.03
Tamara Drewe Sony Classics 17,200 (4,300) 4 0.02
Ghetto Physics IDP 10,700 (1,190) 9 0.01
Budrus Balcony 8,400 (8,400) 1 0.01
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife UTV 5,500 (770) 20 0.01
As Good as Dead First Look 1,850 (1,850) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – October 7, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (23) 1340.5 16.20%
Fox (16) 1277.7 15.40%
Paramount (14) 1237.4 15.00%
Buena Vista (14) 1107.4 13.40%
Sony (23) 1081.3 13.10%
Universal (16) 753.6 9.10%
Summit (9) 425.1 5.10%
Lionsgate (12) 407.1 4.90%
Overture (6) 74.5 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (5) 71.5 0.90%
Focus (6) 68.4 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (6) 60.9 0.70%
Sony Classics (19) 52.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (260) 217.3 2.60%
8275.4 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers: January 1 – October 7, 2010

Title * Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,948,069,404
Toy Story 3 BV 1,047,492,510
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 691,330,829
Inception WB 803,799,128
Shrek Forever After Par 732,163,289
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,660
How to Train Your Dragon Par 494,288,254
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
Despicable Me Uni 367,194,481
The Karate Kid Sony 357,206,535
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,020,929
Robin Hood Uni 311,610,747
The Last Airbender Par 310,375,125
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 287,626,258
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Grown Ups Sony 261,324,243
The Expendables Lionsgate 257,529,373
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 244,795,280
Knight and Day Fox 229,686,302
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,209
Valentine’s Day WB 217,596,116
* does not include 2009 box office

Friday Estimates – October 9

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Life As We Know It|5.2|3150||5.2
The Social Network|4.8 |2771|-40%|35.4
My Soul to Take|2.6|2572|New|2.6
The Town|1.9|2720|-41%|69.3
Legend of the Guardians|1.8|3225|-31%|34.1
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps|1.4|2820|-58%|40.4
Easy A|1.3|2847|-41%|45.3
Case 39|0.8|2212|-57%|7.8
Let Me In|0.75|2042|-61%|7.5
Also Debuting
It’s Kind of a Funny Story|0.6 5|742||0.65
Nowhere Boy|12,700|4||12,700
I Spit on Your Grave|11,100|12||11,100
Tamara Drewe|5,100|4||5,100
Ghetto Physics|4,990|9||4,990
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife|1,500|18||1,500
*in millions|||

Wilmington on Movies: Secretariat, Life As We Know It, Buried, You Again, and Let Me In

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Secretariat (Three and a Half Stars)

U. S.; Randall Wallace, 2010

If you’ve got a great story, in life or in movies, the best thing to do is usually to let it fill your heart, tell it clearly, keep it straight and pure, and don’t load it up with agendas and tack-ons. The new movie Secretariat has a great story, an almost unbelievable (but mostly fact-based) story — the incredible saga of the horse who won the 1973 Triple Crown, blew away the field, set unmatchable records, and is still regarded almost universally as the greatest race horse who ever lived and ran. (Almost?)

Let Me In Gets 2 Unique Raves

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

c/o Overture…

LET ME IN is a genre-busting triumph. Not just a horror film, but the best American horror film in the last 20 years. Whether you’re a teenager or a film-lover in your 50s, you’ll be knocked out. Rush to it now. You can thank me later.

I might just be the luckiest writer alive.
To have not only one, but two excellent versions of my debut novel done for the screen feels unreal.
Let the right one in is a great Swedish movie.
Let me in is a great American movie.
There are notable similarities and the spirit of Tomas Alfredson is present. But Let me in puts the emotional pressure in different places and stands firmly on its own legs. Like the Swedish movie it made me cry, but not at the same points.
Let me in is a dark and violent love story, a beautiful piece of cinema and a respectful rendering of my novel for which I am grateful. Again.

Matt Reeves, director Let Me In

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Let Me In (Dir. Matt Reeves) – SPOILERS

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In was one of my favorite films of 2008.  It was atmospheric, moody, complex, metaphorical, and romantic in the strangest possible way.  I loved that it raised some interesting questions about what it would mean to fall in love with a vampire who will always be 12, how that love would change as one partner aged noticeably.  I enjoyed thinking about what it would mean that the vampire looked like a twelve year old, but was in fact much older than that; if that’s the case and this is a vampire that lures 12 year old boys into being her protector and (presumably) lover, then doesn’t that make this vampire a pedophile?

The point is that it was a film that dealt with complexities we would never find in an American film, right?

The remake, entitled Let Me In, surprised me in how faithful it remained to the Swedish original.  I would say that it remained true to the mood and atmosphere of the first film while adding some interesting wrinkles here and there as well as making some improvements.  One noticeable improvement is that writer/director Matt Reeves excised the subplot with the nosy neighbor who is transformed into a vampire.  He manages to keep the iconic image of the woman bursting into flames in her hospital room, but we don’t have to deal with her whole boring back-story.

I also think that Reeves chose two skilled actors in Chloe Moretz (as Abby) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (as Owen), actors who I think help the audience sympathize with them more.  The basic outline of their “love” story is intact, but my perception of it changed slightly.  I was much more aware of the romantic nature of the film in this version and the ways in which Owen cares for Abby and vice versa.  Owen, especially, is almost comic in his empathy.  When Abby vomits after trying a Now & Later, Owen’s first reaction is to hug her tightly.  It’s a heartwarming moment.  Abby, of course, cares very much for Owen, perfectly expressed in the climactic pool scene (more on that later).  The way in which she cares for Owen reminded me a bit of the way Adam Sandler’s character expresses his love for Emily Watson in Punch-Drunk Love.  When there is an boiling rage inside of you, but you want to express your love, sometimes your love is not expressed in the things you say or do, but in the way you protect someone with your rage.  I think that’s the point of Abby and Owen’s love affair, they express their affection in different ways, but they can both recognize that it’s affection regardless.

Another reason that I responded strongly to this film is something my viewing companion brought up.  She said there was something about hearing the dialogue in our own language that made the film more effective.  I thought it was an interesting point.  I love foreign films, love reading subtitles, but there indeed is a difference between hearing words actually spoken than reading them as they are being spoken in a foreign tongue.  Not only that, I was better able to appreciate the sense of foreboding and terror because I didn’t have to worry about missing a line of dialogue.

I really have nothing but positive things to say about the film since it’s almost exactly like the original (emphasis on ORIGINAL)…except for the pool scene.  I think there are a number of things wrong with the scene as presently constituted, including the fact that it seems to all happen much too quickly.  But there is one big difference that really kills it aesthetically and that’s that the bullies decide to turn the light off inexplicably.  Turning the lights off makes it hard to see what’s happening and we should be seeing absolutely everything.  The power of that scene in the original is that we see what the boy doesn’t as he is drowning.  But now, we can’t see much.  We see enough to know what’s going on – including a severed head – but it doesn’t have the same impact or the same beauty as the original version of that scene did.  It let me down a bit.

I’m also of two minds when it comes to a shot that Reeves inserts of Owen seeing a photo of Abby and the Richard Jenkins/protector character as a young man.  It’s implied in the original that the Owen character would now be taking on the “protector” role, but here it’s completely spelled out for us.

Ultimately, I’m not unhappy that the film was made, but I’m not sure it was necessary either.  I think the first version is a superior product, despite whatever flaws it might have, but in the end I guess I can’t argue with remaking the film the way it was remade.  If nothing else, people who won’t go to films with subtitles will now have a chance to see this story told and told in a similar fashion.

But I think if you’ve seen the original, there’s not really a pressing need for you to see the remake.

Hammer Films’ Hopes With Let Me In

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Hammer Films’ Hopes With Let Me In

Weekend Box Office Report — October 3

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

I Am Not a Robot … or Not

The uber-ballyhooed The Social Network buzzed above the pack with an estimated $22.6 million to lead weekend ticket sales. Two other national releases proved commercial disappointments. The much-admired horror remake Let Me In ranked seventh overall with $5.3 million and the thriller Case 39 was a peg behind with $5.2 million.

The big noise for the frame came from new regional and niche titles. The Tamil language Robots (the most expensive film ever produced in India) rewrote the record books with the biggest ever North American debut with a $2.1 million tally. The simultaneous release of Anjaana Anjaani from Bollywood’s Hindi sector was also impressive with a $560,000 bow. In Canada, the Brit import StreetDance 3D generated a hefty $423,000 and the indigenous Fubar II rang up $209,000 from just 30 venues.

However, a couple of indie horror entries failed to ignite pre-Halloween frenzy. Chain Letter eked out a $300 average from 401 screens and Hatchet II was marginally better with an $880 average from a more contained 68 playdates.

Overall business experienced a roll back from both the prior weekend and 2009 revenues.

Critical response to The Social Network was predominantly rapturous. Still, media reports detailed concerns based on tracking and previews that the flamboyant saga of Facebook and its youthful creators was a tough sell. Exit polls showed that opening weekend skewed slightly female with 53% of the audience and plus 25s comprised 55% of sales. Trackers had predicted grossed in the range of $25 million to $28 million and its clear that its future rests on playing the awards card and eventually drawing in younger viewers obviously spending too much time on the net to go see the movie.

Let Me In also received enthusiastic thumbs ups from reviewers that failed to translate at the box office. Prognosticators pushed its envelope to the $10 million to $12 million strata but ticket buyers opted to catch up with The Town, Easy A or the Wall Street sequel. Case 39, which opened internationally in late 2008 and has grossed more than $10 million overseas, arrived as a theatrical afterthought and performed more or less as expected … blah.

Weekend sales came up just short of $100 million, which amounted to a 3% decline from seven days earlier. 2009 comparisons saw a steeper erosion of 9%. A year ago the debuts of Zombieland and the 3D pairing of Toy Story’s first two installments ranked first and third with respective openings of $24.7 million and $12.5 million.

Robot, with echoes of Metropolis, is a more optimistic yarn of a scientist who creates an android in his own image and watches the somewhat amusing results unfold. The big budget production went full out with dubbed versions in Hindi and Telegu in addition to the Tamil original. The largely Indian diasporas came out in force to generate a record opening box office. Still, despite considerable efforts in the past five years, the Indian cinema is just one film short of producing a crossover mainstream hit.

The session didn’t include a new platform in what looks like a crowded, eclectic awards season. However a clutch of early entries including Never Let Me Go, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Catfish added dates and continued to keep a foot in the door. Only Jack Goes Boating appears to have run out of steam early.


Weekend Estimates – October 1-3, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The Social Network Sony 22.6 (8.170) New 2771 22.6
Legend of the Guardians WB 10.9 (3,040) -33% 3575 30.1
Walt Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 10.2 (2,840) -46% 3597 36
The Town WB 10.1 (3,430) -36% 2935 64.4
Easy A Sony 6.8 (2,280) -36% 2974 42.2
You Again BV 5.5 (2,150) -35% 2548 16.4
Let Me In Overture 5.3 (2,610) New 2021 5.3
Case 39 Par Vantage 5.2 (2,370) New 2211 5.2
Devil Uni 3.6 (1,510) -45% 2392 27.3
Alpha and Omega Lions Gate 3.0 (1,290) -38% 2302 19
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 2.8 (1,450) -44% 1907 56.6
Robot/Endhiran Ficus/B4U 2.1 (15,260) New 139 2.1
Inception WB .84 (1,340) -37% 625 288.3
Takers Sony .79 (1,020) -46% 773 56.2
Catfish Uni/Alliance .61 (4,480) 80% 136 1.6
Anjaana Anjaani Eros .56 (6,090) New 92 0.56
The Other Guys Sony .43 (760) -57% 566 117.7
StreetDance 3D Alliance .42 (2,940) New 144 0.42
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .41 (12,010) 193% 34 0.6
Despicable Me Uni .39 (840) -33% 463 246
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $90.90
% Change (Last Year) -9%
% Change (Last Week) -3%
Also debuting/expanding
Fubar 2 Alliance .21 (6,970) 30 0.21
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .20 (7,010) 27% 29 0.286
Never Let Me Go Searchlight .19 (3,470) -23% 54 0.62
Chain Letter New Film .12 (300) 401 0.12
Jack Goes Boating Overture .10 (1,300) 29% 78 0.27
Buried Lions Gate 96,200 (2,920) -4% 33 0.23
Hatchet II Vitagraph 59,700 (880) 68 0.06
Le Poil de la bete Seville 48,800 (1,740) 28 0.05
Freakomomics Magnolia 32,400 (1,620) 20 0.03
Leaving IFC 12,700 (6,350) 2 0.01
Douchebag Paladin 3,600 (3,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – September 23, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (23) 1312.1 16.10%
Fox (16) 1263.7 15.50%
Paramount (11) 1228.6 15.10%
Buena Vista (14) 1099.5 13.50%
Sony (22) 1035.9 12.70%
Universal (16) 747.4 9.20%
Summit (9) 424.9 5.20%
Lions Gate (12) 403.1 5.00%
Fox Searchlight (5) 71.2 0.90%
Focus (6) 68.1 0.80%
Overture (5) 67.6 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (6) 60.8 0.70%
Sony Classics (19) 51.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (253) 211 2.60%
8146 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases: January 1 – September 30, 2010


Title * Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 16,036,317
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,250,177
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
Get Low Sony Classics 8,449,788
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,539,151
Babies Focus 7,444,272
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,442,641
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus * E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,384,875
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attraction 6,077,440
An Education * Sony Classics 4,963,224
Under the Sea 3D * WB 4,950,071
I Am Love Magnolia 4,900,430
The Hurt Locker * Summit 4,531,548
Solitary Man Anchor Bay 4,359,937
Greenberg Focus 4,283,056
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Estimates — October 3

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

The Social Network|22.6|New| 22.6
Legend of the Guardians|10.9|-33% |30.1
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps|10.2|-46%|36
The Town|10.1|-36%|64.4
Easy A|6.8|-36%|42.2
You Again|5.5|-35%|16.4
Let Me In|5.3| New|5.3
Case 39|5.2| New|5.2
Devil|3.6| -45%| 27.3
Alpha and Omega|3.0|-38%|19

Friday Estimates – October 2

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

The Social Network|8|2771||8
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps|3.3 |3565|-53%|29
The Town|3.1|2885|-38%|57.4
Legend of the Guardians|2.6|3575|-43%|21.8
Easy A|2.2|2974|-38%|37.7
Let Me In|1.9|2021||1.9
Case 39|1.8|2211||1.8
You Again|1.6|2548|-40%|12.5
Resident Evil: Afterlife|0.75|2642|-44%|54.6
Also Debuting
Robot|0.4 5|89||0.45
Anjaana Anjaani|0.16|92||0.16
StreetDance 3D|0.12|144||0.12
Fubar 2|81,600|30||81,600
Chain Letter|37,800|401||37,800
Hatchet II|25,300|67||25,300
Le Poil de la bete|16,400|28||16,400
*in millions|||

Critics Roundup – September 30

Friday, October 1st, 2010

The Social Network|Yellow|Green|Green|Yellow|Green
Let Me In|Green|Green|Green|Green|Green
Case 39|||||
Barry Munday |||||

Ebiri On “The So-Called Unnecessary Remake”

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Ebiri On “The So-Called Unnecessary Remake” And Maybe Matt Reeves And Gaspar Noé Have Something In Common?

TIFF Review: Let Me In

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Here’s the thing with American remakes of foreign films: while I get that studios have a vested interest in making a lot of money off of taking a well-received foreign film and purging it of its, well, foreign-ness, to make it more appealing to the subtitle-averse mainstream American filmgoer, I’m also a pretty firm believer in the philosophy that if you’re going to do a remake, you should add some value to the effort beyond just redoing it with actors recognizable to the American public and making it in English.

The question is, does Let Me In, the much-anticipated remake of critically lauded Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In, accomplish more than just the mundane scene-by-scene, shot-by-shot remake of the original? And the answer is both no … and yes.

In 2009 when Roger Ebert programmed Let the Right One In at Ebertfest, the film’s producers discussed the remake, and assured the audience — many of whom were hardcore fans of their film — that the remake would be a completely fresh take on the film. They said they would be going back to the source material and writing a new adaptation that would include, in part, material left out of the Swedish version.

For the better part of a year-and-a-half, I’ve been anticipating this remake based on the belief that this would be the case … so you’ll have to forgive me if my initial reaction to the end result was to feel a bit disappointed. Because what I wanted was something creatively new, a different perspective on the source material; and what I got was almost exactly the same movie, just in English, with some different actors.

That said, Let Me In is not, in and of itself, at all a bad film, in large part because it so closely follows the original that it almost can’t help but be good. It kicks off with a flashback that, I suspect, was added largely in part for the short attention span of the American target audience. The Swedish version took its time setting things up with deliberate, arthouse pacing; it was grim and frightening at times, but also subtle in the way in which the violence was conveyed.

This remake is both less subtle and less deliberate; there’s a greater emphasis on the idea of evil interwoven with Christian (it felt, actually, Catholic) iconography and ideas, and it’s less morally ambiguous, I think, than the original was.

Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) plays the bullied, sensitive boy (renamed from “Oskar” to the more appropriately American “Owen” here) and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) is Abby (Eli in the original), the barefoot-in-the-snow new neighbor and potential playmate who moves into the friendless Owen’s building. Richard Jenkins (woefully underused here, but excellent when he is on) plays Abby’s adult protector/father figure.

Other than the fact that we have different actors playing the parts and the change in language, the film is pretty much exactly what it was the first time around. The intensity is more or less the same throughout.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like here. I felt that the relationship between Abby and The Father was more deliberately ambiguous in the Swedish version, whereas here there is a giveaway later in the film that assumes you haven’t already deduced what’s revealed. Also, the scene later in the film where Owen refuses to directly invite Abby into his house was better, more tensely drawn the first time around.

Both of the kids are really good; Smit-Mcphee makes for a believable target for school bullies, while Moretz’s performance is strong enough to keep her from getting typecast, and the two of them together have a great, palpable chemistry.

All in all, those who’ve never seen Let the Right One In will, no doubt, find Let Me In to be an enjoyable experience, but I have to wonder if other folks who love the original will find this remake to be an adequate substitute.

Matt Reeves Takes A Bite

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Matt Reeves Takes A Bite

Box Office Hell – September 30

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
The Social Network|27.6|27.5|26|28|27
Let Me In|13.5|11.5|8|8|9.5
Legend of the Guardians|10|9.8|10|8|10.8
The Town|9.8|11.3|10|7.5|10.5
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps|9.8|11|10.5|10|11
Case 39|3.8|7.4|4|n/a|6.5

Bowles Questions Children Appearing In Horror Films

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Bowles Questions Children Appearing In Horror Films

Chloe Moretz, Old Soul

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Chloë Moretz, Old Soul