Gone Girl is found at the top spot in the UK

image-400x265Hitting the box office charts hard is American mystery thriller Gone Girl, which delivered the biggest opening weekend since The Inbetweeners 2 back in August, debuting with £4,109,628. Adapted by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the 2012 novel of the same name, it was directed by David Fincher, whose previous openers include The Social Network with £2.49m. The film has just missed the £4.32m debut of Fincher’s last film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, although that figure was inflated by four days of previews as opposed to Gone Girl’s two.

It stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon and the plot unfolds after a man (Affleck) sees the spotlight turned on him when his wife’s (Pike) disappearance becomes the focus of an intense media circus and it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

The film examines dishonesty, the media, the economy’s effects on marriage, and media appearances. The film opened the 52nd New York Film Festival, receiving high profile press coverage and early positive reviews. Jason Kosner of UK Screen states, “When a story is this well told, it seems a bit churlish to begrudge the film-makers another few minutes of self-indulgence and the odd moment of cinematic shorthand can be excused. Gone Girl is one of those rare films that’s likely to please audiences, critics and awards bodies equally.”

American dark action fantasy Dracula Untold came up trumps in second place after making £1,713,283 despite a lack of strong marketable names and little seen by critics. It is, however, a long way behind the debut of Van Helsing in May 2004 (£5.43m), which was a much-hyped creature feature and featured A-lister Hugh Jackman.

The film stars Luke Evans, who portrays the title character, with Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper and Samantha Barks in supporting roles. It steers away from the focus on Irish novelist Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, the film creates an origin story for its title character, Count Dracula, by portraying the story of Vlad the Impaler, who uses dark powers to protect his family and kingdom.

The release date was changed four times to finally October 10, 2014, to give the film three weeks of play before Halloween.

Dracula Untold received a mixture of reviews from critics, with most praising Luke Evans’ performance, the storyline and the visuals, but criticising Dracula’s characterisation and pointing out many plot holes. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes stated, “Neither awful enough to suck nor sharp enough to bite, Dracula Untold misses the point of its iconic character’s deathless appeal.”

Denzel Washington’s thriller The Equalizer falls one to third place bringing in another £1,207,139 adding to its total in the UK of £4,280,077.

The film also stars Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo and is based on the television series of same name.

The plot follows a man (Washington), who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by – he has to help her.

The Boxtrolls hits fourth on its fourth weekend on release with £983,015 taking it’s gross to £6,093,123, which compares with lifetime totals of other stop motion animations such as £7.5m for Coraline and £6.3m for ParaNorman.

Falling to fifth is British comedy What We Did on Our Holiday which brought in £728,228 last weekend, to make a gross of £2,083,907 from cinema ticket sales in the UK so far. It was written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin who created BBC sitcom Outnumbered, and the success led to the pair getting to make the film which features similar improvisational techniques and also features two London parents and their three young children.

New entry at sixth place comes from Hindi action thriller Bang Bang which debuted with £602,193. It’s the biggest opening for a Bollywood film since Dhoom 3 (£885,000) last December and is an official remake of the Hollywood film Knight and Day and features Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif in the lead roles performed by Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz respectively in the original. In India, Bang Bang! received positive to mixed reviews from critics praising its action sequences and performances while it was criticised by some for its story and screenplay. A review from India Times stated, “It has some ‘must-haves’ of a pot-boiler, but misses the real thing – a solid story.”

New in seventh place is American family drama Dolphin Tale 2, written and directed by Charles Martin Smith and a sequel to his 2011 film Dolphin Tale. The sequel made £536,766 on its opening weekend. Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman, Juliana Harkavy, Austin Stowell and Austin Highsmith all reprise their roles from the first film while Lee Karlinsky, Julia Jordan, and Bethany Hamilton join the cast. The film tells the story of another dolphin, taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, named ‘Hope’. The film was received generally positively with Mark Kermode of The Observer stating, “As before, there are mirrored tribulations above and below the water line, with life lessons learned en route. It doesn’t have the focus or splash of the original, but Charles Martin Smith’s sequel winningly wears its heart on its sleeve`.”

Third week on release and down to eighth place for Liam Neeson’s crime thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones as it made just £310,261. The film, which is based on a novel of the same name by Lawrence Block, follows private investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson) who is hired by a drug kingpin (Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. A Walk Among the Tombstones has made a gross of £3,364,093 in the UK to date.

Guardians of the Galaxy celebrates its tenth week on the charts with £277,419 bringing it to ninth place, and amassing £28,168,896 from its UK run.

Rounding off the top ten is British film Pride which brought in £248,654 and on its fourth week on release has totalled £3,265,317.

The good news of the box office figures looking up, is set to continue. This weekend, we will see the release of young adult adaptation The Maze Runner, already a significant hit in the US and elsewhere, American supernatural horror Annabelle, both a prequel and spin off of The Conjuring, and presented as event cinema, One Direction: Where We Are – The Concert Film. Also we have Hugh Grant starring in romantic comedy The Rewrite, Dakota Fanning in period drama Effie Gray, Susan Sarandon in crime thriller The Calling and Jack O’Connell in the much-buzzed Belfast-set ’71.

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Why does Toronto International Film Festival matter?

Last week, Venice Film Festival rocked the film industry with the opening of Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu’s “Birdman,” which has become an instant favourite to dominate next year’s Oscars. Other movies such as Reese Witherspoon’s starrer “Wild” and Alan Turin’s biopic “The Imitation Game” generated no lesser enthusiasm following their premieres at the Colorado-based Telluride Film Festival.

Today, it’s Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) turn to start unveiling its roster of movies. North America’s biggest and most prestigious festival will open its 39th version with John’s The Judge, which follows a lawyer (Robert Downy Junior) as he returns home to defend his father – a judge – who is accused of committing a murder.

TIFF’s opener last year, the Wikileak’s founder biopic “The Fifth Estate” failed to impress audiences and the industry, and was quickly overshadowed by Venice’s and Telluride’s openers, “12 Years A Slave” and “Gravity.” Hence TIFF is under pressure to deliver headline-grabbing masterpieces in order to survive the competition from other festivals.

The problem is that most the highly-anticipated movies in TIFF have already been screened in other major festivals, such as Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” which tells the true story of an eccentric rich heir (Steve Carell), who lures an Olympic wrestler (Channing Tatum) and his brother (Mark Ruffalo) to move into his estate to train in for the Olympic games, with a tragic outcome. The picture was premiered at Cannes International Film Festival in May to a rapturous reception, sparking Oscar predictions for its cast.

Other Cannes favourites, such as Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, a dark biopic of 19th-century British painter J.M.W Turner, and David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” have also found their way to the Canadian city.

Even Al Pacino, who will be honoured in Toronto, will be bringing his two movies “The Humbling” and “Manglehorn” after they opened in Venice earlier this week. In the former, he portrays an aging actor who falls for a young lesbian, and in the latter he plays an eccentric man who struggles to come to terms with the loss his beloved wife.

Other movies arriving in Toronto via Venice include: Abel Ferrara’s “Passonlini,” Rami Bahrani’s “99 Homes,” and David Olehofen’s “Far From Men.”

In addition to “Wild,” which follows a broken woman as she embarks on a rediscovery journey in the wild, and “The Imitation Game,” a biopic of the British WWII code breaker Alan Turing, several of Telluride’s selections will be featured in Toronto such as Andrew Piccolino’s “Good Kill,” in which we see Ethan Hawke playing a drone pilot who begins to question the morality of his work, and Jon Stewart’s directorial debut “Rosewater,” which depicts the ordeal of a journalist (Gael Garcia Bernal) who was falsely accused of spying for the United States during the 2009 presidential elections in Iran.

Having not been forgotten since its premiere in January, Sundance Film Festival’s winner the musical drama “Whiplash, ” which depicts J.K. Simmons as a cruel music teacher tormenting an aspiring young drummer, is  also a guest at TIFF.

Having all the aforementioned titles being touted to feature in next year’s Academy awards’ different categories, prompted some to wonder whether TIFF has lost its exclusivity of being the Oscar compass? After all, many of the past Academy best picture winners were introduced to the world in Toronto, such as Slumdog Millionaire, Argo, The King’s Speech.

Unlike other festivals, Toronto remains the gates to the coveted North American market, and thus attracts more stars, filmmakers, sellers and buyers, distributors, publicists and media outlets from all the over the world. So while other festivals discover movies, Toronto acts as their springboard to commercial and awards success. Hence it’s incumbent on any awards-hopeful movie to be seen in Toronto, even if it wins accolades in big European festivals or smaller US ones, if they wish to attain global visibility and avoid sinking into oblivion.

Last year, both Oscar winners “12 Years A Slave” and “Gravity” opened in Telluride and Venice respectively, igniting an industry buzz, but it was TIFF that introduced them to the wider world and propelled them on their journey to the coveted Oscars, thanks to its far reaching media coverage and the massive presence of the global film industry.

Of course, TIFF will unspool its own premieres including: Jason Rietman’s “Men, Women and Children”; “This is Where I Leave You,“ starring Tina Fey and Jane Fonda; “The Theory of Everything,” with Eddie Redmayne portraying physicist Stephen Hawking; Bill Murray’s “St. Vincent“; and “Nightcrawler,” featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as a drifter who becomes a freelance videographer.

Within the next 10 days, one or more titles will emerge from the mist of over 300 movies and rise above the fray. And whichever does, will be taking the long tumultuous journey to Oscar’s night next February.

TIFF will close with the British film “Little Chaos” from director Alan Rickman, who will also star in it next to Kate Winslet.

Breaking Bad and Modern Family dominate the Primetime Emmys

Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Brian Cranston win again for Breaking Bad

Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Brian Cranston win again for Breaking Bad

For the fourth time, the outgoing incumbent Breaking Bad took the trophy for outstanding drama series at the 2014 Primetime Emmys, while Modern Family claimed its fifth Emmy in a row for best comedy series.

The two veteran shows have also repeated their triumphs in other important categories.  Breaking Bad’s lead, Bryan Cranston, earned a fourth best actor Emmy for playing Walter White, while his co-stars, Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul repeated their victories in the best supporting actor and supporting actress categories respectively. The show’s writer, Moira Walley collected the best writing Emmy for a drama.

Meanwhile, Modern Family scooped the best comedy director award for Gail Mancuso, and a second supporting-actor Emmy for Ty Burrell.

And for the fourth time, Jim Parsons collected the Emmy for the best actor in a comedy series.

In spite of snubbing her show, The Good Wife, in the best drama category, veteran Emmy winner Julianna Margulies was not forgotten by the Academy voters, who bestowed on her a second trophy for best actress in drama, while the Emmy for best actress in comedy went to Julia louis-Dreyfus, for the a third consecutive time.

Topping the supporting-actress in comedy category for Mom  and guest star category for Masters of Sex, the former West Wing star Allison Janney scooped her sixth Emmy.

Having won the best supporting actress in mini-series category last year for her role in American Horror Story, Jessica Lange took the trophy for best lead actress for the same show, while this year’s supporting actress trophy was bestowed on her co star, Kathy Bates.

Evidently, Emmy voters are too fond of former favourites, and not very keen on newcomers, overlooking major hopefuls such as Orange is The New Black, Derek and True Detective. The later, however, did score a best director win for Cary Joji Fukunaga, but was snubbed in the acting category, where its star Matthew McConaughey, who won an Oscar earlier this year, was widely expected to take the Emmy last night.

Another new show, Fargo, was sent home with only one trophy: best mini series, while Normal Heart scored two: best TV movie and best directing for Ryan Murphy. Fargo’s lead actor Billy Bob Thornton, who was a frontrunner in the best actor in mini-series category, lost to Benedict Cumberbatch, who snatched the award for his role in Sherlock, which has surprisingly scooped two more awards: best supporting actor in a mini-series or movie for Martin Freeman and best writer for Steven Moffat. Both Freeman and Cumberbatch were not able to attend the show.

As always, a lot has been said about the surprises and the snubs of last night, but the Emmys are not known for discovering a new talent or new shows. Like in past years, the majority of last night winners were former winners. The newcomers have to wait for next Golden Globe awards for some much needed attention and recognition.

 

 

Christopher Nolan promises new immersive technology in Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s films have made cinemas millions of pounds, hence it was apt to host  a lunch in his honour at thisyear’s Cinema Con in Vegas, where theatre owners gather to learn the studios’s offering for the coming year.

Speaking at the event, the Hollywood director was reluctant to share much information about his latest epic Interstellar, which he co-wrote with his brother Jonathan, other than describing it: “using interstellar travel to go to other places you couldn’t reach beyond normal space travel.”

Starring Matthew McConaughey and Sir Michael Caine, Interstellar, which was shot in practical locations in order to give the actors a tangible experience, is in the early stages of editing and will be released in the US November 17th.

Having shot all his films including Interstellar on celluloid, Nolan reiterated his loyalty to the old format and his disenchantment with digital filming, which he insists still lags behind in terms of resolution and contrast latitude. He also rejected the 3D format, suggesting that it’s not fit for an immersive cinematic experience, though he praised Baz Luhrman’s  work in last year’s The Great Gatsby.

Known for his non linear narrative structures, the 43-year-old director said that linear story telling was imposed on film in order to fit it for TV viewing. “Novels and plays were told nonlinearly since the days of the Greeks, so why not film?” he wondered.  Before TV, he said, filmmakers made films to be seen in cinemas only, which enabled them to tell stories in non linear format as Orson Welles did in Citizen Cain. Although he appreciates the evolution of TV, the small screen format is not something he wants to pursue.

The director of the Dark Knight Trilogy also promised new technologies that would enhance cinema goers’ experience beyond what they achieve in watching TV at home. But he wouldn’t divulge further other than that Interstellar will have a unique approach to sound mixing.

Alfonso Cuaron and Jehane Noujaim win the DGA awards

Alfonso Cuaron with last year’s winner Ben Affleck

As widely predicted, Alfonso Cuaron snapped the top prize at the Directors Guild Awards last night for the space odyssey, Gravity, cementing his position as the leading front runner in the Oscar race in the best director category. A couple of weeks ago, he won the Golden Globe award in the same category.

Egyption director, Jehane Noujaim, made history for being the first Egyptian to win the best documentary director DGA award for The Square, which explores the recent revolution in Egypt. The Square is the first Egyptian film to be nominated for an Oscar.

Meanwhile, Steven Soderbergh continued to collect trophies for his TV movie, Behind the Candelabra, winning the Outstanding Directorial Achievement for a TV Movie or Miniseries award. The HBO film has already won the Emmys and the Golden Globes, but this was Soderbergh’s first DGA win.

TV hit series, Breaking Bad, was also honoured for the first time by the DGA. Its creator Vince Gilligan won the award for directing the series finale, Felina. Meanwhile, Beth McCarthy-Miller took the DGA honour for the last episode of 30 Rock.

The DGA awards ceremony was held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel in Century City and was hosted by Glee’s Jane Lynch.

Whiplash wins Audience and Grand Jury awards at Sundance Film Festival

It opened the 30th Sundance Film Festival 10 days ago and tonight Whiplash has scooped both the US dramatic Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award. Damien Ghazelle’s feature film debut made a splash when it was premiered and received critical acclaim. Based on a short film with the same title, which Ghazelle screened in Sundance last year, Whiplash tells the story of a young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) in pursuit of excellence and his dealing with his brutal, unforgiving instructor (J.K. Simmons).

The special jury prizes for US documentaries went to Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo’s Rich Hill, while Michael Rossato-Bennett’s Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory took the audience award in the same category.

The World Cinema grand jury prizes were awarded to the Chilean revenge thriller, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’s To Kill a Man and to the Syrian civil war documentary, Talal Derki’s Return to Homs. Meanwhile, Ethiopian females oppression drama, Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s Difret, which was exec produced by Angelina Jolie, and Israeli documentary about a Palestinian informant, Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince, won the Audience awards for international features.

The prizes were announced at a ceremony co-hosted by Nick Offerman and his wife Megan Mullally in Park City. The 2014 Sundance Film Festival wraps tomorrow, Sunday 28th January.

American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave lead Oscar nominations

Last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters shocked the film industry when they overlooked Ben Affleck in the best director’s category, this year they outdid themselves, snubbing safe potential contenders such as Emma Thompson, Robert Redford and Tom Hanks in the acting categories and Paul Greengrass in the directing category. Other critics favourite films such Inside Llewyn Davis and Fruitvale Station did not receive much attention either.

Leading the field in the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards were Gravity and American Hustle with 10 nominations each, followed by 12 Years A Slave with 9 nods. The trio will compete for the best picture Oscar with Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Five directors of the aforementioned movies will be vying for the best director award: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). And another selection of five gained nods in the best film editing category: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave.

David O. Russell scored a third nod in the best original screenplay category with Eric Warren. They were joined by Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Spike Jonze for Her, Bob Nelson for Nebraska and Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club. Meanwhile, the best adapted screenplay competition included Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight, Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena, John Ridley for 12 Years A Slave and Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Marking her 18th Oscar nomination, Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) will be competing in the best leading actress category against Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity) and Judi Dench (Philomena). Her co-star in the same movie, Julia Roberts will be facing Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), June Squibb (Nebraska) and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) in the best supporting actress contest.

Meanwhile, 5 actors received nods in the best actor category: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Golden Globe-winner Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).

While Tom Hanks missed out on a nomination in the best actor category, his Somali co-star Barkhad Abdi was honoured with a nod for the best supporting actor, along with Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club).

The Oscars will handed out at a ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on 2nd March.