Grand Piano

Whatever you think of Eugenio Mira’s thriller, it has a pretty solid pitch: Phone Booth, with a piano. Joel Schumacher’s high-concept effort saw Colin Farrell trapped in a public booth, with a sniper torturing him from afar. This time, it’s Elijah Wood in the hot seat as concert pianist Tom Selznick, who returns to the limelight some five years after he cracked on stage whilst trying to play the notoriously difficult piece ‘La Cinquette’.

Playing in Chicago, Tom’s comeback performance is soon looking like it might be his last, when his sheet music is scrawled with the menacing letters: “Play one wrong note and you die.” Somewhere in the theatre is Tom’s tormentor, training his rifle right at the stage. After a swift departure to his dressing room, Tom gets a text, telling him to look in his backpack. Inside is an earpiece, allowing his assailant (voiced by John Cusack) to whisper instructions.

Written by Damien Chazelle (who has since gone on to write/direct Sundance winner Whiplash), Grand Piano gets more ludicrous with every tick of its metronome. Never mind that Tom leaves the stage on numerous occasions. Or that, at one point, he texts on his phone one-handed for helpwhile still tinkling those ivories. Or that Cusack’s killer has spent three years engineering this diabolical scheme in the most ludicrously complicated way possible. Still, all this could be forgiven if it weren’t for the disappointingly mundane reason behind it all.

Really, Grand Piano is a one-act idea stretched, barely, across three. But at least it’s attacked with zest by Spanish director Mira, who serves up some impressive visual flourishes – notably an overhead camera shot near the end. Wood, too, is thoroughly convincing, as he hammers at those keys. Cusack, largely off-screen, is effective, and there’s a welcome appearance by Bill & Ted star Alex Winter as his assistant. A pity they’re all made to hit duff notes.


20,000 Days On Earth

A rock one-off gets suitably singular treatment in Brit artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s rich, wry, sumptuously styled study of Nick Cave. We see Cave recording, in therapy, joshing with bandmate Warren Ellis, giving Kylie Minogue a lift…

Most rock-docs would present this material as “the real Cave”, but Forsyth/Pollard diss genre clichés and adopt a semi-staged ‘day in the life’ pitch to show how Cave truly is larger than life. Cave’s wittily hard-boiled voiceover and on-stage potency complete the picture: a properly artful portrait of an artist in total command of his myth.


Think Like A Man Too

Imagine The Hangover scrubbed clean of any salacious bits. That’s this film. As the ‘Too’ would imply, it’s a sequel to the 2012 hit Think Like A Man, a manic romcom based on a self-help book aimed at women with relationship woes. In this one, the ping-ponging couples from the first film, led by motormouth Kevin Hart, descend on Vegas for the wedding of mama’s boy Michael (Terrence J) and worldly-wise single mum Candace (Regina Hall).

Not surprisingly, gags about gambling and strippers ensue. Also not surprisingly, the lightweight laughs dissolve into eye-rolling melodrama.


Wish I Was Here

Ten years after Garden State, Zach Braff delivers his second film as writer/director/star. He plays Aidan, an aspiring actor sent into a tailspin when his father (Mandy Patinkin) contracts cancer. Lacking – perhaps deliberately – its predecessor’s hipster edge, WIWH functions as a grown-up weepie, following Aidan on a journey of enlightenment.

Penned by Braff and brother Adam, there’s an unevenness to the script – one subplot seems to exist solely to give Kate Hudson (Aidan’s wife) something to do – but there are genuinely touching moments amid the slush.


Night Will Fall

This is a film about a film; one that proved so hot to handle during the Cold War that it was banished to the archives of the Imperial War Museum, where it has lain unfinished for 70 years. The footage – discoveries made by the Allies in the liberated Nazi camps during 1945 – is graphic, terrible, unforgettable.

And though you will have seen some of these images before (the bodies; the ovens; the pits), you will not have seen them to such a degree. This shocking if fascinating documentary (both Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder have parts to play) explores why.


The Riot Club

An education is the last thing on the minds of the entitled toffs in Lone Scherfig’s latest, Oxford students whose membership of the titular fraternity demands they treat “debauchery as an art form”. That’s bad news for the country hostelry that rents them its dining room, though not for fans of dishy Brits in tails (Max Irons, Douglas Booth) and punters keen to have their prejudices about aristos confirmed.

Adapting her own savagely funny play Posh, Laura Wade betters it by adding an additional female presence (Holliday Grainger) who sees these Bullingdon bullies at their worst.


‘The Skeleton Twins’ Holds Key To Stellar Specialty Film Box Office Bow

Roadside/Lionsgate opened its Sundance prize-winner The Skeleton Twins to robust numbers in a five-city platform debut across 15 theaters, taking one of the highest theater averages of the year among limited releases. In a much broader release, Fox Searchlight edged The Drop to a near-wide release over the weekend, landing sixth in overall box office.
Comedy-drama Skeleton Twins starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig grossed nearly $411K in 15 theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C., for a very solid $27,383 PTA. The film, directed by Craig Johnson about long-estranged and troubled twins reuniting was No. 1 in a dozen locations, said Roadside, including at indie meccas the Arclight Hollywood, The Landmark in L.A., as well as New York’s Lincoln Square and the Angelika.
 The film’s prospects were no doubt helped by what Roadside called “a wide array of PR appearances” by the stars and co-stars Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell.
Image (17) grandbudapesthotel__140130202444.jpg for post 706444Searchlight’s The Grand Budapest Hotel easily remains the year’s biggest rollout (and one of the biggest generally). It started with a $202,792 average in four theaters in March.

Other big bows in 2014 include:

* Open Road’s Chef with a PTA over $34K in six theaters in June;
* A24’s Under The Skin with a $33,289 PTA in several locations in April;
* TWC’s Begin Again with a $26,813 PTA in its initial five runs in July.

Begin Again has cumed just over $16 million to date. Skeleton Twins had a slightly higher average in more than a dozen initial runs, so the film, which won Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, may have a long life theatrically through the fall, even as awards-season contenders start to crowd theaters. Roadside/Lionsgate said that the film’s four leads will help maintain momentum. They all have TV appearances scheduled the next two weeks as Skeletons expands. The film will open in the rest of the top ten markets Sept. 19 ahead of a nationwide release Sept. 26.

Fox Searchlight’s The Drop bowed this weekend in more than 800 theaters nationwide, bringing a decent $5,191 PTA from a $4.2 million gross.That take landed the title sixth in the overall box office.

Image (14) The-Disappearance-of-Eleanor-Rigby__131123071042-275x183.jpg for post 737329Back among the limited releases, TWC had a decent initial run with The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them. Them, one of three cuts of the romantic drama planned for eventual release, grossed $77,181 in four locations for a $19,295 per-theater average.
“I thought it got off to a pretty solid start [and] it played like we expected with a two-thirds female/one-third male audience,” said TWC president of Theatrical Distribution Erik Lomis. “It was also 47 percent under (age) 3, which is a pretty solid number for a film like this. It speaks to the drawing power of [its stars] Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy.”

The film had a 49-percent increase from Friday to Saturday. The Weinstein Company said it will roll out Eleanor Rigby to about 175 theaters in the top 50 markets this coming week and is hoping for some crossover appeal to a broader group of viewers. “I’m hoping the commercial audience will embrace it,” added Lomis. “The upscale audience has.”

In other weekend openers, Cohen Media Group had some spring in its step with My Old Lady, opening in 11 theaters with $133,601, averaging $12,145.

“We’re thrilled that the film is already reaching its core audience and excited for this coming weekend’s expansion,” Cohen said.

Music Box opened The Green Prince in several locations grossing $38K for a $9,500 PTA. It will head to the top 10 markets next week and the top 25 by Oct. 10.
IFC Films opened Bird People in an exclusive run, grossing $8,140. It will head to the top ten markets throughout September. And Abramorama opened Take Me To The River with 12 runs, growing $25,329, averaging a comparatively slow $2,111.
Film Set - 'Love Is Strange'Doc filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s Sundance doc Last Days In Vietnam held solid with one additional location in its second weekend. It grossed $25,150 for an $8,383 PTA. Last week, it averaged $15,225 in its initial two runs. It will open L.A., Philadelphia and Boston next weekend before heading to the top 15 markets throughout September and early October. It will broadcast on PBS next spring, timed the 40th anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.
Sony Classics added 58 theaters for the 4th weekend of Ira Sachs’ Love Is Strange. It grossed over $380K from 102 runs, averaging $3,728. Last weekend it grossed over $284K in 44 theaters ($6,468 PTA). Its four-week cume is now over $1.27 million.
Pantelion/Lionsgate shed 5 runs for the third weekend of biopic Cantinflas, grossing $540K for a $1,274 average. It grossed over $1 million last weekend in 429 theaters for a $2,401 PTA. Its three-week cume is now over $5.6 million.
BoyhoodAnd IFC Films added 71 runs for The Trip To Italy, grossing over $480K in 155 theaters ($3,100 PTA). Last weekend it averaged $4,159 in 84 locations. Its five-week cume is now over $1.68 million. The distributor played its awards hopeful Boyhood in 659 theaters in the film’s 10th weekend, 116 less than last week. It is still holding solid numbers, grossing over $975K for a $1,480 PTA. Its cume is nearly $22 million.


Bird People (IFC Films) NEW [1 Theater] Weekend $8,140

The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them (The Weinstein Company) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $77,181, Average $19,295

The Drop (Fox Searchlight) NEW [809 Theaters] Weekend $4.2 million, Average $5,190

The Green Prince (Music Box Films) NEW [4 Theaters] Weekend $38K, Average $9,500

My Old Lady (Cohen Media Group) NEW [11 Theaters] Weekend $133,601, Average $12,145, Cume $156,255 (Wed. open)

The Skeleton Twins (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate) NEW [15 Theaters] Weekend $410,756, Average $27,383

Take Me To The River (Abramorama) NEW [12 Theaters] Weekend $25,329, Average $2,111


But Always (China Lion) Week 2 [20 Theaters] Weekend $95K, Average $4,750, Cume $311,750

Innocence (JSC Entertainment) Week 2 [27 Theaters] Weekend $3,691, Average $137, Cume $293,304

Last Days In Vietnam (American Experience/PBS Films) Week 2 [3 Theaters] Weekend $25,150, Average $8,383, Cume $63,388

No No: A Dockumentary (The Orchard) Week 2 [10 Theaters] Weekend $6,846, Average $684, Cume $31,655


Cantinflas (Pantelion/Lionsgate) Week 3 [424 Theaters] Weekend $540K, Average $1,274, Cume $5,612,366

Love Is Strange (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4 [102 Theaters] Weekend $380,248, Average $3,728, Cume $1,275,987

The One I Love (RADiUS-TWC) Week 4 [82 Theaters] Weekend $84,475, Average $1,030, Cume $429,286

The Trip To Italy (IFC Films) Week 5 [155 Theaters] Weekend $480,500, Average $3,100, Cume $1,680,500

Calvary (Fox Searchlight) Week 7 [206 Theaters] Weekend $190K, Average $922, Cume $3,349,040

Rich Hill (The Orchard) Week 7 [8 Theaters] Weekend $4,665, Average $583, Cume $108,854

Magic In The Moonlight (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 8 [399 Theaters] Weekend $463,183, Average $1,161, Cume $9,915,903

A Most Wanted Man (Roadside Attractions) Week 8 [395 Theaters] Weekend $470,275, Average $1,191, Cume $16,637,127

Boyhood (IFC Films) Week 10 [659 Theaters] Weekend $975,320, Average $1,480, Cume $21,918,320

Snowpiercer (RADiUS-TWC) Week 12 [20 Theaters] Weekend $13,508, Average $675, Cume $4,525,452


Toronto: ‘The Imitation Game’ Named Festival’s People’s Choice Winner – Oscar Harbinger?


TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival® today announced award winners from the 39th Festival which wraps up this evening.

The short film awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List; Beth Sa? Freire, deputy- director of the Sa?o Paulo International Short Film Festival; and visual artist Floria Sigismondi.

The winner of the Vimeo Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Randall Okita for The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer. The jury remarked, “For its bold blend of live action and digital animation to produce a striking meditation on the nature of memory and its legacy, the jury awards the Vimeo Award for Best Canadian Short Film to Randall Okita’s The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.

The jury gave an honourable mention, “For its entirely unexpected development of a science fiction high concept into something alternately heartbreaking and humorous, the jury gives an honourable mention to Rob Grant’s What Doesn’t Kill You.”

The winner of the Vimeo Award for Best International Short Film goes to Sotiris Dounoukos’s A Single Body (Un seul corps). The jury remarked, “For its extraordinary exploration of the value of friendship, hope, and aspiration in an unusually brutal and austere environment… and world — made especially heartbreaking by striking performances by Doudou Masta and Mexianu Medenou — the jury awards the Vimeo Award for Best International Short Film to Sotiris Dounoukos for A Single Body.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.

The jury gave an honourable mention, “For its charming absurdist comedy about loneliness, identity, and the art of finding yourself, the jury gives an honourable mention to Atsuko Hirayanagi for Oh Lucy!.”

The Canadian awards below were selected by a jury comprised of filmmaker Michael Dowse (The F Word); director, writer and producer Ingrid Veninger (The Animal Project); producer Jennifer Jonas (Gerontophilia); and film critic Jason Anderson.

The Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Maxime Giroux’s Felix and Meira (Fe?lix et Meira). The jury remarked, “For its immense sophistication and craftsmanship in telling a brave story bridging two disparate worlds, its generosity of spirit, masterful use of music, and exquisite performances that fuel the film’s power as both an intimate love story and a profound statement on the value of passion, family and community, the Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Maxime Giroux’s Felix and Meira.” This award is made possible thanks to Canada Goose and comes with a cash prize of $30,000.

The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Jeffrey St. Jules for Bang Bang Baby. The jury remarked, “For its ingenious mixing of genres, sophisticated blend of tones and ability to create its own strange, tragicomic and original world without sacrificing any richness in regards to story, character and emotion, the jury recognizes as Best Canadian First Feature Film Bang Bang Baby by Jeffrey St. Jules.” The award carries a cash prize of $15,000.


The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 23rd year. The jury members consist of jury president Dana Linssen (Netherlands), Marco Lombardi (Italy), Ola Salwa (Poland), Te?lesphore Mba Bizo (Cameroun), Jorge Gutman (Canada) and Thom Ernst (Canada).

Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind. The jury remarked, “For Oren Moverman’s sensitive and human depiction of homelessness, and Richard Gere’s remarkable performance, the FIPRESCI jury is pleased to grant the Special Presentations prize to Time Out of Mind.”

Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Abd Al Malik for May Allah Bless France! (Qu’Allah be?nisse la France!) The jury remarked, “The FIPRESCI jury is pleased to grant the Discovery prize for a story of a youth displaced in their own country, struggling to find the balance between chaos and serenity, on the strength of art, music and human spirit. While the startling cinematography is purely black and white, the director Abd Al Malik managed to show the different shades of grey in his daring debut May Allah Bless France!. Fe?licitations.”

As selected by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema, the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere goes to Shonali Bose for Margarita, with a Straw. Jury members include Lekha Shankar (India), Hannah Fisher (China) and Anderson Le (Hawaii). The jury remarked, “Margarita, with a Straw is both universal and groundbreaking. Director Shonali Bose and actress Kalki Koechlin have jointly created a character and a world that embody a love letter to life, with all its highs and lows, in spite of overwhelming physical limitations.”

This year marked the 37th year that Toronto audiences were able to cast a ballot for their favourite Festival film, with the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This year’s award goes to Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Grolsch. The first runner up is Isabel Coixet’s Learning to Drive. The second runner up is Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent.

The Festival presents a free screening of the award-winning film The Imitation Game tonight. The screening takes place at 6 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 4 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement for What We Do in the Shadows. The film follows three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles — like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. First runner up is Kevin Smith for Tusk and the second runner up is Jalmari Helander for Big Game.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Hajooj Kuka for Beats of the Antonov. Beats of the Antonov follows refugees from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan as they survive displacement and the trauma of civil war. Music, a cornerstone of their traditions and identity, becomes itself a vehicle for survival. First runner up is David Thorpe’s Do I Sound Gay? and the second runner up is Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction.


Specialty Box Office: ‘Atlas Shrugged III’ Sees Soft Start Despite Ron Paul Cameo

Among other limited offerings, Kristen Wiig’s ‘Skeleton Twins’ prospers, while Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy’s ‘Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’ enjoys a solid launch

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