Director Steve McQueen’s explicit new film wows festival crowds but worries potential distributors
One of the films creating the biggest buzz on the festival circuit this month is British artist-turned-director Steve McQueen’s (yep, that’s his name) new film, “Shame,” featuring Michael Fassbender as an unrepentant sex addict. Also starring golden girl Carey Mulligan in a raw, no-holds-barred performance, “Shame” is getting mostly rave reviews even though distributors are feeling jittery about the film’s explicit nudity and sex and its likely NC-17 rating.
“Driven by a brilliant, ferocious performance by Michael Fassbender,” writes Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter, “’Shame’ is a real walk on the wild side, a scorching look at a case of sexual addiction that’s as all-encompassing as a craving for drugs. Steve McQueen’s second feature, after his exceptional debut with ‘Hunger’ in 2008, may ultimately prove too psychologically pat in confronting its subject’s problem, but its dramatic and stylistic prowess provides a cinematic jolt that is bracing to experience. This sexually raw film will stir considerable excitement among critics and serious audiences, making it an attractive proposition for an enterprising distributor in the wake of festival play in Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York.”
The month-old civil rights-era drama is still holding strong on Labor Day weekend
Early reports for what is considered the last weekend of the summer reveal lackluster box office results for this week's three big studio releases. Though predicted to finally send “The Help” packing, “Apollo 18” failed to do so and opened at second place. The scary faux documentary pulled in only $2.8 million on Friday even though it’s playing at significantly more theaters than “The Help” (which added another $3.6 million to its ever-growing coffers that have now exceeded $121 million). “Shark Night 3D” is in third place today with opening day receipts of $2.8 million, followed closely by “The Debt” which netted $2.6 million on Friday (but had already earned $3 million since its Wednesday opening). Last week’s “Columbiana” took fourth place, dropping to $2 million in Friday receipts, followed by “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” at $1.8 million (with a cumulative gross of $162 million).
LABOR DAY UPDATE: Helen Mirren flexed her considerable muscles over the weekend and helped “The Debt” move to the #2 position for the holiday weekend. You go, girl! And now my wife has started counting the number of times I mention Jessica Chastain each day—as far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with a movie where Mirren and Chastain play the same character! The latest three-day tallies show “The Help” owning Labor Day weekend at $14.6 million, “The Debt” at $9.9, and “Apollo 18” and “Shark Night 3D” trailing with $8.7 and $8.3.
Are you listening, studio execs? Does this prove that many people want more drama, less gore? More personal stories of struggle and triumph, less terror-filled mindless rampages? More talented actors who can convey real emotions, less computer-generated three-dimensional freak shows?
How long can the women of ”The Help” maintain their #1 status? Will they be shown the door next weekend by a pair of martial arts heavyweights, a deadly virus, or an accidental porn star? Stay tuned!
“The Debt’s” Jesper Christensen is the latest in a long line of memorable Nazi villains
In the excellent new thriller, “The Debt,” which opened this week, Jessica Chastain has several appointments with a kindly East German gynecologist, played by Danish actor Jesper Christensen. She winces when he examines her and jerks a bit when he inserts the metal speculum. Is the young newlywed simply exhibiting some understandable modesty? Nope. She’s imagining the horrific medical experiments the nice doctor performed years earlier on countless women and children when he was known as the “Butcher of Birkenau.” I’m not giving anything away by talking about Christensen’s character, Nazi doctor Dieter Vogel. “The Debt” centers on the heroic mission of three undercover young Israelis to capture the Nazi and return him to Israel for trial. We see the difficult mission unfold in East Berlin the late 1960s and we learn about the lifelong ramifications it had on the three agents when we meet them again 25 years later. Jessica Chastain turns into Helen Mirren who is still haunted by her memories of the demonic Vogel.
Jesper Christensen, who also played the villain in the last James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace,” thoroughly enjoyed playing “The Debt’s” main Nazi. “Vogel is a great villain because he’s clever and he’s articulate,” the actor told The Wall Street Journal. “There’s a lot to do as an actor with him…I had a ball!”
Kirsten Dunst stars in Lars von Trier's latest film
Do yourself a favor and bring some tissues
Company will remove all of its content from provider by February
Netflix hasn’t been too popular with many of its customers lately, particularly after this summer’s announcement that they would be splitting their plans into DVD-only and streaming-only varieties, effectively doubling the price of a monthly service many of its patrons had come to rely on. Now, Netflix has been dealt a blow of their own, one sure to anger still more Netflix-ers who count on the company for their at-home movie-viewing, be it swiftly delivered DVDs or instant streaming on their televisions, computers, and smart phones.
Starz Entertainment has announced that they will not extend their content deal with Netflix, a deal which provides many films to Netflix’s Watch Instantly service (including the newer titles from Sony and Walt Disney that the Starz deal provided to Netflix). Not only will Starz not extend, they will also remove all of their content from Netflix by February of next year, when their contract is up. As of now, Starz provides over 1,000 movies for the service. Most Netflix customers have likely already recognized that most of the new titles on Watch Instantly are from Starz (touted as “Starz Play” on the service).
Starz seems to think they will be able to make plenty of cash with their own companies, including seventeen premium cable channels that include not only Starz, but also Encore. Starz Entertainment offers their own pay-for-play channels, and Netflix was an extension of that on-demand type of entertainment. But how will Netflix fare?
Check out the full (very short) press release after the break.
Familial disaffection from Baumbach? Sold!
Filmmaker Noah Baumbach has had a number of attachments since last year’s “Greenberg,” but this may well be the most interesting of those (including “Madagascar 3” and a seemingly stalled “While We’re Young”). Baz Bamigboye at the Daily Mail (thanks to The Playlist for digging it up) recently posted a tantalizing little rumor that the writer and director was working on a adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 novel, “The Corrections,” for a possible series for HBO. The piece also held that Anthony Hopkins may be a “possible contender” to play the patriarch of Franzen’s family drama, Alfred Lambert. Another casting possibility for Albert? Donald Sutherland.
Nearly a decade ago, way back in 2002, producer Scott Rudin, director Stephen Daldry, and screenwriter David Hare set up a feature adaptation for the book at Paramount, but nothing ever came of it. If the project does have to go the television route, some sort of mini-series at HBO with Baumbach seems like a solid way to go. These are all just whispers at this point, but rumors of such an incredible team behind such a desired adaptation are music to my ears.
The 2001 novel garnered all sorts of critical and popular acclaim for Franzen, earning him a National Book Award, a finalist slot for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a spot on Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club (though Franzen later expressed discomfort at the distinction and bowed out of appearances on her show), all while becoming one of the decade's best-selling works of literary fiction.
The book follows the Lamberts, a typical American family of five on the outside, that’s severely dysfunctional on the inside. Moving back and forth across time periods, and told through the voices of different members of the family (Albert, wife Enid, and their kids Gary, Chip, and Denise), the novel shows where everything went wrong for the Lamberts, particularly for Albert, a meticulous man who begins to suffer from Parkinson’s disease in his later years. It’s not a feel-good work.
Franzen’s follow-up, 2010’s “Freedom,” serves as a comparable selection to “The Corrections.” Another bestseller, that novel told an even longer and more complicated story about yet another damaged family.