In this week's edition: three new films head to theaters, Bellflower fails to set the box office on fire, and Japanese tourists discover America.
New Distribution Deals
Are you ready for a "gritty" Dane Cook? He headlines Answers to Nothing, described as "a gritty drama of interweaving stories set in Los Angeles against the backdrop of a child kidnapping case." Directed by Matthew Leutwyler, Answers to Nothing has been acquired for distribution by Roadside Attraction, which plans to release it nationwide on December 2, according to indieWIRE.
No other wide releases are scheduled for December 2, but it's still a daring move for an ensemble drama. The cast includes Barbary Hershey, Elizabeth Mitchell, Julie Benz, and Zach Gilford. Gilford previously played the lead role in Leutwyler's The River Why, a gentle drama about fishing. Cook, however, is the apparent front man in Answers to Nothing. After 2008's My Best Friend's Girl, he was absent from the big screen until he showed up earlier this year in a small role in Joseph Kahn's Detention. Might Answers to Nothing mark the resurrection of his film career?
Taking a humorous approach to real-life events, Killing Bono is a rock 'n' roll comedy about two friends with aspirations for stardom who must stand by jealously while their school chums form U2 and become, well, U2. Killing Bono has been picked up by ARC Entertainment and XLrator Media, per indieWIRE, and will be available via Video on Demand platforms in October and in theaters in November.
Ben Barnes, Robert Sheehan, Krysten Ritter, and Martin McCann star; the film also features the final performance of Pete Postlethwaite. Nick Hamm directed; he previously made the very uneven The Hole (with a very young Keira Knightley) and the best-forgotten Godsend. Killing Bono "is one of the most painfully funny movies I’ve ever seen," wrote MaryAnn Johanson at Flick Filosopher. "Painful because I was laughing so hard at a story that plays like a satire on rags-to-riches clichés even though it’s mostly true … But also painful because, while I was laughing, I was also aching for Neil and his bittersweet inability to see that he is his own worst enemy."
Fightville, a documentary about mixed martial arts, will get a theatrical release late this fall, courtesy of MPI Media Group; the press release has been posted by indieWIRE. Fightville, directed by the very talented filmmaking duo of Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein (How to Fold a Flag, Bulletproof Salesman), debuted at SXSW this spring to very positive reviews. Eugene Novikov, for example, described it as "an exhilarating sports documentary and a levelheaded, piercingly intelligent treatment of a touchy subject. … With a propulsive, percussive soundtrack, a fast pace, and terrific fight photography, the movie is rousing and suspenseful."
Indie Box Office
In an unspectacular weekend for independent films at the box office, Gun Hill Road finished on top, earning $12,600 per screen in three locations, according to Box Office Mojo. The drama, starring Esai Morales and Judy Reyes, follows an ex-con who returns home to the Bronx and a fragile domestic situation. Though reviews were mixed, this appears to be a case where the subject matter struck a responsive chord. It's a promising start for fledgling distributor Motion Film Group, which made the film its first acquisition at Sundance this year.
Another Sundance premiere, Bellflower, converted its festival buzz into box office returns of $11,140 per screen at two theaters. Written and directed by Evan Glodell, who also starred, the film enjoyed generally favorable reviews, including positive notices from both our critics. Dave White wrote: "It's like a kick in the gut when a movie comes along that knows its characters well enough to show you the violent real-life potential of Male-Pattern Panic Disorder," while Grae Drake opined: "If you're a fan of super violent retribution films, have ever had your heart ripped from your chest and crushed in front of you, OR you just like the idea of a homemade flamethrower, give this one a watch."
The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz, had a bit more trouble finding an audience. The drama, inspired by true-life events, grossed a per-screen average of $8,715 at seven theaters. Reviews were mixed, but the idea of watching Weisz as a Nebraska cop uncovering corruption in Bosnia while she's working as a U.N. peacekeeper evidently didn't have as much appeal as watching a troubled Bronx family or a flame-throwing romance.
Among holdovers, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris remains the champ. Despite losing 72 theaters, down to 399, business dropped just 15.1% week over week. After 12 weeks, the film's receipts total more than $48 million in the U.S., and more than $82 million worldwide.
This weekend is a quiet interlude for indie releases, with only four in the docket, all scheduled for extremely limited engagements.
"The world is filled with amazing stories that most people have never heard of before," says Raffi Asdourian at The Film Stage in his review of Senna. The documentary, directed by Asif Kapadia, tells "the incredible story of Formula One racer Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian hero who won the F1 World Grand Prix three times before dying at the young age of 34." I hope that's not a spoiler.
The review continues: "Utilizing a treasure trove of archival footage and having voices of people that knew Senna narrate the vintage images creates a rich atmosphere that transports you into the cockpit of this genius racer."
Chinese box office hit Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy finally hits American shores on Friday in all its 3D glory. Or, at least, it will in Austin, while San Francisco must be satisfied with the 2D version.
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow opens today at Film Forum in Manhattan. Directed by Sophie Fiennes, the documentary revolves around German artist Anselm Kiefer as he creates an ambitious, gigantic installation. Lisa Mullen's review for Sight & Sound begins: "Is this a film about art, or about film AS art? That’s the question asked by Sophie Fiennes’ ravishing, hypnotic record of the work of Anselm Kiefer."
Trailer of the Week
After playing the festival circuit extensively, Mike Ott's Littlerock opens at Cinema Village in Manhattan on Friday. The film won the audience award at AFI Fest and a grand jury prize from the Independent Film Festival Boston, and is also a Spirit Award winner. Despite the title, the film is set in California, not Arkansas. A young Japanese woman and her brother are stranded in a picturesque small town after their rental car breaks down. While they wait for a replacement, the siblings get to know America, in more ways than one.
For more about the film, see Stephen Saito's interview with Ott for IFC.com. Here's the trailer, which teases the premise and suggests the mood and atmosphere without giving away the entire story.
LiTTLEROCK Trailer from Small Form Films on Vimeo.