Thunder Soul (Roadside Attractions) has charmed and energized audiences ever since it debuted at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) last year. “?The best documentaries expose us to things we might not otherwise be aware [of], educate, motivate and entertain, and prove that fact can be wilder than fiction,” wrote Jenn Brown at Slackerwood. “Thunder Soul is both a profile of stage band director and composer Conrad O. Johnson and a celebration of the music he and his students created. Between 1968 and 1977, the Kashmere High School in Houston's 5th Ward had a stage band performing music that put professionals to shame.”
The film “?offers a heaping helping of uplift while documenting the past triumphs and recent reunion of a predominantly black Houston high school's singularly accomplished jazz stage band,” Joe Leydon said in Variety. “?This crowdpleaser has enough inherent appeal to merit its own theatrical showcase.” Thunder Soul won the Audience Award for the Lone Star States section of SXSW. It will open this weekend on 35 screens; check to see if it will be playing near you.
Gerard Butler stars in Machine Gun Preacher, directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball). Butler plays a rough-and-tumble biker whose life is changed “?upon witnessing the harrowing plight of children in Sudan,” according to the official description. The cast includes Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker, and Michael Shannon. Machine Gun Preacher received mixed to (extremely) negative reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival, but the subject matter and star may draw audiences to one of the four theaters where it will be opening.
Can a lawyer be a hero? Puncture stars Chris Evans as an attorney who fights to do what is right in behalf of his client, a nurse who contracts AIDS after accidentally puncturing her skin with a used needle. The film will be playing at four locations.
Machine Gun Preacher and Puncture are both based on true stories about real-life characters dealing with drug addictions. Am I sensing a theme for this weekend?
Trailer of the Week
Like Thunder Soul (see above), Weekend won an Audience Award at SXSW, though its prize came at this year’s edition. Described as “a startlingly authentic love story," the drama revolves around two men (Tom Cullen and Chris New) who meet at a bar and spend the weekend together, days filled with “sex, drugs, and intimate conversation."
In his review, our own Dave White places Weekend in the context of the “Gay Clown” stereotype that pops up routinely in mainstream romantic comedies. In Weekend, however, “?thanks to the good sense of writer-director Andrew Haigh, there are no Gay Clowns. There are just two gay guys living their lives in the city of Nottingham, England. ... ?There's nothing faked here, no rush to resolve romantic tension, no sweeping declarations, no ‘issues’ you can pigeonhole it with. It's about recognizable human beings behaving in recognizably human ways.”
To get a taste of the film, check out the trailer below.
Last Weekend’s Box Office
The mainstream masses flocked to see The Lion King last weekend, this time in 3D. At art houses, however, the biggest stars were decidedly not cartoons.
In The Mill and the Cross (pictured above), director Lech Majewski recreates the setting, atmosphere, and characters inhabiting “The Way to Cavalry,” a 16th-century masterpiece by artist Pieter Bruegel. The film opened at one theater in New York and took in $11,354, per Box Office Mojo.
My Afternoons with Margueritte features Gerard Depardieu as an illiterate worker who finds himself learning about literature from an older woman (Gisele Casadesus) on a park bench. The business was not as high as I anticipated, but averaging $10,450 per screen at two locations placed the film in the #2 position in the indie box office chart.
Among the holdovers, the documentary Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain held up nicely in its second week of release, nearly doubling the number of screens on which it was playing, up to 230 nationwide, and declining only 37.6% in its weekend gross. So far, the film has earned more than $3.5 million.