Motion-Picture: Toronto, Venice film festivals underway; Bough breaks box office
It's a big week for film festivals and the box office. Both the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival are in full swing, honoring actors and filmmakers of color. The festivals premiered future blockbusters like The Magnificent Seven and The Birth of a Nation, and announced exclusive casting and film distribution news. Domestically, When the Bough Breaks shattered box office predictions, despite some deal-breaking reviews. For these stories and more, read on:
Awards/Festivals: Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven kicked off the Toronto International Film Festival, though reviews don’t quite live up to the name. The remake of the 1960 western classic is attracting middling reception from critics. The remake features a diverse cast (lead by Denzel Washington and including Lee Byung-hun and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), though Fuqua said he wasn’t trying to make a statement with the diverse cast. “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse,” he joked. The movie will hit theaters September 23.
The Birth of a Nation continued its awards circuit in Toronto to positive feedback. Nate Parker’s film about Nat Turner received long applause after its screening September 9. Parker was inspired by Turner’s story and created the film to “promote the conversation we need to have about race.” In the accompanying press conference, no questions were asked about Parker’s controversy over an alleged rape. The film may regain the footing it may have lost in the upcoming awards season.
A grisly murder connects three strangers together in a world of mystery and violence. This is the premise of Sang-il Lee’s thriller Rage, which premiered at TIFF. The film stars Ken Watanabe (Inception) as the lead of an ensemble cast as the characters and audience try to determine who among them is a murderer. “The true rage is one that nobody can see,” Lee said of the film’s theme in a press conference.
Also announced at TIFF? Music producer Flying Lotus is partnering with filmmaker Eddie Alcazar to launch Brainfeeder Films, an independent film finance and production company. The company’s first project will be called KUSO, about survivors of massive earthquakes. Flying Lotus, who has released five studio albums, recently crossed into the film industry with the premier of his short film Royal at Sundance NEXT.
TIFF wasn’t the only film festival this week. Venice Film Festival awarded its top award, The Golden Lion, to Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left. Diaz is no stranger to the awards circuit; the Filipino indie film director helmed 11 award-winning movies before, including From What is Before and Melancholia. The festival celebrated many diverse actors and filmmakers, such as Amat Escalante and Andrei Konchalovsky for best director, and Oscar Martinez for best actor.
Box office: What are we supposed to do when the bough breaks? We may be about to find out. Maltese-Canadian director Jon Cassar’s When the Bough Breaks is getting grilled by critics with a 0% approval rating. The picture stars Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall as a couple desperately trying to have a baby, who finds a surrogate played by Jaz Sinclair. As time goes on, however, it becomes clear she may have a different agenda for the family.
Viewers have a different agenda than reviewers, too. The film debuted to a solid $14.8-$15 million, already earning a profit on its $10 million budget in one weekend. The movie outperformed earlier projections that placed it around $12 million. It finished second behind only Clint Eastwood's Sully, a potential Oscar contender. Bough currently has a 60% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Don't hold your breath for Don't Breathe to go away anytime soon. Fede Alvarez's surprise hit closed out a successful August at the box office after spending two weeks at the top. Coming in number three this week, the horror has grossed $66.7 total for its first three weeks in theaters on its measly budget, also $10 million. The movie looks to be headed toward a $100 million haul globally, blowing away any expectations Sony may have had at its release.
Drama: Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuarón is heading to Mexico for his next film. The drama, currently untitled, will portray a year in the lives of a middle class family living in Mexico City in the 1970s. Participant Media will produce the picture while Cuarón will write and direct. This will be his first film since 2013’s Gravity, for which he received the Academy Award for Best Director.
Viola Davis will star in historical drama The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which she was already set to produce. Announced at TIFF, she will join Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) and Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) on the cast. Set in the South Dakota badlands in the early 1900s, the movie will follow Rachel Dupree fighting the man she once loved for land, survival and the American dream. Davis’s production company JuVee Productions will produce.
Jason Mitchell is headed straight outta Compton to Detroit. The Compton star has joined Kathryn Bigelow’s untitled drama about the 1967 Detroit riots. Mitchell is the latest star to join the already promising cast, which includes Star Wars’ John Boyega and Lone Survivor’s Will Poulter. Plot details have yet to be announced. Annapurna Pictures will finance and produce the picture, set for a 2017 release. In August, Mitchell received the Rising Star Award at the San Diego International Film Festival.
Action: Iconic martial artist Bruce Lee is returning to screens 43 years after his death. Biographical Birth of the Dragon, which retells his life, premiered at the TIFF September 13. The movie tells the story of Lee’s rise to become a film and martial arts icon and challenging kung fu master Wong Jack Man. Philip Ng plays the role in a heavily Chinese cast. The film could see release all over the world. “There is not a single place that people don’t know [Lee’s] name or have an enormous affection for his story,” director George Nolfi said.
Warner Bros. has acquired rights to distribute to political thriller The Summit to Latin America and Spain. The movie is the most supported Latin American movie going into production this year. Directed by Santiago Mire (who won the Cannes’ 2015 Critics Week award for his movie Paulina), the movie stars Ricardo Darin as a man confronting his inner demons.