Motion-picture: Magnificent Seven makes decent 30; first footage for Ghost in the Shell released

It was a magnificent week for fans of westerns, manga, and international film. Antoine Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven saw a solid debut, easily shooting for the top slot on this week’s box office. The much-anticipated Ghost in the Shell released its first footage this week, certain to garner reaction (whether positive or negative) from fans. Countries around the world are submitting choices for the best foreign film Oscar, and the San Sebastian Film Festival awarded many Asian filmmakers. For these stories and more, read on:

Box office: It was a magnificent weekend for Antoine Fuqua. The Magnificent Seven, a remake of the 1960 western classic, debuted at around $35 million, Fuqua’s career best. The $90 million production earned back more than a third of its budget in its first few days and is right on par with star Denzel Washington’s usual box office track record. It’s just about on par with earlier September release Sully. The film lassoed decent critical reception, scoring an overall positive 63% approval. It also defended its ground against animated debut Storks, which failed to deliver to expectations at $21.8 million.

Lupita Nyong’o’s Queen of Katwe saw limited release this weekend in 52 theaters before it expands to wide release September 30. The film drew in $305,000, generating a solid $5,865 average per theater. Directed my Mira Nair, the movie follows a 10-year-old played by Madina Nalwanga whose talent at chess leads her far beyond the realms of her home in Katwe. The film also stars David Oyelowo.

Action: Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell is already garnering buzz for its March 2017 release. The action movie is based on the popular Japanese manga in which Johansson will play a half human, half robot cyborg. Five clips were released for the film, showcasing its creepy, cyberpunk mood. The film, which promises to honor the Japanese culture present in the manga, received backlash for casting a white actress in a Japanese role.

Disney’s Moana marketing campaign is off to a rocky start. The company pulled a controversial Halloween costume of a character from the film from online stores after it received much backlash from fans. The costume is of Dwayne Johnson’s character Maui and features brown skin, tribal tattoos and a hula skirt. Critics said the skin tone of the suit was racist and promoted brownface. Disney apologized for the costume, saying Moana had “taken great care to respect the culture of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film.”

The Pacific Rim sequel is building a monster-sized cast. Chinese actress Jing Tian, star in numerous Japanese films, was cast in the picture, joining other newbies like Star Wars’ John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. Tian is poised to become a big Hollywood action star, next appearing in The Great Wall alongside Matt Damon and Kong: Skull Island. Her previous credits include Japanese movies like Special ID and Dragon Nest: Warrior’s Dawn. There is no word on what role she will play.

Awards/festivals: The 64th San Sebastian Film Festival honored many Asian actors and filmmakers this year on September 24. Feng Xiaogang’s I Am Not Madame Bovary took the top prize Golden Seashell, and also awarded Fan Bingbing (who has appeared in many Hollywood films like X-Men: Days of Future Past) the top female acting prize. Eduard Fernandez from Spain took the top male acting prize for his role in Alberto Rodriguez’s Smoke & Mirrors. See the full list of winners here.

Many countries are selecting which films to submit to the Oscars best foreign film category. Israel has submitted its first-ever Arabic language film to the Oscars. The country has selected drama Sand Storm for the best foreign language film at the Academy Awards. Director Elite Zexer is the second woman to represent the country at the Oscars in three years, bringing together a crew of Jewish and Arabic filmmakers to create the production. The film is on a hot streak after winning the Ophir Award, or Israeli Oscar, for best Israeli Film. 10 of the last 52 Israeli submissions have been nominated for the Oscar, and none have won.

Meanwhile, Slovakia has selected Eva Nova, a drama following an aging actress played by Emilia Vasaryova. The film is Marko Skop’s directorial debut, and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Montenegro’s selection is also a directorial debut. The country selected The Black Pin, directed by Ivan Marinovic. The comedy drama follows a priest who returns home to take care of his mother afflicted with dementia. This is the fourth year in a row the country has submitted a film to the Oscars, but has yet to receive the nomination.

Documentary: The trailer for the Maya Angelou documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise debuted earlier this week. The documentary following the famous civil rights activist premiered at Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. The documentary follows her life from childhood to her rise to fame and overcome adversity. It was directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Ben Hercules.

Ava DuVernay’s 22-minute doc August 28: A Day in the Life of A People debuted September 24 alongside the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The documentary, which was kept under wraps until the museum’s opening, will play every day for a year at the museum. It follows six different events important to African-American history that happened on the same day. “[The doc] tells so much about black history through the lens of one day,” DuVernay said.


Comedy: Marlon Wayans and Regina Hall are getting Naked. The two will star in Netflix’s upcoming romantic comedy Naked, a remake of the 2000 Swedish film Naken. The film follows Wayans as a charming soon-to-be-husband as he wakes up again and again in an elevator with no clothes on on his wedding day, reliving the situation over and over. Wayans helped write the script along with Cory Koller and Rick Alvarez. Michael Tiddes will direct, joining forces for Wayans for the third time after A Haunted House and Fifty Shades of Black.

Drama: Sony Pictures is nearing a deal with Cross Creek Pictures and Macro to land the Denzel Washington starrer Inner City. The dramatic legal thriller would cost less than $40 million to make under Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler’s) direction and writing. If passed, the picture would begin production in March and be one of the biggest movie deals of the year. Washington would play a lawyer recently charged with running his law firm and discovering the foul things it has done.

Actor Bill Nunn, best known for his role as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, died at the age of 62. He lost his battle against cancer in his home at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nunn worked with Lee on both Right Thing and previously in his 1980 film School Daze. He also appeared in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy as a newspaper editor. “Radio Raheem will always be fighting da powers dat be. May God watch over Bill Nunn,” Lee wrote on Instagram.