Friday, June 21, 2024

‘American Society Of Magical Negroes’ & More

A trio of moderate releases – One Life, The American Society Of Magical Negroes and Knox Goes Away join Janus Films’ celebration of master musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, and César award winning The Animal Kingdom as the next wave of 2024 indie films rolls out post-Oscars.

Focus Features’ American Society Of Magical Negroes, the feature directorial debut of Kobi Libii opens at 1,146 theaters across the North America. Premiered at Sundance, see Deadline review. A satirical comedy about a young man, Aren (Justice Smith) who is recruited by Roger (David Alan Grier) into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making sure white people never feel bad about themselves or get stressed out — because bad things happen when they do. Also stars Rupert Friend, Michaela Watkins, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver and Nicole Byer. Libii originally developed the project as an alumnus of both the Sundance Writers and Directors Labs. 

Focus, in its opening note, said it expects the film to see in “the low single-digit millions” this weekend and it remains committed to supporting and discovering new, diverse voices with a unique point of view.

Produced by Julia Lebedev, Eddie Vaisman, Angel Lopez, Kobi Libii.

Bleecker Street opens wonderfully reviewed One Life by James Hawes on 893 screens. The TIFF-premiering film stars Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas “Nicky” Winton, the (real life) young London broker who helps rescue hundreds of predominantly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia in a race against time before Nazi occupation closes the borders on the verge of World War II. Fifty years later, Nicky is haunted by the fate of those he wasn’t able to bring to safety. With Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Flynn, Jonathan Pryce. See Deadline review. Scores 88% with critics, 100% with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

Michael Keaton-directed thriller Knox Goes Away hits 750 theaters nationwide. Keaton also stars as as John Knox, a hit man attempting to make amends before his recently discovered dementia takes over. Aided by a trusted friend (Al Pacino) with his own shady past, Knox races against the police — and his own rapidly deteriorating mind — to save his estranged son (James Marsden) from a vengeance-fueled mistake and “cash out” before it’s too late. Also starring Ray McKinnon and Marcia Gay Harden. Written by Gregory Poirier. Premiered at TIFF, see Deadline review. From Saban Films/Lionsgate.

A24 expands Love Lies Bleeding to 1,300 screens from five at its limited opening last week. The film by Rose Glass stars Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Jena Malone and Anna Baryshnikov, with Dave Franco and Ed Harris. Steward is reclusive gym manager Lou, who falls hard for Jackie (O’Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.

In limited release: Thomas Cailley’s The Animal Kingdom from Magnolia Films/Magnet Releasing opens in New York and LA with Alamo Drafthouse. This thriller drops viewers into a world where mutations in human genetics cause people to transform into hybrid creatures. François (Roman Duris) does everything he can to save his wife, who is affected by this mysterious condition. As some of the creatures disappear into a nearby forest, François embarks with Emile (Paul Kircher), their 16-year-old son, on a quest to find her with help from a local police officer (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Premiered as the opening night selection of Cannes Un Certain Regard, won five Césars (of 12 nominations). Opened Rendezvous with French Cinema in NYC last month.

Blue Fox Entertainment presents Paul Middleditch’s dramatic comedy Uproar on 33 screens. Premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and stars Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – the highest-grossing New Zealand film) as Josh Waaka, an awkward young New Zealander of mixed Maori and English parentage who comes into his own during protests against apartheid and racism in the 1980s. Costars Minnie Driver as Josh’s mom and Rhys Darby as his teacher. Loosely based on Middleditch’s experience growing up in New Zealand as a self-described outsider with self-esteem issues, and a high school rugby player, Uproar highlights the intersection between sports and politics and indigenous rights. 

Strand Releasing presents contemporary Chinese drama The Shadowless Tower by Zhang Luat the Metrograph for an exclusive one-week run .. stars Xin Baiqing as Gu Wentong, a divorced middle-aged writer who has turned his back on poetry for the prosaic job of food criticism, his well-worn routine disturbed by an encounter with a young photographer (Huang Yao) whose influence prompts him to take stock of both his past and present. Set in Beijing’s Xicheng district, Lü’s film is both a rich character study and a keenly observed portrayal of everyday life in contemporary China. Premiered in Berlin last year.

The final performance of master composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto on screen with Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus from Janus Films. Opens at Film at Lincoln Center this weekend including at Saturday Q&A with director Neo Sora. National rollout to follow. The film is the definitive swan song of one of the world’s greatest musicians.

In late 2022, as a parting gift, Ryuichi Sakamoto mustered his energy for one final performance for a concert film, featuring just him and his piano. Curated and sequenced by Sakamoto himself, the twenty pieces featured in the film wordlessly narrate his life through his wide-ranging oeuvre from his pop-star period with Yellow Magic Orchestra and his magnificent scores for filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci to his meditative final album, 12. Filmed in a space he knew well and surrounded by trusted collaborators, including the director, his son, Sakamoto bares his soul through his exquisitely haunting melodies, knowing this was the last time he would be able to present his art.

Netflix opens John Ridley’s Shirley in about 20 theaters in ten markets. Regina King stars as Shirley Chisholm, the nation’s first Black congresswoman, and her 1970s trailblazing run for president of the United States. Co-stars Lance Reddick, Lucas Hedges, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christina Jackson, Dorian Crossmond Missick, Amirah Vann, with André Holland and Terrence Howard.

Looking ahead: next Thursday (3/21) is Utopia’s ‘Rad Day’ celebration at about 700 theaters for the distributor’s fifth re-release of Hal Needham’s cult 1986 film. Rad follows a teenage BMX (bicycle motocross) racer in a small town faced with a tough decision: qualify for the hair-raising Helltrack, or take the SAT to attend college. Stars Bill Allen, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Jack Weston and Ray Watson with 1984 Olympic gymnastics champion Bart Conner.

Kyle Greenberg, head of marketing and distribution, said Utopia has been seeing lively ticket sales for the re-release of the film it restored in 4K back in 2020 for a planned premiere at SXSW and subsequent theatrical tour, both shuttered by Covid. Utopia went out with the restoration on VOD and Blu-Ray/DVD and at drive-ins and premiered at Fantasic Fest in 2021. Rad has taken in close to $800k from event screenings over the last few years plus seven figure grosses from VOD, sales to Showtime, partnerships and merchandise with brands such as GT Bicycles, Etnies, Vinegar Syndrome, USA BMX, Pull Up BMX and Mondo, along with celebrity support from Ed Helms, Jorma Taccone, Dan Levy and Daniel Tosh.

March 21 is the anniversary of Rad‘s original release (3/21/86) and “we are celebrating it as Rad Day which we hope to continue to eventize every year going forward in some way,” said Greenberg. The screening includes a Q&A with star Bill Allen, Utopia’s Robert Schwartzman, and Rad superfan, moderator Ed Helms.




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