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Coming Attractions



Previews of Upcoming Films, Videos and New Media Coming To Theaters, Festivals, DVD and the Internet.


Counter Programming The Summer Blockbuster

Wednesday, July 11--------Although Hollywood is certainly not crying into its beer, the fact is that many highly anticipated studio summertime bonanzas have just not made an impression this year. If we take away the likes of SPIDER-MAN 3, EVAN ALMIGHTY, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3, KNOCKED UP, RATATOUILLE and last week's box office champion (and record breaker) TRANSFORMERS, the box office take of FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, 1408, HOSTEL 2, and OCEAN'S 13 have not been as impressive as previously (automatically) assumed.

In many ways, the profitability field (the ratio of what a film cost to make and market as opposed to its box office sales) has been left to much smaller films that have held onto audiences longer than anticipated (in a season where an gargantuan blockbuster comes out every weekend). American indie films such as WAITRESS, EVENING and SICKO and international films YOU KILL ME, PARIS JE T'AIME, LA VIE EN ROSE and THE VALET still bringing in respectable coin after weeks in release (notice how three of these four are French.......)

It is bracing to see the feisty American indie distributors (Fox Searchlight, Paramount Vantage, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features and boutique companies Kino International, Magnolia Pictures, IFC Films, Zeitgeist Films and several others) are also betting on loyal summertime audiences. This weekend, a new batch of specialty films, a mix of American indies and international prestige pictures, are opening to offer audiences some choices at the multiplex.

Steve Buscemi's INTERVIEW has a mixed American/European pedigree. The two hander (starring Buscemi and the suddenly hot Sienna Miller) is an adaptation of a Dutch film by slain director Theo van Gogh, as written and directed by Buscemi himself. The film is an intoxicating mix of psychological thriller and romance, as well as a cogent commentary on the obesessions of celebrity and its disillusionments. The film pairs Buscemi as a cynical reporter who is assigned to do a video interview with a preening starlet (Miller). They begin a psychological game of thrust and parry that leaves both wounded and, somehow, cleansed. The film is certainly a creative challenge.....two characters in one claustrophobic set. Both Buscemi's film and the original betray their live theatrical origins, but when the camera moves in close and captures the pain and longing on these two actors' wildly different yet equally expressive faces, one sees how the story is more inflamed on film. INTERVIEW opens in a platform release this Friday via Sony Pictures Classics (the blue chip distrib for this kind of cross-over art film).

TALK TO ME, executive produced and starring Don Cheadle, also focuses on the faces....specifically of  Cheadle as a politically ornery radio personality of the 1960s civil rights era and the exasperated facial contortions of Chiwetel Eljiofor as his straight-laced radio programming executive. The film's mix of politics, passion and the unadulterated fun of crashing through barriers of "good taste" on the radio is an intoxicating one. It also brings back to its audience a vivid reminder of the inequity of power politics and the suffering that can accompany "doing the right thing". Cheadle, who has been very visible lately as an actor (HOTEL RWANDA), producer (CRASH) and activist, could work the same magic as Jamie Foxx mined in his Oscar-winning incarnation of singer Ray Charles. This is the kind of showy role that an actor of Cheadle's bites right into and calls his own. It is a performance that will be remembered come awards season.

One needn't look back to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s to find a film with politics on its mind. NICE BOMBS, a documentary by Usama Alshaibi, is a film that sits in what I like to call the second generation of Iraq-themed documentaries. It goes beyond the "big picture" of political movements, intelligence blunders, shameful torture and hard-to-grasp death tolls of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The new generation of films tend to focus in on one person or family, and to see the effects of the "big picture" on individual lives and destinies. The director is an Iraqi ex-patriot who returns to his shattered homeland and family, and sees the toll of four years of intensive fighting and destruction. As startling as the destruction of buildings and the breakdown of essential services, is to observe the psychological effects of war and uncertainty on the filmmaker's family. He looks at their trauma and distress in the same eyes as we would, and we better understand the wounding that has been done in our name (and which this culture will remember 1000 years from today). The film opens at the postage stamp Two Boots Theater (good for you) and will play dates across the country starting this weekend.

As was said before, the French are still with us, and the considerable commercial clout of their cinema is certainly being played out this summer. LA VIE EN ROSE, the biopic of musical legend Edith Piaf and featuring an already Oscar-buzzed performance by Marion Cotillard, is building great word of mouth and loyal audience attendance. American filmgoers also have the multi-Cesar Award winning LADY CHATTERLY, the domestic satire THE VALET and the revival of Jean-Pierre Melville's LE DOULOS (with the iconic Jean-Paul Belmondo) to look forward to (the films have already opened in New York City).

Joining the Gallic group this Friday is the US theatrical premiere of MY BEST FRIEND, a highly successful buddy comedy in its native France. The film stars Daniel Auteuil (who seems adept at both high drama and low comedy) as an antiques dealer who hires a taxi driver (Dany Boon) to impersonate his best friend in order to acquire an expensive objet d'art. The film is directed by Patrice Leconte, known more for his stylish thrillers including MONSIEUR HIRE and THE MAN ON THE TRAIN. Here, his sentimental side shows up in this knowing farce that explores the true nature of friendship and gives its lead actors a wonderful pallette to bounce off their considerable craft. The film opens on Friday via IFC Films.

Sandy Mandelberger, Coming Attractions Editor


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About Coming Attractions

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Previews of Upcoming Films, Videos and New Media Coming To Theaters, Festivals, DVD and the Internet.

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