Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (email@example.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.
Magnolia Pictures has landed the U.S. rights to Marley, a documentary about reggae legend Bob Marley directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and executive produced by Bob’s son, Ziggy Marley, and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.
Marley will make its world premiere at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in February and will premiere in North American at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin in March. The film comes to theaters day-and-date with VOD April 20.
“This documentary is the ultimate revelation of my father’s life,” said Ziggy Marley. “The family is proud to be able to have the world finally experience this emotional journey."
My first experience with UltraViolet came with the release of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Drive — my personal pick for movie of the year, Oscars be darned.
The Blu-ray Disc came with an easy-to-follow card offering simple steps to enjoy your UltraViolet copy of the film. Within a determined five minutes, I was able to enjoy a copy of the film on my computer.
But I’ll echo the sentiments of plenty of other consumers out there: It’s far from a flawless process. Having to sign up for two separate websites to get the copy is cumbersome. I have to download a separate app (Flixster) and sign up for that, too, to play the thing on my iPhone. And the process of sharing the movie is a bit awkward, too — I have to create the person’s login information myself, or they have to use my sign-in information.
I’d love to see UltraViolet streamlined so that you only sign into one site, you can easily add devices (that spot on the site just says “coming soon” for now) and you can add family or friends to your account, simply by emailing them and allowing them to set it up themselves within your account. There should be some sort of social element, as well, built into UltraViolet — look at the success of Spotify or Netflix to see how alluring a social media element can be to a service such as this.
I think the service could be a great alternative to selling independent films wholesale to a service like Netflix. If the price were cheaper just to buy an UltraViolet copy of a film, I’d definitely pay for something like that. I’d love to pay $5 to be able to stream Melancholia and let my closest friends do the same. I could see movie clubs cropping up around that sort of thing — again, I think it all comes back to social. Studios could charge a lower price for smaller films so that independent film fans who can’t stream newer films on Netflix — and who’ve abandoned buying films on DVD or Blu-ray — could be brought back into the fold.
There’s a lot more that can be done with UltraViolet. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying my digital copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail when that movie comes out on Blu-ray with an UltraViolet copy March 6.
Indie on-demand site SnagFilms has put some of its most popular titles on free apps for Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Android-based smartphones and other tablets using the Android and Blackberry Playbook Tablet platforms.
SnagFilms’ app brings 400 non-fiction, fiction and foreign films to more than 50 smartphone models and 10 tablet models. SnagFilms earlier this year bowed an iPad app as well. SnagFilms also will launch apps for connected TVs later this month, with an app for Sony’s connected TVs already in place.
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This movie sort of passed in and out of multiplexes, about Kathryn Bolkovac, a cop who outed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal after working in post-war Bosnia as a peacekeeper. Reviews were mixed, but you have some excellent actors - Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, Vanessa Redgrave - plus an overlooked real-life scandal that should make for an engrossing diversion.
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Here's an eyebrow-raiser of a film, about sexually rebellious teens, including a lesbian couple, in Iran. Check back here or in the magazine next week for Erik Gruenwedel's review of the film.
First Run Features
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Isabelle Huppert, she of sexually provocative French roles, stars in an erotic drama about a high-class prostitute who crosses paths with a psychoanalyst having marriage issues, finding the two have more in common that one would think in their professions.
This year's American Film Market saw buying companies up 8% to 718 from 664 in 2010; buying executives up 7% to 1,523, compared with 1,417 a year ago; and overall attendance jump 4% to 7,988, compared with 7,695 in 2010. The festival has been going since Nov. 2, concluding Nov. 9.
“We are thrilled with the strong growth in buyers — it’s our most important metric — and selling out the new AFM Conference Series in its first year underscores the AFM’s relevance to the production community,” said AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf, who also is EVP of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, or IFTA, which produces the film conference.
Non-buying or -selling attendees also jumped 21% to a high of 2,402 from 1,988 last year. Exhibitor-affiliated participants (including executives, producers, talent and guests) dropped 3% to 3,219 from 3,321 last year.
Internationally speaking, films where screened from 35 participating countries. China posted the highest growth for buying companies (up 50%, to 21 versus 14 last year).
AFM this year saw 415 films screened, including 69 world premieres, 310 market premieres and 28 films screened in 3D, with a total of more than 700 screenings.
Speakers at this year's AFM included director-writer Rob Reiner, producer Lauren Shuler Donner (the “X-Men” franchise), actor Kevin Pollak and actress Selma Blair.
AFM takes place each year at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif.
SnagFilms has acquired the digital distribution rights to documentaries Windfall, Southern Comfort, PUSH: Madison versus Madison, Never Make it Home, City Lax and Soccer City.
SnagFilms will release the films via distribution partners Comcast Xfinity, FiOS, DIRECTV, iTunes, Amazon and VUDU. Additionally, the company has acquired exclusive digital rights for award-winning documentary Capturing the Friedmans.
“SnagFilms is pleased to bring these festival favorites and award winners to digital audiences in the comfort of their homes,” said Rick Allen, SnagFilms CEO. “These are six amazing true stories, incredibly well told. We look forward to bringing them to film fans worldwide, first on a transactional basis and ultimately on snagfilms.com and via our online network, mobile apps and connected TV devices.”
SnagFilms also recently acqeuired 2011 films Dragonslayer, which won the grand jury prize at South By Southwest and opens theatrically in New York tomorrow and Los Angeles next week, and Splinters, another festival favorite, which was selected for the IDFA film festival later this month.
Windfall explores the dark side of wind power. Southern Comfort documents the last year in the life of a female-to-male transsexual who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and turned down for treatment. PUSH: Madison versus Madison tells of a troubled yet talented inner-city high school basketball team. Never Make it Home follows eccentric country singer Kirk Rundstrom, who has two months to live.
Sports docs City Lax: An Urban Lacrosse Story and Soccer City also have been acquired by ESPN for telecast.
'Attack the Block'
Writer-director Joe Cornish takes the kids ‘n’ aliens sci-fi genre and gives it a decidedly modern and British twist in Attack the Block, which Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Oct. 25 on DVD ($30.99) and Blu-ray ($35.99). The discs come with five featurettes and three commentaries. We took a minute to talk to Cornish about the film and its home video release.
IndieFile: What films influenced you in making Attack the Block?
Cornish: Attack The Block was influenced by all the great American creature features I loved when I was growing up. Movies like E.T, Critters and Gremlins. I loved the way movies like that were set in a recognisable world, but then added a dash of pure fantasy. I'd never seen a story like that set where I lived and grew up, in South London.
IndieFile: I've heard people here refer to it as like a British version of Super 8, which came out here around the same time. Do you think that's a fair comparison?
Cornish: I guess both movies are about a group of kids dealing with an outer-space visitor, and both are inspired by eighties fantasy movies, but I think that's about where the comparison ends. I'm a big fan of Super 8 and of JJ Abrams, but I think Attack The Block is a very different film.
IndieFile: How do you explain the popularity of the sorts of British TV shows and movies here in the states suddenly that you've been involved with? All of them seem to have a cult following here, from “Little Britain” to Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.
Cornish: I don't know what makes British fantasy shows so popular in the U.S. I guess maybe because they're pretty good? America produces some incredibly high quality TV comedy and drama too, but I guess sometimes British stuff can afford to be a little more out-there, unusual and inventive.
IndieFile: Why did you include three commentaries on the disc of Attack the Block, and what can we expect from those?
Cornish: Audio commentaries are a good bet because they don't take up much space on the disc, but they can give you a lot of value if you're interested. Attack The Block has one commentary track with the young cast, another with the adult cast, and a third with myself and executive producer Edgar Wright. We've tried hard to make the commentaries more like fun podcasts than the usual boring commentary on what's happening on screen.
IndieFile: Can you tell me a little bit about the other featurettes on the disc?
Cornish: There's a great hour-long making-of on the disc, as well as a 10-minute piece about how we did the creature effects. There are profiles of all the cast members, plus a great little bonus extra where they display their freestyle skills - which are pretty impressive. I'm a big home cinema enthusiast, so it was very important to me to make this a great disc, in terms of technical quality and bonus content.
IndieFile: How did you come up with the concept for Attack the Block? On the press materials it says "Inner city vs. outter space," which I love, was that sort of thing a guiding principle in your writing?
Cornish: Attack The Block is about a gang of teenagers defending their housing project from an alien invasion, so 'inner city versus outer space' was always the premise. It's a crazy, fun-packed, scary chase movie. But it's also a looking at teenagers who've had to grow up in a tough environment, and shows how the skills they've had to build up could one day be the key to saving the world.
Mike Mills’ second film, Beginners, follows a man named Oliver (played by Ewan McGregor) who is coping with his father’s recent death from cancer.
The film takes place in present time, when Oliver meets a beautiful young woman (Inglourious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent) and embarks on a relationship with her. Flashbacks of his life over the past few years recount his mother’s death and his father (Christopher Plummer) coming out of the closet at the age of 75. Through these flashbacks, Oliver learns to get through his grief and mid-life crisis by reflecting on the courage of his father to begin living his life anew with only a handful of years left to live.
Focus Features via Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases the film on DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray ($34.98) Nov. 15. Both editions include a commentary from Mills and a short film about making Beginners. Home Media Magazine spoke with Mills about creating his acclaimed film and its home video release.
|Mike Mills and Mélanie Laurent at Beginners' New York premiere.|
HM: Can you tell me about the short film included on the discs?
Mills: Aaron Beckum is a great younger filmmaker, and it’s a lot of the behind-the-scenes footage that he edited on his own. There are some nice moments between the actors and some interviews with me. It’s neat. It’s not as slick and EPK-ish as your normal behind-the-scenes thing. It’s more personal.
HM: I loved this film and have told a lot of people to watch it. I imagine many others have done the same. Do you anticipate this film finding a much bigger audience on home video?
Mills: Oh yeah. My other film (Thumbsucker) was too. I feel that’s unfortunately the plight of the smaller film. … But I’m happy just as long as anyone sees it in whatever form. I watch so many films at home, and it’s definitely part of my life, so there’s definitely a place for that. I watch a movie probably three or four nights a week at home. I love that, too (in addition to seeing a movie in theaters), the privacy. It’s almost like a book.
HM: There was a five-year break between Thumbsucker’s release and the release of this film. Can you tell me a bit about the process of writing and getting this film made?
Mills: Well, I was mostly just trying to get that one done. It premiered at the 2005 Sundance [Film Festival], and I started writing [Beginners] like a month later. By 2006 I had a script I was trying to get financed. … It wasn’t going red hot. It’s so difficult to get a film like this made. Thumbsucker didn’t leave me with a whole lot of power, and this film is very adventurous in a lot of ways. It was very different to convince people to get this film made. I spent a lot of years sort of desperately trying to talk people into it.
HM: One thing I personally loved about this film was the locations: Echo Park, Los Feliz and Silverlake, not only because I live there, but because it shows off a cool part of Los Angeles that doesn’t often get portrayed in film and to the outside world, who might only see L.A. as Hollywood. What made you choose that location?
Mills: I live there, too. It made it quite easy because I new everywhere in the area. As I’m writing over the years, I’m writing about things I love — the L.A. River, Elysian Park, the Moonlight Rollerway roller rink. I like it when a location makes sense in a film.
HM: The story felt pretty true to life. Were you inspired by any real events?
Mills: Yeah, my dad came out at 75. It’s not a documentary. It’s not a memoir, but it’s inspired by him. My parents did get married in the ’50s, my mom did die of cancer, …. A hunk of it comes from very real things.
HM: To what degree do you see Beginners as a gay film?
Mills: Well, I think it’s equally a gay and a straight film in some ways. It’s a strange combination to me because to me, it’s very proud of its gayness and its very pro my dad coming out and has a lot of gay history in it. Some of my favorite parts of the film were getting to include what it was like to be gay in the ’50s … getting James Dean in there, who was at least bisexual, if not gay. … I think it has a healthy chunk of gayness in it, but also [it gets] past a film being gay or straight. It’s about a father and son and … we approach the gayness of the film as if it was no big deal, as if it was just part of life — it’s a post-gay identity film.
HM: I feel like the film is pretty evenly split between Oliver’s and Hal’s personal stories, and if anything leans more toward Oliver’s. But the film seemed to be marketed more as about Oliver’s struggle with Hal’s coming out, when in reality, that didn’t seem to bother him much. Was that frustrating at all to have the story reduced to certain elements when in reality it’s a complex and sensitive story?
Mills: There’s no homophobia or anything like that [in the film]. … Once in a while, a journalist will interview me about Oliver’s difficulty with Hal’s coming out, and ask, did I have the same problem, and I’m like, did you see the movie? … Overall he’s pretty accepting. That’s not really the story. That’s the extent of me bumping into that, and that was always sort of confusing. IMDb can be such a pain in the ass. Before the film was made, the line got out: Oliver gets rocked by the twin discoveries of his dad’s cancer and coming out (Note: the line reads: A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.) I’ve tried to get that changed. … It’s a frustrating disservice [to the film]. On my page or whatever, it says trivia: His mother died of cancer in 1999. I wrote them and said: It’s not trivial!
HM: The film follows several characters and different conflicts. Was it difficult to balance the many different story elements to this film?
Mills: I tend to write like that. I want to have all these different angles. I like to have a dense film. I think the pieces of my film are simple and immediate, but there’s a lot of them. … I like kind of circling around. It is kind of complex, but it seems to me be the only way my brain works. I’m writing a script now, and unfortunately it shares that quality of not staying on one track. It’s a little bit more difficult to write, but I feel liberated by that kind of a style. I enjoy it, and I love sort of repositioning the viewer and seeing similar themes from different people, different perspectives, different moments in history. That’s what excites me.
Magnolia Pictures has acquired U.S. rights to Take This Waltz, a film by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and actress Sarah Polley (who directed Away With Her).
The film stars Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman and follows a young woman (Williams) in a love triangle between her husband (Rogen), who is a cookbook author, and handsome artist (Kirby) who lives across the street. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will play at more festivals in the coming months.
“With Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley has more than lived up to the promise of the wonderful Away From Her, and proven herself a masterful, sensitive chronicler of the human condition,” said Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles. “The entire cast is revelatory in unexpected ways and we think audiences will be surprised and delighted by this very special film.”
Polley adds: “Magnolia has distributed some of my favorite films of the last few years. It is an honor to have our film counted among their incredible list of titles. Their enthusiasm for the film is very exciting and we can’t wait to begin working with them.”
Magnolia plans to release the film theatrically in early summer 2012 and through its Ultra VOD program, which premieres films via video-on-demand prior to their theatrical releases for $10.99 in HD and $9.99 in standard-definition, then lowers the price subsequently as the films hit theaters and then home video.
Evil Dead II: 25th Anniversary Edition
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I don’t have to tell you how awesome Evil Dead II is, but this well-timed release of the horror/black comedy classic includes new featurettes. It’s as good a time as any to own this film!
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One of the most critically acclaimed indies of the year, Bellflower’s filmmakers used a hand-built camera from vintage camera parts to give it a unique look, perfect for telling the story of two friends who build flamethrowers in anticipation of a global apocalypse.
Worst in Show
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Ugly dogs are SO CUTE.