CineLife industry insiders give you a glimpse into the making and distribution of noteworthy films, the film festivals that showcase them, and the amazing locations that exhibit them.

2017 Past, Present, Future

By Mark Ehrenkranz

After the cooler months, it is in our DNA that we look forward to the Summer and a nostalgic time of great movies, sumptuous weather and vacations. It usually goes quickly as it only makes up 25% of our year. For many, September and the Fall is a time to get serious again, back to school, work and spend more time indoors. In contrast, this time of year can bring great excitement and anticipation toward a new season of great arts, culture, sports and year-end movies positioning for awards season. Enthusiasm and great interest is peaked in discovering the latest and greatest evolution of creative expression.

Looking back at Summer movies, it was most a mercurial season. Could it be that a downturn in overall box office performance is the over-reliance on sequels catching up to Hollywood? Is it inherent that big corporations must calculate their risks versus the willingness of possibilities, and the uncertainty of independent projects? Are studios and production companies limited in their encouragement of pushing the boundaries toward creating unconventional projects?

With the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, these sequels: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Kong: Skull Island, Cars 3, War for the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: The Last Knight, The Mummy (2017), Alien: Covenant, and Baywatch all underperformed versus studio expectations. In comparison, other larger, more critically acclaimed  movies such as: Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Logan, and The Fate of the Furious did better. Dunkirk, Baby Driver and The Big Sick performed very well, however Logan Lucky, Wind River and the incredibly powerful Detroit did not do as well as their reviews.

The Mummy 2017

Hollywood has to know that smart escapism movies and those even more thoughtful can co-exist. In recent years, some of the most critically acclaimed films were amongst the best at the box office. Last year’s films had a very even blend of blockbusters and best reviewed successes with: The Jungle Book, Deadpool, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Sully, Arriva, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight, all performing nicely.

People tend to overreact a little bit when there is a short-term period of box office downturn, and the first reaction is that there is a systemic problem with the industry. We cannot forget that film can be incredibly satisfying art form with tremendous energy and powerful statements about the world. Movies might not solve society’s problems, but at times they can articulate our common experience and share the anxieties we’re all facing. They can also elucidate some of the world’s sickest secrets we might not even be aware of.

At a time when rifts between people seem bigger than ever, the power of storytelling is truly important. The bar is high for audience’s evolved tastes, as up until now they have seen great movies for all of their lives. Viewers are smart, appreciate good filmmaking and will go to the theaters if a movie has critical acclaim and which also has positive word-of-mouth. The US movie industry is not created equal and cannot be lumped together as one big happy family. The chasm of independent companies versus studio conglomerates is gargantuan. So far, this year, the larger to-date critical darlings have been The Promise, I am Not Your Negro, Beatriz At Dinner, Maudie, Paris Can Wait, The Book of Henry, and Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.

A few others of note which you still may be able to catch at your neighborhood independent theater, are the following: Columbus starring: Parker Posey and Rory Culkin, about  a renowned architecture scholar who falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour; Marjorie Prime starring:, Geena Davis, Jon Hamm, Lois Smith, and Tim Robbins, which takes place in the near future, a time of artificial intelligence where 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith)—a jumble of disparate, fading memories—has a handsome new companion (Jon Hamm) who looks like her deceased husband. Director: Michael Almereyda (Experimenter); Menashe – which takes place deep in the heart of New York’s ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish community. Menashe—a kind, hapless grocery store clerk—struggles to make ends meet and responsibly parent his young son; and Good Time – starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Robert Pattinson which is about a botched bank robbery.

Here are the anticipated year end award hopefuls we were referring to look forward to seeing: Lady Bird directed by Greta Gerwig; The Florida Project from Tangerine director Sean Baker; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with Francis McDormand and others; Mudbound – Dees Rees (Pariah) new one, The Meyerowitz Stories by Noah Baumbach, The Square from the makers of Force Majeure, Todd Haynes new Wonderstruck; The Shape of Water from Guillermo Del Toro, P.T. Andersons new movie starring Daniel Day Lewis, Joe Wright’s new Darkest Hour and Aaron Sorkin’s directorial Molly’s Game.

2017 Florida Project

Sure, a good movie isn’t going to solve your problems, but under the stresses of everyday life, getting away from your worries to hear a good story and see the work of skilled filmmakers is certain to nourish your soul. Don’t let the calculations of big corporations tarnish your inspiration. Seek out and celebrate the mystery of independent voices! Revel in the sanctuary that a cinema can provide and go to a theater, because no matter how we all might feel, there’s something very powerful about watching a story unfold and knowing that there are others around the planet experiencing your same awe and wonderment. Movies help bring us all together in profound ways, and that is a miraculous thing.

A Conversation with Shooting Star Director Ben Safdie

By Brian Brooks, Three years after their acclaimed Heaven Knows What, local filmmakers Josh and Ben Safdie return to a sinister New York for their latest film, Good Time. This time, the duo upped the ante with a cast that includes Twilight star Robert Pattinson along with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar nominee Barked Abdi (Captain… Continue Reading

Sofia Coppola – An America Masterpiece

By Brian Brooks Filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s family name is recognizable to nearly any movie fan. She is, of course, the daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola who has followed in her father’s footsteps, but she has paved her own path resulting in a number of pioneering accomplishments to her name. Ms. Coppola received an… Continue Reading

Film Festivals: The True Movie Going Experience

By Brian Brooks, The experience of walking the red carpet while cameras are flashing in Cannes may still be elusive for most, but enjoying a film festival experience, meeting filmmakers, celebs and going to parties is certainly not a totally exclusive realm for the privileged few. There is scarcely any time on the calendar when… Continue Reading

Noah Baumbach Interview Curated by Dustin Hoffman

Article by Brian Brooks: Oscar-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach was the focus of an hour-long conversation at the Tribeca Film Festival, though his screen-legend moderator certainly shared the limelight from the stage in a packed theater in Lower Manhattan. Two-time Academy Award Best Actor winner Dustin Hoffman lead the chat which was imbued with heavy doses… Continue Reading

Danny Boyle Talks T2 at 67th Berlin International Film Festival

Back in 1996, British filmmaker Danny Boyle traversed the cultural zeitgiest with his black comedy/drama Trainspotting. Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Kelly MacDonald, the film, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, follows a cadre of heroin users in a working class neighborhood of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. Two… Continue Reading

CineLife’s Top Twenty Movies at Sundance pt. 4

The final entry into the 2017 Sundance Film Festival article. Be sure to see the previous articles here. Part 1. Part 2. Part3. Step (U.S. Documentary Competition) Director: Amanda Lipitz Insiders have talked this up as a strong contender for the Audience Award. The film has a focus on female empowerment and solidarity, which perhaps… Continue Reading

CineLife’s Top Twenty Movies at Sundance pt. 3

Part 3 of 4 part article about the most anticipated movies going into Sundance for CineLife: Patti Cake$ (U.S. Dramatic Competition) Writer/director: Geremy Jasper Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty Patti Cake$ has positive early word going into the festival. The film is the debut feature film for Geremy Jasper,… Continue Reading

CineLife’s Top Twenty Movies at Sundance pt. 2

Here is the second set of movies that we here at CineLife think are going to blew up at this years Sundance Film Festival:   Newness (Premieres) Director: Drake Doremus Writer: Ben York Jones Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Huston, Courtney Eaton, Matthew Gray Gubler, Albert Hammond, Jr. Seller: Cinetic Marketing Drake Doremus has… Continue Reading

CineLife’s Top Twenty Movies at Sundance pt. 1

With countless entries hoping for a spot at the Sundance Film Festival, nearly any film playing in the event which starts Thursday in Park City, UT deserves attention. There are titles that tend to percolate to the top, only to be overshadowed later by others. The annual Sundance Film Festival is rife with the constant… Continue Reading