Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
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And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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This week’s episode of Once Upon a Time is a healthy balance of flashbacks, Storybrooke, and present-day fairytale land. While Henry and Charming are desperately searching for portal, Emma and Snow are doing the exact the same thing — but in a totally different realm. Emma, who is usually so fearless, is completely out of her element as she encounters new problems like untrustworthy witches, ogres, and bat-shit crazy princesses. Plus, “The Lady of the Lake” introduces us to one of Snow’s dearest friends: Lancelot. Of the roundtable you ask? Yep!
Mommy (in-law) Dearest: Charming’s (Josh Dallas) attempt to take back the kingdom from his “father” King George is put on hold when their camp is raided by the king’s nights. Leading the charge is a secret weapon known as “The Leviathan,” but Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) quickly learns that the true identity of this masked knight is Lancelot. He brings Snow to the castle and we then listen to king’s monologue. It basically went like this, “Blag blah blah — my kingdom — blah blah — I was in love once — blah blah blah — now you can’t have babies.” That’s right, George cursed the water that he so graciously offered Snow so that Charming will feel the pain of knowing that he will never be able to make a family. Dick move, dude.
So now it’s about time we meet a mother who is actually, you know, motherly. Charming’s mom Ruth is as sweet as can be, and she is beyond thrilled to be meeting her future daughter-in-law. Unfortunately King George sends his knights to attack Ruth’s cabin, and even though Charming tells his mom to stay inside, she is shot in the chest with an arrow. Snow and Lancelot arrive a few seconds too late and they quickly determine that this arrow is poisoned and deadly. This is too dark for fairies to fix so Charming suggests that they travel back to Lake Nostos so that the magical waters may heal his momma.
But of course it’s never that easy. Since Charming killed the siren of the lake last season, there has been no one around to protect the precious water, so all that’s left is a bed of dust. While the men are searching for water, the ladies are doing their best to create some mother/daughter bonding and Snow tells Ruth about her can't-have-a-baby curse. Lancelot finds enough water for one person to drink and although it looks like Ruth gulped it all down, Snow unknowingly drinks the magic elixir in an impromptu wedding ceremony. (I know that sounds weird but it was quite cute.) Once Mama Charming passes away, Snow learns that her curse has been broken and that someday she and her new husband will have a baby girl.
Lancelot Lies: We first see the ladies where we last left off. Snow is unconscious and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is chatting it up with Cora, who is desperately trying to play the “I’m not evil” card. Snow wakes up and goes into mama bear mode telling Emma that Cora (Barbara Hershey) cannot be trusted. Before we see another good versus evil showdown, the Storybrooke girls are summoned to see the leader of the camp. Surprise, surprise, it’s Lancelot! The knight explains that the Curse stripped Cora of her powers and for some reason this part of fairytale land remained untouched by the evil magic. Snow is determined to find a portal back to Maine and she believes the wardrobe (the one that sent Emma away) may still have some magic left in it. Lancelot agrees to let his old friend go but insists that Mulan (Jamie Chung) goes with them because the ogres have returned. Yikes!
At one point on their travels, Emma — like an idiot — fires her gun and the loud sound causes an ogre to attack. Just as it looks like Emma is going to be killed, Snow bellows, “Back away from my daughter!” The princess channels her inner Katniss and shoots the ogre straight in the eye. It’s been 28 years since she last held a bow and arrow, but when you’re a true badass, none of that matters. Snow, Emma, Mulan, and Aurora (yeah, she tagged along too) arrive at the castle and Emma is stunned to see everything that her mother gave up to save her. Snow whispers, “I was going to teach you how to walk in here, how to talk, how to dress for your first ball.” It seems that Emma is finally starting to open up to her newfound mother, but their connection is interrupted when Lancelot enters the room.
Lancelot, who is obviously very intrigued by the wardrobe, masks his lust by saying, “I just want you to get home to your husband and son Henry.“ At that point Snow knew that her friend was an imposter because Emma only mentioned her son’s name to one person: Cora. Yes, it appears that Cora killed Lancelot long ago and has been posing as him until she found a portal to Stoybrooke. Emma starts a fire and the wicked witch flees, but unfortunately the wardrobe (and their only hope of getting home) is now engulfed in flames. Mulan gifts Snow with the title of their new leader and ladies leave the nursery, but once they exit Cora returns and scoops up some of the wardrobe’s magical ashes.
Daddy Issues: Henry (Jared Gilmore) is bummed when Charming says that he is not allowed to help him search for a portal to fairytale land. “All magic comes at a price,” he reminds his slightly annoying grandson. But does Henry listen? Of course not! But it’s alright, I’m not mad because Henry leads us straight to the best character of the show: Jefferson (Sebastian Stan). The Mad Hatter is currently perfecting his sexy brooding look on the pier and he quickly brushes off Henry’s requests for help. “I’m the wrong person to talk to kid, magic is not my thing try your mother. Maybe she’s got something in that vault of hers,” he mumbles. To thank Jefferson for this nugget of information, Henry encourages the Mad Hatter to reunite with his daughter. Grace and Jefferson have a sweet embrace and once again we get to witness a beyond adorable fairytale reunion.
Now that Henry knows that Regina’s vault is actually in Storybrooke, he calls up his mom for a lunch date and a very excited Regina quickly leaves the house. (Side-Note: Being stood up — even if you’re an evil queen who probably deserves it — sucks. Not cool, you little brat.) Henry steals Regina’s keys, moves a stone coffin (that appears to weigh nothing) and hops down into the super secret vault. He picks up a random box and somehow the very first key he tries (out of a huge keychain) opens the lock and two very angry snakes rise gear up to attack.
Luckily, Charming pops out of nowhere and saves his grandson just in time. Henry gets out of all punishment by playing the sympathy card. “I just want them back. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’m supposed to be there with them, riding horses and learning how to sword fight,” he wines. The episode ends on a cute note when Charming presents Henry with his very own wooden sword. “You’re the grandson of a prince I think it’s about time you learn how to use a sword,” he beams. The two begin perfecting their sword fighting skills but across the street King George is glaring at them from his car.
What did you think of “The Lady in the Lake”? Cast your spell in the comments below!
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[Photo Credit: ABC]
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At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
"Exit Wounds" entered theaters in first place despite industry research suggesting more moviegoers wanted to see "Enemy at the Gates."
"Exit," from Warner Bros. in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment, is a Silver Pictures production teaming up Steven Seagal and DMX. The R-rated action film topped the chart with a record-setting estimated $19.03 million at 2,830 theaters ($6,723 per theater).
Directed by Andrez Bartkowiak, "Exit" was produced by Joel Silver and Dan Cracchiolo. It stars Steven Seagal and DMX and was executive produced by Bruce Berman.
"It's the biggest March opening in Warner history, which is very exciting," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's the biggest movie Steven Seagal has ever opened and the same with DMX, who was in 'Romeo Must Die.' And it's the sixth Number One movie in a row that Joel Silver has opened for us. That's a record I don't know who has. We're very excited about this. It's certainly a great way to end the first quarter.
"The exits were great. People really liked it. We had 88% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and a 75% Definite Recommend. So this picture should be around for a while."
Asked where it could wind up, Fellman replied, "I think this picture could be $60-75 million."
DMX's previous film, "Romeo Must Die," opened via Warner Bros. March 24, 2000, in second place to $18.5 million. It went on to gross about $56 million in domestic theaters.
Seagal's last starring role was in "Fire Down Below," which opened Sept. 5, 1997, to $6.1 million and went on to gross $16.1 million in domestic theaters.
Prior to that, Seagal starred in "The Glimmer Man," opening Oct. 4, 1996, to $7.6 million and winding up with $20.4 million domestically. "Executive Decision" opened March 15, 1996, to $12.1 million and got to $56.7 million domestically. "On Deadly Ground" opened Feb. 18, 1994, to $12.7 million and reached $38.6 million. "Hard To Kill" kicked off Feb. 9, 1990, to $9.2 million and ended up with $47.4 million domestically.
Paramount's R-rated World War II drama "Enemy at the Gates" from Mandalay Pictures opened a solid Number Two, although it had been flying higher than "Exit" on Hollywood's advance radar screens.
"Enemy" invaded second place with a friendly estimated $13.6 million at 1,509 theaters ($9,013 per theater).
"Enemy" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
Produced and directed by Jean-Jacques Annuad, "Enemy" stars Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris.
"It's on the high side of where we thought it was going to get," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I had it (projected at) $10-12 million going into the weekend. Obviously, this is beyond what we were looking for."
Asked about reports that research scores had been showing "Enemy" looking bigger than "Exit," Lewellen replied, "I think it probably was, but we're only (about) 1,500 runs versus their 2,800 or so."
Why didn't Paramount go wider with "Enemy?" "The (marketing) campaign really made the film look like an action movie more so than, in fact, it is," Lewellen explained. "It's really a love story, character development and so forth. It's a really upscale movie for the most part. The problem is, if you go that wide with it, you get out there and before people figure out what it is -- particularly for the older audience -- it can be out of some of these smaller markets before they ever find the film.
"We will expand it to some extent -- maybe 100 or 200 runs -- this week (moving up to) 1,600 or 1,700."
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "The Mexican" added theaters but still fell two slots to third place in its third week with a less spicy estimated $8.1 million (-34%) at 3,162 theaters (+203 theaters; $2,571 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.9 million.
"Mexican" should wind up being nicely profitable for DreamWorks since it reportedly only cost about $40 million and its two superstars took much lower salaries than usual.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, "Mexican" stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
Warner Bros.' G-rated family appeal comedy "See Spot Run" from Village Roadshow Pictures continued to show strong legs, dropping one peg to fourth place in its third week with an estimated $5.21 million (-21%) at 2,656 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,962 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.0 million.
"Spot" reportedly cost only about $15 million to produce and should be very profitable for Warners both in theaters and home video.
Directed by John Whitesel, "Run" stars David Arquette.
"It's great. This picture's headed for $40 million-plus," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.
New Line's R-rated drama "15 Minutes" plunged three rungs to fifth place in its second week with a slow estimated $4.35 million (-59%) at 2,337 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,861 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.9 million.
Written and directed by John Herzfeld, "Minutes" stars Robert De Niro and Edward Burns.
Sony Pictures Classics' Oscar-contending, PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" held on to sixth place in its 15th week, still showing great legs thanks to its Oscar nominations with an estimated $4.12 million (-3%) at 1,860 theaters (+104 theaters; $2,214 per theater). Its cume is approximately $100.3 million.
"Tiger" is nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director. Director Ang Lee, having won the Directors Guild of America's feature directing award, is the favorite to win the Best Director Oscar.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
"Elated! We're very proud and happy -- and on to the Oscars," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning.
"I don't want to speculate (about where it winds up if it wins or doesn't win). I think the film's already accomplished much more than we'd hoped. Anything from now is going to be gravy."
Paramount's PG-13-rated comedy "Down to Earth" dropped two pegs to seventh place in its fifth week with a less funny estimated $4.0 million (-28%) at 2,425 theaters (-96 theaters; $1,649 per theater). Its cume is approximately $56.8 million.
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, "Earth" stars Chris Rock.
MGM and Universal's R-rated thriller 'Hannibal" finished eighth, down four rungs in its sixth week with a calm estimated $3.7 million (-38%) at 2,433 theaters (-514 theaters; $1,535 per theater). Its cume is approximately $157.0 million, heading for $175 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis and Ridley Scott, "Hannibal" stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore.
Miramax's PG-13-rated, Oscar-contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat," which was ninth last week, tied for ninth place in its 14th week, still holding very well thanks to its Oscar momentum with an estimated $3.4 million (-12%) at 1,901 theaters (-27 theaters; $1,788 per theater). Its cume is approximately $55.8 million.
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.
"I think we'll be at $60 million through next Sunday, by the Oscar ceremonies," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "And, hopefully, we'll get it to $70 million."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
USA Films' R-rated, Oscar-contending drama "Traffic," which was eighth last week, tied for ninth place in its 12th week, still benefiting from b ing in the Oscar nominations spotlight with an estimated $3.4 million (-12%) at 1,682 theaters (+4 theaters; $2,027 per theater). Its cume is approximately $102.5 million.
"Traffic" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
"We can pretty much estimate that it will come in at $115 million total without winning (Best Picture)," USA distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "This is one that if it wins, it's a story. You know, this whole thing with 'Nightline' doing (a five-part show later this month dealing with drug issues addressed in the movie) is going to be like infomercials. Frankly, it could go to $125 million and (thanks to the TV exposure) despite the competition in the market, it could go further than that. Now can you imagine if it wins? It could go into the stratosphere. That's what film's all about when it takes over popular culture."
OTHER OPENINGS Newmarket's R-rated film noir thriller "Memento" opened to a promising estimated $0.23 million at 11 theaters ($20,971 per theater).
Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "The Dish " opened to an encouraging estimated $0.072 million at 6 theaters ($12,000 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.088 million.
Directed by Rob Sitch, "Dish" stars Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Genevieve Moody, Tayler Kane.
"We're very pleased with that," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "Friday night we did $17,754. Then Saturday we went up 75% and did $31,184. While it's not record breaking, it's substantial, and every day we've had strong increases. So I think word of mouth is kicking in on this movie."
SNEAK PREVIEWS MGM held a second round of about 1,000 sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13-rated comedy "Heartbreakers" from Davis Entertainment. The film opens March 23 at about 2,500 theaters.
"They were 75% full. We were 50% full last week (when 627 sneaks were held), so we went up," MGM marketing executive Amanda Lundberg said Sunday morning. "Our audience was 56% female, 44% male. 25-and-over is 58%. Under-25 is 42%. And in our exit polls we were 94% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) with a Definite Recommend of 68%."
Directed by David Mirkin and produced by John Davis and Irving Ong, "Heartbreakers" stars Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Jeffrey Jones and Gene Hackman.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, this weekend saw Sony Pictures Classics go wider with its R-rated drama "Pollock" in its sixth week, grossing a solid estimated $0.73 million (-5%) at 218 theaters (+63 theaters; $3,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.8 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Ed Harris) and Best Supporting Actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock" stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
USA Films' PG-rated drama "In the Mood For Love" added a theater in its seventh week with an okay estimated $0.18 million (-29%) at 74 theaters (+1 theater; $2,477 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, "Love" stars Tony Leung and Maggie Chung.
"I'm delighted about that," USA distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "This is such a small film. If it keeps the momentum going, (it should wind up with) $2.75-3 million."
USA Films' R-rated reality TV satire "Series 7" added theaters in its third week with an okay estimated $0.037 million at 10 theaters (+3 theaters; $3,705 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.11 million.
Written and directed by Daniel Minahan, "Series" stars Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Mary Louise Burke, Richard Venture, Michael Kaycheck and Merrit Wever.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $79.46 million, down about 8.05% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $86.42 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 16.41% from last weekend this year when key films did $68.26 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of "Erin Brockovich" was first with $28.14 million at 2,848 theaters ($9,880 per theater); and Buena Vista's second week of "Mission To Mars" was second with $11.39 million at 3,060 theaters ($3,721 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $39.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $32.6 million.