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Friday, April 10, 2015

THE INTERVIEW / TIMBUKTU / ABOUT ELLY

This past weekend I went to two films:  Timbuktu and The Interview.  Yes, I missed Furious 7 (Rotten Tomatoes reviewers' rating of 83% and audience of 90%), which had a weekend gross of $147 million.  Way down at #52 was Timbuktu (RT 99% and 81%--99% is an eminent achievement) with revenues of $18,900.  But this movie has been around for 10 weeks, where it has made a grand total of one million dollars.  The Interview is that controversial film which was pulled by SONY and only shown in a few brave theaters.  I couldn't find it in Box Office Mojo, which went down to #87.

Now why would I pay good money for Timbuktu?  Well, that 99% RT rating was one reason.  Also, this production has gained 10 awards, including the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Francois Chalais Prize this past year at the Cannes Film Festival.  Plus, it was nominated as Best Foreign Language film at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony a few weeks ago.  Both the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post gave it the max 100 rating.

You've heard the phrase:  from here to Timbuktoo (earlier version of Timbuktu), evoking a place at the end the earth.  Once a transshipment point for gold and salt, this is now a dusty settlement of perhaps 60,000 which was overrun by ISIL  Everyone in the film is Muslim, but there are extremists (ISIL) and the masses.  Enjoyment of life is forbidden by ISIL occupiers:  no music, no sports, women must wear gloves...  The mobile phone, though, is omnipresent, and so is modern technology, as another kind of life contrast.  If you think you're having a tough time, go see this movie.  Frankly, I found the flick mostly boring and drawn out.

I saw The Interview for free.  I was searching around Netflix, and stumbled into it.  It is appearing that, in general, revenues from online video streaming will surpass box office receipts.  The Interview might well have changed the nature of going to the movies.  While television did not spell the end of theaters, you can hardly find book and "record" stores anymore.  The world wide web has made it too convenient to stay home.  Food and drinks are much cheaper and you don't need to drive.  The Interview has shot past $40 million through these subscriptions, and has surpassed the cost of production.

There won't be a part 2 to the film because of awful reviews and the fact that Seth Rogen and James Franco actually did eventually assassinate Randall Park (playing North Korean chubby leader Kim Jong-un).  Rotten Tomatoes gave 53% and 50% ratings to the effort, and I thought the script could have been a whole lot more meaningful.  There were moments, and, all in all, I did enjoy the film.

An Iranian film, About Elly, just opened, but not in Hawaii.  Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave the movie a 100% rating, a truly rare score, with 87% of audiences liking it.  How rare?  Click on this list, go to the bottom, scroll up, and see if you can find a real film you saw.  By the way, The Interview received a 100% rating, but that was an Australian film in 1998.  Note that About Elly is a psychological drama and mystery thriller released in 2009, winning an Oscar that year.  The why now has to do with bankruptcy and complicated rights issues.  There is a vanishing, and let me just say that things are not as they seem.  A review by Roger Ebert (who passed away two years ago), equates that key disappearance to Spielberg's Jaws.  Director Asghar Farhadi's A Separation in 2011 is the most successful Iranian film in history and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  Will About Elly transcend Timbuktu in box office revenues?  In week one.

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