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‘The Railway Children,’ Anvil, Abigail Disney & ‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ – Specialty Preview

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The sequel to a beloved British family film, a heavy metal re-release, an Apple title from TIFF and Abigail Disney’s takedown of the American Dream populate the specialty film weekend in a market that may have found sturdier footing ahead of awards season and amid a dearth of blockbuster fare.

“I think there’s a lot we should be celebrating,” said Kyle Greenburg, marketing and distribution chief of Utopia. Its release, with Abramorama, of the latter’s restored 2009 doc Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil rocked a $16k gross, or $8K per screen, from two single show premiere events ahead of a one day run coming Tuesday on 200 screens including AMC and Regal theaters and top arthouses. It played last night in LA at the Saban Theatre with Anvil performing live alongside Scott Ian of Anthrax, followed by a Q&A moderated by Steve-O. Last week, Peter Dinklage hosted a screening at NYC’s Angelika with director Sacha Gervasi.

The doc follows the Canadian heavy metal band as it delivers its influential 1982 album Metal on Metal that would inspire the likes of Anthrax and Metallica, then dropped off the map to begin what would become decades of toiling in obscurity. Gervasi, in his debut feature, followed guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner as their roadie, capturing their story as they stumble through a harrowing European tour. Features appearances by heavy metal icons from Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, Motörhead’s Lemmy, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Slayer’s Tom Araya.

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Speaking of music docs, Neon’s David Bowie opus from Brett Morgen, Moonage Daydream, expands to 733 screens this week after a great opening. Sony Pictures Classics just announced that Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song from July has crossed $1 million at the domestic box office, for a total of over $1.2 million globally.

This weekend: Blue Fox Entertainment’s The Railway Children, inspired by the family film of the early 1970s, opens on 900+ screens. Directed by Morgan Matthews, written by Danny Brocklehurst, based on a treatment by Jemma Rodgers. Stars Jenny Agutter, Sheridan Smith and Tom Courtenay. Set in 1944 as WWII life in Britain’s cities becomes increasingly perilous, three evacuee children are sent to a Yorkshire village. Settling into country life, they’re thrust into a dangerous quest when they discover an injured American soldier hiding out in the railyard.

Quiver Distribution presents Bandit on 100 screens. Directed by Allan Ungar, written by Kraig Wenman. Stars Josh Duhamel as a charming career criminal who escapes from a U.S. prison in Michigan and crosses the border into Canada where he assumes the identity of one Robert Whiteman. After falling in love with Andrea (Elisha Cuthbert), a caring social worker he can’t provide for, he turns to robbing banks and discovers that he’s exceptionally good at it. Addicted to the rush and money that provides his double life, Robert turns to loan shark and reputed gangster Tommy Kay (Mel Gibson) for bigger opportunities. But a ruthless detective (Nestor Carbonell) will stop at nothing to bring him down.

Fresh from TIFF, Apple is opening Peter Farrelley’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever on three screens in LA, NYC and Dallas, expanding next week. With Zac Efron, Bill Murray, Russell Crowe. Deadline review here. In Farrelly’s first film 2018’s Green Book, Efron is Chickie Donohue, looking to support his neighborhood friends serving in Vietnam by doing something outrageous — traveling to the frontline by himself to bring the soldiers a little piece of home, their favorite can of American beer. On the way he confronts the reality of war, reunites with childhood buddies and is thrust into the complexities and responsibilities of adulthood. Based on a true story. Written by Farrelley, Brian Hayes Currie, Pete Jones.

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(Noting Netflix’ Blonde expands to 50+ theaters in 25+ cities in the U.S. and Canada including the Paris, Quad, Nitehawk Prospect Park and Cinema Arts Center in NY; the Bay, Landmark Nuart, Los Feliz and Laemmle Monica in LA; and the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. The streamer’s A Jazzman’s Blues by Tyler Perry continues in around 10 theaters in seven cities including the Landmark Westwood and the Bay in LA.)

Documentaries: Abigail Disney and her Fork Films are out with The American Dream And Other Fairy Tales on a dozen screens. The doc, which world premiered at Sundance, looks at America’s dysfunctional and unequal economy and asks why the American Dream has worked for the wealthy but is a nightmare for people born with less. An often vocal critic of the company that her grandfather Roy Disney helped found with his brother Walt — her great uncle — she uses her family’s story to explore systemic injustice. Disney directed with Kathleen Hughes.

Greenwich Entertainment presents Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche on eight screens in the Bay area, Reno and Tahoe — markets nearest the ski area that was the site of the third biggest avalanche in U.S. history on the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe. It triggered a desperate five-day search for eight missing people. The film by Jared Drake and Steven Siig chronicles the avalanche, the miraculous rescue efforts and the traumas that still haunt the survivors today. Expands to 50 runs next week, largely in top mountain markets including Boise, Salt Lake City and Boulder.

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Soilsiú Films presents Young Plato by Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath (School of Life) in NYC (Angelika Film Center) and Boston(Dedham Community Theater) with a regional expansion next week including D.C., Dallas, San Diego, Sacramento, Plano, TX and Fairfax, VA. Follows the dream of Elvis-loving school headmaster Kevin McArevey, a maverick determined to change the fortunes of an inner-city community plagued by urban decay, sectarian aggression, poverty and drugs. His all-boys primary school in post-conflict Belfast, Northern Ireland, becomes a hot house for questioning violence, as the headmaster sends his young wards home each day armed with the wisdom of the ancient Greek philosophers. The boys challenge their parents and neighbors to forsake the prejudice that has kept this low-level civil war on the boil for decades.

Elsewhere in specialty: Screen Media presents Richard Hughes The Enforcer with Antonio Banderas in ten locations. Also starring Kate Bosworth, Mojean Aria, Zolee Griggs, and Alexis Ren with 2 Chainz. Banderas is Miami’s top mob enforcer who sacrifices it all to tear down the criminal organization he’s spent his whole life building up after discovering his boss (Bosworth) is putting a young runaway’s life in grave danger.

Good Deed Entertainment presents Carmen by Valerie Buhagiar on five screens (NYC Cinema Village, LA Laemmle Monica, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Columbus). Starring: Natascha McElhone, Michaela Farrugia, Steven Love. In a sun-dappled village in Malta in the 1980s, McElhone is a 50-year-old woman finding romance and a new start in life after years of servitude. In Malta, it’s tradition for a younger sister to devote her life to the church when an older brother enters the priesthood. Inspired by true events.

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AMC+ and RLJE Films present Section 8 on five screens and AMC+. By Christian Sesma, starring Ryan Kwanten, Dolph Lundgren, Dermot Mulroney, Scott Adkins and Mickey Rourke. After avenging the murder of his wife and child, a former soldier is sent to prison with a life sentence. He’s given a shot at freedom when a shadow government agency recruits him for an off-the-books assignment, but soon realizes Section 8 isn’t what it seems.

Lionsgate and Saban Films present DIG in 10 theaters including NY and LA. Starring Thomas Jane, Harlow Jane, Emile Hirsch and Liana Liberato. Steve Brennan (Jane) is trying to piece together a life shattered by a road rage incident that killed his wife and left his teen daughter Jane (Harlow) deaf and resentful. Directed by K. Asher Levin.





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“Only Bruce Willis Has Rights To Bruce Willis’s Face”: Actor Denies Selling Rights To AI Company For ‘Digital Twin’

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Only Bruce Willis has the rights to Bruce Willis’s face, it transpires.

It was widely reported last week that the star had sold the rights to his face to a Russian deepfake company called Deepcake – allowing the company to create a “digital twin” for the actor, who retired in March following his diagnosis of aphasia, a condition affecting a person’s speech.

However, the BBC this weekend reports a spokesperson for Willis denying that he has any kind of partnership or agreement with the company. 

And Deepcake confirmed this to the BBC, saying: “The wording about rights is wrong… Bruce couldn’t sell anyone any rights, they are his by default.”

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Deepfake companies use artificial intelligence to create realistic simulations of famous figures. A deepfake of Willis appeared in an advert for a Russian telecoms company last year. Deepcake claims to have worked with the actor on the AI for the ad and used a glowing recommendation by him on their website, but Willis’s people did not confirm this to the BBC.

Last week, Star Wars veteran James Earl Jones handed over the rights of his unique Darth Vader tones to another AI company, Respeecher, indicating that he was retiring from the role, and passing the baton through the use of technology.





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Chinonye Chukwu On Making ‘Till’: “Where The Camera Focuses Is Its Own Act Of Resistance” – New York Film Festival

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Chinonye Chukwu was certain of two things setting out to tell the story of a loving and lovely 14-year-old boy lynched in 1955 Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. First, the story had to be told from the perspective of Mamie, the mother of Emmett Till. “We had to follow closely her emotional journey. For without Mamie, the world, we, would not have known who Emmett Till was.”

“I also knew that I did not want to show any violence inflicted on black bodies,” Chukwu said during a Q&A after the film’s rapturous reception at its New York Film Festival world premiere. Deadline review here. “Narratively speaking, since we are following Mamie’s journey, it is not necessary to see that physical violence. We have to stay with Mamie.”

So Till’s violent murder is heard, but not seen. “Where the camera focuses is its own act of resistance. So I was very intentional about who we see and when,” she said. “As a black person, I didn’t want to recreate it, I didn’t want to shoot it, I didn’t want to watch it, and I wanted to take care of audiences who were watching it, particularly black audiences.”

“And I really wanted to begin and end this this film with joy and love. Because in addition to this film being about Mamie’s story and her journey, this was also a love story between Mamie and her child,” played by Danielle Deadwyler and Jalyn Hall. They were happily living in Chicago and Mamie tried, but wasn’t able, to prepare Emmett for toxic Southern racism as he happily prepared for a trip down to visit cousins. “You have to be small,” she warns her high-spirited teenager, who crouches down and laughs, “Like this?”

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Mamie held Emmett’s funeral with an open casket, his brutalized body shocking the country into a reckoning. Awash in grief and resistant at first, she gradually accepts the role thrust upon her by her son’s death — a crusader for social justice.

Deadwyler, who has a son almost 13, understood that conflict and captured it. “It’s a resistance to wanting to do this thing, because you don’t want to do this thing, because you want what was before… Wanting to fight, and wanting to have what you can no longer have.”

Whoopi Goldberg plays Emmett’s grandmother Alma, “This is the story I’ve heard all my life. This is the year I was born. You listen to people talk and they throw the name [Emmett Till] around,” she said. “Nobody knowns his story. We know pictures. We’ve seen pictures in magazines. But suddenly there is life and breath in this family, and they are moving and alive.”

“This is what the culmination of systemic racism looks like. It goes out in ripples, and it touches everybody. And the whole point of all of this is we’ve seen it, we know. We saw George Floyd. We saw Trayvon Martin. Children and young men. Middle aged men. Men. People.”

Mamie Till-Mobley passed away in 2003. Some of the Till’s extended family were in attendance at the Lincoln Center premiere, so were other grieving mothers: Lezley McSpadden-Head, mother of Michael Brown, the 18-year- old shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014 by a white police office; Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old Guinean student shot and killed by New York City police officers in 1999; and Marian Tolan, mother of Robert Tolan, shot by police in Bellaire, Texas in 2008.

Chukwu’s film Clemency won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She wrote Till with Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp, who accumulated a bulk of research for his award winning 2005 documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.

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Till was produced by Keith Beauchamp, Barbara Broccoli, Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas Levine, Michael Reilly and Frederick Zollo. Broccoli told Deadline this week that “the film will open people’s eyes.”

The film, from MGM’s Orion pictures, will be released theatrically by UAR on October 14.





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‘Till’ NYFF Review: Chinonye Chukwu Handles The Emmett Till Story With Care

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Till directed by Chinonye Chukwu and written by Chukwu, Keith Beauchamp, and Michael Reilly follows Mamie Till, a woman who moved the nation with her resilience in the face of her teenage son’s death. The film stars Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Whoopi Goldberg, and Haley Bennett.

Mamie Till (Deadwyler) is a single mother living in Chicago with her 14-year-old son Emmett (Hall). The city is more accessible to adjust to than being Black in the south. As Emmett sings commercial jingles in front of the television, Mamie remarks that he didn’t stutter once, making it known that he has a speech impediment. The young boy is preparing to go on a trip to Mississippi (in the Jim Crow south) to visit family, but Mamie is apprehensive about him traveling. She warns him about his behavior around White people as a reminder that White people aren’t the same everywhere. Mamie is emotional at the train station as Emmett boards the train, and as the train pulls off, she stands there on the platform crying tears of sorrow. A Mother’s tuition is strong, and her facial expressions show she knows this will be the last time the two are together.

When we first see Emmett down south, he is picking cotton with his cousins. Country life is slow and uneventful for the carefree young man, so he compliments Carolyn Bryant’s (Bennett) looks without thinking of the consequences because she takes his forwardness as an insult. Emmett and his cousins want to keep the incident a secret from the elders and go about their business. But would it have mattered? Someone would have paid the price even if he was sent back to Chicago.

Chukwu’s film is less about what happened to Emmett Till and more about Mamie and how the Black community, from coast to coast, rallied around her as she tried to get justice for her son. His death became a national issue, broadcast all over the news, with families of all races weighing in on the news of his death.

What wasn’t anticipated was that other Black men were complicit in the demise of this teenage boy. It seems inconceivable that would be the case, but it is plausible. This situation changed the face of racial dynamics in America. Along the journey, Mamie learns this situation is no longer her own, but it belongs to the people whether she likes it or not. Top that off with her processing survivor’s guilt, she has no choice but to share her trauma out of self-preservation. No human can carry that load alone.

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Chukwu deploys some fascinating techniques–come right out of the horror genre. Dramatic close-ups, an eerie score, and the ominous air of dread reign throughout the film’s first half. The fear factor shouldn’t come as a surprise because to be Black in America, to be Black in this world, is to live in a state of terror. There is something about the way the film uses sound and score as an identifier. It also softens the blow, so the audience doesn’t have to see violence but can hear it, which can sometimes be worse than any visual can show. It’s shrill, piercing, and used as preparation for what comes next. The costumes styling by Marci Rogers is crisp and intentional regarding Mamie Till’s color palette and fashion that reflects the character’s mood.

“Carolyn Bryant is going to be fine,” said Mamie after reading the newspaper about the men who were indicted with no mention of Carolyn Bryant and her lies getting indicted as well. Mamie was right, though. In 2022, charges were brought against Bryant for kidnapping and manslaughter, but the Mississippi grand jury declined to move forward. There is proof she flat-out lied, and after his killers were found not guilty by the courts, they admitted to murdering the child out in the open but were allowed to thrive and live to old age, just like Carolyn.

I knew the end result of Till when I walked into the theater, but Chukwu, Beauchamp, and Reilly’s script shapes a film that follows the ripple effect of racial hatred and a death that shocked the U.S. in the 1950s. Modern-day society is still reeling from Jim Crow-era laws. The Senate just passed the anti-lynching law in March of 2022, 157 years after the 13th Amendment was ratified.

Till is an exceptional movie that probes inner and outer trauma and is an exhausting endeavor to sit through. Revisiting the life of the Till family is a reminder that the more things change, the more things stay the same.





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