In honor of its upcoming 30th anniversary, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has extended its calendar by one day, just one of a number of ways the annual event will be celebrating as it enters its third decade.
"Under the Skin" finally arrived in theaters this past weekend and, happily for moviegoers, A24 Films were rewarded for their gutsy acquisition of Jonathan Glazer's transcendent film. "Skin" grossed $140,000, or $35,000 per screen in just four theaters, in New York and Los Angeles. It's the second-highest limited per-screen of the year after "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and quite impressive considering A24 did it almost completely via old-fashioned publicity and word of mouth.
The ninth Marvel Studios film to date hits theaters today, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Like a number of these movies, they probably could have spent more time — quite a lot more time, actually — working on what is a pretty clunky script, front to back. But the movie does what all these movies do (and, eventually, therefore, gain passes from the critical masses): it entertains. I liked it well enough, though not as much as our own Drew McWeeny, and thought it was at least unique in the landscape of all these other films. It's a high octane, grounded ride packed with action, and it has an exciting tease for the next step of the Marvel convergence. If you get around to seeing the film this weekend at the multiplex, chime in with your own thoughts here and be sure to vote in our poll below.
"Masterpiece" is a term too many critics use with too little discernment, but I feel comfortable applying it to Jonathan Glazer's extraordinary sci-fi vision "Under the Skin," which has drawn strong opinions in every direction since premiering at Telluride and Venice last year. Reviews were initially shaky, but as was the case with Glazer's last film, "Birth," nine years ago, it didn't take long for an ardent army of critical defenders to form. The less you know about going in, the better -- but I will say that it proves Glazer to be among the greatest sensualists working in cinema today, and Scarlett Johansson as a movie star of uncommon magnetism and daring. Go see what you think, and report back below; either way, it's not a film any serious film lover can afford to skip.
A story of noble heroes battling to protect priceless artworks stolen from their rightful owners during the Second World War? It sounded like Oscar bait when George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" first turned up on the horizon, and we all know how that turned out. Might it turn out any better with Helen Mirren and Harvey Weinstein leading the charge?
Any readers who have been with us since 2011 (when it topped Kris' Top 10 list and nearly did mine) will know that we at In Contention are paid-up members of Team "Margaret" -- the brilliant, troubled Kenneth Lonergan drama that trickled into theaters three years ago, six years after it began production.
Even if it is just a ploy to shoehorn another pandering award to a popular young star, I kind of dig the MTV's Trailblazer Award as a general concept. It's kind of the opposite of a lifetime achievement honor, reserved for actors or actresses of a young age whose work paves the way for others in the industry. And the first two annual recipients were women, which is nice (Emma Stone in 2012 and Emma Watson in 2013). This year the honor is going to a dude for the first time: Channing Tatum.
I was pretty entranced by John Curran's tracks when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year -- the true story of a young woman trekking 2000 miles across the Outback desert in 1975, it has the pictorial lyricism and subdued intelligence the distinguished Curran's underrated 2006 Maugham adaptation "The Painted Veil," plus a(nother) superb performance from the ever-interesting Mia Wasikowska, oddly but engagingly paired with "Girls" star Adam Driver as the American photographer who documents her journey.
From improbably remote arthouse origins, Québécois director Denis Villeneuve is turning into quite hot Hollywood property. A couple of years after his Middle Eastern melodrama "Incendies" scored an Oscar nomination, his austere formal gifts and taste for high-concept tragedy combined to make his starry but profoundly bleak kidnap thriller "Prisoners" a risky mainstream hit last autumn. The smaller-scale surrealist exercise "Enemy," which premiered near-simultaneously at Toronto and was released in the US last month, took him back to specialty territory, but showed he has enough clout to attract an A-lister like Jake Gyllenhaal to a very eccentric indie. All options are effectively open to him.
Perhaps I'm just getting old, but it doesn't feel like eight years since Davis Guggenheim's climate-change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" was very much in the mainstream conversation -- and, of course, an unstoppable force in the Oscar race.