CANNES - Another year and another Cannes means The Weinstein Company is once more staging a show and tell for their upcoming slate. After ending 2013 on a somewhat disappointing note at the box office, TWC is hoping a number of new titles can change their fortunes over the rest of this calendar year. The company's annual presentation consisted of familiar trailers for titles releasing in the next few months and selected clips from projects that we haven't seen any footage from up until now. Oh, and Harvey, of course.
One of the legendary movie mogul's primary goals wasn't to discuss his new films, but to make sure everyone got the story straight and why he wasn't at the "Grace of Monaco" premiere. Weinstein had a somewhat public debate with director Olivier Dahan over the cut of the picture, with Dahan eventually winning, but Harvey satisfied the financial concerns by convincing the producers to lower the acquisition fee based on the cost of the movie.
According to Harvey, the screening coincided with a long-scheduled humanitarian mission to Jordan which was set way before there was even a glimmer of "Grace" being the opening night presentation of the fest. In fact, he called out The Guardian for saying he'd skipped the premiere on purpose when another Guardian reporter was chronicling his visit for another story (fun Guardian reaction here).
More importantly, Mr. Weinstein was able to corral two stars from two of his upcoming pictures to say hello to the assembled press: grand jury member Naomi Watts, who has a supporting role in "St. Vincent," and Ryan Reynolds, who appears in the 2015 release "Woman in Gold." Watts didn't have much to say, but Reynolds joked, "I think I was born to play a Jewish restitution lawyer" (certainly beats a hopeless dad in "The Captive"). And then, as quickly as they appeared they were gone.
What followed was a number of previews you've already seen for movies such as "The Giver" (aka Meryl Streep in "Divergent"), "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" (probably five years too late) and "Begin Again" (Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightly do "Once" in NY).
Click through to the next page for a look at the previews shown.
An Argentinian animated pickup known as "Metegol" retitled for the US that looks absolutely terrible. I mean, terrible. Hard to see a lot of parents taking their kids to this one.
"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby"
A year after it appeared at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival as a work in progress, this romantic drama starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy is finally headed to theaters. The first version will be a "traditional" cut combining the two fillms. Two other versions from each of the lead's different perspectives will follow. Happily, "Eleanor Rigby" looks more appealing and commercial than the early Toronto reviews gave it credit for. If the studio can keep up a campaign in the slick, modern style of the trailer, they might have an art house hit on their hands.
Delayed from its original April release, "St. Vincent" chronicles the unlikely friendship between an old man (Bill Murray) and his young neighbor. Melissa McCarthy is on hand as the kid's mom, Chris O'Dowd plays his Catholic school teacher who is also a priest and Watts is (no joke) a Russian prostitute friend of Murray's. Initial buzz on this one, which was originally titled "St. Vincent de Van Nuys," was that it was more dramedy than comedy. That may still be the case, but the trailer got a bunch of unexpected laughs and, overall, the movie has a very commercial sheen to it. Probably not an awards movie, but it does look like it could be a surprise fall comedy.
"The Imitation Game"
This WWII period drama finds Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing, an English mathematician who helped crack the Nazi's Enigma code, which eventually helped the Allies win the war. A full scene where Turing and his colleagues are inspired to find their breakthrough was shown. Unfortunately, it was very hard to tell just how special either Cumberbatch's performance or the movie itself could be.
Another WWII drama. Michelle Williams plays Lucille, a French woman who falls in love with a German-occupied soldier, Bruno, portrayed by Matthias Schoenaerts. Neither Lucile's mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) nor Bruno's wife (a trailer scene-stealing Ruth Wilson) are happy about it. Very hard to tell the awards prospects on this early trailer cut. Also unclear whether TWC will even release it in 2014 or qualify it for Oscar consideration.
This first extended look features a completely animated Paddington bear (voiced by Colin Firth) who is having trouble in the bathroom (lots of physical comedy hijinks), while Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) can't come by to help while he's stuck on the phone. Things get so bad for our hero that when Mr. Brown opens up the bathroom door a huge surge of water spills out and Paddington rides the tub down a massive circular staircase. Highlights included Nicole Kidman in full camp mode (and short white wig) as the no-good Millicent and some pretty cinematography and production design (almost "Amélie"-esque). It looks cute, but the jury is sill out as to how well it will do at the domestic box office during an always-crowded December.
Tim Burton's passion project about the life of famed painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and her husband who originally took credit for her artwork (Christoph Waltz) looks…solid. This is the most toned-down Burton since "Big Fish." Besides one scene where Keane starts to see her signature large eyes on human faces, this could be any '50's period drama. Adams sports an almost Marilyn Monroe-short blonde wig and Waltz is…well…Waltz when he does an American accent. Too early to tell on this one, but it didn't blow anyone away.
The teaser posters StudioCanal displayed this week were just a hint of what director Justin Kurzel has up his sleeve for this adaptation of Shakespeare's classic work. Kurzel and DP Adam Arkapaw ("True Detective," "Animal Kingdom") have saturated almost every scene with a wash of intense color. It's a bold choice that from the preview alone delivers gorgeous results. The costumes and production design evoke a slight "Braveheart" inspiration, but with the aforementioned lighting making it just different enough to seem almost completely original. There was little dialogue in the teaser, but that might not matter. At worst, Kurzel has provided enough TV spot material that TWC might actually be able to turn it into an art house hit no matter what the critical reception. At best, "Macbeth" could be an awards player that graduates from prestige art house to wide release on the back of Michael Fassbender's increasing popularity, numerous nominations and critical acclaim. It looks cool enough that it should definitely become a "must-see" for many twenty- and thirty-something male movie fans. Few would argue that it doesn't look like the most exciting movie on Weinstein's 2014 slate. Assuming it even comes out this year, of course.
Last, but not least, Weinstein introduced a separate clip from Antoine Fuqua's boxing drama "Southpaw" starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Actually, describing it as a clip is somewhat disingenuous. It was more like a montage of Gyllenhaal boxing in the ring and training in a gym set to a recent Eminem song. Oh, and did we mention Gyllenhaal was shirtless the whole time? Never discount a little male-themed T&A to get people excited.
The takeaway? As of May 16, Harvey's got three films he can throw against the awards season wall: "The Imitation Game," "Big Eyes" and "Macbeth." And possibly a fourth with "Suite Française." Granted, after last year's Cannes presentation, no one was convinced "Philomena" was going to be something special and most of the media was hoping "August: Osage County" was a real player. Weinstein also has more than enough time to pick up another contender from Cannes or the Venice/Telluride/Toronto triumvirate at the end of the summer.
Basically, Harvey's proved he's never out until envelopes are opened.
What do you think of TWC's upcoming slate? Share your thoughts below.