The stream of fall rollouts continues, although at a bit slower pace on the specialty box office front compared with recent weekends. Among them however is the Coen brothers’ anticipated The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, with Netflix beginning a very limited theatrical run today in New York at The Landmark 57 West, at The Landmark Los Angeles and the Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco.
Buster Scruggs is one of three Netflix films — along with Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Susanne Bier’s Bird Box — to get a rare pre-streaming theatrical release as the company looks to to boost awareness for its awards-season fare. This film is also screening this weekend at AFI Fest and will be available via the service next week.
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As per Netflix, the company doesn’t plan to release box office figures for its films.
Among the other specialty newcomers opening Friday are Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Dree Hemingway and Patrick Gibson in the Tribeca Film Festival romantic comedy In A Relationship, opening day-and-date via Vertical Entertainment; the Sundance documentary Chef Flynn by Cameron Yates, which begins its theatrical run with a New York bow before heading to other cities via Kino Lorber; and Cannes Un Certain Regard title El Angel also rolls out in U.S. theaters following a successful start at home in Argentina. The Orchard release is the South American country’s Foreign Language Oscar entry.
Also coming today is Universal Home Entertainment and The Film Arcade’s Sundance road trip pic The Long Dumb Road, from Hannah Fidell, which opens in New York and Los Angeles before traveling to more cities.
Other limited releases this weekend include Steve McLean drama Postcards from London from Strand Releasing and fellow drama Weightless from Great Point.
In A Relationship
Director-writer: Sam Boyd
Cast: Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Dree Hemingway, Patrick Gibson, Jay Ellis, Greta Lee, Melora Walters
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Before debuting as a feature at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, Sam Boyd made a short version in 2015. While editing the short, Boyd began writing the feature, with a first draft completed within a week.
“I’ve always loved romantic comedies, but always thought they could cue closer to life,” said Boyd. “I was always bothered by the fake problems. I thought there was an opportunity to make one that is commercial, but still looks into the minutiae of being in a relationship and [tackle] what people really fight about and are afraid of.”
In a Relationship centers on Owen and Hallie who have spent the first half of their 20s together, and now they’re hitting a wall. Just as they decide to take a break, their friends Matt and Willa embark on an unexpected romance of their own. The two couples’ fates intertwine over the course of a summer.
“In the short, I thought we were skirting over some areas that [could be expanded],” said Boyd. “The idea for the feature made sense. I became determined to make a film that was entertaining [akin to] the Before Sunrise movies. They feel commercial and feel like movies, but cover ‘real’ problems and look at ‘real’ people. We didn’t need any third act pregnancy scare.”
Boyd knew the script would evolve, allowing it to be “additive” rather than “corrective.” He said he would wanted the feature to be a “compendium” of “little moments.” CAA, where he has representation, put the filmmaking team together with investors.
“I had a friend [at CAA] and we made it a mission not to let this fall apart,” he said. “Casting was actually harder. We made the short cheaply and the feature was also [on a budget]. The more money involved, the more people want to ‘protect’ their investment.” Boyd also brought over crew from the short.
“I’ve known Emma Roberts socially for a while,” explained Boyd about assembling the film’s cast. “She had wanted to do the short, but couldn’t at the time. So when the feature came around, it was a no brainer. She also came on as an executive producer to help drive it. Once she was in place, it was all about how to make the relationships and friendships look credible.”
Roberts’ friend, Angarano, joined the project, followed by Hemingway and Gibson. “Everyone clicked and that’s what you hope for with a movie like this,” said Boyd. In a Relationship shot over 20 days in Los Angeles. “I wrote the movie specifically for L.A. I wanted it to feel like the L.A. I knew growing up.” Boyd added that he avoided the “usual” Los Angeles landmarks seen on the big screen, opting for particular spots that would be personal for some viewers.
“[The producers] also did an amazing job with the budget,” said Boyd. “They were good at allocating money in order to give the feel of [the shoot] being ‘a real movie’ and less gorilla.”
In A Relationship debuted at Tribeca in April, after which Vertical came on board. The feature opens day and date/iTunes and other platforms Friday, with theatrical bows at Vintage Los Feliz Theatre in L.A. and Cinema Village in New York. Boyd will take part in select Q&As in Los Angeles this weekend. The title will also open theatrically in cities including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Detroit and Denver.
Director: Cameron Yates
Appearances: Flynn McGarry, Meg McGarry, Paris McGarry
Distributor: Kino Lorber Films
Doc filmmaker Cameron Yates first heard about the subjects of what would become his second nonfiction project after reading a New Yorker piece his father had sent him. The article spotlighted a young boy, Flynn McGarry, who was creating culinary tastings that were remarkably cutting edge considering his young age.
“I read the piece about this kid doing pop-ups in his mom’s living room and foraging in people’s backyards,” said Yates. “I was fascinated, so I went to YouTube and saw that his mother had been doing short films on him spanning about five years. I was fascinated with [Flynn] as well as his mom, dad and sister. They were such an artistic Southern California family.”
Yates happened to be taking a trip to California for the premiere of Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012 and combined it with a meeting at an L.A. restaurant with the McGarry family. Said Yates: “Flynn ordered for the whole table and I realized he was incredible.”
While many of his peers were still playing with toy cars, McGarry was creating remarkable gastronomic delights at home in Studio City. Enjoying unwavering support from his mother Meg, an artist who documented every step of his distinctive journey, he devoted himself entirely to his creative passion. Flynn prepared elaborate dinners for friends and family and soon became known as the “Teen Chef,” establishing his own supper club at age 12 and being featured in a New York Times Magazine cover story at age 15. Before he was 16, he had “staged” in top restaurants in Los Angeles, New York and Europe. But critics soon emerged who challenged Flynn’s rapid ascent in the culinary world, threatening to distract him from his dream.
Though Yates began filming soon after the meeting, the family had said no to a feature documentary, but, according to Yates, they “left the door open and they became friends.”
Explained Yates: “Flynn was interning at [New York restaurant] 11 Madison Park. Then he was going to do a final dinner at his mom’s in August 2013 that they invited me to film. I think they thought it would be a short. After that, there was another pop-up and each time I filmed, I had a little more access. They didn’t [initially] want me to do the whole family, and I think Flynn was concerned anytime I put the mic on [his mother].”
About a year into the process, Meg McGarry visited Yates in New York, bringing along what turned out to be a treasure-trove of her own footage filming Flynn. The viewing created a turning point in the project. “We spent a week watching [everything],” said Yates. “I think it was important for her to do that and hand it over. I then went back and forth between New York and L.A. and she would shoot at times if I couldn’t be there.”
Yates worked with producer Laura Coxon on the project, creating a teaser trailer to go after grants. The project was mostly supported via individual investors. Editing took place throughout the shoot, working with three editors altogether including the editor of Yates’ first film, The Canal Street Madam. Hannah Buck finished the edit while the previous two served as consultants.
Nine additional months of editing took place ahead of its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival where Kino Lorber caught the title. “We were excited to go with them not only because of the theatrical run, but they also had great ideas for the digital release,” said Yates. “We’ve had incredible word of mouth and festival screenings.”
Kino Lorber is opening Chef Flynn exclusively at Film Forum in New York today before heading to the Nuart in L.A. next weekend. It will then add select cities throughout November and December in the U.S. and Canada. It is also opening in other overseas territories.
Director-writer: Luis Ortega
Writers: Rodolfo Palacios, Sergio Olguín
Cast: Lorenzo Ferro, Chino Darín, Daniel Fanego, Mercedes Morán, Luis Gnecco, Peter Lanzani, Cecilia Roth
Distributor: The Orchard
Argentine producer Sebastian Ortega, brother of filmmaker Luis Ortega, proposed making a movie version of an infamous serial killer who captured the attention of the South American country in the 1970s. Though fellow producer Matías Mosteirín said he was not initially eager to make a movie about the criminal, after seeing an early version of the script, he quickly understood it was something beyond a biographical re-telling of the story. The Cannes 2018 debut, opening stateside via The Orchard today, is Argentina’s submission for Foreign Language Oscar consideration.
El Angel begins in Buenos Aires in 1971. Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) is a 17-year-old with movie-star swagger, blond curls and a baby face. As a young boy, he coveted other people’s things, but it wasn’t until his early adolescence that his true calling — to be a thief — manifested itself. When he meets Ramon at his new school, Carlitos is immediately drawn to him and starts showing off to get his attention. Together they will embark on a journey of discovery, love and crime. Killing is just a random offshoot of the violence, which continues to escalate until Carlitos is finally apprehended. Because of his angelic appearance, the press dubs him “The Angel of Death.” Showered with attention because of his beauty, he becomes an overnight celebrity. Altogether, he is believed to have committed over 40 thefts and 11 homicides.
“We had a meeting with Luis Ortega and very much liked how he approached the story,” said Mosteirín. “He [envisioned] a cinematic road movie, and after reading the script, we were very impressed with its flow. We were also impressed with how he found a personal connection with each of the characters in the script, relating them to his own life experiences. We were captivated, so we jumped in.”
Mosteirín shared the script with Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar’s company El Deseo, which also boarded the project. Mosteirín’s K&S Films had produced previous projects with El Deseo including Oscar-nominated foreign title Wild Tales (2014) and Venice prize-winner The Clan (2015). Fox International (FIT) also joined El Angel, while additional financing was raised through broadcasting pre-sales in Latin America and Spain.
“We knew it would be very important to assemble a strong cast around the main character,” Mosteirín said. “Luis had met actor Lorenzo Ferro, who the director would end up working with extensively ahead of the shoot, which took place over nine weeks in Buenos Aires from September through November, 2017.
“Lorenzo worked with a coach for six months and Luis was very involved with the preparation. We decided we would do a test with him three months before principal photography was set to begin. This was critical. Though Luis was feeling confident, we were still insecure. But [after the test with Lorenzo] we supported continuing his rehearsals. By the time the shoot started, we were confident Lorenzo was ready.”
An early cut of the film was given to Cannes, which programmed the title in Un Certain Regard. The Orchard picked it up out of the festival. “El Angel was the most successful local title of the year with 1.3 million submissions,” said Mosteirín about the film’s Argentine release. “Along with the U.S., it’s opening in Spain soon and in France in January.”
El Angel, which also played Toronto, Fantastic Fest and Mill Valley, is opening at the Angelika in New York and the Nuart in L.A. this weekend. Next week, it will head to the top 10-20 markets with further expansion planned.
The Long Dumb Road
Director-writer: Hannah Fidell
Writer: Carson Mell
Cast: Jason Mantzoukas, Tony Revolori, Casey Wilson, Taissa Farmiga, Grace Gummer, Ron Livingston
Distributor: Universal Home Entertainment/The Film Arcade
The Long Dumb Road came out of a road trip a friend of filmmaker Hannah Fidell had taken some years back. The friend was obsessed with the Jack Kerouac classic novel, On The Road, so set out for a life experience and along the way befriended a drifter while en route to Los Angeles.
The Long Dumb Road centers on 19-year-old Nathan (Tony Revolori) wants to see the “real” America. With a camera, he leaves his childhood home in the Texas suburbs and embarks on solo road trip to Los Angeles, where he will soon be starting his first year of art school. When his car breaks down along the way, Richard (Jason Mantzoukas) comes to his aid, striking up a conversation and repairing the engine. Aimless and searching for a reason to travel himself, Richard warms to Nat, sharing complaints about a bad boss. Though initially skeptical of his motives, Nat is struck by Richard’s unselfconscious blend of wisdom and idiocy, and impulsively invites him along for the ride. As they hit the road together, Richard pounds a road beer (or three), rolls a joint, and begins to question what on earth young Nat is doing with his life. Along the way, these two strange companions battle through bar fights, lost loves, and many more unfortunate detours to make it to their next destinations in life – which aren’t necessarily what they’ve planned.
“I thought this had the makings of a classic buddy comedy, and so I enlisted my goof friend, Carson Mell, to co-write the script with me,” said Fidell. “It took about a year to get the script in proper shape since we were both working on other projects at the time.”
Before writing the feature, Fidell and Mell made a fully improvised short film — unreleased — which she used as a way of figuring out how to shoot improv for her film, 6 Years. Said Fidell: “Carson and I fell in love with the characters of Nat and Richard and decided it should be made into a feature film.”
The project was fully financed by Gamechanger Films, a fund dedicated to financing films directed by women. Fidell was already fans of the leads in her project. Offered up Fidell: “When I met [Tony Revolori and Jason Mantzoukas] I knew they were right for their respective roles. I have a ‘no asshole’ policy when I cast, and they are the nicest guys imaginable.”
The Long Dumb Road shot over 22 days in the Albuquerque area, including, according to Fidell, in many of the same locations as 2016’s Hell or High Water.
Universal caught the film at its Sundance premiere, picking up the title shortly afterward. They partnered with The Film Arcade, which is spearheading the theatrical rollout. The Long Dumb Road opens today at select L.A. and New York locations with national dates to follow.
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