Director, producer, actor and Sundance founder Robert Redford is apparently closing out one area of his impressive resume with the opening of The Old Man & the Gun, which played at the recent Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Also starring Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek, the title by writer-director David Lowery opens in limited release this weekend en route to hundreds of locations next month via Fox Searchlight. Fellow Telluride and Toronto title, Free Solo, from Meru filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, also makes its bow in a busy weekend of new Specialty roll outs with a film that records of feat of human endurance from National Geographic Documentary Film and Greenwich Entertainment.
The Orchard is opening All About Nina, the feature directorial debut of Raising Victor Vargas writer, Eva Vives in New York and L.A. ahead of an expansion to hundreds of theaters. Neon is launching Sundance ’18 premiere Monsters and Men from Reinaldo Marcus Green, while fellow Sundance title, Bad Reputation, a doc by Kevin Kerslake about rocker Joan Jett, heads to theaters via Magnolia Pictures.
Among other limited release debuts this weekend is fellow Sundance title Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. about the Sri Lankan/British singer M.I.A. from Abramorama. IFC Films is bowing Black 47. Vertical Entertainment is opening two features, The Padre and Cruise.
The Old Man & the Gun
Director-writer: David Lowery
Writer: David Grann (article)
Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Going into theaters this weekend, Fox Searchlight’s The Old Man & the Gun has — at least at the moment — the distinguished right to call itself the final curtain of its star, Oscar-winner Robert Redford who has said he is quitting acting — though he will likely still direct and produce.
Redford picked up rights to the story written by David Grann in The New Yorker. The film is produced by Fox Searchlight together with Sailor Bear Productions (Lowery’s production entity) and Condé Nast Entertainment.
“The article came out and it was pitched to me,” said Redford during a post-screening Q&A at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this month following its first showing. “I realized it has a lot of resonance to me… I thought of [director] David Lowery because I had worked with him on Pete’s Dragon. I brought it to him… It took some time.”
The Old Man & the Gun is based on the true story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest’s commitment to his craft, and a woman (Sissy Spacek), who loves him in spite of his chosen profession.
“I was attracted to [the character I play], Forrest Tucker, because he was happy,” said Redford. “We often see villains or robbers as dour, but the fact is that he’s a happy guy.”
Redford added that his previous starrer in Our Souls at Night was “heavy” and that he’s frequently gone for opposite roles in subsequent films in which he appears in front of the camera.
“[I wanted] to bounce into something new. I’ve always made a point in my career to do something opposite of what I had done…,” said Redford. “This had so many positive aspects to it. There’s a bank robber who likes having fun. This is a bank robber who just loved robbing banks…”
Searchlight will open The Old Man & the Gun at Cinema 1, Landmark 57 West and Union Square in New York and in L.A. at the Arclight and The Landmark Friday. The company said the title will expand each week with the goal of being in between 500 – 600 theaters by the fourth or fifth week of release.
Asked about this being his final acting role, Redford chimed to applause: “I also have said, ‘Never say never.’ I do really feel it’s time to move into retirement. I’ve put my heart and soul in it since I was 21 and I thought, ‘quit while you’re a little bit ahead.’ I couldn’t think of a better project to go out on than this film.”
Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Appearances: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin
Distributor: National Geographic Documentary Films/Greenwich Entertainment
In 2015, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin took doc audiences on death-defying mountain climbs with Meru, taking in over $2.3M in the box office via Music Box Films. Vasarhelyi and Chin, who appears in both films, upped the ante of sorts with Free Solo, which had its debut at the recent Telluride and Toronto film festivals. The figure at Free Solo’s center, Alex Honnold, and Chin had known each other for a decade prior to filming Free Solo.
“Alex came to stay in our apartment and told me he wanted to solo [climb] El Capitan,” said Vasarhelyi. “Jimmy [first] said that we couldn’t make this movie because it’s an ethical issue, but we [determined] it was something Alex very much wanted to do… We had to come to peace that this was what he wanted, but we also wanted to do everything within our power to mitigate risk.”
Free Solo is a portrait of climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock, the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, without a rope. Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death. Free Solo is an edge-of-your seat thriller and an inspiring portrait of an athlete who challenges both his body and his beliefs on a quest to triumph over the impossible, revealing the personal toll of excellence. As the climber begins his training, the armor of invincibility he’s built up over decades unexpectedly breaks apart when Honnold begins to fall in love, threatening his focus and giving way to injury and setbacks.
The filmmakers teamed with National Geographic, which financed the project. Said Vasarhelyi: “They were the perfect partner for us. It’s a big deal for any financier to accept those risks. [The project] was very intricate with a heavy production shoot and it was secret. They were a great home for us and they understood what we were doing.”
Chin assembled an elite team of climbers who were also able to do professional camerawork. The climbers knew the particulars of climbing El Capitan, and practiced alongside Honnold for two years.
“It’s the first film I had ever done in which we were thinking, ‘don’t shoot too much…,’” said Vasarhelyi. “We had to acclimate Alex to the cameras, so that any jingle would not throw him off. Every member of the crew had climbed with Alex… Everyone carried this weight and trained very hard, but couldn’t show [the subject] how they felt. There was a common refrain among the crew that we couldn’t bring our [emotions] to the shoot.”
The project began shooting in October 2017, while Honnold’s climactic climb took place in June 2017. Free Solo was completed just prior to Telluride. Drones were used for aerial shots during a climb in Morocco which appears in the film and prior to the El Capitan finale. When time came for Yosemite, however, footage from the air came from helicopters since drones are not allowed in U.S. National Parks.
“We began editing while we were shooting which was very helpful for us,” said Vasarhelyi. “We could focus on where the movie was going and this really changed my process. Post was still extensive. Poor Bob [Eisenhardt, our editor]. We made these two films and then I had two children in between.”
Greenwich will spearhead the theatrical release of the title. The film has reportedly sold out multiple showings as of midweek ahead of its release, which begins with sneaks on Thursday. The filmmakers will also take part in select Q&As at its select locations in New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Boulder, CO.
All About Nina
Director-writer: Eva Vives
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common, Chace Crawford, Clea DuVall, Kate del Castillo, Beau Bridges
Distributor: The Orchard
All About Nina is the feature directorial debut of Raising Victor Vargas writer, Eva Vives. The Orchard first saw the film starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common and Chace Crawford at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year.
“The fact that this was her first time directing a feature film was even more impressive and she was a filmmaker we were excited to get involved with,” commented The Orchard’s Paul Davidson. “Coupling that with a powerhouse performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a charming, genuine performance by Common and we felt the film was a perfect fit for The Orchard.”
All About Nina centers on Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an up-and-coming comedian in New York City. She’s funny, smart and has worked hard to build a career for herself in the male-dominated world of stand-up. But when it comes to romantic relationships, Nina’s life is a mess. Random guys in bars, abusive married men (Chace Crawford), and an inability to stand up for herself finally convince Nina it’s time for a change. She packs up and moves to Los Angeles, for a once in a lifetime opportunity to audition for Comedy Prime — the end all, be all of late night comedy. After killing it in Los Angeles, she meets chill contractor Rafe Hines (Common), who tempts the brash New Yorker into considering commitment. Sublimating her own desire to self-destruct, Nina has to answer the question, once and for all, of whether women can indeed have it all.
“There’s no question that a film like this, with a strong, proactive female character and a team of strong women’s voices behind the camera as well, make this a film whose core audience are women,” noted Davidson. “We are targeting this key demographic first and foremost, but the exciting aspect of the film is that male audiences also gravitate towards Mary Elizabeth’s performance and the stand-up comedy world in which the narrative takes place.”
The company chose fall for All About Nina, adding that the period is a tough time of the year to find a platform release, but added that, “coming in after the fall film festivals and before the bigger awards releases was the smart approach.” Added Davidson, “It gives us enough of a rollout window that we’ll have the opportunity to keep building on the opening weekend.”
All About Nina opens in four New York and L.A. locations starting Friday, including the Arclight and Sunset 5 in Los Angeles and Regal Unions Square and Empire in New York. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Eva Gives will take part in select Q&A in both cities. The film will expand to the top DMAs to hundreds of theaters over the next month. VOD will begin after the traditional 90 day theatrical window.
Monsters and Men
Director-writer: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Cast: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan Cara Buono
Producer Eddie Vaisman met Reinaldo Marcus Green, writer-director for drama Monsters And Men, prior to the latter attending the Sundance Directors Labs where he worked on his project which went on to premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Monsters and Men interweaves the story of what happens in the aftermath of a police shooting in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, a black police officer and a high school baseball phenom inspired to take a stand, showing the impact of racism and violence on a community.
“It’s a script that resonated with us and we wanted to be a part of that journey,” said Vaisman of Sight Unseen Pictures, which came into the project with financing. “After we came on, we did some work on the script with Rei. We went out to cast and put it into production. It was a straight line from one point to the next. We were able to get [everything going] quickly.”
Vaisman emphasized the relative seamlessness getting Monsters and Men into production, with cast and crew in sync. “The shoot was great and it’s one of those situations where everyone worked extremely hard,” he said. “The [actors] connected with the material in different ways. It was a great experience, which you can’t say of every production. Producers always want this to happen, and it starts from the top. Reinaldo has that kind of pedigree. He had command of the set and it was phenomenal….”
The shoot came in at under a month, mostly in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood as well as other NYC locations.
Neon had been tracking the film, according to Vaisman, ahead of its premiere at the Park City festival earlier this year. “Neon was ahead of the curve. They had reached out before acquiring it officially at Sundance and going into the festival, they were one of our top choices. We felt we’d be an important movie for them and that’s true.”
Neon is opening Monsters and Men in eight markets in 18 theaters including locations in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta.
Director: Kevin Kerslake
Writer: Joel Marcus
Appearances: Joan Jett, Adam Horovitz, Alison Mosshart, Anne Larkin, Bill Curbishley, Billie Joe Armstrong, Carianne Brinkman, Cherie Currie, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Michael J. Fox, Michelle Cho, Mike Ness, Miley Cyrus, Nikki Haley, Pete Townshend
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
In advance of its regular weekend roll out day and date Friday, Magnolia Pictures played Joan Jett doc, Bad Reputation, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, in 200 one-night only engagements around the country. The distributor became involved with the film by Kevin Kerslake after its Sundance premiere.
Joan Jett became mega-famous from the number-one hit “I Love Rock n Roll,” but that’s only part of the story. That fame intensified with the music video’s endless play on MTV, world tours and many hits to follow like “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” but that staple of popularity can’t properly define a musician. Jett put her hard work in long before the fame, ripping it up onstage as the backbone of the hard-rock legends The Runaways, starting her record label out of the trunk of a car after being rejected by 23 labels, and influencing many musicians—both her cohort of punk rockers and generations of younger bands—with her no-bullshit style. Bad Reputation gives you a wild ride as Jett and her close friends tell you how it really was in the burgeoning ’70s punk scene and the rocky road to rock stardom decades on.
“[Bad Reputation] is right in our wheelhouse — a compelling, fun doc about a strong woman. It’s definitely our thing these days,” commented Magnolia head of Distribution Neal Block referencing the woman at the center of its documentary hit RBG, which it opened in spring.
Block also teased new work from Jett who is also promoting the feature’s rollout: “While on tour this summer, Joan recorded a few songs specifically for us to use as bonus content for these screenings. This footage won’t be on the VOD version of the film, and it’s nowhere online, so only fans that buy a ticket to watch the film in a theater will be able to see it. Joan has been promoting these screenings directly to her fans on her social channels. A number of theaters have already added encore screenings after their first shows sold out.”
The company timed Bad Reputation’s bow to take advantage of Jett’s participation. She was on tour with the Blackhearts over the summer and the company wanted her involvement opening weekend. Jett took part in sold-out screenings in New York on Wednesday at IFC Center. On Friday, she’ll be at the Nuart in Los Angeles where she and the band will play one of their first-ever acoustic sets following the 7pm showing.