Porn Romp ‘Red Rocket’ Opens NY/LA, ‘Being The Ricardos,’ ‘Don’t Look Up’ In Cinemas, Arthouses Hope ‘West Side Story’ Jogs Older Demos – Specialty Preview
A24 presents Red Rocket in six theaters this weekend ahead of a limited expansion in New York and LA, adding Chicago, Austin and San Francisco next weekend with a wider rollout over the holidays to several hundred screens.
The dark comedy by Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine) premiered at Cannes to a five-minute standing ovation and garnered a trio of Gotham Award nods including Best Screenplay for Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch, Outstanding Lead Performance for Simon Rex, who plays washed up porn star Mikey Saber with magnetic high-octane glee, and Breakthrough Performer for Suzanna Son as Strawberry, a sultry teenage doughnut shop employee Mikey sees as his ticket home.
Red Rocket sees Saber slink back from LA to his small Texas City, Texas hometown, which does not want him, but where he time to regroup amid the oil refineries he pedals by on his bike over and over looking for work, love or mischief. The film has an 87% Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score, 72% with auds. Deadline review here.
Porn is polarizing so Red Rocket, which did amazing work with a budget said to be barely $1 million, may or may not be an awards contender. But it’s funny and it may use that as the film expands in a marketing push that actually riffs on the idea of Mikey Saber as an awards contender.
Red Rocket opens at the Angelika, Lincoln Square and Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn in NYC and at the AMC Grove, AMC Burbank and AMC Century City in LA, including some Q&As with Baker and cast. Trailer below:
A24 is still rolling out Mike Mills’ well-reviewed, well-liked Joaquim Phoenix-starrer C’mon C’mon in theaters following its Nov. 19 opening. It’s likely to hit PVOD around the Christmas holidays.
Distribution execs describe the glacially improving specialty market as “a work in progress” with the older demos they need still reluctant to return to theaters. The overall box office spurred by wide release MCU and such titles may be back up to something like 67% of its pre-pandemic level, but the specialty market is tracking lower, at roughly 50% of 2019, depending on the film. “We are missing the Arclight. Older audiences are still not back. There are always new variables. We have no idea who will come out,” said one executive.
Distributors were emphatic that the only real wide release this weekend — from potential specialty rival West Side Story — is wholly a good thing.
“I think conventionally you would look at that as potential competition, but now you just want people to go to the movies, especially this older demo that will go out for West Side Story. I am rooting for West Side Story because you hear people are euphoric watching it. I think that a movie like that is a great reminder of how it’s better to see things in the theater,” said one.
No Time To Die was the first film to attract a critical mass of older moviegoers, sparking hopeful headlines about the implications for specialty that didn’t really pan out. “That’s still Bond. It’s very specific. It skews very male. West Side Story is more women and also families and all of those things,” the exec said.
In what may be the widest specialty release this weekend, Netflix presents Don’t Look Up, written and directed by Adam McKay, opening in 750+ theaters in the US and Canada. Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio lead this star-studded comedy as an astronomy grad student and her professor who discover a comet on a direct collision course with Earth, and that no one cares. With six months until impact, the duo embarks on a frenetic media tour to grab the attention of a social media-obsessed public before it’s too late. Also starring Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet, Ron Perlman and with Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. Additional cast: Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Melanie Lynskey, Himesh Patel, Michael Chiklis and Tomer Sisley. The climate-change satire has a 55% Rotten Tomatoes Critics Score but is so far at 90% with Audiences (fewer than 50 reviews). Read Deadline’s review here. On Netflix De. 24.
Amazon presents Being the Ricardos, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The iconic Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear and cultural taboos in this behind-the-scenes biographical drama that’s a glimpse into the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship. The film takes audiences into the writers’ room, onto the soundstage and behind closed doors with Ball and Arnaz during one critical week of production of their groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy. The release is limited but we can’t say more than that because Amazon doesn’t reveal screen counts. With a 71% Critics Score on Rotten Tomatoes, no audience response posted as of midday. See Deadline review. On Amazon Prime Video Dec. 21.
ELSEWHERE IN SPECIALTY: Magnolia Pictures presents horror/drama Agnes at Alamo Theatres in New York and LA with filmmaker and cast Q&As on Friday and Saturday nights. Also on VOD. Directed by Mickey Reece, written by Reece and John Selvidge. A young nun’s disturbing behavior sparks rumors of demonic possession at a remote convent. When a priest-in-waiting and his disillusioned mentor are sent to investigate, their methods backfire, leaving a wake of terror and trauma. Starring Molly C. Quinn, Sean Gunn, Chris Sullivan, Hayley McFarland, Chris Browning, Rachel True and Jake Horowitz. A 63% on the critics Tomatometer.
Kandoo Films presents writer-director Michael Leoni’s Famous, a drama melding elements of live theater and film to shine a light on the impact of abuse in the entertainment industry. In 10 theaters and on digital platforms. Chris Kattan, Brooke Butler, CJ Valleroy and Josh Pafchek lead the ensemble cast of the film, which centers on A-list celebrity Jason Mast (Pafchek), who is driven by a devastating need to expose the truth to push the boundaries of friendship, revealing the true cost of fame in a story about Young Hollywood in the 1990s.
Vertical Entertainment releases romantic drama The Only One, written by Seth Gilbert and produced/directed by first time filmmaker Noah Gilbert in 11 theaters and on digital platforms. The film stars Caitlin Stasey, Jon Beavers and Niseema Theillaud. On the brink of resigning herself to a life of independence, a young woman visits an old flame at his vineyard in France and takes one last shot at a committed relationship.
From Redbox Entertainment and Decal, western-action film The Last Son in a limited release and on demand. Sam Worthington, Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly), Thomas Jane and Heather Graham star, set in the Sierra Nevada in the late 19th century. Isaac LeMay (Worthington) is a murderous outlaw cursed by a terrible prophecy, hunting down his offspring to prevent his own murder.
From Hannibal Media, historical drama The Lady of Heaven, a British epic directed by Eli King, produced by Enlightened Kingdom. The film bills itself as the first movie on the life and heart-wrenching journey of the historical figure, Fatima, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Separated by 1400 years, an Iraqi child, in the midst of a war-torn country, learns the importance and power of patience in a new home, where a loving grandmother narrates the story of The Lady and how her suffering as the first victim of terrorism spun out of control into the 21st century. Starring Ray Fearon, Christopher Sciueref, Mark Anthony Brighton, Denise Black, Lucas Bond, Sami Karim, Albane Courtois, Matthew Brenher, Chris Jarman, Yasmin Mwanza, Dimitri Andreas and Oscar Garland.
ArtMattan Productions presents A Son (Un Fils) with French-Tunisian actor Sami Bouajila, winner of the Orizzonti Award for Best Actor, Venice Film Festival 2019 and winner of the 2021 French Cesar Awards for Best Actor. This is an intense family drama about 11 year old Aziz who needs a liver transplant after being seriously injured during a terrorist ambush while on holiday in 2011. In Arabic. Written and directed by Mehdi Barsaoui.
Saban Films opens American Sicario on ten screens. A crime drama on the rise and fall of the first American-born drug lord in Mexico. RJ Collins directs this tale of power, money, greed and betrayal amongst rival members of drug cartels with American gangster Erik Vasquez (Philippe A. Haddad) scheming to become the top dog in the Mexican underworld, only to find himself making enemies out of both the powerful cartels and his own allies. With Danny Trejo, Maurice Compte, Maya Stojan and Jaylen Moore, Jonny Rey Diaz.
Vertical Entertainment again with The Hating Game, based on the eponymous book about ambitious good girl Lucy Hutton and her cold, efficient work nemesis, Joshua Templeton. Committed to achieving professional success without compromising her ethics, Lucy ultimately embarks on a ruthless game of one-upmanship against Josh, a rivalry increasingly complicated by her mounting attraction to him. Starring Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell. Directed by Peter Hutchings. Written by Christina Mengert.
And here are three interesting docs: Beijing Spring from AC Films, To What Remains from Abramorama/Imperative Entertainment and Joy Womack: The White Swan from Film Movement
Beijing Spring is directed, written and produced by Andy Cohen with Gaylen Ross. A story of underground film-making, radical art, and censorship in China with never before seen footage by daring young filmmaker Chi Xiaoning. The story is focused on the Democracy Wall in Beijing in 1978 where the Stars, a group of self-taught artists (including a young Ai Weiwei) challenged propaganda art by championing individuality and free expression, often exposing the inhumanity of the Cultural Revolution. Editor and essayist Wei Jingsheng called for democracy and the authorities cracked down, closing Democracy Wall, imprisoning many, and slamming the door on this brief period of reform. The footage recorded by Chi Xiaoning had been hidden for decades.
Chris Woods’ To What Remains is the story of Project Recover — a team of scientists, oceanographers, archaeologists, historians, researchers and veterans dedicated to searching, recovering, and repatriating remains of the more than 80,000 Americans missing in action since WWII. Project Recover members comb through military action reports to identify broad swaths of ocean and land where U.S. servicemen were killed over 75 years ago and execute onsite searches involving a combination of technology and painstaking manual labor. Written by Mark Monroe.
And Joy Womack: The White Swan, from Dina Burlis and Sergey Gavrilov, follows several years in the life of Joy Womack, the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s main training program, and the first American woman to sign a contract with the Bolshoi. Joy grew up in a typical American family and moved to Russia at 15 to follow her dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Without a word of Russian, not completely fit for the physical requirements of Russian ballet, she proves her strength and dedication with the Bolshoi Theatre group and then as prima ballerina of Kremlin Ballet, where she has performance of her lifetime — Swan Lake — before closing a chapter of her life and leaving Russia to pursue new opportunities. (Talia Ryder is set to star as Womack in a feature film about the dancer called Joika, by writer-director James Napier Robertson, with Diane Kruger as her inspirational mentor Volkova, a former ballet dancer and the head of the Bolshoi’s training academy.)