by Daniel Loria
In 2001, reports started circulating that a woman had traveled from Japan to Minnesota in search of the (fictional) fortune buried by Steve Buscemi at the end of the Coen Brothers' Fargo, only to die in the process. The true story differs significantly from the Internet speculation that those initial reports spawned, but the magic of the urban legend --that a person would travel across the world in search of a hidden treasure-- stayed with the Zellner brothers. The directing duo used the case as a platform to explore themes of alienation, discovery, and the power of folklore in their upcoming film, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and will enjoy a limited release this spring through Amplify Releasing. The Zellners spoke with BoxOffice about their festival hit.
What was your inspiration for this film?
David Zellner: There was a bit of information that came out after a true event that happened in 2001. This was before Twitter and Facebook, so we started seeing the story pop up in message boards. It was a story about this woman who traveled to Minnesota from Tokyo in search of the mythical fortune from [Fargo]. It really piqued our interest for two reasons: for the lack of information initially, and the antiquated notion of a treasure hunt --which is something from the age of exploration. We grew up hearing stories and folklore of that period. We loved the idea of that taking place in a contemporary setting. When it came out that it was just an urban legend, that made us like it all the more --it was that mythic quality that drew us to it in the first place.
The "true story" tag, that's something the Coen Brothers played with when releasing Fargo. Now you have films like Zero Dark Thirty and Selma that are being attacked by groups who apparently think feature films based on real stories should have factual and historical accuracy. As opposed to Fargo, your film is based on a true story --but you've been very candid in saying that the actual true story didn't interest you nearly as much as this folkloric, mythical-quest aspect of the story.
DZ: Whether it's a conventional documentary or a narrative feature, everything is manipulated and filtered through the perspective of the voice behind it --whether that's in an overt or a more subtle way. Rather than this literal truth that works on paper, we like to see the stylized approach coming at more indirect, human truth. That's what was more appealing to us, and that's what we like about folklore in general, mythology and fables. Human issues filtered through a story that approaches things in a less direct way.
Rinko Kikuchi stars in your film. Describe the search to find the right actress to anchor such a character-driven film.
DZ: We'd seen her in Babel initially and after that in some Japanese films. We liked her choices and thought she was a really interesting actress. We met with her and hit it off right away. She got the tone we were going for --and it's a very specific tone with Kumiko-the kind of balance between the humor and pathos. We quickly had a shorthand, and she dialed into the sensibility. We knew from very early on that she was the perfect person for the role.
We usually see Tokyo presented as this exotic, alienating, futuristic city in a lot of Western films. You guys invert that in your film. Tokyo is a perfectly familiar place for Kumiko, and as soon as the film gets to Minnesota, it seems absolutely alien. It reminded me of John Carpenter's The Thing. In the middle of nowhere, snowy and cold.
DZ: That's one of the things Nathan and I went over from the start. Everything in this film is from Kumiko's perspective. She's alienated a bit in Japan, and that only increases when she gets to Minnesota. At the same time, we're Westerners going to a language we don't speak and a culture we don't come from, so we didn't want this to be a tourist version of Japan. What we see is where she's from and what she's familiar with.
The film has a very specific tone. Based on the plot alone, one could imagine it veering to fifteen minutes of exposition in Japan and then a madcap, Gods Must Be Crazy-style comedy in the U.S. Your film is nothing like that at all; you went with a more subtle and character-driven feel.
DZ: This film could have very easily been a one-note joke, and it was very important for us to humanize it and give this character the respect she deserves. She's in every scene; everything is in her point of view. We wanted the audience to be on her side and rooting for her. Even if audiences don't agree with everything she's doing, they'll be able to relate on a human level. We didn't want to make her a one-dimensional butt of a joke. That would have been a real turn-off for us personally.
The Coen brothers shot Fargo in Minnesota during a very mild winter; they actually had to bring snow into some of the locations. What was your experience shooting there?
DZ: We were a small and mobile crew, and we were able to be flexible, shooting inside when it was warm out and heading out whenever it became miserable. I guess that's the opposite of what you would normally do.
Nathan Zellner: A lot of that has to do with the limited means we had to make the movie. We made sure our schedule was very specific and shot there in January and February to make sure we weren't pushing the limitations of the weather. It was pretty hard getting everything to work in that regard, lining it up with the Japan portion and all that stuff. We saw what the snowiest month would be because we couldn't afford to fake it.
DZ: And it never looks as real anyway. We had the schedule work out so we were shooting in Japan in autumn and Minnesota in the winter; we essentially shot two features back to back. Outside of ourselves, our producing partners, and our cinematographer, we used an entirely different crew for each unit.
What sort of filmmakers inspired you growing up?
DZ: We were kids of the late '70s and '80s. You mentioned John Carpenter, and we love him --we went to see his movies whenever we could sneak into R-rated movies-and the big blockbusters of that day, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and those sort of films. We became familiar with independent and international cinema in our late teens. Werner Herzog has definitely been a big influence for us.
NZ: One of the things we wanted to do with this film was create a theater-going experience and really pay attention to the image and the wide screen and sound design. When you see a new film that's coming out or that you haven't seen projected before, there's something about seeing it with an audience, and that was something we wanted to create with this. When you see the image that big, it lets you feel more involved in the story.
DZ: That's definitely something we talked about in the beginning. With so many formats available, there's still nothing that beats watching a movie in a theater. We didn't want this to be a talking-head kind of film; we wanted the landscapes of Japan and Minnesota to be characters. That visual element is really strong because we shot it in wide screen, and the intention of the film was to have it seen on the biggest screen possible.
By Daniel Garris
Cinderella grossed $5.82 million on Tuesday to easily lead the daily box office for a fifth straight day. Disney's well-received fairy tale adaptation was up 21 percent from Monday's performance. Cinderella has grossed a strong $78.51 million in its first five days of release and continues to perform on the very high end of its lofty pre-release expectations. The film is running just 5 percent behind the $82.84 million five-day start of last year's Maleficent (which increased 16 percent on its first Tuesday to gross $7.19 million). However, unlike Maleficent, Cinderella doesn't have the added advantage of higher priced 3D admissions.
Warner's Run All Night continued to place in a distant second with $1.14 million. The Liam Neeson led action thriller was up a healthy 31 percent over Monday, as the film appears to have been helped a bit more by St. Patrick's Day than most other films aimed at adults. Run All Night has grossed a softer than expected $13.03 million in its first five days. That places the film 13 percent behind the $14.98 million five-day start of last year's A Walk Among the Tombstones (which increased 31 percent on its first Tuesday to gross $1.26 million).
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was up one spot from Monday to move into third on Tuesday with $0.767 million. The ensemble comedy sequel from Fox Searchlight was up a strong 35 percent over Monday and down 37 percent from last Tuesday. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has grossed a very solid $19.38 million in twelve days, which places it 24 percent behind the $25.50 million twelve-day gross of last year's The Hundred-Foot Journey.
Fox's Kingsman: The Secret Service was down one spot from Monday to land in fourth place with $0.732 million. The Matthew Vaughn directed graphic novel adaptation starring Colin Firth increased 24 percent over Monday and decreased a slim 22 percent from last Tuesday. Kingsman: The Secret Service has grossed a stronger than expected $108.71 million through 33 days, thanks in part to strong holding power, especially for its genre.
Sony's CHAPPiE held steady in fifth place with $0.714 million. The Neill Blomkamp directed sci-fi film was up 30 percent over Monday, but still down a sizable 49 percent from last Tuesday. In addition to poor critical reviews and mixed word of mouth, CHAPPiE has also taken a hit from losing IMAX screens to Cinderella this week. The twelve-day total for CHAPPiE stands at a very lackluster $24.58 million.
Focus took in $0.623 million to remain in sixth place. Warner's romantic heist film starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie was up 18 percent over Monday and down a so-so 46 percent from last Tuesday. Focus continues to perform slightly below expectations with $45.12 million through 19 days of release.
UNIVERSAL PICTURES' "TRAINWRECK" ARRIVES IN THEATRES ON JULY 17, 2015
WASHINGTON D.C. (March 18, 2015) - Amy Schumer will receive the "CinemaCon® Breakthrough Performer of the Year Award," it was announced today by Mitch Neuhauser, Managing Director of CinemaCon. CinemaCon, the official convention of The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), will be held April 20 - 23, 2015, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Schumer will be presented with this special honor at the "CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards" ceremony to take place on Thursday evening, April 23, in The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The Coca-Cola Company, the official presenting sponsor of CinemaCon, will host the final night gala awards program.
"Already a breakout comedic star on television with her hit series ‘Inside Amy Schumer,' Amy has proven that she has an innate ability to take the everyday topics related to life and make them so funny that she has audiences wondering just what she will say next," noted Neuhauser. "With her upcoming breakout role in ‘Trainwreck,' Amy pairs her provocative and hilarious writing style with Judd Apatow's honest comedic look at what it is like to live in the world today. We could not be more excited that we get the chance to honor such an incredible talent with the ‘CinemaCon Breakthrough Performer of the Year Award."
Schumer can be seen this summer starring in Universal Pictures "Trainwreck," in which arrives in theatres on July 17, 2015. Written by Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, the comedy stars Schumer as a woman who lives her life without apologies, even when maybe she should apologize. "Trainwreck" co-stars Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Tilda Swinton and LeBron James, and is produced by Apatow through his Apatow Productions alongside Barry Mendel.
She is the creator, star, writer and executive producer of the Primetime Emmy Award-nominated "Inside Amy Schumer," which will return to Comedy Central for a third season on April 21. Schumer made her network debut in 2007 on NBC's "Last Comic Standing," which led to an appearance on "30 Rock" and her own "Comedy Central Presents" special. Her other television credits include the one-hour stand-up special "Amy Schumer: Mostly Sex Stuff," as well as roles in "Louie," "Girls," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Delocated." On the big screen, Schumer was seen in the features "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" and "Price Check."
CinemaCon will attract upwards of 5,000 motion picture professionals from all facets of the industry -from exhibition and distribution, to the equipment and concession areas - all on hand to celebrate the movie-going experience and the cinema industry. From exclusive Hollywood product presentations highlighting a slate of upcoming films, to must-see premiere feature screenings, to the biggest stars, producers and directors, CinemaCon will help jumpstart the excitement and buzz that surrounds the summer season at the box office.
CinemaCon is delighted to have both the International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA) and National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) as its tradeshow partners. CinemaCon is also delighted to have as its official presenting sponsor, The Coca-Cola Company, one of the industry's greatest and highly regarded and respected partners in the world of the movies.
The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) is the largest exhibition trade organization in the world, representing more than 32,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and additional cinemas in 81 countries worldwide. NATO's membership includes the largest cinema chains in the world and hundreds of independent theatre owners, too.
Additional information on CinemaCon can be found at www.cinemacon.com.
Cinderella, fresh off a $132 million global box office debut last weekend, marks the latest in a growing string of live action fantasy hits from Disney. As we discussed last week, the trend represents a previously overlooked facet of the studio's resurgent family appeal. Fresh off the press yesterday was the release date set for one of their next fairy tale efforts, so it seems like a good time for a brief look at that and several other upcoming entries in Disney's newfound "cinematic universe".
The Jungle Book
April 15, 2016
Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf, Chef) tackles this latest edition of Rudyard Kipling's 1894 novel, set to feature voice performances from Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), and Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha). Young newcomer Neel Seethi fills the live action roll of Mowgli.
Disney attempted a traditionally animated Jungle Book sequel in 2003, as well as a 1994 live action feature, but each were met with lukewarm results at the box office (generating less than $50 million domestically each). In fact, no Jungle Book effort has ever matched the original 1967 animation's success, which earned nearly $74 million in its day (more than $465 million using today's ticket prices), plus another $68 million between two re-releases in 1984 and 1990. With a talented cast and crew for the 2016 outing, it seems likely to find more success.
Of note: this film precedes Warner Bros.' own iteration of the property, The Jungle Book: Origins -- set to be directed by Andy Serkis, with an all-star cast its own, for an October 6, 2017 release.
Alice In Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass
May 27, 2016
Six years after Tim Burton capitalized on the 3D craze and delivered a $1 billion blockbuster with Alice in Wonderland, Disney returns to the well with much of that film's cast set to reprise their characters. Most notable is the return of Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter, who proved to be a significant draw for the 2010 flick. Unfortunately, Depp's box office power has diminished since then, and so to has the 3D craze which significantly boosted the previous flick's appeal just months after Avatar hit theaters. Nevertheless, the actual 1871 Lewis Carrol follow-up book of the same title has its share of fans.
Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Mia Wasikowska (Alice), and Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen) all return, although Burton won't be; instead, The Muppets director James Bobin takes over the reigns. It's hard to imagine Looking Glass getting anywhere near the surprising box office numbers of Burton's entry, especially with the move from a spring release to what looks like a very crowded May in 2016. The sequel is currently set to open directly against Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse on Memorial Day weekend. Still, some of the Disney faithful could still turn out for this given the amount of goodwill behind the studio's projects right now.
(Release Date Pending)
It was only recently reported that Dumbo would be the next classic remade as a live action flick, so details are few and far between. What we do know is that Tim Burton will return to the Mouse House for directing duties. There's not much box office precedence here as the original 1941 animation (distributed by the iconic RKO) predates any relevant comparisons, but Burton has proven with films like Big Fish (happening to prominently feature a circus in its own plot) that he's capable of delivering heart alongside his unique brand of fantasy. This is in the very early stages of development and likely won't see release before 2018, but, forgive the pun, keep your ears open.
Beauty and the Beast
March 17, 2017
Just given its release date yesterday, this remake may have the most potential on Disney's fairy tale slate. Emma Watson takes the seemingly pitch perfect role of Belle, while Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) will return to familiar musical grounds. Fans of the classic 1991 animated version will also be happy to hear Oscar-winner Alan Menken is set to score the film's soundtrack, to feature new renditions of that film's classic tunes as well as original songs by Menken and Sir Tim Rice.
The 1991 box office sensation was that year's third-highest grossing movie with $146 million (around $290 million in today's ticket prices), and has gone on to become an endearing classic. The film enjoyed a successful IMAX re-release in 2002, followed by a somewhat modest 3D run in 2012. With a cast already set to feature Luke Evans (Gaston), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), and Kevin Kline (Maurice) in addition to Watson, not to mention kids and families looking for the next Frozen-like musical experience, Beauty and the Beast has the early makings of a probable blockbuster.
Which of these films are you looking most forward to, readers?