The Weinstein Company

Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Snowpiercer Somewhere along the way, purchasing a ticket for Bong Joon-ho’s long-awaited Snowpiercer became a populist act that echoes the content of the film itself. Months of coverage followed Harvey Weinstein’s threat to cut the festival favorite. Knowing the kind of backlash that would ensue, Weinstein opted not to cut the film himself but instead asked Bong to shave 20 minutes off and add an explanatory voice-over to bookend the film. Bong refused, and the web backed him by reporting on the story, supporting the director’s vision and pushing for its unblemished release. While The Weinstein Company narrowed the rollout of Snowpiercer from a wide to a limited opening, no cuts were ever made, and it would seem that the voices of many overcame the far more powerful voice of one. It’s a strange case of life mimicking art, with movie fans and erstwhile supporters of artistic integrity using collective action against a major cultural gatekeeper. After traveling worldwide mostly without incident, film fans and prospective moviegoers pushed Snowpiercer to pry open the door and enter the American moviegoing scene on its own terms. But, as the film itself shows, the relations of power are never quite as simple as they seem.

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tracks-mia-driver

Director John Curran’s Tracks had solid showings at both Telluride and Venice film festivals, and with The Weinstein Company having snagged the epic Aussie adventure for US distribution rights, a theatrical drop date should be forthcoming. For now, we at least get our first look in a new trailer. The movie is adapted from Robyn Davidson’s autobiography of the same name, telling the story of her solo trek through almost two thousand miles of Australian desert, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. With only the companionship of four camels and her dog, Diggity, during her adventure she met the unique folk you’d only find making a home of the desert and also, eventually, National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, who documented her journey. Screenwriter Marion Nelson handled screen adaptation duties.

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weinstein

Back when brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein created a company that combined their parents Miriam and Max’s names into a portmanteau and started distributing independent films (stuff like concert documentaries and horror movies) in the late 70s, not many people could have predicted what a juggernaut of the art film world Miramax Films would eventually become. Somewhere around the mid 80s, Miramax, under the lead of the Weinsteins, started putting out releases like The Thin Blue Line and Sex, Lies, and Videotape though, and after that it was off to the races. By the time the mid 90s rolled around, not only was Miramax probably the leading producer and distributor of arthouse and indie films in the world, it was also an awards-generating machine whose statue-grubbing campaigns rivaled anything the big studios were doing in terms of money spent and aggressiveness. Whether you see what the Weinsteins accomplished at Miramax in the 90s as simple capitalist greed, or as the most effective promotion of experimental and interesting cinematic art that’s ever been accomplished, it’s hard to argue that their releases and promotional tactics didn’t play a large part in creating the indie film boom we saw during that decade—which was a trend that brought us a ton of great films as well as created an entire generation of new film geeks. Once the Weinsteins were forced out of their company in 2005 by the Disney overlords who had bought it more than a decade earlier though, Miramax’s ability to generate […]

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Jodorowsky Dune

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deal

Netflix has just fired a pretty big shot in the ongoing war to control all content. Recently we’ve seen them and their streaming competitors—chiefly Amazon’s Prime service—waging a fierce battle to round up streaming rights to all of the studio content that they can their hands on. The competition has gotten so fierce, in fact, that both companies have started producing their own exclusive content as a way to offset the bad feelings sent their way by upset customers who don’t understand what happens when an entire studio’s offerings suddenly drop off of a service in order to go exclusive with someone else. Anyway, the new news, which comes from an announcement by Netflix, is that they’ve signed a new agreement with The Weinstein Company to have exclusive pay television rights to all of their content starting in 2016. This extends a deal that the two companies made to give Netflix exclusive access to a limited list of Weinstein content back in February of 2012, and is very similar to an exclusive deal Netflix signed with Disney in December 2012, which will see the streaming service also becoming the exclusive home of Disney content starting in 2016.

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hSnowpiercer_14

To those who’d like to see Bong Joon-ho‘s Snowpiercer and don’t currently live in Korea, I’ve got some bad news. The film still has no release date for the Western world, but Harvey Weinstein, eager to add insult to injury, has just stepped in to make things much, much worse. According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns (via Australia’s Inside Film), Weinstein, who’s in control of the film’s international distribution, has instructed Bong (The Host) to shave 20 minutes off his 126-minute film, or it won’t see a release in North America, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. That’s awful. But what’s even worse is Weinstein’s reasoning behind the cut.  Rayns tells why: “[The Weinstein Company] people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.’” Reportedly, the cuts would come from the film’s character work, leaving Snowpiercer as a bare bones action flick.

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kramer

Joe Lynch’s removal from Knights of Badassdom has been a very public affair in the online world. The movie that surprised Comic-Con audiences all those years ago that disappeared only to re-emerge went through its troubles, namely Lynch’s cut being butchered in an editing bay. Directors don’t always (or normally) have final cut, but what Lynch is going through is a matter of being locked out completely. The film was recently picked up for distribution, but, from the sound of it, we won’t be seeing Lynch’s version any time soon. We don’t hear about these behind-the-scenes issues that often, but another famous case was The Weinstein Company’s handling of 2009’s immigration drama Crossing Over. Despite featuring Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Alice Eve, Ashley Judd, and a few other familiar faces, the movie went unnoticed at the box office and critics didn’t much care for it. In addition to the strong cast, it was directed by Wayne Kramer, the man behind The Cooler and Running Scared. Those are two fully-realized movies, while Crossing Over is a movie that, although containing commendable performances and moments, never quite comes together in the way that it should. And there’s a reason for that. The film certainly doesn’t deserve a 16% on Rottentomatoes, but, even Kramer would agree, it’s not on par with his other work. There are many, many political reasons why that’s the case, and when we spoke with Kramer for his new film, Pawn Shop Chronicles, he was ready to speak about the serious troubles he ran into at the Weinstein Company.

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acdc

Those of us who have grown up having electricity our entire lives generally don’t think too much about the particulars of how the lights go on. There was a time, before everything was standardized and the limits of what electricity could do for us was known, where the world watched as the specifics of how best to harness electrical energy was bitterly debated, however. The basic argument was between direct current, where energy always flows in one direction between positive and negative terminals, and alternating current, where the direction of an electrical current reverses 50 or 60 times a second, depending on whether you’re in Europe or the United States. Sounds boring, right? Maybe not. The Weinstein Company seems to think that there’s a way to present the electricity debates of the late 1800s as a dramatic feature that would keep even modern, celebrity gossip-obsessed audiences engaged, because they’ve just put some money behind a Black List script by Michael Mitnick called The Current War that covers this very topic, and it looks like this is a project that they want to put on the fast track to production. Before you scoff at the idea of throwing a bunch of money and resources at a movie about scientific debates, know that this was the issue that eventually led to Thomas Edison publicly electrocuting an elephant to death. Yeah, things escalated quickly.

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JD Salinger

According to Deadline Hollywood, The Weinstein Company has acquired the rights to release Salinger into theaters. No word yet on when they plan to release the documentary about the famously reclusive author of “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Franny and Zooey,” and others. The deal is a testament to the quality of the work from director Shane Salerno (the writer of Savages and, no kidding, Shaft). He and his team first showed it to American Masters who made a deal to show it as part of their programming early next year. They then showed it to publisher Simon & Schuster who made a deal to publish a biography written by Salerno with David Shields. They then showed it to The Weinstein Company who made a deal to put it in theaters. Basically, everyone they show it to wants to take out their checkbooks and put a lot of zeroes on the line. In other news, we’re getting a thorough documentary of a genius. A glimpse into a world he kept hidden for most of his life. That raises a lot of interesting ethical issues regarding privacy and how we truly value an artist’s wishes, but the appeal of a fascinating story is close to overwhelming.  

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Django Action Figures

I want to tell you a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down. It started a couple weeks ago when the awesome collectible manufacturer NECA released a line of Django Unchained action figures. These things were hoss, similar to the ones released for Inglorious Basterds, that is, they were tall, well made, and something an adult could have in his house. Plus, one of them was of James Remar, and how cool would it be to have a James Remar action figure? SUPER COOL. However, I hadn’t yet seen the film. I saw the price on-line: about $40. Not bad, but what if the movie sucked? I am not the biggest Tarantino fan in the world, so I figured I’d wait until after I saw the movie before deciding whether or not to get one. My plan worked perfectly, or rather, it would have, if not for Al Sharpton and other overly sensitive ass-bags who want to ruin everything for everyone that isn’t them.

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Once upon a time, Michael Gates Gill’s memoir, “How Starbucks Saved My Life,” was optioned by Universal to become a film that would be directed by Gus Van Sant and would star Tom Hanks. Chances are, that would have been awesome. It didn’t end up happening though, so get it out of your head now. It’s done. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Deadline has gotten word that The Weinstein Company has just swooped in and gobbled up the rights to the book, which will likely give it a second shot at becoming a film. For those of you not familiar with Gill’s story, you’re probably wondering how exactly Starbucks (yes, we’re talking about the coffee chain here) could have saved someone’s life. It certainly wasn’t through the quality of their over-roasted beans—am I right, hipsters? Ahem. Anyway, “How Starbucks Saved My Life” makes more sense if you hear its full title, “How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.” It’s Gill’s account of how falling on hard times and actually having to get a job and work for a living gave him a new perspective and generally saved him from a life of behaving like an entitled goon. Suddenly he has to answer to someone who is younger than him, has darker skin, and is equipped with lady parts, he has to actually do manual labor in order to receive a paycheck, and once he gets said check he […]

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Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

After the box office bust and critical disappointment of their Lawless (hey! I liked it!), The Weinstein Company has pushed back their potential awards contender, Andrew Dominik‘s Killing Them Softly, to the more awards-friendly date of November 30. The film was last slated for a release on October 19, after being moved there in July, when TWC moved it off its first release date (September 21) after they announced that The Master (another one of their awards contenders) would open in limited release on September 14 and then expand on September 21. In regards to the choice, Deadline Hollywood reports (via /Film) that Harvey Weinstein commented, ““In this industry it is a very rare event to look at a weekend where your movie could open as the only wide release picture…November 30th will allow us to bring Killing Them Softly to a wide audience without competition. Additionally, the critical response to the movie has been very favorable especially on the amazing performances and November 30th positions us better in the Awards season calendar.” Two points for honesty. Simon saw Killing Them Softly back during Cannes, and he called it “an artfully crafted, occasionally very funny satire dressed up in tough-guy leathers and packing a knuckle duster punch.” Check out his review HERE, and give the film’s trailer a look right HERE.

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Piranha 3DD

Piranha 3DD wasn’t screened for critics, and a flood wiped out the showing I was slated to attend at the only theater featuring it in New York City. After the 45-minute round-trip subway ride for nothing, I returned to my apartment, sat down to order the movie on video on demand and had one of those brief moments of existential panic that befalls every film critic now and again: Is spending a half-day or more trying to see Piranha 3DD really what I should be doing with my life? Fortunately, I guess, I sucked it up, hit “buy,” and sat through the 71-minute feature, which is padded out to 81 thanks to 10 minutes of outtakes and David Hasselhoff jokes over the closing credits. Full disclosure: I don’t have a 3-D TV, so I can’t comment on what it’s like to see Katrina Bowden’s projectile vomit propelling toward you from a big screen. If you’re looking for an in-depth dissection of Piranha 3DD’s third-dimensional tomfoolery, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

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Piranha 3DD

Piranha 3DD is the first 3D movie to have a day-and-date release – that is, a release to VOD and Facebook on the same day it hits theaters. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the bloody-watered buoyant-breasted horror comedy will be available VOD for 7 bucks (in standard and high def) and 8 bucks for 3D on the major platforms. It will also be featured on Facebook. The Weinstein Company‘s Dimension Films and Starz Digital Media are handling the distribution online, and Starz VP Mara Winokur is enthusiastic about the safety net involved, citing that it will be a success even if no one watches on Facebook. “The cost was low enough that if there are no views, but people saw the promotion and went to theaters or got it on DVD or elsewhere, it will be successful. It is a great marketing spend in itself. It is a holistic experiment,” she said.

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Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp My Valentine

Harvey Weinstein. This guy. He’s crazy like a fox, and not all of his moves can be understood ahead of time, which is why he often prevails. In the case of the music video for Paul McCartney‘s “My Valentine,” it’s unclear who he’ll prevail over, but the producing titan has requested that theaters in New York and Los Angeles play the black and white work (which features Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman signing the lyrics to the song (before Depp takes a sweet acoustic solo)) before screenings of The Intouchables. There is no connection between the two projects (at least not one that could be made without Kevin Bacon), so it all seems sort of bizarre. The Intouchables is the latest Olivier Nakache film which tells the comically dramatic story of a wealthy quadriplegic man hiring a poor man from the projects to take care of him (Review here). Oh, no. Does Weinstein think quadriplegic people and deaf people are the same? Hopefully not. At any rate, here’s the video if you’d like to prep for the movie that it has nothing to do with:

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The Intouchables Movie

On the surface, The Intouchables sounds like another trite, feel-good movie about a mismatched pair of unlikely friends, who come together to inspire each other despite overwhelming odds. Or, maybe it’s a remake of The Untouchables with an unfortunate typo. But it’s not about sending anyone to the Chicago morgue, and your everyday buddy movie simply doesn’t achieve the enormous box office haul that’s been amassed by this French drama, which has reportedly earned more than $280 million before even opening stateside. So The Intouchables has clearly hit unique nerve. After all, it’s not a big, expensive blockbuster or a sequel to a mega-popular franchise. Still, the formula for success here, perfected by co-directors/writers Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, is clear: Find characters worth caring about, cast actors who are adept at making you feel for them and surround the stars with an inspirational narrative centered on meaningful, affecting human growth.

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What is Cannes in 60 Seconds? If you say it with a pompous accent, it’s a hilarious pun on a classic Nic Cage/Angelina Jolie film that no one can rightfully claim is at all terrible. If you say it with a normal accent, it’s still a news and review round-up from the South of France. The biggest news comes from the mouths of critics after seeing the opening night flick – Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom. It’s garnered high, near-universal praise. A smattering of reviews can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. But that’s not all that’s going on:

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There are least two sides to this whole Bully MPAA rating mess. Maybe it’s a valiant outcry against the hypocrisy of an organization that treats sex and language differently than violence. Maybe it’s a huge public relations stunt orchestrated by Harvey Weinstein in order to get more butts into seats. Maybe it’s both. Either way, Lee Hirsch‘s movie is caught in the balance, and it looks like he’s ready to cut off his entire head to spite his face. Shortly before the Los Angeles premiere of the movie, he made the decision to release it unrated into theaters. Because if your goal is to make sure as many children see it as possible, the best move would be to make it impossible for them to see it, right?

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Hot on the heels of winning a slew of awards at the Oscars, Harvey Weinstein has decided to go to war with the MPAA over the new documentary Bully, which was “slapped” with an R rating for language and lost an appeal to have it changed to PG-13. I’m not going to spend all my time pointing out the irony that Harvey Weinstein is a big bully himself, leveraging the tragic events in this new film to orchestrate a publicity stunt. Suffice it to say, if he were interested in actually having as many students as possible watch this film instead of making money, he could easily distribute censored screeners to schools with any offending language bleeped out. And why is he doing a little song-and-dance about releasing it “unrated” when he knows full well that the National Association of Theatre Owners will have to treat it like an NC-17 film (under the yoke and obligation of the MPAA)? Make no mistake… Weinstein’s in it for the money and not the cause. But let’s leave his personal bullying out of the argument and consider the possibility that an R rating might, in fact, be the right thing for Bully.

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The Independent Spirit Awards and the Oscars never agree. Well, almost never. In 28 years of co-existing, the two organizations have only agreed once before – on Oliver Stone’s Platoon back in 1986. It’s not surprising since the Spirit Awards focus on celebrating a particular method of filmmaking that is often overlooked by the red-carpet-ready Academy Awards, but if both honor prestige movies, it seems at least likely they’d agree from time to time, right? They didn’t until last night. The more-than-two-decades-long drought was finally broken when The Artist took home Best Picture less than a week after bringing home the top Spirit prize. It became the first movie since 1986 to win both the Oscar and the Indie Spirit Award. One was in an ornate theater, the other was in a tent on the beach, but the implication is clear: independent movies are breaking more and more into the mainstream.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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