The September Issue

This critically acclaimed 2008 documentary is effectively a real-life companion piece to “The Devil Wears Prada.” It depicts the reputed real-life basis for Meryl Streep’s hellish-but-hilarious Miranda Priestly, Vogue Magazine‘s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as she assembles what turns out to be the thickest, most advertising-laden, issue in the fashion mag’s long history. The British born Wintour’s reputation, of course, precedes her and, not surprisingly, she comes off a lot milder and more human than either her fictional counterpart or the nickname never mentioned in the film, “Nuclear” Wintour, would indicate. It’s notable that we never really see the fashion doyen with abuse-ready underlings, though we do see her in frequent, reasonably polite, conflict with more evenly matched colleagues — particularly strong-willed, doc-stealing creative director Grace Coddington, a fellow Brit and a former model herself, who went into the behind-the scenes world after a car accident affected her appearance.

It’s a pleasant, if less than spectacularly compelling, package as far as it goes. Director R.J. Cutler and cinematographer Robert Richman, who finds himself becoming a part of the film’s story, deliver a visually sharp portrait of the candy-colored world of high-end fashion and the whiter-than-white Vogue offices. On the other hand, though it admits she’s not what anyone would consider a warm and fuzzy presence, this comes across very much like the film Anna Wintour would like you to see about her. I can’t help feeling that Cutler’s film was made so that a darker, more honest, and more interesting film was not.

Click to buy “The September Issue”

  

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Today’s secret word is “$”

On an otherwise slow movie news day, Variety‘s Michael Fleming is on  a small role, and the theme is filthy lucre.

* Writers Aline Brosh McKenna and Simon Kinberg have obtained $2 million from Paramount on the basis of a pitch for an unnamed upcoming project to be produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Especially in this climate, it’s a surprisingly tidy sum. It sort of brings back to mind the Hollywood of a couple of decades back when the studios were handing out sometimes surprisingly generous money for options to even relatively unknown writers on the basis of a pitch — though McKenna and Kinberg are far from unknown and the Abrams imprimatur surely didn’t hurt.

No details about the story have emerged but Kinberg is associated with lighthearted action pieces, like the upcoming “Sherlock Holmes,” while McKenna has worked on lighthearted feminine-friendly material like “The Devil Wears Prada.”

A Fistful of Dollars

* “The Art of Making Money” is an adaptation of journalist Jason Kersten’s nonfiction account of the career of counterfeiter Art Williams. Director D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia,” “Red Eye”) and Junior James Kirk Chris Pine are “in negotiations” with Paramount for the pic.

* Meanwhile at Fox, any action comedy headlined by Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, to be directed by James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma“), co-written by busy master scribe Scott Frank  (“The Lookout” “Get Shorty,” “Minority Report,” etc.) and backed up by all-star supporting is likely to be a pricey proposition. You’d think they could afford a better title than “Knight & Day.”

  

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3-D “Final Destination” wins horror franchise battle

The Final Destination

Apparently the lure of bizarre deaths in 3-D was somewhat stronger than more traditional forms of slaughter this weekend. “The Final Destination” won the violent, R-dominated movie derby this weekend and died its way to an estimated $28.3 million for New Line. So says THR/Reuters and Nikki Finke, with Ms. Finke mentioning those 3-D ticket prices as its main advantage against  The Weinstein Company’s latest return to the Michael Myers well, “Halloween 2.” The slasher flick came in at the #3 spot with an estimate of $17.4 million, which actually could have been a lot worse. Judging by the post-release reviews that are trickling in at Rotten Tomatoes, the good will Zombie earned from gore-friendly horror fans on “The Devil’s Rejects” seems to have largely dissipated with this entry. Moreover, Finke’s post and comments are full of remarks on the oddness of facing off two scare-franchises on the same weekend when many students start returning to school. And there’s also the matter of the Weinsteins competing against themselves.

Melanie Laurent
And that brings us to “Inglourious Basterds,” which held well at $20 million on its second weekend, dipping a better-than-average 47% according to Pamela McClintock of Variety, which will no doubt be assuaging whatever disappointment Harvey Weinstein may feel re: “Halloween 2.”  The performance of “Basterds” is pretty magnificent considering last week La Finke and her sources were talking about a huge 70% drop because of the perhaps overestimated returning-to-college factor and, I’m guessing, their prejudice that “Inglourious Basterds” simply can’t possibly be an ongoing moneymaker in the U.S. market.

I caught up with “Basterds” yesterday. I guess it’s no surprise that a Tarantino-positive cinegeek with a heavy retro tendency like myself would hugely enjoy this borderline surrealist World War II opus.  However, it really was something to be in the presence of a very mainstream, semi-surburban cineplex audience rapt with attention during long stretches of subtitled dialogue in a film full of the kind of homages and film references that are supposed to ruin a movie’s chances. Proving, I suppose, the power of stories and characterization to overcome an audience’s prejudices, if not the cynical preconceptions of those inside the Hollywood bubble. Of course, it’s just easier to blow things up to please a young and male audience, and Tarantino does that, too. So there’s your formula. The other well-reviewed violent genre actioner, “District 9,” held on as well in its fourth week with an estimated $10.7 million.

Taking Woodstock Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” was pretty much a bust. It did even less well than I guessed Friday and made only an approximate $3.7 million, though in fewer theaters than the other major releases. To echo myself, fare aimed at older audiences needs favorable reviews and/or buzz to really succeed, and the mild reaction to this fact-based comedy apparently wasn’t cutting it. Even so, this film probably should have started out with an arthouse release.

Speaking of the arthouse circuit, as often happens specialty fare hosted the biggest per screen averages of the week. The documentary “The September Issue” featuring Vogue editor Anna Wintour did smashing business in its first weekend in six New York theaters, with some $40,000 per screen according to Box Office Mojo. Presumably every fashionista in the area turned up to see what I guess might be marketed as the real life version of “The Devil Wears Prada.” Not quite as great, but still at least as strong as a stocky sports geek’s headbutt, was the Bullz-Eye/PH approved “Big Fan,” which did a healthy $13,000 on each of its two coastal screens this weekend.

Patton Oswalt and Kevin Corrigan in

  

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Rich Sommer is one of TV’s happiest “Mad Men”

As any television fan worth his salt knows, the new season of “Mad Men” is just around the corner — and if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll be happy to know that Bullz-Eye’s Will Harris just so happens to have had a chat with series star Rich Sommer recently. It will come as no surprise that the ever-intrepid Harris tried to pry some tidbits about the upcoming season out of Sommer…and it should be equally unsurprising that Sommer, not wanting to run afoul of show producer Matt Weiner, begged off, saying “You might be able to get that out of someone else, but I can’t be the guy, because I have a good relationship with Matt Weiner…and I’ve got to keep it that way!”

Of course, even if he wasn’t leery of breaking Weiner’s trust, Sommer might not be able to tell us what to look for. As he says in the interview, that kind of information doesn’t exactly flow freely on the “Mad Men” set:

Matt (Weiner) is a little bit impish and likes to sort of tease you with things. Like, in the first season, when Harry was going to sleep with Hildy, he sort of would tease me and say, ‘Oh, you’ve got a little story coming up in a couple of episodes.’ I would say, ‘Oh, that’s awesome. What is it?’ He would say, ‘You have to guess.’

Okay, so you won’t find any “Mad Men” spoilers — but that doesn’t mean Sommer’s Bullz-Eye interview is a bore. Far from it: Over the course of two discussions with Will, he discusses life behind the scenes of one of television’s best-reviewed series, reflects on his other high-profile gigs (The Devil Wears Prada, The Office), and provides some perspective on how he went from endless fruitless auditions to a steady job on the boob tube:

It was my final audition of the pilot season. It had been three miserable, horrible months where I had zero callbacks, zero positive reception, one of those pilot seasons that makes you pretty sure you are never going to be an actor and never want to be an actor. And then that happened.

To read the rest of the interview, just follow this link!

  

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“G.I. Joe” to enforce age (and gender?) apartheid at box office (updated)

It’s hard to tell from the wilds of deepest North Orange County, but I’m guessing that Hollywood’s in a mild state of shock following the very unexpected death of John Hughes, without a doubt one of the most influential writers and directors of the past two-and a half decades. Nevertheless, life goes on and the box office is the fact of life in the film business.

And so it is that, Lord help us all, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” seems poised to take this coming weekend’s chase for the green fairly effortlessly. Indeed, the always jovial Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter expects something in the neighborhood of $45-50 million. As mentioned here before, the actioner hasn’t been screened for critics, an increasingly common studio ploy that is nevertheless still somewhat rare for a film as high profile as this one.

Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, though not setting any numbers out for us, remarks that the action/sci-fi flick and toy/game marketing device is:

…sparking strong interest among both young and older men, as well as some curiosity among younger femmes, according to tracking.

Why any sensible young person of either gender should be interested in this film eludes me, but I guess we’ll have to see if there’s enough insensible ones from both to make this film more than a young male bastion. I should also add that some critics in the online and foreign press have managed to somehow see the film despite Paramount’s non-screening decision, and the Rotten Tomatoes numbers are less dismal than you would expect. Still, in my estimation, the best reviews lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity, though the rough beast we call the teenage populace will not be stopped from slouching towards the Plex-ville. (My profoundest apologies to Mr. Yeats.)

Intriguingly, while both Variety and THR say “Joe” will be deploying to 3,500 screens, Box Office Mojo has the film in over 4,000 theaters. The cinematic Powell doctrine, anyone?

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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