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‘Black Panther’ Scorches Box Office Records, Sets the Bar for 2018 and Beyond


Marvel’s “Black Panther” (Disney) arrived with a record-breaking bang at the 2018 box office, outperforming pre-opening estimates for its three day U.S./Canada opening.

Check out its all-time records: “Black Panther” bests “Deadpool” by more than $50 million as the best February and pre-March opening weekends ever. It tops last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” as the best pre-May debut of all time. It nearly doubles “Furious 7” as the best opening for a black-directed film. It is triple the best previous record (held by “Straight Outta Compton”) for initial weekend of a film with a primarily black cast.

Those numbers will be re-counted when Sunday’s actual numbers are reported, plus the boost the movie will get from a four-day semi-holiday on Monday. And adjusting to an even playing field still leaves “Black Panther” remarkably (considering the month of release) among the ten best openers ever.

“Black Panther”

Ryan Coogler’s breakout film “Fruitvale Station” did well in limited release and commercial sequel “Creed” marked a decent wide release. But “Black Panther”‘s grosses are seismic and game-changing for the director. The movie is the biggest non-“Star Wars” opener since “Jurassic World” (with a prime June release date) nearly three years ago. Yes, “Black Panther” comes from within the lucrative comic book universe of adaptations, but by those high standards it ranks #4 (adjusted) after both “Avengers” films and “Spider-Man 3.”

There have been 13 Marvel or D.C. Comic book releases since “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened to (an adjusted) $204 million in May, 2015. A majority have opened over $100 million (including similar game-changer “Wonder Woman.” But no comic book movie since (the best off-season opener “Batman v. Superman” opened to an adjusted $178 million, “Deadpool” $141 million), despite showcasing a who’s who of comic world characters (“Thor,” “X-Men,” “Spider-Man” and the ensemble in “Suicide Squad”) boasted the appeal of this long-overdue all-black cast of heroes and villains starring in an African myth.

The huge initial interest that propelled many fans to Thursday night and Friday shows likely account for a Saturday decline somewhat above some other recent Marvel and D.C. titles. The falloff was 13 per cent (from a higher starting point from most others) for its second full day from the initial totals. “Thor: Ragnarok” dropped  five per cent, “Wonder Woman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” eight per cent.

But “The Avengers” also boasted an A+ CInemascore and dropped slightly more (14 per cent) on its initial Saturday on its way to a domestic total that was triple its opening (adjusted, its domestic total was just over $700 million).

Can “Black Panther” repeat that kind of long-term performance? There’s no way to judge after two days. The four-day totals will give a hint, but next weekend will be more key to assessing the future.

But even a standard ultimate showing (which would leave this somewhere around $500 million domestic – about 25 per cent above “Wonder Woman”) would change the rules about what American moviegoers want to see. “Black Panther” will elevate a wider range of stories, including Hollywood’s core big-budget action adventures. Yes, there has been a steady supply of black-centered releases going back to blaxploitation in the 1970s, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy lead the way in the 1980s and so on. But these often have come with non-minority creative control, and usually with lower budgets and compensation for many principles based on perceived economics.

"Black Panther"

“Black Panther”

The main excuse for not green-lighting similar films with the $300 million plus production and marketing costs expended on “Black Panther” is the resistance seen historically to black-centered films overseas. The foreign market for top-end productions (though not the “Star Wars” series) is expected to provide roughly two-thirds of the total gross for high end films. “Panther” debuted in a majority of the world, though not the key territories of China, Japan, or Russia yet.

The gross for these initial territories came in a little less than the domestic return ($169 million). What happens in the remainder of them will be important. But it would be reasonable at this point to anticipate at least $400 million overseas, along with at least that much (low end total) domestic. That would put the film at over $800 million worldwide. That total wouldn’t have placed it quite in the global Top Ten for 2017 (it would be about the same as the most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which soared overseas and was similarly expensive). “Wonder Woman” did $812 million combined, with a similar domestic/foreign split. And it’s good enough, to put it mildly, even if the domestic share is higher than usual. It just might take longer for foreign to catch up.

The performance boosted year-to-date numbers, which had fallen below 2017 so far, to a boost of over five per cent (by the time different week day calendars balance out by midweek). “Panther” made up about two thirds of ticket sales (a lower total that the better than 75 per cent share “The Last Jedi” took in its pre-Christmas weekend.)

Early Man

Drowned out by the film was Nick Park’s Aardman animation “Early Man” (Lionsgate), which could only take in an anemic $3,150,000. It was hurt among kids by the draw of the second weekend of the less sophisticated “Peter Rabbit” (Sony), which managed as decent $17,500,000 and a 31 per cent drop.

“Fifty Shades Freed” (Universal), last week’s #1, dropped 56 per cent to fall behind “Early Man” slightly. Buried among the figures during the week though was the film’s dominance on Wednesday (Valentine’s Day). It grossed nearly $11 million, more than half of the day’s business as the clear film of choice to drag men to that night.

Long-running hits “Jumanji: Welcome to the Club” (Sony) and “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox) both dropped around 20 per cent, a bit above their recent average but both amazing holds for films around since Christmas. But they needed company going forward, assuming that “Panther” has decent legs, since they can’t be expected to sustain theaters that much longer.

“Early Man”

The Top Ten

1. Black Panther (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A+; Metacritic: 88; Est. budget: $200 million

$192,023,000 in 4,020 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $47,767,000; Cumulative: $192,023,000

2. Peter Rabbit (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend: #2

$17,250,000 (-31%) in 3,725 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,631; Cumulative: $48,223,000

3. Fifty Shades Freed (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend: #1

$16,940,000 (-56%) in 3,768 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,496; Cumulative: $76,134,000

4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony) Week 9; Last weekend: #

$7,945,000 (-21%) in 2,800 theaters (-336); PTA: $2,838; Cumulative: $377,624,000

5. 15:17 to Paris (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend: #

$7,685,000 (-39%) in 3,042 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,526; Cumulative: $25,433,000

6. The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox) Week 9; Last weekend: #5

$5,100,000 (-21%) in 1,936 theaters (-437); PTA: $2,634; Cumulative: $154,478,000

7. Early Man (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 68; Est. budget: $50 million

$3,150,000 in 2,494 theaters; PTA: $1,263; Cumulative: $3,150,000

8. Maze Runner: The Death Cure (20th Century Fox) Week 4; Last weekend: #6

$2,525,000 (-59%) in 1,891 theaters (-1,032); PTA: $1,335; Cumulative: $54,005,000

9. Winchester (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend: #7

$2,230,000 (-57%) in 1,471 theaters (-1,001); PTA: $1,508; Cumulative: $21,860,000

10. Samson (Pureflix) NEW – Metacritic: 17; no budget estimate reported

$1,972,000 in 1,249 theaters; PTA: $1,579; Cumulative: $1,972,000

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‘Doctor Who’ Producers Avoided Spoilers by Pretending the New Doctor Was a Man


As with any major announcement, Jodie Whittaker being named the 13th Doctor was a closely guarded secret. So much so, in fact, that higher-ups at BBC braced themselves for spoilers by pretending that the new star of “Doctor Who” was going to be another man — an effort that included using a male body in the visuals presented to their visual-effects house for storyboards of the scene in which the Doctor regenerates.

“The BBC actually had us quote her first scene before we knew it was gonna be Jodie, via storyboards,” Louise Hastings said, according to Radio Times. “And the storyboards had been drawn with a man as the Doctor, so that was a bit of a surprise! I was looking through a list of the favorites to be the Doctor and comparing them to the pictures, but I was wrong, I couldn’t figure it out. They threw us off the scent.”

Whittaker made her official debut as the 13th Doctor during “Twice Upon a Time,” last year’s Christmas special. She’s best known for her appearances in “Broadchurch,” “Attack the Block,” and the “Black Mirror” episode “The Entire History of You.” Her predecessor Peter Capaldi’s tenure began when he took over for Matt Smith in 2017.

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‘Profile’ Review: Timur Bekmambetov’s Immersive Thriller About a Journalist Catfishing ISIS — Berlinale 2018


The best and most harrowing addition to the quickly growing sub-genre of movies that take place entirely within the space of a computer screen, Timur Bekmambetov’s “Profile” brings a new and much-needed dimension to its conceit by using it in the service of a semi-realistic story. That’s uncharted territory for a type of filmmaking which — like so many cinematic innovations before it — was born out of shlock. Asinine early attempts like Nacho Vigalando’s “Open Windows” suggested that a degree of absurdity was required to justify the aesthetic, while “Unfriended” (which Bekmambetov produced) was only willing to trace the connection between digital relationships and real-world consequences to a certain point; what began as a cautionary tale about online bullying ended as a supernatural horror story about a Skype-loving demon.

“Profile” is different. While nobody is ever going to confuse the movie for a documentary — making for at least one degree of verisimilitude that traditional “found footage” cinema has over its web 2.0 successor — Bekmambetov’s latest is strictly grounded in the dystopian grime of the social media age. This is the first of these films to recognize that the internet is already scary enough; that the boogeyman doesn’t need to hide under the bed or jump out of the shadows when he can just slide into your DMs.

“Profile” isn’t only realistic, it’s based on a true story. More of a techno-thriller than anything else (though it does have a handful of truly shattering jump-scares), the film takes its cues from the account of a French journalist who made Facebook contact with an ISIS recruiter named Abu Bilel in order to investigate the secret underworld of jihadi war brides. Bekmambetov, of course, is only so beholden to the facts; after all, this is a guy whose idea of a historical biopic is “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

In his version, the journalist is a British freelancer called Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane, like a tetchy Rose Byrne) who’s scrambling to pay her share of the rent on the London flat she shares with her insufferable fiancé (Morgan Watkins). Desperate for an assignment, she pitches her editor a piece so extreme that it almost feels like a withering comment on the perversity of the gig economy: She’ll pose as a recent Muslim convert who dreams of becoming one of the Real Housewives of Raqqa — the kind of social outcast who’d move to Syria if she felt like she might belong there — and catfish the same guy who recently lured a baby-faced British girl to her death. Amy’s editor, who might just be the most ridiculously irresponsible movie editor of all time, seems to think that’s a great idea.

And so, roughly 11 seconds after she first had the idea, Amy creates a fake Facebook page for a “Melody Nelson” and starts sharing gruesome ISIS propaganda off Abu’s page. Roughly 11 seconds after that, Abu is blasting her with instant messages along the lines of, “hey girl, u wanna come terrorist and chill? promise u won’t be a sex slave who gets stoned 2 death when she inevitably tries to escape lol.” Crying emoji. Cat gif. etc.

Just like that, Amy has gone deep undercover without leaving her kitchen. She throws on a headscarf, sets up a screen-share with the Syrian IT guy from her office, and starts juggling Skype calls with an incredibly dangerous terrorist with the YouTube videos she’s streaming for help and the friends she’s texting about the mundane events of her actual life. The infinitude of the information available to her is on full display, as is the extent to which a digital life can quickly acquire the full dimension of a corporeal one.

Amy is a terribly reckless journalist (and a caricature of a hungry millennial), but this is her lucky day: Not only is Abu thirsty as hell, but he’s candid and charismatic and he seems to take a personal interest in her case — he doesn’t just want “Melody” to come join him in Syria, he wants to marry her himself. And it’s easy for Amy to play along, because Abu is kind of a dreamboat, in an “death cult pyramid scheme” kind of way. He runs the “cats of ISIS” Instagram account, for goodness sake.

Played by an unsettlingly charismatic Shazad Latif, Abu is a shifty and compelling figure. As he and Amy begin Skyping at all hours of the day (even cooking traditional Syrian meals together), the validity of their feelings for one another grows engagingly unclear, becoming the biggest question marks of a movie that’s never short on suspense. Is Amy in too deep, or is she just selling the illusion? Can Abu be isolated from his ideology, or does he personify the ways in which ISIS is just an unprecedentedly violent expression of toxic masculinity?

The answers to these mysteries are mighty predictable (a fact that Bekmambetov tries to obscure by reaching them through a string of silly plot twists), but “Profile” nevertheless sells us on how seductive these interactions can be — when applied strategically, small doses of empathy and attention can make good people do very bad things. Even at its most absurd, the movie is chilled by an ominous and ever-present feeling that the world has become smaller than we ever thought possible, and that real nightmares are waiting for us on the other side of every window.

For that reason, “Profile” is one of the only films that will be a categorically superior (and taxonomically different) experience when watched on a computer monitor rather than a movie screen. Bekmambetov, who’s never seemed comfortable with conventional modes of storytelling (or even capable of understanding them), has crafted a piece of 21st century entertainment that exploits how people interact with media today — how lateral communication has become and how actively we have been conditioned to engage with it.

Seen in theaters, “Profile” simply indicates something we all know to be true; watched on a laptop, and it inspires you to instinctively click on Amy’s Skype windows, as though the movie is being shared on your screen in real-time. That’s a terrifyingly immediate sensation, and one that points to a new kind of interactive storytelling in which a guy like Bekmambetov might be able to physically meld with audiences in a way that the worst of his previous work (“Wanted,” “Hardcore Henry”) has always wished that it could.

Grade: B

“Profile” premiered at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

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‘Where Is Kyra?’ Trailer: Michelle Pfeiffer Gets Lost and Finds Her Comeback — Watch


A year after it premiered at Sundance, “Where Is Kyra? has a trailer. Michelle Pfeiffer stars in Andrew Dosunmu’s follow-up to “Mother of George,” which has earned praise for its lead performance as well as the cinematography of Bradford Young (who shot “Mother of George” as well as “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” “Selma,” “Arrival,” and the upcoming “Solo: A Star Wars Story”). Watch the trailer below.

Here’s the synopsis: “Andrew Dosunmu’s ‘Where Is Kyra?’ tells the story of Kyra Johnson, a middle-aged divorcee who moves into her elderly mother’s Brooklyn apartment while she looks for work and tries to get back on her feet. When her mother suddenly dies, Kyra is left without any support, both emotional and financial, and finds herself with very few options–none of them good. Despite a blossoming affair with a sympathetic neighbor (Sutherland) with struggles of his own, Kyra can’t accept that her once-tidy life has fallen apart, and she resorts to increasingly desperate measures to hold onto what little she has left.”

Kiefer Sutherland and Suzanne Shepherd co-star in the film, which Dosunmu co-wrote with Darci Picoult. “Where Is Kyra?” will receive a limited theatrical release on April 6.

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