BOX OFFICE: “Bad Boys” near $60 as of Sunday, on track for $68 MLK Day, but but “Jumanji?”

“Jumanji” FINALLY finishes a weekend ahead of “Star Wars.”

It took a month, but holding audience and having legs at the box office finally bore fruit fruit for”The Next Level.” It will probably play longer into this winter than “The Rise of Skywalker,” even if it has no prayer of catching it.

“Just Mercy” edges “Little Women,” with both worthy films– only one a contender — still in the top ten.

“Bad Boys for Life” came in over $59.

“Dolittle” had a worst case three day (out of four this holiday weekend) prediction of $20, and just cleared that. Barely. See below.

Weekend Box Office: (1) Bad Boys for Life $59.2mil (2) Dolittle $22.5 (3) 1917 $22.1 (4) Jumanji: The Next Level $9.6 (5) Star Wars Ep IX: The Rise of Skywalker $8.4 (6) Just Mercy $6.0 (7) Little Women $5.9
https://t.co/XwvE9GsghA https://t.co/sjV466A3KA https://twitter.com/metacritic/status/1218947895166025728?s=20

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Netflixable? The Internet sex trade comes a little too easily to this “Jezebel”

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One hazard of the “speak your own truth” corner of indie film is the way the filmmaker’s story supplements or even supplants the one being told on the screen.

Haitian-American writer-director Numa Perrier (“Queen Sugar”) dipped back into her own past for “Jezebel,” a period piece about her days on the ground floor of the Internet sex streaming trade. She tells us a story of struggle and poverty in 1990s Las Vegas, which is just gritty enough to rope us in.

She made her story, which she talked about everywhere, the film’s credentials inviting it to be judged as “authentic” rather than dramatically sound, gritty and engrossing.

Her quasi-titillating tale of online porn, chat rooms and “private sessions” has all the edge rubbed off, making for a movie that pulls its punches, a borderline PG-13 version of a movie that should be hard-R or worse from the get-go.

Sabrina (Perrier herself) is matriarch of a family stuffed into a cheap residence hotel room. But she’s not the mother to little Juju, Tiffany or Dominic. Their mother is dying in the hospital, with only teenaged Tiffany (Tiffany Tenille) adamant about visiting her. The only money coming in is from Sabrina’s phone sex work.

They can’t pay the bills, can’t afford a car. That’s cramping the style of her unemployed boyfriend (Bobby Field), and cutting his boyfriend and brother Dominic’s (Stephen Barrington) cruising and drinking on the strip. Tiffany, who can pass for 19, needs to get a job. Sabrina finds the ad and sends her out the door.

“Just show off a little bit,” she cajoles. “Make a little money.”

It’s 1998, the last days of the dial-up Internet. And entrepreneurs are setting up chat rooms with bikini-clad models who talk dirty enough to those who log in to convince them to credit-card their way to the Promised Land — a private session, like a private dance at a strip club.

Shy, mama’s girl Tiffany has to grow up, and mighty fast, too. Her new sex co-worker Vicky (Zoe Tyson) can show her the ropes and teach her the rules.

“No nudity in the chat room…No personal information, no ‘penetration,'” she’s told.

Vicky’s business-owner brother Chuck is in charge, and his casting routine is worthy of Roger Ailes. Only Chuck has a reason to check out his employees nude.

“You’re gonna need to shave that.”

Vicky ensures that Tiffany, who takes the stage name “Jezebel,” waltzes right into this world as an innocent, primed to take it over by being “a natural.”

This is better than stripping, Vicky reassures her. “The guys can’t touch you. And you don’t even have to see how gross they are in person!”

The story makes Jezebel an instant favorite, even though we have no hint she’s sexually experienced. The pitfalls facing her are both topical (racism) and too typical. One “customer” becomes obsessed.

And how does her newfound sexual precocity impact the home life, where David may get a job but still has the whiff of a perv when he’s around Tiffany/Jezebel.

Eighty-six minutes isn’t enough time to develop much of this, but we can guess where the story would go next. Perrier — most of the female names in the credits sound like porn stage names — scores points with her recreation of “slow” and “delay” issues of the net in ’98. But we don’t see how the actresses interact with their clients (no screen they can read or camera they’re acting to is shown).

The work? A little back-stabbing, a little angling for better pay, some “on the side” cash — but otherwise, it’s all presented as borderline good, clean fun — giggling over “regulars” who finish their “private sessions” quickly, the ridiculous (no sound online) but not funny enough “acting” the “girl on girl” scenarios they have to play up to give the people what they want.

But when Tiffany burbles “That was so easy,” she’s getting at what is the rub here (ahem). This is so perfunctory and edge-free that it plays as incomplete, a movie “talked” into great reviews by hearing the filmmaker’s personal connection to the story.

Does “Jezebel” speak for itself? A little, but not nearly enough.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual content

Cast: Tiffany Tenille, Numa Perrier, Zoe Tyson, Bobby Field and Dennis Jaffee

Credits: Written and directed by Numa Perrier. An Array/Netflix release.

Running time: 1:26

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More proof “1917” is the official Oscar favorite — A Producers Guild win

Last night the Producers Guild best picture award went To “1917.”

The signs, starting from the Golden Globe “upset win,” are unmistakable.

Best picture favorite, quite probably best director, too.

I still think “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” and its director have a shot. But at this point, both have to be considered underdogs.

And “Little Women” feels like a “statement” vote and dark horse for Best Picture.

But the Netflix contenders are out, “Parasite” will have to settle for Best International Feature, and so on down the line.

https://t.co/u9rg8yetaf https://t.co/D4r5j0682Y https://twitter.com/hollywoodnews/status/1218784909248094208?s=20

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Documentary Review: “Once Were Brothers” remembers the The Band

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There’s an implied “Gather round, children” to any appreciation these days for the music of the Woodstock Generation. When credible documentaries about the history of house music and electronica exist, when NWA earns a perfectly respectable and quite popular bio-pic, looking back over the nearly half-a-century since The Band played its “Last Waltz” can feel like archaeology, arcane Americana best confined to The History Channel.

But Lord, what a history.

“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” is a history of the group that sat at the crossroads of rockabilly and Dylan, Muddy Waters and “Roots Music,” aka “Americana.” It places them at the nexus of mid-century American history and warmly embraces the songs that they made that rendered them immortal.

And if it gives the surviving leader of the group that famously feuded, with members carrying grudges to their grave, the last word — that’s what you get by dying before Robbie Robertson, boys. “Once Were Brothers” takes its title from a recent Robertson song that reminisces about their brotherhood, and is based on the songwriter/guitarist’s recent memoir, “Testimony.”

Oh, and the only woman eyewitness to this history included in the film is Dominique Robertson, Robbie’s wife.

Daniel Roher’s film has heavyweight producers. Martin Scorsese, a fan long before he directed their curtain call concert documentary “The Last Waltz” is one (and appears on camera), and Ron Howard and Brian Glazer’s Imagine Entertainment ensured there’d be money to do it right and attention once it was finished.

So, definitive? Pretty much.

A fresh interview by Robertson and archival interviews by the rest of the group — drummer/singer Levon Helm, keyboardist Garth Hudson, singer and bassist Rick Danko and singing pianist Richard Manuel — take us through Band legend and Band lore.

They formed as a backup ensemble for late-blooming rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins (interviewed here), wrote songs and got tighter and tighter playing gigs throughout the early 1960s, impressed Bob Dylan enough that he hired “The Hawks” as his backup band.

And when they cracked out on their own, the guys everybody in Woodstock, New York knew only as “Oh, they’re with Dylan. They’re the band,” capitalized that label and ripped music out of the hands of the psychedelic ’60s with “a sound you’ve never heard before, but like they’ve always been here,” as Bruce Springsteen put it.

It still boggles the mind that a Canadian of Native American/Jewish ancestry — Robertson — composed the anthem “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” But he did. And that “drunkard’s dream” standard of country bad bands, “Cripple Creek” came from the same place, a songwriter and a band longing for a simpler era, the geography of the Mississippi Delta, earthier music that felt as if it came from another time.

“I got the impression there was a lot of mythology in there,” Van Morrison recalls.

Scorsese heard 19th century American literature in it — a touch of Herman Melville. Others? John Steinbeck set to music.

Robertson takes us to his seminal moment when, nostalgic for a past he didn’t share, he looked at the city of manufacture burned into the inside of his Martin guitar — “Nazareth, Pennsylvania.”

Music changed with “The Weight,” a song that begins with folksy Arkansan Levon Helm’s lament, “I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ ’bout half-past dead.”

Bob Dylan remembers their appeal, and vintage footage of the documentary about his infamous “Dylan goes electric” tour, “Don’t Look Back,” captures the American and European 1966 tour where every show was amusingly greeted by a chorus of boos.

The photographer for their breakout album, “Music from Big Pink,” remembers how out-of-step with the “Generation Gap” times it was for a rock band to round up parents and relatives for a crowded and warm inside-the-cover group photo.

And we’re given the most credible version of the long break-up that was a long-time coming, the committed and generally “straight” Robertson mystified how his bandmates could binge drink with Clapton and each other, or drink and snort cocaine alone — some even dabbling in heroin.

“I was confused that the guys wanted to play with that fire,” Robertson recalls.

But as tragic as that was (and with all the drunk-driving/pre-seatbelts accidents, it could easily have been worse), that only set the table for making the perfect exit. They gathered up their favorite musicians, who ranged from Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to The Staple Singers, Muddy Waters and Neil Diamond, and took a final bow together with “The Last Waltz.”

All music documentaries are subjective in that they’re the most engrossing to those the most into the music. But for the right fan, Roher’s lovely leafing through musical history will be touching and at times thrilling.

The archival interviews capture even the band members no longer with us at their most lucid, at their fondest for what they’d had together and lost.

As Robertson’s title song, sung in the hoarse whisper of age, goes — “When the curtain goes down, we let go of the past…Once were brothers, brothers no more.”

4star4

MPAA Rating: R for some language and drug reference

Cast: Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Dominique Robertson, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, David Geffen, Taj Mahal, Ronnie Hawkins, Van Morrison and Martin Scorsese.

Credits: Directed by Daniel Roher. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:44

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BOX OFFICE: A January smash — ‘Bad Boys For Life’ takes 2nd-Best MLK Opener Ever, $68 million

Yeah, people want a break from the grim news filling their TV and handheld depression enhancing device.

“Bad Boys 3” is officially a blockbuster — almost doubling its projected $38 million opening weekend.

By Monday PM, Americans will have bought $68 million in tickets to the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence Reunion.

Almost a record the four day MLK holiday weekend at the movies.

And yes, Sony is at work on a fourth film flr the series already.

“Dolittle” is performing down to expectations –$30 over four days.

There will be Oscar nomination bumps for the likes of “Little Women” and “1917” and with “JoJo Rabbit,” “For v Ferrari” and “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” liking back onto screens, some modest improvements in those films’ bottom line, when the numbers show up Sunday afternoon.

https://deadline.com/2020/01/bad-boys-for-life-dolittle-1917-weekend-box-office-1202833726/

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Theater owners report 4.6% drop in attendance

Last year was top heavy with blockbusters, and a lot of money was made as ticket prices climbed well about $9 nationally.

So many 3D and IMAX films, so many franchises.

But theater attendance fell 4.6 percent from 2018 to 1.244 billion last year, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

It was better than 2017, but well below the banner year 2018 was.

The trend has been down down down for decades, with occasional blips in the cycle.

https://t.co/DmJcNYOEjz https://twitter.com/THR/status/1218439393381355522?s=20

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Netflixable? Tyler Perry delivers “A Fall from Grace”

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All these years later, and Tyler Perry is still making “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”

“A Fall from Grace” is his first film made for Netflix, and it’s another female wish-fulfillment fantasy, this one with wrapped in a vengeance melodrama.

It has the trademark Perry woman-as-victim, here a disgraced banker (Crystal Fox) in prison for killing her husband. It’s got other sympathetic women — older women often (Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Cicely Tyson), a chaste, slow courtship with a hint of fireworks in it and Perry in a supporting role wearing somewhat outlandish makeup.

The same structural problems of every Perry script hobble it, the same refusal to edit the material into something more compact, with a sense of a story in forward motion about it.

And all the guys? Eye candy, often shirtless.

It’s good to see Perry’s getting full use out of his Tyler Perry Studios. A Southern filmmaker with a brand that he’s extended from theater, to TV and film, he has the makings of a genuine media mogul.

But as a writer-director, Tyler P. is the LAST guy Netflix needs to be giving its usual blank check and final cut to. He may have earned his position in the business, but his diminishing returns on the big screen tell the bigger story. He needs somebody to bounce ideas off of, somebody to save him from his worst dramatic, casting and editing instincts.

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This clumsy, cadaverously-slow tale is about how Grace came to be in prison, the green public defender Jasmine (Webb) sent to get her a plea deal, but hear out her story in endless flashbacks.

And that takes two hours.

Perry’s done a decent job acting in thrillers that other people scripted. Apparently, he didn’t pick up any tricks from reading those screenplays.

None of the performances are affecting, although Rashad brings a little of her get-my-back-up fire to playing the accused woman’s best friend. Perry just barks out orders as the chief of the public defender’s office that sends Jasmine to plead out this unwinnable case.

“If you argue like that in court, you could actually be a LAWYER!”

Mostly, though, it’s just “Coffee! COFFEE! COFFEE!” from him, in that huge beard and wig.

Check out the cut rate “fireflies” effect, Netflix. Perry isn’t giving you what you paid for.

This is like watching the paint dry in the still-new Tyler Perry Studios soundstages.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, sexual content, profanity

Cast: Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Mehcad Brooks , Cicely Tyson and Tyler Perry.

Credits: Written and directed by Tyler Perry. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:01

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“National Treasure 3?” On the way.

Not nuts about the first hire on this one.

Will Nice Nic Cage return? Probably.

#BadBoysForLife screenwriter Chris Bremner will pen the script and Jerry Bruckheimer will return to produce the sequel to the Nicolas Cage classic.

via @THR https://t.co/dyWZZ5mgIc https://twitter.com/RottenTomatoes/status/1218272282226786304?s=20

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Netflixable? Trapped in a chat room haunting “Deadcon”

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An interesting premise, a fascinating milieu and a grabby, “Blair Witchy” finale are the big pluses of “Deadcon,” a “trapped in an ancient chatroom” thriller that doesn’t frighten much — until it counts.

Lauren Elizabeth, Claudia Sulewski, Keith Machekanyanga and Mimi Gianopulos transform into convincing conventioneers who check into the wrong hotel for their Snapchat, vlogger “internet influencers” gathering.

Little do they know that long ago, an ahead-of-his-time developer tried to sell his MacIntosh-formed “LinkRabbit” chat room tech, and somehow trapped the essence of a missing little boy.

They’re just streaming away, living their lives on the web for their “fans,” their “subscribers” at AKAshley or MeganByte, posing for selfies, sitting on panels and fending off screaming tween fangirls.

Ashley (Elizabeth, of TV’s “Out of My League”) is over it. Every exhausted video claim of “I’m soooo excited,” “It’s going to be soooo much fun” or “I love you guys sooo much” has worn her out. She can’t do this. Only her assistant Kara (Gianopulos) can keep her on task.

Megan (Sulewski of TV’s “T@gged”) is still into it — the fame, the gift bags, the sponsorship money. She’s two-timing her vlogger beau with another vlogger (Machekanyanga of TV’s “Your Honor”). Life is good.

Until Ashley is shoved into a room that the hotel never uses. When front desk old-timer Warren (Carl Gilliard) finds out, he’s shaken. As he’s told the rest of the staff that room is haunted, some of them are spooked, too.

Poor Ashley won’t know what “8 bit demon” hits her.

Cinematographer turned director Caryn Waechter doesn’t get much of a jolt out of springs on a bed, depressing as if a child is jumping on it, or an empty chair spinning at the desk. Loud noises, thumps and shrieks are a little more on the mark.

And again, the finale has a nice payoff, sold by the able cast members who play it like they’re freaked out by it.

Too much of the prelude to that is perfunctory. And even if the convention is basically “50 Shades of Narcissism,” and kind of funny — it’s not as if we root for bad things to happen to these vapid web queens, or their fans.

Which seems to have been the intent. At least, at 77 minutes, “Deadcon” doesn’t waste much of our time.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: unrated, blood, violence, sexual situations

Cast: Lauren Elizabeth, Claudia Sulewski, Keith Machekanyanga and Carl Gilliard

Credits: Directed by Caryn Waechter, script by Scotty Landes. A Gunpowder & Sky/Hyde Park release.

Running time: 1:17

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Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock know how to wish Betty White a happy 98th birthday

Happy 98th Birthday to the one and only Betty White.

Love that Ryan. Love that Sandy, too.

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