the boy downstairs posterWritten and directed by Sophie Brooks, who makes her feature directorial debut here, The Boy Downstairs is another story of a well-educated white person who is trying to figure themselves out and accomplishes their dreams while living in New York City. In this case Zosia Mamet stars as Diana, a young woman who wants to be a professional writer but, of course, is having issues breaking into the industry despite being told for years she’s quite good.

Things get complicated on a personal level when, shortly after moving, she finds she’s accidentally rented an apartment in the same building where her ex-boyfriend Ben (Matthew Shear) lives. Not only that, but he lives there with his current girlfriend Meg (Sarah Ramos). Awkwardness gives way to a renewed connection between the two as they spend more time together, wondering eventually why they broke up, which causes ripples in both their lives.

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nostalgia poster 2Love and loss form the central tenets of the story in the new film Nostalgia. It’s all about memories and connections and how we relate to one another.

That’s about all that’s been publicly shared about the story and, as we’ll see, the marketing doesn’t offer much more. What is shown is that there’s a solid cast involved, including Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, Bruce Dern, Nick Offerman, Ellen Burstyn and others, some related to each other and some not in a set of stories about growing up and dealing with the past and preparing for the future.

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black panther poster 2Plenty has been written already about the special place Black Panther, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has not only in that series but also the overall film landscape. I won’t rehash that here since most of it is covered over the course of the blog post you’re about to read. Suffice it to say that we haven’t seen a big-budget superhero movie like this before.

When we met T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in Captain America: Civil War two years ago he was the heir to the throne of the hidden, secretive African kingdom of Wakanda. His elevation came when, in that movie, his father the king was killed by terrorists. Now he’s returning home to assume his place and lead his people and help his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) mourn.

Helping him are his genius sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and his loyal protectors Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) along with other comrades and friends. Threats emerge when charismatic dissident Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) begins working with arms deal Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). T’Challa enlists not only the help of his own subjects but also CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) to take on the pair.

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A quick look at what’s new on home video this week:

roman j israel posterRoman J. Israel, Esq.

This Denzel Washington-lead legal drama didn’t light a fire under either audiences or critics when it came out a few months ago, though everyone agreed he was predictably solid in the title role and went on to a Best Actor Oscar nomination for it. The campaign didn’t help matters a whole lot, offering a muddled storyline that never seemed to come together. In some cases the character was presented as a crusading savior, in others a self-interested bender of rules. We’ll see if home video offers any opportunities for reevaluation, otherwise this one fell through the cracks.

wonder theatrical posterWonder

On the other end of the spectrum, Wonder connected with just about everyone. Some critics dismissed it as bland, overly-emotional treacle but audiences have made it a $131m+ hit, with weekly grosses only falling under $2m when Lionsgate finally started pulling it from theaters. That’s not surprising given that the campaign highlighted the source material the film was based on and sold people on the promise of an uplifting story about being the best you you can be and loving the family you’re given.

daddys home poster 4Daddy’s Home 2

Last year’s sequel to the 2015 original hit didn’t quite become the same success, but did do over $100m at the box-office despite coming in for a lashing from many cultural fronts. That criticism wasn’t focused on the continued criminal underuse of Linda Cardellini or from how Will Ferrell just doesn’t seem to be trying anymore. No, it was centered around the casting of Mel Gibson as an alpha male comedic figure at a time when we were really getting going with the #MeToo movement. Neither that nor an overtly sexist marketing campaign deterred some people, though.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

the party posterJanet (Kristin Scott Thomas) wants to celebrate some encouraging professional news by throwing a party for family and friends in the new film from writer/director Sally Potter The Party. Joining her and her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) are friends like April (Patricia Clarkson), Martha (Cherry Jones), Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and Tom (Cillian Murphy).

With so many people brought together, even if it is for positive news, there’s bound to be drama of some sort and that very much happens here. Over the course of the evening various secrets are revealed and relationships upended. Futures are decided or ruined and oh there’s a gun that makes an appearance as tensions rise and people become more and more upset.

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early man poster finalThe gentle geniuses at Aardman Entertainment are back with another animated feature. This time they’re going back in time with Early Man, a story set millennia ago. Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) lives in a village set firmly in the Stone Age where he and his fellow villagers spend their time chiseling rocks into spearheads to hunt rabbits with.

One day Dug and the others get a rude awakening about the future of civilization when members of a nearby Bronze Age kingdom come crashing through their village. Lead by the egocentric and mean Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), the interlopers threaten the only life Dug and his friends have ever known. So they set out to establish some sort of peace with the help of Goona (Maisie Williams), a local who’s sympathetic to their cause.

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The Greatest Showman

NBC used “This Is Me” from the movie in an inspirational commercial promoting the upcoming Winter Olympics coverage, seeming to overlook that the song is about being proud in your outsider status and drowning out the crowds calling you a freak, not just about achieving greatness. Still…not the most tone-deaf spot during the Super Bowl thanks to the presence of Dodge Ram and its commercial using an out-of-context snippet of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech.

Dundee

First off, yes, I know this wasn’t actually a movie. But here’s the final commercial for Tourism Australia that ran during the Super Bowl, which has McBride acknowledging after he and Hemsworth keep skipping across different locations that it’s not actually a movie, which is great. Love the small cameo by Paul Hogan. Both Fast Company and The Hollywood Reporter have background interviews with the cast and others about the making of the spot. And the Australia bureau chief for The New York Times says the time is right for just this kind of movie to show off the current version of the country.

Jackie

Natalie Portman appeared on “Saturday Night Live” to promote her upcoming Annihilation but in one sketch recreated her performance as the widow of John F. Kennedy in one skit to offer some First Lady advice to Melania Trump. She also updated her foul-mouthed rap career, including references to the Star Wars Prequels and Black Swan.

Thor: Ragnarok

Director Taika Waititi continues to be an absolute wonder with this introduction to the film that’s part of the push for its home video release.

The Cloverfield Paradox

To say the movie has proved divisive would be an understatement, though I maintain that people criticizing Netflix for its zero-turnaround-time marketing would be singing a different tune if they liked the movie more. CNBC has a take similar to my Adweek story and the write-up at Quartz is worth reading as well. And while David Fear at Rolling Stone says we’ve been suckered, Neil Turitz at Tracking Board sees some of the same potential I did.

The Hollywood Reporter quotes sources saying Netflix paid $50 million Paramount for the movie, helping the studio not only cover production costs but also earn a nice profit since it didn’t have to spend any money on distribution or marketing. And it may have been worth it. While reviews have not been kind, a survey gauging how Super Bowl spots moved the needle on purchase consideration found Netflix got the biggest lift this year as people were intrigued by the mysterious commercial and release strategy.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Last week I wrote about the many and various realities impacting what movies are made or acquired by studios and distributors in light of what’s happening not only within the movie industry but in the general media and retail worlds. There are four more stories that have emerged since or which at the time I didn’t give full freight to the first time around.

First there’s MoviePass. The “see a movie a day for one low monthly fee” service has been under fire from theater owners since its inception. They feel the “no incremental cost” model cheapens the moviegoing experience but customers just like seeing essentially free movies. MoviePass loses money the more movies a customer sees but is hoping selling data on those customers to studios eager to target that audience will be the key to actually making money. AMC in particular among theater chains has signaled it’s worried not only about the customer experience (at least that’s what it says) but that MoviePass subscribers won’t continue coming to theaters if the company goes out of business and “full price” is the only option.

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When speaking to investors a couple days ago, Disney chief Bob Iger revealed the studio was working on not one but “many” Star Wars TV series that would be distributed on its upcoming subscription streaming service. That news came shortly after the announcement the guys currently serving as showrunners on “Game of Thrones” had been tapped to develop a new series of films that are separate from the Saga movies and those coming from Rian Johnson.

Putting aside (at least for now) the fact that the field of Star Wars creatives are overwhelmingly white guys, all of that amounts to a lot of stories from a galaxy far, far away that are coming down the road.

The question of whether or not this is too much remains to be seen. We’re just months away from getting our fourth Star Wars movie in under three years and the franchise is wrapping up the very popular “Rebels” show on Disney XD. Also happening are multiple books for both older and younger readers as well as a multitude of comics series for a variety of audiences.

What I feel like we’re missing most from the “good old days” of Star Wars fandom is time to really live with and reflect on any one thing.

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when we first met posterAdam Devine plays Noah in the new Netflix original movie When We First Met. At a college party one night he meets Avery (Alexandra Daddario) and the two hit it off immediately. After hanging out and getting to know each other Noah is about ready to take it to the next level when she makes it clear she’s not interested in anything romantic. Three years later as she’s about to marry another guy, Noah is feeling sorry for himself but finds a way to travel back in time to the day they met, giving him infinite chances to change things and make a relationship with Avery happen. It doesn’t go well.

Yes, someone made a movie about the “friend zone,” that penalty box men (and women sometimes) feel they’ve been put into when they want to make something happen but the other party doesn’t feel the same. I’m not going to lie to you…this is going to get rough.

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