Movies

Queer Superhero Parody ‘The People’s Joker’ Opens Amid “Amicable” Conversations With Warner Bros. – Specialty Preview

Vera Drew’s The People’s Jokerwhich was pulled from TIFF in 2022 over “rights issues” — starts a theatrical debut today at the IFC Center, moving to LA’s Landmark’s Nuart next weekend and expanding thereafter with about 85 booking so far — a nice outcome for the mixed-media coming-of-age dark superhero parody that “had gone into into hibernation mode” until Outfest LA Film Festival, said Frank Jaffe, whose distribution company Altered Innocence acquired it then. It’s U.S premiere garnered a Special Mention in the North American Narrative Feature Competition.

Co-written by Drew and Bri LeRose, the film is a reimagining the origin story of iconic Batman villain The Joker, starring Drew as painfully unfunny aspiring clown and closeted trans girl grappling with her gender identity while unsuccessfully attempting to join the ranks of Gotham City’s sole comedy program, in a world where comedy has been outlawed. She unites with a ragtag team of rejects and misfits on a collision course with the caped crusader controlling the city. Features comedic talent in voice and live action lampooning DC heroes and villians including cameos by Bob Odenkirk, Tim Heidecker, Maria Bamford (Netflix’s Big Mouth, Adult Swim’s Teenage Euthanasia), and Scott Aukerman (Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, co-creator, host Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast). With Vera Drew, Lynn Downey (Daisy Jones & The Six), Nathan Faustyn and Kane Distler.

Objections from WBD had the film premiere as planned in the Midnight Section at TIFF but cancel all further screenings at the festival. Lawyers took a look and it appears the film is covered by the fair use parody exception. Asked if all is. clear, Jaffe said, “The line is that our lawyers are talking to Warner Bros. and conversations have been very amicable.”

The film sits at 95% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The low-budget underground queer indie film has a built in fan base and “we’re not planning to go into AMCs and Regals.” On potential DC-fan crossover, “I think DC fans are curious. Will they be satisfied? I think that depends on how open-minded they are.”

Sony Pictures Classics’ Wicked Little Lies jumps to 1,000+ screens in week two from its opening on five and grossing just under $100k for the week (amid a series of massive rainstorms). Thea Sharrock’s period comedy starring Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley is drawing all ages, not just older demos. It’s got an R rating for a relentless stream of cursing. Based on a stranger-than-fiction true story set in a 1920s English seaside town, Colman is a deeply conservative local Edith, and Buckley is a  rowdy, foul-mouthed Irish migrant Rose, who is accused of sending wicked letters full of unintentionally hilarious profanities to her neighbors. The police get involved but all is not what it seems. Premiered at TIFF, Deadline review called it “a four-letter tour de force” and “a hip, modern and actually funny Carry On spoof of [what] Call the Midwife might look like, scripted by the Coen brothers, shot with a little visual nod to Wes Anderson, and dictated by a screenwriter with Tourette syndrome.”

“We are so excited about this,” said SPC co-president Michael Barker, noting great word of mouth including among younger theatergoers, who “love to see Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley going at each other … The fact that it’s R-rated makes it feel fresh and kind of uninhibited,” he said, and its a comedy amid a lot of more sober fare.

Limited releases: Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber present Ken Loach’s The Old Oak exploring the migrant crisis in a struggling English mining town. The film, which the director has said will be his last, premiered at Cannes, see Deadline review — and has its U.S. debut at the Film Forum with a limited expansion starting next week. Written by Paul Laverty, starring Dave Turner, Elba Mari, Claire Rodgerson. The Old Oak of the title is the last pub standing in a once thriving mining village in northern England and a gathering space for a community that has fallen on hard times amid growing anger, resentment, and a lack of hope among the residents exacerbated when a group of Syrian refugees move into the town. The acclaimed British director reunites with Zeitgeist and Kino Lorber after the 2020 release of his film Sorry We Missed You. The Film Forum will follow with a Ken Loach Retrospective April 19 – May 2.

Focus Features opens Housekeeping For Beginners by Goran Stolevski (You Won’t Be Afraid, Of An Age, both with Focus) winner of the Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival (Orizzonti), see Deadline review. Debuts in four theaters in NYC (Angelika and Lincoln Square ) and LA (The Grove and Century City). Stars Anamaria Marinca as Dita, a middle-aged social worked, who, despite never aspiring to be a mother, finds herself compelled to raise her girlfriend’s two daughters—Mia, a tiny troublemaker, and Vanesa, a rebellious teenager. A battle of wills ensues as the three continue to butt heads and become an unlikely family that must fight to stay together. With Samson Selim, Vladimir Tintor, Mia Mustafa, Dzada Selim, Sara Klimoska, Rozafë Çelaj, Ajse Useini. Set in Northern Macedonia, the birthplace of the writer-director.

Drafthouse Films opens documentary Kim’s Video at The Quad Cinema in NYC (featuring opening weekend Q&As with Mr. Kim and special guests) and in Los Angeles at Vidiots and Alamo Drafthouse DTLA. Limited expansion next week. Ashley Sabin and David Redmon’s elegiac tribute to the iconic NYC video store that inspired a generation of cinephiles and filmmakers played Sundance 2023, Telluride and Tribeca. The history of the video store (including late Coen’ brothers fees) and the odd decision of enigmatic owner Yougman King to, in 2008, unexpectedly donate his collection to a small town called Salemi, in Sicily. Deadline review calls it “a playful and intelligent film that teases one thing and delivers quite another.”

Sideshow/Janus Films is bringing sci-fi epic The Beast by Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama, Saint Laurent, Coma) to New York (IFC Center, Film at Lincoln Center) and LA (Landmark Sunset, AMC Burbank), with expansion to follow. Premiered at Venice – see Deadline review then TIFF and NYFF. Léa Seydoux, George MacKay, Guslagie Malanda, Dasha Nekrasova star in the drama set in the year 2044 when artificial intelligence controls all facets of society as humans routinely “erase” their feelings. Hoping to eliminate pain caused by a past-life romances, Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) continually falls in love with different incarnations of Louis (George MacKay). Set first in Belle Époque-era Paris Louis is a British man who woos her away from a cold husband, then in early 21st Century Los Angeles, he is a disturbed American. Will they ever connect?

GKIDS Italian-French directorial duo’s Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach’s animated Chicken For Linda!  opens Angelika Film Center in NY this week, Laemmle Royal in LA next. Reviews are stellar for the winner of the Cristal award for best film at  France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival last year. The heartwarming tale revolves around a mother and daughter struggling to come to terms with a personal tragedy in their lives. Following a misunderstanding, the mother embarks on a mission to cook her daughter her favorite dish of chicken with peppers against the backdrop of a national strike.  

Moderate: Viva Kids’ French animated adventure Epic Tails opens on 770 screens. Pattie, an ambitious and daring mouse has big dreams to be an adventurer and a hero. When her homeland in ancient Greece is threatened by Poseidon himself, Pattie is determined to save her city. Defying the odds, the gods, and the wishes of her feline father figure Sam, she embarks on an epic sea-quest. Written and directed by David Alaux, Eric Tosti, Jean-François Tosti.

Qualifying run: Searchlight Pictures SXSW-premiering The Greatest Hits written-directed by Ned Benson  (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) moves into 10 theaters for a qualifying run  ahead of a Hulu premiere April 12.  Stars Luycy Boynton as Harriet, a young woman struggling to find meaning in life after a tragic loss in a love story about the connection between music and memory and how they transport us, sometimes literally. With David Corenswett, Retta, Justin H. Min and Austin Crute. Benson’s script is inspired by Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia. See Deadline review.

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