RTIndie: IFC Beefs Up On-Demand

Plus, King of Kong helmer blows up and Fireflies gets remade

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This week at RTIndie: IFC brings indies to the people; Seth Gordon capitalizes on the success of The King of Kong; anime classic Grave of the Fireflies gets the remake treatment; and a Certified Fresh Mumblecore touchstone is our DVD Pick of the Week.

IFC Beefs Up Theatrical/On-Demand Program

First, the bad news for IFC: The company's attempts to distribute bigger-budget movies didn't work. The good news for people who like indie movies: IFC will be giving more attention to its First Take program, in which smaller films will receive a theatrical and on-demand release on the same day.

The First Take films include indie movies with budgets under $3 million and foreign fare. So far, First Take has released This Is England (92 percent on the Tomatometer), The Wind That Shakes the Barley (88 percent), and Black Sheep (70 percent) simultaneously in theaters and on cable; Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park and the Palme D'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days are some of the program's upcoming highlights. Even if these films only play in a few cities during their theatrical runs, they can be seen in 40 million homes, increasing the availability for edgier first-run fare.

This week's First Take release is Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs, which tells the story of a young woman's romantic connections and disconnections over the course of a summer. Swanberg told RT he's thrilled to have the added exposure of cable not only as a filmmaker, but as a movie buff as well.

"It's really exciting," Swanberg said. "I live in Chicago, where I have to wait a really long time for a lot of movies to come through, so that's really cool."

IFC's attempt to go big(ger) time didn't really pay off. Despite strong reviews (Certified Fresh at 77 percent on the Tomatometer) You Kill Me didn't exactly kill at the box office, taking in around $2.4 million. The movie, starring Ben Kingsley, Téa Leoni, and Luke Wilson, was something of a test case for IFC's plan for distributing indies with slightly larger budgets. Subsequently, IFC decided to scrap its release of Penelope, starring Christina Ricci and Reese Witherspoon, and has no bigger movies on its release slate.

(Check out our full interview with Swanberg here. Also, we caught Paranoid Park at Cannes; click here for our review.)

Like An Accomplished Gamer, Kong Helmer Gordon Moves Up A Level

Things are looking good for Seth Gordon, as his Slamdance-approved doc The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters continues to make waves. Not only is Kong winning near-universal praise from critics (it's currently at 97 percent on the Tomatometer), it's getting Gordon plenty of attention from Hollywood.

Gordon has signed on to direct Four Christmases, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon about a couple, each with divorced parents, who must find a way to attend four Christmas celebrations. The project, which will be distributed by New Line, previously had several directors attached, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

In addition, Cinematical notes that Gordon is starting work on The Only Living Boy in New York, the tale of a down-on-his-luck post-collegiate who finds himself contemplating an affair with his dad's mistress. Columbia Pictures will release the film in 2008.

And that's not all. It appears Gordon is also in the early stages of a fictional remake of The King of Kong, and hopes to attract the services of such notables as Johnny Depp or Edward Norton to play one of the gamers. The documentary version tells the story of two archrivals who do battle in the realm of Donkey Kong.

Fireflies Rises From the Grave in Live-Action Remake

There have been a ton of cartoons and comics that have gotten live-action remakes; it appears the latest will be the classic 1988 animated feature Grave of the Fireflies. ScreenDaily is reporting that Taro Hyugaji will helm the remake, which tells the harrowing story of two children left homeless by bombings in the last days of WWII. The original (89 percent), directed by Isao Takahata, is one of the seminal masterpieces of anime, but that doesn't mean filmmakers haven't tried to give the story another go before. In 2005, another version of Fireflies was produced for Japanese television.

RTIndie DVD Pick of the Week: Mutual Appreciation

Movie critics are always on the lookout for a filmmaker who's the "voice of their generation." In the case of Andrew Bujalski, said voice is peppered with "ums," "likes," and "y'knows." But don't mistake his latest, Mutual Appreciation, as mere emo posturing. With Appreciation and his previous film, Funny Ha Ha, Bujalski has carved out a distinctive niche in the world of no-budget filmmaking; he has a wonderful ear for how twentysomethings express themselves -- or, as the case may be, try to figure out how they feel as they talk. Mutual Appreciation is a few days in the live of Alan (Justin Rice), an Elvis Costello-esque indie rocker looking for a band -- and finding himself in the midst of several romantic possibilities. Don't be put off by the grainy black-and-white cinematography or the hipster trappings; Bujalski gets remarkable performances from his cast of unknowns, and post-collegians (or introspective-types of any age) will see a lot of themselves in Mutual Appreciation. And the music's pretty good, too. Appreciation is at 88 percent on the Tomatometer; it, along with Funny Ha Ha and Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs, are playing in New York as part of The New Talkies: Generation D.I.Y., which runs through Sept. 4.)

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