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Box office: 'Ouija' scares away competition for Friday audiences

Friday night was fright night for moviegoers as "Ouija" edged out "John Wick" for box-office dominance heading into the weekend.

The Universal Pictures horror film, loosely based on the board game with which players supposedly conjure the dead, drew pre-Halloween ticket sales of an estimated $8.3 million Friday. That's about a third of the $25 million it's expected to bring in through Sunday, according to people who've seen pre-release audience surveys.

"John Wick," starring Keanu Reeves as a retired hit man, came in second Friday with an estimated $5.4 million, a better-than-expected start attributable in part to strong reviews. Writing for The Times, Robert Abele called the Lionsgate action film "a B movie made with A-student love for the relentless thrill of bodies in brutal motion."

Last weekend's No. 1, the Brad Pitt war flick "Fury," dropped to third place on Friday with sales of $4.1 million, according to estimates at Box Office Mojo, while "Gone Girl," last weekend's runner-up,...

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'King David' movie anointed at Warner Bros.

King David might want to get ready for his close-up.

Warner Bros. has commenced development of a film about the biblical king, which is to be based on Rabbi David Wolpe's recent book "David: The Divided Heart," The Times has confirmed. The Tracking Board first reported the news.

A humble shepherd who slayed a giant, united a nation, wrote poetry, was an ancestor to Jesus but also committed his share of sins, David is certainly an intriguing and enigmatic figure.

Wolpe, a rabbi at Los Angeles' Sinai Temple who has written numerous books about religion, recently told Variety, "David is the most complex hero and antihero in the Bible," adding, "I cannot imagine a more cinematic figure from the Bible."

Nick Schoenfeld has been tapped to write the script for "King David," which will be produced by Mike Karz and Bill Bindley, of Warner-based Gulfstream Pictures.

David has been the subject of several previous big-screen go-rounds, including Henry King's 1951 "David and Bathsheba" and Bruce...

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'Rhymes for Young Ghouls' shows the bleak can get bleaker

Starting off grim and growing ever grimmer, “Rhymes for Young Ghouls” is a blood- and booze-soaked revenge drama marking the impressive debut of filmmaker Jeff Barnaby.

Set on the Red Crow Mi’gMaq reservation in Quebec, Canada, during the mid-‘70s, the film takes place during a not-so-proud period in Canadian history when, by government decree, native children under the age of 16 were required to attend residential schools.

Thus far, 15-year-old Aila (a commanding Devery Jacobs) has avoided the virtual prison that is St. Dymphna’s. As the reservation’s “weed princess,” Aila has peddled enough drugs to pay a regular truancy tax to a sadistic Indian agent (Mark A. Krupa).

Considering the film begins with a prologue containing the tragic death of a child and the suicide of a parent, you can assume “Rhymes for Young Ghouls” isn’t going to be a frothy romp. But when Aila’s drug money is stolen, life as she has come to know it takes an even bleaker turn.

Writer-director Barnaby weaves a...

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Bored game: 'Ouija' conjures up dreadful reviews

"Ouija," the new horror film from director/co-writer Stiles White, is based on the spooky board game that claims to commune with the spirit world. But no special equipment is needed to hear from movie critics, who have made it clear they find "Ouija" to be an uninspired scarer and a curious bit of marketing.

The Universal Pictures film — which has a long development history, including with director McG — is the latest Hollywood collaboration with Hasbro, manufacturer of blockbuster-spawning toys such as Transformers. The studio hopes it can replicate earlier success with a spinoff of the popular spirit-world game. Critics, though, remain unmoved.

In a review for The Times, Robert Abele calls "Ouija" a "tie-in fright flick only a group of toy and movie executives could summon from around a conference table, a blah imitation of PG-13 haunted house movies like 'Paranormal Activity' and 'Insidious.'"

Abele adds that "The ghost scenario that [the movie's] boring, CW-ready, 'Scooby-Doo' gang...

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Keanu Reeves is on fire in 'John Wick,' reviews say

Don't go messing with a man's dog -- especially when the man in question is a hyper-lethal ex-assassin trying to enjoy a quiet retirement. Such is the moral of "John Wick," the new revenge thriller starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Chad Stahelski, a veteran stuntman making his directing debut.

Movie critics are hailing the film as a propulsive entertainment and a return to form for Reeves as an action star, even if it breaks more bones than new ground.

In a review for The Times, Robert Abele wrote, "As weaponized mayhem of the most disreputably electrifying kind, the sleek and eccentric revenge tale 'John Wick' jabs far above its weight class thanks to the panther physicality of 50-year-old headliner Keanu Reeves and a tightly pitched mix of humor and expertly choreographed hyper-violence. ... It's a B movie made with A-student love for the relentless thrill of bodies in brutal motion."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Ordona said, "There are some performers you just enjoy...

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'Interstellar' makes some noise at Hollywood coming-out party

Taylor Swift shut down Hollywood Boulevard on Thursday night, shaking it off in a brief concert for Jimmy Kimmel's late-night talk show.

But a bigger noise was going on across the street inside the TCL Chinese Theater, where Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated sci-fi epic "Interstellar" enjoyed a 70mm IMAX coming-out party for an audience of Screen Actors Guild members, journalists and critics.

The movie -- and a subsequent Q&A with cast members Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway -- was greeted with solid applause, but seemed to fall short of being the life-changing (or at least mind-blowing) event many hoped it would be.

Then again, Nolan gives his audience a lot to unpack in the film's two-hour, 49-minute running time, so there's much to absorb, not to mention a persistent ringing in the ears thanks to Hans Zimmer's ... let's just say,  enthusiastic ... score. The story of a pioneer-spirited father (McConaughey) who leaves the planet (and his two children) to...

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