Perhaps the most beloved film critic will get his starring spotlight on the big screen this holiday weekend. Filmmaker Steve James, one of many directors who was discovered in part because of Roger Ebert and his partner (and rival) Gene Siskel, looks at Ebert’s life in Life Itself, which opens July 4 in select cities via Magnolia Pictures. The doc will go up against a trio of studio blockbusters over the long weekend along with the latest from Oscar-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci, Me And You, which will open as the fourth Italian film under an initiative with Emerging Pictures. A re-release by Janus Films will be the weekend’s “largest” Specialty release. Acclaimed 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night will roll out into 100-plus theaters with more cities expected into July. And thriller The Girl On The Train will open with two runs from Monterey Media.
Filmmaker Steve James first met Roger Ebert at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994 where his doc Hoop Dreams debuted. Ebert and Gene Siskel championed the film, which went on to receive an Oscar nomination the following year. “Like many, I had a relationship with him though he didn’t with me. I watched the show when I first fell in love with movies,” said James, referring to Siskel and Ebert’s show At The Movies. “I had hoped to one day make them as well.” James had formed a professional relationship with Ebert and that status remained so up to his involvement with the big screen version of Life Itself, which is based on the 2011 memoir penned by the critic about his life.