Four-Warned: May 2012


May 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (1.0)
2. MEN IN BLACK 3 (1.4)
3. THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (1.8)
4. DARK SHADOWS (1.9)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE INTOUCHABLES (1.2)
2. POLISSE (1.3)
3. DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (1.5)
4. 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (1.6)
TIE. HYSTERIA (1.6)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

MAY 4, 2012

A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN (Millennium) Genre: Romance. An irreverent young woman with health issues falls in love with her doctor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a lot of different movies, but this one has the great Peter Dinklage in it.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. Seven English retirees lured to an Indian resort with the promise of posh amenities arrive to find it not quite ready for occupancy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks charming and fun from the trailer with a solid cast.
DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A young boy with a brilliant future as a graphic novelist discovers his life is in danger from a real life enemy. Release Strategy: Seattle only. RATING: 1.5 Andy Serkis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors; I hope this sees a more general or at least a limited release.
FIRST POSITION (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmakers follow six young ballet hopefuls through the trials and tribulations of one of America’s most prestigious ballet competitions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Kids chasing their dreams in the arts; haven’t we seen this before?
JANNAT 2 (FIP) Genre: Crime Thriller. A streetwise gun runner infiltrates a vicious gun smuggling ring to help the cops take it down but when he falls in love with a beautiful doctor everything is thrown into chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Trailer was a little disjointed; kinda looks cheesy.
LAST CALL AT THE OASIS (Participant/ATO) Genre: Documentary. Looks at the very real and grim possibility that in the not too distant future there may not be enough water to sustain life on this planet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very grim and haunting.
LOL (Lionsgate) Genre: Dramedy. A mother reads her daughter’s diary and realizes she doesn’t know her at all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Nice cast but a little bit heavy on the teen angst.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The world’s most powerful heroes must take on an alien invasion led by a disgraced god. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Long anticipated, finally here.
MEETING EVIL (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. A depressed unemployed family man offers to help a stranger with his car and becomes involved in a murder spree. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 They had me at Samuel L. Jackson.
MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) Genre: Horror. A sadistic mom and her bank robbing sons take control at a birthday party held at their former home, terrorizing the new residents. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 I don’t think this has anything to do with the 80s slasher film of the same name.
THE PERFECT FAMILY (Variance) Genre: Drama. A matriarch up for the Catholic Woman of the Year award tries to get her dysfunctional family to pull it together. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles May 11). RATING: 2.2 Kathleen Turner gives what looks to be a marvelous performance.

MAY 9, 2012

PATIENCE: AFTER SEBALD (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A group of artists and writers interpret the work of W.G. Sebald, one of the 20th century’s most challenging writers. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Black and white images and music pass by while the text is being read; just shoot me now.

MAY 11, 2012

A BAG OF HAMMERS (MPI Media Group) Genre: Caper Drama. A pair of charming con artists find themselves “adopted” by a neglected young boy and consequently their world view begins to change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks very indie but not in a good way.
THE CUP (Myriad) Genre: True Sports Drama. A rising star in the Australian horse racing world must decide whether to participate in the prestigious Melbourne Cup race days after his brother dies in a tragic accident. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.8 Even though this put goosebumps on me, I still couldn’t help thinking “Gee, another inspirational sports story.”
DANGEROUS ISHHQ (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Thriller. A supermodel whose wealthy industrialist boyfriend has been kidnapped must rescue him before time runs out – and the clues to his freedom lay in her past lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Not typical Bollywood fare but definitely shows some visual flair.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Gothic Comedy. A vampire is inadvertently released from captivity in the 1970s after centuries of imprisonment. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 The legendary 60s gothic soap opera as reinvented by Tim Burton – what’s not to love?
DRAGON EYES (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A town ruled by gangs and corrupt police vie for the services of a newly arrived martial arts phenom, but he has another agenda in mind. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 While it does have the great JCVD, the trailer makes him look like more of a cameo and the film like a B movie Walking Tall clone.
EL GRINGO (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A violent thief crosses the border into Mexico with his ill-gotten gains, intending to live out his life on a beach with the rest of it but the townspeople have other ideas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Certainly a riff on El Mariachi but why not take from the best?
GIRL IN PROGRESS (Pantelion) Genre: Coming of Age. A single mom immersed in her career and in the affections of a co-worker fails to notice her own teen daughter’s move into adulthood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The tagline “Lessons in motherhood – taught by a kid” sure doesn’t help this movie’s cause any.
GOD BLESS AMERICA (Magnet) Genre: Black Comedy. A man, tired of rudeness, crudeness and the cult of personality goes on a killing spree aided by an eager teen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Caught Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest at the Florida Film Festival – read my review here.
HICK (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A small town girl with big dreams hitchhiking to Las Vegas runs into some shady characters on the way there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Neal Cassady.
I WISH (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young Japanese boy separated from his brother by divorce dreams of a miracle that he believes will happen when bullet trains on a new line pass each other at full speed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From acclaimed director Hirokazu Kareeda comes this look at fractured families and faith.
NESTING (Steele) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A 30-something couple, fearing the loss of their relevance, squats in their old apartment with unforeseen consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Kind of like John Hughes in reverse.
THE PHILLY KID (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A former wrestling champion, fresh out of prison, takes up underground MMA fighting to help his best friend get out of debt and winds up in more trouble than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Another *yawn* underground fighting movie.
PORTRAIT OF WALLY (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. Egon Schiele’s painting Portrait of Wally, the pride of the Leopold Gallery in Austria, becomes the focus of a legal battle which brings light to bear on Nazi art looting and the ramifications of private collectors vs. public museums. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very complex case that deserves a serious examination which I hope this documentary gives it.
THE ROAD (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. When a cold case of three teenagers who disappeared on a country road is re-examined, it’s discovered that there is more to that stretch of road than meets the eye. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks deliciously creepy and sensationally scary.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Thriller. A previously honest cop steals a bag of cocaine from a vicious drug dealer who kidnaps his son and demands the drugs back in exchange. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like a non-stop top notch action film.
SMALL BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (Long Shot Factory) Genre: Comedy. An anxious pregnant technophile goes on a road trip to meet her technophobic mom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The trailer has some wonderful heart; this is inspired by the syndicated web series “Sparks.”
STASH HOUSE (After Dark Action) Genre: Suspense. A family moves into a new home only to discover that a stash of heroin is stored in its walls – and the criminals want it back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Generic home/fortress action flick.
TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. During a big music festival, a star performer is handcuffed to a brand new performer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Could have an excess of indie preciousness.
TRANSIT (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A man returns home after serving out a tax evasion sentence goes on a camping trip to reunite his family, but discovers that they are being pursued by four ruthless killers after the stolen money they hid in his family’s car. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Jim Caviezel is moving higher on my list after his work on “Person of Interest” this year.
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (A&E Indie) Genre: Musical Documentary. Paul Simon in making the album Graceland defied a UN ban to work with South African artists; 25 years later he returns to South Africa and discusses the fallout of his actions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has the potential to examine an art vs. politics question that rarely gets examined.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in a Lebanese village of Muslims and Christians try to hold on to peace when tensions threaten to bring violence back to the village. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Charming and heartrending at once.

MAY 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A heavy-handed dictator of an Arab nation goes to New York City to address the UN. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’ve never really been a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen but this one looks like it could have potential.
ELENA (Zeitgeist) Genre: Thriller. A golddigging Russian wife hatches a scheme to maintain her inheritance. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Looks veritably Hitchcockian and the Philip Glass score doesn’t hurt.

MAY 18, 2012

AMERICAN ANIMAL (Screen Media) Genre: Fantasy. A young man whose roommate is moving out tries to get him to stay in one night of partying. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 From the trailer, seems to promote the idea that crazy is better. Crazy is just crazy.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. Naval vessels are trapped in an ocean-based alien invasion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Alien invasion films have been remarkably bad of late; this doesn’t seem to be much better based on what I’ve seen.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery. A young woman in the 1980s undergoes experimental therapy that opens up new vistas but threatens her sanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit avant garde.
CROOKED ARROWS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Sports Drama. A coach at a primarily Native American school leads the lacrosse team to a State championship game against their prep school rivals. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Meant to be an allegory on the treatment of aboriginals in South America.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The story of one of fashion’s most influential figures of the 20th century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 As I’ve said before, fashion is a subject that I’m absolutely not interested in.
FOLLOW ME: THE YONI NETANYAHU STORY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The tale of the young soldier who led the Israeli commandos on the Raid on Entebbe. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Sounds kind of interesting but at the same time maybe has a bit of an agenda.
HYSTERIA (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The story of the guy who invented the vibrator, a man whom many lonely housewives should bless. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks hysterically funny (pun intended) and has a great cast.
LOVELY MOLLY (Image) Genre: Thriller. A young newlywed returns to her childhood home only to have the memories of her past abuse creep back – and maybe something else as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The newest from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez – but it’s nothing like that film.
MANSOME (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock takes a look at modern male grooming in the age of metrosexuality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The newest from the suddenly prolific Morgan Spurlock looks kind of irreverent and fun.
POLISSE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. This intense Cesar-nominated film follows the daily lives of the police Child Protection Unit in Paris. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Gritty, heartbreaking, intense and funny – could be one of the best films of the year judging from the trailer.
THE SAMARITAN (IFC) Genre: Action. A grifter trying to make a new life after a 25-year prison stint is ensnared by his old life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With Samuel M*****F****** L. Jackson in the house, that’s all I need to hear.
VIRGINIA (EOne) Genre: Drama. A single mom’s life gets harder when her affair with the married sheriff threatens to become exposed in an election year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks kinda offbeat but with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly in the cast, you can’t go wrong.
WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Five couples discover that their lives become much more complicated once they get pregnant. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 A strong ensemble cast but looks kinda weak in the humor department.

MAY 25, 2012

THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Genre: Horror. A group of “extreme tourists” visit Chernobyl and when their van breaks down quickly discover that the town and plant aren’t quite as deserted as they were led to believe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 From the creators of the Paranormal Activity series this looks balls-out scary.
COWGIRLS ‘N ANGELS (Goldwyn) Genre: Family. A little girl searching for her absent dad (a rodeo rider) is brought into the Sweethearts of the Rodeo after displaying skills as a trick rider. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 A little bit – shall we say – over-sweet.
HIDE AWAY (MMC Joule) Genre: Drama. A broken once-successful businessman tries to turn his life around by refurbishing a dilapidated boat in an idyllic seaside village. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds kinda maudlin but SXSW doesn’t usually book maudlin.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Genre: Limited. A disabled French man develops an unexpected bond with his caregiver, an ex-con with an unusually upbeat attitude. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A box office record-holder in France, this was a big hit at the recent Florida Film Festival.
MEN IN BLACK 3 (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. Agent J must go back in time and save Agent K and correct the time line or the Earth is doomed. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks like one of the big hits of the summer.
MIGHTY FINE (Adopt) Genre: Dramedy. A man relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970s in search of a better life. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 Why cast Chazz Palminteri as a Jewish man? Aren’t there enough Jewish actors?
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A New England town in 1965 is turned upside down when a pair of kids run away into the woods when a big storm is brewing. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.0 Doesn’t sound like a romantic comedy but with Wes Anderson in the director’s chair anything can happen.
OSLO, AUGUST 31 (Strand) Genre: Thriller. An alcoholic gets a day pass out of rehab in order to go to a job interview in Oslo but the pressures of the day and of family and friends puts his sobriety in jeopardy. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.

MAY 30, 2012

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A documentarian and a farmer together decide to document five years in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 The title refers to five cameras during the course of the filming of the documentary that were shot or broken by Israeli soldiers.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Marvel’s The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Where Do We Go Now?, Battleship, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Lovely Molly, The Intouchables, Men in Black 3

Attack the Block


Attack the Block

John Boyega looks uncertain but his future doesn’t.

(2011) Science Fiction (Sony Classics) John Boyega, Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Luke Treadaway, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Gina Antwi, Natasha Williams, Paige Meade, Maggie McCarthy, Franz Drameh, Michael Ajao, Sammy Williams, Karl Collins, Jumayn Hunter, Danielle Vitalis. Directed by Joe Cornish

 

In any invasion, people will defend their home territory with the kind of ferocity usually associated with rabid wolverines. For some odd reason, that ferocity increases the worse the neighborhood is. In fact, the kinds of places you wouldn’t want to walk alone in after dark are the places that are most fiercely defended by their inhabitants.

Walking alone after dark in a bad neighborhood though is precisely what Sam (Whittaker), a young nurse does. It’s a bad idea, even though the neighborhood is the one that Sam happens to live in and of course she’s approached by five thugs, led by the charismatic Moses (Boyega). They force her to give up her wallet and things look like they might just get worse for her when there’s an explosion – a meteorite hits a nearby car.

Normally that would attract a lot of attention, but it happens to be Guy Fawkes Day in England and there are fireworks going up like it’s the apocalypse – which it kinda is. You see it wasn’t just a meteorite; there was a creature in it. When Moses goes to investigate, the creature scratches up his face. Where Moses comes from (the block housing of South London) that’s a no-no, so Moses chases down the creature and kills it, allowing Sam to get away.

Soon there are more meteorites falling all over London and inside them are these…things, kind of like a cross between wolves and bears with glowing teeth (in fact, throughout the movie they are mistaken for big dogs) but these things can hover, as well as climb up sheer walls – and rip human flesh to shreds.

Moses and his gang have a lot more than an alien invasion to deal with; Sam called the cops on them so they are dodging the police, and they have brokered a deal with Hi-Hat (Hunter) to sell some pot grown by Ron (Frost), whose apartment contains a hothouse for growing the wacky weed that’s as secure as Fort Knox (in fact it is here where Moses leaves the body of the dead alien for safekeeping), but that deal is going south as Hi-Hat suspects that Moses is planning to start carving out his own territory in the Blocks – and where Hi-Hat comes from that’s a REALLY BIG no-no.

Moses and his crew – Pest (Esmail), Jerome (Jones), Dennis (Drameh) and Biggz (Howard) are now beset on all sides by angry cops, angry drug dealers and angry aliens, not to mention an angry nurse who now must ally with them in order to protect herself from the aliens. It’s going to be a long night…

Most alien invasion movies of late have been pretty awful, to say the least. This is one of the few bright spots. It’s fast-paced, clever, and well-written. Cornish, an English comedian who lived in this part of London, knows the rhythms of life there well and takes characters who are most often supporting cast, used to advance the plot or as designated victims. Here, we see their lives and their motivations more clearly. There’s a bit of social commentary inherent in that.

Cornish mostly cast newcomers or non-professionals, particularly in the teen roles. Most of them are about as well as can be expected with a couple rising above the rest – Esmail, as the aptly-named Pest, provides some counterpoint to the more brooding Moses and it is Boyega who seems to have the most potential. He reminds me of a young Denzel Washington; he has that kind of screen charisma and shows amply the ability to carry a film on his shoulders. He is both villainous and heroic in the same film; not in a 70s anti-hero kind of groove but more like a person growing and transitioning, doing what he has to survival-wise in an unforgiving element.

The creatures themselves are mostly practical effects, surprisingly – there is almost no CGI in this movie. They are amply intimidating and scary and they move in a lifelike manner (mostly because there are people in them thar suits). The explanation for their presence is pretty convincing; I appreciate that there were no government scientists to lead us by the nose; we’re as much in the dark as the kids on the block.

The movie starts off quickly and continues pretty much non-stop with action. The pacing is fast enough to keep us off-balance and to satisfy even the most attention-deficit afflicted. This is the kind of movie Battle: Los Angeles should have been but wasn’t.

WHY RENT THIS: A fun ride. Takes marginal characters and turns them into leads.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Somewhat amateurish at times. Slang can be hard to make out.

FAMILY VALUES:  The language is uniformly foul, there’s a good deal of violence and gore and some fairly scary alien creatures, plus some drug content; all in all, this ain’t no E.T.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The mugging scene at the beginning of the film actually happened to Joe Cornish; he noted that the five muggers looked as scared as he was and afterwards he looked into the lives of gang members in the area and began coming up with characters for the movie.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Considering that the film wasn’t what you’d call a big financial success, the DVD got a goodly amount of features on it, including an outtakes reel of the cast attempting to rap (with varying results) and storyboards of scenes that weren’t filmed for budgetary and scheduling issues.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $5.8M on a $13M production budget; the movie lost money during its theatrical run.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: Mere Brother Ki Dulhan