Four-Warned: May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future PastEvery 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.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

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. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (1.0)
2. GODZILLA (1.1)
3. A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (1.2)
TIE. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (1.2)
TIE.  MALEFICENT (1.2)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE DOUBLE (1.0)
2. THE IMMIGRANT (1.2)
3. DEVIL’S KNOT (1.3)
4. BLOOD GLACIER (1.4)

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

MAY 2, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (Columbia) Genre: Superhero. Spidey discovers that the villainous Oscorp is developing technology for evil purposes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 I’ve been a big fan of director Marc Webb ever since (500) Days of Summer.
THE BACHELOR WEEKEND (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. The bachelor party slash camping trip of a foppish groom-to-be turns ugly when his alpha male brother-in-law to be turns up. Release Strategy: Chicago only. RATING: 2.8 Stag party humor with an incomprehensible British accent.
BAD JOHNSON (Gravitas Ventures) Genre: Comedy. A philandering man unable to maintain a lasting relationship wakes up one morning to discover his penis has taken human form. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Cam Gigandet and penis humor at its finest.
BELLE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Life Drama. A young woman of illegitimate mixed race parentage grows up to influence the repeal of slavery in Great Britain. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Merchant-Ivory version of 12 Years a Slave.
BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (Tribeca) Genre: Thriller. Two young friends yearn to buy a car and get out of their sleepy Maine town but one’s drug smuggling father may throw their plans into turmoil. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 The trailer doesn’t look as compelling as I thought it might.
BLOOD GLACIER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A strange fluid from a melting glacier causes the wildlife to mutate in strange and terrifying ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks like incredible fun.
DECODING ANNIE PARKER (eOne) Genre: Drama. The relationship between a geneticist and a woman stricken with breast cancer whose family has been devastated by the disease leads to a groundbreaking discovery. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 An important film about an amazing true story that hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves.
IDA (Music Box) Genre: Drama. In 1962 Communist Poland, a novice about to take her vows visits the aunt she never knew she had and discovers a troubling past and an uncertain future. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 1.6 Filmed in glorious black and white, this played the Florida Film Festival this past month. See the review here.
MR. JONES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. After relocating to a remote cabin to kickstart their artistic vision, a young couple run afoul of a reclusive artist who plunges them into his nightmares. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only.  RATING: 2.8 Another found footage horror flick; to be honest I’m getting a little tired of these.
THE PROTECTOR 2 (Magnet) Genre: Martial Arts. A man, searching for a stolen elephant, is implicated in a brutal murder and is chased by the police, the vengeful nieces of the murdered man and a ruthless crimelord.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 More Tony Jaa action goodness.
WALK OF SHAME (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a one night stand, a budding news anchorwoman on the day of her most important interview ever finds herself across town without ID, money or a means of getting to where she has to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’ve always liked Elizabeth Banks; she deserves to be a bigger star than she is.
WHITEWASH (Oscilloscope) Genre: Thriller. When a snowplow operator accidentally kills a man during a drunken joyride, he flees to the Quebec woods to evade the authorities and his own conscience but you can’t run away from yourself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Thomas Haden Church is an underrated actor.

MAY 7, 2014

BREASTMILK (CAVU) Genre: Documentary. Tackles the somewhat polarizing debate over breastfeeding and the various permutations of the subject. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles May 16). RATING: 2.1 The obvious joke is “it’s a titillating subject” but it is no less important for all that.

MAY 9, 2014

CHEF (Open Road) Genre: Comedy. Jon Favreau stars as a fine dining chef tired of the overbearing owner of his restaurant who decides to open up his own food truck instead. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Should be absolute catnip to foodies.
DEVIL’S KNOT (RLJ/Image) Genre: True Crime. The story of the West Memphis Three is dramatized in this the first of two movies on the subject. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 An amazing cast with terrific Canadian director Atom Egoyan with a compelling story spells one of this month’s must-sees.
THE DOUBLE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Based on Dostoyevsky’s story, a mild-mannered cubicle worker in a dystopian future that’s a cross between William Burroughs and Terry Gilliam finds his life taken over by an exact double.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best film I saw at the Florida Film Festival this year.
FARMLAND (D&E) Genre: Documentary. A look at young farmers struggling to maintain a way of life in an era of corporate factory farms and high-tech agribusiness. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 2.5 The future of farming has been bleak indeed but here are some folks who can change that.
FED UP (Radius) Genre: Documentary. New research in the midst of an obesity epidemic indicates that our conceptions of diet and exercise may be wrong. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Is childhood obesity the result of a sugar addiction that is as powerful as nicotine?
GOD’S POCKET (IFC) Genre: Drama. A construction worker whose stepson dies “accidentally” tries to hide the truth and the body but is having difficulty with both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The directing debut of actor John Slattery and one of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last films.
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime Entertainment) Genre: Animated Feature. Dorothy returns to Oz to rescue her old friends, making new friends along the way: Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 The animation looks cheap and the filmmakers are not using an L. Frank Baum story but rather one by his great-grandson. Cheap again.
MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) Genre: Comedy. A group of frazzled moms, in need of a night of relaxation, leave their kids with their husbands and venture out for a night on the time, soon discovering they are really rusty at having fun and their husbands are an utter disaster with the kids. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Seems to me that this is the kind of movie that reinforces tired old stereotypes and likely will not be all that funny.
NEIGHBORS (Universal) Genre: Comedy. With a new baby, a blissful suburban couple have their peace and quiet shattered when a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I usually love Seth Rogen so I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt.
PALO ALTO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. At a suburban high school, relationships and emotions spiral out of control as desires are given into and bad choices are the order of the day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A paean to high school angst penned by James Franco and directed by Gia Coppola.
STAGE FRIGHT (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A serial killer stalks the summer showcase of a snooty performing arts summer camp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks a little offbeat and just gory enough to satisfy fans of horror and comedy.

MAY 16, 2014

A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO (Phase 4) Genre: Adventure. An elderly Texas rancher, forced off his land and on the eve of being sent to a retirement home, has one last hurrah with his grandson on a road trip South of the Border. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Robert Duvall goes all Gus McCrae on our ass.
A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY (Paladin) Genre: Drama. A Brooklyn hipster summoned down to Florida to care for his elderly father finds the means of jump-starting his stalled writing career within grasp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Any chance to see the great Linda Lavin at work is worth the effort.
AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. Conceptual artist Weiwei spends a year under house arrest by the Chinese government. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 The second documentary about Weiwei in two years.
CHINESE PUZZLE (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After his ex-wife leaves him and takes his kids to New York, a Parisian follows and tries to start over in the Big Apple. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 The conclusion of a trilogy begun by director Cedric Klapisch beginning with L’Auberge Espagnole.
THE DISCOVERERS (Quadratic) Genre: Dramedy. On the way to a conference to restart his moribund career and connect with his kids, a history professor has to change course when his father disappears on a trek to follow the path of Lewis and Clark. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Griffin Dunne looks special in it and I gotta give props to a movie with so much love for history.
GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. The arrogance of science comes back to haunt us in the form of gigantic, hideous creatures bent on world destruction. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.1 Since the trailer for this broke, it has become one of the most anticipated movies of the summer.
HALF A YELLOW SUN (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Two women endure the turbulent times of the short-lived Republic of Biafra in the late 60s.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 With Chiwetel Ejiofor in it, there is reason enough to seek this out right there.
THE IMMIGRANT (Radius) Genre: Drama. A woman immigrating from Poland to the United States in the early 20th Century is forced into prostitution but may find salvation through a stage magician who happens to be the cousin of her tormentor. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.2 A beautiful looking film with an amazing cast – Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix – wow!
MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) Genre: True Sports Drama. Desperate for a high-profile client to save his business, a sports agent hits upon the scheme of sponsoring a competition among Indian cricketers to find the first Major League Baseball player from India. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Looks kind of charming with Jon Hamm starring but not intriguing enough to be a must-see.
WOLF CREEK 2 (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. Another tourist in the outback comes into the sights of a serial killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one.

MAY 23, 2014

THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. A normally disagreeable sort of man discovers he has 90 minutes to live and sets out to make amends to everyone he has ever hurt. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Robin Williams movie we’ve been waiting for.
BLENDED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a disastrous date leaves two single parents unwilling to ever see each other again, they both unknowingly sign up for the same African safari and they and their kids are forced to share the same luxury suite. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 The third on-screen pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore makes this far more intriguing than it otherwise might be.
COLD IN JULY (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a homeowner investigating noises in his house one night and accidentally shoots and kills a lowlife burglar, he doesn’t count on having the thief’s father show up looking for revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Michael C. Hall from Dexter and Sam Shepard make for some good conflict.
GRAND DEPART (Rialto) Genre: Drama. Two brothers find their situation in life changing due to the declining health of their father. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Looks like one of those films that has some serious sobs and some warm fuzzies as well.
THE LOVE PUNCH (Ketchup) Genre: Comedy. When their retirement nest egg is stolen, a divorced couple join forces to get their money back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With the very likable Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as the couple, there’s much to look forward to with this one.
STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. The 13-year-old son of illegal immigrants wanders away from his parents and gets lost in New York City – just as Hurricane Sandy is about to hit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Has a real New York vibe which might not appeal as much to those outside the city limits.
TRACKS (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. A city-bred young woman determines to cross 2000 miles of Australian desert with nothing more than her dog and four mercurial camels. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An Aussie film with an epic scope and Mia Wasikowska for good measure.
WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romance. Two burned-out teachers, both wounded physically and psychologically, get into a debate over which is more important – words or pictures – and in so doing inspire their apathetic students unexpectedly. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 1.9 Another Florida Film Festival entry, this time with Clive Owen and the fabulous Juliette Binoche top-lining.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The world devastated by gigantic robots gone amok, Wolverine is sent into the past by Professor X to convince his younger self to rally the X-Men and prevent the cataclysm from happening but the trouble is, his younger self isn’t inclined to help. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.0 Judging from the trailer, this might well be the best film in the series.

MAY 27, 2014

TAPPED OUT (Grindstone) Genre: Action. Ordered to do community service in a run-down Karate school, a teen with a chip on his shoulder enters an MMA tournament to face the man who killed his parents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sounds too hokey to be true. 

MAY 28, 2014

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A charming and charismatic African-American woman in the 1930s takes to a life of crime to survive and manages to amass a fortune, continuing her nefarious ways into her 60s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Looks to be a fascinating documentary; looking forward to seeing it.

MAY 30, 2014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A cowardly sheep rancher is transformed by a mysterious woman into a gunfighter to face down a notorious outlaw in a town where unusual fatalities are a way of life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Another irreverent but hysterical film from Seth MacFarlane.
DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (The Collective) Genre: Horror. While a reality show documents a young couple’s pregnancy, the mother-to-be comes to believe that her unborn child is afflicted with demonic possession.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An intriguing premise but I must admit I’m a little burned out on found footage horror right now.
FILTH (Magnolia) Genre: Dark Comedy. An arrogant police detective believes that if he solves a murder that he’ll win the promotion he deserves and his estranged wife will return to him but things rarely go the way we expect them to. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 James McAvoy like you’ve never seen him before.
THE GRAND SEDUCTION (eOne) Genre: Comedy. A town desperate to attract a petrochemical plant needs to prove that there is a resident doctor, which they have none; when fate sends one their way, a pair of unemployed fishermen set out to prove to the doc that their tiny town is the paradise he’s been looking for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A charming comedy of the Canadian Maritimes.
LUCKY THEM (IFC) Genre: Romance. More interested in partying than reporting, an aging rock journalist is given an assignment – to find a reclusive rock legend who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church are two of my favorite actors.
MALEFICENT (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. Disney’s most nefarious villain gets her story told as she changes from a young idealist to a hate-filled sorceress when her land is overrun by a corrupt king. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.2 Is it disrespectful to say that Angelina Jolie is perfect casting for this?
NIGHT MOVES (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. When a trio of environmental activists plot to blow up a dam in Oregon, they don’t realize the consequences that their actions will be severe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From Kelly Reichardt, one of my favorite emerging directors.
WE ARE THE BEST! (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Three young misfits, in search of a cause in the 80s, decide to form an all-female punk band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A joyous celebration of the punk spirit.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ida, The Double, Mom’s Night Out, Neighbors, Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm, Blended, X-Men: Days of Future Past, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent

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