Four-Warned: October 2014

FuryEvery 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 strategy: 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. FURY (1.5)
2. GONE GIRL (1.6)
TIE. THE JUDGE (1.6)
4. ST. VINCENT (1.7)
TIE. DRACULA UNTOLD (1.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. BIRDMAN (1.0)
2. DIPLOMACY (1.1)
3. RUDDERLESS (1.3)
TIE. WHIPLASH (1.3)
TIE. KILL THE MESSENGER (1.3)

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

OCTOBER 1, 2014

THE DECENT ONE (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Correspondence and restored film from German archives show Heinrich Himmler, one of the true monsters of the Nazi regime, to have quite a different self-image than how history views him. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Nobody ever thinks of themselves as monsters but some of the footage in the trailer was fascinating.
MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN (Paramount) Genre: Ensemble Drama. Explores how the internet impacts relationships of several high school students and their parents. Release Strategy: Limited (expands October 10 & October 17). RATING: 1.9 Really good young cast and director Jason Reitman makes this something to look forward to.

OCTOBER 2, 2014

BANG BANG (Fox Star) Genre: Bollywood. A mousy bank receptionist gets caught up in the adventure of a lifetime when a mysterious man comes into her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A remake of the Tom Cruise vehicle Knight and Day; could appeal to audiences beyond the usual Bollywood enthusiasts.

OCTOBER 3, 2014

A GOOD MARRIAGE (Screen Media) Genre: Thriller. Happily married for more than 20 years, a woman stumbles across a box under a worktable that changes completely her perception of the man she married.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 From the mind of Stephen King and starring the great Joan Allen who has been not as much onscreen as I would like.
ANNABELLE (New Line) Genre: Horror. For his pregnant wife, an expectant father buys the gift of a vintage doll in a wedding dress, but an attack by a satanic cult gives the doll a demonic presence. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 A prequel to the excellent horror film The Conjuring.
BITTER HONEY (Elemental) Genre: Documentary. Polygamy is more accepted in Indonesia; this film follows three families in Bali and in particular the wives and their place in Indonesian society. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.4 Definitely has the feel of being made by an academic but a fascinating subject nonetheless.
THE BLUE ROOM (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. A couple meet for an illicit romance but it ends up with the man under police scrutiny. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Examines the French attitudes towards infidelity with the great Matthieu Almaric starring – and directing.
DRIVE HARD (RLJ/Image) Genre: Action. A former race car champion turned driving instructor is hijacked by a desperate criminal to be the getaway driver in his $9 million heist. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks much more fun than I thought; with John Cusack and Thomas Jane in it, I guess I should have known better.
GONE GIRL (20th Century Fox) Genre: Thriller. When a beautiful woman disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, the husband comes under scrutiny and their apparently perfect marriage begins to dissolve into lies, deceit and secrets. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Ben Affleck has been on a winning streak of late and David Fincher is an always interesting director.
THE GOOD LIE (Warner Brothers) Genre: True Life Drama. Sudanese refugees who arrive in the U.S. prior to 9-11 are separated from their sister and prevail on a sympathetic social worker to help them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The first of two first-rate Reese Witherspoon performances this fall.
THE HERO OF COLOR CITY (Magnolia) Genre: Animated Feature. Heroic crayons take on the monsters from a child’s imagination to keep said monsters from hoarding all the colors for themselves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Looks a little cheesy but then again I think this is really meant for younger kids.
LAST HIJACK (Submarine) Genre: Documentary. The life of a Somali pirate told from his point of view through film of his everyday life and animated sequences. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 A powerful subject but not sure the trailer captures that power.
LEFT BEHIND (Stoney Lake) Genre: Faith-Based Drama. After the rapture, those who remain in this world discover why it was a good thing to get called up to heaven Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 While going from Kirk Cameron to Nicolas Cage is arguably a trade-up, this isn’t necessarily a movie I wanted to see the first time let alone this time.
THE LIBERATOR (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Biographical Drama. Simon Bolivar is one of the most beloved historical figures in Latin America; this movie explains why. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Although this movie has been rescheduled a couple of times, the trailer looks intriguing and it could do some indie-level box office damage.
THE SUPREME PRICE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The democratically elected president of Nigeria is overthrown by a military coup and his wife assassinated when she tries to carry on his ideals; now their daughter returns to Nigeria to try and restore democracy to a nation in which the corruption is entrenched. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Powerful stuff, but some of the Nigerians’ accents are so thick that the extended trailer would benefit from subtitles.

OCTOBER 7, 2014

STRETCH (Universal) Genre: Action Comedy. During the course of a single night, a desperate limo driver is obliged to perform increasingly twisted tasks for his reclusive billionaire fare. Release Strategy: VOD. RATING: 2.2 From Joe Carnahan, a director whose projects always seem to have something interesting about them.

OCTOBER 10, 2014

ADDICTED (CODEBLACK) Genre: Drama. A successful female executive with a great family and loving husband falls for an artist client and begins a torrid affair, discovering that her physical needs have become an obsession. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Yet another movie this month dealing with marital infidelity.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) Genre: Family. What should have been a great day turns into the most miserable day ever for one particular family. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Has at least Steve Carell in it to recommend it.
AUTOMATA (Millennium) Genre: Science Fiction. The investigation of potential manipulation of a robot’s programming exposes a dire threat to humanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Has a distinctly Asimovian feel to the film.
THE CANAL (The Orchard) Genre: Horror. A man suspects that dark spirits in his home, the scene of a grisly turn-of-the-last-century murder, may be trying to destroy him and his family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Creepy, atmospheric Irish horror – is there anything better at Halloween?
DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD (Well Go USA) Genre: Horror Comedy. The survivor of the first movie wants to get revenge on the Nazi zombies – by raising an army of the undead of his own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Might just be THE best horror movie of the season.
THE DEVIL’S HAND (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Horror. One of six girls born on the sixth day of the six month in a small devout village is destined to be the Devil’s Hand. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A cross between a teen slasher movie and a supernatural horror film set in an Amish community.
DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal/Legendary) Genre: Horror Action. His family and people threatened, a Romanian warlord determines to protect them anyway he can – even if it means literally making a deal with the devil. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.7 An alternative take on the origins of history’s most famous vampire.
I AM ALI (Focus World) Genre: Documentary. The Greatest Boxer of All Time’s life and career are recounted through unprecedented access to his archives and interviews with those closest to him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An icon from when boxing mattered.
THE JUDGE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. When his estranged father who is in the throes of early dementia is accused of murder, his high-priced lawyer son reluctantly accepts the task of defending a man he can’t stand. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Robert W. Downey is almost always entertaining.
KILL THE MESSENGER (Focus) Genre: Thriller. San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb discovers a story with far-reaching implications into our government and the war on drugs, but his discoveries put his job, family and eventually his life at risk. Release Strategy: Limited (expands October 17 and October 24). RATING: 1.3 A true story involving one of the last heroic journalists of our time with Jeremy Renner as Webb.
ONE CHANCE (Weinstein) Genre: Musical Biography. The true story of Paul Potts, a shop assistant whose incredible performances on a British singing competition show took that country by storm. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 A movie whose release date has been shifted by Weinstein so many times it’s a wonder this hasn’t gone direct to VOD.
THE OVERNIGHTERS (Drafthouse) Genre: Documentary. With oil creating a boom in a small town in North Dakota, housing has become an issue; when a pastor opens up his church to itinerant oil workers he creates unexpected controversy that is exacerbated by secrets from his own past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks incredibly powerful, not just a snapshot of a moment but also of our attitudes towards those who work in our country.
THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A woman’s life, which she seems to have put together in a careful fashion, begins to unravel when horrific nightmares begin to intrude on her waking life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A serial killer comes back from the grave film with better special effects than most for the genre.
ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) Genre: Comedy. Having moved into a new neighborhood, a single mom is forced to hire her curmudgeonly neighbor to babysit her kid. Release Strategy: Limited (opening wide October 24). RATING: 1.7 Looks like another winner for Bill Murray.
WHIPLASH (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An ambitious jazz drummer butts heads with his tyrannical drum teacher, pushing him to the brink of greatness – and possibly, insanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Some say this is the best movie to come out of Sundance this year.
YOU’RE NOT YOU (eOne) Genre: Drama. An unconventional friendship forms between a successful classical pianist diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and the chaotic college student and wannabe rock star who is hired to care for her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks a bit like a tearjerker but with an amazing cast headed up by Oscar winner Hilary Swank.

OCTOBER 15, 2014

DIPLOMACY (Zeitgeist) Genre: Drama. The confrontation between a Nazi general and a Swedish diplomat becomes a game of high stakes. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.1 With the Allies knocking on the doors of Paris, the Nazis intended to destroy the city; one man alone stood in the way as this riveting drama proposes.

OCTOBER 16, 2014

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (Orion/MGM) Genre: Horror. 65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized a Texas town, the murders begin again but is it something more sinister than a copycat killer? Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A spooky remake of a supposedly true story.

OCTOBER 17, 2014

THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) Genre: Romance. Two lovers are reunited 20 years later after life has kicked them around some and the woman is married to another man. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 Nicholas Sparks is at it again.
BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Comedy. Trying to resurrect a stalled career, an actor best-known for playing an iconic superhero mounts a Broadway play, battling his own ego and the pressures surrounding him as he gives one last effort to make things right in his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The latest from Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu looks funny, sad, beautiful and wonderful all at once.
THE BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. Two young men battling for the heart of the same women attract the attention of supernatural entities who bet on the winner; one, hoping to tip the scales, sends one of the men to the land of the Dead. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Set in the style of the Mexican Day of the Dead, the Guillermo del Toro-produced toon has a look that is completely unique and utterly enchanting.
THE CULTURE HIGH (eOne) Genre: Documentary. Examines both sides of the debate around legalizing marijuana. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 While the documentarians clearly favor legalization, they seem open to presenting opposing viewpoints.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. Four African-American students deal with racial attitudes in the 21st century in different ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’m still on the fence about this one; the trailer looked a bit stereotypical.
DEFAULT (Amplify) Genre: Thriller. Somali pirates capture a chartered plane with a legendary journalist aboard, demanding to be interviewed which the journalist agrees to without realizing the motives are much more deadly than he realizes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Somali pirates seem to have become an object of obsession in Hollywood lately.
FELONY (Gravitas) Genre: Crime Thriller. Three detectives are involved in the critical injury of a child; one committed a crime, one is covering it up and the third will try to expose it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Australian film with a terrific cast including Tom Wilkinson and Joel Edgerton.
FURY (Columbia) Genre: War. In the waning days of the Second World War, a tank crew behind enemy lines try to survive the furious final fight and make it home. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Brad Pitt may be looking at another Oscar nomination.
HOUSEBOUND (XLRator) Genre: Horror Comedy. Sentenced to home detention in her mom’s house, a career criminal discovers that her mom’s babbling about the house being haunted turn out to be true. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Keep Calm and Watch British Horror Movies.
LISTEN UP, PHILIP (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A self-centered novelist seeks refuge in his idol’s summer home and gets an unexpected reality check. Release Strategy: New York City (expands October 24). RATING: 2.1 Looks pretty funny in a twisted sort of way.
RUDDERLESS (Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. The death of his son inspires his alcoholic dad to begin performing his son’s songs in public. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The directing debut of William H. Macy offers a fine cast and a strong story.
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. A baby discovered in a glowing bamboo stalk is raised by human parents to become a beautiful princess. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles/Toronto. RATING: 1.6 Based on an ancient Japanese legend, this is the latest film (and last for awhile, possibly forever) from Studio Ghibli.
YOUNG ONES (Screen Media) Genre: Science Fiction. In a dystopic future in which water is disappearing from the Earth, a farmer fights to protect his land and his family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Not sure if this is post-apocalyptic action film or political statement.

OCTOBER 24, 2014

1,000 TIMES GOODNIGHT(Film Movement) Genre: Drama. A badly injured war photographer returns home to get an ultimatum from her husband and children; choose between her family and her career. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Rarely do we see the price paid by the families of journalists who risk their lives doing their jobs.
CITIZENFOUR (Radius) Genre: Documentary. In the midst of making a documentary about security abuses in Post-9/11 America a filmmaker receives cryptic e-mails from a source that ends up being Edward Snowden. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The details of how a whistleblower brought one of the biggest scandals in the history of the American intelligence community may well be a fascinating movie but couldn’t find a trailer.
EXISTS (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. On the way to a weekend camping trip, five friends accidentally unleash an ancient horror hell-bent on revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The director of The Blair Witch Project brings us what might be the scariest Sasquatch movie ever.
FORCE MAJEURE (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. The actions of a father during a family ski trip lead to his wife questioning his character and indeed whether she should remain married to him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Funny and thought-provoking, a rare combination.
THE HEART MACHINE (IFC) Genre: Romance. An online relationship takes a strange turn when the man discovers that the woman may not be a long distance romance at all – she may actually live in his town. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Love and obsession in the digital age.
JOHN WICK (Lionsgate) Genre: Action Thriller. A hitman comes out of retirement to take on the gangsters who took everything from him. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Keanu Reeves in the kind of role that Liam Neeson has been getting lately.
LAGGIES (A24) Genre: Dramedy. Not quite ready to grow up yet, a 20-something girl hides out from a prospective fiancé in the home of a 16-year-old friend and her single dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 This Sundance favorite from one of my favorite young directors Lynn Shelton has a stellar cast.
LIFE OF RILEY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Romance. Three French couples living in the English countryside must navigate their way through emotional entanglements. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A new Alain Resnais film is always worth seeking out.
LOW DOWN (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Biographical Drama. The relationship between a young girl and her aspiring musician father is complicated as they try to survive Los Angeles in the 70s. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles October 31). RATING: 2.0 Astonishing cast captures the era, the drug use and the music.
OUIJA (Universal) Genre: Supernatural Horror. In an attempt to contact her recently deceased sister using a Ouija board, a young woman may have inadvertently contacted the malevolent force that killed her. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 The latest from the Blumhouse bunch looks plenty scary.
STONEHEARST ASYLUM (Millennium) Genre: Horror. Newly graduated from med school, a doctor takes a position at a mental institution and falls for one of his colleagues, unaware of the repercussions of a recent staffing change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 An adaptation from an Edgar Allen Poe short story.
WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. The disappearance of her mother several years earlier profoundly effects a young college student as she confronts her own denial of the events surrounding it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Shailene Woodley just keeps getting better and better.

OCTOBER 29, 2014

REVENGE OF THE MEKONS (Music Box) Genre: Musical Documentary. Emerging from the punk scene in the UK in 1977, this long-running band continues to make exciting and relevant music today by consistently changing and adopting new influences. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 A band that has made some of the greatest music of the post-punk era but has had terrible luck with record labels and remains mostly a cult favorite today.

OCTOBER 31, 2014

ABCS OF DEATH 2 (Magnet) Genre: Horror Anthology. Once again, 26 directors from around the world contribute short films based on different letters of the alphabet with a horror theme. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The first one had flashes of genius but was wildly uneven.
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (Clarius) Genre: Thriller. Every time a woman goes to sleep, she wakes up with no new memories of what happened that day; but disturbing truths begin to emerge that make her suspect everyone around her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sounds a lot like 50 First Dates crossed with Memento.
HORNS (Radius) Genre: Supernatural Horror. Accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend, a young man wakes up with a set of horns which compel people to confess their sins and act out their hidden fantasies and decides to use their power to find out what really happened to his girlfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A tour-de-force for director Alexandre Aja and another career-building performance for Daniel Radcliffe.
NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road) Genre: Thriller. Desperate for work, an unemployed man falls into the fast-paced underbelly of crime journalism in L.A. and slowly begins to unravel. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Jake Gyllenhaal at the top of his game.
SAW (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. Returning for one week only comes one of the seminal torture porn films. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Remember when we got a new movie in this franchise every Halloween?

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Annabelle, Gone Girl, The Good Lie, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Dracula Untold, The Judge, Kill the Messenger, One Chance, St. Vincent, Whiplash, Birdman, The Book of Life, Fury, John Wick, Ouija, Nightcrawler

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