Four-Warned: December 2014

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five ArmiesEvery 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. THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (1.0)
2. BIG EYES (1.3)
3. UNBROKEN (1.4)
4. EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY (1.3)
2. WILD (1.4)
TIE. MR. TURNER (1.4)
TIE. MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (1.4)
TIE. LEVIATHAN (1.4)

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

DECEMBER 2, 2014

A FIELD FULL OF SECRETS (Gravitas) Genre: Documentary. A filmmaker and an eccentric transsexual inventor believe that they have found the blueprints for a spacecraft in the combining of crop circles. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Kooky concept but no trailer.

DECEMBER 3, 2014

WILD (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Life Drama. The amazing true story of a woman, haunted by bad decisions, drug abuse and the memory of her mother, who sets out to cleanse herself by hiking the thousand mile Pacific Crest Trail alone despite having no experience at it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks like potentially another Oscar nomination for Reese Witherspoon.
ZERO MOTIVATION (Zeitgeist) Genre: Comedy. A platoon of female Israeli soldiers fight boredom, sexism and ill-fitting uniforms in the hopes of getting transferred to Tel Aviv. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 What looks to be an affectionate but comedic look at the Israeli military, feminism and bureaucracy in general.

DECEMBER 5, 2014

THE BAREFOOT ARTIST (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Artist Lily Yeh determines to create art installations in the most impoverished communities around the world. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A portrait of an amazing soul.
THE BEAST (IFC Midnight) Genre: Drama. A young woman can’t get enough of the massively endowed beach that regularly ravishes her in the forest, her libido extending to the French country estate in which she resides. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 The first of a pair of erotic releases from maverick Polish director Walerian Borowczyk from the 70s making their way to American screens only now.
COMET (IFC) Genre: Romance. The story of a pair of star-crossed lovers is told in non-chronological order. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks kind of dream-like and maybe a little pretentious but the attractive couple of Justin Long and Emmy Rossum may overcome all that.
DYING OF THE LIGHT (Lionsgate) Genre: Spy Thriller. A CIA agent, ordered to retire, goes rogue when he discovers that his nemesis has resurfaced. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks kind of like a standard Nicolas Cage B-movie action film.
INSIDE THE MIND OF LEONARDO 3D (Submarine Deluxe) Genre: Documentary. Perhaps the greatest genius of the Renaissance and of all time, the painter/scientist/engineer/inventor/sculptor/architect/etc. is given a unique biography utilizing modern 3D technology.. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Unfortunately, couldn’t get the trailer in 3D to get a look at the film as it’s meant to be seen but having the current Dr. Who Peter Capaldi playing Leonardo has to be a good thing.
LIFE PARTNERS (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. When a sheltered young woman finds a man to fall in love with, her bestie tries to maintain their relationship despite her friend’s new-found love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Really looks kind of like a typical indie romantic comedy but it might surprise me nonetheless.
MURDER OF A CAT (Gravitas) Genre: Comedy. When action figure designer Clinton’s cat is seemingly senselessly murdered, he determines to find his cat’s killer, uncovering a town-wide conspiracy that he could never have conceived of. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Might be trying too hard to be zany.
PIONEER (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Hell bent on being the first to reach the bottom of the North Sea, a professional diver agrees to take on a dangerous job for an oil company, not realizing the powerful forces in play that may be putting his life at stake. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Another great film coming from Norway; what’s getting into the water there?
POKER NIGHT (XLRator) Genre: Thriller. A rookie detective is kidnapped by a sadistic thrill killer and in order to survive the night must utilize the wisdom imparted to him by veteran cops at their regular poker game in order to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Might be interesting with a pretty nifty cast but the trailer looked generic.
THE PYRAMID (20th Century Fox) Genre: Horror. The discovery of a previously unexplored pyramid in the Egyptian desert awakens an ancient evil. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Looks a little bit too much like The Ruin for me.
SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The formation of the women’s movement and the rise of feminism is documented here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Given the assault on women’s reproductive rights from the religious right, this couldn’t be more timely.
STILL ALICE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. At the height of a brilliant career as a linguist, a woman contracts Alzheimer’s. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expands January 16). RATING: 2.5 Very much looking forward to this one but no trailer yet.
TAKE CARE (eOne) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After an accident leaves her immobilized, a young woman calls on an ex-boyfriend for help, only to be reminded of why they broke up in the first place. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 There seems to be a lot of films with this theme coming out in the indie ranks lately.

DECEMBER 10, 2014

MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Documentary. Welles is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers and writers of his day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Can’t wait to see this one.

DECEMBER 12, 2014

AFTER THE FALL (EOne) Genre: Drama. In order to support his family, a suburban dad takes to a life of crime. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 A parable of modern economics and perhaps a warning that people driven into a corner with nothing more to lose may do desperate things.
THE CAPTIVE (A24) Genre: Thriller. The disappearance of a young girl destroys the marriage of her parents with her mother believing her father had something to do with it; when a pair of detectives believe they’ve seen images of her alive years later, the father obsessively tries to find her again, looking for his own redemption and the restoration of his relationship with his wife. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A different kind of role for Ryan Reynolds and I kinda like it; having Atom Egoyan directing is always a good thing.
THE COLOR OF TIME (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Biographical Drama. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams struggles with the demons of his past as he prepares for a reading in New York. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Has an excellent cast (including James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain and Henry Hopper) but looks a tad pretentious in the trailer.
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Biblical Drama. Two brothers growing up sons of the Pharaoh end up opposing each other; one as the successor to the crown, the other as liberator of the Hebrew slaves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Ridley Scott’s take on The Ten Commandments.
FREE THE NIPPLE (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in New York including Miley Cyrus protest topless, asking why the media will show violence uncensored but refuses to show the female breast. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 After putting aside all the juvenile titillation comments, the core question is a legitimate one; a dramatization of a real movement.
IMMORAL TALES (IFC Midnight) Genre: Drama. Four tales of softcore erotica through various ages and locations. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 The second re-release this month of a lost erotic classic by Polish director Walerian Borowczyk.
INHERENT VICE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy Thriller. The tale of a drug-addled investigator looking into a complicated plot to kidnap a billionaire in the 1960s and commit him to an asylum, giving his wife control of his assets. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in Wide release January 9). RATING: 2.3 Paul Thomas Anderson adapts Thomas Pynchon? Either a cinematic must-see or a magnificent disaster.
LITTLE FEET (Factory 25) Genre: Drama. Two children decide to take their goldfish from their Los Angeles home to the ocean, an odyssey in which they’ll meet some unique characters. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Definite film festival fodder but beautifully photographed in black and white, with the children of director Alexandre Rockwell starring.
R 100 (Drafthouse) Genre: Dramedy. An ordinary office drone in Japan joins a mysterious club in which there is only one rule; you cannot quit for an entire year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A sexy look at pleasure and pain that reminded me a bit of Eyes Wide Shut from director Hitoshi Matsumoto.
TOP FIVE (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. After leaving behind a career in stand-up after being voted the best at it in the world, an encounter with a reporter leads a comic to re-evaluate his stance. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Written and directed by Chris Rock, this might be the movie that defines his career.
WE ARE THE GIANT (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. Activists in the Arab Spring are profiled, not only chronicling their activities during that period in 2010 but how their lives have been affected since. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A hopeful reminder that when people unite they can change anything – and everything.

DECEMBER 17, 2014

GOODBYE TO ALL THAT (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. After being unexpectedly informed by his wife that she wants a divorce, her husband must put both feet forward into a dating scene that’s changed radically from when he was single. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Has been making waves on the festival circuit and with a great cast and a funny/charming trailer could be a sleeper indie hit.
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Line) Genre: Fantasy. The conclusion of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 While it hasn’t had the acclaim and box office of the LOTR trilogy, the finale (and possibly the last cinematic visit to Middle Earth in a long time) still merits keen interest.
IF YOU DON’T, I WILL (Film Movement) Genre: Comedy. A couple that have been together a long time try to hang on to the magic but when the woman suddenly reveals during a hike that she intends to remain in the forest, the couple find themselves at a crossroads. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Two of the most popular actors in France, Mathieu Amalric and Emanuelle Devos star.

DECEMBER 19, 2014

ANNIE (Columbia) Genre: Musical. An orphan charms her way into the heart of a hard-nosed billionaire running for mayor of New York City. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 One of the rare musicals that has really left me flat; I’ll probably see this remake just for Jamie Foxx.
THE GAMBLER (Paramount) Genre: Drama. Based on a 1974 film starring James Caan, a college English professor who’s also a high-stakes gambler gets in over his head when he pits a criminal against the operator of an illegal gambling ring. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in wide release January 1). RATING: 2.2 Opening now for Academy consideration but didn’t see anything that indicated that there would be anything more than a glance for Oscar consideration.
MEDEAS (Vladar) Genre: Drama. Trying to make a go of it in a harsh economic and physical environment, a dairy farmer copes with a wife pulling away from him and her children. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 An often intense but more often frustrating art film that played the Florida Film Festival earlier this year.
MR. TURNER (Sony Classics) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of eccentric 19th century English painter J.M.W. Turner who became one of the most popular artists of his day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Timothy Spall is being talked up as a possible Best Actor nominee.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (20th Century Fox) Genre: Adventure. Heroic night watchman Larry travels to London with his friends from the museum to save the fading magic that animates the exhibits after dark. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I found the first two films charming and as this is Robin Williams’ final major studio film, there will be a bittersweet feeling to this one.
SONG OF THE SEA (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. In a world of fading magic, two children make a desperate journey to the ocean. Release Strategy: New York City/Toronto. RATING: 2.0 From the director of the Oscar-nominated Secret of the Kells.
WINTER SLEEP (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Three people – a disillusioned former actor now running a small hotel, his fiery wife with whom he has a tempestuous relationship and his recently divorced sister are trapped in the hotel by a blizzard, allowing their long-simmering animosities to take flower. Release Strategy: New York City/Washington DC. RATING: 1.9 A lyrical looking film that won the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

DECEMBER 24, 2014

BELOVED SISTER (Music Box) Genre: Drama. The true story of an 18th century German poet who married one sister and maintained a romantic relationship with the other in a daring flaunting of convention that would raise eyebrows even now, 250 years later. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 A florid period piece but German filmmakers seem to excel at this sort of thing.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. After returning to work following a serious bout of depression, a woman is informed that she is to be let go but can keep her job if her fellow employees vote to allow her to – and sacrifice their bonuses in order to do it. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 The great Marion Cotillard stars in a movie by the Dardennes brothers, rising stars in the European filmmaking community.

DECEMBER 25, 2014

AMERICAN SNIPER (Warner Brothers) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in Wide Release January 16). RATING: 1.9 The latest from director Clint Eastwood which is usually a slam dunk as far as I’m concerned.
BIG EYES (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. In the 1950s some of the most popular artwork was done by Walter Keane whose paintings of waifs with huge eyes became a national sensation; the trouble was that the paintings were actually done by his wife Margaret with Keane taking credit for her work. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 I’m still a Tim Burton diehard despite a couple of recent missteps but this one looks like a definite step in the right direction.
THE INTERVIEW (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. When a witless talk show host lands an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the CIA tries to get him and his producer to assassinate the Glorious Leader. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 While I tend to blow hot and cold with Seth Rogen’s stoner humor, this one looks genuinely funny.
INTO THE WOODS (Disney) Genre: Musical. The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm are brought into focus in this cinematic version of a Stephen Sondheim musical. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Sondheim is one of the greatest in Broadway history and Oscar-nominated director Rob Marshall leads an all-star cast but still I harbor some disquiet about this one.
LEVIATHAN (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A land dispute in a small Russian village causes tension in a family and the community but also exposes the flaws and corruption of the Russian legal system. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.4 Looks absolutely stunning.
SELMA (Paramount) Genre: True Life Drama. Dr. Martin Luther King decides to take a stand for African-American civil rights by conducting a march on Selma, Alabama – which will stir up violence and hatred but lead to landmark changes. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in Wide Release January 9). RATING: 2.1 I’m a little wary of these kinds of films as they often lose track of the importance of the events in favor of building the legend of the catalysts.
UNBROKEN (Universal) Genre: Biographical Drama. Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini survives a plane crash and 47 days in a raft in shark-infested waters only to be “rescued” by an Imperial Japanese warship and sent to a hellhole of a POW camp. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Angelina Jolie’s latest directorial effort has garnered a bit of Oscar buzz.

DECEMBER 31, 2014

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (A24) Genre: Action. During the worst year of crime in city history, an immigrant arrives in New York facing a particularly uphill battle to the American dream. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Up and coming director J.C. Chandor takes on urban decay and its effect on the lives of those stuck in it.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Pyramid, Wild, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Inherent Vice, Top 5, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Annie, The Gambler, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, American Sniper, Big Eyes, The Interview, Into the Woods, Selma, Unbroken, A Most Violent Year

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