Four-Warned: September 2014

The EqualizerEvery 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.

4. TUSK (1.6)

3. 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (1.5)

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


FRONTERA (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. When his wife is killed while riding on their ranch, an ex-sheriff investigates an illegal Mexican who was on their land when the incident occurred. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks like another powerful performance from Ed Harris.
GOD HELP THE GIRL (Amplify) Genre: Musical. Although she’s been an absolute catastrophe, a Glasgow girl knows she has the talent to front a band and when she finds two similarly wounded souls, they form a band that might just go places. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 From Belle and Sebastian front man Stuart Murdoch, a gentle pop music comedy.
THE IDENTICAL (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Musical. Identical twins, separated at birth during the Depression because their parents couldn’t afford to keep them both, live very different lives but strikingly similar as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The healing power of rock and roll.
INNOCENCE (JSC) Genre: Horror. A pair of youngsters who are dealing with tragedy in their own lives enter a new prep school which they soon discover may be run by a coven of witches who drink the blood of virgins to keep their perpetual youth. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Looks a bit like something that should air on the CW.
LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM (American Experience) Genre: Documentary. During the military evacuation of Saigon in 1975, a group of American soldiers and diplomats face a moral quandary of whether to follow orders and save only U.S. citizens or try and save as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A searing look at one of the most unforgettable events of the late 20th century.
THE LONGEST WEEK (Gravitas) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The former heir to a fortune is disinherited and thrown out on his ass in a nasty divorce case; taken in by a close friend, he falls for his friend’s girlfriend and tries to maintain the charade that everything is okay. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Jason Bateman is the closest thing to a sure thing in comedic acting these days.
MEMPHIS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A singer of immense talent but a fragile psyche wanders in the mythic land of Memphis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The trailer looks a little bit scattered.
TRAILER PARK BOYS 3: DON’T LEGALIZE IT (Screen Media) Genre: Comedy. Plans to legalize marijuana in Canada threaten the boys plans to eventual riches so they head to Ottawa to lobby against it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 A low-rent Canadian version of Cheech and Chong, only not funny.
WETLANDS (Strand) Genre: Dramedy. A rebellious teen with a penchant for masturbating with vegetables becomes infatuated with her male nurse during a hospital stay. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles September 12). RATING: 2.1 One of the most talked-about and polarizing movies to appear at this year’s Florida Film Festival.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2014

BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS. GRAVITY (Aubin) Genre: Documentary. Elizabeth Streb and her Extreme Action Troupe are revolutionizing dance – or perhaps more accurately, creating a brand new art form. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.5 It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes between someone genuinely pushing the limits or someone who thinks far too highly of themselves.
MY OLD LADY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. After inheriting a Parisian apartment from his estranged father, a New Yorker becomes embroiled in a real estate struggle regarding the person living there, her daughter and a rapacious developer. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Any movie with Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott-Thomas is going to be on my list of must-sees.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

ARCHAEOLOGY OF A WOMAN (Emerald) Genre: Drama. The daughter of a woman who is in the beginning stages of elderly dementia discovers that her mom may be involved in a 30-year-old murder mystery. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 Interesting premise but the trailer is kind of disjointed.
AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (IFC) Genre: Horror. An ambitious young realtor and her artist sister are pulled into the sinister web of a house she is selling that is inhabited by a sinister supernatural force. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Looks absolutely terrifying.
ATLAS SHRUGGED III: WHO IS JOHN GALT? (Atlas) Genre: Drama. The conclusion (I think) of the trilogy based on the Ayn Rand novel. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Conservative economists will be lined up at the door for this one.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY (Weinstein) Genre: Romance. The relationship of a couple that has been strained to the breaking point by tragedy is examined from both viewpoints. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expands September 19). RATING: 2.7 Combines two films that played at Cannes, subtitled His and Hers which is economical I suppose.
DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Warner Brothers) Genre: Family. The legendary dolphin Winter comes to the rescue of a young foundling named Hope in this family tale loosely based on the ordeals of the real dolphins. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 Looks really treacly and may cause insulin shock in diabetics.
THE DROP (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Crime Drama. When a bartender whose bar is used as a covert means of funneling cash to Brooklyn criminals becomes embroiled in a robbery gone sideways, he must find out who’s responsible or risk losing everything. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 One of the last movies with the late James Gandolfini.
FINDING FANNY (Fox Star) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Five friends go on a 20-minute trip to locate the long lost love of an old postman but get lost and find something else. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Has that oddball Bollywood charm.
THE GREEN PRINCE (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. The extraordinary true story about the son of a Hamas leader who becomes a prized informant of Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence service, and the agent who protected him in an incredibly dangerous situation for more than a decade. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks as gripping as any John Le Carre spy film except that this actually happened.
HONEYMOON (Magnet) Genre: Horror. When a newlywed finds his wife wandering in the woods disoriented on their honeymoon, he begins to suspect that she’s in the grip of something truly sinister. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A very creepy film with a Game of Thrones star headlining.
NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) Genre: Thriller. After a charming stranger gains entry into her home ostensibly to call for a tow truck, a cat and mouse game begins between a young wife and mother and the stranger who turns out to be a brutal escaped convict. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Idris Elba versus Taraji P. Henson – excellent casting, I’d say.
THE QUITTER (Goodface) Genre: Drama. An ex-ballplayer whose career was an utter failure is forced to face his life decisions when his former girlfriend moves back into the neighborhood with her seven-year-old daughter. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 A trailer for this film is lacking.
THE SKELETON TWINS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. Estranged twins are forced into a reunion which may change both their lives for the better. Release Strategy: Limited (opens wide September 19). RATING: 1.8 Pairing Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig sounds like a winner to me.
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER (Abramorama) Genre: Musical Documentary. The musical history and influence of Memphis is brought together as generations of Memphis artists and those influenced by the sound come together to record a historic album. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 When you consider the caliber of artists that emerged from Memphis and the enormous influence they’ve had on modern music, this is a must-see for any music fan.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

WORST FRIENDS (Level 33) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Badly injured in a car accident, a prankster has only a childhood friend and a physical therapist to help him recover – until his friend’s high school crush moves back in to town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks mildly interesting.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2014

20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (Drafthouse) Genre: Music Documentary. Nick Cave has been one of the most respected and innovative performers in indie rock since his days with The Birthday Party and on through his time with the Bad Seeds. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 One of the true greats who doesn’t get his due.
THE GUEST (Picturehouse) Genre: Thriller. The grieving family of a soldier welcomes one of his comrades into their home, then as people around them begin to die mysteriously suspect their guest of being responsible. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Adam Wingard is one of the most intriguing up-and-coming directors out there.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (Universal) Genre: Suspense. A cop-turned-private detective investigates the kidnapping and murder of the wife of a drug boss, finding that it is the work of a team of sadistic serial killers. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Liam Neeson is one of the most bankable action stars in Hollywood.
ART AND CRAFT (Purple Parrot) Genre: Documentary. The world’s most prolific art forger gets an exhibition of his own work. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 An interesting look inside the art world, warts and all.
FORT BLISS (Phase 4) Genre: Drama. Returning home from Afghanistan, a single mom and Army medic discovers her relationship with her son is fractured; she must find a way to rebuild it but the threat of re-deployment may put what progress she’s made in jeopardy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Although I like the cast, something about the trailer left me ambivalent towards this.
HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (Relativity) Genre: Dramedy. A psychiatrist, believing he can’t help his patients find happiness unless he finds it for himself first, goes on a journey to see what happiness looks like. Release Strategy: Limited (expanded opening October 3). RATING: 1.4 Simon Pegg is one of my favorites right now; this is a very different role for him.
ICEMAN (Well Go USA) Genre: Martial Arts. Three vengeful brothers and the Imperial guard wrongfully accused of murder are frozen during battle, thawing out 400 years later in the modern era.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 An interesting mix of martial arts fantasy and modern hard bitten gangster movie.
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (Radius) Genre: Musical Documentary. Jazz piano legend Clark Terry undertakes one last mentorship as his health begins to fail. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Great music and a marvelously touching story.
LIFE’S A BREEZE (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. A struggling Irish family races against time to find a lost fortune. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Another charming Irish movie; you gotta love it.
THE MAZE RUNNER (20th Century Fox) Genre: Science Fiction. Teens who have no memory find themselves in a mysterious glade surrounded by a deadly maze; when a new arrival begins to show signs of recovering his memory, everything changes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.4 Based on a bestselling young adult novel, one hopes this will fare better than the dozens of poorly made and poorly received young adult would-be franchises.
RECLAIM (Lionsgate) Genre: Thriller. After their newly adopted daughter goes missing in a small town, a young couple realize that the adoption agency they trusted may be behind it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 It worries me that John Cusack, an actor I adore, is turning into the new Nicolas Cage.
THE SCRIBBLER (XLRator) Genre: Science Fiction. Using a new treatment, a young woman with multiple personality disorder deletes the extraneous personalities one at a time but can she be sure that her own real personality won’t be eliminated at the end? Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Visually impressive, this is based on an acclaimed graphic novel.
SPACE STATION 76 (Vertical) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. A space station is rife with drama as the alcoholic captain comes near to colliding with an asteroid. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 Kind of an Airplane in space with a 70s vibe going strong.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warner Brothers) Genre: Dramedy. Four grown siblings struggle to carry out their father’s dying wish – that all four of them spend a week under the same roof with their mom. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Awesome cast including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda and Adam Driver.
TRACKS (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. The true story of a young woman who decides that in order to discover who she is, she must make a 2,000 mile trek through the Australian outback. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Precedes the similarly themed and also-true story Wild by two and a half months.
TUSK (A24) Genre: Horror. An ambitious young journalist finds the story of a lifetime in an adventurer and raconteur who has an odd penchant for walruses. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 This Kevin Smith-directed opus looks plenty oddball and plenty intriguing.
THE ZERO THEOREM (Amplify) Genre: Science Fiction. Directed to work on a peculiar project by his boss, an eccentric computer genius discovers he is out to prove that life has no meaning. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The latest from director Terry Gilliam received an Orlando premiere several months ago; read my review here.

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

JACK AND THE CUCKOO CLOCK HEART (DADA) Genre: Animated Feature. After his heart freezes, a young man must use a cuckoo clock to keep his heart operating. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Lushly animated and whimsical, this is not necessarily for kids.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

ASMODEXIA (IFC Midnight) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A wandering exorcist believes that the devil is preparing for something truly evil and breathtaking. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 An over-the-top Spanish demon movie; nobody does it better.
THE BOXTROLLS (Focus) Genre: Animated Feature. Below ground, a group of mischievous but good-hearted creatures raise an orphaned human boy who comes to their defense when they are threatened by the town above. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 From Laika, the studio that brought you Coraline.
THE EQUALIZER (Columbia) Genre: Drama. When he sees a young girl under the control of violent Russian mobsters, a man with a mysterious past can’t sit idly by. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 While I was never a particular fan of the TV show, I will see anything Denzel Washington is in.
FISHING WITHOUT NETS (Drafthouse) Genre: Drama. Forced to become a pirate to support his family, a Somali man must make difficult choices when their seizure of an oil tanker becomes violent. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opens in New York City October 3). RATING: 2.5 The concept sounds intriguing but there’s no trailer available.
GOOD PEOPLE (Millennium) Genre: Thriller. When a deeply in debt couple find a stash of cash in the apartment of a murdered tenant, they decide to keep it and use it to get themselves out of debt which doesn’t sit well with the guy who stole it in the first place. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Interesting cast but generic thriller.
JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE (XLRator) Genre: Musical Biography. Follows a year in the life of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix when he was on the verge of breaking into international stardom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Not sure about this one; Jimi Hendrix is due for a great biopic but Andre Benjamin’s dialogue sounded so wooden on the trailer this might not be the one.
LILTING (Strand) Genre: Drama. A Chinese mother and her son’s lover (whom she only knows as his roommate) grieve together following the son’s untimely death despite a language barrier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Looks beautifully shot and emotionally powerful although the music drowned out the dialogue on the trailer I saw.
PRIDE (CBS) Genre: True Story. Striking British mine workers receive unexpected – and at first unwelcome – support from a Gay Advocacy group but the two sides eventually learn that there is greater strength in greater numbers. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles/San Francisco. RATING: 1.8 Looks moving and funny and insightful all at once.
THE SONG (Goldwyn) Genre: Musical. A Country singer weds a vineyard owner’s daughter and writes a love song to her which becomes a breakout hit – and brings temptation into his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Looks preachy and not in a good way.
THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. While vacationing in Greece in the 1960s, a wealthy couple become entangled with an American con man but the couple may not be what they seem either. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Author Patricia Highsmith, promising young director Hossein Amini and stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac make for a potent combination.
TWO NIGHT STAND (eOne) Genre: Romantic Comedy. What was supposed to be a one night stand turns into something longer as the hook-up couple are snowed in his Brooklyn apartment by a blizzard and are forced to get to know each other. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Could be a terrific premise but looks to go the easy route judging on the trailer.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Dolphin Tale 2, No Good Deed, Search Party, The Skeleton Twins, A Walk Among Tombstones, Hector and the Search for Happiness, The Maze Runner, Pride, This is Where I Leave You, Tusk, Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, The Boxtrolls, The Equalizer