blackhat


Wei Tang is waiting for Chris Hemsworth to finish his phone call.

Wei Tang is waiting for Chris Hemsworth to finish his phone call.

(2014) Thriller (Universal/Legendary) Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Leehorn Wang, Holt McCallany, Andy On, Ritchie Coster, Christian Borle, John Ortiz, Yorick van Wageningen, Tyson Chak, Brandon Molale, Danny Burstein, Archie Kao, Abhi Sinha, Jason Butler Harner, Manny Montana, Spencer Garrett, Shi Liang, Kan Mok, Sophia Santi Directed by Michael Mann

Cyber crime isn’t just science fiction anymore; it’s a fact of daily life. Between the hacking of Sony and Target, our private information is at risk nearly every hour of every day. So too is the private information of corporations – and governments. And all of it can be manipulated for the benefit of a greedy soul with a computer and an idea.

When a hacker causes a Chinese nuclear facility to explode, it’s a tragedy. When the same hacker infiltrates the Chicago commodities market, them’s fighting words as far as the U.S. is concerned. A joint task force is convened with Chinese military officer Chen Dawai (Wang) and FBI agent Carol Burnett…err, Barrett (Davis). When the code used to hack both institutions turns out to be familiar to Dawai, he recommends that the man who co-authored the software with Dawai himself – one Nick Hathaway (Hemsworth) who was Dawai’s college roommate at Stanford – be released from jail for the cybercrimes he’s committed.

Hathaway realizes quickly that the guy they’re chasing is basically using his own software to get into very difficult hacks; the software that the hacker has authored is like a blunt force trauma, whereas Hathaway’s is more like a rapier wound. However, the hacker (van Wageningen) who is one Hawaiian shirt away from living in his mom’s basement, has hired a vicious terrorist named Kassar (Coster) to kill anyone who is in the way or no longer of use. And the point of all of this? Let’s just say that the Tin Man would be thrilled.

Michael Mann has always been a director who has exemplified style over substance and sometimes when that style is cool enough, he can get away with treating the substance as an afterthought. What would seem to be a fairly crucial movie about the effect of hackers and cybercrime on all of us and how vulnerable we are as nations to hackers is almost non-existent here.

Hemsworth who is a pretty great action hero is wasted in this role. It’s not that he can’t play smart; it’s just that he’s playing a guy who can pick up a gun as easily as program a computer virus…or hack into an NSA super-decryption program, which he does at one point – because the NSA won’t allow a convicted hacker to access it, particularly with Chinese military officers in tow. Of course, the knowledge that the guy they’re chasing has already caused one nuclear plant to meltdown might at least give them pause to work with the FBI agent, no? Maybe not.

And therein lies one of the main problems with the movie – the script. There are so many lapses in logic it’s hard to know where to begin. For example, why would anyone parole a hacker who has already shown a lack of respect for authority to chase down another hacker, particularly when the NSA has plenty of computer geniuses available at a moment’s notice? Sure, he co-wrote the code of the software that was used, but still, other than for dramatic purposes there is simply no reason to use a blackhat in this situation. Maybe the Bad Hacker has a personal score to settle with Hathaway, in which case by all means, use that as a selling point, but don’t pee on your audience and tell them it’s raining. Besides, it staggers the imagination that the guy is apparently an unstoppable killing machine in addition to being a computer genius. Are there any computer experts you know who spend time on the firing range, or in hand-to-hand combat training?

And when they get to cities they don’t know – like Jakarta or Shanghai – Hathaway is able to navigate through labyrinthine city streets to get to exactly where he needs to go without fail. Or does he have a GPS chip in his head?

The film has been cast with some fairly well-known Chinese actors in an effort to appeal to Chinese audiences who are quickly becoming a very large slice of the box office pie. However, Wei Tang – who is absolutely stunning and a terrific actress – is essentially shoehorned in so that Hathaway has someone to bed. The relationship at no time feels authentic, it’s just a con who hasn’t seen a woman in awhile getting lucky and for her part, she seems much smarter than to fall into a relationship with someone who is likely going back to prison. And to make her the sister of his ex-roommate and close friends – awk-ward.

A word about the score; it’s annoying, a kind of electronic noodling that reminds you that there’s someone trying to be sophisticated at the synthesizer. It’s so bad that one of the composers credited to the movie, Harry Gregson-Williams, has gone so far to post on his Facebook page that almost none of the score was his. I would have done the same thing, if I were him.

Like all Michael Mann movies, blackhat looks terrific. Lots of beautifully shot cityscapes, plenty of shots of Hathaway staring thoughtfully into the distance past urban wastelands and other thought-provoking vistas. But like a lot of his more recent movies, the style only goes so far and can’t hide the sorry fact that there’s nothing of substance here. While you get the sense that Mann and the writers did their homework when it comes to the computer hacking aspect, they could have used a remedial course in storytelling. Even the presence of Viola Davis, one of the finest actresses in Hollywood at the moment (and who does a yeoman job of trying her best) can’t save this movie.

REASONS TO GO: Typically cool cinematography for a Mann film. Seems fairly authentic.
REASONS TO STAY: Muddled and often hard to follow. Large gaps in logic. Moviemaking by committee. Annoying score.
FAMILY VALUES: A fair amount of foul language throughout with occasional bouts of violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Over 3,000 extras were used for the movie’s climactic scene.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/4/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 30% positive reviews. Metacritic: 49/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Net
FINAL RATING: 4/10
NEXT: The Wedding Ringer

New Releases for the Week of January 16, 2015


The Wedding RingerTHE WEDDING RINGER

(Screen Gems) Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Jenifer Lewis, Olivia Thirlby, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Cloris Leachman, Mimi Rogers, Ken Howard. Directed by Jeremy Garelick

When a socially awkward young man finds the girl of his dreams and she agrees to marry him, it’s a time for the support of his friends in getting him to and through the big day. However, this particular socially awkward young man doesn’t have any friends. With his bride-to-be expecting seven groomsmen and a best man, he needs to do the impossible but fortunately there’s help – Best Man, Incorporated whose charismatic CEO is willing to be a best man for hire. The groomsmen may be not all what they could be, but the socially awkward young man is gearing up for the time of his life.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette, premiere footage and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity)

American Sniper

(Warner Brothers) Bradley Cooper, Kyle Gallner, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes. Chris Kyle went to Iraq as a Navy SEAL and a sharpshooter and became the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. This is the story behind the numbers, told as only Clint Eastwood can tell it.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: War
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references)

blackhat

(Universal/Legendary) Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, William Mapother. Ruthless cyberterrorists are proving more elusive and deadly than conventional authorities can handle. Using the adage that it takes a thief to catch a thief, law enforcement turns to a convicted hacker who may be the only one who can stop the hackers from plunging the world into literal chaos.

See the trailer, interviews, clips, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Action Thriller
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and some language)

I

(Aascar) Chiyaan Vikram, Amy Jackson, Suresh Gopi, Upen Patel. A deformed hunchback, an internationally recognized male model and a champion bodybuilder – all played by the same actor – whose interactions with a beautiful supermodel form the basis of events here which are told in a non-linear fashion.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)
Genre: Adventure
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace & Regal Oviedo Marketplace
Rating: NR

Listen Up, Philip

(Tribeca) Jason Schwartzman, Jonathan Pryce, Elisabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter. An arrogant writer feeling alienated as his second book is about to be published sees his relationships disintegrating. When his literary idol offers his summer retreat as a refuge, he takes it so that he can focus on himself – his favorite subject. Instead, though, he begins to feel the absence of his connection with the city and those he spent time with in it.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: NR

Paddington

(Dimension) Jim Broadbent, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins. A family returning home one evening discover a talking bear from Peru alone in a railway station with a tag around his neck “Please look after this bear.” Naming the creature Paddington, they bring him home out of the kindness of their hearts and get thrown into all manner of mischief and chaos but their resolve will be tested when a museum taxidermist takes a particular interest in the talking bear.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide release
Rating: PG (for mild action and rude humor)

Spare Parts

(Lionsgate/Pantelion) George Lopez, Marisa Tomei, Esai Morales, Jamie Lee Curtis. Four Hispanic students in an economically challenged high school form a robotics club under the leadership of a charismatic science teacher. With $800, some used car parts and zero experience, they enter a national competition where they will face teams that have enormous budgets, state-of-the-art facilities and loads of experience, led by national champion MIT. These odds don’t deter them; they go in with the expectation that they will make something more of what they have.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Downtown Disney, Regal The Loop
Rating: PG-13 (for some language and violence)

Four-Warned: January 2015


Still AliceEvery 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. BLACKHAT (1.3)
2. TAKEN 3 (1.4)
3. MORTDECAI (1.5)
TIE. PROJECT ALMANAC (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. STILL ALICE (1.2)
2. STILL LIFE (1.3)
3. MATCH (1.4)
TIE. BLACK SEA (1.4)

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

JANUARY 2, 2015

[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE (Magnet) Genre: Horror. The survivor of an outbreak of a deadly disease that turns its victims into bloodthirsty madmen awakens in a research facility that may be more sinister than the environment she escaped from. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The phenomenal Spanish horror franchise in all its gory bloody goodness.
THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. Asks the culinary question “Who is General Tso and how did his chicken become so popular?”. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 It is the most popular single entree in America – and you won’t find it on any menus in China.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH (Relativity) Genre: Horror. During World War II, a group of orphans and their caretakers move into Eel Marsh House, not realizing it’s the same place that Arthur Kipps experienced the Woman in Black 40 years before. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Doesn’t look to have the same Gothic vibe that the first film had.

JANUARY 7, 2015

PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY (AMC Independent) Genre: Biographical Drama. Young Salvador Dali is expelled from art school but meets the muse he would later marry and who would inspire his greatest works. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding to Limited release January 16). RATING: 2.5 I’m a Dali fan but unfortunately couldn’t find a trailer for this one.

JANUARY 9, 2015

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.
BLACK NOVEMBER (eOne) Genre: Thriller. Citizens of an oil-rich Nigerian community who are tired of being systematically poisoned and having their way of life destroyed rise up and take an American oil baron hostage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 While this is based on actual events, the trailer felt a little bit too in-your-face power to the people; dialing it down a bit might be more effective.
DARK SUMMER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A teen on house arrest for internet stalking a high school classmate manages to piggyback his internet signal on a neighbor’s only to discover that something sinister is stalking him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks like a truly nifty scarefest, a real hoot.
LET’S KILL WARD’S WIFE (Well-Go/Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. Everybody hates Ward’s wife and wants her dead, Ward most of all but when an accident makes that fantasy a reality, they must scramble to get rid of the body and still make their 3pm tee time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The blackest of black comedies.
PREDESTINATION (Stage 6) Genre: Science Fiction. A temporal agent whose job is to go back in time and prevent murders from taking place seeks a final showdown with his nemesis with thousands of lives hanging in the balance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Sounds like a cross between Minority Report and Timecop.
TAKEN 3 (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action. When his wife is brutally murdered, an extraordinary special forces veteran goes after her killers to settle their grudge once and for all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The franchise that reinvented Liam Neeson as an action hero goes full circle.
THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT (Millennium) Genre: Thriller. A rebellious young man who is on his way to a criminal life has an opportunity to take the fork in the road and make it straight but this may be his only chance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Has a kind of Winter’s Bone vibe to it but a little more mainstream than that.

JANUARY 14, 2015

HUMAN CAPITAL (Film Movement) Genre: Drama. The fate of two different families become irrevocably entwined after a cyclist is run off the road on a cold night before Christmas Eve. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A class-conscious whodunit – the very best kind.
I (Aascar) Genre: Adventure. Two people appear in a variety of guises, their lives intertwining romantically and otherwise in a series of different settings. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 One of the most impressive-looking trailers I’ve seen for an Indian film.
MATCH (IFC) Genre: Drama. During an interview about his life, a beloved dance instructor is forced to confront painful events from his past that have a direct bearing on his present. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Could well end up being one of Patrick Stewart’s signature performances.

JANUARY 16, 2015

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR (Gravitas) Genre: Comedy. A young woman in Brooklyn struggles to create an identity for herself as the perfect daughter, a politically correct bisexual and an urban hipster but fails miserably at her every attempt. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks pretty good albeit loaded with indie hipster cliches.
BLACKHAT (Universal/Legendary) Genre: Thriller. When a cybercrime ring begins to take on more and more dangerous targets, a genius hacker is released from prison to help combat the threat. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 I like Chris Hemsworth and this is definitely a different role for him.
ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST (Radius) Genre: Thriller. An unsuspecting American surfer falls in love and marries a beautiful young Latin woman – who happens to be the niece of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A very interesting concept and a very interesting cast including Javier Bardem and Josh Hutcherson.
LITTLE ACCIDENTS (Amplify!) Genre: Drama. The disappearance of a teenage boy, a mining disaster, the loveless marriage of a mining executive, a provocative affair with the sole survivor of the disaster and a young boy with a secret set a small mining community on edge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Saw this at the Sundance Across America festival last January; read my review here.
LOITERING WITH INTENT (The Orchard) Genre: Dramedy. Heading to a bucolic country retreat to concentrate on writing the script that might save their careers, a couple of out-of-work actors get caught up in a bacchanalian romp as well as the crossfire of old family wounds. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Can’t complain when your cast includes Sam Rockwell and Marisa Tomei.
PADDINGTON (Weinstein) Genre: Family. When a family adopts a talking bear they found in a railway station, hi-jinks ensue. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 In all honesty when I first heard about this project I was unenthused but after seeing the trailers I’m definitely intrigued.
PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY (AMC Independent) Genre: Biographical Drama. The life of young Salvador Dali from his expulsion from Art School to his 1934 New York exhibition and his meeting and courting of his wife Gala, his lifelong muse. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A really interesting concept but unfortunately no trailer that I could find anywhere.
SON OF A GUN (A24) Genre: Crime Drama. Befriending a veteran thug in prison, a young inmate gets ensnared in a criminal world whose allure isn’t enough to make him realize he’s in way over his head. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks like a reasonably well-made Aussie action thriller.
SPARE PARTS (Pantelion) Genre: True Life Drama. The true story of an underprivileged high school where four Hispanic students enter a robotics competition against schools like MIT and Cal Tech and without almost any funding and zero experience but with determination and chutzpah. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Might just be the movie role George Lopez has been waiting for.
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. RATING: 1.2 Was originally going to be released in December for Oscar consideration; I’m mystified why they didn’t follow through with that – Julianne Moore looks amazing in the trailer.
STILL LIFE (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. Believing everybody deserves a dignified exit, a London man spends time tracking down the kin of those who died alone and arranging funerals and writing eulogies for those that wouldn’t have them but when he meets the daughter of an alcoholic who abandoned her long ago, something else is kindled inside him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Beautifully shot, it looks wonderfully moving; another one I’m looking forward to eagerly.
THREE NIGHT STAND (Freestyle) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Desperate to re-energize his marriage, a video game designer decides to take his wife to the ski lodge where he had some of his most memorable weekends with his ex-girlfriend; the strategy takes a turn for the quirky when they discover his ex-girlfriend running the lodge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Looks like a fairly cliche romantic comedy which is to say, a romantic comedy.
VICE (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. In the near future, a resort is created with human-seeming androids where the very rich can act out any fantasy they wish, no matter how illegal or immoral but when one of the robots develops self-awareness then the stakes change drastically. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 While there are definitely hints of Westworld, the approach here looks quite different.
THE WEDDING RINGER (Screen Gems) Genre: Comedy. A desperate groom rents a best man and groomsmen, only to discover that his new best man has become his new best friend. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Kevin Hart has been ridiculously hot as of late.

JANUARY 20, 2015

VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE (eOne) Genre: Drama. After a botched suicide attempt lands her in an asylum, Veronika discovers she only has a short time to live. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Almost a Latin American-style thriller; Sarah Michelle Gellar hasn’t been doing a lot of movies lately so this is a welcome return.

JANUARY 22, 2015

WE’LL NEVER HAVE PARIS (Orion) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When Quinn terminates a long-time relationship after a beautiful young girl professes her love for him, he soon realizes he made a horrible mistake and leaves for Paris where the girl of his dreams has moved to. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Do we really need another brainless romantic comedy?

JANUARY 23, 2015

AGAINST THE SUN (The American Film Company) Genre: Drama. Three crewman of a U.S. Navy torpedo bomber during World War II survive a crash landing in the South Pacific, only to face near-impossible odds of getting their tiny life raft to safety. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 One of those true stories that might actually make for good cinema.
AMERICONS (Archstone) Genre: Thriller. A broken-down former college football star gets one last shot at redemption during the sub-prime mortgage boom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Another film about greed subverting the American Dream, but this one doesn’t look like it has anything particularly compelling or new to say about it.
ANARCHY (Lionsgate/Grindstone) Genre: Drama. Crooked cops take on an outlaw biker gang in this modern day update of Shakespeare’s Cymbaline.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 With a cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jojovich and Anton Yelchin, this could be intriguing.
BLACK SEA (Focus) Genre: Adventure. On the bottom of the ocean sits a Nazi submarine loaded with gold; a disgraced submarine captain with a crew of rogues and scoundrels means to claim it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Jude Law continues to take on roles that go outside his comfort zone.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Universal) Genre: Thriller. With her marriage seemingly over, a school teacher becomes the object of obsession for a boy next door; when her husband attempts to reconcile, the boy’s psychotic tendencies are revealed. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 I’m not a big Jennifer Lopez fan and given this subject matter, I’m not really looking forward to this movie.
CAKE (Cinelou) Genre: Drama. A chronic pain sufferer who lives on pain meds and alcohol, lashing out to those closest to her, becomes attached to a family that has suffered a recent loss. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 An unglamorous but intense performance by Jennifer Aniston makes this one something I’m really looking forward to seeing.
DARK SUMMER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. While his mom is away on business, her 17-year-old son is under house arrest, trapping him in the house with an evil entity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A spookier take on Suburbia with Peter Stormare as a cop who is less-than-sympathetic.
THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (Sundance Selects) Genre: Erotic Drama. Two women enact a daily erotic ritual until one of them begins to yearn for a more normal relationship. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Not for the 50 Shades of Gray crowd but more like the crowd that are legitimately kinky.
THE HUMBLING (Millennium) Genre: Dramedy. Retiring to a bucolic farmhouse in upstate New York, a renowned stage actor gets involved with a much younger woman – who happens to be a lesbian. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Would normally steer clear of films with loglines like this but when the actor happens to be Al Pacino and the lesbian Greta Gerwig I can’t help but take a look.
MANNY (Gravitas) Genre: Documentary. Manny Pacquiao grows up from extreme poverty to one of the greatest boxers in history, becoming a national hero in his native Philippines in the process. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 “Why do I fight?” says the 8-time champion, “Because it’s God’s will.”
MOMMY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. Regaining custody of her 15-year-old ADHD son is just the start of a feisty single mom’s problems but the help of a neighbor might just give her a ray of hope. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Xavier Dolan is one of the most compelling directors in France right now.
MORTDECAI (Film Movement) Genre: Comedy. A somewhat eccentric but brilliant art dealer takes on a job for the British government that involves Russian mobsters, international terrorists, MI-5 agents, his incredibly gorgeous wife and his taciturn but loyal bodyguard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 This will either be really bad or surprisingly good; I’m betting on the former but hoping for the latter.
SONG ONE (Cinedigm/Film Arcade) Genre: Musical. When her brother falls into a coma following an accident, his estranged sister turns to his music to try and piece together how his life evolved in her absence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 With Anne Hathaway in the lead, the possibilities go up for this to be good.
STRANGE MAGIC (Touchstone) Genre: Animated Feature. From the Lucas Arts Animation team comes this animated feature based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s DreamRelease Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Looks like it might be interesting but not compelling.

JANUARY 28, 2015

TIMBUKTU (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. In the Malian desert outside the city of Timbuktu, a family of cattle herders live in peace while in the city the Jihadist rulers put the people through agony until an incident brings them into the crosshairs of the fundamentalist regime. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Stunningly photographed although the trailer doesn’t really give you any sort of idea about the story itself.

JANUARY 30, 2015

ALIEN OUTPOST (IFC Midnight) Genre: Science Fiction. Following an alien invasion that is successfully beaten back, leaving only one last outpost on Earth, the soldiers guarding it discover a second invasion is on the way. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks a bit like a better budgeted SyFy film.
BLACK OR WHITE (Relativity) Genre: Drama. After the death of his wife, the white grandfather of a mixed race granddaughter faces a custody battle with the African-American paternal grandmother of the girl. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer are two actors whose movies are always at the top of my list.
COMING HOME (Sony Classics) Genre: Romance. Follows the life of a Chinese dissident from the 1920s through the 1990s. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Beautiful imagery from the great Chinese director Zhang Yimou.
THE DEVIL’S VIOLINIST (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Biographical Drama. The biography of Nicolo Paganini whom some consider one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Paganini can be characterized as the world’s first rock star.
HARD TO BE A GOD (Kino Lorber) Genre: Science Fiction. A Terran scientist on an Earth-like planet studies the inhabitants going through their feudal stage. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Filmed in black and white, looks a little on the pretentious side.
THE LOFT (Open Road) Genre: Thriller. Five guys share a secret loft in the city where they indulge their sexual fantasies but when the body of a woman is discovered in the loft, they realize one of them must be involved in her murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks like a stylish thriller with Karl Urban and James Marsden leading the way.
PROJECT ALMANAC (Paramount) Genre: Science Fiction. A brilliant high school student discovers his dad had left an unfinished time machine in the basement and goes about finishing it which leads to incredibly dangerous consequences. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 This found footage time travel project was originally set to debut in July of last year.
SUPREMACY (Well Go USA) Genre: Drama. When a just-paroled white supremacist and his girlfriend kills a cop and takes an African-American family hostage, a number of unforeseen forces become arrayed against him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Could be a taut suspense film if they do it right.
WILD CARD (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. On the run from the mob, a Las Vegas bodyguard with a heavy gambling problem takes one last risk and it’s all or nothing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Da Queen wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in a movie like this but it’s Jason Statham in Las Vegas.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, Taken 3, blackhat, Paddington, The Wedding Ringer, Black Sea, Mortdecai, Strange Magic, Project Almanac