New Releases for the Week of November 22, 2013


The Hunger Games-Catching Fire

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE               

(Lionsgate) Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Francis Lawrence

Katniss Everdeen’s victory in the 74th Hunger Games has made her not only a hero but an icon, a symbol that is becoming dangerous to the ruling class of Panem. While on her victory tour, a plan is hatched to see to it that she becomes an enemy of the people, a figure of hatred and revulsion. Katniss, however, has other ideas.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX (opens Thursday night)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language)

Blue is the Warmest Color

(Sundance Selects) Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux, Jeremie Laheurte, Catherine Salee. A 15-year-old French girl is determined to find out what all the fuss is about boys and sex in particular. She means to find the right one to take her virginity. However, her plans are thrown into disarray when she meets a free-spirited blue-haired woman who raises feelings in her she has never had to handle before now. Based on a French graphic novel, this was a huge but controversial hit at Sundance earlier this year.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NC-17 (for explicit sexual content)

The Christmas Candle

(Echolight) Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Sylvester McCoy, John Hannah. In the tiny English town of Gladbury, there is a Christmas tradition in which an angel visits the village candlemaker each Christmas Eve and touches a single candle which grants to whomever lights it a miracle. But this is the turn of the 20th century after all and the new preacher has no time for such nonsense – in fact, it’s time to bring electricity to the church. However, the preacher – and the village – have no idea what kind of miracle is in store for them this Christmas. Based on the Max Lucado novel.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Holiday Drama

Rating: PG (for mild thematic elements) 

The Delivery Man

(DreamWorks) Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Colbie Smulders, Britt Robertson. David Wozniak is a habitual slacker who is pushing 40 and still doesn’t really have a clue what he wants to do with his life. When his girlfriend gets pregnant, he looks forward to being a father but she breaks up with him instead, realizing that he  won’t ever be father material. Realizing he has a lot of work to do, he is given the perfect opportunity – a snafu at a fertility clinic to which he had donated sperm years ago had caused him to be the biological father to 533 now-grown children. Based on the Florida Film Festival hit Starbuck.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language)

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein

(Reliance) Kareena Kapoor, Imran Khan, Anupam Khan, Shraddha Kapoor. A young architect is more interested in spending his father’s considerable fortune than he is in designing buildings. A chance encounter leads him to the realization that there is a lot more to life than having fun.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Kill Your Darlings

(Sony Classics) Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen. In 1944, three young men and aspiring writers would meet at Columbia University. Their lives would be permanently entwined by their words – and also by a murder that took place that would lead to a new Beat that reverberates through American society to this day. Meet Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: R (for sexual content, language, drug use and brief violence)

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Four-Warned: October 2013


Gravity

Every 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. GRAVITY (1.0)
2. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (1.2)
3. THE FIFTH ESTATE (1.3)
4. ESCAPE PLAN (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE SUMMIT (1.2)
2. CBGB (1.3)
3. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (1.4)
4. A.C.O.D. (1.5)
TIE. THE DIRTIES (1.5)
TIE. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (1.5)

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

OCTOBER 2, 2013

BESHARAM (Reliance) Genre: Bollywood. A young orphan who steals cars to support the orphanage unwittingly hurts the girl he loves and resolves to right all the wrongs he’s done in his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Stock Bollywood – high energy, low humor, lots of charm and music. What’s not to like?
LET THE FIRE BURN (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. The 1985 firebombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia by police remains controversial to this day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks very much like the filmmakers are at least trying to understand all sides of the story.

OCTOBER 4, 2013

A TOUCH OF SIN (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. The often devastating effects of China’s economic boom are seen through the eyes of four ordinary citizens from four different provinces. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 From the director some say is China’s Kurosawa.
A.C.O.D. (The Film Arcade) Genre: Comedy. A man whose parents divorced acrimoniously tries to get them to put aside their differences so they can both attend his younger brother’s wedding with surprising side effects. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 One of the standouts at Sundance this year; see my review of it here.
ALL IS BRIGHT (Anchor Bay) Genre: Comedy. An oddball French-Canadian pair of losers try to make a bundle of cash selling Christmas Trees in New York City. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Doesn’t look all that bad.
ARGENTO’S DRACULA 3D (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. An undead Transylvanian count sets his evil eye on an innocent wife of an Englishman. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.6 A horror master shows us just why the ultimate vampire tale is still the scariest.
BAD MILO (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A stressed-out man discovers a demon living in his intestines is escaping at night and killing those who have wronged him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Unusual, irreverent, gory and completely without redeeming social value – my kind of film.
CONCUSSION (Radius) Genre: Drama. After a head injury, a soccer mom decides her life is unfulfilling and decides to take up prostitution. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Provocative, wrenching and passionate – was one of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance.
THE DIRTIES (Phase 4/Kevin Smith Movie Club) Genre: Drama. A pair of bullied friends making a film for class find the lines between reality and celluloid starting to blur. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Disturbing on a lot of different levels but certainly captures the culture of violence (mental and physical) in our high schools.
FIVE DANCES (Paladin) Genre: Drama. A talented young dancer tries to make it in a prestigious New York modern dance troupe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Sort of like Fame, updated.
GRACE UNPLUGGED (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Faith. A Christian songwriter’s faith is tested when she goes to Los Angeles to try and make it as a pop superstar. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Not interested in the least.
GRAVITY (Warner Brothers) Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller. Two astronauts are stranded in Earth orbit when their shuttle is destroyed. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Might well be a surprise Oscar contender from filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.
I USED TO BE DARKER (Strand) Genre: Drama. When a troubled Irish teen visits her aunt and uncle in Baltimore, she is thrust into a situation in which her own problems become secondary to those of her family. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Could be a powerful film but can’t really tell from the trailer.
NARCO CULTURA (Cinedigm) Genre: Documentary. The increasing glorification of drug traffickers among Mexicans and American Latinos is examined. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The romance of the outlaw life isn’t dead; it’s just learned to speak Spanish.
PARKLAND (Exclusive) Genre: True Life Drama. An ordinary day at Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963 becomes anything but. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A different perspective on the JFK assassination.
RUNNER RUNNER (20th Century Fox) Genre: Thriller. A college student trying to win his tuition money at the online poker tables unwittingly finds himself drawn into a maelstrom of corruption and danger. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Sort of a prototypical early Fall movie; should tide us over until the blockbusters start to arrive in a few weeks.
RUNNING WILD: THE LIFE OF DAYTON O. HYDE (Screen Media) Genre: Documentary. The story of a man who has devoted the last 23 years of his life to protecting the wild mustangs of the Black Hills. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The last of the authentic American cowboys.
THE SUMMIT(Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. A disastrous attempt to summit K2 leads to questions about the nature of adventure in the 21st century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Looks really interesting.
VIKINGDOM (Epic) Genre: Action. A Viking hero ventures to Hell to retrieve a powerful artifact to prevent Thor from using it to take over the Earth. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 I like the concept but looks kind of chintzy.

OCTOBER 11, 2013

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (Radius) Genre: Horror. A young virginal girl is invited to a party at a secluded ranch, but the revelers start to disappear one by one. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Although the buzz about this has been strong, it’s been sitting on the shelf for years which always makes me wonder why.
BROADWAY IDIOT (Film Buff) Genre: Documentary. Nobody would have thought that a classic punk pop album could be turned into a Broadway musical but here’s the story of American Idiot. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Definitely nothing I ever expected would happen so I’m curious to see how it did.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Columbia) Genre: True Life Drama. The captain of the MV Maersk Alabama must show uncommon valor when pirates board his vessel. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.2 I’ll basically see Tom Hanks in just about anything, but this one looks to be worth seeing even if he wasn’t in it.
CBGB (XLRator) Genre: True Life Drama. The story of perhaps the most influential club in the history of rock music. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Awesome soundtrack and terrific cast; Alan Rickman was never better.
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (Producers Distribution Agency) Genre: Fantasy/Drama. A father of two, cracking under the strain of a lost job, a shrewish wife and an expensive trip to Disney World, begins to hallucinate. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Shot guerrilla-style at Disney World without permission, looks rather unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
GHOST TEAM ONE (The Film Arcade) Genre: Horror Comedy. After accidentally awakening an ancient evil, a pair of roommates enlist a sexy paranormal investigator and end up vying for her affections with a demonic presence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 One of the few Florida Film Festival entries this year we didn’t get to catch.
I WILL FOLLOW YOU INTO THE DARK (Epic) Genre: Horror. A woman whose parents recently passed away finds love with a new man but when she discovers him missing and his bed splattered with blood, she hunts in the labyrinthine apartment complex to run up against a supernatural force that doesn’t want him found. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks truly frightening but thought-provoking at the same time; color me interested.
THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE (Codeblack) Genre: Drama. Two young boys survive in the mean streets of New York without adult supervision. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Everything I can’t stand about movies – kids that are far smarter than adults and stereotypes about the African-American poor.
MACHETE KILLS (Open Road) Genre: Action. The ex-Federale is personally recruited by the President to take on a maniacal arms dealer hell-bent on setting up Armageddon. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Corny but in a good way – and as action packed as any ten B-movies you’re likely to see.
ROMEO AND JULIET (Relativity) Genre: Tragedy. A new take on the Bard’s most famous play, with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth as the title characters. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Although I love Shakespeare, this is one of my least favorite plays of his – possibly because I’ve seen it so often.
ZERO CHARISMA (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. When a nerdish dungeon master’s reign is challenged by a new hipster gamer joining his group, all Hell breaks out. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 This is my movie and these are my people.

OCTOBER 16, 2013

CAMILLE CLAUDEL, 1915 (Kino Lorber) Genre: Biographical Drama. The true story of a brilliant sculptress and protégé of Rodin who was confined to an asylum possibly because of her intense creativity and Bohemian mores.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Juliette Binoche is an amazing actress and this movie is populated with actual asylum patients to add realism.

OCTOBER 18, 2013

12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Biographical Drama. The true story of a free African-American in pre-Civil War New York abducted and sold as a slave. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Might be the role that wins Chiwetel Ejiofor an Oscar; it will certainly win him some consideration for a nomination.
2 JACKS (Breaking Glass) Genre: Drama. The son of a legendary womanizing Hollywood director comes to town for his first turn in the director’s chair only to have the daughter of a woman his father seduced years ago fall in love with him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The sound on the trailer I saw was very poorly mixed, but the movie has a good cast and a decent premise – could be worth checking out.
ADVENTURES IN THE SIN BIN (Phase 4) Genre: Teen Sex Comedy. A shy young teen virgin lends out his van to his friends for their sexual exploits and gradually gets a lesson in the art of seducing girls. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Doesn’t look like it’s going to add anything to the genre.
ALL IS LOST (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A lone sailor confronts his own potential demise when his sailboat is disabled after a collision and drifts into the path of a massive storm.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Could be another iconic performance for Robert Redford.
BIG ASS SPIDER (Self-Released) Genre: Horror Spoof. When the city is invaded by a giant spider, only a plucky exterminator stands between mankind and oblivion. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 One of my favorite actors, Greg Grunberg, finally gets a lead role.
CARRIE (Screen Gems/MGM) Genre: Horror. A picked-on high school girl whose mother is an authentic religious nut develops powerful telekinetic abilities and uses them to exact revenge on her tormentors. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 The original was magnificent so I don’t see the need for a remake; that said, Chloe Moretz is an amazing actress and if anyone can do justice to the part, she can.
ENZO AVITABILE MUSIC LIFE (Shadow) Genre: Musical Documentary. One of the greatest musicians you’ve never heard of is this singer/songwriter/saxophonist from Naples. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Jonathan Demme is the Oscar-winning director of Stop Making Sense.
ESCAPE PLAN (Summit) Genre: Action. A breakout specialist sent to test a brand new super maximum security prison is betrayed and left to rot inside; he must find a way to escape from the high-tech escape-proof Tomb and pay a guy who did it a visit. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Gotta like the pairing of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Sample dialogue – Arnold: You hit like a vegetarian. Stallone: KA-POW! Arnold (gasping): That was good.
THE FIFTH ESTATE (DreamWorks) Genre: True Life Drama. WikiLeaks has dedicated itself to exposing corporate and governmental corruption by publishing classified documents but when they get information that may put lives at risk, the cost of those lives against the right of the world to know what our country is up to must be weighed. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Another potential Oscar contender.
HAUNTER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. The ghost of a young girl who died under mysterious circumstances tries to save the family living in her house now from sharing the same fate. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Seems to be a little bit like Beetlejuice only serious; great concept!
HELLBENDERS (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror Spoof. A team of unauthorized priests battle demonic possession and the Vatican. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Looks kind of funny actually.
I’M IN LOVE WITH A CHURCH GIRL (High Top) Genre: Faith Drama. A former drug trafficker still under DEA scrutiny falls in love with a devout young woman who tries her hardest to bring him into the light of the Lord. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 I simply don’t go to the movies to be preached to.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS (Sony Classics) Genre: Biographical Drama. A brutal murder brings together writers Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.1 Beat Generation noir. Great cast though.
PARADISE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Dramedy. After getting paid an insurance settlement, a starry-eyed young woman from a cloistered small town decides to experience sin in the best place for it – Las Vegas! Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 While Russell Brand and Julianne Hough aren’t my two favorite actors and Diablo Cody isn’t my favorite writer, I have to admit I was intrigued by the trailer.
TORN (The Film Collective/Brainstorm) Genre: Drama. Two families, bonding in grief when their teenage sons are killed in an explosion at a suburban mall, are torn apart when their sons are investigated for possibly setting the bombs. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles October 25). RATING: 2.0 Could be a powerful film indeed, although the trailer left me with the impression that it’s highly possible that the movie squanders the opportunity by being histrionic and manipulative.

OCTOBER 25, 2013

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. When a 15-year-old French girl tries to assert her sexual identity by finding boys to become intimate with, she instead takes up with an older French woman. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Quite possibly the most acclaimed film to come out of Sundance this year.
THE COUNSELOR (20th Century Fox) Genre: Thriller. A lawyer gets involved in a shady business deal that rapidly spirals out of control. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Director Ridley Scott and stars like Fassbender, Bardem, Diaz, Cruz and Pitt and written by Cormac McCarthy – I think I’m in love.
JACKASS PRESENTS BAD GRANDPA (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A faux old man and his “grandson” make hidden camera vignettes with unsuspecting people put in outrageous situations. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Yes, from the idiots at Jackass but I have to admit I was laughing hysterically at the trailer.
THE SQUARE (City Drive) Genre: Documentary. Referring to Tahrir Square where many of the demonstrations of the Arab Spring occurred, the story of the overthrow of the despotic Mubarak government is chronicled through the eyes of the various activists – both Muslim Brotherhood and liberal alike – who took part. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 I would probably want to see this even more if I could locate a trailer for the damn thing.
WILDE SALOME (Self-Released) Genre Documentary. Al Pacino’s version of Oscar Wilde’s controversial play Salome is examined as this documentary explores the creative process for Pacino and co-star Jessica Chastain from start to finish. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 An insight into Pacino as we’ve never seen him before.

OCTOBER 30, 2013

IN THE NAME OF… (Film Movement) Genre: Thriller. An attractive priest helps minister to a halfway house until a troublemaking newcomer spreads rumors about the priest’s sexuality, sparking homophobia and Antisemitism. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Very provocative and somewhat intriguing.
SKINWALKER RANCH (Deep Studios) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. Mysterious goings on at a ranch bring in a task force of scientific professionals…who find themselves in way over their heads. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 One of the most effective trailers I’ve ever seen.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Gravity, Runner Runner, Captain Phillips, Machete Kills, Romeo and Juliet, 12 Years a Slave, Escape Plan, The Counselor