The Automatic Hate


Joseph Cross and Adelaide Clemens share a moment.

Joseph Cross and Adelaide Clemens share a moment.

(2015) Dramedy (Film Movement) Joseph Cross, Adelaide Clemens, Deborah Ann Woll, Richard Schiff, Ricky Jay, Yvonne Zima, Vanessa Zima, Catherine Carlen, Caitlin O’Connell, Darren MacDonald, Vienna Stampeen, Travis Quentin Young, George Riddle, Sea McHale, Matthew Fahey, Jozef Fahey, Craig Wesley Divino, Mark Andrews, Brooke Stone. Directed by Justin Lerner

All families have secrets; skeletons in their closets that once let out affect the dynamic of the family in unexpected and often unintended ways. Those secrets sometimes die with those who were there but there are occasions when the consequences are passed down the generations.

Davis Green (Cross) is a head chef at a Boston restaurant, but as well as his culinary career is going, there is a lot less to desire in his private life. His emotional girlfriend Cassie (Woll), however, locks him out of the bathroom and can’t stop sobbing. She needs alone time and Davis is inclined to give it to you, especially after he hears why she’s sobbing (although we don’t find out until later). He heads down to his favorite bar to hang out with some friends, when he notices a beautiful blonde there who acts like she knows him. When he approaches her though, she runs away.

She shows up later at his apartment and introduces herself as Alexis (Clemens). She tells him that she’s his cousin, but that can’t be right – his dad was an only child. Nonetheless, she insists that’s who she is. When Davis confronts his dad Ronald (Schiff), at first his dad – a respected Yale-educated developmental psychologist – denies the existence of a sibling. Not one to simply take the word of his own dad who has always expressed disappointment in Davis’ career choice (and choice of girlfriend for that matter), Davis goes to talk to his grandfather (Riddle) who seems to confirm that there’s a long lost brother – “we don’t talk about Josh” he croaks before having a panic attack.

Once again, Davis confronts his dad who reluctantly admits to the existence of Josh (Jay) but won’t explain why the two are estranged. Devastated by this and by a revelation from his girlfriend, Davis decides to take a break from everything and find his cousins.

That’s right, plural. It turns out Alexis has two sisters – Annie (Y. Zima) and Vanessa (V. Zima) and they live on a bucolic farm in upstate New York, although it is not super successful. They live a kind of hippie existence, even to the marijuana dispensary in the consignment store the girls run. It turns out that the feelings Davis’ dad has for Josh are reciprocated. Davis and Alexis try to figure out what would cause such a rift between brothers – and all the while Davis is developing feelings of his own for his first cousin. When a family tragedy forces the two families together, what comes next is inevitable – and awkward.

This is not your average family drama nor is it your average romantic comedy. It falls somewhere in between and is seriously bent, in a good way. It is also bent enough that it may make some feel a little bit squeamish, particularly when you learn exactly what drove the brothers apart. However there is a real heart at the center of the movie that kind of helps drive through the less savory feelings that may occur.

The mystery of that estrangement could easily be a MacGuffin or become a distraction but Lerner never allows it to do so. The casting of veterans Schiff (The West Wing) and Jay (tons of David Mamet films) is brilliant; the two have a bit of resemblance facially and in vocal mannerisms. The two feel like brothers, which is important here, although brothers who have not seen each other in 20 years and have lived separate lives. Everything works here.

The cousins are all extremely beautiful blondes, which makes for a happy reviewer. There’s also some nice cinematic scenery in the upstate New York countryside. While there are a few hiccups – the hoary plot-advancing device of finding home movies in an attic seems a little bit beneath this film – this is one of those gems that come along every once in awhile that flies under the radar and is far more impressive than you would think. However, those who are easily squeamish about unorthodox romantic and sexual relationships should be on notice that this film may be a little bit uncomfortable for them.

REASONS TO GO: Handles the mystery adroitly. The cousins are gorgeous. A lot of heart (oddly enough) at the center.
REASONS TO STAY: The adult relationships are a bit uncomfortable.
FAMILY VALUES: Some profanity, graphic nudity and a scene of sexuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Filmed in and about Mt. Vernon, New York.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/11/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 88% positive reviews. Metacritic: 59/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Harold and Maude
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT: Eddie the Eagle

Baghead


There's nothing creepier than a friendly half-naked guy with a paper bag over his head in the woods.

There’s nothing creepier than a friendly half-naked guy with a paper bag over his head in the woods.

(2008) Dramedy (Sony Classics) Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller Jett Garner, Cass Naumann, Jennifer Lafleur, Darrell Bryant, Anthony Cristo, Jen Tracy Duplass, Heather Hall, David Zellner, Dan Eggleston, Spencer Greenwood, Stephanie Huettner, Amy Quick Parrish, Vincent James Prendergast. Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass

The creative process isn’t something you can really force. It happens or it doesn’t. However, sometimes it helps to shut out the distractions of your daily life and just get to it.

Four wanna-be filmmakers/actors are attending a film festival – Matt (Partridge) who is in his 30s and is still awaiting the stardom that he’s sure is coming his way; Chad (Zissis) who is beginning to watch his hairline recede and is desperately in love with Michelle (Gerwig), the youngest of their group and a budding alcoholic who is less interested in Chad than she is with Matt. There’s also Catherine (Muller) who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Matt which might be on or it might not be. She’s not really sure.

While at the film festival they watch a really bad feature by pretentious director Jeff Garner (playing himself) play with some acclaim, they come to the bitter realization that they’re not going to ever make the movie that will be the vehicle to establish their talents unless they write it themselves. Matt suggests heading to a cabin in the woods to write a film about four young people being stalked in a cabin in the woods by a guy with a bag over his head. It would be a slasher film spoof with a modern allegory of….oh, it’s crap.

But as the complex relationships between the four rear their ugly heads and create the kind of tension that they were trying to escape from in the first place, it becomes clear that they are being stalked by a guy with a paper bag over his head. Is it life imitating art or just a horrible coincidence?

For many, this is a mumblecore classic – the first of the genre to get distribution from a label affiliated with a major studio. Like most mumblecore films, very little happens here other than listening to people bitch and moan about their lives and loves. The budget is microscopic, the cast necessarily compact and the acting fairly naturalistic. But this is no Scream, mumblecore-style.

Zissis is the most appealing character here. Chad doesn’t have Matt’s ego or Catherine’s insecurities or Michelle’s immaturity, although he is a bit of a lost puppy. He also has a hopeless attachment to Michelle who is unlikely to return those feelings. Most of us at one time or another have been in a similar situation so we can watch Chad flail away futilely for the brass ring and nod in sympathy; we’ve all done it.

Gerwig, who is in many ways the face of mumblecore, is at her very best here. Her characters are generally flaky yet warmhearted and that is no different here. Don’t get me wrong; these characters can be annoying over the course of a 90 minute film but when played less for quirkiness and more for a terminal case of youth then we end up in her corner instead of irritated. Gerwig isn’t always successful at striking that balance but she does it here.

The other two performances depict rather unpleasant human beings, although of the two Partridge’s Matt is a bit more well-defined. Muller’s character is pretty one-dimensional as written but she gamely does what she can with it.

The problem with movies like this is that they have to grab our interest a little bit more strongly than other sorts of movies either with clever dialogue, an engaging plot or terrific performances. Baghead falls short in all three categories. I can only take so much self-absorption before I start getting the screaming meemies. I can respect the mash-up of genres here, blending romance, slasher horror, supernatural thriller and Hollywood indie and I can admire the tight craft that the Duplass brothers bring to the table – for a second feature this is incredibly self-assured. However, I can pretty much leave the hand-held camera gymnastics. I shouldn’t need to take anti-vertigo meds to watch a DVD.

WHY RENT THIS: Zissis and Gerwig have a sweet chemistry.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Nothing much happens. Not always as interesting as it thinks it is.

FAMILY VALUES: The language is a bit foul in places. There’s also some nudity and sexuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The second of five films directed by the Duplass brothers and the first to get a major studio release.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There’s an entertaining interview in which the Duplass brothers supply both frequently asked questions and answers, as well as a brief short called Baghead Scares.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $140,106 on an unreported production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Adaptation

FINAL RATING: 5.5/10

NEXT: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Evil Dead (2013)


Better Evil Dead than Evil Red.

Better Evil Dead than Evil Red.

(2013) Horror (Tri-Star) Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Sian Davis, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, Rupert Degas (voice), Bob Dorian (voice), Ellen Sandweiss (voice). Directed by Fede Alvarez

One of the best horror films of the 1980s and a personal favorite of mine was 1981’s Evil Dead which starred Bruce Campbell and was directed by a young Sam Raimi. Now it’s getting the remake treatment (although Raimi and Campbell are on board as producers); is it worth the effort?

Five friends gather in a remote cabin which belongs to David (Fernandez) and Mia (Levy). David’s girlfriend Natalie (Blackmore), best friend Eric (Pucci) and his girlfriend, RN Olivia (Lucas) are there not for drunken revelry but for a more sober reason – to get drug-addicted Mia straight. She’s going to quit cold turkey and David, who’s been absent from her life (hell, he’s been absent from everybody’s life) is getting the cold shoulder from Eric and Mia and to a larger extent, he deserves it.

Mia soon begins ranting about seeing a strange young girl in the woods, and complains about a terrible smell. When they discover a hidden door that goes into the basement, they are shocked to find all sorts of dead cats hanging from the ceiling, some burned alive. They also find a book, wrapped in barbed wire and all but screaming “DO NOT READ. YOU’LL BE SORRY…”

What does Eric, the supposedly smart one do? Reads it aloud. Are you effin kidding me? And of course all Hell literally breaks loose – Mia goes for a walk in the woods and gets attacked and restrained by the trees, at which point the young girl vomits up a kind of cross between a vine and a snake and that….well, you can guess where it goes. Maybe not.

After which the young people get picked off one by one, becoming possessed, desperately trying to hack off their infected limb before the entity takes over and then…being taken over anyway. It’s grueling, gory and only 90 minutes long, by which time either you will care what happens to the survivors (assuming there are any) or you won’t. It all kind of depends on how you view horror movies in general.

This one isn’t all that bad despite the fact that it suffers from Young People Doing Incredibly Stupid Things syndrome. Of course it’s easy to judge the reactions of people from the safety of a movie theater with a mouthful of popcorn being chewed noisily, ice cold soft drink at the ready to wash it down with. I assume that in a situation in which my perception of reality was challenged I might actually…panic. I might not even act heroically which of course throughout the movie I’m thinking “David you idiot! If it were my sister, I’d shoot her in the head in a heartbeat.” The trouble is, I don’t think I could shoot my sister in the head, even if I knew she were literally suffering the tortures of the damned. I’m not sure if that makes me a coward – in the context of horror movies, however, it makes me a wimp of the highest order of magnitude.

The performances are solid enough for movies of this type with Suburgatory‘s Levy getting the most props for her portrayal of a troubled, addicted young woman. There is plenty of gore, nearly all of it practical which for my money looks a lot better to this point than the computer generated stuff. There are some pretty decent scares as well, although more of the roller coaster variety than the slow build-up and payoff type.

There are a couple of things missing here. First and foremost is the sly humor that marked the original – this is much more serious horror, no sly winks or edgy gags. And no Bruce Campbell who was responsible for a lot of the not-taken-seriousness of the first trilogy. That sense of humor is what made the original trilogy a classic; by comparison the remake is a bit stodgy.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its own charms however. While it doesn’t really hold up to the original, it does what it’s supposed to do competently and as modern horror films go, it holds up its end of the bargain adequately.

REASONS TO GO: Some pretty impressive visuals and scares. Maybe the ultimate “lonely cabin in the woods” story.

REASONS TO STAY: Needs a Bruce Campbell sort to make it work. In the end nothing really distinguishes it.

FAMILY VALUES:  There is a ton of blood, guts and ultra-violence, plenty of bad language and some sexual references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Swanberg directed six films that were filmed in 2010 (and co-directed a seventh), one of the busiest years for a single director since the silent era.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/24/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 62% positive reviews. Metacritic: 57/100; the critical acclaim wasn’t exactly overwhelming.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Cabin in the Woods

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Four-Warned: April 2012


April 2012Every 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.

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 RAVEN (1.1)
2. CABIN IN THE WOODS (1.4)
3. SAFE (1.5)
4. THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (1.8)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE LADY (1.3)
2. WE HAVE A POPE (1.5)
3. MONSIEUR LAZHAR (1.6)
4. COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE (1.7)
TIE. MY WAY (1.7)

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

APRIL 4, 2012

TITANIC 3D (Paramount) Genre: Romance. A ship goes down and a lot of people drown yadda yadda yadda. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.8 Another cash grab for those suckers who haven’t seen this in a theater or want to see it again.

APRIL 5, 2012

AIR RACERS 3D (3D Entertainment Distribution) Genre: Documentary. A look at the Reno National Championships Air Race, from its history to its most recent running.. Release Strategy: Limited (IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.2 Not my cup of tea.

APRIL 6, 2012

AMERICAN REUNION (Universal) Genre: Sex Comedy. The teens from American Pie are all grown up and return to town for a 15 year high school reunion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 Basically this franchise went off the rails after the first one; I wonder if this one will have any kind of entertainment value beyond watching grown-ups act like horny teens.
THE ASSAULT (Screen Media) Genre: True Life Drama. The story of the hijacking of the 1994 hijacking of Air France flight 8969 and the determined rescue attempt by the elite counter-terrorism unit of the French National Guard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks like the equivalent of our United 93.
ATM (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. Three co-workers leave a Christmas party to get cash from an ATM which turns into a struggle for survival. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 A locked room thriller with a maniacal killer stalking three innocents – always up for that kind of goodness.
COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock’s loving and irreverent visit to San Diego Comic-Con 2010. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 I’m geeking out over this already.
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of style-obsessed college students take a new girl under their wings until a prospective suitor drives a wedge between all of them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Sort of a cross between a collegiate sex comedy and a dry martini.
THE HUNTER (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A ruthless mercenary hunting a Tasmanian tiger thought to be extinct bonds with a family that is terrorized by the creature. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 The trailer was, sad to say, non-impressive to me.
KEYHOLE (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. A gangster enters his home with the body of a young girl and a bound and gagged teenage boy, protected by his gang which is in disarray, pursued by police and seeking his wife in a house that grows stranger by the moment. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 Film noir as filtered through the mind of avant garde Winnipeg-based director Guy Maddin.
PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (Film Fatale) Genre: Documentary. The filmmakers follow Half-a-Mill, a budding rap star from the mean streets of Crown Heights in Brooklyn willing to do whatever it takes to achieve stardom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Nope. Not interested.
SURVIVING PROGRESS (First Run) Genre: Documentary. Is progress and technology a good thing for society? Release Strategy: New York City (expands April 20). RATING: 2.8 Based on the book A Short History of Progress.
WE HAVE A POPE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Comedy. The newly elected pope suffers from stage fright and must be seen by a psychiatrist. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Look like another sweet, warm-hearted Italian comedy.
WE THE PARTY (Xlrator) Genre: Urban Comedy. Five kids in an ethnically diverse inner-city L.A. High School deal with the pressures of being a teen in the 21st century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Sort of like a Breakfast Club for Generation RFN.

APRIL 11, 2012

THE LADY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: True Life Drama. Aung San Suu Kyi fights for democracy and peace in Burma against the despotic regime there at the cost of her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most compelling stories of our time with one of the most compelling actresses (Michelle Yeoh) of our time starring in it.
POST-MORTEM (Kino Lorber) Genre: Dramedy. A coroner’s assistant trying to woo a stripper is caught up in the 1973 Chilean coup. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 The newest from the director of Tony Manero.

APRIL 12, 2012

THE EYE OF THE STORM (Sycamore) Genre: Drama. A dying old woman continues to pull the strings on her family even as they hold vigil at her deathbed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 A deliciously arch Aussie drama based on the novel by Nobel Laureate Patrick White.

APRIL 13, 2012

BAD ASS (Goldwyn) Genre: Action. A decorated Vietnam vet who becomes a hero 40 years later protecting an elderly black man on a subway looks into the death of a friend that the police are ignoring. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Danny Trejo in the title role – talk about perfect casting!
BLUE LIKE JAZZ (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A young man brought up by evangelical Christians in Texas experiences culture shock when attending one of the most liberal colleges in the country in the Pacific Northwest. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks a little self-indulgent and arrogant to me – not bad things necessarily.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. A group of friends go to a remote cabin in the woods and bad things happen there. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 This is Josh Whedon, man. Anything can happen.
DEADLINE (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Mystery. An investigative journalist re-opens a case of a murdered African-American boy that was never properly investigated by the police. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Inspired by a true story, and reminds us that racism is still with us.
DETENTION (Goldwyn) Genre: Horror Comedy. A group of kids race to stop a serial killer terrorizing their high school – realizing that he is meant to save the world from destruction later. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like it could be an interesting mish-mash that has a healthy amount of self-parody.
HERE (Strand) Genre: Romance. A satellite engineer and an expatriate photographer impulsively decide to take a road trip across the more desolate landscapes of Armenia then must decide where they’re going to go from “here” – once they get there. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 This is a remake of a 1960 Korean film which is considered to be one of the best movies ever produced from that country.
HIT SO HARD (Well Go/Variance) Genre: Musical Documentary. Among the casualties of the grunge movement is Patty Schemel, former drummer of Hole – this is her story. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 A no-punches-pulled look at the effects of drug addiction and rampant out-of-control egos on art and music.
HOW TO GROW A BAND (International Film Circuit) Genre: Musical Documentary. Chris Thile of bluegrass stars Nickel Creek creates a new band that crosses genre lines; the formation of his new group is documented here with unprecedented access. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The music is flat-out amazing.
L!FE HAPPENS (PMK*BNC) Genre: Comedy. A woman who loves to party parties a little too hard and winds up pregnant; her lifestyle is turned on its head but she discovers that parenting has its own rewards. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Looks to be fairly cliche.
LATE BLOOMERS (Olive) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple approaching old age react to it in different ways. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Favorite line: “Getting old ain’t for sissies”.
LOCKOUT (FilmDistrict) Genre: Science Fiction. A crack ex-government agent about to be incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit is called into service to rescue the President’s daughter from an orbital maximum security prison that the prisoners have taken over. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Escape from New York much?
MONSIEUR LAZHAR (Music Box) Genre: Dramedy. A middle school class in Montreal is shaken by the death of their well-liked teacher; an Algerian immigrant volunteers to take over and is hired as a substitute, helping the students cope with their grief as they help him to cope with his own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Film and deservedly so.
THE THREE STOOGES (20th Century Fox) Genre: Allegedly a Comedy. Three orphans raised by nuns grow up to be Stooges. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 It just looks like a bad idea executed badly.
TOUCHBACK (Anchor Bay) Genre: Fantasy. A promising football player who is permanently injured on the winning touchdown of the high school championship gets a chance to do it all over again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 A little bit like It’s a Wonderful Life only without the angels.
WOMAN, THOU ART LOOSED!: ON THE 7TH DAY (Codeblack) Genre: Thriller. When their young child is kidnapped, a couple are forced to confront their own pasts and secrets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The trailer looks pretty intense.

APRIL 16, 2012

OKI’S MOVIE (Jeonwonsa) Genre: Dramedy. A young woman hikes up a mountain twice a year apart, each time with a different boyfriend which gives her a different perspective both times. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has been on the festival circuit for two years.

APRIL 20, 2012

CHIMPANZEE (DisneyNature) Genre: Nature Documentary. A young chimpanzee is orphaned in the wild and taken under the wing of the tribe’s alpha male. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Should be one of the most accessible of the DisneyNature films.
DARLING COMPANION (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A distracted husband loses the family dog at their vacation home, prompting a search and rescue operation that will lead the remaining games on a journey of surprising depth. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest and Sam Shepard head an awesome cast.
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS (International Film Circuit) Genre: Drama. The virtuoso son of an immigrant finds himself torn between the worlds of classical and pop music. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 A little bit Jazz Singer but the music sounds terrific.
FIGHTVILLE (MPI) Genre: Documentary. A group of young MMA fighters go all-out for their dream in a small town in Southern Louisiana. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 Not sure now this stacks up against other TV shows of a similar nature.
GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (IFC) Genre: Romance. The chronicle of the romance between Camille and Sullivan, which began during their childhoods. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 As with most French romance films very sensual and very profound.
JESUS HENRY CHRIST (EOne) Genre: Comedy. A prodigious youngster who was a Petri dish baby goes on a quest to find the sperm donor who helped create him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Includes the great Michael Sheen and Toni Collette in the cast; looks pretty good.
THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romance. A soldier picks up a photograph of a woman in the rubble and is saved by that act; after he is discharged he hunts for the woman in the photo to thank her and discovers that she has far more effect in his life than he first realized. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Yes, it’s a Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation; enjoy it for what it is.
MARLEY (Magnolia) Genre: Musical Documentary. The story of reggae icon Bob Marley whose music still is causing ripples in both the political and social landscape of the world. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 From Academy Award-winning documentarian Kevin Macdonald.
THE MOTH DIARIES (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A bereaved girl at an all-girl’s boarding school suspects that the glamorous new girl is a vampire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 This has been done before but with Mary Harron directing this could be quite interesting.
MY WAY (PMK*BNC) Genre: War. Bitter boyhood rivals find themselves fighting both against each other and for the same side during World War II. Release Strategy: Limited (Expands May 4). RATING: 1.7 Looks like some absolutely stunning war footage from the trailer.
PENUMBRA (IFC) Genre: Horror. On the day of a solar eclipse, a greedy Argentine businesswoman rents her decrepit family apartment to the wrong guy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very Roman Polanski-esque, particularly of his works from the 1960s.
THINK LIKE A MAN (Screen Gems) Genre: Urban Romance. A group of men are startled to find that the objects of their affections have read Steve Harvey’s bestselling book and now know all of their moves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.6 I can’t say as this looked terribly interesting from the preview.
TO THE ARCTIC 3D (Warner Brothers) Genre: Nature Documentary. Climate changes threaten the polar bear population in the Arctic. Release Strategy: Wide (IMAX). RATING: 3.4 The last IMAX nature doc from Warners was unimpressive.

APRIL 25, 2012

PAYBACK (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. An essay by acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood on the nature of debt is examined in this documentary who uses it to help us understand the changing political and economic reality of our world. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.9 Atwood is one of the greatest minds of the past century; her perspective is one worth looking into.

APRIL 27, 2012

96 MINUTES (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Thriller. Four kids are caught in the maelstrom of a carjacking – not all of them are innocent and not all of them will survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Supposedly inspired by true events, the trailer looks like a run-of-the-mill thriller.
BERNIE (Millennium) Genre: Drama. A small Texas town is shocked when one of its most well-liked citizens is arrested for murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Also a true story albeit more offbeat; terrific cast includes Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey.
CITIZEN GANGSTER (IFC) Genre: Crime Drama. A World War II veteran is reduced to robbing banks to get by but love and crime make for an explosive concoction. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 I’m still kinda wait-and-see based on the trailer.
ELLES (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. A young mother working as an investigative journalist for Elle magazine looking into student prostitution finds her perceptions of the world’s oldest profession changing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Provocative and eye-opening, might offend blue-noses with the portrayal of prostitutes as essentially pragmatic, strong women.
THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT (Universal) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Two people engaged to be married are forced by circumstances to continually push out their wedding date. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Jason Segel and Emily Blunt make an attractive couple.
HEADHUNTERS (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A Norwegian headhunter living beyond his means gets in way over his head when he tries to acquire a rare painting from a mercenary by any means necessary. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.
THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Columbia) Genre: Animated Feature. A somewhat befuddled pirate vies for the Pirate of the Year award with a crew that is more enthusiastic than competent. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.8 The newest animated feature from Aardman looks like a ton of fun.
THE RAVEN (Relativity) Genre: Thriller. A series of murders based on those found in a series of stories force police to call in the author who penned them – Edgar Allen Poe . Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 You had me at John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe.
SAFE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A former MMA fighter who blew a rigged fight which caused the Russian mafia to decree that anyone who develops a relationship with him will be killed takes a young Chinese girl under his wing that might be the key to his redemption – or death. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Jason Statham is my favorite action star at the moment and this one looks like it could be one of his best.
SOUND OF MY VOICE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A husband-wife documentary filmmaking team infiltrate a cult leader’s inner circle with unforeseen results. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks like it could be an early Oscar hopeful from the indie ranks.
WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE (Well Go USA) Genre: War. During World War II an uprising of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan threaten the invading Japanese hold on the island. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Actually looks really well-made with some pretty complex action sequences.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Lockout, The Lady, Monsieur Lazhar, Chimpanzee, The Lucky One, The Five-Year Engagement, Headhunters, Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Raven, Safe