Devil’s Knot


Colin Firth looks to untie the devil's knot.

Colin Firth looks to untie the devil’s knot.

(2013) True Life Drama (RLJ/Image/TWC) Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Amy Ryan, Bruce Greenwood, Dane DeHaan, Elias Koteas, Rex Linn, James Hamrick, Seth Meriwether, Kristopher Higgins, Stephen Moyer, Robert Baker, Kollette Wolfe, Jack Coghlan, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Matt Letscher, Lori Beth Edgeman. Directed by Atom Egoyan

The case of the West Memphis Three has gotten about as much notoriety as any criminal case since the OJ Simpson trial and with good reason – it is considered one of the most egregious cases of wrongful conviction in the history of our judicial system.

Stevie Branch (Jurgensmeyer) pedaled off from his house after school one beautiful spring day, admonished by his hard-working mom Pam Dobbs (Witherspoon) to be home by 4:30pm or face being grounded. When he didn’t show by the time he was given, his mom got angry. When he wasn’t home by the time she came home from work, she was worried. When he still wasn’t home the next morning, she was terrified.

Her worst fears would be confirmed. Detectives of the West Memphis, Arkansas Police Department discovered a shoe floating in a nearby drainage ditch in the Robin Hood woods where Stevie and two of his friends had last been seen riding their bikes. It didn’t take long before the nude bodies of the boys, hogtied with their own shoelaces, were found – in Stevie’s case, horribly mutilated.

The attention of the police turned to Damian Echols (Hamrick), an 18-year-old misfit who loved heavy metal, had at least a passing interest in the occult and was thought to be a Satanist. His friends Jason Baldwin (Meriwether) and Jessie Misskelley (Higgins) also fall under scrutiny. Misskelley is interrogated by the cops for 12 hours and eventually admits to being present at the crime. Misskelley is also severely challenged intellectually, only a few IQ points above the level generally assigned to mental retardation.

When Aaron Hutcheson (Coghlan), a classmate of the dead boys, comes forward with a harrowing story of the ritual murder of the three youngsters and implicates all three of he accused, it looks fairly open and shut. Ron Lax (Firth), a private investigator, isn’t so sure though and with moral objections to the death penalty (which was being sought), he decides to offer his services pro bono to the harried defense attorneys who gratefully accept.

It doesn’t take long for Lax to find inconsistencies and disturbing trends in the police reports and evidence. The cops never were disposed to look at any other suspects besides the three young men, despite a lack of physical evidence that connects any of them to the crime scene. Nichols’ interest in Satanic rituals was enough to convict him in the eyes of this deeply religious community. The stakes are very high – can Lax get justice for the West Memphis Three – and in so doing, bring justice at long last for Stevie and his friends?

The first question one has to ask themselves about this movie is whether or not it is needed. After all, there are two documentaries that have been made on the case – the multi-part Paradise Lost that first aired on HBO and brought the case to the attention of a national audience, and the more recent West Memphis Three. Will a dramatized account bring anything else to the discussion?

Well, no, not really. The filmmakers painstakingly researched the case and wherever possible, used dialogue directly from court transcripts as well as from interviews by the police and media. That gives the film a certain amount of credibility. However, that turns out to be a double-edged sword in that much of this material has already been made available in the documentaries.

It should be noted that in a kind of strange twist, the dramatized version seems more balanced than the documentaries, both of which seemed to indicate that the documentarians believed that Terry Hobbs (Nivola), Stevie’s stepdad and Pam’s husband at the time of the murders (they have since divorced), was the real culprit. Certainly a case is presented for him, but also for Christopher Morgan (DeHaan), another teen whose behavior was certainly peculiar and who also confessed to the crime. There’s also the blood and mud-caked African-American man who came into a local Bojangles chicken restaurant the night of the murder and whose bizarre actions certainly warranted investigation – but the blood samples taken by police were never analyzed and were eventually lost.

What you watch this movie for then is the performances and with Firth and Witherspoon, both Oscar winners, leading the way, those performances are powerful indeed. Witherspoon in particular delivers some of the best work of her career which is saying something. She has to play a gamut of emotions from incomprehensible grief to doubt to fear to determination and strength. Witherspoon is gifted enough to let all of Pam Dobbs’ personality shine through no matter which emotion is dominant at the time. Firth similarly plays Lax with bulldog-like determination as he becomes enmeshed in the horrible injustice being perpetrated in plain sight.

Some reviewers have criticized this movie for being manipulative. Holy God, if your emotions aren’t being manipulated by the brutal murders of three children and the anguish of the community that followed, I’m not quite sure what else is going to do it. The subject matter itself is manipulative. Yes you’re going to have an emotional reaction to what happens in the film. That’s not a bad thing.

The murders of Stevie Branch, Mike Morris and Christopher Byers remain unsolved. The three accused who would be convicted on the crime, would eventually be released after serving 18 years of prison time, although the State of Arkansas still lists them as convicted felons despite the DNA evidence that has exonerated them. At this point it seems extremely unlikely that the murders will ever be solved, even though the real life Lax, Pam Hobbs and in a bit of irony, Damian Echols, remain focused on finding out the truth behind this terrible crime.

It is quite discouraging that it seems that the three teenage boys who were convicted of these crimes were railroaded essentially because they were outsiders, square pegs in the very round hole of West Memphis.  The movie captures with at least a relative amount of objectivity the events of this case which have been so divisive in so many ways. While I can’t really recommend these over the documentaries (particularly the three-part HBO set), I can recommend the performances here as worth the trouble to go and find this movie on VOD or in local theaters.

REASONS TO GO: Terrific performances by Firth, Witherspoon and much of the supporting cast.

REASONS TO STAY: Non-illuminating. If you are familiar with the case or have seen one of the documentaries about it, you won’t learn anything new.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a whole lot of profanity and some extremely disturbing images.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Filmed primarily in Georgia, and made its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/14/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 23% positive reviews. Metacritic: 42/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Time to Kill

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: Cheatin’

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New Releases for the Week of May 9, 2014


NeighborsNEIGHBORS

(Universal) Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Roberts. Directed by Nicholas Stoller

A young couple think they have the ideal life; good jobs, a new baby, a nice house in a quiet neighborhood. When they get new neighbors, it’s just another blessing. Unfortunately, when your new neighbor is a frat house, the neighborhood will be anything but quiet. Get ready to have some stereotypes about fraternities reinforced.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, premiere footage, a featurette and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout)

Devil’s Knot

(RLJ/Image) Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos.The small Arkansas town of West Memphis was rocked to its core when three eight year old boys turned up brutally murdered. When three teenage boys, outsiders and misfits all, were charged and eventually convicted for the crime which the authorities maintained had Satanic overtones, the community was deeply split. It would eventually become a cause célèbrearound the country when the investigation by the West Memphis police and the conduct of the prosecution were called into question. This is a semi-fictionalized version of the case from renowned Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: NR

Fading Gigolo

(Millennium) John Turturro, Woody Allen, Liev Schreiber, Sofia Vergara. When his good friend Murray’s money problems turn dire, Fiorvante determines to help his friend as best he can but with no real cash reserves of his own, he’ll have to think of something outside the box. When Murray figures out that Fiorvante has the magic touch when it comes to the ladies, he hits upon an unlikely plan.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for some sexual content, language and brief nudity)

The Final Member

(Drafthouse) Sigrour Hjartason, Pall Arason, Tom Mitchell, Hannes Blondal.In a tiny village in Iceland there is a museum dedicated to the penis. In it are preserved specimens of nearly every animal that has one save one – humans. Two men – one an Icelandic adventurer and the other an eccentric American, race to be the donors of the human member to the collection. A recent favorite at the Florida Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: R (for language and some sexuality/nudity)

Kochadaiiyaan

(Eros International) Starring the voices of Rajnikant, Deepika Padukone, Sarath Kumar, Jackie Shroff.Two brothers face each other in a battle of good and evil on an epic canvas of magic and India’s colorful history. The first Indian film to utilize photorealistic animation based on motion capture technology.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: NR

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

(Clarius) Starring the voices of Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, James Belushi. After waking up in Kansas, Dorothy Gale is whisked back to Oz where she discovers that her old friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Glinda the Good Witch of the North have been kidnapped and are being held prisoner by the nefarious Jester. With new friends to help her, Dorothy sets out to free her friends and set things right in Oz.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for some scary images and mild peril)

Moms’ Night Out

(TriStar) Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins. Three moms, in desperate need of a break from taking care of the kids, put the dads in charge, get dressed up to the nines and set out to have a nice, quiet dinner, some adult conversation and maybe a little bit of fun. Of course, things go south in a hurry, both at home with the dads and with the moms. Who knew that going out for a bite to eat would cause so much chaos?

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG (for mild thematic elements and some action)

Four-Warned: May 2014


X-Men: Days of Future PastEvery 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. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (1.0)
2. GODZILLA (1.1)
3. A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (1.2)
TIE. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (1.2)
TIE.  MALEFICENT (1.2)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE DOUBLE (1.0)
2. THE IMMIGRANT (1.2)
3. DEVIL’S KNOT (1.3)
4. BLOOD GLACIER (1.4)

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

MAY 2, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (Columbia) Genre: Superhero. Spidey discovers that the villainous Oscorp is developing technology for evil purposes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 I’ve been a big fan of director Marc Webb ever since (500) Days of Summer.
THE BACHELOR WEEKEND (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. The bachelor party slash camping trip of a foppish groom-to-be turns ugly when his alpha male brother-in-law to be turns up. Release Strategy: Chicago only. RATING: 2.8 Stag party humor with an incomprehensible British accent.
BAD JOHNSON (Gravitas Ventures) Genre: Comedy. A philandering man unable to maintain a lasting relationship wakes up one morning to discover his penis has taken human form. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Cam Gigandet and penis humor at its finest.
BELLE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Life Drama. A young woman of illegitimate mixed race parentage grows up to influence the repeal of slavery in Great Britain. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Merchant-Ivory version of 12 Years a Slave.
BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (Tribeca) Genre: Thriller. Two young friends yearn to buy a car and get out of their sleepy Maine town but one’s drug smuggling father may throw their plans into turmoil. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 The trailer doesn’t look as compelling as I thought it might.
BLOOD GLACIER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A strange fluid from a melting glacier causes the wildlife to mutate in strange and terrifying ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks like incredible fun.
DECODING ANNIE PARKER (eOne) Genre: Drama. The relationship between a geneticist and a woman stricken with breast cancer whose family has been devastated by the disease leads to a groundbreaking discovery. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 An important film about an amazing true story that hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves.
IDA (Music Box) Genre: Drama. In 1962 Communist Poland, a novice about to take her vows visits the aunt she never knew she had and discovers a troubling past and an uncertain future. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 1.6 Filmed in glorious black and white, this played the Florida Film Festival this past month. See the review here.
MR. JONES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. After relocating to a remote cabin to kickstart their artistic vision, a young couple run afoul of a reclusive artist who plunges them into his nightmares. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only.  RATING: 2.8 Another found footage horror flick; to be honest I’m getting a little tired of these.
THE PROTECTOR 2 (Magnet) Genre: Martial Arts. A man, searching for a stolen elephant, is implicated in a brutal murder and is chased by the police, the vengeful nieces of the murdered man and a ruthless crimelord.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 More Tony Jaa action goodness.
WALK OF SHAME (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a one night stand, a budding news anchorwoman on the day of her most important interview ever finds herself across town without ID, money or a means of getting to where she has to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’ve always liked Elizabeth Banks; she deserves to be a bigger star than she is.
WHITEWASH (Oscilloscope) Genre: Thriller. When a snowplow operator accidentally kills a man during a drunken joyride, he flees to the Quebec woods to evade the authorities and his own conscience but you can’t run away from yourself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Thomas Haden Church is an underrated actor.

MAY 7, 2014

BREASTMILK (CAVU) Genre: Documentary. Tackles the somewhat polarizing debate over breastfeeding and the various permutations of the subject. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles May 16). RATING: 2.1 The obvious joke is “it’s a titillating subject” but it is no less important for all that.

MAY 9, 2014

CHEF (Open Road) Genre: Comedy. Jon Favreau stars as a fine dining chef tired of the overbearing owner of his restaurant who decides to open up his own food truck instead. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Should be absolute catnip to foodies.
DEVIL’S KNOT (RLJ/Image) Genre: True Crime. The story of the West Memphis Three is dramatized in this the first of two movies on the subject. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 An amazing cast with terrific Canadian director Atom Egoyan with a compelling story spells one of this month’s must-sees.
THE DOUBLE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Based on Dostoyevsky’s story, a mild-mannered cubicle worker in a dystopian future that’s a cross between William Burroughs and Terry Gilliam finds his life taken over by an exact double.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best film I saw at the Florida Film Festival this year.
FARMLAND (D&E) Genre: Documentary. A look at young farmers struggling to maintain a way of life in an era of corporate factory farms and high-tech agribusiness. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 2.5 The future of farming has been bleak indeed but here are some folks who can change that.
FED UP (Radius) Genre: Documentary. New research in the midst of an obesity epidemic indicates that our conceptions of diet and exercise may be wrong. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Is childhood obesity the result of a sugar addiction that is as powerful as nicotine?
GOD’S POCKET (IFC) Genre: Drama. A construction worker whose stepson dies “accidentally” tries to hide the truth and the body but is having difficulty with both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The directing debut of actor John Slattery and one of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last films.
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime Entertainment) Genre: Animated Feature. Dorothy returns to Oz to rescue her old friends, making new friends along the way: Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 The animation looks cheap and the filmmakers are not using an L. Frank Baum story but rather one by his great-grandson. Cheap again.
MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) Genre: Comedy. A group of frazzled moms, in need of a night of relaxation, leave their kids with their husbands and venture out for a night on the time, soon discovering they are really rusty at having fun and their husbands are an utter disaster with the kids. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Seems to me that this is the kind of movie that reinforces tired old stereotypes and likely will not be all that funny.
NEIGHBORS (Universal) Genre: Comedy. With a new baby, a blissful suburban couple have their peace and quiet shattered when a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I usually love Seth Rogen so I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt.
PALO ALTO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. At a suburban high school, relationships and emotions spiral out of control as desires are given into and bad choices are the order of the day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A paean to high school angst penned by James Franco and directed by Gia Coppola.
STAGE FRIGHT (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A serial killer stalks the summer showcase of a snooty performing arts summer camp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks a little offbeat and just gory enough to satisfy fans of horror and comedy.

MAY 16, 2014

A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO (Phase 4) Genre: Adventure. An elderly Texas rancher, forced off his land and on the eve of being sent to a retirement home, has one last hurrah with his grandson on a road trip South of the Border. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Robert Duvall goes all Gus McCrae on our ass.
A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY (Paladin) Genre: Drama. A Brooklyn hipster summoned down to Florida to care for his elderly father finds the means of jump-starting his stalled writing career within grasp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Any chance to see the great Linda Lavin at work is worth the effort.
AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. Conceptual artist Weiwei spends a year under house arrest by the Chinese government. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 The second documentary about Weiwei in two years.
CHINESE PUZZLE (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After his ex-wife leaves him and takes his kids to New York, a Parisian follows and tries to start over in the Big Apple. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 The conclusion of a trilogy begun by director Cedric Klapisch beginning with L’Auberge Espagnole.
THE DISCOVERERS (Quadratic) Genre: Dramedy. On the way to a conference to restart his moribund career and connect with his kids, a history professor has to change course when his father disappears on a trek to follow the path of Lewis and Clark. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Griffin Dunne looks special in it and I gotta give props to a movie with so much love for history.
GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. The arrogance of science comes back to haunt us in the form of gigantic, hideous creatures bent on world destruction. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.1 Since the trailer for this broke, it has become one of the most anticipated movies of the summer.
HALF A YELLOW SUN (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Two women endure the turbulent times of the short-lived Republic of Biafra in the late 60s.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 With Chiwetel Ejiofor in it, there is reason enough to seek this out right there.
THE IMMIGRANT (Radius) Genre: Drama. A woman immigrating from Poland to the United States in the early 20th Century is forced into prostitution but may find salvation through a stage magician who happens to be the cousin of her tormentor. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.2 A beautiful looking film with an amazing cast – Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix – wow!
MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) Genre: True Sports Drama. Desperate for a high-profile client to save his business, a sports agent hits upon the scheme of sponsoring a competition among Indian cricketers to find the first Major League Baseball player from India. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Looks kind of charming with Jon Hamm starring but not intriguing enough to be a must-see.
WOLF CREEK 2 (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. Another tourist in the outback comes into the sights of a serial killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one.

MAY 23, 2014

THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. A normally disagreeable sort of man discovers he has 90 minutes to live and sets out to make amends to everyone he has ever hurt. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Robin Williams movie we’ve been waiting for.
BLENDED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a disastrous date leaves two single parents unwilling to ever see each other again, they both unknowingly sign up for the same African safari and they and their kids are forced to share the same luxury suite. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 The third on-screen pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore makes this far more intriguing than it otherwise might be.
COLD IN JULY (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a homeowner investigating noises in his house one night and accidentally shoots and kills a lowlife burglar, he doesn’t count on having the thief’s father show up looking for revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Michael C. Hall from Dexter and Sam Shepard make for some good conflict.
GRAND DEPART (Rialto) Genre: Drama. Two brothers find their situation in life changing due to the declining health of their father. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Looks like one of those films that has some serious sobs and some warm fuzzies as well.
THE LOVE PUNCH (Ketchup) Genre: Comedy. When their retirement nest egg is stolen, a divorced couple join forces to get their money back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With the very likable Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as the couple, there’s much to look forward to with this one.
STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. The 13-year-old son of illegal immigrants wanders away from his parents and gets lost in New York City – just as Hurricane Sandy is about to hit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Has a real New York vibe which might not appeal as much to those outside the city limits.
TRACKS (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. A city-bred young woman determines to cross 2000 miles of Australian desert with nothing more than her dog and four mercurial camels. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An Aussie film with an epic scope and Mia Wasikowska for good measure.
WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romance. Two burned-out teachers, both wounded physically and psychologically, get into a debate over which is more important – words or pictures – and in so doing inspire their apathetic students unexpectedly. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 1.9 Another Florida Film Festival entry, this time with Clive Owen and the fabulous Juliette Binoche top-lining.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The world devastated by gigantic robots gone amok, Wolverine is sent into the past by Professor X to convince his younger self to rally the X-Men and prevent the cataclysm from happening but the trouble is, his younger self isn’t inclined to help. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.0 Judging from the trailer, this might well be the best film in the series.

MAY 27, 2014

TAPPED OUT (Grindstone) Genre: Action. Ordered to do community service in a run-down Karate school, a teen with a chip on his shoulder enters an MMA tournament to face the man who killed his parents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sounds too hokey to be true. 

MAY 28, 2014

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A charming and charismatic African-American woman in the 1930s takes to a life of crime to survive and manages to amass a fortune, continuing her nefarious ways into her 60s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Looks to be a fascinating documentary; looking forward to seeing it.

MAY 30, 2014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A cowardly sheep rancher is transformed by a mysterious woman into a gunfighter to face down a notorious outlaw in a town where unusual fatalities are a way of life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Another irreverent but hysterical film from Seth MacFarlane.
DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (The Collective) Genre: Horror. While a reality show documents a young couple’s pregnancy, the mother-to-be comes to believe that her unborn child is afflicted with demonic possession.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An intriguing premise but I must admit I’m a little burned out on found footage horror right now.
FILTH (Magnolia) Genre: Dark Comedy. An arrogant police detective believes that if he solves a murder that he’ll win the promotion he deserves and his estranged wife will return to him but things rarely go the way we expect them to. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 James McAvoy like you’ve never seen him before.
THE GRAND SEDUCTION (eOne) Genre: Comedy. A town desperate to attract a petrochemical plant needs to prove that there is a resident doctor, which they have none; when fate sends one their way, a pair of unemployed fishermen set out to prove to the doc that their tiny town is the paradise he’s been looking for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A charming comedy of the Canadian Maritimes.
LUCKY THEM (IFC) Genre: Romance. More interested in partying than reporting, an aging rock journalist is given an assignment – to find a reclusive rock legend who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church are two of my favorite actors.
MALEFICENT (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. Disney’s most nefarious villain gets her story told as she changes from a young idealist to a hate-filled sorceress when her land is overrun by a corrupt king. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.2 Is it disrespectful to say that Angelina Jolie is perfect casting for this?
NIGHT MOVES (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. When a trio of environmental activists plot to blow up a dam in Oregon, they don’t realize the consequences that their actions will be severe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From Kelly Reichardt, one of my favorite emerging directors.
WE ARE THE BEST! (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Three young misfits, in search of a cause in the 80s, decide to form an all-female punk band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A joyous celebration of the punk spirit.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ida, The Double, Mom’s Night Out, Neighbors, Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm, Blended, X-Men: Days of Future Past, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent