New Releases for the Week of March 8, 2013


Oz The Great and Powerful

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

(Disney) James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bruce Campbell, Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer. Directed by Sam Raimi

A small-time Kansas stage magician dreams of bigger things, of becoming a great and powerful man. When he is sucked through a cyclone into a magical land, it looks like he’ll get that opportunity but it will be a far more perilous journey than he could possibly have imagined and not knowing who to trust makes it all the more dangerous

See the trailer, clips, a featurette and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG (for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language)

56 Up

(First Run) Michael Apted, Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield. In 1964 filmmaker Michael Apted interviewed 14 classmates to get an idea of what their lives were like, what their hopes and dreams were and what they wanted to do with their lives. Every seven years since he’s gotten back together with the original 14 to see how they were getting on with their lives. Now that group is 56 years old and well into middle age, with old age in sight on the horizon. This social experiment has become one of the most important and riveting documentary series in the history of film.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR  

Dead Man Down

(FilmDistrict) Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard. When a woman witnesses a killer for hire doing his work, she contracts him to do a job for her – to take out a vicious criminal who’d disfigured her. When it turns out he has good reason for wanting this same criminal out of the picture, it looks like a match made in….well, heaven might not be exactly the right word but you know what I mean. Anyway things don’t go according to plan – they so rarely do – and they find themselves dealing with a dangerous kind of chaos. From the director of the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for violence, language throughout and a scene of sexuality)

Emperor

(Roadside Attractions) Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox, Eriko Hatsune, Kaori Momoi. Following the surrender of Japan at the conclusion of World War II, the American occupying force and General Douglas MacArthur, the de facto ruler of Japan, had a thorny question to work out. What were they to do with Emperor Hirohito, worshipped as a living god by the Japanese people but accused of war crimes. Should he be punished for the crimes perpetrated by the Japanese military, or should he be pardoned? With Japan a potential powder keg, MacArthur assigns an officer who has his own connections to the Land of the Rising Sun to unravel the Emperor’s guilt.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Historical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for violent content, brief strong language and smoking) 

Sound City

(Variance) Paul McCartney, Lindsey Buckingham, Barry Manilow, Trent Reznor. One of the most legendary recording facilities in the world is Sound City. Nestled amid unassuming industrial warehouses in the San Fernando Valley, this facility has been where some of the most influential and acclaimed albums in history were recorded. Foo Fighter Dave Grohl turns filmmaker as he chronicles the efforts to record an all-star album here, interviewing many of those who have recorded their most famous albums at Sound City.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

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Four-Warned: March 2013


Oz The Great and Powerful

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.

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. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (1.0)
2. JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (1.4)
3. OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (1.7)
4. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (1.8)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. UPSIDE DOWN (1.1)
2. EMPEROR (1.3)
3. EDEN (1.5)
TIE. A PLACE AT THE TABLE (1.5)
TIE. WAR WITCH (1.5)

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

MARCH 1, 2013

21 AND OVER (Relativity) Genre: Teen Comedy. A high-strung Asian honors student with an important medical school interview set for the next day lets his two best friends talk him into celebrating his 21st birthday with disastrous results. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Looks offensive and even worse, uninventive.
A FIERCE GREEN FIRE: THE BATTLE FOR A LIVING PLANET (First Run) Genre: Documentary. The history of environmental activism and the current battle to combat climate change is documented here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks like it could be a bit strident but aims to show that this is a war we can win which is admirable.
A PLACE AT THE TABLE (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. Showing that hunger just doesn’t happen in Third World countries, it’s an issue right here at home. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 A very serious problem that is often overlooked.
THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK (WideSphere) Genre: Mockumentary. A little-known Civil War battle turns out to be the crux on which our nation is founded. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 If Ken Burns had a grave, he’d be rolling in it.
THE CONDEMNED (Strand) Genre: Mystery. A woman, seeking to honor her father by opening up a museum honoring his achievements in his home town, awakens unwelcome memories in the town. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 A spooky edge; kind of on the horror side.
DAY OF THE FALCON (Image) Genre: Drama. When two rival kingdoms discover oil in the disputed lands between their kingdoms, it may take a miracle to prevent war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Epic-looking trailer and legendary filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud make this intriguing but it got horrible reviews when it opened in France in 2011.
THE END OF LOVE (Variance) Genre: Drama. When the mother of his two-year-old child dies suddenly, a struggling actor is forced to grow up. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 1.6 Looks very poignant, could be a sleeper must-see.
FUTURE WEATHER (Lipstick) Genre: Drama. A young girl is abandoned by her single mom and must find a way to bond with her curmudgeonly grandmother. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Another smart kid-loser adults movie.
HAVA NAGILA: THE MOVIE (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The story of perhaps the most famous Jewish folk song in history. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles March 15). RATING: 3.5 Is this really going to have much appeal outside of the Jewish community?
HERE I LEARNED HOW TO LOVE (Ruth Diskin) Genre: Documentary. Two brothers survive the holocaust due to the kindness of three mysterious women; their past is pieced together and their true identity discovered. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 No formal trailer that I could find but the clip looks really interesting.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (New Line) Genre: Fantasy. Farmer Jack who falls in love with a beautiful princess must rescue her from cruel giants and from a dastardly plan to usurp her father’s kingdom. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 I’m a sucker for fantasy and sci-fi and having Bryan Singer in the director’s chair only whets my appetite.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (CBS) Genre: Supernatural Horror. Following the events of The Last Exorcism Nell Sweetzer – the only survivor – comes to New Orleans to recover only to discover her ordeal is only beginning. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 The first movie was hella good (no pun intended); the next could be even better.
LEVIATHAN (The Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The life of fishermen and the sea’s rhythms and tides off the coast of New England from the time of Moby Dick to now. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Mute, mesmerizing and fascinating, looks to be a Deadliest Catch for the art house set.
THE LOST MEDALLION: THE ADVENTURES OF BILLY STONE (MeThinx) Genre: Family. Two 13-year-old friends find a mysterious medallion which transports them in time to an island civilization which they must save from a despotic king in order to get back home. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Looks hopelessly cheesy.
PHANTOM (RCR) Genre: Thriller. A Soviet sub captain who’s been suffering from hideous hallucinations is sent on a classified mission that just might start World War III. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Looks plenty promising and with a cast that includes Ed Harris and David Duchovny could be worth a shot – listed as Wide although I’m not familiar with the distributor.
THE PLAYBACK SINGER (Blumayan) Genre: Dramedy. When a father-in-law who’s a legendary playback singer overstays his welcome, a young playset architect needs to figure out a solution before his marriage and career are thrown into chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Made by and for the Indian community here in America, this looks kinda sweet.
STOKER (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Thriller. After a young woman’s father dies in a car accident, her uncle comes to live with her mother and her and his oily charm leads to a terrible situation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The first English-language film by acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-Woo looks genuinely creepy.
THE SWEENEY (EntertainmentOne) Genre: Crime Drama. An old school detective in a reckless but elite law enforcement squad finds himself facing off with an old enemy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Based on a British TV series and nobody does crime flicks like the Brits.
WAR WITCH (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. Kidnapped by guerillas and forced to do unspeakable things, a young woman escapes from her captors and tries to start a new life but the ghosts of her past need burying. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles March 8). RATING: 1.5 Looks brutal but compelling.
WELCOME TO PINE HILL (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. A former drug dealer turned respectable claims adjuster must cope with a grim medical diagnosis and make amends with those around him. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Blurs the line between drama and documentary; looks riveting.

MARCH 5, 2013

SOMETHING REAL AND GOOD (Rivetting) Genre: Romance. A young man and a young woman are thrown together in an airport when their flight is delayed. Release Strategy: VOD. RATING: 3.4 Looks like an entire movie of meet cute.

MARCH 6, 2013

GUT RENOVATION (Outcast) Genre: Documentary. The gentrification of Williamsburg, not a slow process, is chronicled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Think about how it would be to move into an affordable neighborhood only to see it rendered unaffordable by gentrification.

MARCH 8, 2013

THE ABC’S OF DEATH (Magnet) Genre: Horror Anthology. 26 different directors each take on a horror vignette based on the letters of the alphabet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 An intriguing idea; with so many directors likely to be hideously uneven but the good stuff might well be worth the effort.
BEYOND THE HILLS (IFC) Genre: Drama. A young woman tries to free her childhood friend from a convent and is then accused of being possessed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Romania’s official Oscar submission, inspired by a series of non-fiction books.
DEAD MAN DOWN (FilmDistrict) Genre: Thriller. Two strangers motivated by an obsession for revenge trigger an escalating series of events that spiral out of control. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Despite an impressive cast (Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard) hasn’t received a lot of publicity thus far which is not confidence-inspiring.
DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’: EVERYMAN’S JOURNEY (Cinedigm/Docurama) Genre: Documentary. The true story of Filipino Arnel Pineda, the Journey superfan who was plucked from YouTube to replace Steve Perry as lead vocalist for the band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An amazing and inspirational real life rock and roll miracle.
EMPEROR (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Historical Drama. After World War II comes to a close, General Douglas MacArthur must decide if the Japanese Emperor is to be saved or punished – and if the latter, what effect would it have on the Japanese people? Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Great story, amazing cast, thrilling trailer.
THE GIRL (Brainstorm Media) Genre: Drama. A woman desperate for cash smuggles illegal aliens across the border but when things go awry she finds herself caring for a little girl. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles March 15). RATING: 2.2 Got a lot of love at Tribeca when it was shown there; Abbie Cornish gets a role that showcases her considerable talents.
THE MONK (ATO) Genre: Supernatural Thriller. A pious Capuchin monk in the 16th Century finds temptation from a mysterious apprentice who may be quite a bit more than he seems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks like a cross between The Name of the Rose and The Exorcist.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ICE (Hole in the Wall) Genre: Documentary. A family cruises the treacherous Northwest Passage on a 57 foot boat to try and reconnect as a family. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Who says modern adventures are dead?
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. A Kansas con-man is spirited away to a magical land where he might be the savior of its oppressed people – if he can believe in his own magic. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Sam Raimi aims to revive one of the most beloved stories of all time with this prequel which could establish a new franchise.
THE SILENCE (Music Box) Genre: Crime Thriller. A brutal 23-year-old murder has unexpected links to a modern day crime. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 A stylish-looking Swedish crime thriller that once again shows some of the best of that genre is coming out of that country.
SOMEONE UP THERE LIKES ME (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. A subversive look at a man, his best friend and the woman they both love watching life pass the three of them by. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Freakishly funny with cult figure Nick Offerman in the lead, how can you go wrong?
THE WE AND THE I (Paladin) Genre: Drama. On the lasts day of school a group of Bronx teens act out on a city bus as they sense the looming juggernaut of adulthood approaching. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest from visionary French director Michel Gondry is a complete change of pace.

MARCH 13, 2013

PHILIP ROTH: UNMASKED (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. One of the greatest living writers of such important works as Portnoy’s Complaint reflects on his life and career. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 Unfortunately unable to find much information about this (other than it is a French documentary) and no trailer on the web thus far.

MARCH 15, 2013

BIANCANIEVES (Cohen) Genre: Fantasy. The timeless tale of Snow White, set in 1920s Seville in the cutthroat world of bullfighting. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A glossy black and white tribute to the silent cinema of Spain.
THE CALL (TriStar) Genre: Thriller. A 911 operator takes a call from a teenager who’s been kidnapped only to realize that the kidnapper is a killer she’s dealt with in her past. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Could be a potent thriller or jump the shark just as easily.
FROM UP ON POPPY HILL (GKIDS) Genre: Anime. Two young people find romance as they try to save their high school’s ramshackle clubhouse on the eve of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expands March 29). RATING: 2.1 The latest from Studio Ghibli (and the first in a long while not distributed by Disney) looks as beautiful and as intriguing as ever.
GINGER & ROSA (A24) Genre: Drama. Two schoolgirl friends in London 1962 find their friendship tested by their forbidden longings and by the Cuban Missile Crisis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 A cast of terrific actors (including Elle Fanning, Annette Benning and Oliver Platt) and director Sally Potter makes this quite intriguing.
IF I WERE YOU (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Dramedy. A woman unknowingly saves her husband’s mistress from a bungled suicide attempt but winds up becoming the unlikeliest of friends with her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Marcia Gay Harden is a lot better at comedy than some give her credit for.
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (New Line) Genre: Comedy. A veteran Vegas stage magician and his partner face unwelcome competition from a Criss Angel-style street magician. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I’m up for just about anything Steve Carell does.
K-11 (Breaking Glass) Genre: Drama. Waking up in the Los Angeles prison wing for gay inmates, a successful record producer struggles to discover how he got there – and to survive in a world he doesn’t understand. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 I’ve always liked E.R.‘s Goran Visnjic and this is a very different role for him.
LANGUAGE OF A BROKEN HEART (House Lights Media) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A bestselling author and expert on relationships finds himself needing to find the right advice on love for his own life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Kind of sitcom-ish if you ask me.
MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (IFC Midnight) Genre: Documentary. Daniel Lutz, the son of George and Kathy Lutz, recounts his own version of the events of The Amityville Horror for the first time in 35 years. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 Very, VERY creepy looking.
REALITY (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. An Italian fishmonger’s audition for the Big Brother reality TV show descends into madness. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles March 22). RATING: 2.6 Looks like a pretty on-target commentary on our modern obsession with fame.
REINCARNATED (VICE) Genre: Musical Documentary. Snoop Dogg visits Trench Town, the slum where reggae was born to trace it’s influence on his own career which is reaching a turning point as he rechristens himself Snoop Lion. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Ego run amuck.
SPRING BREAKERS (A24/Anapurna) Genre: Crime Drama. A group of girls rob a fast food shack to finance their Spring Break revelries and wind up under the wing of an infamous thug. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Is it just me or have we seen this movie before?
UPSIDE DOWN (Millennium) Genre: Science Fiction. On a world where twinned portions of the planet are separated by gravity pulling in opposite directions, a boy and a girl from opposite sides of the planet fall in love against all odds. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 Amazing visuals and a compelling Romeo and Juliet-type story starring Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst.

MARCH 20, 2013

EDEN (Phase 4) Genre: True-Life Drama. A young teenager of Korean descent is kidnapped from New Mexico and brought to Las Vegas to be a sex slave. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 A searing and unsettling look at human trafficking seen through the eyes of one of its victims.

MARCH 22, 2013

ADMISSION (Focus) Genre: Comedy. Princeton’s most by-the-book admissions officer discovers that a student at an alternative school might be the son she gave up for adoption years ago. Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 With a cast including Paul Rudd, Tina Fey and Lily Tomlin this might be a sleeper hit.
THE CROODS (DreamWorks Animation) Genre: Animated Features. A stone age family of cavemen have survived by staying largely in their cave but an earthquake opens up a whole new world for them. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.6 Seems a little too Ice Age-ish.
DORFMAN IN LOVE (Brainstorm Media) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A single woman in the suburbs who has always been the caregiver turns her sights on the city and finding love and care for herself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks appealing with a fairly young cast and Elliott Gould.
EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN (Fox International) Genre: Drama. After the death of his twin brother, a man starts a new life where they grew up only to become involved in the dangerous criminal underground that his late brother had been involved in. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 Viggo Mortensen is always worth watching and he generally chooses compelling films to work in.
GIMME THE LOOT (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A group of ambitious taggers from the Bronx decide to take on the ultimate target after their latest work is buffed by a rival gang – the Mets home run apple. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Urban and real New York, still it looks like it has enough going for it to be relatable to audiences outside of the Big Apple.
HUNKY DORY (Variance) Genre: Musical. A high school teacher in Wales in 1976, desperate to inspire her students before they leave for the summer, puts together a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest complete with a glam rock infusion. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 A cross between Glee and Dead Poets Society and not in a bad way at all.
INAPPROPRIATE COMEDY (Freestyle) Genre: Comedy Spoof. A sketch comedy with characters including a gritty metrosexual cop, a vengeful Lindsay Lohan (as herself) and The Amazing Racist reality show. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 The trailer looks really, really terrible.
LOVE AND HONOR (IFC) Genre: Romance. A young soldier in Vietnam is dumped by his girlfriend and decides to sneak back to America and win her back only to discover she’s firmly entrenched in the counterculture. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 Lots of potential displayed in the trailer; what they do with it is entirely a mystery.
NEW WORLD (WELL GO USA) Genre: Crime Drama. An undercover cop in a Korean crime syndicate gets caught between his family and his loyal gang members. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Has elements of The Departed and Infernal Affairs which makes it worth checking out in my book.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (FilmDistrict) Genre: Action. Terrorists capture the White House and it is up to a disgraced Secret Service agent to save the day. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I really like Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart so I’m willing to overlook the cheesy concept.
THE SAPPHIRES (Weinstein) Genre: Musical Biography. Four vivacious Australian aboriginal girls form a rock group that eventually entertains American troops in Vietnam. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Could be the role that breaks Chris O’Dowd out.
SILVER CIRCLE (Hybrid Nation) Genre: Animated Feature. A charismatic Rebel leader fighting against the Federal Reserve falls in love with a Federal Agent. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 Economic theory and animation that looks like a 90s-era videogame just don’t mix.
STARBUCK (EntertainmentOne) Genre: Comedy. A good-hearted loser discovers that his habitual sperm donation has led to him fathering more than 500 children. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks fairly funny but could wind up being campy.

MARCH 26, 2013

MY BROTHER THE DEVIL (Paladin) Genre: Drama. Two young brothers living in an ethnically diverse district in London battle with gangs, differing dreams and dashed hopes. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles April 5). RATING: 3.4 For whatever reason the trailer didn’t really move me to want to see this.

MARCH 27, 2013

WELCOME TO THE PUNCH (IFC) Genre: Crime Thriller. A master thief and a relentless detective face off in the mean streets of London’s East End. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks like another glossy British gangster flick and I’m sure not tired of them yet.

MARCH 29, 2013

DETOUR (Gravtas Ventures) Genre: Drama. A smooth-talking adman is trapped by a mudslide on the way to a business meeting and must take extraordinary risks to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like it could be awfully compelling if it doesn’t stoop to cliché.
FAMILY WEEKEND (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Dramedy. When her parents miss a key jump rope competition, a teenage girl decides to act to save her family from becoming strangers living in the same house. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Another shark-jumping smart kids-dumb parents movie but presence of Kristen Chenoweth and Shirley Jones may save it.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) Genre: Action. The Joes are betrayed and the survivors discover a monstrous conspiracy involving Cobra and the ultimate power grab. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.0 The trailer looked so good but the first movie in the series was so disappointing that I’m not sure if I trust this one.
THE HOST (Open Road) Genre: Science Fiction. After parasites take over most of the human population, an infected girl discovers her love for an uninfected boy may hold the key to human survival. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Definitely aimed (again) at tween girls, teen girls and their moms but has a pretty slick look to it that might appeal to the boys more than Twilight did.
MENTAL (Dada) Genre: Comedy. A politician whose wife has been committed to a mental hospital engages a hitchhiker to be nanny to his five teenage daughters he barely knows. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Not sure about this one; an Australian comedy and the Aussies sure do know how to have a laugh, but the trailer was a bit lame.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Focus) Genre: Drama. The sons of a reluctant getaway driver for bank robbers and an ambitious rookie cop in a corrupt police department will face the consequences of their fathers actions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks pretty compelling and with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper playing the dads, could be worth a look.
RENOIR (Goldwyn) Genre: Biographical Drama. The legendary impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his son Jean, returned from the front after being wounded in battle during World War I, are driven apart by the son’s love for the father’s free-spirited muse. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Gorgeously photographed, this is certainly one to seek out.
ROOM 237 (IFC Midnight) Genre: Documentary. In the years since Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining a group of cultish fans have claimed to have deciphered hidden messages in the movie. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Very interesting subject matter although I’m not sure I want to spend an hour and a half with obsessive fans.
TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A woman restless in her relationship becomes a marriage counselor but her own marriage is in big trouble. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The trailer didn’t excite me at all; this looks like more generic Tyler Perry.
VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN (Kino Lorber) Genre: Biographical Drama. Chilean folksinger Violeta Parra not only influenced music with her revival of traditional Chilean folk songs but inspired a nation with her political activism. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 She’s an enormously popular figure who influenced both Latin Americans as well as North American progressive folk artists and activists.
WRONG (Drafthouse) Genre: Comedy. A man trying to reunite with his lost dog runs into a succession of eccentric characters along the way. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 From the director of Rubber – so it’s pretty out there.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Jack the Giant Slayer, Stoker, Dead Man Down, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Call, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Admission, The Croods, Olympus Has Fallen, G.I.Joe: Retaliation, The Host

The Last Legion


The Last Legion

"This island of Capri - I can't imagine anyone else ever wanting to visit. Why are you looking at me that way?"

(2007) Swords and Sandals Action/Adventure (Weinstein) Sir Ben Kingsley, Colin Firth, Aishwarya Rai, Thomas Sangster, John Hannah, Alexander Siddig, Peter Mullan, Kevin McKidd, Iain Glen, Rupert Friend, Nonso Anozie, Owen Teale, Harry van Gorkum, Robert Pugh. Directed by Doug Lefler.

With the success of Gladiator and 300, it stands to reason that we’ll be seeing more sword-and-sandal epics coming our way. Stacked up against the two movies previously mentioned, The Last Legion doesn’t really belong in that kind of company. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be relegated to the avoid-at-all-costs list.

Romulus (Sangster) is a young boy, the son of the last female descendent of Julius Caesar. His male relatives have ascended to the throne of Rome left and right and have been assassinated. Rome is beset from without by angry Goths, led by Odoacer (Mullan), who has been denied what he believed was his rightful due as defender of the Empire by Orestes (Glen), Romulus’ arrogant father and regent, and from within by greedy, weak-willed Romans.

Orestes gets one of his finest generals, Aurelius (Firth) to be the boy’s bodyguard. Aurelius is less than thrilled about the assignment, but has sworn an oath to defend the boy to his last breath – Aurelius, not the boy’s. Orestes also sends Romulus’ tutor Ambrosinus (Kingsley) packing for having the temerity to encourage the boy to think for himself. That’s simply not what emperors of the known world do.

On the night of his coronation, Rome is sacked by the Goths. Odoacer’s hyperactive second-in-command, Wulfila (McKidd) kills Romulus’ parents and captures the boy. He’s all for killing the last Caesar, but Ambrosinus shows up at the last moment and persuades Odoacer to keep the boy captive – on the isle of Capri. Tough gig.

Aurelius, with boyhood friend Nestor (Hannah) and Theodorus (Siddig), the ambassador of the Eastern Empire, plot to get the kid back. Only a few of Aurelius’ men survived the Goth attack, so Theodorus sends his best warrior to assist. The best warrior turns out to be a woman named Mira (Rai). Together, she and Aurelius rescue the boy and Ambrosinus only to discover that the boy has found ex caliburnus, the fabled sword of Julius Caesar. However, things have changed when they get back to Italy and it looks like Romulus is going to need an army just to survive in this hostile world. There is a legion that has not yet switched allegiance to Odoacer; the fabled Ninth, also known as the Dragon Legion. They, however, are all the way in Britannia, a long journey. Wulfila, having been maimed in the rescue of Romulus, is also hot on the chase and breathing fire of his own.

When you read the plot on paper, it sounds terribly cheesy and in many ways, it is. In all honesty, if you go in and try not to think about historical accuracy too much and accept this as a bit of a fantasy grounded in a few facts, it’s actually not a bad piece of entertainment. Much of the story will seem a bit familiar, and there are clichés up the yin yang but the story was entertaining enough to keep my interest, and the performances solid enough to not strain the bounds of credibility. Kingsley looks a bit like a hippie in his outfit here, but Firth makes a terrific Roman. Rai, one of the most beautiful women on Earth and one of the biggest stars in Bollywood, is pretty hot as a warrior and shows some skills with a sword. Director Lefler cut his teeth on the “Hercules” and “Xena” TV shows so he knows what he’s about in this genre.

In all honesty, I was surprised. Considering that the movie got almost zero publicity during its theatrical release and had its release date pushed back several times – usually the sign of a bad movie – it’s a pretty entertaining. Don’t kid yourself – The Last Legion didn’t make anybody’s top ten lists, but you won’t leave the couch feeling disappointed.

WHY RENT THIS: Entertainment value. Lots of swordplay. Colin Firth. Aishwarya Rai.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Script riddled with clichés. Takes a few liberties with history. Cheap CGI.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some battle sequences and swordfights, but nothing gruesome. Overall, I’d say this is suitable for the entire family despite the PG-13 rating.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Doug Lefler used Thomas Sangster’s entire family as extras at various points in the film.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $25.3M on an unreported  budget. I’m guessing the movie lost money.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Bangkok Dangerous