Hysteria (2011)


You'll find this in the dictionary under "knowing look."

You’ll find this in the dictionary under “knowing look.”

(2011) Romantic Comedy (Sony Classics) Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett, Ashley Jensen, Sheridan Smith, Felicity Jones, Gemma Jones, Anna Chancellor, Malcolm Rennie, Kim Criswell, Georgie Glen, Elisabet Johannesdottir, Linda Woodhall, Kim Selby, John Overstall, Ann Comfort, Jonathan Rhodes, Leila Schaus, Ellie Jacob. Directed by Tanya Wexler

Medicine is a field of study that is ever changing. What we KNOW for sure one year is medieval foolishness the next. The human body is a mystery that we have yet to get a real handle on.

In Victorian times, medicine was positively barbaric. Going to a doctor was just as liable to get you killed as the illness or injury you had. Still, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Some scientific sorts were challenging widely-held beliefs through research and the scientific method. Things we today take for granted – the changing of bandages on wounds to prevent infection, the washing of hands before examinations and surgeries, these things were brand new then.

Given the Victorian view on women, it is unsurprising that their mood swings, feelings of frustration and general anxieties were all lumped together not so much as female foolishness but as a catch-all diagnosis – hysteria. Women could be committed to asylums or jailed because of it, or if criminally charged could have forced hysterectomies performed on them (and yes, that is where the term comes from).

However, there were doctors who treated that sort of thing. Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Pryce) was one. He had discovered that women with these complaints (and other similar ones) often found relief by a technique that involved manual stimulation of the genitalia. With a discrete tent-like curtain up, he would let his fingers do the walking and soon enough the woman would experience what he called a paroxysm. It’s what we today call an orgasm, although it was thought at the time that females didn’t experience sexual pleasure. Medieval foolishness, remember?

Anyway, his practice is getting so large that he needs to take on some additional help and it looks like Dr. Mortimer Granville (Dancy) is just the ticket. While he has a tendency to question the methods of established physicians which has basically put him in a position where nobody is willing to hire him, he manages to convince Dr. Dalrymple that he will behave himself. Seeing as Dr. Dalrymple is desperate not to mention that his field of expertise is frowned upon by the medical establishment, it seems they both need each other.

Granville being young and handsome soon becomes a hit with the female patients, but also with the residents of Dr. Dalrymple’s home including Emily (F. Jones), Dr. Dalrymple’s youngest daughter and a proper Victorian lady at that; and Charlotte (Gyllenhaal), his oldest who is the source of all the good doctor’s grey hair. Miss Charlotte you see is a non-conformist, a sort of pre-feminist who runs a shelter paid for by dear old papa who more than likely is happy enough to get her out of his sight. There’s also the randy young maid Molly (Smith) who flirts outrageously with the good Dr. Granville.

Dr. Dalrymple is having none of that however. He feels that Dr. Granville is a fine catch, someone who can partner with him in the practice and marry his youngest to seal the deal. However, Dr. Granville is becoming a victim of his own success; he has begun to develop muscular cramping and pain – most likely what we would call Carpal Tunnel syndrome. However his good friend Edmund St. John-Smythe (Everett), a kind of brilliant slacker, has invented an automatic feather duster, the movements of which remind Dr. Granville of the same motions he uses to stimulate his patients. Thus, the vibrator is born.

Female sexuality is still largely taboo in many ways even more than a century later. Our country is just as prudish as Victorians when it comes to women having sex, let alone enjoying it. Even discussing the subject is thought to be perversion. I personally don’t get why but I guess that I’m just slow on the uptake. The movie has a wonderful opportunity to talk about this subject and give it some weight.

Sadly, the filmmakers choose to make it more of a lighthearted farce than an examination of the attitudes towards women in general and their sexuality in particular. Still, the movie does at least invite conversation on the subject which is at least something. It also has the brilliant Maggie Gyllenhaal who takes a movie that occasionally loses focus and gives it life and energy. While occasionally the role of Charlotte becomes strident, Gyllenhaal gives her enough soul to make her sympathetic rather than irritating.

Everett and Pryce, both veterans who are normally counted on for fine performances, give a decent go of it but Dancy who has had some pretty good turns on both the small screen and the big is largely colorless here which is kind of odd for him. If he’d had half the energy Gyllenhaal did this would have been a movie contending for year-end awards. As it is, it is a movie that has some moments both of pathos and humor with a modicum of thought-provoking on the side. Even despite the movie’s flaws that’s still a recipe for success in my book.

WHY RENT THIS: Gyllenhaal is likable indeed and Smith is fabulously sexy here.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Trivializes the subject a bit. Too low-key.

FAMILY VALUES: As you would guess from the subject matter, there is plenty of sexuality and sexual references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The original electromechanical vibrator was portable but required a wet cell battery that weighed 40 pounds.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: An abridged documentary on the female orgasm as well as a Q&A session with Dancy, Wexler and Pryce at the Tribeca Film Festival.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $9.5M on an unreported production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Kinsey

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: Real Genius

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A Dangerous Method


Viggo Mortensen is not amused at Michael Fassbender's knock-knock jokes.

Viggo Mortensen is not amused at Michael Fassbender’s knock-knock jokes.

(2011) Historical Drama (Sony Classics) Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon, Andre M. Hennicke, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Mignon Reme, Mareike Carriere, Franziska Arndt, Wladimir Matuchin, Andre Dietz, Anna Thalbach, Sarah Marecek, Bjorn Geske, Markus Haase, Nina Azizi. Directed by David Cronenberg

 

These days, psychoanalysis is part of the landscape. A fairly high percentage of people have utilized the services of a mental health care professional, and many undergo regular treatment. We have come to accept that talking out our problems is far healthier than repressing them.

In 1904, that wasn’t the case. A screaming, hysterical young woman named Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) is brought by carriage to the Burghölzli Hospital in Switzerland. She is seen to by Dr. Carl Jung (Fassbender), a gentle, handsome doctor whose rich (and gorgeous) wife (Gadon) keeps him in a lifestyle to his liking while he explores a science in its infancy and one that, frankly, doesn’t pay well. He becomes intrigued by Sabina’s case and is eager to try out the new “talking therapy” being championed by Dr. Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) in Vienna.

The sessions seem to help and soon Jung, who had been corresponding with Freud about the case, becomes a believer in the Vienna intellectual’s work. That correspondence grows into mutual respect and eventually, a friendship. However, that friendship doesn’t endure. Jung has some misgivings about Freud’s reliance on the sexual for explanations of human behavior. When he sends Dr. Otto Gross (Cassel), a colleague, to Jung for psychoanalysis, the seeds of discord begin to be sown. Gross, a libertine of the highest order, becomes a confidant for Jung, who has begun to feel desire for Sabina, still his patient. Gross essentially gives Jung the go-ahead to initiate an affair with her.

Eventually, Jung’s intellect and compassion win out over his baser side and he breaks things off. Sabina goes to Vienna to study under Freud (and it seems, do a lot more under Freud) on the way to becoming one of the first women to practice psychoanalysis in the world.

Cronenberg has been fascinated with the terror of flesh in previous films; here he seeks to examine the terror of mind, disguising it as a Merchant-Ivory historical piece. Or perhaps, it’s the other way around. In any case, his fascination for the subject is clear.

The execution? Not so much. This is a dialogue-heavy movie – being based on a stage play, that’s unsurprising – and of course that it revolves largely around the birth of psychoanalysis also lends itself to a talky production. That doesn’t make it any less monotonous when the talking grows tedious. Now, I don’t have a problem with movies that are more conversational than action-oriented but the dialogue needs to at least be interesting. Often it comes off as intellectual posturing rather than delivering insight.

Fortunately, there are some pretty good performances. Mortensen, on his third collaboration with Cronenberg, gives Freud a bit of a less stodgy personality as he’s often assigned. Mortensen’s Freud is passionate, stubborn and maybe a little bit fixated on the sexual. Fassbender, in the midst of his breakout year, was brilliant as Jung; a bit timid and bookish but never reserved when it comes to his ideas. Cassel gets the memorable part of the libertine and runs with it, having a good time with a character who certainly thought he deserved it.

Much of the movie was filmed in the places where the events took place, lending an authenticity to the project. While the affair between Jung and Sabina is merely conjecture, most of the rest of the film is historically accurate with some of the dialogue coming directly from the letters and writings of the characters in the movie.

How you feel about the movie will largely depend on how you feel about psychoanalysis. There is some fascinating material here, particularly on how the workings of the science were arrived at and bitterly debated. That some of Jung’s ideas would later fuel the Nazi party (which is alluded to in a graphic and unforgettable sequence near the end of the film) is a tragedy that is laced with irony as many years after the events of the movie Sabina Spielrein would fall victim to the Nazis.

Perhaps if I saw this mid-afternoon when I was a little more alert I might have enjoyed this more, but it is a little dry. That doesn’t mean the ideas or discussions here aren’t worth listening to; there’s an intellectual stimulation here that’s rare in most movies and heaven knows I don’t want to discourage that. However, those who go to movies for big explosions, big breasts and big guns would be well-advised to steer clear of this one. Although what Freud would have made of those sorts of people would be amusing reading to say the least.

WHY RENT THIS: Fascinating material. Nice performances by Mortensen, Fassbender and Cassel.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Slow and monotonous in places.

FAMILY VALUES: There is quite a bit of sexual content and a smattering of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Cronenberg states on the director’s commentary that more CGI was used on this film than any other he has directed to this point.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a Q&A session with Cronenberg and an audience of American Film Institute students who’d just seen the film.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $27.5M on an $18.8M production budget; the movie didn’t quite recoup its production costs.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Henry & June

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: Beware the Gonzo

New Releases for the Week of June 15, 2012


June 15, 2012

ROCK OF AGES

(New Line) Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julianne Hough, Alec Baldwin, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige, Diego Boneta. Directed by Adam Shankman

A small town girl and a big city boy meet and fall in love to the soundtrack of classic rock at a Sunset Strip club that is in crisis. The club is in financial difficulties and is relying on the concert by superstar Stacy Jaxx to help them out of it, but they are beset by blue-nosed housewives protesting the debauchery of rock and roll in general and the club in particular. Just another Saturday night on the Strip, don’t you know.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Musical

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking, and language)

Hysteria

(Sony Classics) Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett. Back in the 19th century, women were often diagnosed with something called female hysteria, which had to do with basically being horny without being able to do anything about it. This would lead to the invention of the mechanical vibrator, the godsend of lonely housewives everywhere. This isn’t a true story – but there are some elements of the truth in it.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: R (for sexual content) 

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

(Indomina) Ice-T, Kanye West, Chuck D, Eminem. Actor-rapper Ice-T takes us on a personal journey into the roots of rap, the newest musical art form, and dissects the roots, speaking with a variety of artists about their creative process. Along the way he displays the cultural influences of rap music not only on the lives of the African-American community from where it originated, but on America as a whole.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: R (for pervasive language including sexual reference, and some drug content)

That’s My Boy

(Columbia) Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, James Caan. A 12-year-old boy has an affair with his teacher and gets her pregnant. She goes to jail, his parents disown him and he’s stuck raising a kid while being a kid himself. Years later, he’s never really grown up and is in trouble with the IRS for never having paid his income tax. He needs $40,000 or he’s going to jail himself. His now-grown kid is a wealthy man now and might be able to bail him out. His son is getting married and didn’t invite him – they’ve been estranged for years – so he’s going to have to do some relationship building in order to pull this off. Maybe along the way he’ll find some responsibility – and his uptight son might loosen up just a little bit.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

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

Four-Warned: May 2012


May 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. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (1.0)
2. MEN IN BLACK 3 (1.4)
3. THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (1.8)
4. DARK SHADOWS (1.9)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE INTOUCHABLES (1.2)
2. POLISSE (1.3)
3. DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (1.5)
4. 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (1.6)
TIE. HYSTERIA (1.6)

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

MAY 4, 2012

A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN (Millennium) Genre: Romance. An irreverent young woman with health issues falls in love with her doctor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a lot of different movies, but this one has the great Peter Dinklage in it.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. Seven English retirees lured to an Indian resort with the promise of posh amenities arrive to find it not quite ready for occupancy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks charming and fun from the trailer with a solid cast.
DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A young boy with a brilliant future as a graphic novelist discovers his life is in danger from a real life enemy. Release Strategy: Seattle only. RATING: 1.5 Andy Serkis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors; I hope this sees a more general or at least a limited release.
FIRST POSITION (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmakers follow six young ballet hopefuls through the trials and tribulations of one of America’s most prestigious ballet competitions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Kids chasing their dreams in the arts; haven’t we seen this before?
JANNAT 2 (FIP) Genre: Crime Thriller. A streetwise gun runner infiltrates a vicious gun smuggling ring to help the cops take it down but when he falls in love with a beautiful doctor everything is thrown into chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Trailer was a little disjointed; kinda looks cheesy.
LAST CALL AT THE OASIS (Participant/ATO) Genre: Documentary. Looks at the very real and grim possibility that in the not too distant future there may not be enough water to sustain life on this planet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very grim and haunting.
LOL (Lionsgate) Genre: Dramedy. A mother reads her daughter’s diary and realizes she doesn’t know her at all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Nice cast but a little bit heavy on the teen angst.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The world’s most powerful heroes must take on an alien invasion led by a disgraced god. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Long anticipated, finally here.
MEETING EVIL (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. A depressed unemployed family man offers to help a stranger with his car and becomes involved in a murder spree. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 They had me at Samuel L. Jackson.
MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) Genre: Horror. A sadistic mom and her bank robbing sons take control at a birthday party held at their former home, terrorizing the new residents. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 I don’t think this has anything to do with the 80s slasher film of the same name.
THE PERFECT FAMILY (Variance) Genre: Drama. A matriarch up for the Catholic Woman of the Year award tries to get her dysfunctional family to pull it together. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles May 11). RATING: 2.2 Kathleen Turner gives what looks to be a marvelous performance.

MAY 9, 2012

PATIENCE: AFTER SEBALD (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A group of artists and writers interpret the work of W.G. Sebald, one of the 20th century’s most challenging writers. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Black and white images and music pass by while the text is being read; just shoot me now.

MAY 11, 2012

A BAG OF HAMMERS (MPI Media Group) Genre: Caper Drama. A pair of charming con artists find themselves “adopted” by a neglected young boy and consequently their world view begins to change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks very indie but not in a good way.
THE CUP (Myriad) Genre: True Sports Drama. A rising star in the Australian horse racing world must decide whether to participate in the prestigious Melbourne Cup race days after his brother dies in a tragic accident. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.8 Even though this put goosebumps on me, I still couldn’t help thinking “Gee, another inspirational sports story.”
DANGEROUS ISHHQ (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Thriller. A supermodel whose wealthy industrialist boyfriend has been kidnapped must rescue him before time runs out – and the clues to his freedom lay in her past lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Not typical Bollywood fare but definitely shows some visual flair.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Gothic Comedy. A vampire is inadvertently released from captivity in the 1970s after centuries of imprisonment. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 The legendary 60s gothic soap opera as reinvented by Tim Burton – what’s not to love?
DRAGON EYES (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A town ruled by gangs and corrupt police vie for the services of a newly arrived martial arts phenom, but he has another agenda in mind. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 While it does have the great JCVD, the trailer makes him look like more of a cameo and the film like a B movie Walking Tall clone.
EL GRINGO (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A violent thief crosses the border into Mexico with his ill-gotten gains, intending to live out his life on a beach with the rest of it but the townspeople have other ideas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Certainly a riff on El Mariachi but why not take from the best?
GIRL IN PROGRESS (Pantelion) Genre: Coming of Age. A single mom immersed in her career and in the affections of a co-worker fails to notice her own teen daughter’s move into adulthood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The tagline “Lessons in motherhood – taught by a kid” sure doesn’t help this movie’s cause any.
GOD BLESS AMERICA (Magnet) Genre: Black Comedy. A man, tired of rudeness, crudeness and the cult of personality goes on a killing spree aided by an eager teen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Caught Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest at the Florida Film Festival – read my review here.
HICK (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A small town girl with big dreams hitchhiking to Las Vegas runs into some shady characters on the way there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Neal Cassady.
I WISH (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young Japanese boy separated from his brother by divorce dreams of a miracle that he believes will happen when bullet trains on a new line pass each other at full speed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From acclaimed director Hirokazu Kareeda comes this look at fractured families and faith.
NESTING (Steele) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A 30-something couple, fearing the loss of their relevance, squats in their old apartment with unforeseen consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Kind of like John Hughes in reverse.
THE PHILLY KID (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A former wrestling champion, fresh out of prison, takes up underground MMA fighting to help his best friend get out of debt and winds up in more trouble than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Another *yawn* underground fighting movie.
PORTRAIT OF WALLY (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. Egon Schiele’s painting Portrait of Wally, the pride of the Leopold Gallery in Austria, becomes the focus of a legal battle which brings light to bear on Nazi art looting and the ramifications of private collectors vs. public museums. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very complex case that deserves a serious examination which I hope this documentary gives it.
THE ROAD (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. When a cold case of three teenagers who disappeared on a country road is re-examined, it’s discovered that there is more to that stretch of road than meets the eye. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks deliciously creepy and sensationally scary.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Thriller. A previously honest cop steals a bag of cocaine from a vicious drug dealer who kidnaps his son and demands the drugs back in exchange. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like a non-stop top notch action film.
SMALL BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (Long Shot Factory) Genre: Comedy. An anxious pregnant technophile goes on a road trip to meet her technophobic mom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The trailer has some wonderful heart; this is inspired by the syndicated web series “Sparks.”
STASH HOUSE (After Dark Action) Genre: Suspense. A family moves into a new home only to discover that a stash of heroin is stored in its walls – and the criminals want it back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Generic home/fortress action flick.
TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. During a big music festival, a star performer is handcuffed to a brand new performer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Could have an excess of indie preciousness.
TRANSIT (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A man returns home after serving out a tax evasion sentence goes on a camping trip to reunite his family, but discovers that they are being pursued by four ruthless killers after the stolen money they hid in his family’s car. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Jim Caviezel is moving higher on my list after his work on “Person of Interest” this year.
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (A&E Indie) Genre: Musical Documentary. Paul Simon in making the album Graceland defied a UN ban to work with South African artists; 25 years later he returns to South Africa and discusses the fallout of his actions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has the potential to examine an art vs. politics question that rarely gets examined.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in a Lebanese village of Muslims and Christians try to hold on to peace when tensions threaten to bring violence back to the village. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Charming and heartrending at once.

MAY 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A heavy-handed dictator of an Arab nation goes to New York City to address the UN. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’ve never really been a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen but this one looks like it could have potential.
ELENA (Zeitgeist) Genre: Thriller. A golddigging Russian wife hatches a scheme to maintain her inheritance. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Looks veritably Hitchcockian and the Philip Glass score doesn’t hurt.

MAY 18, 2012

AMERICAN ANIMAL (Screen Media) Genre: Fantasy. A young man whose roommate is moving out tries to get him to stay in one night of partying. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 From the trailer, seems to promote the idea that crazy is better. Crazy is just crazy.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. Naval vessels are trapped in an ocean-based alien invasion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Alien invasion films have been remarkably bad of late; this doesn’t seem to be much better based on what I’ve seen.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery. A young woman in the 1980s undergoes experimental therapy that opens up new vistas but threatens her sanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit avant garde.
CROOKED ARROWS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Sports Drama. A coach at a primarily Native American school leads the lacrosse team to a State championship game against their prep school rivals. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Meant to be an allegory on the treatment of aboriginals in South America.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The story of one of fashion’s most influential figures of the 20th century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 As I’ve said before, fashion is a subject that I’m absolutely not interested in.
FOLLOW ME: THE YONI NETANYAHU STORY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The tale of the young soldier who led the Israeli commandos on the Raid on Entebbe. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Sounds kind of interesting but at the same time maybe has a bit of an agenda.
HYSTERIA (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The story of the guy who invented the vibrator, a man whom many lonely housewives should bless. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks hysterically funny (pun intended) and has a great cast.
LOVELY MOLLY (Image) Genre: Thriller. A young newlywed returns to her childhood home only to have the memories of her past abuse creep back – and maybe something else as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The newest from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez – but it’s nothing like that film.
MANSOME (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock takes a look at modern male grooming in the age of metrosexuality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The newest from the suddenly prolific Morgan Spurlock looks kind of irreverent and fun.
POLISSE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. This intense Cesar-nominated film follows the daily lives of the police Child Protection Unit in Paris. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Gritty, heartbreaking, intense and funny – could be one of the best films of the year judging from the trailer.
THE SAMARITAN (IFC) Genre: Action. A grifter trying to make a new life after a 25-year prison stint is ensnared by his old life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With Samuel M*****F****** L. Jackson in the house, that’s all I need to hear.
VIRGINIA (EOne) Genre: Drama. A single mom’s life gets harder when her affair with the married sheriff threatens to become exposed in an election year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks kinda offbeat but with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly in the cast, you can’t go wrong.
WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Five couples discover that their lives become much more complicated once they get pregnant. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 A strong ensemble cast but looks kinda weak in the humor department.

MAY 25, 2012

THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Genre: Horror. A group of “extreme tourists” visit Chernobyl and when their van breaks down quickly discover that the town and plant aren’t quite as deserted as they were led to believe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 From the creators of the Paranormal Activity series this looks balls-out scary.
COWGIRLS ‘N ANGELS (Goldwyn) Genre: Family. A little girl searching for her absent dad (a rodeo rider) is brought into the Sweethearts of the Rodeo after displaying skills as a trick rider. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 A little bit – shall we say – over-sweet.
HIDE AWAY (MMC Joule) Genre: Drama. A broken once-successful businessman tries to turn his life around by refurbishing a dilapidated boat in an idyllic seaside village. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds kinda maudlin but SXSW doesn’t usually book maudlin.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Genre: Limited. A disabled French man develops an unexpected bond with his caregiver, an ex-con with an unusually upbeat attitude. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A box office record-holder in France, this was a big hit at the recent Florida Film Festival.
MEN IN BLACK 3 (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. Agent J must go back in time and save Agent K and correct the time line or the Earth is doomed. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks like one of the big hits of the summer.
MIGHTY FINE (Adopt) Genre: Dramedy. A man relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970s in search of a better life. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 Why cast Chazz Palminteri as a Jewish man? Aren’t there enough Jewish actors?
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A New England town in 1965 is turned upside down when a pair of kids run away into the woods when a big storm is brewing. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.0 Doesn’t sound like a romantic comedy but with Wes Anderson in the director’s chair anything can happen.
OSLO, AUGUST 31 (Strand) Genre: Thriller. An alcoholic gets a day pass out of rehab in order to go to a job interview in Oslo but the pressures of the day and of family and friends puts his sobriety in jeopardy. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.

MAY 30, 2012

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A documentarian and a farmer together decide to document five years in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 The title refers to five cameras during the course of the filming of the documentary that were shot or broken by Israeli soldiers.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Marvel’s The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Where Do We Go Now?, Battleship, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Lovely Molly, The Intouchables, Men in Black 3