Bone Tomahawk


Kurt Russell knows how to make an entrance.

Kurt Russell knows how to make an entrance.

(2015) Western (RLJ Entertainment) Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, Sean Young, David Arquette, Evan Jonigkeit, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Morris, Michael Paré, James Tolkan, Geno Segers, Zahn McClarnon, Brandon Molale, Jamison Newlander, Omar Levya, Eddie Spears, David Midthunder, Raw Leiba, Marem Hassler. Directed by S. Craig Zahler

Love can be wonderful; a tender feeling of caring and compassion. But love can also be a terrible burden. If it requires us to go somewhere dangerous, then we go, heart heavy and maybe even terrified, but we go nonetheless.

Arthur O’Dwyer (Wilson) and his wife Sam (Simmons) are deeply in love. They live in the small town of Bright Hope, on the edge of the prairie near forbidding hills where even the cattle trails that Arthur uses as a cattle driver fail to go. She’s a bit of a nag, not letting him forget that she warned him not to go repair the roof in the middle of a storm. Per her warning, he fell off the roof and broke his leg, forcing him into essential confinement to bed. This is the Old West, after all, and men did what they had to do.

Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) also does what he has to do and that might involve shooting a drifter (Arquette) in the leg when he acts a little squirrelly. Because the town doctor is in his cups, Sam is summoned to remove the bullet from the drifter’s leg (she evidently has some sort of medical training). When she doesn’t return home, Arthur becomes a bit concerned.

Deputy Chicory (Jenkins) returns to the Sheriff’s office to discover everyone missing, including Deputy Nick (Jonigkeit). The evidence of a struggle includes a strange bone arrow at the scene. The local expert on Native Americans (Midthunder) tells them that it is from a tribe that isn’t even a tribe – it is in fact not exactly human. He refers to them as troglodytes and asserts that they eat the flesh of humans. He only knows they reside in something called The Valley of the Hungry Men.

A posse is formed. Sheriff Hunt is obligated to go, and even a broken leg won’t keep Arthur away. Deputy Chicory is ordered to stay behind but he refuses to; someone else can watch over Bright Hope while the Sheriff is away. Finally, dapper gambler John Brooder (Fox) also offers to go; he had escorted Mrs. O’Dwyer to the jail and feels obligated to assist in her rescue.

&Even on horseback it will take three days to get to the Valley if they can find it. The way there will be anything but safe, as bandits and bushwackers lurk in the hills. And when they finally get there, the men will be up against something they’ve never seen before – and are woefully unprepared to fight.

Russell is also starring in another Western opening up this winter, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and has found success in other Westerns – Tombstone comes to mind immediately. The plot has a little bit of The Searchers in it, but the similarity ends there; this is more of a mash-up between horror and Western than the traditional John Wayne horse opera.

Russell is at his best here, rough and ready in the saddle and apt to shoot first and ask questions later. His is the iconic taciturn lawman whose moral compass steers towards what’s right rather than what’s convenient. Fox, who is a decent actor who hasn’t yet equaled his role on Lost, does some of his best work on the big screen here, as does Wilson who has found a career boost in horror films like The Conjuring and Insidious. Here, Wilson plays to type but not just that; there is an inner strength to the character that is absolutely unexpected and mesmerizing. Arthur’s dogged determination and refusal to give up despite having a broken leg speaks volumes of what it means to be a man in the West.

And lest we forget the horror element here, it is more or less an overtone, although there is an onscreen kill here that is as brutal and as shocking as any you’ll see in more overt horror films this year. There is plenty of blood and gore and brutality, and those who are on the squeamish side are well-advised to steer clear.

Zahler is better known as a novelist and a musician as he is as a director, but he does a bang-up job here. There isn’t really a false note in the movie and while some critics have sniped at the length of the movie (just over two hours), it never drags and it never feels long. He also has wonderful cinematography to fall back of thanks to Benji Bakshi whose name should be on a lot of rolodexes after this.

It is unlikely the Western will ever go back to its level of popularity that it enjoyed back in the 1950s but it will never completely die. Movies like this one insure that the Western will always be around as a genre, and remind us that there can always be something new made of a time-tested cinematic formula.

REASONS TO GO: Well-acted. Exceptional cinematography. Captures the frontier mentality.
REASONS TO STAY: Excessive gore might put some off.
FAMILY VALUES: Brutal, bloody violence, sexuality, graphic nudity and some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Russell authored a testimonial for Zahler’s second novel before this was cast.
BEYOND THEATERS: Amazon, iTunes
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/3/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 87% positive reviews. Metacritic: 71/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Cowboys and Aliens
FINAL RATING: 8.5/10
NEXT: Chi-Raq

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Insidious


Insidious

Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are skeptical this "breathing in the ear amplifier" will improve their sex lives.

(2011) Supernatural Horror (FilmDistrict) Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Lyn Shaye, Andrew Astor, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Corbett Tuck, Heather Tocquigny, Ruben Pla, John Henry Binder, Joseph Bishara, Philip Friedman. Directed by James Wan

The things that happen to us when we sleep are mysterious, even with all the technology at our disposal. Nobody really knows what awaits us when we close our eyes.

At first glance things look pretty good for Josh Lambert (Wilson) and his wife Renai (Byrne) – pronounced “Renee” but spelled differently. They have just moved into a pretty spiffy old house. Josh works as a math teacher at the local high school – or is that college? We’re never really sure. I’m betting the latter because it’s a really spiffy house and Renai isn’t working. Well, she’s writing songs…but she’s also unpacking, taking care of two energetic young boys and a baby. Okay, she’s working harder than Josh is.

But there are some odd things going on. Things are being moved around. There are odd sounds that can be heard at night. Things disappear. Of course, some of it might be due to the chaos of moving. The sounds, well, it’s an old house, spiffy as it is.

Then things turn darker. Their eldest son Dalton (Simpkins) takes a tumble in the attic. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be anything particularly serious; a little bump on the noggin. But he doesn’t wake up the next morning and nothing can rouse him from his slumber.

The doctors can’t explain it. His tumble didn’t produce any brain trauma. There’s no inflammation, no infection, nothing that would explain his coma, but he is most assuredly in one. After a few months of fruitless tests, the boy is sent home to lie in his own bed. A home nurse (Tuck) explains to Renai how to lubricate his feeding tube while Renai muses how the universe must be testing her to see how far she’ll bend before she breaks. It’s an honest moment but the universe isn’t done with her yet.

Things go from bad to worse. The paranormal activity in the house increases. Sinister figures are half-glimpsed and then fully seen. Things don’t just go bump in the night, they go CRASH BANG!!! Security alarms go off without reason, while the security company that installed them doesn’t respond.

So they do what any sensible family would do. They move. Josh’s mom Lorraine (Hershey) welcomes them to the neighborhood. Renai is relieved; at last the nightmare is over. But it’s not – it’s just beginning. The apparitions are showing up in the new place, more menacing and more solid than ever. At last, the couple in desperation calls a psychic that Lorraine recommends – Elise Rainier (Shaye). But before she shows up, she sends a couple of paranormal experts – Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson), who show up with elaborate homemade equipment. The looks on the face of Josh and Renai are pretty easy to read although they’re polite.

Then Elise herself shows up and makes the pronouncement that it isn’t the house that’s haunted, its Dalton. You see, apparently he astral projects at night while he’s asleep and like most young boys, he goes a little farther than he’s supposed to, ending up in a realm she calls The Further (yes, it’s capitalized). That’s where people go when they die. That’s where Dalton is. That’s where dear old dad has to go to fetch him (you see, Dalton inherited his skills). And Josh needs to do it fast; there are some real bad dudes out there who have plans for Dalton’s empty shell of a body.

The movie was written and directed by the team who did the same for the Saw series, and produced by the guy who directed Paranormal Activities, so the pedigree is good. Wan does a good job bringing out the chills and that all-important sense of dread that haunted house movies need to have in order to be successful.

He’s got a decent cast to work with. Wilson is most often cast as a baddie but here he plays a troubled father with a skeleton in his own closet (and yes, that’s pretty literal) who is weak in moments when he should be strong. That makes him a little bit more likable in an odd way – he’s like, normal and not some Hollywood superdad. Byrne’s best scenes come early after which she’s mostly supposed to scream, cry and beg. She can do hysterical as well as anybody can.

For my money, Shaye steals the show as the psychic who is something of a nod to Zelda Rubinstein in Poltergeist. She knows far more about the afterlife than anybody alive, and is able to reach into the other dimension and communicate. Like Rubinstein, she knows trouble when she sees it and is well aware the other side has some things in it that should stay there – not that they’ll stop trying to cross over at any opportunity mind you. Whannell (who wrote the script) and Sampson add much-appreciated comic relief, looking at magnetic fields through View Masters. Priceless, I tell you.

Now, despite the twist (which is given away in the trailer so I don’t have a problem revealing it here) that I thought could have really been a game-changer much the way the twist in The Sixth Sense was, the movie doesn’t really add too much to the genre. What happens is that Elise Rainier goes off to explain the Further in great detail, with a whole lot of paranormal technobabble until all you can do is throw your popcorn at the screen and yell “enough!” The movie would have worked better without the explanation and left the cast to work it out on their own. I also thought the sending of the dad in to fetch his son was a little too reminiscent of JoBeth Williams going into the closet to rescue the late Heather O’Rourke from the light – I half expected Wilson and Byrne to start calling “Carol Ann!” in reference to the character.

Even with all that, this is still a crackerjack of a horror flick. It scares you properly; none of these false scares or red herrings; they come right at you and put the horror right in your face where it’s supposed to be. There’s no overt gore (although there are certainly some disturbing images of dead things) and the movie is the better for it. The humans act like rational people other than a couple of slight miscues but still in all this is as good a horror movie as I’ve seen for awhile.

REASONS TO GO: Some very effective scares and a nice performance for Shaye. Some of the off-beat humor is very welcome.

REASONS TO STAY: Doesn’t really add too much to the haunted house genre and the twist is mostly a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

FAMILY VALUES: There are plenty of creepy images and big time scares, as well as some foul language. The overall theme that involves a child vulnerable to demonic possession might be way too much for small children.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first release from the new distribution company FilmDistrict.

HOME OR THEATER: While the big scary noises do enhance the movie and work best in a theater, the intimate nature of the movie is just fine at home.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Cold Souls

Four-Warned: April 2011


April 2011

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 perceived or otherwise 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. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (1.3)
2. INSIDIOUS (1.7)
3. HANNA (1.8)
4. SOURCE CODE (1.9)
TIE. THE CONSPIRATOR (1.9)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. 13 ASSASSINS (1.5)
2. INCENDIES (1.6)
3. IN A BETTER WORLD (1.8)
TIE. MEEK’S CUTOFF (1.8)

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

APRIL 1, 2011

CAT RUN (LLeju) Genre: Action Comedy. A pair of amateur detectives stumbles onto a high-profile case that has everyone gunning for them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Director John Stockwell is usually pretty reliable.
CIRCO (First Run) Genre: Documentary. A family that has run a Mexican circus for generations is torn apart by the economic realities of the time and family squabbling. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 8). RATING: 2.8 Sometimes, the show shouldn’t go on.
HOP (Universal) Genre: Live Action/Animated Family Comedy. A slacker bunny who is meant to inherit the title of Easter Bunny longs to be a drummer instead. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 The trailer reminded me uncomfortably of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
IN A BETTER WORLD (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A doctor working in an African refugee camp and his son back home in Denmark must make a choice between vengeance and forgiveness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
INSIDIOUS (FilmDistrict) Genre: Horror. After moving into an old house, the small boy of a young couple falls into a coma and appears to be the portal allowing demonic creatures into the world. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 The writer-director team behind Saw look to scare up a new franchise.
THE LAST GODFATHER (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Martial Arts Comedy. The don of a powerful Mafia family in 1951 announces the heir to his empire – the illegitimate son of an Asian romance, which doesn’t sit well with the other full-blooded Italian members of the family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Korea has been churning out some really wonderful movies lately – but this doesn’t look like one of them.
QUEEN TO PLAY (Zeitgeist) Genre: Drama. A Corsican chambermaid with a talent for chess meets an American doctor to help develop her game, transforming both their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Kevin Kline is one of my all-time favorite actors; I’ll see anything he’s in regardless of how good or bad it sounds.
RUBBER (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A discarded tire unexpectedly grows sentient and finds it has the ability to destroy things with merely a thought and finds itself amused by destroying humans. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A very innovative concept and a movie that looks to be one of the most fun events of the year.
SOURCE CODE (Summit) Genre: Sci-Fi Action. A decorated soldier is projected into the body of a man killed in a bombing eight minutes before it happened in order to find out who did it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 From the director of Moon, this looks extremely promising.
SUPER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Superhero Comedy. A man whose wife leads him for a supervillain decides to adopt the persona of a superhero. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 I blow hot and cold on Rainn Wilson but the trailer looks suh-weet.
TRUST (Millennium) Genre: Drama. The lives of a suburban family are turned upside down when the teenage daughter meets an online boyfriend and discovers he isn’t who he claimed to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 An outstanding cast (including Clive Owens as the dad) and a timely premise make this one to watch for.
TWO GATES OF SLEEP (Borderline) Genre: Drama. A pair of brothers seeks to bury their recently deceased mother on the banks of the river she loved so much. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Could be a movie that will be insightful and affecting – will have to wait and see the trailer to figure out if I really want to see it.

APRIL 6, 2011

BLANK CITY (Insurgent Media) Genre: Documentary. A chronicle of the underground Super 8 scene in the Manhattan of the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.9 I just never got into this scene and the fact that it’s only being released in New York gives you an idea of the appeal.

APRIL 8, 2011

AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (Variance) Genre: Documentary. The story of comedian and social commentator Bill Hicks who was felled by cancer at the young age of 32. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles April 15). RATING: 3.1 Hicks was one of the most memorable comedians of the late 80s and early 90s; he is sorely missed.
ARTHUR (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy. A ne’er-do-well heir to a billion-dollar fortune must decide between love and money. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 I would have cast Russell Brand in the title role as well; question is, did this need remaking?
BORN TO BE WILD (Warner Brothers) Genre: Nature Documentary. This documents the dedicated people who save orphaned elephants and orangutans, and trains them to be released back into the wild. Release Strategy: IMAX only. RATING: 2.8 The success of the DisneyNature series was bound to inspire imitators.
CEREMONY (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A man tries to rekindle the romance with an old flame who is getting married to someone else. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked pretty intriguing.
EXODUS FALL (Oakhurst) Genre: Family. Two teenage boys mean to rescue their sibling who is autistic and reunite their family with their grandmother. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 4.0 No. Just no.
HANNA (Focus) Genre: Thriller. A little girl is genetically created and raised to be the perfect assassin, but finds herself the target of a shadowy government agency. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Excellent cast and terrific trailer makes this one of the month’s most anticipated releases.
HENRY’S CRIME (Moving Pictures) Genre: Caper Comedy. After doing time for a bank robbery he didn’t commit, an amiable young man decides to rob one for real with the aid of his mentor and an amateur actress he’s fallen for. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 15). RATING: 2.4 A very strong cast with a premise that is quite intriguing.
MEEK’S CUTOFF (Oscilloscope) Genre: Western. A group of pioneers travelling the Oregon Trail must decide between a guide who has been proven untrustworthy and a Native American, who they’ve been raised to believe is their enemy and not even truly human. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 An acclaimed indie director takes on a genre that could use some fresh blood.
MEET MONICA VELOUR (Anchor Bay) Genre: Sex Comedy. A teenager sets off on a road trip to meet the porn star he has a crush on, only to find something unexpected. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer is very appealing, a mixture of sexy and sweet.
MEETING SPENCER (Paladin) Genre: Comedy. A has-been theater director tries to put together financing for his comeback production during the course of a single night at Frankie and Johnny’s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 A somewhat loving tribute to the Great White Way.
NO ERES TU, SOY YO (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple from Argentina plan to start a new life in Miami. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A remake of the 2004 comedy It’s Not You, It’s Me.
SOUL SURFER (Tri-Star) Genre: True Sports Drama. A young female surfer who loses her arm in a shark attack determines to become a champion surfer once again despite having the use of only one arm. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’m not a big surfing fan but I must admit the story sounds compelling.
YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) Genre: Fantasy Comedy. A ne’er do well prince must help his brother on a quest to rescue his betrothed from an evil wizard. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 The trailer makes the movie look a bit raunchy; could be a big disappointment.

APRIL 13, 2011

A SCREAMING MAN (Film Movement) Genre: Drama. A former swimming medalist who now cares for a pool in a civil war-torn African country tries to reconnect with his son after losing his job to a younger man. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 This won the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

APRIL 15, 2011

ARMADILLO (Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Danish soldiers in Afghanistan violate the rules of engagement and allow their testosterone to overrule their sense and compassion. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Created quite a controversy when it was released in Denmark.
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I (Rocky Mountain) Genre: Drama. Idealistic industrialists take on a corrupt American system in which innovators and mavericks are disappearing. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Ayn Rand’s watershed novel is as relevant now as it was in 1957 when she wrote it.
THE CONSPIRITOR (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Historical Drama. In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination, innkeeper Mary Surratt is put on trial for conspiracy; her lawyer comes to believe she’s being railroaded. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Robert Redford directs a tremendous cast; looks to be an early Oscar contender.
THE DOUBLE HOUR (Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. A couple who meet on a speed date are placed in danger when they go on a relaxing weekend trip and their past begins to catch up with them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.7 Eva Green is indeed beautiful and sexy, but a prim girls school teacher?
FOOTPRINTS (Paladin) Genre: Mystery. A mysterious woman awakens at the Chinese Theater with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.7 A great premise but then the synopsis starts making allusions to a waking dream which always makes me think “artsy fartsy”.
THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! (IFC) Genre: Mystery. An Arab-American woman in post-911 Manhattan meets a fascinating PhD student from Mexico and becomes embroiled in a romance that is charming but weird. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.6 Conspiracy theories run cheek by jowl with cultural idiosyncrasies here.
THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER (IFC/Sundance Selects) Genre: Period Drama. A princess tries to survive the ruthless power games of the court in a time of civil war in 16th Century France. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 Bertrand Tavernier is one of the premiere filmmakers in France; any movie he directs is worth seeking out.
RIO (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. A rare breed of parrot is sent down from a pampered existence as a pet to Rio to be bred and winds up in an exciting adventure. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Yet another opportunity to market toys and Happy Meals.
SCREAM 4 (Dimension) Genre: Horror. Sidney Prescott once again does battle with Ghostface. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 I wonder if audiences will flock back after a nearly decade-long absence of the franchise.
SQUARE GROUPER: THE GODFATHERS OF GANJA (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A look at the marijuana smuggling culture in Miami in the 1970s and the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 4.0 I don’t think I could be any less interested.
TO DIE LIKE A MAN (Strand) Genre: Musical Fantasy. A drag queen having difficulty going through with a sex change operation enters an enchanted forest. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 Those crazy drag queens and their fantasies – sounds like a Vegas revue!!

APRIL 22, 2011

AFRICAN CATS (DisneyNature) Genre: Nature Documentary. Two families – one lion, one cheetah – try to survive on the wild African plains. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 The latest Earth Day release by Disney’s nature documentary arm will at least have lively narration from Samuel L. Jackson.
THE BANG BANG CLUB (Tribeca) Genre: True Life Drama. A quartet of photojournalists chronicle the last days of apartheid at great risk and great personal cost. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 A terrific trailer and an intriguing concept equals a movie to keep an eye out for.
COUGAR HUNTING (Aspen Entertainment Group) Genre: Sex Comedy. A trio of recent college grads, unlucky with girls their own age, decides to go cougar-chasing in Aspen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 The trailer for this looked really bad – direct-to-video bad.
DEEP GOLD (Bigfoot Entertainment) Genre: Action Adventure. When the boyfriend of a world champion free diver disappears, she is drawn into a world of mystery and intrigue to try and discover what happened to him. Release Strategy: Wide (I’m unfamiliar with this distributor and while it’s possible this will see wide release, I wouldn’t necessarily count on it either). RATING: 3.7 Looks like a movie made in the Philippines that is about up to our direct-to-video standards here.
DUM MAARO DUM (Fox STAR) Genre: Drama. The lives of five people will intersect at the Goa airport and change their lives forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 Seems to be a crime and punishment type of thriller; not having seen a trailer, I’m not sure how this will turn out.
DUMBSTRUCK (Truly Indie) Genre: Documentary. World-class ventriloquists descend on a small Kentucky town for a convention. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles April 29). RATING: 3.4 Could be worth seeing if there are some decent character studies but the trailer doesn’t really get that across.
INCENDIES (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. The passing of their mother prompts a pair of twins to go to the Middle East to find out the story of the mother they thought they knew. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Recipient of an Oscar nomination, this looks amazing.
LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (Variance) Genre: Martial Arts. A masked fighter tries to get justice for the people of Shanghai in the 1920s when foreign interests threaten to tear it asunder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Even though the hero is dressed a bit like Kato, there are some wonderful martial arts sequences in the trailer.
POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. Bad Boy Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock tries to get corporate product placement to pay for his film, showing how pervasive the practice is in Hollywood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The trailer looked hella funny.
STAKE LAND (IFC) Genre: Horror. A nun leads a group of survivors of a devastating war between men and vampires towards what they hope is safety. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sounds a little bit like it’s from the same world as Priest.
TIED TO A CHAIR (Process Studio Theater) Genre: Comedy. A housewife decides to return to her acting career and is embroiled in a series of increasingly dangerous mishaps. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Quite frankly, the trailer looked amateurish.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (Lionsgate) Genre: Urban Comedy. The health problems of Madea’s niece Shirley take a back seat to the problems of her children. Leave it to Madea to sort things right!. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.6 I wonder if the series is losing a bit of steam?
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Drama. A penniless veterinary student falls in with a second-rate travelling circus during the Depression, where he falls in love with the wife of the ruthless, unbalanced ringleader. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 From the looks of the trailer one of the movies I’m looking forward to most this month.
WHEN HARRY TRIES TO MARRY (108 Pics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young Indian-American bachelor, traumatized by his parent’s divorce goes the arranged marriage route only to fall in love with another. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 These Indian culture clash movies can be awfully good, or awfully dreary – not sure which one this falls under.
ZOKKOMON (UTV) Genre: Superhero. An orphan, abandoned by his cruel uncle, journeys to transform himself into a superhero. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Apparently Disney released this in India, where it was made with pretty sharp production values.

APRIL 27, 2011

THE ARBOR (Strand) Genre: Documentary. The life and times of British playwright Andrea Dunbar, who enjoyed a brief meteoric rise in the 1980s after emerging from the slums, only to die at the age of 29 of a brain hemorrhage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Uses unusual storytelling techniques to tell her story; not sure if I like it yet or not.

APRIL 29, 2011

13 ASSASSINS (Magnet) Genre: Martial Arts. A group of unemployed samurai try to prevent a sadistic feudal lord plunge their country into war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 The great Takashi Miike directed this, a departure from his usual horror films.
BRIDE FLIGHT (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A trio of women immigrates from post-World War II Holland to New Zealand to begin new lives with their fiancées; their lives will intersect, along with the dashing pilot of their flight, for the next 50 years. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 There is a soap opera feel to it, but the trailer is awfully compelling.
CAVES OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmaker Werner Herzog leads an expedition into the Chauvet Cave in France, home to some of the most compelling cave drawings in the world and a place rarely allowed to be photographed or filmed. Release Strategy: Limited (3D). RATING: 2.7 Herzog has become a wonderful documentarian and this might well be his crowning achievement.
DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (Omni/FSR) Genre: Horror Comedy. A living detective in New York City specializes in cases involving the undead. Release Strategy: Wide (Again, this is a distributor I’m unfamiliar with so this may not be opening in every city). RATING: 3.4 A European comic is given the Hollywood treatment which may serve to alienate moviegoers on both continents.
EARTHWORK (Shadow Distribution) Genre: Biographical Drama. The life of crop artist (those are folks who use soil, rocks and plants to make environmental art pieces) Stan Herd is examined through the preparation of a single installation. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles May 20). RATING: 3.4 Even though John Hawkes, an actor I respect, is starring, not sure how enthusiastic I am to see this.
EXPORTING RAYMOND (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. Phil Rosenthal, the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” is called to Russia to help adapt his show for Russian television and discovers a culture clash bigger than Hollywood and Main Street. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The trailer looked pretty interesting – fish out of water documentaries are like catnip to me.
FAST FIVE (Universal) Genre: Action. Players from the first four Fast and Furious movies create an all-star crew for their biggest heist ever. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 2.8 Vin Diesel vs. Dwayne Johnson? I’m down!
HOODWINKED TOO!: HOOD VS EVIL (Weinstein) Genre: Animated Feature. The covert Sisters of the Hood team take on a wicked witch who has kidnapped Hansel and Gretel. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard and 3D). RATING: 3.1 Oft-delayed usually doesn’t bode well.
PROM (Disney) Genre: Teen. As prom approaches, all sorts of drama ensues. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 Teens and drama? NO! Who’da thought?
ROAD TO NOWHERE (Monterey Media) Genre: Thriller. A young actress with an eerie resemblance to a murder suspect is cast in a movie about the crime leading to unexpected revelations. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has a little of that Laura-esque quality to the concept.
THE ROBBERS (Kino International) Genre: Drama. A noted Austrian marathon runner has a double life as a bank robber. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 Based on a true story, albeit fictionalized.
SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS (Maya Entertainment) Genre: Drama. A paralyzed DJ in Los Angeles mysteriously develops the power to heal. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 This is the directorial debut for actor Mark Ruffalo who also acts in it.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Hop, Source Code, Born to Be Wild, Hanna, The Conspirator, Rio, African Cats, Arthur, Water for Elephants

New Releases for the Week of April 1, 2011


 

 

April 1, 2011

Yes, this rabbit plays drums. No, it isn't Thumper!

HOP

(Universal) James Marsden, Russell Brand (voice), Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, David Hasselhoff, Chelsea Handler, Hugh Laurie. Directed by Tim Hill

The teenage son of the Easter Bunny decides to take a powder for Hollywood rather than inherit the family business, as it were. While he wants nothing more than to be a drummer in a rock and roll band (which is proof of idiocy – who in their right minds wants to be the drummer?!?), he hooks up with a fellow slacker who accidentally hit him with his car. While his dad is out to retrieve his son and save Easter, teenager E.B. is “impressing” his new housemate by pooping jelly beans. You heard me right. The future of our species is now officially doomed.

See the trailer, interviews, featurettes, clips and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Animated/Live Action Family Film

Rating: PG (for some mild rude humor)

Insidious

(FilmDistrict) Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey. When a family moves into a new home, their young son falls into a coma shortly thereafter and the house is found to be possessed by evil spirits. After they do some digging, they come to the horrific realization that it wasn’t their house that is haunted. From the filmmakers responsible for the Saw series as well as Paranormal Activity, this is the first release for this new distribution company.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language)

Jane Eyre

(Focus) Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench. Once more Charlotte Bronte’s plucky heroine takes to the screen in search of the mysteries of Rochester, her employer and would-be love until the secrets of her past – and his present – collide in the kind of tragedy that makes bosoms swell and hearts weep.

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

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Drama

Rating: R (for some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content)

The Last Lions

(National Geographic) Jeremy Irons. A lioness and her two cubs struggle to survive in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, one of the last remaining homes of lions in the wild. The struggle of these individual lions is used as a metaphor for the struggle of all lions who are in danger of disappearing completely from the wild, causing a massive ecological catastrophe that we may never be able to recover from.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Nature Documentary

Rating: PG (for some violent images involving animal life)

The Source Code

(Summit) Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright. A decorated soldier is transported into the body of a man during the last eight minutes of his life in order to discover who was responsible for planting the bomb that killed him and many others in order to stop him from planting the next one. However, nobody counted on the soldier falling in love with a woman who died in the explosion.

See the trailer, interviews, featurettes, promos and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence including disturbing images and for language)