Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Rinko Kikuchi looks forward to a continued brilliant career.

Rinko Kikuchi looks forward to a continued brilliant career.

(2014) Drama (Amplify) Rinko Kikuchi, Noboyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Kanako Higashi, Ichi Kyokaku, Ayaka Ohnishi, Mayuko Kawakita, Takao Kinoshita, Yumiko Hioki, Natsuki Kanno, Brad Prather, Earl Milton, Madde Gibba, Phil Hall, Ravi Jasthi, Lucy Luu, Jim Wescott, John Edel, Fredrika Dukes, Kirsten Gregerson. Directed by David Zellner

Florida Film Festival 2015

We are all searching for something. Be it a spiritual goal, an esoteric concept or something concrete, we spend most of our lives in search of something. Usually that search is just a part of who we are, a means of achieving some sort of meaning. Sometimes, however, the search consumes us.

Kumiko (Kikuchi) is a Tokyo office lady, a kind of executive assistant. Like many things in the world of Japanese business, her role is heavily choreographed, from the hierarchy within the office, to the role she is expected to play to even the clothes she must wear – black skirt, white blouse, plaid vest. There are those who would say that it is a sexualizing of the position, taking women fulfilling valuable support roles and reducing them to little more than a pornographic icon.

Kumiko trudges through life in a kind of a daze, as if she’s drugged. She communicates in barely audible muttering, commits small acts of anonymous defiance (like spitting into her boss’s tea) and accepting the abuse of both her boss and her overbearing mother.

In a sea cave she discovers a buried tape of the Coen Brothers brilliant Fargo and gets the idea that the suitcase full of money that is buried near an anonymous fence post in the film by Carl Showalter (the Steve Buscemi character) is really still there, waiting for her to dig up. The idea takes root in her and becomes impossible to dislodge; it consumes her attention.

When the opportunity presents itself for her to flee to America, she takes it, leaving her beloved bunny Bunzo in a subway car (an earlier attempt to set Bunzo free in a park didn’t go the way Kumiko planned when Bunzo refused to hop off to freedom). Once in America, completely broke, she single-mindedly makes her way in the general direction of Fargo, with and sometimes despite the help of well-meaning Americans with whom she communicates in broken English. One well-meaning and generous deputy sheriff (D. Zellner) tries to tell her that the movie isn’t a documentary and the treasure isn’t really there but she refuses to believe it and freaks out about it a little. To Kumiko, there is nothing more real than the treasure which she believes is the ticket out of her terrible, constricting life and the way to true happiness.

This movie played the recent Florida Film Festival and received mostly positive response although there were some who felt differently. In all honesty, I can see both points and how you respond to this movie is going to depend on your point of view about a few things.

However, I don’t think anyone is going to deny that Kikuchi is brilliant in this movie. She doesn’t play Kumiko’s gradual downward spiral broadly; instead, it is a subtle thing, a gradual loosening of grasp on reality. She seems to realize that life is passing her by but is uncomfortable talking about such unpleasant things; when her boss asks her how old she is, she responds 29 but in truth she looks much older and this isn’t to say that Kikuchi isn’t a beautiful young woman; her eyes reflect the kind of despair that comes with age.

I like a lot of things that the Zellner Brothers (director/co-writer/actor David, producer/co-writer/actor Nathan) do here, in terms of writing a thought-provoking script with an ending which might seem ambiguous but really isn’t. Visually, Kumiko’s red jacket stands out whether in a crowded Tokyo subway station or trudging in a field of snow in Minnesota. Even when she makes a make-shift coat from a hotel comforter she becomes a kind of bedraggled Conquistador on a quest for El Dorado, an image Kumiko herself subscribes to. Little things like that make the film all the more delightful.

The score is done here by frequent Zellner Brothers collaborators The Octopus Project and it won a special jury prize at Sundance. Da Queen didn’t care much for it, claiming it gave her a headache but in all honesty I think the score is part of the means that the filmmakers are using to portray Kumiko’s descent into madness, as well as her humdrum existence in Tokyo.

The pace moves a bit slowly – Kumiko doesn’t arrive in America until about 45 minutes in – but I think that if you can overlook that the story is being told at its own pace you will be engrossed by it. There are moments that are genuinely funny (and not all of a “fish out of water” nature – some of the best laughs occur while Kumiko is in Japan) and some that will elicit a great deal of pathos, like a phone call near the end of the film that Kumiko has with her mother and slowly realizes that she will never be the woman her mother wants her to be – and that her mother will never accept her. This realization is done very quietly and without histrionics, just a sad expression and a slow movement of her hands. One more reason to qualify Kikuchi as one of the more brilliant actresses of the day.

REASONS TO GO: Outstanding performance by Kikuchi. Thought-provoking.
REASONS TO STAY: Very slow-moving.
FAMILY VALUES: Some adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Based on the urban legend of Takako Konishi, whom the media erroneously reported in 2001 had come to the United States to find the treasure depicted in Fargo.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/28/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: no score yet.
NEXT: The Overnight

New Releases for the Week of April 24, 2015


(A24) Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alice Vikander, Corey Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Claire Selby, Symara A. Templeman, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Tiffany Pisani. Directed by Alex Garland

A programmer at an internet search company wins a competition to spend a week with the reclusive CEO in his secluded mountain estate. Once there, he discovers that this isn’t a paid vacation; he’s been selected as the human component in a Turing test of a new artificial intelligence, testing the capabilities and essentially the self-awareness of Ava, who turns out to be much more than the sum of her parts and much more than either man could have predicted.

See the trailer, interviews, clips and featurettes here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence)

The Age of Adaline

(Lionsgate) Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker. A freak automobile accident in 1935 leaves young Adaline ageless and deathless. However, immortality proves to be more of a curse than a gift and she spends 80 years hiding her secret and running away from life until she finds the possibility of love. A weekend with his parents though threatens to expose her secret, leaving her to make a momentous decision.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and preview video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Fantasy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for a suggestive comment)

Brotherly Love

(Freestyle Releasing) Keke Palmer, Cory Hardict, Faizon Love, Macy Gray. Philadelphia’s Overbrook High has been one of the most prestigious basketball powerhouses in the country ever since Wilt Chamberlain played there. Now, a young student there has been named the number one prospect in the country. Dealing with high school alone is no easy task but to have that kind of pressure on top of it is nearly impossible.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Sports Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Downtown Disney, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: R (for violence and language)

Desert Dancer

(Relativity) Nazanin Boniadi, Freida Pinto, Tom Cullen, Marama Corlett. Afshin Ghaffarian wanted nothing more than to express himself through dance. Unfortunately, he lived in Iran where the imams had forbidden dance and any attempt for him to learn how to was met with terrible punishments. After co-founding an underground dance group there, he runs afoul of Iranian authorities and is forced to flee his home, but he comes to Paris more determined than ever to achieve his dream.

See the trailer, interviews, clips and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Biographical Drama/Dance
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some drug material and violence)

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

(Amplify) Rinko Kikuchi, Noboyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, Nathan Zellner. A Japanese office drone discovers a VHS copy of the Coen Brothers classic film Fargo. Fed up with her mundane existence and possessed of an imagination that can’t be held in by the confines of her dreary job and her tiny apartment, she seizes on the idea that the buried treasure in the film is real and that the cash is waiting for her to find in the rugged prairies of North Dakota.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: NR

Little Boy

(Open Road) Kevin James, David Henrie, Michael Rappaport, Emily Watson. A 7-year-old boy is devastated when his father is called off to fight World War II. However, chats with the family pastor lead him to believe that his faith can move mountains. And it seems that it may be literally true. However, will it be enough to bring his dad home safely from war?

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Family Faith-Based Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material and violence)

The Salt of the Earth

(Sony Classics) Sebastiao Salgado, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Lelia Warnick Salgado. The life and career of Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado, whose pictures have shown stark beauty and the depths of human cruelty. His photographs have drawn attention to suffering and privation in the four corners of the earth. Noted German director Wim Wenders was so moved by Salgado’s work that he made a documentary about him, something Wenders isn’t particularly known for.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material involving disturbing images of violence and human suffering, and for nudity)

See You in Valhalla

(ARC Entertainment) Sarah Hyland, Steve Howey, Odeya Rush, Jake McDorman. A young woman returns home following the untimely death of her brother, finding her family as dysfunctional as ever. Old jealousies, feuds and disagreements resurface and the family seems to sink further into dysfunction until a brilliant idea to send off the brother in style is suggested.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: AMC Downtown Disney
Rating: R (for language, sexual references and drug use)

The Water Diviner

(Warner Brothers) Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney, Yilmaz Erdogan. An Australian farmer is devastated by the news that both of his sons were declared missing presumed dead in the epic battle of Gallipoli during the First World War. Four years after the battle, he journeys to Gallipoli to find out once and for all the fate of his sons and get some closure but with the help of a compassionate Turkish officer and the woman whose hotel he is staying in, he discovers hope amidst the carnage.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Downtown Disney, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for war violence including some disturbing images)

2015 Florida Film Festival



The Florida Film Festival has made their official announcement as to what movies and shorts they’ll be presenting this year and it is an impressive schedule indeed. Like last year, there will be 170 films on the schedule with more world premieres than the Festival has ever presented. There are also more movies by a very large margin directed by women this year.

As Enzian president Henry Maldonado is fond of saying about the Festival, there really is something for everybody. While we won’t be previewing every one of the 170 films being presented this year here, here are some to whet your appetite for the festival this year.

This year’s opening night film is Welcome to Me which stars Kristen Wiig as a socially challenged and borderline personality disorder woman who wins $86 million in the lottery and decides to purchase a talk show with it – with her as the host and the only guest. After her performance in last years The Skeleton Twins she’s definitely on the fast track to become one of the premiere comic actresses in Hollywood.

At the top of my personal list of must-sees at the festival is Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter which features Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi as a Japanese office drone caught in a dreary life. After watching Fargo and mistaking it for a documentary, she becomes obsessed with the idea that there is buried treasure in South Dakota – and she means to find it, setting off a journey that will change her forever. Fans of nature documentaries will get the opportunity to catch DisneyNature’s Monkey Kingdom a full week before it opens in theaters across the country as the intrepid DisneyNature camera crew heads into the jungles of Thailand to follow a family of monkeys displaced from their homes.

Previously reviewed here in Cinema365, The Search for General Tso looks at one of the most beloved Chinese-American dishes, how it came to be, and essentially the history of Chinese cuisine and culture in the United States. If it doesn’t make you hungry for Chinese food, I don’t know what will. Grazers looks at a farming co-operative that tries to survive in a world dominated by big agribusiness and increasingly hostile to small family farmers.

Aspie Seeks Love follows the search of a man afflicted with Asperger’s Disease for true love, which is a subject most of us can relate to. Limited Partnership follows the first same-sex couple in the world to get married and the obstacles they faced in merely trying to be allowed to live together in a documentary that is likely to get your blood boiling and your heartstrings tugged. Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound follows one of the most influential figures in modern country music that you’ve never heard of.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is an awkwardly titled but charming Swedish film about a dynamite expert who has lived a colorful life who decides to escape the retirement home he has been warehoused in on the occasion of his 100th birthday. X+Y is a lovely Irish film about a young man with social issues finding self-confident when he is selected to represent Ireland in the International Math Olympiad.

Sunshine Superman profiles Carl Boenish, the progenitor of base jumping which answers the question “Who was crazy enough to do it first?” Once Upon a Crime: The Borelli-Davis Conspiracy looks at a notorious murder in Denver that would expose corruption in the Denver police department as well as in the Denver media but would not break the friendship of two unjustly accused men.

The Tribe won the Grand Prix at Cannes this year and is entirely without dialogue, subtitles, music or sound effects, putting us in the world of the deaf-mute characters who are themselves played by deaf-mute non-professionals. Taking place in a school for deaf and mute teens, a new arrival learns to navigate the sometimes dangerous currents of a school ruled by a gang who with the tacit approval of the school’s administration are involved with drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion and assault.

The Editor is a midnight cult classic in the making from the wild Canadian filmmakers co-op Astron-6 who give us their take on an Italian giallo with a film editor who loses his fingers in a bizarre accident becomes the number one suspect when a series of gruesome murders take place among the lead actors of the bottom-feeding films he’s been working on. The Case of the Three-Sided Dream is a documentary about jazz legend Rahsaan Roland Kirk and his unique style of playing.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is the story of the National Lampoon, the magazine that began at Harvard and became the touchstone of comedy in the 70s and 80s, helping shape Saturday Night LiveSCTV, and a series of movies that included the Vacation series. Reversal is a horror tale of revenge and human trafficking that shocked audiences at Sundance earlier this year.

Tomorrow We Disappear follows the Bohemian residents of an Indian slum who are fighting to protect their homes from a developer who wants to build a shopping mall there. Welcome to Leith is a terrifying documentary about a white supremacist who attempts to take over a North Dakota town. The Keeping Room is the harrowing experience of three young women in the waning days of the Civil War trying to protect their farm from a pair of rogue Union soldiers. Gabriel follows a young man on a trial release from the hospital where he has been institutionalized for mental illness

The Festival will also be presenting three different movies on the Enzian lawn that are free admission for anyone who wants to come. (500) Days of Summer, Donnie Darko and Amalie are all quality movies and well worth seeing, particularly in the cozy confines of the Enzian lawn. As far as screenings for other films that aren’t new, Godard’s French New Wave classic Alphaville will be the closing night retrospective and Girl Happy will be presented in Winter Park’s Central Park.

As always there will be celebrity guests. The great Sam Rockwell, one of my favorite actors working today, will be present for a screening of maybe his best film, Moon, followed by a Q&A afterwards. Also, Bob Balaban will be on hand to talk about his long career as one of Hollywood’s best character actors and also a pretty good director in his own right.

There are also parties, panel discussions and informal get-togethers in the Eden Bar. It is an opportunity to rub shoulders with filmmakers and film buffs and talk about movies both famous and not. Those looking to buy tickets can still purchase packages that run from $50 for five vouchers for any five movies (which you can choose before they go on sale to the general public) to $180 for twenty. You can also get passes which range from the Matinee pass which admits you to all movies that begin before 5 PM (except for special screenings such as An Afternoon With…) for $99 to the fancy shmancy Producer Pass which gets you early entry to every film and entry to every event at the Festival. That’ll only set you back $1500. More popular is the Film Lover’s Pass which runs $600 and gets you early entry to all films, access to press screenings so you can get an early jump on your festival viewing and admittance to the opening night party.  Individual tickets go on sale this Saturday the 21st and can be purchased online, by phone or in person at the Enzian box office.

As with years past, Cinema365 intends to give as much coverage to the Festival as is humanly possible. All Festival-related reviews will include the Festival banner, which includes a link to their online ticketing system in case you want to purchase tickets yourself. There is also a link to it in the picture at the top of the post; just click on it and whoosh, there you are.

This is an event we at Cinema365 look forward to all year long. It is a chance to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and discover films we might not ordinarily have had a chance to see. It is one of the most filmgoer-friendly festivals in the country and consistently shows up in lists of top Film Festivals around the world. It is an event you shouldn’t miss and if you are or can be in the Orlando area from April 10th through April 19th, you owe it to yourself to check this out. If you can make it, be sure and drop us a line at cinema365@live.com and let us know so we can meet up. Look forward to seeing you all there!

Four-Warned: March 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelEvery month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

1. CHAPPIE (1.3)
3. RUN ALL NIGHT (1.5)

2. MAN FROM RENO (1.4)

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

MARCH 4, 2015

THE LESSON (Film Movement) Genre: Drama. A teacher whose drunken lout of a husband has mortgaged their house to repair his junkyard car and is unable to find a legitimate means of paying off the debt must seek out a loan shark whose terms may be more than she can afford to pay. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A morality play about modern economic desperation that may hit too close to home for some.

MARCH 6, 2015

A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE (Goldwyn/IDP) Genre: Documentary. Six Champagne houses in France from major players like Bollinger to boutique labels are examined in this look at how the magic sparkling wine is made and marketed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks fascinating at the tribulations of making a wine in a region which is just on the edge of where winemaking is possible, to how it has become connected with celebrations large and small.
BAD ASSES ON THE BAYOU (Goldwyn) Genre: Action. The third installment of the franchise finds senior ass-kickers Frank Vega and Bernie Pope headed to a wedding of a friend in Louisiana, only to find that chaos can happen even in Cajun Country. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Danny Trejo is always a hoot but this franchise may have already worn out its welcome.
BUZZARD (Oscilloscope) Genre: Dramedy. Forced to flee his home town for the urban danger zone of Detroit, a paranoid small time con man is forced to rely on his wits to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Kind of an indie punk rock heavy metal caper film revolution which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing.
CHAPPIE (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. The development of a self-aware robot brings corporate and governmental powers that be down on the developer and the being itself. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 From the creator of District 9 comes his take on Isaac Asimov’s favorite subject.
FAULTS (Screen Media) Genre: Thriller. The parents of a young woman who has been brainwashed by a cult consult with one of the world’s foremost experts on mind control, who finds the situation isn’t anything like what he thought it would be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer has a quirky sheen not unlike the Coen Brothers.
HAYRIDE 2 (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. When the serial killer Pitchfork escapes from custody, a manhunt ensues with the killer taking refuge in a hospital. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Doesn’t look to have added much to the traditional unkillable slasher genre.
KIDNAPPING MR. HEINEKEN (Alchemy) Genre: Crime Thriller. The true story of the kidnapping of a beer magnate whose captors would receive the highest ransom ever paid for an individual. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Anything with the great Anthony Hopkins in it is going to be worth the effort to go see it.
THE LIFE AND MIND OF MARK DEFRIEST (City Drive) Genre: Documentary. When a legendary escape artist comes up for parole after 30 years behind bars, the shock becomes palpable when his original four year sentence for a minor offense is considered. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Has anyone mentioned that our justice system is completely broken?
LIKE SUNDAY, LIKE RAIN (Monterey) Genre: Drama. A 12-year-old musical prodigy of wealthy parents but a cold existence is cared for by a 23-year-old au pair who is a sometimes musician and a full-time rebel estranged from her own family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Played the Orlando Film Festival last year.
MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. Spin merchants with no qualifications whatsoever pass themselves off as scientific experts to debunk climate change, the effects of toxic chemicals and overuse of pharmaceuticals. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.4 And here I thought this was going to be a comedy.
OCTOBER GALE (IFC) Genre: Thriller. In an isolated cabin on the Canadian coast, a recently widowed doctor finds a man suffering from gunshot wounds hiding out from two men intent on killing him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A different kind of role for Patricia Clarkson; color me intrigued.
ROAD HARD (FilmBuff) Genre: Comedy. With his career in a shambles, a former movie/sitcom superstar is forced to return to a standup career on the road, which is not his cup of tea at all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Wasn’t impressed with the trailer; this sounds like a great idea for a movie too.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Comedy. The plucky AARP warriors are back along with their ambitious young Indian hotel manager as the success of the retirement resort necessitates the creation of a second. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The first movie was one of my favorites of 2011.
STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMPKINS (Indican) Genre: Drama. A Noo Yawk street kid tries to survive in the brutal urban jungle of junkies, cops and pushers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Based on the young director’s own experiences which at least make it an interest just for authenticity.
THESE FINAL HOURS (Amplify/Well Go) Genre: Thriller. With the world ending in just a few hours, a pair of young people fight through a city gone mad to unite with loved ones before it all goes to hell. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Really nice idea but the trailer for this Aussie apocalyptic thriller didn’t look particularly scintillating.
TWO MEN IN TOWN (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. Released from prison, a troubled man uses his newfound Islamic faith to curb his violent impulses; the sheriff of the New Mexico town he lives in however thinks he won’t win that fight and goes on a campaign to get him jailed again – this time forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Forest Whitaker vs. Harvey Keitel? Sounds like a winner to me!
UNFINISHED BUSINESS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. After starting up a new company, a hot shot salesman finds that he’s competing with the ruthless corporation he left for an account that his new firm needs to survive. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 For whatever reason I’ve always found Vince Vaughn to make pretty decent movies; even when they’re bad, he’s decent.
X/Y (eOne) Genre: Drama. Caught in the cracks between Generations X and Y, a group of friends try to establish relationships in an era of technology and social media Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Has a lot of potential but needs to be light on the soap opera and heavy on the social commentary.

MARCH 10, 2015

BITE SIZE (Bond/360) Genre: Documentary. Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels; four kids from diverse backgrounds wage their own battle of the bulge in an attempt to beat the scale. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 We are a society obsessed with weight and image; kids these days are caught in between a rock (bullying) and a hard place (eating compulsions).

MARCH 13, 2015

3 HEARTS (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. After missing a train home to Paris, two Parisians make a connection in a provincial town but end up going their separate ways but when one unknowingly marries the other’s sister, sparks end up flying. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Nobody knows the ways of the heart like the French and given this is a master filmmaker with a strong cast, well, you do the math.
ALONGSIDE THE ROADWAY (Indican) Genre: Comedy. Two young people from two different cultures take a road trip together to the largest music festival in California. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Has that indie vibe that can be a little bit overly precious.
ANARCHY (Lionsgate) Genre: Crime Drama. Crooked cops and an outlaw biker gang collide in all-out war over drug trade supremacy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Based on Shakespeare’s play Cymbaline.
CHAMPS (Amplify/Starz Digital Media) Genre: Sports Documentary. Follows the careers of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins, how all three took differing roads from some of the most horrifying circumstances imaginable to become world boxing champions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Not just a look at triumph vs. adversity but also at one of the most corrupt and vicious businesses in sport.
CINDERELLA (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. The live action version of the timeless fairy tale in which a scullery maid, horribly abused by her wicked stepmother, is transformed by a fairy godmother into a mysterious beauty who catches the eye of the Prince. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.7 Lushly filmed by Kenneth Branagh but the trailer didn’t really wow me.
THE COBBLER (Image) Genre: Fantasy. Working in the same shoe repair shop that has been in his family for generations, a man discovers a magical heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An Adam Sandler fantasy that is coming out via the indie route; an interesting concept.
EVA (Weinstein) Genre: Science Fiction. A cybernetic engineer tasked with creating a realistic robot child develops a special bond with his niece. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds fascinating and I really like Daniel Bruhl but couldn’t find a trailer.
HOME SWEET HELL (Vertical) Genre: Dramedy. When a man living the perfect life embarks on an extramarital affair, he has no idea what lengths his image-obsessed wife will go to in order to maintain the facade of the perfect marriage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Patrick Wilson and Katherine Heigl are appealing leads.
IT FOLLOWS (Radius) Genre: Horror. Following an odd sexual encounter, a teenage girl has the inescapable feeling that something is following her and that something terrifying is closing in on her; and as it turns out, she’s right. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Turns the urban legend horror convention on its ear.
THE LOVERS (IFC) Genre: Adventure. In a coma following a diving accident while trying to save his wife, a young archaeologist finds himself in 18th century India where he is an English sea captain involved in a steamy romance with an Indian warrior. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A love story transcending time from acclaimed director Roland Joffe.
MUCK (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. Teenagers fleeing an ancient evil in a burial ground find refuge in a house, only to discover something even more evil lurks there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 One of those horror movies that you can tell will either be great or just awful.
RUN ALL NIGHT (Warner Brothers) Genre: Action. When an assassin saves his estranged son from being shot by the son of a mob boss – who happens to be his closest friend – he must take his none-too-happy boy under his wing for the night to avoid teams of thugs and crooked cops out to kill them both. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Liam Neeson is the current king of the action stars.
SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. Piano prodigy Seymour Bernstein, who retired from performing to concentrate on teaching, is profiled by actor Ethan Hawke who met Bernstein while dealing with his own stage fright issues. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 While ostensibly about the artistic impulse, it is also about life; very inspiring.
TREADING WATER (The Orchard) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Going through life with a rare condition that leaves him smelling like a fish, a young man tries to cope with an eccentric family, loneliness and a childhood crush that might be his saving grace. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Yet another indie film that looks like it takes its own quirkiness too seriously.
WALTER (eOne) Genre: Comedy. The son of God may be a movie ticket taker who has the ultimate responsibility to judge all who come into his theater which is fine until he meets a ghost stuck in Purgatory who wants a decision – Heaven or Hell – and he wants it now! Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.7 A pretty stellar cast and I have to admit the trailer is a lot better than I thought it’d be.
THE WRECKING CREW (Magnolia) Genre: Musical Documentary. One studio band played behind the Beach Boys, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, the Monkees and Sonny and Cher; they became legends in the industry and helped create rock and roll as we know it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Another “unsung heroes” musical documentary but all of them have been very good to outstanding in quality.

MARCH 18, 2015

AMOUR FOU (Film Movement) Genre: Drama. During the German Romantic era, a poet sorely wants to link love and death in a suicide pact but his lover, a married woman, will have no part of it – until she discovers she’s contracted a terminal illness. Release Strategy: New York City. RATING: 3.1 Seems a little morbid and more than a little pretentious.
KUMIKO: THE TREASURE HUNTER (Amplify) Genre: Drama. A Japanese office worker, condemned to a humdrum life, sees a fictional movie and becomes convinced that it is a documentary and that there is treasure buried in North Dakota and journeys to America to find it. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles March 20). RATING: 1.5 Beautifully shot, this has the quirky quality of a Coen Brothers film, appropriately enough.

MARCH 20, 2015

BACKCOUNTRY (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. After agreeing to go with her outdoorsy boyfriend on a camping trip, a city girl sees everything that can go wrong go wrong – a creepy stalker guy who has eyes for her, then her boyfriend gets hopelessly lost, then they wander into a bear’s territory. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 …and then a dinosaur leaps out of a trans-dimensional portal…just seems a little bit too much to me.
CAN’T STAND LOSING YOU: SURVIVING THE POLICE (Cinema Libre) Genre: Musical Documentary. The rise, fall and reunion tour of one of the seminal New Wave bands of the 1980s.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 One of my favorite bands from that era, always good to see footage you haven’t seen of a band you love.
CUPCAKES (Strand) Genre: Musical Comedy. Accidentally entered into the Universong competition as the representatives for Israel, a group of misfits set out to take the competition by storm – in their own unique style. Release Strategy: New York City. RATING: 2.4 There’s a disco-era kind of vibe that I found oddly charming in the trailer.
DANNY COLLINS (Bleecker Street) Genre: Dramedy. An aging singer-songwriter who hasn’t written a song in decades tries to resume writing music and reconnect with his estranged son after finding a long-lost letter written to him by John Lennon in the 1970s. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A pretty impressive cast here with Al Pacino, Annette Benning, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Plummer.
THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. The power-hungry Erudite group go to war with the rebels led by Tris and Four to rule over what’s left of Chicago. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 I have to admit I liked the first movie but the trailers I’ve seen for this one are troubling.
DO YOU BELIEVE (Pure Flix) Genre: Faith Drama. Encountering an old time street corner preacher, a suburban pastor is shaken to the core by his visible faith; twelve people whose lives have taken different courses are about to intersect at the crossroads of the titular question. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Something to get the church crowd excited.
GROWING UP AND OTHER LIES (eOne) Genre: Comedy. On his last day in New York City, an artist and three of his buddies decide to recreate their moment of glory – a walk down the length of Manhattan but of course things don’t go quite as planned. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Kind of your typical indie 30-something deal with growing up ensemble thing.
THE GUNMAN (Open Road) Genre: Action. Betrayed by the international intelligence organization he worked for, an operative must survive in a hunt across Europe to clear his name and find out who is responsible. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Sounds like a pretty typical spy film – only this one’s with Sean Penn.
HUNTING ELEPHANTS (XLRator) Genre: Comedy. Two Israeli rest home residents, a penniless English lord and a precocious 12-year-old plan to rob a bank. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Quirky Israeli comedy with, of all people, Sir Patrick Stewart in a supporting role.
JAUJA (Cinema Guild) Genre: Drama. In 19th century Argentina a Danish engineer arrives with his daughter to work for the Argentine army which is in the midst of a genocidal action in Patagonia; when she runs away with a soldier, he goes after her despite the hostile atmosphere. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Beautifully shot and interesting concept; all this and Viggo Mortensen too.
LA SAPIENZA (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Drama. Trying to generate some passion, a middle aged architect and his bored wife travel to Italy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Looks very pretty from the trailer but get the sense this is very slow-paced.
THE LETTERS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Drama. The correspondence between Mother Teresa and her spiritual adviser Father Celeste van Exern over a 50 year period gives us insight into the woman behind the saint. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 The trailer hints at a very powerful spiritual experience.
LILY AND KAT (Mance) Genre: Dramedy. The friendship of two young women in New York is tested when one of them falls in love with an artist. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks a little bit vacuous and the characters more than a little shallow.
LOST AND LOVE (China Lion) Genre: Drama. 15 years after his two-year-old daughter was kidnapped, a dogged Chinese father continues the search for her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The more I see of Andy Lau the more I want to see.
SECRET OF WATER (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Water makes up most of the planet and most of our bodies but we seem to as a species take it for granted; this documentary points out why that’s not a smart move. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Worthy subject for a documentary but no trailer anywhere.
SHE’S LOST CONTROL (Monument) Genre: Thriller. A sexual surrogate takes on a new client and finds her line between professional and personal beginning to blur. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Illustrates the vulnerability of a surrogate; looks to be quite gripping.
SPRING (Drafthouse) Genre: Horror. While in Italy fleeing his past, an American gets involved with an Italian girl, unaware that her own past harbors a dangerous secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 One of those heady films that throws knockout punches when you least expect them.
TRACERS (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. Deeply in debt to a violent gang, a parkour expert joins a crew that uses the discipline to pull of increasingly daring heists that throw him from the frying pan into the fire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Very kinetic action sequences but looks pretty generic and with Taylor Lautner starring I’m definitely hesitant on this one.
THE WALKING DECEASED (ARC) Genre: Horror Spoof. The recent craze in zombie movies get their turn to be skewered by a spoof. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 I have to admit I’ve never seen a horror spoof I’ve liked but hope springs eternal.
ZOMBEAVERS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Horror. Groupies on the prowl for a good time get lost in a swamp infested with undead beavers.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 I’m beginning to think that we’re running out of ideas.

MARCH 25, 2015

THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOULLEBECQ (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Dramedy. Accidentally abandoned by his squad in Belfast in 1971, a British soldier struggles to make it back to his barracks over the course of a deadly night. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 A soldier caught behind enemy lines always makes for compelling drama.

MARCH 27, 2015

A GIRL LIKE HER (Parkside) Genre: Drama. The victim of a school bully secretly takes video footage of her bullying which threatens to tear their community apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Bullying has been a serious subject as of late in movies and on television; this is a different look at it.
THE BARBER (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Horror. A man on the hunt for a serial killer – not to capture but to become his protégé – finds one in a mild-mannered barber. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 I’ve always had a soft spot for Scott Glenn.
GET HARD (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy. Convicted of a white collar crime, a man who has lived a pampered and sheltered existence and has 30 days to get his affairs in order turns to the only black man he knows to get him ready for prison – despite the fact his friend is as upstanding a citizen as there is. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart is a partnership I can get behind.
HOME (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. A well-meaning but kind of klutzy alien is hunted by his own people to the place where he has taken refuge – Earth. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.0 Seems an awful lot like Lilo and Stitch to me with only some minor character differences.
MAN FROM RENO (Gravitas) Genre: Mystery. Two people – one a small town sheriff, one a best-selling mystery writer taking a breather from a brutal book tour, both encounter a mysterious Japanese man who disappears without a trace. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.4 I think I could get into the noir element that this movie seems to embrace.
NIGHTLIGHT (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. Five teens camping in the woods for a night of flashlight games and ghost stories awaken a slumbering evil that will have them fighting for their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Judging from the trailer this is another found footage horror movie; hope the movie is better than the trailer.
THE RIOT CLUB (IFC) Genre: Drama. Students at Oxford are recruited for an underground society which promises wealth and luxury but descends into an orgy of violence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Based on an actual club at Oxford that counts current Prime Minister David Cameron among its alumni.
SALT OF THE EARTH (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. Photographer Sebastiao Salgado has turned the focus of his lens from great events in human history to chronicling pristine places on Earth to pay tribute to the planet’s beauty – while these places still exist. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The Oscar-nominated doc from acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders.
SERENA (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. In the 1920s, a North Carolina timber baron’s marriage is threatened when his wife learns about secrets from his past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Reunites Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from American Hustle.
WELCOME TO NEW YORK (IFC) Genre: Drama. The business trip of a French banker to New York descends into debauchery, ending in a shocking event. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Based on an actual incident that grabbed headlines all around the world not that long ago.
WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (A24) Genre: Drama. A middle-aged couple seems to have things figured out until they are befriended by a younger couple. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding in April). RATING: 2.1 Noah Baumbach is a director to be reckoned with, particularly when he has a cast that includes Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver.
WHITE GOD (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. When the State turns against dogs, dogs turn back against the State. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Looks like a great movie, but as a soft-hearted dog lover I don’t know how well I’ll be able to handle it.
A WOLF AT THE DOOR (Outside) Genre: Thriller. The ultimate parental nightmare happens to a Brazilian couple; their daughter has been picked up by a strange woman from school and has disappeared but what makes things even worse is that it is discovered that the husband has been having an extramarital affair and his paramour may be involved. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sounds like a compelling drama but the trailer is oddly unexciting.

MARCH 31, 2015

TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS (Sony Classics) Genre: True Life Drama. Hooked on drugs, a young Orlando teen makes a heroic effort to kick her habit and inspires others to create a foundation to help kids just like her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Was the 2012 Florida Film Festival opening night film, finally getting a theatrical and VOD release; you can read my review of the movie, which was then entitled Renee here.

Chappie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Unfinished Business, Cinderella, Run All Night, The Wrecking Crew, Danny Collins, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, The Gunman, Get Hard, Home