Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.
Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.
Each entry is broken down as follows:
NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment
Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.
FOUR TO SEE
1. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (1.3)
2. NOAH (1.5)
3. DIVERGENT (1.6)
4. SABOTAGE (1.9)
FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (1.0)
2. THE MISSING PICTURE (1.2)
3. ENEMY (1.4)
TIE. JOURNEY TO THE WEST (1.4)
TIE. CHEAP THRILLS (1.4)
TIE. THE RAID 2 (1.4)
RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see
MARCH 5, 2014
PARTICLE FEVER (BOND360/Abramorama) Genre: Documentary. Scientists embark on the most expensive and ambitious experiment in human history to find the Higgs boson – the so-called God particle, responsible for the creation of matter after the Big Bang. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 The science geek in me is absolutely fascinated.
MARCH 7, 2014
300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Swords and Sandals. The Persians, fresh from their victory at Thermopylae, launch a massive invasion of Greece by the sea. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 Not sure how this will fare without Zack Snyder at the helm but looking forward to it anyway.
A FAREWELL TO FOOLS (Monterey Media) Genre: Dramedy. In a small Romanian village during World War II, a German soldier is murdered and the villagers scramble to give them a culprit before the morning comes and random villagers are shot. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A dark farce about human nature starring Gerard Depardieu and Harvey Keitel – should be pretty good.
BETHLEHEM (Adopt) Genre: Drama. The complex relationship between an Israeli secret service agent and his teenage Palestinian informant grows strained. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks extremely tense and gritty; could be another great film coming out of Israel.
THE FACE OF LOVE (IFC) Genre: Romance. Several years after the loss of her husband, a widow meets a man who is the exact double of her deceased husband. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 An amazing cast includes Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Comedy. In between the wars, a legendary concierge at a grand European hotel becomes the focus of an investigation of a priceless stolen painting and a vast family fortune. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The latest from Wes Anderson looks to be his best yet.
GRAND PIANO (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. A one-time classical piano prodigy whose career has been derailed by stage fright finds himself as a target at his triumphant return concert. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Reminds me a little bit of Phone Booth but with John Cusack and Elijah Wood heading it up, I’m willing to give it a shot.
HAUNT (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. When a pair of teens explore their budding sexuality, they inadvertently trigger the opening of an alternate and thoroughly frightening dimension in the house. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks like a pretty good haunted house flick.
IN FEAR (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. A young couple get lost in a maze of country roads and are stalked by an unseen tormentor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A gripping psychological horror film from the UK that looks to be one of the most nightmare-inducing films of the year.
JOURNEY TO THE WEST (Magnolia) Genre: Martial Arts. In a world plagued by demons, a young demon hunter must atone for his sins and find the meaning of Greater Love to save the people of the world. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Stephen Chow, the director of Kung Fu Hustle, directs an ode to the martial arts fantasies of Tsui Hark.
MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. The world’s smartest dog must set things right when his boy and an out-of-control friend accidentally rip a hole in time. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.6 Based on the beloved Jay Ward cartoons of the 60s, must walk a tightrope between pleasing modern audiences and retaining the elements that its original audience loved.
SPECIAL I.D. (Well Go USA) Genre: Martial Arts. An undercover cop placed deep in a ruthless crimelord’s organization must risk everything to protect his own family and secret identity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Star Donnie Yen is considered to be the heir to the throne of Jackie Chan and Jet Li as Asia’s leading action star.
TOTAL SIYAPAA (Reliance) Genre: Bollywood. A young man’s attempts to impress a well-to-do Indian family living in London whose daughter he is eager to marry begin to unravel when they discover that he is Pakistani. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Light, fluffy and entertaining – like most Bollywood productions.
WAR OF THE WORLDS GOLIATH (Anderson Digital) Genre: Animated Feature. After the events of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the Martians attack again and the surviving humans use their leftover technology to defend themselves.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 A great idea but the animation looks like a cross between mediocre anime and ten year old videogame.
MARCH 14, 2014
THE ART OF THE STEAL (Radius) Genre: Crime Comedy. An art thief agrees to pull one last job but gets double crossed by his untrustworthy brother. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The kind of movie I grew up watching Kurt Russell rock; It’s really good to see him back in the saddle again.
BAD WORDS (Focus) Genre: Comedy. The National Spelling Bee is up in arms over a ruthless 40-year-old who uses a loophole to enter and a take-no-prisoners approach to crush his competition. Release Strategy: Limited (expanding March 21, opening wide March 28). RATING: 2.0 Jason Bateman makes his directing debut with a smart move – casting Jason Bateman in the lead.
BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY (Goldwyn) Genre: Dark Comedy. The drug-fueled extramarital affair of a small town pharmacist turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 I’ll see Sam Rockwell in just about anything.
BEWAKOOFIYAAN (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. The father-in-law of a financial whiz kid doesn’t think he’s good enough for his spendthrift daughter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Bollywood films are beginning to make a box office impact in the US and this might be the year they truly break out.
BIG MEN (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. A documentary filmmaker follows an oil exploration crew as they negotiate with warlords in Ghana and make a remarkable discovery. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds fascinating but couldn’t find a trailer online.
THE COLD LANDS (Cinereach) Genre: Drama. After his fiercely self-reliant mom dies unexpectedly, an eleven-year-old boy is forced to make an unlikely alliance with a pot-smoking drifter. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Sounds like an interesting premise but I couldn’t find a viable trailer anywhere online for it.
DARK HOUSE (Paladin) Genre: Horror. A house with a sinister presence calls to a man with a terrifying gift – and at stake is the life of his unborn son. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.5 Once again, couldn’t find a trailer for this film online.
THE DEN (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. While researching underground internet chat sites, a grad student witnesses a vicious murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 I like the premise an awful lot; I hope they do something with it.
ENEMY (A24) Genre: Thriller. After discovering a minor actor in a film is his exact double, a university lecturer engages him in a dangerous struggle for identity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 I like Jake Gyllenhaal a lot and Denis Villeneuve, director of Prisoners, is one of the most promising talents out there.
ERNEST & CELESTINE (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. The unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 This Oscar-nominated feature from the makers of The Triplets of Belleville is absolutely gorgeous animation.
EXPOSED (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. Performance art and burlesque meld as artists use their own nude bodies as a canvas. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Controversial filmmaker Beth B. takes on a subject of the sometimes blurry line between art and pornography.
GUILTY OF ROMANCE (Olive) Genre: True Life Drama. A disturbing murder links three Japanese women – a faithful wife, a police detective and a college professor – in a tale of scandal and sex that shocked Japan in the 1990s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Acclaimed Japanese director Shion Sono uses an over-saturated color palate and a willingness to “go there” to provoke and disturb.
HIMIZU (Olive) Genre: Drama. Abandoned and abused by his parents, a teenage boy and his girlfriend embark on a spree of killing of those who cause harm to society. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Loosely based on a best-selling manga, this one has all the earmarks of a great Yakuza film.
LE WEEK-END (Music Box) Genre: Drama. An older couple revisits Paris for the first time since their honeymoon in an effort to rekindle their marriage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Jim Broadbent and Jeff Goldblum are among my favorite actors.
NEED FOR SPEED (Screen Gems) Genre: Action. An ex-con imprisoned for a . Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.9 I’m wondering if this will turn out to be an action version of Cannonball Run.
ON MY WAY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. An aging beauty queen facing the pitfalls of life turns a short drive to clear her mind into a road trip. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 Catherine Deneuve proves that not only is she still beautiful but she is still one of the best actresses ever.
PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS (Phase 4) Genre: Horror. A new nurse in a psych ward becomes fascinated by a brain dead patient who is the subject of some cruel experiments, but finds herself embroiled in a horror beyond imagining. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks like it could be a taut little scarefest.
THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG (Magnolia) Genre: Romance. A man famous for the flaws his ex-wife blogs about falls madly in love with a woman on her way to her own wedding. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Actually looks kind of amusing and any movie with Catherine O’Hara in it is bound to at least be worth a look.
SHIRIN IN LOVE (Sideshow) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young Iranian-American woman betrothed to a wealthy Beverly Hills plastic surgeon falls for an enigmatic lighthouse keeper in Northern California instead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 For some reason the trailer didn’t exactly reel me in.
TEENAGE (Oscilloscope Labs) Genre: Documentary. A look at the inner thoughts and secret dreams of teenagers of the first half of the 20th century as told through diary and journal entries. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 A paean to adolescent outrage – and teenage arrogance.
TYLER PERRY’S SINGLE MOM’S CLUB (Lionsgate) Genre: Dramedy. Five single moms struggling to make it form an impromptu support group and their new-found sisterhood helps them overcome their personal obstacles to happiness. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 Tyler Perry strikes again!
U WANT ME 2 KILL HIM? (Weinstein) Genre: Thriller. Two 16-year-old boys trying to get vengeance for the death of a friend attract the attention of MI5. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on a true story, this looks like another amazing British thriller.
VERONICA MARS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Mystery. Having moved on from her amateur sleuth days in high school, Veronica is drawn in to that life again when a friend is suspected of murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 You have to admire the persistence of the creative crew and their loyal fan base for even getting this made.
MARCH 19, 2014
THE MISSING PICTURE (Strand) Genre: Documentary. A courageous filmmaker attempts to fill in the blanks using archival footage and intricately carved figurines to depict the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film, this looks to rival this year’s The Act of Killing.
MARCH 21, 2014
50 TO 1 (Self-Released) Genre: Sports Drama. A group of New Mexico cowboys take on horse racing’s elite when their horse qualifies against all odds for the Kentucky Derby. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks like a fairly typical sports underdog movie with faith-based overtones.
A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING (Screen Media) Genre: Comedy. When a teenage birding fanatic thinks he’s made the discovery of a lifetime, he risks everything on a road trip to secure his place in birding history. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 A coming of age film that could be either illuminating or another “kids-are-smarter-than-adults” hack job.
ANITA (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The story of Anita Hill whose testimony against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas ignited a firestorm of controversy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 That victims of sexual harassment are still often the ones put on trial is absolutely shameful.
BLOOD TIES (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Thriller. Two brothers – one a cop, one a criminal – find their lives inevitably entwined in 1970s New York City. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks gripping and with a cast that includes Clive Owens, Zoe Saldana, James Caan and Billy Crudup this could be one of those sleeper must-sees.
CHEAP THRILLS (Drafthouse) Genre: Thriller. A down-on-his-luck family man and an old friend are roped into performing increasingly twisted dares in order to make some cash. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A delightfully twisted black comedy that appeals to my inner jackass.
DIVERGENT (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. In a dystopian future when people are segregated by their dominant personality type, a young woman who is unclassifiable – divergent – falls in with a revolutionary underground. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 One gets the sense that these folks want to be the next Hunger Games franchise.
THE FRENCH MINISTER (Self-Released) Genre: Comedy. A frenetic French minister hires a young writer to do his speech writing in the midst of a global crisis. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Based on a French graphic novel and with the incredible Bernard Tavernier at the helm and Niels Arestrup in a supporting role this one piques my interest.
IT FELT LIKE LOVE (Variance) Genre: Drama. A young 14-year-old girl spending her summer in Brooklyn determines to emulate the sexual exploration of her best friend and ends up in a dangerous situation with the wrong people. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles March 28). RATING: 1.8 Appears to be a very gritty and raw portrait of the realities of teen sexuality; could be very intense.
JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. The legendary but doomed attempt to film the Frank Herbert novel Dune in the mid-70s by cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo) is documented with some never-before-seen concept artwork. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 One of the greatest unmade movies of all time; seeing what might have been is absolutely mind-blowing.
JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE (Main Street) Genre: Thriller. As a man accused of being a vigilante killer of unconvicted murderers awaits the verdict of his trial, a reporter seeks to find out the real truth about John Doe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The question of justice vs. vengeance remains a germane topic in these times of Stand Your Ground.
JUST A SIGH (Distrib) Genre: Romance. On the way to an audition in Paris, an actress becomes intensely drawn to a mysterious man she meets on a train. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 28). RATING: 2.3 Beautifully romantic, indubitably French.
MALADIES (Tribeca) Genre: Dramedy. After his career as a soap opera star has stalled, an actor tries to resurrect himself in 1960s New York City. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Decent cast that includes James Franco, David Strathairn, Catherine Keener and Alan Cummings makes this worth a look.
MC CANICK (Well Go USA) Genre: Crime Drama. Following his release from prison, a seemingly harmless petty criminal is hunted down by a ruthless police detective whose past indiscretions the ex-con can expose. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A taut thriller in which nobody is as he seems – and with David Morse, one of my favorite character actors, in the lead.
MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney) Genre: Family. Kermit the Frog is mistaken for the world’s most dangerous criminal. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Looks like it lacks the charm and humor of the last movie.
NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME 1 (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. An aging bachelor discovers a badly beaten girl in an alleyway; while he tends to her wounds she tells him her story Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 The films of Lars van Trier do absolutely nothing for me; I’ll be giving this and it’s companion a miss.
ROB THE MOB (Millennium) Genre: Thriller. Brazen lovers rob mob businesses where guns are forbidden and inadvertently discover a secret that puts their lives at risk from the FBI AND the mob. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 With a cast that includes Ray Romano, Andy Garcia and Michael Pitt, could be worth taking a gander.
MARCH 28, 2014
BOYS OF ABU GHARIB (Vertical) Genre: Thriller. After being assigned guard duty at the notorious Abu Gharib prison, a small town soldier finds himself in a bewildering miasma where right and wrong begin to blur. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks awfully intense; if done right could be a landmark film.
BREATHE IN (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Romantic Dramedy. The arrival of a beautiful and musical British exchange student adds chaos to the home of a staid upstate New York family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Has the poignancy and bittersweet beauty of a late summer rainstorm.
CESAR CHAVEZ (Pantelion) Genre: Biographical Drama. Chronicles the life and times of one of the most polarizing figures in agriculture and one of organized labor’s leading lights. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Directed by the actor Diego Luna with Michael Pena in the title role.
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A historian who discovered thousands of negatives of a photographer with rare insight and an amazing eye tries to discover the woman behind the camera. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 One of the great mysterious of modern photography is why this woman chose to hide herself and her art away.
MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS (Abramorama) Genre: Documentary. An aspiring horror director makes a documentary about his brother, lead singer for the indie rock sensations The National. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Not so much about rock and roll as it is about living in the shadow of a brother who seems destined to leave you behind.
NOAH (Paramount) Genre: Biblical Drama. A pious man is warned by God that the world is about to end and that only his family and two of each animal species will be spared to repopulate the world; he sets about building an ark and is thought mad. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 From visionary director Darren Aronofsky, stars Russell Crowe in the title role.
THE RAID 2 (Sony Classics) Genre: Action. After fighting his way out of a building full of gangsters, a rookie Jakarta cop must go deep undercover in those very same gangs in order to protect his family from revenge by the bigger fish in the underworld pond. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Same director, same lead actor, same amazing martial arts action.
REFUGE (Strand) Genre: Drama. Abandoned by their parents, a young woman tries to raise her younger siblings while working a crap job but after meeting a young man with a harrowing past realizes that he might hold the key to building a real family again. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 4). RATING: 2.5 Sounds very interesting but couldn’t find a trailer.
SABOTAGE (Open Road) Genre: Action. After a successful bust of a major Mexican drug cartel, a DEA team begins to get picked off one by one after some of the money seized turns up missing. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Arnold Schwarzenegger could use a hit that isn’t an Expendablesmovie.
SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
300: Rise of an Empire, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Bad Words, Need for Speed, Divergent, Muppet’s Most Wanted, Noah, Sabotage