Four-Warned: November 2013


Thor: The Dark World

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. THOR: THE DARK WORLD (1.0)
2. ENDER’S GAME (1.3)
TIE. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (1.3)
4. ABOUT TIME (1.4)
TIE. OLDBOY (1.4)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. COUSIN JULES (1.0)
2. BEST MAN DOWN (1.3)
3. MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (1.4)
4. PHILOMENA (1.5)

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

NOVEMBER 1, 2013

ABOUT TIME (Universal) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. A young man discovers that he has the ability to move through time, complicating his life enormously. Release Strategy: Limited (opens wide November 8). RATING: 1.4 From Richard Curtis whose Love, Actually remains one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time.
AFTERMATH (Menemsha) Genre: Drama. A pair of brothers discovers that their father had a role in the systematic elimination of Jews during World War II in the Polish village they grew up in. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 8). RATING: 1.7 Looks gripping; will be playing the Jewish Film Festival here in Orlando in mid-November.
ANGELS SING (Lionsgate) Genre: Holiday Drama. A man whose Christmas spirit was wiped out by a childhood tragedy must find a way to rekindle it for the sake of his young son. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a little schmaltzy but any cast that includes Harry Connick Jr., Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and Kris Kristofferson is bound to have a great soundtrack.
BIG SUR (Ketchup) Genre: Drama. Jack Kerouac tries to deal with the success of his novel On the Road by retreating to his cabin in the woods near Monterrey. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 There has been a good deal of interest in Kerouac and the Beats of late.
THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. Love at first sight, propelled by bluegrass music and caught from the breathless beginning to the bitter end. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks like it could have been shot in the South but is actually a Dutch film.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus) Genre: True Life Drama. A hard-partying cowboy in the mid-80s discovers he has AIDS and has 30 days to live; rather than give in he imports tracks down alternative medicines, bringing them into America for others who can’t get access to them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opens wide November 22). RATING: 2.1 May well turn out to be the crowning performance in Matthew McConaughey’s career and an almost certain Oscar nomination.
DIANA (eOne) Genre: Biographical Drama. The last two years of the brilliant life of the world’s most famous woman culminates in a secret love affair. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Naomi Watts is a very good choice for a role that is sure to be a difficult one to play.
ENDER’S GAME (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. The fate of the human race rests in the hands of a brilliant young boy as Earth prepares for the final assault of a malevolent alien race. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 While I’m not a big fan of his beliefs, I do admire the Orson Scott Card book on which this is based.
FREE BIRDS (Relativity) Genre: Animated Feature. A somewhat delusional turkey recruits the turkey that received the presidential Thanksgiving pardon to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving to make sure turkey is off the menu. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.4 The trailer was stunningly unfunny.
LAST LOVE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Drama. When an aged world-weary widower and a free-spirited dance instructor meet in Paris, they learn the quality of salvation that good friends and family can provide. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 I actually thought the trailer looked pretty good, and you really can’t go wrong with Michael Caine now can you?
LAST VEGAS (CBS) Genre: Comedy. Four childhood friends now long-in-the-tooth head to Sin City to celebrate the last bachelor in the bunch’s impending nuptials. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 When you say Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline are in the cast, I’m listening.
MAN OF TAI CHI (Radius) Genre: Martial Arts. The superior skills of a young martial artist in modern Beijing lead him to the underground fight circuit where he will need all those skills and an inextinguishable will to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut has him playing the Merovingian in someone else’s saga.
MR. NOBODY (Magnolia) Genre: Sci-Fi Drama. Standing on a train station platform, a young boy must make a decision that will affect the rest of his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Something of a Sliding Doors conceit but it looks very effective here.
THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. Cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek examines the role of movies on modern culture. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Looks funny in places but could be kind of long-winded and condescending.
SAL (Tribeca) Genre: Biographical Drama. These are the last few days of actor Sal Mineo’s life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 James Franco directed this two years ago and it’s kind of been out there languishing waiting for a distributor but at last it’s going to make it into theaters and this looks like it could be worth the wait.

NOVEMBER 6, 2013

A CASE OF YOU (IFC) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When a young man embellishes his online profile to woo a beautiful barista he’s sweet on, he finds it hard to live up to his own online alter ego. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 OK, I’ll admit that the trailer charmed the heck out of me; but it does have Peter Dinklage and Justin Long in the cast so that’s hopeful.

NOVEMBER 8, 2013

THE ARMSTRONG LIE (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. The amazing rise and precipitous fall of one of the 20th century’s most controversial sports heroes. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney gets the most candid interview with Lance Armstrong yet.
ASS BACKWARDS (Gravitas) Genre: Comedy. Two delusional women whose lives were changed when they finished dead last in a beauty pageant are invited back to their hometown for a reunion which they hope means redemption. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A reasonably funny trailer but I’m still not sold on the concept.
BEST MAN DOWN (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. A newlywed couple must cancel their honeymoon to arrange the funeral for the best man who died unexpectedly, in the process discovering that there was more to their friend than they realized. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 I actually found the trailer to be affecting enough so that I can’t wait to see this.
THE BOOK THIEF (20th Century Fox) Genre: Drama. A young girl, sent to live with a new family in Nazi Germany, transforms the lives of all those around her. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Based on the beloved novel, could be maudlin or could be moving – not sure which yet.
GO FOR SISTERS (Variance) Genre: Drama. Two best of friends end up as criminal and parole officer 20 years later but need to unite to save the son of one of them. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 15). RATING: 1.7 The latest from the great John Sayles and any of his films are worth seeking out.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Main Street) Genre: Drama. The latest film version of the classic Charles Dickens tale. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.1 Acclaimed British director Mike Newell leads a strong cast.
HOW I LIVE NOW (Magnolia) Genre: Sci-Fi Romantic Thriller. After an American teen goes to rural England to stay with relatives, she is forced into a ruthless fight to survive after Europe descends into chaos and war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Saoirse Ronan stars and Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald directs, a winning combination.
IT’S ME, IT’S ME (Pictures Dept.) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. When a young Japanese slacker takes part in a cell phone scam, the unexpected fall-out is that everyone starts to turn into him – and they start to eliminate each other by any means necessary. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Novel concept; looks ripe for an American remake of it down the line.
THE MOTEL LIFE (Self-Released) Genre: Thriller. Two brothers who essentially raised themselves must at last face reality when one of them is involved in a fatal accident. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The trailer looked extremely imaginative.
PARIS COUNTDOWN (Screen Media) Genre: Thriller. A pair of best friends who were coerced by police to testify against a psychopathic drug dealer find themselves alone and vulnerable when he is released from prison. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 It’s not a Luc Besson film but it surely could have been.
REACHING FORTHE MOON (Wolfe) Genre: Romance. American poet Elizabeth Bishop goes to Rio to visit a college friend and falls in love with her partner, initiating a tumultuous relationship that spans decades, distance, political upheaval and alcohol abuse. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles November 29). RATING: 2.5 Miranda Otto gives a terrific performance in a movie that seems to channel the spirit of Out of Africa.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The God of Thunder must take on a threat to Asgard that could wipe out life on every other plane as well. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 And Marvel just keeps rolling on; every movie brings out the greatest anticipation not just in this critic but in the movie-going public at-large.

NOVEMBER 13, 2013

ILYA AND EMELIA KABAKOV: ENTER HERE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. After a life of deprivation and repression, Ilya became the first living Russian artist to have an exhibition at the Hermitage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Is it about the effect of modern art on a nation, or the effect of a nation on the modern artist?

NOVEMBER 14, 2013

THE STARVING GAMES (Ketchup) Genre: Spoof. Recent sci-fi and fantasy films are parodied. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 In general these types of films have done absolutely nothing for me and I won’t bother with them.

NOVEMBER 15, 2013

12-12-12 (Weinstein) Genre: Concert Documentary. A behind-the-scenes look at the concert to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 Some of the concert footage could be pretty nifty but behind-the-scenes looks tend to bore me.
THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) Genre: Comedy. The college friends of The Best Man reunite for a holiday weekend in New York which reignites old rivalries – and old romances. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 I have to say the trailer looked a bit cliché to me.
CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN (Millennium) Genre: Action. Acting on the advice of the apparition of his dead mother, the title character flies to Romania to get involved in the hallucinatory Romanian underworld, a vicious gangster and the love of his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks to be solidly entertaining.
COLD TURKEY (Film Buff) Genre: Comedy. The arrival of an estranged daughter turns a Thanksgiving family gathering into disarray. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opening in New York City November 22). RATING: 2.5 The trailer doesn’t really tell me that this is anything but a typical quirky indie family gathering comedy.
DEAR MR. WATTERSON (Fingerprint) Genre: Documentary. The effect of the Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip cannot be understated; this documentary attempts to explain just how important it is to modern culture. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 I was brought back to reading this strip as a young man by the trailer alone; I imagine the complete doc will be a complete nostalgia-fest.
FAUST (Leisure Time) Genre: Drama. Goethe’s classic tale of a deal with the devil is given a modern update. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A psychedelic take on the legend by arguably the greatest living Russian filmmaker.
NEBRASKA (Paramount) Genre: Dramedy. After receiving a sweepstakes winning entry notification in the mail, a cantankerous old man gets his son to accompany him to Nebraska to claim the prize despite the younger man’s skepticism as to the validity of the letter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The latest from director Alexander Payne stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte.
SUNLIGHT JR. (Gravitas/Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. A couple on the ragged edge of poverty faces adversity and pregnancy together. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Great cast includes Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon and Norman Reedus.

NOVEMBER 22, 2013

CONTRACTED (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. After a woman spends a night with a mysterious man, she discovers she’s contracted something more catastrophic than an STD. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Has all the earmarks of becoming a cult favorite.
DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks) Genre: Comedy. A slacker who works as a delivery man for his father’s meatpacking business discovers that through some sort of glitch he’s become the biological father of 533 children through a sperm bank he donated to years earlier. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Based on the hit from the Florida Film Festival Starbuck, this one has the same writer/director but Vince Vaughn in the lead.
DETROIT UNLEADED (Self-Released) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Romeo and Juliet plays itself out in a convenience store attached to a gas station in Detroit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 An official selection at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, looks to have an earthy sense of humor and a whole lot of heart.
FROZEN (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. A young – dare I say it – princess must travel the length of her kingdom, finding allies where she can, in order to save the kingdom from the icy spell her sister has cast. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opening wide November 27). RATING: 1.9 The teaser was the closest thing to a Looney Tune that Disney’s ever done.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. Katniss must weather political intrigue and a growing rebellion at which she is the center of before she is cast in a new Hunger Games – against former winners like herself. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 I liked the first film in the franchise; hopefully the second will be better still.
PHILOMENA (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. A woman who’d given up her son for adoption in Ireland goes to the United States decades later to find him, aided by a BBC Reporter. Release Strategy: Limited (opening in expanded release November 27). RATING: 1.5 Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan headline this acclaimed festival favorite.
WEEKEND OF A CHAMPION (Submarine Deluxe) Genre: Documentary. In 1971, Roman Polanski followed Grand Prix legend Jackie Stewart for a weekend prior to a big race; forty years later the two meet again to reminisce. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 I think I may have gotten my fill of Formula One racing with Rush.

NOVEMBER 27, 2013

BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Urban Family Holiday Drama. A frustrated street-wise teen from Baltimore sent to New York City to stay with estranged relatives for Christmas embarks on a journey back home to be with his mother. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Based on the acclaimed Langston Hughes play.
COUSIN JULES (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The rhythms of life for a blacksmith in rural France are recorded over a five year period. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Filmed from 1968-1972 and shown to great acclaim in 1973 this lost masterpiece hasn’t been shown publically since then and it should be seen by any self-respecting movie lover.
HOMEFRONT (Open Road) Genre: Action Thriller. When a young girl gets into a row with a boy at school, the meth cooking uncle of the boy decides to pick on the dad – who turns out to be ex-DEA. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 For Da Queen, any movie with Jason Statham in it is enough reason to go and see it.
JOURNEY TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC (MacGillivray/Freeman) Genre: Nature Documentary. Cate Blanchett narrates this exploration of remote West Papua where a myriad of species of life exist both above and below the sea. Release Strategy: Wide (IMAX). RATING: 2.5 Amazingly colorful and bright, something that should make for a fantastic IMAX experience.
OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) Genre: Drama. A man is kidnapped and held for 20 years while he is accused of the murder of his wife; suddenly released, he is given just three days to discover why he was held and who really killed his wife. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Based on an amazing Korean film and directed by Spike Lee; I wonder if the mind-blowing twist at the end will make it intact here.

NOVEMBER 29, 2013

BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. The iconic but reclusive sex symbol at last tells her story in her own words through a series of interviews recorded starting a decade before her death. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 She’s someone who is still a tremendous influence even today, yet still a figure of mystery which might be part of her allure.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. The trials and tribulations of the beloved South African liberator with Idris Elba in the title role. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A definite candidate for Oscar gold.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
About Time, Aftermath, Ender’s Game, Last Vegas, The Book Thief, Thor: The Dark World, Nebraska, Delivery Man, Frozen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Homefront, Oldboy, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom