St. Vincent


Sometimes you have to dig in the dirt to get clean.

Sometimes you have to dig in the dirt to get clean.

(2014) Comedy (Weinstein) Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Jaeden Lieberher, Terrence Howard, Kimberly Quinn, Lenny Venito, Nate Corddry, Dario Barosso, Donna Mitchell, Ann Dowd, Scott Adsit, Reg E. Cathey, Deirdre O’Connell, Ray Iannicelli, Greta Lee, Melissa Elena Ramirez, Ron McLarty, Niles Fitch, Emma Fisher, David Iacono, Alexandra Fong. Directed by Ted Melfi

Some people just have mean and nasty dispositions. Maybe they don’t like people in general. Maybe they get some sort of satisfaction from putting other people down. Or maybe there’s another reason they act the way they do.

Vincent (Murray) is as curmudgeonly as they come. He lives in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn. He is either unemployed or retired. He spends his days drinking in a run-down bar, betting on the horse races at Belmont or hanging with a pregnant Russian prostitute named Daka (Watts). He smokes like a chimney and is generally a pretty unpleasant guy to know.

Into the neighborhood moves Maggie (McCarthy), a single mom still in the process of a bitter divorce from her unfaithful husband David (Adsit), and her precocious son Oliver (Lieberher). Things don’t get off to a good start with their new neighbor when her off-the-books movers accidentally knock a tree limb on top of Vincent’s car, damaging it. Vincent is predictably upset and reacts – also predictably – rudely. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Oliver is the sort of kid who just seems to attract bullies. He’s undersized and of course he doesn’t know anybody. To top it off, he’s a Jewish kid in a Catholic school. So on his first day of school at St. Patrick’s Academy a couple of bullies take his phone and keys. His mother is working as an MRI technician so he has to make his way home and when he gets there, she’s still at work. Left with no choice, he asks Vincent if he can use his phone. Vincent, somewhat begrudgingly, allows him to. Maggie can’t get away to let her son back in the house, but she arranges with Vincent to watch Oliver until she gets there – which Vincent insists on getting paid for.

Vincent has money troubles with a loan shark (Howard) on his back trying to collect. He also has  bills coming due, so he asks Maggie if she would like to make a regular gig of it. Maggie, not really having much of a choice, agrees.

So into Vincent’s world Oliver goes. Oliver joins him at the track, and at the bar. He also gets an insider’s look at what makes Vincent tick. Oliver is introduced to Daka whom Vincent describes as a “Lady of the Night.” Vincent teaches Oliver self-defense with the disclaimer “Don’t worry, you won’t get it right.” He also teaches Oliver something about self-confidence and of creating your own moral compass.

Still, there is a lot of stress in Vincent’s world, with money problems coming to a head and a loved one in dire straits. There’s also plenty of stress in Maggie’s world as she has to take additional shifts to make ends meet, and then her ex-husband is suing for custody of Oliver – mainly to punish Maggie. When Vincent’s style of “babysitting” comes to light, it threatens to destroy everyone’s world.

Murray has come a long way from his SNL days, and has delivered some strong performances such as in Lost in Translation and What About Bob. This is right up there with his best. Murray has said in interviews that Vincent is a lot like who he really is and let’s be frank, he tends to play very similar characters most of the time and Vincent has a lot in common with other characters Murray has played. Yet there is a humanity in Vincent that comes out unexpectedly even as he sometimes erects additional height on the walls he’s built around himself.

We’ve come to expect these sorts of performances from Murray so the success of the movie is going to hinge on how well his co-star Lieberher can hold his own with the star. The surprising answer is, rather well. Lieberher is absolutely convincing as the kind of wallflower that Oliver is, and while Oliver is clearly wise beyond his years, he’s not the kind of precocious kid actor who never lets you forget he’s pretending to be someone else. Instead, Lieberher kind of inhabits the role and makes a fine foil for Murray throughout.

The rest of the supporting cast is pretty strong as well, McCarthy and Watts in particularly impressive in roles that aren’t typical for them. McCarthy is more of a straight woman here, although she does get a few zingers off. But she shows that when she’s not being cast as a boorish slob, she can be extremely likable and sympathetic. Watts turns the traditional “hooker with a heart of gold” role on its ear, making Daka acerbic and sometimes as curmudgeonly as Vincent but despite the Natasha Fatale-style accent, the character comes off as real and believable. Chris O’Dowd is also impressive as a teacher at St. Patrick’s, a priest who is more worldly than you’d expect.

The movie does tend to go for the schmaltzy cliches a bit too eagerly with the ending becoming a bit too sitcom for my liking. I also have to admit that there are a few plot points like the loan shark that don’t really get resolved; they just seem to fade from view.

Still, any movie with a performance like this from Bill Murray is worth seeking out and St. Vincent is certainly one that you should. It’s funny, there’s plenty of pathos and while parts of it are sitcom-like, there is at least a heart here that hits you unexpectedly rather than clubbing you over the head throughout. This is a gem of a movie.

REASONS TO GO: Murray’s a hoot and Lieberher does an impressive job of staying with him.  Fine supporting performances by Watts and O’Dowd, and McCarthy is excellent in a very different kind of role for her.
REASONS TO STAY: A little bit cliche and occasionally boggles the mind with sitcom sugary sweetness.
FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of adult thematic material some of which involves sexuality, alcohol and tobacco use and a plethora of cursing.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: At one point, Jack Nicholson was rumored to be taking the title role but eventually it went to Murray.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/11/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 75% positive reviews. Metacritic: 64/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Grumpy Old Men
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT: John Wick

Advertisements

New Releases for the Week of October 24, 2014


John WickJOHN WICK

(Lionsgate) Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan. Directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski

Sometimes movies come out of nowhere to just blow audiences away. John Wick is one of those. Although the story of an ex-hitman being forced out of retirement after having everything he loves taken away from him isn’t anything novel, the action sequences here have generated some of the most buzz of any films this year. Everyone who’s seen it has raved; I tend to listen to recommendations like that.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX (opens Thursday)

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for strong and blood violence throughout, language and brief drug use)

16 Stones

(Candlelight) Shona Kay, Brad Johnson, Mason D. Davis, Allan Groves. After witnessing the persecution of Mormons in 19th century Missouri, a young man is moved to prove the truth of the Book of Mormon by finding one of the stones touched by the finger of God part of the books of Mormon. Yes, it’s a faith based fiction, Mormon-style.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Faith-Based Adventure

Rating: PG (for some violence and thematic elements)

23 Blast

(Ocean Avenue) Mark Hapka, Stephen Lang, Alexa PenaVega, Dylan Baker. The true story of Travis Freeman, a Kentucky teenager who was blinded by an optic nerve infection. Refusing to give up, he continues to play football for his high school team and serves as an inspiration to his teammates and his town.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Sports Drama

Rating: PG (for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images)

Dear White People

(Roadside Attractions) Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Dennis Haysbert. At an Ivy League school, an African-American themed party which has been popular through the years throws the campus into a turmoil when some of the African-American students object. The students and faculty are forced to confront their own attitudes in regards to race as battle lines are drawn – and crossed.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for language, sexual content and drug use)

Exists

(Lionsgate) Dora Madison Burge, Samuel Davis, Roger Edwards, Chris Osborn. After an accident in Texas’ Big Thicket woods, five campers discover they’ve awoken something evil and not quite human. Surviving the night is going to be a lot more difficult than it sounds. From the twisted mind of The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R  (for language throughout, some violence, sexual content and drug use)

Happy New Year

(Yash Raj) Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani. An international dance competition has teams from around the world competing for national pride and glory. Not Team India though. They have something different on their mind – and something far more dangerous.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Ouija

(Universal) Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Darren Kagasoff, Lin Shaye. When her sister dies in a disturbing accident, a young woman yearns to contact her on the other side one last time. Finding a Ouija board, she and her friends try to make that connection. What they connect with is the malevolent force that her dead sister had awakened – and now wants to claim them all.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: PG (for some thematic elements)

St. Vincent

(Weinstein) Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Naomi Watts. A single mom forced to work long hours to make ends meet is left with no choice but to have her next door neighbor watch her son. An unlikable smoker, drinker and gambler, he drags the boy off on the stops that make his day – the race track, the strip club and a local dive bar. Soon though the boy and the man find themselves making a difference in each other’s lives.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, featurettes, a promo, premiere footage and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language)

The Trial

(Star Cinema) John Lloyd Cruz, Jessy Mendiola, Gretchen Barretto, Richard Gomez.. The Philippines is rocked by the allegations that a mentally challenged young man assaulted and raped his teacher. Now his friends and a crusading lawyer join forces to prove to the court – and the world – that he didn’t do it.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Drama

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: October 2014


FuryEvery 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 strategy: 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. FURY (1.5)
2. GONE GIRL (1.6)
TIE. THE JUDGE (1.6)
4. ST. VINCENT (1.7)
TIE. DRACULA UNTOLD (1.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. BIRDMAN (1.0)
2. DIPLOMACY (1.1)
3. RUDDERLESS (1.3)
TIE. WHIPLASH (1.3)
TIE. KILL THE MESSENGER (1.3)

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

OCTOBER 1, 2014

THE DECENT ONE (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Correspondence and restored film from German archives show Heinrich Himmler, one of the true monsters of the Nazi regime, to have quite a different self-image than how history views him. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Nobody ever thinks of themselves as monsters but some of the footage in the trailer was fascinating.
MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN (Paramount) Genre: Ensemble Drama. Explores how the internet impacts relationships of several high school students and their parents. Release Strategy: Limited (expands October 10 & October 17). RATING: 1.9 Really good young cast and director Jason Reitman makes this something to look forward to.

OCTOBER 2, 2014

BANG BANG (Fox Star) Genre: Bollywood. A mousy bank receptionist gets caught up in the adventure of a lifetime when a mysterious man comes into her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A remake of the Tom Cruise vehicle Knight and Day; could appeal to audiences beyond the usual Bollywood enthusiasts.

OCTOBER 3, 2014

A GOOD MARRIAGE (Screen Media) Genre: Thriller. Happily married for more than 20 years, a woman stumbles across a box under a worktable that changes completely her perception of the man she married.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 From the mind of Stephen King and starring the great Joan Allen who has been not as much onscreen as I would like.
ANNABELLE (New Line) Genre: Horror. For his pregnant wife, an expectant father buys the gift of a vintage doll in a wedding dress, but an attack by a satanic cult gives the doll a demonic presence. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 A prequel to the excellent horror film The Conjuring.
BITTER HONEY (Elemental) Genre: Documentary. Polygamy is more accepted in Indonesia; this film follows three families in Bali and in particular the wives and their place in Indonesian society. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.4 Definitely has the feel of being made by an academic but a fascinating subject nonetheless.
THE BLUE ROOM (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. A couple meet for an illicit romance but it ends up with the man under police scrutiny. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Examines the French attitudes towards infidelity with the great Matthieu Almaric starring – and directing.
DRIVE HARD (RLJ/Image) Genre: Action. A former race car champion turned driving instructor is hijacked by a desperate criminal to be the getaway driver in his $9 million heist. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks much more fun than I thought; with John Cusack and Thomas Jane in it, I guess I should have known better.
GONE GIRL (20th Century Fox) Genre: Thriller. When a beautiful woman disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, the husband comes under scrutiny and their apparently perfect marriage begins to dissolve into lies, deceit and secrets. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Ben Affleck has been on a winning streak of late and David Fincher is an always interesting director.
THE GOOD LIE (Warner Brothers) Genre: True Life Drama. Sudanese refugees who arrive in the U.S. prior to 9-11 are separated from their sister and prevail on a sympathetic social worker to help them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The first of two first-rate Reese Witherspoon performances this fall.
THE HERO OF COLOR CITY (Magnolia) Genre: Animated Feature. Heroic crayons take on the monsters from a child’s imagination to keep said monsters from hoarding all the colors for themselves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Looks a little cheesy but then again I think this is really meant for younger kids.
LAST HIJACK (Submarine) Genre: Documentary. The life of a Somali pirate told from his point of view through film of his everyday life and animated sequences. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 A powerful subject but not sure the trailer captures that power.
LEFT BEHIND (Stoney Lake) Genre: Faith-Based Drama. After the rapture, those who remain in this world discover why it was a good thing to get called up to heaven Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 While going from Kirk Cameron to Nicolas Cage is arguably a trade-up, this isn’t necessarily a movie I wanted to see the first time let alone this time.
THE LIBERATOR (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Biographical Drama. Simon Bolivar is one of the most beloved historical figures in Latin America; this movie explains why. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Although this movie has been rescheduled a couple of times, the trailer looks intriguing and it could do some indie-level box office damage.
THE SUPREME PRICE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The democratically elected president of Nigeria is overthrown by a military coup and his wife assassinated when she tries to carry on his ideals; now their daughter returns to Nigeria to try and restore democracy to a nation in which the corruption is entrenched. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Powerful stuff, but some of the Nigerians’ accents are so thick that the extended trailer would benefit from subtitles.

OCTOBER 7, 2014

STRETCH (Universal) Genre: Action Comedy. During the course of a single night, a desperate limo driver is obliged to perform increasingly twisted tasks for his reclusive billionaire fare. Release Strategy: VOD. RATING: 2.2 From Joe Carnahan, a director whose projects always seem to have something interesting about them.

OCTOBER 10, 2014

ADDICTED (CODEBLACK) Genre: Drama. A successful female executive with a great family and loving husband falls for an artist client and begins a torrid affair, discovering that her physical needs have become an obsession. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Yet another movie this month dealing with marital infidelity.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) Genre: Family. What should have been a great day turns into the most miserable day ever for one particular family. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Has at least Steve Carell in it to recommend it.
AUTOMATA (Millennium) Genre: Science Fiction. The investigation of potential manipulation of a robot’s programming exposes a dire threat to humanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Has a distinctly Asimovian feel to the film.
THE CANAL (The Orchard) Genre: Horror. A man suspects that dark spirits in his home, the scene of a grisly turn-of-the-last-century murder, may be trying to destroy him and his family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Creepy, atmospheric Irish horror – is there anything better at Halloween?
DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD (Well Go USA) Genre: Horror Comedy. The survivor of the first movie wants to get revenge on the Nazi zombies – by raising an army of the undead of his own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Might just be THE best horror movie of the season.
THE DEVIL’S HAND (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Horror. One of six girls born on the sixth day of the six month in a small devout village is destined to be the Devil’s Hand. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A cross between a teen slasher movie and a supernatural horror film set in an Amish community.
DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal/Legendary) Genre: Horror Action. His family and people threatened, a Romanian warlord determines to protect them anyway he can – even if it means literally making a deal with the devil. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.7 An alternative take on the origins of history’s most famous vampire.
I AM ALI (Focus World) Genre: Documentary. The Greatest Boxer of All Time’s life and career are recounted through unprecedented access to his archives and interviews with those closest to him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An icon from when boxing mattered.
THE JUDGE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. When his estranged father who is in the throes of early dementia is accused of murder, his high-priced lawyer son reluctantly accepts the task of defending a man he can’t stand. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Robert W. Downey is almost always entertaining.
KILL THE MESSENGER (Focus) Genre: Thriller. San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb discovers a story with far-reaching implications into our government and the war on drugs, but his discoveries put his job, family and eventually his life at risk. Release Strategy: Limited (expands October 17 and October 24). RATING: 1.3 A true story involving one of the last heroic journalists of our time with Jeremy Renner as Webb.
ONE CHANCE (Weinstein) Genre: Musical Biography. The true story of Paul Potts, a shop assistant whose incredible performances on a British singing competition show took that country by storm. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 A movie whose release date has been shifted by Weinstein so many times it’s a wonder this hasn’t gone direct to VOD.
THE OVERNIGHTERS (Drafthouse) Genre: Documentary. With oil creating a boom in a small town in North Dakota, housing has become an issue; when a pastor opens up his church to itinerant oil workers he creates unexpected controversy that is exacerbated by secrets from his own past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks incredibly powerful, not just a snapshot of a moment but also of our attitudes towards those who work in our country.
THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A woman’s life, which she seems to have put together in a careful fashion, begins to unravel when horrific nightmares begin to intrude on her waking life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A serial killer comes back from the grave film with better special effects than most for the genre.
ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) Genre: Comedy. Having moved into a new neighborhood, a single mom is forced to hire her curmudgeonly neighbor to babysit her kid. Release Strategy: Limited (opening wide October 24). RATING: 1.7 Looks like another winner for Bill Murray.
WHIPLASH (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An ambitious jazz drummer butts heads with his tyrannical drum teacher, pushing him to the brink of greatness – and possibly, insanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Some say this is the best movie to come out of Sundance this year.
YOU’RE NOT YOU (eOne) Genre: Drama. An unconventional friendship forms between a successful classical pianist diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and the chaotic college student and wannabe rock star who is hired to care for her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks a bit like a tearjerker but with an amazing cast headed up by Oscar winner Hilary Swank.

OCTOBER 15, 2014

DIPLOMACY (Zeitgeist) Genre: Drama. The confrontation between a Nazi general and a Swedish diplomat becomes a game of high stakes. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.1 With the Allies knocking on the doors of Paris, the Nazis intended to destroy the city; one man alone stood in the way as this riveting drama proposes.

OCTOBER 16, 2014

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (Orion/MGM) Genre: Horror. 65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized a Texas town, the murders begin again but is it something more sinister than a copycat killer? Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A spooky remake of a supposedly true story.

OCTOBER 17, 2014

THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) Genre: Romance. Two lovers are reunited 20 years later after life has kicked them around some and the woman is married to another man. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 Nicholas Sparks is at it again.
BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Comedy. Trying to resurrect a stalled career, an actor best-known for playing an iconic superhero mounts a Broadway play, battling his own ego and the pressures surrounding him as he gives one last effort to make things right in his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The latest from Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu looks funny, sad, beautiful and wonderful all at once.
THE BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. Two young men battling for the heart of the same women attract the attention of supernatural entities who bet on the winner; one, hoping to tip the scales, sends one of the men to the land of the Dead. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Set in the style of the Mexican Day of the Dead, the Guillermo del Toro-produced toon has a look that is completely unique and utterly enchanting.
THE CULTURE HIGH (eOne) Genre: Documentary. Examines both sides of the debate around legalizing marijuana. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 While the documentarians clearly favor legalization, they seem open to presenting opposing viewpoints.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. Four African-American students deal with racial attitudes in the 21st century in different ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’m still on the fence about this one; the trailer looked a bit stereotypical.
DEFAULT (Amplify) Genre: Thriller. Somali pirates capture a chartered plane with a legendary journalist aboard, demanding to be interviewed which the journalist agrees to without realizing the motives are much more deadly than he realizes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Somali pirates seem to have become an object of obsession in Hollywood lately.
FELONY (Gravitas) Genre: Crime Thriller. Three detectives are involved in the critical injury of a child; one committed a crime, one is covering it up and the third will try to expose it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Australian film with a terrific cast including Tom Wilkinson and Joel Edgerton.
FURY (Columbia) Genre: War. In the waning days of the Second World War, a tank crew behind enemy lines try to survive the furious final fight and make it home. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Brad Pitt may be looking at another Oscar nomination.
HOUSEBOUND (XLRator) Genre: Horror Comedy. Sentenced to home detention in her mom’s house, a career criminal discovers that her mom’s babbling about the house being haunted turn out to be true. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Keep Calm and Watch British Horror Movies.
LISTEN UP, PHILIP (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A self-centered novelist seeks refuge in his idol’s summer home and gets an unexpected reality check. Release Strategy: New York City (expands October 24). RATING: 2.1 Looks pretty funny in a twisted sort of way.
RUDDERLESS (Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. The death of his son inspires his alcoholic dad to begin performing his son’s songs in public. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The directing debut of William H. Macy offers a fine cast and a strong story.
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. A baby discovered in a glowing bamboo stalk is raised by human parents to become a beautiful princess. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles/Toronto. RATING: 1.6 Based on an ancient Japanese legend, this is the latest film (and last for awhile, possibly forever) from Studio Ghibli.
YOUNG ONES (Screen Media) Genre: Science Fiction. In a dystopic future in which water is disappearing from the Earth, a farmer fights to protect his land and his family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Not sure if this is post-apocalyptic action film or political statement.

OCTOBER 24, 2014

1,000 TIMES GOODNIGHT(Film Movement) Genre: Drama. A badly injured war photographer returns home to get an ultimatum from her husband and children; choose between her family and her career. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Rarely do we see the price paid by the families of journalists who risk their lives doing their jobs.
CITIZENFOUR (Radius) Genre: Documentary. In the midst of making a documentary about security abuses in Post-9/11 America a filmmaker receives cryptic e-mails from a source that ends up being Edward Snowden. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The details of how a whistleblower brought one of the biggest scandals in the history of the American intelligence community may well be a fascinating movie but couldn’t find a trailer.
EXISTS (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. On the way to a weekend camping trip, five friends accidentally unleash an ancient horror hell-bent on revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The director of The Blair Witch Project brings us what might be the scariest Sasquatch movie ever.
FORCE MAJEURE (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. The actions of a father during a family ski trip lead to his wife questioning his character and indeed whether she should remain married to him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Funny and thought-provoking, a rare combination.
THE HEART MACHINE (IFC) Genre: Romance. An online relationship takes a strange turn when the man discovers that the woman may not be a long distance romance at all – she may actually live in his town. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Love and obsession in the digital age.
JOHN WICK (Lionsgate) Genre: Action Thriller. A hitman comes out of retirement to take on the gangsters who took everything from him. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Keanu Reeves in the kind of role that Liam Neeson has been getting lately.
LAGGIES (A24) Genre: Dramedy. Not quite ready to grow up yet, a 20-something girl hides out from a prospective fiancé in the home of a 16-year-old friend and her single dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 This Sundance favorite from one of my favorite young directors Lynn Shelton has a stellar cast.
LIFE OF RILEY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Romance. Three French couples living in the English countryside must navigate their way through emotional entanglements. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A new Alain Resnais film is always worth seeking out.
LOW DOWN (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Biographical Drama. The relationship between a young girl and her aspiring musician father is complicated as they try to survive Los Angeles in the 70s. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles October 31). RATING: 2.0 Astonishing cast captures the era, the drug use and the music.
OUIJA (Universal) Genre: Supernatural Horror. In an attempt to contact her recently deceased sister using a Ouija board, a young woman may have inadvertently contacted the malevolent force that killed her. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 The latest from the Blumhouse bunch looks plenty scary.
STONEHEARST ASYLUM (Millennium) Genre: Horror. Newly graduated from med school, a doctor takes a position at a mental institution and falls for one of his colleagues, unaware of the repercussions of a recent staffing change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 An adaptation from an Edgar Allen Poe short story.
WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. The disappearance of her mother several years earlier profoundly effects a young college student as she confronts her own denial of the events surrounding it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Shailene Woodley just keeps getting better and better.

OCTOBER 29, 2014

REVENGE OF THE MEKONS (Music Box) Genre: Musical Documentary. Emerging from the punk scene in the UK in 1977, this long-running band continues to make exciting and relevant music today by consistently changing and adopting new influences. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 A band that has made some of the greatest music of the post-punk era but has had terrible luck with record labels and remains mostly a cult favorite today.

OCTOBER 31, 2014

ABCS OF DEATH 2 (Magnet) Genre: Horror Anthology. Once again, 26 directors from around the world contribute short films based on different letters of the alphabet with a horror theme. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The first one had flashes of genius but was wildly uneven.
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (Clarius) Genre: Thriller. Every time a woman goes to sleep, she wakes up with no new memories of what happened that day; but disturbing truths begin to emerge that make her suspect everyone around her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sounds a lot like 50 First Dates crossed with Memento.
HORNS (Radius) Genre: Supernatural Horror. Accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend, a young man wakes up with a set of horns which compel people to confess their sins and act out their hidden fantasies and decides to use their power to find out what really happened to his girlfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A tour-de-force for director Alexandre Aja and another career-building performance for Daniel Radcliffe.
NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road) Genre: Thriller. Desperate for work, an unemployed man falls into the fast-paced underbelly of crime journalism in L.A. and slowly begins to unravel. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Jake Gyllenhaal at the top of his game.
SAW (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. Returning for one week only comes one of the seminal torture porn films. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Remember when we got a new movie in this franchise every Halloween?

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Annabelle, Gone Girl, The Good Lie, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Dracula Untold, The Judge, Kill the Messenger, One Chance, St. Vincent, Whiplash, Birdman, The Book of Life, Fury, John Wick, Ouija, Nightcrawler