Top 10 of 2013


Top 10 2014Those who read a lot of movie reviewers know that it is part of the job to rank the best movies of the year once that year is over. Not being one of those critics who gets to see all the big movies well in advance of their release date, I have to make do with getting out to see them as soon as I can, which leads to delays in publishing my top 10.

As with most things, any top 10 for any critic is a moment in time captured. This is how I feel these movies belong to be ranked at this moment, right now. I can guarantee you that I’ll look back on this next year and wonder how in the hell I ranked one movie ahead of another, or how I missed this movie or that one.

Here you’ll see plenty of movies that are already on a lot of year end lists, but there’s one you won’t see that is – Her. That’s not because I didn’t love the movie – in fact, I think that it would be near the top if not the top movie of 2013. However, while it did get released in New York and L.A. in 2013 for Academy consideration, most people in the country didn’t get a chance to see it until January of this year. That is why I decided to put the film in as part of my 2014 films. Normally I go by the release date of the movie to qualify it as a top ten film, but in all honesty these days we’re getting so many quality foreign films that were released in their own countries a year, two or even three years prior to their American release that I am going with a general “when did it get its widest release” in order to determine what year I rank the film with. You can bitch and moan if you want to but it’s my playground and my rules and I reserve the right to change them tomorrow.

I think that the quality for movies overall in 2013 was pretty high compared to recent years. Many of the honorable mentions would have made the top 10 lists in years past. This one was a bit harder to put together; there were several I had a hard time relegating to the purgatory of Honorable Mention but at the end of the day, this is my list and I’m sticking to it.

So this is the list as I see it. Feel free to leave your comments and opinions here on the site or elsewhere. I’m always happy to defend my choices. However, if you haven’t seen some of them, do seek them out; I’ll do my best to provide information as to how to go watch them right now, whether it be in your local multiplex, through an online streaming service, on your cable or satellite subscription service or at your local DVD store.

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So,  in no particular order;

Dallas Buyers Club, Aftermath, Saving Mr. Banks, Mud, Starbuck, A.C.O.D., Unfinished Song, Nebraska, The Book Thief, John Dies at the End, The World’s End, Stories We Tell, The Attack, Good Ol’ Freda, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, Sightseers, Captain Phillips, Pieta, Philomena, The History of Future Folk, About Time, I Declare War, Year of the Living Dead, Quartet

This Is Where We Live

10.  THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

(Bluff City) Tobias Segal, Marc Menchaca, Barry Corbin, Frankie Shaw, C.K. McFarland, Ron Hayden, Katherine Willis, Marco Perella, Brent Smiga, Brian Orr, Christine Bruno, Carolyn Gilroy. Directed by Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca

Released April 7, 2013 A Texas hill country family has a tough go of it, with the adult son having a severe form of cerebral palsy and the father in the beginning stages of dementia. The mother is also battling high blood pressure and the sister is bitter at the hand life has dealt her. Into this volatile mix comes a rough and tumble handyman who at first builds a wheelchair ramp for the front porch but eventually becomes the son’s caretaker and friend. However his shortcomings may tear the family apart.

WHY IT IS HERE: Beautifully photographed and written with sympathy and sensitivity, this is a movie for people who love movies about people and by people, I mean real people, the sort you might run into at the grocery store or sit next to in the bar. It could have easily been a manipulative Lifetime movie but instead chooses honesty over treacle. An amazing debut by the directing team.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tobias Segal as August expresses his frustration at trying to communicate with a body that doesn’t co-operate with him – ever.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Not available.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Is trying to secure distributorship for some sort of theatrical release. Until then, look for it on the Festival circuit.

Short Term 12

9. SHORT TERM 12

(Cinedigm) Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield, Frantz Turner, Stephanie Beatriz, Melora Walters. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Released August 23, 2013 In an era of austerity where social service funding is under fire from the fiscal conservatives, this is a look at just what that wasteful spending is actually spent on. A young woman is the caretaker of at-risk youths in a care facility in Los Angeles in an eventful few days in the facility. A girl is admitted, one who reminds the caretaker strikingly of herself. A long-time resident prepares to get released to live on his own. And the caretaker discovers that she is pregnant, which triggers her own long-held emotional issues.

WHY IT IS HERE: As authentic a movie as was released in 2013. A warts-and-all portrayal of troubled kids and of the young people who care for them. Larson’s performance would certainly have been in the mix for the Best Actress Oscar had this been released by a major studio; suffice to say she has what it takes to get the gold somewhere down the line. Surrounded by a great young cast, Larson shines and elevates this film to the next level.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Larson “rescues” Dever from the home of her abusive father and in doing so the inner pain of both women comes to the surface.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $1 million domestic (as of 1/14/14), $1 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon.

The Wolf of Wall Street

8. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

(Paramount) Leonardo di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Kenneth Choi, PJ Byrne, Jon Bernthal, Joanna Lumley. Directed by Martin Scorsese

Released December 25, 2013 It seems only fitting that Scorsese would in this day and age make a film about amoral Wall Street capitalists – after all, they are the new mob of the 21st century. Still, there is a fascination to the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort from ambitious penny stock trader to criminal on an epic scale. All the drugs, all the language, the greed and the women – it’s a morality tale like none other.

WHY IT IS HERE: Di Caprio delivers one of the defining performances of his career to date and Hill proves he’s more than a one-shot wonder with an Oscar-nominated performance. While some have complained about the indulgences and the f-bombs, nonetheless there’s authenticity about what you see onscreen. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then money corrupts inevitably. One of the critical hits of the year and judging on the box office returns this may well being one of Scorsese’s biggest hits ever.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Delayed-reaction Quaaludes. That’s all you need to know.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $82.8 million domestic (as of 1/17/14), $120.9M total.

BUDGET: $100M

STATUS: Still out in wide release.

The Hunt

7. THE HUNT (JAGTEN)

(Magnolia) Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkoop, Lasse Fogelstrom, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Ole Dupont, Rikke Bergmann, Allan Wilbor Christensen. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Released July 12, 2013 We were one of the first in the country to see this here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. Recently this was announced to be one of the final nominees for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Given it’s wrenching story about a substitute teacher who is just trying to get his life together after a bitter divorce accused of molesting a little girl, it’s hardly unsurprising but there is more to this than simply a terrific story.

WHY IT IS HERE: The storyline, as well-told as it is, is brought to life by an Oscar-worthy performance by Mikkelsen. In a year in which we’ve been treated to a wealth of fine performances, this is as good as any as you’ll witness, Only the fact that this is a mid-major distributor and a foreign film kept Mikkelsen from being in the Oscar mix. This is the kind of movie that leaves you feeling emotionally drained after seeing it.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The Christmas eve church confrontation.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $613,308 domestic (as of 1/21/14), $16.76M total..

BUDGET: $3.45M.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster/Netflix/iTunes.

Fruitvale Station

6. FRUITVALE STATION

(Weinstein) Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ariana Neal, Ahna O’Reilly, Keenan Coogler, Trestin George, Joey Oglesby, Michael James, Marjorie Shears, Destiny Ekwueme. Directed by Ryan Coogler

Released July 12, 2013 Based on true events that happened on the last day of 2008 (and on the first day of 2009), the shooting of Oscar Grant III at an East Bay BART station galvanized the Bay Area and the nation as to the training of transit police and their use of firearms. Taking place on the last day of his life, the film shows the story of a man who’s made some terrible mistakes trying to get his life together only to lose it in a senseless confrontation

WHY IT IS HERE: Some talk about Oscar snubs to Redford and Hanks but this entire movie has gotten snubbed this entire awards season and it just isn’t right. Part of he problem was that the movie was released back in July but frankly the studio hasn’t really supported it as much as it deserves either. The movie certainly should have received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jordan), Best Supporting Actress (Spencer) and Best Original Screenplay. Hopefully the justice will be in big boosts to the careers of Coogler and Jordan.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When a mother is informed that her son is dead.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $16.1 million domestic (as of 1/21/14), $16.7 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/ iTunes.

20 Feet from Stardom

5. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM

(Radius) Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fisher, Judith Hill, Tata Vega, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Chris Botti, Lynn Mabry, Claudia Lennear, Sheryl Crow, Patti Austin. Directed by Morgan Neville

Released June 14, 2013 Most of us know the stars out front belting out the hits but few of us are all that aware of the back-up singers who often sing the parts of the song we sing along to. Some of them are the most talented and powerful voices in the business bar none – including the stars, who would be the first to tell you so. These are the anti-American Idols – women content to remain in the background, who sing for the love of singing rather than in pursuit of fame.

WHY IT IS HERE: This Oscar-nominated documentary shines a light on those who have shunned the spotlight, some for nearly 50 years and still going strong. This was the opening night film for the 2013 Florida Film Festival and an auspicious kick-off to that event it was, with Merry Clayton a special guest gracing opening night filmgoers with a song.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A deconstruction of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Gimme Shelter” with the various tracks stripped away until only Clayton’s powerful voice remains.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4.8M domestic (as of 1/22/14), $5.2M worldwide.

BUDGET: Not available

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/ iTunes.

Gravity

4. GRAVITY

(Warner Brothers) Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice), Phaldut Sharma (voice), Orto Ignatiussen (voice), Amy Warren (voice), Basher Savage (voice). Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Released October 3, 2013 Perhaps the worst possible fear of an astronaut is a disaster in space, crippling their spacecraft and robbing them of a ride home. For all our well-trained, cool-as-a-cucumber-under-pressure NASA heroes, there’s no doubt that each one of them are human inside and in a situation like that would be absolutely terrified. This comes as close as we can to making that situation real for a general audience.

WHY IT IS HERE: Stunning special effects that duplicate weightlessness so perfectly, and a bravura Oscar-nominated performance by Bullock (and justifiably so). This has been getting rabid kudos from critics and audiences alike since it opened and it is no surprise that it is one of the finalists for the Best Picture Oscar.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The initial collision with the debris field that leaves Bullock’s character spinning out of control and headed for deep space – all against eerie silence.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $258.9 million domestic (as of 1/21/14), $677.7 million total.

BUDGET: $100 million.

STATUS: Still in wide release; scheduled for home video release on February 25.

The Forgotten Kingdom

3. THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM

(Black Kettle) Zenzo Ngqobe, Nozipho Nkelemba, Jerry Mofokeng, Lebohang Ntsane, Moshoshoe Chabeli, Lillian Dube, Sam Phillips. Directed by Andrew Mudge

Released April 5, 2013 This is yet another movie on this list that I first caught at the Florida Film Festival – in this case, the best film I caught at the FFF this year. In it a South African man, living a life of drinking and womanizing, is charged with taking his father – from whom he was estranged – back to Lesotho to be buried. Along the way he rekindles an old flame, learns something about his dad and of himself – and of Africa.

WHY IT IS HERE: An amazing film that drills down father-son relationships and forces you to explore your own relationships with your parents and/or your children. Beautifully shot in gorgeous African vistas, this is a movie so compelling and beautiful that I was thinking about it for days. I’m still thinking about it now.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Atang’s confrontation with Dineo’s father.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Not available.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Still appearing on the festival circuit. At this time there are no concrete plans for home video release but at some point hopefully that will change.

12 Years a Slave

2.  12 YEARS A SLAVE

(Fox Searchlight) Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard. Directed by Steve McQueen

Released October 18, 2013 Solomon Northup, a free American of African descent, is betrayed, kidnapped and sold into slavery. Sent to the deep South of the plantations of Louisiana, he is taken away from his wife and children and must learn to survive in the brutal world of the cotton fields, maintaining the hope that one day he will be free once again.

WHY IT IS HERE: Just a magnificently gripping film, one which can show the depths of human depravity one moment and the heights of the strength of the human spirit the next. Ejiofor comes out as a legitimate star here while McQueen who for years has been labeled as a director of enormous promise, fulfills it here.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Solomon Northup sobbing as he is being carted away in a wagon as he is at last set free.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $43.9M (as of 1/2913), $79.0M total.

BUDGET: $20 million.

STATUS: Still in wide release. Expected to be released on home video this spring.

The Act of Killing

1. THE ACT OF KILLING

 (Drafthouse) Anwars Congo, Herman Koto, Safit Pardede, Adi Zulkadry, Haji Anif, Jusuf Kalla, Ibrahim Sinik, Syamsul Arfin. Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

Released July 19, 2013 During the Indonesian military takeover in the mid-1960s, thousands upon thousands of Indonesians were murdered by death squad, often led by members of organized crime. In an effort to rid the country of leftists and communists, the net was expanded to include executions of ethnic Chinese and as time went on, basically anyone they wanted. Some of the more notorious death squad leaders were interviewed here and invited to re-enact their crimes in any style they wished; being to a man big fans of Hollywood movies, they would choose some fairly inventive means.

WHY IT IS HERE: I can’t say I enjoyed this movie but the experience of it really changed my perceptions on the notions of forgiveness and humanity. Anwars Congo, one of the most blood-soaked of the death squad leaders (and one of the most revered in Indonesia), is today a grandfatherly sort whose gentle onscreen demeanor is at odds with the horrors of his vicious, cruel and bloodthirsty acts. Is there redemption for men like that? Can one feel sympathy for the devil?

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene on the roof when the horror of his actions catches up with Anwar and he has a violently physical reaction.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $469, 214 domestic (as of 1/29/13), $469,214 total.

BUDGET: $1 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Netflix.

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The Attack


Sometimes what you don't know CAN hurt you.

Sometimes what you don’t know CAN hurt you.

(2012) Drama (Cohen Media Group) Ali Suliman, Uri Gavriel, Reymond Amsalem, Karim Saleh, Evgenia Dodena, Dvir Benedek, Abdallah El Akal, Ezra Dagan, Nathalie Rozanes, Ofri Fuchs, Michael Warshaviak, Eli Gorenstein, Vladimir Friedman, Esther Zewko, Ruba Salameh, Ramzi Makdessi, Ihab Salameh, Hassan Yassine, Nisrine Seksek. Directed by Ziad Doueiri

The person that we should know best is our spouse. In an ideal relationship, there are no secrets (at least no serious ones) and we can safely say that we know the person we are married to better than anyone else does – perhaps better than we know ourselves.

Dr. Amin Jaafari is a surgeon of Palestinian descent who has made a place for himself in Israeli society. He and his beautiful wife Siham (Amsalem) live in a lovely home and are accepted by their Jewish neighbors and colleagues. When he becomes the first Palestinian to win a major award for medicine in Israel, he figures he’s made it, although he’s a bit miffed that Siham isn’t there to share in his moment of glory after she goes to Nazareth to visit her family.

The next day, a bomb explodes in a nearby restaurant. 17 people die and dozens are injured. Dr. Jaafari is busy trying to save the dying and help the wounded. He sees firsthand the results of terrorism and doesn’t like what he sees. He goes home and falls into an exhausted sleep but is awakened early in the morning by a call from his friend Raveed (Benedek), an Israeli police officer, summoning him to the hospital. He figures there are more casualties but that is not why he is there. He is brought down to the morgue and is shocked to discover that one of the bodies from the bombing is that of his wife Siham. Half of her body has been blown away. The good doctor faints dead away.

His nightmare is just beginning however. It turns out that the authorities suspect that Siham was a suicide bomber. At first Dr. Jaafari is incredulous. Siham a terrorist? No….HELL No! Nobody knows his wife like he does after all. Dr. Jaafari is certain that when the terrorists release their video as they inevitably do that she will be exonerated. However Captain Moshe (Gavriel) is certain and puts the doctor through an intense interrogation until at last they are satisfied that he knew nothing of the attack. However his neighbors and friends aren’t so sure and distance themselves from him or worse, vandalize his home. His colleague Kim (Dodena) and Raveed stick up for him but Dr. Jaafari is being backed into a corner. Finally when he is given tangible evidence of his wife’s guilt, he journeys to Nablus to find out how she could do such a thing – and who was responsible for turning her into a monster.

As you can tell from the synopsis this is a very intense subject matter. Suliman, an Israeli actor of Arabic descent, has appeared in a couple of high-profile Hollywood projects (Kingdom of Lies, Body of Lies and the upcoming Lone Survivor) and has also appeared in some very good local productions (primarily Paradise Now, Lemon Tree and Zaytoun). This is his best performance to date. It is wrenching to watch his anguish but also his rage. How could he have missed it? Why did she do this awful thing?

To answer those questions he has to go to Nablus and he finds himself in the awkward position of being the husband to a martyr whose death has been glorified. The more he talks to those who may or may not have had anything to do with her choice to do this monstrous thing, the more it becomes obvious that these people are intractable; reason doesn’t enter into it. Dr. Jaafari isn’t trusted and while his wife’s sacrifice keeps him from getting a bullet through his brain, neither does it give him any clout whatsoever when exploring the chain of events that led to her fateful decision.

In the end it was her visit to a site of an Israeli aerial attack that led her on that terrible path. While the movie does get a little slow getting to Nablus, once it’s there we realize that part of the problem in the Middle East is that they are in this awful spiral which neither side will put a halt to by simply saying “We will not retaliate. We won’t escalate. We will just stop.” It is a kind of insanity, one born out of hatred and fear. One idiot reviewer chastised the film for not providing answers. Seriously dude? Some questions have no answers. Sometimes the truth is unpleasant and horrible. One sees a movie like this and understands that the hope for peace in the Middle East is like picking out the right grain of sand on a beach. It requires patience and  perhaps more time than a single life can survive. There are no answers here and maybe Dr. Jaafari isn’t asking the right questions. Either way this is the kind of movie that will generate a great deal of dialogue on its own – a movie that works equally well in the heart and in the head. Talk about a precious grain of sand on the beach…

REASONS TO GO: Strong performance by Suliman. Raises some intriguing questions.

REASONS TO STAY: Drags a bit in the middle.

FAMILY VALUES:  Some of the images are pretty disturbing, there’s some violence and a bit of sexuality and foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The only Arabic or Muslim country to show the film has been Morocco. Many cited the reason for that was that it was filmed in Israel.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/20/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 74/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Day Night Day Night

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

NEXT: Heartbeats

New Releases for the Week of November 15, 2013


The Best Man Holiday

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY     

(Universal) Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun, Melissa de Souza. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

A group of college friends determine to reunite over the holidays in New York. Years after the hi-jinx that ensued at the wedding, they’ve moved on with their lives – some together, some not, However once they all get into the same state, old rivalries and relationships flare up yet again and threaten to make this a Christmas to remember.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday night)

Genre: Urban Holiday Comedy

Rating: R (for language, sexual content and brief nudity)

Aftermath

(Menemsha) Maciej Stuhr, Ireneusz Czop, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Danuta Szarflarska. A Pole who has been living in Chicago for many years returns home to visit his younger brother. He discovers that his brother has been shunned and threatened by his neighbors. As he digs into the mysterious affair, he discovers a terrible secret that the town has been keeping and that he and his brother are part of. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NR

The Attack

(Cohen Media Group) Ali Suliman, Evgenia Dodena, Reymond Amsalem, Dvir Benedek. A surgeon in Tel Aviv of Palestinian descent has fully assimilated into Israeli society. When a suicide bomber detonates in a restaurant, he is one of those on the front lines taking care of the wounded. When he discovers his wife is among the fatalities, he is devastated but it becomes far worse when it becomes clear that she is suspected of being the bomber. Now he must take a journey into the dark side of his homeland to discover the truth about his wife. In doing so he will discover that he must question everything about his faith, his life and his dreams. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for some violent images, language and brief sexuality)

Dallas Buyers Club

(Focus) Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn. Ron Woodruff was a party hearty Texas cowboy in the ‘80s who like many in that era found his lifestyle catching up to him – he was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1985, that was a death sentence. Not satisfied to lay down and die, he fought to get alternative treatments, both legal and not so much. Traveling the world, he embraces and becomes embraced by elements of society he once would have disdained and establishes a buying club meant to get the drugs desperately needed by the dying into their hands.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: R (for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use)

The Europa Report

(Magnet) Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu. An manned expedition to Europa, a moon of Jupiter which scientists currently believe is the most likely place in the solar system to harbor life outside of Earth, loses contact with mission control. Their struggle to complete their mission will lead to the decision whether the increase of knowledge is worth the cost of human life. This was previously reviewed in Cinema365 here.

See the trailer and a link to stream the full movie at Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action and peril)

Great Expectations

(Main Street/Lionsgate) Jeremy Irvine, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes. This is a lush new version of the classic Charles Dickens novel brought to life by one of the greatest living directors, Mike Newell. A young impoverished boy is lifted from the cruel streets of 19th century London and brought into a life of wealth and privilege, but this act of charity is not without its drawbacks.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Period Drama

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

Hava Nagila: The Movie

(International Film Circuit) Harry Belafonte, Leonard Nimoy, Connie Frances, Regina Spektor. The story of the iconic Hebrew folk song is examined with performances throughout the years by well-known stars. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Ram Leela

(Eros International) Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chadda, Supriya
Pathak
. The courtship of two young people from feuding families has consequences. Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, the movie’s released has been temporarily blocked as the title in Hindi refers to the god Rama and the vulgarity, violence and sex in the movie was insulting to Hindus. However, the producers are free to release it here and indeed they have, making this a rare Bollywood film that opens in the United States before it does in India.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

When Comedy Went to School

(International Film Circuit) Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Jerry Stiller, Mort Sahl. Once upon a time the Catskill Mountains and the resorts therein were premium vacation destinations for the Eastern Seaboard. Many of the resorts had nightclubs where stand-up comedians were routinely booked. This area became known as the Borscht belt as many comedians – primarily Jewish – honed their skills here and went on to become superstars. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Zaytoun

(Strand) Stephen Dorff, Abdallah El Akal, Ali Suliman, Alice Taglioni. During the 1982 Lebanese Civil War, an Israeli fighter pilot is shot down and taken prisoner by a Palestinian refugee camp nearby. Although initially hating him, the young boy assigned to guard him yearns to see the homeland of his parents and is willing to make a deal; he’ll help the pilot escape in exchange for being taken to Israel so that he might plant an olive tree. Despite their mutual distrust, they form an unlikely friendship. This is playing at the Orlando Science Center as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: War Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and language)

Four-Warned: June 2013


Man of Steel

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.

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. MAN OF STEEL (1.0)
2. THIS IS THE END (1.3)
3. WORLD WAR Z (1.6)
4. WHITE HOUSE DOWN (1.8)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE ATTACK (1.0)
2. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM (1.1)
3. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1.3)
4. A HIJACKING (1.4)

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

JUNE 7, 2013

 

 

AS COOL AS I AM (Radiant Films International) Genre: Dramedy. A middle aged couple, married too young, try to recapture their lost youth while their teenage daughter struggles to define who she is. Release Strategy: Limited . RATING: 2.4 Claire Danes and James Marsters make a compelling couple and Sarah Bolger has near-limitless potential.
EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A look at one of the early conservative TV pundits. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.9 A train wreck, sure, but one we should all know to understand modern media politics.
FINDING JOY (Kreate) Genre: Comedy. A writer uses his eccentric family to help make the life of a dying woman better. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks pretty offbeat – maybe too offbeat.
HEY BARTENDER (4th Row) Genre: Documentary. In this era of craft cocktails, bartending has changed and this film looks at two very different bartenders; one an injured war veteran trying to realize his dreams, the other trying to keep a neighborhood bar afloat. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks far more fun than Cocktail.
THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. A pair of out of work salesmen who are somewhat old school get an internship at Google realizing this might be their last chance. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 I liked Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Wedding Crashers but this doesn’t look half as good.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A pair of mismatched lovers tumble headlong into love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Shakespeare as interpreted by Joss Wheden? Color me intrigued…
PASSION (eOne) Genre: Thriller. Two women – a mentor and her protégé – fight for corporate dominance and for a shared lover. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A remake of the French thriller Love Crime with Brian DePalma at the helm and Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in front of the camera – sounds like a winner to me.
THE PURGE (Universal) Genre: Thriller. In the near future, one night a week crime is neither policed nor prosecuted and Americans retreat into heavily fortified bunkers but when one family open up theirs to a desperate man, they put all their lives at risk. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Looks not unlike The Strangers meets Hostage.
RAPTURE-PALOOZA (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. After the rapture actually occurs, those who remain behind discover that the post-Apocalypse is nothing like what they thought it’d be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Great idea but the trailer doesn’t look particularly funny.
SYRUP (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. A wide-eyed college graduate enters the world of marketing and discovers that his quest for fame and fortune may cost him more than his integrity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Does the world need a movie about how cynical marketing is? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel isn’t it?
TIGER EYES (Freestyle) Genre: Drama. A teenage girl mourning the violent death of her father meets a teenage Native American boy who leads her to find her inner strength and the path into life and love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Based on a Judy Blume-penned bestselling novel for young adults and directed by her son Lawrence.
VIOLET AND DAISY (Cinedigm) Genre: Comedy. Two teenage assassins take a surreal and violent trip through New York City. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks like something that defies categorization and with a cast including Saoirse Ronan and James Gandolfini could be worth a look.
THE WALL (Music Box) Genre: Fantasy. A woman, left with only her dog for company after a mysterious invisible wall cuts her off from the rest of the world, embarks on a journey of spiritual growth. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles June 14) RATING: 1.8 Sounds a lot like Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” until you realize that the Marlen Haushofer novel that this is based on predate King.
WISH YOU WERE HERE (eOne) Genre: Thriller. The lives of two couples are irrevocably changed on a fateful night during a vacation in Cambodia. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A clever-looking Australian film starring super-hot Joel Edgerton.

JUNE 10, 2013

 

 

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER (HBO) Genre: Documentary. Three young Russian women, an art collective known as Pussy Riot, performed a 20 second Punk Prayer in the main cathedral in Moscow and would be put on trial for religious hatred. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 A very thought-provoking conversation on freedom of speech, the limits thereof and whether laws protecting that freedom actually prevent it.

JUNE 12, 2013

 

 

MORE THAN HONEY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Markus Imhoof looks at why bees worldwide seem to be going extinct and the disturbing answers he discovers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A chilling message beautifully photographed.
THIS IS THE END (Columbia) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. The apocalypse is visited upon us during a really good party at actor James Franco’s house. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Could very well be the best comedy of the year – at least it looks like the least self-indulgent.

JUNE 14, 2013

 

 

APOSTLES OF COMEDY: ONWARDS AND UPWARDS (XLRator) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A look at Christian stand-up comics. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Not really my thing but some of the acts looked pretty funny.
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A sound engineer working on an English horror film in 1976 begins to blur the line between film and reality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Has the vibe of the European thrillers of the late 60s and 70s; could have been a Polanski film back in the day.
THE BLING RING (A24) Genre: Crime Dramedy. Based on actual events, a group of bored Southern California teens begin burglarizing Hollywood stars for the connection to their fame. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sofia Coppola’s commentary on our obsession with celebrity taken to extremes.
THE GUILLOTINES (Well Go USA) Genre: Martial Arts. Assassins for the former emperor of China have become hated and feared by the new regime; they relocate to a small village where they will be attacked by both sides. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 I have a soft spot for these martial arts epics and with Andrew Lau at the helm it should be a particularly good one.
HATCHET III (MPI/Dark Skies) Genre: Horror. Survivor Marybeth teams up with a vengeful cop and his ex-wife to end the hatchet-wielding madman’s reign of terror in the Louisiana swamps once and for all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks pretty much like standard slasher fare. Nice to see Zach (Gremlins) Gallagher onscreen again though.
MAN OF STEEL (Warner Brothers) Genre: Superhero. The legend of the iconic American superhero Superman is retold. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Zack Snyder looks like he’s hit a home run with this one.
STORM SURFERS 3D (XLRator) Genre: Documentary. A pair of surfing legends track huge Pacific storms to find the ultimate waves to ride. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Not a big surfing fan; it will depend on how engaging the subjects are.
THE STROLLER STRATEGY (Rialto) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When a baby unexpectedly enters the life of a bachelor, he pretends to be its real father in order to win back the heart of an ex-girlfriend. Release Strategy: New York city only. RATING: 2.4 Meh. The French excel at this kind of thing but the trailer left me flat.
TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM (Radius) Genre: Documentary. The most heralded and respected backup singers in the history of rock are profiled in a “you know their voices but not their names” celebration. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 This year’s opening night film at the Florida Film Festival; you can read my review of it here.
VEHICLE 19 (Ketchup) Genre: Action. A parolee picks up the wrong rental car and realizes that the woman tied up in the trunk is being chased by corrupt city officials who want to silence her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A Luc Besson-style action film; could be good.

JUNE 21, 2013

 

 

A HIJACKING (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. When Somali pirates hijack a freighter, a psychological game of cat and mouse ensues between the pirates and the cynical CEO of the company that owns the freighter with the crew caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks absolutely riveting; could well be one of the best movies out there this month.
THE ATTACK (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A Palestinian surgeon living in Tel Aviv is shocked to discover that his wife, who perished in a suicide bombing, may have been the bomber. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Wow! Incredibly intense trailer, wrenching concept, might this be the movie of the year?
BETWEEN US (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Two couples who’ve known each other a long time discover that their lives haven’t gone according to plan. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 While listed as a comedy, this looks more like a drama; good cast, worth checking out.
LIARS ALL (Phase 4) Genre: Psychological Thriller. A party game goes horribly wrong when it turns out that one of the players is a killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Dunno bout this one; has the air of a generic thriller about it.
MANIAC (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. The women of Los Angeles are stalked by a serial killer who was abused by his own mother. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A remake of a 1980 horror classic but this time the killer is…a hobbit?!
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. Future scarer Sully and his handler Mike Wazowski are initially rivals in college but must work together in order to get themselves reinstated after their rivalry gets out of control. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 Is it just me or is Pixar getting a little too involved with sequels lately?
RUSHLIGHTS (Vertical Entertainment) Genre: Thriller. A pair of delinquent teen lovers try to falsely claim a dead friend’s inheritance in a small town in Texas and get in over their heads in a web of corruption and greed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 While I generally like Aidan Quinn, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be the top of my list of my favorite movies that he’s in.
UNFINISHED SONG (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. An elderly curmudgeon finds solace singing in a choir. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 One of the more moving films from this year’s Florida Film Festival.
WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) Genre: Horror. A United Nations employee must race against time to save the world from a zombie plague that threatens to end life as we know it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 While I’m eager to see this, I have to admit the buzz on this hasn’t been positive.

 

SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU: A CONCERT FOR KATE MCGARRIGLE (Horse) Genre: Musical Documentary. The late folksinger is honored with a concert organized by her children. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 A genuinely moving tribute but I have only been able to catch a brief excerpt of the film.

JUNE 28, 2013

 

 

A BAND CALLED DEATH (Drafthouse) Genre: Musical Documentary. In the mid ’70s, an African-American rock trio bucked convention by making violent, loud, fast music that would later be called punk but the world wasn’t ready for it quite then. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A testament to family and great music; initially I was wary of it but after watching the trailer I’m really curious to see it.
BYZANTIUM (IFC) Genre: Gothic Horror. Two mysterious woman take refuge in a crumbling resort turn out to be vampires. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Neil Jordan is an amazing filmmaker and the trailer tells me this might be one of his very best.
COPPERHEAD (Brainstorm) Genre: Drama. A stubborn farmer in upstate New York defies neighbors and state in the early days of the Civil War. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 From the director of Gods and Generals comes a look at those who opposed the war and the consequences they faced.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Genre: Buddy Cop Comedy. A by-the-book FBI agent and a loose cannon Boston cop reluctantly join forces. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make about as odd a couple as they come but I’m fond of both actresses.
I’M SO EXCITED! (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. When mechanical problems imperil a flight bound for Mexico City, the passengers and crew work out their own personal problems in unique ways as they wait for salvation – or death. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 Director Pedro Almodovar is something of an acquired taste but at his best he’s amazing.
LAURENCE ANYWAYS (Breaking Glass) Genre: Drama. A loving couple find their relationship challenged when the man reveals his desire to live as a woman. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Xavier Dolan has some of the most potential of any director in North America.
REDEMPTION (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. After returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, a homeless vet gets caught up in a web of crime and revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Could well be one of the best performances of Jason Statham’s career.
SOME GIRL(S) (Leeden Media) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A successful writer on the eve of his wedding travels cross country to make amends to various romantic interests that he wronged in some way. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A pretty decent cast actually; hopefully this one turns out a cut above most of the rom-coms we’ve seen lately.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Drafthouse) Genre: Action. While touring the White House with his daughter, a cop rejected for the Secret Service may be America’s only hope when the building is attacked. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The second of two similarly themed movies to be released this year will do well if it’s as good as Olympus Has Fallen.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Internship, Much Ado About Nothing, The Purge, This is the End, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Unfinished Song, World War Z, The Heat, Redemption, White House Down

Four-Warned: May 2013


Iron Man 3

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.

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. IRON MAN 3 (1.0)
TIE. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (1.0)
3. NOW YOU SEE ME (1.3)
4. AFTER EARTH (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. STORIES WE TELL (1.0)
2. STATE 194 (1.2)
3. THE ATTACK (1.3)
4. SIGHTSEERS (1.4)

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

MAY 1, 2013

POST TENEBRAS LUX (Strand) Genre: Documentary. An upper class family moves to the Mexican countryside resulting in friction and domestic crisis. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 All I’ve seen are a couple of clips which don’t give a sense of what to expect from the film.

MAY 2, 2013

IRON MAN 3 (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The armored superhero faces post-Avengers depression and the appearance of a nemesis who is out to destroy him and everything he stands for. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 As the first film in the Marvel Filmed Universe’s Phase 2 this is one of the most anticipated movie events of the year.

MAY 3, 2013

1ST NIGHT (Gravitas) Genre: Dramedy. A variety of relationships reach turning points during rehearsals for an opera. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Looks like a jolly sex romp with an operatic background – color me intrigued.
AROUSED (Ketchup) Genre: Documentary. 16 of the most successful women in the adult film industry open up in interviews about their profession, their feelings about it and their private lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Could be really good or really bad; the interviewer sounds uncannily like the voice-over artist on the Victoria’s Secret commercials.
THE ATTACK (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A doctor of Arabic descent living and working in Tel Aviv discovers a disturbing secret about his wife following a suicide bombing that kills 17 people. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 This looks incredibly powerful from the trailer.
CAROLINE AND JACKIE (Phase 4) Genre: Drama. On a birthday visit, a celebratory occasion turns into an intervention as two sisters and a boyfriend realize that below the surface is an incredible amount of sibling tension. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Kinda disturbing, kinda intriguing.
CINCO DE MAYO, LA BATALLA (Pantelion) Genre: True Life War Drama. The story of the Battle of Puebla which resulted in Mexican independence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 The story of the battle itself would have been far better without the romantic subtext that distracts from the power of the story.
DEAD MAN’S BURDEN (Cinedigm) Genre: Western. Siblings, separated by the Civil War and by family secrets, struggle to reconnect in the chaos following the war. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Beautifully shot, looks like Shakespearean tragedy in a desolate setting.
DESPERATE ACTS OF MAGIC (Self-Released) Genre: Comedy. A computer programmer, bored with his life, decides to become a magician and befriends a woman who, disillusioned by that world, has turned to a life of crime. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles May 10). RATING: 3.3 The trailer looks like a cheesy 80s comedy right down to the soundtrack.
GENERATION UM… (Phase 4) Genre: Drama. The appearance of a stolen camcorder slowly unravels the lives of two escorts and their driver. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Keanu Reeves stars? Really?
GREETINGS FROM TIM BUCKLEY (Tribeca) Genre: Musical Biography. Jeff Buckley, son of a revered singer/songwriter with a tragic fate, follows his own path to stardom despite a rocky relationship with his dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Star Penn Badgely is a dead ringer for the late Jeff Buckley.
THE ICEMAN (Millennium) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Richard Kuklinski, mob assassin who reputedly killed more than 100 men. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Michael Shannon, Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, James Franco and a stellar supporting cast…wow.
KISS OF THE DAMNED (Magnet) Genre: Gothic Horror. A vampire’s love affair with a human is complicated when her sister visits unexpectedly. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opening in other cities May 15). RATING: 1.7 I was surprised at how good the trailer looks; a bit retro Euro-vamp with a modern twist.
LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A group of people seek out love in Sorrento, Italy and discover that second chances can come even when you think it’s too late. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 The latest from Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier looks magical – and yes this played at the Florida Film Festival last month, thank you very much.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN BROOKLYN (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. The black sheep of an Italian family gets out of prison and is given a job in the family business but his partners in crime prove to be an irresistible siren song. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Looks like it’s getting a brief theatrical run before heading to home video.
SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF’S (eOne) Genre: Documentary. Bergdorf-Goodman has become a fashion barometer but was once a modest ladies boutique; this film explores how the store rose to its current height and how it stays there. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.6 While I’m not interested in Couture whatsoever, there’s no denying the importance of Bergdorf’s in American style.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR (IFC) Genre: Drama. A group of French students in 1971 must flee to Italy after a vandalism attack goes terribly wrong. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Not only captures the look of the era but the attitude – could be a must-see this month.
WHAT MAISIE KNEW (Millennium) Genre: Drama. The six-year-old daughter of a divorcing couple becomes the pawn in their bitter custody dispute. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles May 17). RATING: 1.8 A top-notch cast and a very emotionally wrenching story.

MAY 10, 2013

AFTERSHOCK (Radius) Genre: Horror. An American tourist in Chile gets trapped in an underground nightclub after an earthquake but the horror only begins once he escapes to the surface. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks a bit like Chernobyl Diaries without the mutants.
AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR (Paladin/108) Genre: Dramedy. A CEO from an ad agency wakes up from a coma unable to communicate except in ad slogans. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Clever idea in a Being There kinda way.
THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. A wealthy American war hero in the roaring 20s befriends a down on his luck neighbor who discovers the good life isn’t all that good. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.8 Baz Luhrmann isn’t one of my favorite directors.
HE’S WAY MORE FAMOUS THAN YOU (Gravitas) Genre: Comedy. A struggling indie actress decides that the secret to success is to become famous – and she’ll do anything to do it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Yes, Ralph Macchio is way more famous than you.
JAVA HEAT (IFC) Genre: Action. After the Indonesian Sultana is murdered and her daughter kidnapped by terrorists, it falls to a Muslim policeman and an American wild card to set things to rights. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles May 17). RATING: 3.2 The trailer looks a bit like a typical made-for-cable action thriller.
NO ONE LIVES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Thriller. After a criminal gang take a young couple hostage, they realize they are being stalked by someone determined to kill everyone off in the house. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Looks a little better for this genre than most.
PEEPLES (Lionsgate) Genre: Urban Comedy. Craig Robinson stars as a working man who crashes an upscale family reunion to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage – but of course things don’t go as planned. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 Sounds suspiciously like Meet the Parents to me.
SIGHTSEERS (IFC) Genre: Horror Spoof. A couple on a motor home tour of England descend into the kind of madness that leads to carnage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Saw this at the Florida Film Festival and it was as good as any film there this year.
STORIES WE TELL (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Documentary. Actress/Filmmaker Sarah Polley interviews a family of storytellers to discover the effect of memory on family legends. Release Strategy: New York City (expanding into other markets May 17). RATING: 1.0 A really fascinating idea for a film as we get to see different versions of the same stories interpreted by different family members.
VENUS AND SERENA (Magnolia) Genre: Sports Documentary. The story of the Williams sisters, the most dominant siblings in tennis in the 21st century. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (expanding into other markets May 17). RATING: 2.8 I’m not a particular fan of tennis but this documentary looks fascinating.

MAY 15, 2013

BECOMING TRAVIATA (Distrib) Genre: Documentary. We are taken through the reinvention of the iconic opera La Traviata by French soprano Natalie Dessay and director Jean-Francois Sivadier. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles May 24). RATING: 3.7 It looks good, but I’m not sure I can get over my personal dislike of opera to go see it.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (Paramount) Genre: Science Fiction. Captain Kirk becomes obsessed with apprehending a terrorist who has developed a devastating new weapon. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Looks like JJ Abrams has the series well in hand.

MAY 17, 2013

33 POSTCARDS (Gravitas) Genre: Drama. A Chinese orphan discovers that her Australian sponsor who has only communicated with her through postcards isn’t what he said he was. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Looks a bit melodramatic to me.
AUGUSTINE (Music Box) Genre: Biographical Drama. The true story of a French neurologist whose female patient’s “hysteria” led to spectacular seizures and a relationship the two that blurred the line between doctor and patient. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks rather lurid but the I’m fascinated by Victorian sexual politics.
AURANGZEB (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A family of policemen are at odds with a family of criminals in modern India. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Not 100% certain but it looks like a variation on Infernal Affairs.
BLACK ROCK (LD Entertainment) Genre: Thriller. Three women visiting the remote island off the Maine coast that was their hangout find three ex-servicemen hunting there. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the women are the new prey. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 I just kept getting the feeling that I’d seen this movie before from watching the trailer.
THE ENGLISH TEACHER (Cinedigm) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A high school English teacher falls for an ex-student and decides to mount his angst-ridden play as the student theatrical production. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Awesome cast with Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano, Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane.
ERASED (Radius) Genre: Thriller. A former CIA operative and his daughter are targeted for termination; he must determine by whom and why. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Has some very Bourne-like qualities from the trailer, but I always am up to see Aaron Eckhart.
FRANCES HA (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A young woman throws herself headlong into her dreams, even if they don’t really match up with reality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 I like Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach; the trailer didn’t particularly move me though.
HATING BREITBART PG-13 (Freestyle) Genre: Documentary. The story of the late conservative gadfly and blogger who changed the political landscape forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Don’t really care much for the subject.
PIETA (Drafthouse) Genre: Thriller. A collector for a loan shark renounces his former life when he meets a mysterious woman claiming to be his mother but his past soon catches up with him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Visceral and controversial, this played the recent Florida Film Festival and evoked strong reactions.
STATE 194 (Participant) Genre: Documentary. A bold new plan to get Palestinian statehood recognized is threatened by a political quagmire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Looks kind of objective for this kind of documentary.

MAY 22, 2013

DOIN’ IT IN THE PARK: PICK-UP BASKETBALL, NYC (360 Filmworks) Genre: Documentary. The culture of pick-up basketball and free recreation in general is explored. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Actually looks kind of interesting, even if you’re not into basketball.

MAY 24, 2013

A GREEN STORY (Indican) Genre: Drama. A Greek immigrant who created a successful environmentally friendly business goes for one last deal at the end of his life as he reminisces about his past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’m really not quite sure what to make of this but looks like it might be interesting so I’ll give it a shot.
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. The third installment in the “Before” trilogy finds Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in their 40s and now living in Greece. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.9 I simply just never got into this series m’fraid.
EPIC (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. A young girl enters a mysterious world of miniature forest soldiers who need her help to protect not only her world but ours. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.6 Trailer looks pretty amazing; hope the film measures up.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (Universal) Genre: Action. Hobbs recruits Dom and his crew to take down a group of mercenary drivers whose second in command is a blast from Dom’s past. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 The last one was the best in the series thus far; this one looks like it might top it.
FILL THE VOID (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Orthodox Hassidic Israeli girl is forced to choose between her familial obligations and her heart’s desire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 I’m not so sure about this one; on the one hand the subject of arranged marriages is compelling but I couldn’t help feeling as I watched the trailer that there were some Harlequin Romance elements to the story.
THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy. The Wolf Pack return to where it all started – Sin City – and Las Vegas will never be the same again. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 I’m hoping they get away from the same storyline as the first two movies, I’m kinda over it.
PENGUINS 3D (nWave) Genre: Nature Documentary. Veteran naturalist and documentarian David Attenborough narrates this story about a King Penguin making his way in the Antarctic. Release Strategy: IMAX. RATING: 2.9 Reminds me of March of the Penguins a little too much.
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS (Focus) Genre: Documentary. The story of the polarizing website whom some see as a champion of freedom, others as it’s destroyer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Julian Assange has already condemned the documentary.

MAY 29, 2013

HANNAH ARENDT (Zeitgeist) Genre: Biographical Drama. The world famous Jewish-German philosopher, who coined the term “The Banality of Evil” in regards to Adolph Eichmann, is shown covering his trial. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 This looks like it could be something worth checking out.

MAY 31, 2013

AFTER EARTH (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. A father and son are stranded on a dangerous planet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 I think it looks pretty good, but some hear that M. Night Shyamalan is the director and immediately shuts the door.
AMERICAN MARY (XLRator) Genre: Horror. A disillusioned medical student gets embroiled in the freakish world of underground surgeries. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks genuinely creepy – I like it.
THE EAST (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Thriller. A former FBI agent working for a private security group infiltrates an anarchist group and finds her loyalties wavering. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Good cast, fascinating story.
FREE SAMPLES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Dramedy. The day of a young girl handing out free samples in an ice cream truck turns out to be more significant than she planned on. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Screened at the recent Florida Film Festival; read my review here.
THE HISTORY OF FUTURE FOLK (Variance) Genre: Musical. Aliens who come down to Earth for the purpose of invasion decide instead to become an indie folk band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Another Florida Film Festival entry, this one is as hip as it gets.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) Genre: Comedy. Some spoiled teens in an act of rebellion against their parents decide to live on their own in the woods. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 This looks like a movie that was deliberately not made for my generation to enjoy. Good cast, though.
NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) Genre: Action. A group of stage magicians – the best in the world – pull off daring heists against corporate criminals during their shows, garnering the attention of the authorities who can’t figure out how they do it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Looks like the kind of movie that could be a surprise summer hit.
SHADOW DANCER (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. An Irish single mom in Belfast is forced to spy on her own family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the kind of political thriller that I really go for.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek Into Darkness, Sightseers, Frances Ha, Pieta, Epic, Fast and Furious 6, The Hangover Part III, After Earth, Now You See Me