Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Not everything in this film is Black and White - but a lot of it is.

Not everything in this film is Black and White – but a lot of it is.

(2013) Period Drama (Weinstein) Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, David Banner, Vanessa Redgrave, Alex Pettyfer, Mariah Carey, Clarence Williams III, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Liev Schreiber, Nelsan Ellis, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Joe Chrest, Elijah Kelly, Adriane Lenox. Directed by Lee Daniels

The Civil Rights era was a turbulent time for this country as we were forced to look at a very ugly side of ourselves. That ugliness played out on television screens across the country as deeply held beliefs – generations in the making – erupted to the surface.

Cecil Gains (Whitaker) grew up as a sharecropper’s son on a cotton farm in Georgia. When he was a young boy, he watched his father (Banner) murdered in front of his eyes by the overseer (Pettyfer) for objecting to the overseer raping his wife (Carey). Gains is taken in by the kindly mistress of the house (Redgrave) who teaches him how to be a house servant. With the specter of his father’s murder hanging over him, he decides to leave the employ and venture to Washington DC to find work as a domestic.

He is spotted at a Washington hotel by the Chief Engineer of the White House domestic staff and is given a job as a butler. This of course is a big deal for Cecil and his wife Gloria (Winfrey) who is a bit star-struck and assumes she’ll get a tour of his new place of employment. Cecil, however, is all about keeping his head down and serving those who sit in the Oval Office to the best of his ability. Along with fellow butlers James (Kravitz) and Carter (Gooding), he will serve seven Presidents over nearly 40 years, from Eisenhower (Williams) to Kennedy (Marsden) to LBJ (Schreiber) to Nixon (Cusack) to Reagan (Rickman) and Nancy Reagan (Fonda). He becomes a comforting presence, nearly invisible – the room feels empty when he’s in it.

At home, his wife is the President of his household and he rarely fades into the background there, raising his kids Louis (Oyelowo) and Charles (Kelly). Louis would go off to Fisk University in Tennessee despite his father’s vehement objections (he didn’t move his family away from the South just to see his son go right back into the lion’s den) and his mother’s desire to have him closer to home. There he becomes politicized and becomes a zealous member of the civil rights movement, enduring arrests and beatings. This becomes a wedge between him and Cecil, his father disapproving of his activities while for Louis’ part he is disdainful of his father’s profession, thinking him a subservient Uncle Tom to the white Master, a symbol for his people’s submission and oppression. Both men are wrong, but it will take a tragedy for them to even consider seeing the other’s point of view.

The movie is loosely (and I mean loosely) based on the life of Eugene Allen, who was an African-American butler in the White House from 1948-1996. While there were some similarities of events (for example, Nancy Reagan really did invite the real Eugene Allen to a State dinner but it was on the occasion of his retirement, not the cause of it as it is depicted here), there are a lot of liberties taken with his life story – for example, he had only one son, not two and that  son was not as involved in the Civil Rights movement as Charles is although to be fair, NOBODY was as involved in the movement as he was – Charles is depicted here as being a Freedom Rider, in the inner circle of Martin Luther King (and present at his assassination), a member of the Black Panther party and eventually an activist against Apartheid.

Daniels, who broke out a few years ago with Precious is one of a group of outstanding African-American directors who have begun to build some pretty impressive movies in the last few years. This is his most ambitious work and it has been rewarded with being a breakout hit,. I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets some award consideration, particularly for Winfrey who is absolutely outstanding here.

Yeah, there were times I realized I was watching OPRAH but that was mostly early on and as the movie continues, the audience becomes lost in her performance, watching her chain-smoke her way through the most growth of any character in the movie, showing some all-too-human frailties while maintaining her strength and dignity in the face of increasing loneliness, getting all dressed up and dancing alone to songs on TV variety shows while her husband works, another weekend night alone. It’s quite moving and indicative of how powerful an actress Winfrey is. Her talk show, television network and financial empire have kept her away from acting for the most part but had she continued after her stellar work in The Color Purple she might just have a couple of Oscars on her mantle by now.

While the actors playing the Presidents are eclectic choices for the roles, they at least do them capably and if they don’t necessarily capture the personality of the men they play, they at least capture the dignity and the strength of the office.

There is a bit of Forrest Gump here with Cecil and Louis being thrust into historical events – Cecil as an onlooker and Louis as a participant, further illustrating the gulf between the men. Whitaker is an Oscar winner and has a thankless role; Cecil’s whole existence revolves around him being invisible and it’s hard to make an invisible man interesting. In that sense, Winfrey and Oyelowo carry the movie. The latter turns in a performance that serves notice that he is a force to be reckoned with. I foresee some major roles coming his way.

If there’s a criticism I have for the movie, it’s that it can be overly melodramatic. While there are those who say it trivializes the civil rights movement as an essential side show to the American Presidency and to Cecil’s family drama, I think the scenes depicting the lunch counter sit-in in Nashville and its ensuing violence to the police turning fire hoses and dogs on the marchers from Selma are powerful and moving.

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded the script sticking closer to the real Eugene Allen’s life – it must have been fascinating. Perhaps someday there is a documentary to be made of it, although I suspect it never will be – the butlers would tend to see a more private side of the President than perhaps they might be willing to show to posterity. However, this is indeed a solid movie, generally well-acted if a bit maudlin in places but the power of the history behind the histrionics more than makes up for it.

REASONS TO GO: A visceral reminder of the hardships undergone by African-Americans and civil rights activists in particular. Amazing performances all around.

REASONS TO STAY: Overly melodramatic. Based on a real person but very loosely which the film should at least mention.

FAMILY VALUES:  There is a goodly amount of violence and some images that are graphic. There’s also some sexuality and a fair amount of foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Producer Laura Ziskin’s last film before passing away of breast cancer.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/9/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 72% positive reviews. Metacritic: 66/100

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Mississippi Burning


NEXT: True Legend

New Releases for the Week of August 16, 2013

Kick-Ass 2


(Universal) Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Jim Carrey. Directed by Jeff Wadlow

The exploits of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl have inspired a new generation of costumed vigilante heroes of varying competence to patrol the streets of the city. This proves intolerable for Red Mist, the turncoat hero whose father was killed by Kick-Ass; reborn in a new guise, he assembles his own team of costumed villains who hunt down the heroes one by one. Only the bravery of Kick-Ass and the blades of Hit Girl can stop the carnage.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Superhero

Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity)

The Butler

(Weinstein) Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams. The true story of an African-American White House employee – a butler if you will – who served for more than three decades and for seven presidents. These decades represent some of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history when civil rights were topic A and relations between races in this country changed forever. These changes not only affected our country but caused a deep divide in the butler’s family as well.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and disturbing image, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking)

Ghost Graduation

(Fox Searchlight) Raul Arevalo, Alexandra Jimenez, Andrea Duro, Jaime Olias. A high school teacher has Haley Joel Osment syndrome – he can see dead people. In his case, a group of teenagers at his high school who died in a 1986 fire. They are doomed to remain there unless they can pass their final course. The teacher of course volunteers – nobody ever said your students had to be among the living and quite frankly most of them aren’t anyway, right? Complications ensue when one of the dead and one of the living fall in love.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Adventure

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


(Open Road) Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas. Steve Jobs was a revolutionary and his ideas changed the way we live. Under his guidance, Apple and Pixar revolutionized entertainment and technology and produced such devices as the personal computer, the iPhone, the digitally animated feature, the iPod and the iPad among other things. This is his story.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some drug content and brief strong language)

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara

(Ramesh Sippy) Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonali Bendre . A sequel to the popular Bollywood film Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, the action begins as a new criminal don runs the city of Mumbai. He has become a popular folk hero for his suave charismatic manner and womanizing. His best friend oversees the criminal side of his empire. However a rift grows between them when they both fall in love with the same starlet.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR


(Relativity) Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard. An ambitious young engineer gets caught in a war between two rival CEOs who will stop at nothing to destroy each other. Forced into the world of corporate espionage, he soon discovers that not only everything that he’s worked for is at risk, so is his very life. In too deep to stop, he must figure out a way to survive and protect those he loves.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexuality, violence and language)  

Four-Warned: August 2013


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.

1. ELYSIUM (1.0)
2. THE WORLD’S END (1.2)
3. THE BUTLER (1.6)
TIE. KICK-ASS 2 (1.6)

3. OFF LABEL (1.3)

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

August 2,2013

2 GUNS (Universal) Genre: Action. A DEA agent and a Naval Intelligence Officer, both working undercover, discover that they have stolen money from the CIA. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 I can’t imagine a movie with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in it can be all bad.
THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. An old French sculptor in 1943 tired of war is working on his final masterpiece when a Spanish refugee knocks on his door, throwing his plans into chaos. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Looks beautiful and stars the great Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale.
THE CANYONS (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a film director finds out about his actress girlfriend’s infidelity, he plays a deadly game to get redemption – or revenge. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles August 9). RATING: 2.8 Hmmm…directed by Paul Schrader, written by Bret Easton Ellis and starring Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen; it’s either high camp or high art.
COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES (Shout! Factory) Genre: Horror Comedy. An invasion of zombies on East London sends a group of cockney bank robbers to team up with pensioners to fight off the undead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 One of those Florida Film Festival flicks that I didn’t expect to love but I did – read my review here.
DRIFT (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Sports Drama. A pair of Australian brothers build a surfing empire from a small town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I’m not a big fan of surfing movies, but that’s just me.
EUROPA REPORT (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. A privately-funded manned venture to Europa to discover the possibility of life there ends in both tragedy and triumph. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 Looks like it could be the great science fiction movie of the year in a year that has been to date filled with merely good or mediocre ones.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (A24) Genre: Teen Romance. When a charming high school playa falls for “the good girl” things don’t go exactly as expected. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 I honestly expected to be unimpressed but a good young cast and talented writers make this a movie to be taken seriously.
TOP CAT (Viva) Genre: Animated Feature. A new police chief sics a robot police force on Top Cat and his gang. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Yes, it’s the Saturday morning cartoon from before I was a kid; question is, do modern kids want to see this?

August 7,2013

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Fantasy. When their home comes under attack only the legendary Golden Fleece can save the demigods; however they’ll have to retrieve it from the Bermuda Triangle. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 The first Percy Jacksonwas a bit of a hot mess.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) Genre: Comedy. In order to pay off a debt, a pot dealer must go to Mexico to pick up a shipment of dope; to throw suspicion off, he recruits a “family” to help him get across the border. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Jennifer Aniston is one of my favorite comic actresses at the moment so I’ll give this one a go even though it looks sketchy.

August 9,2013

BLOOD (RLJ) Genre: Thriller. Two brothers who are cops have lived under the shadow of the police chief father their entire careers; now they find themselves in a position to have to cover up their own excesses. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks extremely intense and with Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Mark Strong and Brian Cox, an intense cast as well.
CHENNAI EXPRESS (UTV) Genre: Bollywood. A man traveling by train to scatter his grandfather’s ashes falls in love with an exuberant girl on the same train. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks like it has all the life and heart that make Bollywood films so much fun.
DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. From the world of Cars comes anthropomorphic airplanes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.5 Why is Disney pushing the weakest of the Pixar properties so hard?
ELYSIUM (Tri-Star) Genre: Science Fiction. In the future when life is separated into the haves who live on a space station and the have-nots who live on Earth, a desperate man must risk everything to get into the heavily fortified space station Elysium. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 From the makers of District 9comes something new that looks amazing on the trailers.
THE GOOD SON (SnagFilms) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini, the promising young boxer whose fight with Duk Koo Kim changed boxing and the lives of both their families forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks emotionally charged – not just your typical sports biopic.
I GIVE IT A YEAR (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Nobody thinks that the marriage of a mismatched couple will last and as they approach their first anniversary, they have their doubts as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Why are British rom-coms so much better than American ones?
IN A WORLD… (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. The daughter of a voice-over legend tries to follow in his footsteps in a male-dominated industry. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks pretty damn funny and Lake Bell could be the next big comic actress.
JUG FACE (Modern Distributors) Genre: Horror. A backwoods community that keeps an entity in a pit at bay with sacrifices sees the entity unleashed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Doesn’t really grab me with the originality of its premise.
LOVELACE (Radius) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Linda Lovelace who went from abused porn star to feminist anti-porn crusader. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Amanda Seyfried is kind of an odd choice but could be a good one if she can pull this off.
OFF LABEL (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. A look at our culture’s over-reliance on medication and Big Pharma’s role in getting us that way. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.3 An important topic that is one we should be looking at with great scrutiny.
PRINCE AVALANCHE (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. An unlikely pair of guys who don’t like each other much are sent to repaint traffic lines on a country road and in the process bond. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch make an engaging duo and director David Gordon Green is one of the most promising talents in Hollywood.

August 13, 2013

LAST PASSENGER (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Action. A commuter train speeds towards certain doom when a sociopath sabotages the brakes, intending to take the remaining passengers with him to the grave. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Sounds like a nifty concept but in light of recent events wouldn’t be surprised to see this release delayed several months or more.

August 14,2013

THE PATIENCE STONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Afghan woman vents all her pain and frustration to her abusive but comatose husband. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks to be a very moving and powerful story.

August 16,2013

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC) Genre: Romance. A young Texas outlaw escapes from prison and seeks his wife and newborn child. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks lyrical and impressive, gorgeously photographed and well-written dialogue; a big hit at Sundance.
AUSTENLAND (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. An American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and the Regency-era gentlemen she wrote about goes to a resort that caters to women such as she and finds her fantasies fulfilled – so does that mean the beginning of a new reality? Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.5 Droll but heartwarming – the best of English and American comedy styles.
THE BUTLER (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. A White House butler serving eight presidents over three decades observes the social changes that swept America through the office he served and in his own family. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Amazing cast directed by Lee Daniels, one of the brightest directors in Hollywood.
CUTIE AND THE BOXER (Radius) Genre: Documentary. Two artists of Japanese descent married for 40 years prepare for the husband’s crucial show even as the wife seeks recognition for her own work. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A look at how the artistic process works within a long-term relationship (hint: it doesn’t always).
DREW: THE MAN BEHIND THE POSTER (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Drew Struzan designed some of the most iconic movie posters of the late 20th Century; this is his story. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 For true movie buffs like myself this is almost like catnip.
JOBS (Open Road) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of the man who co-founded Apple and Pixar as well as revolutionized all our lives with the Apple Personal Computer, the iPod and the iPhone. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Is likely to be a much more interesting movie than it sounds.
KICK ASS 2 (Universal) Genre: Superhero. As Kick-Ass and Hit Girl’s costumed hero mystique grows, new heroes rise to join their team but this gives rise to a team of super-villains as well. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 I liked the firstmovie; I’m hoping this one exceeds it.
PARANOIA (Relativity) Genre: Thriller. An ambitious young man is forced to go undercover at a rival corporation to steal corporate secrets and quickly discovers he’s in way over his head. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Any movie that has Harrison Ford in it can’t be all bad.
SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. The week-long festival of art, music and the counterculture is profiled. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 It’s one of those things that every young person should do at least once.
WE THE PARENTS (Go For Broke) Genre: Documentary. Parents in California utilize new legislation to improve the education of their children. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile documentary but couldn’t find a trailer anywhere.
YOU WILL BE MY SON (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A French vineyard owner toys with the idea of leaving his legacy to the son of his estate manager rather than his own flesh and blood. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 Looks like a wrenching look at familial bonds and fatherly expectations.

August 21,2013

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) Genre: Fantasy. A teenage girl discovers that she is a half-angel, half-human warrior bred to fight demons and keep them from destroying our world . Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 Another popular young adult fantasy series gets a shot at becoming a film franchise.

August 23,2013

DRINKING BUDDIES (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. Two employees of a craft brewery who are with other people discover their friendship might run deeper when they unexpectedly find themselves together alone. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The latest from prolific indie director Joe Swanberg looks to be maybe his funniest comedy yet.
THE FROZEN GROUND (Lionsgate) Genre: Thriller. An Alaskan cop tries to stop a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years before he can kill again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Nice cast including Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens.
THE GRANDMASTER (Weinstein) Genre: Martial Arts. The story of the legendary fighter who would eventually train Bruce Lee. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Beautifully filmed throughout China.
PARADISE: FAITH (Strand) Genre: Drama. When a woman who has been doing zealous missionary work to bring Austria closer to Catholicism has her Muslim husband, confined to a wheelchair and absent many years come home, her life is thrown upside down. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 The boundary between faith and the need for human love can be a difficult one to navigate.
SAVANNAH (Ketchup) Genre: Biographical Drama. In the early 20th century, a man born to plantation and privilege gives it all up for a life on the river. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An impressive cast including Jim Caviezel, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sam Shepard in a biography that I’m not sure I need to see.
SCENIC ROUTE (Vertical) Genre: Thriller. Two best friends stranded on a remote road begin to attack each other psychologically and then physically. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks pretty much like an unabashed shark-jumper despite the presence of Josh Duhamel.
SHORT TERM 12 (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. A young woman working at an at-risk kids facility is particularly drawn to a girl who reminds her of herself, but must weigh this against a sudden opportunity that might change her entire future. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 Looks like one of those movies that just gets under your skin and stays there.
THERESE (MPI) Genre: Drama. In 1920s France, a stifled housewife yearns for the love her husband is incapable of giving her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Acclaimed director Claude Miller’s final film starring the exquisite Audrey Tatou.
THE WORLD’S END (Focus) Genre: Science Fiction. A group of friends reunite to complete a legendary pub crawl they failed as young men, nor realizing the world is literally at stake. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.2 The third in the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg series of film that includes Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. When a family reunion is interrupted by masked axe-wielding assailants, one of the guest proves to be more dangerous than the rest. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Up-and-coming horror film director Adam Wingard is at the helm here.

August 28,2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) Genre: Legal Thriller. Two former lovers are tested when they are assigned to defend a terrorism suspect together. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 While I’m a big fan of Eric Bana, this one hasn’t gotten any sort of push from the studio which makes me nervous.

August 30,2013

AFTERNOON DELIGHT (The Film Arcade) Genre: Dramedy. A stay-at-home mom becomes obsessed with saving a stripper and hires her as a nanny, causing shock waves in her community and her marriage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks like Kathryn Hahn has finally gotten a vehicle to show off her considerable talents.
AMERICAN MADE MOVIE (Variance) Genre: Documentary. The film examines way American manufacturing is still going strong and how even ordinary citizen can contribute to revitalizing our economy. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles September 6). RATING: 3.0 I’m not quite sure if this is a love letter to the working man or a right wing polemic; could be either, could be both.
GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) Genre: Thriller. A former race car driver is forced to steal a car and drive in order to keep his kidnapped wife alive. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 I generally like Ethan Hawke but this definitely has the air of a stopgap movie to fill theater screens until the big fall movies come out in November.
I DECLARE WAR (Drafthouse) Genre: Drama. Kids playing at war find the line between fantasy and reality beginning to blur. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 This unique film screened at the Florida Film Festival last April; read my review here.
THE LIFEGUARD (Screen Media) Genre: Dramedy. A 30-year-old woman whose career and love life crash and burn returns home to lick her wounds, taking her old high school job as a condo complex lifeguard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (Tri-Star) Genre: Musical Documentary. A horribly overrated band is followed along on a world concert tour. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 No desire to see this, even if it was made by the great Morgan Spurlock.
OUR NIXON (Cinedigm) Genre: Documentary. The presidency of the 20th century’s most notorious political figure is examined through home movies taken by his closest confidantes. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very different look at a man much maligned and hated; it is always a good idea to revisit one’s opinions and see if they are still standing strong.
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.

2 Guns, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, We’re the Millers, Disney’s Planes, Elysium, The Butler, JOBS, Kick-Ass 2, Paranoia, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The World’s End, Closed Circuit, Getaway