The Sleepless Unrest

A house ripe for a conjuring.

(2021) Horror Documentary (Gravitas) Kendell Whelpton, Cory Heinzen, Richel Stratton, Brian Murray, Vera Whelpton, Jennifer Heinzen, John Huntington, Anthony Cross, John Sparks. Directed by Kendell and Vera Whelpton


In recent years, television programs about amateur paranormal investigators have proliferated, with the 800-lb gorilla of the genre being Ghost Hunters. One of the places that TAPS never visited was the farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island where once lived the Perron family. Their experiences were later turned into the massive hit movie The Conjuring which in turn spawned a franchise. It seems kind of odd that TAPS which was based in Rhode Island never bothered to investigate a place supposedly as haunted as this – although it should be said that the owners at the time claimed that there was nothing particularly frightening going on in the home. In face, Norma Sutcliffe, ran a daycare center in the house for 20 years without incident.

The new owners, Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, were fans of the movie and when the house went on the market were eager to buy it. They currently operate the home as a kind of haunted Air BnB, inviting amateur investigators to spend the night.

Kendall and Vera Whelpton took them up on it and in fact spent two weeks there. Along with their friends and fellow amateur investigators Brian Murray and Richel Stratton, they set up dozens of cameras in the nearly 300-year-old house as well as motion detectors and other equipment, most of it homemade or repurposed. This documentary records their experiences.

Be advised first off – there is nothing here that is particularly spectacular, or definitive proof of spooks, spirits, or ghosts, malevolent or otherwise. Like most paranormal investigative programs, we get footage of doors swinging open by themselves, objects falling off of shelves, strange orbs flying across the screen (well, one only in this case) and plenty of bumps and knocks. Of course, anyone who has ever lived in a house that is more than a century old can tell you that these things aren’t unusual – old homes can be affected by changes in air pressure, and are often full of creaks and moans that have everything to do with the house settling into its foundation and less to do with the paranormal.

If I sound like a skeptic here, I’m really not – I like to think that I’m open-minded about the possibilities of the otherworldly. However, the Whelptons, The Heinzens, Murray and Stratton don’t even attempt to attribute their footage to anything other than the supernatural. One of the things that attracted me to the original Ghost Hunters was that their first priority was to actually investigate – they looked for rational, scientific explanations first and when those were all exhausted, then they might admit that there was a possibility of a haunting. There’s no evidence that they even considered anything like that.

What you get here are a group of people who believe what they want to believe and try to make their footage conform to that belief. I don’t doubt for a minute that they believe the house is haunted, or that the paranormal exists but they don’t even research the history of the home they’re investigating, or even mention what the Warrens (the real-life investigators who worked with the Perron family back in the 1970s) attributed the haunting to. That may be because much of the folklore surrounding the house has since been debunked; the Warrens cited Bathsheba Sherman, who lived on a neighboring farm, as a witch who was the source of the haunting (the film expanded greatly on the theory). In reality, there’s no evidence that Mrs. Sherman practiced witchcraft and most of the tales of her being a witch seem to be contemporary in origin. The murder that was attributed to have taken place on the property actually took place in Massachusetts. Town records also don’t verify the suicides that took place on the property which were alluded to in a book by Andrea Perron, one of the five daughters who lived on the property in the 1970s and who continues to assert that the property is haunted.

I certainly won’t contradict either Ms. Perron or Ms. Sutcliffe. Both women lived on the property after all and clearly love the house and the land it sits on, and who am I, a mere film critic, to doubt any of their experiences? If you want to see for yourself, the farmhouse is available for day tours, although stays in the farm are booked through the end of 2022. You can look into the farmhouse further at this site and if you’re interested in finding out more, the Heinzens would be happy to answer your questions. However, this documentary that was filmed entirely on their property is not mentioned anywhere on the website, although other programs, podcasts and blogs that did, are. It is conspicuous by its absence. Finding out the truth about the Conjuring Farmhouse is something you are unlikely to learn by watching this movie, though.

REASONS TO SEE: The researchers and the Heinzens are outgoing and genuinely believe in what they’re doing.
REASONS TO AVOID: Never delves into the history of the house – why is it haunted? – nor do they seem to attempt to find any non-supernatural explanations for any of the phenomenon witnessed.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some spooky sequences and some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Heinzens have two children who do not appear in the film.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Redbox, Spectrum, Vimeo, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS:As of 9/6/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.


Annabelle Comes Home

Chucky has got NOTHING on Annabelle!

(2019) Horror (New LineMcKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Michael Cimino, Samara Lee, Kenzie Caplan, Sade Katarina, Michael Patrick McGill, Brittany Hoza, Sheila McKellan, Eddie J. Fernandez, Steve Coulter, Luca Luhan, Gary-7, Paul Dean, Alison White, Oliver Dauberman, Lou Lou Safran, Anthony Wernyss, Natalia Safran. Directed by Gary Dauberman

Not every doll is a toy. Some dolls are heirlooms; others are meant for adult collectors. Then, there are a very few who are cursed or possessed by murderous spirits. There is one, however, who acts as a magnet for malevolent spirit.

Demonologists Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Farmiga) have a roomful of cursed and possessed items they keep in a locked room. Of these, the most dangerous is Annabelle, a doll that serves as the aforementioned magnet. When she is not locked in a glass case that has been blessed by a priest, she can cause all kinds of mischief

When Ed and Lorraine have to leave on a job, they leave their young daughter Judy (Grace) under the care of sweet babysitter Mary Ellen (Iseman) whose friend Daniela (Sarife) is a bit less well-behaved. She manages to get herself into that forbidden room and in doing so unleashes hell. Suddenly the three girls are beset by all manner of malevolent entities. Surviving the night may well be impossible.

The seventh entry in the Conjuring shared movie universe is one of the strongest to date. Novice director Dauberman resists the temptation to rely on jump scares (although there are a few) and instead comes by his frights honestly. While at times, the movie does seem like a vehicle to establish future spin-offs for the franchise (I’m betting on a Ferryman and a Haunted bride film at the very least), the movie is powered largely by some strong performances by Grace, Iseman and Sarife – all of whom are given character depth and pluck. Dauberman also really sets the film in the 70s nicely; the fashions might make you cringe a little bit. Still, this is all very good fun and the kind of roller coaster ride I love in a horror movie.

REASONS TO SEE: Some very effective scares. The three female leads all do solid jobs.
REASONS TO AVOID: Feels at times like they’re just creating future spin-offs.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a goodly amount of violence and horrific images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The real Lorraine Warren passed away two months before the film was released. The closing credits include a dedication to her.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Movies Anywhere, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/27/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 64% positive reviews: Metacritic: 53/100.

Bone Tomahawk

Kurt Russell knows how to make an entrance.

Kurt Russell knows how to make an entrance.

(2015) Western (RLJ Entertainment) Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, Sean Young, David Arquette, Evan Jonigkeit, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Morris, Michael Paré, James Tolkan, Geno Segers, Zahn McClarnon, Brandon Molale, Jamison Newlander, Omar Levya, Eddie Spears, David Midthunder, Raw Leiba, Marem Hassler. Directed by S. Craig Zahler

Love can be wonderful; a tender feeling of caring and compassion. But love can also be a terrible burden. If it requires us to go somewhere dangerous, then we go, heart heavy and maybe even terrified, but we go nonetheless.

Arthur O’Dwyer (Wilson) and his wife Sam (Simmons) are deeply in love. They live in the small town of Bright Hope, on the edge of the prairie near forbidding hills where even the cattle trails that Arthur uses as a cattle driver fail to go. She’s a bit of a nag, not letting him forget that she warned him not to go repair the roof in the middle of a storm. Per her warning, he fell off the roof and broke his leg, forcing him into essential confinement to bed. This is the Old West, after all, and men did what they had to do.

Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) also does what he has to do and that might involve shooting a drifter (Arquette) in the leg when he acts a little squirrelly. Because the town doctor is in his cups, Sam is summoned to remove the bullet from the drifter’s leg (she evidently has some sort of medical training). When she doesn’t return home, Arthur becomes a bit concerned.

Deputy Chicory (Jenkins) returns to the Sheriff’s office to discover everyone missing, including Deputy Nick (Jonigkeit). The evidence of a struggle includes a strange bone arrow at the scene. The local expert on Native Americans (Midthunder) tells them that it is from a tribe that isn’t even a tribe – it is in fact not exactly human. He refers to them as troglodytes and asserts that they eat the flesh of humans. He only knows they reside in something called The Valley of the Hungry Men.

A posse is formed. Sheriff Hunt is obligated to go, and even a broken leg won’t keep Arthur away. Deputy Chicory is ordered to stay behind but he refuses to; someone else can watch over Bright Hope while the Sheriff is away. Finally, dapper gambler John Brooder (Fox) also offers to go; he had escorted Mrs. O’Dwyer to the jail and feels obligated to assist in her rescue.

&Even on horseback it will take three days to get to the Valley if they can find it. The way there will be anything but safe, as bandits and bushwackers lurk in the hills. And when they finally get there, the men will be up against something they’ve never seen before – and are woefully unprepared to fight.

Russell is also starring in another Western opening up this winter, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and has found success in other Westerns – Tombstone comes to mind immediately. The plot has a little bit of The Searchers in it, but the similarity ends there; this is more of a mash-up between horror and Western than the traditional John Wayne horse opera.

Russell is at his best here, rough and ready in the saddle and apt to shoot first and ask questions later. His is the iconic taciturn lawman whose moral compass steers towards what’s right rather than what’s convenient. Fox, who is a decent actor who hasn’t yet equaled his role on Lost, does some of his best work on the big screen here, as does Wilson who has found a career boost in horror films like The Conjuring and Insidious. Here, Wilson plays to type but not just that; there is an inner strength to the character that is absolutely unexpected and mesmerizing. Arthur’s dogged determination and refusal to give up despite having a broken leg speaks volumes of what it means to be a man in the West.

And lest we forget the horror element here, it is more or less an overtone, although there is an onscreen kill here that is as brutal and as shocking as any you’ll see in more overt horror films this year. There is plenty of blood and gore and brutality, and those who are on the squeamish side are well-advised to steer clear.

Zahler is better known as a novelist and a musician as he is as a director, but he does a bang-up job here. There isn’t really a false note in the movie and while some critics have sniped at the length of the movie (just over two hours), it never drags and it never feels long. He also has wonderful cinematography to fall back of thanks to Benji Bakshi whose name should be on a lot of rolodexes after this.

It is unlikely the Western will ever go back to its level of popularity that it enjoyed back in the 1950s but it will never completely die. Movies like this one insure that the Western will always be around as a genre, and remind us that there can always be something new made of a time-tested cinematic formula.

REASONS TO GO: Well-acted. Exceptional cinematography. Captures the frontier mentality.
REASONS TO STAY: Excessive gore might put some off.
FAMILY VALUES: Brutal, bloody violence, sexuality, graphic nudity and some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Russell authored a testimonial for Zahler’s second novel before this was cast.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/3/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 87% positive reviews. Metacritic: 71/100.
NEXT: Chi-Raq

The Conjuring

Even illumination via match is better than stumbling around in the dark.

Even illumination via match is better than stumbling around in the dark.

(2013) Supernatural Horror (New Line) Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, Shanley Caswell, Haley McFarland, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Sterling Jerins, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Morganna Bridgers, Zach Pappas, Amy Tipton, Joseph Bishara, Ashley White, Rose Bechtel, Desi Domo. Directed by James Wan

Six Days of Darkness 2014

There are things we know, things we can guess at and things we don’t have a clue about. If the sum total of all that can be known is represented by a volume of War and Peace the collective human knowledge to this point would fit in the first letter on the front cover of the book. Things we don’t know much about – the paranormal – we tend to disbelieve. If it can’t be proven scientifically, the rationale goes, then it isn’t real. Poppycock. Balderdash! All that it means is that we don’t have the wherewithal to prove it at the moment. Our scientific understanding of the paranormal hasn’t reached a point where we can do much more than rule out the mundane. The fact of the matter is, there have been plenty of phenomena captured either anecdotally or on video and for us to say that there’s no such thing as the paranormal is a bit arrogant at best.

One of the first paranormal investigative teams were the Warrens, Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga). Lorraine, a clairvoyant and Ed, who tends to be the more pragmatic of the pair, make a pretty good team. They tell people going in that nearly all of the cases they consult on end up having a non-spiritual explanation. There are the few though that do – and often those cases involve some kind of entity. Something malevolent. Something not human.

The Perron family, on the other hand, are salt of the earth sorts. They’ve just moved into a Rhode Island farmhouse that has enough room for the seven of them – trucker husband Roger (Livingston), his wife Carol (Taylor) and daughters Nancy (McFarland), Christine (King), Cindy (Foy), April (Deaver) and Andrea (Caswell). However, it soon becomes evident that the family isn’t the only tenant of the farmhouse. Things are going bump in the night (more like BANG!), there are disembodied voices of children, things are misplaced and moved at random and the dog refuses to go inside the house. As Roger is frequently away for work Carol is left to protect her daughters and she is beginning to suspect that is something she’ll be unable to do. Desperate, she contacts the Warrens.

At first Ed isn’t very enthusiastic about taking on a new case. In a recent case, Lorraine was endangered and ended up suffering injury and he is very concerned for her well-being. However, even he can’t deny that the Perron family is in grave danger and he and Lorraine just can’t turn their backs on them.

Their investigation leads them to the conclusion that this is not explainable by conventional means; there is a malevolent spirit in the house, that of an accused witch named Bathsheba Sherman who had died by her own hand in the house centuries before. She doesn’t take kindly to strangers in her domicile and she means to get them out by any means necessary.

This is the movie that spun off the recent hit Annabelle and the doll figures in the action in a pre-credits sequence and then later on near the climax of the film. However, she definitely takes a back seat in the movie to the Warrens themselves (although she decidedly makes an impression). Wilson, who has worked with Wan in the Insidious movies is excellent here – Wan seems to bring out the best in him. His chemistry with Farmiga is wonderful; they are completely believable as a married couple. In fact, both married couples have good chemistry. The casting in this movie is impeccable.

Let’s be frank; this movie is as scary as any that has come out in the last few years, maybe the scariest. Wan does this wonderfully, establishing the ordinary and building slowly to the terrifying. He does it in a very matter-of-fact way without resorting to a lot of CGI (most of the effects here are practical). A children’s game of hide and clap turns into something menacing as phantom arms come out of an armoire or a basement to lead players astray. All of this leads to one of the best climaxes in a horror movie that I’ve seen in ages.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, this should be a priority especially during the Halloween season. With a spin-off already under its belt and a sequel on the way, the success of the movie financially is equaled by its success cinematically. While critics tend to give short shrift to horror movies in general, this is the sort of ride that fans tend to love – and make converts out of non-fans. You can add this to your list of horror classics, folks.

WHY RENT THIS: Scary as all get out. Great chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga as well as with Livingston and Taylor. Sets up ordinary and builds nicely.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A raft of 70s-set horror films lately.
FAMILY VALUES: A whole lot of disturbing violence and scenes of intense terror.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie is the third-highest box office opening weekend for an R-rated horror film, behind only Paranormal Activity 3 and Hannibal.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There are featurettes both on the real life Warrens and the real life Perrons. The surviving Perrons and Lorraine Warren are all interviewed for the disc.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $318M on a $20M production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (DVD rental only), Amazon (purchase only), Vudu (not available),  iTunes (rent/buy), Flixster (purchase only), Target Ticket (purchase only)
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Amityville Horror
NEXT: Six Days of Darkness Day Five!

New Releases for the Week of July 19, 2013

The Conjuring


(New Line) Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lily Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Kyla Deaver. Directed by James Wan

When a family is terrorized by unexplainable phenomenon in an isolated Pennsylvania farmhouse, they call in world-renowned husband-wife paranormal investigators Ed and Leslie Warren who made their bones on the Amityville house. What they discover there is something so frightening and violent that they’ve kept that case secret…until now.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: R (for sequences of disturbing violence and terror)

The East

(Fox Searchlight) Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Patricia Clarkson. An ambitious young operative for a private security firm goes undercover in an anarchist group that’s targeting major corporations that it finds guilty of covering up criminal activity. The deeper she gets, the more she finds her own moral compass beginning to point East.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, violence, some disturbing images, sexual content and partial nudity)


(RLJ/Image) Stephen Moyer, Radha Mitchell, Torrey DeVitto, Caitlin Stasey. Detectives investigating a massacre find a number of recording devices found at the crime scene. The footage reveals survivors of a bus crash fighting for their lives after a mysterious killer picks them off one by one.

See the trailer and stream the full movie on Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: NR

Girl Most Likely

(Roadside Attractions) Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Natasha Lyonne. When a New York playwright finds her career swirling down the toilet bowl after a crisis in confidence, she fakes a suicide attempt to win back her boyfriend who is dumping her. However, things don’t turn out as planned when she is put in the custody of her estranged mother, a gambling and drug addict, and leaving her Manhattan society circle for the Jersey Shore.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

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


(Universal) Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker. When a tough-as-nails cop is killed in the line of duty, he discovers that his duty doesn’t end with his mortal life; instead he is brought aboard the R.I.P.D., a next-life law enforcement team that tracks monstrous spirits on Earth who aren’t supposed to be there. Teamed up with a cynical Wild West lawman, the rookie is about to come face-to-face with a threat that could mean Armageddon…or at the very least Hell on Earth.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Supernatural Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references)

Ramaiya Vastavaiya

(Tips Industries) Girish Taurani, Shruti K. Haasan, Randhir Kapoor, Vinod Khanna. A young man, Indian of descent but raised in Australia and a young woman from a beautiful village in the north of India. They meet at his cousin’s wedding and become instant friends, which deepens into an intense love. Circumstances force them to return to their homes. The man wants to woo his lady love but her protective family want him to prove himself. Will love triumph over all?

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR


(Summit) Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins. After re-retiring, the AARP superspies are called back to active duty to thwart a plot to detonate a nuclear device in Russia. The guy who created the device is crazy as a loon however and only one guy can actually get him to fork over the information they need – and I can bet you can guess who that is!

See the trailer, clips, promos and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Action Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material)


(DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph. What could be more ridiculous than a snail that dreams of going fast. I’m not talking about crossing the sidewalk in five hours fast, I’m talking Indy 500 fast. Yeah, right…but this is an animated feature so anything is possible. Heck if snails can talk, why not have them go 200 MPH?

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (Opened Wednesday)

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for mild action and thematic elements)

The Way, Way Back

(Fox Searchlight) Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Liam James.  A 14-year-old boy’s summer is being ruined by his mom’s overbearing boyfriend. Retreating into a shell, he finds an unlikely friend in the owner of a water park. As he is coaxed into a less introverted state, he finds his own two feet to stand on – and a sense of who he is becoming in the summer of his life.

See the trailer, a promo, a clip and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Coming of Age Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material)  

Four-Warned: July 2013

The WolverineEvery 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. RED 2 (1.3)

1. THE HUNT (1.1)

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

JULY 3,2013



BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. The career of the seminal and influential power pop band Big Star is profiled. Release Strategy: Limited . RATING: 1.5 One of the best documentaries at this year’s Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of it here.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) Genre: Animated Feature. Supervillain Gru is called upon to save the world from an even more despicable bad guy. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I really liked the original Despicable Meand the trailers have been uniformly funny for the new one.
KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN (Summit) Genre: Stand-Up Performance. Hart, one of the most successful stand-ups out there, approaches his first two appearances at Madison Square Garden with anxiety and eagerness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Not sure how this stacks up with his last stand-up movie but hopefully he hasn’t worn out his welcome yet.
THE LONE RANGER (Disney) Genre: Western. A Texas lawman, betrayed by treasonous elements in his own government, allies with a Native American as an outlaw to bring justice in a situation where justice doesn’t seem possible. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 From the makers of the Pirates of the Caribbeanfranchise, although the buzz here has largely been negative.
THE LOOK OF LOVE (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. The King of Soho amasses a fortune of billions based on an empire of nightclubs and porn. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding July 12). RATING: 2.0 Loosely based on the life of Paul Raymond, Steve Coogan will be playing the lead character which is never a bad thing.

JULY 5,2013



ABSENCE (Cinedigm) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. When a young mother-to-be’s pregnancy mysteriously disappears, her story is viewed with suspicion and mistrust – until it becomes clear her experience is just the tip of the iceberg. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Another found footage film – I think we’ve definitely reached the saturation point.
HAMMER OF THE GODS (Magnet) Genre: Adventure. A young Viking prince is sent out to find his older brother who had disappeared years earlier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Worth a look, but unlikely to be as good as the excellent History Channel show Vikings.
JUST LIKE A WOMAN (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. Two women, each with her own reasons, head to Santa Fe for a competition for a spot in a famous belly dancing troupe and form a lasting friendship. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Kind of in the vein of Thelma and Louise and kinda not.
STUCK IN LOVE (Millennium) Genre: Drama. A family of writers, all deeply affected when the mother leaves their novelist dad for a younger man, deal with the complexities of love over the course of a tumultuous year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Not sure about this one yet, but stars Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly so outlook is good.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. A teen whose mom’s overbearing boyfriend is making his summer miserable finds an unlikely friendship with the manager of a water park. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Nice trailer, terrific cast including Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell.

JULY 9,2013



COFFEE TOWN (FilmBuff) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A slacker who uses an Internet coffee house to conduct his business attempts to thwart the owner’s plans to convert it into a bar. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer really didn’t inspire any confidence that I’d find anything to like in the movie.

JULY 10,2013



ISRAEL: A HOME MOVIE (Alma) Genre: Documentary. Through the home movies of citizens and immigrants over the last 50 years, we observe the change in the nature of Israel and her people. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 An interesting concept but do I really want to watch the home movies of other people for 90 minutes?

JULY 12,2013



CRYSTAL FAIRY (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A pair of mismatched American tourists go on a Chilean road trip in search of a legendary hallucinogen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Looks a bit like an acid film for the 21st century which wouldn’t be a bad thing but Michael Cera’s in it.
FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. A shooting on New Year’s Eve in a BART station in Oakland galvanizes the community. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Given recent events it seems fitting to take another look at how the African-American community is viewed and treated.
GROWN UPS 2 (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. After moving with his family back to his childhood home town, a rich Hollywood agent teams up with his boyhood buddies to take on some arrogant frat boy types. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 First movie was decent. Not sure that even Sandler, Rock, James and Spade can save this one.
HOT FLASHES (Vertical) Genre: Comedy. A group of middle aged women challenge the state girls high school basketball champs in order to keep their mobile breast cancer screening truck rolling. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Yes, we get it; gals can be crude too. Can we all move on now?
THE HUNT (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. When a substitute teacher is accused of inappropriate behavior with a child, the whole town turns against him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 One of the most gripping films to come out of the Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of it here.
KILLING SEASON (Millennium) Genre: Action Thriller. An American hunter and a European tourist make unlikely friends but when the tourist’s true intentions comes to light the two will face off in a one-on-one war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 With a cast that includes Travolta and De Niro this is certainly worth a look..
PACIFIC RIM (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. When the Earth is invaded by gigantic monsters from beneath the sea, our last remaining hope lies in…giant robots. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.4 Yeah, I know – sounds awful but it is a Guillermo del Toro movie so ya gotta have faith it’s gonna be good.
PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. An anthology of tales revolving around a Southern pawn shop and the people who go there to change their lives.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks like Pulp Fiction meets The Dukes of Hazzard and if it’s more the former than the latter could be a big winner.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY (Variance) Genre: Documentary. How big corporations and the government are eroding your civil rights – with your own permission. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 This may well be the most important documentary you ever watch.
V/H/S 2 (Magnet) Genre: Horror. Two private investigators searching for a missing student break into his abandoned house and find a pile of videotapes, each more horrific than the last. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks even better than the first one, and that first one wasn’t all that bad.

JULY 17,2013



COMPUTER CHESS (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Comedy. A group of computer chess game programmers in 1980 gather in a shabby hotel for a conference and tournament. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 In glorious black and white, looks a little bit out there but actually kind of intriguing.
DEALIN’ WITH IDIOTS (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A comedian, fascinated with the ultra-competitive environment of his son’s Little League team, decides to get more involved in order to find material for his next movie. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles July 19). RATING: 3.0 Fascinatin’ idea; not so sure about the execution.
TURBO (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Dreaming of being faster, a snail is transformed into a turbo-charged racer who might well challenge for the Indy 500. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.2 Doesn’t really excite me all that much, a cross between Cars and Ratatouille.

JULY 19,2013



THE ACT OF KILLING (Drafthouse) Genre: Documentary. Indonesian mass murderers, revered as heroes, re-enact their crimes on film. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Shocking and surreal, will change your entire view of life and the world.
BLACKFISH (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. The story of Tilikum, the Orca who tragically killer his trainer at Sea World last year – and how keeping these animals in captivity may be driving them into psychosis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Of very much interest particularly here in the Orlando area.
THE CONJURING (New Line) Genre: Supernatural Horror. One of the earliest cases of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Leslie Warren may be even more terrifying than the Amityville Horror which they also were involved with. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Could well be one of the scariest movies this summer.
EVIDENCE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. After a bus crashes in the desert, the survivors are forced to fight for their lives as a sadistic killer picks them off one by one – all caught on a myriad of recording devices left behind for detectives to puzzle over. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A different means of utilizing found footage; might be worth a look.
GIRL MOST LIKELY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. A once-promising playwright whose career and relationship has fizzled is put in the custody of her estranged party-hearty mother after a faked suicide attempt is mistaken for the real thing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Pretty good cast (including Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening) but pretty lame premise.
GRABBERS (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror Comedy. An idyllic Irish fishing village is beset by a terrifying undersea monster which of course means everybody in the village must get blotto. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Umm…I know the Irish love to drink (reputedly) but I’m not sure what being drunk has to do with the sea monsters here.
ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP (Phase 4) Genre: Documentary. The story of author and former pimp Iceberg Slim whose work was the basis for street literature. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Played at the recent Florida Film Festival but I have to say the art form depicted here doesn’t really do much for me..
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) Genre: Action. A former gangster and kickboxer living in Bangkok must seek revenge for his brother’s murder or be murdered himself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 From the director and star of Drive comes a movie that may be even better than that.
R.I.P.D. (Universal) Genre: Supernatural Action. Cops who have passed on to the other side police souls who refuse to abide by the rules of the afterlife discover a threat to the world of the living that only they can stop. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.5 Based on the Dark Horse comic, stars Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds and looks both funny and frightening – all pluses in my book.
RED 2 (Summit) Genre: Action. Retired CIA field operatives must once again come out of retirement, this time to track down a portable nuclear device that may threaten world stability. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Great cast and looks to have the same elements that I loved about the first film.
WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER (World Wide Motion Pictures) Genre: Family Drama. A 12-year-old leukemia patient confronts his own mortality and chooses to live life on his own terms. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 I was surprised at how the trailer doesn’t appear to be maudlin or manipulative – oh right, it’s a British film. They don’t do that sort of thing over there.

JULY 25,2013



APARTMENT 1303 3D (Gravitas) Genre: Supernatural Thriller. When a young woman falls to her death from a high rise apartment building, her sister moves in to find out the truth about the incident. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Decent cast but doesn’t seem to add anything new to the mix.

JULY 26,2013



BLUE JASMINE (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. A fashionable New York City housewife suffers through the end stages of an acute crisis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Woody Allen’s latest is more of a return to form, set in Manhattan and San Francisco.
DRUG WAR (Variance) Genre: Martial Arts. A meth lab cooker is captured by the Chinese military police an forced to inform on his bosses, but as things get more savage and brutal it’s hard to tell who is who. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles August 2). RATING: 2.9 Looks kind of like the stereotype of Chinese martial arts films – lots of great action, zero plot.
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (MPI) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. Russian soldiers attempt to foil a Nazi plot to use Victor von Frankenstein’s research to create an army of the undead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Genius idea; looks like genuine Nazi zombie horror goodness.
STRANDED (RLJ) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. The moon base is cut off from Earth by a meteor shower which also included shape-shifting killer alien spores. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 How many more different ways are we going to remake The Thing?
THE TIME BEING (Tribeca) Genre: Thriller. A struggling artist hoping a rich man will become his benefactor instead gets increasingly bizarre surveillance assignments from him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Didn’t get a feeling one way or the other from the trailer; not at the top of my list, not at the bottom either.
THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) Genre: Comedy. High-achieving all through high school, an uptight grad wants to change her image the summer before heading off to a prestigious university. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 Loosely based on the writer-director’s own experiences.
THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The ageless X-Man with the mutant healing factor discovers that his mutant ability can be removed, giving him a normal lifespan. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.3 One of the more moving films from this year’s Florida Film Festival.

JULY 31,2013



SMASH & GRAB: THE STORY OF THE PINK PANTHERS (Goldcrest) Genre: Documentary. Brazen thieves known for lightning-fast jewel heists around the world are profiled here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Unable to watch trailer so I’m not sure how good this one is.
THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) Genre: Family. Gargamel blah blah blah Smurfs blah blah blah Neil Patrick Harris blah blah blah.. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 4.0 Couldn’t stand the first one; won’t even see this one.

Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger, Grown Ups 2, Pacific Rim, Turbo, Blackfish, R.I.P.D., Red 2, The Wolverine