The Giver


A cool blue young adult sci-fi romance scene.

A cool blue young adult sci-fi romance scene.

(2014) Science Fiction (Weinstein) Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Taylor Swift, Cameron Monaghan, Emma Tremblay, Renate Stuurman, Vanessa Cooke, John Whiteley, Kira Wilkinson, Jefferson Mays (voice), Jaime Coue, Thabo Rametsi, Vaughn Lucas, Meganne Young, Katharina Damm. Directed by Phillip Noyce

Utopias aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be. In fact, there are those who believe that the human animal is incapable of living in a Utopian society for very long; we’re apt to mess it up entirely because we can’t be trusted.

In a Utopian future, war, poverty and hunger have been abolished. People live a peaceful existence in the Community. They take their medication every day, are admonished to speak with a precision of language, apologize for every possible perceived mistake and accept the apologies of others, and live in a world free of color and powerful emotions.

It is a world in which wise elders make the decisions that determine the shape of your life. After a period of nurturing (kind of like schooling) they are given their jobs – mostly tasks like gardening, drone piloting and for certain women, birth giving. There is no Big Brother but a Chief Elder (Streep) smiling benevolently on her flock.

Three friends – Jonas (Thwaites), Fiona (Rush) and Asher (Monaghan) – are eagerly awaiting the ceremony that will elevate them from childhood into productive adult lives. They are all smiling, happy sorts who are satisfied that their lives are going the way they should be.

At the ceremony, Fiona is given nurturer (basically the care giver for babies until they are assigned to a family) as expected and Asher – the class clown – is given drone pilot, monitoring both the Community and the territory beyond the boundary which is barren and uninhabited. However, oddly, Jonas is skipped over. Jonas’ mom (Holmes) – the security chief of the Community and one of the Elders – and Dad (Skarsgard), essentially the community’s doctor, exchange puzzled, troubled looks but at last Jonas is given a tremendous position at the end of the ceremony. He is to become the new Receiver of Memories.

Since the world basically fell apart and the Community sprung out of it, all memories of what preceded the Community have been deliberately removed from the population. Only one man, the Receiver, is allowed to possess those memories and from time to time, use them to advise the Elders on matters that fall outside the normal range of happenings.

The current Receiver doesn’t just tell the new one the tales of the distant past like some sort of Homer. Instead, he clasps hands with the new Receiver and the memories are transferred to him, in this case Jonas. That makes the old Receiver, Jonas tells him wryly, the Giver (Bridges).

The memories change Jonas. They begin to revive color as he sees colors that the memories identify as Red, then Blue, then Yellow. The primaries begin to combine and a whole palette is revealed to a wonder-filled Jonas. That’s not all Jonas receives though; he begins to experience emotions and stops taking his medication which further allow him to experience everything that’s new. His training allows him to lie because the Receiver must conceal these things from the members of the Community.

He discovers things like snow, which doesn’t exist in the climate-controlled Community, and sledding. He also discovers love, which doesn’t exist in the Community and whose concept is confusing to those he tries to explain it to. He soon realizes one thing – he’s falling in love with Fiona, and she might be falling in love with him.

But that’s not all that Jonas discovers. Conformity is everything in the Community and not everybody conforms easily. The Giver who is certainly a non-conformist has been tolerated because of his position but there have been tragedies. Things happen to the babies who don’t meet the minimum weight and length and a baby named Gabriel that Jonas has begun to develop a great deal of affection for may be targeted for those things.

Jonas realizes that the people have had too much removed from them, including their freedom but more importantly the essence of who they are. He will try to save Gabriel from being removed from the community – and at the same time removing himself to pass the barriers of memory. Once he does, the Giver believes that all those memories, emotions and colors will be restored to the Community members. And the Chief Elder will do anything to keep that from happening.

Based on the beloved young adult novel by Lois Lowry, Australian director Noyce takes on a book that is fairly complex and full of metaphors. He’s not always successful here. The look of the film is pretty exciting. The film switches from black and white at the beginning, slowly adding colors as Jonas’ perception begins to expand. The effect isn’t unlike the dining rooms on the Disney cruise ships that change from black and white to color over the course of the meal.

Bridges, resembling the late James Coburn in looks here, has been a huge admirer of the book and has been trying to get the movie made since the 90s, at the time with his father Lloyd in the title role that he plays in the final version. You can see him channeling his Dad, down to the way he clips the dialogue into groups of phrases the way his Dad did. It’s actually kind of sweet.

Streep, allowing herself to look older with little make-up and long silvering hair, doesn’t get a lot of screen time but she has that polite menace that have made certain villains memorable. Like all of the citizens of the Community, she stays on a fairly even keel most of the time.

Therein lies the challenge of the movie. The very essence of the community is emotionlessness. It’s the whole point for its existence. That’s great on the printed page but in a movie, it turns into a bunch of Stepford teens. The overwhelming politeness makes you want to do something unbelievably rude just to get these people to react. I don’t doubt that’s the effect the filmmakers were going for but it can be distracting when you’re trying to follow a story that’s plenty deep as it is.

I haven’t read the book although I’m told it’s amazing so I’m not sure how closely this sticks to the narrative – again, I’m told that it is fairly close but there is some material that is new to the movie. There are some issues that I have with the logic of the overall concept. For example, what’s the need to eliminate the perception of color from the citizens of the Community? I understand the metaphorical reason, but it seems a bit unnecessary. Perhaps I’m just being dense.

Also near the end, after seeing bicycles as the only means of transportation for the whole movie, motorcycles suddenly show up. And not only does Jonas ride the motorcycle (apparently he has the memory for it), he’s able to make a nearly impossible jump from the Community down to the badlands outside the barrier – all with a baby mounted on the front of the bike. Jonas may have the memory of how to ride a motorcycle and even how to jump a motorcycle but he doesn’t have the memory of how to defy physics. The baby should have gone flying like a football through the uprights. Three points!

I like the look of the movie; the Community is clean and futuristic and park-like, while the Giver lives on the outskirts in a mansion that looks not unlike a Romanesque temple that overlooks the clouds and a single tree visible beyond the barrier. It’s visually striking.

Still, despite that I left the movie feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Not that it isn’t entertaining nor can I say with absolute certainty that this is a movie you should avoid seeing. It has its merits. However, I can’t say with absolute certainty that most viewers are going to appreciate and enjoy the movie either. Most folks, I think, are going to react much the same as I did – neither liking nor disliking the film, but not remembering much of it after the final credits are over. For a movie about memories, there’s a certain irony in that.

REASONS TO GO: Streep and Bridges are terrific as always. Some interesting visuals.
REASONS TO STAY: Lapses in logic.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s some mild violence and some mature thematic elements.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Streep shot some of her scenes in England (the rest of the film was shot in South Africa while she was shooting Into the Woods.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/29/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 32% positive reviews. Metacritic: 46/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Never Let Me Go

New Releases for the Week of August 15, 2014


The Expendables 3THE EXPENDABLES 3

(Lionsgate) Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas. Directed by Patrick Hughes

The Expendables are back in action and this time they’re up against a foe who knows them better than anyone – Conrad Stonebanks, a ruthless arms dealer who once upon a time co-founded the Expendables along with Barney. This is a shock to Barney who thought Conrad was dead but since it was Barney that tried to kill him, Stonebanks has an awful mad-on about the Expendables and is out to put them all down once and for all. Barney’s going to need a little help against the well-financed and merciless teams of mercenaries that Stonebanks has sent against them – and welcome to a group of new Expendables, more tech savvy, younger and faster than the classic team. Old School, meet New School.

See the trailer, interviews, a featurette, a clip and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Action

Rating: PG-13 (for violence including sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language)

The Giver

(Weinstein) Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard. In the future, mankind lives in a Utopian community where hunger and poverty have been eradicated and while colorless conformity is the rule, contentment is the reward. However, a young man discovers that the community has a dark and secret past and that only one man – the Giver – has custodianship of those memories and he intends to hand them off to the young man. That makes him dangerous to the elders of the community who will stop at nothing to take him out. He’ll have to escape the community – something that’s never been done before – in order to save it.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence)

Let’s Be Cops

(20th Century Fox) Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson, Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev. A pair of bros have been invited to a costume party and decide to go as cops. Mistaken for the real thing, they decide they like the way the rest of the world treats them as cops and so they’ll keep on going as long and as far as they can take it. Of course, the real cops don’t take kindly to this and they wind up with a heaping helping of T-R-O-U-B-L-E with a capital T.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use)

Singham Returns

(Reliance) Kareena Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Anupam Kher, Amole Gupte. A police officer with a reputation for honesty but also for being ferocious with wrongdoers is promoted to Deputy Chief of Police. Dead set on wiping out injustice in his town, he comes up smack dab against not only wealthy criminals but corruption in his own department.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood Action

Rating: NR

What If

(CBS) Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Rafe Spall. After a series of failed relationships, a young medical school drop-out still trying to find out who he is decides to put his love life on hold. Of course, most of his friends then seem to find the perfect partner for themselves which makes him feel miserable and alone, but then he meets this great girl whom he connects with immediately. The trouble is that she lives with her boyfriend. Still, the two become best friends but maybe that’s not enough.

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

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including references throughout, partial nudity and language)

Four-Warned: August 2014


Guardians of the GalaxyEvery month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (1.0)
2. FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (1.1)
3. THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (1.3)
4. THE GIVER (1.4)
TIE. INTO THE STORM (1.4)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. TO BE TAKEI (1.3)
2. THE CONGRESS (1.4)
TIE. RICH HILL (1.4)
TIE. DINOSAUR 13 (1.4)

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

AUGUST 1, 2014

4 MINUTE MILE (Gravitas) Genre: Drama. A young man in a desperate neighborhood uses track and field as an escape but even that may not be enough. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Looks a little hokey but does have a pretty decent cast with Richard Jenkins and Kim Basinger.
THE ALMOST MAN (Big World) Genre: Dramedy. Although he’s 35, Henrik lives at home and parties with his high school buddies like he’s young but when his girlfriend gets pregnant, it’s time for him to become the man he was meant to be. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A celebration of life, Norwegian style.
BEHAVING BADLY (Vertical) Genre: Comedy. An awkward high school boy will do anything to secure the girl of his dreams but he doesn’t realize just how much he has to do to get her – and that it involves the mob. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Definitely a “stop me if you’ve heard this one before” kind of movie.
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. While on a Caribbean vacation, a group of friends swim in contaminated water and discover that an abandoned research facility may be the only key to save them from the flesh-eating disease they’ve contracted. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Most of this series has gone direct-to-video; I’m wondering if this shouldn’t have as well.
CALVARY (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. A good Irish priest must summon the courage to face sinister circumstances brought on by a mysterious parishioner. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 From the director and star of In Bruges.
CHILD OF GOD (Well Go USA) Genre: Thriller. A man who is deprived of home and family descends into a deep dark morass of crime and degradation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Based on a Cormac McCarthy novel; looks pretty intense.
FINDING FELA (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Documentary. The life of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti whose fight for oppressed people and Pan-Africanist politics made him a hero in his native land. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 His music is most familiar to Americans through a Broadway musical based on his work.
GET ON UP (Universal) Genre: Musical Biography. James Brown came from a background of poverty to become one of the most influential figures in music in the 20th Century. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Chadwick Boseman looks like he captures the essence of James Brown as he did with Jackie Robinson.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Science Fiction. A ragtag group of thieves, assassins and outsiders are all that stand between the galaxy and the ravages of a psychotic despot with unlimited power. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 An unusual choice for the next Marvel movie may end up being the best in the series to date.
LOUDER THAN WORDS (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Drama. Following the tragic death of their young daughter, a couple decide to honor her memory by founding a children’s hospital which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A great cast and an intriguing trailer make this one a sleeper to look out for.
RICH HILL (The Orchard) Genre: Documentary. Teenage boys in a small Midwestern town struggle to survive in an era of uncertain economics and hopelessness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 This Sundance award winner is an early contender for an Oscar as a realistic portrayal of rural poverty in this time and place.
THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT (KimStim) Genre: Comedy. An extended family gets together for dinner in a middle-class Berlin flat. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 An unusual but inventive looking piece of cinema that played last year’s Toronto Film Festival.

AUGUST 6, 2014

WEB JUNKIE (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Internet addiction among teenage boys is an epidemic; in China they have developed “boot camps” to deal with it but the problem seems to be beyond the reach of parents, governments or the medical community. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 This is certainly a major problem but I’m not sure focusing on one failed solution really addresses it.

AUGUST 8, 2014

ABOUT ALEX (Screen Media) Genre: Dramedy. After one of them suffers an emotional breakdown, a group of 20-something friends gather for a weekend away but discover all the jealousies, political differences and unrequited love threaten to further divide them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Friendship and growing up in the age of Facebook.
AFTER (Paladin/Accretion) Genre: Suspense. The matriarch of a family struggles to hold things together when their family business starts to fail and shattering family secrets threaten to surface. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer doesn’t really differentiate this much from other family dramas with similar themes.
DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D (National Geographic) Genre: Nature Documentary. Director James Cameron’s passion for deep sea exploration culminates in a historic solo dive into the deepest place on Earth. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 An incredible adventure that even Cameron himself couldn’t script.
FIFI HOWLS FROM HAPPINESS (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. Bahman Mohassess is an Iranian artist known as “the Persian Picasso” was forced to abandon his country as a gay man in a repressive regime where such things were not accepted. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles August 15). RATING: 1.9 An iconoclastic artist allows access to his life and thoughts which may not necessarily be the nicest place in the world.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) Genre: Dramedy. In a small rural French village, a larger-than-life Indian restaurateur opens a garish Indian restaurant across the street from a Michelin star rated traditional French restaurant; warfare follows between the aristocratic owner of the bistro and the Indian with his talented son caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 The films of Lasse Halllstrom always have enormous heart.
INTO THE STORM (New Line) Genre: Adventure. A small town experiences a plague of tornadoes with weather scientists predicting that the worst is still yet to come. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.4 Looks like Twister on steroids.
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (Radius) Genre: Musical Documentary. Jazz piano legend Clark Terry undertakes one last mentorship as his health begins to fail. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A trailer for this film is lacking.
THE MAID’S ROOM (Paladin) Genre: Thriller. When a maid to a wealthy family in the Hamptons realizes their teenage son was responsible for a fatal hit and run crash, the knowledge puts her in far more danger than she realizes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 The trailer makes this look like a generic thriller.
STEP UP: ALL IN (Summit) Genre: Dance. A major dance competition in Vegas brings back stars from previous installments of this franchise. Release Strategy: Limited (Standard, 3D). RATING: 4.0 Can’t say as I have any interest in this sort of film.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Paramount) Genre: Action. When New York City is beset by the evil Shredder, four unique brothers will rise up from the sewers to protect the city. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 While this has a bigger budget than the previous incarnations of the live action version of this comic book, it doesn’t look particularly better.
WHAT IF (CBS) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a series of bad relationships makes a young man reluctant to engage in any romantic relationships, he begins to realize that his best friend may just be the woman for him. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan make for an intriguing couple.

AUGUST 13, 2014

LET’S BE COPS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. When a couple of pals dress up as cops for a costume party and are mistaken for the real thing, they decide to see how far they can push their newfound respect and attractiveness to the ladies. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Looks like kind of a big dumb comedy; hopefully all the best parts won’t be in the trailer.

AUGUST 15, 2014

DINOSAUR 13 (Lionsgate) Genre: Documentary. The discovery of the most intact T-Rex skeleton ever found should have been a major triumph right? However, a bureaucratic government, powerful museums, Native American tribes and competing colleagues threaten not only to take the find of the paleontologist that made the discovery but also his freedom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Even in our most triumphant scientific discoveries the ugly head of greed can be reared.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. Barney and the team must go up against someone who was once a friend. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 More Expendables, more action, more fun.
FOUND (XLRator) Genre: Horror. A picked on high school kid hides a terrible secret; his older brother is a serial killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A cross between a coming of age movie and a slasher film; a really unique and refreshing take on the subject.
FRANK (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. Looking to make it as a musician, Jon joins a cult band of eccentric personalities that might be a little more than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Original, inventive and funny; could be the coolest movie of 2014.
THE GIVER (Weinstein) Genre: Science Fiction. A young man in a Utopian society discovers that all is not well with his world and that he himself may be the key to changing things. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Based on the popular young adult novels which is a statement that is getting to be the kiss of death for movies lately.
LIFE AFTER BETH (A24) Genre: Horror Comedy. Grieving for the sudden death of his girlfriend, a young man is overjoyed when she mysteriously comes back to life but as it turns out she’s not the same as when she left it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The Walking Dead have feelings too y’know.
RAGNAROK (Magnolia) Genre: Adventure. A historian obsessed with the Oseberg Viking ship discovers that runes found on the vessel may hold the key to the end of days in Norse mythology – and that it may be coming sooner than we think. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Where is Thor when you really need him?
SEPTIC MAN (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Horror. When a curious sewage worker is trapped in a septic tank, he undergoes a horrifying transformation that will help him take on the madman that trapped him there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks pretty gruesome which is just the way I like it.
THE TRIP TO ITALY (IFC) Genre: Comedy. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take another journey to fine restaurants, five star hotels and bicker with each other incessantly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 The opening night film from this year’s Florida Film Festival; you can read my review of it here.
THE WORD (Scarlet Sky) Genre: Drama. After his son is kidnapped and murdered by a religious sect, a grieving father plots an elaborate and wicked revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds interesting but couldn’t find a trailer for it.

AUGUST 20, 2014

EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE WORLD (Argot) Genre: Documentary. Climate change scientists explore a remote area of Greenland only now accessible and find it to be a life-changing experience. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 May not be as profound as it appears to be.
WINTER IN THE BLOOD (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. When a Native American’s wife leaves him and takes his beloved rifle with her, he sets out on a strange journey to get it back. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 This played the recent Florida Film Festival; read my review here.

AUGUST 22, 2014

ABUSE OF WEAKNESS (Strand) Genre: Drama. After suffering a stroke, an acclaimed filmmaker is determined to continue her career taking on the story of a con man who swindles celebrities, not realizing that his manipulation of her is spiraling out of control. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on the director’s actual experiences.
ARE YOU HERE (Millennium) Genre: Comedy. When his eccentric BFF inherits his late father’s fortune, a womanizing weatherman helps him fend off a legal challenge from his overbearing sister.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Considering a cast of Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler, this looks surprisingly dramatic.
FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (Dimension) Genre: Horror. Two tales from the Frank Miller graphic novel series are woven together in a prequel to the first movie. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 Retains the stylized graphic novel look of the original.
IF I STAY (Warner Brothers/MGM) Genre: Fantasy/Drama. Caught between this world and the next after a tragic accident, a young girl must decide whether to live or die. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I’m a big Chloe Grace Moretz fan and this looks like a different kind of role for her.
LOVE IS STRANGE (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A gay New York couple is forced by economic circumstances to separate until they can afford to buy a new place to live. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are amazing actors; this one looks like it shouldn’t be missed.
THE ONE I LOVE (Radius) Genre: Drama. In a last ditch effort to save their marriage, a couple escape to a beautiful vacation home in the mountains but a chance discovery forces them to reevaluate who they are, what they want to be and where they’re going. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 There’s some indie royalty in this one.
THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING (Anchor Bay) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A documentary filmmaker decides to debunk religion and spiritualism once and for all following the death of his wife gets a lot more than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks like a pretty wild ride.
THE PRINCE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. When his daughter is kidnapped, a retired assassin must confront his former rival to get her back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 It may look like standard B-movie action fare but with John Cusack, Jason Patric and Bruce Willis I’m all in.
TO BE TAKEI (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Documentary. George Takei, the beloved icon from Star Trek chronicles his life from an internment camp during World War II to his status today as cultural hero and fierce activist for progressive causes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 This guy is a living legend and one of the most beloved people on Earth; if he isn’t one of your heroes he should be.
VOD (Inline Image 2) Genre: Thriller. After five tourists in Bangkok go missing, a new arrival gets involved with a provocative website in town, which may well end up with her being added to the list of the disappeared. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 No trailer for this Thai film.
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) Genre: True Sports Drama. De La Salle High School’s football team had the longest winning streak in the history of sports but when the streak came to an end the players showed what winning was all about. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I gotta say that I’m a sucker for these sorts of inspirational tales.

AUGUST 27, 2014

THE NOVEMBER MAN (Relativity) Genre: Spy Action. A CIA superspy is lured out of retirement to protect an important witness, but is marked for assassination himself and is up against his own protégé in an environment where there is nobody he can trust. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Pierce Brosnan proves that he hasn’t lost his Bond touch.
STARRED UP (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Drama. When he’s transferred to the same prison facility as his estranged father, a brutal inmate is taken under the wing of a prison psychiatrist who gives him hope that there might be something better ahead for him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Certain to cause some discussion over the nature and usefulness of prisoner rehabilitation.
THROUGH A LENS DARKLY (First Run) Genre: Documentary. African-American culture and society are reflected through the lens of photographers of color from the 1840’s until present day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An important subject I agree; the trailer sounds like though that the filmmakers have been caught up in their own self-importance.

AUGUST 29, 2014

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (Legendary/Universal) Genre: Horror. A group of researchers venture into the catacombs of Paris and find something terrifying. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
CANOPY (Monterey Media) Genre: Adventure. During the Second World War, an Australian fighter pilot shot down in the Singapore jungle finds an injured resistance fighter; together they must work together to survive the unforgiving terrain and the Japanese troops who have overrun the forest. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Could be very gripping; the trailer looks interesting.
THE CONGRESS (Drafthouse) Genre: Science Fiction. An actress licenses her digital image to a movie studio which then, twenty years later, initiates a comeback for her even though her image is much younger than the actress herself.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Startling and impressive images from the director of Waltz with Bashir.
THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD (Goldwyn) Genre: Biographical Drama. The scandal of an aging Errol Flynn and underage actress Beverly Aadland and her fame-obsessed mother Florence would haunt the swashbuckling actor in the last days of his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An interesting subject but I’m not sure they pulled it off properly.
LIFE OF CRIME (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Caper Comedy. After the wife of a corrupt real estate tycoon is kidnapped, he decides that he doesn’t want to pay the ransom to get her back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 It’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel so that’s got my attention from the get-go.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Get On Up, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Into the Storm, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Let’s Be Cops, The Expendables 3, The Giver, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, If I Stay, When the Game Stands Tall, The November Man, As Above So Below