New Releases for the Week of November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games  Mockingjay - Part ITHE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART I

(Summit) Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore. Directed by Francis Lawrence

Katness Everdeen has become a force to be reckoned with and Panem is in full revolt. Treacherous President Snow isn’t going to stand by and lose his control and he fights back, hard and soon the rebellion is in full flight. Katness is needed to be a symbol of courage and hope, but she herself is not sure she can do it. With Peta under control of the President and her friends and family in danger, she must find a way to summon up that strength or risk seeing everyone and everything she loves perish..

See the trailer, clips, interviews, promos and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide release
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material)

Food Chains

(Screen Media) Eva Longoria, Forest Whitaker, Eve Ensler, Barry Estabrook. The plight of courageous tomato pickers in Florida and elsewhere is examined here. The workers are asking for a penny per pound increase in their payment. Courageously standing up for themselves against corporate growers, the mainly Latino workforce started the Fair Food Program and themselves approached such buyers as Wal*Mart and McDonald’s. The bigger picture becomes the living conditions of the workers vs. the profits of corporate growers.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall
Rating: NR

The Theory of Everything

(Focus) Eddie Redmayne, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Felicity Jones. Stephen Hawking is a promising student at Cambridge when he is stricken with a devastating disease. Given two years to live, he defies the odds and continues his education, marries the love of his life and makes discoveries that have changed the way we look at the universe.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes, B-roll video and a greeting from the film’s stars here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic elements and suggestive material)


Four-Warned: November 2014

InterstellarEvery 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.

3. BIG HERO 6 (1.5)


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

NOVEMBER 4, 2014

WORST FRIENDS (Level 33) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Badly injured in a car accident, a prankster has only a childhood friend and a physical therapist to help him recover – until his friend’s high school crush moves back in to town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks mildly interesting.

NOVEMBER 5, 2014

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount) Genre: Science Fiction. With the Earth no longer able to support life, a desperate attempt is made to use a wormhole to find us a new home. Release Strategy: IMAX (expands Standard Wide November 6). RATING: 1.0 The latest from Christopher Nolan looks like an epic science fiction experience.
NATIONAL GALLERY (Zipporah) Genre: Documentary. A fascinating glimpse backstage at London’s National Gallery as administrators argue (politely), docents wax rhapsodic and restorers…erm, restore. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 The love that goes into a major museum like this is evident but so is all the work.

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

21 YEARS: RICHARD LINKLATER (Gravitas) Genre: Documentary. The career of the Godfather of Independent Films is examined through interviews and animation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Interest in the director is high after the success and likely Oscar nominations of Boyhood.
A MERRY FRIGGIN’ CHRISTMAS (Phase 4) Genre: Comedy. After realizing he left his son’s gifts at home, Boyd takes an 8 hour road trip back home with his eccentric father to make sure his son has a Christmas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 One of Robin Williams’ last films.
ACTRESS (The Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. Brandy Burre, who gave up a role on The Wire to start a family, decides to resume her career even though it might cost her that same family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I can’t say as this doesn’t have some fascination but I don’t know that I’m especially eager to see a portrait in narcissism.
THE BETTER ANGELS (Amplify) Genre: Drama. Preparing him for future greatness, the childhood of Abraham Lincoln was difficult and tragic. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Filmed in black and white and produced by Terrence Malick, the movie looks gorgeous and has an impressive cast, enough to make this worth keeping an eye out for.
BIG HERO 6 (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. In a future megalopolis a boy inventor adapts his robot to take on an insidious menace, joining like-minded teens in a team of high-tech heroes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.5 Marvel’s first animated feature for Disney looks charming and fun.
ELSA AND FRED (Millennium) Genre: Comedy. After his daughter puts a grieving widower into a small apartment, he meets a sassy and vivacious woman who teaches him that however much life he has left deserves to be lived to the fullest. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 With a cast that includes Oscar winners Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and Marcia Gay Harden, how can you go wrong?
FUGLY! (Paladin) Genre: Comedy. Following a near-death experience, a Latino comic is forced to re-evaluate his life and accomplishments. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 John Leguizamo is one of those guys who is always compelling no matter how good the material.
JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. Jessabelle returns home after a serious car accident to recuperate only to discover that a malevolent entity there has been waiting for her and doesn’t intend for her to leave – ever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Very much a Southern Gothic looking movie has been release date shuffled and moved from a wide release to a limited one, making me wonder how much faith the studio has in the film.
THE LOOKALIKE (Well Go USA) Genre: Comedy Thriller. A drug lord’s obsession with a young woman puts in jeopardy a big drug deal when she dies inadvertently, causing his associates to frantically find a lookalike to keep things from going sideways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Intriguing cast, kind of a goofy premise…this one’s a wait-and-see for me.
ON ANY SUNDAY, THE NEXT CHAPTER (Red Bull Media House) Genre: Documentary. This sequel 30 years after the original shows that motorcycle racing is still a grand passion not only in America but abroad. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.7 The Red Bull logo is EVERYWHERE in the trailer which gives me a good deal of pause when recommending this.
OPEN WINDOWS (Cinedigm) Genre: Thriller. When an actress refuses to honor a commitment to a win-a-date contest, her unscrupulous manager gives the disappointed winner the option of unlimited access to her via hidden webcams, putting both him and her at terrifying risk. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 From promising up-and-coming horror director Nacho Vigalondo comes this modern riff on Rear Window.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus) Genre: Biographical Drama. Stephen Hawking went from a promising British student to a man in the throes of an insidious disease to one of the most brilliant minds of our time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Could be a career-making role for Eddie Redmayne.
THE WAY HE LOOKS (Strand) Genre: Drama. Fed up with bullying and his over-protected mom, a blind kid determines to study abroad much to the consternation of his best friend but when the student reconsiders after meeting a young man in town, things get even more complicated. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A Brazilian coming-of-age film set to a soundtrack of Belle and Sebastian; how much more indie can it get?
WEST (Main Street) Genre: Drama. After the mysterious death of her boyfriend, an East German escapes to the West with her young son, only to discover that her past is catching up to her on the other side of the wall. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds intriguing but unable to locate a trailer online.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (Drafthouse) Genre: Action Comedy. In the midst of a yakuza war an ambitious film crew view for the chance to film a live battle to the death. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A deranged Japanese self-parody over the obsession to make movies.

NOVEMBER 14, 2014

ALWAYS WOODSTOCK (Gravitas) Genre: Musical. An aspiring singer after losing her job and her fiancée pawns her ring and goes home only to find her muse and the love of her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Seen this before in other films, although a good young cast including James Wolk, Alison Miller and Rumer Willis gives it one on the plus side.
BAD TURNS WORSE (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Crime Drama. Three teens, partying on stolen money, end up indebted to a sociopathic criminal who forces them to steal from his vicious boss – at which time things go from bad to worse. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Mark Pellegrino makes for a charismatic villain but rest of trailer looked a bit bland.
BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) Genre: Musical. The latest R&B diva/superstar is crumbling under the pressure until she falls for a local cop assigned to her detail. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 A version of The Guardian without Whitney Houston seems kind of pointless.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) Genre: Comedy. Lloyd and Harry return after a 20 year absence to find Harry’s daughter – did anyone miss them? Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The Farrelly Brothers, once the toast of Hollywood comedies, now find themselves in sore need of a hit.
FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) Genre: True Life Drama. An initially supportive but deeply disturbed multi-millionaire sets up a wrestling training center for the Olympics but his efforts only end in tragedy. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.0 Said to be a sure thing Best Actor nomination for Steve Carell.
THE HOMESMAN (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Western. Three women on the edge of the American frontier who have been driven mad by the harsh life must be transported to Iowa where a kindly minister will take them in but the journey is a dangerous one. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 The latest from Tommy Lee Jones has a cast that includes Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank; will Oscar look past their general disdain for Westerns?
MISS MEADOWS (eOne) Genre: Action. Beneath the refined exterior of a school teacher lies a gun-toting vigilante who believes in correcting bad behavior the hard way. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A modern revision of a vigilante film with a patina of quirky humor.
OCCUPY THE FARM (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. Urban farmers in the Berkeley area take on the University of California to protect prime farmland from being sold for development. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles November 21). RATING: 2.2 Asks the very pertinent question who gets to decide what public land is used for.
RED ARMY (Sony Classics) Genre: Sports Documentary. The Red Army hockey team is one of the best in history; their impact on social change in the Soviet Union is largely unknown in the West but is immeasurable. Release Strategy: New York City (expands January 2015). RATING: 1.7 I love hockey but this isn’t strictly speaking about hockey.
ROSEWATER (Open Road) Genre: True Life Drama. A reported for Newsweek is arrested in Iran and held as a spy, tortured but refuses to break. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 An inspiring story of personal courage and the triumph of will from director Jon Stewart – yes, THAT Jon Stewart.
SAVING CHRISTMAS (Goldwyn) Genre: Faith-Based Drama. During an office Christmas party, a man realizes his brother-in-law who is unenthusiastic about the holiday needs to be shown the true meaning of Christmas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Strictly for conservative Christians, a present from Kirk Cameron.
WOLVES (Ketchup) Genre: Horror. Fleeing after the brutal murder of his parents which he’s accused of, a popular high schooler searches for answers about who he is and where he comes from. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Not so sure this brings anything new to the werewolf genre.

NOVEMBER 19, 2014

BAD HAIR (Cinema Tropical/FIGA) Genre: Drama. As school picture day approaches, a nine-year-old Venezuelan boy fears he has “bad hair” and wants his frizzy hair straightened. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 The TIFF trailer is a bit incoherent but it would be interesting to get a glimpse into the slums of Caracas.
PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH AND SUPERMARKETS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Musical Documentary. One of the smartest and quirkiest bands to come from the Britpop movement, they prepare to say goodbye after 25 years with a final concert in their hometown of Sheffield. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Criminally overlooked in the U.S. they are cult favorites in their native Britain.

NOVEMBER 21, 2014

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (Kino Lorber) Genre: Horror. In a small Iranian village the people living there are oblivious that there is a vampire in their midst. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A VERY different take on the traditional vampire film and an unfiltered look at small town Iran.
EXTRATERRESTRIAL (IFC Midnight) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A young woman goes to her parents vacation cabin to cope with their divorce, bringing along a group of friends to keep her company when they witness the crash of an alien ship – and soon realize that the occupant is still alive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 While the idea doesn’t seem particularly innovative the execution seems pretty strong judging on the trailer.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. Panem erupts into civil war and Katniss becomes a symbol for the resistance but President Snow will stop at nothing to keep her out of this larger game. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Maybe the best of the young adult book franchises except for Potter.
THE MULE (XLRator) Genre: Crime Comedy. Based on actual events, an Australian drug mule captured by the police decides to retain the product in his stomach in order to conceal the evidence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Just. Friggin. Weird.
REACH ME (Millennium) Genre: Drama. When a motivational book by a mysterious author goes viral it affects a disparate group of people in different ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An impressive cast but movies about self-help books that revolutionize people’s lives always seem to end up being a bit of a circle jerk.
VHS: VIRAL (Magnolia) Genre: Horror Anthology. A group of fame-obsessed teens unwittingly become the stars of a viral video that they may not survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 In all honesty some of these anthologies can be real hit or miss but this one looks to be honest-to-God scarier than hell.

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line) Genre: Comedy. The three losers from the first movie have gone into business for themselves only to find that business has been stolen out from under them, forcing them to turn back to a criminal act to set things right. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Somehow doesn’t look quite as funny as the first film but given the talent onscreen am still optimistic this might be worth checking out.
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks Animation) Genre: Animated Feature. The lovable title creatures go on an adventure of their own, filled with mystery, intrigue and snacks. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.4 The best part of the Madagascar franchise might be way better than those movies if we’re lucky.

NOVEMBER 28, 2014

THE BABADOOK (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A mother struggles with her six-year-old boy but the sinister presence of a storybook monster may turn out to be real and threatening them both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most acclaimed films to come out of this year’s Florida Film Festival.
BEFORE I DISAPPEAR (IFC) Genre: Drama. In the midst of committing suicide, a junkie gets an urgent call from his sister to babysit her daughter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 One of my favorite films from this year’s Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of it here.
THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. During World War II, genius mathematician Alan Turing is called upon to break the unbreakable code – Enigma. Release Strategy: Limited . RATING: 1.9 More possible Oscar consideration for Benedict Cumberbatch.

Interstellar, Big Hero 6, The Theory of Everything, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Horrible Bosses 2, The Penguins of Madagascar