Top 10 of 2012


2012 Top 10

It is almost a given that any film critic worth their salt is going to do a year-end list of the best films of the year. It’s de rigueur; it’s expected; it’s standard; you don’t get to wear the film critics t-shirt unless you do one. As I’m particularly fond of mine, I guess I’d better go ahead and give it a shot.

Some critics have a kind of scientific method that they use to determine their list. Me, I’m much less formal. I look back over my ratings and choose the movies I gave 10s to at the top, ranking them basically by how I’m feeling about them now. Next comes the 9s, then the 8s if it comes to that (and this year it didn’t). I ignore the half points, so you might see a 9 ranked above a 9.5. I don’t stand on ceremony as you can see.

The story of 2012 is that there were three movies that were at the top of my charts basically the entire second half of the year – nothing that came out in the fall really challenged the top three. The thing is, none of the three really stood out head and shoulders among the others; you could say it’s a three way tie for first. I have ranked them from one to three for the purposes of this list but throughout the year I’ve generally waffled as to what order that I’ve placed them in. I’ve shuffled, re-shuffled and changed my mind a million times. Each one of them has been my favorite movie of the year at various times throughout the year.

In fact, the list (as most lists do) has a highly fluid quality to it. For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied with the ten movies on the list and I don’t think I’d change any of the movies on it, but you never know. For now, these are the top ten movies of 2012, although ask me again tomorrow and the order might change completely but I think you’d find all ten of these movies on the list.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late plus many films are being released on VOD concurrently to their limited theatrical release, although none of those are on the top ten at the moment. For those whose interests are piqued about the movies from the snippets I publish here, click on the movie’s title to see my original review and if you’d like to find out more, click on the picture above the review to be taken to the film’s official website when available.

As with any list, I guarantee mine will differ with yours significantly. Although I don’t think anyone has ever taken issue (at least publically) with my list, feel free to leave a comment as to why I know nothing about movies and which movies should have been on it, or not on it. Why make a list after all if you’re not going to disagree with it?

HONORABLE MENTION

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

Craigslist Joe, Renee, Arbitrage, Argo, Headhunters, Turn Me On Dammit, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Bully, Thin Ice, God Bless America, Brave, Safety Not Guaranteed, Frankenweenie, The Salt of Life, Skyfall, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Bernie, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Avengers, Girl Model, Moonrise Kingdom, ParaNorman, A Late Quartet, Sleepwalk With Me, Goon, Life of Pi, The Sessions, A Bag of Hammers, Paul Williams: Still Alive, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away, Seven Psychopaths, Ted, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey10. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

(New Line) Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and a cast of thousands. Directed by Peter Jackson

Released December 16, 2012 After years of being held up by MGM’s financial issues, the classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien finally made it to the screen and in typical Hollywood fashion, the shortest of his novels will now be three films by itself. Still, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a license to print money for WB so you know it was inevitable that they’d milk it for all it’s worth. We’ll be seeing another Hobbit movie every year through 2015. After that, Silmarillion anyone?
WHY IT IS HERE: An epic adventure on a grand scale. Jackson has made Middle Earth come to life, living and breathing and he does so once again here. Using high frame rate technology, the Shire never looked so beautiful or Rivendell so serene. While it didn’t impress me at the level of the first trilogy, this is still a very good movie.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: At Rivendell, Gandalf and Galadriel communicate telepathically, both revealing hidden secrets as they discuss the dwarf mission to Erebor and the presence of the Hobbit. Two great actors do almost the entire scene with just their eyes and body language while the dialogue is read voice over. Magnificent.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $267.9 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $830.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

The Dark Knight Rises9. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

Released July 20, 2012 We knew in advance this would be Christopher Nolan’s last foray into Gotham and probably Christian Bale’s as well. After the major success that was The Dark Knight there was a great deal of anticipation although the inevitable backlash that comes after that kind of success was certainly lurking. The box office surely didn’t disappoint although one wonders if the competition from The Avengers didn’t keep this one from going a bit higher.
WHY IT IS HERE: A fitting end to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan pulls out all the stops with multiple villains, new gadgets and potential nuclear holocaust. The action was as good if not better than The Avengers and we get to see Batman at his most heroic.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces down a group of cops on a bridge with the lives of a bus load of kids hanging in the balance.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $448.1 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $1.1 billion total.
BUDGET: $250 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster.

The Intouchables8. THE INTOUCHABLES

(Weinstein) Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux, Dominique Daguier, Francois Caron, Thomas Soliveres. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

Released May 25, 2012 This was a box office record setter in France, capturing the imagination of French audiences as well as critical acclaim and major awards (including a Cleo for Sy as best actor). While overly sensitive politically correct American critics took pot shots at the relationship between Driss and Phillippe (white paraplegic employer, black attendant) it was based on an inspirational true story.
WHY IT IS HERE: I dare anyone to watch this all the way through and not feel better about life and the universe we live in. Da Queen will tell you I was in a terrible mood when I went to see this; when we left the theater I was a decent human being again. This should be mandatory viewing for depressives.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When Driss gets to drive Philippe’s Mazerati for the first time. Priceless.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $10.2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $420.8M total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on March 5.

Monsieur Lazhar7. MONSIEUR LAZHAR

(Music Box) Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart, Jules Philip, Daniel Gadouas, Seddik Benslimane, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Louis Champagne, Andre Robitaille, Francine Ruel, Helena Laliberte. Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Released April 13, 2012 As with the last feature on the top ten list, this was presented here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. It was, like the previous film, Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film. The similarity stops there however; this is a much darker and dramatic film than the uplifting Intouchables.
WHY IT IS HERE: This deals with grief in several different ways, from the grief of children to the grief of adults. The snowy white Montreal backdrop gives the film a sense of insulation that is both warm and cold at once; it is no accident that the action begins in the winter and concludes in the spring. Fellag gives the kind of performance which would have attracted much more notice had he been working for a major distributor or for an American-made film. It’s a hard, hard film to watch at times but by the time it’s over chances are you’ll have learned something about yourself.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The courtroom scene in which Lazhar relives the tragic incident that drove him to Canada.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $6.6M total..
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Netflix/iTunes.

Cloud Atlas6. CLOUD ATLAS

(Warner Brothers) Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Brody Nicholas Lee, Raevan Lee Hanan, Alistair Petrie. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Released October 26, 2012 This is based on the David Mitchell novel that was widely thought to be unfilmable. The Wachowskis engaged their close friend Tykwer with each directing half of the sequences. Despite the all-star cast, marketing this epic work turned out to be nearly impossible and the movie made almost no box office impact whatsoever here in the States.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that talks about repression and personal responsibility in ways that we’re often not used to it. It shows that the ability of one human to force another to end to their will is timeless; so is the ability of one human to stand up and say no. There is an epic scope in each of the different segments – each set in a different era in history, three in the past, one in the present and two in the future. Cerebral science fiction, when done well can be as stimulating as any genre of movie extant but sadly, it isn’t generally cost-effective. This was overlooked by a lot of critics and granted, there were some flaws but such was its ambition that one can overlook them when admiring the whole.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Timothy Cavendish’ s break-out from the nuthatch in the 2012 sequence.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $27.1 million domestic (as of 1/19/13), $71.2 million total.
BUDGET: $102 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in May 2013. It may still be seen in second-run theaters.

Chasing Ice5. CHASING ICE

(Submarine Deluxe) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinter, Kitty Boone, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Suzanne Balog, Dennis Dimick, Emily Balog, Simone Balog, Sylvia Earle, Jason Box, Synte Peacock. Directed by Jeff Orlowski

Released November 16, 2012 The growing climate change has become an issue everywhere else in the world, but here in the United States there is oddly no dialogue, unless it is to ridicule Al Gore for his attempts to bring it to the attention of Americans. This movie was an attempt by one of the world’s most passionate and respected nature photographers to document the erosion of the world’s glaciers. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Song but oddly, not for Best Documentary Feature.
WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary shows graphically the importance of glaciers to the global eco-system, the potentially catastrophic consequences of their continued erosion and shows measurably that it is happening right now. The movie is eerily beautiful as it terrifies.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scenes near the end of the film where the erosion of the glaciers is graphically shown. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $970,721 domestic (as of 1/19/13), $970,721 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in April 2013.

Lincoln4. LINCOLN

(DreamWorks) Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie, Gloria Reuben. Directed by Steven Spielberg

Released November 9, 2012 This biography of America’s 16th (and perhaps best) president had long been in gestation as Spielberg meticulously researched his life and times, recreating his office down to the wallpaper. It has been something of a surprise hit, with Day-Lewis up to his usual standards of performance, garnering an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win to add to his trophy collection.
WHY IT IS HERE: This really gives you a sense of the man behind the majesty, a man who has carried the weight of a bloody civil war on his broad shoulders and is beginning to buckle. This Honest Abe is not above political chicanery and is not above shouting at his subordinates to get this vote done. And the great Mr. Lincoln drove the people around him crazy with his stories, like the long-winded uncle everyone avoids at family reunions. Not that I have a long-winded uncle.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The vote on the floor of the House of Representatives is gripping even though most Americans who know their history know how it turns out.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $156.6 million domestic (as of 1/18/13), $156.6 million total.
BUDGET: $65 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Cabin in the Woods3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

(Lionsgate) Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Tom Lenk, Dan Payne, Jodelle Ferland, Dan Shea, Maya Massar, Matt Drake. Directed by Drew Goddard

Released April 13, 2012 This was a pretty good year for Joss Whedon who not only directed the biggest blockbuster of the year but produced this film as well. The movie actually had been languishing in the vaults of MGM during its bankruptcy woes and was picked up by Lionsgate who were sadly never really able to get across to the public what a great ride this movie is.
WHY IT IS HERE: Those who love Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (which itself is being remade later this year) are going to love this. Part horror spoof, part action flick, part Lovecraftian gorefest, part conspiracy flick and all of it fun, we get a solid cast, put them in a playground and watch them get mind raped. It has been a rare thing that I’ve had this much fun at a movie and although it starts off a bit slow, when it gets going it REALLY takes off! Just keep asking yourself this: Am I on speaker phone?
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The elevator ride down into the bowels of the complex.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $42.1 million domestic (as of 1/20/13), $66.5 million total.
BUDGET: $30 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Lady2. THE LADY

(Cohen Media Group) Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Flint Bangkok, William Hope, Victoria Sanvalli, Danny Toeng, Nay Myo Thant. Directed by Luc Besson

Released April 11, 2012 This biopic of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was my favorite film from last year’s Florida Film Festival and a very real contender for my favorite of the year period. Oddly, it got extremely disappointing reviews which I found incomprehensible – but the box office figures were far more disappointing than the reviews.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that shows how resilient the human spirit is. Suu Kyi is one of the most courageous people of our time and yet her story is largely unknown in the West. Michelle Yeoh gives a performance that in a just world would have been considered for an Oscar – it’s at least on par with favorite Jessica Chastain’s. However because of the almost non-existent theatrical release and the critical shellacking it received, most people will never get a chance to see it.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Aung proudly listens to her son Alexander give the acceptance speech for her Nobel Peace Prize, the ceremony for which she was unable to attend.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Domestic box office figures unavailable (as of 1/23/12), $3.4 million total.
BUDGET: $29.4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel1. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

(Fox Searchlight) Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Lillette Dubey, Sid Makkar, Seema Azmi, Diana Hardcastle, Lucy Robinson, Paul Bhattacharjee. Directed by John Madden

Released May 4, 2012 General movie audiences notoriously find movies about the elderly to be anathema. It’s not hard to figure out why – moviegoers are mostly teens and young adults; that demographic doesn’t really care about the elderly and their issues because they simply aren’t there yet. This one, however, struck a chord with audiences of all age groups.
WHY IT IS HERE: I have to admit I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting India for most of my life. I’d heard about the noise, the smell, the crowded conditions and the heat – it didn’t sound like my particular cup of tea. That all changed after I saw this movie and saw India from a completely different viewpoint. Besides that, this is a movie about aging and living as an “old person.” You might look at aging differently when you see this.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tom Wilkinson’s strolls through town were always full of joy.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $46.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $134.4 million total.
BUDGET: $10 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes.

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The Salt of Life (Gianni e la donne)


The Salt of Life

Gianni di Gregorio points at what he wants most in life.

(2011) Comedy (Zeitgeist) Gianni di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni, Alfonso Santagata, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Valeria Cavalli, Aylin Prandi, Kristina Cepraga, Michelangelo Ciminale, Teresa di Gregorio, Lilia Silvi, Gabriella Sborgi, Laura Squizzato, Silvia Squizzato. Directed by Gianni di Gregorio

 

When a certain age is reached, people tend to become invisible to the opposite sex – transparent, as one character ruefully comments in this Italian comedy. The tendency is for us to fight against this marginalization and assert our own sexual potency, particularly in the male of the species.

Gianni di Gregorio, who co-wrote and directed this as well as starred in it, has reached that age. He is a pleasant, willing sort who was forced, unwilling, into retirement years ago (although for what reason it is never said). His laid-back, low-key and giving nature are constantly taken advantage of by the women in his life, particularly his nonagenarian mother (Bendoni) who fritters away her life savings while her son scrapes by. She constantly calls her son to come visit her to basically wait on her hand and foot, while her caregiver Kristina (Cepraga) is given designer dresses and jewelry to wear.

Gianni’s wife (Piccolomini) is cordial towards him, although she does belittle him for having nothing to do. Her earnings and Gianni’s pension are barely enough to make ends meet. Still, they have a pretty comfortable lifestyle, although the two of them sleep in separate bedrooms and essentially lead separate lives. With them lives their daughter (Teresa de Gregorio), who is stressed with university exams, and her slacker boyfriend Michi (Ciminale) who seems to spend more time with Gianni than with his girlfriend.

Rome has always been filled with attractive women and Gianni is surrounded by them – besides Kristina there’s Gianni’s ex-girlfriend Valeria (Cavalli) who is newly available and seems to adore him, his neighbor Aylin (Prandi) who professes to be madly in love with him but that seems to be mainly because he is willing to walk her St. Bernard for her and run errands for her while she sleeps off a hangover from yet another night of partying. None of them seem to have much more than a playful flirtation in mind for him and he wonders if he missed out on the romance in life. This spirals him into a mild depression.

Gianni’s best friend and lawyer (Santagata) notices Gianni’s melancholy and advises him to take on a mistress. Gianni warms to the idea – even some of the most decrepit men in his neighborhood have one – and seems to fear the idea of becoming the lonely old man who walks his dog in a Trastevere park every day. But how to go about it?

This is not really a sequel to di Gregorio’s last film, Mid-August Lunch (which I saw at the 2010 Florida Film Festival and it wound up on my list of Ten Best Films that year) so much as it is a continuation. There are several of the same characters in that movie including Santagata and Gianni’s mom. It carries with it the same inner charm and sweetness that the first movie carried.

As in that movie, Gianni is something of a pushover, blandly murmuring “certainly, certainly” when asked to do something by the various women in the movie. Yet when he decides to do something it become woefully obvious he doesn’t have game by modern standards. He is courtly and charming but lacks passion and confidence, something most women look for. He is a hand kisser in an age of ass grabbers. He is so inept at wooing the women around him that one wonders how he got married and managed to sire a daughter.

Gianni has that woeful hangdog look, and his melancholy is palpable throughout the film. He  is aware of the bags under his eyes and although not an un-handsome man, he is no Giancarlo Giannini. In many ways, he is the man most women like to affectionately complain about – somewhat befuddled, a little inept and lost without the women in his life.

The sun-dappled streets of Trastevere are charming and alluring in their own way. Even though Gianni isn’t in the best of financial shape, he still leads an enviable lifestyle; eating well, drinking often and not having to go to work every day. Still, there’s something missing for him, something that leads him to stray onto trails he doesn’t know and isn’t sure where they’re going to lead him.

It seems odd to root for someone to cheat on their wives but it is important to remember that mistresses occupy a different place in Italian culture than in our own. Not that it’s accepted so much as politely ignored. Here, it’s a major no-no so American audiences might have trouble getting behind Gianni’s quest.

Still, this is delightful, laid-back, charming and laugh-out-loud funny. Di Gregorio makes the difficult art of comedy seem effortless, and that’s the mark of a real master. In a landscape littered by raunchy comedies by Judd Apatow and his wanna-bes, this is a refreshing change. Not that I don’t enjoy Apatow’s films or raunchy comedies in general but it’s nice to have variety and isn’t that the salt of life?

REASONS TO GO: Gentle and charming.  Has a sweet sexiness that American films rarely capture.

REASONS TO STAY: Gianni lacks inertia. Hard to root for a guy trying to cheat on his wife.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some sexual innuendo and a few bad words scattered here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The actress playing Gianni’s daughter is in fact his real life daughter.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/24/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: 65/100. The reviews are solid.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Mid-August Lunch

ROME LOVERS: This movie is set in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood and is the Rome not of tourists but the city where Romans actually live. One gets a real sense of the lifestyle of those who live there.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: The Raid: Redemption

The 2012 Florida Film Festival


Well, the Florida Film Festival is over for another year and this one was by all accounts a good one. With record-setting ticket sales as well as the most movies ever presented by the Festival, it’s just an indication as to the general growth in popularity of film festivals nationwide and of this one in particular. Those looking for alternatives to the wide Hollywood releases in the same multiplexes are finding themselves drawn to the film festival environment.

Although the festival is over officially, here on Cinema365 it will continue on indefinitely. I will continue to review movies screened at the festival this year, including some I saw at the festival (as I await their release date to print their full review) and each one will be accompanied by the Florida Film Festival banner as you see above. Also for those films I missed seeing at the Festival as they appear here in Orlando I will review those as well; and for those I see on DVD or stream from wherever those will also receive the FFF/Cinema365 treatment.

There were some amazing films here at the festival this year, some of which have already been reviewed. My favorites were in this order;

The Lady
Monsieur Lazhar
Renee
The Intouchables
Headhunters
The Salt of Life
Turn Me On, Dammit
God Bless America
Where Do We Go Now?
Girl Model
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Lovely Molly
Eye of the Hurricane

Look for coverage of the Festival to continue throughout the year. I’m already looking for the 2013 edition, which Cinema365 will once again be covering in depth.

In the meantime, our newest special feature is coming this weekend. It’s called Offshoring and will be our own mini-film festival of all non-American films. We’ll have movies from Israel, Norway, China, France and India during six days of global cinema coverage that will serve to celebrate the diversity and quality of films from all over the planet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did watching and reviewing these films; I intend it to be a regular post-Florida Film Festival feature annually.

Look for our new American Experience mini-festival of movies celebrating the uniqueness of American life coming around the July 4th Holiday, and at the end of this week our annual summer movie preview. It’s busy around here at Cinema365 World HQ but it’s worth it as we gear up to further bring to you our passion for films of both the summer blockbuster and independent and foreign cinematic variety. Hope you like what you read!

Four-Warned: March 2012


March 2012

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

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

Each entry is broken down as follows:

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

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

FOUR TO SEE
1. JOHN CARTER (1.2)
2. SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (1.4)
3. THE HUNGER GAMES (1.5)
4. WRATH OF THE TITANS (1.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. BLACK BUTTERFLIES (1.1)
2. THE SALT OF LIFE (1.3)
TIE. THE RAID: REDEMPTION (1.3)
4. JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (1.4)
TIE. DETACHMENT (1.4)

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

MARCH 2, 2012

BEING FLYNN (Focus) Genre: Dramedy. A father and son, writers both and long estranged are forced to come to terms with one another with the father is evicted and needs a place to stay. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 In the trailer De Niro looks at the top of his form.
BLACK BUTTERFLIES (Tribeca) Genre: Biographical Drama. A dramatization of the tormented and ultimately tragic life of poet Ingrid Jonker. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 Jonker was one of the most amazing poets of the 20th century; the trailer has scintillating cinematography and the movie looks like it could be one of those movies that sneaks up on you and stays with you always.
BOY (Paladin) Genre: Dramedy. A young man living on New Zealand’s rural East Coast in the 1980s develops dual heroes; his father (in jail for robbery) and Michael Jackson, merging the two together in his mind. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 I’m just all Michael Jacksoned out.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (Universal) Genre: Animated Feature. A young man seeking to impress the girl he’s sweet on seeks a mythical creature said to protect the ecology of the world. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.2 Danny DeVito as the voice of the Lorax is inspired casting.
LET THE BULLETS FLY (Well Go/Variance) Genre: Action Comedy. A legendary bandit and a thief vie with a vicious crime lord for the rule of a small village i 1920s rural China with escalating attempts at violent one-upmanship. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.5 Ridiculously violent, this is the all-time box office champeen in China.
PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) Genre: Teen Sex Comedy. A high school loser dreams of popularity by staging the ultimate party. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 Teens acting like morons. Yeah, I want to waste an hour and a half of my life seeing that.
THE SALT OF LIFE (Zeitgeist) Genre: Comedy. A middle-aged Italian man looks for love in all the wrong places. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 This is a sequel to the wonderful Mid-August Lunch.
SNOWTOWN (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. A neighborhood watch in a rough Australian suburb morphs into vigilantes who torture and kill those they consider deviants. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 Looks stark, brutal and utterly mesmerizing.
TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. The madcaps from the “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job” tackle the big screen with a ridiculous budget. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.4 The trailer was, sad to say, non-impressive to me.

MARCH 9, 2012

A THOUSAND WORDS (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A literary agent with a penchant for manipulation discovers that he only has one thousand words left to him before he dies. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 The trailer looked good but frankly I’m wary of these kinds of Eddie Murphy comedies.
ATTENBERG (Strand) Genre: Drama. A young woman who relates to people only through documentaries and the music of an avant garde rock band must cope with her father’s impending death and her own burgeoning sexuality. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Seems a bit artsy fartsy on the surface but I couldn’t help but be intrigued.
THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE (Adopt) Genre: Documentary. The story of Genesis P-Orridge, influential musical presence of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV and his attempt to become a single pandrogynous entity with his wife Lady Jane Breyer P-Orridge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Very odd but strangely moving.
BENDING THE RULES (WWE) Genre: Action Comedy. A New Orleans-based Assistant District Attorney must join forces with a cop he tried to put in jail in order to solve the mystery of his own stolen car. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A vehicle for Wrestling superstar Adam “Edge” Copeland; no trailer available when this was written.
THE DECOY BRIDE (IFC) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A Hollywood actress attempting to get married in a small Scottish town hires a decoy bride to throw off the paparazzi who have descended on the village like a plague of locusts. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The trailer was extremely charming and has Doctor Who’s David Tennant as an additional bonus.
FOOTNOTE (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. Two rival academics, both father and son, have to re-evaluate their motivations when the father wins a prestigious award. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Looks like a fairly quirky sense of humor here.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. A group of friends see their lives affected as several couples within the group start having kids. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Look like a ton of other movies we’ve seen about young people “growing up” when they have kids. Yawn.
GOOD FOR NOTHING (Screen Media) Genre: Western. An outlaw finds himself facing erectile dysfunction when trying to force himself on his beautiful kidnap victim. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 An offbeat Kiwi comedy set in the Old West…Western New Zealand.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. The world’s greatest sushi chef yearns to pass on his legacy to his son, who may or may not be up for it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Not so much about sushi as it is about the pursuit of perfection.
JOHN CARTER (Disney) Genre: Science Fiction. A Civil War hero finds himself transported to Mars where he becomes embroiled in a different war. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other series has been crying out for a big screen rendition for nearly 100 years.
PLAYBACK (Magnet) Genre: Horror. A group of high school students researching their small town’s history unwittingly release an ancient evil. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks like it is influenced by The Ring films.
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (CBS) Genre: Dramedy. When a visionary sheikh hatches a plan to introduce salmon fishing in Yemen, a Scottish fisheries expert is drawn into the crazy scheme, altering the lives of everyone around it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Sounds kind of meh on paper but the trailer really sold me on this movie.
SAVIORS IN THE NIGHT (Menemsha) Genre: True Life Drama. The friend of a Jewish war hero of World War I takes in his wife and daughter when the Nazis demand that his family be arrested. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Elements of the Anne Frank story although not as well-known – and just as true.
SEEKING JUSTICE (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. A man whose wife is brutally assaulted agrees to let a complete stranger exact vigilante justice in return for a future favor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 This is another Nicolas Cage film which might be future fodder for Conan O’Brien although he seems pretty restrained in the trailer.
SILENT HOUSE (Open Road) Genre: Horror. A young woman and her father renovating their vacation house are beset by supernatural forces. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 A remake of an Argentine film which is itself supposedly based on true events.
SOUND OF NOISE (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. A cop from a long family of musicians must face a group of crazed renegade musicians intent on bringing about a musical apocalypse. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Strange doesn’t even begin to cover it.

MARCH 14, 2012

GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. One of the world’s greatest living painters allows filmmakers free access to his studio. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 A look at the creative process of a painter who has been as influential to art as anyone alive.
PRAY FOR JAPAN (Studio DEEN) Genre: Documentary. Volunteers aiding with the tsunami/earthquake-ravaged Japanese coast take on the challenges of rebuilding the area in the face of catastrophic devastation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks very moving and beautifully filmed.

MARCH 16, 2012

21 JUMP STREET (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. The iconic 80s young people cop show which starred Johnny Depp gets a remake starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill – with a decidedly comedic bent. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 Could be funny or could be hideous – either way might benefit from a cameo by Depp.
CASA DE MI PADRE (Pantelion) Genre: Comedy. A man who has worked on his father’s Mexican ranch all his life falls in love with his brother’s wife and finds himself smack dab in the middle of a war between rival druglords. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Doesn’t sound like a comedy does it? I got four words for ya – Will Ferrell’s in it.
DELICACY (Cohen) Genre: Romance. A Parisian businesswoman mourning the loss of her soulmate finds solace from an unexpected source. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 More lighthearted French romance and with the lustrous Audrey Tautou, what could go wrong?
DETACHMENT (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A substitute teacher stays emotionally insulated by never staying in one place long but finds himself bonding with a troubled student in a public school. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles March 23). RATING: 1.4 Could be Oscar-caliber work for star Adrien Brody who is supported by a superb cast.
THE FP (Drafthouse) Genre: Urban Comedy. Dueling gangs of dancers face off in a battle of neon-enhanced break dancing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sort of like Tron if it had taken place inside Dance Dance Revolution.
FREE MEN (Film Movement) Genre: Drama. A Muslim Algerian living in Vichy France makes friends with a Jewish singer and joins the resistance at great personal risk. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Includes the great Michael Lonsdale in the cast.
JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (Paramount Vantage) Genre: Drama. A slacker in a constant state of competition with his successful brother shows his long-suffering mom and bro the meaning of true life success. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 A cast that includes Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Geer should have earned wide release for this.
THE KID WITH A BIKE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Dramedy. An emotionally troubled 11-year-old boy abandoned by his father holds on to a bike as the last vestige of his former life even as a kindly hairdresser yearns to give him a new life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 A Golden Globe nominee and award winner at Cannes, looks powerful and moving.
NATURAL SELECTION (Cinema Guild) Genre: Comedy. A devout Christian housewife discovers that her dying husband has a 23-year-old illegitimate son; she sets out to bring his progeny to see him one last (or is it first) time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Trailer looks intriguing; Rachael Harris supposedly gives a career-making performance which I can believe.

MARCH 23, 2012

4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (IFC) Genre: Science Fiction. A couple face the final hours of Earth resolved that they are about to die. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The latest from acclaimed director Abel Ferrara.
BRAKE (IFC) Genre: Action. A man is trapped in the trunk of a car and faces death unless he gives away the location that the President is taken in the event of a terrorist attack. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Looks like a taut, suspenseful action thriller; wish it were playing wide.
THE DEEP BLUE SEA (Music Box) Genre: Romance. A woman leaves a life of luxury and privilege for a passionate but unstable existence with the man she loves. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit sudsy but had director Terrence Davies and star Rachel Weisz going for it.
THE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. In the future, each of the twelve districts of the nation of Panem must send two representatives to fight to the death in the Hunger Games each year; plucky Katness must use all her skills to survive the battle. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.5 May be the next big franchise with Harry Potter gone and Twilight about to go.
MUSICAL CHAIRS (Paladin) Genre: Urban Romance. When a young girl’s dreams of ballroom dancing are cut short by a tragic accident, the custodian at her studio introduces her to the world of wheelchair dancing. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles March 30). RATING: 4.0 There is no way you could drag me to see this one.
OCTOBER BABY (Goldwyn) Genre: Propaganda. A young woman discovers that she was adopted after an attempt at being aborted. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 The trailer made it clear that this is a polemic against abortion; see it at your own risk.
THE RAID: REDEMPTION (Sony Classics) Genre: Action. When an elite assault team is discovered raiding a dilapidated apartment building that is really a fortified stronghold for an Indonesian druglord, they must fight their way out through the worst criminals in Southeast Asia. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Has been an international sensation and will be shortly be given the Hollywood remake treatment.
THE TROUBLE WITH BLISS (Variance) Genre: Drama. A 35-year-old slacker starts a relationship with the precocious 18-year-old daughter of a friend. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles March 30). RATING: 2.8 Sounds creepy on paper but actually looks like a fairly interesting movie.

MARCH 28, 2012

THE ISLAND PRESIDENT (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The President of the Maldives fights to keep his island nation above water – literally – as global climate change threatens to raise the sea level above the waterline of his entire country. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 An inspiring story about the rare politician willing to take on the enormous challenges that could destroy all human life as we know it.

MARCH 30, 2012

BULLY (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. The rising tide of high school and internet bullying gets a timely documentary examination. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Currently appealing an R Rating so that it might be shown in schools where it can do some good.
DARK TIDE (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Action. A shark expert who loses a friend to a shark attack on her watch is made an offer to take a Eurotrash millionaire into shark-infested waters without a cage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Halle Berry in a bikini – what more do you need?
GOON (Magnet) Genre: Sports Comedy. A bartender is plucked from obscurity to become the enforcer on a minor league hockey team. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Slap Shot much?
INTRUDERS (Millennium) Genre: Horror. A mysterious attacker terrorizes children in two separate countries. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 From the twisted mind of director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo comes this horror thriller.
L!FE HAPPENS (PMK*BNC) Genre: Comedy. A woman who loves to party parties a little too hard and winds up pregnant; her lifestyle is turned on its head but she discovers that parenting has its own rewards. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Couldn’t find the trailer for this; could be very cliché or interesting if they do it right.
LOSING CONTROL (PhD) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A scientist decides to apply scientific methods to dating in order to determine if the man who wants to marry her is “the One”. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks a little bit on the precious side; good concept, though.
MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) Genre: Fantasy. A beautiful woman pisses off a primping, preening queen who wants to be more beautiful than anybody. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Julia Roberts as an evil queen with Nathan Lane as her flunky? Inspired casting is all I can say.
TURN ME ON DAMMIT! (New Yorker) Genre: Sex Dramedy. A 15-year-old Norwegian girl in a small town finds her burgeoning sexuality marks her as an outcast. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A very rare look at female teen sexuality, although the trailer is a bit of a non-sequitir.
WRATH OF THE TITANS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Fantasy. When Hades and Ares conspire to free the Titans from their prison on Mt. Tartarus, Perseus is pressed back into duty to save the world and the Gods as well. Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D and IMAX). RATING: 1.7 The first movie wasn’t so bad, although the 3D conversion was godawful.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, A Thousand Words, John Carter, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, Mirror Mirror, Wrath of the Titans