Four-Warned: February 2015

Jupiter AscendingEvery 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. FOCUS (1.6)
4. MC FARLAND (1.8)


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

FEBRUARY 6, 2015

1971 (Maximum Films) Genre: Documentary. At the height of the Vietnam War, a group of ordinary citizens broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and stole documents only to mail them to newspapers, leading to the COINTELPRO investigation; their identities have never been revealed until now. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.4 In the face of Edward Snowden’s revelations, this is more relevant than ever.
3 NIGHTS IN THE DESERT (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Three former bandmates reunite for a three-night camping drip in the desert only to have old romantic entanglements rear their heads once again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 A kind of indie rock mini-Big Chill with some gorgeous desert vistas thrown in.
BALLET 422 (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A look at the creative process within the New York City ballet as they craft their newest original work. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A fascinating look at what goes on within one of America’s most elite and prestigious institutions.
BOY MEETS GIRL (Cinephile International) Genre: Romance. Three Kentucky young people, one a transgender, find that their friendship is being tested by sexual longing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Much respect for tackling modern romantic relationships without resorting to stereotypes.
CALL FOR HELP (The Orchard) Genre: Documentary. Details the story of the Global Disaster Immediate Response Team in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Not sure what to make of this; will have to see the whole documentary to really form an opinion but could be something special.
ENTER THE DANGEROUS MIND (Variance) Genre: Psychological Thriller. A reclusive composer with a sizeable online following falls for a beautiful social worker but when his fragile mind breaks with the voices in his head growing louder and more destructive, her true devotion will be tested. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks pretty intense.
JUPITER ASCENDING (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. The fate of the galaxy is in the hands of an insignificant human woman whose genetic code marks her as the heir to a mind-blowing empire. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 The Wachowskis have not had a hit in awhile but this might just be the one.
LISTEN (Mance) Genre: Science Fiction. After a man discovers that everyone has music inside them, he uses his discovery to find his own true love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Kind of an odd trailer but the premise has promise.
LOVE, ROSIE (The Film Arcade) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Two childhood best friends are separated through the years but keep reconnecting; is it just friendship or something more? Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 I’ve been wondering when Sam Claflin would be getting a lead role.
ONE SMALL HITCH (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Two childhood friends agree to pretend to be engaged to please a dying father but things quickly get out of hand. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Wacky families, a wedding, a plethora of misunderstandings and a little white lie – haven’t we seen this one before?
THE OTHER MAN: F.W. DE KLERK AND THE END OF APARTHEID (First Run) Genre: Documentary. The story of the last president of apartheid South Africa and his role in ending the heinous policy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 A fascinating look at the other side of the equation, seeing things from a viewpoint other than Mandela’s.
OUTCAST (eOne) Genre: Action. When a ruthless older brother takes the throne of China from the rightful heir, he seeks out a legendary bandit, the White Ghost, to help set things to rights. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Another forgettable Nicolas Cage action movie.
PASS THE LIGHT (DigiNext) Genre: Faith. A high school student runs for Congress on a candidacy based on Christian love to face down a candidate running on exclusion and fear. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Way too preachy for my tastes.
THE SEVENTH SON (Universal/Legendary) Genre: Fantasy. The last member of a mystical order seeks out a prophesied hero to stop an evil witch bent on ruling the world. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.8 Despite having Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore in it, trailer didn’t impress me as being anything more than another hack fantasy film.
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (Paramount/Nickelodeon) Genre: Family. The denizens of an underwater world are forced to come to our world to save their own. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.7 For those who loved The Smurfs, this is for them; for those who hated it…
THE VOICES (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror Comedy. After being stood up for a date, a sweet but psychotic man begins to hear voices coming from his dog (good) and his cat (evil). Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Weird in a satisfying kind of way; Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick are two very appealing actors.

FEBRUARY 10, 2015

ACCIDENTAL LOVE (Millennium) Genre: Dramedy. After a freak accident with a nail gun turns an ordinary woman into a supercharged sexpot, she goes to Washington DC to campaign for health insurance relief since no company will cover her and ends up involved with a conniving politician with his own agenda. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Despite a strong cast, this one turned out so great that David O. Russell, who directed it, took his name off of it.

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

50 SHADES OF GREY (Focus) Genre: Drama. The sexuality of a repressed college student is opened up by a 27-year-old billionaire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 While mommies are entitled to their bondage fantasies, this soft-core story looks like a Cinemax adult film for the big screen which doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me.
BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER (The Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. Jewish inmates of concentration camps made secret drawings and paintings which reveal daily life in the camps more vividly than any words ever could. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 As we pass the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz it behooves us to look back so that we might be reminded of the need to remember.
DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS (Gravitas) Genre: Horror. When a scientist discovers an ancient African artifact, he is infected with a cursed thirst for blood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest Spike Lee joint is his first foray into horror, but the trailer looked a bit…ummm…disjointed.
GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANNE ANSALEM (Music Box) Genre: Drama. Trapped in a loveless marriage, an Israeli woman fights for a divorce that must be approved in a rabbinical court but requires full cooperation of her husband who is intransigent. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A gripping courtroom drama as well as a relationship story; A Golden Globe nominee.
GIRL HOUSE (eOne) Genre: Horror. Trying to make some extra cash for college, a young co-ed moves into a house where X-rated video is streamed out but when a demented fan hacks into the system, she finds herself in a fight for her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sort of a standard slasher film with a 21st century twist.
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Spy Action. An erudite and cultured operative for a secret espionage organization takes a street kid under his wing just as a global threat from an insane tech genius emerges. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.2 Matthew Vaughn is one of my favorite directors and Colin Firth looks to be a great spy in the John Steed mold.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS (Radius) Genre: Musical. The five years of a relationship and marriage is told through song in a unique fashion; the woman’s point of view begins at the end of the marriage whereas the man’s begins at the beginning of the affair; they meet in the middle when he proposes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Really intriguing concept but the songs I heard on the trailer didn’t impress me.
OLD FASHIONED (Freestyle) Genre: Romance. A free spirited young woman and a more socially conservative young man with a checkered past develop a relationship. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 The trailer makes it out to be a kind of anti-50 Shades but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its share of cliches.
PLAYING IT COOL (Vertical) Genre: Romance. Trying to write a romance, a screenwriter’s own limited jaded experience are making it impossible so he turns to his friends to see if their experiences can help him write the ultimate romance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Could be very powerful but the trailer was awfully talky.
THE RE-WRITE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Comedy. A burned-out screenwriter takes a teaching job in an upstate New York college and instead of working on his own screenplay becomes invested in the work of his students. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Kinda looks sweet and the cast, led by Hugh Grant, is stellar.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Paladin/Unison) Genre: Horror Comedy. Vampires living together in a flat invite a documentary crew to chronicle their daily lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Some very funny stuff from the people behind Flight of the Conchords.
WYRMWOOD (IFC Midnight) Genre: Sci-Fi Action. When an infection turns all the people around him into marauding zombies, an ordinary mechanic soups up his car into a mean machine and takes to the wasteland. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A turbo-charged Aussie Mad Max meets Day of the Dead.

FEBRUARY 18, 2015

QUEEN AND COUNTRY (BBC America Worldwide) Genre: Drama. Having survived growing up during the London Blitz, a young man is conscripted into the British army and sent to Korea. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A sequel to John Boorman’s semi-autobiographical Hope and Glory.

FEBRUARY 20, 2015

ALL THE WILDERNESS (Screen Media) Genre: Drama. A young man with deep psychological problems retreats into a world of darkness but glimmers of light appear in the form of a girl he’s fond of and a mysterious young boy who takes him into a strange city. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 The trailer looks visually impressive.
BLACKBIRD (RLJ/Image) Genre: Drama. When his dad abandons them, a teen boy must take care of his emotionally disturbed mother while hiding a secret of his own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Takes on the ongoing struggle between being who others expect you to be and being who you are.
DIGGING UP THE MARROW (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. A documentary filmmaker is contacted by a man who says he can prove monsters are real and gets a lot more than he bargains for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Based on the art of Alex Pardee, looks like an inventive horror film with a unique look.
THE DUFF (CBS) Genre: Teen Comedy. It stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” and when a high school senior discovers that she carries this designation, she decides to rehabilitate her image. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 This could either end up a typical teen comedy or one that actually has something to say.
GLORIA (Picturehouse) Genre: Musical Biography. Latin American pop star Gloria Trevi has had a checkered career but has faced every adversity she’s encountered and emerged triumphant. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks like a fairly standard musical biopic about a performer not well known outside the Latin community, although there is a certain kind of 80s spunkiness with some fairly lurid overtones.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (Paramount/MGM) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. In this sequel, the boys use their hot tub time machine to go back and change things for their better but each time they go back, they make things worse. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 I’m not sure this will work as well without John Cusack, although Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Gregg are fine comedians.
MCFARLAND USA (Disney) Genre: True Life Sports. In a California farming community, Hispanic farm workers make up the bulk of a high school and have no real shot at the American dream until a cross country coach comes along and pushes them farther than they thought they could ever go. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Kevin Costner seems to be at his finest in these underdog sports movies.
TREEHOUSE (Uncork’d) Genre: Horror. Two teenage boys discover a missing girl in a treehouse and become part of her fight to keep an unimaginable evil from entering our world. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Looks intensely creepy but doesn’t seem to be too terribly original from what I could tell.
WILD TALES (Sony Classics) Genre: Thriller. Disparate people cross the line between civilization and barbarism as they give in to the pleasure of losing control. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 This Spanish movie looks to be heavily influenced by Pedro Almodovar.

FEBRUARY 25, 2015

FAREWELL TO HOLLYWOOD (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. A young woman’s video diary meant for her soulmate shows the effect of art on her life as she fights the cancer that will eventually take her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The trailer is oddly moving and uplifting at once; could be a sleeper.
WILD CANARIES (Sundance Selects) Genre: Comedy. When their neighbor in a Brooklyn rent-controlled apartment suddenly drops dead, a couple suspect foul play. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles March 6). RATING: 2.5 Sounds intriguing but was unable to find a trailer online for it.
WORLD CIRCUS (FilmBuff) Genre: Documentary. In Monte Carlo, circus performers vie for the highest awards their profession gives out. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Appeals to the kid in all of us who loves the circus.

FEBRUARY 27, 2015

’71 (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Action. Accidentally abandoned by his squad in Belfast in 1971, a British soldier struggles to make it back to his barracks over the course of a deadly night. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 A soldier caught behind enemy lines always makes for compelling drama.
A LA MALA (Pantelion) Genre: Romantic Comedy. An aspiring actress is persuaded to flirt with her best friend’s boyfriend to test his fidelity which becomes a lucrative business for suspicious women all over town – until she falls in love with one of her marks. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 While we’ve seen rom-coms with similar themes, the Latin twist makes it intoxicating.
BLUEBIRD (Factory 25) Genre: Drama. When a Maine school bus driver fails to notice a child sleeping in the back of his bus, the consequences are enormous. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Set in a frigid winter setting in Maine, the trailer looks bleak and cold but with a lot of passion burning through.
DELI MAN: THE MOVIE (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Documentary. Ziggy Gruber is a third generation deli man with lox running through his veins and corned beef in his heart; he explores not only his life behind the counter but the joys of delicatessens everywhere. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Suddenly I have an intense craving for pastrami.
EASTERN BOYS (First Run) Genre: Drama. Illegal immigrants from the Ukraine to Paris band together for support; when one is picked up by a gay Parisian man for sex, he figures he’s doing what he must to survive, but the relationship spirals into something more profound and dangerous. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Sometimes anonymous pickups can be something else entirely.
EVERLY (Radius) Genre: Action. A mob boss, furious at his ex-girlfriend, sends assassins to take her out but she has some skills of her own as it turns out. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Salma Hayek is one of the most beautiful women in the world and she makes a terrific action star.
FOCUS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. In the midst of one of his most dangerous and complex cons, a grifter has his game thrown off by the appearance of a former girlfriend who is also his former protégé. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.6 I’d see Will Smith in just about anything, although he has been in the throes of a dry spell as of late.
FUTURO BEACH (Strand) Genre: Drama. After failing to save a drowning man, a would-be rescuer decides to start his life over in Berlin but his past doggedly follows him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Gorgeously shot, this is a Brazilian film about a man’s search for his own identity.
THE LAZARUS EFFECT (Relativity) Genre: Horror. During an experiment on bringing dead animals back to life, a researcher accidently is electrocuted, then brought back to life – but she’s not the same anymore. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 We’ve seen this kind of thing before but damn if it doesn’t scare the beejezus out of me every time.
MAPS TO THE STARS (Focus) Genre: Thriller. When a renowned Hollywood actress takes on the role that her mother – who died in a fire – made famous, she is haunted by a young woman who may or may not be her late mom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Director David Cronenberg takes on a type of supernatural movie that up until now he hasn’t tackled.
OUT OF THE DARK (Vertical) Genre: Horror. Having relocated to a new life in South America, a young American family take possession of a house which is already possessed – and not by anything good, spiritually speaking. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Strong cast and some strong scares – who could ask for anything more?
THE SALVATION (IFC) Genre: Western. After a peaceful settler takes revenge on the men who killed his family, a local outlaw gang leader decides to get his own brand of justice; with the corrupt and cowardly townsfolk turning their back on him, the settler will have to kill the entire gang if he is to find peace. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Terrific cast includes the great Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and a scar-faced Eva Green.

Jupiter Ascending, The Seventh Son, What We Do in the Shadows, 50 Shades of Grey, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The DUFF, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, McFarland USA, Focus, The Lazarus Effect, Maps to the Stars