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. CONTAGION (1.3)
2. APOLLO 18 (1.4)
3. DRIVE (1.5)
4. 50/50 (2.0)
TIE. KILLER ELITE (2.0)
FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL (1.2)
2. SILENT SOULS (1.5)
3. MAIN STREET (1.6)
4. RED STATE (1.7)
RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see
SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
LOVE EXPOSURE (Olive) Genre: Unclassifiable. A Tokyo teen gets involved in upskirt photography and religious cults. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Sounds about as weird as it gets…and Japanese films can get pretty weird.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2011
A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED ORGY (Goldwyn) Genre: Comedy. A 30-something who lives the life of Riley in the Hamptons throws one last blow-out bash when he discovers his dad is selling the old homestead – and decides to make it an orgy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Pretty decent cast including Jason Sudeikis but concept and execution look pretty juvenile.
APOLLO 18 (Weinstein) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. Footage from a secret mission to the moon reveals why we stopped going there. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Great concept; hopefully the execution will hold up.
DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (Indomina) Genre: Martial Arts. An ancient Chinese ruler is haunted by mysterious murders and enlists the help of China’s greatest detective to solve the crimes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The newest from the legendary Chinese director Tsui Hark.
I’M GLAD MY MOTHER IS ALIVE (Strand) Genre: Drama. A young man, adopted as a baby, seeks out his birth mother and when he finds her, develops an unhealthy obsession. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 A trailer as creepy as any I’ve ever seen.
INSIGHT (Check Entertainment) Genre: Horror. A nurse who is trying to revive a dying stabbing victim with a defibrillator is accidentally shocked and as a result is able to see what the victim saw. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Could be a real good thriller but the trailer left me ambivalent.
LOVE CRIME (Sundance Selects) Genre: Thriller. A high-powered female executive and her naive assistant engage in a game of high stakes cat and mouse. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The trailer looked sexy and edge-of-the-seat thrilling; not surprising since the French in addition to doing romance right, make some pretty awesome thrillers too.
RESURRECT DEAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES (Argot) Genre: Documentary. A filmmaker researches mysterious tiles with strange messages that have been appearing all over North and South America for over 30 years. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 In case you ever wanted proof that truth is stranger than fiction.
SAVING PRIVATE PEREZ (Pantelion) Genre: Action Comedy. A Mexican crime boss goes to Iraq to rescue his soldier brother. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 The comedy looked a bit broad in the trailer for my tastes.
SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA (Utopia) Genre: Sports Drama. A golfer who is trying to live down a highly publicized meltdown winds up stranded in a small Texas town where he learns the truth about the game. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Any movie with the great Robert Duvall in it has my interest piqued from the get-go.
SHARK NIGHT 3D (Relativity) Genre: Horror. A group of teens celebrating a vacation on a remote island in a freshwater lake are stalked by man-eating sharks. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Lake Jaws…sounds a bit like a train wreck.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2011
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUCESCU (The Film Desk) Genre: Documentary. The story of the Romanian dictator is told through propaganda films and home movies. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 Fascinating and horrifying all at once.
BEWARE THE GONZO (Tribeca) Genre: Teen Comedy. When a popular but cruel high school paper editor fires an outsider, said rebel decides to start his own newspaper. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Do high schools even have newspapers anymore?
BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A Midwestern boy finds out that his parents were porn stars in the 70s, and heads to Hollywood to make his own mark. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.6 The trailer looked truly bad.
BURKE & HARE (IFC) Genre: Horror Comedy. The notorious 19th century grave robbers’ story is told in a somewhat unusual fashion. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis in the same movie? I’m all in.
CONTAGION (Warner Brothers) Genre: Thriller. A lethal airborne virus baffles medical science and threatens the human race. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 A great cast assembled by director Steven Soderbergh spells must-see.
CREATURE (The Bubble Factory) Genre: Horror. A group of young people look for a legendary creature in the Bayou and discover it’s not just a legend. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Looks like a cross between Hatchet and Rogue.
INSIDE OUT (Goldwyn) Genre: Action. An ex-con trying to go straight is forced to defend the wife and daughter of his best friend from mobsters and cops alike. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The WWE films haven’t yet hit the quality level of their wrestling product but I have to admit the trailer didn’t look half bad.
LAUGH AT MY PAIN (CODEBLACK) Genre: Comedy Documentary. The Kevin Hart comedy tour, one of the most successful in recent history, is chronicled. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Comedy tour movies are notoriously hit or miss.
LOVE IN SPACE (Fox/China Lion) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A mother and her daughters try to juggle their messy romantic lives in modern-day China. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The first release in a joint venture between 20th Century Fox and a Chinese studio.
MAIN STREET (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A southern town on the brink of bankruptcy gets a visit from a stranger who may be the answer to their prayers – or their worst nightmare. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Oscar winning screenwriter Horton Foote wrote this and the ensemble cast includes Oscar winners Colin Firth and Ellen Burstyn.
MERE BROTHER KI DULHAN (Yash Raj) Genre: Musical. An upper class man tries to find the ideal bride for his brother, Bollywood-style. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Silly, surreal and 100% fun – exactly what the Doctor ordered.
ONE FALL (Paladin) Genre: Drama. A man survives a 200-foot fall only to develop an incredible power. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer seemed okay but I had a nagging feeling of disquiet that there might be some preaching to be done here with it which brought my rating down lower.
SHAOLIN (Go Well/Variance) Genre: Martial Arts. A Shaolin temple becomes a battleground when a warlord takes refuge there, pursued by his enemy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks spectacular, with Chinese greats Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse in the cast.
TANNER HALL (Anchor Bay) Genre: Drama. Four friends in an exclusive New England girl’s school deal with the consequences of love, sex and betrayal. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The trailer looks very sexy.
WARRIOR (Lionsgate) Genre: Sports Drama. Two brothers compete in a Mixed Martial Arts tournament for differing reasons. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 Not a big MMA fan and on top of it, the trailer looks kind of cliché.
WE WERE HERE (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. A look at the effect of the AIDS epidemic on San Francisco in particular, but on the American gay community as a whole. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles September 16). RATING: 2.6 Will be a tough sell in a country as homophobic as this one.
WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The film follows four childhood friends from northern Michigan as they go to war and return home. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Could be very powerful but the trailer was awfully talky.
SEPTEMBER 14, 2011
GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (Skylight) Genre: Documentary. A filmmaker who documented genocide in Guatemala produces evidence at the trial of those who perpetrated it. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.5 Sounds intriguing, although why it took twenty years for the footage to surface is my question.
THE MILL AND THE CROSS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. The Pieter Brugel masterpiece The Way to Calvary is brought to life. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 Using sophisticated computer imagery the film looks like the painting come to life – very impressive.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2011
3 (DREI) (Strand) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple, approaching their 20th wedding anniversary, both fall in love with the same man. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 A romantic comedy directed by German wunderkind Tom Tykwer? Intriguing…
DRIVE (FilmDistrict) Genre: Action. A Hollywood stunt driver by day moonlights as a getaway car driver by night. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Big buzz on this one, and I must say the trailer looks very promising.
HAPPY, HAPPY (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. The arrival of the perfect couple next door signals changes in the air for the perpetually optimistic Kaja. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 The trailer for this Norwegian film looks charming.
I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (Weinstein) Genre: Comedy. A New York mom struggles to keep career and family going. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Sarah Jessica Parker as a married working mom? Her Sex in the City fans might revolt!
JANE’S JOURNEY (First Run) Genre: Documentary. This is the story of Jane Goodall whose heroic efforts to save the wild chimps of Tanzania are recounted through rare interviews and home movies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Project Nim this is the year of the chimp!
THE LION KING 3D (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. The Disney animated classic is presented theatrically in 3D for the first time. Release Strategy: Wide (3D). RATING: 4.0 I’m not convinced this movie will be made any better with 3D; why spend that kind of money at the multiplex for it?
MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE (Cohen) Genre: Comedy. An illiterate handyman is taught how to read by a little old lady, opening his mind to the possibility that he might be an intellectual after all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Gerard Depardieu is one of the most charming actors in history.
PRINCE OF SWINE (Self-Released) Genre: Sex Comedy. An idealistic attorney defending a woman fired from a T&A show after being groped by her boss has to decide how far she herself is willing to go to win. Release Strategy: New York City Only. RATING: 3.9 Sounds raunchy and utterly without redeeming social content – which I normally encourage – but also looks poorly executed too.
RESTLESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. Two outsiders, misunderstood by society in general, find each other and fall in love. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.9 The plot description could cover about 75% of all indie films, but this one is directed by Gus Van Sant.
SILENT SOULS (Shadow Distribution) Genre: Drama. A journey by a couple of Russian men to say goodbye ritually to one’s recently deceased wife takes on new meaning when it becomes clear that both of the men loved her. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles September 30). RATING: 1.5 The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous.
STAY COOL (Initiate) Genre: Comedy. A successful author returns to his Sacramento high school to deliver a commencement speech and winds up reliving his dreams and disappointments from his youth. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 The trailer didn’t look terribly funny.
STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems) Genre: Thriller. A trip home for a young couple turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse when the wife’s ex-boyfriend comes back into her life. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 A remake of a controversial Sam Peckinpah classic doesn’t look like it will pack the punch the original did.
THE WEIRD WORLD OF BLOWFLY (Variance) Genre: Documentary. Soul legend Clarence Reid aka Blowfly looks back at his life and career. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 I never really connected with his music but there’s no denying his place in music history.
THE WHALE (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. A young orca gets separated from his pod and winds up becoming connected to a small British Columbia town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer looks wonderfully heart-warming.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2011
PEARL JAM TWENTY (Vinyl Films) Genre: Music Documentary. The 20-year-career of the seminal Seattle grunge band gets a retrospective. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 This band was once the most acclaimed in the land and still makes relevant music.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2011
A BIRD OF THE AIR (Paladin) Genre: Romance. A parrot and a vivacious young woman fly into the life of a lonely man. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The trailer had enough charm to be intriguing.
ABDUCTION (Lionsgate) Genre: Thriller. A young man discovers his image on a missing person website, opening the door to a dangerous conspiracy revolving around his true identity. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 I’m not convinced that Taylor Lautner is able to carry a movie on his own.
DOLPHIN TALE 3D (Warner Brothers) Genre: Family. The true story of a dolphin who’s tale is amputated following an encounter with a crab trap and the heroic efforts to build her a prosthetic. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.9 A decent cast but the trailer made it look more like “Flipper” than anything else.
THE DOUBLE (Image) Genre: Spy Thriller. The murder of a U.S. Senator appears to be the work of a Soviet assassin, bringing a CIA operative who knew him best out of retirement to track him down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds intriguing but with no trailer available as of this writing, can’t really get too excited yet.
KILLER ELITE (Open Road) Genre: Action. A former special ops agent comes out of retirement to rescue his mentor and friend from the clutches of a team of vicious assassins. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Jason Statham and Clive Owen in the same action movie equals must-see entertainment to me.
LIMELIGHT (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. This is the story of Peter Gatien, the flamboyant and charismatic King of Nightlife in New York City during the 1980s. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 A look at an era that was maybe the golden age of the club scene.
MACHINE GUN PREACHER (Relativity) Genre: Action. The true story of Sam Childers who went from drug dealer to born-again Christian to courageous aid worker in East Africa. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 I’m a huge fan of Gerard Butler and this looks like it might be some of his best work yet.
MONEYBALL (Columbia) Genre: True Sports Drama. Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, revolutionizes the game of baseball. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 The trailer looks like money as well, although one wonders how a movie about the business of sports will grab audiences.
PUNCTURE (Millennium) Genre: Legal Drama. A functioning drug addict and lawyer take on the case of an ER nurse who is pricked by a contaminated needle on the job. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles/Houston. RATING: 2.9 Legal dramas always seem to grab my attention; I’m hoping this one does too.
RED STATE (Smodcast/Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A trio of boys looking to party run into a heavily armed fundamentalist group ready to take on the ATF in a gun battle. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Director Kevin Smith makes a movie Quentin Tarantino would have if he’d thought about it.
THUNDER SOUL (Roadside Attraction) Genre: Musical Documentary. Alumni of the acclaimed Kashmere High Stage Band return home to pay tribute to their 92-year-old barrier-smashing director, “Prof”. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Interesting trailer but the subject didn’t appeal to me much.
TOAST (W2) Genre: Biography. The true story of British food writer Nigel Slater’s childhood and his struggle to gain his father’s respect. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles October 7). RATING: 3.1 Not sure how many Americans would be interested in a bio of Slater.
WEEKEND (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. Two Londoners meet in a club on a Friday night and have a weekend full of sex, conversation and drugs, growing to the realization that they are going to resonate in one another’s lives forever. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 As frank a movie about gay sexuality as you’re likely to see.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2011
YOU DON’T LIKE THE TRUTH: 4 DAYS INSIDE GUANTANAMO (Films Transit) Genre: Documentary. The son of a Canadian Muslim is sent to work for the Taliban building mines, but is captured by the Americans and captured at Gitmo. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 The footage is said to be incredibly disturbing.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2011
50/50 (Summit) Genre: Dramedy. A young man battling pancreatic cancer decides with the help of his friend to fight with humor. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen look like a pretty smart team in the trailer.
BUNRAKU (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Martial Arts Fantasy. A mysterious drifter and a would-be samurai enter a small town and determine to rid it of the corrupt and tyrannical ruler that plagues it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Definitely a mash-up of classic Japanese morality plays, American westerns and martial arts.
COURAGEOUS (TriStar) Genre: Christian Drama. Four police officers must cope with a tragedy close to home that sparks a crisis of faith. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 If I wanted a sermon, I’d go to church.
DREAM HOUSE (Universal) Genre: Suspense. A man moves his family from New York to a bucolic small town only to discover that the house was the scene of a grisly murder – and that the killer may be after his family now. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 The trailer might have divulged a crucial plot point; watch it at your risk.
MARGARET (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A high school girl, believing she inadvertently caused a fatal accident, tries to make amends but is stymied at every turn. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks like a very intense, raw emotional film – maybe too raw.
MUNGER ROAD (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. As two cops search for a returning serial killer on the eve of the annual Scarecrow Festival, four teenagers go missing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks like standard supernatural killer fare.
MY JOY (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Drama. A Ukrainian truck driver descends into madness and murder. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.2 Haven’t seen a trailer for this yet but it sounds intriguing.
TAKE SHELTER (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A man has terrifying visions of an impending cataclysm and decides to refurbish his storm cellar in preparation. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (Opening wider in October). RATING: 2.3 Michael Shannon’s a terrific actor and this looks like a very good film.
TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A group of teens lost in the woods run into a couple of bumpkins and mistake them for serial killers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 This is one of the funniest and fun trailers I’ve seen in ages.
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (20th Century Fox) Genre: Sex Comedy. A young woman determines to re-check all of her ex-boyfriends to make sure she hasn’t passed over “Mr. Right.”. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Anna Faris just hasn’t connected with me as an actress yet.
SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Apollo 18, Contagion, Drive, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Straw Dogs, Abduction, Dolphin Tale 3D, Killer Elite, Moneyball, 50/50, What’s Your Number?