Four-Warned: August 2013


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.

1. ELYSIUM (1.0)
2. THE WORLD’S END (1.2)
3. THE BUTLER (1.6)
TIE. KICK-ASS 2 (1.6)

3. OFF LABEL (1.3)

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

August 2,2013

2 GUNS (Universal) Genre: Action. A DEA agent and a Naval Intelligence Officer, both working undercover, discover that they have stolen money from the CIA. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 I can’t imagine a movie with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in it can be all bad.
THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. An old French sculptor in 1943 tired of war is working on his final masterpiece when a Spanish refugee knocks on his door, throwing his plans into chaos. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Looks beautiful and stars the great Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale.
THE CANYONS (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a film director finds out about his actress girlfriend’s infidelity, he plays a deadly game to get redemption – or revenge. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles August 9). RATING: 2.8 Hmmm…directed by Paul Schrader, written by Bret Easton Ellis and starring Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen; it’s either high camp or high art.
COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES (Shout! Factory) Genre: Horror Comedy. An invasion of zombies on East London sends a group of cockney bank robbers to team up with pensioners to fight off the undead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 One of those Florida Film Festival flicks that I didn’t expect to love but I did – read my review here.
DRIFT (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Sports Drama. A pair of Australian brothers build a surfing empire from a small town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I’m not a big fan of surfing movies, but that’s just me.
EUROPA REPORT (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. A privately-funded manned venture to Europa to discover the possibility of life there ends in both tragedy and triumph. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 Looks like it could be the great science fiction movie of the year in a year that has been to date filled with merely good or mediocre ones.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (A24) Genre: Teen Romance. When a charming high school playa falls for “the good girl” things don’t go exactly as expected. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 I honestly expected to be unimpressed but a good young cast and talented writers make this a movie to be taken seriously.
TOP CAT (Viva) Genre: Animated Feature. A new police chief sics a robot police force on Top Cat and his gang. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Yes, it’s the Saturday morning cartoon from before I was a kid; question is, do modern kids want to see this?

August 7,2013

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Fantasy. When their home comes under attack only the legendary Golden Fleece can save the demigods; however they’ll have to retrieve it from the Bermuda Triangle. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 The first Percy Jacksonwas a bit of a hot mess.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) Genre: Comedy. In order to pay off a debt, a pot dealer must go to Mexico to pick up a shipment of dope; to throw suspicion off, he recruits a “family” to help him get across the border. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Jennifer Aniston is one of my favorite comic actresses at the moment so I’ll give this one a go even though it looks sketchy.

August 9,2013

BLOOD (RLJ) Genre: Thriller. Two brothers who are cops have lived under the shadow of the police chief father their entire careers; now they find themselves in a position to have to cover up their own excesses. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks extremely intense and with Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Mark Strong and Brian Cox, an intense cast as well.
CHENNAI EXPRESS (UTV) Genre: Bollywood. A man traveling by train to scatter his grandfather’s ashes falls in love with an exuberant girl on the same train. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks like it has all the life and heart that make Bollywood films so much fun.
DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. From the world of Cars comes anthropomorphic airplanes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.5 Why is Disney pushing the weakest of the Pixar properties so hard?
ELYSIUM (Tri-Star) Genre: Science Fiction. In the future when life is separated into the haves who live on a space station and the have-nots who live on Earth, a desperate man must risk everything to get into the heavily fortified space station Elysium. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 From the makers of District 9comes something new that looks amazing on the trailers.
THE GOOD SON (SnagFilms) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini, the promising young boxer whose fight with Duk Koo Kim changed boxing and the lives of both their families forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks emotionally charged – not just your typical sports biopic.
I GIVE IT A YEAR (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Nobody thinks that the marriage of a mismatched couple will last and as they approach their first anniversary, they have their doubts as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Why are British rom-coms so much better than American ones?
IN A WORLD… (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. The daughter of a voice-over legend tries to follow in his footsteps in a male-dominated industry. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks pretty damn funny and Lake Bell could be the next big comic actress.
JUG FACE (Modern Distributors) Genre: Horror. A backwoods community that keeps an entity in a pit at bay with sacrifices sees the entity unleashed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Doesn’t really grab me with the originality of its premise.
LOVELACE (Radius) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Linda Lovelace who went from abused porn star to feminist anti-porn crusader. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Amanda Seyfried is kind of an odd choice but could be a good one if she can pull this off.
OFF LABEL (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. A look at our culture’s over-reliance on medication and Big Pharma’s role in getting us that way. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.3 An important topic that is one we should be looking at with great scrutiny.
PRINCE AVALANCHE (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. An unlikely pair of guys who don’t like each other much are sent to repaint traffic lines on a country road and in the process bond. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch make an engaging duo and director David Gordon Green is one of the most promising talents in Hollywood.

August 13, 2013

LAST PASSENGER (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Action. A commuter train speeds towards certain doom when a sociopath sabotages the brakes, intending to take the remaining passengers with him to the grave. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Sounds like a nifty concept but in light of recent events wouldn’t be surprised to see this release delayed several months or more.

August 14,2013

THE PATIENCE STONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Afghan woman vents all her pain and frustration to her abusive but comatose husband. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks to be a very moving and powerful story.

August 16,2013

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC) Genre: Romance. A young Texas outlaw escapes from prison and seeks his wife and newborn child. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks lyrical and impressive, gorgeously photographed and well-written dialogue; a big hit at Sundance.
AUSTENLAND (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. An American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and the Regency-era gentlemen she wrote about goes to a resort that caters to women such as she and finds her fantasies fulfilled – so does that mean the beginning of a new reality? Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.5 Droll but heartwarming – the best of English and American comedy styles.
THE BUTLER (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. A White House butler serving eight presidents over three decades observes the social changes that swept America through the office he served and in his own family. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Amazing cast directed by Lee Daniels, one of the brightest directors in Hollywood.
CUTIE AND THE BOXER (Radius) Genre: Documentary. Two artists of Japanese descent married for 40 years prepare for the husband’s crucial show even as the wife seeks recognition for her own work. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A look at how the artistic process works within a long-term relationship (hint: it doesn’t always).
DREW: THE MAN BEHIND THE POSTER (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Drew Struzan designed some of the most iconic movie posters of the late 20th Century; this is his story. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 For true movie buffs like myself this is almost like catnip.
JOBS (Open Road) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of the man who co-founded Apple and Pixar as well as revolutionized all our lives with the Apple Personal Computer, the iPod and the iPhone. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Is likely to be a much more interesting movie than it sounds.
KICK ASS 2 (Universal) Genre: Superhero. As Kick-Ass and Hit Girl’s costumed hero mystique grows, new heroes rise to join their team but this gives rise to a team of super-villains as well. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 I liked the firstmovie; I’m hoping this one exceeds it.
PARANOIA (Relativity) Genre: Thriller. An ambitious young man is forced to go undercover at a rival corporation to steal corporate secrets and quickly discovers he’s in way over his head. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Any movie that has Harrison Ford in it can’t be all bad.
SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. The week-long festival of art, music and the counterculture is profiled. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 It’s one of those things that every young person should do at least once.
WE THE PARENTS (Go For Broke) Genre: Documentary. Parents in California utilize new legislation to improve the education of their children. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile documentary but couldn’t find a trailer anywhere.
YOU WILL BE MY SON (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A French vineyard owner toys with the idea of leaving his legacy to the son of his estate manager rather than his own flesh and blood. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 Looks like a wrenching look at familial bonds and fatherly expectations.

August 21,2013

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) Genre: Fantasy. A teenage girl discovers that she is a half-angel, half-human warrior bred to fight demons and keep them from destroying our world . Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 Another popular young adult fantasy series gets a shot at becoming a film franchise.

August 23,2013

DRINKING BUDDIES (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. Two employees of a craft brewery who are with other people discover their friendship might run deeper when they unexpectedly find themselves together alone. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The latest from prolific indie director Joe Swanberg looks to be maybe his funniest comedy yet.
THE FROZEN GROUND (Lionsgate) Genre: Thriller. An Alaskan cop tries to stop a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years before he can kill again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Nice cast including Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens.
THE GRANDMASTER (Weinstein) Genre: Martial Arts. The story of the legendary fighter who would eventually train Bruce Lee. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Beautifully filmed throughout China.
PARADISE: FAITH (Strand) Genre: Drama. When a woman who has been doing zealous missionary work to bring Austria closer to Catholicism has her Muslim husband, confined to a wheelchair and absent many years come home, her life is thrown upside down. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 The boundary between faith and the need for human love can be a difficult one to navigate.
SAVANNAH (Ketchup) Genre: Biographical Drama. In the early 20th century, a man born to plantation and privilege gives it all up for a life on the river. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An impressive cast including Jim Caviezel, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sam Shepard in a biography that I’m not sure I need to see.
SCENIC ROUTE (Vertical) Genre: Thriller. Two best friends stranded on a remote road begin to attack each other psychologically and then physically. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks pretty much like an unabashed shark-jumper despite the presence of Josh Duhamel.
SHORT TERM 12 (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. A young woman working at an at-risk kids facility is particularly drawn to a girl who reminds her of herself, but must weigh this against a sudden opportunity that might change her entire future. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 Looks like one of those movies that just gets under your skin and stays there.
THERESE (MPI) Genre: Drama. In 1920s France, a stifled housewife yearns for the love her husband is incapable of giving her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Acclaimed director Claude Miller’s final film starring the exquisite Audrey Tatou.
THE WORLD’S END (Focus) Genre: Science Fiction. A group of friends reunite to complete a legendary pub crawl they failed as young men, nor realizing the world is literally at stake. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.2 The third in the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg series of film that includes Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. When a family reunion is interrupted by masked axe-wielding assailants, one of the guest proves to be more dangerous than the rest. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Up-and-coming horror film director Adam Wingard is at the helm here.

August 28,2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) Genre: Legal Thriller. Two former lovers are tested when they are assigned to defend a terrorism suspect together. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 While I’m a big fan of Eric Bana, this one hasn’t gotten any sort of push from the studio which makes me nervous.

August 30,2013

AFTERNOON DELIGHT (The Film Arcade) Genre: Dramedy. A stay-at-home mom becomes obsessed with saving a stripper and hires her as a nanny, causing shock waves in her community and her marriage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks like Kathryn Hahn has finally gotten a vehicle to show off her considerable talents.
AMERICAN MADE MOVIE (Variance) Genre: Documentary. The film examines way American manufacturing is still going strong and how even ordinary citizen can contribute to revitalizing our economy. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles September 6). RATING: 3.0 I’m not quite sure if this is a love letter to the working man or a right wing polemic; could be either, could be both.
GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) Genre: Thriller. A former race car driver is forced to steal a car and drive in order to keep his kidnapped wife alive. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 I generally like Ethan Hawke but this definitely has the air of a stopgap movie to fill theater screens until the big fall movies come out in November.
I DECLARE WAR (Drafthouse) Genre: Drama. Kids playing at war find the line between fantasy and reality beginning to blur. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 This unique film screened at the Florida Film Festival last April; read my review here.
THE LIFEGUARD (Screen Media) Genre: Dramedy. A 30-year-old woman whose career and love life crash and burn returns home to lick her wounds, taking her old high school job as a condo complex lifeguard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (Tri-Star) Genre: Musical Documentary. A horribly overrated band is followed along on a world concert tour. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 No desire to see this, even if it was made by the great Morgan Spurlock.
OUR NIXON (Cinedigm) Genre: Documentary. The presidency of the 20th century’s most notorious political figure is examined through home movies taken by his closest confidantes. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very different look at a man much maligned and hated; it is always a good idea to revisit one’s opinions and see if they are still standing strong.
PASSION (eOne) Genre: Thriller. Two women – a mentor and her protégé – fight for corporate dominance and for a shared lover. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A remake of the French thriller Love Crime with Brian DePalma at the helm and Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in front of the camera – sounds like a winner to me.

2 Guns, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, We’re the Millers, Disney’s Planes, Elysium, The Butler, JOBS, Kick-Ass 2, Paranoia, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The World’s End, Closed Circuit, Getaway