The ABCs of Death – Twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, twenty-six directors, twenty-six clever ways to die. For people who suddenly become very anxious and paranoid when they realize how vulnerable they really are, then this one is not for them, as it will most likely create a lot of sleepless nights. For those on the adventurous side, then there is enough here to really test your boundaries. We are less than ten weeks into the New Year, and already we have had a slew of movies that seem to do nothing more than test the limits of good taste. Too many writers and directors to list here. In limited theaters from Magnolia Pictures, and available already on VOD with a DVD release in May.
Dead Man Down – Eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, or it leaves the hero standing tall soaked in blood. In a Hollywood movie, the blood-letting a ritual of purification, of a demon being excised. In European cinema, the blood is the blood of Lady Macbeth. It will never come out. Hopefully the director, Niels Arden Oplev, brings that level of pathos to screen with his American debut. Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace are two people brought together with a mutual interest in Terence Howard’s character and the hell he has wrought on both of their lives. Dominic Cooper and Armand Assante also star and J.H.Wyman writes the script. Out in wide release from FilmDistrict.
Electrick Children – A quiet and secluded Mormon community in Utah is disrupted when Rachel (Julia Garner) becomes pregnant from listening to a rock n’ roll cassette. My Mother always warned me about the horrors of rock music and apparently she was right. Rachel’s parents arrange a marriage for Rachel, but she and her brother (Liam Aiken) skip town for Vegas and the mysterious singer on the tape. If you guessed that a visit to Las Vegas would open these two sheltered people’s eyes up to a whole new world, you would be correct! Rory Culkin, Billy Zane, Cynthia Watros, and Bill Sage co-star and Rebecca Thomas writes & directs her first feature. In limited release from Phase 4 Films. My review.
Emperor – The War is over, Japan has been defeated, American soldiers maintain control of the Japanese people, and an investigation is underway of Emperor Hirohito. If the Emperor ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, General MacArthur would have to try him for War Crimes, a major risk considering that the Japanese people view the Emperor as a God, and would lay their lives on the line for him. MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) assigns General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) to covertly research the issue before he confronts the Emperor (Toshiyuki Nishida). Written by Vera Blasi and directed by Peter Webber, this one sees a limited release from Roadside Attractions.
Greedy Lying Bastards – About a decade ago, people laughed at the idea of Global Warming and that it might have any impact on the safe and sacred American People. How dare they restrict our pollutants and tax companies that dump toxic waste into our drinking water? A couple of Katrinas and a few Super Storm Sandys later, and we are a little more apt to listen. Like everything else, corporate lobbyists paid off politicians to public debunk the idea of Global Warming, and look where that has gotten us. Nothing that you probably don’t know already: hottest summers on record in the history of recorded weather, floods, hurricanes, displacement, and a bunch of rich white guys claiming that it’s just natural rhythms. Craig Scott Rosebraugh directed the documentary and it’s out in limited release from One Earth Productions.
The Monk – Here’s not something you see every week, a movie adapted from a novel written in 1796! Based on the novel of the same name by Matthew G. Lewis, Ambrosio (Vincent Cassel) is left at the steps of a monastery as a babe. The Friars take him in, raise him, and teach him to be a great Preacher, know far and wide for his energy and enthusiasm. Raised by monks to be a monk, he naturally thinks that he is beyond temptation, and we all know how well hubris goes over with The Big Guy upstairs. How hard the mighty can fall. Written by Dominik Moll and Anne-Louise Trividic, and directed by Moll, this sees a limited release from ATO.
Oz The Great and Powerful – It finally feels like the movie year has begun with the first BIG movie of the year. Few movies were as successful and timeless as The Wizard of Oz and the stage show Wicked was a huge phenomenon, so it only seems natural that Disney would capitalize and make their own Oz movie. James Franco stars as Oscar, just another magician from Kansas who gets caught up in a twister and is brought down into the Technicolor world of Oz. In 1939, The Wizard of Oz was striking because it employed color technique to razzle-dazzle the audience, how fitting that this installment uses the advent of 3-D technology to capture that same sense of spectacle. Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz co-star and Sam Rami directs a script from Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Out in wide release from Disney studios. My review.
The Silence – Twenty-three years ago, a young woman was out riding her bike and was murdered. No evidence, no leads, no motive, no anything to go off of. Now another girl has gone missing in the exact same spot, and it’s the same modus operandi. The Police suspect that it is the handiwork of the same man and the investigators who were in charge twenty-three years ago now have to work alongside the current investigators to try to bring him in before another girl meets the same fate. This German movie was written and directed by Baran bo Odar and sees a limited release from Music Box Films.
Somebody Up There Likes Me – Thirty-five years in the life of two depraved men and the ruined lives of the women around them. To paraphrase a quote from Fellini, The older I get, the more I realize that love, sex, marriage, and relationships have nothing to do with one another. Max (Keith Poulson) and Sal (Nick Offerman) are not having any luck what-so-ever with staying faithful to any one woman. Are they just philandering, or is it a deeper more compulsive drive? With Megan Mullally, Jess Weixler, Stephanie Hunt, and Kate Lyn Sheil. Writer/director Bob Byington blends non-actors and professionals to create a quirky and off-center world. Out in limited release from Tribeca Films.
The We and I – There is a really easy way to ratchet up tension while exploring social, romantic, and racial connections: confine your characters. Put walls around a person, and they can no longer hide from who they are, and the truth will out. The space here is a Bronx City bus that carries a group of students home from their last day of school. Love, adolescence, racial tension, friendship, hope, disappointment, the future, nothing is off-limits with these first time non-professional actors playing themselves. Work shopped and directed by Michel Gondry with a script by Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw, and Paul Proch, this experiment sees a limited release from Paladin Films.