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Frank Discussion about Limited Releases

August 17th, 2012

Late August is a poor time of year for wide releases, but it is also usually not a good time of year for limited releases. It is too late to take advantage of the summer holidays, but it is also too early for Awards Season. However, there are nine films on this week's list, several of which are earning overwhelmingly positive reviews. Chicken and Plums, Compliance, Robot and Frank, and Side by Side are all earning amazing reviews. There are also several others that are earning good, but not great reviews. There might be too many good films coming out this week and the competition could cause one or two films that truly deserve to earn some measure of mainstream success from reaching their potential.

The Awakening - Reviews
Rebecca Hall stars as a skeptic in the 1920s. She's busted many frauds and hoaxes, but when she gets to an all-boys boarding school that is supposedly haunted, she sees things that science can't explain. How many times have we seen a movie about skeptical scientists who finally see something they can't debunk? Too many to count. The reviews for this film are good, but not great. The two main complaints are a.) the film borrows from too many sources and b.) there are too many surprise twists, so by the time you get to the end, the big reveal is just one more twist. Even so, while the reviews are not good enough to suggest it will thrive in limited release, it could find a more receptive audience on the home market. The Awakening opens tonight in 70 theaters, which is way too many for a limited release film.

Beloved - Reviews
Christophe Honoré wrote and directed this film, which is about a woman, played by Ludivine Sagnier, who marries a rich doctor only to leave him when he cheats on her too much. Many years pass and the woman, now played by Catherine Deneuve, reunites with her former husband; however, their daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, is also dealing with a cheating lover. The film's reviews are good, but not great, and there are an awful lot of films coming out this week with reviews at roughly the same level. The competition might be too much. Beloved opens tonight in five theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Chicken and Plums - Reviews
Mathieu Amalric is a master violinist, but after his wife destroys his violin, he can't find another that sounds the same. He then decides it is his time to die. While waiting for death, he sees flashbacks to his earlier life, as well as glimpses of the future lives of his children. The film is earning excellent reviews, plus it was co-written and co-directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, who previously made Persepolis, so a lot of fans of that movie could be interested in seeing this one. Chicken and Plums opens tonight in three theaters, two in New York City and the other in Los Angeles.

Compliance - Reviews
Ann Dowd stars as Sandra, the manager of a fast food restaurant. One day she gets a call from the police officer who claims one of her workers, Becky, stole money from a customer and Sandra needs to hold her there till he can show up. At first he just wants her to hold Becky, but then it escalates as he gets her to interrogate Becky. But here's the twist, the officer isn't an officer, but this is a prank call. Here's the real twist, it is based on real life events. The vast majority of critics say this is a really powerful film, but most also say it is very difficult to watch. Compliance opens tonight at the Sunshine Cinema in New York City.

Cosmopolis - Reviews
Robert Pattinson stars as a Wall Street billionaire in the near future. As he is being driven to his barber for a haircut, he is consumed by financial reports, which look to tear apart his monetary empire. The film is directed by David Cronenberg, who has a really good track record when it comes to shepherding limited releases to mainstream success. This film does have some serious star power, but its reviews are only good and not great. Cosmopolis opens tonight in two theaters in New York City and Los Angeles after debuting in Canada last weekend.

Ek Tha Tiger - Reviews
A Bollywood film about an Indian secret agent who falls in love with an agent from Pakistan. There's only one review on Rotten Tomatoes, and it is negative, but many similar films open with no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Ek Tha Tiger opened on Wednesday in more than 100 theaters in the usual Bollywood hotspots.

Robot and Frank - Reviews
Frank Langella plays Frank, a retired cat burglar. His kids think he needs to be put in a home, but his son decides instead to buy him a robot to look after him. At first Frank hates the idea. Then Franks decides this robot might make a good partner in a heist. The film is earning excellent reviews and has a great cast; however, the premise might be a little too "art house" to expand significantly. Let's hope that is not the case. Robot and Frank opens tonight in two theaters in New York City, Angelika Film Center and The Paris Theatre.

Side by Side - Reviews
A documentary about filmmaking and how technology changes the art. Specifically, it focuses on the differences between making a movie on film and using digital cinema. It features a huge number of proponents for both sides and most critics agree that this film is a must see for cinephiles, but will also entertain more casual fans of movies. Side by Side opens tonight at the Noho 7 in Los Angeles.

Why Stop Now - Reviews
This is the first feature-length film for co-writers / co-directors Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner. They assembled an impressive cast, but the critics are not happy with the end results. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a piano prodigy who needs to get his mother to rehab before he can go to his audition for an important music program. She doesn't want to go, so he gets help from her drug-dealer, Sprinkles. Normally bad reviews are fatal for a limited release, but given the impressive competition coming out this week, I think it will be doubly so. Why Stop Now opens tonight in three theaters split between New York City and Los Angeles.


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Filed under: Limited Releases, Cosmopolis, Poulet aux prunes , Compliance, The Awakening, Why Stop Now, Side by Side, Robot & Frank, Les bien-aimés, Ek Tha Tiger