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Don't Let Limited Releases be Forgotten

April 29th, 2011

With summer blockbusters coming, the smaller limited releases will be overshadowed. But that doesn't mean there are no films worth checking out, or that they have no potential to find an audience. Both Cave of Forgotten Dreams and 13 Assassins are earning stunning reviews and both have potential to find an audience. On the other hand, it's never easy to thrive in limited release and expanding significantly is hard at the best of times.

13 Assassins - Reviews
Directed by Takashi Miike, who is best known for his over-the-top violent / bloody horror films like Ichi the Killer. This remake is more commercial than many of his previous films, it is also earning some of his best reviews. The film is about a brutal shogun who is about to rise and become the Emperor of Japan, so a samurai gathers a group of warriors to assassinate him before that happens. There's a huge amount of violence, just not as much as his fims normally have, and it's more in line with other historical films and not crazy serial killer violence. I expect it will do rather well in limited release, but will have to wait till the home market to truly find an audience. 13 Assassins opens tonight in three theaters, including the IFC Center in New York City and the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.

The Arbor - Reviews
A documentary about playwright Andrea Dunbar. It's different than most documentaries, as the filmmaker spent years recording interviews, but has actors lip-synch them. Does this method work? The excellent reviews suggest it does. The Arbor opened Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams - Reviews
A documentary about the cave paintings at Chauvet Cave in France. These paintings are of academic importance, but that's not the only reason to see the movie. It is directed by Werner Herzog, whose track record is amazing. Secondly, it's in 3-D. Finally, the reviews are nearly perfect. It's the new release this week I'm most interested in seeing. Cave of Forgotten Dreams opens tonight in five theaters, two in New York City, two in Chicago, and one in Hollywood.

Exporting Raymond - Reviews
Phil Rosenthal created Everybody Loves Raymond and later tried to bring it to Russia. In this movie, he shows how he had to deal with a culture clash, a language barrier, TV executives, etc. The reviews are good, but not great, so I'm not sure it will find and audience. Then again, the TV show was incredibly popular, so maybe fans will want to see this movie. Exporting Raymond opens tonight in several theaters, mostly in New York City and the Los Angeles Area.

Lebanon, Pa. - Buy from Amazon
Josh Hopkins stars as a man who returns home for his father's funeral, and while there, connects with his 17-year old cousin, Rachel Kitson, who is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. There are not many reviews online (Rotten Tomatoes has this film confused with Lebanon, so there are reviews for both films up there.) I've seen high praise for Rachel Kitson's performance, but others have complained the message gets in the way of the story. Lebanon, Pa. opens tonight at the Cinema Village in New York City, as well as the Ritz at Bourse in Philadelphia.

The Robber - Reviews
A German film about Johann Rettenberger, a marathon runner who started robbing banks as a hobby. ... Hobby? I guess stamp collecting would never suffice. The reviews are strong enough to suggest it could find an audience in limited release, but I doubt it will be able to expand significantly, because I don't see a German-language film playing in multiplexes. There's not even a built-in audience for such movies, as opposed to French cinema. Hopefully I will be proven wrong. The Robber opens tonight in five theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Sympathy for Delicious - Reviews
Mark Ruffalo makes his directing debut with this movie. When an actor makes the transition into directing, it is often not a smooth one. That appears to be the case here. It is earning some positive reviews, but more mixed to negative reviews. Since limited releases tend to live and die on word-of-mouth, this is really bad news. On the other hand, not only does the film have Mark Ruffalo in it, there are a number of actors with high name recognition, so that could help during its opening weekend. Sympathy for Delicious opens tonight at the City Cinemas Village East in New York City and the Laemmles Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.

Textuality - No Reviews
Just a quick note. This Canadian romantic comedy is a heldover for a second week at theaters in Vancouver, Toronto & Montreal, while it expands into Calgary this weekend. Good news for all involved.

That's What I Am - Reviews
A movie by the WWE that isn't earning terrible reviews. It's also a much different movie than they usually make and instead of being a mindless action film, it's a coming of age story involving an inspirational teacher, bullies, first love, etc. It's reviews are good, but not great, while the studio's track record suggests it will struggle to find an audience. That's What I Am opens tonight in ten theaters, in select cities nationwide.

A Wake - Reviews: One, Two, and Three
A Canadian film about a troupe of Shakespearean actors who reunite when their old director dies. However, when they get together, the reunion has parallels to Hamlet, the last play they put on together. That's an interesting concept, and the few reviews I've seen suggest it works, mostly. (All three reviews are positive, even if they are not overwhelmingly positive.) A Wake opens tonight at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Vancouver.


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Filed under: Limited Releases, The Arbor, Jûsan-nin no shikaku, Sympathy for Delicious, That's What I Am, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Exporting Raymond, Der Räuber, Lebanon, PA