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Project: Limited Release

July 8th, 2011

After a few weeks of very impressive performances on the limited release front earlier in the summer, there hasn't been as much success lately. It is unlikely this week will produce a major hit, but there are a couple documentaries that deserve to be seen. Project Nim and Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest are both earning Oscar-worthy reviews and I wouldn't be shocked if one or both are on the short-list at the end of the year.

Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest - Reviews
Michael Rapaport directs this documentary about the rise of hip-hop band A Tribe Called Quest, from their beginnings in the 1980s till their sudden break-up in the late 1990s to their reunion today. The only previous experience he's had directing was on a single episode of Boston Public, but if the reviews are any indication, he's clearly got a career ahead of him. It does help that he's chosen a subject matter that he clearly is interested in, but it still takes skill to translate that into a compelling film. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest opens tonight in four theaters, mostly in New York City, while next week there's a quite significant expansion planned.

The Chameleon - Reviews
Three years ago, Nicholas Barclay went missing, but his family never gave up hope he would return. Then one day he does. But there is something amiss with the returning son, and something definitely strange with his family. So far there are not a lot of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and the ones there are mostly weak, so I don't expect it to do well at the box office. On the other hand, the cast as a whole has better name recognition than most limited releases have, so that might help. The Chameleon opens in two theaters tonight, including the Laemmles Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.

Chillar Party - No Reviews
A Bollywood coming of age story. Like most Bollywood films, there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it is opening in far fewer theaters and with a much younger target demographic, which probably means it won't reach any milestones at the box office. Chillar Party opens tonight in seven theaters.

Fading of the Cries - Reviews
A horror fantasy film, which is a genre that does not have a solid track record for success in limited release. Additionally, it has only three reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which suggests there's not enough buzz for critics to bother reviewing it. Finally, all three reviews are negative. That's just too many strikes to suggest it will find an audience theatrically. Fading of the Cries opens tonight in three theaters, one in New York City and the other two in the Los Angeles area.

Ironclad - Reviews
Paul Giamatti starring in a medieval war epic? Granted, the reviews are only mixed and the movie has already been released on VOD for a few weeks, so it has little hope at the box office. That said, I would love to review this when it comes out on the home market.

The Ledge - Reviews
A psychological thriller with a twist. Its lead character is an atheist and part of the plot depends on that fact. It's incredibly rare for atheism to be discussed in movies and this could have been an important film in that regard. However, looking at the reviews and one can conclude it is a missed opportunity. It still does have strong name recognition among its cast and it may do well during its opening weekend, but I wouldn't bet money on it. The Ledge opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City.

Project Nim - Reviews
Project Nim was an experiment started in the 1970s to see if a chimpanzee could be raised as a human and taught to communicate with sign language. While the experiment was abandoned, it still had a huge impact on our scientific understanding. The documentary looks at the more emotional impact of the research and has generated a lot of advanced buzz, at least compared to most documentaries. Its reviews suggest this buzz was not just hype and it could find an audience. Project Nim opens tonight in four theaters split evenly between New York City and Chicago.

Rapt - Reviews
A French film about a rich executive, played by Yvan Attal, who is kidnapped and held for ransom. But while his family and business partners try to raise the money, the press starts bringing up scandals about his past. Reviews are excellent and the film could do well on the art house circuit, but its chances of expanding significantly are limited, as they are with all foreign language films. Rapt opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish - Reviews
The film tells the story of an orthodox Jew who wants to translate the classic Shakespeare play into Yiddish, while starting to live the story at the same time. The review are okay, but not strong enough to reach the overall positive level.

Septien - Reviews
Writer / director Michael Tully stars as Cornelius, one of two estranged brothers reunited after nearly two decades apart, but their dysfunctional family issues haven't changed much. And the situation sours when a woman from their past reenters their life. The film's reviews are just short of the overall positive level, and since films in limited release usually need overwhelmingly positive reviews, this is a really bad sign. Septien opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City.

The Sleeping Beauty - Reviews
Not to be confused with the upcoming film called Sleeping Beauty with Emily Browning, which comes out later this year. This French film is a re-telling of the classic fairytale. The reviews are good, but just shy of the 80% positive score that is usually associated with success in limited release. (If one negative review were positive instead, it would be over that level. That's how close it is.) Also, French cinema has a larger following here than any other foreign language, so maybe it will do well on the art house circuit.

The Ward - Reviews
Amber Heard stars as a woman sent to a mental institution, but when she gets there she is haunted by a strange entity and her fellow patients begin to disappear. It's the wrong genre for limited release, the reviews are weak, and the haunted mental hospital is too common a setting. On the other hand, it was directed by John Carpenter, so maybe it will find an audience, even if it has to wait till the home market to do so. The Ward opens tonight in 10 theaters, but it has been playing VOD for a while, so I don't think it has a shot at the box office.


Filed under: Limited Releases, The Ward, Ironclad, The Ledge, Project Nim, La belle endormie, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, Fading of the Cries, The Chameleon, Rapt, Chillar Party, Septien, Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish