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King of the Limited Releases

October 17th, 2008

Nine new limited releases this week, including one from Canada. Of this group, there are very few that have serious box office potential, which is distressing as we should be entering Awards Season.

The Elephant King - Reviews
Made in 2006 but not released till now. That's not a good sign. Looking over the reviews, it seems that Ellen Burstyn is earning praise, no surprise there, as is relative newcomer, Florence Faivre. However, that's really all that is earning praise. The Elephant King opens tonight at the Angelika Film Center in New York City.

Filth and Wisdom - Reviews
The directorial debut of ... Madonna. Ugh. Granted, the reviews are not as bad as many of the films she's starred in earned, but given the highly competitive nature of limited releases, I don't think they are strong enough to think it has a real shot at box office success. Perhaps curiosity will draw in enough people during the opening weekend to get off to a strong start, but I don't think it will last. Filth and Wisdom opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City.

Frontrunners - Reviews
A political documentary that takes a look at every aspect of winning a highly competitive campaign. No, not the current presidential campaign, but a campaign for the school body at a prestigious public high school, Stuyvesant. The filmmakers are clearly making parallels between this election and the presidential one, but do so in a way that draws in moviegoers, and doesn't turn them off. Frontrunners opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Mary - Reviews
A movie about an actress that becomes obsessed with Mary Magdalene after playing her in a movie. So far the reviews are better than most wide releases, but not up to the level generally needed to survive in limited release. There are several excellent performances here, and perhaps that will be enough to draw in crowds. Mary opens tonight at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City.

Morning Light - Reviews
A documentary that looks at the young crew of a 52-foot sloop training to compete in the open-ocean sailing race, TRANSPAC. The filmmakers were obviously aiming for inspirational, but most critics are complaining that they merely reached the level of reality TV. Ouch. Worse yet, it is the widest opening limited release of the week, debuting tonight in 55 theaters, mostly along the west coast.

Passchendaele - Reviews
A Canadian movie about the 10th Battalion, which participated in every major Canadian battle of World War I, including the Battle of Passchendaele where nearly 750,000 people were killed in total. This is the costliest Canadian movie of all time, with a budget between $16 and $20 million, but sadly it doesn't have an advertising budget to match it. (Although I have seen commercials on TV, which is rare for Canadian films.) The film is written and directed by Paul Gross, who is best known for his lead roles in Due South and Men with Brooms, the latter of which he also wrote and directed. Passchendaele opens tonight across Canada, but as with most Canadian films, its box office chances are dubious, at best.

Tru Loved - Reviews
The movie tells the story of a 16-year old girl, Tru, who has to deal with massive changes as she moves with her two moms from San Francisco to a more conservative suburb. Now she has to deal with being the new girl, but also the added pressure of starting the schools first Gay-Straight Alliance. Tru Loved opens tonight in two theaters, neither of which, strangely, are in the San Francisco area (they are in New York City and Chicago).

The Two Sides of the Bed - No Reviews
The sequel to The Other Side of the Bed, which starred Paz Vega, among others. The first film did a lot of business in its native Spain, but hardly any business here. This film did much less business in Spain, but I'm not sure how it will do here, especially with no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to compare. However, it's hard to imagine it will be a breakout hit after the first one failed to land an audience. The Two Sides of the Bed opens tonight in 2 theaters, which is a lot less than the ten theaters The Other Side of the Bed opened in back in 2003.

What Just Happened - Reviews
Considered possible Oscar bait by many, its reviews seem mighty weak compared to that buzz. At 59% positive, its reviews are just below the 60% level that is needed to be considered overall positive, significantly below the 80% that is usually needed to survive in limited release, and well below the 90% that is usually needed to be a player during Awards Season. That said, it does have an impressive cast, and there was enough buzz that it could do well, but I'm unsure of its potential for significant expansion. What Just Happened opens tonight in 36 theaters in major cities, mostly in California.

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Filed under: Limited Releases, What Just Happened, Morning Light, Frontrunners, Filth and Wisdom, Tru Loved, Mary, Los 2 lados de la cama