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Fetching Limited Releases

June 15th, 2007

Documentaries dominate this week's list, but for me the highlight is the Canadian zombie satire, Fido.

Beyond Hatred - Reviews
A documentary about three skinheads who murdered a man because he admitted he was gay and how the victim's family decided to forgive him. One of the best-reviewed releases of the week, it should find an audience at art house cinemas, but it will struggle if it tries to expand past that. Beyond Hatred opens tonight at the Cinema Village in New York City.

Blood and Tears - Reviews
A documentary about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict that starts with the origins of Zionism and continues right up to the recent election wins by Hamas. The far-reaching nature of the film both helps and hurts it, as it doesn't have enough time to deal with all the issues brought up, but it would take more than one film to do that. Also, this is one of the most discussed conflicts around and even a strong documentary will have a trouble standing out. Blood and Tears opens tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

Eagle vs. Shark - Reviews
A quirky Indie from New Zealand that tries to out-quirk its competition. Problem is, quirky isn't always a complement. In this movie, too often it feels like we should be laughing at the main characters, not with them. Because of this, it is hard to sympathize with them and this lessens the movie's ability to draw in moviegoers. The end result isn't a terrible movie, but fans of limited releases have much higher standards than that. Eagle vs. Shark opens tonight in four theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Fido - Reviews
Hat trick! This is the third time I've mentioned this movie in the limited release column. First time was a premature publication, the second time was for the Canadian release, and now for the American one. Reviews have been good, but generally speaking, good isn't good enough for limited releases -- they have to be great. On the other hand, the zombie flick should have a lot of appeal beyond the art house circuit and could do quite well, perhaps even growing to "sleeper hit" status. I'm not confident enough to bet on it, but it should develop a cult following on DVD at the very least. Fido opens tonight at the Angelika Film Center in New York City and the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.

Gypsy Caravan - Reviews
A documentary / concert film featuring five Romani groups. A great showcase of not only the music, but of the culture as well. It's a must see for fans of the music and if you've never heard this type of music before, you'll likely be a fan afterward. Gypsy Caravan opens tonight in two theaters in New York City, Angelika Film Center and the Lincoln Plaza.

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom - No Reviews
The latest Bollywood release and you know what that means. Despite being the widest limited release of the week, there are no reviews, no buzz, and almost no shot at box office success outside its niche market. I think it is going to take individual actors crossing over into mainstream films to help these films reach a wider audience. And even then, the odds of that working are only 50 / 50. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom opens tonight in 83 theaters, but it is very likely that's as wide as it will go.

Lights in the Dusk - Reviews
The latest from Finnish writer / director Aki Kaurismäki. His best known movie here is The Man Without a Past, but it seems unlikely that this film will match that one at the box office as the reviews are not as strong. (The slow-moving minimalism is taken too far at time.) Lights in the Dusk opened on Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York City.

MacBeth - Reviews
Yet another rendition of one of the Bard's most famous plays. This particular play has been made into a movie about 7 billions time and while this version isn't the worst, there's very little here to make it stand above the pack. Odds are, any fan of William Shakespeare will know of at least three versions that are better than this one and I suggest renting one of them instead. (I recommend the 1948 version starring Orson Welles.) MacBeth opens tonight at the Varsity Theatre in Seattle Washington.

Strike - Reviews
A drama about the Solidarity union in Poland that helped bring down communism. Reviews are mixed and mostly unenthusiastic. The positive reviews admit there are plenty of flaws, while the negative ones admit there's something here to admire. This wouldn't be a bad thing for a wide release as it would put it a step above most of its contemporaries. Limited releases, however, need to satisfy a much more demanding audience. Strike opens tonight at the Lincoln Plaza in New York City.

The Trials of Darryl Hunt - Reviews
A documentary about the legal system and how sometimes justice is just not on the docket. A powerful, and disturbing, film that will leave moviegoers demanding changes (although it gives them little hope that this will happen). One of the best-reviewed new releases of the week, this film should find a receptive audience during its limited release, but like all documentaries, expanding wider will be a challenge. The Trials of Darryl Hunt opens tonight at the Plaza Theater in Atlanta, Georgia and the Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut.

Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion - Reviews
An uneven documentary that refuses to ask any probing questions. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to allow the pro-life side to describe themselves in their own words, but without hearing from the pro-choice side, or even having the filmmakers question the statements made more vigorously, it is not a satisfying experience. Unborn in the USA opens tonight at the Cinema Village in New York City.

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Filed under: Limited Releases, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan, Fido, Eagle vs Shark, Laitakaupungin valot, Macbeth, Strajk - Die Heldin von Danzig, Blood and Tears, Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion, The Trials of Darryl Hunt, Au-delà de la haine