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Few Limited Releases Show Promise

September 14th, 2007

Dozen films on this week's list, but only Eastern Promises has a clear shot at mainstream success. A couple others might do well on the art house circuit, while most won't find an audience till the home market, if that.

Across the Universe - Reviews
Given the intrigue behind-the-scenes, I'm amazed this film isn't a complete train wreck. The film is a musical based on the songs of the Beatles, but the first cut of the film was described as unwatchable by some. The new cut is a step above, but it still a mess and it feels like a weak story with some great songs crammed in without rhyme or reason. It might find a cult audience, but I don't think it will before the home market. Across the Universe opens tonight in nearly two dozen theaters before expanding next weekend to roughly 400 theaters.

Angels in the Dust - No Reviews
A documentary about the Bothshabelo Orphanage set up in South Africa to help children suffering from AIDS, sexual abuse and other tragedies. However, while it deals with a very depressing topic, it is meant to be uplifting and show how much hope one can bring into the lives of others. Angels in the Dust opens tonight at the City Cinemas Cinema Village East in New York City.

December Boys - Reviews
I appreciate Daniel Radcliffe's attempt to get away from Harry Potter, but he's going to need to choose better roles than this. That's not to say the movie is terrible, but just average isn't good enough to survive limited release, and if it can't do that, it won't go very far in trying to show moviegoers his range. December Boys opens tonight in four theaters, two in New York City and two in the Los Angeles area.

Eastern Promises - Reviews
If I was to pick just one film from this week's list that has what it takes to expand wide, it would be this film. This film is also the one with the best chance at Oscar glory as well. The film reunites David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen who made 2005's A History of Violence. Same director, same star, same violent themes, nearly identical reviews. The biggest threat to this film is unfair comparisons and perhaps burnout. However, I don't think that's too likely. Eastern Promises opens tonight in more than a dozen theaters before expanding into more than 1000 theaters next weekend.

Forever - Reviews
A documentary about the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. (Okay, he's not the only artist who's buried there, but he's the one that will connect most with audiences here.) The film deals with several visitors of the graveyard and its effects on them. Obviously the film has very little mainstream appeal, but art house connoisseurs should be pleased. Forever opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.

Great World of Sound - Reviews
A film about two men who work in the music industry signing up unknown talent, (if that's the right word). These stars in the making have to pay $3000 to make an album, which leads the men to think they might be con-men, or maybe they've been conned. One of the few of the smaller films on this week's list that has some mainstream appeal, it will still have a uphill road to travel. Great World of Sound opens tonight at the Angelika Film Center and the Lincoln Plaza, both in New York City.

In the Valley of Elah - Reviews
Given the four Oscars won by the main cast and the writer / director, as well as the powerful story, this film has Oscar written all over it. Given its 61% positive reviews, it likely won't get there. Again, not a terrible movie, but not one that earn the word of mouth needed to escape limited release, and certainly not one earning the reviews needed to be a major player during award season, especially since it opening this early. In the Valley of Elah opens tonight in nine theaters before expanding into a few hundred next week.

Ira & Abby - Reviews
A story of a couple who meet, fall in love, and get married only to find out they don't really know each other. Written and starring Jennifer Westfeldt of Kissing Jessica Stein. This film isn't wowing the critics; in fact, it is barely earning above 50% positive. On the one hand, the film is not particularly new, but on the other hand, it is charming enough to satisfy most people. However, back to the original hand, it won't impress them enough to give the film great word of mouth. Ira & Abby opens tonight in seven theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area, which is odd cause it was filmed in New York City.

King of California - Reviews
The first of two Evan Rachel Wood films coming out tonight. This one is the better of the two films, but it isn't necessarily the one that will make the most at the box office. She stars as Miranda, a 16-year old living on her own after her mother abandoned her, while Michael Douglas stars as Charlie, her treasure hunter / delusional father who was recently released from a hospital. This is the kind of film that won't find audiences in many multiplexes, but could perform well with art house crowds. King of California opens tonight in five theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Moving McAllister - Reviews
Someone tell Jon Heder to fire his agent. He needs someone that will get him roles that won't instantly remind people of Napoleon Dynamite. Quite frankly, it might be too late for that. Ben Gourley stars as Rick Robinson, a lawyer who is trying to impress his boss, (played by Rutger Hauer), who wants him to move a truck full of stuff, his niece, (played by Mila Kunis of That 70s Show), and her pet pig. Oh, and if he touches her, his boss is going to kill him. Since it is a romantic comedy, you pretty much know where it's going to go. There's really nothing here you haven't seen before, many, many times before, and your better off watching countless other similar films that heading out to see this one. Despite being one of the worst-reviewed releases of the week, it is one of the widest opening in 80 theaters, but that's likely as far as it will go.

Nanhe Jaisalmer - No Reviews
A Hindi film opening in half a dozen theaters with no reviews, no official site, no advanced buzz. Then again, most of these films are the same and they almost always do relatively well in limited release.

Silk - Reviews
One of the worst-reviewed films on this week's list, it is also the widest. (In fact, the only film to earn worst reviews is the second widest release. Amazing how that works out.) The film is a period piece set in Feudal Japan with Michael Pitt starring as a silk trader who runs afoul of local customs. I think the word being used most to describe this movie is dull. Very dull. In fact, calling it very dull is kind compared to how some critics have described it. On the other hand, the cinematography is beautiful, but that's just not enough. Silk opens tonight in more than 100 theaters, but I can't see it expanding significantly after that.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Across the Universe, Eastern Promises, In the Valley of Elah, Silk, The King of California, Ira and Abby, December Boys, Moving McAllister, Forever, Great World of Sound, Nanhe Jaisalmer