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Giving the Devil His Due on Halloween

October 26th, 2007

Despite being a busy week for limited releases, only a couple of them are earning the overwhelmingly positive reviews that limited releases need to survive the demanding art house crowds. In fact, there are more earning less than 50% positive than there are earning 80% positive, which is generally the number I use as the minimum needed to survive in limited release.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Reviews
Sidney Lumet's return to form and quite possibly his best film in 20 or 30 years. However, it has been nearly as long since he's had a box office hit and with the low key nature of this release, this film might not find an audience till the home market despite its impressive reviews and equally impressive cast. (The film lead actors have combined for 2 Oscars and 11 nominations, although one was for writing.) Before the Devil Knows You're Dead opens tonight in two theaters, Angelika Film Center and the Lincoln Plaza, both in New York City.

Bella - Reviews
Eduardo Verástegui stars as Jose, a former soccer play turned cook in his brother's restaurant, and Tammy Blanchard as Nina, a waitress who just received some unexpected news. One of the widest limited releases of the week, it is also earning poor reviews and only a targeted marketing campaign can help the film. But even then it has an uphill battle. Bella opens tonight in 165 theaters

Black Irish - Reviews
A coming of age story about a boy growing up Irish in Boston and trying to win the win the attention of his father. There are some good performances here, but the movie borrows from far too many other coming of age films and the lack of originality hurts its overall effectiveness. Black Irish opens tonight in four theaters, mostly in Massachusetts.

How to Cook Your Life - Reviews
A documentary about Edward Espe Brown, a Zen priest and cookbook author. Sort of a Super Size Me for the New Age set. It's fitting that a man who teaches about food in a philosophical way sounds like an endless fortune cookie. And no, that is not a compliment. The film might prove popular with those who already agree with the philosophy, but it won't earn many converts. How to Cook Your Life opens tonight in four theaters in the San Francisco area.

Jab We Met - No Reviews
First of all, the name may seem meaningless to most people, like it is three random words strung together. However, there's a logical explanation, it's Hindi. It means When They Mother. ... At least that's what my limited Hindi dictionary search could come up with. Like most Indian movies, this one is being released in more theaters than most wide releases, but without any reviews, official site, buzz, and there's only a 50% chance that we will have box office data on Monday.

Jimmy Carter: Man from the Plains - Reviews
A documentary about former president, Jimmy Carter. The filmmakers followed him around during his 2005 book tour for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Given the controversial nature of that book, this should be a more interesting movie that it is, but while it is getting strong reviews, they are not strong enough to assume the film will be able to survive its limited release run. Jimmy Carter: Man from the Plains opens tonight in seven theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

Mr. Untouchable - Reviews
A documentary about organized crime boss, Nicky Barnes, who was one of the most powerful drug dealers in the United States. The movie chronicles his rise in power and eventual fall. While the reviews are strong, they are probably not strong enough to escape the tight limited release market. However, seeing Nicky Barnes and hearing his story in his own words does make for an interesting experience. Mr. Untouchable opens tonight in 25 theaters in major cities nationwide.

Music Within - Reviews
The real life story of Richard Pimentel, who battled through hearing loss to help create the Americans with Disabilities act. This should be an inspirational story, but it just can't live up to the scope of the story. It needs a sense that the movie is about more than one man, but when it tries, it collapses under its own weight. Music Within opens tonight in 17 theaters in major cities nationwide.

Rails & Ties - Reviews
The directorial debut of Alison Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood. However, critics are not being kind to the move, but it is important to note that the majority of the complaints are aimed at the script, which is being eviscerated for being obvious and emotionally manipulative, while the acting and the directing are being more or less praised. Perhaps her next project will earn a better critical response. Meanwhile, Rails & Ties opens tonight in four theaters, half in New York City and the other half in the Los Angeles area.

Slipstream - Reviews
Only the third film directed by Anthony Hopkins. Sadly, it is earning no better reviews than August earned back in 1996. It could be called experimental, if you want to be generous, but most critics are just calling it a mess. On the other hand, it certainly has a curiosity factor going for it and it could draw in an audience during its opening weekend. Slipstream opens tonight in six theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, mostly in the Los Angeles area.


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Filed under: Bella, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Music Within, Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, Mr. Untouchable, Rails & Ties, Black Irish, Slipstream, Jab We Met