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Documenting the Limited Releases

October 27th, 2006

This week, among the dozen limited releases making their theatrical debuts, are four documentaries and a mockumentary. However, it is a drama, Babel, that has the best shot at break out success.

20 Centimeters - Reviews
A Musical about a man looking to lose the one thing that's preventing him from being a woman, hence the title. (And for those who don't know metric, 20 centimeters is about 8 inches.) The premise is too out there for mainstream audiences while the reviews are not strong enough for the art house crowds. 20 Centimeters opens tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

Absolute Wilson - Reviews
A documentary about Robert Wilson, one of the key leaders of the Experimental Theatre Movement. One of the best reviewed films on this week's list, it nonetheless has limited appeal outside those interested in avant-garde theatre. Absolute Wilson opens tonight at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza both in New York City.

Babel - Reviews
If there's any film coming out this week that is obvious Oscar bait, it is this one. It is also the film with the best hope of claiming top spot on the per theatre charts. Boasting an impressive cast, a talented director, and an international feel, this film has a lot going for it. On the other hand, its reviews, while better than most wide releases, are not up to the level needed to be an award favorite. In fact, they might not be strong enough to secure a wide release. Babel opens tonight in seven theatres in New York City and Los Angeles, and while it should top the per theatre charts and expand significantly, I don't think it will expand past 1,000 theatres during its run.

Climates - Reviews
This Turkish / France co-production tells the story of a relationship that falters and falls apart while the couple are on holidays. The film is beautifully shot and the fact that the couple in the movie are married in real life adds some interesting level to the movie, but that's still not enough to succeed fully. Climates opens tonight at the Film Forum in New York City.

Cocaine Cowboys - Reviews
A documentary about the 1970s and 1980s drug trade and the crime cartels that dominated Miami. The film is stylish for a documentary, perhaps a little too stylish, but it is a different look documentary and that should help its box office. Cocaine Cowboys opens tonight in 12 theatres, mostly in New York City and the Miami / south Florida area.

Conversations with God - Reviews
One of the widest releases of the week, it is also the worst reviewed. The film commits a number of cinematic sins, including preaching to the choir. Also, the God in the movie doesn't sound like the God from the Bible. He sounds a lot more like a pop psychologist who has written too many self-help books, or worse yet, appeared on too many daytime talk shows. The movie could have been called Conversations with Dr. Phil... that change might have been even helped the film at the box office, but someone would have gotten sued. Conversations with God opens tonight in 64 theatres, but that's as wide as it will go, unless of course I have under-estimated the devotion of the fans of the book, which is possible.

Cruel World - Reviews
A horror film about Reality TV with a decidedly comedic bend to it. As I have stated in the past, I hate Reality TV, however, I do feel there is a good movie about the subject just waiting to be made. Well, the wait continues. Cruel World opens tonight in five theatres, but that is likely as wide as it will go.

Death of a President - Reviews
A lot of people on the right attacked this film because they thought it was advocating the assassination of President Bush. This is like saying Spike Lee advocates slavery because he produced CSA: The Confederate States of America. The real controversy with regards to this film is... it's simply not that good. There are some good parts about the movie, but as a dramatic mockumentary it is too dull too often to make its point in a convincing manner. Death of a President opens tonight in nearly 100 theatres and with the publicity it has generated there has been some talk that it might reach $1 million during its opening weekend, but I doubt it.

Exit: The Right to Die - Reviews
A documentary about Exit A.D.M.D., a Swiss organization that helps people prepare for assisted suicide. This film is not an entirely fair and balanced look at the subject, but it is still very powerful and could convince a lot of people who are at lease open-minded on the debate. Exit: The Right to Die opened yesterday at the Film Forum in New York City.

The Genius Club - Reviews
One of the wider releases this week, it is nonetheless not one of the films that is most likely to escape its limited release roots. The film has production values lower than its $2 million production budget would indicate, and while the topics they discuss are interesting, the actual discussions are not. While the characters in the movie are supposed to be geniuses each with an I.Q. over 200, the writer isn't and this makes some of the points made during the film less than effective. The Genius Club opens in 14 theatres tonight, all in Texas.

Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss - Reviews
I believe with the over-exposure of digital animation, traditional animation will make a comeback. But it will take a better film than this to do so. As you can probably tell from the title, this film is based on the play by William Shakespeare but with seals instead of humans in the lead roles. The animation looks dated not to mention cheap (there's too much looping), and there's little hope that it will expand past the 25 theatres it is opening in tonight.

Shut Up and Sing - Reviews
Another documentary coming out this week, this one is about Country music group, The Dixie Chicks. The group as earned many fans for not only their music, but also for their willingness to stand up for what they believe. This last part has also earned them a lot of detractors, and more than a few death threats. One of the few films on this week's list that has a reasonable shot at mainstream success, depending on how much publicity it can generate. It might have to rely on alternative methods as NBC has refused to air ads for the movie because it regards them as disparaging of President Bush. Even so, it is one of two films that has a legitimate shot at taking home the Per Theatre Average crown this weekend as it opens in four theatres this weekend before expanding November 10th.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Babel, Shut Up and Sing, Death of a President, Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss, Conversations with God, Cocaine Cowboys, Iklimler, Cruel World, The Genius Club, 20 centiímetros