Limited Releases: Thrilling or Just Cheap?

Cheap Thrills poster

There are quite a few limited releases this week, including Nymphomaniac: Volume 1, which is earning the loudest buzz. Its reviews are great, but not as strong as the buzz, plus it has been playing on Video on Demand. The best reviews go to Cheap Thrills (Reviews) and Jodorowsky's Dune (Reviews). Hopefully both films will find an audience this weekend, but limited release is a rough go even with the best reviews.

50 to 1 - No Reviews
Based on a real life story of a group of cowboys trying to get their horse to Churchill Downs, where it qualified for the Kentucky Derby. There are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is hard to judge how well this film will do at the box office. 50 to 1 opens tonight in about a dozen cities in New Mexico. Check out the official site for more details.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs - Reviews
A biopic of Grace Lee Boggs, an activist from Detroit who has spent her life working on various political and humanitarian activist pursuits. There are not a lot of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but both of them are positive. American Revolutionary opened tonight at the AMC Loews 19th St. East 6 in New York City.

Anita - Reviews
A documentary looking at Anita Hill, whose testimony during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. The reviews are good, but not overwhelmingly positive with several critics calling it a hagiography. Even so, if you remember that period of time, it is worth checking out. Anita opens tonight in several theaters and includes special guests at a number of showings. Check out the official site for more details.

A Birder's Guide to Everything - Reviews
Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a 15-year old birdwatcher who might have discovered a species previously thought to be extinct. This film is earning some of the best reviews of the weekend, but it is already playing on Video on Demand, so its box office chances are rather weak. Then again, for most limited releases, Video on Demand numbers are more important than theatrical numbers, so I can understand why this is happening. A Birder's Guide to Everything opens tonight in eight theaters. Check out the official site for more details.

Blood Ties - Reviews
Two brothers, one cop and the other a recently released ex-con, try to reconnect. But when the older brother slips back into his criminal ways, their bonds are tested. This film has an amazing cast, but the reviews are merely mixed. It was also reportedly an expensive movie to make costing just over $25 million. It is not going to match that at the box office. Blood Ties opens tonight in select theaters.

Cheap Thrills - Reviews
Craig just lost his job and is being evicted from his home. He heads to a bar and meets a friend from high school, Vince. Those two meet a rich couple, Violet and Colin, who pay them to complete certain tasks. They start out as mere dares, but quickly escalate. I was looking forward to this movie for a while, but I didn't think it would be as good as the reviews seem to indicate. In fact, it is the best-reviewed film on this week's list. On the other hand, it is a dark comedy and those rarely do well in theaters. Additionally, it is playing on Video on Demand. Cheap Thrills opens tonight in two theaters, including the Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, while there are plans to expand significantly in April. Check out the official site for more details.

Falcon Song - Reviews
A film about life in a small town where the economy is bad and someone's buying up all of the land. There's also a secret society and something about a woman dancing with a crystal ball. There is only one review on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a bad sign, but at least it is positive. Falcon Song opens tonight at the Laemmle theater in Los Angeles and expands Saturday and Sunday. Check out the official site for more details.

The French Minister - Reviews
A French comedy about the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his work on the world stage. The film is only earning mixed reviews with a lot of critics complaining it is too French for an American audience. This makes sense, as I can't imagine a lot of people here know much about French politics. The French Minister opens tonight at the IFC Film Center, while it is also playing on Video on Demand.

Just a Sigh - Reviews
A movie about love at first sight, but this time it is the woman who falls in love with the man and pursues him. Emmanuelle Devos is earning praise for her performance, but the overall reviews are very weak. Just a Sigh opens tonight in two theaters in New York City, the IFC Center and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.

It Felt Like Love - Reviews
A coming of age tale focusing on Lila, a 14-year old girl who wants to be a grown up and tries to do so by emulating her older friends' sexual exploits. The film is earning excellent reviews with a lot of the praise going to first time actress Gina Piersanti in the lead role. It is also the first feature-length film for the writer / director, Eliza Hittman, which makes the reviews even more impressive. However, it also means the film could struggle to find an audience, and there's no built-in fanbase. It Felt Like Love opens tonight at the IFC Center, while it expands over the coming weeks and months. Check out the official site for more details.

Jodorowsky's Dune - Reviews
One of the best-reviewed films of the week. (It might be the best-reviewed film, as it and Cheap Thrills have changed places at least once.) It is about Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt to turn Frank Herbert's Dune into a movie. Since he didn't end up directing Dune, you know something went wrong, and this film looks at the problems with this troubled film project. Jodorowsky's Dune opens tonight in Los Angeles and New York City, I think. The official site doesn't have any theatrical releases among the screenings.

John Doe: Vigilante - Reviews
Jamie Bamber plays the titular John Doe, a vigilante who at the beginning of the film is on trial for killing 33 people. The film only has two reviews, which is a sign there's not enough buzz for most critics to take note. Worse still, both of those reviews are very negative. John Doe: Vigilante opens tonight in select theaters. Check out the official site for more details.

Maladies - Reviews
James Franco stars as a former actor trying to restart his career. However, while trying to reinvigorate himself, he slips further into his mental illness. The film has a great cast, but it is earning terrible reviews. Maladies opens tonight at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles.

McCanick - Reviews
A posthumous release for Cory Monteith. He plays Simon Weeks, a criminal released from jail. A cop, David Morse, chases him, even though he served his time. The reviews are really bad and there's little hope for the film's box office chances. Also, it is playing on Video on Demand, so its theatrical numbers will likely be an afterthought. McCanick opens tonight in seven theaters in major cities. Check out the official site for more details.

Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 - Reviews
The biggest release as far as pre-release buzz is concerned. However it's reviews are below the 80% positive I normally associate with success in limited release. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars as a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac who recounts her sexual history to the man who saved her life. There's a lot of sex and nudity, which is what caused the pre-release buzz, and it should do well during its opening weekend. However, I don't think it will expand significantly. Nymphomaniac: Volume One opens tonight, while Volume Two opens in just two weeks.

Rob the Mob - Reviews
A couple decide to rob the Mafia and after a couple of success heists, they find something that could bring down the whole mob. Now the Mafia and the FBI want to catch them. The reviews are excellent, perhaps enough to find an audience in theaters. Rob the Mob opens tonight at the Angelika Film Center in New York City.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2014-03-21