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Limited Releases: Bird is the Word

October 17th, 2014

Birdman poster

It's an excellent week for limited releases with several films earning overwhelmingly positive reviews. This includes a couple that are also earning really loud buzz. Of these, Birdman is probably going to win the weekend race on the Per Theater Chart, while Dear White People should also be a hit. Diplomacy, Housebound, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and others also deserve to find audiences, but not all will do so for various reasons (wrong genre, opening in Video on Demand, etc.).

Algorithms - Reviews
A documentary about a group of blind chess masters. That should draw in some curious people. The early reviews are good, but it is too early to tell if they are good enough for a limited release. Algorithms opens tonight in one theater in Los Angeles before moving to New York City next weekend. Check out the official site for more details.

Birdman - Reviews
By far the most-hyped limited release of the week. In fact, it has louder buzz than one of the wide releases. It stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who is most famous for playing a costumed super hero and who is trying to revive his career by writing, directing, and starring in a play. Getting Michael Keaton to play this character is a little meta, but the critics nearly all agree that it works. In fact, many critics agree that everything about this movie works and it should be the biggest hit on the Per Theater Chart this weekend. Birdman opens tonight in four theaters, but look for it to expand, especially if it can pick up some early Awards Season nominations.

Camp X-Ray - Reviews
Kristen Stewart plays a soldier who is one of the guards at Gitmo. She becomes friends with one of the inmates, played by Payman Maadi. The two actors are being praised by most critics, even if not all of those critics think the overall movie is worth checking out. Camp X-Ray opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City, while it is also playing on Video on Demand.

The Culture High - Reviews
A documentary about marijuana and the people on either side of the legalization debate. There are only four reviews on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment, and only half of them are positive. Additionally, there have been quite a few documentaries about this subject that have been released recently. Finally, The Culture High is also playing on Video on Demand, so its box office potential is very limited.

Dear White People - Reviews
One of the bigger films on this week's list. The film takes place at a college where racial tensions are already high, but are set off by a college humor magazine's Halloween party with a "let out your inner Negro" theme. There has been a lot of buzz for this film and I'm happy to say the reviews are even better. The buzz isn't quite as strong as the buzz for Birdman, but it should still do very well on the per theater chart. Dear White People opens tonight in nearly a dozen theaters. Check out the official site for more details.

Diplomacy - Reviews
A French-German co-production about a plan near the end of World War II to destroy the great landmarks in Paris before the Allies can retake the city. The film focuses on the German general in charge of the project and a Swedish diplomat trying to get him to disobey the order given to him by Hitler. The reviews are amazing and perhaps it will find an audience with art house aficionados. Diplomacy opened on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City with plenty of other theaters on the horizon. Check out the official site for more details.

Eternity: The Movie - Reviews
A comedy set in the 1980s and about the New Wave music movement. So far there are only three reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and they are all negative. They are aggressively negative. Eternity: The Movie opens tonight in New York City with planned expansions over the coming weeks, including a few theaters in Canada. Check out the official site for more details.

Felony - Reviews
A cop is nearly killed, but his bullet resistant vest saves him. He goes out to celebrate, but gets drunk and hits a kid on his bike. When the cops show up, one of them tries to help him cover up the accident, while the other tries to expose him. The reviews are great, but the film is also playing on Video on Demand, so it will likely not find an audience in theaters.

God the Father - No Reviews
A documentary about Michael Franzese, who was a powerful mob boss in the 1980s to 1990s, but who left the family after a spiritual awakening. There are no reviews and it opened in theaters on Tuesday, which is odd.

The Golden Era - Reviews
A biopic of Xiao Hong, who was a writer in China in the 1930s, whose thinking was much more progressive than you would expect for that time and place. The reviews are good, but there are not a lot of them, which suggests it will slip between the cracks. The Golden Era opens tonight in more than a dozen theaters, as well as on Video on Demand. It will very likely perform better in the latter than the former.

Hiroshima, Mon Amour - Reviews
A re-release of the 1959 French classic. Classic isn't an understatement here. It is considered by many to be among the best French New Wave films, if not the best. After playing at the 52nd New York Film Festival last weekend, Hiroshima, Mon Amour plays this weekend in five theaters. Check out the official site for more details.

Housebound - Reviews
A horror film opening in limited release and on Video on Demand. This film's chances at the box office are nearly zero. However, it's reviews are over 90% positive, so it deserves to find an audience, even if that audience is on the home market.

Listen Up Philip - Reviews
Jason Schwartzman stars as a writer waiting for his second book to be published. He doesn't want to do the usual book tour and his relationship with his girlfriend is falling apart. The film's reviews are excellent and the pedigree is strong enough that I think it will find an audience in limited release, at least for the first weekend. Listen Up Philip opens tonight in two theaters in New York City and expands to Video on Demand on Tuesday.

Mall - No Reviews
This film deals with a spree shooting at a mall, which is a touchy subject. However, there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is hard to tell if the film was well-done, or if it was an exploitative mess. Either way, the lack of reviews likely means it will fail to find an audience in theaters. Mall opens tonight in select theaters.

Rudderless - Reviews
The directorial debut of William H. Macy. In the film, Billy Crudup stars as Sam, a man whose life falls apart when his son dies. He finds a bunch of songs his son had written and decides to learn and perform them. The reviews are just under the overall positive level, but the film does have an amazing cast, so perhaps it will thrive in theaters for one weekend before the word-of-mouth kills it. Rudderless opens tonight in select theaters in just over a dozen cities, as well as on Video on Demand.

Summer of Blood - Reviews
Onur Tukel, writes, directs, and stars in this film, which is about a slob who is turned into a Vampire. It is the wrong genre for limited release, its reviews are only mixed, and it is coming out on Video on Demand as well as in limited release. That's three strikes for its box office chances.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya - Reviews
GKIDS has released some amazing movies, but rarely do these films find box office success. Family films are at a huge disadvantage in limited release. That said, I really, really hope I get a chance to review this film when it comes out on DVD / Blu-ray. The Tale of Princess Kaguya opens tonight in three theaters, one in New York City, one in Los Angeles, and one in Toronto.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown - Reviews
A remake / delayed sequel to The Town That Dreaded Sundown. That film was released in 1976 and is one of the earliest teenage slashers. The reviews for this film are just at the overall positive level, plus it is the wrong genre for limited release. Additionally, it is playing on Video on Demand, so its theatrical numbers will likely be non-existent. The Town That Dreaded Sundown opened yesterday in theaters, I think. Unless my Google-Fu skills failed me, there's no official site.

Watchers of the Sky - Reviews
A documentary about Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish Lawyer who crusaded to make war crimes actual crimes. The reviews are great, but there are not a lot of them on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment, while documentaries rarely have breakout success. Watchers of the Sky opens tonight in five theaters, including one in Toronto, Canada. Check out the official site for more details.

Young Ones - Reviews
Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which water is the most precious commodity. Michael Shannon stars as a farmer trying to eke out a living while looking after his two kids and dealing with gangs. The reviews are slightly below the overall positive level, which would be fine for a summer action film, but it will likely prove fatal here. Young Ones opens tonight in select theaters, as well as on Video on Demand.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Algorithm, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Best of Me, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Dear White People, Listen Up Philip, Rudderless, Kaguyahime no monogatari, Diplomatie, Housebound, Camp X-Ray, The Culture High, Algorithms, Mall, Young Ones, Felony, God the Father, Summer of Blood, Huang jin shi dai, Watchers of the Sky, Eternity: The Movie, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Billy Crudup, William H. Macy, Michael Keaton, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Shannon, Kristen Stewart, Onur Tukel, Payman Maadi