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Limited Releases Try to Take on God of Thunder

May 6th, 2011

It is officially the beginning of summer, at least according to the movie industry. And while most eyes are on Thor, there's a bundle of limited releases trying to compete for limited box office dollars. I'm not overly bullish on most film's chances. There are a few films opening in way too many theaters, some that are opening with Tomatometer scores that would be terrible for wide releases, etc. There are also a few with good reviews or some advanced buzz, but going the limited release route is always a risk. Let's hope some can escape it.

Caterpillar - Reviews
The best-reviewed film on this week's list, although it might not be enough, as the subject matter is difficult, to say the least. The film tells the story of a Japanese soldier returning home from the second Sino-Japanese war. He's a highly decorated hero, but he also lost both his arms and his legs and his wife has to take care of him. Excellent reviews should help it find an audience on the art house circuit, but its chances of expanding are low. Caterpillar opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City.

The Beaver - Reviews
Easily the most talked about limited release of the week, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Much of the talk has been about whether or not Mel Gibson can rehabilitate his career after several, well, let's just call them controversial outbursts. He needs a hit, but I'm not sure this film will be it. Its Tomatometer score is currently 70% positive, which is good for a wide release, but not really good enough for a limited release. It is also opening in 22 theaters, which is more than most limited releases can handle. Perhaps the high profile cast and extra publicity will help it out. At the very least, it will be a test of the saying, "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

Daydream Nation - Reviews
This Canadian movie opened in Canada a couple weeks ago and debuts on the home market in about ten days. The latter will have a much larger impact on the film's box office chances. On the other hand, the film stars Kat Dennings, whose star is certainly on the rise, and that could help at the box office. Daydream Nation opens tonight in five theaters, including the Laemmles Sunset 5 in Los Angeles and Village East Cinema in New York City.

Forks Over Knives - Reviews
A documentary promoting the vegan lifestyle, even if they are deathly afraid of using that word. The reviews are strong, but I have my suspicions on the science. (Any time someone claims to have a cure-all solution, be highly suspicious.) Maybe it will start a conversation on healthier diets and that will lead to cutting back on saturated and trans-fats, but going full vegan is a non-starter for most people. Forks Over Knives opens tonight in 35 theaters, which might be a bit too many.

Hobo with a Shotgun - Reviews
The second film based on a fake trailer first seen in the Grindhouse double-feature. In this film, Rutger Hauer stars at the titular hobo, who comes to town and after seeing all the violence and lawlessness, decides to grab his shotgun and clean up the place. It doesn't sound like much of a plot, but the reviews suggest it works. On the other hand, the reviews also suggest it will have to wait till the home market to find an audience. Hobo with a Shotgun opens tonight in two theaters: City Cinemas Village East in New York City and Drafthouse The Ritz in Austin, Texas.

An Invisible Sign - Reviews
Jessica Alba stars as the daughter of a brilliant mathematician. When her father starts showing signs of mental illness, she become obsessed with numbers to try to make sense of it all and later uses her knowledge of math to teach kids. Limited releases rely on reviews to build buzz and the only thing worse than no reviews is no positive reviews. It does have a cast with more name recognition than most limited releases have, but I don't think that will help in this case. An Invisible Sign opens tonight at the IFC Center in New York City.

Harvest - Reviews
This is not the first time I thought this film was coming out in limited release. Last time there were no reviews but this time around there are some, which are mostly positive. Unfortunately, it is a crowded weekend and the chances are good is will be squeezed out at the box office. Harvest opens tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

Haunted 3-D - Reviews
An Indian film, but not your typical Bollywood musical. In fact, it's a time-twisted horror film about a vengeful ghost. Maybe this will help set it apart from its direct competition and it will become a hit in its niche market. However, with no reviews, it's hard to judge its chances. Haunted 3-D opens tonight in 15 theaters, which is actually low for this type of movie.

I'm Not Jesus Mommy - Reviews
A fertility doctor who is infertile herself looks to human cloning as the answer. However, she then learns the DNA for her son was taken from the Shroud of Turin. That's an interesting premise, but the film only has one review, and it's negative. Like too many other films on this week's list, it will likely be squeezed out by the competition. I'm Not Jesus Mommy opens tonight in three theaters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last Night - Reviews
Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington star as a married couple that spend the night apart and both face temptations. He's with a flirty co-worker, Eva Mendes, and she's with an ex, Guillaume Canet. The cast is strong, but the reviews are merely mixed. Last Night opens tonight in ten theaters, mostly in the Los Angeles area, but also in New York City, Dallas, and San Francisco.

Mother's Day - Reviews
A remake-in-name-only of a 1980 teenage slasher / torture porn film. In this movie a psychotic family returns to their childhood home only to find new people living there. They decide to make these people, and their guests, their next victims. The early reviews are very good, but it is the wrong genre for limited release. Worse still, there's lot of competition for horror fans this weekend. It should find an audience, but it will likely have to wait till the home market to do so.

October - Reviews
A loan shark's life is turned upside down when someone leaves a baby on his doorstep. Apparently one of the prostitutes he frequents got pregnant and didn't tell him. Now he has to get help raising the kid from a woman he has lent money to. It's a bit of a convoluted story, but the reviews are almost good enough to suggest it will thrive in limited release. I think the competition could be too much, on the other hand. October opens tonight at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, both in New York City.

Passion Play - Reviews
This film stars two Oscar nomination actors (Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke) plus Megan Fox. Should have lots of buzz, right? Well, it does, but not the kind you want. In fact, some are calling it the worst film of the year. (It has earned one positive review, which is more than some films on this week's list has managed.) Maybe with the cast and the negative buzz people will be interested in seeing just how bad it is, but if that's the case, they will probably wait till the home market. Passion Play opens tonight in two theaters: the Quad Cinema in New York City and the Mann Chinese 6 in Los Angeles.

The Silent House - Reviews
The second foreign language haunted house horror movie coming out in limited release this week. This one, instead of being non-chronological, is filmed in real time. The reviews are good, but perhaps not quite good enough, and it is the wrong genre for limited release. Hopefully it will survive. The Silent House opens tonight at the IFC Center as part of their midnight showings, while the remake, Silent House, is done and should get a theatrical release later this year.

There Be Dragons - Reviews
A movie about a son looking into his father's past only to discover secrets about war, religion, politics, and romance. The reviews are a mess while the film is opening in more than 200 theaters. I don't like its chances of box office success.

The Vintner's Luck - Reviews
As I've said many times in the past, limited releases live and die on their reviews. So for a film to open with just one review is really bad. The fact that the lone review is negative is even worse. I'm not sure there's a large target audience for a movie about wine-making, while there is way too much competition to deal with.

Vito Bonafacci - Reviews
Vito Bonafacci dreams that he died but when he tried to go to heaven his dead mother told him he was not worthy. When he awakes, he contemplates the meaning of this dream and disucces various religious topics with his wife and household servants. There are only two reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and both of them are negative. Perhaps it will find an audience within its niche market, but that doesn't seem likely. Vito Bonafacci opens tonight at the AMC Village 7 in New York City.

Whirligig - Review
A Canadian movie about a 25-year old man who has to return home after his latest failure in life. However, his parents are less than thrilled with this turn of events. Since it is a Canadian movie, most people have never heard of it and the few reviews online are to be expected. The one review I did find was quite positive, so maybe it will find an audience. Whirligig opens tonight at the Bayers Lake in Halifax and check its official site for more release dates.


Filed under: Limited Releases, Last Night, An Invisible Sign , Whirligig, The Beaver, Daydream Nation, Mother's Day, There Be Dragons, A Heavenly Vintage, Octubre, Harvest, Forks Over Knives, Passion Play, Hobo with a Shotgun, I'm Not Jesus Mommy, Kyatapira, La casa muda, Haunted 3-D, Vito Bonafacci