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Looking for Award-Worthy Limited Releases

November 7th, 2008

It is about month before the first wave of Awards Season nominations are announced, and we are still waiting for the first major player to arise. We've seen more than a few potential contenders come and go, but none have earned the critical buzz necessary to have much of a chance to take home the hardware. This week another such film is being released. Strangely, while it is the weekend after Halloween, there are also a few horror films opening in limited release.

The Alphabet Killer - No Reviews
The film stars Eliza Dushku as a police detective who has a breakdown while working on a case involving a series of child murders. A couple of years later she is back on the job and still working to apprehend the serial killer. The movie also stars Cary Elwes and Timothy Hutton and was directed by Rob Schmidt, who previously directed Wrong Turn, which also starred Eliza Dushku. Given the cast and the genre, this is a film that should have opened wide, but given the total lack of reviews, it's probably fortunate that it wasn't dumped direct-to-DVD. The Alphabet Killer opens tonight at the Pittsford Cinema 9 in Rochester, New York, where the movie was filmed.

The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas - Reviews
The latest Oscar-bait film to come out with reviews that are well below expectations. In fact, at just 64% positive, it below the level usually associated with films that thrive in limited release. Add in a theater count that is a little too high for a limited release and it could have a short run. On the other hand, it could have enough Oscar buzz that people flood to the theaters and its weaker than expected reviews won't matter, at least for the first week. The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas opens tonight in 17 theaters in select cities nationwide.

The Guitar - Reviews
A woman learns she has cancer and only has two months to live, so she blows her life savings and maxes out her credit cards to live her dreams till the end, which includes learning to play the electric guitar. The film is directed by Amy Redford, daughter of Robert Redford, who is making her directorial debut. The reviews are very weak. Strangely, the cream-of-the-crop critics are a lot more enthusiastic with their praise than the average critic, but it is unlikely that the film will be able to thrive in limited release. The Guitar opens tonight in New York City at the Sunshine Cinema.

House - Reviews
A horror film aimed at the churchgoing crowd. It is based on a novel by Ted Dekker, who also wrote the novel that provided the source material for Thr3e, and it is directed by Robby Henson, who also directed Thr3e. That film ended its theatrical run with just over $1 million, which is certainly in reach with this film. In fact, it could make that much opening weekend. Or it could open with less than $1,000 on the per theater chart and disappear very quickly. It could go either way. House opens tonight in roughly 360 theaters nationwide, which could be far too many for this type of film.

JCVD - Reviews
A movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme that doesn't suck. I say this as a fan of the action star, but he hasn't has a theatrical hit since Timecop, and even then it was a midlevel hit, at best, and most of his films have been eviscerated by the critics, and for good reason. This movie is the lone exception to his troubles with critics. In this movie, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays J.V.C.D., a washed up action star dealing with a messy custody battle, tax problems, and a movie career that faded a long time ago. It's these auto-biographical elements that seem to have won over many critics. Now we will see how well the movie will do with the public. JCVD opens tonight in two theaters, both in New York City.

Otto; Or, Up with Dead People - No Reviews
A Horror / Comedy / Drama about Otto, a zombie who can't remember his life before becoming part of the undead. He meets a filmmaker who wants to make a documentary about him but when he starts to learn about his past, he sets up a meeting with his ex-boyfriend with disastrous results. It's an odd movie that would struggle to find an audience at the best of time, and it is still rare for a horror film to thrive in limited release. Otto opens tonight in New York City at the IFC Center before expanding to Los Angeles at the end of the month.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell - Reviews
A documentary about a group of women who led the peace movement in Liberia that tried to end the country's civil war. This is an inspirational story to tell, but it has already been told in a previous movie called Iron Ladies of Liberia. Additionally, the lack of reviews suggests the film will struggle to find an audience. Pray the Devil Back to Hell opens tonight in one theater in New York City (Cinema Village) before expanding next week to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Real Time - Reviews
A Canadian movie starring Jay Baruchel, as a compulsive gambler who owes way too much to the wrong people, and Randy Quaid, as a hitman sent to kill him. However, he decides to give his target one last hour of life to do whatever he wants to do. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are poor, but I've seen others that are more praising. Real Time opens tonight in Montreal, Canada at the AMC Forum.

Repo! The Genetic Opera - Reviews
As I stated at the beginning of the month, there's almost no chance this movie will do well enough in limited release for it to expand wide. Its premise is just too strange to find a mainstream audience. In fact, it appears to be too out there for most critics. There is still a chance it will become a Cult Classic, but it will likely have to wait until the home market for that to happen. Repo! The Genetic Opera opens tonight in 8 theaters including those in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Austin.

The World Unseen - Reviews
A film set in 1950s South Africa that deals with a relationship between two women (Lisa Ray of Bollywood/Hollywood and Shamim Sarif of Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World). Reviews so far are weak, but perhaps the film can still find an audience with its niche market. The World Unseen opens tonight in three theaters, including the Quad Cinema in New York City.


Filed under: Limited Releases, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, House, JCVD, Repo! The Genetic Opera