by MIKE MACCOLLUM
The “Opening Elsewhere” section of Thinking Outside the Multiplex has been missing for the past two weeks, but it wasn’t on a holiday in the Caribbean – or anywhere else, for that matter. Instead, I inadvertently saved last week’s column with the wrong file extension, and when I sent it to my editor, Helen, she received a mass of unintelligible gibberish. (Not that much different from the average column, in some respects – but I digress….) After both of us made several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the column from wrong-file-extension limbo, I decided the only course was to find an earlier – very incomplete – version of last week’s column, and rewrite it as fast as I possibly could. Since the “opening elsewhere” section was the part that needed the most rewriting – and since I could not get it all done anytime soon, with my work schedule – Helen suggested that I combine the “opening elsewhere” movies from the week of 12/18 with those from the following week and present them as a separate supplement. And that, friends, is the shocking and fascinating secret origin story for what follows below.
A number of movies with hopes for Academy Awards – some with more realistic hopes than others – are on this list, along with a surprising number of films featuring actors (Heath Ledger, Roy Scheider, David Carradine) who are now deceased. Two of the movies mentioned below (Nine and The Young Victoria) have already opened in Indiana, and three more (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Crazy Heart, and Police, Adjective) are supposed to be in Indiana theaters next year – while The Lightkeepers has hopes of a national release next March, and Creation‘s official site says that it will get a wider release of some sort starting on January 22. (The Facebook page for Creation said – as of December 9 – that the film would be in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, DC on 1/22 – with information on “additional cities” to be added “shortly.”).
The Bicycle Thief – Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realist classic is being re-released to US theaters (starting December 25 at the Roxie in San Francisco) sixty years after it was first shown in America. The film is about a poor man and his young son, and what happens when the man’s bicycle – which he desperately needs for his job – is stolen.
Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges has received four Academy Award nominations over the years, and many critics who have seen Crazy Heart think he will receive a fifth one for his work in this drama/comedy from first-time director Scott Cooper. Bridges plays Bad Blake, a former star in the country music world who has been reduced to humiliating small-time gigs after many, many years of too much hard living (especially of the liquid variety). When a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets to know the “real” Blake behind the public image, he thinks he might have a chance at both romance and redemption. T-Bone Burnett co-wrote the film’s original music, and was a co-producer of the film itself; Robert Duvall (who was also a co-producer) and Colin Farrell are also in the cast. Crazy Heart started on Wednesday, December 16 at four theaters – two each in Los Angeles and New York City. The film’s official site says that it will open in Indianapolis on January 22, but does not say anything about which theater(s) will be showing the film. The Keystone Arts – the most likely candidate to show it – said nothing about Crazy Heart opening there (on January 22 or otherwise) the last time I checked their web page.
Creation – Real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly play an onscreen Mr. and Mrs. in this drama about Charles Darwin’s efforts to write On the Origin of the Species, and Darwin’s great love for his wife Emma – who holds firm to her religious beliefs. Creation was directed by Jon Amiel, and has a screenplay by John Collee, adapted from a book written by a great-great-grandson of the couple – who used diaries and letters from family members in his research. Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam are in the supporting cast of Creation, which started a one-week-only Oscar-qualifying run at the NuArt in Los Angeles on Friday, December 25.
Fall Down Dead – Dominique Swain, the late David Carradine and Udo Kier star in this horror/suspense film about an insane mass-murderer who has been dubbed “The Picasso Killer” because he thinks of murder as a work of art. When a number of people – including one who knows his real identity – are trapped in an office building by a blackout, the killer sets out to eliminate the only person who can identify him…. although he also wouldn’t mind bumping off anyone else who gets in his way. Fall Down Dead started on Friday, December 18 (according to the page for the film on the site of its production company) or Saturday, December 19 (per the theater’s own online schedule) at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills. (The people behind the film were hoping for a wider release, apparently – but as far as I could tell, it was at just the one theater last week.)
Fraud City – What is this Mongolian movie about? Frankly, I’m not sure, really…. The official site for the film’s distributor, Crave Pictures, says that Fraud City is a drama, but there is no English-language plot summary there – and when you click on a link to the page for the film itself, most of the text there is in Mongolian. Since I neither speak nor read Mongolian, I have no idea if there was any sort of synopsis on this page. The trailer wasn’t that helpful either, since it lacked subtitles; all I could tell is that the movie features a cast of twenty-somethings (more or less) interacting with each other – sometimes on friendly (or more-than-friendly) terms, sometimes not. Fraud City started a five day run at two theaters in the Phoenix Big Cinemas chain (the Norwalk 8 in Norwalk, CA and the Big Cinemas Golf Glen in Niles, IL) on Friday, December 18; it will supposedly open soon in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, according to its official site.
Good Morning President – This is a Korean drama (per the IMDb – although the trailer looks like a drama with comedy) about the problems facing three (fictional) South Korean presidents – the country’s first female president, a veteran politician, and a charismatic young president. It started on Friday, December 25, at five US theaters, all in the AMC chain – two in New Jersey, and one each in New York, Illinois, and Georgia. I couldn’t find an English-language official site for this one, but a Korean-language site is here, while a site with some information on Good Morning President in English is here – and an English-subtitled trailer for the film can be found here.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Christopher Plummer plays the title role, but the late Heath Ledger is top-billed in Terry Gilliam’s impressive-looking fantasy. Plummer plays a traveling performer who many centuries ago won a bet with the devil (Tom Waits) and was granted immortality. After meeting a lovely woman, however, Parnassus made a deal with the devil, and was given a more youthful appearance – but in return, the devil was given the rights to the soul of any child of the doctor when said son or daughter turns sixteen. Now that Parnassus’s daughter Valentina is nearing her sixteenth birthday, this is no longer a hypothetical matter – and Parnassus (who can’t control his urge to gamble) tries to save his daughter by making another bet with the devil: whoever first wins control of five souls will “win” Valentina. Ledger plays a mysterious stranger, Tony, who may be there to help Parnassus and his daughter – or who might have something else in mind…. Since Ledger died before filming all of his scenes, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell each play different versions of Tony, who appear when Tony steps through a magical mirror into another world. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus started on Friday, December 25, at four theaters (two in Los Angeles, two in New York); it is scheduled to open at the Keystone Arts in Indianapolis on January 8.
Iron Cross – Roy Scheider stars as Joseph, a former officer with the NYPD who travels to Nuremberg, Germany, to visit his estranged son Ronnie. While there, Joseph becomes convinced that Shrager (Helmut Berger), a man living in Joseph’s apartment building, was the SS officer who killed everyone else in his family during World War 2. Since Joseph doesn’t think that there’s any way that “Shrager” will be put on trial, he tries to get Ronnie to join him on a quest for revenge. Roy Scheider died while Iron Cross was in production, supposedly with only one scene left to shoot. Several reports at the time indicated that the film would be completed with CGI trickery and/or an actor wearing a latex mask of Scheider’s face. The one review of the film that I read, from Variety, said that if anything was done to “extend” Scheider’s appearance in the film, it wasn’t obvious – although the reviewer did note that Scheider appeared on screen less in the second part of the film than in the first. (The critic did praise Scheider’s work in the film, but was less kind to the film itself.) Iron Cross opened for a one week Academy-Award-qualifying run at the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino on Friday, December 18.
The Lightkeepers – Richard Dreyfuss stars as a lighthouse keeper in 1912 Cape Cod who has taken a vow to keep all women out of his life – but finds that his resolve is sorely tested when two women move to a cottage near him for the summer. Blythe Danner, Mamie Gummer and Bruce Dern co-star in this film, which opened on Friday, December 18, for a one-week-only Academy-Award-qualifying run at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills; a two week “sneak peek” run at the Cape Cinema in Dennis, MA began on Friday, December 25. The “LK on Facebok” page on its official site says The Lightkeepers will be “released nationwide” on March 12, 2010.
Manasaare (a.k.a. Manasare) – In this Kannada-language film from India, an unemployed, motor-mouthed, and irresponsible young man is mistaken for an escapee from a mental rehabilitation center, and is captured by the staff from that facility. At first, the young man tries to convince everyone that he doesn’t belong there – until he meets a beautiful young female mental patient, with whom he falls in love…. Manasaare – which is reportedly comedic in the first half before taking a turn towards drama and sentimentality in the second half – started Friday, December 25, at the Big Cinemas Norwalk 8 in Norwalk, CA. While I couldn’t find an official site for Manasaare, its Wikipedia page is here, and a (non-subtitled) trailer is here.
My Big Father – In this Malayalam-language film from India, Albi and his father run a catering company together. They decide to look for a prospective bride for Albi – a task complicated by the fact that his father is a little person. I couldn’t find an official site for this film, but this link will take you to its trailer, which has no English subtitles. My Big Father started on Friday, December 18, at the Big Cinemas Norwalk 8 in Norwalk, CA, and continues there this week.
The New Daughter – 2009 was not kind to (former?) stars like Harrison Ford (Crossing Over), Michael Douglas (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt), Jeff Bridges (The Open Road) and Russell Crowe (Tenderness) – all have had a movie get extremely limited theatrical exposure over the past twelve months. This time, it’s Kevin Costner’s turn, as his latest film opened at only 23 theaters – for a one-week-only run, apparently – on December 18. On top of that, there doesn’t seem to be an official site for the movie – and its US theatrical distributor, Anchor Bay, doesn’t bother to mention the movie on its own site (as far as I can tell, at least, and I searched several times). Anyhow, The New Daughter is a thriller about John James, a man who moves to a rural area with his two children after his wife leaves him. When his daughter (Ivan Baquero, from Pan’s Labyrinth) starts to act oddly, John starts to suspect that a nearby burial mound might be the cause…. While I couldn’t find an official site for the film, you can click here to see the page for The New Daughter on the site of its production company, Gold Circle Films; this site has an image of the film’s poster, and a listing of the theaters it was at. (The New Daughter was at several theaters in adjacent states – one screen each in or near Detroit, MI; Lexington, KY; Dayton, OH; and Cincinnati, OH – but this didn’t play anywhere in Indiana, apparently.)
Nine – OK, since this musical opened wide on Christmas Day – after playing at two theaters in New York City and two in Los Angeles the previous week – you most likely already know all about the starry cast and director Rob Marshall (Chicago) – and you’ve also probably heard that Nine was based on the Broadway show of the same name. What annoys me about this movie’s official site (or at least all of it that loaded properly on my computer) is that it mentions that Broadway show, but overlooks the fact that the Broadway show itself was based on another source, Fellini’s 8 1/2. Instead of mentioning either Fellini or 8 1/2, the site for Nine has vague hooey about how it is undergoing “another artistic transformation – back to its original inspirational medium: the movies,” and notes how it is coming “full circle back to the screen,” and was “inspired by the movies.” This could be due to some sort of legal or contractual reason – or perhaps it was because of some sort of irritating Weinstein-originating reason – but whatever: they couldn’t get one mention of Fellini and/or 8 1/2 in there, somehow or other? This looks like a snub to me…. and that – combined with the middling reviews – has made me seriously consider skipping this one, in spite of the well-done trailer, and the presence of Sophia Loren in the cast.
Ocean of Pearls – This is a drama about Amrit Singh, a young Sikh doctor who has been living in North America for most (if not all) of his life, but does not feel truly comfortable and “at home” there. When he has a chance to take a plum position at a hospital in Detroit, he leaps at the opportunity, hoping that this will give him a chance to start over. However, when a tragedy occurs, he must reevaluate his pursuit of a successful career, and once again must attempt to find peace. Ocean of Pearls opened on August 7 at a Landmark theater in the Detroit area, and has played at several theaters across the US in subsequent weeks – but I am listing it here only now because I didn’t know of its existence until just recently. Ocean of Pearls was at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood from December 18 through December 24.
The Other Side of Paradise – Rose is an artist on a road trip to her first gallery show. Along the way, she is joined by her younger brother Jamie (who has just been released from prison), and by her longtime friend, the recently single Alex – with whom Rose has always wanted to be more than just friends. This comedy started a one week run at the Quad Cinemas in New York City on Friday, December 18.
Palery Manikyam – This is a Malayalam-language thriller from India about a private eye trying to solve the fifty-three-year-old case of a young woman, Manikyam, who was murdered soon after her wedding. I wasn’t able to find an official site for this film (apart from one link that I didn’t click on, because it came with a warning that the site might harm my already-harmed-enough computer) – but this link offers a (non-subtitled) trailer for the film. Palery Manikyam (or Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Kadha, or Paleri Maanikyam, depending on which site you’re checking) started Friday, December 18, in at least one theater in the Phoenix Big Cinemas chain.
Police, Adjective – Romania’s Corneliu Porumboiu follows up his first feature film, 12:08 East of Bucharest, with this low-key comedy/drama about Cristi, an undercover cop facing a moral dilemma – either he can arrest a teen who offers hashish to others in his class, or Cristi will be punished by his superior officer. Cristi knows that the student is being irresponsible, but thinks that an arrest would be an overreaction, and would destroy the young man’s life; his boss, however, stands firm. Police, Adjective is Romania’s selection for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination for the 2009 Academy Awards, and won both the FIPRESCI and “Un Certain Regard” prizes at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival; it has also received a number of truly outstanding reviews, if the quotes on its official US site are any indication. Police, Adjective started Wednesday, December 23, at eight US theaters (five in greater Los Angeles, two in New York City, and one in Chicago); its official site says that it is scheduled to open in Indianapolis on March 12.
Reach for Me – Veteran actor Seymour Cassel stars as Alvin, a bitter old man spending his remaining days in a hospice. Alvin is a loner, but is forced to accept a roommate – Kevin, a much younger man who is very much in love with his girlfriend Sarah, and who is trying to get as much out of the rest of his life as he possibly can. Inspired by Kevin and Sarah, Alvin decides to step out of his shell and attempt a romance with Valerie (Adrienne Barbeau). Reach for Me – which was directed by LeVar Burton, and co-stars Alfre Woodard, Lacey Chabert, Johnny Whitworth and Burton himself – opened at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, CA, on December 18; it holds over at that same location this week.
Ricky – Here’s the spoiler-free plot summary for this French film from its official US site: “When Katie, an ordinary woman, meets Paco, an ordinary man, they fall in love. After starting a life together, something truly extraordinary is added to the mix: a baby called Ricky. This miraculous creature brings the young family challenges no parent could be prepared for….” What makes young Ricky so unusual? I won’t spill the beans here, but this plot twist is easy to find on the ‘net, if you are so inclined. Suffice it to say that this surprising turn in the story has generated a heated discussion on the web about whether director Francois Ozun (Swimming Pool; Under the Sand; 8 Women; See the Sea) “sold out” by turning a realistic French drama into a Hollywood-style, Spielbergian fantasy film, or whether he stayed true to the traditions of French art films in a very unconventional way. Ricky started Wednesday, December 16, at the IFC Center in New York City; I was hoping to have a chance to see this on the big screen myself, but it looks like the reviews and audience turnout in the US have been too weak for this film to get much theatrical play in America.
Shindo – Wao – who has just graduated from high school and wants to attend music school – meets thirteen-year-old piano prodigy Uta. The two soon begin to bond over their common devotion to the piano, although there is no romantic aspect to their relationship. This 2007 drama from Japan was based on Akira Sasou’s manga; it started Saturday, December 26, at the Viz Cinema in San Francisco.
Under the Eightball – Timothy Grey and Breanne Russell co-directed this documentary about a mysterious illness that struck Grey’s sister Lori in the summer of 2006. After many visits to a number of doctors and medical centers, there were a number of different diagnoses – Multiple Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Lyme disease, Lupus, and Lou Gehrig’s disease/ALS – and the symptoms were getting worse. Eventually, Lori realizes that at least five other people in her area have been diagnosed with ALS, MS, fibromyalgia or similar diseases – and as her brother starts to investigate what could have caused this, he begins to suspect that the illnesses could have been prevented – and may in fact have been caused by a 1950s scientific experiment intended to promote national security. Under the Eightball started Wednesday, December 16, at the IFC Center in New York City, and opened Friday, December 18, at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.
Vettaikaran (or Vettaikkaaran – I’ve seen the title both ways) – This Tamil-language film from India apparently covers a lot of genres – action, romance, comedy, and drama – in a story about a young man who dreams of becoming a police officer, but moves to Chennai to take a job as an auto rickshaw driver when his grades are too low for him to become a cop. He discovers that a group of lowlifes are making things miserable in his neighborhood, so he decided to take them on and end their reign of terror. Vettaikaran (which means “hunter” in Tamil, according to Wikipedia) started Friday, December 18, at several theaters in the Phoenix Big Cinemas chain; it is playing at five Phoenix Big Cinemas theaters this week.
The Young Victoria – Emily Blunt plays the title role in this film about the early years of Queen Victoria. Blunt plays the monarch from the age of seventeen – when she is first in line for the throne, and a number of people (both in and out of the palace) are trying to get on her good side, and/or control her – through the early years of her marriage to Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). Jim Broadbent, Miranda Richardson, Paul Bettany and Thomas Kretschmann are also in the cast of the film, which was written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y.). The Young Victoria started Friday, December 18, on nineteen or twenty screens (sources differed) – five in the New York City area; three in Chicagoland; two each in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Washington, DC area; and one each in or near Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Philadelphia. It opened on Christmas Day at the Keystone Arts in Indianapolis and the Regal Village Park 17 in Carmel.