by MIKE MACCOLLUM
Time for another catch-up column covering theatrical releases that opened outside of the state of Indiana. Most of the forty-plus titles covered below opened in the US between May 14 and 22, although there’s also one straggler that I didn’t learn about until just now. In this column, we have at least twelve documentaries (plus one more that sounds like a borderline case), five movies from India, a number of prize-winners (including Here and There, John Rabe, The Father of My Children, and Racing Dreams), two movies (both filed under “D”, coincidentally enough) where a mysterious killer preys on a group of people, two movies with Jesse Eisenberg- and a recently completed seventies exploitation movie with a most-unexpected connection to a recent Oscar winner.
That last film, Gone With the Pope, is also probably the most deliberately provocative one mentioned below, although the re-released Cremaster Cycle and The Shock Doctrine probably also qualify as provocations, to a greater or lesser extent. (So many of the exploitation movies of the seventies got under people’s skin with various “bad taste” elements- but these days it seems that in large part, films that attempt to provoke audiences have migrated to art houses, when they get released to theaters at all….) And while the vast majority of the movies discussed below will never make it to a theater in Indiana, one (Racing Dreams) has already done so- and another one (Solitary Man) seems like a likely candidate to do so, given its cast and success (so far, at least) at theaters out of state.
Speaking personally, the Dark and Stormy Night/Lost Skeleton Returns Again combo is tied with Here and There and Gone With the Pope at the top of my “want to see in a theater” list- the first and last of these because you just don’t see this sort of thing in a theater very often anymore (and because I enjoyed the first Lost Skeleton so much), while Here and There just sounds like an excellent film. I think that I’ll most likely have to rely on DVD for all of these, but I can dream….
After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United– Bnei Sakhnin is a somewhat unusual Israeli soccer team: Its home base is in a town where most of the citizens are of Arabic background; it has Jewish, Arabic and foreign-born players; it is coached by a Jew; and is owned by an Arab. Bnei Sakhnin is also the first winner of the highly-prized Israeli Cup from an Arab community- but at the onset of the team’s first season after that surprising victory, the players suspect that other teams with better players and more funding will put an end to any chance of Bnei Sakhnin winning the Cup again. The documentary After the Cup shows how team members also confront the now impossibly high expectations of their fans- at least some of whom root for Bnei Sakhnin because they are inspired by the way that Arabs and Jews work together on the team…. After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United started on Friday, May 21, at the Cinema Village in New York City.
Alexander the Great– Prathapa Verma is a wealthy man who lives in Dubai. Back in Mumbai, however, Prathapa has an illegitimate son, Alexander- and after Prathapa passes away, his other relatives learn that Prathapa’s will leaves everything to Alexander. They don’t like the sound of this, so Prathapa’s legitimate son Manu goes to India in order to see if he can get Alexander sign away his rights to the fortune by using legal trickery. Manu finds that Alexander is living in a mental rehab center, under the care of a doctor- but Manu finds a way to get Alexander to Dubai anyway…. This Mayalam-language film- which is either a comedy or a drama, depending on which source you read- opened on Friday, May 14, at the FunAsia Bollywood 6 in Houston. There doesn’t seem to be an official website for this Alexander, by the way- but its Wikipedia page is here, and a Youtube trailer is here.
Andari Banduvaya (or possibly Andari Bandhuvaya; both spellings seem to be more or less equally valid, if the results of Google searches for each variant are to be believed….)- As the preceding note regarding the title hints, this is the winner of the “most mysterious (Indian) film” prize for this column. Andari has Telugu-language dialogue (and songs) – but other than that, definitive information wasn’t all that easy to come by (for me, at least). The film doesn’t seem to have an official site, an IMDb entry, or even a Wikipedia page- and the plot synopses and trailers I could find didn’t reveal much about the story. The main characters are, apparently, a young couple who both have good, high-paying jobs with corporations. Both of them are very nice people, it would seem- and at some point, they decide to take a look at their lives, and (possibly) become even nicer and more benevolent still. As far as genre goes, my best guess is that Andari is a comedy and/or drama of the life-affirming/heartwarming variety- but that is, again, just a guess. Whatever it is, Andari Band[h]uvaya started at six US theaters (two in California, and one each in Texas, Illinois, Georgia and New Jersey) on Friday, May 14.
Burzynski– Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski is a Houston-based biochemist who has (per the official site for this documentary) made a breakthrough with the “gene-targeted cancer medicines he discovered” in the seventies; Dr. Burzynski also “won the largest, and possibly the most convoluted and intriguing legal battle against the Food & Drug Administration in American history” (again, according to the official site). Burzynski the film shows the many struggles that Burzynski the man has gone through, as his medicines (which will “begin the final phase” of clinical-trial testing this year) were doubted and investigated by authorities at both the state and national level. A number of cancer survivors treated by Burzynski’s medicines are also interviewed in the course of the film. Burzynski opened on Friday, May 21, at the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo, CA.
The Cremaster Cycle– If you’ve seen any of the five films that make up artist/filmmaker Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle (1994-2002), then you know that we aren’t exactly talking mainstream, ordinary, run-of-the-mill stuff here. (I saw all of the Cremasters several years ago, and still remember some of the imagery.) As I remember them, these films are much more visually oriented than plot-heavy- but each has quite a lengthy synopsis on the cycle’s official site. These are all impossible to summarize here, so anyone who wants more info is advised to head for the official site, read the synopses, and drink in the visuals in the trailers…. The US theatrical re-release of The Cremaster Cycle began on Wednesday, May 19, at the IFC Center in New York City.
Daddy Longlegs (a.k.a. Go Get Some Rosemary)- Lenny is an irresponsible man in his mid-thirties who spends just a few weeks with his children every year. This year, however, the two week period is different from all of those that have taken place in the past- and Lenny starts to seriously consider whether he should do some growing up himself. Daddy Longlegs started on Friday, May 14, at the IFC Center in New York City.
Dark and Stormy Night– Larry Blamire (of Lost Skeleton of Cadavra fame) returns to the big screen with this comedy. I couldn’t possibly improve on the sketchy plot summary provided on the film’s official site, so I’ll just go all lazy and quote it verbatim: “A strange and mysterious group of strange, mysterious people gathers in the old dark house of the Cavinder Estate for the reading of the will of the late Sinas Cavinder. Strangest and most mysterious of this group is the unseen psychopathic killer who is psychopathically killing the gatherees one by one.” Daniel Roebuck and veteran actors James Karen, Marvin Kaplan, Betty Garrett, and H. M. Wynant join Blamire himself and several other Lost Skeleton veterans (such as Fay Masterson, Robert Deveau, Andrew Parks and Jennifer Blaire) in the cast. Dark and Stormy Night opened- on a double-bill with The Lost Skeleton Returns Again (see below)- at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA on Friday, May 21.
Deadfall Trail– Three men go into Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest with limited supplies and some peyote for a combination vision quest and “survival trip.” Although they had planned for a three-week journey, several things go horribly wrong just one week in, and the “survival trip” becomes much more serious and real than any of the men could have imagined…. Deadfall Trail started at the Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, AZ, on Friday, May 14.
The Devil Within– A young woman named Serina celebrates her eighteenth birthday with an LA bash featuring sex, drugs and booze. Everybody is happy until a killer crashes the party and starts to kill off the guests…. (In other words, it sounds like the umpteenth slasher/exploitation variation on the same basic plot featured in Dark and Stormy Night….) The Devil Within had midnight (or 11:55 PM- sources vary) screenings at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood on Friday, May 21, and Saturday, May 22.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya– This anime is apparently a follow-up to two Japanese TV series, which were based on a series of novels. In the TV series and books, Haruhi is an odd high-school student who wants to meet aliens, people with ESP, and time travelers- so she forms a club at her school, the SOS Brigade, for that purpose. Four others join the club; unbeknownst to Haruhi, one of the others in her group is a time-traveler, while another is an alien, and yet another has ESP. Besides Haruhi herself, Kyon is the only member of the club who isn’t special or unusual…. In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Haruhi is planning to throw a Christmas party in the group’s room at the school- but the next day, Kyon wakes up in an alternate world without Haruhi in it, and in which the other members of the SOS Brigade are all regular people with no special powers or secret identities. But then Kyon gets a message indicating that there may be a way for him to return to the world from which he came…. The US theatrical release of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya started on Friday, May 21, at the VIZ Cinema in San Francisco. (By the way- the film’s official site is mostly in Japanese, so you might have a hard time figuring out how to get to the trailer on the site. To save yourself the hassle, you can just click here for the trailer. And if you want more information on the movie in English, the Viz Cinema’s page has it here.)
Drop– Hiroshi is a student at a good junior high-school, but he wants to be part of a gang of juvenile delinquents- so he gets transferred to a school with a large number of gang members. We follow Hiroshi’s rise through the ranks in the group, along with their fights with other gangs. Drop– which was written and directed by Hiroshi Shinagawa, based on his autobiographical novel, and/or a manga (sources vary)- is a comedy, according to the IMDb… but it also reportedly features some fairly violent fight scenes. The film opened at the Pearlridge West in Aiea, HI, on Friday, May 14.
Entre Nos– Several years after her husband Antonio moved from Colombia to New York City in order to make more money, Mariana and her two children join Antonio in the US. Shortly thereafter, however, Antonio says that he will be going to Miami for work- again, by himself. He says that he will have Mariana and the children join him when the time is right- but after several anxious days of waiting, Mariana learns that Antonio has abandoned his family. Mariana hasn’t got much money, but many bills are coming due- and Mariana doesn’t speak English very well, limiting her own options. As time runs out, Mariana is desperate to find a way to make some money and keep her family together…. Entre Nos started at the Quad Cinema in New York City and the Center Cinema 5 in Queens on Friday, May 14.
The Father of My Children– Paris-based movie producer Grégoire is a rich man with a lovely spouse, several cute kids, and an enviable career. He seems to have it made- until his business dealings start to spiral out of control, and he starts to wonder if his family will still love him if he loses his wealth…. Louis-Do de Lencquesaing stars as Grégoire, and Chiara Caselli (My Own Private Idaho; Fiorile) plays his wife, Sylvia. The Father of My Children– which won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, according to its official site- opened on Friday, May 21, at The Landmark in Los Angeles.
Gone With the Pope– If you’ve ever seen Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla– and of course I would assume that most of you reading this most likely have- then you’re familiar with Duke Mitchell, the guy who made up the Dean Martinish half of the would-be Martin and (Jerry) Lewis act in that film. You might be surprised to know that Mitchell later made a bloody exploitation-movie riff on The Godfather, known variously as The Executioner, Massacre Mafia Style, and Like Father, Like Son. You might be even more surprised to learn that Bob Murawski- who shared a Best Film Editing Oscar with his wife, Chris Innis, for The Hurt Locker– has spent over a decade trying to edit together Mitchell’s only other film as a director, which was shot in the mid-seventies, but was unfinished at the time of Mitchell’s death in 1981. Well, Murawski’s years of effort have borne fruit, and Gone With the Pope is now making its way into theaters; thus, a “new” seventies exploitation film has been unleashed several decades after the fact. The plot has former convict Paul (played by Duke Mitchell himself) coming up with a scheme to kidnap the pope; Paul hopes that every Catholic on the planet will then contribute at least one dollar towards the ransom…. Following several one-time-only screenings elsewhere, Gone With the Pope– opened theatrically with a pair of midnight shows on May 21 and 22 at the E Street Theatre in Washington, DC.
Here and There– Branko has come to the ever-friendly locale of New York City from Serbia, hoping to get back together with his girlfriend. At the same time, Robert, a middle-aged man from NYC, has gone to Serbia in an attempt to make a fast buck by marrying a woman who needs a green card. Director Darko Lungulov’s comedy/drama won an award for Best Narrative Feature set in New York City at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival (along with other prizes from other festivals); David Thornton and Cyndi Lauper are featured in the cast. Here and There started on Friday, May 14, at the Quad Cinema in New York City.
Here Comes the Bride– Several leading comedians from the Philippines star in this body-swapping comedy. However, unlike most films in this sub-genre- which typically seem to involve just two people, with each of them getting the other one’s soul- Here Comes the Bride features a soul-swapping merry-go-round involving six people in a wedding party. (And all of the body/soul rearranging is thanks to a car wreck, a solar eclipse, and powerful magnetic fields, of course.) Here Comes the Bride opened on seven screens in the US- six in California, and one in New Jersey- on Friday, May 21.
Holy Rollers– Sam Gold is a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn studying to be a Rabbi- more so because his family wants him to than out of any interest on his part- and marking time until his impending arranged marriage (which is again much more something his family wants him to do than what Sam would prefer). After Sam’s neighbor Yosef detects Sam’s lack of enthusiasm for the life his family has plotted out for him, Yosef asks if Sam would like to help a man named Jackie and Jackie’s girlfriend, Rachel, get some “medicine” from one point to another. Sam agrees, and it isn’t long before his business savvy has impressed his bosses- and they begin to instruct him about the ins and outs of smuggling drugs from Amsterdam to the US. As Sam becomes intoxicated by the new worlds he is exploring, he begins to experiment with the drug ecstasy, and falls in love with Rachel. As Sam’s “other life” starts to destroy his own family, some in the community also start to suspect that he may be involved in criminal activities- and Sam feels like there may be no good way to get out an increasingly desperate situation…. Holy Rollers– which is “inspired by true events” from the nineties (per its official site), and which stars Jesse Eisenberg as Sam- started on Friday, May 21, at three theaters (one in California and two in New York City).
In/Significant Others– Director John Schwert made this follow-up to his first feature film, Among Brothers. In/Significant Others is an ensemble piece following the lives of multiple characters, each of them connected in some way or another to a murder investigation. As the search to uncover what really happened reaches its final phases, the danger increases for all concerned…. In/Significant Others started an exclusive run at the Regal Park Terrace 6 in Charlotte, NC, on May 14.
John Rabe– During the 1937-38 Nanking Massacre in China, a German businessman named John Rabe helped to save over 200,000 Chinese civilians from death. Florian Gallenberger- who won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2001- wrote and directed this drama, which has itself won several awards in Germany (including Best Feature Film, and a Best Actor prize for Ulrich Tukur, who plays the title role). Steve Buscemi is in the supporting cast of John Rabe, which opened on three screens in New York City on Friday, May 21. (For additional information beyond what is available on the film’s official site- linked in the title above- go to this page for John Rabe on the site of its US distributor, Strand Releasing.)
The Living Wake– In an alternate world- described on this film’s site as “a timeless storybook universe,” K. Roth Binew- a man who thinks of himself as both a genius and an artist- knows that he will be dead within a day. Binew faces his impending doom by getting his only friend to drive him around on a rickshaw while Binew ponders the unfathomable mysteries of the universe. After suffering through numerous indignities in the course of the day, Binew goes for his big finish- he invites his enemies and friends alike to watch one last performance- the living wake of the title. Mike O’Connell stars as Binew, while Jim Gaffigan, Jesse Eisenberg and Ann Dowd are in the supporting cast of this self-proclaimed “dark comedy,” which won several awards at film festivals (like the Feature Film Award for Comedic Vision at the 2007 Austin Film Festival, and the Audience Award for Narrative Feature at the 2007 Woodstock Film Festival). The Living Wake‘s US theatrical release started on Friday, May 14, at the Cinema Village in New York City.
Looking for Eric– Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley; Riff-Raff; Land and Freedom; Hidden Agenda) directed this comedy-drama about Eric Bishop, an English postman and football (soccer) mega-fan whose personal life is falling apart. But just when it looks like he’s about to hit bottom, Eric talks to a poster of his idol, the English football-star-with-a-philosophical-bent Eric Cantona (who plays himself here). Cantona actually talks back- and the advice that Eric B. gets from Eric C. turns out to be very good indeed…. Looking for Eric started on Friday, May 14, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the IFC Center (both in New York City).
The Lost Skeleton Returns Again– Several years after the events in the original Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Dr. Paul Armstrong (returning writer/director/star Larry Blamire) is lost- both in bottles of booze, and somewhere deep in the jungle. A representative of the US government is convinced that Armstrong is the only man who can help him discover the whereabouts of a vitally important material called Jerranium 90, and sets out to find the good doctor, with Armstrong’s wife tagging along. Also on the trek is one Peter Fleming, who has inherited the skull from the lost skeleton itself- and is slowly being possessed by it…. The Lost Skeleton Returns Again– and yes, the title is deliberately redundant (not to mention repetitive and tautological) – opened at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA, on Friday, May 21.
Music Makes a City– Back in the late forties, the Louisville Orchestra was not all that large, and was considered “semi-professional,” according to the official site for this documentary. But Louisville’s mayor at the time, Charles Farnsley, was convinced that cultural attractions like the orchestra could help the city grow, and worked with conductor Robert Whitney on a plan to commission new works by many different composers from all around the globe. Thanks in part to a large Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1953, the project was vastly successful; Music Makes a City tells the story of the triumphs of the Louisville Orchestra and how it has helped the city, from the time of the Commissioning Project forward. Music Makes a City had premiere showings on Thursday, May 20, at the Brown Theatre and the Baxter Avenue Filmworks (both in Louisville); its regular theatrical engagement started at the Baxter Avenue Filmworks the next day.
Okka Kshanam– After the murder of a schoolgirl, the news channels in an Indian state all target the girl’s ex-boyfriend, and proclaim that he was her killer. When the media gets tension about the case near the breaking point, the state government appoints a panel of ten people- each of them with his or her own area of expertise- to look into the case, and see who is really guilty. Okka Kshanam– which sounds like it could be a Telugu-language variation on Twelve Angry Men, minus four men and plus two women- opened on Friday, May 21, at the Worldgate 9 in Herndon, VA. (And since the “trailer” button on the film’s official site doesn’t seem to be working, anyone interested in viewing a Youtube trailer for Okka Kshanam can click here.)
180° South– Jeff Johnson- a surfer and rock climber- embarks on a quest to retrace the 1968 trip of rock climber Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins from California to Chilean Patagonia. 180° South charts Johnson’s journey, and what he experienced on the way- from huge waves to snow-covered mountains and a difficult ocean voyage. Johnson also meets Chouinard and Tompkins themselves, and finds that preserving the nature and wildlife in Patagonia is now more important to them than the thrills they get from surfing and climbing. 180° South started on Friday, May 21, at two theaters (one each in Seattle and Minneapolis), and in two more (one in Ojai, CA, and the other in Encinitas, CA) on Saturday, May 22. (For additional information, see the film’s page on the site of its US distributor, Magnolia Pictures.)
Pearl– According to this film’s official site, “Chickasaw aviatrix” Pearl Carter Scott became the youngest licensed pilot in America in the 1920s. Famed pilot Wiley Post gave Ms. Carter Scott her first airplane ride at the age of 12, and she was so intrigued that Post gave her a flying lesson and convinced her father to buy her a plane of her own. Elijah DeJesus plays the title role in Pearl, which is (per its official site) “a production of the Chickasaw Nation.” (By the way- Ms. Carter Scott is still alive and 94 years old, according to her MySpace page.) Pearl opened at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa, OK, on Saturday, May 22.
Perrier’s Bounty– You might think that a dark crime comedy with a cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson and (the voice of) Gabriel Byrne would do at least a little business in the US. If your definition of “little” is sufficiently flexible, you would be correct- all of the sources I’ve checked indicate that Perrier’s Bounty made under $900 theatrically in the US, played at one theater for one week, and then dropped off the face of the earth (at least as far as American theaters are concerned). Granted, the reviews were mixed- not overwhelmingly negative, just mixed- but still…. Anyhow, Murphy plays Michael McCrae, a guy who owes money to Darren Perrier (Gleeson). Perrier is a gangster and is very determined to get the debt repaid- especially after McCrae’s friend Brenda shoots and kills one of Perrier’s thugs. Since McCrae’s father witnessed the killing, he joins his son and Brenda when they go on the run from the underlings of the now very angry Perrier…. Perrier’s Bounty started on Friday, May 21, at the IFC Center in New York City.
The Philosopher Kings– The custodians and maintenance workers at eight of the most important American universities and colleges are at the center of this documentary. According to the official site for the film, these folks are the ones “who see it all and have been through it all”- and the doc goes “[i]n search of wisdom found in unlikely places” by listening to the “untold stories of triumph and tragedy from the members of society who are often disregarded and ignored.” The Philosopher Kings opened a three-day run at the Maysles Cinema in New York City on Wednesday, May 12; a full-week engagement at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles began on Friday, May 21.
Pokkiri Raja (Born to Win)– I’ve read three different plot summaries for this one; two make it sound like a comedy, the third one describes a gritty crime melodrama. The official site for the film (and the trailers on it) helps a little- here, Pokkiri Raja looks like a comedy with serious/dramatic/action scenes as well. This would not be a surprise, since Pokkiri Raja hails from India (one of the reigning champions of genre-mix cinema). Mammootty- superstar of the country’s Malayalam-language film industry (it seems like a new Mammootty film is released every month or so)- plays Raja; both he and his brother Surya are rowdy types who get into fights with members of a rival gang. Raja then moves to another state, and rises through the ranks to become a big gangster boss. While Raja is away, Surya falls in love with the daughter of the local police commissioner, who despises Surya so much that he eventually takes out a contract on the young man’s life. Of course, it turns out that the out-of-town mobster who gets the contract to kill Surya is Raja himself- and of course, Raja discovers that the man he has agreed to kill is his own brother only after it is too late to back out…. Pokkiri Raja opened at the FunAsia Irving in Irving, TX, and the Golf Glen 5 in Niles, IL, on Friday, May 14.
Princess Kaiulani– As a civil war ravaged the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1888, the fighting forced the title character to leave her beloved native land and settle in England. Although she was heir to the throne in Hawaii, the princess is not regarded as royalty in her new home. Eventually, the seventeen-year-old princess falls in love with a young Englishman- but then she learns that Queen Liliuokalani, her aunt, has been overthrown and arrested. Princess Kaiulani then decides to go to the US, hoping that she can persuade the American people to restore the monarchy. Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World), Barry Pepper, Shaun Evans and Will Patton are all in the cast of Princess Kaiulani, which started on Friday, May 21, at thirty-three theaters (fourteen each in Hawaii and California, two each in Seattle and New York City, and one in Las Vegas).
Racing Dreams– Academy-Award-nominated filmmaker Marshall Curry directed this documentary about three young people (aged 11 to 13) who race in the World Karting Association, and dream of competing in NASCAR someday. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, they also must face the same problems that confront other kids at that stage in their lives. Racing Dreams– winner of the Audience Award for best Feature Length film at the 2009 Indianapolis International Film Festival- opened on thirty-two screens (six each in Texas and Georgia, five each in Florida and North Carolina, three each in Alabama and Tennessee, two in Arkansas, and one each in North Carolina and Michigan) on Friday, May 21.
Reel Injun– Although Westerns are rarities on theater screens these days, a great many were produced in America’s cinematic past- and a large number of these films featured native peoples as characters. Neil Diamond- a Cree filmmaker, not the singer/songwriter- directed this documentary, which examines how Hollywood has treated Indians over the years by presenting footage from films such as Stagecoach and Little Big Man alongside interviews with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Russell Means, Jim Jarmusch, and Sacheen Littlefeather. Reel Injun started at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa, OK, on Friday, May 21.
Ride the Divide– A race that lasts 2700 miles and goes along the route of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains may well deserve the title of “the world’s toughest mountain bike race” (as proclaimed on the official site for Ride the Divide). This documentary focuses on three participants in the race- including the first woman to take part- as they climb ever higher into the atmosphere, facing snow, exhaustion and injury along the way. Ride the Divide started a three-day run at the Starz Filmcenter in Denver on Thursday, May 20; it then returned to that same theater for a two-week engagement that began on Friday, May 28.
Sea Rex: Journey to a Prehistoric World– Live-action footage of a young woman in an aquarium serves as a gateway to 3D computer-animated scenes of underwater creatures from the earth’s distant past in Sea Rex, which was made for IMAX theaters. Sea Rex: Journey to a Prehistoric World opened at the Zion Canyon Giant Screen Theatre in Springdale, Utah on Friday, May 14.
The Shock Doctrine– Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross (The Road to Guantanamo) join forces again for this documentary, which asserts that war, torture, and crises are necessary for the survival and dominance of modern-day capitalism. The film was based on Naomi Klein’s 2007 book of the same name, and presents a variety of allegedly interconnected ideas and events from decades past and present (such as the rise of shock therapy in psychiatry, the economic theories of Milton Friedman, the overthrow of Salvador Allende, and the ongoing War on Terror) to make its points. The Shock Doctrine started on Friday, May 21, at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. (I couldn’t find an official site for the film- but the Film Center’s page for The Shock Doctrine can be found here.)
Solitary Man– Ben Kalmen used to have a big-time car dealership, but lost it all when he made some big-time mistakes. Now, Ben might be able to make a return to the auto biz- or his old habits might ruin everything all over again…. Michael Douglas is Ben; Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Jenna Fischer, Mary-Louise Parker, Jesse Eisenberg and Richard Schiff are in the supporting cast. Solitary Man- which was written and directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Knockaround Guys)- opened at one theater in California and three in New York City on Friday, May 21.
Summer in Genoa– Colin Firth plays Joe, a Chicago professor who takes his daughters to Genoa following the death of his wife (Hope Davis) in an accident. While the older of the two daughters starts to stay out late at night and explore her sexuality, the younger sees visions of her dead mother- and Joe sees himself growing more distant from both of his children. Catherine Keener is also in the cast of the film, and Michael Winterbottom (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; 9 Songs; 24 Hour Party People) directed. Summer in Genoa began a one-week theatrical run at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago on Friday, May 21; in lieu of an official site for Summer, here’s the film’s page on that theater’s site.
A Surprise in Texas: The Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition– Emmy-winning director/producer Peter Rosen (Who Gets to Call It Art?; Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes) made this documentary that goes behind the scenes during the three-week event, which took place in Fort Worth late last spring. Footage of the competitors performing is interspersed with scenes showing what they do off-stage to relieve the stress they are under over the course of the contest. A Surprise in Texas opened at six theaters in that state on Friday, May 14. (There doesn’t seem to be an official site for the film itself, but a page for the documentary on the Steinway Pianos site can be found here. Additional information can be found on the film’s Facebook page.)
Teliyadu– According to its official site, this Telugu-language film from India is a “message oriented, suspense thriller” and “family oriented movie” about two college students who become involved with computer hacking (against their will, from the sound of it). Teliyadu– which looks like something of an “outsider” production (especially from the second of the trailers on its site)- started on Friday, May 14, at the Movie City 8 in New Jersey.
Two in the Wave– The wave is the French New Wave, and the two are François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. This documentary tells the story of the relationship between the men- how they became friends due to their mutual love of cinema; how they both worked as writers for Cahiers du Cinéma until Truffaut became a director (and then helped the slightly-older Godard make the transition to filmmaker himself)- and how the political climate of the late sixties led to the end of their friendship. Two in the Wave opened at the Film Forum in New York City on Wednesday, May 19.
Whiz Kids– Whiz Kids documents the lives of seventeen-year-olds Ana Cisneros, Kelydra Welcker and Harmain Khan as they compete for spots in the Intel Science Talent Search- and as they deal with all of the other issues faced by high-school students. At the same time, the film shows how their passion for science makes them stand out at a time when (as a group) the standing of American teenagers in math and science has fallen to twenty-fourth in the world…. Whiz Kids opened on Sunday, May 10 (according to a now-vanished page on the film’s official site) or on the more-likely Friday, May 7 (per the site of the Santa Clara County Office of Education) at the Camera 3 Downtown Cinema in San Jose, CA.
Why Am I Doing This?– Asian-American actor Tony Chang thinks he is leading man material, but keeps getting offered roles as sushi chefs and delivery boys; Tony’s friend, African-American stand-up comic Lester Niles, wants to succeed with political and observational comedy, but his half-brother and manager keeps pressuring him to try more confrontational and angry material. Tamlyn Tomita, Joe Torry, Emma Caulfield, Obba Babatunde and Sheetal Sheth co-star in this comedy about trying to make it in Hollywood; it started on Friday, May 14, at the Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills.