Thinking Outside the Multiplex: National Edition (September 17-30, 2010)

by MIKE MACCOLLUM

So here we go again with yet another column on limited theatrical releases- and once again, we have quite a wide of variety of movies on the list. The films covered in this column are mostly those released during the period September 15 through September 30- more than a bit behind the times, but I am hoping to be caught up by the end of this month.

Also, you will notice a few movies below that were released before September 15. Some of these are movies I either didn’t know about at all until just recently, or I didn’t have enough information about their theatrical releases until now. Never Let Me Go and One Hundred Mornings should have been mentioned in the previous edition of this column, and would have been- if not for some sort of foul-up on my part when I was typing the column.

As to the movies mentioned below, I’ve already seen a few (One Hundred Mornings, Jack Goes Boating, Catfish, Like Dandelion Dust and Robot). Out of the others, I am most interested in seeing Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Enter the Void, The Temptation of St. Tony, The Man from Nowhere, Buried, The Desert of Forbidden Art, On the Bowery, The Big Uneasy and Nuremberg on the big screen. The first two sound like the theatrical experience would add something hard to replicate on a smaller screen, while I think the others just sound cool, and/or fascinating, and/or very well done.

And if any of the movies below strike you as especially worthy, let us know with a comment- I’d love to hear your opinions.

Also, you may notice another change in this week’s column, as a part of its ongoing evolution: If I know that a film is in a language other than English, and does not have English subtitles in theatrical release, it will be placed in a separate category- which I have imaginatively named “Films from around the world (without subtitles)”- with minimal information (title, language, release info). This was done at my editor Helen’s suggestion, to cut down on the massive length of this feature- and since it was deemed unlikely that anyone reading the column would be dying to see these films.

Now in some cases- like The Man from Nowhere and Maumi 2 from Korea- I suspect that the films in question may not have subtitles during their initial theatrical runs (at theaters that play Korean films for audiences who speak Korean), but will be shown with subtitles when (or if) they go into wider release. In at least another case- Sa’ yo Lamang, from the Philippines- I just don’t know if the prints playing American theaters have English subtitles. In all of these cases, I am giving the movies the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that they do (or will) have subtitles during all or part of their US theatrical runs.

*MAY 18*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

Yeardley

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): JEFF YEARDLEY, who cannot think beyond his own sexual needs. After being fired for sexual harassment, his wife, SUSAN, leaves with their child and files for a separation. Quickly he’s subjected to the intrusive eye of the courts, visitation supervisors and social workers who monitor and second guess all of his decisions. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Jeff falls victim to a ploy by two manipulative women… (more)

Director: Heath C. Michaels

Cast: Jesse Bernstein, Saskia Grace Holmes, Garrett Geoghegan, Rebecca Holopter, Madison Palasini, Dave Heuvel

Release information: Opened at sixteen theaters on Tuesday, May 18- five in North Carolina, three in Florida, two in Minnesota, and one each in Colorado, South Carolina, North Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Washington state.

Other links: Facebook page

*AUGUST 11*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

Fruit Fly

Genres: Musical/Comedy/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Bright, effervescent and witty, Fruit Fly gives a musically gay twist to this Tales of the City-esque drama with sparkling results. H.P. Mendoza’s (Colma:The Musical) critically-acclaimed directorial debut follows Bethesda (L.A. Renigen), a young performance artist in search of her career and birth mother in San Francisco. Moving into the city’s vibrant queer neighborhood, and surrounding herself with a loving gay family, she becomes the “fruit fly” of choice for her circle of gay male buddies, while uncovering long-hidden family secrets. Full of quirky, melodic and uplifting musical/dance performances, Fruit Fly is a glittering mash-up that will have you humming for days.

Director: H. P. Mendoza

Cast: L. A. Renigen, E. S. Park, Aaron Zaragoza, Mike Curtis, Theresa Navarro

Release information: Opened at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, where it had four shows per day on August 11 and 12 (ahead of a full-week run at the Quad Cinema in New York City that started on September 24).

Other links: Fruit Fly’s page on the site of its US distributor, TLA Releasing.

*AUGUST 30*

DOCUMENTARIES

The Big Uneasy

Summary (official): Almost five years ago, a disaster struck New Orleans. The media said it was a natural disaster primarily affecting poor black people. On both counts, the media was wrong. In his feature-length documentary The Big Uneasy, humorist and New Orleans resident Harry Shearer gets the inside story of a disaster that could have been prevented from the people who were there. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the flooding of New Orleans, Shearer speaks to the investigators who poked through the muck as the water receded… (more)

Director: Harry Shearer

With: Harry Shearer, John Goodman, Ivor van Heerden, Bob Bea

Release information: The Big Uneasy screened at 161 theaters across the country on August 30. At some of these theaters, it had two screenings in a night- or two screenings in the space of a week- and either one of those is enough to count as a release in my book. I didn’t have the time to check and see which theaters had just one screening of The Big Uneasy, and which ones showed it two or (possibly) more times- but I can give you the breakdown by state for the August 30 screenings: twenty screens in California, twelve in Texas, eleven each in Michigan and New York, ten in Florida, eight each in Tennessee and North Carolina, seven each in Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts, six in Alabama, five in Louisiana, four each in Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, three each in Minnesota, Arkansas and Mississippi, two each in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington state, and one each in Hawaii, Kentucky, Indiana, and Washington, DC. The Big Uneasy also had full-week theatrical runs at the Chalmette Movies and the Prytania Theatre in New Orleans starting on September 3.

*SEPTEMBER 15*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Never Let Me Go

Genre: Drama (with a hint- or more- of science-fiction and suspense, apparently)

Plot synopsis (official): Kathy (Oscar® nominee Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION), Tommy (Andrew Garfield, BOY A, RED RIDING) and Ruth (Oscar® nominee Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT) live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but are not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school and the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them, they must also confront the deep feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to pull them apart.

Director: Mark Romanek

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins

Release information: Opened at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark, Los Angeles- and at the Sunshine Cinema and the Lincoln Square 13 (both in New York City).

Additional information: Based on the book of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day)

Other links: Facebook page

*SEPTEMBER 16*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

One Hundred Mornings

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): WHO WOULD YOU TRUST IF THE WORLD WAS FALLING APART… Set in a world upended by a complete breakdown of society, two couples hide out in a lakeside cabin hoping to survive the crisis. As resources run low and external threats increase, each of them faces a critical decision they never thought they’d have to make…

Director: Conor Horgan

Cast: Ciarán McMenamin, Alex Reid, Rory Keenan, Kelly Campbell

Release information: Opened at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles.

Comments: I saw this one, and thought it was worth a look. Don’t expect a lot of action and special effects, though- it isn’t that kind of post-apocalyptic movie.

DOCUMENTARIES

I Am Comic

Summary (official): Through candid interviews and unprecedented backstage access, this ode to Stand-Up explores the world of the working comedian and reveals a funny psychological profile of its practitioners. Also, we follow a retired comic’s attempt to get back on stage after a thirteen-year absence. Ritch Shydner, at the top of his game in the 1980’s, had HBO specials, shot five pilot TV shows, and had numerous late night appearances (Carson, Letterman, Leno, etc.) but never reached the big time. Ritch gives… (more)

Director: Jordan Brady

With: Ritch Shydner, Franklin Ajaye, Tim Allen, Tom Arnold, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Louis C.K., Phyllis Diller, Jeff Foxworthy, Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo, Greg Giraldo, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kathy Griffin, Andy Kindler, Carlos Mencia, Larry Miller, Brian Regan, Paul Rodriguez, Roseanne, Bill Scheft, Robert Schimmel, Sarah Silverman, and many others.

Release information: Opened at the Gold Town Nickelodeon in Juneau, Alaska. (The theater’s site says that I Am Comic opened on September 17, but the film’s Facebook page says- in a posting made on September 16th- “Juneau today is the day! “I AM COMIC” at Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater!.” I went with the film’s Facebook page, since they didn’t make another posting on the 17th saying something like, “Oops, sorry, we actually open today, not yesterday.”)

Other links: I Am Comic’s Facebook page

*SEPTEMBER 17*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

El Superstar: The Unlikely Rise of Juan Francés

Genre: Comedy

Plot synopsis (official): Born Jonathan French in Beverly Hills, California and orphaned at 3 months, this young boy was adopted by his Mexican nanny, Nena (Lupe Ontiveros) and step-father, E.J. (Danny Trejo) and raised to be a good, God-fearing Mexican with a love for ranchero music. At age 33, in his “Jesus Year,” and now known as Juan Francés, he is a gardener, valet-parker, short-order cook, nanny and janitor by day, but has been blessed by the Virgin of Guadalupe with the talent to sing like the angels. He takes his ranchero act

Director: Amy French

Cast: Spencer John French, Lupe Ontiveros, Danny Trejo, Elisa Bocanegra, Maria Esquivel, David Franco, Alan Oppenheimer

Release information: Opened at the Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica, CA.

Additional information: Norman Lear and George Lopez were the executive producers.

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The Freebie

Genres: Comedy/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Katie Aselton) have an enviable relationship built on love, trust, and communication- they still enjoy each other’s company and laugh at each other’s jokes. Unfortunately, they can’t remember the last time they had sex. When a dinner party conversation leads to an honest discussion about the state of their love life, and when a sexy bikini photo shoot leads to crossword puzzles instead of sex, they begin to flirt with an idea for a way to spice things up. The deal: one night of freedom, no strings attached… (more)

Director: Katie Aselton

Cast: Dax Shepard, Katie Aselton

Release information: Opened at the Angelika Film Center in New York City.

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The Happy Poet

Genres: Comedy/Romance/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Bill, an out-of-work poet, puts his heart, soul, and last few dollars into starting an all-organic mostly-vegetarian food stand, but complications with the business jeopardize his dreams for a hot dog-free future.

Director: Paul Gordon

Cast: Paul Gordon, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek, Liz Fisher

Release information: Opened at the ReRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn.

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Heaven’s Rain

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): HEAVEN’S RAIN presents the extraordinary true story of the Richard and Marilyn Douglass Family. Richard was a renowned Baptist Minister and Marilyn was an accomplished singer and loving mother. Their two children, Brooks (16) and Leslie (12) were just beginning a bright and promising future when two drifters randomly choose the Douglass home as the scene of a merciless and senseless crime. Brooks and Leslie survived. Their parents didn’t. Heaven’s Rain invites the audience into the beautiful and meaningful memories of Richard and Marilyn Douglass, told through the eyes of their son Brooks. The audience witnesses true joy, love and… (more)

Director: Paul Brown

Cast: Mike Vogel, Erin Chambers, Taryn Manning, Marilyn McIntyre

Release information: Opened at the Fallbrook 7 in West Hills, CA, the Bricktown 16 in Oklahoma City, OK, the Cinema 69 in McAlester, OK, and the 89er Theatre in Kingfisher, OK.

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Jack Goes Boating

Genres: Drama/Romance/Comedy

Plot synopsis (official): Jack Goes Boating is a tale of love, betrayal, friendship and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples… Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Connie (Amy Ryan) are two single people who on their own might continue to recede into the anonymous background of the city, but in each other begin to find the courage and desire to pursue their budding relationship. In contrast, the couple that introduced them, Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), are confronting unresolved issues in their marriage. Jack is a limo driver with vague dreams of landing a job with the MTA… (more)

Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega

Release information: Opened at the The Landmark in Los Angeles, the Arclight Hollywood in Hollywood, the Lincoln Square 13 in New York City, and the Union Square Stadium 14 in New York City.

Additional information: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s first feature film as a director.

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Kings of Devon

Genre: Crime drama

Plot synopsis (official): In 1982, Bengalies [sic?] ruled the streets of Chicago. Arif Choudhury comes to Chicago on the request of his uncle but gets caught in the middle of a bitter rivalry between Devon’s two biggest gangs, Apon Desh and BD-Chicago. Accused of murder and on the run from authorities, Arif befriends Johnny-who pledges to help Arif and get revenge on Sikander Saab. Did Arif commit murder or is he being framed? Will they get revenge on Sikander Saab? Who will climb the mountain and become the king of Devon…?

Director: Rahsaan Islam

Cast: Ridwan Islam, Tamim Chowdhury, Bakhtiar Hafeez, Rahsaan Islam

Language: Bengali

Release information: Opened at the Towne 3 in San Jose, CA, the Golf Glen 5 in Niles, IL, and the Movie City 8 in Edison, NJ. (The film’s official site also mentioned another theater, the New Fun Plex in Houston, TX- but I could never find any evidence that Kings of Devon was at that theater at the time.)

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Last Day of Summer

Genres: Drama/Comedy

Plot synopsis (official): This unpredictable story follows an agitated fast-food employee, Joe, who’s reached his breaking point from being harassed and tormented by his boss. Finally on the last day of summer, Joe snaps and decides to take revenge on his boss but his plans are disrupted when a quick glance from a beautiful girl catches his attention leading him to kidnapping her instead, changing both their lives forever.

Director: Vlad Yudin

Cast: DJ Qualls, Nikki Reed, William Sadler

Release information: Opened at the Empire 25 in New York City.

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Leaves of Grass

Genres: Comedy/Drama/Suspense thriller

Plot synopsis (official): Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass is a comic thriller seen through the dual perspectives of identical twins Bill and Brady Kincaid (both played by two-time Academy Award® nominee Edward Norton). Bill, a classical philosophy professor at Brown University, returns home upon news of his brother Brady’s murder in a drug deal gone awry. Bill quickly learns that Brady’s death has been grossly exaggerated, as he’s swept up into one of his brother’s crazy schemes. Alongside his eccentric mother (Susan Sarandon) and a beautiful woman named Janet (Keri Russell), Bill participates in his brother’s wild plan… (more)

Director: Tim Blake Nelson

Cast: Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Tim Blake Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon

Release information: Opened at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa, OK, the Village East Cinema in New York City, and the Charles Theatre in Baltimore, MD.

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

The Anchorage

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): The Anchorage is an 87-minute narrative feature film shot in 2006 in Sweden. It describes the life of a middle-aged woman, Ulla (Ulla Edström), over the course of three fictional days. On its face, it’s a film about the landscape that she inhabits, her passage of time on this rugged forest island, and the appearance of an unfamiliar deer hunter who disturbs her quiet corner of the world.

Directors: Anders Edström, C. W. Winter

Cast: Ulla Edström, Marcus Harrling, Elin Hamrén, Bengt Ohlsson

Language: Swedish

Release information: Opened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City.

Additional information: The Anchorage is a US/Swedish coproduction, per the IMDb, but I thought that it belonged in this section, given the language, cast, and setting/filming location.

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The Girl

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): In a lonely house on the countryside a ten year old girl takes her first steps from childhood into the world of grown-ups. The girl has to spend her summer with her bohemian aunt when her parents go to Africa to work with an aid project. But the aunt isn’t reliable and when she goes off sailing with a man she has met, the girl decides to take care of herself. A tragic and humorous journey starts, a journey that will put the girl through many tests. Through her neighbours and occasional visitors to the house she meets an absurd and insensitive grown-up world. Losing contact with reality, she becomes more and more withdrawn… (more)

Director: Fredrik Edfeldt

Cast: Blanca Engström, Shanti Roney, Annika Hallin, Calle Lindqvist

Language: Swedish

Release information: Opened at the Cinema Village in New York City.

Other links: Page for The Girl (with subtitled trailer) on the site of its production company, Acne Films; Links to images from the film, its poster, press kit, and trailer- on the site of its US distributor, Olive Films

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Ik Kudi Punjab Di

Genres: Drama/Romance

Plot synopsis (official): Ik Kudi Punjab Di is the story of a girl who challenges our male dominated society and wants to be treated at par with the boys. We all say that there is no difference between boy and a girl but, we all know that truth is something else. Our heroine understands that her struggle is not going to be easy but she is prepared to make any sacrifice for that. For that she has to fight with her lover, her parents and relatives… (more)

Director: Manmohan Singh

Cast: Jaspinder Cheema, Aman Dhaliwal, Guggu Gill, Gurpreet Chuggi

Language: Punjabi

Release information: Opened at the Fremont 7 in Fremont, CA, and the Big Cinemas Bombay in Flushing, NY; also started at the Sierra Vista Cinemas 16 in Clovis, CA, on September 18.

Additional information: It seems like most Indian films in languages other than Hindi do not have English subtitles when they play American theaters- but I found a site claiming that this one is subtitled, so I put it in this section.

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Maumi 2 (a.k.a. Maeumee 2; a.k.a. Hearty Paws 2; a.k.a. Heart Is… 2)

Genres: Comedy/Drama

Plot synopsis: When a mother thinks that her son Dong-wuk is spending too much time with his dog and her three puppies, she sends the canines to her brother for a while. When two jewel thieves see the puppies, they decide to kidnap one so they can kill it and stuff it with jewels. But the mother dog, Maumi, sees the crooks take her pup, and runs after them. Dong-wuk visits his uncle and realizes that Maumi and a puppy are missing, so he starts to look for them.

Director: Lee Jeong-cheol

Cast: Kim Hwang-seong, Lee Jeong-cheol, Yoo Jae-hwan, Yoo Kyeong-eun

Language: Korean

Release information: Opened at the MPark 4 in Los Angeles.

Comments: The trailer makes this look like a cross between 101 Dalmatians and Home Alone (especially with regard to the two thieves, who look like real bumblers in the preview)- so that part about the thieves planning to kill a puppy was a bit of a surprise, to say the least.

Other links: Information on the film in English

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Sa’ yo Lamang (a.k.a. Only Yours)

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Dianne Alvaro (Bea Alonzo) seems to have a happy family. She and her mom (Lorna Tolentino) just bought a house for them, her younger siblings are doing great at school, and her boyfriend of two years is already preparing for their future together. But everything in her life shatters when her dad, Franco (Christopher De Leon), returns after ten years… (more)

Director: Laurice Guillen

Cast: Lorna Tolentino, Christopher De Leon, Diether Ocampo, Bea Alonzo, Igi Boy Flores, Dominic Ochoa

Languages: Tagalog, English

Release information: Opened in eight US theaters- three in California, two in New Jersey, and one each in Hawaii, Washington state, and Nevada.

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Skirt Day

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Screen veteran Isabelle Adjani stars as Sonia Bergerac, an instructor at a school for “difficult” children. As if that role were not demanding enough, Sonia’s husband suddenly and inexplicably leaves her, and she encounters considerable problems adjusting to her work environment. She thus finds herself careening toward a nervous breakdown, with seemingly no way to stop. Compounding matters is Sonia’s decision to buck the principal’s rule of no skirts for female teachers, a policy she resents. Sonia’s world explodes into chaos one afternoon when she discovers a gun… (more)

Director: Jean-Paul Lilienfeld

Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Denis Podalydès, Yann Collette, Jackie Berroyer, Nathalie Besançon, Marc Citti

Language: French

Release information: Opened at the Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills, CA.

Other links: Facebook page; trailer with English subtitles

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The Temptation of St. Tony

Genres: Fantasy/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): To appreciate Veiko Õunpuu’s artful tale of moral confusion, let’s begin where he does- with Dante’s Inferno: Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark. Tony, a middle-aged, midlevel manager, leads a quiet life. But one day, he starts to question the value of being good. In a series of bizarre encounters in which he fires his employees, witnesses his wife’s infidelity, and meets a soon-to-be kidnapped girl (never mind the severed hands and mystery dog), Tony gradually becomes unhinged from reality. Õunpuu’s second feature asks, what good is goodness when all it brings is loss? He gleefully supplants our sense of narrative context with avant-garde flourishes…. (more)

Director: Veiko Õunpuu

Cast: Taavi Eelmaa, Ravshana Kurkova, Tiina Tauraite, Sten Ljunggren, Denis Lavant, Rain Tolk

Languages: Estonian, Russian, English, French

Release information: Opened at the Cinema Village in New York City.

Other links: Images from the film, a poster, a press kit, and the trailer- on the site of The Temptation of St. Tony’s US distributor, Olive Films (scroll down to get to the links for this film)

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Undertow (a.k.a. Contracorriente)

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Miguel is a handsome, young and beloved fisherman in Cabo Blanco, a small fishing village in the Northern coast of Peru, where the community has deep-rooted religious traditions. Miguel is married to the beautiful Mariela, who is 7-months pregnant with their firstborn, but Miguel harbors a scandalous secret: He is having a love affair with another man, Santiago, a painter who is ostracized by the townsfolk for being agnostic and open about his sexuality… (more)

Director: Javier Fuentes-León

Cast: Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo, Cristian Mercado

Language: Spanish

Release information: Opened at the Bridge Theatre in San Francisco.

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Adi Nuvve (a.k.a. Addi Nuvve; a.k.a. Adhi Nuvve; a.k.a. Adii Nnuvvee) in Telugu; opened at the Serra Theatres in Milpitas, CA, and Walnut Theaters in Garland, TX); Saradaga Kasepu (in Telugu; opened at the Serra Theatres in Milpitas, CA; Walnut Theaters in Garland, TX; the Worldgate 9 in Herndon, VA; and the Movie City 8 in Edison, NJ).

DOCUMENTARIES

Brutal Beauty: Tales of the Rose City Rollers

Summary (official): Roller derby is an American contact sport that has seen a nationwide revival in recent years. Brutal Beauty: Tales Of The Rose City Rollers tells the story of Portland, Oregon’s league, the Rose City Rollers… Through unlimited access to team bouts, practices and the private lives of the players, Brutal Beauty puts the viewer on the inside track to this high-contact, and sometimes dangerous, sport. In their own words, the Rose City Rollers tell how roller derby saved their souls.

Director: Chip Mabry

Release information: Opened at the Screenland Theatre at the Crossroads in Kansas City, MO.

Additional information: The IMDb gives January 9, 2010, as the film’s release date; as far as I can tell, however, that was the date of a one-show-only premiere screening.

Other links: Brutal Beauty’s page on the site of its US distributor, Cinema Purgatorio

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Catfish

Summary (official): In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.

Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

With: Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost

Release information: Opened at twelve theaters- six in California, four in New York, and one each in Texas and New Jersey.

Comments: I saw Catfish a few weeks ago- several months after I saw a trailer for the film. As I watched the movie, it started to become apparent that the trailer did not do a very good job representing the actual contents of the film- and I think that the summary quoted above is similarly misleading. I won’t go into details here, but I think anyone who goes into this movie expecting a “shocking… reality thriller” will be at least somewhat disappointed. Don’t get me wrong- I didn’t think Catfish was a bad movie. However, the trailer and the synopsis set people up to expect something that the film itself really is not- and when viewers realize that the movie they are watching isn’t what they were expecting, it could make them forget about the actual film itself, and lead them to overlook the film’s qualities.

Other links: Facebook page for Catfish

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Summary (official): Werner Herzog… puts 3-D technology to a profound use, taking us back in time over 30,000 years. Werner Herzog is a wizard at conjuring unforgettable visions, from the ship dragged over the mountain in Fitzcarraldo to the Antarctic landscape in Encounters at the End of the World. Now he brings us the earliest known visions of mankind: the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave art of southern France, created more than thirty thousand years ago… Since Chauvet’s discovery in 1994, access has been extremely restricted due to concerns that overexposure, even to human breath, could damage the priceless drawings. Only a small number of researchers have ever seen this art in person… (more)

Director: Werner Herzog

Narrated by: Werner Herzog

Release information: Opened at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.

Other links: Information on Cave of Forgotten Dreams on the site of its US distributor, IFC Films

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The Desert of Forbidden Art

Summary (official): How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule artists who stay true to their vision are executed, sent to mental hospitals or Gulags. Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist’s works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art… (more)

Directors: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev

With the voices of: Edward Asner, Sally Field, Ben Kingsley

Languages: English, Russian

Release information: Opened (with one show on September 17 and another on September 18) at the Nickelodeon Nights at Acme Screening Room in Lambertville, NJ; a full-week’s run at the 4-Star Theatre in San Francisco started on September 24.

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On the Bowery

Summary (official): On The Bowery was the first of Lionel Rogosin’s award-winning films, garnering the Grand Prize for Documentary at the 1956 Venice Film Festival, the British Award for Best Documentary and nomination for an Oscar® as best documentary… By choosing ordinary people caught up in universal problems – homelessness, racial discrimination, war and peace, labor strife, and poverty – Rogosin made his point poignantly. Interestingly, he chose the Bowery and its inhabitants as his first subject – intending to reveal the reality of people who were drinking away their lives in an attempt to escape from it. At the famed White Horse Tavern (just around the corner from Rogosin’s apartment at 96 Perry Street), Rogosin met… (more)

Director: Lionel Rogosin

With: Ray Salyer, Gorman Hendricks, Frank Matthews

Release information: Opened at the Film Forum in New York City.

Additional information: Originally released in 1957.

Comments: Some scenes in the film were scripted, according to several reviews I’ve read online, but most scenes were not- and as the summary above indicates, On the Bowery was widely regarded as a doc at the time of its initial release- so that’s why I put it in this section.

Other links: The Film Forum’s page for On the Bowery

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The Other City

Summary (official): In every city, there’s another city that visitors rarely see. But this other city isn’t just anywhere-it’s in Washington, D.C. The very city that is home to the capitol of the most powerful country in the world has an HIV/AIDS rate that is not only the nation’s highest, but rivals some African countries. “The Other City” introduces us to the people who live in the shadow of the Capitol but remain almost invisible to the lawmakers and lobbyists who live there. It’s about politics and ideology, corruption and bureaucracy, and an epidemic that grew out of control… (more)

Director: Susan Koch

Release information: Opened at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC, and the Chelsea Cinemas in New York City.

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Picture Me

Summary (official): Picture Me, a raw and personal video diary, charts model Sara Ziff’s rise from fresh face to one that adorns billboards and magazines around the world. Filmmaker Ole Schell and Ziff co-direct, lifting the veil on the world of high fashion modeling, from photo shoots with celebrated photographers to runway shows in New York, Milan, and Paris. This intimate account features in-depth interviews with noted photographers and designers, and showcases personal footage shot by the models themselves, giving voice to those who are often seen, but rarely heard.

Directors: Ole Schell, Sara Ziff

With: Sara Ziff, Missy Rayder, Cameron Russell, Diana Dondoe, Caitriona Balfe, Nicole Miller, Karl Lagerfeld

Release information: Opened at the Angelika Film Center in New York City.

Other links: Picture Me’s page on the site of its US distributor, Strand Pictures

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Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?

Summary (official): From the director of The Real Dirt on Farmer John comes a profound, alternative look at the tragic global bee crisis. Juxtaposing the catastrophic disappearance of bees with the mysterious world of the beehive, Queen of the Sun weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heart-felt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world. Featuring Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva, Queen of the Sun reveals both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.

Director: Taggart Siegel

With: Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk, Vandana Shiva, Carlo Petrini

Release information: Opened at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR.

Additional information: The film’s site indicates that it opened on September 17, but the theater’s site seemed to indicate that the film started on September 18- but maybe I missed something on the theater’s site.

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Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo

Summary (official): ‘Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo’ goes behind prison walls to follow convict cowgirls on their journey to the 2007 Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo. In 2006, female inmates were allowed to participate for the first time. In a state with the highest female incarceration rate in the country, these women share common experiences such as broken homes, drug abuse and alienation from their children. Since 1940, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary has held an annual ‘Prison Rodeo’. Part Wild West show and part coliseum-esque spectacle…. (more)

Director: Bradley Beesley

Release information: Opened at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, TX, and the IFC Center in New York City.

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Tehran Without Permission

Summary (official): A few months before the Iranian presidential election of June 2009, the director Sepideh Farsi in Tehran went to film the city and its inhabitants with a simple mobile phone to be able to turn in any discretion. It is the portrait of a city, but also a snapshot of Iranian society to better understand the social explosion that followed the disputed outcome of the election. (Note: I couldn’t find an English-language official site for the film, so I went to the French site for the film- linked in the title above- and cut and paste the synopsis there into Google Translate; what you see above is the result.)

Director: Sepideh Farsi

Language: Persian

Release information: Opened at the Village 8 in Louisville, KY.

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3 Billion and Counting

Summary (official): Dr. Rutledge and his team take an in depth look into a disease that has killed more people than any disease ever known- Malaria. They interview African, Indian, and US Governments, charitable organizations, scientists, politicians, doctors, clinics, victims, and survivors. They explore and expose the politics of domestic and international policies and find the evidence that the public never truly understood. What they find is astonishing. The greatest ecological genocide in the known history of man is laid bare- the 1972 ban of an extraordinary life-protecting chemical DDT. This is politics… (more)

Director: Dr. D. Rutledge Taylor

With: Dr. D. Rutledge Taylor

Release information: Opened at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

Additional information: 3 Billion and Counting was co-produced by actress/director/producer Helene Udy, per the film’s official site.

*SEPTEMBER 23*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Elsamma Enna Aankutty (a.k.a. A Boy Named Elsamma; in Malayalam; opened at the Norwalk 8 in Norwalk, CA, and the Golf Glen 5 in Niles, IL)

*SEPTEMBER 24*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

Buried

Genres: Suspense/Mystery/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Paul Conroy is not ready to die. But when he wakes up 6 feet underground with no idea of who put him there or why, life for the truck driver and family man instantly becomes a hellish struggle for survival. Buried with only a cell phone and a lighter, his contact with the outside world and ability to piece together clues that could help him discover his location are maddeningly limited. Poor reception, a rapidly draining battery, and a dwindling oxygen supply become his worst enemies… (more)

Director: Rodrigo Cortés

Cast: Ryan Reynolds; also with the voices of Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, Erik Palladino, and Anne Lockhart

Release information: Opened at eleven theaters- three each in California, Illinois and New York, and two in Texas.

Additional information: According to the IMDb, Buried is a Spanish/US/French co-production; most of the actors seem to be American, as is the writer, apparently- but the director is Spanish, and it was shot in Spain. I tossed a coin as to which section to put this one in, and it wound up here.

**********

Howl

Genre: Biographical drama

Plot synopsis (official): James Franco stars as the young Allen Ginsberg-poet, counter-culture adventurer, and chronicler of the Beat Generation. In his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out style, Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs, and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career: the poem HOWL. Meanwhile, in a San Francisco courtroom, HOWL is on trial. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn) sets out to prove that the book should be banned… (more)

Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Cast: James Franco, Jon Hamm, Treat Williams, Mary-Louise Parker, Bob Balaban, David Strathairn, Alessandro Nivola, Jeff Daniels

Release information: Opened at six theaters- three in California, and three in New York City.

Additional information: The first narrative feature from the directors, whose previous credits include Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Celluloid Closet, and Paragraph 175.

**********

Like Dandelion Dust

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): “Like Dandelion Dust” is a compelling drama about a young boy who lives an idyllic life with his adoptive parents on the coast of Florida. It’s a postcard childhood until the day they receive a disturbing phone call: his birth parents want Joey back. A judge’s decision could tear him away from the only home he’s ever known. One family is determined to keep the son they love, the other to begin a new life, one they’ve always dreamed of, and rise above the challenges of alcoholism and domestic abuse that have plagued them. Joey’s future hangs in the balance… (more)

Director: Jon Gunn

Cast: Mira Sorvino, Barry Pepper, Kate Levering, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Cole Hauser

Release information: Opened at twenty-six theaters- seven in Georgia, three each in California, Michigan and Alabama, two in Texas, and one each in Colorado, Florida, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington state.

**********

Pete and Cleo

Genre: Comedy

Plot synopsis (official): From the award winning Holt Hamilton Productions comes the hilarious adventure comedy of two brothers born and raised in Fort Defiance, Arizona. Cleo (Beau Benally, Blue Gap Boy’z), a college loving student who is working on his master’s degree, returns to the Navajo Reservation over spring break to spend time with his family. While back on the ‘rez’, Cleo’s older brother Pete (Ernest David Tsosie, III, Blue Gap Boy’z), who never has or ever plans to leave the ‘rez’ and who still lives at home, wants nothing to do with his annoying little ‘white educated’ brother… (more)

Director: Travis Holt Hamilton

Cast: Ernest Tsosie III, Beau Benally, Ethel Begay, Travis Holt Hamilton

Languages: English, Navajo

Release information: Opened at the Harkins Valley Art in Tempe, AZ, the Red Rock 6 in Gallup, NM, and the Animas 10 in Farmington, NM.

Other links: Trailer on Youtube

**********

Strapped

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): A routine trick at a man’s apartment propels a cynical hustler into a series of strange and life-changing encounters in this stunningly photographed drama from San Francisco-based Joseph Graham. Tall and lanky with a mop of unruly dark hair, the young man makes for an attractive prostitute… (more)

Director: Joseph Graham

Cast: Ben Bonenfant, Nick Frangione, Paul Guerrier, Carlo D’Amore

Release information: Opened at the Quad Cinema in New York City.

**********

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Plot synopsis (official): One night, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) wakes up with a sudden wave of panic over thoughts of mortality. Abandoning Helena (Gemma Jones), his wife of forty years, Alfie sets out to relive the pleasures of his youth. Devastated, Helena tries to kill herself, and then, finding no consolation from medicine and therapy, seeks out the help of a fortune teller… (more)

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Pauline Collins, Ewen Bremmer

Release information: Opened at six theaters- three each in (or near) Los Angeles and New York City.

Additional information: A US/Spanish co-production, per the IMDb; even though it was shot in England, this seems much more like an American film than a Spanish film, so I put it in this section.

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

About Elly

Genres: Drama/Mystery

Plot synopsis (official): After many years living in Germany, Ahmad is visiting Iran. His old university friends organize a three-day break on the Caspian Sea. The joyful Sepideh plans the reunion but, unbeknownst to her colleagues, invites Elly, her daughter’s nursery school teacher. Ahmad, exiting an unhappy German marriage, would like to settle down with an Iranian woman. The friends, realizing why Sepideh has invited Elly, pay her particular attention and laud her qualities. On the second day an incident occurs which leads to Elly’s disappearance. The joyful atmosphere evaporates… (more)

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Taraneh Alidousti, Mani Haghighi, Shahab Hosseini

Language: Persian

Release information: Opened at the Village 8 in Louisville, KY.

Additional information: This was Iran’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, per the film’s official US site. Also, the director won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, according to the page linked below.

Other links: About Elly’s page on the site of its US distributor, Regent Releasing

**********

Colin

Genres: Horror/Action /Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Our hero Colin is bitten by a zombie; he dies and returns as one of the undead. We follow him as he wanders through suburbia during the throes of a cadaverous apocalypse. Through his encounters with objects, places and people, we learn who Colin was and more pertinently, what he has now become. Including a broad daylight zombie versus human street battle, an epic housebound siege and bags of gore. Colin is the must see Zombie phenomenon.

Director: Marc Price

Cast: Alastair Kirton, Daisy Aitkens, Kate Alderman, Leanne Pammen

Release information: Opened at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago.

**********

Enter the Void

Genres: Drama/Thriller

Plot synopsis (official): ENTER THE VOID is a cinematic roller-coaster ride… Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta star in the visceral journey set against the thumping, neon club scene of Tokyo, which hurls the viewer into an astonishing trip through life, death, and the universally wonderful and horrible moments between.

Director: Gasper Noé

Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz De La Huerta, Cyril Roy, Emily Alyn Lind

Languages: English, Japanese

Release information: Opened at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles, the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, and the IFC Center in New York City.

Comments: Director Noé has made several controversial films in the past (I Stand Alone, Irreversible), and Enter the Void is cut from the same cloth, from what I’ve read. Also, the IMDb lists two running times: 160 minutes, and 142 minutes. I was interested to see which version was playing in US theaters, so I looked around a bit online, and found this page from when Enter the Void opened at the IFC Center. The theater claimed that the film ran only 137 minutes- and you would think that they would know the correct running time, since their corporate sibling IFC Films is releasing EtV in the US. (Also, the first two show times for the film at the IFC Center were 1 PM and 3:35 PM- and it seems unlikely that they could have showed the uncut version of the film on that schedule, assuming that the same screen was used for both showings.) Anyhow, I’m not certain that all US theaters showing the movie are getting the cut version- but if the cut-down variant is the one showing in NYC, it seems likely that that’s the version that other theaters in the US would get as well. Per the IMDb, the edited version leaves out Enter the Void’s seventh reel; it apparently runs nine reels, uncut.

(Also, Enter the Void apparently features at least some footage where the director uses unusual sounds, spinning camera movements and bright/flashing colors in an attempt to simulate a psychedelic drug trip. At least one location that showed the film warned that people with epilepsy should not watch it.)

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Pranchiyettan and the Saint (in Malayalam; opened at the Maveli Twin in Spring Valley, New York); Shikkar the Hunt (in Malayalam; opened at the FunAsia Irving in Irving, TX, and the Bollywood 6 in Houston, TX)

(I got an error message about a MIME application when I tried to check the link for Pranhiyettan’s site, but it does appear to be the official site; I think the problem is with the computer I’m using. But if the official site doesn’t work on your computer either, you might want to try the Wikipedia page for the film.)

DOCUMENTARIES

Armadillo

Summary (official): ARMADILLO is an upfront account of growing cynicism and adrenaline addiction for young soldiers at war. Mads and Daniel are on their first mission in Helmand, Afghanistan. Their platoon is stationed in Camp Armadillo, right on the Helmand frontline, fighting tough battles against the Taliban. The soldiers are there to help the Afghan people, but as fighting gets tougher and operations increasingly hairy, Mads, Daniel and their friends become cynical… (more)

Director: Janus Metz (a.k.a. Janus Metz Pedersen)

Language: Danish

Release information: Opened at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, CA, and the Coliseum Cinemas in New York City.

Other links: Trailer with English subtitles

**********

Cash Crop

Summary (official): Undercover for a year and a half, musician and award-winning filmmaker Adam Ross, explores America’s #1 cash crop: marijuana. California is the world’s 6th largest economy. Marijuana is its largest cash crop: #1 in 12 states, in the top three in 30 states; an estimated $35 billion a year business. Cash Crop is filmed in high definition with an original soundtrack by the director. Take a West Coast adventure following the historic Spanish Camino Real up the coast… (more)

Director: Adam Ross

Release information: Opened at the Minor Theatre in Arcata, CA

**********

Dudamel: Let the Children Play

Summary: A group of children in various cities around the world gather around the mesmerizing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic: Gustavo Dudamel. As educational institutions underestimate the arts, a movement emerges with the hopes of thousands of children who tell us that music is a universal right. (Note: This may be an official summary from the film’s press book, or it might not be. I did find it several different places online, however (like here and here)- and it was just about all I could find online about the film itself, apart from the cast and director, so I thought I should present it verbatim.)

Director: Alberto Arvelo Mendoza

With: Gustavo Dudamel, John Williams, Quincy Jones, Placido Domingo, Daniel Barenboim

Release information: Opened at the Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA, and the Coliseum Cinemas in New York City.

**********

March of the Living

Summary (official): March of the Living tells the story of the last generation of Holocaust survivors traveling to Poland with thousands of teenagers from around the world to revisit the sites of the Holocaust and retrace the Death March from Auschwitz to Birkenau, in a journey of remembrance. Filmed in Brazil, Germany, Poland, Israel and the US, the film tells the moving story of the survivors’ hope of passing down their history and memory of the Holocaust to the next generation… (more)

Director: Jessica Sanders

Languages: English, Portuguese

Release information: Opened at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, and the Village East Cinema in New York City.

Other links: Trailer on the IMDb; March of the Living’s page on the site of production company Filmland International (scroll down to get to the relevant section)

**********

A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism

Summary (official): Imagine not being able to engage with the world around you. Imagine not being able to express your feelings, dreams and aspirations to anyone, even if those feelings, dreams and aspirations are in no way less or inferior to those of other people. Imagine having to depend upon the assistance of others with every mundane task, like dressing or feeding yourself. Imagine living with all of these limitations, despite being of sound mind — aware of everything that is going on around you but incapable of letting anyone know. A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism… tells the story of Margret, a mother who has done everything in her power to help her son. Keli is eleven years old and is severely autistic – his mother doesn‘t even know if he understands Icelandic… (more)

Director: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson)

With: Temple Grandin; narrated by Kate Winslet

Languages: English, Icelandic

Release information: Opened at the Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills and the Quad Cinemas in New York City.

**********

100 Voices: A Journey Home

Summary (official): 100 Voices: A Journey Home” is a compelling and moving musical documentary that uniquely tells the history of Jewish culture in Poland. It highlights the current resurgence of Jewish culture through the personal reflections and musical selections of a group of cantors and acclaimed composer Charles Fox (“Killing Me Softly”, “I Got A Name” and many more) who made an important historical mission to the birthplace of Cantorial music… (more)

Directors: Matthew Asner, Danny Gold

Release information: Opened at the Century City 15 in Los Angeles and the Empire 25 in New York City. (The film also was shown on many screens across the US on September 21, through Fathom Events. But each of these theaters showed the film only once on September 21, as far as I can tell, and I don’t count one-time-only showings- even if they occur at many theaters, simultaneously- as a “release”.)

**********

Tibet in Song

Summary (official): Tibet in Song is both a celebration of traditional Tibetan folk music and a harrowing journey into the past fifty years of cultural repression inside Chinese controlled Tibet. Director and former Tibetan political prisoner, Ngawang Choephel, weaves a story of beauty, pain, brutality and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film. The beauty of traditional Tibetan folk music is showcased through a variety of working songs, songs about family and the beauty of the land. These rarely seen performances are deftly juxtaposed against startling footage of the early days of the Chinese invasion… (more)

Director: Ngawang Choephel

Languages: Tibetan, English

Release information: Opened at the Cinema Village in New York City.

**********

Waiting for “Superman”

Summary (official): When disaster strikes in America, heroes rush in. … But what if, right now, there is a hidden catastrophe spreading quietly, insidiously through our nation’s cities, towns, and communities- and yet we have the power to stop it? What if our children and their futures- were in peril? Who will become a hero now? From Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director of ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ comes another stirring, must-see clarion call of our times: ‘Waiting for Superman,’ a deeply personal exploration of the current state of public education in the U.S. and how it is affecting our children. Fueled by his conscience and electrified by the possibilities for change, Guggenheim sets off on a probing journey into the lives of five unforgettable kids… (more)

Director: Davis Guggenheim

With: Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee

Release information: Opened at four theaters- two in the Los Angeles area (the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark) and two in New York City (the Sunshine Cinema and the Lincoln Square 13).

*SEPTEMBER 25*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

FrICTION

Genres: Semi-documentary/Mystery/Comedy/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): In creating this film, we asked the simple question: What would happen if you were scripted to behave badly?… Filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to a private high school where he creates a movie about a real couple and the student who comes between them. Through the process of making the film, hidden truths about the real lives of the actors playing themselves are revealed, and the line between fiction and reality blurs. What remains is part documentary, part fiction, in a one of a kind story that will keep you guessing long after the shattering conclusion.

Director: Cullen Hoback

Cast: Jeremy Mathison, Amy Mathison, August Thompson, Cullen Hoback

Release information: Opened at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR.

Additional information: At least one online source claimed that this movie opened on the 24th. But I could find it at only one theater, the Hollywood in Portland- and that theater’s site said that Friction started there on the 25th, not the 24th. The film’s official site also says that it opened on the 25th- so that’s why I have it under this date, not the 24th.

Other links: Facebook page

DOCUMENTARIES

Wake Up

Summary (official): Jonas Elrod was leading an ordinary life until he woke up one day to a totally new reality. He suddenly could see and hear angels, demons, auras and ghosts. The documentary movie WAKE UP follows this fascinating story of an average guy who inexplicably developed the ability to access other dimensions. Physicians gave him a clean bill of health and were unable to provide an explanation. What was it? Why was it happening to him? One thing was certain for this 36-year old man… (more)

Directors: Jonas Elrod, Chloe Crespi

Release information: Opened at the Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica, CA (with one show per day on the 25th and the 26th).

*SEPTEMBER 29*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Nine Nation Animation

Genre: Animation compilation

Plot synopsis (official): A cat and a mouse carry on a dysfunctional relationship in a futuristic landscape. A Chinese monk sets out on foot with a tiger during the Tang dynasty and happens upon the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. Two blue collar workers dissect the meaning of “normal” life, as the world crumbles around them. A box of matches succumb, to their detriment, to the appeal of a cigarette. Four people recount their various encounters-triumphant or terrifying, euphoric or down-to-earth- with an unforgettable rite of passage. The World According to Shorts presents a selection of recent award-winning animated short films from the world’s most renowned festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Annecy, Clermont-Ferrand and others.

Directors: Kajsa Naess, Burkay Dogan, M. Sakir Arslan, The Blackheart Gang, Patrick Pleutin, David O’Reilly, Jonas Geirnaert, Veljko Popovic, Robert Bradbrook, Jonas Odell

Languages: Norwegian, Farsi, Chinese, English, Swedish

Release information: Opened at the IFC Center in New York City.

Other links: Facebook page

DOCUMENTARIES

Nuremberg (a.k.a. Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today) (WARNING: Film’s official site has some disturbing images)

Summary (official): One of the greatest courtroom dramas in history, Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today shows how the four allied prosecution teams – from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union – built their case against the top Nazi leaders. As documented in the film, the trial established the “Nuremberg principles,” laying the groundwork for all subsequent prosecutions, anywhere in the world, for crimes against the peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Director: Stuart Schulberg (and/or Pare Lorentz; the film’s official site lists Schulberg as director, adding that he worked “under the aegis of Pare Lorentz”- who has the sole directorial credit on the IMDb’s page for the film)

Languages: English, German, French, Russian

Release information: Opened at the Film Forum in New York City.

*SEPTEMBER 30*

DOCUMENTARIES

Automorphosis

Summary (official): What if you could morph your car into a mobile work of art, and drive it down the road for all to see? What would it look like? What would the world think of you? How would you be changed? AUTOMORPHOSIS looks into the minds and hearts of a delightful collection of eccentrics, visionaries, and just plain folks who have transformed their autos into artworks. On a humorous and touching journey, we discover what drives the creative process for these unconventional characters. And in the end, we find that an art car has the power to change us — to alter our view of our increasingly homogeneous world.

Director: Harrod Blank

With: Harrod Blank, Uri Geller

Release information: Opened at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles.

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

The Man from Nowhere (a.k.a. This Man– the film’s English-language title on the IMDb)

Genres: Action/Crime/Suspense Drama

Plot synopsis (official): His only friend called him ‘the man from nowhere’… Taesik, a former special agent becomes a loner after losing his wife in a miserable accident and lives a bitter life running a pawnshop. He only has a few customers and a friend named Somi, a little girl next door. As Taesik spends more and more time with Somi, he gets attached to her. Then Somi is kidnapped by a gang, and as Taesik tries to save Somi by becoming deeply associated with the gang his mysterious past is revealed…

Director: Lee Jeong-Beom

Cast: Won Bin, Kim Sae-Ron

Language: Korean

Release information: Opened at the CGV Cinemas in Los Angeles.

**********

Robot

Genres: Comedy/Science Fiction/Action/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): A human who is not born but is created. He can dance, sing, fight, is water and fire resistant. He can do all that a human can and more. He feeds on electricity. He takes instructions literally. Where a human can lie to save himself this andro-humanoid robot Chitti cannot lie. Trouble shooting – Where he has a razor sharp memory and can memorize an entire telephone directory by just running through the pages, he cannot understand human emotions. Dr. Vasi upgrades Chitti’s processor… (more)

Director: S. Shankar

Cast: Rajnikanth, Aishwarya Rai, Danny Denzongpa, Karunas

Languages: Tamil (this was the original version of the film, under the title Enthiran)- but it was also released in two other versions/variations: one dubbed into Hindi (under the title Robot), the other dubbed into Telugu (with the title Robo).

Release information: It was very hard to track down information on the release of this movie, given the multiple language variations- and since I was relying on several sources that I thought (at the time) had complete theater listings for each version of the film (although I later found out that that was not the case). Here’s what I did find:

Supposedly, the Tamil version went out on sixty-four screens in the US- but I could find only twenty-four of them at the time: six in California, two each in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and one each in Ohio, Georgia, Minnesota and Connecticut. All of those theaters opened the film on September 30; two more (one each in California and New York) started to play Enthiran on October 1.

The Hindi-dubbed version apparently played on thirty-nine screens in the US during its opening week, but I found only eleven of them at the time. Four theaters (two in Texas, and one each in Indiana and Minnesota) had showings starting on September 30; seven other venues (two in New Jersey, and one each in California, Texas, Illinois, Georgia and North Carolina) started to play the film on October 1.

And while the Telugu-language version supposedly was on thirty-six US screens during its opening week, I found only eighteen of them. Fifteen US theaters (three in California and Texas, two in New Jersey, and one each in Virginia, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and Connecticut) had screenings starting on September 30, while two others (both in California) started to show the film on October 1- and one theater in Massachusetts opened Robo on October 2.

Additional information: Rajnikanth plays both the robot, Chitti, and the scientist who creates him, Dr. Vasi.

Comments: Even though I’ve seen dozens and dozens of Indian movies, this was still one of the most unusual films I’ve ever seen.</strong

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