Thinking Outside the Multiplex: National Edition (December 9-23, 2010)

by MIKE MACCOLLUM

This week’s column- delayed by more than just a bit by a bout of flu- showcases films that went into limited release in America from December 9 through December 23, 2010. (Don’t worry- this will get current, eventually.) Movies that opened in limited release, but later went into broad national release, are not covered, except by brief mentions here: The Fighter opened on December 10 at four theaters (the Arclight Hollywood, CA, the Lincoln Square 13 in New York City, the Boston Commons 19 in Boston, MA, and the Showcase Cinemas, Lowell, MA)- and Country Strong opened on December 22 at two theaters (the Arclight Hollywood, CA, and the Thoroughbred 20 in Franklin, TN).

*DECEMBER 9*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Mansara

Language: Telugu

Release information: Opened on December 9 at six US theaters- one each in California, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, and New Jersey; two other theaters- one in Kansas, the other in Missouri- started to play Mansara on December 11 and 12, respectively.

Other links: Additional information in English from idlebrain/com (scroll down to the bottom of the page); trailer on Youtube

*DECEMBER 10*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

Chicago Heights

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Chicago Heights is a series of inter-related vignettes that play out in the imagination of an elderly writer as he stares at the ceiling light in his bedroom. He senses that he is near death, and his mind has fractured. He does not know if the people he imagines are his creations, his memories, or his dreams, though we cannot help but sense that they are abstracted reflections on his coming of age… (More)

Director: Daniel Nearing

Cast: William Gray, Keisha Dyson, Andre Truss, Benny Stewart, Jay Johnson, Ron Jarmon, Jr., Simone Wilson, Terah Jene Weddington, Michaele Nicole

Release information: Opened at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

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The Company Men

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the proverbial American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands and fathers. Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching… (More)

Director: John Wells

Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Tommy Lee Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Patricia Kalember, Rosemarie DeWitt

Release information: Opened at the Century City 15 in Los Angeles and the Lincoln Square 13 in New York City.

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Six Days in Paradise

Genre: Action/Comedy

Plot synopsis: Several years ago, Rich McShane’s heavy gambling led his wife to leave him- taking their daughter with her. Now, Rick has changed his ways, and wants to reunite with his wife and child. Rick thinks that they might be living in Hawaii, so he hires his friend Eddie Masters to go there and look for them. While in Oahu, Eddie falls for Layla, who is in the process of breaking up with her dangerous boyfriend, Clarence. After Clarence hears about Eddie and Layla, Eddie is kidnapped and dumped in the ocean, miles from land. But Eddie knows how to defend himself, and vows to get even with Clarence- if he makes it back to shore…

Director: John Vidor

Cast: Michael Madsen, David Carradine, Danny Trejo, George Kennedy, Joanna Krupa, Vera Fontaine, Coco Ho, Kala Alexander, Brian Byrnes, Makua Rothman, Eddie Rothman, Kalani David, Bruce Glover

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

Other links: Page for Six Days in Paradise at the Sunset 5 on Laemmle Theatres’ site

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The Tempest

Genre: Drama/Fantasy/Comedy/Romance

Plot synopsis (official): In her adaptation of Shakespeare’s mystical thriller, The Temptest, Academy Award-nominated Julie Taymor brings an original dynamic to the story by changing the gender of the sorcerer Prospero into the sorceress Prospera, portrayed by Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Prospera’s journey spirals through vengeance to forgivenes as she reigns over a magical island, cares for her young daughter, Miranda, and unleashes her powers against shipwrecked enemies in this exciting, masterly mix of romance, tragicomedy and the supernatural.

Director: Julie Taymor

Cast: Helen Mirren, Russel Brand, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, Felicity Jones, Alfred Molina, David Strathairn, Ben Whishaw

Release information: Opened at three theaters in California, and two in New York.

Comments: I’ve never heard anyone describe The Tempest as a “mystical thriller” before, but I’m not exactly a Shakespeare scholar… And seeing Tom Conti’s name in the cast list here made me think of how excellent I thought he was in Reuben, Reuben- and how infrequently I’ve seen him in movies (or on TV) in recent years.

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You Won’t Miss Me

Genre: Drama/Comedy

Plot synopsis (official): A kaleidoscopic film portrait of Shelly Brown, a twenty-three-year-old alienated urban misfit. Starring Stella Schnabel, featuring Rene Ricard and introducing other notable New York personalities, the film gives pathos to the frenzy of the youthful desire for acceptance. Shot in a variety of styles and formats, YOU WONT MISS ME mixes non-actors with professionals, verité with staging, order with abstraction, to paint an evocative picture of a contemporary rebel.

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Cast: Stella Schnabel, Rene Picard, Simon O’Connor, Zachary Tucker, Borden Capalino (and Greta Gerwig, per the IMDb- although she isn’t mentioned on the official site, as far as I can tell)

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

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

All That I Love

Genres: Drama/Romance/Comedy/Music

Plot synopsis: All That I Love is the story of a group of friends who are experiencing a youth filled with music on the Polish coast in 1981, on the eve of the martial law crackdown on the Solidarity movement. Janek (Matthew Kosciukiewicz) is in love with Basia (Olga Frycz), like a modern Romeo, and is not able to come to terms with the fact that their love may be banned. The conflict between their families make the emerging relationship will be put to the test … In the foreground – the explosion of youth, music, first love, first rebellion, hunger, life, sex … all that is most beautiful. A youthful, idealistic world will be confronted with an absolute reality, and the characters will have to take difficult decisions, putting at stake their love and friendship …

Director: Jacek Borcuch

Cast: Matthew Kosciukiewicz, Olga Frycz, Jakub Gierszal, Mateusz Banasiuk, Igor Obloza , Andrzej Chyra, Anna Radwan, Katarzyna Herman, Marek Kalita

Language: Polish

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

Additional information: The synopsis above came from taking the Polish-language synopsis on the film’s official site, pasting it into Google Translate, and editing it a little; I also added some information from the site linked below.

Other links: Page for All That I Love on the site of Laemmle Theatres

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Band Baaja Baaraat

Genre: Romantic comedy

Plot synopsis (official): Shruti and Bittoo are just out of Delhi University. A chance and inopportune meeting brings them together to reluctantly start a tumultuous entrepreneurial venture as Wedding Planners. Their business enters the ups and downs of the lavish world of the glamour and glitz of Delhi baaraats and weddings that will test their friendship over time.

Director: Maneesh Sharma

Cast: Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh, Manu Rishi, Manmeet Singh

Language: Hindi

Release information: Opened on twenty-six screens in the US- six in New Jersey, five in California, four in Texas, three each in Illinois and New York, and one each in Washington state, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Connecticut.

Other links: Facebook page

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Cast Me If You Can

Genre: Romantic comedy

Plot synopsis (official): Hiroshi is an actor, who always plays supporting roles and lives in the shadow of his famous playwright father. Often mistaken for someone else, even occasionally for a kidnapper, Hiroshi struggles daily with his marginalized existence. But one day, Hiroshi’s luck changes. He meets his muse, an aspiring actress Aya, who doesn’t mistake him for anyone else. … (More)

Director: Atsushi Ogata

Cast: Toru Masuoka, Hiromi Nagasaku, Masahiko Tsugawa and Keiko Matsuzaka

Language: Japanese

Release information: Opened at the Viz Cinema in San Francisco.

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Family Pack

Genre: Comedy

Plot synopsis: Sultan and Tipu work on a farm in a village, while Birbal and Akbar toil in a tiny tailor’s shop in a city. But in spite of their different careers, Sultan and Tipu look like they could be the twins of Birbal and Akbar- which causes a great deal of confusion when the latter pair decide to steal a diamond, and the men cross paths.

Director: Anil

Cast: Adnan Sajid Khan, Akbar Bin Tabar, R. K. Mama

Language: Hindi

Release information: Opened at the Golf Glen 5 in Niles, IL.

Comments: I’m assuming that this has English subtitles, since it’s in Hindi.

Other links: Youtube trailer

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Frankie & Alice

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): After a series of inexplicable events, beautiful young Frankie Murdoch learns she suffers from multiple personality disorder. Working as a go-go dancer in Los Angeles in the early seventies, Frankie’s very existence is threatened by the surfacing of Alice . . .

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Cast: Halle Berry, Stellan Skarsgård, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson, Joanne Baron, Matt Frewer, Katharine Isabelle, Brian Markinson

Release information: Opened at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.

Additional information: All three of the production companies are Canadian, according to the IMDb- so that’s why it’s in this section.

Other links: Page for Frankie & Alice’s US distributor, Freestyle Releasing; trailer on Youtube

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Hemingway’s Garden of Eden

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): 1927. DAVID (JACK HUSTON), an American writer who stayed in Europe after serving as an aviator in the [?] WW1, and his beautiful new wife, CATHERINE (MENA SUVARI), an American heiress, embark on a luxurious honeymoon, chasing the sun around the South of France and Spain in their Bugatti, filling their days with fine wine, sunbathing and sex. Relishing their freedom, Catherine is full of plans to surprise her new husband but her mischievous fun makes David uncomfortable… (More)

Director: John Irvin

Cast: Mena Suvari, Jack Huston, Caterina Murino, Matthew Modine, Richard E. Grant, Carmen Maura

Release information: Opened on fourteen US screens- four each in California and Florida, three in Texas, and one each in Missouri, North Carolina, and New York.

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In Their Sleep

Genre: Thriller

Plot synopsis (official): After the brutal death of her 18 year-old son, Sarah’s life is in pieces. Late one night, her car accidentally hits Arthur, a young man the same age as her boy, who suddenly emerges out of the forest and onto the road. Wounded and frightened, he is running from a mysterious assailant, hunting him down after Arthur caught him red handed in the act of burglary… (More)

Directors: Caroline du Potet, Éric du Potet

Cast: Anne Parillaud, Thierry Frémont, Arthur Dupont, Jean-Hugues Anglade

Language: French

Release information: Opened at the IFC Center in New York with 12:20 AM showings on Saturday and Sunday, followed by 2:40 PM showings on (at least) Monday and Tuesday.

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Johnny Mad Dog

Genre: War drama

Plot synopsis (official): Today, in contemporary Africa. Johnny, 15, a kid-soldier with the look of a gangsta rapper, armed to the hilt, is inhabited by the mad dog he dreams of becoming. With his small commando [?]- No Good Advice, Small Devil and Young Major- he robs, pillages and slays everything in his path… Childhoods cut short, an Africa ravaged by absurd wars, a people trying, in spite of it all, to survive and to save their humanity.

Director: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Cast: Christophe Minie, Daisy Victoria Vandy, Dagbeh Tweh, Barry Chernoh

Language: English

Release information: Opened at the Facets Cinematheque in Chicago.

Other links: Site of co-production company Explicit Films; French site; trailer on Youtube

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Love, In Between

Genre: Romantic drama/Melodrama

Plot synopsis (official): Obstetrician So-young is happily married to university professor Ji-seok. One day, however, So-young realizes that Ji-seok is having an affair with his student Su-ji when she drops by his office. Angry and despairing, So-young unleashes an elaborate plot to befriend Su-ji, beginning with spying on her in yoga class… (More)

Director: Jeong Yoon-soo

Cast: Shin Eun-kyung, Jeoung Jun-ho, Shim Yi-young, Choi Jae-won

Language: Korean

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

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Map of the Sounds of Tokyo

Genre: Drama/Suspense

Plot synopsis (official): Ryu is a solitary girl whose fragile appearance is in stark contrast with the double life she leads, working nights at a Tokyo fishmarket and sporadically taking on jobs as a hit-woman. Mr Nagara is a powerful impresario mourning the loss of his daughter Midori, who has committed suicide. He blames David, a Spaniard who runs a wine business in Tokyo. Mr Nagara’s employee, Ishida, was silently in love with Midori and hires Ryu to murder David. A sound engineer, obsessed with the sounds of the Japanese city and fascinated with Ryu, witnesses this love story which searches the shadows of the human soul, reaching deep into places where only silence has the power of eloquence.

Director: Isabel Coixet

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, Sergi López, Min Tanaka, Takeo Nakahara, Hideo Sakaki, Manabu Oshio

Languages: Japanese, English

Release information: Opened at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

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No Problem

Genre: Crime comedy

Plot synopsis (official): Yash (Sanjay Dutt) and Raj (Akshaye Khanna) are two small time crooks and childhood buddies. Raj wants to lead an honest life, but alas, Yash always manages to do something that jeopardizes Raj’s chances of turning over a new leaf. When Yash robs the First Village Bank… (More)

Director: Anees Bazmee

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Akshaye Khanna, Kangana Ranaut, Anil Kapoor, Sushmita Sen, Neetu Chanra, Paresh Rawal, Suniel Shetty

Language: Hindi

Release information: Opened at sixty-four theaters in the US- nine in New Jersey, eight in California, five in New York, four each in Texas, Illinois, Florida and Virginia, three each in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, two each in Georgia, Maryland and Connecticut, and one each in Oregon, Washington state, Arizona, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; one more theater (in Arizona) started playing No Problem on Sunday, December 12.

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Four Friends

Language: Malayalam

Release information: Opened at the Maveli Twin Cinema in Spring Valley, New York.

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Sanikizhamai Sayangalam 5 Mani

Language: Tamil

Release information: Opened at the Towne 3 in San Jose, CA, and the Movie City 8 in Edison, NJ.

Other links: Information about the film in English on the site of IndiaGlitz (scroll down towards the bottom of the page)

DOCUMENTARIES

Bad Writing

Summary (official): Bad Writing is a documentary about a wannabe poet who sets off on a quest for answers about writing- bad writing, good writing, and the process in between. What he learns from some leading figures in the literary world will inspire anyone who has ever dreamt of creating art.

Director: Vernon Lott

With: Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Nick Flynn, Steve Almond, Yusef Komunyakaa, Kim Barnes, Claire Davis, Daniel Waters, Brenda Shaughnessy, Jenni Ferrari-Adler

Release information: Opened at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, CA, and the Roxie in San Francisco, CA (although the latter had only two screenings, both on the tenth). Several other theaters also played Bad Writing in its initial week of release as well; the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema- South Lamar started the film on Saturday, December 11, while the Sunshine Cinema in New York City had two screenings on Monday, December 13- the same day on which the Sundance Cinema in Madison, WI, had a single showing of the doc.

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Beats of Freedom (a.k.a. Beats of Freedom (or How to Overthrow a Totalitarian Regime the Use of a Homemade Amplifier))

Summary (official): “Beats of Freedom (or How to Overthrow a Totalitarian Regime with the Use of a Homemade Amplifier)” is a captivating film about the birth of rock music in Poland. Colorful memories of the greatest musicians and their surprising confessions make this film truly memorable. Give in to the hard sound and fascinating uncensored stories. Open your eyes and listen how Polish rock made history. In the times when life in Poland was controlled by the communist regime, music became an extremely powerful phenomenon. The Iron Curtain could not stop rock music… (More)

Directors: Leszek Gnoinski, Wojtek Slota

With: Marek Niedzwiecki, Krzysztof Skiba, Jurek Owsiak, Kazik Staszewski (Kult), Muniek Staszczyk (T.Love), Kora Jackowska (Maanam), Tomek Lipinski (Tilt and Brygada Kryzys), Krzysztof Grabowski (Dezerter)

Languages: Polish, English

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

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Beijing Taxi

Summary (official): BEIJING TAXI is a feature-length documentary that vividly portrays the ancient capital of China undergoing a profound transformation. The intimate lives of three taxi drivers are seen through a humanistic lens as they navigate a quickly morphing city, confronting modern issues and changing values. The three protagonists radiate a warm sense of humanity despite the struggles that each faces in adapting to new realities of life in the modern city… (More)

Director: Miao Wang

With: Bai Jiwen, Wei Caixia, Zhou Yi

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Release information: Opened at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn, NY.

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Do It Again

Summary (official): It is a quest. Geoff Edgers, a newspaper reporter dreading the approach of his 40th birthday, decides to take a most improbable leap. He sets out to find the still-surviving members of the long dormant British rock band, the Kinks (“You Really Got Me,” “Lola” and “Come Dancing”), to convince them to reunite. Never mind that he’s an American with just one connection to Kinks leader Ray Davies… (More)

Director: Robert Patton-Spruill

With: Geoff Edgers, Sting, Zooey Deschanel, Peter Buck, Paul Weller, Robyn Hitchcock, Clive Davis

Release information: Opened at The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA.

Other links: Trailer on Youtube

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Shoah

Summary (official): Twelve years in the making, SHOAH is Claude Lanzmann’s monumental epic on the Holocaust featuring interviews with survivors, bystanders and perpetrators in 14 countries. The film does not contain any historical footage but rather features interviews which seek to ‘‘reincarnate’’ the Jewish tragedy and also visits places where the crimes took place… (More)

Director: Claude Lanzmann

Languages: English, German, French, Hebrew, Polish, Yiddish

Release information: The 25th-Anniversary re-release of Shoah started on December 10 at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York City.

*DECEMBER 11*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

In Their Sleep

Genre: Thriller

Plot synopsis (official): After the brutal death of her 18 year-old son, Sarah’s life is in pieces. Late one night, her car accidentally hits Arthur, a young man the same age as her boy, who suddenly emerges out of the forest and onto the road. Wounded and frightened, he is running from a mysterious assailant, hunting him down after Arthur caught him red handed in the act of burglary.. (More)

Directors: Caroline du Potet, Éric du Potet

Cast: Anne Parillaud, Thierry Frémont, Arthur Dupont, Jean-Hugues Anglade

Language: French

Release information: Opened at the IFC Center in New York with 12:20 AM showings on Saturday and Sunday, followed by 2:40 PM showings on (at least) Monday and Tuesday.

*DECEMBER 15*

DOCUMENTARIES

Marathon Boy

Summary (official): MARATHON BOY is the story of a four-year-old boy who is plucked from the slums of India by his coach and trained to become India’s greatest runner, but what starts as a real Slumdog Millionaire turns into the stuff of film noir: a tale of greed, envy and broken dreams.

Director: Gemma Atwal

With: Budhia Singh, Biranchi Das

Languages: Oriya, Hindi, English

Release information: Opened at the Fallbrook 7 in West Hills, CA, and the Coliseum Cinemas in New York City.

Other links: Facebook page

*DECEMBER 16*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Nagavalli

Language: Telugu

Release information: Opened on twenty-three screens in the US- four in California, three each in Texas and New Jersey, two in Illinois, and one each in Washington state, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Connecticut. (In fact, some sources claim that the Connecticut theater, the Bloomfield 8, was playing Nagavalli on December 15- but it strikes me as unlikely that one theater would open the movie on the fifteenth, but twenty-two others would have to wait until the next day.)

Additional information: One cast member, Brahmanandam, has been in 875 movies since his 1987 debut, per the IMDb.

*DECEMBER 17*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

And Soon the Darkness

Genres: Horror/Suspense

Plot synopsis (official): Stephanie (Amber Heard) and Ellie’s (Odette Yustman) vacation to an exotic village in Argentina is a perfect ‘girl’s getaway’ to bask in the sun, shop and flirt with the handsome locals. After a long night of bar-hopping, the girls get into an argument, and Stephanie heads out alone in the morning to cool off. But when she returns, Ellie has disappeared. Finding signs of a struggle, Stephanie fears the worst, and turns to the police for help. But the local authorities have their hands full already… (More)

Director: Marcos Efron

Cast: Amber Heard, Odette Yustman, Karl Urban, Adriana Barraza, Gia Mantegna

Language: English

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

Additional information: A co-production between several US companies, a French company, and an Argentinian company, per the IMDb; since the majority of the companies were American, I thought this one fit best here. Also, this is a remake of the 1970 British film of the same name (which was set in France, not Argentina).

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Rabbit Hole

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Becca and Howie Corbett (NICOLE KIDMAN and AARON ECKHART) are returning to their everyday existence in the wake of a shocking, sudden loss. Just eight months ago, they were a happy suburban family with everything they wanted. Now, they are caught in a maze of memory, longing, guilt, recrimination, sarcasm and tightly controlled rage from which they cannot escape. While Becca finds pain in the familiar, Howie finds comfort… (More)

Director: John Cameron Mitchell

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Miles Teller, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Patricia Kalember, Julie Lauren, Sandra Oh

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

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Satan Hates You

Genre: Horror

Plot synopsis (official): Inspired by films from the golden age of religious cinema such as A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (1972), IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO? (1971) and STALKED (1969), SATAN HATES YOU is a graphic horror film that tells the stories of two individuals and their personal struggles with Lucifer himself. We follow Marc (Don Wood), a homicidal maniac driven by demons buried deep within his soul, and Wendy (Christine Spencer), Marc’s polar opposite, who lives life fast and hard without a second’s thought to the consequences. Their separate paths will eventually cross, but will it be on the road to salvation or the highway to hell?

Director: James Felix McKenney

Cast: Christine Spencer, Don Wood, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Michael Berryman, Debbie Rochon, Larry Fessenden, Pauley Perrette

Release information: Opened at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn, NY.

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

The Alien Girl

Genre: Action drama

Plot synopsis (official): Amidst a violent clash between two rival gangs in the Ukraine during the early 1990’s, everything hinges on a woman named Angela (aka The Alien Girl). She is the sister of a gang member who is about to cut a deal with the police to testify in court against members of his own gang. In order to exert influence over him before he testifies, the boss dispatches four of his enforcers who set off on a trip to the Czech Republic to bring Angela back to the Ukraine and hold her hostage. But what starts off as a war between four gang members and all those standing in their way soon becomes a game of manipulation, seduction and betrayal in which Angela plays the gang members off of each other…

Director: Anton Bormatov

Cast: Natalia Romanycheva, Alexander Golubkov, Anatoly Otradnov, Evgeny Mundun, Evgeny Tkachuk, Kirill Poluhin

Language: Russian

Release information: Opened at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, CA, the Village East Cinema in New York City, and the Cinemart Cinemas in Forest Hills, NY.

Other links: “Redband” trailer on Youtube (CONTENT WARNING: nudity and violence; the Redband (R-rated) trailer was the only one I could find, by the way)

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Casino Jack

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Inspired by true events that are too over-the-top for even the wildest imaginations to conjure, CASINO JACK lays bare the wild excesses and escapades of Jack Abramoff. Aided by his business partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), Jack parlays his clout over some of the world’s most powerful men with the goal of creating a personal empire of wealth and influence… (More)

Director: George Hickenlooper

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly Preston, Jon Lovitz, Rachelle Lefevre, Daniel Kash, Graham Greene, Maury Chaykin, Eric Schweig, Ruth Marshall, Yannick Bisson, Linda Goranson

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

Additional information: A Canadian production, per the IMDb- so that’s why I’ve listed Casino Jack in this section.

Also, this was the last film directed by George Hickenlooper (Hearts of Darkness, The Man from Elysian Fields) – and it was one of the last movies for character actor Maury Chaykin as well.

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Little Rose

Genres: Drama/Romance

Plot synopsis (official): In the United States 1967 was the Summer of Love and youth was concerned with music, drugs and free love, but in Eastern Europe the first new waves of Democracy were stirring in the Soviet Bloc states… Adam Warczewski, a well-known writer and university professor is suspected of clandestine contacts with anti-communist Western groups. The dreaded Polish Security Service assigns Roman Rozek to get the goods on the professor. Rozek pressures his girlfriend Kamila, a university secretary to spy on Warczewski and report back to him on the professor’s activities. In an effort to increase the value of her intelligence reports Roman pushes her to even become the professor’s lover, claiming it is to protect the nation… (More)

Director: Jan Kidawa-Blonski

Cast: Andrzej Seweryn, Magdalena Boczarska, Robert Wieckiewicz, Grazyna Szapolowska, Jan Frycz, Jacek Braciak, Krzysztof Globisz, Julia Kornacka, Izabella Olszewska

Language: Polish

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

DOCUMENTARIES

Nenette

Summary (official): Born in the jungles of Borneo, Nénette is a 40-year-old orangutan- and the oldest (and most beloved) inhabitant at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris. The latest film by legendary French documentarian Nicolas Philibert (To Be And To Have), Nénette is a captivating study of an enigmatic animal and our relationship to her.

Director: Nicolas Philibert

With: Nenette

Language: French

Release information:

Additional information:

Comments:

Other links: Page for Nenette (in English) on director Nicolas Philibert’s site

*DECEMBER 18*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Winter Wondershorts

Genre: Collection of shorts related to winter; most are animated, but one documentary is part of the group as well (see link below).

Plot synopsis: Various; see link below

Directors: Various; see link below

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

Other links: The IFC Center’s page for Winter Wondershorts, with plot synopses, directors, running times, and more (I couldn’t find an official site for this collection of shorts; this site has the most “official” information I could find online)

*DECEMBER 22*

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (AND OTHERWISE)

Somewhere

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Somewhere is a witty, moving, and empathetic look into the orbit of actor Johnny Marco (played by Stephen Dorff). You have probably seen him in the tabloids; Johnny is living at the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood. He has a Ferrari to drive around in, and a constant stream of girls and pills to stay in with. Comfortably numbed, Johnny drifts along. Then, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) from his failed marriage arrives unexpectedly at the Chateau. Their encounters encourage Johnny to face up to where he is in life and confront the question that we all must: which path in life will you take?

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Michelle Monaghan, Lisa Lu, Jo Champa

Languages: English, Italian

Release information: Opened at five US theaters- one each in California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts.

Other links: Sofia Coppola’s page for Somewhere

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Secret Sunshine

Genre: Drama

Plot synopsis (official): Sin-ae moves with her son Jun to Miryang, the town where her dead husband was born. As she tries to come to herself and set out on new foundations, another tragic event overturns her life.

Director: Lee Chang-dong

Cast: Jeon Do-yeon, Song Kang-ho

Language: Korean

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

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Tees Mar Khan

Genres: Action comedy (per the film’s Facebook page)

Plot synopsis (official): Only once in a blue moon is such a great criminal born who is fearless as well as shameless! Now is the blue moon and the great criminal is TEES MAAR KHAN. He steals, cons and cheats all with such alarming audacity that even shame shies away from him! He and his gang comprising of Dollar, Soda and Burger have managed to keep the police, world over, on their toes. Then one fine day international antique smugglers, the Johri Brothers, assign Tees Maar Khan the BIGGEST CON JOB OF HIS LIFE! He must rob antiques worth 500 crore rupees from a heavily guarded MOVING TRAIN! (More)

Director: Farah Khan

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Akshaye Khanna, Anil Kapoor

Language: Hindi

Release information: As far as I could tell, there was no official site listing the American theaters playing TMK- but I found seventy-nine theaters playing the film in its opening week: eleven in California, ten in New York, nine in New Jersey, seven in Texas, five in Virginia, four each in Pennsylvania and Florida, three each in Illinois and North Carolina, two each in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and one each in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Delaware.

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Toonpur Ka Superhero

Genres: Comedy/Adventure/Animation

Plot synopsis (official): Aditya (Ajay Devgan) a film superstar and his wife Priya (Kajol) have achieved all the success they have dreamed of. The children would rather have a father who is ‘Real life’ hero than a reel life hero. Aditya wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his children when suddenly, opportunity comes knocking on his door when he finds himself in Toonpur. The land of his children’s favourite cartoons, where he has to fight Toonasurs (bad toons) to save the Devtoons (good toons).

Director: Kireet Khurana

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Amey Pandya, Chinky Jaiswal, Mukesh Tiwari, Sanjay Mishra, Satish Sharma, Delnaz Paul, Shereveel Vakil, Tanuja, Raza Murad

Language: Hindi

Release information: A lot of sites seem to indicate that this was released on December 24- but my notes (dated December 22) indicate that Toonpur Ka Superhero was playing in nineteen American theaters on December 22- six in New Jersey, three each in California and Texas, two each in Illinois and New York, and one each in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

Other links: Facebook page

*DECEMBER 23*

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Isi Life Mein

Genre: “Drama”, per the IMDb- but the official site (and the trailer) make it look like Isi Life Mein has more than a few romantic comedy moments before things turn serious.

Plot synopsis: Rajnandini, a young woman from a small town, goes to Mumbai to further her education. She meets Vivaan, and the two fall in love- even though he has many “modern” ideas, whereas she has “traditional” Indian values instilled by her family. In spite of their differences, their romance progresses- until the inevitable obstacles arise…

Director: Vidhi Kasliwal

Cast: Akshay Oberoi, Sandeepa Dhar, Mohnish Bahl, Daisy Irani, Dalip Tahil, Salman Khan

Language: Hindi

Release information: Opened at the Naz 8 Cinemas in Artesia, CA, on December 23, according to the theater’s schedule page- but most of the other theaters playing the film started it on December 24 or 25: four in New Jersey, three more in California, two in Texas, and one each in Washington state, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, and Connecticut.

Other links: Facebook page

FILMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (WITHOUT SUBTITLES)

Best Actor

Language: Malayalam

Release information: Opened at the FunAsia, Irving, TX, on December 23- and at the Maveli Twin Cinema in Spring Valley, NY, on December 24.

Other links: Trailer on Youtube

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Manmadham Ambu

Language: Tamil

Release information: Opened on December 23 in thirteen theaters- four in Texas, two in Illinois, and one each in Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and New Jersey. Over the next week, it also opened on additional screens in the US: four each in California and Illinois, two each in Florida and Massachusetts, and one each in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Connecticut.

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Ragada

Language: Telugu

Release information: Opened on December 23 in twenty-five US theaters- six in California, three in New Jersey, two each in Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina, andone each in Washington state, Arizona, Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Delaware. Over the next week, it also opened on four additional screens- one each in Texas, Michigan, Virginia, and Connecticut.

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