The Weekend Warrior: February 5 – 7

Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

UPDATE: Not much new here except that Dear John‘s advance ticket sales are pointing to a lot bigger Friday though it will probably still lose the weekend to Avatar as it picks up the slack on Saturday and Sunday. Many of the Oscar-nominated movies are getting hefty theater boosts to try to bring in those who may be interested in the movies but the biggest boost will go to Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart which will expand nationwide into over 800 theaters having been in theaters for far less time. There’s a chance that Lee Daniels’ Precious might make another bid to get into the low-end of the Top 10 but it’s likely that it and An Education will end up just outside it.

1. Avatar (20th Century Fox) – $23.7 million -24% (up .1 million)

2. Dear John (Screen Gems/Sony) – $23.0 million N/A (up 1.7 million)

3. From Paris with Love (Lionsgate) – $14.1 million N/A (down .2 million)

4. Edge of Darkness (Warner Bros.) – $9.0 million -47% (down .1 million)

5. When in Rome (Touchstone/Disney) – $7.2 million -42% (same)

6. Tooth Fairy (20th Century Fox) – $7.0 million -30% (same)

7. Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight) – $4.7 million +52% (up 1.2 million and one place)

8. The Book of Eli (Warner Bros.) – $4.6 million -48% (same)

9. Legion (Screen Gems) – $3.2 million -55% (same)

10. Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros.) – $2.5 million -40% (down .2 million)

Weekend Overview

It’s Super Bowl weekend and just about everyone in New Orleans, Indianapolis and the surrounding areas will be out of commission on Sunday, and likewise, a good amount of guys and even women who never watch football will be huddled around the television, effectively cutting off the business most movies will do on Sunday. Even so, two movies opening wide will try to bring in enough business on Friday and Saturday to make up for it, while taking on the unstoppable juggernaut that is Avatar.

Less likely to be affected by the sports fervor will be Lasse Hallström’s romantic drama Dear John (Screen Gems), based on the 2006 Nicholas Sparks novel pairing Channing Tatum (Step Up) with Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) for the story of a long-distance romance that will be bringing in the teen girls and older women looking for something to see with their girlfriends. What could be better than a little bit of pre-Valentine’s Day escapist romance? It should start the weekend out with enough business on Friday and Saturday to finally offer a threat to James Cameron’s Avatar but we think it will have to settle for a tight second place as Avatar wins again.

Because guys will need something to see and do on Friday nights–and most of them won’t be caught dead in Dear John without their girlfriend, wife or a date–John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Myers (“The Tudors”) have teamed up for Pierre (Taken) Morel’s action-comedy From Paris With Love (Lionsgate), which should bring in a good number of guys in its first two nights, but will have its legs chopped at the knees by the Super Bowl on Sunday, which ultimately will hold it back to third place.

Also Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight), which has gotten a ton of Oscar buzz for the award-winning performance by Jeff Bridges, is expanding nationwide into over 500 theaters, which should be enough for it to get into the bottom half of the Top 10 following the Oscar nominations.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Israel’s Oscar selection, the crime-drama Ajami (Kino International), which you can read about below.

This weekend last year wasn’t Super Bowl weekend—that was the previous week—but one week later, four new movies opened and only the romantic dramedy He’s Just Not That Into You (New Line/WB) was able to bring in enough business to make a serious play to win the weekend, grossing nearly $28 million in 3,175 theaters. Liam Neeson’s action-thriller Taken dropped to #2 with $20.5 million (a minor drop of 17%) followed by Henry Selick’s stop-motion animated Coraline (Focus Features), which grossed a solid $16.9 million in just 2,300 theaters. It fared better than Steve Martin’s comedy sequel The Pink Panther 2 (Sony), which opened with $11.6 million in nearly a thousand more theaters, opening poorly compared to the original movie years earlier. The lowest opener of the weekend was the action-thriller Push (Summit) starring Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning, which grossed $10 million in roughly the same number of theaters as Coraline. The Top 10 grossed $124 million that weekend but that amount might be hard to surpass with the Super Bowl on the same weekend this year.


THE BATTLE CRY

I had a couple ideas for what I wanted to write about this week but some of this week’s releases reminded me of one of the thoughts that was going through my mind in recent weeks, and that was whether Europe and the rest of the world might be blowing the U.S. out of the waters in terms of developing and producing quality filmmakers and filmmaking?

If you look at this week’s “Chosen One” and Honorable Mention, they’re both great foreign language films, and the two wide release offerings this week are also both directed by European filmmakers who have made waves in this country with their English-language releases. As someone who regularly tries to catch a wide variety of foreign films, it’s become obvious to me that if you look at the quality of the foreign films released in this country, they tend to be of a much higher caliber of filmmaking than the majority of movies released in the United States, whether they’re independently financed or produced by the studios.

Sure, we’ve produced some great filmmakers over the years, whether it’s Martin Scorsese or Clint Eastwood or Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino, but how many new and young filmmakers has this country produced in recent years that have really blown moviegoers away? I’d go so far as to say that Jason Reitman is one of the younger generation who will probably be considered one of the best from this country, although even he’s considered more Canadian than American, so does he even count?

Europe has produced world-class filmmakers the likes of Jacques Audiard, Pedro Almodovar, Michael Haneke and many more, while Asia has Bong Joon-Ho, Park Chan-wook, Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-wai and dozens of others. Realizing what lucrative commodities these international filmmakers can be, producing high-quality movies for far less money than their American counterparts, Hollywood has taken notice and some of the many foreign filmmakers who have made waves into Hollywood-style filmmaking such as Hungary’s Nimrod Antal, Neill Blomkamp and Gavin Hood from South Africa, and Taken‘s Pierre Morel among dozens of others.

While our national government doesn’t put a lot of effort into promoting the film industry, most other countries have a Film Fund and/or a lottery to help support filmmakers who have an idea or a vision. By comparison, independent filmmakers in the U.S. who have an idea for a movie have to beg their friends, max out their credit cards or find financiers willing to shell out money to support their vision.

Granted, there are a lot of great film schools in this country and every year, thousands of would-be filmmakers pay the tuition to learn their craft, but filmmaking in the United States seems to be far more about commerce than it is about art. Even American indie filmmakers looking to produce something artsy have to think about who might possibly buy and distribute their movie so that others will have a chance to see it.

Meanwhile, other countries understand that film is first and foremost ART and filmmakers are free to explore some of their craziest ideas knowing there are audiences both in their country and abroad who will appreciate their films for what they’re meant to be. These audiences aren’t looking for simple cookie cutter storytelling or filmmaking, but things that challenge them mentally and emotionally, something that leaves a lasting impression, which is why we see so much originality coming from outside the country. Even so you’ll have a trouble finding a foreign film, even the most acclaimed or critically-lauded, doing big business in American theaters, because there just aren’t many Americans who’ll give foreign films a chance even as Hollywood quickly jumps on them to remake into English. (It’s actually surprising that Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds did as well as it did because it’s the closest an American filmmaker has gotten to making a European film in many years.) The Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In is a perfect example of this because that was clearly one of the best movies of 2008 despite making a fraction of any American horror or vampire movie.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country just as much as the next guy, but when it comes to movies, the best of America rarely meets or surpasses the best of other countries. So Americans reading this can continue to shout “USA! USA!” all they want, but when it comes to filmmaking, there’s no denying Europe and Asia and South America are head and shoulders above us when it comes to offering great quality films from some of the best filmmakers in the world and the United States seems to be falling behind and showing no signs of catching up.

So let me know what you think about this, whether or not you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear from some of you who enjoy foreign films as much as I do and have seen this growing phenomenon in the recent years.


Dear John (Screen Gems)
Starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Henry Thomas, Richard Jenkins, Keith Robinson
Directed by Lasse Halstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, Casanova, An Unfinished Life, The Hoax, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Shipping News); Written by Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall)
Genre: Romance, Drama
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “What would you do with a letter that changed everything?”
Plot Summary: John Tyree (Channing Tatum), a young soldier on leave, falls in love with college student Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) when they meet on her spring vacation, and they try to sustain that love over seven years as he is sent overseas and they try to stay in touch with a series of letters.

Analysis:

Romantic dramas are nothing new, nor are romantic movies targeted towards teen girls who still optimistically believe in romance and haven’t had their heart broken into millions of pieces just yet. Even older women, who should know better, enjoy fictionalized romance especially when it comes to what read. Along comes Nicholas Sparks, the master of romantic fiction, who has written many bestselling books that have been eaten up by voracious, mostly female readers, and over the last ten or eleven years, that phenomenon has carried over to the movie theaters.

Sparks’ first novel to come to the big screen was Message in a Bottle (actually his second novel) in 1999, followed by A Walk to Remember three years later, but it wasn’t until 2004 when his first novel The Notebook was turned into a hugely successful film where Hollywood started going a little crazy looking for similar books to adapt. The Notebook opened lightly with $13 million but had some of the best legs of that summer, making it one of the surprise sleeper hits that year. Sparks’ most recent adaptation was Nights in Rodanthe reuniting Richard Gere and Diane Lane, but it didn’t find nearly as much success. Dear John is one of Sparks’ more recent novels, released in 2006, so it’s potentially going to be capitalizing more on the readers who enjoyed that book than “Rodanthe,” which had a six-year gap. (Sparks’s most recent novel The Last Song already has a release date set for its own movie adaptation, starring Miley Cyrus.)

Dear John stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, two young and attractive actors who have found themselves a solid fanbase from their various movies, both of them having starred in movies that did well among the same female crowd that would be interested in this romantic drama. Tatum broke out with his leading role in Disney’s dance flick Step Up, while Seyfried showed her own dance moves in the hit movie musical Mamma Mia!, both which were huge hits among the female audience.

It also marks the return of Swedish director Lasse Halstrom, who has been working steadily since the ’90s when his work came to prominence with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape followed by the Oscar-nominated The Cider House Rules and Chocolat. Unfortunately, Halstrom’s movies have been plagued with delays, many of them in the transition of the Weinsteins from Miramax. (His movie An Unfinished Life got dumped in the split.) Generally, he hasn’t had a movie gross more than $12 million since Chocolat, even the wide release Casanova starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller. One assumes that with Hallstrom at the helm, this is a better quality film than these adaptations tend to be–Screen Gems are even screening it for critics!!!–and if it’s that good, it should get decent word-of-mouth and possible return business as those who enjoy the film’s romantic escapism take their friend to go see it.

The movie will probably do decently in rural areas, especially in the South and in North Carolina where it was filmed, and it shouldn’t be as affected by the Super Bowl on Sunday as other movies often released on the weekend, because older women will check it out while the guys are watching football.

Having specialized in horror and urban fare for years, this is Screen Gems’ first attempt at the type of movie on which New Line has thrived in recent years, although they have proven countless times they know how to reach younger audiences, especially teen girls, with their marketing. They’ve also had numerous hits over Super Bowl weekend although they were mostly PG-13 horror fare like When a Stranger Calls and Boogeyman.

Dear John has already been selling a lot of advance tickets according to Fandango, so it should do very well this weekend as it goes neck-and-neck with James Cameron’s Avatar, possibly doing better on Friday, even winning the day, but likely tailing off, especially in the South where women might want to support New Orleans’ football heroes. Even so, except very strong legs, similar to The Notebook as the quality of the movie and word-of-mouth should help it become a popular favorite for the next few weeks even against the easier sell of Valentine’s Day next week.

Why I Should See It: Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried are a good pairing for a romantic drama trying to appeal to young women.
Why Not: These movies tend to be corny, and it’s doubtful anyone with a penis will have any interest in the movie whatsoever.
Projections: $18 to 20 million opening weekend and $75 to 80 million total.

COMPARISONS


From Paris With Love (Lionsgate)
Starring John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden
Directed by Pierre Morel (Taken, District B13); Written by Adi Hasak (Shadow Conspiracy)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline: “Two Agents. One City. No Merci.”
Plot Summary: Cambridge-educated undercover agent James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is paired with the wild card field agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta) as they take on drugdealers and a terrorist ring.

Interview with Pierre Morel

Review (Coming Soon!)

Analysis:

One would think that opening an action movie trying to appeal to guys on the same weekend as the Super Bowl is crazy, but that’s what 20th Century Fox did last year with the action-thriller Taken to great success, so Lionsgate has decided to follow-up on that trend by releasing the new movie from that movie’s producer and director Luc Besson and Pierre Morel on the same weekend, hoping to have similar success. From Paris With Love has those elements in common, but it also has a very different plot and tone, being more of a buddy action-comedy teaming two actors with very different backgrounds.

This one stars John Travolta, making his return to action for the first time since playing the villain in The Punisher back in 2004, although we haven’t really seen him doing the type of physical action we’ve seen here since the ’90s when he made two movies with John Woo. Travolta’s career is a text book example of a Hollywood veteran who has found fans among many demographics due to the diversity of the roles he’s played, but clearly, much of his career in the last 15 years or so can be traced back to starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, for which he was nominated for his second Oscar. That also gave him more credibility among guys, which led to the two John Woo movies, as well as 2001′s Swordfish. For whatever reason, Travolta’s star seems to have waned in recent years. Not that you could tell from hits like Disney’s Wild Hogs, but certainly his pull with older guys isn’t where it used to be, maybe because he’s done so many movies like that and Old Dogs, and it’s hard to think that anyone might take him seriously in this type of action role. On the other hand, From Paris With Love is a similarly gritty R-rated movie as Tony Scott’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which Travolta starred in last year, and Travolta is playing a similarly over-the-top character. Even so, that movie didn’t do that well even with Travolta’s higher profile co-star Denzel Washington, so one wonders whether he can carry this one in terms of bringing in audiences.

He does have some help although the other half of this two-hander is Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Myers, who has only appeared in one action movie, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible III and he’s still better known for doing period dramas such as Vanity Fair and his long-running show “The Tudors.” Maybe his biggest claim to fame though was scoring the lead role in one of Woody Allen’s most critically-lauded films of the ’00s, the thriller Match Point.

Even with John Travolta in the movie, a couple of factors play into Morel’s latest movie having a bigger uphill battle even after the success of Taken. First, it’s being released and marketed by Lionsgate rather than 20th Century Fox, and they’re releasing it as an R-rated movie, which one would presume would limit the audience to those over 17. It’s interesting to note that Lionsgate picked up the rights to release the third “Transporter” movie starring Jason Statham (another Luc Besson production), which didn’t do nearly as well as the previous installment released by 20th Century Fox. From Paris With Love is also a very different type of movie, as that one had a premise that was easy to relate to, that of a father protecting his daughter. This is more of a buddy comedy with lots of action and craziness, a genre that has its own share of fans but it is somewhat of a throwback. It’s also rated R rather than PG-13, and unfortunately, some of the funniest bits in the movie can’t be included in the trailers and commercials, and in fact, being rated R means that commercials can only be shown after certain hours, limiting the advertising.

Another thing working against it is the fact it has such an odd title for an action movie, of course harking back to the Bond movie From Russia with Love, but it sounds more like a romantic comedy, so it just makes it an even more awkward sell to American action fans. (What tough guy will want to walk up to the girl at the ticket counter and say “One for ‘From Paris With Love,’ please?”) Currently, we’re experiencing somewhat of a crowded market for guys with four movies geared towards them in the last month but none of them seem to be standing up well in terms of legs, so that shouldn’t play such a big factor.

Then of course, there is the Super Bowl, which will seriously cut into the movie’s business on Sunday. It’s actually a good thing that this year’s game is between Indianapolis and New Orleans because that means some of the more urban cities like New York, L.A., Chicago, etc. where a movie like this would do well, won’t be hit as hard by the perennial football championship. But most football fans, even if their teams are out of the game will try to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, and that’s almost an all-day affair that will keep them from seeing any movies, and that will hurt the movie and make it more front-loaded to Friday than it might have been normally.

One good thing the movie has over Taken (and most of Besson’s movies) is that the movie is being released in the United States first, so there isn’t as much of the chance of piracy and DVD bootlegs hurting the movie’s opening weekend. Even with the factors working against it, the movie should do decent but moderate business mainly from the guys who enjoy Luc Besson’s work and those interested in seeing what Morel does next after Taken, but chances are that it won’t appeal as much to the women or older audiences Liam Neeson was able to pull in with Taken. Word-of-mouth should generally be decent enough that the movie should rebound and not drop as much on the holiday weekend with the only competition being The Wolfman.

Why I Should See It: Another great action movie from Mssrs. Morel and Besson with a lot of funny stuff from John Travolta makes this an entertaining action flick!
Why Not: A lot of it harks back to movies of the ’90s like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard… not really sure that’s a bad thing though.
Projections: $14 to 17 million opening weekend on its way to roughly $50 million.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

This was a close call between two very good foreign films, both selected by their respective countries as their Oscar selection, but we had to go with the one that was able to receive a nomination.

Ajami (Kino Releasing)
Starring Shahir Kabaha, Ibrahim Frege, Fouad Habash, Nisrine Rihan, Youssef Sahwani, Ranin Karim, Eran Naim, Scandar Copti
Written and directed by Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani (feature film debut)
Genre: Crime, Drama
Unrated
Plot Summary: In the rough Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa near Tel Aviv, a young man named Omar (Shahir Kabaha) and his younger brother (Ibrahim Frege) become embroiled in the middle of a vendetta against his family by gangsters that forces them to get involved with drugs and other unscrupulous criminal elements.

There have been a lot of great films coming out of Israel in recent years, many of them dealing with the problems on the Gaza Strip between the Israeli authorities and the Palestinians. While Ajami mostly focuses on the latter group, it isn’t as much about the ongoing war as much as it is a personal story with elements of that environment, which are impossible to avoid or ignore.

In some ways, Ajami is very much like an Israeli City of God in terms of its setting, a crime-ridden area of Jaffa where a gang vendetta against a family leads to a series of deaths, including that of a young neighbor who is the victim of mistaken identity. As we learn, this vendetta comes from the protagonist’s uncle shooting a Bedouin gangster who comes to his restaurant trying to pressure him for “insurance money,” and the gang leader is furious that one of his men has been injured and swears to get revenge. The eldest male in the family, the 19-year-old Omar, tries to get help from his girlfriend’s father Abu Elias, also a restaurant owner, to negotiate a deal with the gangsters, who wants an exorbitant amount of money. In order to raise it, Omar starts looking into ways of procuring drugs that he and his friend can sell, while at the same time, an illegal immigrant named Malik has taken a job in Elias’ restaurant and is trying to earn money to help his mother, who has gotten deeply ill.

Ajami is such a layered film, dealing with the different classes of people and religions in the area and how they interact, but also showing how organized crime is prevalent despite the area already having enough problems with the ongoing war between the two factions. It’s fascinating to watch how this world works, especially the negotiations between Omar and the gang leader, overseen by a judge who seems to favor the bad guys over the innocent family.

At first, it feels like the film, written and co-directed by one Israeli Jew and one Palestinian, leans a little more towards the Palestinian side of things, especially with how the main characters talk about the Israelis and the police, but we also see how the police interacts with the community using force and brutality, forcing the people of the area to do what they can protect their own from police investigations.

Religion also plays such a large part in the characters’ everyday lives as much of their dialogue involves hopes of Allah favoring them with his will. Another key subplot, explored more in the second half, involves Omar’s secret romance with the daughter of his benefactor, a powerful man in the community; as much as the love between them is clear, she has turned down his offers to marriage because she knows his father won’t approve of her (a Christian) marrying a Muslim.

Something huge happens halfway through the movie, something shocking and completely unexpected, and that’s where things stop being linear and straight-ahead as the movie starts focusing on other characters – an Israeli police officer whose younger brother has gone missing and one of Omar’s friends, played by filmmaker Scandar Copti, who hopes to marry his Israeli girlfriend but one morning turns up dead, thought to be foul play. It’s somewhat jarring after spending so much time with Omar for the focus to shift elsewhere, and some things don’t seem to have much relevance, but eventually, we get back to Omar and the original story, though now we have a lot more information to watch how things play out. As shocking as them pulling the rung from under you the first time, watching the scene again with this new information is what makes the movie one that leaves such an impact on the viewer. The use of non-linear storytelling is what makes Ajami so fascinating, but also somewhat confusing at times. That’s especially true with Omar’s two younger brothers, which I didn’t even realize were two different characters, since there’s a pretty big jump in time, so I assumed a lot of time had passed, when in fact, Omar has two different younger brothers. (Thanks to Keith Cohen for pointing out that they actually weren’t both Omar’s brothers and Malik was an illegal immigrant with no relation to Omar, so yeah… kinda confusing.)

That’s really the only major problem with what is otherwise a terrific and well-realized first film, one that allows you into a world that very few outsiders have a chance to see, while telling a riveting story well-suited for cinema but in a unique way that allows you to marvel at the storytelling skills of these two filmmakers.

Ajami opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday and it opens at Lammle’s Music Hall and Encino Town on February 19.

Honorable Mention:

Terribly Happy (Oscilloscope Pictures)
Starring Jakob Cedergren, Lene Maria Christensen, Kim Bodnia, Lars Brygmann, Anders Hove, Jens Jørn Spottag, Henrik Lykkegaard
Written and directed by Henrik Ruben Genz with Dunja Gry Jensen
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Unrated
Plot Summary: Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is a police officer from Copenhagen who has been reassigned to the burbs in the north of Denmark, and he soon learns that the villagers don’t want anything to do with anyone from the city. At the same time, he gets involved with a lovely married woman who seems to be suffering from an abusive husband, throwing him into the deep end of something he can’t possibly understand.

Interview with Director Henrik Ruben Genz and Producer Thomas Gammltoft

Having seen a lot of great films from out of Denmark, I thought I’d seen everything, until I watched this surprising movie from filmmaker Henrik Ruben Genz, a stylish thriller that harks back to some of the greats but remains hugely original due to his strong vision and innovative abilities at telling a story in a very visual manner.

The film opens with an introduction talking about the bog near this town way out in the boonies of Denmark, which the villagers use to rid themselves of “problems.” It’s strong foreshadowing for some of what will happen later in the movie, but it’s also the closest the movie gets to the oddball sensibilities we’ve often seen out of Denmark from the likes of Lars von Trier.

We then meet Jakob Cedergren’s Robert Hansen, a police officer from the big city of Copenhagen, trying to recover from personal problems that gets him relocated for his own good to what should be an easy job as the sheriff of this quiet burb. Figuring that this new setting is the answer to his problems, he dumps his prescribed meds down the toilet and tries to acclimate himself to this town where no one seems to want him and nothing is ever what it seems. One good example is the beautiful Ingelise (Lene Maria Christensen) who comes to Hansen for protection from her abusive husband, putting the officer into a precarious situation when she tries to seduce him. After watching this love triangle brew for the first half of the movie, it delivers a shocking almost-Hitchcockian twist that changes the face of the relationship, and Hansen starts to crack from the stress. Hansen’s predicament isn’t helped by the townspeople who play their own mindgames with him, clearly knowing about the problems between Ingelise and her husband, but allowing Hansen to take the fall and figure out a way to handle the situation with her violent husband.

Genz clearly has more American and British influences than some of his country mates, some of that influence coming from early ’70s thrillers like “Straw Dogs” and “The Wicker Man” especially with the setting of villagers who don’t take kindly to outsiders, of which Hansen is most definitely one. In that sense, it also can be compared to Edgar Wright’s comedy Hot Fuzz, although done completely seriously. Aside from those obvious references, Genz has created a truly original film with a unique feel partially due to unique visuals like that of a young girl wheeling a baby cart through the abandoned streets at night to the way he paces every scene to create the most tension. We’ve become so used to films from Denmark subscribing to the Dogme aesthetic or using simple hand-held techniques, that seeing a filmmaker put so much time into designing every single shot to be so impeccably clean and stylish is a nice change.

Ultimately, he’s created a strong crime-thriller on par with some of the films from the Coen Brothers, one that keeps you captivated with every twist and development.

Terribly Happy opens in New York at the Angelika Film Center on Friday and then in L.A. and San Francisco on February 12.

Also in Limited Release:

Frozen (Anchor Bay) – Adam (Hatchet) Green’s second feature is a horror movie about three friends trapped on a ski lift in the freezing cold at night and desperately trying to survive. Starring Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore (“X-Men”) and Kevin Zegers (“Transamerica”), it opens in select cities on Friday.

Review

District 13: Ultimatum (Magnolia) – Two years after police officer Damien Tomasso (martial artist Cyril Raffaelli) and vigilante Leito (Parkour co-founder David Belle) first teamed up in the 2004 action-thriller (directed by Pierre Morel in fact), they find they have to once again save the criminal-filled District 13 area of Paris when the government decides it’s time to raze it to the ground and start from scratch with redevelopment plans. Directed by Patrick Alessandrin, the sequel opens in select cities on Friday.

Mini-Review: Coming Soon!

Red Riding Trilogy (IFC Center) – A number of young girls have gone missing before turning up dead in Yorkshire, England during the ’70s and ’80s, and this three-part movie adapted by Tony Grisoni from the novels by David Peace explores the investigation into learning the truth about the murders. The first film “1974,” directed by Julian Jarrold, focuses on cub reporter Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) who arrives in the area and finds himself caught in a web of police corruption. The second chapter “1980″ is directed by James Marsh (The Wire) and it involves Manchester detective Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine) being sent in to make headway in the case of the “Yorkshire Ripper” but finding difficulty working with the local authorities. “1983″ is directed by Anand Tucker (Leap Year) and it wraps up the story as another young girl disappears, and the local detective Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey) finds startling similarities with one of the earliest killings. The trilogy will play as a Special Roadshow Edition, all three movies back-to-back sans credits for one price, exclusively and for one-week only at the IFC Center in New York on Friday. Starting on February 12, you’ll be able to buy tickets for each of the movies individually as the trilogy expands to L.A.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

The Shinjuku Incident (JCE) – Jackie Chan stars in Derek Yee’s crime thriller about Chinese immigrants in Tokyo during the ‘90s, which opens in select cities on Friday.

Eyes Wide Open (New American Vision) – Haim Tabakman’s controversial drama about a orthodox Jewish butcher, father of four children, who falls for his 22-year-old male apprentice and starts to neglect his family and community life. It opens at the Cinema Village on Friday


Next week, Presidents’ Day weekend sees the release of three new movies including the topical romantic-comedy Valentine’s Day (New Line/WB), Benicio Del Toro stars in the horror remake The Wolfman (Universal) and Chris Columbus directs the family action-adventure Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (20th Century Fox).

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas

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