The Weekend Warrior: March 18 – 20

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.

If you aren’t doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

UPDATE: Some MAJOR changes in the new openers especially now that the two movies with the lowest theater counts have gotten closer to the leader according to estimates and after a bit of number-crunching, we think that BOTH Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer will end up doing better than Paul–the Matthew McConaughey film will be helped by a recently-announced Groupon incentive package that will allow people to see the movie for nearly half-price in some areas which will certainly help its opening weekend. Limitless seems to have the widest range of appeal with its PG-13 rating, and Paul, well the marketing just hasn’t improved much since earlier in the week and it seems to be losing ground. Either way, it will be close on Friday with The Lincoln Lawyer picking up ground on the weekend over Paul.

1. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) – $17.0 million -53% (Down .3 million)

2. Rango (Paramount) – $14.6 million -35% (down .3 million)

3. Limitless (Relativity Media) – $13.7 million N/A (up 1.1 million and one place)

4. The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) – $11.5 million N/A (up .7 million and two places)

5. Paul (Universal) – $10.8 million N/A (down 2.2 million and two places)

6. The Adjustment Bureau (Universal) – $7.2 million -38% (Same)

7. Red Riding Hood (Warner Bros.) – $6.5 million -54% (down .1 million)

8. Mars Needs Moms (Disney) – $4.3 million -38% (down .1 million)

9. Hall Pass (New Line/WB) – $3.0 million -40% (same)

10. Beastly (CBS Films) – $2.8 million -45% (Same)

Weekend Overview

This is going to be a tough weekend at the box office, not only because movie attendance has generally been down, but also because three new movies are fighting for audiences against stronger returning fare and audiences may be divided trying to decide between starpower, a cool premise… or Paul. In fact, this has been one of the toughest weekends to predict because all the new movies have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s likely they may cancel each other out so that none of them will make much headway against last week’s top 2 movies as Battle: Los Angeles and Rango keep bringing in business.

Even so, with the widest release and the most marketing money of the bunch, it’s likely that the sci-fi road comedy Paul (Universal Pictures), pairing the Shaun of the Dead duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with Superbad director Greg Mottola, has the potential to bring in the college-age geek crowd with its cast of comic actors. That should be enough for it to eek out a win over the other two despite being marketed so poorly it’s doubtful anyone but core fans of the British duo and those who already know about the movie will give it much thought.

We think that it will be fighting for third place with the third sci-fi thriller of the month, Limitless, starring The Hangover‘s Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, which has a great premise and is hoping to bring in some of the teens looking for something new to see this weekend who may have trouble getting into the other R-rated films, but it may be hindered by its more moderate release and the weaker marketing that doesn’t make it look like a must-see in theatres.

Then again, the presence of Matthew McConaughey in the crime drama The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) and the fact it’s based on a best-selling novel should be able to give it a significant boost among older moviegoers, particularly women, a market which has been underserved in recent weeks, which should help it do solid business even if it ends up behind the other two. Either way, since everything is so close, you’ll definitely want to check back on Thursday after actual theater counts are reported to see how things shift.

This week’s Double-Header “Chosen One” is Tom McCarthy’s Win Win (Fox Searchlight), starring Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan, and the true-life drama The Music Never Stopped (Roadside Attractions), both of which you can read about below.

This weekend last year was similar in that three new movies were trying to take on a box office powerhouse yet Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland still won its third weekend with $34 million. Second place went to the family comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid (20th Century Fox) with $22.1 million, followed in third place by the Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler comedy The Bounty Hunter (Sony) with just under $21 million. Jude Law and Forrest Whitaker teamed for the sci-fi thriller Repo Men (Universal), which bombed with just $6.13 million yet still eeked out fourth place over the previous week’s #2 Green Zone. The Top 10 grossed just under $111 million and it’s doubtful this week’s offerings can surpass that.


Paul (Universal Pictures)
Starring Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, Joe Lo Truglio, David Koechner, Blythe Danner, John Carroll Lynch and the voice of Seth Rogen
Directed by Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad); Written by Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction
Rated R
Tagline: “Who’s up for a close encounter?”
Plot Summary: Best friends and sci-fi geeks Graeme Willy and Clive Collings (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost) are traveling across the country in an RV visiting alien hot spots when they come across a real life alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is being chased by government agents trying to get him back.

Review

Analysis:

It looks like our #4 Most Anticipated movie of the year may not be as great as we hoped, but like many, we became fans of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back when they were on the Britcom “Spaced,” followed with their teaming with Edgar Wright for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two of the best comedies to come out of Britain since The Life of Brian. Wright is nowhere to be found for their third movie, having gone off to make Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so this time, they’re teamed with Superbad director Greg Mottola, who last helmed the more personal story Adventureland. With so much money put into marketing it to the college age geek crowd and the number of theaters, it should at least do better than Wright’s film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which opened with less than $11 million last August.

Science fiction is very hot right now, which is why we seem to be seeing movies with aliens every other week, and Paul is coming out just a week after one alien invasion movie did very well and another bombed, so where does that leave this? The idea of an R-rated road comedy is nothing new, although one based in the world of science fiction is quite original, which is definitely a plus. The problem is that it’s a comedy that looks like something meant for kids, and that kind of dichotomy can be problematic as seen by Universal’s version of Land of the Lost a few years back.

Having Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the leads is also a plus because they have quite a strong fanbase from their previous two movies, which may not have done huge business in theaters but did generally well on DVD afterwards. Pegg has gone on to have his own career with his most high profile roles being in Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek, both directed by J.J. Abrams. Run, Fat Boy, Run and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People bombed for two distributors that are mostly no longer with us. (MGM threatens to return!) Frost has been in a bunch of movies on his own over the years, but Pegg is the one who has made efforts to have a career in the States, even providing his voice for kiddie movies like “Ice Age” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

Some of the American and Canadian actors who’ll help get audiences interested (if they’re even aware of their presence) is Seth Rogen providing the voice of the alien “Paul,” having done a lot of animation voicework over the years in movies like Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens and Horton Hears a Who and having a solid career in R-rated comedy himself. One of the other popular human actors is Jason Bateman who had a major comeback starring in the television show “Arrested Development,” and he’s appeared in a couple of big hits like Will Smith’s Hancock and Vincent Vaughn’s Couples Retreat, but he hasn’t quite proven himself on his own merits, having starred in comedies that didn’t do as well like Extract and last year’s The Switch with Jennifer Aniston. It also brings back Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, popular actors from “Saturday Night Live” who also appeared in Mottola’s Adventureland, although neither really has proven themselves as box office draws perse despite the growing popularity of “Saturday Night Live.” It also stars science-fiction veteran Sigourney Weaver, who has been a genre favorite since starring in the “Alien” movies then solidifying it with her starring role in James Cameron’s Avatar, and it’s rounded out with Jane Lynch from “Glee,” The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Role Models, Jeffrey Tambor from “Arrested Development” and the “Hellboy” movies, David Koechner and Blythe Danner.

Considering the previous offerings from Mottola and the cast, it probably won’t surprise many of their fans that Paul is rated R, and like those movies, the main draw for the movie will be the teen and college-age crowd who already know their previous films.

Normally, I’m not one to lambast a studio’s entire marketing department but the sad fact is that Universal have no idea how to market this movie, none whatsoever, possibly because the concept of a road comedy with an alien seems like something that might make for a good PG Disney movie, not an R-rated movie that would be of interest to that audience beyond those who already know about it. These problems cover every aspect of the film’s campaign from the early trailers which made it look like a kiddie movie to the poster which features the film’s alien title character with a weak tagline and no mention or picture of Pegg and Frost, who actually would have been a draw to fans of their earlier movies, which did decently on DVD. There’s also no mention of Seth Rogen and the fact he provides the voice, nor Bill Hader or Kristen Wiig or anyone else. Instead, Universal are trying to focus on the “Superbad” connection of Mottola directing the movie, which is something that didn’t work at all for Mottola’s previous movie Adventureland.

Universal brought Paul to Comic-Con for a panel last July, which was quickly overshadowed by Jon Favreau’s upcoming Cowboys & Aliens, and then their last ditch attempt to drum up interest is a high-profile screening of the movie at SXSW in Austin, something they did last year with MacGruber, which bombed with just $8.5 million total and the year before with Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell with similar results.

Reviews out of the UK are already mixed and the American ones probably won’t be that much better, but the fact that the movie opened in the United Kingdom almost a month ago won’t help matters since many of those who really want to see the movie would have probably been able to find a bootleg version online fairly easily. For those who haven’t already seen it, the marketing doesn’t make the movie look good at all, which is a major problem.

Even so, as much as it seems Paul is destined to fail, there’s also little denying that having money to promote the movie means it’s also been everywhere in the last week and there should be enough 17 to 24 year old males who’ll check it out due to the pedigree of those involved. It probably won’t have much in terms of legs with stronger movies to come.

Why I Should See It: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are a great comedy team.
Why Not: It’s just not as funny as any of their previous movies.
Projections: $12 to 14 million opening weekend and less than $30 million total.

COMPARISONS


Limitless (Relativity Media)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Tomas Arana
Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones); Written by Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire, Overboard, Hairspray, The Heartbreak Kid, upcoming Tower Heist)
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?” (Well, then I wouldn’t be writing about movies, that’s for sure!)
Plot Summary: New York writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is struggling through life until he comes upon the experimental drug NZT which allows one to access their full potential and he suddenly finds himself able to do things he never expected. When he starts doing well on the stock market, he gets the attention of business mogul Carl Van Loon (De Niro) who wants him to work for him.

Video Interview with Neil Burger

Mini-Review

Analysis:

The third 2011 release for Relativity Media is another movie produced for release through Universal’s distribution deal through Rogue Pictures before Relativity split off to form a new company with Overture Pictures. It’s also a genre that’s very familiar to moviegoers, being a science fiction film based in New York, much like the recent The Adjustment Bureau. This one’s based on a little-known novel by Alain Glyn formerly called “The Dark Fields,” and it’s been turned into a rare non-comedy vehicle for Bradley Cooper, the actor whose career exploded when he starred in the summer comedy blockbuster The Hangover. It became the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever surpassing Wedding Crashers, which oddly enough, ALSO starred Cooper. In between, he appeared in a number of successful rom-coms including Failure to Launch and He’s Just Not That Into You. Last year, he was one of the leads in Joe Carnahan’s The A-Team, and one of the ensemble in the rom-com hit Valentine’s Day, but Cooper’s also starred in a number of long-delayed dogs such as Sandra Bullock’s All About Steve and the thriller Case 39, a movie that was delayed for years before finally being released. So where does that leave Cooper’s career? Who knows, except that Limitless probably owes more to the genre flicks he’s been than the hit comedies, which makes one wonder whether his recent fans, especially women, will give this a chance.

Possibly a bigger draw at least for older moviegoers is the presence of Robert De Niro, a legendary veteran actor who used to star in Oscar-worthy fare throughout the ’70s and ’80s before switching gears to comedy in the 21st Century. The “Fockers” trilogy have kept De Niro alive for younger audiences but forays into drama and other genres haven’t proven as successful with What Just Happened and Stone not even making $2 million and the more mainstream drama Everybody’s Fine ending with less than $10 million. Then again, his reteaming with Al Pacino for Righteous Kill was a nice breakout hit, and his last film as a director, The Good Shepherd also did well. De Niro’s role is fairly small in this, but his presence is felt in the marketing materials enough that people might think he plays a bigger role than he does.

The other actress of note is Abbie Cornish, the Australian actress who appeared in period pieces like Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Jane Campion’s Bright Star and dramas like Stop-Loss, but hasn’t quite found her footing in terms of finding her niche. This is a fairly small role, so who knows if this will do much for her, compared to her starring role in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch next week, but we think that she’s destined to be a future Oscar nominee. (Just not for either of these two movies.)

One of the biggest hindrances for the movie doing well is that it generally has a great premise that might be of interest, but the movie’s title is pretty bad and the tagline (which is pretty literal to that premise) doesn’t seem like something that would grab moviegoers. Somehow, Universal was able to sell the recent Philip K. Dick movie The Adjustment Bureau as something cool and high concept, and this one should be an easier sell because it’s something far more relevant to our everyday lives, yet the posters with Bradley Cooper and that title and tagline do very little to grab people who see it. Commercials and trailers are generally better although it doesn’t make the movie look like something that must be seen in theaters and with moviegoing generally down, that’s really important.

The biggest problem is that this movie is looking to appeal to the same older audience that might go see The Lincoln Lawyer but also the college-age crowd that might go see Paul, and at least older women may prefer to go with the former. The good thing is that this is one of the only new movies this weekend that’s PG-13, which means it could bring in some of the teen crowd, that is if they had any interest in the likes of De Niro or Cooper, which is doubtful.

Relativity Media has been having a rough year especially after the disastrous bomb Take Me Home Tonight last month, but undaunted, they’ve gone whole hog on their latest movie with strong commercials and posters, as well as doing a bit of viral marketing with a website advertising the NZT drug from the movie. Either way, it’s hard to see the movie doing more than $12 or 13 million its opening weekend, especially in the current weak box office climate and with so much competition, so it’s probably going to be settling for third or fourth place at best, though it might be helped if reviews are strong enough.

Why I Should See It: Another cool sci-fi premise done well.
Why Not: You’ll never look at a girl on ice skates the same way again.
Projections: $11 to 13 million opening weekend and roughly $30 million total.

COMPARISONS


The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate)
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Frances Fisher, Bob Gunton, Laurence Mason, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy, Michael Peña
Directed by Brad Furman (The Take); Written by John Romano (Nights in Rodanthe)
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated R
Plot Summary: Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey), a defense lawyer who operates out of his Lincoln Continental instead of an office takes on a case defending a rich Beverly Hills man (Ryan Phillippe) who is accused of beating up a prostitute, but when Haller discovers similarities to an earlier murder case he defended and that his innocent client may have gone to jail, he realizes that him being hired for the case may not have been a coincidence.

Interview with Brad Furman

Mini-Review: If you’re a fan of Matthew McConaughey’s performances in “Frailty” and “A Time To Kill” or are just ready for a wave of ‘90s nostalgia, then this well-crafted adaptation of Michael Connelly’s crime novel should give you just the right incentive to enter the Wayback Machine for a good old-fashioned crime drama.

We meet McConaughey’s defense lawyer Mick as he’s driving around L.A. in his Lincoln with his trusted chauffeur Earl, a biker gang showing up to find out how he’s progressing on getting one of their members out of jail. Mick has just been hired by a rich Beverly Hills realtor Louis Roulet (Ryan Philippe) to defend him in a case where he’s accused of beating and raping a prostitute. Mick is confident he can get Louis off until he finds similarities with a previous case of a murdered prostitute, but being Louis’ lawyer, Mick can’t use the info he gets to reopen the old case and charge his client. That’s the dilemma Mick finds himself in, and after Mick’s friend and colleague is shot and his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) and daughter’s lives are put in danger, Mick needs to figure out a way to put Louis away without breaking his oath as a lawyer.

It’s hard to believe that the director of something as lo-fi as “The Take” would be capable of making such a beautifully shot film that manages to keep the viewer interested even if it takes nearly an hour– half the film’s running time—to get to the main plot. That’s partially because the movie realizes that most people aren’t generally just dealing with one thing at a time, and showing Mick dealing with a lot of different clients and other things in his life just makes the character that much richer.

Furman is working from a strong script with a great cast, and more than anything, it’s McConaughey’s strongest performance in years, really showing he still has the chops to be a serious actor if he so chooses. He’s surrounded by a really solid cast with Tomei and William Macy being as great as ever and Ryan Phillipe reminds us why he’s such a strong dramatic actor, playing Louis as the perfect slow-burn psychotic. Other standouts include Shea Whigham as a jail snitch who plays a large part in Mick’s case and Margarita Levieva as Louis’ victim.

The fact is that it’s rare to see such strong drama like this without resorting to car chases or explosions to keep your attention and the different subplots are layered to fall into place at the end with inevitable confrontation between Mick and Louis, though there are still more than a few surprises.

Ultimately, this is a solid L.A. crime story that once again proves McConaughey as a leading actor to be reckoned with, and one would hope we’ll be able to see more of Michael Connelly’s Mick Haller stories brought to the screen.

Rating: 7.5/10

Analysis:

The movie may seem like the weekend underdog but in fact may be the strongest offering for a couple of reasons, mostly because it’s catering to an older moviegoing market, one that really hasn’t had very much to entice them into theaters. The three key reasons they’ll be interested in the movie is because it’s based on a best-selling novel by Michael Connelly, it’s a crime-thriller which is a popular film genre that has been relatively dormant, and also because it stars an actor who has proven popular both among men and women, that being Matthew McConaughey.

It’s been some time since McConaughey has played a serious role, having mostly been in comedies in recent years, and his last drama We Are Marshall topped out at under $45 million, but it’s also been a few years since he’s even been in a movie with the comedy Ghost of Girlfriends Past having come out nearly two years ago. Before that, McConaughey generally made a name for himself with romantic comedies, but playing the role of lawyer Mick Haller harks back to Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill way back in 1996 and older moviegoers who’ve been following McConaughey’s career should appreciate him playing that sort of role again. Of course, the commercials don’t focus so much on that aspect of McConaughey but on some of the bits where he turns on the charm, which should allow it to bring in a larger percentage of women, including many who would have read the book.

Also starring in the movie is Ryan Philippe, playing essentially the antagonist, and this type of movie is definitely more his bag, having starred in the likes of Anti-Trust, Breach and other thrillers. The cast is rounded out by the likes of Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña and Bryan Cranston, all solid actors who have received various awards, though none of whom have proven themselves as box office draws. The Los Angeles setting should make it a good draw for audiences in those areas, as will having a couple strong Latino actors.

It’s been some time since the murder mystery courtroom crime-drama genre has had its heyday with the success of Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and David Fincher’s Se7en spurring on lots of copycats, but it was clearly a genre that thrived in the ’90s before movie tickets got too expensive and people would just wait until they hit DVD. These days, it’s doubtful we’ll see another huge $100 million movie in this genre but $30 to 35 million is definitely achievable, especially with such a strong cast.

Even so, Lionsgate hasn’t done particularly well with dramas post-Crash with Lee Daniels’ crowd-pleasing Oscar nominee Precious grossing roughly $47 million and Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls not even making $40 million. They also didn’t do well with Paul Haggis’ thriller The Next Three Days despite having Russell Crowe in the lead role, although it did open against the most recent “Harry Potter” movie; Lincoln Lawyer is opening in a lighter weekend.

Even though a drama like this might not seem like the kind of thing that can do well in this day and age, the simple marketing will work in its favor with the posters featuring Matthew McConaughey, the movie title and mention of it being based on the book. Even so, the median age for this movie’s audience will probably be around 30, though it’s the type of movie that married couples will be able to see together, making it a rare date movie that’s not a rom-com or chick flick and that could help it do get over the $10 million bump.

Why I Should See It: This is strong crime-thriller with one of Matthew McConaughey’s best performances in years!
Why Not: At this point, is that really saying much?
Projections: $9 to 11 million opening weekend and roughly $32 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE DOUBLE-HEADER CHOSEN ONE:

Since I already wrote a review at the Sundance Film Festival, which I’m going to try to expand in the next couple days, for what would have been this week’s “Chosen One,” I’m going to share the wealth this week with another that movie holds a really special place in my heart after seeing it at the Sundance Film Festival.

Win Win (Fox Searchlight)
Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Melanie Lynskey, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Alex Shaffer
Written and directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated R
Tagline: “In the game of life, you can’t lose ‘em all.”
Plot Summary: A struggling New Jersey attorney who coaches high school wrestling, Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) agrees to become the guardian of an aging client suffering from the early stages of dementia, but when the client’s teenager grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up at his doorstep, Mike takes him in and on learning of Kyle’s wrestling skills, tries to get him to compete on his team.

Sundance Review

Interview with Tom McCarthy

Full Review

Interview with Amy Ryan (Probably next week)

Win Win opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

The Music Never Stopped (Roadside Attractions)
Starring J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, Cara Seymour, Julia Ormond
Directed by Jim Kohlberg (debut); Written by Gwyn Lurie, Gary Marks (debut)
Genre: Drama
Rated PG
Plot Summary: Estranged from his parents for nearly 20 years, Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci) returns with a brain tumor that causes him to be unable to form new memories, so his concerned parents Henry and Helen (J.K. Simmons, Cara Seymour) work with therapist Dianne Daly (Julia Ormond) on an experimental therapy program using music to try to awaken Gabriel’s memories.

Interview with JK Simmons

I first saw this new drama based on an essay by Dr. Oliver Sacks, whose novels have been turned into films like Awakenings and At First Sight, at the Sundance Film Festival, and it took me a good hour before I was really able to get into it because it’s such a strange premise for a movie. There are also aspects to the film that are somewhat Lifetime TV movie-ish in the way it plays up the melodrama surrounding an estranged son returning 20 years later with a brain tumor that doesn’t allow him to form new memories.

As we see in flashbacks, when Gabe was younger, he and his father connected over big band music, but as Gabe became a teenager, he got more rebellious playing in rock bands and creating a wedge in the rapport with his father. Their conflict finally escalates and Gabe runs off to New York and his parents don’t see him for decades. When he returns, Gabe has a condition not unlike that of Guy Pearce in “Memento” in that he can’t form new thoughts and he’s lethargic and unable to communicate, so his parents call upon a therapist (played by Julia Ormond) who uses music to get through to patients like Gabe. She tries all different things until she plays “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles and that does the trick to bring Gabe back to life, while also reopening old wounds with his father Henry, played by J.K. Simmons.

Lou Taylor Pucci has been better, but he does a fine job with a difficult character played from his teens until his ’30s, especially when he has to spout odd one-liners to communicate with those around him. Likewise, this couldn’t have been an easy movie to make for the first time filmmakers, because it covers a lot of different eras in the relationship between Gabe and his father, and it has to remain entertaining without causing audiences to laugh at the main character’s strange behavior due to his condition. There’s absolutely nothing TV movie-ish about the performance by prolific J.K. Simmons in one of his strongest roles since his fatherly role in Jason Reitman’s Juno, as he has to deal with a lot of emotions at once while trying to reconnect with his son and smooth over the differences that drove them apart.

The film is fairly saccharine at times but extremely touching at others like when Gabe falls for a girl in the cafeteria and his therapist finds a way for him to remember her so that they can actually communicate. Eventually, we get past the melodrama and we can enjoy watching Henry connect with his son by learning about the music he loves culminating in them attending a Grateful Dead concert, something that will be a thrill to the group’s fans as director Jim Kohlberg creates a remarkable facsimile of what the Dead’s shows must have been like in the ’80s before Garcia’s death.

The sad truth is that the movie won’t be for everyone–the deeply cynical will want to stay away for sure–but I was so moved by the relationship between father and son and how it paralleled my own connection through music with my own recently-deceased father that I cited the film at a eulogy I wrote for his memorial which I attended a few days after Sundance. If you’re willing to accept some of the few clunky moments, this is a deeply moving film on many levels that wears its love for ’60s music on its sleeve for what is ultimately a solid family drama that should be enjoyable for a wide range of audiences.

The Music Never Stopped opens in select cities on Friday.

Honorable Mention:

Shinjuku Outlaw: 13 from Takashi Miike – The Film Society of Lincoln Center and our pals at Subway Cinema are teaming for a retrospective of one of Japan’s most prolific an eccentric filmmakers, Takashi Miike! Besides showing Miike classics like Audition and Ichi the Killer and a preview of his fantastic samurai warrior film 13 Assassins, there will be rare screenings of a number of Miike’s films that are no longer even available on DVD such as the earliest film in the series from 1995, Shinjuku Triad Society. Other early films include Ley Lines, Shangri-La and The Bird People in China and others that are surprising that they never got theatrical distribution in the States. One of those that never got a release beyond festivals is The Great Yokai War, a really odd kids fantasy involving wild demons that’s far more enjoyable than his more recent kids’ film Yatterman. (13 Assassins is awesome as well, and is likely to be the “Chosen One” in whichever week it comes out.) Unfortunately, Miike will not be attending as planned due to the quake in Japan, but if you’ve seen Audition or some of his more recent films and want to know more about what makes this eclectic filmmaker tick than this is your chance for the full immersion experience.

Shinjuku Outlaw runs from Wednesday, March 16 through 21.

Also in Limited Release:

Eva Green stars in Jordan Scott’s debut Cracks (IFC Films) set at a remote girls boarding school in 1937 where Green plays the glamorous teacher Miss G, who has created a diving team. Leading the girls is Di (Juno Temple) whose authority and popularity is threatened when a beautiful Spanish girl Fiamma (Maria Valverde) who is also a better diver shows up and immediately starts winning over Miss G’s attentions and affections. It opens at the IFC Center in New York Friday.

Interview with Eva Green (Later this week)

Chilean filmmaker Patricio (The Battle of Chile) Guzmán’s latest doc Nostalgia for the Light (Icarus Films) travels to the Atacama Desert, a place 10,000 feet above sea level where human remains have been kept intact for decades including that of political prisoners who have been “disappeared” after the coup of ’73. It also allows astronomers one of the clearest views of the stars possible, and the film juxtaposes their quest to see the stars with that of the women trying to find remains of their missing loved ones. It opens at the IFC Center on Friday with Guzman present for Q & As on Friday and Saturday.

Holland’s entry for the Oscars a few years back, Martin Koolhoven’s WWII drama Winter in Wartime (Sony Pictures Classics) about a teenager who inadvertently gets involved with the Resistance when he harbors and aids a wounded British soldier (Jamie Campbell Bower). It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Richard Press’ doc Bill Cunningham New York (Zeitgeist), which opens at the Film Forum on Wednesday, takes a look at the New York Times’ fashion photographer.

Following its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, Wuershan’s action-comedy The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman (China Lion) opens in select cities with its story of a group of fighters going after a kitchen cleaver made from five legendary martial arts swords. It opens in select cities.

Tornado Alley (Giant Screen Films) is a documentary by Sean Casey (Discovery’s “Storm Chasers”) and the researchers of VORTEX 2 trying to capture on film the destructive power of tornadoes using customized vehicles and 70mm cameras. It opens in 2D and 3D theaters on Friday. If you’re in New York, they’re doing a special premiere at the American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday night, March 16 at 6PM with Sean Casey in attendance which you can attend! Just RSVP to tornadoalleyamnh@gmail.com.

Former Riverdancer Michael Flatley’s popular world-touring stage show is captured on film in Lord of the Dance 3D (Nineteen Fifteen), a one-week only engagement that captures the magic of Flatley’s show.


Next week, the month of March refuses to go out like a lamb with Zack Snyder’s estrogen-filled action flick Sucker Punch (Warner Bros.) and the family sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules (20th Century Fox).

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas

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