The Weekend Warrior: August 26 – 28


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.

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Predictions and Comparisons

1. The Help (DreamWorks) – $15.2 million -24% (down .3 million)

2. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict) – $11.8 million N/A (up 1.5 million)

3. Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Company) – $10.3 million N/A (Up .9 million)

4. Colombiana (Sony/Tristar) – $9.4 million N/A (Up .9 million and 1 spot)

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $9.2 million -43% (up .5 million)

6. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Dimension Films) – $6.8 million -42% (down .2 million)

7. The Smurfs (Sony) – $5.0 million -35% (down .2 million)

8. Conan the Barbarian (Lionsgate) – $4.8 million -52% (same)

9. Fright Night (DreamWorks/Touchstone) – $4.2 million -45% (down .2 million)

10. Final Destination 5 (New Line/WB) – $3.7 million -52% (down .3 million)

Weekend Overview

Ugh. Last weekend was a bloodbath at the box office with all four new movies bombing, and frankly, we don’t think any of the new movies look like they can get the box office out of the doldrums which means that DreamWorks’ The Help is looking for an unprecedented second weekend at #1 after opening in second place three weeks ago.

Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the long-delayed haunted house horror flick Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict), starring Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes, stands the best chance at bringing in casual young moviegoers looking for scares, though its R-rating might prevent it from breaking out quite like FilmDistrict’s early 2011 horror hit Insidious. Even so, this being the end of August and moviegoers being more cautious and dubious with their money, it’s likely to end up on the low end of the spectrum though we still think it should be able to bring in at least $10 million.

Starring Paul Rudd, the R-rated ensemble comedy Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Co.) was a crowd-pleasing pick-up from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it certainly stands the best chance at getting some of the 20 to 30 something women who will be able to appreciate the dysfunctional family premise, although that’s the same audience that The Help has been doing gangbusters with, and R-rated comedies (and R-rated movies in general) seem to be losing their luster as the summer has progressed. This one does have a good chance at breaking out due to the great title and character-based premise, but a moderate release should keep it under $10 million.

Avatar and Star Trek‘s Zoe Saldana stars in the action-thriller Colombiana (Tristar Pictures/Sony), written and produced by French action mogul Luc Besson, and man, does she look amazingly hot in those trailers! In theory, the movie could bring in some of the Latino community who might be underserved by the other movies in theaters, but Sony really hasn’t stepped up their game in terms of marketing this so there’s a good chance even they don’t know about it. It won’t help that it’s opening against a horror flick from one of the most respected Latino filmmakers working today, either. (Sorry, Robert Rodriguez, you were already losing that status before you returned to Spy Kids and then it bombed last weekend.)

This weekend’s “Chosen Duo” are from first-time women film directors, Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground (Sony Pictures Classics) and Maryam Keshavarz’s Circumstance (Roadside Attractions), both of which you can read about below.

Last August ended with an impressive one-two punch of two movies grossing over $20 million each, and it was a very close photo finish as the urban crime thriller Takers (Screen Gems) just barely edged out the found footage horror film The Last Exorcism (Lionsgate), $20.51 million to $20.37 million. (Although granted, the latter cost a lot less to produce which made it immediately more profitable.) Most of the returning movies took moderate 38 to 45% drops except Vampires Suck and Piranha 3D which both took bigger hits. The Top 10 grossed $91 million but with nothing likely to gross $20 million this weekend, we’re looking at another down weekend.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict)
Starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson
Directed by Troy Nixey (directorial debut for the comic book creator); Written by Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Genre: Horror
Rated R
Plot Summary: A young girl named Sally (Hailee Madison), her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes), move into an old mansion in Rhode Island, which she discovers is filled with vicious creatures living in the basement that no one else seems to be able to see except her.


For the third week in a row, we’re getting an R-rated horror movie (and the sixth R-rated movie of August) but that’s not really that uncommon being that late August has been a great time for the genre since things have settled down after the summer tentpoles and studios are looking to release lower-budget movies to try to get audiences into theaters. In past years, movies like The Last Exorcism and The Final Destination have done big business in this weekend because the young moviegoers who dig horror aren’t necessarily the ones that leave town to go on vacation. Then again, it’s also a weekend where studios dump movies they don’t expect to do well, and considering how long this one has been on the shelf, that may not be a good sign.

This haunted house flick is based on a 1973 television movie that filmmaker Guillermo del Toro loved and decided to adapt into a screenplay for a remake. Since he didn’t have the time to direct it right away, he called upon his friend Troy Nixey, a comic book artist who has been associated with his other friend Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. It makes sense for del Toro to tackle a movie that combines horror and fantasy being that he’s helmed a few classics in both realms, although this one is certainly veering more towards the scares, but it has many of the elements his fans love. The success of his Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth and the “Hellboy” movies means that del Toro’s name can certainly help, although that didn’t convince anyone to see the genetic horror flick Splice last year. Granted, that also was just a movie he produced and not one that he was involved in the writing as well.

Horror movies are rarely about their cast but are more about the premise, although this one actually has a couple of known names in Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes. We’ll get to them in a second because the real star of the movie is 11-year-old Bailee Madison who has actually been acting in movies since she was seven years old. She appeared in the Disney movie Bridge to Terabithia and earlier this year, she appeared in Adam Sandler’s Just Go With It as the annoying girl with a fake British accent.

As far as her older co-stars, Guy Pearce is generally considered a well-respected actor although he hasn’t made much of an effort to be a “Hollywood star” per se. Although Pearce had a small role in the Oscar-winning drama The King’s Speech, he hasn’t really had a huge hit and has deliberately appeared in smaller indie movies, even making small appearances in the previous year’s Best Picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker and the acclaimed adaptation of The Road. And then there’s Holmes who hasn’t appeared in a horror movie or thriller since Abandon back in 2002, but has only had one major movie hit and that was Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. When Holmes was replaced for its sequel The Dark Knight, that movie grossed twice as much money. Coincidence? I think not. She’s generally appeared in smaller indies as well including last year’s The Romantics, but for the most part, she hasn’t been that active.

That’s because this is a movie that was filmed literally two years ago and has been sitting in the can for years as Miramax tried to figure out what to do with it. The movie had a presentation at Comic-Con 2010 with plans at the time to release it in January of this year, but then Miramax just outright dumped it, leaving it open for another distributor to pick it up, which is what the relatively new distributor FilmDistrict decided to do. They had a decent-sized hit with James Wan’s Insidious earlier this year and they’re taking a similar approach with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, but in this case, this is an R-rated movie which means the younger teens that might check it out due to the marketing won’t be able to get in.

Either way, horror has lots of fans between 17 and 30 as does del Toro himself, and the strong push by FilmDistrict to remind people of del Toro’s involvement–hard to believe but it’s been three years since his last movie Hellboy II–should convince those who are around this weekend to give it a look even if it doesn’t seem likely it can do huge business.

Why I Should See It: Guillermo del Toro is the definition of the word visionary and this movie has a lot of the darkly creative
Why Not: Two words: Katie Holmes. Girl can’t act.
Projections: $9 to 11 million opening weekend and roughly $25 million total.


Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Co.)
Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Rashida Jones, Hugh Dancy, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley Knight, Janet Montgomery, Steve Coogan, T.J. Miller
Directed by Jesse Peretz (The Ex, The Chateau); Written by Evgenia Peretz, David Schisgall
Genre: Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: “Everybody has one.” (I know I do!)
Plot Summary: Ned (Paul Rudd) is a casual pot-smoking organic farmer who gets himself arrested for selling weed to a police officer. Three months later, he gets out of jail to find out that his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has kicked him out, so he’s forced to call upon his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer) to put him as he proceeds to ruin their lives.

Interview with Jesse and Evgenia Peretz

NOTE: Normally, we’d link to our earlier review, in this case from the Sundance Film Festival, but on seeing the movie again, after it had been tinkered with by the Weinstein Company, we just didn’t like it as much and were somewhat disappointed that it didn’t live up to our earlier viewing. C’est la vie.


In a summer full of raunchy R-rated comedies, former Lemonheads bassist and award-winning music video director Jesse Peretz’s new movie is fairly tame, but that may actually be a good thing, because audiences are clearly tiring of R-rated raunch. Peretz’s last comedy The Ex, starring Zach Braff and Jason Bateman, tanked when it was released in early summer by the Weinstein Company, and this one they picked up at Sundance and decided to try late summer with it, and it certainly has a premise and title that makes it far more accessible than his previous movie.

More than anything though, Peretz has another great cast with Paul Rudd being the film’s featured title star. Rudd’s an actor who has been working hard for ages but his back-to-back casting in hit comedies Anchorman and Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin showed that his strength lay in comedy, and he was suddenly being cast in far more leading roles following the success of Apatow’s follow-up Knocked Up in which Rudd had an even bigger role. This success led to starring roles in comedies like Role Models with Seann William Scott, I Love You, Man with Jason Segel and Dinner for Schmucks opposite Steve Carell, all of which were seen as bonafide hits. Even so, Rudd’s most recent comedy, James Brooks’ How Do You Know?, teamed him with bigger stars Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson but the movie completely tanked over the holidays last year.

Reuniting with Rudd for the fourth or fifth time is actress Elizabeth Banks, who appeared with Rudd way back in 2001 in David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer, and they’ve appeared together multiple times since, including in Wain’s hit comedy Role Models. Banks is slowly becoming a starlet in her own right rather than just being a supporting player, but she’s always reliable when paired with Rudd. The rest of the cast is equally strong, including indie sweethearts Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer, the former appearing in her last movie before her FOX TV show “New Girl” starts next month. Comedian Steve Coogan also has a key role, playing Mortimer’s husband, as does TJ Miller, a comedian who is becoming more prominent in recent years, both on television and in movies.

Surprisingly, the Weinstein Company hasn’t really done much comedy over their limited years, but you have to respect their drive to promote this movie, which essentially involves commercials running almost non-stop for weeks, not something you’d normally expect for a late August movie. They do have a lot of things going for this one, including a comedy with a great title that every single woman with an actual brother who they feel is an idiot is going to relate to.

That said, they’re giving the movie a far more moderate release than you’d expect, especially this late in summer when a lot of the big movies have left theaters and there are screens open, releasing it in just 2,000 or so venues. Either way, the abundance of ads during shows women watch should do the trick to get them interested in seeing Rudd in this role, which should allow it to do better both opening weekend and over the next few weeks than it might have otherwise.

Why I Should See It: Jesse Peretz has assembled a great cast of very funny actors.
Why Not: The movie’s not nearly as funny when you don’t see it with a Sundance audience.
Projections: $8 to 10 million opening weekend and roughly $30 million total.


Colombiana (TriStar Pictures/Sony)
Starring Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis
Directed by Olivier Megaton (upcoming Taken 2); Written by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Tagline: “Vengeance is beautiful.”
Plot Summary: After witnessing the murder of her parents, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) grows up to become an assassin, working for her uncle while plotting how she’s going to hunt down and kill the mobster responsible for her parents’ murder.


As we’ve been seeing over the last few weeks, just having stars or a cool action premise or even a well-known name like “Conan the Barbarian” just isn’t enough to get people into theaters once August arrives. This action-packed revenge thriller has something in common with another movie this weekend as it’s written and produced by a foreign filmmaker who has been able to break into the American box office while still remaining true to his own vision, and that’s Luc Besson, the French filmmaker who has helped redefine the action genre with movies like The Professional and others. In recent years, he’s been writing and producing two or three action movies a year for his cadre of directing protégés, and most of these movies get some sort of domestic release, though not all of them are wide releases. Besson’s own output as a director hasn’t been as successful here in the States with movies like Angel-A tanking and his family film Arthur and the Invisibles only doing moderate business. (Its two sequels were never even released theatrically here.) That’s fine because Besson generally seems happy grooming other filmmakers, and though Olivier Megaton helmed the threequel Transporter 3, he already had a career on his own before teaming with Besson. (Megaton has also been attached to direct the sequel Taken 2.)

Besson has created a reputation for himself in creating sexy action heroines going back to his 1990 movie La Femme Nikita, which has spawned a number of remakes and a current hit television show. We also can’t forget that he was one of the first directors to put Eastern European model Milla Jovovich into action in The Fifth Element, his biggest hit in the States. This time, Besson’s action muse is Zoe Saldana, who had been appearing in small movies for a number years before really blowing up a few years ago when she appeared in the powerful duo of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and James Cameron’s Avatar. The first one grossed $250 million and the latter did roughly three times amount, so clearly a lot of people suddenly knew her name (although they may not have recognized her since she was doing all performance capture in Avatar.) Last year, she starred in the ensemble action flick The Losers based on the graphic novel alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Idris Elba (Thor) and Chris Evans (Thor), but that didn’t do nearly as much as some expected.

Now, Saldana is back doing her own thing, but unfortunately, it’s become fairly well known that action movies starring women rarely do the kind of business as those with male counterparts with rare exceptions like Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith or Angelina Jolie in Salt or… well, you get the idea. This may be why someone like Jason Statham can still bring people into theaters regardless what he does while action movies with woman leads rarely even get made let alone do well. One of the rare exceptions was Joe Wright’s Hanna, starring Saorsie Ronan, which excited the imagination of both men and women and took in $40 million earlier this year.

Although Besson has had a lot of success, not all of his imports have exploded in the same way as Taken starring Liam Neeson or Jason Statham’s “Transporter” movies. Lionsgate released Besson’s From Paris With Love, starring a much more established star in John Travolta, in the spring of 2010 and it was only able to bring in roughly $8 million.

Colombiana was released in France in July where it did decent business, roughly $5 million, and that’s not nearly as big a gap between France and the States than some of Besson’s other movies, which would often hit the internet or be on bootleg DVD by the US release. This originally was going to open over Labor Day weekend, where it could have done decent business, being that’s where movies like Crank and The Transporter 2 opened, but then it got moved a week earlier to a weekend where movies tend to go to die. (Not that you could tell from last year’s twosome, both which grossed over $20 million, but those were rarities.) The PG-13 rating may in fact be a good thing because there have been so many R-rated movies released lately which really keeps younger teens from going to see movies although there’s really nothing that makes one think anyone under 20 might be interested in this one either.

That means that it comes down to the marketing to sell the movie and being that this one is from Sony’s bastard child TriStar Pictures, who rarely get that many wide releases, it’s not likely to get as much attention from Sony’s marketing team as whatever movie they’re releasing next. The odd thing is that TriStar was also the studio who had Soul Surfer and Insidious, the first two movies released through Sony’s semi-subsidiary FilmDistrict, so it’s even weirder for them to be releasing films that are essentially competing for the same audience on the same weekend. We think the Guillermo del Toro connection to FilmDistrict’s horror movie will win out over Besson’s involvement with this one.

Why I Should See It: Zoe Saldana is the hottest thing on two legs.
Why Not: No amount of hotness can make up for bad action clichés and without having seen the movie, we have this strong feeling this isn’t one of Besson’s stronger efforts.
Projections: $7 to 9 million opening weekend and roughly $20 million total.



Since we skipped last week, we’re gonna feature two movies that we saw and enjoyed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, both by first-time female directors, although one of them you’re more likely to have heard of than the other. They both deal with women living in a society where their freedom and creativity is repressed.

Higher Ground (Sony Pictures Classics)
Starring Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Bill Irwin, Donna Murphy, Norbert Leo Butz, John Hawkes, Dagamara Dominczyk, Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Directed by Vera Farmiga (debut); Written by Carolyn S. Briggs, Tim Metcalfe
Genre: Drama
Rated R
Plot Summary: As a young girl, Corinne Walker (McKenzie Turner) was raised in the MidWest by parents whose marriage eventually fell apart, but as a teenager, Corinne (Taissa Farmiga) discovers religions and Ethan (Boyd Holbrook), the handsome frontman of the rock band Renegades. She gets pregnant, they get married and years later Corinne and Ethan (Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard) are living among a community of God-loving hippies, and as her own marriage starts having problems, Corinne tries to figure out where her own faith lies.

My Thoughts from Sundance

As you can see above, I already reviewed this movie out of Sundance, so I don’t have a ton more to say about it, although it’s definitely one of the more impressive directorial debuts I’ve seen this year. We’ve gotten used to Vera Farmiga giving awards-worthy performances, but the fact she chose to tackle a fairly complex story that takes place over the course of many decades with many moving parts and she was able to handle the material in a fairly fluid fashion, it’s really hard not to be impressed.

The movie is based on Carolyn Brigg’s memoir “This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost,” and before seeing it, I wouldn’t be so sure a movie that mainly revolves about one woman’s faith and religion is something that might keep me entertained and interested. Surprisingly, I found myself relating to Corinne and her own questions about the existence of God as things around her started to falter. I does take some time before the movie starts to get interesting and though the two younger actresses playing Corinne (including Farmiga’s cousin) are both good, the movie really hits its stride once the older Farmiga takes over the role. Corinne is clever and creative, three things that are above what’s expected from most of the women in the born again community she joins with her musician husband. Over the course of the years, we see how the world and life changes around Corinne and she desperately tries to justify her belief in God.

This is a terrific story and Farmiga never handles the subject of religion and faith in a cynical way, instead telling Corinne’s story in a warm and funny way with actress Dagamara Dominczyk bringing a lot of both to the table as Corinne’s best friend. Besides the two women, I was also impressed with Josh Leonard, who gives another fantastic dramatic performance as Corinne’s husband, whose talents as a musician and singer are also on display. When their marriage falls apart, it leads to some of the most memorable dramatic scenes.

Sure, the movie won’t be for everyone–its memoir-based biopic-like narrative might not seem very interesting because the movie is not about a well-known public figure–but Farmiga shines both as an actress and director, showing great potential for a long and illustrious career on both sides of the camera.

That said, on second viewing, I wasn’t quite as enamored with the movie as I was at my Sundance screening (this is becoming a pattern), which is why it gets a…

Revised Rating: 8.5/10

Higher Ground opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Circumstance (Roadside Attractions)
Starring Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai, Soheil Parsa, Nasrin Pakkho, Sina Amedson, Keon Mohajeri
Written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz (debut)
Genre: Drama
Rated R
Tagline: “Let No Love Fall Victim To…”
Plot Summary: Two 16-year-old girls from different social classes in Iran—Atafeh and Shireen—have fallen hopelessly in love with each other as their traverse the underground youth culture of parties, sex and drugs, but the way things are in the city, it’s only so long before they’re forced apart.

This is another movie I saw at this year’s Sundance Film Festival-in fact it was the very last movie I saw before leaving Park City this year. It was a film that really blew me away, not just because it was a directorial debut of a new woman filmmaker who clearly has a lot of talent, but also because it’s an incredibly original take on a typical teen drama mainly due to its locale.

It’s a film that starts out at a fairly slow but deliberate pace as it introduces two teen friends who seem just like other girls, although they come from different class systems in Iran,where the divide between wealthy and the poor is far more prominent than elsewhere. Like most girls their age, they just want to be able to go out and have fun, drinking and dancing with their friends but they live in a society where women are forced into subservient roles where they’re forced to shroud themselves in a burka. Women are marginalized and forced to live as inferiors to men while constantly under the gaze of the morality police. There’s also more to the two girls’ relationship as we’ll find out later, but Atafeh’s older brother Mehran has his own problem with drugs, so he chooses to exorcise his demons by throwing himself into his worship of Allah and becoming an informant for the police, essentially spying on his own family. He eventually saves Shireen from being jailed for “immorality” by strong-arming her into marrying him, something that causes a bigger rift between the two friends.

Maryam Keshavarz works within the confines of a fairly small cast to tell a fairly expansive story about Iranian society as a while, her film simultaneously exploring the relationship between daughter and father, sister and brother and the relationship between two close friends and eventually lovers. The performances are solid all around but the two young actresses, both making their debut, are especially fantastic, having an incredible chemistry that makes their relationship believable as it evolves with the hurdles thrown their way.

Keshavarz’s debut is incredibly cinematic with many moments that are made more haunting by the way its filmed and her choice in music. The results are an incredibly unique look at Iran through the eyes of two young women trapped in a society that doesn’t allow them to express their individuality as we see what they must go through in order to gain their freedom. Circumstance shows an incredibly strong capability for storytelling normally seen only from filmmakers far more experienced than Keshavarz; one can only imagine that whatever she does next will have an equally impressive impact.

Rating: 8/10

Circumstance opens in select cities on Friday, including the Landmark Sunshine Cinemas in New York.

Also in Limited Release:

Screenwriter Rowan Joffe’s directorial debut, the crime drama Brighton Rock (IFC Films) based on the 1939 Graham Greene novel, stars Sam Riley (Control) as Pinkie, an ambitious gangster who murders a crime boss and then must get close to a local waitress named Rose (Andrea Riseborough) who has evidence that can pin him to the murders. Also starring Helen Mirren and John Hurt, it opens in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Friday.


Screenwriter Rowan Joffe’s directorial debut pulls Graham Greene’s novel a quarter decade forward in time to create a stylish crime noir that takes full advantage of the beach-side Brighton setting that’s not unlike Atlantic City or Coney Island. It’s here where two groups of local criminals have waged a war against each other after a couple of their ranks are killed. Caught in the middle is Pinky, a young man who moves up the ranks when he kills a high-ranking officer in the enemy’s gang. Unfortunately, a picture was taken of him with his victim just before the hit and a local waitress named Rose was there, so Pinky turns on the charm to get close to her.

Sam Riley is so poorly cast as the tough guy Pinky and his performance threatens to ruin every scene, just as it’s hard to believe the transition he goes through in a very short time—not that we have any sense of how much time passes. By comparison, Andrea Riseborough is quite talented and she does a terrific job realizing a character that doesn’t have a lot going for her. The story is pretty weak but their romance is never believable because you can’t imagine that she could fall in love with him due to his brusque behavior. The lack of chemistry between the two actors is also a major problem, and because we know he doesn’t love her, one wonders why go through everything he does when he has plenty of opportunities to simply kill her?

As expected, Helen Mirren and John Hurt are much better with lots of good scenes together though their characters don’t really serve much purpose to the story, while Andy Serkis is also enjoyable as the opposing crime lord but he only has two very short scenes.

Joffe uses the material to create a stylish noir film with lots of fancy lighting and he has a great location to work with that offers lots of gorgeous backgrounds, one of the more impressive scenes is the recreation of the Brighton Beach riots of ’64. Other than that, it’s mostly dull, and the weak performances are degraded further by an overly melodramatic score that tends to overpower the acting. There’s also noticeable problems with the make-up such as with Riley’s prevalent scar which seems to heal far quicker than a scar that nasty might heal.

“Brighton Rock” certainly isn’t awful and fans of old-time movies might appreciate what Joffe was trying to do, but he isn’t nearly as strong a director as he is a writer and he’s unable to realize such an intricate story in a way that’s even remotely satisfying.
Rating: 5.5/10

Hope Davis and Dermot Mulroney star as the head of a dysfunctional household in Serenity, Ohio in Vivi Friedman’s The Family Tree (Entertainment One). She’s been having an affair with their next door neighbor Simon (Chi McBride), but when she gets a case of amnesia, it seems to give the family a second chance but instead things spiral even further out of control. It opens at the Village East Cinemas in New York on Friday.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

New Jack City and Baaaadaassss director Mario van Peebles is back with Redemption Road (Freestyle Releasing) about two men (Michael Clarke Duncan, Morgan Simpson) who go on a 900-mile journey between Austin and Hunstville, Alabama exploring the music of the South as well as their own tenuous relationship. It opens in select cities.

Matthew Bates’ documentary Shut Up, Little Man!: An Audio Misadventure (Tribeca Films) follows the story of how roommates Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitch Deprey captured the noisy profanity-filled arguing of their neighbors while living in San Francisco in 1987 and how the tapes they created of the arguing Ray and Pete, two men living together who are clearly like oil and water, became a cultural phenomenon among musicians and comic artists. After being turned into a play, the tapes created a war between different factions trying to make a movie about the mysterious neighbors. It opens in San Francisco on Friday and then in New York at the IFC Center on September 16.

Jonathan Newman’s comedy Swinging With the Finkels (Freestyle Releasing) stars Martin Freeman (“The Office UK”) and Mandy Moore as a couple who get bored with their married life after seven years and are advised by their friends (Jonathan Silverman, Melissa George) to spice things up by getting into wife-swapping. We don’t know where it’s opening but it literally is one of the worst movies we’ve seen this year. We did not need to see teen pop singer Mandy Moore doing a masturbation scene with a cucumber and that was the only funny scene in the movie.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Jeff Prosserman’s documentary Chasing Madoff (Cohen Media Group) follows Harry Markopols and his investigators who spent ten years trying to piece together the crimes committed by Bernie Madoff that eventually linked him to the Ponzi scheme which brought him down. It opens in New York and L.A.

France’s finest actress Isabelle Huppert stars as a prostitute in Jeanne Labrune’s Special Treatment (First Run Features) as she bonds with a psychoanalyst when they discover they have a lot in common. It opens in New York at the Cinema Village.

Steven Kampmann’s dark comedy Buzzkill (Indican) stars Daniel Raymont as struggling writer Ray Wyatt who becomes famous when a serial killer known as the “Karaoke Killer” steals his car and his latest script.

Vampires collide when “True Blood” star Stephen Moyer and “Twilight”‘s Rachelle Lefevre star in Matthew Parkhill’s thriller The Caller (Samuel Goldwyn Films) about a divorcee plagued with phone calls from a mysterious woman saying she’s from the past and when she tries to break contact, the caller threatens to get revenge.

Next week, it’s Labor Day weekend and the end of summer as three new movies try to end it on a high note, including the horror duo of Shark Night 3D (Relativity Media) and Apollo 18 (The Weinstein Company), as well as the drama The Debt (Focus Features), starring Helen MIrren, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas