As Luck Would Have It – With echoes of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, comes a very dark comedy from Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia about a man who will go to great lengths to take care of his family. Roberto (José Mota) is having a terrible time and his wife, Luisa (Salma Hayek), is trying to help out, but doesn’t have a clue how bad the situation is. Roberto has a terrible car accident, and finds himself with an opportunity on his hands. Because of the freak nature of the accident, Roberto becomes the center of a wild media storm, and Roberto plans on leveraging his life story rights to provide for his family. But some stories are worth more dead than alive, and the vultures try to take advantage of Luisa while poor Roberto lays there. From a script by Randy Feldman with supporting performances from Carolina Bang, Blanca Portillo, Santiago Segura, and Nacho Vigalondo. Out in limited release from Independent Pictures and everywhere via VOD.
Bullet to the Head – Not sure why Hollywood is hell-bent on recycling their old action stars, maybe they are trying to get as much mileage as they can from them, but here we go again. Sly Stallone (67) teams with director Walter Hill (71 and who’s heyday was in the late 70s to early 90s), for another example of American Male Machismo. Based on the French graphic novel, Du Plomb Dans La Tete Bullet by Alexis Nolent, script by Alessandro Camon, Bullet uses that age-old formula of old school meets new school. Stallone plays the old school New Orleans hit man who teams with a young cop from Washington, DC (Sung Kang) to hunt down the ax murder who killed both of their respective partners. The addition of Sung Kang to the cast is what is new about these types of movies, as it allows the producers to seek a wider audience when they release them overseas. Warner Brothers is releasing the movie wide in America on Friday.
The Gatekeepers – One of five documentaries nominated for this year’s Oscar. This one is a fascinating look at the Shin Bet, the Israeli organization that is designed to fight against terrorism. Six men have been in command of the Shin Bet since it’s inception in 1980, and this is the first time that any of them have been interviewed on camera. An engaging documentary about how they defended against terrorist, or how they became terrorists. As one of them states, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Few subjects are as complicated to explain and this documentary gives an honest look into that world. Directed by Dror Moreh and in limited release from Sony Pictures Classics. My review.
Girls Against Boys – Ready for a little revenge? Shae (Danielle Panabaker) has reached a moment in her life that will define the woman she is. Just a simple college student who has been toyed with, abused, and finally raped by a series of heinous men in her life. Time for the victim to become the victimizer, or that’s what Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) is hoping for. Lu is a tad unhinged and man is she ready to start taking down anything with a penis. Shae goes along for the ride, and as these things usually go, the revenge turns into an obsession and Shae now has to try to separate herself from Lu’s controlling nature. I suppose weak people are just naturally attracted to someone stronger. Written and directed by Austin Chick, and in limited release from Anchor Bay Films.
The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghost of Georgia – What a cumbersome title. I understand that they want to capitalize on the financial success of The Haunting of Connecticut, but did they really need to go and throw another state in the mix? This haunting involves a young family moving into a house to start their lives, but guess what? The house turns out to be haunted. Surprise, surprise. This particular house is haunted by the past of the Underground Railroad, and what happened to the people running the house when the neighbors found out. The usual shock and scare tactics are at work here, and once again, beautiful white people are haunted by America’s bloody history. Or at least, I think that is what it is striving at, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Featuring the talents of Chad Michael Murray, Abigail Spencer, Katee Sackhoff, and Emily Alyn Lind, with direction from Tom Elkins and in limited release from Lionsgate.
The Last Gladiators – From Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney comes the story of hockey enforcers. Last year, Goon was a loving look at the guys who take the ice for no other reason than to start fights, The Last Gladiators is the true look into the lives that these men go on to live. It takes a very special (or stupid) form of toughness to want to go out and punch another man who is wearing a helmet. It also takes a very special form of toughness to turn that off, and live life in a society without resorting to the one thing that you do best. Not just a look at the sport and those who played it, but also the society that loves it. Chris Nilan is the main focus, but this doc also includes Marty McSorley, Paul Schantz, Tony Twist, and Donald Brashear. Out in limited release from Phase 4 Films.
Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary – “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Those words from The Gatekeepers apply to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist, a talented writer, and a revolutionary, and in 1981 he was convicted of killing a policeman. Mumia was sentenced to death, and has been on death row ever since. Thirty years have passed and Mumia continues to write, report, and educate. There are those who want to silence him, but Mumia continues to do what he can. Contains interviews from Cornel West, Alice Walker, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and Angela Davis. Documentary written and directed by Stephen Vittoria and in limited release from First Run Features.
Sound City – Hidden behind the Hollywood Hills, deep in the San Fernando Valley, tucked away on a little side street in Van Nuys, is the historic recording studio, Sound City. It is now bankrupt and cleaned out, but it was home to some of the greatest moments of rock n’ roll history. There isn’t enough space here to list all of them, but Sound City has produced the soundtrack of our lives for the past forty years. This is partly due to the legendary board that was created to record, and partly due to the immense history of the place. Imagine recording in the same studio that Nirvana cut “Nevermind”. The drummer of that band, Dave Grohl gathers a slew of musicians to discuss not only their favorite studio, but also the evolution of their art and the future of the industry. Sound City garnered rave reviews last week at its Sundance debut and now Variance Films is giving it a limited release, and it is available everywhere via iTunes and VOD. You can read my review here.
Stand Up Guys – Val is released from a twenty-eight year stint in the clink and guess who is waiting for him? His closest friend, Doc, who was spared prison time when Val took the fall for the mob. Now that Val is out, he needs to be taken out, and the mob orders Doc to do the hit. Val knows what’s coming, he just wants to have a little fun before he check outs. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken play Val and Doc and old pal Hirsch (Alan Arkin) tags along for one more send up of the good old days. Aging mobsters just trying to feel young again, everyone is entitled to a mid-life crisis. Directed by Fischer Stevens, out in limited release from Lionsgate.
Warm Bodies – R (Nicholas Hoult) is one of the many un-dead that now roam the planet, but he’s a little different. For one thing, he has an inner monologue that can articulate ideas and thoughts that his vocal chords simply can’t. He moves through this world trying to do the best he can, and one day he meets a lovely little girl, Julie (Teresa Palmer), and it’s love at first sight. She starts to figure out that there might be something special to this particular zombie and keeps him around, and something starts to happen. Maybe R might overcome this whole zombie thing and grow a real human heart. What a refreshing twist on the love story and our recent obsession with zombies. With supporting performances from Rob Corddry and John Malkovich, and direction from Jonathan Levine, Lionsgate releases this in theaters everywhere.