Caesar Must Die – William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is one of the most infamous and greatest pieces of theater. It has been performed a countless number of times in virtually every language. One would think that we would reach a saturation point for this particular play, but we never will, and we can thank Paolo and Vittorio Taviani and those of like mind for such inventiveness. Their staging of Julius Caesar is part documentary, part staging. The performers, harden criminals, some with no hope of parole. “Et tu, Brute?” takes on a completely different meaning to one who might have actually done the deed in real life and is not simply pretending. If you are not a regular listener to the great NPR program, This American Life, they tackled a very similar approach with death row criminals and Hamlet’s Act V. There is another aspect to this movie, and that is that performance, the art, and the expression is not only a means of freedom, it is these criminals’ only means of freedom. Out in limited release from Adopt Films on Wednesday.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III – Charlie Sheen is back and he’s more depraved, more despised, more fractured than ever before. Suffering a terrible break-up, Charles Swan needs the help of his close friends to pull him back together. As Charles comes closer and close to self-evaluation and self-realization, he asks the question, “Is it possible to love someone and hate them at the same time?” Yep. Roman Coppola writes and directs his first film in over a decade, and he brings his friends to the party: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Patricia Arquette. Out in limited release from Film Buff and A24, but available everywhere via VOD and iTunes.
Identity Thief – Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman) is a successful account rep in Denver, CO and he’s just had all his credit cut off and the collection agencies are closing in. It’s not his fault, honest, he’s had his identity stolen by Diana (Melissa McCarthy) who is living it up on Sandy’s behalf in Miami, FL. Sandy heads down to Miami to bring Diana back to Denver to clear his name. Diana, surprisingly, is not going to go without a fight, or a few throat punches. A road trip ensues, and here come the hi-jinks. Written by Craig Mazin with direction from Seth Gordon and supporting performances from John Cho, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, and Genesis Rodriguez. Out in theaters everywhere from Universal Pictures.
Lore – When you think of the Nazi SS Police, you probably don’t think of them as family men with children, but they were. Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is the eldest daughter whose Mother and Father were in the SS and captured by the Allies. Now Lore must lead her two sisters across a war-torn Germany to her Grandmother, and it is doubtful that they would have made it, if it were not for Thomas (Kai Malina) a Jew who escaped the Nazi and pretends that Lore and her sisters are his family. Lore, who had been raised on hate, learns to accept in order to survive, and maybe, just maybe the things her parents taught he were deadly wrong. Written by Robin Mukherjee, Cate Shortland with Shortland directing the project. In limited release from Music Box Films.
Night Across The Street – From the prolific Raúl Ruiz comes his final story of truth, fiction, and pure story. Forced to retire, Don Celso (Sergio Hernandez) reflects and dream about things that were and were not. Within the dreams are more dreams, stories within stories, reality collapsing on it self. Words don’t do a film like this any justice, you just have to see it to decide for yourself if the Beethoven that shows up is actually Beethoven or just someone designed to invoke the concept of Beethoven. Additional performances by Valentina Vargas, Christian Vadam, and Chamila Rodriguez. Written by Hernán del Solar and Ruiz, this swan song sees a limited release from Cinema Guild this Friday.
The Playroom – Many remember the 70s fondly, but I suppose that any decade that you grew up in could be a crappy decade. Maggie (Olivia Harris) probably won’t be having any fond memories of the 1970s, especially one gin-soaked evening when parents laid it all on the line. The façade of the American family crumbles and no one is left unscathed. John Hawkes and Molly Parker are the parents and they give a portrait of the American family, tortured and trapped. Gretchen Dyer is the writer with Julia Dyer as the director. In limited theaters, but also day-and-date from Freestyle releasing.
Side Effects – A new Seven Soderbergh movie is always cause for celebration, especially now that he is stepping away from the camera. What project does he choose for his last feature? A psychological thriller about a pill-popping housewife. Emily (Rooney Mara) and Martin (Channing Tatum) are young, in loved, and married. Life is good, but after a period of time, things start to sour. No one is to blame, Emily suffers from crippling anxiety and needs some medical help. Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) prescribes a new drug that will solve her problems. It does, but, side effects may occur. And they are deadly. Scott Z. Burns writes and Soderbergh directs, and Open Roads Films releases the movie everywhere. My spoiler free review can be read here.
The Sorcerer and the White Snake – Based on an ancient Chinese myth of a herbalist who falls in love with a snake disguised as a woman comes a plastic, visual spectacle, special effects movie. Jet Li plays the Sorcerer who will battle the White Snake (Eva Huang) to free the man’s soul, but he’ll have to go through a hoard of demons, and even some angles, before he can take down Snake Lady. It is worth mentioning that they are all beautiful women. Yes, there is an awful lot of eye candy in this one, including Vivian Hsu and Charlene Choi. Directed by Tony Siu-Tung Ching and out in limited release from Magnolia Pictures and On Demand as well.
Spiders 3D – This week’s creature feature is about intelligent, killer spiders, and crap they’re big! A Russian Space Station containing a special brand of spiders they uncovered in the Arctic crashes in Manhattan. The spiders get out, lay eggs and populate the species, which apparently grows at a very rapid pace. Apparently, these spiders are smart enough to take hostages and Jason and Rachel Cole have to rescue their daughters while fighting the army of spiders. Christa Campbell, Patrick Muldoon, William Hope, and Jon Mack star and Tibor Takács directs this low-budget monster movie. Out in limited release from Millennium Entertainment and on DVD in March.
Top Gun: An IMAX 3D Experience – In theaters for only six days (unless they make a lot of money) is that 80s classic, Top Gun, retrofitted for IMAX and 3D. The special edition DVD in both 3D and 2D comes out on February 19th, so I guess that makes this theatrical run a promotion to move discs. Of course you know the story, the players, and the music, but it will be interesting to see if a movie like this actually holds up after twenty-six years. The late Tony Scott directed the script by Jack Epps, Jr. and Jim Cash, starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer. Imagine what that volleyball scene must be like in IMAX 3D… Out wide from Paramount for six days (unless they extend it to make more).