The Armstrong Lie – “Sure I cheated. BUT, I didn’t cheat that one time, and I want credit for it.” Seems like a silly argument to take, but Lance Armstrong was a cheater, what else would you expect? In 2009, director Alex Gibney and producer Frank Marshall set out to make a documentary about Lance Armstrong, the man who overcame testicular cancer and became the poster boy of cycling. Over the course of the lionization of Armstrong, the truth came out, and boy did the subject change course. Documentary out in limited release from Sony Pictures Classics.
At Berkeley – In the 1960s, tuition for the University of California at Berkeley, or Cal, was zero dollars and zero cents. Free to all. In the 70s, it was $700, and today it is significantly more. Competing with Stanford, USC, Harvard, Yale, and a slew of other top-tier universities, Berkeley continues to try to separate itself from the competition, attempting to actually feel like the school of the future. This lengthy documentary is the latest from Frederick Wiseman, and if you are unfamiliar with his work, now is the time. Out in limited release from Zipporah with a DVD release in January.
Birth of the Living Dead – I feel like this story has been told at hundred times, but what the hell, it’s a pretty good story. In 1968, George A. Romero pulled together what crew and money he could to make a little independent horror film in Pittsburg, PA. That movie was Night of the Living Dead, and it sparked two generations worth of zombie obsession. Director Rob Kuhns explores the many influences that led Romero to his movie and sets the stage with archive footage and interviews. If you haven’t heard the story before, here is your chance. Out in limited release from First Run Features.
The Book Thief – Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) has been sent to a foster family (Emma Watson & Geoffrey Rush) and takes with her one book. Enchanted by its power, she begins collecting books, protecting them from those Nazi bastards who really get off on burning them. With the power of imagination and a little help from a stowaway under the stairs (Nico Liersch), Liesel learns to read and survive one of the greatest atrocities committed by mankind. Based on the novel by Markus Zusak, adapted by Michael Petroni, directed by Brian Percival, and out in limited release from 20th Century Fox.
A Case Of You – Justin Long plays a sad-sack writer who desperately loves a girl (Evan Rachel Wood). How does he get her to notice him? He Facebook stalks her, learns all the things she wants, and then models himself into the perfect match. When she starts to fall for him, he has the audacity to accuse her of not knowing the real him. Some guys just don’t understand women. Co-starring Peter Dinklage, Brendan Fraser, Sam Rockwell, Busy Philipps, and Sienna Miller. Written by Christian Long and Justin Long, directed by Kat Coiro, and out in limited release from IFC Films.
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens was so prolific that he would often write his novels while having dinner with guests. Sometimes a man just can’t be distracted. Great Expectations is among his best, and all those high school students will be relieved to have a new adaptation to watch instead. Pip (Jeremy Irvine) learns that one-act of kindness is worth a lifetime of privilege, Estella (Holliday Grainger) is taught to hate and spurn men, and Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) will see that her plans will always go up in smoke. Ralph Finnes is Magwitch, Robbie Coltrane is Mr. Jaggers, and Jason Flemyng is Joe. David Nicholls tries to do Dickens justice and Mike Newell directs the production released by Lionsgate into limited theaters.
How I Live Now – Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is an American teenager sent to spend a summer in England. Being the typical teenager, she prefers the comfort of her headphones to the company of others, but the handsome Eddie (George McKay) starts to break down those walls. But wouldn’t you know it, just when Daisy and Eddie start to fall for each other, WWIII breaks out! Crap. Nothing forces kids to grow up quite like a world war. Based on the novel by Meg Rosoff, adapted by Tony Grisoni, Jeremy Brock, and Penelope Skinner. Director Kevin MacDonald is the grandson of Emeric Pressburger, I guess talent runs in the family. Out in limited release from Magnolia Pictures.
Medora – The town of Medora, ND has been ravaged. Prosperity has disappeared, drugs have taken over, and poverty is rampant. The high school basketball team, The Medora Hornets, is terrible. Ranked last in the state, they miss shots, don’t box out, and just get pushed around on the court. This documentary from Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart follows the boys of Medora to see what their lives are like, what they have a store, and what demons they must bury. Out in limited release from Film Buff.
The Motel Life – Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry Lee Flannigan (Stephen Dorff) are two brothers that would do anything for each other. That bond is tested when Jerry Lee inadvertently hits a kid with his car and kills him. Frank vows to protect his brother, even at the cost of his own life. Dakota Fanning plays Annie, Frank’s girlfriend and the rest of the cast is rounded out with Kris Kristofferson and Garrett Backstrom. Novel by Willy Vlautin, animation from Mike Smith, and direction from Alan and Gabe Polsky. Out in limited release.
Thor: The Dark World – Your favorite Norse Gods are all back: Thor (Chris Hemmsworth), Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Heimdall (Idris Elba), all those puny humans: Jane (Natalie Portman), Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), Darcy (Kat Dennings) and one very power hammer: Mjölner. Once again, the human world has come in contact with the world of Gods and Monsters and this one is particularly dark. Says so right there in the title. Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Don Payne, directed by Alan Taylor and out in wide release in both 2D and 3D from Marvel Entertainment.