FOCUS || February 27th, 2015

Focus-poster Let’s put “After Earth” behind us and bring on the parts that Will Smith actually excels in. “Focus” may look a little too much like an “Oceans 11” minus the ensemble cast, but it does put Smith back in a suit and tie, playing the suave con man. Margot Robbie also takes her next step following “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” bringing the sex needed to vamp this heist narrative up. The trailer is just vague enough to reveal some potential potholes while still getting me excited to see it.
THEATER
TheLazarusEffect-poster Olivia Wilde returns to the big screen following the birth of her child, in the horror film “The Lazarus Effect”. Playing a scientist alongside Mark Duplass, the pair are working on their very own Lazarus serum, i.e. bringing dead things back to life. In particular, dogs are their main test subjects and it actually works. But when their funding is pulled and an accident happens in the lab, they end up bringing a human back from the dead. What follows is your run-of-the-mill slasher film, hindered by an underground set with barely any rooms and piss-poor character development to the point where you’re not invested in the characters enough to even care what happens to them. Sadly, nothing is able to bring this film back from the dead.
WildCanaries-poster The problem I find with independent murder mysteries is that they come off a little too much like everything else released before them, coming off slightly watered down. “Wild Canaries” is no different. Then I see that the star of film, Lawrence Michael Levine, is also the writer and director and it all becomes clear while this feels so stale. Actors writing and directing parts for themselves, likely with very little outside perspective to tell them that this has all been done before, and much much better. Regardless, this is described as a screwball comedy murder mystery where a couple is determined to prove the son of their deceased elderly neighbor was actually involved in her death.
PASS

71-poster Jack O’Connell rides his successful wave off of Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” into another war movie where he once again finds himself behind enemy lines in “71”. This time he plays a British soldier accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971, where tensions are high and men are out for blood. O’Connell looks especially strong as the lead, proving he is an actor to watch from here on out, but besides having the Sundance selection monicker and some spectacular reviews, this looks like normal period war fare.
PASS
ALaMala-poster If you ask me, most foreign romantic comedy miss their mark. But “A La Mala” actually looks quite intriguing, helped mainly by the extremely attractive Mexican actress Aislinn Derbez, who plays a woman hired by other women to confirm that their boyfriends or husbands are actually out seeking other women. But as with most romantic comedies, the twist comes when she actually falls for the one of the guys, bringing up the ultimate conflict.
25% MAYBE
DeliMan-poster The delicatessen owners shown in the documentary “Deli Man” are actually quite the characters and I would honestly probably visit their delis just to see them as well, but the film overall is nothing I cannot live without. Living in Los Angeles, there is actually a quite functional delicatessen right down the street from my work called Greenblatts that really does serve the sandwiches depicted in the trailer, where your jaw can literally barely get around the sandwich. But I can see how this film would mean a lot more to either people living in NYC or anyone who has never actually been to one of these delis.
PASS
Ejecta-poster Part of me always wants to give alien/UFO films a shot, just because the darkness of them is unmatched by any other genre. There is something so chilling about the way aliens are depicted in film that turns the eeriness up to another degree. “Ejecta” does a nice job of highlighting that effect in its trailer, with a monotonous man narrating and great visuals that tease the premise and promise of aliens perfectly. Unfortunately, the film rides the line between nicely produced and low budget, leaving me questionable to whether this is actually a great, original idea or possibly a retread of previously good ideas.
PASS
ElephantSong-poster A missing doctor is the driving force of the psychological thriller “Elephant Song”. Bruce Greenwood plays the man looking into the disappearance as he deals with the doctor’s patient, the last person to see him. With a huge cast including Catherine Keener and Carrie-Anne Moss, paired with a story mysterious enough to garner my attention, there’s a chance of this being as good as the trailer makes it seem. But with absolutely no word of mouth, there’s nothing to go off of.
25% MAYBE
Everly-poster Salma Hayek being bad ass and looking hot? How can you pass that up? In “Everly,” she plays a woman holed up in an apartment as her ex, a mob boss, sends assassins to gun her down. There’s money involved and a strange Asian man on a couch, but the kicker to this whole plot is the dark humor mixed throughout, including lines like “my father wanted a boy” and screaming, half dressed women getting gunned down. This is reminiscent of “Kill Bill”, with some Latin flavor.
25% MAYBE
FarewellToHollywood-poster Taking a new approach to documentary film-making, “Farewell To Hollywood” is the true story of 17-year-old Regina Nicholson, a tomboy who dreams of making a film despite suffering from a terminal illness. Paired with film-maker Henry Corra, the duo set out to make a documentary that not only tells Regina’s heartbreaking story, but that also entertains, pushes boundaries, and delivers the message in a new and thought-provoking way. If the trailer is any indication, I’d say they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. With the tagline: “the life and death of Reggie Nicholson,” I can imagine about how it ends.
PASS
KungFuElliot-poster For dreamers, there always comes a fork in the road where they must decide whether to keep chasing their dreams despite showing no movement forward or set them aside and chase something slightly more tangible. In the documentary “Kung Fu Elliot,” bonafide Canadian stuntman Elliot “White Lightning” Scott is chasing his dream of becoming the next action hero. But what the film looks to uncover is perhaps the delusions told to ourselves when chasing the intangible dreams. With a frustrated significant other and a crew that is reminiscent of characters in “Napoleon Dynamite,” Elliot is quite the character in and of himself. What slightly intrigues me is this review: the synopsis describes the ending as “the dramatic finale is so surprising, it will undoubtedly get audiences talking about what they just saw.”
PASS
MapsToTheStars-poster David Cronenberg’s films may be an acquired taste, but there is no denying the star power in “Maps To The Stars”. Taking a jaded and often comical look at what it means to be a Hollywood-ite, Julianne Moore, John Cusack, and Robert Pattinson all play different levels of establishment in the City of Angels. Mia Wasikowska’s character is the magnetism that brings them all together, with a mysterious past and mysterious connections that unfold throughout the film. The performances here are stellar and the writing is impeccable, marking one of Cronenberg’s best films yet.

MyLifeDirectedByNicolasWindingRefn-poster Director Nicolas Winding Refn steps in front of the camera as the subject for the documentary “My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn,” in which his wife points the camera at him during the production and release of the film “Only God Forgives”. Much in the same way “Hearts Of Darkness” was a companion piece to “Apocalypse Now,” so are these companion pieces, showing the mental and emotional processes that director’s go through while trying to create their masterpieces.
25% MAYBE
OutOfTheDark-poster Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman both take their first steps into B-horror with “Out Of The Dark,” playing a couple that moves with their young daughter to South America. The town that they end up settling in, however, have a sordid past involving the massacre of children. Fast-forward to their little girl going missing, and you’ve got yourself a haunted ghost story thriller. The bad news is, the graphics are poor and the horror is all textbook, with not a single moment in the trailer feeling original. Not even big name actors can save this one.
PASS
TheSalvation-poster Tell me there’s a new Western movie coming out and chances are I’ll want to see it. But then add Mads Mikkelsen (“Hannibal”), Eva Green (“Penny Dreadful”), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“The Possession”) and now you’ve got a film that I sort of have to see. The trailer does a great job of selling this with it’s distinct production quality and some very interesting cinematography, without giving too much of the story away, besides some revenge and love arcs mixed with your normal Western tropes.
50% PROBABLY
SnowGirlAndTheDarkCrystal-poster There’s never any doubt that these fantasy martial arts films look amazing, but unless you are married to the story that they often tell, they can become a little monotonous, as every film after “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” feels slightly derivative. With a short teaser and not much to go on, I cannot tell you much about “Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal” besides it being directed by Academy Award winning cinematographer Peter Pau who actually won his Oscar for his work on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
PASS
Vanish-poster Is it just me or are kidnapping/ransom movies starting to feel outdated? “VANish” sees three incompetent guys kidnapping a beautiful young woman, making her record the ransom video for her father, and ending up in a bloody battle with Danny Trejo. None of this is very cohesive in the trailer with no real through-line, but what I do know is there are plenty of van/car puns, including the kicker at the end of the trailer: “I got shotgun”.
PASS

THEATER

  • Focus
  • The Lazarus Effect
  • Maps To The Stars

RENTAL

MOST LIKELY CATCH ON NETFLIX (75%)

PROBABLY CATCH ON NETFLIX (50%)

  • The Salvation

MIGHT CATCH ON NETFLIX (25%)

  • A La Mala
  • Elephant Song
  • Everly
  • My Life Directed By Nicolas Windig Refn

PASS

  • ’71
  • Deli Man
  • Ejecta
  • Farewell To Hollywood
  • Kung Fu Elliot
  • Out Of The Dark
  • Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal
  • VANish
  • Wild Canaries

HELL NO

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s