In this week's column, we round up four new distribution deals, five films opening this weekend, and one great trailer.
Johnny To's thriller Life Without Principle, which debuts today at the Venice Film Festival, has been acquired for North American distribution by Indomina, according to Film Business Asia. Lau Ching Wan, Richie Jen and Denise Ho star as characters under financial stress who cross paths with a bag containing $5 million. No release date has been announced. The film is next headed to the Toronto festival.
Deadline reports that Freestyle Releasing has picked up Sarah Palin - You Betcha!, Nick Broomfield's documentary, and will open it in New York and Los Angeles on September 30. Set to premiere in Toronto on Sunday, the doc features interviews with her parents, neighbors, and former colleagues, who "trace her values to her upbringing in the Pentecostal faith," according to the program notes.
"A careful character study" about an ordinary-looking insurance salesman who keeps a 10-year-old boy locked up in his basement will get a theatrical release next year. Entitled Michael, the film by Markus Schleinzer world premiered at Cannes earlier this year and will play at Toronto next week. Strand Releasing will take on the challenge of distributing a film whose lead character is a child molester; indieWIRE has the press release with all the details.
Amador, a drama revolving around a young woman and an old man, has been acquired by Film Movement, which plans a release in the second quarter of 2012, per The Hollywood Reporter. Magaly Solier stars as Marcela, a pregnant woman who travels to Spain for a summer job in the employ of a bedridden gentleman (Celso Bugallo), and is then faced with a moral dilemma when he dies. Fernando León de Aranoa (Mondays in the Sun, Princesas) directed.
My pick of the week is Shaolin, an action drama from China. Directed by veteran Hong Kong filmmaker Benny Chan, Shaolin stars Andy Lau as a very angry warlord who must take refuge in a Shaolin monastery after his family is shattered by his opponents. There he learns the true meaning of peace and love, and also discovers that Jackie Chan is pretty convincing as a humble cook / comic relief. Nicholas Tse plays Lau's former underling, an ambitious, vicious soldier. This is crowd-pleasing entertainment, with little subtlety; the action sequences are definitely the highlights, though, and justify the ticket price. It opens on Friday in limited release.
Also opening this weekend, Tanner Hall is set at an all-girls boarding school in New England as four teenagers enter their senior year. Rooney Mara falls for "older man" Tom Everett Scott, Brit import Georgia King has trouble fitting in, Brie Larson gets into mischief, and tomboy artist Amy Ferguson discovers why she likes drawing girls in her pictures rather than boys. Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg, longtime friends who studied film together at Brown University, wrote and directed.
Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, documents the comedian's wildly successful cross-country tour, and features footage from a visit to his hometown of Philadelphia. "He deftly mixed common stand-up fodder — think sex, relationships and differences between the genders — with deeper observations based on experiences with divorce, cancer (which claimed his mother’s life) and drug-addicted family members," observed Troy Reimink of The Grand Rapids Press, writing about Hart's appearance in March. The official site has more information.
Chinese romantic comedy Love in Space "follows a mother and her three grown daughters as they juggle their assorted love lives," according to the official description. "Each woman is successful in everything except love – until they unexpectedly encounter new romances in Beijing, Sydney and even on the moon." Aaron Kwok and Eason Chan are among the potential love mates for the ladies. Produced by Fruit Chan, who's better known for his art house fare, Love in Space will open in select markets.
John Landis' black comedy Burke & Hare, starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis as 19the century grave robbers, has been greeted with generally unfavorable reviews, which is a bit puzzling. True, it's an uneven flick, but it's richly atmospheric and delivers more than its share of laughs. Perhaps Landis' sense of humor is too far out of kilter with today's comic sensibilities? In any event, the film gets a limited theatrical release this weekend and is available now via various on demand platforms.
Trailer of the Week
Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson combined archival footage shot by his countrymen in America with contemporary commentary, creating The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. The documentary features previously-unseen interviews with notable figures in the Black Power Movement -- notably Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, and Angela Davis -- and has received generally favorable reviews since its premiere at Sundance in January.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 opens in very limited release on Friday, and will be available via various on demand platforms next Wednesday, September 14. Watch the trailer below for a sneak peak.