By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! January 3, 2014 at 1:07PM
During this season of award holdovers, it's time to play catch-up. There's not much to get excited about, unless you're into the fifth iteration of the found footage horror franchise "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones." Also in the mix are Takeshi Kitano's 2012 Venice Golden Lion contender "Beyond Outrage," James Franco's experimental doc "Interior. Leather Bar" and Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore's "The Best Offer," starring Geoffrey Rush. Trailers after the jump.
But above all, head to select theaters in NY and LA for Peter Berg's harrowing, unmissable wartime thriller "Lone Survivor," which these screens will hold over until the film goes wide next Friday, January 10. Prospects are looking up in a fierce awards arena as this well-made real-life war story followed its PGA shutout with a WGA nomination. Here's our interview with director Berg, who fought hard to keep his survival film authentic and unremitting.
There seems to be no end to the production line of "Paranormal Activity" films, a hit-or-miss series that integrates mockumentary tropes with jump scares, satanism, bug-eyed children and ghouls galore. Written and directed by Christopher Landon, who's written all the films since "Paranormal Activity 2," "The Marked Ones" is your typical early-January horror release whose target demographic likely won't be admitted to this R-rated film about, natch, a family haunted by mysterious forces. What else is new?
Japanese auteur Takeshi Kitano's "Beyond Outrage" is the sequel to his 2010 hit "Outrage," about a Tokyo gang war between a formidable crime syndicate and ruthless drug traffickers. In theaters and VOD platforms via Magnet, the new film revisits that gritty milieu, throwing a large-scale police crackdown and cross-coastal yakuza strife into the mix. Kitano reprises his lead role as crime boss Otomo and is, as always, a compelling presence behind and in-front of the camera.
More of a rough draft of a good idea, "Interior. Leather Bar" is James Franco and co-director Travis Mathews' imagined uncensoring of 40 minutes of leather bar footage slashed from William Friedkin's "Cruising," a film that ignited a firestorm of protest in New York in 1980. But rather than restaging these allegedly quite graphic scenes per se (United Artists "lost" the negatives), Franco creates a concept art film about what such a project might look like. Its central premise of unexpurgated artistic expression is tired and torn from a Queer Theory 101 syllabus. Provocative, perhaps, but a total letdown.
In Italian-produced "The Best Offer," Geoffrey Rush -- who we interviewed for "The Book Thief" -- plays a big-time art auctioneer under the spell of an elusive heiress played by Sylvia Hoeks (2009's "The Storm"). The English-language cast is rounded out by cutiepie Jim Sturgess and veteran Donald Sutherland. Catch the film in select cities and on VOD. Of note is a score by Ennio Morricone.
Lone Survivor Dir. Peter Berg, USA | Universal | Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana | 67% Fresh | AV Club: "For all his directorial shortcomings, Berg has a knack for capturing men at work; his depiction of special-ops maneuvering... is as compelling as the chaotic violence he orchestrates later." | Our review, roundup and Q & A video and interview with Peter Berg
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Dir. Christopher Landon, USA | Paramount | Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Eddie J. Fernandez, Molly Ephraim | 52% Fresh | LA Times: "'The Marked Ones' is refreshingly uncynical and straightforward in its desire to simply be a movie that makes the audience jump and be scared. It's a fun fright film and wants to be nothing more."
Beyond Outrage Dir. Takeshi Kitano, Japan | Magnet Releasing | Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Toshiyuki Nishida | 50% Fresh | Variety: "The narrative haze clears eventually, and the action-dialogue ratio balances out with a succession of swift, punchy setpieces."
Interior. Leather Bar Dirs. James Franco & Travis Mathews, USA | Strand Releasing | Cast: James Franco, Travis Mathews, Val Lauren | 50% Fresh | Village Voice: "A particularly risible nothing whose premise alone betrays the paucity of Franco's imagination and wit." | Our Frameline review
The Best Offer Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy | Warner Bros. | Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, Donald Sutherland | 44% Fresh | The Hollywood Reporter: "Geoffrey Rush brings striking depth of character to a classic Old World mystery set against the sophisticated backdrop of Europe's art auctions, with charming input from Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland."