This is apparently a very popular week for independent distributors to release new titles. I count at least nine films opening in limited release either Wednesday or Friday (though one-third of those are parts of a lumped-together trilogy). And in a way it seems an unfortunate time because a lot of moviegoers will likely spend their time this weekend catching up on movies that just received Oscar nominations instead of seeing anything new.
Of course, two of the new limited releases are up for Academy Awards. The Israeli drama "Ajami," which opens in NYC Wednesday, is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers," which is already playing in NYC and will be expanding to other cities on February 12th, is nominated for Best Documentary Feature.
Because I only spotlight three films a week (and I'm actually sort of cheating this week), neither of those titles are getting due attention in this unLimited. I'm also unfortunately excluding two limited-release action movies, the sequel "District B13: Ultimatum" and Jackie Chan's "Shinjuku Incident." I'm certain they'll find their target audience just fine without me.
What it is: One of the big hits at Sundance last week, "Frozen" is a thriller about three friends who get stuck on a ski resort chairlift after hours. With the slopes closed for the next five days, the stranded trio can either freeze to death or attempt to get down to the ground far below them. Assuming that's even the safest place for them. Starring Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers ("Transamerica") and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman in the "X-Men" movies), this is the latest from horror filmmaker Adam Green ("Hatchet").
Why you should be interested: As I said, it was a big hit at Sundance, where it received praise from many horror sites, which is what really counts with a thriller like "Frozen." Basically it looks like "Open Water" on a ski lift. Some have compared it instead to the king of shark movies, "Jaws." Anybody planning to go skiing or snowboarding this weekend might want to watch the movie after hitting the slopes though, as it's likely to make you afraid of the lifts for awhile.
How you can see it: Anchor Bay Films opens "Frozen" in ten cities this Friday, including NYC, Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas (check the list of locations on the film's website). Some theaters are even playing the film on multiple screens. Given its appeal to mainstream moviegoers, it will hopefully expand to wider release if it's a success in these initial markets.
What it is: "Terribly Happy" is a dark, comical Danish thriller about a disgraced city cop (Jakob Cedergren) reassigned to be the marshal of a peculiar little rural town, where he deals with both the culture shock and a local bully (Kim Bodnia) while also becoming involved with a femme fatale (Lene Maria Christensen). Combining elements of the western, film noir and psychological drama, the film has been likened to the work of David Lynch and the Coen brothers. Directed by short film Oscar nominee Henrik Ruben Genz, "Terribly Happy" was Denmark's official submission for this year's foreign-language Academy Award.
Why you should be interested: "Terribly Happy" may not have earned the Academy Award nomination it was submitted for, but it actually won six awards at Denmark's equivalent of the Oscars, the Bodils, including Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography (for Jorgen Johansson). It has also won a number of honors from film festival around the globe. The greatest praise comes from Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, whose company is distributing the film: "I love this film, it is just further proof that Danish people are clearly out of their minds."
How you can see it: Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories releases "Terribly Happy" in NYC this Friday, and the film is scheduled to open in other cities, including Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Denver, through April (see the list of theater bookings here). If you don't live in any of those areas and want it to play near you, have your local theater book the film through this handy link.
"Red Riding" Trilogy
What it is: Three films, "Red Riding: 1974," "Red Riding: 1980" and "Red Riding: 1983," all based on a series of crime novels by David Peace, combine for an epic thriller about missing children, murder and police corruption in Yorkshire, England. Collectively adapted by Tony Grisoni ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"), the separate installments are directed, respectively by Julian Jarrold ("Becoming Jane"), James Marsh ("Man on Wire") and Anand Tucker ("Leap Year").
Why you should be interested: The day I spent watching the "Red Riding" trilogy was one of my favorite recent moviegoing experiences. It's kind of like watching the "Godfather" trilogy consecutively back to back, but the third installment here is much better. And the cast, which includes underrated actors Paddy Considine ("The Bourne Ultimatum"), Peter Mullan ("Children of Men"), Andrew Garfield ("Boy A"), David Morrissey ("Derailed") and Sean Bean ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy), is exceptional.
How you can see it: IFC Films is opening the entire "Red Riding" trilogy in NYC this Friday for a Special Roadshow Edition, in which all three films are screened back to back (with intermissions) for one ticket price. After its first week, the films will then be shown separately. Either way they're best watched all at once. The trilogy can also be seen on IFC's video on demand service beginning this week. So pick a day you can devote about five hours to this and watch it whichever way possible.