Tuesday, November 30, 2010

At the Movies – December 2010 – Part 1: Art-House Films

Art-House Watch:

All Good Things (Andrew Jarecki) – Mystery – Dec 3rd [limited]
The film is based on the most notorious unsolved murder case in New York history – a love story and murder mystery. Director Andrew Jarecki makes his feature debut working with a good crew including composer Rob Simonsen, D.P. Michael Seresin (whose work on Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban is wonderful) and production designer Wynn Thomas. The cast is quite good with critic favorite Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst starring and Philip Baker Hall, Kristen Wiig and Frank Langella in supporting roles. The film looks good, interesting and intense. It has received positive reviews from advanced screenings and will likely factor into the Independent Spirit Award nominations. Check out the trailer.

I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra & John Requa) – Comedy – Dec 3rd [LA/NY]
The film is about Steven Russell, a happily married man and productive member of the community. Only, he is a con-man, who reassesses his life and orientation when he is caught and sent to jail. Delayed from April 2010, check out my preview from that month for info, and check out the trailer.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Jalmari Helander) – Action – Dec 3rd [NY]
The Finnish film is about the closest guarded Christmas secret in the depths of the Korvatunturi Mountains (and that’s all I’m telling, just watch and enjoy). Director Jalmari Helander has made a number of shorts, but this film is his feature debut. Being a Finnish film, it features a mostly Finnish cast and crew with composer Juri Seppa, cinematographer Mika Orasmaa, productions designers Torunn Anfinsen and Liv Ask (who also designed Dead Snow… Nazi Zombies!!!), and co-stars Peeter Jakobi, Onni Tommila and Jorma Tommila. The film looks really weird, but for those that like this type of movie, it is great. Check out the trailer.

Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell) – Drama – Dec 17th [limited]
The film is about a happy couple, whose world is destroyed when their young sons dies in an accident, based on the play by David Lindsay-Abaire. Director John Cameron Mitchell is back for his third film coming off two indy films – the mixed Shortbus and revered Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mitchell is working with a very indy crew with composer Anton Sanko, cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco (who shot his other two films as well) and production designer Kalina Ivanov. The cast is being praised for their work on the film. It stars Nicole Kidman, who is also producing, and Aaron Eckhart. Kidman is at present the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar come 2011. Certainly a downer, but with such strong performances this is well worth a look. Check out the trailer.

Casino Jack (George Hickenlooper) – Biography – Dec 17th [limited]
The film is about uber DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his protégé – whose schemes to peddle influence in Washington lead to corruption and even murder (there is also a documentary about Jack). Director George Hickenlooper, also known for his documentaries like Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, is coming off a less than successful bio-pic regarding Andy Warhol called Factory Girl. On the film, Hickenlooper has TV composer Jonathan Goldsmith, horror cinematographer Adam Swica and production designer Matthew Davies. Kevin Spacey stars in a role that is right in his wheelhouse; Barry Pepper co-stars. Kelly Preston, Rachelle Lefevre and Jon Lovitz feature in supporting roles. The film looks interesting, and Spacey should be good. It has received positive reviews from advanced screenings. Check out the trailer.

Country Strong (Shana Feste) – Music – Dec 22nd [limited]
The film is about a fallen country-music star, Kelly Canter, who is inspired to resurrect her career by rising songwriter Beau Hutton. Writer-director Shana Feste is back for her second feature. Her first The Greatest was ok, some interesting stuff but muddled. Composer Michael Brook is also doing this month’s The Fighter, while cinematographer John Bailey and production designer David J. Bomba (also working on The Company Men, coming this month) are also working on the film. Gwneth Paltrow stars, and her singing ability was put on display ahead of the film’s release in her guest appearance on Glee (she is also apparently putting out a country album) and Garret Hedlund (star of TRON: Legacy) co-stars. Leighton Meester and Tim McGraw also play pivotal roles. While the film looks like a rip-off of last year’s Crazy Heart, it should still be decent (and it is not like it is the first time in the movie business someone took an idea from another film and ran with it). Check out the trailer.

Biutiful (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) – Drama – Dec 29th [limited]
The Spanish language film is about a man in free fall, trying desperately for redemption, but it is not so easy. Mexican writer-director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is well known in the States for his films 21 Grams, Amores Perros and Babel. He is an auteur director and with each film there is potential for something special. Famous Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarron and Guillermo del Toro are producing the film with Inarritu. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and production designer Brigitte Broch have worked with Innarritu on his best films and are both back for this film, while composer Gustavo Santaolalla worked on Amores Perros before reuniting with the director. Wonderful Spanish actor Javier Bardem stars (winning the Cannes Film Festival award for best actor, well tying for it really). The film has received lots of praise and is favored for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Check out the trailer.

Another Year (Mike Leigh) – Comedy – Dec 29th [limited]
The film is about a married couple who remains happy well into their older years. The film is structured around an average year of their lives, surrounded by friends and family. Mike Leigh is at the top of British independent film, with breakout hits in the States – Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky (though my personal favorite of his films is Naked; David Thewlis is amazing). Leigh collaborates frequently with composer Gary Yershon and great cinematographer Dick Pope (see The Illusionist for reference), while the film’s production designer Simon Beresford is new to feature films. Starring Jim Broadbent (who is always great) and Ruth Sheen, the cast is quite good. Lesley Manville, David Bradley, Imelda Staunton, and Stuart McQuarrie highlight the supporting cast. The film has garnered a lot of acclaim and is on the Oscar Best Picture shortlist. Check out the trailer.

Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance) – Romance – Dec 31st
The film is about a married couple – showing the transition and evolution of their relationship by cross-cutting between differing time periods. Documentarian Derek Cianfrance’s first film was a feature, but it was little seen, so in a sense this is really his feature debut, taking a break from documentaries. He has indy cinematographer Andrij Parekh (whose work on this year’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story was good) and production designer Inbal Winberg on the film, while it stars indy superstars and critic favorites Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Both should see their names among Independent Spirit Award nominees and possibly Oscar nominees as well in 2011. The film is well liked among critics, but received an NC-17 rating for explicit sexual scenes (the MPAA’s rating system is fairly obsolete and based on warped values though). Check out the trailer.

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