Wednesday, June 29, 2011

At the Movies – July 2011 – Part 1: Independent Films

Art-House Watch:

Terri (Azazel Jacobs) – Dramedy – Jul 1 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about an awkward teen that does not fit in at school. As he struggles with life, he befriends the school’s guidance counselor. Filmmakers: While director Azazel Jacobs has made a few films prior, Terri marks his first to receive wider distribution (probably due to John C. Reilly starring, its strong showing at Sundance and having producers who have done indie hits in the past with Half Nelson and Blue Valentine). Jacobs is working again with D.P. Tobias Datum (who shot his last film Momma’s Man; Datum is starting to get some indie recognition for his recent work, including: this film, Amreeka and Peep World) and first-time production designer Matt Luem. Cast: Newcomer Jacob Wysocki (who some will know from Huge) stars alongside Reilly in what could be a breakout performance. Creed Bratton (from The Office) and up-and-comer Olivia Crocicchia (from Rescue Me) feature in supporting roles. Expectations: Coming off good reviews from Sundance and SXSW, Terri looks to be a moderate indie hit. It seems to be more of a drama (and sort of a sad commentary on teenage life), but with some funny moments. Reilly is finding a good place for himself recently taking his oddball comedy to smaller films (like with last year’s Cyrus). Check out the trailer.

Project Nim (James Marsh) – Documentary – Jul 8 [limited]
Summary: The film is about a chimpanzee (minkey) taken from his mother at birth and placed with a human family. Nim is taught to communicate through sign language and treated as a human child. It is a rare glimpse at an animal that we tried to make human, and what we learned about his true nature and our own. Filmmakers: The film is by excellent documentarian and director James Marsh (Man on a Wire and Part 2 of the Red Riding Trilogy). Working with Marsh are composer Dickon Hinchliffe (Winter’s Bone and worked with Marsh on his installment of the Red Riding Trilogy), indie cinematographer Michael Simmonds (Big Fan) and newcomer production designer Markus Kirschner. Expectations: Documentary fans should expect a lot from this film – first it is by the man who made Man on a Wire and second it won the Sundance Best Documentary award. Based on the trailer, it looks interesting but I feel like I already know how the story goes, as if it were nicely structured for Hollywood (hope everyone got the Peter Seller’s reference above). Check out the trailer.

Another Earth (Mike Cahill) – Sci-Fi – Jul 22 [limited]
Summary: The film is about an ambitious young student and an acclaimed composer who cross paths in a tragic accident on the night that the discovery of a duplicate Earth in the solar system is made. Filmmakers: Writer-director Mike Cahill makes his feature debut with the film, having previously directed the well-received documentary Boxers and Ballerinas. Cahill is also taking up the jobs of producing, lighting/shooting and editing the film. Newcomer Darsi Monaco is doing the production design, while the score is by underground media group Fall on Your Sword. Cast: William Mapother (Lost) and Brit Marling star, highlighting a mostly unknown cast. Expectations: Another Earth turned some heads at Sundance, how could it not with such compelling imagery, but the critical response has been mixed. I am excited to see it just for the photography, but the story and philosophical themes also strike me as being quite compelling (probably will not see this in theatres but definitely Netflixing it). Check out the trailer.

The Future (Miranda July) – Dramedy – Jul 22 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about a couple that feels a bit stuck. They decide to adopt a stray cat, which is the first step to their perspective on life drastically beginning to change (even having an effect on time and space). Filmmakers: Writer-director-star Miranda July returns with her second feature film; her first being the acclaimed Me and You and Everyone We Know. July has a good crew on the film with wonderful composer Jon Brion (who worked on many of P.T. Anderson’s films), documentary cinematographer Nikolai von Graevenitz and newcomer production designer Elliott Hostetter (who did set-dressing for True Grit and The Tree of Life). Cast: July stars with Hamish Linklater and a group of lesser known actors. Expectations: The Future is yet another high profile film to come out of Sundance. With fans of Me and You and Everyone We Know having a lot of anticipation, it received mixed reviews from critics. It looks very indie-quirky stylistically and should appeal to fans of that type of film. Check out the trailer.

Sarah’s Key (Gilles Paquet-Brenner) – Drama – Jul 22 [limited]
Summary: The French film is about a journalist in modern-day Paris who finds her life becoming intertwined with a young girl whose family was destroyed during the Vel d’Hiv Roundup in 1942. Filmmakers: Writer-director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s past films have never been well received by critics, but that is not the case with Sarah’s Key as it played very well when it opened in France last year. He has a good crew on the film with composer Max Richter (Waltz with Bashir) and frequent collaborators cinematographer Pascal Ridao and production designer Francoise Dupertuis (Molière). Cast: The film stars Kristen Scott Thomas (as she continues to make films in France) and co-stars Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup and Aidan Quinn. Expectations: The subject matter is similar to another French film The Round Up, which could see distribution in the States this year, but Sarah’s Key garnered more praise among critics. It looks to be a good drama with Scott Thomas giving a powerful performance at its center. Check out the trailer.

Ironclad (Jonathan English) – Action/Adventure – Jul 26
Summary: The film is about a small group of Knights Templar in 13-century England who fight to defend Rochester Castle against the evil and tyrannical King John (I guess they needed to finish what Robin Hood started?). Filmmakers: Writer-director-producer Jonathan English has made two previous films (both awful), however Ironclad is his first to receive a decent distribution (most like due to the name stars) and has surprisingly played well (but not amazingly) for critics. The crew on the film is respectable with TV and videogame composer Lorne Balfe (who has been getting some film work lately, like Megamind), cinematographer David Eggby (Euro Trip) and production designer Joseph Nemec III (Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Cast: The cast is quite good given the B-movie vibe this has with James Purefoy starring, Paul Giamatti, Kate Mara and Brian Cox co-starring and supporting work from Jason Flemyng, Charles Dance, Derek Jacobi, and Mackenzie Crook. Expectations: Ironclad (despites its terrible title) looks to be a fun period action film – probably a little cliché and cheesy (the music in the trailer really does not help) and with some iffy special effects, but entertaining. Plus, the cast is pretty great. Check out the trailer.

The Devil’s Double (Lee Tamahori) – Biography – Jul 29 [limited]
Summary: The film is about a man who is forced to be the body-double for Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son Uday. Filmmakers: Director Lee Tamahori is known for making action films (including the worst James Bond movie), so it should be interesting to see how he handles drama. The crew is not well known but talented with composer Christian Henson (Black Death), cinematographer Sam McCurdy (Centurion) and first time production designer Paul Kirby (though he was the art director on Batman Begins and The Brothers Bloom). Cast: The film stars Dominic Cooper and features Ludivine Sagnier, Philip Quast and Jamie Harding in supporting roles. Expectations: The film has received mostly positive reviews in its advanced screenings and Cooper is a great actor looking to give a tour de force dual performance. I think it should be a good drama and an interesting look into the Hussein household. Check out the trailer.

The Guard (John Michael McDonagh) – Comedy – Jul 29 [limited]
Summary: The film is about a confrontational small-town Irish policeman who has to team up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate and stop an international drug-smuggling operation. Filmmakers: Writer-director John Michael McDonagh makes his feature debut directing his second produced script (the first being Ned Kelly). Working on the film with McDonagh are Tucson-based Americana/alternative country band Calexico scoring (which seems like an odd choice for a film set in Ireland), British cinematographer Larry Smith (Bronson) and Irish production designer John Paul Kelly (Bloody Sunday). Cast: The film features an excellent group of actors with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle starring and supporting work from Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong, Rory Keenan, and Fionnula Flanagan. Expectations: The film looks very funny in an awesomely offbeat and maybe even crass way. Knowing nothing else, one would expect something good with actors like Gleeson, Cheadle and Strong involved. The film has seen critical acclaim on the festival circuit, receiving an honorable mention at the Berlin International Film Festival for Best Debut Film. I am not sure if I will catch this in theatres but I am certainly going to rent it. Check out the trailer.

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