Thursday, August 4, 2011

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

Art-House Dramas:

The Whistleblower (Larysa Kondracki) – Political Thriller – Aug 5 [limited]
Summary: The film is about Kathryn Bolovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia uncovering a sex scandal involving the U.N. Filmmakers: Writer-director Larysa Kindracki makes her feature directorial debut. She is working with a good indie/TV crew including composer Mychael Danna (Capote), cinematographer Kieran McGuigan (The Other Boleyn Girl) and production designer Caroline Foellmer (who worked on the director’s short Viko). Cast: The cast is good with Rachel Weisz starring and supporting work from Benedict Cumberbatch, Monica Bellucci, David Strathairn, Liam Cunningham, Luke Treadaway, and Vanessa Redgrave. Expectations: The film looks quite good and Weisz is receiving Best Actress Oscar buzz. The film has been well received by critics on the festival circuit. If not in theatres, this is certainly one worth renting. Check out the trailer.

Senna (Asif Kapadia) – Documentary – Aug 12 [limited]
Summary: The film looks at the life of Brazilian Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna. A man you lived hard and drove even harder, winning the F1 world championship three times before his untimely death at age 34. Filmmakers: British director Asif Kapadia has made a few films (docs and features) prior, but looks to have a breakout hit with Senna. The film is executively produced by Kevin Macdonald (who directed The Last King of Scotland), while talented composer Antonio Pinto (Lord of War) and relative newcomer (at least to bigger projects) cinematographer Jake Polonsky round out the crew. Expectations: Ayrton Senna’s story is fascinating and exciting and the perfect material for either a documentary or feature film. The film has received very good press during its festival run, and may be the frontrunner for an Oscar nod and best documentary of 2011. Check out the trailer.

Amigo (John Sayles) – War Drama – Aug 19 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is a fictional recreation of events during the Philippine-American War. Filmmakers: Writer-director John Sayles has an excellent track record with wonderful indie films like Matewan and Lone Star. He is working with indie cinematographer Lee Meily and production designer Rodell Cruz. Cast: The cast has a lot of talent in its leading men with Chris Cooper and Garret Dillahunt, but most of the supporting work is done by lesser known actors (aside from DJ Qualls). Expectations: Despite Sayles’s ability to consistently put out good films, Amigo has been met with very mixed reviews and is being called one of his lesser works. However, there is an interesting naturalism at play in the narrative and aesthetic that should warrant a view for fans. Check out the trailer.

Higher Ground (Vera Farmiga) – Drama – Aug 26 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about one woman’s lifelong struggle with her faith. Filmmakers: Actress Vera Farmiga makes her directorial debut and is also starring in the film. She is working with a great indie crew featuring composer Alec Puro (The Art of Getting By), cinematographer Michael McDonough (Winter’s Bone) and production designer Sharon Lomofsky (The Assassination of a High School President, a film that I really liked and is worth checking out). Cast: In addition to Farmiga starring, the film has supporting work from Donna Murphy and John Hawkes. Expectations: It has not played well for critics on its festival tour. It looks too sappy and with a willingness to force-feed its audience faith based messages. Check out the trailer.

Art-House Comedies:

Magic Trip (Alison Ellwood & Alex Gibney) – Documentary – Aug 5 [limited]
Summary: The film is about Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s road trip across America in 1964. Filmmakers: The documentary is written and directed by Alison Ellwood (who is more prolific as an editor) and Alex Gibney (who is one of the better documentarians working today with fantastic films like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side). The film is comprised solely of archive footage. Expectations: Anytime Alex Gibney is attached to a documentary, there is a good bet it is going to be pretty good. Some may be offended by the film’s take on the issue of the legalization of certain drugs, as until 1966 LSD was legal in America and plays a big role in the film and among these people. The 1960s served as such a time of change. It is interesting to go back and looks at different aspects of our culture that were at the forefront of that change. Check out the trailer.

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