Tuesday, October 25, 2011

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

Art-House Dramas:

My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis) – Drama – Nov 23 [limited]
Summary: The film is about Colin Clark, an employee of Laurence Olivier’s who is tasked with chaperoning his boss’s co-star Marilyn Monroe during her time in England shooting a film with Olivier. Filmmakers:  Director Simon Curtis makes his feature film debut; however he has made a number of TV movies and miniseries, including the very well received period piece Cranford. He is working with a good group that also has a strong background in period work with composer Conrad Pope (who is scoring his first major release), cinematographer Ben Smithard (The Damned United) and production designer Donal Woods (Downton Abbey). Cast: The film features an excellent cast with Michelle Williams co-starring with Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh. Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond, Dougray Scott, Toby Jones, Judi Dench, and Derek Jacobi make up the supporting players. Expectations: The film will likely be best known for its brilliant performance from Michelle Williams, which is currently the frontrunner for Best Actress at the 2012 Oscars, but the film itself is also playing well for critics. There have not been too many good feature films exploring Hollywood’s biggest stars of the past (really Chaplin is the only one that comes to mind), but if this film does well come awards season that might change. Trailer: Here. Review.

The Son of No One (Dito Montiel) – Crime – Nov 4
Summary: The film is about a young cop who is assigned to a precinct in the neighborhood where he grew up, but when an old secret comes to light it threatens his life and his family. Filmmakers: Writer-director Dito Montiel has made two previous films: Fighting (which was poorly received) and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (moderately received, but I disliked it quite a bit). He is working with composers Jonathan Elias and David Wittman (who both worked with Montiel before), very good cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (The Proposition) and production designer Beth Mickle (Drive). Cast: The film stars Channing Tatum and features supporting work from Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, James Ransone, and Tracy Morgan. Expectations: It looks like an okay crime drama/thriller, but really the subject matter is very tired and overdone and Montiel is not among the elite directors who can revitalize narratives that have been done over and over. Thus, this one is probably something to skip unless you really like the genre. That said, it is receiving decent critic reviews (mixed, but more on the positive side). Trailer: Here.

Melancholia (Lars von Trier) – Drama – Nov 11 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about two sisters, Justine and Claire, who react differently when a mysterious planet threatens to collide into the Earth. Filmmakers: Writer-director Lars von Trier is back for his tenth feature film (I recommend seeing his film Dogville as well). He is working with cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro (whose work on the film is brilliant and possibly the best of 2011) and production designer Jette Lehmann (Flame and Citron). Cast: The film stars Kirsten Dunst (who gives the best performance of her career, and one that should have award season implications) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, while featuring supporting work from Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Brady Corbet, and Udo Kier. Expectations: Having already seen this while in Europe over the summer, I can say that it is a fantastic character piece with wonderful performances and beautiful aesthetics. It was an official selection at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (up for the Palme d’Or) and Kirsten Dunst won the Festival’s Best Actress prize. It is a must-see for fans of interesting unique films and character studies. Trailer: Here. Review.

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) – Romance – Nov 23
Summary: The film is about silent movie star George Valentin, who wonders if he will still have a place among the stars of Hollywood with the arrival of talking pictures. He also meets a young dancer, Peppy Miller, who is looking for her big break. Filmmakers: French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius has made a few features prior, but The Artist is his first to see a major release in the States. He is working with composer Ludovic Bource and cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman (both of whom have worked with him before), as well as production designer Laurence Bennett (The Next Three Days). Cast: The film stars Jean Dujardin and co-stars Berenice Bejo with John Goodman, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell, and Penelope Ann Miller is support. Expectations: Much like Melancholia, The Artist was an official selection at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and Jean Dujardin took home the Festival’s Best Actor prize. He is also among the favorites to receive an Oscar nod in the category come 2012. For fans of the silent movie era and its films, this is an absolute must-see as it fits the style and tone of the time seemingly perfectly. Trailer: Here. Review.

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