Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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

Art-House Dramas:

Dirty Girl (Abe Sylvia) – Drama – Oct 7 [limited]
Summary: The film is about is Danielle, a high school student who just does not fit in. She decides to run away from home with her chubby gay friend Clarke, a bag of flour (a school project simulating childcare) and a Walkman full of 80’s tunes (as it takes place in 1987). Filmmakers: Writer-director Abe Sylvia makes his feature debut. He is working with an indie crew, including composer Jeff Toyne, good cinematographer Steve Gainer (Super) and production designer Alan Muraoka. Cast: The most intriguing aspect of the film is its great cast; it stars Juno Temple (who is ready to breakthrough in Hollywood), and has good supporting players in Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, Nicholas D’Agosta, William H. Macy, Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam, and Jeremy Dozier. Expectations: While I do not think Dirty Girl will make Juno Temple a known actress among most moviegoers, I do think it is another good role for her to get noticed by directors (plus, she has a supporting role in next year’s Chris Nolan film The Dark Knight Rises). The film itself looks like a decent indie drama – probably quirky and a little funny. But really, it is a vehicle to further springboard Temple who is a good emerging talent. Check out the trailer.

The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar) – Drama – Oct 14
Summary: The Spanish film is about a brilliant plastic surgeon haunted by past tragedies who designs a new synthetic skin that can withstand any kind of damage. He decides to first try it on a mysterious volatile woman whom he is obsessed with. Filmmakers: It is the twenty-first feature film from Spain auteur writer-director Pedro Almodovar. He is again working with frequent collaborators very good composer Alberto Iglesias, cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine and production designer Antxon Gomez. Cast: The film stars Antonio Banderas with support from Elena Anaya, Blanca Suarez, Jan Cornet, Marisa Paredes, Barbara Lennie, and Fernando Cayo (a couple of which have been in a few of Almodovar’s other films). Expectations: The Skin I Live In was nominated for Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival and is being heralded as one of Almodovar’s best works (as he seems to be on a great creative streak). It looks very fractured and strange (based on the trailer), but also aesthetically interesting. Many critics are calling it Banderas’s best work since Frida and a likely breakthrough for Suarez (at least in Spain). Check out the trailer.

Texas Killing Fields (Ami Canaan Mann) – Mystery Thriller – Oct 14
Summary: The film is about a Texas homicide detective who teams up with a New York City cop to investigate a series of unsolved murders in the bayous – a place where locals dare not enter. Filmmakers: Director Ami Canaan Mann (daughter of excellent filmmaker Michael Mann, who is also a producer on the film) makes her feature debut. She is working with a good group, including composer Dickon Hinchliffe (Winter’s Bone), cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (Lone Star) and production designer Aran Mann (Ami’s half-sister, who was the assistant art-director on Collateral and Miami Vice). Cast: The film stars Jessica Chastain (who might be the breakthrough actress of 2011), Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan with supporting work from Chloe Grace Moretz (2010’s breakthrough actress), Stephen Graham and Jason Clarke, making for a really good set of actors. Expectations: I had high hopes for this film based on who is in it, but it is not playing well at festivals (sidebar, who is the best director whose parent(s) was/is also a director? I am drawing a blank other than Sofia Coppola). Even so, it is probably worth a rental for those who enjoy good performances and crime dramas. Check out the trailer.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin) – Drama/Thriller – Oct 21 [limited]
Summary: The film is about a young woman who is haunted by painful memories and paranoia as she struggles to re-assimilate with her family after escaping from an abusive cult. Filmmakers: Writer-director Sean Durkin makes his feature debut, and is working with composers Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes (Tiny Furniture) and production designer Chad Keith (Take Shelter). Cast: It stars Elizabeth Olsen (in what many critics are calling a breakthrough performance) with support from Hugh Dancy, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes. Expectations: Martha Marcy May Marlene was nominated for Best Film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won Durkin the Best Director prize. It looks to be a great character drama, highlighted by strong performances. I suspect it will be among the Oscar Best Picture short list (top 25 contenders), but probably not among the final ten (though it should do well at the Independent Spirit Awards). Check out the trailer. Review.

Red State (Kevin Smith) – Horror Thriller – Oct 21
Summary: Set in Middle America, the film is about a group of teens who receive an online invitation for sex, follow up on it, only to discover that it is a ploy by fundamentalists with a sinister agenda (and then it gets crazy). Filmmakers: After probably the worst film of his career (Cop Out, living up to its name), writer-director Kevin Smith is back with probably his most unique film to date (given his past work). He is working with his cinematographer David Klein (who has shot almost all his films) and indie/TV production designer Cabot McMullen (Trucker). Cast: The film has a good ensemble cast featuring Kevin Pollak, John Goodman, Marc Blucas, Patrick Fischler, Melissa Leo, Kerry Bishe, Stephen Root, Anna Gunn, Kyle Gallner, and Michael Angarano. Expectations: Fed-up with critics, Smith decided to make Red State on his own dime and promote it himself taking it on the road to different cities across the States, where it has played to mixed reviews (the other two films he made for next to nothing were probably his best Clerks. and Chasing Amy). He also announced that it would be his third to last film (followed by the two-part hockey comedy Hit Somebody). Smith was among my favorite filmmakers of my teens (as with many my age – who does not like Mallrats at 15?) and one of my main influences to start writing and go to film school. Thus, I always want him to be successful and despite the mixed reviews I look forward to seeing this. Check out the trailer.

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