Tuesday, May 29, 2012

At the Movies – June 2012 – Part 1: Independent Films

Art-House Dramas:

Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton) – Dramedy – Jun 15 [limited]
Summary: After the death of his brother, Jack looks to getaway for a few days. His best friend Iris invites him to stay at her family’s island retreat. Jack startlingly encounters Iris’s sister Hannah at the remote cabin, and they engage in drunken romance, which is only made more complicated when Iris shows up to surprise Jack. Filmmakers: Mumblecore writer-director Lynn Shelton (known for her film Humpday) makes sort of her Hollywood-indie debut with Your Sister’s Sister, given that the cast is made up of better known actors than her normal fare. She is again working with her Humpday collaborators composer Vince Smith and cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke, as well as newcomer production designer John Lavin. Cast: The film stars Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass (one of the summer stars to watch). Expectations: The Duplass Brothers brought mumblecore to the indie-mainstream with Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Shelton will try to continue the genre’s movement to garner bigger audiences. The cast is fantastic, and the main reason I am looking forward to this. I do hope, however, that the aesthetic style of past mumblecore films (which sets out to cheapen the visual experience for no reason) is absent. I think this will be a good (not great) drama with some sad and funny moments. Trailer: Here. Review.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) – Drama – Jun 27 [limited]
Summary: Six-year-old Hushpuppy lives with her father in a Delta-community, but everything changes when environmental adjustments release prehistoric creatures making her community unsafe. She is also faced with her father’s faltering health. Hushpuppy decides to embark on a great adventure to find her mother. Filmmakers: This marks the feature debut for writer-director Benh Zeitlin and most of his crew, featuring: composer Dan Romer (who is co-composing with Zeitlin), cinematographer Ben Richardson and production designer Alex DiGerlando (he, however, has worked in the art department on The Darjeeling Limited and Across the Universe, among others). Cast: The film features a cast made up of unknown actors, however Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry, both making their debuts, star. Expectations: There is a ton of positive buzz for this film as it came out of Sundance winning the Grand Jury Prize. It looks to be a great fantastical journey, debuting wonderful new talent in director Zeitlin and star Wallis. Trailer: Here.

Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley) – Drama – Jun 29 [limited]
Summary: Margot is happily married to Lou, but then she meets Daniel, an artist who lives across the street, and falls in love with him. Filmmakers: Actress-turned-writer-director Sarah Polley’s first feature Away from Her was very well received (garnering two Oscar nominations – acting and writing). Take This Waltz is her second feature. She is working again with composer Jonathan Goldsmith and cinematographer Luc Montpellier, new to the mix is production designer Matthew Davies (Fugitive Pieces). Cast: The film stars Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby, with Sarah Silverman in support. Expectations: Michelle Williams starring and Polley coming off the critical success of her last film combine to immediately put this on most critics’ watchlist. Seth Rogen was also good in 2011’s dramedy 50/50. It is not often that Canadian productions see wider distribution in the States (and this can thank Williams and Rogen for its distribution), but this has played to positive buzz on the festival circuit and mostly good reviews. It looks to be a good drama that is part funny (Rogen and Silverman are in it after all) and part tragic (as Williams’s character Margot is going to come a crossroads of sorts). It is one of the smaller films I am looking forward to this month. Trailer: Here. Review.

Art-House Comedies:

Lola Versus (Daryl Wein) – Comedy – Jun 8 [limited]
Summary: Lola is approaching 30, and being recently dumped a mere three weeks before her wedding, she is doing so a single woman (quelle tragique!). Thus, she sets off on a series of adventures to give herself perspective. Filmmakers: This writer-director Daryl Wein’s second feature (and first to see wider distribution). He is working with composer Fall On Your Sword (Another Earth), cinematographer Jakob Ihre and production designer Teresa Mastropierro (30 Rock). Cast: It stars Greta Gerwig and features supporting work from Joel Kinnaman, Bill Pullman, Debra Winger, Zoe Lister Jones, and Jay Pharoah. Expectations: Lola Versus has played to mixed reviews during its festival run, but star Greta Gerwig, a somewhat beloved actress among indie fans, probably makes this worth checking out (and Bill Pullman is generally great in small supporting roles). I will rent this one. Trailer: Here.

Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow) – Dramedy  Jun 8 [limited]
Summary: Kenneth places a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel. Magazine employees, Darius and Jeff, come across the ad and are intrigued. They set out to interview Kenneth, but Darius gets pulled into more than she ever expected. Filmmakers: Director Colin Trevorrow makes his feature debut, working with composer Ryan Miller, cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke (also shooting this month’s Your Sister’s Sister) and production designer Ben Blankenship. The Duplass Brothers (Mark and Jay) serve as executive producers. Cast: It stars Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass (both summer stars to watch), while Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jake Johnson, Jeff Garlin, and Kristen Bell feature in support. Expectations: Safety Not Guaranteed sounds like one of the most original and interesting films of the summer, and is certainly the indie film I am most looking forward to in June. This could be the first real breakout hit for the Mumblecore genre (if you want to count it as part of the genre). The cast is great with Plaza, Duplass and Johnson, and it played to great buzz at Sundance, winning a screenwriting award and being nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Trailer: Here. Review.

To Rome with Love (Woody Allen) – Comedy – Jun 22 [limited]
Summary: An ensemble comedy about people in the Italian capital Rome – some residents, some visitors – and the day-to-day adventures they have. Filmmakers: Writer-director Woody Allen is coming off arguably six good films out of his last seven, notably his last Midnight in Paris won him a Best Original Screenplay Oscar and was nominated for Best Picture. He is working again with wonderful cinematographer Darius Khondji (Se7en) and production designer Anne Seibel. Cast: The great ensemble cast features Woody Allen, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Alison Pill, Greta Gerwig, Roberto Benigni, and Judy Davis. Expectations: Going into 2012, this was one of the films I was most anticipating, however it has played at a few festivals and has been received with mixed reviews, limiting my current expectations. Woody Allen has been a little hit-or-miss in the last decade plus. Personally, I love his Scarlett Johansson trilogy and Midnight in Paris, and enjoyed Whatever Works and Cassandra’s Dream, but starting with the year 2000 he has made six movies (of twelve) that I did not think were very good at all. In summary, I am hesitant about this at present, but still want to see it. The cast is fantastic and Allen usually has great dialog. Trailer: Here.

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