Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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

Art-House Dramas:

Summary: Sonny, a young Indian man, advertises his slightly rundown hotel in India to British retirees, using photos that make it look much nicer than it is in reality. When the retirees arrive, they are initially upset, but then the hotel and country’s charms beings to woo them and they find something missing in their lives. Filmmakers: Director John Madden is best known for Shakespeare in Love, a film that he has never quite equaled in his films since (though this looks to be one of his better, if not best, films). He is working with a very good group including composer Thomas Newman (The Help), cinematographer Ben Davis (Stardust) and production designer Alan MacDonald (The Queen). Cast: It co-stars Dev Patel, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Tena Desae, and Ronald Pickup. Expectations: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has a phenomenal cast (Bill Nighy being one of my personal favorites). It played to critical praise during its release in the U.K. last year. For those looking for a lighter drama with great performances, this is well worth your time and a rental. Trailer: Here.

Hick (Derick Martini) – Drama – May 11 [limited]
Summary: Luli McMullen, a young teenage girl, is abandoned by her father. So, she sets out for the allure of Las Vegas. However, the road to get there is full of peril and odd characters. Filmmakers: Writer-director Derick Martini is back with his second feature film (his first was Lymelife). He is good with actors, but his material can drift into darker places making his films limited in terms of broader appeal. He is working again with his Lymelife director of photography Frank Godwin. Production designer Roshelle Berliner (Choke) is new to the team. Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz stars with supporting work from Blake Lively, Eddie Redmayne, Alec Baldwin, Juliette Lewis, Rory Culkin, and Ray McKinnon. Expectations: Hick debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival to mixed (more on the negative side) reviews. It has a great cast, and Moretz is one of the best new talents of her generation (and this is a project she sought out to be a part of). However, audiences get uncomfortable when films involving young girls move into dark (sexual) territory, which is why the film played so mixed. While I do not expect this to be great, I do think it should be dramatically interesting with strong performances. Trailer: Here.

The Intouchables (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano) – Drama – May 25 [limited]
Summary: Philippe, a French aristocrat, has suffered a tragedy in his life, becoming a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. However, he finds happiness in his life after he hires a new caretaker, a young man from the projects. Filmmakers: French writer-directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano have made a few films previously, but none are as acclaimed or have seen distribution in the States. They are working with composer Ludovico Einaudi (This Is England) and director of photography Mathieu Vadepied. Cast: The film stars Francois Cluzet (who is a big star in France) and Omar Sy, with Audrey Fleurot in support. Expectations: The Intouchables looks like a very good drama about friendship, new beginnings and overcoming setbacks (and will probably pull at your heartstrings). It was nominated for just about every 2012 Cesar Award (France’s Oscars) with Omar Sy winning Best Actor. If it is eligible, it should be on the shortlist for the 2013 Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

God Bless America (Bobcat Goldwait) – Black Comedy – May 11 [limited]
Summary: Frank is your average American man – normal job, menial life – but when he finds out that he is terminally ill, he can no longer abide society’s most annoying and douchiest members. He sets out to rid the world of these people, finding an unlikely accomplice in a 16-year-old girl, Roxy. Filmmakers: Writer-director Bobcat Goldwait returns with his fifth feature (he has also directed TV, like Chappelle‘s Show, and many of us recognize him from Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment). He is working with indie cinematographer Bradley Stonesifer and production designer Natalie Sanfilippo. Cast: It stars Joel Murray (from Mad Men and Shameless) and Tara Lynne Barr. Expectations: I liked his last film to see wider distribution World’s Greatest Dad. It was a funny and very dark film (what is called a black comedy). God Bless America looks to be in the same vein, playing sort of like a snuff fantasy for all those people who we all secretly (or publically) are annoyed by (and maybe even hate). Trailer: Here.

Hysteria (Tanya Wexler) – Romantic Comedy – May 18
Summary: Dr. Mortimer Granville has decided to enter into the field of woman’s medicine in Victorian era London, working for Dr. Robert Dalrymple. While treating his patients, Dr. Granville with the help of his friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe invents the first vibrator in the name of medical science (addressing the diagnosis of hysteria). Filmmakers: Director Tanya Wexler makes her third film with Hysteria, though this is her first to receive wider distribution. She is working with composers Christian Henson (Black Death) and Gast Waltzing (JCVD), excellent cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Shame) and production designer Sophie Becher (Run, Fatboy, Run). Cast: Hugh Dancy stars with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce and Rupert Everett co-starring. Felicity Jones, Ashley Jensen and Sheridan Smith feature in support. Expectations: Hysteria looks like a fun period comedy with a very light tone. It has a good cast and was met with good reviews upon its initial release in England last year. It is probably not a must for the theater, but definitely a rental for those (like me) who enjoy British comedy (and/or Victorian period pieces). Trailer: Here.

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