Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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

Art-House Dramas:

Summary: Cheyenne is a quirky retired rock star living in Dublin. His father dies, and he sets out on a journey back to America to find the man responsible for a humiliation suffered by his father during WWII. Filmmakers: Italian writer-director Paolo Sorrentino comes to the States for this film. His most accomplished work of his Italian career is probably The Consequences of Love. He is working with composers David Byrne (of the Talking Heads) and Will Oldham, cinematographer Luca Bigazzi (a frequent collaborator) and production designer Stefania Cella. Cast: The film stars Sean Penn with Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Kerry Condon, Harry Dean Stanton, David Byrne, and Shea Whigham in support. Expectations: This Must Be the Place looks like a good character piece, with what will likely be strong work from Penn. It was well received at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Usually, this kind of performance might garner some awards buzz, but I think this has a low shot at an Oscar nomination though it could earn Penn an Independent Spirit Award nod. This is worth renting for fans of Penn and quirky character pieces. Trailer: Here.

Hitchcock (Sacha Gervais) – Biography Drama – Nov 23
Summary: A dramatization of the ‘behind the scenes’ making of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Filmmakers: Director Sacha Gervais directs his first feature film with Hitchcock, but his second overall. His first was the wonderful documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil. He is working with a brilliant group, including composer Danny Elfman (Dick Tracy), cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and production designer Judy Becker (Shame). Cast: The cast is not too shabby either, with Anthony Hopkins starring, Helen Mirren co-starring and Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg (who is fantastic in A Serious Man and Boardwalk Empire), James D’Arcy, Ralph Macchio (yup, that Ralph Macchio), Danny Huston, and Toni Collette all in support. Expectations: Hitchcock has awards potential all over it – from the excellent people behind the camera to the talented actors in front of it, not to mention Hollywood’s love of film-nostalgia (2011 was the year of film-nostalgia, how does The Artist win Best Picture). I am a bit weary of the film, though, as Hitchcock is my favorite director. Film’s like to jazz up the lives of their subjects, often injecting drama that was never really there. I absolutely love Peter Sellers. He is easily my favorite comedic actor (if not actor period) of all-time. That said, I did not like The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which (accurate or not) took shots at the man (and Geoffrey Rush, who is a great actor, just could not play Sellers’s characters). So, I am not too anxious to see my favorite director taken to task as well (accurate or not), as filmgoers who know no better will think of him that way going forward, instead of remembering his masterful work. Hollywood is also a town where everything seemingly comes in twos, and films about Hitchcock in 2012 are no different – see HBO’s The Girl. This is, however, worth checking out for fans of strong performances and films that may factor into awards season. Trailer: Here.

Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard) – Drama – Nov 23
Summary: Ali’s life undergoes changes when he is put in charge of his young son. He decides to leave Belgium and move in with his sister and her husband in Antibes so, along with his son, they can live as one big family. Meanwhile, he falls for Stephanie, a killer whale trainer who suffers a horrible accident. Filmmakers: Writer-director-producer Jacques Audiard might be France’s best filmmaker working right now. His last two film were both brilliant (The Beat That My Heart Skipped and A Prophet). He is working again with composer Alexandre Desplat, cinematographer Stephane Fontaine and production designer Michel Barthelemy, all of whom are excellent in their fields. Cast: The film stars Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard (who is one of my favorite French actresses). Expectations: If Audiard’s last two films are any indication, Rust and Bone should be a wonderful film, both visually stunning and dramatically potent. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. For fans of emotionally intense dramas, this is a must-see (as if might be one of the best films of 2012). Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

The Details (Jacob Aaron Estes) – Comedy – Nov 2
Summary: Jeff and Nealy live a normal life. But, when a family of raccoons digs up their backyard discovering worms living underneath the sod, a chain reaction of domestic tension, infidelity and murder is set into play. Filmmakers: Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes was thought to be an indie filmmakers with excellent potential after he released his first feature Mean Creek (which is fantastic), but that was way back in 2004. Eight years later, his second feature is finally coming to cinemas. He is working again with composer tomandandy and cinematographer Sharone Meir, while production designer Toby Corbett (Running Scared) is new to the team. Cast: The film stars Tobey Maguire, and also features Elizabeth Banks, Kerry Washington, Ray Liotta, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, and Sam Trammell. Expectations:  The Details premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and then disappeared until The Weinstein Company released its trailer and set its theatrical release date. The film played to mixed reviews at Sundance, and it is not clear if that cut will be the same as the one theatergoers will see in November. That said, Jacob Aaron Estes is still the talented writer-director who made Mean Creek, and thus his new film The Details deserves the benefit of the doubt and is certainly worth renting (or at the very least checking out the professional reviews before renting or seeing). From the trailer, it looks to be a funny black comedy with a strong cast. Trailer: Here.

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