Thursday, October 4, 2012

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

Art-House Dramas:

The Paperboy (Lee Daniels) – Thriller – Oct 5
Summary: Jack Jansen is a young reporter with high aspirations. He returns to his hometown to dig deeper into the case of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter. Filmmakers: Writer-director Lee Daniels is coming off his breakthrough hit with 2009’s Precious. He is working with composer Mario Grigorov (who also scored Precious), cinematographer Roberto Schaefer (Marc Forster’s D.P.) and production designer Daniel T. Dorrance (Max Payne). Cast: Zac Efron stars with a good supporting cast including Matthew McConaughey (his latest role in his 2012 comeback tour – Bernie, Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and later this year Mud), Nicole Kidman, John Cusack (who, despite how big of a fan of his I am, sadly does not make good movies anymore), Scott Glenn, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, and Ned Bellamy. Expectations: The Paperboy was one of the most highly anticipated films of 2012 among fans of independent films, in the wake of the success of Precious. However, now that people have seen this, the buzz is much more lukewarm than positive (I mean, how good was a film starring Zac Efron really going to be anyway). The cast is good(ish), and McConaughey is having a great year, so this is probably worth renting for fans of indie thrillers or the actors. In its defense, it was an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival. Trailer: Here.

Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold) – Romance – Oct 5 [limited]
Summary: Based on the classic Emily Bronte novel, the story is about Heathcliff, a poor boy of unknown origins who is taken in and cared for by the Earnshaw family. He begins to develop an intense relationship with his young foster sister Cathy, leading to pain and anguish. Filmmakers: Writer-director Andrea Arnold is well known in British independent film having won an Oscar for her short Wasp and writing and directing two features: Red Road and Fish Tank (which is excellent). She is working with frequent collaborators cinematographer Robbie Ryan and production designer Helen Scott. Cast: It stars newcomer James Howson and Kaya Scodelario (from Skins). Expectations: Arnold’s take on Bronte’s work seems to have a very gritty and sort of documentary style to it – hand held cameras, natural lighting, low production value, unknown actors (for the most part) – yet still done in the period of the novel. It is a new take on a story that is re-worked at least once a year in some form. I am excited to rent it (especially coming off of how good Fish Tank was). Trailer: Here.

V/H/S (Multiple Directors) – Horror – Oct 5
Summary: A group of misfits is hired by an unknown entity to break into a house and steal a rare VHS tape. However, they discover more than they even bargained for leading to terrifying experiences for each of them. Filmmakers: This is sort of a deconstruction of the modern stylistic found-footage horror film, thusly many indie horror directors are involved (nine in total) including Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Chad Villella (the four of them form the group Radio Silence), David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West (who also directed the fantastic indie ghost story The Innkeepers earlier this year), and Adam Wingard. Cast: The film stars many of its filmmakers and lesser known actors. Expectations: V/H/S is probably a must-see for horror fans (especially of indie horror films) as it has garnered rave reviews among its intended audience. But, for everyone else, this might be worth a look if you want to see something cool and different (and scary). Trailer: Here.

The House I Live In (Eugene Jarecki) – Documentary – Oct 5
Summary: A detailed look at America’s criminal justice system, specifically the ‘war on drugs’ and how it has affected American culture and society. Filmmakers: Documentarian Eugene Jarecki writes and directs the film, working again with frequent collaborator composer Robert Miller. Expectations: Jarecki is one of the great documentary filmmakers working today (his masterwork so far is Why We Fight, but Reagan and The Trials of Henry Kissinger are both very good too), which should make The House I Live In mandatory for fans of documentaries. Based on what I have seen, the film looks very interesting. Trailer: Here.

Smashed (James Ponsoldt) – Drama – Oct 12 [limited]
Summary: Kate and Charlie have been happy together, sharing a mutual love of alcohol. However, things change and their marriage is put to the test when Kate decides to get sober. Filmmakers: Indie writer-director James Ponsoldt is back with his second feature after Off the Black. Both his films deal with alcoholism. He is working with composers Andy Cabic and Eric D. Johnson (Our Idiot Brother), cinematographer Tobias Datum (Terri) and production designer Linda Sena (Wristcutters: A Love Story). Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul star with support from Octacia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Kay Place, Kyle Gallner, and Bree Turner. Expectations: The premise of the film sort of reminds me of the short Successful Alcoholics. Smashed has been well-received on the festival circuit, winning the Special Jury Prize as the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It has two fantastic leads, both looking for breakthrough roles to advance their careers in film. The supporting cast is also strong. This is definitely worth seeing in theatres or renting for fans of dramas (with some comedy mixed in). Trailer: Here.

The Sessions (Ben Lewin) – Drama – Oct 19
Summary: Mark O’Brien is a virgin. He would like not to be. The problem is he is in an iron lung. However, with the help of his therapist and priest, he contacts a professional sex surrogate to address his problem. Filmmakers: Writer-director Ben Lewin has been working since the 1970s, but this is his highest profile film to date. He is working with composer Marco Beltrami (Trouble with the Curve), cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Shine) and production designer John Mott (Jericho). Cast: The film stars John Hawkes with support from Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, W. Earl Brown, Adam Arkin, and Robin Weigert (totaling three Deadwood alumni). Expectations: The Sessions (having gone through multiple title changes) was a crowd favorite at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, winning both the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for ensemble acting. That said, it has not fared quite as well with other audiences, playing to mixed reviews. The cast is good, and give very good performances, so this is probably worth seeing or renting for fans of character dramas. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

The Oranges (Julian Farino) – Dramedy – Oct 5
Summary: Two neighboring suburban families have always been friends. That is, until the daughter of one family stars having an affair with the husband of the other. Filmmakers: TV director Julian Farino (who has directed episodes of a lot of HBO shows, including a large portion of Entourage) returns to features with this film. He is working with composers Klaus Badelt and Andrew Raiher (Heartbreaker), cinematographer Steven Fierberg (Entourage) and production designer Dan Davis (How to Make It in America, which Farino also directed a large portion of). Cast: Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, Adam Brody, and Oliver Platt make up the ensemble cast. Expectations: The Oranges has a good cast with dramatic and comedic talent, and really this is the reason to rent this – to just enjoy the performances. The film has played to mixed reviews in its advanced screenings, but again should make for an entertaining rental for fans of family dramedies. Trailer: Here.

No comments:

Post a Comment