Wednesday, May 1, 2013

At the Movies – May 2013 – Part 1: Independent Films

Art-House Dramas:

The Iceman (Ariel Vromen) – Crime Drama – May 3
Plot Summary: This is the true story of notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, who also happened to be a family man. When he was finally caught, his wife and daughters knew nothing about his other life. Filmmakers: Writer-director Ariel Vromen directed two previous low budget features, but The Iceman is his first film to see wide distribution. He is working with composer Haim Mazar, cinematographer Bobby Bukowski (Rampart), and production designer Nathan Amondson (Drive Angry). Cast: Michael Shannon stars, while James Franco, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, and Stephen Dorff feature in support. Expectations: The Iceman has a decent cast with Shannon being a strong lead, thus it looks like it should be a good character piece/crime drama. It played to critical acclaim during its advanced screenings. Some critics even have it as a sleeper for best film of the month (though, I think that is very optimistic). For fans of gritty character pieces, this is probably worth checking out. Trailer: Here.

The East (Zal Batmanglij) – Mystery Thriller – May 31
Plot Summary: Sarah is an operative for an elite private intelligence firm who has been tasked with the mission of infiltrating an anarchist group known for targeting and attacking major corporations. Filmmakers: The East is the second film from the team of writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling. There first film together was the under-seen, but kind of great mystery Sound of My Voice. Batmanglij is working with composers Halli Cauthery and Harry Gregson-Williams (The Town), cinematographer Roman Vasyanov (End of Watch), and production designer Alex DiGerlando (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Cast: Marling stars, while Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page co-star. Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson, Jason Ritter, and Julia Ormond feature in support. Expectations: The East looks like a good thriller, as Sarah will no doubt be drawn in by the charismatic anarchists only to come to a crisis of faith. It will be interesting to see how much of a political slate the film will have – will it be completely against corporations (the greed and misdoings of a few stereotyping all) or will it take a more measured approach? As someone that very much enjoyed the storytelling of Sound of My Voice (and also Marling’s Another Earth), I am interested to see how Batmanglij and Marling tackle this narrative. It has been praised by critics during its advanced screenings, but I wonder if it will play quite as well for mass audiences. It is definitely worth checking out for fans of mystery thrillers. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach) – Comedy – May 17
Plot Summary: Frances lives in New York, but she does not have an apartment. She is a dance company apprentice, but is not a dancer. And she commits completely to her dreams, even when they appear unlikely. This is her story. Filmmakers: Frances Ha is writer-director Noah Baumbach’s seventh feature film. The highlights of his career have come through his collaborations with Wes Anderson, who produced his best film to date The Squid and the Whale (he has also co-written two of Anderson’s films). He is working with cinematographer Sam Levy (Wendy and Lucy) and production designer Sam Lisenco. Cast: Greta Gerwig stars with Adam Driver (who is great on Girls), Mickey Sumner, and Michael Zegen in support. Expectations: Frances Ha has been very well received during its advanced screenings, and is already being called Baumbach’s comeback (and maybe best) film. He decided to take a much more intimate approach to this film: shooting in black and white on a budget of almost nothing – and it seems to have reinvigorated his material. It also helps that he has the perfect lead for such a whimsical New Yorker in Gerwig. This is a must-see for fans of indie comedies. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

The Kings of Summer (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) – Comedy – May 31
Plot Summary: Living out many a young boy’s dream of independence, three teenage friends decide to leave home during the summer to build their own house in the woods and live off the land. Filmmakers: The Kings of Summer is director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s feature debut. He has made a number of shorts for Funny or Die…, best known among them is Successful Alcoholics. He is working with composer Ryan Miller (Safety Not Guaranteed), cinematographer Ross Riege (who has worked with him before), and production designer Tyler Robinson (Portlandia). Cast: The film stars Gabriel Basso and Nick Robinson and co-stars Moises Arias. The supporting cast features Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Erin Moriarty. Expectations: The Kings of Summer played to mostly strong reviews at Sundance. It looks like a good coming-of-age/friendship type story (in the same vein as Stand by Me), built on the audience having a nostalgic emotional reaction to the material. It is worth checking out for fans of coming-of-age stories. Trailer: Here.

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