Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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

Art-House Dramas:

The Grandmaster (Kar Wai Wong) – Action Drama – Aug 23
Plot Summary: The story behind the man who trained Bruce Lee: martial-arts master Ip Man. Filmmakers: Auteur Kar Wai Wong is one of China’s most celebrated directors with brilliant films such as Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love, and 2046. However, his last film My Blueberry Nights was a massive critical failure and he has been away from features since (until now, six years later). He is working with frequent collaborators production designer William Chang and composer Shigeru Umebayashi, as well as composer Nathaniel Mechaly (Taken 2), cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd (Seven Pounds – he also shot Wong’s recent short Déjà Vu) and renowned fight chorographer Woo-ping Yuen. Cast: Tony Leung (who often works with Wong) stars as Ip Man, and the supporting cast features Ziyi Zhang, Cung Li, Hye-kyo Song, and Chen Chang. Expectations: The Grandmaster in no way resembles what one would expect from a Kar Wai Wong film; rather it looks like a typical Chinese-style martial-arts film (with exaggerated, extravagant, and operatic fight scenes). Critics have been mixed as well, most feeling that it is fine as an action drama but disappointing as a Kar Wai Wong film (as expectations are incredibly high for each of his projects). Personally, I have sort of fallen out of love with martial-arts films. Yimou Zhang made two of the most beautiful I have seen (Hero and House of Flying Daggers), and since then everything has been a disappointment by comparison. Plus, the genre and style are overly tired now, begging for new life and innovation. With this film, I am interested. I like the cast, Woo-ping Yuen always does great work, and Wong is a filmmaker I respect deeply. Thus, I certainly will check it out – just probably not in theaters. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

In a World… (Lake Bell) – Comedy – Aug 9
Plot Summary: Carol is the daughter of the king of movie-trailer voice-overs. She, however, makes her living as a vocal coach and is generally considered an underachiever. In an effort to aspire for more, she decides to pursue her dream of following in her father’s footsteps and become the first female voice-over voice in movie-trailers. Filmmakers: Actress Lake Bell makes her feature debut writing and directing this film. She is working with composer Ryan Miller (The Kings of Summer), cinematographer Seamus Tierney (Liberal Arts), and production designer Megan Fenton. Cast: Lake Bell also stars in the film, and brings along a bunch of her friends in supporting roles, including: Fred Melamed, Demetri Martin, Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman, Geena Davis, Jeff Garlin, and Eva Longoria. Expectations: In a World… looks very funny and it is nice to see a comedy built around a female lead that is not purely predicated on them engaging in pratfalls or emotional breakdowns. The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (for Lake Bell) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and also competed for the Grand Jury Prize. This is worth checking out for fans of good indie comedies. Trailer: Here.

Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green) – Dramedy – Aug 16
Plot Summary: Alvin and Lance spend the summer of 1988 as highway road workers, leaving their city lives behind. Isolated from everything, their minds begin to drift and conflict arises between the two men. Filmmakers: Writer-director David Gordon Green started out his career making good indie films (such as George Washington and All the Real Girls) and then moved on to more mainstream comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and Eastbound & Down). However, his last two features have not been well received by critics (The Sitter is particularly bad). Prince Avalanche sees him return more to his roots as an indie filmmaker. He is working again with frequent collaborators composer David Wingo, cinematographer Tim Orr, and production designer Richard Wright. He is also working with the band Explosions in the Sky on the score. Cast: The film stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, with Lynn Shelton providing voice work. Expectations: Prince Avalanche played to mixed reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However, it won Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival. It looks like a decent character dramedy. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch are both good actors and should be able to carry the film and engage the audience. And, despite The Sitter, David Gordon Green is still one of the better American indie directors. I look forward to renting it. Trailer: Here.

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