Tuesday, April 1, 2014

At the Movies – April 2014 – Part 1: Independent Films

Art-House Dramas:

Nymphomaniac: Volume II – Drama – Apr 4
Plot Summary: The continuation of Nymphomaniac – as Joe’s sexually driven life abandons all restraint and plunges into the darkness, exposing the events that led her into being in Seligman’s care. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer/director Lars von Trier and brilliant cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro. Actors Involved: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell, and Uma Thurman. Potential: Despite his rough and politically incorrect public persona, Lars von Trier is a very good filmmaker – well, given that you like intensive dramas that are unflinching in their handling of characters, themes, and emotions. Personally, I thought his films Dogville, Manderlay, and Melancholia were very interesting and I am looking forward to renting Nymphomaniac. For those that like good (intense/abstract) indie dramas, this is definitely worth checking out. Trailer: Here.

Under the Skin – Horror Sci-Fi Thriller – Apr 4
Plot Summary: Laura, an alien seductress, preys upon hitchhikers and other unsuspecting men in Scotland. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer/director Jonathan Glazer. Actors Involved: Scarlett Johansson. Potential: Jonathan Glazer is known for his music videos for Radiohead, Blur, and Massive Attack. His two previous features films are Sexy Beast and Birth – neither gaining much traction with general audiences, but they both have found their fans and critics are quite enamored with Glazer’s strong visuals. Under the Skin probably has no appeal for mass audiences, even despite starring Scarlett Johansson (who should be fantastic in this role). And yet, it might be worth a look for those who do not normally like “art films” as it is sure to have absolutely stunning visuals and great creepy sci-fi/horror moments. Trailer: Here.

Only Lovers Left Alive – Horror/ Romance Drama – Apr 11
Plot Summary: Adam and Eve (appropriately named) are two vampires who have been in love for centuries. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer/director Jim Jarmusch. Actors Involved: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, and Anton Yelchin. Potential: Only Lovers Left Alive is independent auteur Jim Jarmusch’s eleventh feature film, and with highlights such as Down by Law, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and Broken Flowers (my personal favorite) he has amassed a core cult following. For those unfamiliar with his work, Jarmusch makes films that focus relentlessly on character and feature strong aesthetics. He is one of the most influential filmmakers to emerge out of the resurgence of indie film in America during the 1980s. This is worth checking out for fans of independent cinema, even though vampires are completely played out at the moment (but Jarmusch will probably bring something interesting to them). I will also add that critics have been very positive towards the film during its festival screenings. Trailer: Here.

The Unknown Known – Documentary – Apr 11
Plot Summary: The documentary looks at former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as he discusses his career in Washington D.C., the early days in the 1960s as a congressman to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Errol Morris. Potential: Documentarian Errol Morris is maybe the genre’s most skilled filmmaker at present with brilliant pieces such as The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. I also like his films A Brief History of Time and Tabloid. This is worth renting for fans of documentaries as it should be very interesting. Other great documentary filmmakers working today to check out: Alex Gibney, Charles Ferguson, Steve James, Eugene Jarecki, Bart Layton, and James Marsh. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

Filth – Comedy/ Drama – Apr 24
Plot Summary: Bruce Robertson is a bipolar, bigoted junkie cop. Things are not going his way (big surprise), but that is certainly not going to stop him trying to get everything he thinks he wants without giving anything up. He manipulates and schemes in an attempt to both secure a promotion at work and win back the affection of his wife and daughter at home. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer/director Jon S. Baird and fantastic composer Clint Mansell. Actors Involved: James McAvoy, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, and Jim Broadbent. Potential: Filth is an adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name. He is probably best known for his novel Trainspotting (which should give you an indication what this film will be like). This is Jon S. Baird’s second feature, and his first to see a wider release. I am unfamiliar with his work, but Filth looks like a manic, slightly insane comedy/drama and I like the cast. I look forward to renting it. It was released in the UK last year and played to generally positive reviews. Trailer: Here.

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