Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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

Art-House Dramas:

Love Is Strange – Romantic Drama – Aug 22
Plot Summary: Ben and George finally get married; however, as an unintended consequence George is fired from his job (a music teaching post at a religious institution). Now, they must look for a cheaper place to live and sell theirs. In the meantime, they must individually stay with assorted friends and family members, creating strain on all involved. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Ira Sachs. Actors Involved: Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, and Marisa Tomei. Quality Potential: High. Love Is Strange has played to mostly applause from audiences during its advanced screening. It has, however, played to high praise from critics. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow are both fantastic actors and give wonderfully rich performances in this film. It is probably worth checking out for those that enjoy lighter character dramas. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

What If – Romantic Dramedy – Aug 1
Plot Summary: Wallace, a former medical student, has never had any luck in love. He has repeatedly been hurt. Chantry, an animator, lives happily with her boyfriend Ben. Wallace and Chantry meet and there is an instant spark. They become fast friends – best friends. There is, however, a nagging thought in both their minds – what if your best friend is really the love of your life? It is complicated. They do not want to ruin their friendship and Chantry is already in a good relationship, but again there is no denying their chemistry. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Michael Dowse. Actors Involved: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Mackenzie Davis, Adam Driver, Oona Chaplin, Megan Park, and Rafe Spall. Quality Potential: Medium. What If on paper sounds incredibly clichéd – the embodiment of the typical rom-com (which on average have been pretty bad recently) – but, it does have a great cast and looks very fun. I love romantic comedies (undeterred by the constant stream of poor films from the genre, as gems still come about from time to time like last year’s About Time). This is one I am excited to see (though, as a rental). The film’s director, Michael Dowse, has a talent for comedy, previously making the very funny sports comedy Goon (although, to be fair and balanced, he also made Take Me Home Tonight before that, which is unwatchable). Trailer: Here.

Frank – Mystery Dramedy – Aug 15
Plot Summary: Jon wants to be a musician. That is all he wants. So, like any other young aspiring star, he joins a band. There is just one strange thing about this eccentric pop group – it is led by the odd, mysterious, and enigmatic Frank (a man who constantly wears a paper-mache head; in fact, he never takes it off). Jon becomes fascinated by Frank, but at the same time things begin to get a bit out-of-hand and he starts to think that maybe he is in too deep. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Lenny Abrahamson. Actors Involved: Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy. Quality Potential: Medium. Frank looks far too odd for any kind of mainstream success, but it also looks kind of fantastic. It has performed well critically in the UK (where it opened in May). Irish independent director Lenny Abraamson is on the verge of potentially becoming a star (following this with the highly anticipated indie film Room), and the film’s cast is top notch (Michael Fassbender in particular gives a phenomenal performance – one in which the viewer does not see his face). I am highly intrigued by the film – its great cast, director, and the incredibly bizarre energy it seems to possess. I want to see it. Trailer: Here.

The Trip to Italy – Road Comedy – Aug 15
Plot Summary:  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon get together again this time to do a culinary road trip through Italy. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Michael Winterbottom. Actors Involved: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Quality Potential: High. The Trip to Italy is the follow up to The Trip by the collaborating group of Coogan, Brydon, and Winterbottom – it is their third (the three also made Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; Coogan and Winterbottom also worked together on 24 Hour Party People). The Trip was hilarious and made me very envious of the food they got to eat. The Trip to Italy looks to be just as funny and feature food that looks even more delicious. I should take a culinary trip through Italy. Trailer: Here.

Life After Beth – Horror Romantic Comedy – Aug 15
Plot Summary: Beth dies. Her boyfriend Zach grieves her death, but then begins to suspect that her parents are keeping a secret from him. He investigates to find something very surprising: Beth has mysteriously returned from the dead. At first, Zach is elated to have Beth back, but he then comes to realize something: she is a zombie and not the girl he loved. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Jeff Baena. Actors Involved: Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Alia Shawkat, John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines, Molly Shannon, and Paul Reiser. Quality Potential: Medium. Life After Beth performed well at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, garnering audience and critical praise. It looks very fun, blending the typical rom-com with zombie horror (in a way, it sort of reminds me of the Community Halloween special from season two:  Epidemiology – or of course My Boyfriend’s Back). Jeff Baena makes his directorial debut (he previously wrote I Heart Huckabees – which seems to have the same sort of slightly insane energy) and has put together a great comedic cast. I am looking forward to seeing it. Trailer: Here.  

The One I Love – Mystery Romance Dramedy – Aug 15
Plot Summary: Ethan and Sophie are struggling with marriage. Their couples’ counsellor suggests that they take a vacation to beautiful house that has worked for past patients. The two embark on a weekend to find their better selves, only to make a startling discovery. The house has some sort of magical property. Now, everything about the weekend starts to become a bit mad cap, but maybe they will find their way through the madness. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Charlie McDowell and executive producers Jay and Mark Duplass. Actors Involved: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, and Ted Danson. Quality Potential: Medium. The One I Love has played well for critics during its advanced screening. It looks, like a couple of the indie films this month, a bit insane. Duplass claims that it is best to approach this film not really knowing anything about it. I definitely want to see it (I am also a big fan of Elisabeth Moss’s work). Trailer: Here.

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