Friday, August 19, 2011

INTERESTING FILMS & SHOWS FOR THE REST OF 2011

Currently with release dates:

JULY 15TH - LIFE, ABOVE ALL (Directed by Oliver Schmitz)

- with Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, and Harriet Lenabe

"African-American author Richard Wright once opined that when he wrote about the conditions that afflicted a people, he wanted to pen something that was so hard it did not allow the 'consolation of tears.' If I have a reservation about Life, Above All, it is that I can't help but think it will leave most viewers pretty much where they started. Will a Western churchgoer see himself or herself in the gossipy neighbors who call Chanda's mother a 'Jezebel' and claim AIDS is God's punishment so its victims must have done something wrong? ...

"Director Oliver Schmitz (perhaps best known to American audiences for a vignette in Paris J'Taime) is able to frame shots with an eye toward reinforcing his themes visually without flagrantly drawing attention to individual shots the way many more commercial dramatic films do. We may notice the design on a child's shirt as it hangs on a clothesline, but the camera does not insist that we do. With material this heavy handed, a light directorial touch is a must."
- Kenneth R. Morefield



AUGUST 31ST - THE DEBT (Directed by John Madden)

- with Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Ciaran Hinds, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas

"Madden ('Shakespeare in Love'), a reliable craftsman, directs the story at a brisk pace, moving it more or less smoothly between past and present. The story at hand is so original and so unusual that he’s able to build and sustain suspense from first frame to last, in and across the two different time periods, each of which contains startling action and shocking revelations." - Emmanuel Levy



SEPTEMBER 16TH - RESTLESS (Directed by Gus Van Sant)

- with Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, and Ryo Kase

"Van Sant, no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival, has always been something of a chameleon in his filmmaking voice, and I'm not really sure "Restless" has an easy comparison in his filmography. It is sweet, simple, eccentric, and gentle. It is a film about grief, but it is anything but depressing. There is a lyrical quality to it that caught me off-guard, and in the end, I surrendered myself to its charms completely ...

'Restless' is just eccentric enough that some viewers will react badly to it, but it is that very specific voice that I responded to. So often, death in film is an excuse to make a "serious" movie, ladling on the sorrow, but Van Sant and his cast took Lew's script as a challenge to make a film about this subject that feels almost celebratory. The fact that they pulled it off is a sweet surprise, indeed."
- Drew McWeeney



SEPTEMBER 16TH - DRIVE (Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn)

- with Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks and Christina Hendricks

"Gosling stars as Driver, a laconic man of action whose very name doubles as a job description. By day, he’s a movie stunt driver and car mechanic. He moonlights as a wheelman, and as the movie’s dazzling, bracingly straightforward opening sequence proves, he’s one of the best ... If you’re thinking Driver is the quintessential laid-back selfless hero, cool as cool can be in the Steve McQueen mode, the kind of guy you’ve seen hundreds of times in good movies and in bad ones — you’re right ...

Drive could have been the best drive-in feature of 1975, which explains why some of the critics I’ve talked to don’t see it as particularly original. But last night I also ran into a solid crew of youngish colleagues who were as over the moon about it as I was. No one is claiming Refn has invented a new language; it’s just that he uses the vocabulary so well — he’s got the right tools and the right touch." - Stephanie Zacharek



SEPTEMBER 23RD - MACHINE GUN PREACHER (Directed by Marc Forster)

- with Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Souleymane Sy Savane, Madeline Carroll, Kathy Baker and Rhema Marvanne

"Death hides in the tall grass of Southern Sudan. What looks like empty landscape can explode in a heartbeat with rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army shooting, slashing, and burning their way through an unsuspecting village. Government officials ... give these renegade soldiers a wide berth; they usually know where the trouble areas are and steer clear of them ...

The LRA will shoot at anything, but they’re not used to anybody shooting back. They don’t expect to be up against a truckload of soldiers with plenty of guns and ammo, which is what they get when they tangle with us on the road. When I first started driving around in Southern Sudan, my soldiers and I got ambushed all the time. To any normal person that would be a bad thing, but I thought it was great. I went around hoping the LRA would ambush us because every time they did, it gave me another chance to take one of them out - leaving one less LRA soldier to hurt somebody else.

Governments can’t run and hide forever, and one thing’s for sure - negotiating is a waste of time. Who knows how many villagers have been killed while people sit around talking about what a big problem all this is. But when you go out and kill some of the enemy, you’re making progress ... People in the church talk about being ‘soldiers of Christ.’ While the phrase can have several different meanings, in my case I take it literally. But I don’t believe I’m doing any more than Jesus would do if he were here. If he knew children were being kidnapped and tortured, do you think he would just walk by? ... I’m no theologian, but I know what I know. The fighting we’ve done in Uganda and Sudan has produced an oasis of peace and safety in a very dangerous part of the world."
- Sam Childers



SEPTEMBER 23RD - MONEYBALL (Directed by Bennett Miller)

- with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathryn Morris and Robin Wright

"... The men in this room were the spiritual descendants of the older men who had identified Billy Beane, as a boy of sixteen, as a future baseball superstar. Invisible to the ordinary fan, they were nevertheless the heart of the game. They decide who gets to play and, therefore, how it is played. For the first time in his career, Billy was about to start an argument about how they did what they did ...

The tone of the conversation is that of a meeting in a big company that has just decided to drop a product line, or shift resources from marketing to R&D. Still, it’s a dispute with two sides riven by some fundamental difference. The two sides are, on the one hand, the old scouts and, on the other, Billy Beane. The old scouts are like a Greek chorus; it is their job to underscore the eternal themes of baseball. The eternal themes are precisely what Billy Beane wants to exploit for profit - by ignoring them ..."
- Michael Lewis



SEPTEMBER 25TH - BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO - Season Two - Created by Terence Winter)

- with Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Mcdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Paz de la Huerta, Michael K. Williams, Jack Huston and Gretchen Mol

"Few dramas on television attempt as many things as "Boardwalk Empire" does on a weekly basis. Fellow HBO show 'Game of Thrones' feels like the only other current drama that has the same scope. 'Boardwalk' not only has to recreate the Atlantic City of the 1920s, but toggle back and forth between the boardwalk, Chicago, Manhattan, Philadelphia and even the White House. It's both a crime story and a political story - and suggests that, more often than not throughout history, those are the same thing - with a sprawling cast of characters, some real and some fictional, and all with his or her own inner life and agenda. And it strives to pack every frame with details that evoke the sights, feel and sound of Prohibition-era America.

Judge 'Boardwalk' on what it attempts, and it's extraordinary. Judge it on what it succeeds at, and it's still a very good show - and often great - but one that still seems to be figuring itself out a bit in year two ..."
- Alan Sepinwall



SEPTEMBER 30TH - TAKE SHELTER (Directed by Jeff Nichols)

- with Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Katy Mixon, Shea Whigham, Kathy Baker, Ray McKinnon and Lisa Gay Hamilton




SEPTEMBER 30TH - TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (Directed by Eli Craig)

- with Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden and Jesse Moss

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby take this opportunity to present my belief that Alan Tudyk is one of the most under-used actors of his generation. I'm not sure where I first saw him but it was Joss Whedon's Firefly that really sold me on Tudyk and his skills, that show alone placing incredible demands on him to run the gamut from serious drama to comedy to action and Tudyk handled it all flawlessly. I became a fan and expected great things but ... well ... he's keeping busy enough not to have to worry about paying the rent but not nearly as busy in or as high profile as he deserves to be.

Enter Tucker And Dale Versus Evil, in which Tudyk plays Tucker, one half of a goofy but friendly and incredibly well meaning pair of hillbillies who are about to be plunged into a mess of misconceptions, carnage and widespread bloodshed thanks to a group of college teens who a) believe that Tucker and Dale are evil, and b) are hopelessly inept when it comes to eliminating said evil.

This. Looks. Fantastic. When horror comedies fail its because they either miss on the character work or never quite find the appropriate balance between horror and comedy. All good on all fronts here. The characters are all solid and believable, the riffing on stereotype spot on, the level of blood and gore is impressive and - most importantly - the jokes are funny."
- Todd Brown



OCTOBER 6TH - THE KID WITH A BIKE (Directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

- with Cecile de France, Thomas Doret, Jeremie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, Egon Di Mateo and Olivier Gourmet




OCTOBER 8TH - THE LADY (Directed by Luc Besson)

- with Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, and Jonathan Woodhouse




OCTOBER 21ST - THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson)

- with Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen, and Til Schweiger




OCTOBER 28TH - THE RUM DIARY (Directed by Bruce Robinson)

- with Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribisi and Richard Jenkins




NOVEMBER 4TH - MELANCHOLIA (Directed by Lars von Trier)

- with Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgard, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, and Stellan Skarsgard

"Divided into two halves – one following Kirtsen Dunst through her wedding reception, one following her sister Charlotte Gainsbourg as it dawns on her that a rogue planet (called, you guessed it, Melancholia) is going to collide with Earth – the film is a meditative, haunting and ultimately devastating work that fearlessly reflects on the meaning of it all ...

Von Trier also reminds us what a visual master he is, and the use of beautiful imagery here to illustrate his theme from the gorgeous prologue (accompanied by music from Wagner’s Tristan And Isolde) to the final astonishing moments ..."
- Mike Goodridge



NOVEMBER 9TH - J. EDGAR (Directed by Clint Eastwood)

- with Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Josh Lucas, Stephen Root, Damon Herriman and Judi Dench




NOVEMBER 11TH - IMMORTALS (Directed by Tarsem Singh)

- with Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, Kellan Lutz, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Stephen Dorff, and John Hurt




NOVEMBER 23RD - THE ARTIST (Directed by Michel Hazanavicius)

- with Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle and Bitsie Tulloch




NOVEMBER 23RD - MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (Directed by Simon Curtis)

- with Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi




NOVEMBER 23RD - THE MUPPETS (Directed by James Bobin)

- with Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin, Jack Black, Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Donald Glover, Mila Kunis, Mickey Rooney and Danny Trejo




NOVEMBER 23RD - HUGO (Directed by Martin Scorsese)

- with Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emily Mortimer and Ray Winstone




DECEMBER 9TH - TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Directed by Tomas Alfredson)

- with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Stephen Graham, Toby Jones, and John Hurt




DECEMBER 9TH - WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Directed by Lynne Ramsay)

- with Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, and Ashley Gerasimovich




DECEMBER 16TH - SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Directed by Guy Ritchie)

- with Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly and Eddie Marsan




DECEMBER 16TH - THE IRON LADY (Directed by Phyllida Lloyd)

- with Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Anthony Head and Richard E. Grant




DECEMBER 23RD - IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (Directed by Angelina Jolie)

- with Goran Kostic, Zana Marjanovic, Rade Serbedzija, and Nikola Djuricko




Currently without release dates:

CONFESSIONS (Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima)

"A million miles away from the stereotypical middle-mindedness of Oscar voters (though they did at least vote the controversial and also brilliant Greek pic Dogtooth into the five), this is a haunting film of considerable emotional depth and power, and you’ll probably struggle to shake it off for days ...

The incredible first act boasts more horror, surprise and intrigue than most fully-formed features, and though the subsequent hour never feels as concise or gathered, this is a potent, almost unbearably visceral slice of confronting cinema. After such a highly-strung first act, Nakashima runs a considerable risk of losing all manner of steam thereafter, yet the story’s literary origin – a novel by Kanae Minato – ensures characterisation to be a focal concern ... As a broader social satire – of the role of the media in our lives, and how we choose to raise our children – it is certainly pungent and smartly composed, but its true impact comes from the increasingly schizophrenic directorial style that comes to reflect the fractured state of the protagonist’s lives."
- Shaun Munro



FAUST (Directed by Alexsandr Sokurov)




THE HUNTER (Directed by Daniel Nettheim)

- with Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Frances O'Connor

"Perhaps the biggest star of the show is the Tasmanian landscape - buttongrass, rainforest and mountains - and the breathtaking cinematography shows it off to brilliant effect.

Filmed entirely in Tasmania, the exteriors were shot mostly at dawn or late afternoon to capture Tasmania's low-angled, stark sunlight and pale hues.

The decision to shoot on film adds an almost painted quality to the landscape.

The Hunter is a true Tasmanian gothic tale: one man against indomitable nature; the lone form of Martin hiking through buttongrass plains, vulnerable and alone yet strong and defiant."
- Tim Martian



THE MILL AND THE CROSS (Directed by Lech Majewski)
"It turns out that the director fell under the spell of Bruegel while still a child, as Majewski discovered the painter during trips to Venice to stay with his uncle. Whilst on the way, the family would always stop in Vienna, where the main attraction was the sweeping Kunsthistorisches Museum, which boasts an entire room of Bruegels. "I lived in those paintings," Majewski revealed. "To me, they were much more interesting than cinema."

Majewski believes that we have lost the quality of spirituality that previous ages had, and he does not mince his words in laying into what he calls "the bottomless idiocy" of today’s celebrity culture. "I'm standing in opposition to this tendency," he affirmed. The director, himself a painter, says he feels absolutely at home amidst the forgotten symbols that were so commonly used by artists of previous epochs ...

Majewski confirmed that aside from Spanish sensation Pedro Almodovar, he had little time for contemporary directors, preferring old school legends like Fellini, Visconti, Tarkovsky and Bunuel, who he believes had one key quality lacking today, namely "depth."
- Nick Hodge



THE SWELL SEASON (Directed by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, and Carlo Mirabella-Davis)

- with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

"Like so many people who saw the glorious 'Once', I fell in love with the sweet story of musicians/stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová who became an off-screen couple during filming and went on to win an Academy Award. I remember seeing them in concert when they toured Melbourne and later being a bit sad when I heard that they had romantically split up. The Swell Season looks at their life on the road after their massive success and how the sudden fame, new expectations and new pressures affected their relationship. Hansard and Irglová are both extremely open people so they talk candidly about the tensions in their lives. The music is integrated to comment on the status of their relationship during the film and the result is a very sad yet sweet and insightful film." - Thomas Caldwell



TYRANNOSAUR (Directed by Paddy Considine)

- Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell, and Ned Dennehy

"I had a discussion last year with a friend who is a lesbian, and we commiserated that when it comes to films, gays and Christians face some similar problems. Rarely, if ever, are characters just incidentally Christian (or lesbian). As a result the gamut of characters we get embodying a segment of the population is pretty limited. They are too often stock figures, seldom complex human beings.

Not so, Hannah. Her Christianity is not incidental–within two minutes of meeting the main character she is praying for him–but neither is it one dimensional. Writer/director Paddy Considine told an audience at TIFF that some of the emotions from the film are drawn from his own life, notably the anger he sometimes felt at his mother’s faith and the subsequent realization that she has a larger heart than he knew ...

Hannah is in an abusive relationship (and that’s the understatement of the year), and the way Considine lets this play out without Hannah verbalizing the way her relationship with God affects and is affected by her attempts to negotiate her husband’s treatment of her allows the film to be achingly real without ever preaching ... And yet ... God is allowed at least the possibility of being present in some form other than picture of Jesus that Hannah finally lashes out at, screaming, “What are you looking at?!?” For some of us who believe in a personal relationship with a loving God, the deepest confirmations of His love can be in the handful of times He brings people together who may be, at that moment, the only ones who can save us.

There are moments in life. They are few, but they are real. And they holy. They are the moments when someone chooses you, and in their desperation, their anguish, their pain, indeed, their very hopelessness at the seeming absence of the divine in this world, they turn to you and recklessly and vulnerably, they let you love them."
- Kenneth R. Morefield

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