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Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer Movie Preview Part 2

Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC
By Joshua Handler

Summer is upon us. While many of you will be making your way to the multiplex to see the blockbusters (I will be as well), there are a large amount of independent films that may not be on your radar that really should be. This is part two of the Roboapocalypse summer movie preview featuring independent films that I personally believe are well worth the trip to the theater (or iTunes) - part one can be found here. The films are listed in no particular. On some of the films, the filmmakers provided exclusive statements or fun facts about their work.

Photograph by John Guleserian
Courtesy of The Orchard
(Dir. Patrick Brice) - Patrick Brice's The Overnight is a raunchy, weird, yet ultimately sweet sex comedy featuring excellent work from Jason Schwartzman, Taylor Schilling, Adam Scott, and Judith Godrèche. At 80 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome, while still packing in plenty of amusing twists and memorable scenes. The Orchard will release on June 19.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
(Dir. Paul Weitz) - Grandma is the film that Hollywoood needs right now. It features an older lesbian feminist as its lead (gloriously brought to life by Lily Tomlin) and deftly deals with a hot topic like abortion at its narrative center. Impressive work by its cast and a sensitive screenplay by Paul Weitz make this small film a delightful break from this summer's more serious films. Sony Pictures Classics will release on August 21. 

Courtesy of Oscilloscope
(Dir. Lou Howe) - Lou Howe's emotional debut feature, Gabriel, was one of the best films at last year's Tribeca Film Festival, and it's finally making its way to theaters. Featuring a raw, committed performance by Rory Culkin, this story of a young man looking for a girl he loved is heartbreaking, unsentimental, and moving. Gabriel is a very promising debut for Howe, who shows proves himself to be adept at creating a sensitive and humane character study. Oscilloscope will release on June 19. 

Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC
(Dirs. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala) - Disturbing and directed with remarkable control by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a nastily entertaining delight about two twins who suspect that their mother isn't quite herself after an operation. A slow-burning atmospheric thriller with crisp cinematography and two frightening performances from Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz, this is a debut narrative feature that will push audiences to their limits (in a good way).

According to directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, "We had 2000 trained Madagascar hissing cockroaches on the set. Before the shoot, the twins had got two of them to take them to their home to get used to them. Their names were Rocky and Rambo. Susanne Wuest, the main actress, also tried to train her own personal stunt cockroach, Mathilder, so that it would crawl willingly into her mouth." RADiUS-TWC will release on August 14.

Courtesy of Open Road Films
(Dir. Rick Famuyiwa) - Rick Famuyiwa's Dope tells a tale that's been told before, but in a way that's so original and satisfying that it doesn't matter if we hear it again. It also has a few brilliantly-placed moments of social commentary. Shameik Moore gives a star-making performance and the phenomenal supporting cast (Tony Revelori, Kiersey Clemons, Chanel Iman, A$AP Rocky, Kimberly Elise, and Zoë Kravitz, among others) match Moore's energy and charisma. Lee Hagen's unconventional editing won a special jury prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Pharrell Williams contributed original songs (and served as an executive producer) and Sean Combs served as co-executive producer with Forrest Whitaker producing. The film has an excellent pedigree, but when you actually see it, it'll become immediately evident why so many great artists attached themselves to this film. Open Road Films will release on June 19.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
(Dir. Maya Forbes) - Maya Forbes' autobiographical directorial debut, Infinitely Polar Bear (executive produced by J.J. Abrams), is a small film with a huge heart. The film tells the story of a man (Mark Ruffalo) with bipolar disorder who takes care of his kids (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) after his wife (Zoe Saldana) leaves to go to graduate school in New York to make a better life for the family. Heartbreaking, funny, touching, and personal, this is a film that has a number of beautiful moments and one of Mark Ruffalo's strongest performances.

Director Maya Forbes said the following about what she hopes audiences take away from the film: "People respond to all different things in the film and I think that's cool, I don't want to guide their response.  But I hope they feel like they went on a satisfying emotional journey. I'd like it if they walk away from the movie crying, and at the same time think to themselves: "That was fun." I hope it stirs memories of their own family."

Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
(Dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy) - Pure cinema. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's feature debut and Cannes sensation, The Tribe, is told in single-take scenes without any spoken dialogue due to the fact that its characters are deaf. An uncompromising, uncommonly disturbing film, The Tribe won't be for everyone, but for the most adventurous filmgoers, this is must-see cinema from one of the most exciting new voices to come onto the scene in the past year. Drafthouse Films will release on June 17. 

Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films
(Dir. Chaitanya Tamhane) - Easily one of the most impassioned and brilliantly-scripted debuts in some time, Chaitanya Tamhane's Venice Film Festival award-winner, Court, is a searing indictment of the Indian judicial system. Featuring a level of directorial control and focus rarely found in debut features (or frankly most features by any director with any level of experience), Court is a film of power and intelligence that filmgoers shouldn't miss. Zeitgeist Films will release on July 15.

Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
(Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer) - Joshua Oppenheimer's profoundly disturbing follow-up to The Act of KillingThe Look of Silence, is another exploration of the Indonesian genocide, yet this time, it's far more personal, as it follow around an optometrist who confronts the men who murdered his brother. While not quite as dazzlingly original or as much of a punch to the gut as The Act of KillingThe Look of Silence is nonetheless a brave, masterful piece of documentary filmmaking that needs to be seen by as many people around the world as possible. Drafthouse Films will release on July 17.

Photographer: Matthew Heineman
Courtesy of The Orchard
(Dir. Matthew Heineman) - Matthew Heineman's bleak Sundance multi-award-winner, Cartel Land, is an exploration of the  unstoppable drug war, told from both sides of the Mexican-American border. Featuring pulse-pounding action scenes that rival those in Hollywood action films and a complexity rarely found in docs that deal with such hot-topic issues, this is a miraculous feat of filmmaking that's as compelling as it is timely. The Orchard will release in theaters July 3. 

The following is a director's statement from Matthew Heineman: "I was compelled to make CARTEL LAND after reading media accounts of Nailer and El Doctor, the film's main characters. I was immediately drawn to know more about their worlds, in which everyday citizens have been forced to take the law into their hands. I wanted to tell their stories from an intimate, yet action-driven verité perspective, without outside experts or text cards. It took many months to gain their trust and to gain the access that I needed to tell this story.

Over the year that I was embedded with both Nailer and El Doctor and their vigilante groups, the story unfolded in incredible and surprising ways that I could never have predicted when I first got started. Having no experience filming in risky situations, CARTEL LAND pushed me into some pretty precarious places – I’ve been in shootouts on the streets of Michoacán and in Breaking Bad-like meth labs in the middle of the dark, desert night. Utilizing small crews or shooting by myself, my goal was to be there to capture in real time each chapter of the ever-evolving and arcing stories, with the camera in the action, not observing it from the outside. It was a wild adventure and a grueling film to make.  

The more time I spent down there, the more complex the story became: it was partly an ascent of people seeking to fight evil and partly a descent into hell as they took the law into their own hands, with many twists and turns in between. It is about elemental issues of order and chaos, of the desire for law but also of terrifying brutality and lawlessness.  

I became even more motivated, almost obsessed, as the lines between good and evil became ever more blurred. The film doesn't offer pat answers and, instead, presents a story that I believe will be interpreted and understood in many different ways. 

It is this moral ambiguity that intrigues me, and it emerges naturally in the story and in our characters. For me, it became a timeless story of the conflict between idealism and violence, which has eerie echoes throughout history and across the world today."

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