Thursday, 23 June 2011

Ones to watch (part 1)

Well, we're half way through the year and I have to say it's been a so-so film going experience to date. Darren Aronovsky's hugely hyped Black Swan and the Coen Brothers True Grit both underwhelmed me. David Michod's Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom was a tough and solid if well worn genre piece that featured a memorably dark performance from Ben Mendelsohn. Joanna Hogg's Archipelago impressed with its unhurried, squirm inducing familial tensions and Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins provided a real blast of pure cinematic entertainment. Documentaries are once again having a strong run, with Wim Wenders' Pina 3D, Josh Fox's Gasland, Charles Ferguson's Oscar winning Inside Job and Asif Kapadia's thrilling Senna all providing remarkable insights into their respective subjects. So, what is the rest of the year looking like in UK cinemas? I've browsed the upcoming releases for the next six months and picked out ten films that, in theory, should provide great entertainment, genre thrills, real life intrigue and an impressive alternative to the multiplex fodder that predictably continues to dominate the box office.

1. Terrence Malick's hotly anticipated new film The Tree of Life has finally secured a UK release date. Audiences can see Malick's Brad Pitt and Sean Penn starring film from the 8th of July. Any new Malick film is a must see in my, and many others, opinion and this one will provide a welcome alternative to the wave of summer blockbusters that are soon to dominate our screens.

2. The Interrupters. Due for release on the 12th of August this American documentary is getting some very positive press. The film follows one year in the life of three 'violence interrupters', former gang members who try to protect their local Chicago community and intervene in potentially violent conflicts. Directed by Steve James and released through Dogwoof in the UK, The Interrupters promises to be a tough, eye opening and timely look at street crime, community activism and contemporary urban life.

3. Director James Marsh follows up his superb Man on Wire with Project Nim. The wonderfully and aptly named Nim Chimpsky, not surprisingly a chimpanzee, was taken from its mother and raised as a human in a language acquisition experiment that set out to refute noted language structure theorist Noam Chomsky's assertion that language is inherently human. Getting a huge amount of good press, Project Nim looks like continuing a great year for documentaries. Set for release on the 12th of August.

4. John Michael McDonagh, whose playwrite brother Martin effortlessly eased into directing with the anarchic hitman comedy In Bruges, makes his own directorial debut with The Guard. Stars the always excellent Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle in this odd couple crime/comedy movie. Gleeson's small town Garda and Cheadle's slick FBI officer are thrown together to investigate an international drug smuggling operation. Judging by the trailer and the early word of mouth John's movie matches his brother's earlier effort in terms of offbeat dialogue, unsettling violence and edgy entertainment. In cinemas on the 19th of August

5. The Skin I Live In. Pedro Almodovar directing Antonio Banderas in a tale of a plastic surgeon hunting for the men who raped his daughter you say? Yes please! Alomodovar's first overt excursion into what could be deemed the 'horror' genre (albeit more psychological than supernatural) has echoes of Franju's Les Yeux Sans Visage and the more contemporary rape-revenge thrillers that have sporadically popped up in cinemas over the years. Released in the UK on the 26th of August this is the film I've been waiting for the acclaimed Spanish director to make for a long, long time.

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