Aaaahhhhh Summer… Amidst assholes from Krypton ruining property value in Metropolis… and giant robots fighting giant monsters while Idris Elba shouts stuff… and celebrities playing themselves dealing with the end of their careers world… there’s the other side of the spectrum.
Summer isn’t just for the big guys and the big special effects- it’s also when many smaller films that find success on the festival circuit get released in a handful of theaters and, these days, on VOD. So in the interest of awareness and sharing the films I’m most excited for this summer, lets dig in!
Only God Forgives
Probably the highest profile film on my list. Ryan Gosling and Nicholas Wending Refn team up again to bring us more style-over-substance crime drama bliss. I’m a big proponent of admiring films for what they’re attempting to do, not what I want them to be.
Refn is a filmmaker more interested in getting your heart racing than your mind, and I’m perfectly content with that given his amazing aesthetic instinct. Festival reviews have been mixed, but many critiques seem similar to those levied against Drive, so expect more of the same aesthetic, ingenuity and brutal violence. This time it’s just gonna be bathed in neon. Of course, let’s hope it’s not too derivative of his last film.
It seems every year there’s an indie that strikes the perfect balance required when tackling a high concept story with a low budget. Back in 2011, The Sound of My Voice was that film for me, and I’ve been pining ever since for the next film from Zal Batmanglij.
I must say, that while I’m excited to see how he handles the world of eco-terrorism and anarchists, I’m concerned about Batmanglij recycling his original success a bit too much. Both films are about seemingly normal people infiltrating a dangerous group of outsiders. Like with Only God Forgives, lets hope this next film does something we haven’t seen the director do before.
Perhaps best known for 2003’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, Kim Ki-duk has been pushing the Korean cinema revolution ever since, cresting just under the radar of most western audiences. Well it seems he’s gotten the international community’s interest again this time around with Pieta, which depicts quote, “the mysterious relationship between a brutal man working for loan sharks and a middle-aged woman claiming to be his mother, mixing Christian symbolism and highly sexual content.”
Any fans of K-Cinema should consider this a must see based on the festival buzz it’s gotten thus far.
I’m usually not a sucker for ‘pulled from the headlines’ projects like this. They almost always comes off heavy handed and constrained by their own seriousness. However, this film’s buzz has been impossible to ignore since it picked up the grand jury prize at Sundance this year. Directed by recent USC alum Ryan Coogler and produced with the kind assistance of Forest Whitaker, the story focuses on 22 year-old Oscar Grant, a young man killed by police officers while waiting for a BART train in Oakland, CA.
I’ve tried staying away from reviews on this one, but many claim it packs an unexpected emotional punch with the help of some stellar performances. Because of its festival success, this will definitely be an indie to talk about around the water cooler.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Now here’s a film that made a huge impression on audiences at Sundance and Cannes that I’m excited for. The film centers on an escaped convict, played by the always good Casey Affleck, and his wife and daughter on the run from police in rural Texas. A neo-western with the kind of talent attached to it is sure to raise eyebrows, and each trailer and clip I see for this one has me more and more excited. Relative cinematography newcomer Bradford Young also picked up the best cinematography award at Sundance this year, so expect stellar camera work.
The Act of Killing
We close out my round-up with a documentary that’s on the tippy-top of my Must-See list. Produced by doc juggernauts Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, director Josh Oppenheimer makes a film that has to be seen to be believed. Pulled straight from IMDB, the film is basically a, quote, “documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.”
Nothing I can say about this movie would measure up to the INSANE trailer that’s been spreading around the interwebs. Check it out for yourself; it’s destined to become a cult classic.
About The Author
Brandon Kendall is a writer and filmmaker originally from Porterville, Ca. He escaped the destitute wasteland of the central valley on his eighteenth birthday and sought refuge in the CSULB Film Production Program. Brandon currently works at YouTube giant ZEFR in development. He is in post production on his short film 'American Viral' and is currently at work on a feature length documentary on Guerrilla Art and Social Practice.