Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer movie preview: 5 under the radar films to watch for

The days are getting longer. Memorial Day has come and gone, beaches are open and school will be out soon for the summer months. Although summer doesn’t technically begin until June 20, it is already summer in many peoples’ minds. For the movie industry this means it’s time to release the biggest movies of the year. The Avengers has already gotten the ball rolling with a record-setting spring release, and there are some huge films on the horizon that studios (and theaters) are hoping will get people off the beach and into the cinema.

You will hear plenty of talk about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic Prometheus which appears to be a spiritual successor (prequel?) to the Alien series. Then there’s Pixar’s Brave, which features a roguish red-headed heroine (a first for Pixar) that people will see no matter what the trailer looks like because, well, it’s Pixar. And of course Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy will come to a conclusion in what is undoubtedly the summer’s most highly anticipated film – The Dark Knight Rises.

But what about the rest of the lineup? I could give you a list of my most anticipated summer films but my guess is that you don’t need me to convince you to go see The Dark Knight Rises. So instead I’ve put together a list of a few promising movies that are getting far fewer headlines than the big dogs. This doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily small movies (although a couple are) but my guess is that you’ve heard far less about them than the sequels and superhero movies. Here are my Top 5 under the radar films of the summer season.

Editor's note: If the full screen option is not working for the trailer videos and you would like to enlarge them, I would recommend clicking on the title of the video above it in white letters. It will open the video in a new tab on the YouTube website.

The Pact   Release Date: June 8

One of the few horror releases this summer, The Pact is director Nicholas McCarthy’s feature length debut. The movie itself is based on his short film of the same name that debuted at Sundance in 2011. It is about a woman (Caity Lotz) who stays at her childhood home after attending her mother’s funeral, only to sense a mysterious presence in the house. The short was well received at the film festival, and early reviews of the full length version are positive, praising its eerie atmosphere and suspenseful pacing. So much of horror films’ success lies in execution; here’s hoping that The Pact is able to deliver.

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap   Release Date: June 15

Legendary rap icon Ice-T is the director and interviewer in this ambitious documentary that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film explores the prodigious rap game: the music, the inspiration, the history and the characters of a music that is much more than just a genre. It features a ridiculous list of artists and interviewees including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Afrika Mambaataa, Grandmaster Caz, Mos Def, Ice Cube, Chuck D., Common, Kanye West, Q-Tip and Rakim (to name just a few). Based on the trailer it’s hard to discern exactly what the mission of the documentary is but at the very least it looks to be a fascinating and funny journey into the history and ambitions of a type of “folk music” that has evolved into a movement.

To Rome With Love   Release Date: June 22

After Woody Allen’s Oscar-nominated Midnight in Paris last year, Allen turns his unique cinematic eye to Rome in a movie that appears to be comfortably in the auteur’s wheelhouse. A large eclectic cast, snappy dialogue and luxurious shots of Rome’s sun-warmed streets will perhaps do for Italy what Midnight in Paris did for France, although there are no implications of magical twists of fate this time around. Allen himself returns as a character among a cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Ellen Paige and Roberto Benigni. If Allen can keep ahead of his formidable (and sometimes misdirected) intellect this film should be a pleasant alternative to the summer’s heavier hits.

Savages   Release Date: July 6

Director Oliver Stone’s latest movie looks more like Natural Born Killers than anything he’s released in over a decade. It eschews the political trappings of much of his filmography in exchange for Mexican drug cartels and high octane violence. There is a love triangle that includes Blake Lively, a federal agent played by John Travolta and some drug-dealing baddies in Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro. It’s nothing too intellectual, but if Stone can make us care about these characters then the guns, drugs and explosions should do the rest.

360   Release Date: August 3

This globetrotting drama is directed by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles who directed City of God (that alone is enough for me to watch it) and written by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland). It weaves together the storylines of various characters across several continents while examining the dynamics of social and sexual relationships and how they shape our lives. It debuted at the Toronto Film Festival to mixed reviews, with some complaints that the connections between its characters were too tenuous but drawing praise for the breathtaking cinematography that has become director Meirelles’ trademark. It stars Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Ben Foster and Anthony Hopkins. For some reason I wasn’t able to find an American trailer online so I’ve put up a Thai version. Sorry about the poor quality.

Release Date: August 3


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