11 Indie Movies to Watch Out for in ’11

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Everybody knows the big Hollywood movies scheduled to release this year. We all know what blockbusters will be lighting up the box office and hitting our theaters. However, all too often, some of the best movies of the years are the ones we never hear about. The ones that aren’t big Hollywood releases and don’t receive the publicity that your ‘Transformers’ or ‘X-Men’ receive. Thus, today I’d like to turn the attention to indie movies. Here is a list of 11 independent films that should be good and are worth watching out for in 2011.

1. The Silent House

Director: Chris Kentis

Writer: Laura Lau

Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese and Haley Murphy

Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2011

Genre: Horror

What is it: Trapped in a nightmare, a young woman descends into madness.

Analysis: Kentis and Lau were the duo responsible for the 2004 sensation Open Water. In their follow-up film, Kentis and his wife Lau return to remake Gustavo Hernandez’s Uruguayan film by the same name. What’s impressive about this movie is that it is done in one long continuous shot. Now, a few movies have tried this before, but none really succeeded so well in presenting a good movie with it. For that reason, with the addition of tight spaces to film in, the original was quite the achievement in cinematography. The film itself was well-received by critics and said to be a fine addition to the horror genre.

So, that being said, we know the source material is good. We know the concept can be a good movie. Now let’s see what American filmmakers can do with it. I’m left somewhat skeptical due to the boring venture that was Open Water from Kentis and Lau. Not to mention, most of the time it turns to crap when foreign films get an American remake. However, that’s usually in reference to Hollywood remakes of foreign films, so it could be better with indies doing the remake. The material is there though and we could potentially have another Paranormal Activity on our hands, which I believe is a good thing. So I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out on this one.

2. I Saw the Devil

Director: Kim Ji-woon

Writer: Hoon-jung Park

Stars: Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik

Premiere: The movie has had a theatrical release in South Korea. It has also appeared at a few international film festivals late last year. However, it will be making it’s US Premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2011.

Genre: Crime Thriller

What is it: Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. He has committed infernal serial murders in diabolic ways that one cannot even imagine and his victims range from young women to even children. The police have chased him for a long time, but were unable to catch him. One day, Joo-yeon, daughter of a retired police chief becomes his prey and is found dead in a horrific state. Her fiance Dae-hoon, a top secret agent, decides to track down the murderer himself. He promises himself that he will do everything in his power to take bloody vengeance against the killer, even if it means that he must become a monster himself to get this monstrous and inhumane killer.

Analysis: Kim Ji-woon was responsible for Tale of Two Sisters and The Good, The Bad and The Weird, both of which were good movies. The South Korean film I Saw the Devil has been met with good reviews. Ji-woon really is an entertaining filmmaker. And I Saw the Devil is said to bring that mastery of style that Ji-woon is known for. It’s also a highly violent, cold and disturbed film. While many say there’s not much depth to the story, it still provides for an entertaining film for those that can stomach it. Being as his two previously mentioned films have been a fun ride, I’m looking forward to seeing what Kim Ji-woon delivers here.

3. 13 Assassins

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Daisuke Tengan, based on a screenplay by Kaneo Ikegami

Stars: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada and Yûsuke Iseya

Premiere: Theatrical Release on April 29, 2011

Genre: Action

What is it: A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.

Analysis: If you’ve never heard of Takashi Miike, then chances are you’re not exactly one to branch out into foreign film, especially Japanese. Miike is something of a legendary Japanese filmmaker (and highly controversial). Not only that, but he’s one of the most dedicated and busiest filmmakers in the industry today. He averages like 4 films per year. In his busiest years, from 2001-2002, Miike was credited with making 15 films. Yea, that’s a lot. In fact, that’s an insane amount. With such movies as Audition, Sukiyaki Western Django, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Qand the Dead or Alive series, Miike has become quite the prolific filmmaker.

While I felt Ichi was a bit overindulgent and shocking just for the sake of being shocking (which isn’t uncommon for Miike), thus I didn’t exactly care for it, Audition still stands as one of the scariest movies ever in my opinion. And Sukiyaki Western Django is one of the best westerns in recent years; don’t let the samurai style fool you, it’s definitely a western. In fact, I don’t think most people appreciate just how similar the kung-fu/samurai and western genres are, nor how influential they have been on one another.

13 Assassins is said to be one of Miike’s more tame films (at least by his standards) and his most polished and mature work to date. Being an excellent addition to the samurai subgenre, 13 Assassins has received rave reviews. Anyone interested in the stylish work of Miike or in martial arts/samurai movies in general should find this to be one that is not to be missed.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Director: Troy Nixey

Writer: Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, based on a teleplay by Nigel McKeand

Stars: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and Bailee Madison

Premiere: With the whole Miramax deal, this movie actually got delayed. As far as I know, there has been no new date set for release. However, I’d imagine we’ll get to see it sometime in 2011 as things get squared away at Miramax (who is distributing the movie).

Genre: Horror Thriller

What is it: A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

Analysis: Guillermo del Toro wrote and produced this movie. Last year, he sent it in to be rated by the MPAA hoping to get a PG-13 rating without sacrificing the scares. Unfortunately for him, the MPAA returned giving the film an R rating on the grounds of “pervasive scariness”. When Guillermo contacted them and asked if there was anything he could do, their simple response was: “Why ruin a perfectly scary movie?” If I knew nothing else, I have to admit, that would seriously intrigue me. Couple that with the teaser trailer that was released (which I have to admit was a bit eerie and scared me just a tad), and I’m definitely interested in this movie and could absolutely understand this turning into a real good scary movie. Especially with Guillermo del Toro behind it.

5. Vanishing on 7th Street

Director: Brad Anderson

Writer: Anthony Jaswinski

Stars: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo

Premiere: Theatrical Release on February 18, 2011

Genre: Horror Mystery Thriller

What is it: When a massive power outage plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find themselves alone. The entire city’s population has vanished into thin air, leaving behind heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. Soon the daylight begins to disappear completely, and as the survivors gather in an abandoned tavern, they realize the darkness is out to get them, and only their rapidly diminishing light sources can keep them safe.

Analysis: I’m actually a fan of Brad Anderson a bit. His past works The Machinist, Session 9 andTranssiberian have all been fairly decent thrillers. It seems he has a solid grasp on the genre, despite having yet to make that masterpiece of his own. And while Vanishing is receiving mixed reviews out of last years film festivals, thus isn’t going to be that masterpiece, it should still be a solid effort from Anderson. His low-key style is somewhat refreshing in this overindulgent industry. And he’s becoming a fairly solid creator of genre films. While I’m doubting this to be even remotely close to being the greatest film of the year, I think it should provide for an entertaining and interesting watch.

6. The Beaver

Director: Jodie Foster

Writer: Kyle Killen

Stars: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin

Premiere: Theatrical Release on April 8, 2011

Genre: Comedic-Drama

What is it: A troubled husband and executive adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.

Analysis: Ok, I’ll admit: the most intriguing part about this, for me, isn’t the movie itself, but rather the casting. The premise of the movie is obviously that of a definitely troubled/border-line psychotic guy. So, they go out and cast Mel Gibson to play that role? I love it. It makes it seem like a car wreck you just have to see. The dark comedy, however, is receiving some praise from those that have seen it. I have enjoyed Foster’s past work Little Man Tate as well. And I believe Anton Yelchin is a good young actor and Jennifer Lawrence proved herself to be a capable actress in last year’s Winter’s Bone. So, just watching media darling Mel Gibson play the suiting psychotic character could be fun. And in the end we may even get an intriguing dark comedy. The movie definitely has some buzz about it and should be one to watch out for.

7. Moneyball

Director: Bennett Miller

Writer: Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (screenplay); Stan Chervin, Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson (writers); based on book by Michael Lewis

Stars: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Premiere: Theatrical Release on September 23, 2011

Genre: Sports Drama

What is it: The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget, by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.

Analysis: Well I do enjoy a good sports movie. This one coming from the Oscar-contender Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network). Also, it has something of an all-star cast with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright. Miller’s previous directorial work was Capote (also with Hoffman) which was a fairly decent movie itself. With such a talented cast and crew put together and such a highly-regarded source material, this could turn out to be a quite good genre movie.

8. Cedar Rapids

Director: Miguel Arteta

Writer: Phil Johnston

Stars: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver and Anne Heche

Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2011

Genre: Comedy

What is it: Tim Lippe has no idea what he’s in for when he’s sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention, where he soon finds himself under the “guidance” of three convention veterans.

Analysis: Another comedy with a nice cast including Ed Helms and John C Reilly. The trailer looked amusing and showed potential of being a pretty funny movie. The movie is also being helmed by the same director that brought us Youth In Revolt which was a decent dramedy in itself, so it should be interesting to see what his follow-up film will be like.

9. The Skin That I Inhabit

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Writer: Pedro Almodovar; based on novel by Thierry Jonquet

Stars: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes

Premiere: Limited Theatrical Release on November 18, 2011

Genre: Thriller

What is it: Based on Thierry Jonquet’s novel “Mygale”, this revenge tale tells the story of a plastic surgeon on the hunt for the men who raped his daughter.

Analysis: Pedro Almodovar is one of the most revered Spanish directors around. In this movie, Antonio Banderas will be re-teaming with the man that made him a star. This is set to be Almodovar’s darkest movie yet and said to be a dark horror thriller. The most compelling part of this is the part Antonio will be playing. Said to be an absolutely brutal role, we’ll watch as the normally cool/suave guy turns into a creepy and haunting character out to exact a cold, calculating revenge.

10. A Dangerous Method

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: Christopher Hampton

Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender

Premiere: Reports say an October release

Genre: Dramatic Thriller

What is it: A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.

Analysis: The cast alone is enough to get me excited. I love Viggo’s work. Knightley is one of my favorite actresses and Fassbender has definitely made a name for himself. On top of that, David Cronenberg is a respected filmmaker himself. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his previous outings with Viggo (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises), so if those are anything to go by, this could turn into quite an entertaining psychological thriller.

11. My Idiot Brother

Director: Jesse Peretz

Writer: Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall

Stars: Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer

Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2011

Genre: Comedy

What is it: Despite looking for the good in every situation and the best in every person, Ned always seems to find himself holding the short end of the stick-being conned into selling pot to a uniformed cop, being dumped by his girlfriend, and worse yet, losing custody of his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. When he turns to family, he is passed from sister to sister while he gets back on his feet. Ned’s best intentions produce hilariously disastrous results, bringing the family to the cusp of chaos and ultimately the brink of clarity.

Analysis: Paul Rudd should do well in carrying a quirky comedy such as well. One that is sure to deliver laughs but also have a heart, blending humor and humanity nicely. With a good cast capable of such nuanced performances, that blend should be fairly easily attainable and delivered well at the hands of Peretz. This could end up being this year’s Cyrus and is definitely one to look out for as it’s gaining quite a lot of buzz around it as it heads into the Sundance Festival.

So there you have it. What I believe to be a solid list of indie films to keep an eye out for this year. Some lesser known interesting movies to go along with all those big blockbuster movies that you know of and are anticipating in 2011.

write by Alvin

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