Beloved indie auteur Kelly Reichardt is back following her western "Meek's Cutoff" with her first thriller "Night Moves," a film that on paper looks to move at a faster clip than her previous efforts. Whether that's indeed the case, we'll soon know. Boasting her starriest cast yet (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard and Alia Shawkat all star), "Night Moves" centers on three activists scheming to blow up a dam, and how their lives unravel in the aftermath. Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling explored similar themes in their summer indie thriller "The East," but chances are Reichardt's effort will be less 'thrilling' and more introspective. [Nigel M. Smith]
John F. Kennedy's presidency and assassination have been covered rather extensively in cinema. Between Oliver Stone's expansive conspiracy drama, "JFK," the cold war drama "Thirteen Days," and the network TV drama "Kennedy" with Martin Sheen as the titular president, what's left to say about the historical figure? Apparently enough for one more movie, at least that's what writer/director Peter Landesman will contend when "Parkland" premieres at the Venice Film Festival September 1. The star-studded drama co-produced by Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton uses the hospital President Kennedy was sent to as focal point for the day's catastrophic events. "Parkland" marks Landesman's directorial debut and first feature screenplay, a somewhat remarkable feat considering the cast he gathered for the $10 million production. Oscar winners Marcia Gay Harden and Billy Bob Thornton headline along with Zac Efron and Oscar nominees Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti, and Jackie Earle Haley. Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, and Colin Hanks also appear, solidifying what is undoubtedly one of the fall's finest casts. While the similarly well-stocked biopic on Robert Kennedy, "Bobby," is still fresh in our minds as a disappointing would-be awards contender (and inexplicable Golden Globe nominee), "Parkland" is certainly still one to watch at this year's festival, if only to see if it can live up to its subject's past pedigree. [Ben Travers]
Earlier this month we got our first look at Stephen Frear's "Philomena," a Weinstein Co. release and thus an Oscar contender until proven otherwise. The trailer gave us no reason to doubt the film's award potential. Starring Dame Judi Dench as a mother searching for a child she was forced to abandon at a young age, "Philomena" has one Academy favorite leading the charge with another behind the camera as well as an ideal premise and cast for the elderly Caucasian voters behind most ballots. More importantly for viewers than its awards potential, though, are the simple charms and heartfelt sincerity offered in the two-minute teaser. Heart-hitting moments like the close-up on Dench's face as she says she did not abandon her child and lighter notes like when she accepts a free cocktail during a flight create a winning mixture "Philomena" will undoubtedly ride throughout the fall. Though it still doesn't have a U.S. release date, we are eagerly awaiting its unveiling at Venice in the hopes we have another "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" on our hands. Certainly the Weinsteins are as well. [Ben Travers]
"Tom at the Farm"
Xavier Dolan returns both in front of and behind the camera with "Tom at the Farm," his follow-up to last year's "Laurence Anyways" (his first and so far only film in which he didn't also star). Adapted from award-winning Quebecois writer Michel Marc Bouchard’s play of the same name, “Tom” follows the titular young man (Dolan) as he travels to the Quebec countryside to visit the family of his recently deceased lover. After realizing the family was unaware he existed (or that there son was gay), Tom is sucked into a dark and twisted game that begins to unravel care of his lover’s psychotic brother. A departure from the unofficial trilogy of “impossible love stories” that precedes it, "Tom" marks Dolan's first psychological thriller . It’s his fourth film in just five years, and the 24 year old Dolan has no intentions of slowing down (he’ll likely be done shooting his next film by year’s end). At this rate he could very well have had ten films under his belt by the time he turns 30. But until then, there’s “Tom at the Farm,” which should be high on the to-see lists of many a festivalgoer (here or in Toronto, where it hits on September 10th). [Peter Knegt]
"Under the Skin"
It's been a decade since iconic music video helmer Jonathan Glazer's entrancing sophomore feature "Birth," starring Nicole Kidman in one of her most mesmerizing turns, so anticipation is high on his long delayed followup, "Under the Skin," to deliver. Initially rumored to open last year, the film was expected to debut at Cannes in May, but has opted to go down the Venice route, soon followed by a Toronto premiere. Based on Michael Faber's acclaimed sci-fi novel, the film's premise is to good to pass up: supposedly existential in tone, the oddball tale centers on an alien (intriguingly played by Scarlett Johansson, who will also be in Toronto with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut "Don Jon") sent to earth on a mysterious mission to capture men. Cameron Bailey, TIFF's Artistic Director, in his description of the film called it "disturbing," harkening back to the work of Kubrick and Hitchcock. [Nigel M. Smith]
"The Zero Theorem"
If anyone makes films meant to play at festivals, it’s Terry Gilliam. The director of unique and sometimes bizarre features like “Tideland,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is back with “The Zero Theorem,” a drama about a computer hacker searching for the reason for human existence. His quest is continually interrupted by the “Management,” who send a people to distract him. Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Tilda Swinton star in what certainly sounds like a return to “Brazil”-like territory for the veteran filmmaker. [Ben Travers]