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The 10 Indie Films You Must See March

March's 10 Must-See Indie Films

After two rather slow months for new specialty releases (blame the 2013 Oscar nominated releases hogging the art houses), March is set to kick 2014 into high gear thanks to new films from Wes Anderson, Lars Von Trier, Jason Bateman and Denis Villeneuve, among others. It certainly makes for a lot of options, though here’s 10 in particular we think you should check out:

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7th)

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”?  It’s hard to say Wes Anderson is on a roll since he never really slowed
down, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel” looks like another capricious
delight from America’s great chronicler of whimsical personalities. Set
in the Europe of the 1920’s, the movie features Ralph Fiennes as a noted
hotel concierge framed for murder and hiding from the police;
meanwhile, Bill Murray naturally finds his way into the story as the
manager of a rival hotel. Early reviews and trailers indicate an elegant,
snappy comedy, confirming Anderson’s claims that he’s working in the
tradition of great screwball director Ernst Lubitsch. While Anderson’s
style might be easy to parody and sometimes too precious for its own
good, there’s no doubting that he ranks among the more enjoyably
inventive entertainers working in film today.

Watch the trailer below:

2. Nymphomaniac, Volume 1 (March 21)

Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Willem Dafoe,  Udo Kier, Shanti Roney, Hugo Speer, Uma Thurman, Charlotte Rampling
Distributor: Magnolia
Current Criticwire average: A-  (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”?  A new Lars Von Trier movie always elicits a mixture of excitement and
unease, but “Nymphomaniac” is on another level. Part one of a two-part,
four-hour-plus epic (the second volume is out in theaters come April), which stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as the
sex-addicted woman of the title, promises plenty of explicit nudity and
outrageous exchanges — along with more than a modicum of brains. Early
reviews suggest that Von Trier’s film, which features a cast that also
includes Uma Thurman, Stellan Skarsgaard and Shia LaBeouf among many other familiar
faces, brings an enticing literary and philosophical sensibility to its
lewd subject matter. It’s another reminder that no matter how much
people like to characterize Von Trier as a provocateur, the ideas
embedded in his work resonate even louder than the shocks.

Watch the trailer below:

3.  Enemy (March 14)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
Distributor: A24
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Just a few months after his English-language debut “Prisoners” turned into a considerable critical and commercial hit, Denis Villeneuve is back with “Enemy,” and he’s bringing “Prisoners” co-star Jake Gyllenhaal with him again. The story follows Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal), whose sighting of a man who looks exactly like him prompts a series of bizarre twists and turns in which he attempts to discover who this hauntingly familiar figure really is. Gyllenhaal performs double-duty, playing both the character of Adam and the mysterious man he’s tracking down. Based on Jose Saramago’s novel of the same name, “Enemy” was written by Javier Gullon and also stars Melanie Laurent and Isabella Rossellini.

Watch the trailer below:

4. The Raid 2: Berandal (March 28)

Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Gareth Evans’ 2011 Indonesian action movie “The Raid: Redemption,” a
blisteringly fast-paced action story set entirely in the confines of an
apartment building, resulted in one of the most remarkable entries in
the genre to come along in years. Both the tale of a bumbling SWAT team
making its way through hordes of criminals and a relentless martial arts
experience, “The Raid” also managed to establish a keen contrast in
warring siblings Rama (Iko Wais), an unflappable police officer, and
Andi (Donny Alamsyah), a committed mob boss. They still haven’t worked
out their differences: Though the plot of “The Raid 2: Berandal” isn’t
entirely clear, we know that it begins relatively soon after the end of
the first movie and that the plot involves Rama going undercover as a
criminal to protect his family. That might sound like familiar turf, but
the trailer promises wall-to-wall action from start to finish — and
judging by the first movie, that means you may as well grow nails out,
because “The Raid 2” is likely to make you gnaw them to pieces.

Watch the trailer below:


Bad Words (March 14)

Director: Jason Bateman
Cast: Jason Bateman, Rohan Chand, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Phillip Baker Hall, Rachael Harris
Distributor: Focus
Current Criticwire average: C+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Jason Bateman has described his directorial debut, “Bad Words,” as “‘Bad Santa’ with spelling bees,” a comparison so evident in the material that it’s practically a remake. The actor’s step behind the camera, in which he plays a bitter 40-year-old who crashes a national children’s spelling bee by amusingly upstaging the pre-pubescent competitors, moves along at an enjoyable pace carried by its steady heap of one-liners. It’s less of a showcase for Bateman’s ability to direct comedic storytelling than simply to make people laugh, which makes “Bad Words” a sufficiently vulgar playground. 

Watch the trailer below:

6. Jodorowsky’s Dune (March 21)

Director: Frank Pavich
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Current Criticwire average:  B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? At one point during the new trailer for “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky refers to his old passion project as “a film that gives LSD hallucinations — without taking LSD … to change the young minds of all the world.” Given that this could easily describe most of Jodorowsky’s films, it’s a shame it never got made. But Frank Pavich’s documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” offers the next best thing: a look at what might have been. There are plenty of unrealized films that cinephiles would love to have seen made, but few more bizarre or more fascinating than Jodorowsky’s version of Frank Herbert’s masterpiece “Dune.” The cult director behind “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” had a wild vision planned: designs by H.R. Giger, music by Pink Floyd, and cast that would have included Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali, among others. The film was never made – it was too expensive, and perhaps a bit too nuts for a studio to fund (though David Lynch’s messy version wasn’t much more accessible) – but aspects of the project’s designs would go on to influence “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” among other projects. Including interviews from Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux, and noted fans like Nicolas Winding Refn, the documentary has been a big hit on the festival circuit since its debut at Cannes last year. 

Watch the trailer below:


7. The Missing Picture (March 19)

Director: Rithy Panh
Distributor: Strand
Current Criticwire average:  A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Through its blend of poetic autobiography and allegiance to historical responsibility, “The Missing Picture” was unlike anything else in contention at the Academy Awards this past weekend (it lost best foreign language film to “The Great Beauty”). The first Cambodian nominee in the history of the award, Rithy Panh’s diary-like chronicle of his adolescent experiences in a forced labor camp under the destructive grip of the Khmer Rouge demonstrates cinema at the height of its powers.

Watch the trailer below:

8. Teenage (March 14)

Director: Matt Wolf
Cast:  Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher
Distributor: Oscilloscope
Current Criticwire average:  B (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Matt Wolf’s documentary film “Teenage,” narrated by the ever-popular Jena Malone (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) and Ben Wishaw (“Skyfall”) explores a world before Justin Bieber and Facebook; the film, which screened at the the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival takes a look at adolescence at the start of the 20th century.  It’s a beautiful, quick-paced film that analyzes our formative years before people even know that our formative years was something worth understanding. 

Watch the trailer below:

9. It Felt Like Love (March 21)

Director: Eliza Hittman
Cast:  Gina Piersanti, Ronen Rubinstein, Jesse Cordasco, Giovanna Salimeni, Andrew McCord, Case Prime
Distributor: Variance
Current Criticwire average:  B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Welcome to a world of complicated teenage sexuality. In her feature debut “It Felt Like Love”, Eliza Hittman presents us with Lila, an innocent 14-year-old who delves into a steamy romance with bad boy Sammy. It’s all been done before, but “It Felt Like Love” looks earnest, refreshing and sweet. Newcomer Gina Piersanti stars as Lila, who is spending her summer in a working class Brooklyn neighborhood and yearns to be just as experienced as her best friend. Another newbie Ronen Rubinstein stars as Sammy. 

Watch the trailer below:

10. Le Week-end (March 14)

Director: Roger Michell
Cast:  Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum
Distributor: Music Box Films
Current Criticwire average:  B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Last year’s “Before Midnight” ended with its feuding lovers imagining
what it might be like to grow old together. While it involves a
different set of characters, Roger Michell’s “Le Week-end” may answer
that question anyway, as it involves a near-geriatric British couple
(Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) wandering Paris on a vacation gone
awry while going for the jugular in their arguments over the proper
direction for their remaining lives. Michell’s tender comedy-drama —
written by “My Beautiful Laundrette” scribe Hanif Kureishi — gets under
your skin with darkly amusing exchanges between the couple that marry
the humor with a philosophical sadness and vice versa. Also featuring a
naturally hilarious appearance by Jeff Goldblum as the Broadbent
character’s more successful former colleague, “Le Week-end” is both a
somber existential medication and a cynical rant, yet maintains a sense
of levity as its stars gradually shed their problems and rediscover the
romanticism that drew them together in the first place.

Watch the trailer below:

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