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Thursday, July 5, 2012 12:40 pm

No superheroes in sight

Films featuring real-life humans

art10222
While the span from May to Labor Day has become the prevue of big-budget superhero movies and action epics as well as sequels and remakes that have been given a good buff and polish, there are still films being released during this time that feature that rarest of creatures – real-life human beings. What follows are summaries of nine films that contain characters dealing with thorny moral issues, complex emotions and a bit of existential angst – you know, things we can all relate to. I promise, there’s not a caped crusader or invading alien to be found here.
All of the below release dates are for the film’s original release date and some of these features will arrive in the Springfield area a few weeks later.

1. The Queen of Versailles
July 6 – Seems as though the economic downturn didn’t just affect us working stiffs. The rich took a hit as well. That is the subject of this documentary about David and Jackie Siegel, whose grand plan of building a mansion modeled after the Palace of Versailles went up in smoke when the real estate market collapsed. A winner of the best documentary prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie has already generated its share of controversy for its sympathetic portrayal of these out-of-touch members of the One Percent.

2. Red Lights
July 13 – Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver star as paranormal investigators who specialize in debunking frauds and scam artists. However, their mettle is tested when a reclusive psychic (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement, a man whose telekinetic powers have never been disproven. Director Rodrigo Cortes takes a humanistic approach to these supernatural shenanigans and employs a powerful twist ending that makes this one a winner.

3. The Imposter
July 13 – File this documentary in the “truth is stranger than fiction” file. Director Bart Layton focuses on the odd case of a young Frenchman who claims to be the 16-year-old son of a Texas family, who’s been missing for three years. A hit on the film festival circuit, the movie examines how powerful denial and the willingness to accept a false truth can be.

4. Ruby Sparks
July 25 – Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the directorial team behind Little Miss Sunshine, helm this tale of a young writer (Paul Dano) who does the impossible and creates his dream girl from one of his stories by willing her into existence. Needless to say, complications ensue. Reminiscent of the overlooked Stranger than Fiction, the film may be too cutesy to succeed.

5. Killer Joe
July 27 – Expect plenty of fireworks from this thriller by director William Friedkin. It has already generated its fair share of controversy on the festival circuit with its hyper-violent tale of a young man who puts a hit out on his greedy mother, which goes horribly wrong. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church, the film has already been slapped with an NC-17 rating, all the while generating talk about Oscar nominations at the end of the year. Definitely one to check out, if you’re curious and have a high tolerance for bloody violence.

6. Celeste and Jesse Forever
Aug. 3 – Rashida Jones (Parks and Rec) and Andy Samberg star as the title married couple that tries to maintain a friendship as they venture back into the dating world. A mixed reception on the festival circuit makes this one hard to read.

7. 360
Aug. 3 – After making a name for himself with the brilliant City of God, director Fernando Meirelles has had a spotty track record with far more misses (Blindness) than hits (The Constant Gardener). This piece of hyperlink cinema, in which seemingly unrelated stories connect in the end, is short on details. Its array of settings include Paris, Vienna, Denver, Rio and Phoenix, while it sports a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law and Rachel Weisz. How they all intersect remains to be seen, but let’s hope this proves to be a piece of challenging and satisfying cinema.

8. Red Hook Summer
Aug. 10 – MIA in movie theaters since the bomb that was Miracle at St. Anna, director Spike Lee returns to the big screen with this story of a boy from Atlanta whose worldview is changed when he spends a summer with his deeply religious grandfather who lives in the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn. Using an unknown cast, the film has been greeted with savage reviews after premiering at various international film festivals. Maybe some last-minute tinkering can save it.

9. Cosmopolis
Aug. 17 – Robert Pattinson tries to put the long shadow of the Twilight films behind him in this adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel. He’s Eric Packer, a young, successful asset manager, who sets out to get a haircut but finds himself on a crosstown odyssey in which he meets or is contacted by various investors, friends and enemies, which results in his world falling apart. Taking place almost entirely in the back seat of a limousine, Pattinson is in the film’s every scene and must be given credit for taking on such a heavy load. As directed by David Cronenberg, who’s already cast the actor in his next film, expect an introspective, thought-provoking film.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.
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