The fifteenth installment of our column in which a few of our critics discuss the films they’re most looking forward to being released in theaters or for the first time on Blu-ray during the coming month.
Dalton Mullins: March gives us one of the most anticipated films of 2018, Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs. It’s his first film since The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014 and his first stop-motion animated film since Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. Isle of Dogs follows a Japanese boy in search of his dog after it was transported to the titular island. It uses many of the same actors that Anderson normally uses in his films and seems to have the same distinct visual style and comedy we have come to know and love about Wes Anderson.
Kevin Jones: I’m incredibly excited to see Isle of Dogs as well. Wes Anderson is certainly one of my favorite directors, so any of his work is naturally going to appeal to me, but between both the great cast and his return to stop-motion animation, this is a must-watch film.
It is interesting, however, that he chose to make a film centered on dogs and, in theory, their relationship with people. Now, he may not exactly hate dogs or cats, but all of his films have at least one dog or cat die. As such, it seems as though this is an off-beat choice for him in theory considering the treatment these poor dogs often get in his films, whether it be getting run over by a car in The Royal Tenenbaums or shot with an arrow in Moonrise Kingdom. All that said, this film is garnering a lot of praise upon its debut at Berlin and should be yet another great work from Anderson.
Also coming out this month is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh. It feels as though he just released Logan Lucky, but he was able to shoot his latest film, Unsane, in secret last year. Though a director who often makes very Hollywood films such as Ocean’s Eleven, Soderbergh has quite the penchant for experimentation in films such as The Girlfriend Experimence. With Unsane, Soderbergh opted to experiment once more as he shot the film using an iPhone. For a horror film, this may be a natural fit given the existence of the found footage subgenre.
Telling the story of a woman who was involuntarily committed to a mental institution because she believes someone to be stalking her, Unsane shows her efforts to sort out whether or not the stalking threat is real or if it is just in her head. The film stars Claire Foy, who has made quite a name for herself in the television series The Crown. However, I am most intrigued by the presence of Jay Pharoah in the cast. One of his first film roles after Saturday Night Live, Pharoah is a noted comedian and impressionist, so his presence in a horror film is certainly eyebrow raising.
Dalton: I’m excited to see how Unsane turns out, we already have one successful film shot on an iPhone in Tangerine, so it will be interesting to see how another director tries this method of filming.
Claire Foy, as you said, has had great success on The Crown and looks to be at the top of her game with this film, so it’ll be intriguing to see her in this one. As for Jay Pharoah, while it is interesting, I don’t find it that unusual. Jordan Peele, while he wasn’t acting, made a successful transition from comedy to horror in Get Out, so it will be fascinating to see how Pharoah’s role plays out.
Kevin: One film to also keep an eye on this month is Andrew Haigh‘s Lean on Pete. Telling the story of a teenage boy working a summer job for a horse trailer and befriending the aging racehorse Lean on Pete, the film seems to be another one this month that – at least on paper – explores the relationship between humans and animals. Nonetheless, this definitely fits in Haigh’s repertoire as, thus far, his films have always been about relationships. In Weekend, it was a gay romance. In 45 Years, it was the marriage between an elderly couple. It will be interesting to see just how Lean on Pete compares to each in exploring this relationship.
The cast is also pretty phenomenal, featuring Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Steve Zahn, Travis Fimmel, and Thomas Mann. However, the star here is Charlie Plummer. After seeing All the Money in the World last year, it was certainly apparent that Plummer had chops. However, this role promises to be vastly different. As this is a film about a working class teen as opposed to one in which he appears as J. Paul Getty’s grandson, it is only natural to expect a very different performance from Plummer. It will be interesting to see this variation and even where the two performances line up.
Dalton: I have been excited for Lean on Pete since I first heard about it and after seeing the good press it received in Venice, it has me pumped for its release. It will be interesting to see how Lean on Pete explores the relationship because it is such an unusual relationship, but as you pointed out, relationships are Haigh’s specialty. He creates engrossing relationship dramas without it being overly sappy or overdone. He finds the delicate middle ground and never seems to deviate from it.
The cast does seem amazing. While I am excited to see Charlie Plummer and how his role lines up with his others, I am equally excited for the rest of the cast. Steve Buscemi seems to turn in another strong performance and Chloë Sevigny still seems to be, in my opinion, one of the most underrated actresses in the business. I’m excited to see Thomas Mann because I loved him in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and he hasn’t had many noteworthy roles since then. I think this film will definitely strengthen his resume.
Kevin: I completely agree about Mann. He has yet to really tap into the potential shown in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in roles such as Amityville: The Awakening and Kong: Skull Island last year, so it will be nice to see if he can finally come into his own under the direction of a talent such as Haigh.
Also coming out this month is the latest film from director Armando Iannucci, The Death of Stalin. Finally getting a United States release after coming out in the UK last October, the film has already created quite the stir after Russia banned it and later raided a theater that defied the ban. A political satire that examines the Soviet Union in 1953 as power struggles engulfed the nation after Joseph Stalin’s death, the film stars Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, and Jeffrey Tambor.
Though I have not seen a film by Iannucci yet, he has certainly earned quite a notable amount of acclaim for his prior endeavors in political satire. Taking aim at the 1950s Soviet Union is definitely a noticeable target, especially in today’s political climate. This is also quite the busy month for Buscemi. Between this film and Lean on Pete, it appears as though he is experiencing a bit of a resurgence as of late, one that is very welcome as he, as you mentioned, is always a reliably strong performer.
Dalton: The Death of Stalin might be my most anticipated release of the month. Iannucci is the master of political satire in film with In the Loop and Veep both receiving critical acclaim. I have seen In the Loop and it was great with its satire and foul-mouthed dark humor; it has me excited for The Death of Stalin since it seems all the same elements are returning.
Considering today’s political climate, targeting 1950’s Soviet Union is definitely an approach that won’t go unnoticed. I am excited to see Buscemi in action as well as the rest of the cast. Jeffrey Tambor looks to be fantastic and hilarious in the film. Isaacs, Friend, and Riseborough aren’t generally thought of as comedic actors so it will be interesting to see how their performances play out. I’m also intrigued by the presence of Michael Palin in the cast and what role he will play.
March also gives us an exciting and much anticipated Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s 1928 masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. The film concerns itself with the trial of Joan of Arc as she has been accused of heresy. It is an incredibly moving and expressive film. Maria Falconetti‘s only performance on screen is often regarded as one of the best ever and I’m inclined to agree. When the camera closes in on her face as she stands trial and refuses to change focus, the film fills you with the deepest sorrow. It’s a can’t miss film and Criterion releasing it on Blu-ray with an absolute gluttony of bonus features is any cinephile’s dream.
Kevin: The Passion of Joan of Arc is definitely on my “list of shame” (my list of movies that I am ashamed I haven’t seen yet). Honestly, many films by Dreyer have a temporary home on that list, except for Vampyr which was I was drawn to instantly, in particular its camera work which seems to be one of the most notable elements in Passion as well. With this upcoming Criterion upgrade, I’m definitely hoping to right my wrong. In particular, the availability of three separate scores is enticing. In watching the film, it will be nice to alter the experience on eventual rewatches by listening to a different score and seeing both how it compares and how it changes the film.