Ian Floodgate: The first film out this month that I would like to take a look at is The Nightingale,written and directed by Jennifer Kent. The film is her sophomore feature after the success of The Babadook five years ago. It is pleasing to see more filmmakers making artistic horror films. I had no interest in the genre before, but recent horror films like Midsommar and Suspiria have interested me. I have not seen The Babadook but I admire the era of German Expressionism the film is said to pull from. Though The Nightingale doesn’t look like it will have that artistic appearance, it seems to have similar qualities to Kent’s first film whilst exploring racial tensions in 18th century Australia. The story follows a young woman played by Aisling Franciosi seeking revenge for the murder of her husband and child.
Henry Baime: Horror films have rarely been my cup of tea, even the ones you mentioned, but I have seen The Babadook and I found quite a lot to enjoy in it, with heartfelt family drama and horror elements that were truly unsettling alongside the artistic techniques you mentioned. The Nightingale does look like it will borrow some of what Kent learned from The Babadook with regards to building tension but, beyond that, it seems to be an entirely different type of film that promises to tackle social issues with a historical drama about a female convict sent to 19th century Tasmania (then a penal colony) as she seeks revenge with the help of an aboriginal guide. The premise of The Nightingale excites me as it presents a chance to see an obviously skilled director willing to approach new types of filmmaking while also promising to be a type of film that aligns more with my personal tastes.
Though I’m not usually the biggest fan of horror films that stick to the usual formula, the upcoming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, directed by André Øvredal, is something I am eagerly anticipating. I haven’t seen much other work from most of the cast and crew involved in the film but all the promotional material I’ve seen have been pushing Guillermo del Toro‘s name, and his past work has expertly blended horror elements into a variety of different stories that have all been emotionally resonant and whimsically fun in their own ways. As one of the story writers for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, I’m hoping del Toro was able to help bring those same sensibilities to this film.
Ian: From André Øvredal, I have seen Trollhunter. I am not a fan of the found footage subgenre, but Øvredal merges comedy with dark fantasy well in Trollhunter. I also thought the special effects were not overpowering, as they can be in some films. This element could work well for Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, which is based on the children’s horror story compendium of the same name. The film appears to be a more traditional horror film in that it possibly includes jump scares. Usually, this would not entice me to see a film, yet other aspects of the trailer hold my interest. I can see how del Toro’s involvement along with Øvredal could make this film appealing. Del Toro’s films often have a fantastic production design, and the ghouls here are reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth, a much-loved film of his.
Henry: I think there are definitely some inherent similarities between the fantasy worlds that del Toro crafts so well and the type of horror film this is shaping up to be, with a focus on the supernatural and as an adaptation of a children’s book. The creature designs are all somewhat unsettling but in a way that isn’t outright terrifying, and the physical setting is a romanticized version of an actual place in history. Del Toro being created for the story rather than the director does give me some level of apprehension because I don’t know what level of involvement he had in the making of the film, and the visions of writers can often be lost in the final product. However, the trailers I’ve seen seem to be adhering to his style, and my hope is that his name being prominently attached to all the promotional materials is a sign that André Øvredal is approaching the film similarly to how del Toro would.
Another August release from a director that I’ve long followed is Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Richard Linklater‘s newest film. The film follows Bee Branch (Emma Nelson), a high school student, and her father as they investigate the disappearance of her mother, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett), a woman who seemed to have a perfect life but hated leaving the house and interacting with people. Though the plot sounds like it could be a thriller, it seems the film is being billed as a comedy with dramatic elements, which is a type of film Linklater has found prior success with in films like Dazed and Confused and Everybody Wants Some!!. Though I think his best work has been when he takes a more serious look at relationships over time than what he seems to be going for here, comedic Linklater hasn’t disappointed me yet.
Ian: I agree. It is an unusual story to explore as a comedy, but it is an adaptation of Maria Semple‘s comedy novel. Where’d You Go, Bernadette’s story of a stay-at-home mother who attempts to rediscover herself and a connection with her family seems inspiring. What else interests me about the film is the cast, particularly Cate Blanchett. It looks like she delivers another fine performance here. With six Academy Award nominations to her name, it would not be completely surprising if she managed to nab another nomination with her role in this film.
Another comedy-drama film getting its release this month is The Peanut Butter Falcon, directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. The film follows a boy with Down syndrome who runs away to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. This film has a solid cast, including Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern and John Hawkes, and gathered some good reviews following its premiere at South by Southwest. Strong buzz might help it at the box office.
Henry: That one hadn’t been on my radar until I saw a preview a couple weeks back but the praise has been universal so far and it promises to be an uplifting buddy/adventure film that could be just what the summer needs right now. All around the cast seems to be an under-appreciated group of talented performers, with Thomas Haden Church and Jon Bernthal also on board, and I’m hoping we get to see everyone shine.
Gurinder Chadha‘s Blinded by the Light has also received some acclaim recently as a feel-good film that tackles some difficult topics. There have been quite a number of films recently experimenting with different premises to incorporate the greatest hits of a particular musician or band into the film’s soundtrack, to varying degrees of success. This one seems poised to do that for Bruce Springsteen‘s music, as it tells the story of a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager who finds the courage to express himself after discovering Springsteen’s songs. The reception so far has seemed to indicate it uses the premise well and has more substance to it than most of the recent jukebox musicals.
Ian: Some of director Gurinder Chadha’s earlier films, like Bend It Like Beckham focus on young British Indo-Aryan people, and the difficulties they have embracing their cultural heritage in a lighthearted way. Many of Chadha’s films have a similar comedic tone, which has a broad appeal. Even Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is humorous, which does not focus on Chadha’s background of being Indian and English. Fitting to the apex of Springsteen’s career, Blinded by the Light is set in the late 1980s. It will be interesting to see how the integration of politics fits in, given that the 1980s were a turbulent time in Britain. Audiences might also see the film because of this aspect as there are many people disillusioned with both the current British and American governments, and Springsteen’s music is just about synonymous with American patriotism.
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