Monday, October 12, 2015

2015 Philadelphia Film Festival Preview

Every year the City of Brotherly Love welcomes an eclectic crop of independent and major studio films in late October. Generally, the Philadelphia Film Festival includes major Oscar contenders and the most noted selections from other showcases throughout the world such as Cannes and the Venice Film Festival. This year's lineup continues to offer countless titles worth checking out before they officially reach movie theaters all across the globe. Here's a look at the top 10 films I'm most excited to catch during this year's Philadelphia Film Festival.

#10. Youth

Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel & Rachel Weisz

Paolo Sorrentino's latest film is set along the picturesque backdrop of the Alps where two aging in-laws (Caine and Keitel), one a famed composer and the other an American screenwriter, spend a memorable vacation in the twilight of their lives. Youth has been praised for its fine performances and majestic cinematography, both of which could represent this indie title at this year's Oscars.

#9. Macbeth

Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard & Paddy Considine

Justin Kurzel's cinematic adaptation of the classic William Shakespeare play has captured the attention of audiences and critics alike. Kurzel, who is known for his visceral filmmaking, gives a violent and dark interpretation of Macbeth that you'll never forget. Keep and eye on Marion Cotillard as an awards season player for her role as Lady Macbeth in the film.

#8. Kilo Two Bravo

Starring David Elliot, Mark Stanley and Scott Kyle

Kilo Two Bravo tells the incredible true story of a British paratrooper company that landed in Afghanistan only to find themselves trapped within a mine field. Paul Katis' tense drama focuses on the dangers of warfare and the risks we take while fighting for freedom. Although Kilo Two Bravo doesn't carry the same Oscar clout as many of these other titles, its immense amount of praise has me excited to screen the film.

#7. The Program

Starring Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd & Jesse Plemons

Despite the film's lackluster early reviews, I'm all in on Philomena director, Stephen Frears', latest biopic, The Program. Based on the true story of an Irish sports journalist (O'Dowd) whose relentless reporting revealed the intricate doping program used by famed cyclist, Lance Armstrong (Foster), throughout his Tour de France wins. As a longtime fan of Ben Foster and a believer in Chris O'Dowd, I'm still excited to watch The Program.

#6. 45 Years

Starring Charlotte Rampling, Dolly Wells & Geoff Mercer

While I admittedly knew very little about Andrew Haigh's drama, 45 Years, some deeper research unveiled a potential Oscar player. The film follows an aging couple who, during the week leading up to their 45th wedding anniversary, receives some life-changing news that will test their relationship. Early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and that helps propel 45 Years reasonably high on my list of must-see movies.

#5. Carol

Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara & Sarah Paulson

Set in the 1950s Carol follows an adulterous relationship between a wealthy married woman named Carol (Blanchett) and department store cashier (Mara) in search of a better life. Todd Haynes directs and many are already voicing their praises for stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara who should both end up in Oscar races of their own.

#4. Anomalisa

While I haven't loved everything touched by the unique vision of Charlie Kaufman, I can openly recognize talent when I see and hear it. There's no one quite like Kaufman and he's at it again with his last film Anomalisa, a stop-motion animation film that dazzles audiences on its way to winning the top honors at the Venice Film Festival. Cinephiles are lining up with their compliments and that makes Anomalista an intriguing Opening Night selection on Thursday, October 22nd.

#3. Legend

Starring Tom Hardy & Emily Browning

All you have to say is, "Tom Hardy" and you can sign me up. Hardy is a personal favorite of mine who has rarely let me down in the past. He comes to the Philadelphia Film Festival in a dual role as twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray who ruled the streets of London during the 1960s. Despite middling early reviews, I'll happily take a chance on a double dose of Tom Hardy in Academy Award winning writer, Brian Helgeland's, latest directorial effort, Legend.

#2. Brooklyn

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Michael Zegen & Domhnall Gleeson

You may not know it, but behind this rugged exterior is a true romantic. I'm definitely a sucker for a well executed and rare love story. Hence, my interest level in John Crowley's love triangle drama, Brooklyn, is extremely elevated. Set in the 1950s between New York and Ireland, Saoirse Ronan stars as a young woman torn between two exceptional men in two different countries. Ronan is being highlighted as a serious Oscar candidate, making Brooklyn a clear cut must-see entry at this year's festival.

#1. Room

Starring Brie Larson & Jacob Tremblay

One of the bright spots about being a movie critic is the chance to gloat when you're ahead of the curve. After recognizing the indie drama, Short Term 12, as one of the best films of 2013 and labeling the film's star, Brie Larson, as a brutally snubbed Oscar omission for her unforgettable role, it appears as though the industry is finally taking notice. The phenomenal talents of Brie Larson will be on full display in this one of these year's most raved about dramas, Room. Larson stars as a woman held captive in a tiny 10 x 10 room with her son, Jack (Tremblay), who has never experienced life beyond these walls. Both Larson and the feature's young star, Jacob Tremblay, could be Oscar contenders as well as a whole heap of other nominees. If you can't make it out to the festival's lone screening of Room on Friday, October 23rd, then definitely keep an eye out for the film as it arrives in theaters soon.

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