The Best Movies Of Sundance Film Festival History

Yesterday I posted part one of my two-part look at the best movies of Sundance Film Festival history. Today I return with the second installment, which takes a look at the best movies from the last 16 years of the festival as Park City became not only the mecca of American independent film but the launching pad for hundred million dollar award contenders.

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Escape from L.A

In 1981, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York—a small-budget, post-apocalyptic bruiser—raked it in at the box office and set up Kurt Russell as an 80s action star. Fifteen years later, Russell reprised his role as now-iconic anti-hero Snake Plissken for Escape from L.A. But despite all the hallmarks of promise—star actor, known property, and the return of a legendary director—the $50 million sequel didn’t even earn half its money back in theaters.

Creatively, there are numerous reasons that help explain why this film flopped—many of which are hilariously pointed out in the latest episode of How Did This Get Made? But in addition to all that, there’s another variable at play: timing. Had Escape from L.A. been made ten years earlier—alongside 1986 hits like Cobra and Crocodile Dundee—or even ten years later—alongside 2006 reboots like Casino Royale and Rocky Balboa—it seems more likely that the film would have succeeded. Which begs the question: if Escape from L.A. had been made in the late 80s, what would that have looked like?

So who better to answer that question than Coleman Luck who, in 1987, was hired by John Carpenter to write the first draft of Escape from L.A. Curious to learn more—and also learn why Luck’s bio lists that him as “also a mentalist and a member of the Academy of Magical Arts”—I managed to track down the now-retired writer.  Below is a copy of our conversation…

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split review

(This review originally ran after Split‘s first screening at Fantastic Fest 2016. It arrives in theaters today.)

Every filmmaker finds themselves in a rough patch every now and again, but few directors have had quite as public a rough patch as M. Night Shyamalan. It wasn’t enough that the immensely talented director of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs was stumbling with duds like The Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender – his name had become synonymous with disappointment for many moviegoers. He had become a punchline.

But now, it’s looking like Shyamalan has started to get his groove back. The Visit was one of last year’s more pleasant surprises and now Split, which held its world premiere as part of a secret screening at Fantastic Fest, has seemingly revealed his future going forward: he’s going to keep on making low-budget horror movies until someone tells him to stop. If his latest film is any indication, few people are going to tell him to stop anytime soon.

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An Inconvenient Sequel Review

If An Inconvenient Truth was an eye-opening disaster movie, then An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is the heartbreaking post-apocalyptic follow-up.

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The Best Movies Of Sundance Film Festival History

The Sundance Film Festival isn’t just a film festival, but a look into the future of cinema. As we travel to Park City Utah this year, I thought it would be nice to take a look back at the last 30 years of the festival. Today I begin part one of my two-day, two-part look at the best movies of Sundance Film Festival history. In part one I will focus on the first 15 years of the festival* as the small independent film festival grew into the launching pad for new filmmakers and ground zero for the independent movie boom of the 1990’s.

 

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Logan poster

Normally, when a studio offers us the chance to preview footage from an upcoming film, we’re treated to a handful of clips. In the case of James Mangold‘s Logan, we saw the entire first act — perhaps 30 or 40 minutes of footage. Such a move speaks to 20th Century Fox’s faith in the film, touted as Hugh Jackman‘s very last performance of Wolverine after 17 years. And based on what we saw, that confidence is well placed.

Mangold’s Logan feels unlike any superhero movie in recent movie, and yet its gritty Western vibe feels perfectly suited to Jackman’s world-weary take on the character. If this really is the last time we’ll see his Wolverine, it seems like a fitting end to his tenure. Read our Logan footage review below.

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header version: tom whalen moana variant

In today’s edition of Cool Stuff, we premiere Tom Whalen’s stunning Moana screenprint variant, a screenprint tribute to The Princess and the Frog from a Pixar artist, a look at some of Fantasy Flight Games’ new figure expansions for Imperial Assault that bring some of our favorite characters from the Star Wars comics and Star Wars Rebels to the tabletop, a new six inch vinyl Sam figure from the Halloween cult classic Trick r’ Treat, a JAWS-inspire bath bomb that will turn your bath tub red, and finally Funko has made POP figures for the characters from the television series Lost, but why are they so disappointing? Hit the jump to dive in!

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rogue one tarkin

Last week I had the opportunity to jump on the phone with the visual effects team behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. After the jump, you can read a transcript of my full interview with Rogue One executive producer / visual effects supervisor / writer John Knoll, animation supervisor Hal Hickel, and special effects supervisor Neil Corbould.

In the conversation, Knoll talks about his original low-budget pitch for Rogue One. We also find out just how many people and how much time it took to recreate Tarkin, just how much work was put into resurrected Gold and Red Leader from A New Hope, and if we’ll end up seeing more deleted scenes with finished visual effects on the home video release, and talk Princess Leia, miniatures, and much more.

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Berlin Syndrome header

Team /Film (Peter Sciretta, Ethan Anderton, and myself) is headed up to the Sundance Film Festival this week. As always, we know to expect the unexpected — so often, our favorite films turn out to be ones we’d never even heard of until we arrived — but we can’t help but pick out a few we’re especially dying to see. After the jump, read our Sundance 2017 preview of 30 films we can’t wait to see at the fest.
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Felicity Jones Hosted Saturday Night Live

This weekend brought the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 2017, and the writers had a tough time coming back from break. Hosted by Felicity Jones, the episode started off strong with the cold open featuring the return of Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, but then it takes a sharp turn into being more than a rough return for the late night sketch show.

We recount the best and worst sketches from the Felicity Jones hosted Saturday Night Live after the jump. Read More »