Alden Ehrenreich in The Yellow Birds review

The Yellow Birds is guaranteed to attract a certain amount of attention simply because it’s Alden Ehrenreich‘s last major role before Han Solo, and Star Wars fans will be gratified to see that Lucasfilm’s faith in him is not misplaced. He puts in an unforgettable lead performance as Bartle, a young soldier who’s deployed to war and comes back a haunted man, for reasons he’s unwilling or unable to articulate.

But The Yellow Birds is far more than an acting showcase for Ehrenreich’s talents, and would deserve to be seen no matter what big franchises its stars were doing next. It’s a war drama that’s far less interested in the heroism of battle than its cost, as told through the story of a single soldier and those in his immediate orbit.  Read More »

Mudbound review

Any movie should consider itself lucky to have an ensemble as good as the one anchoring Mudbound, which includes Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, and, most unexpectedly, Mary J. Blige. Directed by Dee Rees (whose debut feature Pariah was a breakout favorite at Sundance 2011), the drama follows two families — one black, one white — living on the same farm in the Mississippi Delta around the time of World War II.

The white McAllans own the property, despite the fact that household head Henry (Jason Clarke) is a Memphis gentleman who knows little about the land, and seemingly moved his family to the country on a whim. The Jacksons, on the other hand, have worked these acres for generations, for one white owner after another. Both clans are forever changed when World War II hits, and then again when the war ends and brings their loved ones back home.  Read More »

A Ghost Story Review

If I told you there was a movie at Sundance where Casey Affleck appears for most of the film covered in a white sheet with black eyes like some kind of cheap Halloween ghost, you’d probably think it was some sort of quirky comedy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It should come as no surprise that A Ghost Story is about a ghost. Casey Affleck plays a man, only identified as “C” in the film’s credits who dies in a head-on collision outside of the house where he lives with his wife “M” (Rooney Mara) in a small town. After his wife sees his body one last time in the hospital and leaves, the camera lingers, and after a couple of minutes of ambient sound, the sheet covering “C” raises as if he’s alive. And what follows is not horror, thriller or comedy, but a drama from director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) the likes of which you haven’t seen before.

Read on for our full A Ghost Story review. Read More »

When The Street Lights Go On

In the past few years, the Sundance Film Festival has begun to embrace the narrative art of television. The 2016 festival premiered the first couple episodes of the Bad Robot-produced TV adaptation of Stephen King’s 11.22.63. The 2017 festival has expanded their television category to include an independent pilot showcase, essentially a platform for independently produced television pilots without a home.

I’ve mostly avoided the television programs at the festival because there are just too many promising films to see, but a small gap in my schedule led me to a screening of these pilots this year. There I came across one of the best things I’ve seen at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival so far: a television pilot called When The Street Lights Go On.

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Wind River Review

In the past two years, Taylor Sheridan has delivered acclaimed crime thrillers as the screenwriter behind the 2015 drug trafficking hit Sicario and last year’s award-worthy heist thriller Hell or High Water. Now he’s made his directorial debut at Sundance.

Wind River follows stoic and skilled fish and wildlife service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) as he discovers a young woman’s body in the snowy mountains of Wyoming while on assignment to find a pack of mountain lions who have been wreaking havoc on the local livestock of the titular Indian reservation. What follows is a crime thriller that feels like an extended episode of a crime procedural, but takes a shocking, and thrilling turn.

Read on for our full Wind River review. Read More »

the discovery trailer

We could have an argument all day about whether it’s more difficult to create a multi-million dollar, visual effects spectacular blockbuster or an independent film with a budget that is spread too thin. But there’s something extremely impressive about a high-concept sci-fi drama doing something so grand and ambitious with so few resources. Such is the case with the new film from The One I Love director Charlie McDowell.

The Discovery takes place in a world where Dr. Thomas Harber (Robert Redford) has proved that an afterlife exists. This revelation has prompted a huge increase in suicide in the two years since his historic finding, over four million and counting, with more being added everyday as people “celebrate” the anniversary of the discovery. The premise itself is intriguing enough, but this is just the beginning of the remarkable, fascinating, thought-provoking indie sci-fi film.

Read the rest of our The Discovery review after the jump. Read More »

The Incredible Jessica James review

When Jessica Williams first joined The Daily Show in 2012, she was a fresh-faced newcomer from seemingly out of nowhere. By the time she left last year, she’d established herself as one of the show’s biggest and brightest stars. Now Williams is taking her next big step forward, graduating to full-fledged leading lady status in The Incredible Jessica James with style and charm to spare.  Read More »

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore Review - Melanie Lynskey

Director Jeremy Saulnier has delivered chills, thrills and blood spills at the Sundance Film Festival before. His film, Blue Ruin, featured the relatively unknown actor Macon Blair setting out to track down the people who killed his parents and deliver his vengeance upon them. It appears some of Jeremy Saulnier’s filmmaking style has rubbed off on his leading man as Blair has returned to Sundance, this time as the writer and director of own twisted tale of revenge.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (which honestly needs a new title) stars the endlessly charming Melanie Lynskey (Up in the Air, Win Win) as Ruth, a woman who is fed up with people being assholes. It’s that simple. One day, she comes home to find that her house has been broken into, with the thieves having stolen her laptop, a set of silver she inherited from her grandmother, and some prescription medication for depression and anxiety. When it becomes clear that the police are basically doing nothing to help her, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Read on for our full I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore review. Read More »

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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Casey Affleck's Jersey Girl Review

Though plenty of people make jokes at the expense of Kevin Smith nowadays, more often than not the filmmaker is first to poke fun at himself, especially with regards to the kinds of movies he makes. One of his favorite targets from his own career is Jersey Girl, a film released in the spring of 2004 that didn’t get very good reviews and only earned $36 million at the box office on a budget of $35 million.

However, before Kevin Smith was able to poke fun at his own film, he was nervous about how it would be received. One person who got an early look at the movie, over a year before it would be released, was Smith’s longtime friend Casey Affleck. He saw the film in January of 2003 and decided to e-mail a review to Kevin Smith. It’s pretty funny, and it might be harsher than anything Smith has said about his own movie.

Read Casey Affleck’s Jersey Girl review below. Read More »