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 »

Adam Driver in Paterson review

Note: With Paterson in limited release starting today, we’re re-running our review from the New York Film Festival.

In the past five years, Adam Driver has gone from total obscurity to total ubiquity. Girls was the show that launched him to fame, but his work since then has proven that his breakout role was no fluke. There’s a reason he’s being courted by everyone from the blockbuster magicians at Disney (for Star Wars: The Force Awakens) to top-level directors like Noah Baumbach, the Coens, and Jeff Nichols. With Paterson, he checks another acclaimed auteur off his to-do list, Jim Jarmusch, and the results of their meeting prove as wonderfully idiosyncratic as they are.  Read More »

the autopsy of jane doe review

Note: With The Autopsy of Jane Doe out now, we’re re-running our review from Fantastic Fest.

 

The horror genre is so often dominated by stupid characters doing stupid things, so it’s refreshing to watch a film like The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Here is a frightening story about two intelligent men whose talents for science and deduction break against a wall of undefinable supernatural power. Here is a fascinating mystery where the pleasures are not only derived from a series of increasingly terrifying and impossible discoveries, but from watching these two men work down a checklist of every possible rational explanation before realizing they are beyond their limits.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a film as interested in process as it is in jump scares and the result is one of the most entertaining horror movies I’ve seen in a year that has had no shortage of great scary movies.

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Sing Review

Note: With Sing out this weekend, we’re re-running our review from the TIFF.

Since Despicable Me, Illumination Entertainment has established itself as a go-to source for sturdy family entertainment. Their films may not reach the artistic heights of Pixar or Disney, but you can generally count on them to be perfectly pleasant and inoffensive, able to entertain the kids without annoying the parents.

Sing is Illumination’s first musical, but otherwise it’s cut from the same cloth as the company’s other films. While not especially deep, the combination of a star-studded cast and an equally star-studded music catalogue make for a fun time. It’s light and sweet and pretty as cotton candy, and it dissolves from memory just as quickly.  Read More »