Obvious Child is a charming romantic dramedy about love and abortion in New York City. The humor feels like a mix of the crudeness and sharp teeth of Sarah Silverman’s comedy and the grounded snappiness of Lena Dunham’s Girls. At center stage is comedian Jenny Slate, with one of the breakthrough performances of this year’s fest.
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Just when you thought you’d seen William H. Macy do everything, he steps behind the camera with his feature debut Rudderless. Macy co-wrote and directs a complex story of love, loss, friendship and music. Billy Crudup stars as Sam, the successful father of a boy who dies in a school shooting. After years of grief, Sam comes to realize his son was a very talented budding musician. With the help of another young musician named Quentin (Anton Yelchin), the two bring his music to the public.
Rudderless starts like an upbeat, uplifting film. It doesn’t finish there, however, instead delving into much darker issues along the way. These deeper themes definitely distinguish the film from the usual fare, but Macy’s direction in both parts doesn’t feel cohesive. The change is jarring and some of the goodwill the film has earned goes away at the shift. Still, it’s touching movie with a fantastic lead performance and even better music. Read More »
There’s one really good reason to see the German film Wetlands, and her name is Carla Juri. She’s a firecracker; I keep hearing people refer to her as “the German Greta Gerwig,” and the comparison is easy to see. But Juri has her own skills and appeal, and her performance is the most watchable one I’ve seen so far at Sundance this year.
That’s saying something, as the subject matter of Wetlands can be… off-putting. The story hinges on — and there’s no delicate way to put this — an anal fissure suffered by Juri’s character Helen during a grooming session gone wrong. Helen is a young woman who has an unusually deep body consciousness; she’s more intimately in touch with her body than any young woman in a recent film. While she’s a prat clearly damaged by her parents’ divorce, Helen is still a promising, even inspiring character. By the end, however, Wetlands throws away her potential in favor of a too-familiar quirky love story.
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If you aren’t in Park City, Utah for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the news you really want to follow is what films are getting picked up for distribution. That means you’ll get a chance to see them eventually and, so far, it’s happened for a few: Happy Christmas, Whiplash, Laggies, Dinosaur 13 and Wish I Was Here have all been bought.
Add two more titles to the list: Mike Cahill‘s sci-fi film I Origins, which was picked up by Fox Searchlight, and The Night Comes For Us Next which…technically…didn’t play Sundance because it hasn’t been shot yet. But its two principal filmmakers are here, The Raid 2‘s Gareth Evans, who’s producing, and Killers‘ director Timo Tjahjanto, directing. Radius/TWC picked up the soon-to-be action film. Read more below. Read More »
If the idea of a bunch of zombie kids disemboweling their teachers sounds like fun, Cooties is the movie for you. Elijah Wood stars as Clint, a substitute teacher who ends up at the wrong school on the wrong day. He’s joined by Allison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad and Leigh Whannell, all of whom play teachers tasked with trying to stop a quickly spreading virus that turns kids into rabid flesh eaters.
Whannell, best known for the Saw and Insidious franchises, also co-wrote the film and it pops with hilarious one-liners and disgusting violence. The second act slows down the action considerably, however, and some of the plot holes are massive, but that doesn’t take away too much from the good provided by first time directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion. Read More »
A movie about the life of a film critic might sound a tad indulgent, but there’s never been another film critic with the influence and character of Roger Ebert. Almost anyone who’s ever seen a movie in the US (and many other countries) has heard his name or taken one of he and partner Gene Siskel’s patented “Two Thumbs Up” recommendations to the box office. As a young film fan, I remember scouring the TV Guide searching for the Sunday morning broadcasts of Siskel & Ebert, and devouring every episode. In particular, I’ll never forget an episode where Ebert dissected Quentin Tarantino’s camerawork in Pulp Fiction. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of film language. Ebert had that effect on a lot of people.
If Ebert opened up that world to people then Steve James‘ latest documentary Life Itself opens Ebert to the world. Based on Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, the film tells Ebert’s life story, yes, but it does so via the framework of our own love of the movies. Great care is taken to specifically illustrate not only how Ebert changed the face of film criticism, but how he helped us all discover our own passion for the movies.
Make no mistake though, this isn’t some simple love letter. Life Itself is a warts and all dissection as well as a beautiful tribute. Issues such as alcoholism, struggles with weight, ego and sex are all part of his story. This is a vast, entertaining and thought-provoking look at Ebert the man and Ebert the icon.
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With Mark Ruffalo moonlighting as a superhero these days, it’s easy to forget he’s one of the best actors currently working. Infinitely Polar Bear, written and directed by newcomer Maya Forbes, not only serves as a reminder of Ruffalo’s chops, it’s arguably his finest performance to date. He plays Cameron, a bipolar father of two, who is forced to solely care for the kids when his estranged wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) goes to graduate school hoping to improve the family’s financial situation.
So you’ve got a bipolar man, barely able to keep himself together, forced to take care of two young girls when their African-American mom goes away hoping to get a white-collar job… in 1978 Boston. Yes, Infinitely Polar Bear is weighty with issues of race, economics, and gender, but Forbes deals with them carefully and thoughtfully in a hilarious, heartwarming film. Read More »
Zach Braff‘s Wish I Was Here is now infamous because of the controversy surrounding Braff’s Kickstarter campaign. But let’s not allow that to cloud the real picture –Braff’s fans coughed up $3.1 million for his second feature film because they loved his first movie. Garden State connected with teens and college-aged twenty somethings in a manner that rarely happens, almost in the way that a song or a poem connects, rather than a movie. Fans have been waiting over a decade for Braff to go back behind the camera for a follow-up. This year at Sundance they got it.
Wish I Was Here is a real crowd pleaser, earning a standing ovation at the Premiere screening at Park City’s The Marc theatre. The film is very funny; when the lights came up I was hurting from laughter and sniffling a bit. (Must have been the cold temperature of Utah, right? Yeah that has to be the reason…) It is my favorite movie of Sundance this year (thus far).
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