Approaching the Sundance competition lineup each year can be like pulling close to a great frontier: there are many new discoveries to be made, along with surprises and disappointments in equal measure.
The Premiere and out of competition Documentary Premiere slates are just as promising, but in a different way — these tend to be films we’ve heard something about, and which have bigger backing, or a parade of recognizable talent. And so, for 2014, there’s the debut of The Raid 2, and the strange musician comedy Frank, starring Michael Fassbender. There’s Anton Corbijn‘s A Most Wanted Man, and David Wain‘s They Came Together, and Michael Winterbottom‘s follow up to The Trip, titled The Trip to Italy.
Oh, and this doc slate includes movies about subjects such as Roger Ebert, Whitey Bulger, and Fela Kuti. (And bridging the gap is the “live on stage” film starring Nick Offerman, directed by Kings of Summer filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts.) Check out the full list below. Read More »
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Today brought a new round of announcements for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and there’s some fun stuff on the list. The films announced today are in the Spolight program, which pulls in films that have played at other festivals; the Park City at Midnight slate, and the few films programmed as part of Sundance Kids.
In the Spotlight list are films like the really solid revenge movie Blue Ruin and the super-odd and endearing S&M comedy R100, as well as Richard Ayoade’s The Double, and Tom Hardy’s one-man movie Locke. The midnight slate features The Guest, from You’re Next writer/director team Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, and Cooties, featuring Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson battling elementary school students transformed by a virus “into a feral swarm of mass savages.” And the kids program features the lovely-looking Ernest & Celestine, from the filmmakers behind A Town Called Panic.
The lineup is below, with as many photos as are available at the moment. Read More »
We’re in the middle of a conversation about the best films of 2013, with several of those movies yet to go before wide audiences, and now it’s time to start thinking about what some of the best of 2014 might be.
The competition films for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, scheduled for January 16-26 2014, have just been announced. There’s a lot to digest here, and a lot of unknown quantities. That’s the beautiful part about Sundance — no one knew, at this time last year, that Short Term 12, for example, would be one of the most heralded movies of 2013.
The header shot above is of Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, in which Teller plays a drummer. I’m particularly interested in Cold in July, the new film from We Are What We Are director Jim Mickle, and Mr. Leos Carax, the doc about the director of Holy Motors, The Lovers on the Bridge and Pola X. There’s John Slattery’s God’s Pocket, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, and John Turturro, and so many more that I can’t process just yet.
We’ll be adding photos to this list as they become available. The full rundown is below. Read More »
Note: This review was originally published on January 20th 2013 during the Sundance Film Festival. We are reprinting it for the film’s theatrical release.
Movie fans have long known that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor. With Don Jon, the world will now see that he’s a talented writer and director too.
The film, his feature debut, focuses on a New Jersey-based ladies man who is hopelessly addicted to online pornography. A heavy and potentially uncomfortable topic for sure, but Gordon-Levitt handles it with an honesty and energy that makes it fun as well as easily digestible. The supporting cast, including Scarlett Johansson as a New Jersey princess-type, Tony Danza, Julianne Moore and Glenne Headly, only helps a film about objectification and media consumption feel so effortless and entertaining.
Don Jon is a high end Hollywood comedy masquerading as a Sundance film. Read the rest of my review, and watch a video blog featuring Peter Sciretta and Russ Fischer, below. Read More »
Note: This review originally ran during the Sundance Film Festival in January. It is based on a cut of the film that is slightly different than what opened limited last weekend and expands this week.
The best way to revitalize a well-worn story concept is often to approach it openly and honestly, but from an unusual angle. That’s what writer/director David Lowery does with the ages-old conflict between an outlaw, a lawman, and the woman between them, in the exceptional modern western Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara are the people crossed at a crucial point in time. You’ve heard the story before, or at least seen the setup: one guy pulls a criminal job, and is caught in a fight with sheriff’s deputies as a result. His girlfriend is stalwart and sticks with him, even when the consequences of his criminal actions hit hard. But life is complicated, and plans go right to hell.
Deliberately paced and more interested in aftermath than big action scenes, a shorthand caption for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints could be “Cormac McCarthy by way of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.” Each role is acted with calm precision, and directed with a measured hand. Lowery never falls to the temptation of overplaying a scene. It is one of the best films I’ve seen at Sundance 2013, and a must for fans of the slow burn or directors Andrew Dominik and John Hillcoat. Read More »
[This is a reprint of a review that originally ran in January, at the Sundance Film Festival. Jobs is in theaters today.]
While Steve Jobs changed the world with his innovations and forward thinking, the first biopic about him, Jobs, does not. It is a competent retelling of Jobs’ life, beginning with his college years, and running through the period when he regained control of Apple in the 1990s.
Ashton Kutcher plays the title role and does a good job at making you forget there’s a big star under the beard and glasses. It’s the script by Matt Whiteley, however, where the cracks begin to show. Jobs [the new official spelling of the title] is so hell-bent on cramming all these seminal moments into one film, it never builds much context around them. We never feel like they mean anything or understand the “why” about the big moments. The film loves to tell us things, but never quite explains any in a satisfactory way.
The resulting product is an entertaining but flawed take on the man who co-created Apple. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, Jobs had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Friday night. Read more after the jump Read More »
(Note: This is a reprint of our Mud review from Sundance 2013. The film opens in a limited run today.)
For his follow-up to Take Shelter, director Jeff Nichols smartly casts Matthew McConaughey as a violent drifter who slides into the lives of two young boys whose families eke out a bare existence on the Mississippi River. Using the gift for gab that any character played by McConaughey must automatically possess, this outlaw wraps the boys up in his plan to achieve true freedom.
While Take Shelter trafficked in heavy ambiguity, Mud does away with uncertainty, at least with respect to the story. This is a straightforward tale that rides on the shoulders of McConaughey and two excellent young actors, Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and newcomer Jacob Lofland.
Mud is a riff on Mark Twain, and an exploration of the relationships between generations of men. It could be a Tom Waits song, perhaps a long-lost cut from Swordfishtrombones, revolving as it does around a man with a dark past who seeks to build an escape engine out of cast-off parts, with love as his fuel. The film casts a keen eye on people living a mostly bygone lifestyle, and wraps those observations in a rollicking little adventure that you might find in the yellowing pages of an old pulp novel.
Read More »
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What a beautiful thing, Upstream Color. Shane Carruth‘s second film is a melange of surprises and delights. For an audience familiar with Primer, Carruth’s time-layering ouroboros of a debut, one element may be more surprising than all others: simplicity. Though the telling of this new film is by no means conventional, the core is an elegant idea, yet one rich enough to foster myriad interpretations.
Crafted with an awe-inspiring confidence, Upstream Color establishes a strange and frightening sci-fi framework, then works within that frame to probe the nature of human relationships, and our proximity to and power over the forces that define us. The wild elements of the plot allow Carruth to examine love and destiny with unexpected sensitivity. Upstream Color belongs in the company of 2001 and Solaris; it stands with the very best that speculative fiction has to offer.
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