(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.
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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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Any film fan should make it a point to attend the Sundance Film Festival at least once. Words can hardly describe the beauty of Park City, the camaraderie of the attendees, the smooth running machine that plays dozens of movies a day on screens all over town. And those movies. Oh, those movies. Some of the best films of the past 25 years have debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The list has been well-documented and 2013 is likely to add at least a few to that incredible legacy.
At this year’s festival, I saw 34 movies. Not a staggering, superhuman number – remember I have to eat, sleep and write about these things – but a number to be proud of none the less. I saw comedies, dramas, foreign films, Hollywood films, sports films, happy films, sad films, black and white films, sex films, kids films. You name it; one of the movies I saw fits nearly any description you can muster.
I’ve picked my ten favorite films of the festival, with an asterisk. Though I saw 34 films, I missed probably 100 others, so this isn’t by any means definitive. But out of the movies that I thought looked interesting, or were buzzed about on the streets of Park City, these were the ten that I most enjoyed. Read More »
I saw three films at Sundance this year that I would characterize as incredibly specific, because they dedicate themselves so thoroughly to a premise and aesthetic that they exist as their own one-film subgenres. All three were so distinct that there’s really nothing else like them. One was the “shot in Disneyland” breakdown Escape From Tomorrow (coverage here); another was Charlie Victor Romeo (review), sourced from flight recorder transcripts of cockpit conversations in flights that ended in disaster. And the last was Computer Chess, from writer/director Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha and Beeswax)
Shot on Sony AVC-3260 video cameras from 1969, the film is grainy and black and white, and has some strange glitches and artifacts that occasionally seem to have more deliberate life than you’d expect. Ostensibly documenting a small convention of software developers who pit their chess-playing algorithms against one another, the film really looks into a strange crossroads where socially cloistered personalities seek to develop early artificial intelligence. How can people who know so little about life seek to create intelligence from scratch?
I still don’t know if I like Computer Chess, exactly, because I don’t think it fully follows up on some very promising ideas. But I found it to be memorable, and I greatly respect the film. It takes a certain sort of drive and vision to craft a film with a personality as unique as this one. Check out a bit of footage below.
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Charlie Victor Romeo is sure to be among the most stark and unnerving films you ever see. By using real conversations between cockpit and control tower from scenarios that ended in airplane crashes, the film walks an atypical line between entertainment and education.
The sheer, visceral terror to be had in this adaptation of the long-running stage play might lead to claims of exploitation, but there are no sick thrills here. Charlie Victor Romeo, shot in 3D, puts us right in the cabin with crews feverishly working to save themselves and their live cargo. It engenders fear, respect, and a fascinated detachment. This is an unusual and unforgettable film. Read More »
First-time feature documentary director Zachary Heinzerling makes a quietly assured debut with the tender and perceptive Cutie and the Boxer. In documenting the 40-year marriage between Japanese “action painter” Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko Shinohara, the film paints a keen vision of the ways in which the halves of a life-long couple learns to life with, and often in spite of one another. Read More »
Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013 by David Chen
Dave, Devindra, Adam, Germain and Peter discuss this week’s massive news about the next Star Wars film, plus Germain runs down his favorite and most disappointing films of this year’s Sundance film festival.
You can always e-mail us at slashfilmcast(AT)gmail(DOT)com, or call and leave a voicemail at 781-583-1993.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
Even though the Sundance Film Festival is over, the movie deals continue. Over the last few days of the event, several films acquired distribution assuring you’ll have a shot at seeing them soon. Many of the bigger films, including Fruitvale, Don Jon’s Addiction, The Way Way Back, and The Spectacular Now, were picked up early in the festival. You can get info about each at those links above.
Below, we’ll tell you who is handling films like Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the horror anthology S-VHS, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and a few others. Read More »