Infinitely Polar Bear

Briefly: The 2014 Sundance Film Festival is over and done but the we’re still seeing the effects of the fest on film distribution. Three of the festival’s more popular films were just picked up for future release. The first is Infinitely Polar Bear, the Bad Robot-produced dramedy starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the rights. No release window has been planned yet but the movie is wonderful. Read our review here.

Also now headed to a theater near you is Ping Pong Summer, Michael Tully‘s ode to the Eighties, which has been picked up by Gravitas Ventures and Millennium Entertainment. They’re planning a theatrical run early this Summer. Read our review here.

And finally, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel‘s Japanese action film Killers, produced by Gareth Evans, was picked up by Well Go USA Entertainment. It’ll be out in the fourth quarter of this year. Thanks to The Wrap.

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There’s an implied threat in the title of the film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Those words together suggest menace and victimization. An image forms, not of a woman out for an enjoyable stroll, but of one who might not make it home.

A reversal of that threat is the core of this vampire film written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. Luminescent black and white photography buttresses a very spare approach to story. Into the tale are woven supernatural tropes, and elements of westerns and ’50s rebel movies. Shot in California but set in Iran, with dialogue in Farsi, the film’s images and characters are a collision of Iranian and American cultures, specifically with respect to social politics of sex and gender. This is an inversion of classic horror, because it is not about victimization of the person described in the title, but rather that person’s retaliation against forces that seek to dominate and subjugate.

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The Voices

After several attempts to go the modern leading man route toplining blockbusters, Ryan Reynolds makes a bold career choice with The Voices. He plays Jerry, a mentally ill man doing his best to live a healthy life. He likes his assembly line job, and asks out a beautiful girl. Things are looking up. Except for the fact he believes his cat and dog are speaking to him. What the cat says is not good, and not only because the pet spits vulgarities in a thick brogue.

Make no mistake. Marjane Satrapi, director of the stunning animated film Persepolis, has not made a version of Dr. Dolittle starring Ryan Reynolds. The Voices twists Jerry’s plight into dark shapes, resulting in a frequently disturbing, frequently hilarious and always surprising film. Read More »

Whiplash' with Miles Teller

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival is coming to a close and, Saturday night, the best films of the festival were named. Whiplash, the Miles Teller drumming film, was the night’s big winner, taking both the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award as well as the Grand Jury Prize. Sony Classics picked it up earlier in the week.

Peter, Russ and myself are all back from in Park City, UT and over the next few days, we’ll tell you our favorite films of the best. But, below, look at the full list of official award winners.  Read More »

Ping Pong Summer

“The year is 1985. Rad Miracle is a shy, 13-year-old white kid obsessed with two things: Ping-Pong and hip-hop.” That’s the first sentence of the Sundance description of Ping Pong Summer, a new film by writer/director Michael Tully. The instant I read that, I had to see the film. It just so happened that the screening was my final film of the festival. I couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate send-off. The film blends sports and coming of age traditions, wrapped in Eighties nostalgia, resulting in a sweet, funny film that just feels right. Read More »

the-one-i-love-02

Maybe this is the Twilight Zone, where mundane beginnings lead to extraordinary situations. In The One I Love, a married couple played by Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass are having problems. Nothing outlandish, just garden-variety issues such as resentment, boredom, and an erosion of respect. So: off to couples therapy. Their analyst advocates a retreat which, he promises, has worked wonders for many others.

What happens next is… well, something people associated with the film have tried to keep quiet. Frankly, that’s a bit absurd, as the material in question is the premise of the film, not a spoiler. Trailers will eventually give some of it up. But I’ll play along, because doing so is a fun exercise.

To be circumspect: This isn’t a romantic comedy, nor a weepy drama. Unusual, clever, and bitterly funny, The One I Love seeks to expose the impulses that can stall a relationship, or foster growth. While the idea’s deepest potential is not exploited, Duplass and Moss — very nearly the only actors in the movie — perform with nicely-pitched intensity and utter command of their craft. If this had premiered earlier in the Sundance schedule it might have become the must-see film of the fest; the late debut doesn’t change the fact that it is among this year’s early standouts.  Read More »

Calvary

The opening scene of John Michael McDonagh‘s Calvary is a frightening juxtaposition that perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come. Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is taking confession from a mysterious man who admits to being molested by a priest as a child. Not this specific priest, though, another one, and to get revenge he tells Father James he’s going to kill him for no good reason. In an instant, McDonagh has sucked the audience in.

Much like McDonagh and Gleeson’s previous film The Guard, Calvary is wholly original. It blends elements of mystery, a detective story and comedy with lots of philosophical ruminations. As Father James spends what might be his final week alive dealing with the townspeople, one of which is his would-be murderer, he tries to solve the riddle by delving into their problems (alcoholism, depression, adultery, etc) through his Catholic beliefs. The result is an ambitious, slow-burn drama with dynamite performances from top to bottom that just misses the mark because it’s trying to do too much. Read More »

TheBatteredBastardsofBaseball

Everyone knows Kurt Russell as one of his generation’s most recognizable and badass actors. Some might even know that he was once a professional athlete. What most people don’t know, however, is that Russell’s father, Bing Russell, was even more eclectic. A famous actor in his own right, the elder Russell eventually used his Hollywood fame to start an independent minor league baseball team called the Portland Mavericks.

That incredible story acts as the epicenter of The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a documentary that premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Co-directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way (Two of Bing Russell’s grandsons), it’s a fascinating and fun look at one of baseball’s hidden and heartwarming stories. Read More »

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