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 »
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When Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig were building their careers on Saturday Night Live, they played multiple characters every single week. That took incredible acting chops. Though they’ve since left the show and are concentrating mostly on comedy films, Craig Johnson‘s second film The Skeleton Twins proves these skilled comedic performers can be dramatic as well.
The Skeleton Twins is about estranged siblings, Maggie and Milo, who haven’t spoken in a decade. After they are reunited by tragedy their relationship is quickly rekindled, but deep old wounds re-open. That may sound overly solemn and, at its heart, The Skeleton Twins is certainly a drama. But you don’t cast Hader and Wiig just to cry and be depressed. The chemistry they built for years on TV sizzles on the big screen in characters with an exuberant realism. The movie itself is good, but Hader and Wiig make it great. Read More »
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 »
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 »
The Signal is the kind of science fiction movie that I love — intense, mysterious, original and extremely ambitious. What is The Signal? It’s a puzzle that keeps you guessing and working to figure it out.
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(Following the text review is a video reaction shot just after the film’s Sundance 2014 premiere.)
In the case of an action movie like The Raid, I can’t fault anyone who wants to set plot aside and simply enjoy the action. With The Raid 2, that approach becomes impossible. Writer/director/editor Gareth Evans puts lofty goals fully on display in this sequel, which expands in every direction relative to the original. The action is bigger and more diverse, the story is more complex, and more emphasis is placed on dramatic performances even as the film’s physical demands intensify. Where the first was a tightly controlled action film that jettisoned all but the skeleton of a plot, this sequel is a huge crime tale featuring several criminal organizations competing for power, the police trying to catch up, and one young cop caught squarely in the middle.
Premiering the film at Sundance in a prime slot is a strange experiment of sorts. The Raid 2 isn’t a thing for general audiences; this is a hardcore genre movie. The swirl of Evans’ dramatic ambitions are punctuated by ultra-violent choreography, like a machine-gun snare drum tracked into a piece of classical music. It’s a tricky balancing act. The Raid 2 navigates the test awkwardly at best, because the story never connects as solidly as do the film’s thousand punches. Read More »
One of the buzzier comedies in Park City, UT at the Sundance Film Festival this week is Obvious Child, a New York set comedy about a comedian (Jenny Slate) who mistakenly gets pregnant. Read Pete’s positive review here. Co-written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, A24 Films has picked it up for domestic distribution. Read the press release below. Read More »
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Three more high-profile films just joined the ranks of 2014 Sundance Film Festival titles that will receive theatrical distribution. The latest deals involve Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions splitting the Bill Hader/Kirsten Wiig dramedy The Skeleton Twins; IFC purchasing Jim Mickle‘s genre-bending thriller Cold In July, starring Michael C. Hall; and the star-studded God’s Pocket, directed by John Slattery. Read more below. Read More »