Love & Friendship

Jane Austen may have a reputation as a romantic, but I’d argue that her real forte is as a humorist. She’s second to none when it comes to elegantly written, sharply observed comedies about the foibles of England’s upper classes, combining a wry, biting wit with a genuine sense of affection for the characters she’s created.

Naturally, this makes Austen’s work the perfect source of inspiration for Metropolitan and Last Days of Disco director Whit Stillman, who has brought her novella Lady Susan to life in the laugh-out-loud hilarious Love & FriendshipKate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan herself, a cunning widow out to secure her position in society via favorable marriage matches for herself and her daughter.  Read More »

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The Birth of a Nation

In his debut feature as a director, Nate Parker attempts to do no less than reclaim American history in the name of the slaves who had their own lives and their own stories ripped away from them. This re-appropriation starts with the title — The Birth of a Nation is stolen from D.W. Griffith’s racist epic — and continues with an opening epigraph. “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” reads the quote from Thomas Jefferson, famously a slave owner, “that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Parker himself stars as Nat Turner, a Virginia slave who in 1831 led the deadliest slave rebellion in American history. By the end, about 60 whites had been killed — and a hundred or more blacks had been slaughtered in retaliation. The Birth of a Nation is the sorrowful, righteously angry chronicle of how Nat, a kind, charismatic, and devout preacher, came to spark a bloody uprising.

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Life, Animated

Life, Animated is a joyful film about the true power of cinema. Movies are not disposable entertainment but stories that have the power to inspire and dramatically change our lives. Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Roger Ross Williams tells the story of an autistic boy named Owen Suskind who re-learned language and found understanding through Disney animated movies.
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Manchester by the Sea

This year’s Sundance slate is positively jam-packed with tales of family tragedy, from Other People to The Hollars to The Fundamentals of Caring to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. But grief has rarely been explored as deeply and as beautifully, at Sundance or elsewhere, as in Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea. This film wrecked me, to the point that I started crying all over again while working on this very review.

Casey Affleck, giving a career-best performance in a career-best role, is the devastating heart of this exquisitely wrought drama. Surrounding him are a rock-solid cast that also includes Kyle ChandlerLucas HedgesMichelle Williams, and C.J. Wilson. Collectively, they’ve put together a film that I strongly suspect will turn out to be the very best of this year’s Sundance crop, at least in my personal estimation. Read More »

Southside With You

Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise has sparked dozens of imitations, some better than others, but Southside With You is almost certainly the first time it’s inspired a biopic based on a sitting U.S. president. Written and directed by Richard Tanne, the gentle indie romance chronicles the charmed first date of Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), then a summer associate at a Chicago law firm, and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), then a second-year associate and his mentor at the same firm.  Read More »

Fundamentals of Caring Review

Often times at Sundance you see the same stories played out with different characters. This year alone, for example, there are two movies about an estranged New York man returning home when his mother comes down with a debilitating ailment. Familiar indie stories don’t always work on the festival circuit, but sometimes when the right cast comes together, a decent amount of magic happens. Such is the case with The Fundamentals of Caring, a road trip comedy with heart based on Jonathan Evison‘s bestselling novel of nearly the same name and starring British sensation Craig Roberts (Submarine) and the always reliable Paul Rudd. Keep reading the Fundamentals of Caring review after the jump. Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

The Hollars review

Angie Han’s review of Other People began by pointing out that the film “sounds like the most stereotypical of Sundance movies” but “in practice, every element is so well executed that the film itself feels like something special.” The same could be said of John Krasinski‘s The Hollars, which shares many of the same Sundance cliches. But The Hollars has an incredible ensemble cast that pushes this film from just another screening on the Sundance schedule to a funny and charming movie that will probably play at a theater near you.

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Under The Shadow

Ever since The Babadook premiered at Sundance in 2014, it feels like every new critically beloved, out-of-nowhere horror hit has been touted as “the new Babadook.” Most of the time, the descriptor is just a catchy way of saying “this horror film’s got buzz.” Many of these “new Babadooks,” from It Follows to The Witch, aren’t all that much like The Babadook at all, and — in my estimation — none of them have been quite as good.

In the case of this year’s Sundance horror Under the Shadow, though, the description really does seem apt. The film works for many of the same reasons The Babadook does. Like The Babadook, Under the Shadow relies more on tension and dread than cheap jump scares. And as with The Babadook, the uneasiness lingers long after the credits have rolled because it evokes real-life horrors, rather than simply relying on supernatural ones.  Read More »

Yoga Hosers

Yoga Hosers feels like a cross between an absurd live-action cartoon created by a stoner and a ’90s-style teenage comedy. It’s so strange, and unlike anything Kevin Smith has directed before. I’m honestly not sure if Yoga Hosers was terrible or if I am just not the target demographic for this story.

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