Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling made huge names for themselves at Sundance a couple years back with the release of his low budget sci-fi thriller Sound of My Voice. I loved the film, and while it got a small release by Fox Searchlight, not many people saw it in theaters (the horrible title probably didn’t help). It definitely wasn’t a movie for everyone — the story followed a couple who infiltrates a cult run by a leader who claims to be a time traveler from the future, and the execution played on the many mysteries in the same way the television show Lost did, sometimes not offering answers. But underneath it all was a very clever concept and some really good storytelling. Searchlight and Ridley Scott apparently recognized this enough to give them a budget dozens of times larger than their debut.
The East shares some ideas with Sound of My Voice, following someone who goes undercover to infiltrate a cult-like organization. The ever likeable Brit Marling plays Sarah, a new-hire agent for a Washington DC private security film who is tasked to infiltrate an anarchist group calling themselves “The East” (think Project Mayhem from David Fincher’s Fight Club). The film opens on the mansion of the head of a huge oil company which recently spilled gas in the Atlantic, killing a ton of wildlife and polluting the Earth’s waters. The East breaks in and creates their own oil spill all over his home, releasing a video online and making headline news around the world.
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Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 by Angie Han
Talk about knocking it out of the park on the first try. Plenty of deals have come out of Sundance in the past few days, but the biggest one yet — and indeed, one of the biggest ever in the festival’s history — is for Don Jon’s Addiction, the feature directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Relativity Media has reportedly paid $4 million for domestic distribution rights to the film, with plans to release it theatrically this summer. In addition to its famous director/star, the picture also features Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza. Hit the jump for more details.
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The title Stoker suggests vampirism, as a play on the name of Dracula creator Bram Stoker. But the monsters in this film are purely human — people warped into terrible shapes by neglect and jealousy.
For his English-language debut, Oldboy direcotor Park Chan-Wook chose Stoker, a script by actor Wentworth Miller that revolves around a family suffering the pain of change after a significant death. Evie Stoker and her daughter India barely have a moment to come to terms with the untimely passing of husband/father Michael, when his long-lost brother Charlie shows up. Charlie is so long-lost that the rest of the family barely knew of his existence. But it isn’t long before he has insinuated himself into the broken household, and is toying with the affections of lonely Evie and rapidly maturing India.
There’s an influence from Hitchcock – the imposition of a long-lost Uncle Charlie can’t help but conjure thoughts of Shadow of a Doubt — but Stoker doesn’t feel like a Hitchcock film at all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel much like a classic Park film, either. There’s lush cinematography to spare, and a strikingly vivid color palette, yes. As a story or character portrait, however, Stoker is resoundingly hollow. Read More »
Today at Sundance saw the premiere of Upstream Color, the second film from Primer director Shane Carruth. Trailers for the movie position the film as an enigma, and while the film is hardly mainstream, I would argue that the feature isn’t nearly as impenetrable as those first looks suggested. That said, this film is quite a puzzle, and a very rewarding one.
It has been nine years since Primer made its festival debut, and in that time Carruth has polished his skills as a filmmaker. Upstream Color begins with a base in science fiction, but the sci-fi element is really just a launching pad for a story about two people trying to rebuild their identities after suffering severe trauma. It is an adventurous film, often playing with little dialogue, instead letting strong audio and visual components tell the story.
After the screening Germain and I recorded a video blog to get our first impressions on record. This isn’t a full-fledged review by any means; there’s a lot to think about, and a process to working out how to properly give the film its due without spoiling the mysteries within. That said, I’ve been thinking about Upstream Color constantly since the screening ended, and I don’t think my very positive view of the film is likely to change.
Check out the video below. We dance around the plot quite a bit in the video, and there isn’t anything given away here. Read More »
Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 by Angie Han
A few days after the kickoff the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, deal-making is in full swing. The well-reviewed drama The Spectacular Now, by Smashed director James Ponsoldt, is headed to newish distributor A24, while the crowdpleasing comedy Austenland, from Napoleon Dynamite writer Jerusha Hess, is nearing a deal with FilmDistrict. Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan‘s The Look of Love had a mixed reception, but that’s not stopping IFC Films from closing in on a deal; the distributor also released the pair’s last comedy together, The Trip. Meanwhile, Anchor Bay has picked up two narrative features so far, the Dermot Mulroney-starring The Rambler and Leland Orser‘s Morning. (The latter is not playing at Sundance.)
Over in the world of documentaries, music-centric films seem to be doing quite well. Showtime has acquired the broadcast rights to the two-part documentary History of the Eagles, which will air on the channel February 15 & 16. Also headed to television is Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer, which has been snapped up by HBO Documentary Films. Finally, Twenty Feet From Stardom, which follows some of popular music’s greatest backup singers, will get a theatrical release by RADiUS-TWC. And in non-music news, AMC’s Sundance Selects has grabbed Dirty Wars, about America’s covert wars, and The Summit, about climbers scaling the most dangerous peak in the world.
Hit the jump to read descriptions of the films mentioned above.
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We’ve all heard tales of huge online companies trying to use our knowledge for profit. We scoff at Facebook or Instagram when they update their privacy settings and get creeped out when Gmail gives us ads for things we’re discussing with our friends.
Google and the World Brain, a new documentary by Ben Lewis, is about that but on an even more frightening scale. It focuses on Google Books, and the company’s attempt to complie the entire printed history of the world into a single database. That sounds like a noble and worthwhile cause but, after watching Google and the World Brain, you might think otherwise. You might think Google has an agenda worthy of Dr. Evil. Read More »
With Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, director Richard Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy created two amazing films about love, romance, relationships and fate. Films that were exceedingly simple visually, but incredibly powerful and complex in character, dialogue and performance. The first began the tale of an American named Jesse (Hawke) and a French woman named Celine (Delpy) who met on a train and fell in love while spending a day together in Vienna. The next was shot and set nine years later, and showed the couple rekindling the relationship during an encounter in Paris. Before Midnight takes place nine years after that, and continues the story of these two characters.
Since the film just premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and much of it remains a mystery, we’ll start with this: Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have created a complex, engaging and wholly satisfying third entry into this series. To explain more about it would mean to get into a few small spoilers, and we’ll do that after the jump. But if you wish to remain unspoiled, know that Before Midnight lives up to your wildest expectations of what the film could be. It’s among the best third films in a trilogy ever. Read More »
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Independent film is filled with dreamers who are too naive to believe in the impossible — filmmakers who don’t concern themselves with the millions of reasons not to make a movie. Some of the best works of art are created from this naivety.
Escape From Tomorrow is a movie that takes place during a family vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Not only do the filmmakers make no attempt to hide or obscure the location, but the Disney theme park and costumed characters play a huge part in the story. Most of the movie was shot in Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disneyland without the knowledge or permission of Disney. This is a film that, from a conventional perspective, should never have been created, never mind screened at the top independent film festival in the United States. But it was, and after the break we’ll tell you how it was done. Read More »