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 »

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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 »

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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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi had a minor breakthrough last year with What We Do in the Shadows, and is about to have a much bigger one with Thor: Ragnarok, but in between he’s managed to squeeze in the delightful Hunt for the Wilderpeople. A sort of live-action Up with dashes of Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson, and Thelma & Louise, all filtered through Waititi’s own warm, offbeat sense of humor, Wilderpeople looks destined to become a new childhood classic. Read More »

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Swiss Army Man

About five minutes into Swiss Army Man, you’re faced with a choice. By this point in the film, you’ll have seen Hank (Paul Dano), a man stranded alone on a desert island, try to hang himself. His suicide attempt is interrupted by the arrival of a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that proves to be a prolific farter. Hank opts not to kill himself, and instead rides “Manny” like a flatulence-powered jet ski in the direction of civilization.

The scene is weird, and absurd, and crude, and dark, but kind of beautiful, too, and it’s at this point you have to make a decision: Either you’re willing to go with a movie that delights in all of those unsavory qualities, or you’re not. If you decide you’re not, know that Swiss Army Man will only get stranger and ruder, and you’re probably better off putting it back on the shelf until you’re in the mood for it. If you decide you are, however, you’ll discover a unique, oddly gorgeous adventure anchored by a superb performance from Radcliffe as a dead body (no, really).  Read More »

Sleight

Sleight is like Doug Liman’s Go crossed with Now You See Me, with a side of Chronicle. Smart, fun, and thrilling, JD Dillard‘s feature film debut will likely be a fast sale at Sundance as it provides some great high concept ideas at a micro budget.

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Morris From America

Morris From America is a wonderful and heartfelt cross-cultural coming-of-age tale about an African-American boy trying to adapt in Germany. This hip-hop-infused rite of passage story would work well in a triple feature alongside other Sundance films like Dope and The Wackness.

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