small crimes review

The Craziest Cast: Small Crimes

E.L. Katz’s nasty little noir Small Crimes may star Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a sociopathic, corrupt cop who finds himself embroiled in all kinds of mayhem after being released from prison, but he’s surrounded by the deepest acting bench of any movie at SXSW this year. As his endlessly patient father, the great Robert Forster does what he does best and fills the screen with wisdom. As his rightfully emotional mother, Jacki Weaver brings all of the necessary fire and rage. As his former partner-in-crime, Gary Cole brings a delicious deadpan to one horrifying situation after another. As the woman he seduces, Molly Parker brings a quiet, subtle sadness to a character who could have been a simple dolt. As a dim bulb with a thirst for vengeance and a bruising crime boss, Macon Blair and Pat Healy play deliciously against type. And just when you think the film is out of actors to drop on screen, Larry Fessenden pops up to play a coke-snorting strip club owner. [Our Review]

Prevenge

The High-Concept to Savor: Prevenge

Alice Lowe writes, directs, and stars in this horror movie with one hell of a great premise. What if a newly widowed woman begins hearing the voice of the child in her womb…and what if that voice was telling her to take revenge against those responsible for her husband’s death? Prevenge is as nutty as it sounds, but it’s also strangely emotional – this is a movie about grieving, about the fears of raising a child alone, and this is a movie about a crazy lady murdering her way through a slew of recognizable English actors. It’s rough around the edges, but man, it sure is something else.

win it all review

The Most Pleasant Movie: Win It All

Win It All isn’t a particularly ambitious movie, but that’s part of its charm. Jake Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Joe Swanberg, is the latest in a long line of indie film man-children who learns how to grow up after meeting The Woman Of His Dreams, but he massages this cliche to make it palatable. It helps that Swanberg is less interested in exploring the exploits of a gambling addict stuck in a cycle of poor decisions and more interested in exploring how this guy improves his life and becomes a better, more responsible, more secure person. And this is all done with warmth and humor, following characters who generally like each other and getting along. This is the kind of movie that may actually lower your blood pressure. [Our Review]

colossal

The Best Movie I Had Already Seen: Colossal

I saw Colossal at Fantastic Fest last year, so there was no need for me to catch it again at SXSW. At the same time, it was hard not to want to watch it again because Nacho Vigalondo’s high-concept kaiju comedy is one of the best movies hitting theaters in 2017. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the gist: Anne Hathaway plays a troubled woman who discovers a mysterious connection between her and the giant monster currently terrorizing South Korea. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, because the film eventually reveals itself to the proudly feminist genre mash-up 2017 demands. This is the kind of movie that will anger all of the right people. [Our TIFF Review]

Baby Driver Reviews

The Runner-Up Movie of the Fest: Baby Driver

Edgar Wright makes movies for movie fans, delicious pastiches that take familiar concepts and lovingly twist them into unfamiliar shapes. Baby Driver is a heist movie and a car chase movie, but it is also a musical. Sort of. Thanks to a lead character whose headphones never leave his ears, almost the entire film is choreographed to his personal and eclectic soundtrack. Every gun battle and every high-speed pursuit become a pseudo-dance number. Sequences both mundane and exciting become subtle and unsubtle music videos. It’s Michael Mann by way of Busby Berkeley. See it in the loudest theater within driving distance and then find time to see it again, because this will be one of your new favorite movies. [Our Review]

The Big Sick Review

The Best Movie of the Fest: The Big Sick

Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick is either a comedy powerful enough to reduce you to tears or a weepy drama funny enough to knock you out of your seat. Either way, it’s one of the most purely entertaining, emotional, romantic, and crowd-pleasing film experiences I’ve had in quite some time. Kumail Nanjiani plays a version of himself in a movie adaptation of how he met his future wife (played by Zoe Kazan, with the real Emily V. Gordon a co-writer on the screenplay) and he confirms all suspicions: yes, he is a national treasure. The Big Sick has a habit of punching you in the gut, but it always lifts you back to your feet with its enormous laughs and its stirring emotional honesty. This is the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug and an emotional street fight. [Our Sundance Review]

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