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Posts Tagged ‘Sundance’

Feb 18, 2013

First Korean Pull Quote for Stoker


There’s a first time for everything, I suppose the saying goes. This clipping was just sent to me from Twitch South Korean correspondent Pierce Conran who spotted the advertisement for Park Chan-wook’s Stoker. The translation is something along the lines of “Director Park Chan-wook shows his best direction,” which was taken as a translation of sorts from the sentiment in my Sundance First Impression piece STOKER Delivers on Director Park’s Brand. As is often the case, the quote is attributed to the site only. Too bad, as it would have been fun to see my name translated phonetically into Korean.

Posted by enderzero at 1:10pm on Feb. 18, 2013    
Sep 28, 2012

Twitch Quote on Awesome SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS DVD

A little horn tootin here, but the DVD for Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern kickass LCD Soundsystem documentary SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS has finally hit and Oscilloscope has included my quote on the box! Click the image for a slightly larger version.

The DVD box set itself is super impressive and includes the entire three-and-a-half hour concert. The movie is truly a masterpiece and one of the best concert docs in years.

Buy the DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon (affiliate link).

Read my full review from Sundance at Twitch

Posted by enderzero at 10:14pm on Sep. 28, 2012    
Feb 5, 2012

The Big Sundance 2012 Roundup

Reprinted from Twitch

Ahhh, another snowy year at Sundance (particularly snowy this year) has come to a close. A lot of excellent films have been packed up in their canisters and sent to their new distributors. Even more will move along in the festival season, hoping to find a friendly home on some form of new-fangled download-to-your-alphanumeric-pager distro-strategy. But before these movies make it to screens of various sizes near you, I’d like to take you on a quick tour of all the titles I was able to catch this year. I’ve included my letter grade, a few words of what I thought, whether the film has yet to land distribution, and also my initial impression via my immediate tweet after seeing the film.

As you might notice, the films I saw at this year’s festival included a whole lot of B grades. Frankly, the quality of films this go-around was a bit lower than in past years. There weren’t a lot of bad films (I avoided both Lay the Favorite and Price Check after hearing rotten reports). It just seemed that filmmakers (or maybe the fest) was playing it a bit safe. While there are obvious exceptions (Compliance), no fewer than a dozen of the films I saw can be best summed up in one word: charming. I’ll avoid too deep of an analysis on this trend as to the role of the economic downturn or the perception that distributors are avoiding challenging films. But it is safe to say that this trend led to a generally less risky batch of films — and therefore a generally less rewarding crop. But there were certainly some gems to be found amongst the rhinestones. Now, here are my thoughts:

Read the full story

Posted by enderzero at 12:00pm on Feb. 5, 2012    
Jan 31, 2012

Sundance 2012 Full Preview

It’s time again to reprint my Twitch Sundance Previews in one easy to scroll through place. Be sure to check out all the originals and lots of reviews and wraps at

Sundance 2012 Preview: Dramatic Competitions
Sundance 2012 Preview: Documentaries
Sundance 2012 Preview: Premieres & Spotlight
Sundance 2012 Preview: Midnight & Next
Sundance 2012 Preview: Short Films

To kick things off, we’ll be taking a look at a few of the notable films from each of the Dramatic Competition sections. It’s the nature of Sundance (especially the competition sections) to be a bit of a crapshoot guessing at which films will be the hits. Who would have guessed it would be Like Crazy not Little Birds or Another Earth instead of Another Happy Day that would get Park City buzzing last year. We’ll have wall to wall coverage of everything buzzing this year. For now, here are a few films that caught our eyes.

On to the Dramatic Competition.

Read the full preview

Posted by enderzero at 7:53pm on Jan. 31, 2012    
Jan 12, 2012

Great Stuff from THIS IS IT Collective

UK clever folks THIS IS IT Collective‘s amazingly hilarious short Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is playing in front of the Zellner Brothers’ feature Kid-Thing at Sundance next week — but you can see it right now, here, for free!! Enjoy! And check out their other awesome videos.

THIS IS IT Collective Home

More on Sundance at Twitch


Posted by enderzero at 11:04pm on Jan. 12, 2012    
Feb 3, 2011

Sundance’11 in Review

Sundance has once again proved to be the most fun you can have in Utah. Between seeing a whole ton of movies, hanging with friends, shredding Rocky Mountain powder, and meeting new cool people, there was simply no time for sleep. I caught 25 Fest Films as well as a very cool short film directed by Lou Reed who ended up sitting right in front of me for the Q&A (photo). My full festival wrap is up at Twitch, but here is the list of everything I saw (in order viewed) with my twitter blurb and a few quick thoughts:

THE OFF HOURS – Next – Rating: 4 out of 10

I wasn’t a huge fan of Megan Griffith’s truck stop romance filmed in Burien, WA. Amy Seimetz is likable enough as bored waitress Francine, but her story just isn’t interesting enough to get too invested in. This super indie will find its fans in people who appreciate the honest script – but ultimately it falls just a bit too flat.

THE LIE – Next – Rating: 5 out of 10

“The Lie is a superbly edited performance driven indie, steeped in Silverlake love.”
The premise of Blair Witch and Humpday star Joshua Leonard’s feature directorial debut is that a dude (Leonard) tells his co-workers that his child has died in order to get out of work. Not a bad concept but it seemed the writers were afraid to ever really commit to it. Instead this very indie dramedy becomes a little too caught up in the dude’s general malaise. It isn’t bad movie, it just never quite went where I wanted it to. That being said, I was a huge fan of all the Silverlake love it shows.

PROJECT NIM – World Docu Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Project Nim is not a feel good movie – but it is an inciteful doc with as many revelations about humans as about chimps.”
James Marsh’s 2008 doc Man on Wire managed the impressive feat of being both a documentary and a heist movie. It was an incredible story and most importantly, it was fun. While Project Nim is a very accomplished doc, it is not very fun. The story centers around a researcher who tries to determine if chimpanzees learn to communicate the same way humans do (but with sign language). To do this, he places a baby chimp in a human home and basically treats it like a human. Where the story takes a rough turn is when the chimp turns five and the project ends, starting the odyssey that is the reintroduction of a chimp that thinks he’s a human to chimp society. It is interesting, no doubt, but at times just too terribly depressing.

THE NINE MUSES – New Frontiers – Rating: 3 out of 10

I’m sure there are some people who will really appreciate John Akomfrah’s lyrical imagery and experimental editing – but the complete lack of narrative was just too difficult for me to get on board with and I couldn’t connect to the film at all. This is more art than movie.

MARGIN CALL – Premieres – Rating: 7 of 10

“Margin Call is a very contained financial thriller buoyed by extremely strong performances by the entire cast.”
I didn’t expect a whole lot from J.C. Chandor’s financial thriller, mostly due to Kevin Spacey’s weak performance in Casino Jack and my assumption that this film would be pretty similar. I was wrong – this is Spacey’s best role in years. The film takes place in the roughly 24 hours right before an investment bank brings down Wall Street and is meant to be a fictionalization of the 2008 crisis. How much of the story is accurate is anyone’s guess, but the film does an excellent job of dramatizing such an event. The key to the film’s success is in the performances by Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and even Demi Moore. While it threatens to get a bit claustrophobic at times, the cast and topical subject matter should equal some box office and potentially awards season success.

MAGIC TRIP – Docu Premieres – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Magic Trip is a must see for fans of Kesey, Cassady, and all merry pranksters. Gibney masterfully docus the birth of 60s counter culture.”
Alex Gibney has made some of the best docs of the last decade (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, etc. etc.). Here he turns his attention to the incredible story of Ken Kesey and his magical, LSD-infused bus trip across the US in 1964. The film is made almost entirely of footage shot by the Merry Pranksters on their trip and then never edited into anything sensible (I guess they were busy). This is a treasure trove of footage of a cranked up Neal Cassady driving the bus and jabbering away, a 22 year old Jerry Garcia strumming his guitar on top of the bus, and Kesey – one of the most brilliant men of his generation. This is the origin story of the 1960s counter culture and a MUST SEE for anyone remotely interested in the subject.

SUBMARINE – Spotlight – Rating: 7 out of 10

“Submarine is a very funny British coming-of-ager at its best during its extremely clever self-referential moments.”
With a charming cast led by Craig Roberts as young Oliver Tate, Submarine is very smart and fun coming-of-age story. Oliver lives in Wales with his neurotic parents played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor. The return of an old boyfriend of his mother’s (Paddy Considine) coincides with Oliver snagging his first girlfriend of his own and the challenge of balancing all the new aspects of his life provide the ample subject matter for laughs. Wacky and clever writing and hilarious self referential moments as subtle as Oliver flicking his eyes at the audience make this a really enjoyable discovery.

ON THE ICE – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 7 out of 10

“On The Ice is an engaging crime thriller, similar to Winters Bone the way it takes u deep into a world you’ve never experienced.”
Andrew Okphea MacLean’s directorial debut is a very impressive look inside the world of Alaskan native teens living way above the arctic circle. Shot in MacLean’s hometown of Barrow, Alaska, the film succeeds because the lives of these self styled “arctic thugs” are really interesting. I got a chance to spend a good amount of time with the two stars Josiah Patkotak and Frank Qutuq Irelan. They were very cool guys and it was great to see how much they were appreciating the experience (although true to character 16-year old Josiah had to head back early to his grandma). When I asked Frank if he had hopes of continuing acting, his answer was a very pragmatic, “Maybe – it depends if I get paid.”
Read my full review of On the Ice @ Twitch

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN – Park City at Midnight – Rating 7 of 10

“Hobo With a Shotgun more than delivers on everything it promises. Blood, guts, gore, & ridiculous laughs. Full commitment.”
I’ve been a big fan of the grindhouse resurgence. Planet Terror, Hell Ride and Machete proved you could make great movies by taking a ridiculous premise and hamming it out – as long as you had good acting. Hobo with a Shotgun is this turned up to 11. If you are a fan of restraint, then do not go near this film. But if you enjoy cheesy technicolor blood and guts squirting from every conceivable orifice, you’ll surely love this movie.
Read my full review of Hobo with a Shotgun @ Twitch

WIN WIN – Premieres – Rating: 9 out of 10

“Win Win is a superbly acted family/sports drama. Another huge success for T. McCarthy – one of the best directors working today.”
Tom McCarthy’s previous films The Station Agent and The Visitor were such successes due to his extraordinary ability to reveal the heartwarming humanity of his characters. This is very much the case in his third film about a small town lawyer-slash-high school wrestling coach who takes in a troubled teen, just as his own life is hitting a difficult patch. McCarthy gets the very best out of his actors – and when you’ve got pros like Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan in the lead roles, that is saying a lot. Bobby Canavale and Jeffrey Tambor co-star and turn in hilarious performances as well. This is a little movie with a big heart, executed to perfection by one of the best directors in the biz.

KNUCKLE – World Docu Comp – Rating: 5 out of 10

“Knuckle explores feuding families in Ireland. While entertaining at times, the story ultimately isn’t all that interesting.”
I was very surprised to hear that the remake rights to this feuding family doc had been picked up at the festival. The problem with the film is that the story of the two families – who have settled their differences over the generations by engaging in highly regulated fights – is really pretty boring. There is nothing to remake. You would be better off just taking that premise and writing your own original story about people who fight each other. Throw in some infidelity and some crime and you might get something worth watching. Unfortunately, as a documentary, Ian Palmer’s film simply has nothing to say. It is unclear if we are supposed to think this is a barbaric way to settle long running problems or to applaud the families for not letting things get violent outside the ring. I frankly didn’t care.

LIKE CRAZY – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 9 out of 10

“Like Crazy is a more hopeful Blue Valentine – an incredibly honest look at love and distance. It is a MUST SEE.”
Drake Doremus’s love story cemented itself as the most buzzworthy film of the fest when it took home the top dog Dramatic Grand Jury Prize (last two winners: Winter’s Bone & Precious). But Park City was going nuts for this film long before last Saturday’s awards and its sale to big distributor Paramount for $4M was the first sign that things were looking very good on the biz side of the festival. The film is worth all the hype. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones turn in very mature performances as the young lovers separated by an ocean of bureaucracy (and a real ocean). It tugs at your heart strings but you never felt manipulated. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a love story done well and this one is done very well. You’ll be hearing plenty more about this one soon.

THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM – Park City at Midnight – Rating 5 out of 10

“The Catechism Cataclysm is a surreal adventure down a wacky winding river that has very little to do with Jesus. Bravo!”
Todd Rohal’s bizarre comedy is basically a showcase for Steve Little (Eastbound & Down) to do his thing. If you are into his thing, there is a lot to like here. I wasn’t completely on board but I did have a few healthy chuckles. What I didn’t understand was why Little’s character was a Catholic priest. This and a few other odd decisions made it tough for me to become a real fan.

MY IDIOT BROTHER – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

“My Idiot Brother is a very commercial comedy with some pretty funny moments. The impressive ensemble should get butts in seats.”
Paul Rudd stars as the very likable Ned in Jesse Peretz’s well executed commercial comedy. Ned is just trying to keep on L-I-V-I-N (and get his dog back) but every interaction with his sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) seems to get him in trouble. The cast is excellent and co-stars Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, and Adam “Are we having fun yet?” Scott all hit it out of the park. There is a lot to like about the movie (although I can see why some critics have suggested it is rooted in a bit of misogyny) and it will surely be rewarded at the box office.

THE INTERRUPTERS – Docu Premieres – Rating: 9 out of 10

“The Interrupters’ is a brilliant & incredibly inspirational doc about people doing good. The only way to stop violence is to try.”
Clocking in at over 2 and 1/2 hours, some moviegoers weren’t willing to commit the time to Steve James’s (Hoop Dreams) doc about crime interrupters on the South Side of Chicago. That is too bad as the film was surely one of the best docs of the fest. The subjects, all ex-criminals who have devoted their lives to trying to stop young kids from killing each other, are some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen. It is easy to see why the kids on the street pay so much respect to people like the particularly charismatic Ameena. There is no answer in this film other than try to keep doing your best – but the end result is a very emotional journey along with some people doing just that.

CEDAR RAPIDS – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

“Cedar Rapids is very funny once it finally hits its stride about halfway thru & commits to its wackiness.”
Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche star as insurance agents gone wild at the big annual convention in this broad comedy from Miguel Arteta. There is a somewhat necessary plot about Ed Helms (playing Ed Helms) trying to win an award to keep his insurance agency open or something but it really isn’t important. The movie gets really enjoyable once Arteta gets away from the plot about half way through and really let’s things go off the rails. Ed Helms smoking crack and getting in fights is much funnier than Ed Helms nervous about getting ketchup on his pocket protector.

THE SON OF NO ONE – Premieres – Rating: 2 out of 10

“Son of No One is a real mess. Baffling character motivations & one of the worst endings I’ve seen. Big slump for Dito.”
One of my favorite parts of this year’s Sundance was following the drama over the Press & Industry screening of The Son of No One. The movie is awful and I’ve spent enough time talking about how bad it is and how little sense it makes and how amazing the awful ending is. But the controversy over exactly how many people walked out of the screening (a lot – but a lot of people walk out of decent movies too) and the ridiculously defensive reaction by the sales agent who said the lights turned on ten minutes before the film ended (they didn’t) has been hilarious. When the film finally premiered to the public on Friday, it found a bit more positive response – but it will be very interesting to see if the movie ever makes it to release. Maybe Katie Holmes will buy it and distribute it herself.

VAMPIRE – World Dramatic Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Vampire is an obscure & original love story. A few very odd artistic decisions – some work, some don’t – but certainly bold.”
I am a big fan of Shunji Iwai’s Japanese films Swallowtail Butterfly and All About Lily Chou-Chou and therefore was looking forward to his English language debut with a fair amount of anticipation. The result is a very different horror movie about a compassionate killer who helps people end their lives and then drinks their blood. It starts out slow and makes some awful missteps (turning the camera on its side sent people out of the theater a full row at a time) but the final product is a very artistic and interesting film with some truly beautiful moments.
Read my full review of Vampire @ Twitch

I MELT WITH YOU – Premieres – Rating: 6 out of 10

“I Melt With You is the most intense midlife crisis ever. Great cast. Beautiful photography. Amazing music. Weird movie.”
I wasn’t exaggerating when I called this a weird movie and I wasn’t at all expecting the experience I got when I walked into the theater. Mark Pellington has a very impressive resume between his features (Arlington Road) and his music videos (U2, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains) but he was hopped up on some crazy pills for this one. Crazy pills are actually a big part of the plot in this movie which is basically about Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, and Christian McKay on a crazy drug-fueled mid life crisis gone terribly wrong. The movie takes a big twist about two-thirds through and at the time I was very against it – but looking back, I am kinda glad it took me where it did. It’s a tough one, but ultimately it is pretty impressive.

THE DETAILS – Premieres – Rating 6 out of 10

“The Details is a black comedy. Like black as night. Tobey Maguire just didn’t work for me but Laura Linney is an absolute riot!”
Tobey Maguire stars in Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) super black comedy about a dude who keeps making bad decisions. This movie goes just as wacky as I Melt With You, but it does so with enough humor to save you from a brain aneurysm. Unfortunately Tobey Maguire just isn’t a good enough actor to pull it off – though Laura Linney as the neurotic neighbor who blackmails him into oral sex is funny enough to almost save it.

ANOTHER EARTH – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 4 out of 10

“Another Earth is an uneven redemption story with too many plot problems to overlook.”
Sundance it-girl Brit Marling co-wrote, produced and stars in one of the most buzzed over films of the fest (it won the Special Jury Prize, Alfred P. Sloan science award, and scored a major deal with Fox Searchlight). I know I’m in the minority on this one but I was horribly unimpressed with the film. Marling is obviously a talent but the plot has more problems than the middle east and the attempt at a scientific explanation for the second earth is laughable. I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why we have so much trouble talking to the other planet. We had radio contact with astronauts on the moon in the 1960s – are you really telling me with all our satellites and communications technology we can’t just pull up FaceTime on our iPhones with another planet that’s right over there (they have all the same technology afterall). I hear you saying, “but it isn’t about the science, it’s about the love story.” Yeah, fine, but the love story sucked too.

HOMEWORK – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Homework treads familiar territory of the outcast kid who the pretty girl falls for. However it avoids cliches and is enjoyable.”
We’ve all seen the story about the loser kid that no one likes that inexplicably hooks up with the prettiest girl in school. There are obviously a lot of directors and screenwriters living out adolescent fantasies in Hollywood. Gavin Wiesen’s directorial debut is pretty much that exactly – but it is that done pretty damn well. A big part of the success is due to young British actor Freddie Highmore who plays a vulnerable yet somehow confident outcast. Emma Roberts is okay as the object of his affection – but she is short of memorable. Wiesen does manage to avoid a lot of cliches and it is kind of fun to see all these high school kids drinking at bars in Manhattan. It’s a decent movie that is worth a watch but won’t likely make much noise – and it is definitely no The Wackness.

PERFECT SENSE – Premieres – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Perfect Sense is a love story that completely commits to its very high concept. A lot to like – though maybe not for everyone.”
Ewan McGregor and Eva Green star in David Mackenzie’s romantic thriller about a world where everyone is losing their senses. It is a very bold concept but Mackenzie commits fully and what results is a highly polished and excellent film. This was one of my surprise faves of the fest.
Read my full review of Perfect Sense @ Twitch

ELITE SQUAD 2 – Spotlight – Rating: 8 of 10

“Elite Squad 2 is a truly awesome Brazilian actioner. Padilha went more political than the 1st = less action – but def a success.”
Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad showed that you could make a very smart shooter without giving up any of the action. His follow-up focuses more on the political side of things in the Rio police force – but it is every bit as impressive. The fact he was able to pull off such a polished product for under $9M is even more of a feat. I’ll be shocked if Hollywood doesn’t shell out some big bucks to get Padilha behind the camera of a big studio picture soon.
Read my full review of Elite Squad 2 @ Twitch

PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES – US Docu Comp – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Page One is a captivating doc about why journalism will always be important, even in the changing face of the media landscape.”
Andrew Rossi originally set out to make a doc about NY Times media reporter and all around distinctive character David Carr. What resulted was a fascinating exploration of news and journalism in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape. From WikiLeaks to an NBC sponsored media event declaring the end of combat in Iraq, Rossi’s cameras capture the the deliberation the editors at the NYT go to to consider the distinction between reporting the news and creating the news. Carr remains an important figure in the film and an enigmatic force – but the people around him are just as interesting. For those interested in issues of media and you know, the world, this doc is another must see.

Of course there were just as many films that I wanted to see but didn’t get a chance to. One film with a ton of buzz I hope to catch soon is Martha Marcy May Marlene with festival sweetheart Elizabeth Olsen – younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley. Brit Marling’s other fest film Sound of my Voice had people raving. Kevin Smith was at the fest with his political horror Red State, but the lack of P&I screening made it impossible to score a ticket. I spoke to a number of people who had very good things to say about Terri with John C. Reilly and Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut Higher Ground was also rumored to be well worth a watch. The Paddy Considine directed Tyrannosaur and Take Shelter with Michael Shannon both had people saying great things as well.

On the unseen docu side of things, the film with the most positive buzz was Morgan Spurlock’s product placement expose The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It sounds like everyone who saw it loved Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. Euthanasia doc How to Die in Oregon, Afghan war doc Hell and Back Again and the story of the real life horse whisperer Buck all received top prizes as well.

My Top 10 of 2010 included a stunning 7 films at Sundance 2010 (though I only caught 4 of them at the fest). I can’t help but wonder how many of this year’s batch will be included on my list a year from now. Like Crazy will very likely stick around and it won’t surprise me if The Interrupters and Win Win do as well. It’s exciting to think about all the great movies that are still to be seen.

Posted by enderzero at 1:01am on Feb. 3, 2011    
Jan 7, 2011

11 Features to be Excited For at Sundance’11

Sundance 2011 is coming up fast here in T-minus 2 weeks! Here is a quick look at 11 of the dramatic features that I am most excited about. There will be a lot more coming as I will covering the festival for Twitch again this year. Stay tuned for reviews, news, and live tweets from Park City! If you aren’t following me on twitter, now would be a good time to get on board @enderzero. Here are just a few of the many rad looking flicks:

Hobo with a Shotgun – You’d have to be nuts not to be excited about seeing Rutger Hauer go bat shit with a 12 gauge in Jason Eisner’s (Treevenge) feature adaptation of his trailer from the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse. Bam!

The Catechism Cataclysm – This absurd comic-horror about a priest and his buddy taking a wild trip into the woods promises to be a lot of fun. Directed by Todd Rohal (Hillbilly Robot) and starring Steve Little (Eastbound & Down) and Robert Longstreet (who wins the prize for appearing in four films at Sundance this year), this midnight madness flick also sports the best tagline of the fest, “God will fuck you up!”

Win Win – Tom McCarthy has made two of my favorite films of the decade in The Station Agent and The Visitor. In Win Win he casts Paul Giamatti as a lawyer turned wrestling coach. Amy Ryan co-stars in what is sure to be a truthful, touching and hilarious film.

Cedar Rapids – Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche star in this Fox Searchlight comedy about an insurance convention directed by Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt, The Good Girl).

Elite Squad 2 – Jose Padilla’s (Bus 174, Secrets of the Tribe) first Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite) was a smart and action-packed ride through Rio’s favella. Here’s hoping the sequel is just as good.

Red State – Wait, a Kevin Smith horror movie with a political message? Casting Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and Stephen Root (ahem, Milton) surely can’t hurt. Yes, I’ve got my hopes up.

The Guard – Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and the always great Mark Strong star in this Irish drug smuggling action-comedy. Can writer/director John Michael McDonagh live up to the hefty shoes of his brother Martin and produce this year’s In Bruges?

I Melt with You – Mark Pellington might be well known for directing 1999’s heady TIm Robbins and Jeff Bridges thriller Arlington Road, but Northwest music fans will be excited to learn he also directed seminal grunge videos for Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and Alice in Chains’ Rooster (amongst others). In this film he turns to a good ol’ dude out sesh with Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, and Christian McKay going on a sex and drug filled adventure to learn some shit about themselves or whatever. The film also co-stars the always fun to watch Sasha Grey.

Son of No One – Dito Montiel follows up his excellent A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints with this NYC cop story that again stars Channing Tatum along with Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta and Al Pacino.

Like Crazy – Anton Yelchin’s (Charlie Bartlett) and Jennifer Lawrence’s (Winter’s Bone) chemistry was the best part of The Beaver. They return together (with Felicity Jones) in this Drake Doremus (Douchebag) competition film about long distance love.

Vampire – Shunji Iwai (Swallowtail Butterfly, All About Lily Chou-Chou) makes his English language directorial debut in this less than traditional vampire thriller that stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Kristin Kreuk. Count on a lot of atmosphere.

Much more from Sundance coming soon!

Posted by enderzero at 12:47pm on Jan. 7, 2011    
Feb 2, 2010

Sundance’10 in Review

Sundance’10 is all wrapped up and I’m back home in balmy Los Angeles. What a blast! A lot of great flicks, a bit of powder, and an overwhelmingly friendly and fun atmosphere. I’ve collected a few words about each of the 21 films I saw, including links to my 10 Twitch reviews. After the film write-ups, I’ve said a few words about the flicks I wasn’t able to catch. I’m looking forward to seeing many more as they trickle out into theaters and other fests throughout the year. On to the movies – in order of viewing:

7 DAYS – Park City at Midnight – Rating: 4 out of 10

As one friend told me, “It’s not torture porn, it’s torture erotica.” That may be true but more than anything, this suspense-thriller is torture. I was more turned off by the protagonist than by the visuals and wished the filmmaker had focused his attention on the detective. Unfortunately I just couldn’t get into this one.
Read my full review of 7 Days on Twitch

THE SHOCK DOCTRINE – Premieres – Rating: 5 out of 10

Michael Winterbottom’s econ-doc is basically the film version of Naomi Klein’s thesis about the ability to create radical change in a nation when the people are too focused on emergency (shocked) to notice. It focuses a lot on Milton Friedman and the Chicago School’s theory of free markets and the US and Britain’s exploitation (and creation) of crises to implement these theories. The film systematically recounts atrocities from Chile to Iraq on the road to the creation of the “disaster capitalism complex.” While this is some pretty interesting (and often depressing) stuff, the film is, unfortunately, a pretty bland and academic presentation of the material. I was left wondering what happened to the style of Winterbottom’s great Road to Guantanamo. While you might learn something, you won’t have much fun doing it and the vague conclusion won’t give you much in the way of paths of action either.

FOUR LIONS – World Dramatic Competition – Rating: 6 of 10

This terrorist version of The Office really shines when its hilarious actors are engaging in physical humor. These guys are real idiots and their ideas about blowing up the internet and shaking their heads when they go outside to elude surveillance are pretty damn funny. The film had a fair bit of buzz around Park City, although in the end it went home empty handed.
Read my full review of Four Lions on Twitch

LAST TRAIN HOME – World Documentary Competition – Rating: 7 out of 10

Lixin Fan’s tale of the largest human migration on Earth (130 million Chinese who return home from cities across the country every New Years Holiday) is a touching and interesting look at the “Chinese dream.” Its vivid cinematography and sparse dialog made me forget at times that this Canadian co-production was a documentary. This is a very powerful story of family and society and Fan executes it stunningly.

HOLY ROLLERS – US Dramatic Competition – Rating: 7 out of 10

I seem to be in the minority of people who enjoyed Kevin Asch’s debut feature about drug smuggling Hasidic Jews. I thought Eisenberg did a fine job but was most impressed by Justin Bartha (the guy they lost in The Hangover). With its great cast and subject matter, I think this one has just as much, if not more, commercial prospects as anything at the fest.
Read my full review of Holy Rollers at Twitch

BURIED – Park City at Midnight – Rating: 6 out of 10

Buzz was pretty positive about the Rodrigo Cortes’s Ryan Reynolds stuck in a box movie. The movie literally has nothing other than Reynolds in the box (nothing before, no flashbacks, etc). There were some pretty cool shots but there were also a few pretty lame developments. Reynolds is certainly a good actor. Overall I was impressed – this is probably the best movie you can make about someone stuck in a box. But when it comes down to it, this is still a movie about someone stuck in a box.

THE KILLER INSIDE ME – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

Winterbottom’s dramatic inclusion at this year’s fest stirred up a whole lot of controversy because of its extreme depiction of violence against women. “How dare you Sundance?” one woman is reported to have asked at a Q&A. But I was okay with Winterbottom’s explanation that this is a fiction film – and particularly a fiction film from the viewpoint of a deranged killer. I was won over by the cinematography and performances – especially the strong supporting cast that includes Bill Pullman, Elias Koteas, and Tom Bower. This is a tough movie, but a stylish one and I enjoyed it.
Read my full review of The Killer Inside Me at Twitch

CYRUS – Premieres – Rating: 6 out of 10

Sundance sweethearts the Duplass bros. are back with their first real studio film (to be released by Fox Searchlight). The film stars John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei as a new couple whose relationship runs into a stumbling block when Reilly meets Tomei’s adult son Cyrus (played by Jonah Hill). The cast is good (Catherine Keener also puts in a predictably excellent performance as Reilly’s ex), but I found it a bit hard to believe a babe like Tomei would swoon over a herb like Reilly. Whatever. The movie is funny but nothing incredible. I kept hoping the Duplai would push it to the next raunchy level (thanks Judd). Instead they play it safe and we’re left with a nice but not extremely memorable comedy.

FROZEN – Park City at Midnight – Rating: 3 of 10

My expectations were low and my suspension of disbelief was set to high for this horror about what happens when you get caught on a ski lift after everyone leaves. It didn’t matter, the movie sucked. All the comments I heard were along the lines of, that would never happen because… I say who cares to those. The movie sucked because most of it is these idiots just yackin’ it up – and the dialog is amateur and boring (to be fair, what else are they gonna do when they are caught on a chair lift?). I liked the hilarious gore and wanted more ridiculously hungry wolves. There wasn’t enough of the fun stuff. As I said before, this would make a great short – but there just isn’t enough to sustain the feature.
Read my full review of Frozen at Twitch

BLUE VALENTINE – US Dramatic Competition – Rating: 9 out of 10

Derek Cianfrance’s relationship drama was probably my favorite film at Sundance. This is in large part due to the performances by Ryan Gossling and Michelle Williams – but the writing is also excellent (Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne also share the screenwriting credit). The film intercuts the beginning of the couple’s relationship with its end in a method that I found intriguing and successful. This combination of heartache and heart-melt paints an emotionally realistic portrait that really worked for me. The film was picked up at the fest by The Weinstein Co. and should find an early fall release with Oscar hopes for both the leads.

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL – Park City at Midnight – Rating: 8 out of 10

I loved this script by Eli Craig and his execution did not disappoint! This movie turns the hillbilly horror on its head – and then it grinds that head up in a wood chipper. I was cracking up from the very beginning – even though I knew what was about to happen. The casting was great and I have always wanted to see the cutie from 30 Rock get more than a couple minutes a week of screen time. This film is a blast and I’m pretty confident that if people see it, they will like it.
Read my full review of Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil at Twitch

THE VIOLENT KIND – Park City at Midnight – Rating: 7 out of 10

It seems this Sons of Anarchy meets The Outer Limit tripped out horror movie has been pretty much panned across the board. Bah! I liked it. Yes it is way, wayyy out there. No it doesn’t have much of a cohesive narrative. Yes the sound work is truly atrocious. But overall it is sexy, bloody, kooky and pretty damn fun. All good qualities for a midnight movie and I would be surprised if this one doesn’t win some fans on its trip through the horror fest circuit.
Read my full review of The Violent Kind at Twitch

HIGH SCHOOL – Park City at Midnight – Rating: 6 out of 10

HIGH school was the only midnight movie I managed to actually catch at midnight (at the Egyptian of course). It is really, really funny right out of the gate. Matt Bush (Frigo from Adventureland) plays a smart kid who gets talked into smoking weed for the first time right before the school institutes a mandatory drug testing policy. So his buddy and he decide to ruin the testing by stealing some super weed from a cracked out Adrian Brody (who is awesome) and bake it up into super brownies. Everyone in the school eats the brownies and gets super high. Hilarious. However at this point the film takes a nose dive into plot problemsville. Why are they only in class when it is convenient? Why does he steal the truck instead of just pushing the cart? Why didn’t Mr. Smartest-kid-in-school think of using his own invention? I thought of it 30 seconds after the problem was presented. No doubt there is some really hilarious stuff here and Brody deserves an Oscar, hands down. But the script simply needed another pass or two to take it from problematic stoner movie with some pretty funny scenes to stoner classic glory.

LUCKY – US Documentary Competition – Rating: 6 out of 10

Jeffrey Blitz had a base hit with his documentary Spellbound and then knocked it out of the park with his comedy Rocket Science. His latest docu about lottery winners is more like a sac fly. It tells some interesting stories and we learn winning the lottery isn’t always what its cracked up to be. But it feels a bit long and there isn’t much in the way of excitement. The best line of the film is when one of the lottery winners friends calls winning the lottery, “like sprinkling miracle grow on your character defects.” The animation by Walter Robot is also quite cool. Look for this one to find a TV audience sometime soon.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – Spotlight Surprise – Rating: 8 out of 10

My favorite docu of the fest was this street art character piece, directed by Banksy. I have A LOT to say about this one so check out my Twitch review – but suffice to say it is a really interesting exploration of art, the artist, commercialization, and the authenticity of documentary. I had the pleasure of being at both of the exhibitions spotlighted in the film (Banksy’s 2006 Barely Legal and Mr. Brainwash’s 2008 Life is Beautiful), so it was particularly interesting for me to learn the fascinating back story behind the characters. There’s way more going on here.
Read my full review of Exit Through The Gift Shop at Twitch

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT – Premieres – Rating: 6 of 10

Lisa Cholodenko’s family dramedy has been pretty heavily praised for its spin on the family dramedy genre (they’re lesbians). I found it pretty mediocre. It is pretty sweet and pretty safe and the kids aren’t really that good. Ruffalo is okay and Julianne Moore is okay and Annette Bening is a butch bitch – but overall I just didn’t really care that much. Maybe I am not the target audience but I just couldn’t help but feel like I was watching an ABC family drama.

ANIMAL KINGDOM – World Dramatic Competition – Rating: 7 out of 10

David Michôd’s Australian family crime drama is a taut and atmospheric thriller. The performances are great across the board. This film is really dark and at times maybe a bit too cerebral – but the final act when the grandma shows her true colors is cinematic gold.
Read my full review of Animal Kingdom at Twitch

TEENAGE PAPARAZZO – Spotlight – Rating: 7 out of 10

Adrian Grenier’s documentary about young Austin Visschedyk, a 14 year old celeb photographer, starts out as an interesting insider look at the world of the paparazzi. Grenier’s celebrity status allows us the fun of getting the scoop not just from the guys behind the lenses, but also from the celebs themselves. But the docu really gets going when Visschedyk himself starts attracting celebrity and Grenier has to deal with the fact that he is partly to blame. Grenier shows surprising maturity in his directing. Those who are interested in the subject matter should really enjoy this.

CATFISH – Spotlight – Rating: 8 out of 10

This internet love story documentary had by far the most buzz at the fest. It isn’t some amazing feat of film making, but it is a fantastically interesting story. It hits a bit of a slow patch towards the end, but the film had me sitting on my hands with excitement for its majority.
Read my full review of Catfish at Twitch

ENTER THE VOID – Spotlight – Rating: 7 out of 10

Whoa! As one colleague put it, “Enter the Void will rape your brain!” It is worth the price of admission just for the epilepsy inducing opening credits – but those who get a bit squeamish might want to high tail it after that. The film is a spirit’s slow drug addled trip into the afterlife that takes place after a drug deal heads south in a seedy Tokyo night club. There is a surprising amount of narrative cohesion but the film is more about emotion and visuals than story. It is really tripped out and really interesting and, at a few points, the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen on screen. I could say more, but this one really has to be experienced.

BOY – World Dramatic Competition – Rating: 9 out of 10

Taika Waititi’s follow up to Eagle Vs. Shark (after his multiple directed eps of Flight of the Conchords) is loosely based on his Oscar nom’d short Two Girls, One Cup… wait no wrong short. It is loosely based on his Oscar nom’d short Two Cars, One Night. Boy is the coming-of-age story of a young Maori boy named Boy who dreams about his father coming home and taking him away to life filled with father-son excitement. When his pops does show up (played wonderfully by Waititi), he proves to be even more of a little kid than boy. Like Eagle Vs. Shark, Taika infuses every shot with a visual whimsy that makes the film just as much fun to watch. All the characters are likable and the film just exudes charm. There are some wonderful fantasy sequences and the credits dance number is almost as much fun as Slumdog’s. All in all, this is a very special film. Do what you have to do to catch it.

Those were the 21 films I caught but there were another 80-something I didn’t see. The most notable of those is a movie called Winter’s Bone that won both the screenwriting prize and the big daddy US Dramatic Grand Jury prize (won last year by Precious). Everyone was talking about this Debra Granik deep Ozark woods family drama – but I just couldn’t make it fit. The other film that was buzzing was the war docu The Tillman Story about the friendly fire killed ex-NFL star. Another war docu, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Restrepo picked up the US Documentary Grand Jury prize. Other docus I would have liked to squeeze in were Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, Space Tourists, and Alex Gibney’s Casino Jack. I didn’t hear much about any of the three.

My early prediction was that Jake (son of Ridley) Scott’s James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart starring Welcome to the Rileys would be the biggest buzzing film at the fest. I was wrong – but Kristen Stewart did stir up some buzz with co-star Dakota Fanning in Floria Sigismondi’s punk rock biopic The Runaways (though not all of it good). I saw neither. I was pretty damned excited for my chance to see (Oscar nom’d) Cannes holdover A Prophet – but I guess I’ll have to wait until it comes out in theaters on Feb 12. Both Hesher and Howl had critics in meh mode but both are likely to find their way to limited releases in the next awards cycle. The scientific horror Splice looked like it had some cool visuals but the word in the tent was that things got pretty corny when the love story started up. I also would have liked to have seen Nuumioq. Unfortunately my first chance to see a movie from Greenland was a miss. Finally, the only movie in the Next section that raised any eyebrows was Katie Aselton’s Duplass produced The Freebie. Like many of the films in Park City, I’m sure I’ll have another chance to catch this one as it makes its way across the festival circuit.

Thanks to Todd and Dan for making it all possible. Thanks to Alex for the big hosing assist. Thanks to Carly for the editorial notes. And thanks to all of you for reading. I look forward to your comments.

Posted by enderzero at 10:28pm on Feb. 2, 2010    
Jan 24, 2010

See you on Twitch!

I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be reviewing films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, currently underway in Park City, for the film site Twitch.

My first review of the film Four Lions is up now.

Stop by to see more from me through the week and to anyone finding their way here from Twitch – welcome!

Thx Todd and Dan.

Posted by enderzero at 1:05am on Jan. 24, 2010    
Jan 23, 2010

Sundance’10 – Trailer for Spike Jonze’s I’m Here

Right on the heels of Wild Things, Spike Jonze is back at Sundance with his 30 min short visual treat I’m Here. Looks predictably great.

More at Twitch.

Posted by enderzero at 11:00am on Jan. 23, 2010    
Dec 6, 2009

15 Sundance Films I’m Already Excited About


The full lineup has been announced for next year’s Sundance Film Fest and there is a lot to be excited for. Here are the films that jumped out at me right off the bat:

Boy This film (pictured above) is written and directed by hilarious NZer Taika Waititi, famous for his feature Eagle Vs. Shark. Formerly known as The Volcano, this film is closer in theme to his wonderful Oscar nom’d short Two Cars, One Night. I loved the script and am definitely looking forward to seeing this when it screens in the World Narrative Comp.

Blue Valentine Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams will very likely be incredible across from each other in this Narrative Comp entry from Derek Cianfrance.

Holy Rollers Another Narrative Comp entry, this film directed by Kevin Asch stars Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) as a Hasidic dude who becomes and international ecstasy smuggler.

Howl Rob Epstein’s period drama stars James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Beside Franco are the likes of Jon Hamm, David Stathairn, and Jeff Daniels. This film screens as part of the main Narrative Competition.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child I have been fascinated with Basquiat since seeing him star in Downtown 81. So I am extra excited for the Docu Comp entry directed by Tamra Davis, director of Half Baked, Billy Madison, and CB4.

Lucky Jeffrey Blitz took the docu world by storm with his hit Spellbound. He then followed it up with the criminally under appreciated Rocket Science. This year he goes back to his docu roots with this Docu Comp entry about lottery winners.

Waiting for Superman Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) tackles the US public school system in this Docu Comp entry.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money Alex Gibney is behind some of the most fascinating documentaries of the last decade (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Darkside, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson). This new flick screening in the Docu Comp is all about Jack Abramoff. It had better be good to compete with Bill Moyer’s fantastic Capitol Crimes series.

The Killer Inside Me Personal fave Michael Winterbottom directs Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, and Jessica Alba in this Prems section film about a killer Texas sheriff. Winterbottom is also co-director of another Sundance10 flick, Shock Doctrine.

Jack Goes Boating This film, also programmed in the Prems section, is the directorial debut of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It co-stars Amy Ryan and Tom McCarthy.

Space Tourists This World Docu Comp entry is billed as a docu-comedy about the billionaires that pay to travel to space.

Buried I don’t know if I would be all that interested in this Midnight section screening about a guy who get buried alive if it didn’t star Ryan Reynolds. Something tells me this is a role he can make interesting.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil I remember liking this wacky script about two hillbillies who are mistaken for mass murders. If they pulled it off, this will be a refreshing take on the slasher genre. This one, not surprisingly, screens in the Midnight section.

The Violent Kind This Midnight movie is by the dudes who call themselves The Butcher Brothers. Congrats on getting in.

Oddsac Screening in the New Frontier section, I’ll just let the press release describe this one: “An earthy, psychedelic experimental narrative infused with the band, Animal Collective’s aural and musical sensibilities.”

What are you excited for?

Posted by enderzero at 10:43pm on Dec. 6, 2009