Sundance 2013

A Teacher

Editor’s Note: This review originally appeared as part of our Sundance 2013 coverage, and now A Teacher being released into theaters near you. This year’s Sundance Film Festival was rife with films about inappropriate sexual relationships, especially already-shocking May-December dalliances made still more inappropriate by uncomfortable power dynamics. Drake Doremus’ Breathe In tackled the almost-romance between an exchange student and her male guardian (one who was also her teacher), Liz W. Garcia’s The Lifeguard featured a twentysomething female lifeguard who takes up with a teen boy who lives in the condo complex where she works, and Anne Fontaine’s Two Mothers centered on adult female friends who both fall in love with the other’s son, ensuring that Hannah Fidell‘s A Teacher would fit quite neatly in the festival’s most trendy programming. But fortunately for the director/writer/producer, Fidell’s finely tuned feature is a stand-out film in an apparently crowded field. Unlike both Breathe In and The Lifeguard, Fidell’s film doesn’t track those first hesitant steps toward sex and romance between a disastrously (and often criminally) mismatched pair as, when we meet high school teacher Diana (an astonishingly good Lindsay Burdge) and her student Eric (Will Brittain), they’re already in the middle of their sexual relationship. All is not well, of course, and composer Brian McOmber‘s loud and abrasive (and we mean that in the best way possible) score, which queues up the second the film opens, makes sure we know that from the get-go. This is a doomed relationship in every sense.

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Ashton Kutcher in jOBS

Editor’s note: Kate’s review originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-running it as the film opens in limited theatrical release this weekend. Apple founder and technology visionary Steve Jobs changed the way the world connects and computes, created one of the world’s most revolutionary companies and recently died, so of course he is now being remembered by way of an unsatisfying biopic that could have been far more creative and inspired than the final product. Director Joshua Michael Stern (best remembered for the completely forgettable Swing Vote) works off a script by newbie scribe Matt Whiteley (a former marketing wonk who was commissioned to write the script by his boss, producer Mark Hulme) that, while well-paced and interesting, also fails to illuminate much about the man and skips over large chunks of his life. As Jobs, Ashton Kutcher does a fine job (sorry, had to do it) with his role, though when Jobs amps up its intensity, he can’t quite keep his character compelling or believable.

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Lovelace

Editor’s note: Kate’s review of Lovelace originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release this weekend. For whatever reason, the story of adult film legend Linda Lovelace has proven to be particular enticing material as of late, with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace only the first of two Lovelace biopics to hit screens this year. Epstein and Freidman’s film is the one that stars Amanda Seyfried as Lovelace (or Boreman, or Marchiano, depending on the particular period of her life you are referring to) and Peter Sarsgaard as her bastard husband/Svengali, Chuck Traynor (because, really, who better to play the necessary bastard/Svengali role than Sarsgaard?). A generally straightforward and uninspired biopic (beyond a somewhat interesting storytelling conceit that pops up about midway through the film), Lovelace tracks Lovelace’s unlikely rise from regular girl to America’s most famous porn star, thanks to her starring role in 1972’s seminal hardcore pornographic film, Deep Throat. Like a lot of porn, Lovelace is often aimless, basically boring, and dead unsexy.

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Don Jon

The Sundance Film Festival may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the year’s first major film fest doesn’t live on in our hearts – or our theaters and VOD apparatus. Like any good film festival, Sundance is not just a fun movie-watching playtime, it’s also a market for new films looking for a distribution home, even films that come complete with big stars (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ashton Kutcher, Paul Rudd, the list goes on and on). But just because a film gets picked up at Sundance — and by a major company, to boot — doesn’t mean that it will get a big, fancy theatrical release in a timely fashion (see the Tobey Maguire- and Elizabeth Banks-starring The Details for proof of that), though it’s a damn good start. So, just which of the many films that bowed at the ‘dance will you be able to see at a theater (or couch) near you? If our tally of purchased films is to be believed, at least thirty-eight! After the break, check out our comprehensive list of every film picked up at Sundance (and even a few that hit the festival with their distribution already in place, those lucky, happy few), including who bought them and when we’re likely to see them.

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The Spectacular Now

Forgive us if we may be so bold, but this year’s round of “Ten Best” films from the Sundance Film Festival is really just the ten films we liked the most. We have taste, and we’re not afraid to use it! (Or, alternately, please like all these things that we like, we promise they are really good!) This year, five Rejects attended the festival in the snow (can you believe they let us in?), and while we all have different cinematic soft spots, you’d be surprised over how many films struck all of us, and in different ways. (We cried a lot.) This year’s festival certainly had a few themes that stuck out – lots of sex, nudity, inappropriate relationships, and so much more seemed to be the order of the day – but our list of the ten best films of the festival is far more interested in less lascivious features, much more tuned into films that delivered strong characters and even stronger senses of self. Boldness paid off. Honesty was rewarded. Tears? Well, tears definitely didn’t hurt. Find out which ten films won our hearts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, presented after the break.

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Snow in Park City

It was bound to happen. On Day 723 of the Sundance Film Festival (really, just Day 8, but it feels like we’ve been here for years), it snowed. Sundance is, after all, located in a ski town, so frozen precipitation falling from the sky is a thing that is known to happen, but snow during Sundance really does change the landscape of the festival. Everything instantly feels a bit more miserable and, suddenly, trooping through snowdrifts to see yet another film feels like the biggest chore in the world. But it really is the best chore, and when you’re about to troop through snowdrifts to finally (finally) see one of the festival’s instantly-beloved premieres, The Spectacular Now, it really doesn’t feel so bad.

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Very Good Girls

The first thing we’re supposed to learn about Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerry (Elizabeth Olsen) is that they are best friends – no, like, best friends, sisters, totally bonded, deeply close, passionate friends. This is a fine sentiment – really, one of the best – but it’s a hard one to grasp when Lilly and Gerry, the center of Naomi Foner’s Very Good Girls trashcan their years-long friendship because some dude (and, also, this dude? Of all the dudes? This one?) is temporarily sexually attractive to both girls. Yes, it’s this story again. To be fair, Foner’s film does throw a few wrenches into this now-standard formula – namely that both girls are virgins looking for someone to change that before they head off to college, and that only one of the girls is aware that she’s involved in a love triangle – but it’s otherwise just another destructive addition to a genre of romance films that needs to go away, or at least be handled in a far more mature and compelling manner.

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Sound City Movie

There are many legends that surround the music industry, but Sound City was an actual place that embodied a mythology. Located in Van Nuys, California (i.e. the Valley, i.e. this is when you groan), Sound City was an outdated dump that refused to let the digital revolution through its front doors, but bands continued to seek it out because of two reasons: the staff that welcomed you in like you were one of their own, and the Neve console. The beautiful board that lived at Sound City was custom ordered and gave the studio its signature sound – a perfect distribution that made even distortion sound good. But it was not that this board was magical or that the studio was designed to create this effect (it ironically was not designed at all, just lucked out on having such good acoustics), it was thanks to the “magic” of analog recording which provides a warmth that digital is not yet able to duplicate. Dave Grohl‘s documentary Sound City is certainly a story about the studio and all the artists that recorded there, but that story focuses truly on this board and the one-of-a-kind sound it was able deliver.

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It Felt Like Love

When you are young, summer is supposed to be a fun, laid back time where there are no classes to get up for and no homework to complete, but it can also teeter on boring with long days that can drag when there is little to do. Lila (Gina Piersanti), who we meet staring out at the expanse of the ocean, is spending the summer at the beach with her friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni), and Chiara’s boyfriend Patrick (Jesse Cordasco), making Lila the de facto third wheel. At first it seems like Lila does not mind and prefers to simply observe her friend, never giving the impression she is jealous when she is often left sitting on the beach alone while Chiara and Patrick play in the surf. But that all changes when Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) walks by and her focus shifts.

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Escape from Tomorrow

The Disney theme parks are dubbed the “happiest place on earth” for a reason – they bring to life the fantasy of Disney’s movies and the fairy tale characters that populate them. While the parks are clearly geared towards children, they also give adults the chance to “be a kid again” and get lost in the fantasy themselves. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) has taken his wife Emily (Elena Schuber), daughter Sarah (Katelynn Rodriguez), and son Elliot (Jack Dalton) on a family vacation to Disney World, but on the last day of this seemingly idyllic trip, Jim gets a disappointing call from his boss (which he decides to keep secret from his family) and it seems to send him into a bit of a tailspin as the day wears on.

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BI_SudanceStill

People will hate Drake Doremus’s Breathe In. They will walk out of the theater and be sad and confused and maybe even (probably, really, more than anything) angry. They will hate it because they will hate the characters that exist inside of the film, and they will hate it because they make them mad, and they will hate it because it is not Like Crazy 2. And that’s okay, because while Breathe In will elicit all these emotions (and, quite likely, more), it is an immensely accomplished and measured film, an assured follow-up to Doremus’s other Sundance hit, 2011’s Like Crazy, and even more assured because it is not like Like Crazy, not at all, and that is something to marvel at. While Doremus and his co-screenwriter, Ben York Jones, turned their eyes on a couple that should be together in Like Crazy, when it comes to Breathe In, they go in the complete opposite direction, to a couple that should, by no means, be together. And while we all know that as every minute of Breathe In steadily ticks by, they don’t know that (or, at least, they refuse to believe that), and the result is car crash cinema done right. You can’t look away. But you can’t cheer for it in the slightest.

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UntitledEaglesDocumentary_still3_

History of the Eagles, Part One starts off with backstage footage of the band before a concert in 1977 as they warm up in perfect harmony, reminding you from the forefront there is a reason this band was as successful as it was, for as long as it was — this group had a distinct and catchy sound. On the heels of one of the Eagles’ founders, Glenn Frey, stating, “We made it, and it ate us,” the film flashes forward to present day as key members of the band, in all its different incarnations, reminisce on their time as members of the Eagles. The origin story of the Eagles is not unlike most band origin stories, with Frey and fellow founding member Don Henley each getting into music with the hopes that it would get them girls (particularly after watching girls’ reactions to The Beatles). With Frey hailing from Detroit and Henley from Texas, the two eventually made their separate ways out to Los Angeles and became part of Linda Rondstadt‘s backing band. The experience of performing every night had Rondstadt’s people hoping to make a “super band” to back their singer, but Frey and Henley had a different idea and decided to start their own band instead, forming what would eventually become the Eagles.

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sundance survival kit

Whenever Sundance begins again and I prepare to head back to Park City, one word comes to my mind: early. Because every time I have headed off to the snowy mountains that surround this festival, I find myself — and I know many others do as well — setting my alarm for the wee hours to get up, get to the airport, and get to the festival with hopes of making the most of those precious few hours left in the day by the time I arrive. This is especially true for me, as I usually get in on the official third day of the festival and screenings are well under way. But the second I’m here, that early wake up call is a distant memory and it feels like I’m back in a home away from home (granted this home is a bit colder and I have to be even more careful not to slip and fall while walking), getting back into the festival swing of things.

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Sundance Day 1

“The plane is overfueled for such a short flight, so we’re too heavy to take off right now, so we’re going to drain some fuel and bring up some baggage from underneath to redistribute what we’ve got.” These are not the words that any sane person wants to hear on any sort of flight, especially on a plane so small that the one flight attendant has to sit on a jump seat that, by all accounts, unfolds straight off the cockpit door (does that seem safe to you? it doesn’t seem safe to me) or on a plane so small that drink service is limited to only five Coca-Cola products (no booze) or even on a plane so small that the one bathroom is enclosed by a folding door that accordions in (no room to even open up a door completely on this flight). And no person who is headed to her fourth Sundance wants to hear those words from a tense-looking flight attendant who mutters to the gate agent who has somehow popped up inside the front galley, “How many children are on the flight? Are there any babies?” Do the babies know something we don’t know? I would very much like to get to Sundance, tonight if possible, but I am not entirely sure that I want to die in the process. And that’s how my fourth Sundance kicked off.

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S-VHS

What the hell is that? And that, horror fans, is the best way to leave your audience salivating for more when it comes to premiering a first trailer for the newest entry in your burgeoning horror anthology film franchise. Over at ShockTillYouDrop, the first trailer for S-VHS has popped up mere days before the film premieres at this week’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a slim little number, but it kicks off with a slice of what I’m guessing might be my favorite section from the new film – a child’s birthday party at what looks to be a family’s cabin in the woods, interrupted by something that likes to screech like a combination banshee and T.Rex. Banshrex. T.Shee. Either way, I can’t wait to meet it. This time around, the directing talent behind the anthology film includes Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, and Jason Eisener, so yes, there’s probably going to be something here for everyone. I saw and reviewed the first VHS at last year’s Sundance and flipped for it (and screamed and cried and tried to hide in my sweater and scarf to no avail), so my hopes are quite high for this next entry. Ready to see some of what the next chapter in the VHS franchise holds? Take a look at the first trailer for S-VHS after the break. Have your sweaters and scarves at the ready.

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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Prince Avalanche

Expectations? This is my first Sundance Film Festival, so the only things I know I’ll encounter are movies, cold snow, overpriced sandwiches, and familiar faces. It should be a great time provided the movies are good, the snow is outside my boots, the sandwiches are tasty and the faces are friendly. Prepare for some very disgruntled tweets otherwise. Looking through the list of titles playing Sundance this year, I tallied a whopping thirty-eight films that I want to see. Kate Erbland said that made her too nervous, presumably because it’s so close to her age (something she’s very conscious of, EDIT: not even close, Hunter!), so she asked me to drop it to a more youthful number. It wasn’t easy to do, but through a complicated series of algorithms and drinking games, I knocked off twenty-eight. What remains are my ten most anticipated films of Sundance 2013! Read them, and be as excited as I am at the prospect of maybe getting in to see them!

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C.O.G.

Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see. After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.

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Mud

The prospect of heading back to the snowy mountain that houses the Sundance Film Festival brings up many questions – is my jacket warm enough? Do I have boots with good traction so I do not slip on the ice? Will I be able to use my iPhone with gloves on? But beyond these basic survival questions, the one major question is: what films do I want to see? The Sundance lineup gets increasingly more impressive with each passing year and the festival program for 2013 certainly lives up to that standard. After putting together the puzzle that is a festival schedule (a task not for the faint of heart) I am genuinely looking forward to all the films on my list, but these are the ten films I am most looking forward to plopping down in a (hopefully) warm theater to watch. Stay tuned to FSR for my reviews and see if these films end up being ones that should be added to your own “must-see” lists for the year.

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IL FUTURO

If you’re attending Sundance this year and have already started thinking, “man, I would really love to see a dramatic feature that stars Rutger Hauer as an aging and blind B-movie star who is also a hermit and who was also Mr. Universe and who also lives in a rococo mansion in Rome,” then we have got the only film you’ll need to see at this month’s film festival. Based on Roberto Bolano‘s novel “Una Novelita Lumpen,” Alicia Scherson‘s Il Futuro stars Hauer as, well, an aging and blind B-movie star who is also a hermit and who was also Mr. Universe and who also lives in a rococo mansion in Rome – but wait! there’s also romantic intrigue here! Co-starring Manuela Martelli as a recently-orphaned adolescent who is tricked by her dirtbag friends into seducing Hauer’s Maciste, the film centers on the unexpected relationship that blossoms between the pair. The film will have its World Premiere later this month at Sundance and, as such, has rolled out that lovely new poster above, which we are pleased to premiere here on FSR. The future is now! And, also, retroactively back then!

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