Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Logo 2013

Just when we thought the 2013 Sundance Film Festival was done rolling out exciting new cinematic gems for us to get, well, excited about, the festival has just announced four late-breaking additions to the January festival. These titles include a newly struck preservation print of Robert Rodriquez’s El Mariachi (which premiered at the 1993 festival and will show as part of their “From the Collection” series), the world premiere of music doc Muscle Shoals, and yet another new Sebastián Silva joint (Magic Magic). The film is actually the second Michael Cera-starring Silva film we’re getting at the festival (what a bromance!), as the pair’s Crystal Fairy was previously announced as an in-competition title. Though Magic also centers on some American kids on a road trip in Chile, Crystal Fairy is classified as a comedy; Magic Magic, a horror flick that will show as part of Park City at Midnight, sounds like its nightmarish cousin. Now that sounds like it could be a good time. And then there is Wrong Cops, Quentin Dupieux‘s still-in-the-making New Frontier film, which sounds bonkers in only the best way. The Wrong and Rubber filmmaker again returns to the festival with the new feature, starring Mark Burnham, Marilyn Manson, Steve Little, and Eric Wareheim, which centers on a Los Angeles that’s so crime-free that it’s the cops who have to break the law. Yes. Basically, just yes. Check out the full list of the just-added titles after the break.

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Save the Date trailer

Editor’s note: Save the Date arrives in theaters this Friday. RSVP now with a re-run of our Sundance review, originally posted on January 25, 2012. It would be foolish to deny that there is a certain kind of “Sundance romance” film – minor affairs that chronicle the beautiful and directionless as they stumble through the motions in an attempt to find something real. Most of the time, these films take place somewhere in East Los Angeles (Echo Park, Silverlake, Los Feliz), and usually there’s someone in a band. There is always a bevy of navel-gazing that occurs. Meeting those criteria for this year’s festival is Michael Mohan‘s Save the Date. The film centers on a pair of sisters (Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie, charmers both) who have very different expectations of and desires for love. Caplan’s Sarah is a commitment-phobe who is about to move in with her long-term boyfriend (Geoffrey Arend as Kevin), while Brie’s Beth is about to marry Kevin’s best friend and bandmate, Andrew (Martin Starr). Cue conflicts.

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Editor’s note: Lay The Favorite hits limited release this Friday, though it doesn’t seem like a solid bet for your movie-going dollar. Find out why with the following Sundance review, originally published on January 23, 2012. There’s one thing that becomes quite clear, quite quickly as Stephen Frears‘s Lay The Favorite begins: not everyone should do voiceover work. Rebecca Hall (who stars as Beth Raymer) sadly falls squarely into that category and her baby voice stays with her throughout the entire film, grating on already-frayed nerves. Lay The Favorite tells Beth’s baby-voiced story as she tries to figure out her purpose in life at a job that will be stimulating and make her good money (don’t we all, Beth). The best place to pursue such a dream? Las Vegas, of course! Beth packs up her life (and dog Otis) and heads west with stars in her eyes. Ready and willing to do anything, Beth quickly makes friends with Holly (Laura Prepon) who turns her on to a job with Dink Heimowtiz (Bruce Willis) who runs a legal (at least in Vegas) gambling company (Dink Inc., of course) that bets on anything and everything, but mainly sporting events. Dink’s world is filled with exactly the type of excitement and stimulation Beth was hoping for and despite her baby talk, daddy issues (no matter what she says) and constant hair chewing, Dink takes a shine to her and agrees to bring her on.

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Ashton Kutcher in jOBS

While some of might still be holding out for that Aaron Sorkin-penned Steve Jobs biopic, there’s still Joshua Michael Stern‘s Sundance-premiering, Ashton Kutcher-starring jOBS to look forward to. Yet, surely, no one is looking forward to this one quite as much as Kutcher, who looks tickled pink to not only be starring in what sounds like a quality film (sorry, Just Married!), but pretty excited by how much he looks like the Apple founder, as evidenced by a brand new still from the film. We can’t wait for Kutcher to fill out those black turtlenecks later in the film, however. jOBS will serve as the Closing Night Film of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and its official fest synopsis tells us: “The true story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life. jOBS is a candid, inspiring and personal portrait of the one who saw things differently.” The film also stars Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, and Matthew Modine. The film was just picked up for Canadian distribution by Remstar Films, in collaboration with Entertainment One. The film also has Swiss and Italian distribution lined up. While there is no word yet on domestic distribution or release, it seems like a safe bet that won’t last soon, as jOBS will surely sell very soon, likely before it even bows at Sundance. [ComingSoon]

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And with that, that Sundance Film Festival ended a week of truly exciting programming announcements. The venerable fest has now released the full listing of their Short Film program, and it’s rounded out with all sorts of recognizable names (including Nash Edgerton, Spencer Susser, Kat Candler, and Morgan Spurlock) and a pack of up-and-comers that might just be The Next Big Thing. The shorts run the gamut in terms of subject matter – synopsis-friendly buzzwords that pop out us include “metal band,” “problem child,” “tragic consequences,” “cinematic tweets,” “fallen-from-grace artisan,” and “self-serving fantasies” – so there’s definitely something here for everyone. We’re most excited about those cinematic tweets, truth be told. After the break, check out all a comprehensive listing of all the short films that will show at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, including U.S. Narrative Shorts, International Narrative Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Animated Shorts, and New Frontier Shorts.

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Hot on the heels of yesterday’s massive announcement of programming picks for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the fest has rolled out yet another listing of titles that will screen in Park City in January, including the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers sections. While Sundance usually plays host to new films premiering for the first time, the fest’s Spotlight section is comprised of films that have screened elsewhere, in service to being “a tribute to the cinema we love.” Park City at Midnight is a frisky spin on Midnight films, as it’s made up of more than just horror flicks, but movies that “defy any genre.” Sundance’s ever-expanding New Frontiers section continues to both push and explore boundaries, with films and “experiences” that center on artistic convergence of all sorts. Some of the most eye-catching of these programming picks include Jeff Nichols’ Mud (Nichols makes his return to Sundance after the success of his 2011 entry, Take Shelter), Pablo Larraín‘s No, Ben Wheatley‘s Sightseers (yes!), Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell (the actress and director’s first documentary, which we’ve covered quite often already), everyone’s S-VHS (that’s another big “yes!”), and Jim Mickle‘s English-language remake of We Are What We Are (you know, the family-o-cannibals movie). Programming for the feature-length films in the Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections, along with picks for the Short Film section, will be announced soon. Check out the just-announced list of film selections (with cast lists and synopses!), including the Spotlight, Park City at […]

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Cue the giddy glee of film nerds everywhere. With the Sundance Film Festival lingering just over the horizon, the festival has today announced their first wave of programming – and they’ve pulled absolutely no punches when it comes to this first big wave of information. Today’s announcement includes the in-competition films for the U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary sections, along with the out-of-competition films of the NEXT <=> section. Make no mistake, this is a giant swath of programming, a list filled to bursting with titles that will be the talk of the festival come January. These are the big guns, kids. While we attempt to tone down our excitement, here are a list of titles that immediately pop out at us from today’s list: David Lowery‘s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck), Kyle Patrick Alvarez‘s C.O.G. (Alvarez first earned our admiration with his Easier With Practice, now he’s bringing us the first film adaptation of a David Sedaris story), Lake Bell‘s In a World… (the actress’ feature directorial debut), James Ponsoldt‘s The Spectacular Now (the Smashed helmer returns with a surefire winner), Shane Carruth‘s Upstream Color (the director finally follows up his Primer with a new film), Lynn Shelton‘s Touchy Feely (it’s Shelton, come on), 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (co-directed by Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites, the filmmakers behind the wonderful and underseen Until the Light Takes Us), Martha Shane and Lana Wilson‘s After Tiller, Greg Barker‘s Manhunt, Sebastián Silva‘s […]

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Price Check

Editor’s note: Sundance premiere Price Check hits limited release tomorrow. Here’s a re-run of our Sundance review of the film, originally published on January 26, 2012. Michael Walker‘s feature directorial debut, Price Check, starts off innocently enough, sort of a twist on Office Space if Lumbergh was actually a nice guy who wanted his unmotivated employees to succeed. Eric Mabius stars as Pete, who lost his dream job in music and is now forced to work in a regional pricing and marketing division for a failing division of a multi-brand grocery store company. Like most people these days, Pete is concerned about finances – he’s the only breadwinner in the house, and he and his wife have credit card bills to pay and a three-year-old to raise and probably a new car to get – and the recent departure of his beloved boss isn’t helping matters much. Who is going to replace him? And how is that going to affect Pete and his life? If this plotline doesn’t sound just a bit boring, that’s okay, it is. But instead of beefing up his film with great lines and performances from more than just Mabius’ co-star, Parker Posey, Walker decides to go for some cheap switcheroos that left the audience at Eccles Theatre (where the film premiered) groaning.

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28 Hotel Rooms Trailer

Editor’s note: One of Allison’s favorites from this year’s Sundance hits theaters this week, so please get hot and heavy with her original review, first posted on January 29, 2012. What starts off as a seemingly innocent conversation between two strangers in a hotel restaurant quickly devolves into those same two strangers (played by Chris Messina and Marin Ireland) falling into bed together. It is not a new idea – two people, away from home, deciding to vacate their real lives for a night of anonymous pleasure – but director/screenwriter Matt Ross’ 28 Hotel Rooms begins to paint two characters who are a bit more interesting than they might seem at first blush, and who become increasingly so as their relationship twists and turns. After their first night together, Ireland’s character is revealed to be a newlywed and, while Messina’s character does not seem thrown by that fact, it also makes you wonder why someone so new to her marriage would be willing to cheat on it. It is revealed that Ireland is less than comfortable with the indiscretion she just gave in to and one would think things would end here, but despite her tears and seeming regret, this does not end up being the last time these two reach out to each other.

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Editor’s note: With Sundance winner The Sessions (formerly titled The Surrogate) hitting limited release, here is a re-run of our festival review, originally published on January 25, 2012. Based on the article, Seeing A Sex Surrogate, The Sessions takes you into the life thirty-eight year old Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) who has lived with polio since the age of six. Only able to be out of his iron lung for a few hours a day, Mark is otherwise stuck inside with just his thoughts, poetry, and faith. Most would resent a life like this, but Mark finds the humor in his situation, always putting those around him at ease and never letting the fact that he can barely move his head from side to side limit his ambition. Having graduated from the University of Berkeley, Mark now has even bigger aspirations in his life – he wants to lose his virginity. Mark takes a shine to one of his aids and while it seems she seems to return his affection, when he expresses it, she gets scared and runs away. Mark jokes to his priest (William H. Macy) that he tried to go about his sexual revolution the “proper” way, but now he has another option he is considering – a sex surrogate who specializes in helping the disabled not only have sex, but teach them the tools and skills to have their own sexual relationships.

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The House I Live In Review

Editor’s note: With The House I Live In beginning its theatrical roll-out this Friday (check out cities and theaters HERE), here is a well-timed re-run of our Sundance Film Festival review of the film, first published on January 29, 2012. Documentarian Eugene Jarecki‘s latest film, The House I Live In, ponders the implications and elements of the United States’ woefully misdirected “War on Drugs,” but Jarecki’s interest in the subject is surprisingly personal. As the film opens, Jarecki explains that his subject matter is dear to him for two reasons – because the Jarecki family as a whole believes it is their responsibility to help others who are suffering from injustice (the Jarecki parents escaped certain death under Nazi regimes) and because Jarecki’s own beloved childhood nanny, Nanny Jetter, lost a child to drugs. But while the film is of personal importance to its director, an overabundance of information often robs the film from leaving a lasting emotional mark.

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Liberal Arts Movie 2012

Editor’s note: Liberal Arts opens in limited release this Friday (just in time for back-to-school!), so please enjoy our Sundance review of the film, originally published on January 23, 2012. Triple threat Josh Radnor‘s first feature, happythankyoumoreplease, debuted at Sundance in 2010, hitting big with the crowds and ultimately winning the Audience Award. The film was written and directed by Radnor, who also starred in it as a disaffected twentysomething struggling to make meaningful connections with others in big, bad New York City. Radnor’s latest outing, Liberal Arts, is written and directed by Radnor, and stars the multi-hyphenate as– well, you probably know the rest. But while happythankyoumoreplease was perhaps too much of a classic first feature – complete with overly precious touches and too much reliance on the magic of coincidence and not enough emphasis on the sort of things that actually happen in the real world – Liberal Arts sees Radnor and his craft maturing wonderfully, which is startlingly in-line with the aims of the actual film.

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Bachelorette Movie 2012

Editor’s note: After big success on VOD, Bachelorette hits theaters today, so ready your champagne flutes and raise a glass to our Sundance review of the film, originally published on January 24, 2012. We’ll get this out of the way right off the bat – Bachelorette is not Bridesmaids, though the film’s premise (three girls embark on a bachelorette party adventure for a bride they hate!) sounds like the perfect post-Bridesmaids feature for a ladies’ night out. In reality, Leslye Headland‘s film is a production that’s perfectly crafted for people who hate their friends. Toxic, nasty, and ugly, Bachelorette reaffirms stereotypes about women (they are bitches! they are sluts! they are emotionally unstable!) and their relationships (they secretly all hate each other!) that should have disappeared from cinema (and the world) long ago. We never quite know why Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Katie (Isla Fisher), and Jenna (Lizzy Caplan) are still friends – we can only assume it’s because no one else wants to associated with such horrible shrews. Pals since high school, the trio call themselves “the b-faces” and appear to spend most of their time bitching about other things and people. They are all unhappy in different ways – control freak Regan thinks she’s done everything right and still nothing is happening to her (hint, no one cares if you went to Princeton if you’re a huge, raging bitch to every single person you meet), airhead Katie is sick of work retail but thinks she’s not smart enough for anything else […]

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The Words Movie Review

Editor’s note: With The Words hitting theaters today, brush up on our Sundance review of the film, first published on January 26, 2012. Writing is a difficult task whether you have to do it for school, work, or simply because you have words in you that you must get out. But even if you are a writer, those words don’t always come easily and staring at a blank Word document or page is always intimidating. In The Words, we come to know Rory Jenson (Bradley Cooper), a struggling writer who has penned his first novel – a work that is good, but not good enough to get published. Slightly disheartened and with a new bride Dora (Zoe Saldana) to support, Rory takes a job in the mailroom of a publishing house, hoping to make some contacts and advance his career. While on their honeymoon in Paris, Dora drags Rory into yet another antique shop and Rory ends up finding an old leather briefcase that is classy and sophisticated – a symbol of a true writer and a gift Dora quickly buys for her new husband. As he later starts filling it with his own work, Rory comes to find a weathered manuscript he neglected to notice when he first purchased the briefcase. Upon reading the first page (typed on the back of a handwritten letter), Rory cannot put the manuscript down and reads it from beginning to end.

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Editor’s note: Festival favorite Sleepwalk With Me hits limited release this week, so what follows is a re-run of our Sundance review of the film, originally posted on January 27, 2012. Kate loved the film so much that she saw it again just two months later at SXSW. From its very first moments, Mike Birbiglia‘s Sleepwalk With Me establishes a very specific relationship with its audience – Birbiglia, playing a version of himself, turns to the camera and reassures us that what we’re about to hear is indeed true, and then he makes us laugh. Birbiglia is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actor, and Sleepwalk With Me is his directorial debut, which is loosely based on his own life. A mix of painful personal stories about a failing relationship, try-and-fail outings at his primary career, and the unraveling of his life by way of a serious medical condition (yup, sleepwalking), the film is (genuinely) both hilarious and heartfelt. Birbiglia directed, co-wrote, and stars in the film. Which is based on his one-man show of the same name and his 2010 comedic memoir, “Sleepwalk With Me and Other Painfully True Stories.” Which probably all sounds incredibly self-indulgent, but it’s not, because Birbiglia is more than willing to make himself look like a loser and an asshole and untalented wanker (even though he’s none of those things). At one point, during one of his conversations with the audience and before the recounting of a particularly painful and embarrassing tale, Birbiglia reminds us that we’re on his side. It’s […]

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Editor’s note: With Sundance’s most controversial film hitting theaters today, here is a re-run of our Compliance review from that festival, originally published on January 25. It seems that there is always at least one film at Sundance that stirs up some sort of controversy – the kind the leads to people running out of screenings or ends with people screaming at post-movie question-and-answer sessions. In 2011, it was Lucky McKee’s The Woman, this year, it’s undoubtedly Craig Zobel‘s Compliance. Much like McKee was taken to task about presumed misogyny in his film, Zobel endured post-screenings Q&As in which the film was damned as being exploitative. In those cases, however, the hecklers were quite wrong. Compliance is an exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.

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Robot and Frank

Editor’s note: With Robot and Frank hitting limited release this week, here is a re-run of our review from Sundance, originally published on January 22, 2012. If Jake Schreier‘s Robot and Frank is too believed, the near future is very similar to the present – just with more hipsters enamored of things they don’t understand and more robots consigned to help with everyday tasks. Both come, oddly enough, to a head in Schreier’s feature debut about a man, his robot, and the things that bond them (including a distaste for said hipsters). The film is a wily mix of genres – Robot and Frank is a buddy comedy, a fish out of water story, a heist film, and a drama about aging in its many forms – and it mostly delivers on its immense promise when it works within the bounds of dry and clever comedy. But when the film allows itself to slack, it slumps almost irrevocably, and it never quite recovers from an unsatisfying and overemotional middle.

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2 Days in New York

Editor’s note: With 2 Days in New York opening in limited release this Friday, here is a re-run of our review from Sundance, when it was the only film that could perk an exhausted Kate up on Festival Day 26. This review was originally posted on January 29, 2012. Picking up a few years where her 2 Days in Paris left off, Julie Delpy‘s 2 Days in New York has moved the sometimes-messy life of Marion (Delpy) to Gotham. Marion has now taken up with Mingus (Chris Rock, playing a pitch-perfect straight man), a former co-worker who offered dry humor and personal understanding when her previous relationship crumbled. The pair live together in a cozy and artistic apartment, joined by Marion’s young son Lulu (Owen Shipman) and Mingus’ daughter Willow (Talen Ruth Riley). As calm and lovely as their life together seems, everything is about to be tested over a brief two-day period, marked by the arrival of Marion’s insane family, the opening of an important gallery exhibition of Marion’s photos, and the unspoken pressure that one of Marion’s other artistic endeavors is putting her under.

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Editor’s note: Red Lights hits limited release this Friday, so please take this re-run of our Sundance review (originally posted on January 23, 2012) as a green light to give it a read. Rodrigo Cortés returns to Sundance after 2010’s Buried with another film about confinement and restriction – but one that turns those attentions to the human mind and its limits, instead of the body and its own absolutes. In Red Lights, Cortés sets his sights on the world of paranormal investigations, but in a way wholly different than we’ve come to expect from horror flicks that mine similar territory. Red Lights centers on Drs. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Buckley (Cillian Murphy), who work to disprove paranormal activity. The pair split their time between teaching at a university (to packs of eager students) and traveling to presumed paranormal occurrences (to debunk them). Both Matheson and Buckley maintain that they’ve never seen true paranormal activity that cannot be explained in one way or another (most often due to simple lies and farce), but they’re about to be challenged by an old foe of Matheson’s who appears to break all the boundaries the pair set. Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) was once a famous blind psychic, who retired amidst whispers of behavior that led to the death of his greatest critic – and now, he’s returned.

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Buried in my viewing notes from Craig Zobel‘s Sundance premiere, Compliance, is a one-line note from a fellow journalist. Scrawled out, almost angrily, it reads “no one is this stupid!!!” Oh, but they are. Zobel’s film was one of the most controversial of the festival – subject to walk-outs and heated Q&A sessions – but it was also one of the absolute best productions unveiled in Park City this past January. The film is based on a true story (no matter how confounding and bizarre that story may be) and one that Zobel distills down into one singular event. Compliance centers on fast food worker Becky (Dreama Walker) and her generally nice (if a bit of overbearing) boss Sandra (Ann Dowd). On a day like any other, Sandra receives a phone call from a police officer who says he’s working on a case that involves Becky, and would Sandra be so kind as to help him detain Becky until he can get there? And could she possibly search Becky? And she possibly help him out with a full strip search of Becky? And…well, you get the idea. Compliance is as uncomfortable and riveting as cinema gets, and so is its first trailer. Get ready to get uncomfortable, and check out the first trailer for Compliance after the break.

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