Saturday, January 26, 2013

In a World...(2013)

Director: Lake Bell

Starring: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed

More info: IMDb

Plot: Carol Solomon is a struggling vocal coach. Propelled by the hubris of her father, Sam Sotto, the reigning king of movie-trailer voice-over artists, Carol musters the courage to pursue her secret aspiration to be a voice-over star. Her fiery sister, Dani, becomes a trusted confidante, and Carol engages the skills of a charming sound techie named Louis. Armed with renewed confidence, Carol lands her first voice-over gig—a primo spot—nabbing the job from industry bad boy Gustav Warner. And then the real trouble begins. Carol becomes entangled in a web of dysfunction, sexism, unmitigated ego, and pride.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? You betcha!

This is it - the last movie I saw at the Sundance Film Festival.  I'm so pleased that it's very good, very funny and very smart.  IN A a charming comedy by writer/director/star Lake Bell.  I like this gal.  She's got moxy!  I don't know what moxy is but whatever it is, she's got it!  Hahahaha.  Rob Corddry sure has been a busy boy recently.  He was in at least 3 movies I saw at Sundance.  Funny guy.  Oh, and Nick Offerman's in it.  Classic. The real star of the show, although there's an awful lot to like in this picture, is Bell's script.  It's great.  It doesn't get sappy or cliche or preachy.  There's not a wasted frame.  I really enjoyed the ending.  Gena Davis let's Bell know the score in the final minutes of the picture that could really damage someone but it's what Bell does with it that makes all the difference in the world.  I loved it and I'm so glad I ended my movie watching part of Sundance on such a high note.  Thank you, Lake Bell.

In Fear (2013)

Director: Jeremy Lovering

Starring: Alice Englert, Iain De Caestecker, Allen Leech

More info: IMDb

Plot: In Jeremy Lovering’s chilling debut, a young couple fights to survive one night-turned-nightmare. Driving to a music festival, Tom and Lucy have plans to stay at a countryside hotel. But with hotel signs leading them in circles and darkness falling, they soon become lost in a maze of country roads…and the target of an unknown tormentor.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  I wouldn't mind another crack at it.

It took me a while to start to like this but I have questions that might easily be answered on a second viewing.  There's a great scene that involves the backseat passenger majorly fucking with the couple holding a knife to the back of her neck.  The payoff was fucked up but not as fucked up as the trunk scene later on.  Sundance is for independent film and this is a good low budget film with a minimum of cast (just the three kids) and an excellent use of the small outdoor location.  As far as I could tell this was one of only two horror films at the Sundance Film Festival this year.  I missed S/V/H/S (2013) because of schedule conflicts with other films I just couldn't miss.  With me being the horror junkie that I am I'm going to have to load up the car with a couple of friends and hit a horror/sci-fi film festival somewhere.  I'm sure the quality of the films isn't any near as good as they are here at Sundance but it'd be a hell of a time.

The Rambler (2013)

Director: Calvin Reeder

Starring:  Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady, Scott Sharot

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Upon release from prison, a solitary man known only as “the Rambler” embarks on a mysterious journey en route to reconnecting with his long-lost brother. Traversing treacherous back roads, lost highways, and isolated small towns, he unearths a multitude of bizarre and wickedly depraved slices of Americana.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

I can handle surreal.  ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (2013) is a fine example when the surreal can be understood and enhance a picture. But this entry at the Sundance Film Festival had me wondering WTF all the way through.  I got some of it but there was enough left over that it just didn't make any sense.  I LOVED the bits with the old man and the dream recorder.  That shit was funny.  Lots of exploding heads (and boobs which is a first for me).  Even though there were some batshit bits tossed in, it still held my attention.  Unfortunately the director was unavailable for a Q&A (he had to split town for a previous engagement) but the producers and some of the cast and crew were there.  Despite earnest questions from the audience to try and make sense of it, the folks on stage weren't able to help us.  Hell, they didn't even know and put their trust completely into the writer/director.  A few years ago he brought a short to Sundance of the same name and there was a lot of interest in seeing him turn it into a feature.  I'd like to see the short but I can't justify watching this again.  There are just too many movies out there to get to.

Sweetwater (2013)

Director: Logan Miller

Starring: Ed Harris, January Jones, Jason Isaacs, Eduardo Noriega, Jason Aldean, Stephen Root

More info: IMDb

Plot: Against the backdrop of the American Old West, newlyweds Miguel and Sarah struggle to make a living cultivating their small patch of land. Soon a much bigger struggle arises as powerful landowner and community preacher Prophet Josiah makes a play for their property. As he launches his diabolical plot to take their land, an eccentric big-city sheriff comes to town. Things soon go from bad to worse, culminating in a jaw-dropping, hell-hath-no-fury showdown.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes!

OK, I'm a sucker for a Western and this it the ONLY Western at Sundance this year.  A film in this genre doesn't have to be great for me to dig it.  Give me some gorgeous scenery and some gun play and I'm A-OK.  I haven't given it much thought but this might have been my most anticipated film of the festival because it's a Western and it's got a great cast.  I knew bupkiss about the story.  I don't need one.

SWEETWATER has got some great performances.  Ed Harris is having a ball and you will, too, when you see it.  This is definitely going to get picked up and make it's way to your town.  I sure as hell hope it makes it to mine.  Anyway, the cast is great and even though it hits on a few Western cliches, the film makers handle them differently.  The biggest issue I have is the lack of motivation for Prophet Joseph (Isaacs).  He's a very bad man and he mentions how God spoke to him or something but it felt like we needed someone to give us a little more exposition to fully understand his motives or at least how he got to the mental state he's in.  He's a mean sumbitch.

Other than that, I was liking the movie OK until the final act and then I went fucking apeshit insane for it.  Fuck me with a Commodore 64.  It's off the charts.  Bodies all over the place.  And the ending is splendid.  Man, that shit got crazy.  Oh, and I can't leave without saying what a wonderful job January Jones did.  It's such a treat to see a strong role for a woman in a Western and one that's not just a badass but one that is real and 3 dimensional.  I'm impressed.  I cannot wait to drag my friends to the theater when this one hits.  Can't wait.

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

Director: Randy Moore

Starring: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady, Alison Lees-Taylor

More info: IMDb

Plot: Jim White is an average American family man, mostly content to exist within his humdrum reality. At the tail end of a theme park vacation with his loving wife and two beautiful children, he is awakened by an unsettling phone call from his boss, who tells him that he has lost his job. Unwilling to disturb their sabbatical, Jim holds off on breaking the news to his family so they can enjoy their last day at the idyllic and beloved tourist destination. In desperate need of a distraction, he finds one amidst the long lines at the park—two attractive and fun-loving teenage girls. In his fractured state, Jim falls obsessively in love, making any excuse he can to follow them everywhere. Along the way, his paranoid psyche spirals even further downward, and the fine line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Oh, fuck me I hope so!

This could very well be my favorite film at Sundance.  Moore filmed this at Disneyworld and Disneyland without anyone at the parks knowing about it and without the prior consent of Disney.  This is a stunning and remarkable picture.  Filmed in black and white Moore has made a story filled with laughs, surrealism, fantasy, sci-fi and a heaping dash of creepy.  The ending is fantastic.  Abel Korzeniowski's score (specifically the orchestral, romantic main theme) moved me in a way I haven't felt by a score in a very long time.  This guy is at the top of my radar now and I'm going to watch for his films (same with director Moore). Due to the legal issue that's going to come up with Disney, I'm sure this will never see the light of day.  I'm sure there'll never be a DVD of this.  I sincerely hope that I am able to get a copy somehow so that I can show this to anyone that will give me 104 minutes.  I'm beside myself.  This is a remarkable film and one that refreshes my love for cinema.  And for what it's worth, the four people that I knew and saw it with LOATHED it and couldn't wait to scram.

Il Futuro (The Future) (2013)

Director: Alicia Scherson

Starring: Manuela Martelli, Rutger Hauer, Luigi Ciardo, Nicolas Vaporidis, Alessandro Giallocosta

More info: IMDb

Plot: When her parents die in a car accident, adolescent Bianca’s universe is upended. Staying alone in the family’s Rome apartment and entrusted with the care of her younger brother, Tomas, she struggles to hold things together as her place in her surreal new world becomes blurry. Life is further complicated when Tomas’s gym-rat friends invite themselves to stay indefinitely. Using Bianca as a lure for a heist they’ve concocted, they convince her to initiate a sexual relationship with enigmatic blind hermit Maciste, played by Rutger Hauer. But as the two spend time together, Bianca unexpectedly finds normalcy and acceptance in the aging B-movie star and former Mr. Universe’s rococo mansion.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I'm in love.  Manuela Martelli (as Bianca) is not only  very easy on the eyes but she's smart and a damn fine actress.  This is one of my favorite films at the Sundance Film Festival this year.  She's magnificent.  It doesn't hurt that one of my favorite actors, Rutger Hauer's in it, too.  This coming of age story is very unlike most.  There's no bullshit.  The characters feel genuine as do their actions and Bianca's arc is handled delicately well.  I LOVED the ending.  I was sad at first but as the hours waned after the screening I came to grips with it and accepted it.  I'd like to see more films like this.  And for those of you who are wondering about Martelli and that image above?  She's completely nude for 75% of her screen time in the scenes with Rutger Hauer.  Lucky bastard.  I highly recommend this one to anyone that might be even remotely interested in this picture.

Big Sur (2013)

Director: Michael Polish

Starring:  Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Bosworth, Josh Lucas, Radha Mitchell, Anthony Edwards, Henry Thomas

More info: IMDb

Plot: Big Sur focuses on a moment in Jack Kerouac’s life when, overwhelmed by the success of his opus On the Road and struggling with alcoholism, he retreats to his publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in the small, coastal California town of Big Sur, which eventually inspires his 1962 novel of the same name. Kerouac’s time begins with quiet moments of solitude and communing with nature. But, struck by loneliness, he hightails it to San Francisco, where he resumes drinking heavily and gets pushed into a relationship with his best friend Neal Cassady’s mistress, Billie.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Jean-Marc Barr puts in a great performance as Jack Kerouac and it's great seeing another BOARDWALK EMPIRE actor here at Sundance, Patrick Fischler (who played Arnold Rothstein on BE).  It's funny that the other film at the Sundance Film Festival with Kerouac in it, KILL YOUR DARLINGS, had another BE actor playing Kerouac. The music was great, the scenic CA coastline, the supporting cast and the script.  Barr's delivery of Kerouac's words is very musical.  The cadence of the lines is mesmerizing.  It's a leisurely paced movie that isn't pretty (as far as the story goes) but I was happy to take the 77 minute journey with him.

A.C.O.D. (2013)

Director: Stu Zicherman

Starring: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke

More info: IMDb

Plot: Carter has spent much of his life mediating fights between his acrimoniously divorced, ill-behaved mother and father and taking on the role of designated authority figure to his carefree younger brother, Trey. Inspired by Trey’s sudden engagement, Carter resolves to negotiate a truce between his parents, a process that nearly unhinges him. Adding insult to injury, a frantic sprint back to his childhood therapist, Dr. Judith, reveals he was a prime subject in her self-help book on the “least-parented, least-nurtured generation” ever. Dr. Judith may not be able to help him, but she’s delighted he’s come back and inspired a sequel.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Fun-ny! Adam Scott does a fine job in the lead role and he is surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, of them gets a lot of laughs.  It was wild seeing Amy Poehler (who needs to have my babies, btw) be a bitch.  Richard Jenkins is hilarious and the ending is delightfully ambiguous.  This one will likely get picked up and into a theaters.  Go see it.  I loved it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sundance Film Festival Day 9

Now I'm really getting bummed out.  It's winding down.  After a nice and relaxing morning, I hit the surreal and not-completely-sure-what-the-hell-I-watched, THE RAMBLER at 2:30 and at 7 it was the ONLY horror movie (there are only two playing out of 65 films) I will have seen here, IN FEAR, and it was pretty good.  I'm back at the house writing up some movies nursing two fingers of bourbon.

I did get to meet Sam Elliott slumming it as a Sundance volunteer.

Just kidding.

I'm also getting a little bummed about only having one more movie left.  At 9 AM it's IN A WORLD....  After that I'm going to zipline down the snow-covered mountain, finish up the reviews and get ready for the awards party at 9:30.  Then it's over.  All over.  I need a drink.

Interior. Leather Bar. (2012)

Directors: James Franco & Travis Matthews

Starring: Val Lauren, James Franco, Travis Mathews, Christian Patrick, Brenden Gregory

More info: IMDb

Plot: The 1980 film Cruising, starring Al Pacino as an undercover cop investigating a murder in the New York City gay, leather, bar scene, was plagued with controversy, and its director was forced by the Motion Picture Association of America to cut 40 minutes of sexually explicit material. Those 40 minutes have never been screened publicly. Filmmakers James Franco and Travis Mathews set out to reimagine what might have transpired in those lost scenes in this intriguing film about the making of a film.

The cameras roll as Franco assembles a mix of gay and straight men, including the likable Val Lauren in the lead role. What emerges is a portrait of the fascinating dynamics that drive the filmmakers’ need to challenge normalcy, the interplay of celebrity and experimentation, and the dilemma faced by actors struggling to reconcile who they are with the idea of performing in a sexually explicit, gay, S&M film. The result is a provocative exploration of the importance of the radical and transgressive in society and the value of engaging with things that scare us.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Well, this in an interesting piece of work.  If you come into this thinking you're going to see someone's interpretation of what that 40 minutes of excised footage is, you'll be disappointed.  There are only a few minutes of leather bar footage.  What it seemed to be is an experiment in either trying to see how far Franco could get straight actors to go into a gay sex bar (as a power trip, maybe?) or just to simply push people's buttons.

In the film he says how he hates that Hollywood censors sex (and by sex he means full on fellatio, penetration, etc.) yet allows extreme violence in its films.  In case you're wondering, Franco does not get naked or participate in the bar scenes.  He's only there as an observer and crutch for actor Val Lauren (and he's not much help to him at that).  There are a few guy on guy fellatio scenes - the real deal, too, not cleverly faked or with camera angles to hide it.  Dicks are clearly slapped against faces and sucked by guys.  And in case you might think that shocked or bothered me (hence only a 6 out of 10 score), it didn't affect me at all.

Val Lauren seemed genuine for the most part but I suspected he was given direction and bullet points to hit.  In the end (it's only 60 minutes long) I was left scratching my head wondering what the point was.  I had a few ideas but none of them felt like this film did enough to bring them home.

Lovelace (2013)

Directors: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, James Franco, Sharon Stone

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A marks the legend.

Plot: In 1972—long before the Internet porn explosion of today—Deep Throat became a cultural phenomenon. As the first pornographic feature film to be embraced by mainstream audiences, Deep Throat took a multitude of risks: it boasted a plot, humor, and an unknown and unlikely star named Linda Lovelace.

Lovelace tells the story behind the phenomenon. Fleeing her strict religious family, Linda Boreman falls for charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor, who launches her pornography career. Reborn as “Linda Lovelace,” the charming girl next door skyrockets to international sensation with her uncanny capacity for fellatio. Fully inhabiting this new identity, Linda becomes a spokesperson for sexual freedom and hedonism. But six years later, she reveals a far more sinister narrative—the dark secrets of her own life story.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah, I think once was fine.

Who knew porn could be such a downer?  I remember as a teen when Linda Lovelace released her book and she caused quite a stir.  I specifically remember her getting a lot of shit for it.  Now I know why.  This picture isn't pretty.  This is yet another world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.  It's got the occasional laugh but that changes once the film takes a tonal shift.  The film is split into four sections.  The first shows us the set up, how Linda met Chuck Traynor, the man who showed Linda the path to porn.  Part two has Linda getting involved and the immediate success and fame of DEEP THROAT (1972).  Part three is the real kick in the guts - we get to see most of parts one and two but from Linda's point of view.  This is what sets this film apart from most biographical pictures.  We get to see a different and much darker portrait of what happened as Linda tells it.  The fourth is the shortest segment that deals with Linda's post porn life.  Did you know that she only spent 17 days making X-rated films?  I didn't.

The performances are very good focusing mostly on Amanda Seyfried.  She's terrific.  There are some familiar faces, my favorite being Bobby Cannavale who recently made a huge splash playing Gyp Rosetti in BOARDWALK EMPIRE.  LOVELACE is pretty damn depressing but it is interesting to see her side and one that is considerably darker than what we're used to.  When I get home I'll have to do a double feature one night with DEEP THROAT and the documentary , INSIDE DEEP THROAT (2005) to educate myself fully.  Knowledge is king, isn't it?

Very Good Girls (2013)

Director: Naomi Foner

Starring:  Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Boyd Holbrook, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin

More info: IMDb

Plot: Best friends—introspective Lilly and free-spirited Gerry—spend their last summer at home in New York City before parting ways for college. The girls meet Brooklyn boy David, whom they both fall for, and Lilly soon begins a secret relationship with him. As Lilly’s home life falls apart after she discovers her father’s affair and Gerry becomes more obsessed with David, Lilly seeks solace in her first romance. However, a tragedy in Gerry’s family catapults Lilly back into reality, and she must face the consequences of her actions.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

This film was clearly not made for me.  Perhaps if I were a young woman between the age of 11 and 23, but not a forty-something guy.  Though Fanning did a good job, it was Olsen that I was digging.  After seeing her in KILL YOUR DARLINGS (2013) a few days ago, I'm beginning to like this broad.  The supporting cast was fun, especially Dreyfuss.  He was hilarious.  Holbrook's character was pretty bland but I kind of liked how he was underplayed and rather boring because the two girls (more so with Fanning) would still be attracted to him.  It's such a drag when you get the same male love interest that's all moody and complicated, the cookie cutter character that Hollywood puts in coming of age pictures like this.  I appreciated the change.


There was a scene with Fanning where she looks and strokes her tummy, some time after losing her virginity to Holbrook.  That encounter started with him on top of her, missionary style, hand outstretched with a condom.  He appears to start fucking her and the rubber falls out of his hand (or the hand drops to the floor, can't remember which).  I was under the impression that they didn't use the rubber so when the tummy stroke scene happens I thought that was a signal that she was pregnant.  She'd also been trying for days to get in touch with him to no avail.  She's distraught and the next thing she does is go to her horndog employer to seduce him (it didn't take much with this cat).  When they're about to do the deed he excuses himself to go get a rubber.  She suddenly changes her mind and leaves.  It seemed to me that since he was going to use a rubber, she couldn't blame the baby on him.  It all made sense to me.  It turns out that being preggers never played a part in the movie, much to my surprise, so I must have been completely wrong.  The funny thing is, I'm not the only one who thought that (it was another guy who mentioned it if that means anything).

The ending wraps up quickly and neatly and life is beautiful for everyone in the picture.  Sigh.

Sundance Funny

I've seen a lot of movies here at the Sundance Film Festival and, as independent films go, there are a few of them that have nudity.  One thing I noticed early on is whenever there is an actress that gets nude (and mostly a popular actress that hasn't done or rarely does a nude scene) there is inevitably some guy (I didn't pay attention enough to see if it's the same person or just a random dude) in the audience that asks (the actress) during the Q&A with the cast and crew, something along the lines of, "What was the hardest part of making the film?" or "What were the biggest challenges you had with this role?".  You and I know damn well what they're getting at.  The response these people (and, yeah, I'm going there with "these people") want to hear her say, "Taking my clothes off."

Am I missing something here?  I suppose there are people that get off on hearing that or maybe trying to get the actress to feel uncomfortable.  So after seeing this happen easily 3 or 4 times this week, I bring it up in conversation with people I'm in line with, sitting next to, friends, whomever.   Last night was the world premiere of SWEETWATER, a Western with January Jones, Ed Harris and Jason Isaacs.  I told that story to a couple of friends of mine before the movie to kill some time and to make small talk. The movie starts.  At some point January Jones had no clothes on.  I leaned over  to my friend and said "I bet you the fourth question's going to be about this scene."  Sure as shit, the fourth question was to Jones about what her toughest scene to shoot was.  Classic.  And just like the other actresses, she didn't mention the nude scene.  Classy.

Sundance Film Festival Day 8

Thursday, January 24.

Two friends of mine are going to see BREATHE IN tomorrow.  I'm so envious. They get to see it for the first time.  I'm in tears telling them about it without spoiling it. I want to share it so badly.  I can't wait to discuss it with them.

Today was a great day.  I watched IL FUTURO (THE FUTURE) with Rutger Hauer and Manuela Martelli.  Wow.  Amazing.  Then it was ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW that fucking  I wish you were all here to experience it with me.  After that screening, I got all fanboy over a film composer I had never heard of.  The score for that film was one of the finest I've heard in years.  His name is Abel Korzeniowski and I'm his new biggest fan.  I literally stood gushing in front of him, filling him full of praise. I cannot stress enough that I had never even heard of the guy.  All it took was one fucking amazing film with an even better score.  Of all the films I've seen here at Sundance, this one is most likely to never be seen in public again which makes me more desperate to own it.  Wait for my review and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  Then it was the big one (for me), SWEETWATER, a western with Ed Harris, Jason Isaacs and January Jones that has a conclusion that kicks all kinds of fucking Western ass.  What a great conclusion to a fantastic day of movie going.  I'm so glad this is happening late in the festival.

I'd like to take a moment and talk about how wonderful the more than 1,800 member volunteer staff is. I have never in my 44 years come across a more delightful and pleasant group of people.  Every single volunteer has far exceeded any expectation I could ever have for any event.  They have been nothing short of   kind, generous and helpful at every single step of the way.  I want to smother all of them in smooches.

For the last flick I had an extremely fun conversation about movies with Heather and David (they weren't together but knew each other) who were directly in front of me in line.  What an enlightening conversation we had for close to an hour and a half.  That's one of the things I dig most about this festival is the people you meet in line.  I fucking love Sundance.  I've been here for more than a week now and it has yet to get stale.  I really feel like I could do this for weeks on end. I'm in heaven, however you define it.  Tomorrow it's the penultimate day for me that starts with THE RAMBLER, IN FEAR (a nice horror flick from what I'm told) and a midnight showing of KINK.  I'm getting sad that this is almost over.  I've been riding on a cloud for more than a week and I don't want this to end.  I'm choking up now so I'll stop for the night.  I'm really going to miss this.  I can't believe I'm getting so emotional right now.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sundance Film Festival Shorts Program 3

More info: Sundance

I love to watch short films.  Why?  Because if they suck you don't have to wait long for the next one.  Seriously, though, having a program of short films gives you a variety of subjects, style and you don't have to wait long for the next film if the one you're watching bores the piss out of you.  Unfortunately, this was the only one of the 5 shorts programs this year I could make.  I love these things.  Only one of the shorts I saw are on the below video.

KARAOKE! - On a night out in New York City, a young man tries to avoid his problems.

6/10 - This one has a great looking opening sequence in a Chinatown alley.  I got what the film maker was saying, I just wasn't engaged.

THE DATE - Tino’s manhood is put to the test in front of two women when he has to host a date for Diablo, the family’s stud cat.

8.5/10 - Hilarious!  I loved the juxtaposition of the cats having sex with the courting of the two young people.

RECORD/PLAY - War, fate, and a broken Walkman transcend time and space in this sci-fi love story.

7/10 - Very well done and interesting sci-fi. There wasn't a dull moment.  The film makers announced afterward, during the Q&A that it's being developed into a feature.  I'm not sure how they can stretch it out to feature length but I'm keen to see it.

#POSTMODEM - A comedic, satirical, sci-fi pop musical based on the theories of Ray Kurzweil and other futurists, #PostModem is the story of two Miami girls and how they deal with technological singularity, as told through a series of cinematic tweets.

7/10 - The MegaMega Upload song is catchy as hell. This one is just a few expanded clips joined by the "Vortex" device but they're entertaining and co-writer/co-director Jillian Mayer looks fabulous naked and strapped into a hydro pack!

THE COMPANION - On the outskirts of Lima, a young prostitute tends to his father, a fallen-from-grace artisan. However, the young man feels that his efforts are never enough. He tries to break free, but his father’s dependence is stronger than his son’s will.

4/10 - Nicely shot but dull.  There was way too much wasted space.  I would have enjoyed it a lot more, I think, if it were a great deal shorter.

THE ROPER - A black man with hip-hop and zydeco roots hard-grafts through the local, all-white rodeo circuits in the Deep South as he dreams of competing in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

6.5/10 - An interesting documentary short.  I liked the topic and the subject.  I would have liked to have seen more.

MAGNESIUM - A talented gymnast makes a life-changing discovery as she prepares for an important tournament, which is her last chance to reach the top.

7/10 - I really liked the story and the young girl but the incessant close up camera work throughout the entire film annoyed me.  I wasn't given an opportunity for my eyes to breathe.  I totally get that the director made that choice to show how personal and intimate this was for the girl but it was simply too, too much for me.

Ass Backwards (2013)

Director: Chris Nelson

Starring: June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Alicia Silverstone, Jon Cryer, Brian Geraghty

More info: IMDb

Plot: Kate and Chloe have been best friends since childhood, when they both tied for dead last in their hometown beauty pageant. Now they are all grown up and living in New York City, where Chloe works as a “girl in a box” at a nightclub and Kate is a CEO…of her own one-woman egg-donor “corporation.” Their past humiliation remains long forgotten until they receive an invitation to the pageant’s milestone anniversary celebration. The unpleasant memories come flooding back, but Kate and Chloe decide to redeem themselves by winning the elusive crown.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

The opening punchline is a screamer.  There's a lot to like about this flick and most of it belongs to the two female leads, Wilson and Raphael (who also wrote the picture).  They're VERY funny and work beautifully together.  It's their picture all the way.  What got me was that it felt like a string of gags and situations that didn't fit as well as they should, like the bunny bit.  It seemed like a detour or tangent than anything that would move the story along.  But let's face it, this is a road picture and it doesn't have to follow a strict linear narrative; it can do whatever the hell it wants...but if it does, I want more laughs.  While I may not of laughed all the way through, when i did I guffawed.   I can't get over those two gals.  It's worth watching just for them and all of the short and extended cameos of some familiar faces.  I definitely want to seek out their other work.

The lovelies - Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael and director Chris Nelson

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013)

Director: Fredrik Bond

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Ward, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schwiger, Rupert Grint, James Buckley

More info: IMDb

Plot: Obeying the last wish of his deceased mother, young American Charlie travels to Eastern Europe with no plans. He lands in a truly unknown place—wilder, weirder, and more foreign than he could have ever imagined. Committed to spontaneous, explosive, and instinctive acts, Charlie now finds himself pursuing an equally lost soul named Gabi, a mysterious Romanian woman unable to shake her dark, violent past.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


What the hell did I just watch?  It started out OK with a nice John Hurt voice over.  Charlie’s mom dies and he has a vision in the hospital hallway and she tells him to go to Bucharest.  So he does.  OK, I can dig it.  On the flight over an older Romanian he befriends in the adjacent seat dies mid-flight.  Charlie gets another vision, this time from the old man, who tells him to deliver a silly gift he bought for his daughter.  So when he arrives (there’s trouble at the airport that delays him a bit) he delivers the souvenir hat but he falls in love.  He really has to work at it with this chick, too.  The shit hits the fan for this cat at every turn yet he keeps going.  Why?  I haven’t the foggiest unless it’s for love but even that doesn’t feel genuine.  See, she’s married to Mads Mikkelsen and he’s one scary dude.  He fucks Charlie’s shit up more than once and it ain’t pretty.  Why does Charlie persist with Gabi (Wood)?  Beat the shit out of me.  Again, he must be in love.  Now, at no point so far do we really know much about Charlie except he’s weak and avoids conflict.  So why does he continuously put himself in the middle of it?  You've got me.  There’s something about an incriminating video tape that we get to see but we never really find out why there is a seemingly larger gangster type that’s after Nigel (Mads).  There are some questions that I felt needed to be answered.

There is, however, a great foot chase sequence at the 2/3 mark that nicely utilizes a subway.  There’s lots of slow motion and loud techno-ish music that all work beautifully together and the part where Charlie takes a slow-mo bow to the thugs is hands down the best bit in the movie and a great ending to an adrenaline rush of a chase.  I’m going to cut to the ending because there’s not much else for me to say besides the beautiful location shooting.  Great cinematography.  Gabi shoots Charlie (just as we saw in the opening moments of the film) in the gut.  The fuzz show up and the thugs holding the rope that has Charlie hanging 50 feet above the water let it go.  Charlie, beat up and with a bullet in his gut, falls into the water.  John Hurt tells us a little more saying something like, “and then something magical happened. [bubbles from below push him to the surface] “Charlie may have given up on love but love…didn’t give up on Charlie.”  OMFG.  I did not just hear that.  Yes…I…did.  I’m beside myself.  Then we get the clips of Charlie and Gabi doing things together in the city.  Wow.  I just watched my first film at Sundance that I didn’t like.  I’m sad.  At the Q&A afterward someone directly behind me asked very sternly, “Why not let him die?” Bond’s reply was that it was a fairy tale.  Well, that’s a cheat.  Except for Charlie seeing dead people there’s nothing fairy tale about it except for the last couple of minutes.  I don’t want to come down on it all that hard because it’s got some nice things in it.   Before I go I have got to say how much fun it was watching Rupert Grint’s performance.  FUN-NY!

The Way, Way Back (2013)

Directors: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Starring:  Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Liam James

More info: IMDb

Plot: The Way, Way Back tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan’s awkward, funny, and sometimes painful summer vacation with his mother, Pam, her overbearing boyfriend, Trent, and his daughter, Steph. Although Duncan has a tough time fitting in and finding his place, he does find an unlikely ally and mentor in Owen, a carefree employee at the local waterpark where Duncan gets a job. Over the course of the summer, as his mother drifts further away, Duncan—with encouragement from Owen—begins to open up and come into his own.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Count on it.

There have been a few moments at the Sundance Film Festival where I’ve shed a tear or two during a flick.  BREATHE IN (2013) got the most out of me I think.  I had no idea I would be an emotional mess after watching the beautifully touching and wonderfully funny THE WAY, WAY BACK.  Steve Carell isn’t the one bringing the funny although there are a couple of laughs that came his way.  He’s playing it straight for a change and I really liked his dramatic turn.  Toni Collette as the girlfriend reminds me of Lorraine Gary (you know, the mom from the JAWS movies?) and was fun to watch.  Allison Janney as the alcoholic, no filter on her mouth neighbor was so friggin’ funny.  She’s like the Tasmanian devil of funny shit, whirring onto the frame at 27 laughs per minute and then whirring off.  She needs to stop what she's doing and have my babies.  Her son was just as funny.  Goddamn that kid was funny.  Then there’s Sam Rockwell who just continues to impress the hell out of me.  But most of all, the star of the show is Liam James as Duncan.

This kid was magnificent.  He nailed the role of a troubled and inward falling 14 year old.  I was so taken with his performance.  He’s the glue of the entire picture.  His character arc was so challenging and special that I was a fucking mess by the end of the movie.  This is a VERY funny film top to bottom and my face is wet from the bits of heart that are thrown into the mix.  I was so touched that had I watched this at home, I would have been bawling my eyes out.  That’s right, a middle aged man that watches the most gruesome and fucked up shit slapped on film that was cuttin’ loose with the saltwater gushing out of his face.  Remember the sweet relationship that Bill Murray had with the kid (Rudy) in MEATBALLS (1978)?  That’s exactly the vibe I was getting from Rockwell and James.    This is the best film I’ve seen yet at Sundance.  

Hell Baby (2013)

Directors: Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon

Starring: Leslie Bibb, Rob Corddry, Thomas Lennon, Riki Lindhome, Paul Scheer, Brittney Alger, Keegan Michael Key, Robert Ben Garant, Rob Huebel

More info: IMDb

Plot: Expectant couple Jack and Vanessa move into the most haunted fixer-upper in New Orleans—a house with a deadly demonic curse. When things soon spiral out of control, it’ll take the help of Vanessa’s Wiccan sister, a nosey “neighbor” who lives in their crawl space, two local detectives, and a pair of elite Vatican exorcists to save them—or is it already too late?

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? YES & YES!!!

This one takes the funny cake at Sundance so far.  The writer/director team, Garant & Lennon, introduced the film with a great deal of energy and laughs.  We were treated to a 5 minute film called THE CUB written and directed by Riley Stearns (who spoke for a couple of minutes before the show).  I was howling with laughter.   It was fucking hilarious and it’s the kind of funny that I’m going to make it my mission to show everyone who comes over to the house.  Somehow I’m going to get a copy of it.  Stearns said he was giving away copies after the movie but it was 2 AM and my movie mate and I were going to have to hustle our way outside if there was any chance of us catching a taxi to take us home.  We could have been stuck there for a couple of hours if we didn’t get there fast.  That sucked.  When I got home I checked out this guy online and it turns out that short was funded by Kickstarter.  Had I any idea I would have gladly ponied up a few hundred bucks to help this cat out.  I’m going to seriously pursue this guy before I leave here and make myself available for his next project.  It was THAT good.  I wish I could show you.  Goddamn it was funny.

OK, so then HELL BABY started and I barely stopped laughing for 98 minutes.  There’s a high percentage of gags that work.  The dialogue is fast and funny and the actors are so good and so hilarious.  Even the two directors steal every scene they’re in as priests sent from the Vatican to exorcise the demons out of the house.  Hell, it’s hardly fair to say they steal every scene since all of the actors are so on top of the material and bringing the funny that it would be tough for anyone to stand out.  Jesus this shit is hilarious.  There’s even  an extended (by a few minutes, mind you) nude scene.  Riki Lindhorne gives us full frontal and backal.  She’s throwing out funny left and right as is everyone else who enters the scene.  I love this movie.  I thought DON JON’S ADDICTION (2013) was going to be the one to take the Sundance funny prize but it’s been beat.  I’m going to try and see it one more time before the festival ends.  If I do it will be the only film I will have seen twice and that’s saying something.   I cannot wait to get the DVD on this one and show it to anyone who will watch.  I’ll be a local hero.

Sundance Film Festival Day 7

Wednesday, January 23

Man.  I've been here a week already and I've done so much and I've seen an awful lot of movies.  I've got three days left with seven movies to go.  I just know it'll all be over much too soon.

Today was OK.  We kicked it off at Noon with the James Franco flick, INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.  I still don't know what I saw.  The hardcore gay sex didn't bother me.  It's just that I'm still trying to figure out what the point was.  A.C.O.D. was friggin hilarious.  Great cast and lots of fun.  It was definitely the bright spot today.  Then came BIG SUR, the Jack Kerouac flick.  Great performances but slow.  Kerouac's words were great to hear.  Nice cadence.

Tomorrow I'm really excited.  There's the Rutger Hauer flick, THE FUTURE, a highly rated drama/fantasy, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW and a Western with Ed Harris called SWEETWATER.  That last one is my most anticipated flick at Sundance (because it's a Western).  After that there's only 4 more movies left.  Sigh.  I've got a big break tomorrow between the first two films so I should be able to get caught up on the film reviews.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stoker (2013)

Director: Chan-Wook Park

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Matthew Goode, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich

More info: IMDb

Plot: After India’s father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie, whom she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother, Evelyn. Soon after his arrival, India begins to suspect this mysterious, charming man has disturbing ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, the friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Mabye

This was one I had some anticipation for.  A new one by the director of OLDBOY (2003)?  I’m so on board for this one.  AND it’s the world premiere at Sundance?  Say no more. It’s being billed as a Hitchcockian thriller, an accurate description but then again you’re also making a comparison to the genius behind so many excellent thrillers.  Hell, he defined the genre with a boatload of classic films.  Anyway, STOKER looks fantastic.  Clint Mansell’s music works really well, and the Philip Glass piano duet (and sequence) is the best segment in the picture.  I like how Park takes his time in telling a story.  It’s allowed to breathe.  The film is very calming…and disturbing.   Nicole Kidman does a fine job but the real weight is carried and delivered by Mia Wasikowska.  Great performance.  Matthew Goode reminds me of how amazing a young Anthony Perkins would have been perfect for the role.  He brings a real creepiness to the film.  The ONLY thing I don’t like, and this could be my fault, is the ending.  What the hell happened?


Why did India kill the sheriff?  What was the deal with her ability to see/hear things us normal people couldn’t?  Did she have some supernatural ability?  Was it as simple as her coming into her own as a nutter on the loose with a gun?


Did I fall asleep, not realizing it, and miss an important piece of the puzzle?  I was a little confused.  And worst of all is I had no one to discuss it with that could offer any real help.  All of those I talked to either loved it or didn’t care.  So if there’s someone out that that can explain why India  does what she does at the end, please leave a comment.  I really want to know.  With a gazillion movies out there I haven’t seen yet I can’t see myself watching this one again to maybe pick up on something I missed the first go ‘round.

Here's the cast in the Q&A that followed the film.  
It's amazing how fuzzy celebrities are in real life.

The East (2013)

Director: Zal Batmanglij

Starring: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Particia Clarkson

More info: IMDb

Plot: Someone is attacking big corporate CEOs and forcing them to consume harmful products they manufacture. An elite private intelligence firm is called into action and contracts ex-FBI agent Sarah Moss to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective, The East, suspected to be responsible. Skilled, focused, and bent on success, Sarah goes undercover and dedicates herself to taking down the organization. She soon finds, however, that the closer she gets to the action, the more she sympathizes with the group’s charismatic leaders.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Having only very recently watched SOUND OF MY VOICE (2011), I was looking forward to seeing what else Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij had in store for this world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.  On the surface these two films share a common thread of someone going undercover into a secretive group (a religious cult and an eco-terrorist organization) and falling in love with their leaders (in SOUND it was a spiritual love vs. a physical love).  I thought THE EAST might disappoint if it follows the same themes too closely.  Fortunately it didn't although one might be able to make a reasonable case for it.

The performances were strong and the picture has some really nice moments (the spin the bottle sequences comes to mind).  Nice score by Halli Cauthery & Harry Gregson-Williams.  But I felt there was something missing from the final act as things came to a head.  I wish I could explain it but I'm not exactly sure what it is.  I'm sure a second watch is all it would take to figure it out but that's not likely to happen since I'm discovering a shit ton of new artists to follow including Marling's & Batmanglij's past (and future) films.

Here's the cast and crew in the Q&A that followed the presentation.

The Look of Love (2013)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Tamsin Egerton, Anna Friel, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Lead us into temptation

Plot: Welcome to the scandalous world of Paul Raymond, entrepreneur, impresario, and the “king of Soho.” Seeing mediocrity in the smutty sex parlors of London, Raymond unveils his first “gentlemen’s club” in 1958 and gradually builds an empire of clubs and erotic magazines that brings him vast wealth while affronting British sexual mores. It also brings a litany of obscenity charges, a failed marriage, troubled children, and personal tragedy.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've loved everything Steve Coogan's done for years now.  Apparently this is his first dramatic leading role.  He's good.  He's also Steve Coogan and he interjects Steve Coogan into the role by doing Sean Connery impressions and such.  I could have done without that but it didn't ruin the picture for me.

Surprisingly there's not much tension.  Paul Raymond (Coogan) had some turmoil with his personal relationships from his wife and mistress to his drug addict daughter but it never seemed dramatically devastating or anything.  While there is a story here, it's essentially Raymond looking back at key moments of his rise to fame & fortune and all the good and bad in between, so it's OK that it's a series of vignettes and not a traditional narrative.  I enjoyed it - quite a lot, actually.

One scene that stands out is when Paul meets with his barely adult son that he's never met but has been paying the mother weekly until his 18th birthday (at least he showed a little responsibility, right?).  It's a pleasant, albeit obligatory, meeting where all the son wants is to spend some quality time with the father he's never met and Paul just wants to politely get it over with.

The picture looks great and they nailed the look and feel of the 60s and 70s (not that I was there, mind you, but my sole experiences are from seeing films of that era).  Some shots looked like they were lifted from some 60s movies.  Early on I was getting some John Barry vibes from Antony Genn's & Mark Slattery's score. Nice.  I wasn't bored for a moment.  After the world premiere here at the Sundance Film Festival, the directed a few members of the cast came on stage for a Q&A.  The bad news is Coogan wasn't able to make it. The good news is it's because he was two days from principal photography on the Alan Partridge movie.  I'm oozing with excitement and anticipation.  I hope the DVD release of LOOK will be loaded with extras because I'd like to see more.  In the meantime I'm going to check out Winterbottom's catalog.