Film writer Andy Spletzer reports from the Sundance Film Festival.
To start, some movies that I wanted to see but was unable to get into:
Fruitvale Touchy Feely cinematographer Ben Kasulke was talking this film up, but by the time the press screening was scheduled, the film had already sold to the Weinstein Company, and the screening filled up over an hour ahead of time. It's the true story of a 22-year-old who was killed by cops in 2008, and this follows him on his last day. It stars Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights).
Escape From Tomorrow A guerilla film shot in Disney World without permits or permission, there is no chance Disney lawyers will allow this to get a theatrical release. Festivals only. In it an unemployed father slowly loses his sanity at the theme park. Some people loved its surreal turns, while others thought it was an overlong short film. If I can get a screener and it's good, I'll try to bring it to SIFF.
Upstream Color The guy who made the low-budget time travel sci-fi Primer is back with another mindfuck of a movie. Early reports are awesome, but it was too popular and I couldn't score a ticket. The director is talking about some sort of self-distribution in April, so it should come sooner rather than later.
Okay, enough of the misses. Let's get into a few of the ones that I was able to hit...
The Look of Love Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) reteams with Steve Coogan for this true story portrait of Paul Raymond, who is essentially London's Hugh Hefner. Instead of starting with a magazine, he creates upscale "gentleman's club" revues chock full of T&A. Unfortunately, like those revues, the movie is shallow and full of T&A, with a script that comes nowhere close to capturing the man's life.
S-VHS The horror anthology VHS was a collection of "found footage" horror shorts, and this is the sequel. As a found-footage anthology, it highlights everything that's wrong with the genre. It raises important questions like, what the hell is good or interesting about this? The framing story is terrible, as is most of the writing. There are a couple of good jolts, but you get tired of the "helmet cam" trope by the end.
We Are What We Are This is the cannibal family movie, and it's good. Solid direction drives a story of family history and religious ritual. When the mom in the family unexpectedly dies, the 16-year-old daughter is left to perform the rituals for Lamb's Day. To give you a hint as to what that means, the film's producers hosted a chili party on Main Street. The movie gets to the point where it seems like it's going to wrap up too quickly, but then it takes a turn for the crazy that makes it all worthwhile. It's a remake of a Mexican horror film, and many have said that this version is better.
Stoker A surreal, Blue Velvet-styled sexual coming-of-age dream of a movie. Directed with panache by Chan-wook Park (Oldboy), Mia Wasikowska stars as a wealthy girl who turned 18 on the day her dad mysteriously died. Nicole Kidman plays her disinterested mother, and then all of a sudden the uncle she never knew about shows up. Her voiceover covers the opening of the film, which clues us in that we are seeing events from her perspective. It's fascinating.
Okay, gotta run. More soon!
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