ENJOY THE SHOW
One location. One actor. One phenomenal filmmaking achievement. Directed by Rodrigo Cortes, starring Ryan Reynolds, Buried is the story of Paul Conroy who, after his convoy is attacked in Iraq, is buried alive inside a coffin with only a lighter and a cell phone. That's it. For 94 minutes, we, the audience, are inside that coffin with Paul. As impossible as it might sound, it works. It's tense and horrifying. Claustrophobic, shocking, and awe-inspiring -- if not always because of the script, then because of the filmmaking. Buried's directing, cinematography, editing, and score all act in concert to form a remarkably singular vision.
Immediately after the end credits completed, I tweeted: "Catfish is mind-blowing. Seriously one of the most odd, funny, weird, terrifying, sad, unique films I've ever seen. Honestly speechless." I still kind of am. Good thing all of this is in writing. Catfish is a documentary from directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman about Ariel's brother, Nev, a New York-based photographer who becomes pen pals with an eight-year-old girl from Michigan who sends him paintings of his photos. It's a very contemporary feeling film as the filmmakers make copious use of Facebook, Google Earth, Gmail, Google Street View, and YouTube in their
Awkwardness makes me laugh. And if the awkwardness is so awkward that it kind of hurts, that it's shocking how awkward the situation has become, it makes me laugh even harder. Lovers of Hate, at times, is that awkward. And it's also hilarious. The film is, on the surface, about the rivalry between two brothers. Paul (Alex Karpovsky) is a successful young adult fantasy author and Rudy (Chris Doubek) is recently-homeless, having only just separated from his wife, Diane (Heather Kafka). When Paul sees his opportunity to seize Diane, Rudy must go to any length available to stop the germ of his brother's and ex-wife's relationship.
Howl was the opening night film at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Starring James Franco and Jon Hamm, written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the film centers on Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl, the obscenity trial levied against the book publisher who published it, and the analysis of the poem at large. The film is more experimental fare, mixing animation, black and white live action, color live action, and a faux-talking head interview with Allen Ginsberg played by Franco. Along with the interview, the other three sections are Ginsberg reading his poem aloud to a crowded bar, the obscenity trial, and a
Un Prophete (or A Prophet in English) is on another plane of existence. Director Jacques Audiard's latest film since 2005's The Beat That My Heart Skipped is, simply, a tour de force. From its performances, including first-time actor Tahar Rahim's brilliant portrayal of Malik El Djebena, to its direction, to its writing, the film is wholly unique. In short, Un Prophete is a prison drama centering around new-inmate Malik and his six-year incarceration. But really, it's so much more. The film unfolds like a novel, not bound by any structure beyond Malik's experiences. The film is at its most powerful after it's ended and you're able
Get Low, starring Robert Duvall as Felix Bush, Bill Murray as Frank Quinn, and Lucas Black as Buddy, is powerful cinema. The film is set in the 1930s in a rural, southern town where Felix Bush resides, though on its outskirts. He's a hermit, a recluse; to the rest of the town, though, he's a devil. Or at least something close. For forty years, Felix has kept himself secluded. But now, as he feels death approaching, he ventures out of his cabin. And he wants to attend his own funeral. Get Low is the story of this man's legend as much as it is about his life. It's this subtle weaving of the town's exterior perspective and his internal turmoil
If ever there was film that was a perfect fit for this year's Sundance, it's The Runaways. This fest is all about rebellion, and not many people embody rebellion more than Joan Jett and The Runaways. Focusing on Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, over-sexualized teenage girls living the wild, reckless lifestyle of rock 'n' roll super stars, the film chronicles the band's conception, its rise to stardom, and its fall. Under the abusive management of Kim Fowley (played by Michael Shannon), the girls struggle with their budding sexuality, drugs, and the pressures of being stars.
And we're back. It's time for part two of my documentary round-up (read part one here). When I attend a film fest, I often gravitate towards the documentaries being screened rather than narrative features. Of course, I see tons of narratives, but I do my best to keep a high ratio of docs on my schedule for the reason that I already see tons of narrative stories during the year anyway. It's very rare for any documentary to see a wide release. For some really spectacular docs, they never even get a limited release. At film festivals, though, there are always a good amount of docs to choose from. This is especially true for at Sundance.
I've been trying to start this review for three days. When I started the first time, I opened with how much I love this film, Blue Valentine (I do) and how much it made me feel and confront after seeing it (tons, on both charges). I've began by comparing the film to the lot of my relationships and how honest, real, and passionate a depiction of love the film is. (It's certainly that, too.) I even began a draft where I attempted to remove all of my connections and emotions. The next time, I wrote about the lush cinematography, brilliant performances, truthful writing, and sublime direction. While all of the previous is true, it was impossible to
Alan Tudyk was born to play a hillbilly. Well, no, not exactly. He was born to play Wash. But if he was reborn, it'd be to play a hillbilly. Tudyk, who plays Tucker, is one of a pair of hillbillies with hearts of gold who star in Eli Craig's feature writing and directorial debut Tucker & Dale vs Evil. The second half of this backwoods bromance is Dale, played by Tyler Labine, who commands the screen with his cuteness. Yeah, I said it. Labine and Tudyk are adorable together, displaying some of the best chemistry on screen since Rudd and Segel in I Love You Man. Not to mention that they're hilarious. Hell, the entire film is.
Previously, on Brandon's Sundance Experience, I had not yet seen a single film at the fest. Now I've seen 22. And over the course of six days, I've slept maybe ten hours. Here in Park City, you see, sleep is a mirage. A myth. The stuff of legend. At this very moment, I'm forgoing sleep in order to write this. So, if you happen to find me face-down in a grey slush puddle somewhere in Park City, please do not wake me. I need the rest.
So what have I learned thus far at Sundance? Planning is necessary, but only two days in advance. Flexibility and patience are prerequisites for attending the fest. The volunteers are incredibly helpful. And
In the same vein as thrillers like Open Water and another film here, Buried, Adam Green's Frozen is--for the most part--a one-location horror-thriller. Here's the jist: three annoying, unlikeable college kids (Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell) get trapped on a ski lift without the hope of rescue ’cause they were stupid enough to bribe their way onto the slopes after closing time on a Sunday when they know full well that the resort doesn't reopen until the following Friday. From there, shit happens. It usually involves the cold and its effects on unprotected skin. Sometimes it involves wolves. And one time it involves urine.
When I attend a film festival, I often gravitate towards the documentaries being screened rather than the narrative features. Of course, I see tons of narratives, but I do my best to keep a high ratio of docs on my schedule for the very reason that I already see tons of narrative stories during the year anyway. It's very rare for any documentary to see a wide release. There aren't a whole lot of Michael Moores or Al Gores out there. For some really spectacular docs, they never even get a limited release. At film festivals, though, there are always a good amount of docs to choose from. This is especially true for the Sundance Film Festival.
Television staple John Wells makes his feature writing and directorial debut with his timely, socially harrowing drama The Company Men. Starring Ben Affleck as Bobby Walker, Tommy Lee Jones as Gene McClary, and Chris Cooper as Phil Woodward, the film is centered around these three men as they attempt to survive after a devastating round of corporate downsizing. We see just how losing their jobs affects their families, their psyche, and the community at large. It's as terrifying a film as I've seen. Well's nearly pitch-perfect screenplay captures the utter bleakness of our current economic recession and how it's effecting the