REVIEWS

Sundance 2018: Mr. Rogers Documentary 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?'

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

"Let's make goodness attractive." We all know his name, we all know his show, but now we get to discover the complete story behind who this wonderful man really was. The iconic, irreplaceable Fred Rogers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the man who created and starred on the beloved television show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood", which ran from 1968 to 2001. This new documentary film, Won't You Be My Neighbor? made by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville (of The Cool School, Troubadours, 20 Feet from Stardom, Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal), provides an uplifting, humble look at Fred Rogers, as well as a definitive look at the show he created and its impact on the youth of America. It's so wonderful. I love watching documentaries like this that are moving and impassioned, built around the good found in us.

Sundance 2018: Nothing Happens in Sebastián Silva's Party Film 'Tyrel'

Tyrel Review

There's a time and place for films where nothing really happens, but this is not one of those times. Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Silva is a regular at Sundance, having brought his films Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and Magic Magic in years past. He's back again to premiere his latest film, Tyrel, and unfortunately this film is a huge let down. I'm just going to state it right up front: nothing happens in this film. It has all this underlying tension, but none of it leads to anywhere, and none of it means anything. I'm starting to think I just do not like the films Silva makes, mostly because nothing happens. They're boring exercises in telling dull, dry stories that play well at festivals, but have no place in the bigger cinematic universe. Which is unfortunate, because I was really hoping his film Tyrel might have something to say, but alas it does not.

Sundance 2018: Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody's 'Tully' is Wonderful

Tully Review

It's such a good feeling to walk in and see a film and discover something so wonderful and heartwarming and original. And I'm so happy that filmmaker Jason Reitman is back at his best again. Tully is director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody's latest collaboration (following Juno and Young Adult). It just premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as a last-minute addition to the festival, and I loved it. This is Cody's best screenplay since Juno, hands down. It has such a lovely mix of genuine sweetness and good-hearted humor, balanced in equal measure and brought to life with a light touch by Reitman and his crew. It's a film about how sometimes you can't always take on everything in life by yourself, but there is more hidden within it that you have to see to discover yourself. Great films require this personal experience.

Sundance 2018: Möller's 'The Guilty' is a Gripping, Contained Thriller

The Guilty Review

What a film. There are always new films made every year set in one place, as the contained thriller concept is always appealing and offers a certain amount of storytelling possibility and creativity. The Guilty, a film from Denmark, made by director Gustav Möller, is the latest contained thriller offering playing at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and it's incredible. Set entirely inside of an emergency phone line call center, the film is about a police officer assigned to the phones one night, and one of the incidents he responds to when a frightened woman calls in. The lead performance by Jakob Cedergren is phenomenal, worthy of awards recognition, since it carries the entire film and is the only real acting (aside from the voices on the phone) that provides audiences the ability to feel the emotions and concerns and worries of this pained man.

Sundance 2018: Kelly Macdonald is Delightful in Turtletaub's 'Puzzle'

Puzzle Review

Who knew a film about putting together puzzles would be this adorable? Puzzle is the second feature film from veteran producer-turned-filmmaker Marc Turtletaub (Gods Behaving Badly), and it's just perfect. Going in to see this at the Sundance Film Festival, I was curious to find out what a film about a woman who discovers she's good at putting together puzzles would be about. I'm happy to report that it's an absolute delight. Puzzle is a charming, understated, quiet little film that will melt your heart, and make you laugh, and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. The whole time I was watching this film, I had that warm, gushy feeling inside my chest, like you're falling in love with someone. It's thanks to the wonderful lead performance by Kelly Macdonald and the story, which is about a woman learning to be herself and do whatever she wants.

Sundance 2018: Aneesh Chaganty's 'Search' is Incredible Storytelling

Search Review

This isn't a new concept, but this is the film that is going to change everything. Search is a new film playing at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival that's told entirely through/with computer screens. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who also worked at the Google Creative Lab before making this film, sets a new precedent with Search and has made a groundbreaking, thrilling, incredible feature that will hopefully appeal to audiences of all kinds (not just computer geeks or horror fans or curious cinephiles). I know I can say for sure that I loved this film, everything about it impressed me, and it got to me emotionally as well. It's a reinvention of modern filmmaking and storytelling by using technology accurately and showing us just how much of our lives are on computers (and how some of our lives are still not digital, which makes for an intriguing twist).

Sundance 2018: Sam Levinson's 'Assassination Nation' is Awesome

Assassination Nation

This. Film. Rules. Every so often, Sundance will be lucky enough to premiere a film in the Midnight category that instantly cements itself as a guaranteed hit and genre-busting work of cinematic art. Assassination Nation is one of the best Sundance Midnight films I have ever seen here, hands down. It's a loud, energetic, socially-conscious, refreshing, awesomely entertaining, totally wild & crazy, seriously impressive, original creation from the mind of filmmaker Sam Levinson. It's amazing. I loved every second of it. The midnight crowd at the Sundance world premiere ate it up, and I am glad I was there to experience this moment. This film is a smashing massive success, and it's going to blow everyone away once it hits theaters everywhere.

Sundance 2018: Reed Morano's Subtle Sci-Fi 'I Think We're Alone Now'

I Think We're Alone Now

There's always room for more light sci-fi, especially when it's something as beautifully crafted as this. I'm a sucker for sci-fi, and this played right to me. Cinematographer turned filmmaker Reed Morano has been on the rise recently, and she has unveiled her second feature film to the world at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Titled I Think We're Alone Now (yes, just like that song, even though she doesn't use it in the film) it's a post-apocalyptic story about a man whose quiet, simple life alone in a small town is interrupted by the arrival of another survivor, a teenage girl. This actually turns out to be almost a "Black Mirror"-esque, almost "Twilight Zone" story that takes a big turn in the middle, and then becomes even more captivating.

Sundance 2018: 'Sorry to Bother You' is Bat-Shit Insane, But SO Good

Sorry to Bother You Review

I don't know about everyone else, but I come to Sundance to discover films that we've never seen before - crazy original, fresh, never-before-seen concepts that make my jaw drop. Sorry to Bother You is one of Sundance 2018's most original, most WTF, most entertaining discoveries yet. Made by talented musician-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, this anti-capitalist social commentary comedy film has creative oozing out of every orifice. It's balls-to-the-walls nuts, in a good way. And despite being a bit sloppy with some weird filmmaking choices, I still love it and don't mind how sloppy it might be at times, because it is so totally bat-shit insane and original and enjoyable and brutally accurate about how terrible our society has become with corporate jobs. It's the epitome of a "one-of-a-kind film" and everyone needs to try a slice of this craziness.

Sundance 2018: 'American Animals' is a Fun, Unbelievable True Story

American Animals

What happens when a bunch of bored young American teens try to pull off an art heist? That's the premise behind this new film from director Bart Layton, titled American Animals, which just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Back in 2012, Bart Layton brought his documentary The Imposter to Sundance, and I wrote in my review that it's "one of those unbelievable true stories you just must see to believe." American Animals is very similar, thematically, to that film in the way that it's another almost-unbelievable, can't-believe-it's-a-true-story story. But this is about of a group of wacky, free-spirited kids who failed miserably trying to pull off an art heist at a local university in Kentucky. It's creative and fun, but not that memorable.

Sundance 2018: 'Blindspotting' is a Very Fresh, Bold, Modern Comedy

Blindspotting Review

We're living in a time where art, including cinema, must speak loudly about today's times, today's society and what's happening all around us. It's not just important social commentary, but a chance to really make us think and ask questions and hold a mirror up to ourselves. One of the best films from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to do exactly that is a called Blindspotting, from filmmaker Carlos López Estrada making his feature directorial debut. This film is kind of a buddy comedy, about two friends from Oakland, California dealing with the craziness of contemporary times. Half of the film is a hilarious smackdown of hipsters and gentrification, but the other half is a very fresh, bold, in-your-face commentary on society, racism, and the inherent biases that are eroding society these days. I really loved this film, it's ambitious yet still enjoyable.

Review: Liam Neeson Reaffirms His Action-Star Prowess with 'The Commuter'

The Commuter Review

The Taken series of movies allowed for Liam Neeson's transition into an action star, an idea that has only been solidified by the once-dramatic actor's collaborations with director Jaume Collet-Serra. Films like Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night have not only entertained action-craving audiences with high-octane thrills, they've established Neeson's place as one of the go-to action stars of the modern era. The latest movie to come from this filmmaker-actor collaboration, The Commuter, is an action-thriller loaded with that particular brand of Neeson badassery. Despite a clichéd and overexposed narrative that weighs it down, the film delivers precisely what fans of the newfangled, action star expect and ends up being a fun time at the movies. Yes, you will see Liam Neeson punching more than a few unfortunate souls in the face.

 Posted January 12 in Review | Comments

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