Thursday, when I'm actually writing this recap, is the official 7th day of the fest. That means it's been a full week since we started screening movies in Park City, Utah, and I'll admit - it's starting to blur together. At least, some of the bad movies are… With 24 movies already behind me in only 7 days time, things are starting to fade away in my memory. Most people don't even see 24 movies in a year, and I've seen that many in one week's time! But this is Sundance, that film festival that I love with all my heart. And when it ends in three more days, January will be over - imagine that, and entire month over before I even knew it began!
When it comes to movies about escaping from prison, Escape from Alcatraz from 1979 with Clint Eastwood takes the cake and nothing else comes close. That movie has been my absolute favorite prison escape flick for all my life, but the time has come for something else to take its place. The Escapist is what I would call a modernized, updated reinterpretation of Escape from Alcatraz with a much better soundtrack, more intense storyline, more vivid characters, and more stunning visuals - and it's set not even remotely close to Alcatraz. I was completely blown away by The Escapist, in all aspects, and I'm still recovering from how amazing it was.
One of the most buzzed about films that's being called the best of Sundance is Nanette Burstein's documentary American Teen. The film is a documentary that follows four high school seniors for a year, and I've overheard someone refer to it as somewhat similar to MTV's "The Hills". While I haven't seen it yet, I've heard nothing but great things. Peter from SlashFilm urges that "you must see this movie" and Neil from Film School Rejects calls it "one of the best films of the Sundance Film Festival, hands down". Good news - Paramount Vantage closed on a deal for the film for $1 million earlier today.
You'd never imagine that a guy with a bag on his head could be scary as hell, but I assure you, it is! Throw out all the typical movie conventions, Baghead is a refreshing new comedy thriller directed by up-and-coming indie filmmakers the Duplass Brothers. It's a documentary-like film that follows four quirky friends on an spur of the moment outing to a cabin. I hadn't heard of the Duplass Brothers beforehand, but now I'm hooked - these guys are the new generation of filmmakers and this is their must-see film.
If you loved Grindhouse, then you're in for a treat. Hell Ride is a biker flick produced by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Larry Bishop that pays homage to the old school biker movies of the 60s and 70s. It's one 83-minute non-stop biker party that exploits the three Bs: bikes, beer, and booty. If you've been anxious for another edge-of-your-seat grindhouse fix until Tarantino and Rodriguez team up again for the sequel (if it ever happens), then this is it! I'll say it plain and simple: Hell Ride was a fuckin' blast!
The latest Chuck Palahniuk novel to be adapted is Choke, a film about a sex-addicted colonial theme park employee who chokes himself at restaurants to gain the life-long friendship of random strangers. This is no Fight Club, but the subject matter is not even remotely the same to begin with. However, it is a great film in its own right that entertains and delivers punches non-stop thanks to insanely brilliant Sam Rockwell. While I won't call Choke the best film of Sundance, and it doesn't play without some theme and tone issue, it is one of the better films this year.
In what I may already called the best sale of Sundance 2008, Fox Searchlight has bought Clark Gregg's adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Choke for a reported $5 million! The deal closed at 5AM this morning after the world premiere of the film last night at 8:30PM at the Racquet Club Theatre. We've been following this film for quite a while and also happened to be at that very same world premiere last night, and I will confirm it was a great experience with plenty of post-movie positive buzz. Get ready to see Choke for yourselves sometime this year!
Look who we found at Sundance! In case you've been living under a frickin' rock, that's Rob from Cloverfield, aka Michael Stahl-David in real life. I'll get back to him in a moment. Of all the things that could happen at Sundance, getting a cold is probably the worst. All of that damn orange juice I downed before I left I guess didn't help, and now I've got a stuffy nose, headache, and watery eyes non-stop. I hate to complain and whine, but it really sucks being here like this. It's so much harder to get emotionally involved in movies now, but I still try, and today was an awesome day anyway! At least it ended with the badass flick Hell Ride!
Chronic Town is an interesting indie film about the isolated and crazed life of one individual in Alaska. I was honestly surprised by how great this was especially for first time director Tom Hines. Everything about Chronic Town is incredibly solid: the acting, the directing, the script and dialogue, the story, but if only Hines would have hired an actual cinematographer, it wouldn't have looked like a film made on my parent's video camera.
One of the few science fiction films playing at Sundance, Sleep Dealer is heavily inspired by The Matrix and Fritz Lang's Metropolis and is situated in Mexico. The film is basically a mash-up of all kinds of random visuals, from extensive CGI to lush colors and memory sequences, but doesn't ever set forth a real story. As much as I'm a huge science fiction, this didn't hit a note with me at all, and as brutal as it may be to say, I just can't stand films with utterly terrible production values.
Otto; or Up with Dead People is plain and simple a gay zombie porn movie. Maybe if you like gay zombies, maybe if you like zombie porn, maybe if you like gay porn, you could end up liking Otto, but that's it. I was not entertained, I was not intrigued, and not a single thing about this thing fascinated me. I think the biggest question on my mind was who in the hell would watch this crap? And that's when I realized - the director has a built-in cult following.
And they mean anything… Yes, I had a ticket to that Be Kind Rewind showing, but unfortunately I did not have an extra one - damn! Today has easily been one of the best days of the festival so far, all because I caught four films that were all pretty damn good. Now here's the oddest thing - out of some 12 movies that I've seen here so far, I think all of them have been comedic dramas. I haven't actually see a straight drama until Chronic Town tonight, but even that was somewhat comedic. I guess filmmakers are all about injecting some comedy into the world at the moment. And I'm wondering, is that the best stuff there is right now?
Yet another day has gone by here in Park City, and yet again it's been amazing. I kicked off the day with a morning screening of Blind Date, Stanley Tucci's remake of the Theo van Gogh film - what a disaster! Within 15 minutes, about 30 press had walked out. By 30 minutes, another quarter of the theater had left, too, including a certain friend of mine who runs another website that has a diagnol character in the name. Thankfully the day did improve over time, but all-in-all I didn't see much that really amazed me.
I might dare call The Great Buck Howard magical, but it wasn't anything even remotely similar to The Prestige or The Illusionist, two films about actual magicians. While the film is about a magician, or a mentalist, as Buck Howard prefers to be called, it is much more of a straight-up, well-made dramedy headlined by another amazing performance from John Malkovich. I have a certain soft spot for any movies that involve magicians, and The Great Buck Howard definitely took advantage that weakness.