Pretty much every year now there seems to be some kind of new take on the zombie subgenre. Last year it was Warm Bodies, and this year, director Jeff Baena tries to reverse that story with the comedy Life After Beth. The film follows Dane DeHaan as Zach, a teen positively devastated after his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) dies after being bitten by a snake while hiking alone. So when DeHaan discovers that Beth is alive again and being hidden by her parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), he's enraged, confused, and then enamored with a second chance at love; that is until she shows uncharacteristically powerful strength, her flesh starts deteriorating, she can't focus, and her moods swing violently. Read on!
In the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival is where lots of horror fun happens. One such film comes from Australia in the form of The Babadook. The film follows a single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, as she deals with the suddenly violent and adverse behavior of her son Samuel. The film is said to have flares of Rosemary's Baby, and we can see that in the first trailer below. IndieWire says the film "manages to incorporate so many of these ingredients from lesser films to create something that's compelling even when it's not disturbing on a primordial level." Sounds pretty damn good.
In this vibrant and ever-expanding world of cinema, it's rare that we ever get to experience something truly incredible in its concept and execution, something so amazing that it pushes an entire genre to new heights. That happened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday night, as Gareth Evans' premiered his 2-1/2 hour sequel The Raid 2, and I believe he's pulled off something akin to The Dark Knight of action movies. It is a sequel that is much bigger, more ambitious, and considerably more epic in scope than the first, yet exceeds all expectations and achieves levels of legend in terms of martial arts action intertwined with story.
Throughout the many years of the Sundance Film Festival, a handful of outstanding, original, indie science fiction films have premiered here - Cube, Primer, Donnie Darko and Sound of My Voice to name a few. One of the next new awesome sci-fi creations to make its mark at Sundance is called The Signal, not related to the anthology horror film of the same name which also played at this festival a few years ago. Directed by up-and-comer William Eubank (follow him @superswift), The Signal is a thrilling, keep-you-guessing sci-fi action thriller that is more more gripping and entertaining that I could have ever imagined.
We're still going strong here at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival (check out all of our coverage here), and while you'll have to wait awhile to see many of the films we're checking out in Park City, Utah, there's still a little part of the festival you can experience for yourself. Before every single film we see here at the festival, it's a custom that there's some sort of bumper that Sundance produces to play before the films. It's usually some sort of cool tribute to independent film with a special focus on the films discovered at the fest. This new one uses the festival's most recognizable theater, The Egyptian, in a really cool way. Watch it!
Late on Friday night, I walked into the Eccles Theater at the Sundance Film Festival to see a film called Frank. I knew nothing about it. All I had seen beforehand was the photo in the Sundance guide (seen here) - three people standing next to each other, one of them wearing a giant head mask. That was enough to sell me. I didn't know who the director was, I didn't even read the synopsis, I didn't know anything about it at all before. I walked out a few hours later in love with one of the most original, most entertaining films I've encountered at this festival. This is the greatest way to experience movies - without know anything going in.
Last spring, the cinephile community and film industry lost the legendary film critic Roger Ebert. But thankfully, he leaves behind a legacy of profound film criticism and inspiration for generations of aspiring filmmakers, writers and more. While a film called Russ & Roger Go Beyond will follow the friendship between filmmaker Russ Meyer and Ebert while working on the film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for Fox in the late 1960s, the newly premiered documentary Life Itself talks about that time in Ebert's career, but more importantly, focuses on the man himself, his passion for film, and love of life and those closest to him.
After faltering with Green Lantern and R.I.P.D. recently, Ryan Reynolds has returned to the world of independent film this year with The Voices. Previous efforts include Buried and The Paper Man, and this time Reynolds teams with Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi for an odd, dark comedy. The plot follows Reynolds as a man named Jerry who gets caught up in a murder, and ends up finding surprising advice from his dog, Bosco, and his cat, Mr. Whiskers. Now a teaser poster from the premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival (we hope to have a review later this week) as arrived, showing this isn't Dr. Dolittle at all. Look!
Back at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, "Scrubs" star Zach Braff got behind the camera for his directorial debut with an indie called Garden State. In the years since, some claim that the film hasn't aged well, and has lost its flare that won over many audiences 10 years ago. Well, Braff is back behind the camera, and as someone who still enjoys his debut indie, his sophomore effort Wish I Was Here just doesn't measure up. The film stumbles in spite of Braff's charm and comedy amidst a story of self-discovery, love and family. What's truly disappointing is that the film works for awhile and then it comes tumbling down.
Richard Linklater's time capsule has been opened. For the last 12 years, director Richard Linklater (who brought Before Midnight to Sundance last year) has been quietly filming an ambitious project chronicling the life of a young boy growing up in Texas. The project, now complete after 12 years, is titled Boyhood and follows Ellar Coltrane as Mason, from age 6 to age 18, most of his youth, up until graduation and his departure to college. It's a grand, beautiful, intimate essay on growing up, without spending too much time on the big milestones, and instead focusing on one of the most important values of life: seize the moment.
As many of you probably have noticed by now, we're back in Park City, Utah for the annual Sundance Film Festival (follow coverage right here). And while I'm enjoying some great films like A Most Wanted Man and Ivory Tower (Alex Billington has enjoyed Whiplash and I Origins), there's still some films here that aren't up to snuff. And along with some of those poorer films come the cliches of Sundance films, and tropes that we've gotten used to seeing. While a film like The Skeleton Twins (which I loved) has these familiar elements, it's still a fantastic flick. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of overdone themes and elements of films at the indie festival, and someone has made a parody trailer to point them out. Watch it!
Last year, student debt in the United States hit a milestone $1 trillion, with no signs of slowing down as admission and tuition are steadily increasing and have been for decades. Enter director Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times) and his documentary Ivory Tower, which looks at the inefficiency and shortcomings in university education, more specifically, the lack of government funding causing a rise in tuittion, but also the unwise spending on amenities that seem to hinder, more than bolster, their students' education, and the quality of it too. While the documentary seems one-sided to the point of beating a dead horse for the first half, it does move into more neutral and analytical territory. More below!
Do you believe in science? Or do you believe in God? In today's age of technology, how does one convince the other? These are the questions that I Origins, the second sci-fi film from Mike Cahill (at Sundance 2011 with Another Earth), attempts to address in delicate ways. It's a breathtaking, chilling, beautiful film that wraps a love story around a scientific attempt to disprove the existence of God, but where does it lead? Does it answer questions? That's not the point. It's a film that makes you think, makes you consider your own beliefs, even if just for a second. Because when that moment comes, if you feel chills, it has done its job.
There are plenty of tropes in independent cinema that can make any film festival a trying experience from time to time. Broken and estranged families, suicide, coming-of-age, these are all familiar themes in films we've seen at the Sundance Film Festival time and time again. But sometimes the right assembly of talent and a great script can make these elements feel fresh again. The Skeleton Twins is one of those films with a superb blend of laugh out loud comedy, and heartbreaking drama. "Saturday Night Live" veterans Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader lead the film, and this is truly a revelation in each of their careers. Read on!