Not everything is about falling in love, and being physical. Sometimes just spending time with someone can mean more than anything, and remind us we're not always alone. I adore Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra's films about the random connections that mean the most to us. His sweet, touching storytelling lets emotions build through the moments and interactions - not just dialogue or story beats. Photograph is Batra's latest film after making two English-language features (Our Souls at Night, The Sense of an Ending) which were his follow-up films to his breakout hit The Lunchbox (which I fell in love with at Telluride 2013). Batra goes back to his roots for this film, telling a story about a friendship between two quiet people in Mumbai, India.
There's nothing like a great film that challenges your own prejudices and feelings, in an engaging and mind-blowing way. Luce, the third feature directed by Julius Onah (after The Girl Is in Trouble and The Cloverfield Paradox), is hands down the most provocative film of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. It's an intelligent, clever, compelling drama that challenges us to rethink what we think we know - and does so with phenomenal performances and one hell of a smart script. The pitch for this film doesn't sound that enticing when you first hear it, but it's an experience that you won't soon forget, proving that cinema still has the ability to provoke and shake up even the most jaded viewers. One of the best films of the festival, a must see for anyone who appreciates challenging, bleeding-edge cinema. And a defining film for Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Sound the alarm! There's a new monster movie in town and it's awesome. Sweetheart is the latest feature made by filmmaker J.D. Dillard, who launched his career in 2016 with a film at Sundance titled Sleight - about young magician with some special powers. Sweetheart is an entirely different feature from Dillard, but just as impressive - perhaps even moreso considering how much he has achieved on such a small scale. This contained horror thriller starts with a woman washing up on shore on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. It's not the elements that will kill her, but something that comes out of the water at night that is much more dangerous. I loved this, it's one of the best new introductions to a cinema monster in a while.
"If you place an object in a museum does that make this object a piece of art?" After the first viewing of this film (on the big screen at the Sundance Film Festival world premiere), it's hard to make sense of it. That's not a criticism, just a statement. The first time watching a murder mystery that unfolds in front of you as you are watching is always an eye-opening, rivting experience. With this one, it's even more exhilarating because there's so much going on - bouncing back and forth between dark comedy, freaky horror, wacky art world satire, and just regular relationship drama. Dan Gilroy's latest feature, that he wrote and directed, is titled Velvet Buzzsaw and it's trippy and weird as fuck and totally hilarious and funky and engaging. Not everyone will agree (or like it), but I dug the hell out of this film, as massively weird & insanely wild as it is.
This might just be the feel-good film of the year. And it's definitely the best British indie musical since Sing Street. The latest film by Gurinder Chadha (of Bend It Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice, It's a Wonderful Afterlife, Viceroy's House), titled Blinded by the Light, just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a well-earned standing ovation and plenty of cheers. This 1980s rock musical inspired by and integrating the music of Bruce Springsteen, will leave you with that euphoric feeling of wonder and happiness. At least that's how I felt as soon as it ended. This joyful, upbeat, optimistic film is about a Pakistani teen living in a small town in Britain in the 80s who instantly falls in love with Springsteen the moment a friend introduces him to his music. As he struggles with family and racism, he lets the music guide him through adolescence.
It's time to meet your new Mother. There's a surprise, original sci-fi film premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year titled I Am Mother, an impressive creation that is worth your time if you're a sci-fi geek like me. I really love that there's original, epic sci-fi projects like this being made out there without us even knowing, getting funded somehow, with the ability to go all-out with crazy ideas and make something new and unique. Then the film shows up at Sundance and while it's an odd fit for the festival, I'm still all for it, bring on the sci-fi goodness, please. It's best to see this film knowing as little as possible, so I won't reveal anything major and only give a fairly vague description. All you really need to know is this sci-fi film packs a punch, plays around with some big ideas, and features a crazy cool practical robot built by Weta Workshop.
Great comedy requires great writing. And great writing comes from honest, intelligent people, who take all they've experienced in life, and figure out how to make us laugh. Late Night is a new comedy premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, directed by Nisha Ganatra (Chutney Popcorn, Fast Food High, Cake), from a screenplay written by the talented comedian / actress / writer Mindy Kaling. Kaling borrows from her own real life experiences working as a writer for television, and gives us a story about a sodden, compassionless, aging, bitchy late night talk show host named Katherine Newbury - played perfectly by the always-incredible Emma Thompson. She's the only female late night host in town, something she is very proud of, but her ratings have going down. And she's nearing the end unless hiring a female writer might make a difference.
Later this year, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and Moon landing. Back in July of 1969, NASA successfully sent a team of three astronauts safely to the Moon (238,900 miles away) and back, a monumental achievement in human history that is still just as mind-blowing today as it was 50 years ago. Apollo 11 is a brand new documentary directed by filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller, and it is truly spectacular a cinematic event. One of the films this year you absolutely must see on the big screen this year, as the footage and technical aspects of this film are extraordinary. Miller and his filmmaking crew, along with archivists and others, helped restore and re-scan tons of footage from NASA to put this together.
Indian-American filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan first gained major acclaimed for his 1999 supernatural horror drama The Sixth Sense. That film was a commercial and critical success and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. His next big feature released in 2000, the ambitious Unbreakable, kickstarted the modern comic book movie boom alongside Bryan Singer's X-Men, also released the same year. Shyamalan's Unbreakable, which co-stars Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, is a serious-minded deconstruction of the superhero subgenre before movies like Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, Jon Favreau's Iron Man, and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy made it the industry mainstay it is today. He finally follows up this with Glass, continuing the story 19 years later.
Created by Paul Norris & Mort Weisinger, Aquaman debuted in 1941's More Fun Comics #73. In his Golden Age appearances, Aquaman is described as a human being who lives and thrives under the water and can speak with sea creatures "in their own language." During the late '50s and 60s, Aquaman was established as a founding member of the Justice League and was a mainstay on Hanna Barbera’s Super Friends, which ran from 1973 to 1986. In the '90s, the wholesome seahorse-riding superhero was re-imagined as the brooding King of Atlantis. Fast-forward to 2011 and The New 52, DC's relaunch of their entire superhero line, and Geoff Johns' cutting-edge revival of the character, which serves as the basis for Aquaman, the third live-action movie featuring the character, following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
Based on characters created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, the new Sony Pictures Animation movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, offers an entirely different take on Marvel's beloved web-slinging superhero, which was first introduced by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962. Produced by the filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of 21/22 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie series), the story centers on African-American/Puerto Rican teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore of Dope and Netflix's "The Get Down") as he tries to fit in at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Miles' father, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry of Widows and If Beale Street Could Talk), is a straight-laced police officer and his mother (Luna Lauren Velez) is a hard-working nurse — both loving parents who are proud of their son's achievements, and really want to see him succeed studying at the school for gifted students.
As a life-long dog lover, I am always on the lookout for any new films about dogs. Los Reyes is one of the best dog films I've ever seen, and that's not even hyperbole. This magnificent documentary is about a skate park in the capital city of Santiago, Chile where two dogs reign as kings (hence the title Los Reyes, or The Kings in Spanish). Their names are Chola and Fútbol (or Football), and they've been living there since, well, forever. The film focuses entirely on these two dogs, and it's amazing. It's pretty much perfect (save for one or two shots). These dogs are the coolest, and this is one of the most vividly alive & extraordinarily engaging proofs that dogs do have personalities, friendships, things they love to do, and big thoughts in their minds.