It has been a fairly slow start for Sundance deals this year, but today is when everything began to hit. Not only was it confirmed, only a few hours after it premiered to a standing ovation, that Fox Searchlight was buying The Surrogate for $6 million, but a number of other deals have come through today. Searchlight is also on the prowl buying another one of the most highly-buzzed about films, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Sony Pictures Classics just nabbed the comedy Celeste & Jesse Forever. A few other sales hit over the weekend for a few other films, but many of my favorite films haven't been picked up by anyone yet.
"WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This not a joke. Must bring your own weapons." It all began with a classified ad, one actually placed in real life years ago, now it's a movie. Not just any movie, but a low budget indie that premiered at Sundance. It's called Safety Not Guaranteed (which is also the last line in the ad). But is there any actual time travel? Is it all just a hoax? Three magazine writers go to find out the truth and that's where things get really crazy. This wacky, fun, indie comedy starring talented actors Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Mark Duplass, while a bit slow moving, is amusing and awesome.
When it comes to thrillers involving Wall Street billionaires, they've got to have a unique edge, something deep with the main character, to prevent them from following into the "First World Problems" (and "Rich People Problems") trap. Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage deals with one of those billionaires, a Wall Street hedge fund investor and business owner, who ends up in somewhat of a downward spiral after one crazy incident, and it's the people around him, those he involves and doesn't involve, that are affected. It's a taut, riveting dramatic thriller that had me nervously on the edge of my seat up until the very end. A great film.
Following the premiere of Red Hook Summer, director Spike Lee quite adamantly proclaimed that his first Sundance film is "not a motherf**kin' sequel to Do the Right Thing." Yes, the filmmaker intermittently reprises his role as Mookie, the character from the aforementioned 1989 film. Yes, it has the same colorful palette and visual style in hot Brooklyn. Yes, the story structure is eerily similar and culminates in surprising third act chaos driven this time by religious controversy and wrongs as opposed to racial tension. But despite all those things, Red Hook Summer is somehow not a sequel to Do the Right Thing? No way.
In the long line of romance on the big screen, films usually tend to veer in one of two directions: straight-up romantic comedies, or dramatic, sometimes tragic, love stories. But every now and then a film comes along that takes the best of both worlds and delivers a story that brings tears to your eyes both in laughter and in heart-wrenching pain. Celeste and Jesse Forever is one of those films, essentially a mix of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Blue Valentine, which features two somewhat unlikely romantic leads in the form of Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones (who also co-wrote the film) each shine in their own way. Read on!
I'm a big sucker for anything science fiction, especially when it's very well-done indie sci-fi, and Sundance usually only programs a few of these kind of films every year. The one this year, that deserves a very worthy comparison to Duncan Jones' Moon (Sundance '09), is Jake Schreier's Robot & Frank, set in the "near future" about an aging thief played by Frank Langella who is given a humanoid helper robot. A completely original and unlike-anything-you've-seen before film, Robot & Frank is not only brilliant in its story and concept, but heartwarming and often times charming, while also occasionally thrilling and entertaining.
"My Dad told me this was the coolest mall ever. You think you know more than my Dad? Don't f**kin' come then!" For the first Midnight at Park City screening here at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Adult Swim stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim returned to the festival (after debuting their strange short The Terrys last year) with Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie. Our titular characters try to earn a billion dollars to pay back the money they wasted on a big movie, and myself and Germain Lussier from SlashFilm recorded a video blog reviewing the film and letting people know whether it's just for the fans.
When it comes to a film titled I Am Not a Hipster, it's hard to know what to expect. Is it about hipsters or not? Will it even be any good? In fact, it's about an incredible indie musician from San Diego named Brook and his family, and it's fantastic. While comparisons to former Sundance delight Once can certainly be made, this film is a unique, sometimes even quirky, low-budget indie made by director Destin Cretton's real friends and family (his sister was the costume designer). Not only was the music performed excellent, but it's actually beautiful story about a struggling family, filled with fascinating and often amusing characters.
Just last week we highlighted the trailer for a documentary short that would normally stay off our radar at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival as our focus lies solely on feature length films. However, when a sneak peek at Meaning of Robots fell into my lap, I fully intended to go out of my way to check out this short. Thankfully, I didn't have to as a press release was sent my way complete with the entire four-minute film focusing on 65-year old Mike Sullivan, a man who has an extensive collection of sexually enhanced robots that he's acquired in order to make some kind of stop-motion animated robot sex film. It's serious business.
The first press screening for the Peter Jackson produced documentary West of Memphis hit Sundance this morning (we haven't seen it yet, but will before the festival is through), and along with the first screening comes some news for the real world as well as the film industry. While those who have been keeping up with the HBO documentary series Paradise Lost think this new documentary has nothing else to offer, a press release (via Deadline) was just unveiled which announces three new key witnesses in the investigation of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley along with the name of the real killer.
We're back in (soon-to-be snowy) Park City, Utah, bundled in layers of clothing, ready to kick off another Sundance Film Festival. This will be my sixth year in a row I've been attending this fest (I started going in 2007) and I'm always incredibly excited to be back. There's something in the air this time, I don't know if it's just me or if it's reading through the film selection on paper or what, but I have a feeling we might fall in love with some wonderful films at Sundance 2012. Or so that is my hope. I always come to every Sundance hoping to fall in love with a few films, to find "the Donnie Darko" or "the 500 Days of Summer" of this year.
"We are, and always have been, a festival about the filmmakers." Kicking off this week in soon-to-be-snowy Park City, UT is the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where both Ethan and I are headed for 10 days to see films non-stop. To clue everyone in on some of the movies we've taken an interest in, here's our pick of the Top 10 films we're excited for, ones we're keeping an eye on and will be seeing at the earliest opportunity. Alex has chosen five he's interested in, and Ethan has also chosen another five he's excited to see. You never know how any of these will turn out, but I'm hoping some of them are truly as great as they sound on paper.