First of all, let's be clear that I hate the term "rom-com" because it's such a silly industry abbreviation, as if no one in Hollywood has time for words (though that's evident by the quality of scripts that get turned into movies, but I'm getting away from myself). But the headline needed to fit and be clear: Comedian, writer and director David Wain, and his "Stella" cohort Michael Showalter, have created the perfect parody of romantic comedies with They Came Together. This time, Wain brings Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd (two bit players from the stellar Wet Hot American Summer) together for a meet-cute, with all the cliches.
The festival is winding down, people are heading home, it's nearing the end… The 2014 Sundance Film Festival is almost over and even though I'm just departing today, I am already starting to get nostalgic. I love this festival, I love attending festivals, and although I'm very tired, I don't want to leave, I don't want it to end. On top of all the films and all the excitement around independent cinema, it's the people that make my festival experience so amazing, so unforgettable, every year. My friends (old and new), my colleagues, the volunteers, the staff, the publicists, the filmmakers, the locals, I owe them all so much for being the best.
Time to take a hilarious trip back to the 80's. Imagine time traveling back to Sundance 1985 and catching the premiere of a coming of age film set around ping pong in Ocean City, Maryland. That's what Ping Pong Summer is like, and they nail the cliches, cheesiness and stereotypes of the 80's, but in the right way. The kind of way that it makes you laugh and smile and feel nostalgic yet also feel kind of happy that we don't live in this time anymore. The story is simple but sweet, and heartfelt but entertaining, the perfect throwback to a time past without iPhones or the internet, but with pixie sticks, foam parties and yes, of course, ping pong.
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.