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.
"The idea of independence is global, but it means different things in different places." It's time for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival - which kicked off on Thursday, January 24th (a week later than usual) this week in snowy Park City, Utah. I'm back here for my 13th year in a row, and I am always so happy to be here. There's no where else I'd rather be every January, and I don't mind the cold and snow - it's all part of the experience. And this year there is a TON of snow, one of the best snow years they've had in Park City for a while. That doesn't make it easy to get to all the venues, but once I'm there, sitting in the cinema, nothing else matters. Bring on the films, bring on the filmmakers, take me away to another time and another place. This year's motto at Sundance is "Risk Independence" - encouraging filmmakers to be unashamedly unique.
Back to Sundance we go for another year of discovery. What's on the line-up this year? Out of the 110+ films showing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, I've chosen 10 that I'm looking forward to seeing the most. To keep things well balanced, I've chosen 5 feature films and 5 documentaries from the line-up. There are so many films playing at the fest, and so many I'll end up seeing (30+), that this is a quick list to get everyone acquainted with some of the work premiering in 2019 (I just want to go see everything). There are new films from filmmakers like Ritesh Batra and Lulu Wang, and incredible documentaries that are also worthy of our attention, plus many other films. You never really know what will good or bad, but here's my first few picks.
Every new year brings us another Sundance Film Festival and with 57 days left until Sundance 2019 kicks off on January 24th, it's time to find out what's playing this year. Sundance has revealed their 2019 selection of ALL of their official feature films in the selection this year, including 117 films playing across 9 different categories, ranging from controversial documentaries to comedies and dramas and so much more. This is the second year in a row they have revealed their full line-up in one big announcement, rather than splitting it up into a few announcements. There's some very peculiar, amusing, exciting, provocative films headed to the mountains in January, and I can't wait to see many of them. Check out the full line-up below.