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Thread: SUNDANCE Film Festival 2018 Jan 18, 2018 – Jan 28

  1. #1
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    SUNDANCE Film Festival 2018 Jan 18, 2018 – Jan 28

    Nicolas Cage in Midnight chainsaw flick Mandy

    Sundance 2018

    At at time, mid-to-late January, when there is little worth watching coming out in theaters, it's nice to follow Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival with its promise of a whole world of good new movies on the way.

    The Sundance Film Festival is on, Jan 18-28, 2018. I will give some reactions to the films from a variety of sources. Here first are basic lists of some of the main features and docs. You can find the entire festival program of the Sundance online site here. Other categories are the Next films; US Documentary Competition, World Documentary Competition, Documentary Premieres, Spotlight series, and Midnight films. (Jordan Peele's Get Out was a Sundance Midnight debut.)

    There has been praise for Tamara Jenkins' return to filmmaking, one of three Opening Night films, Private Life, a drama about a couple trying to get pregnant. In Don't Worry, He Won't Get Very Far on Foot, Joaquin Phoenix is playing in a 12-step recovery drama about the paralysed cartoonist John Callaghan getting over his drinking problem. Gus Van Sant's well-meaning movie may be a far cry from Lynne Ramsey's upcoming, riveting You Were Never Really Here (is Phoenix going for sentence-titles now?), but it's another physical transformation for the protean, shape-shifting actor. It may be interesting for odd appearances from Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill, and Udo Kier, but the Guardian's Jordan Hoffman called parts of it "cringeworthy."

    No unmistakably great film has emerged in the early days of 2018's Sundance - or seems waiting to show. But there are, at least, many well known names in the cast and directorial lists, and as the reviews unfold it's clear there is lots to peek our curiosity. This is certainly no roster of obscure little indie films. But still, there are some plucky small debuts as well, concealed among the famous names at Park City this year.

    Phoenix in Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot


    For details on Sundance online go here.

    A Futile and Stupid Gesture
    Director David Wain
    Screenwriter John Aboud, Michael Colton
    Cast Will Forte, Martin Mull, Domhnall Gleeson, Matt Walsh, Joel McHale, Emmy Rossum
    U.S.A. / 101 Min

    A Kid Like Jake
    Director Silas Howard
    Screenwriter Daniel Pearle
    Cast Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, Ann Dowd, Amy Landecker
    U.S.A. / 92 Min

    Director Brad Anderson
    Screenwriter Tony Gilroy
    Cast Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Larry Pine, Shea Whigham
    U.S.A. / 110 Min

    Director Wash Westmoreland
    Screenwriter Wash Westmoreland, Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
    Cast Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aiysha Hart
    United Kingdom / 111 Min

    Come Sunday
    Director Joshua Marston
    Screenwriter Marcus Hinchey
    Cast Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Condola Rashad, Jason Segel, Lakeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen
    U.S.A. / 106 Min

    Director David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
    Screenwriter David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
    Cast Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Robert Forster, Nathan Zellner, Joe Billingiere
    U.S.A. / 113 Min

    Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
    Director Gus Van Sant
    Screenwriter Gus Van Sant (screenplay), John Callahan (biography)
    Cast Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black
    U.S.A. / 113 Min

    Hearts Beat Loud
    Director Brett Haley
    Screenwriter Brett Haley, Marc Basch
    Cast Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette
    U.S.A. / 97 Min

    Juliet, Naked
    Director Jesse Peretz
    Screenwriter Tamara Jenkins, Jim Taylor, Phil Alden Robinson, Evgenia Peretz
    Cast Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd
    United Kingdom / 97 Min

    Leave No Trace
    Director Debra Granik
    Screenwriter Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini
    Cast Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey
    U.S.A. / 108 Min

    Director Claire McCarthy
    Screenwriter Semi Chellas
    Cast Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay, Tom Felton, Devon Terrell
    United Kingdom / 114 Min

    Private Life
    Director Tamara Jenkins
    Screenwriter Tamara Jenkins
    Cast Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, Kayli Carter
    U.S.A. / 127 Min


    Director Marc Turtletaub
    Screenwriter Oren Moverman
    Cast Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Bubba Weiler, Austin Abrams, Liv Hewson
    U.S.A. / 103 Min

    The Catcher Was a Spy
    Director Ben Lewin
    Screenwriter Robert Rodat
    Cast Paul Rudd, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti
    U.S.A. / 94 Min

    The Happy Prince
    Director Rupert Everett
    Screenwriter Rupert Everett
    Cast Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Rupert Everett
    Germany/Belgium/Italy / 105 Min

    The Long Dumb Road
    Director Hannah Fidell
    Screenwriter Hannah Fidell, Carson Mell
    Cast Tony Revolori, Jason Mantzoukas, Taissa Farmiga, Grace Gummer, Ron Livingston, Casey Wilson
    U.S.A. / 90 Min

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-22-2018 at 10:31 AM.

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    Garrett Hedlund in Burden

    U.S. Dramatic Competition

    See the Sundance online listing here. You can look up detailed descriptions of each film.

    American Animals

    Director Bart Layton
    Screenwriter Bart Layton
    Cast Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Udo Kier
    U.S.A./United Kingdom / 116 Min

    Director Ethan Hawke
    Screenwriter Ethan Hawke, Sybil Rosen
    Cast Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton
    U.S.A. / 127 Min


    Director Carlos López Estrada
    Screenwriter Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs
    Cast Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones
    U.S.A. / 95 Min

    Director Andrew Heckler
    Screenwriter Andrew Heckler
    Cast Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond
    U.S.A. / 129 Min

    Eighth Grade

    Director Bo Burnham
    Screenwriter Bo Burnham
    Cast Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton
    U.S.A. / 94 Min

    I Think We're Alone Now
    Director Reed Morano
    Screenwriter Mike Makowsky
    Cast Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning
    U.S.A. / 93 Min

    Director Craig William Macneill
    Screenwriter Bryce Kass
    Cast Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O'Hare
    U.S.A. / 105 Min

    Director Anthony Mandler
    Screenwriter Radha Blank, Cole Wiley, Janece Shaffer
    Cast Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Rakim Mayers, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson
    U.S.A. / 112 Min

    Monsters and Men
    Director Reinaldo Marcus Green
    Screenwriter Reinaldo Marcus Green
    Cast John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan
    U.S.A. / 95 Min

    Director Christina Choe
    Screenwriter Christina Choe
    Cast Andrea Riseborough, J. Smith-Cameron, Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo
    U.S.A. / 87 Min

    Sorry to Bother You
    Director Boots Riley
    Screenwriter Boots Riley
    Cast Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick
    U.S.A. / 112 Min

    The Kindergarten Teacher
    Director Sara Colangelo
    Screenwriter Sara Colangelo
    Cast Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Rosa Salazar, Anna Baryshnikov, Michael Chernus, Gael García Bernal
    U.S.A. / 96 Min

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post
    Director Desiree Akhavan
    Screenwriter Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
    Cast Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle
    U.S.A. / 90 Min

    The Tale
    Director Jennifer Fox
    Screenwriter Jennifer Fox
    Cast Laura Dern, Isabelle Nélisse, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn, Common
    U.S.A. / 114 Min


    Director Sebastián Silva
    Screenwriter Sebastián Silva
    Cast Jason Mitchell, Christopher Abbott, Michael Cera, Caleb Landry Jones, Ann Dowd
    U.S.A. / 86 Min

    Director Paul Dano
    Screenwriter Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
    Cast Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Jake Gyllenhaal
    U.S.A. / 104 Min

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-22-2018 at 02:49 AM.

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    Yardie, Idris Elba

    World Cinema Dramatic Competition

    Look up Sundance's online descriptions here.

    And Breathe Normally
    Director Ísold Uggadóttir
    Screenwriter Ísold Uggadóttir
    Cast Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson
    Iceland/Sweden/Belgium / 95 Min

    Director Tolga Karaçelik
    Screenwriter Tolga Karaçelik
    Cast Tolga Tekin, Bartu Küçükçağlayan, Tuğçe Altuğ, Serkan Keskin, Hakan Karsak
    Turkey / 117 Min

    Dead Pigs
    Director Cathy Yan
    Screenwriter Cathy Yan
    Cast Vivian Wu, Haoyu Yang, Mason Lee, Meng Li, David Rysdahl
    China / 130 Min

    Director Isabella Eklöf
    Screenwriter Isabella Eklöf, Johanne Algren
    Cast Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lai Yde, Thijs Römer
    Denmark/Netherlands/Sweden / 90 Min

    Director Gustavo Pizzi
    Screenwriter Gustavo Pizzi, Karine Teles
    Cast Karine Teles, Otávio Müller, Adriana Esteves, Konstantinos Sarris, César Troncoso
    Brazil/Uruguay / 95 Min

    Director Babis Makridis
    Screenwriter Efthimis Filippou, Babis Makridis
    Cast Yannis Drakopoulos, Evi Saoulidou, Nota Tserniafski, Makis Papadimitriou, Georgina Chryskioti, Evdoxia Androulidaki
    Greece/Poland / 97 Min

    Director Aly Muritiba
    Screenwriter Aly Muritiba, Jessica Candal
    Cast Giovanni De Lorenzi, Tifanny Dopke, Enrique Diaz, Clarissa Kiste, Dudah Azevedo, Pedro Inoue
    Brazil / 100 Min

    The Guilty
    Director Gustav Möller
    Screenwriter Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
    Cast Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Omar Shargawi
    Denmark / 85 Min

    The Queen of Fear
    Director Valeria Bertuccelli, Fabiana Tiscornia
    Screenwriter Valeria Bertuccelli
    Cast Valeria Bertuccelli, Diego Velázquez, Gabriel Eduardo "Puma" Goity, Darío Grandinetti
    Argentina/Denmark / 107 Min

    Time Share (Tiempo Compartido)
    Director Sebastián Hofmann
    Screenwriter Julio Chavezmontes, Sebastián Hofmann
    Cast Luis Gerardo Méndez, Miguel Rodarte, Andrés Almeida, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Montserrat Marañon, RJ Mitte
    Mexico/Netherlands / 96 Min

    Un Traductor
    Director Rodrigo Barriuso, Sebastián Barriuso
    Screenwriter Lindsay Gossling
    Cast Rodrigo Santoro, Maricel Álvarez, Yoandra Suárez
    Canada/Cuba / 107 Min

    Director Idris Elba
    Screenwriter Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman
    Cast Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Cleary
    United Kingdom / 101 Min

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-22-2018 at 12:22 AM.

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    Keira Knightley in Colette

    US Dramatic Competition: first looks.

    Hoffman of the Guardian has high praise for Kindergarten Teacher, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as the teacher, who gets way too involved in a boy in her charges who has a strange poetic gift. He says this is one of Maggie's best performances and the movie is great. The only catch: it's a remake of Nadav Lapid's 2014 Israeli film (ND/NF 2015). Is that necessary? Hoffman says Why not? He also gives an all-star rating to experienced documentarian Jennifer Fox's potentially controversial feature film The Tale, which stars Laura Dern and is about child sexual abuse. Ellen Burstyn plays Dern's mother. It bored him, then disturbed him so much he wanted to throw up, but he liked that. He wants people to see this film, but will never want to see it again.

    Hoffman also liked, but minus one star, Wash Westmoreland’sColette (Guardian again), about the French writer, with a good performance, he says, by Keira Knightley. Dominic West plays Colette's husband, Willy, and also is fine, Hoffman says; and the film subtle and nuanced. The only trouble for me, but a big one, would be this is a historical film about France that's all in English. A needless prejudice, no doubt, but a strong one.

    Owen Gleiberman of Variety likes Ethan Hawke's Blaze, an unusual portrait of a blowsy, "dissolute country-blues singer", Blaze Foley told "in a redneck-verité style that's as delicate as it is daring." It's meandering and random, yet "beautifully made," selling its offbeat style and less than stellar subject, a minor country-blues singer who died at 39 but left some songs that entered the genre's repertoire.

    Gleiberman again has good things to say about Wildlife, actor Paul Dano's, you may be surprised to see, directorial debut (you might have expected one earlier). It's an "artfully deliberate small-town saga, with Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as haunted parents, with young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould as their "sensitive and owlish" 14-year-old son. Here is a family saga that hasn't any trendy issue topic, but is just a study of people - and of changes happening toward the end of the Fifties. Dano wrote the screenplay with his partner, Zoe Kazan, adapting a novel by Richard Ford set in Great Falls, Montana. Gleiberman's loving description of this movie, about unpredictable adults observed from the point of view of the adolescent boy, makes you want to see it.

    Juliet, Naked, also described admiringly by Gleiberman, is directed by Jesse Peretz and stars Ethan Hawke as Tucker Crowe, a musical n'er-do-well who gave up performing, but turns to being responsible toward a series of children he's sired by different women. He goes to London to see one who's pregnant, and is confronted by others he's responsible to, as well as Duncan, his greatest fan, played by Chris O'Dowd.

    Robin Williams in Come Inside My Mind

    US Documentary Competition.
    The Guardian gives minus two stars to two documentaries from the festival. Benjamin Lee likes, but not wholly, Queen of Versailles director Lauren Greenfield's new skewering of consumer capitalism, entitled Generation Wealth. Greenfield, who has been working on this topic for 25 years, is brilliant when talking about the way money ruins people's lives, but this one gets sidetracked too much with talking about her own family, Lee feels.

    Guardian critic (new?) Charlie Phillips sort of likes a new doc by Marina Zenovich called Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. Fascinating archival footage, Phillips says, but the film fails to go deep or see the bigger picture; not enough analysis or "assessment" of Williams' contradictions between manic silliness and surprisingly serious appraisals of the world; a failure to "pursue darker strands" in the story. Owen Gleiberman in Variety is less fussy about the Robin Williams film, calling it "conventional but beautifully made" and complementing it in many ways, pointing out the film is rich in rare outtakes and previously unseen footage, like an "acceptaince speech" Williams gave in immitation of Jack Nicholson when Nicholson won the 2003 Critics Choice Award for About Schmidt, but was "too baked" to go up and give a speech himself.

    Hollywood Reporter descries in not terribly involving detail This Is Home, a TV-ready (and slightly bland and generic) documentary about Syrian refugees adjusting to life in the US. It focuses on a series of families or parts of families in Baltimore, where 400 of the 21,000 Syrian refugees accepted into the US were sent by 2016.

    The Tale sounds repulsive; The Kindergarten Teacher, derivative; Colette in the wrong language; Generation Wealth diffuse. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind sounds like the one among these Sundance films so far to seek out - and also Wildlife.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-22-2018 at 10:32 AM.

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    Monsters and Men

    More Sundance: two urban films focused on race.

    Switching to the LA Times, which now has Justin Chang, former head critic for Variety, at the center of its movie reviewing, we find Blindspotting, first feature of Carlos López Estrada, a movie delivering a lovingly spot-on picture of the San Francisco Bay Area, especially Oakland, "envisioned here as both a locus of fast-encroaching gentrification and a seething cauldron of racial anxiety." The focus is on two men, played by the joint authors of the screenplay, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, as best friends and moving-van driver co-workers, united by a love of hip-hop, who're trying to avoid contact with the police. Diggs is a star of Hamilton, and the movie is almost a "a full-on slamming, rhyming musical." It's a little too over-explanatory and exaggerated, Chang thinks, but is "conceptually audacious" and "bristling with energy and ambition."

    Monsters and Men "covers some of the same ground to less attention-grabbing but quietly superior effect" and is "tough-minded and boldly unresolved." By another first-time filmmaker, Reinaldo Marcus Green, this is "a triptych of stories unfolding in present-day Brooklyn, each set in motion by another fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man." A video of one killing is posted online. Peaceful protests follow but also anti-police violence. The focus settles on Dennis (John David Washington), a black cop caught between two worlds, profiled by white cops when off duty, criticized by family for being part of the problem. Three men of color are "posed at a moral crossroads."

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-22-2018 at 02:57 AM.

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    Leave No Trace

    Sundance reviews from Indiewire: Debra Granik returns; and another Moonlight?

    Debra Granik made waves with her 2010 Winter's Bone (SFIFF 2010), which incidentally put Jennifer Lawrence on the map. Now she's back in Sundance's Premieres section with Leave No race, about a homeless father and daughter living in a Park in Portland. David Erlich describes it in Indiewire as "modest but extraordinarily graceful." It's also surprisingly upbeat for a tale about people on the margins. But Erlich admits this film meanders and is not always gripping, and Will (Hell and High Wager's Ben Foster) and Tom (New Zealand actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) sometimes are so generalized they become generic. Mike D'Angelo (Letterboxd) gives it 68/100, wishes Viggo Mortensen had played Will instead of the lead in Captain Fantastic(" In a less wacky register, obviously") and says "this confirms Granik as a major talent."

    Eric Kohn again in Indidewire describes the wildly violent Midnight movie Mandy in which Nicolas Cage goes on a revenge rampage killing everyone in sight because he's lost someone. Not to be confused with Cage's other recent outing Mom and Dad, a nightmarish fantasy about a time when a 24-hour mass hysteria turns parents violently against their own children.

    Jeremiah Zagar's We the Animals "is this year's Moonlight, says Eric Kohn in Indiewire. He also suggests it's cut-rate or "lower class" Terrence Malick, and concerns a half-latino boy living in a marginal family in upstate New York and discovering his queerness while running semi-wild among siblings and other odd locals in a narrative, based on a novel, that spans an undefined time period. From the Next section of Sundance.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-28-2018 at 05:47 PM.

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    Rust - cinematography bby Rui Poças

    From the US and World Dramatic Competitions

    From Vanity Fair comes a review of Sebastián Silva's Tyrel, which Jordan Hoffman (apparently omnipresent) describes as this year's Get Out (but lacking its horror fantasy element). Jason Mitchell plays Tyler, a lone black guy amid a bevy of white dudes (including actors Christopher Abbott, Caleb Landry Jones and Nico Arze and several others, including Michael Cera) who like to drink and light fires, on an unruly weekend outing in upstate New York that never feels right and turns increasingly uncomfortable for Tyler, whom they start calling Tyrel. Hoffman says this is "a fast and lean film" and "an absolute workout for its outstanding cast" as well as "a devilish roller coaster ride for audiences" that is "funny, disturbing, cringeworthy, nerve-wracking and, for some, will feel a little too realistic." Dennis Harvey provides a more cool-headed and thorough description of this movie in Variety. A lean 86 minutes. US Dramatic Competition.

    Brazilian director Aly Muritiba's Rust concerns a trendy subject: a scandal among youths due to a sex video from a misplaced smartphone getting distributed at a school. It would be of interest if only because it was shot by Rui Poças, the Portuguese cinematographer for such handsome films as The Ornithologist, Tabu and Lucrecia Martel's Zama. It's described by Guy Lodge in Variety. 99 minutes. From the World Dramatic Competition.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-22-2018 at 09:46 AM.

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    Skate Kitchen

    More Sundance features: Oscar Wilde, a woman with Alzheimer's, a gang of skateboarders on the Lower East Side.

    Ruppert Everett's The Happy Prince in which he stars and directs himself in a film he wrote imagining the final days of Oscar Wilde that others have avoided, is most thoroughly and admiringly reviewed (4/5 stars) by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. He provides a richly informed and opinionated description of the film, which he calls "a deeply felt, tremendously acted tribute to courage." In Everett's film, Wilde is reunited with Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas and both are cut off from funds for humiliation and struggle in Naples and Paris. Wilde dies sick and penniless but brave. All agree this is a role Everett was born for; he has played Wilde before, notably in David Hare's play The Judas Kiss, to which his screenplay owes some debt. In the Premieres section.

    Actor-playwright Elizabeth Chomko's What They Had is a drama about a family confronting its matriarch's Alzheimer's disease reviewed by Dennis Harvey in Variety (runtime 100 minutes). The cast includes Hilary Swank as the daughter, Michael Shannon as the brother, Robert Forster as the husband, and Blythe Danner as the aging victim of this disease of aging, which is becoming more common in America. Doesn't our President have it? Will he one day be found wandering the streets of D.C. in a nightgown like Danner's character? Mostly the film is done well, Harvey thinks, with awards possibilities for the actors, but the back-story home movies set the characters a decade too early for their ages. Also from the Premieres section.

    Andrew Barker of Variety reviews Crystal Moselle's Skate Kitchen. Moselle deservedly won the 2015 Grand Jury Documentary Prize at Sundance for The Wolfpack, which concerned "seven cinema-obsessed, shut-in Manhattan siblings." Back to the Lower East Side of Manhattan again this time for another kind of pack, female this time. The girl-gang of skateboarders called "Skate Kitchen" she works with for this feature is real, but Moselle gives them names and roles, while encouraging them to be themselves too. The result shows "the lengths to which young women must go to clear out a little breathing room in testosterone-heavy spaces, but it is first and foremost an irresistible hangout movie" that might "land well" in cinemas, Barker says. Its interest isn't anything uniquely original but its ability to catch life on the fly. From the Sundance Next section.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-24-2018 at 11:05 AM.

  9. #9
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    Docs and stuff.

    The notorious RBG

    Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor is a 93-minute film about PBS's influential, odd, and beloved Mr. Rogers from the Sundance Documentary Premieres section. It does not reveal any deep, dark secrets. "The is not a complex portrait," says Amy NIcholson in Variety. Fred Rogers was going to enter seminary, then went into television instead to oppose slapstick violence. He hated superheroes and campaigned against Christopher Reeves. The Sundance audience applauded at the end, more for the man than the film, Neville thinks.

    Seeing Allred is a doc about the California gedner equality and LGBT rights advocate, Gloria Allred. The Guardian critic Leslie Felperin says, "There’s a long list of impressive achievements in this in-depth look at the lawyer and gender equality advocate but there’s a level of grit that’s missing." 3/5 stars.

    Two Afro-Brits get mixed ratings in their Sundance outings. Jordan Hoffman () gives Idris Elba's directorial debut Yardie only 2/5 stars, and calls it "an uneven disappointment." It's an adaptation of Victor Headley’s 1992 novel, a coming of age tale set in Jamaica and Britain of someone who runs afoul of the drug trade. But Hoffman regrets to say that despite some moments that really sing it doesn't hang together. Hoffman gives the same low 2/5 stars rating to Chiwetel Ejiofor's start turn as a Pentacostal preacher in Come Sunday, directed by Joshua Marston, 2/5 stars. Both he and Variety's Peter Debruge grant Ejiofor is excellent in the role, but the film lacks the intellectual depth it needs. Debruge says this is a perfect Netflix film, bringing a serious Christian drama to the heartlands, which as a regular theatrical release would have lacked the edge to sell tickets. A backhanded compliment? Perhaps.

    A Supreme Court Justice who's not going to stop as long as she "can go full steam." And she still can. There is a documentary portrait (Julie Cohen, Betsy West) of the 84-year-old (but not retiring) Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, called RBG, and RBG herself was almost onhnnd and more of a story than the doc. Her appearances were SRO, and she had much to say, chatting with NPR’s Nina Totenberg a range of topics, about the film, about the #metoo movement, and the backlash against it, and about Kate McKinnon, the actress who played an outsize version of her on Saturday Night Live, whom she said she liked.

    Watch Ruth Bader Ginsberg hold court at Sundance HERE. WARNING: skip about 35 minutes in - the interview actually begins there. They don't call her "the Notorious RBG" for nothing.

    Gloria Allred at Sundance 2018.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-24-2018 at 02:17 PM.

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    Big seller: Assassination Nation inks Sundance 2018's largest deal.

    Assassination Nation

    There's been an article protesting there are no "masterpieces" among the lineup (Owen Gleiberman for Variety: "Where Are the Masterpieces? Sorry, There Are None.") That seems to be true. There are no raves. Wait for Cannes, Venice, Toronto. Something will come along. Luck of the draw. But now we have a movie buyers think will be big box office.

    It's hard to make much sense of Variety's review by Amy Nicholson of Sam Levinson's Midnight - normally horror movie - section creation, Assassination Nation. But we can give the outline. She calls it a "furious fempowerment thriller." The plot centers on four teenage girls in a small suburb who take up arms after their personal texts and sexually suggestive selfies are leaked by an anonymous hacker. Nicholson starts out with the idea of imagining what it would be like if back in the time of the Salem witchcraft trials they had had Twitter. Social media is the mob, magnified. But what this movie aims to prove, how this idea plays out, even what the title means, is a little hard to follow from reviews. In my experience, social media films have been fairly unsuccessful, and pretty creepy. It's a tough subject for a movie. Most of the cast names are unfamiliar, except Bill Skårsgard ("minus theIt makeup" - he plays the iconic scary clown in that unpleasant movie). Nevertheless Assassination Nation has scored the biggest yet 2018 Sundance deal, (see Variety), selling for over $10 million to two new companies, Neon and AGBO. Producers see money here because it appears to provide a feminist take on the revenge theme. "The pact provides a jolt of energy to a moribund sales market," says Variety. Neon is connected with I, Tonya, which is getting Oscar noms; they partnered with AGBO for this deal. Perhaps they hope this has some of the Get Out genes: that film debuted in Sundance's Midnight section last year. This one owes some debuts to John Carpenter and like Get Out, ends in violence. "Assassination Nation is really a buildup to the violence but the climax does not disappoint," says the website Bloody Disgusting, which maybe ought to know.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-24-2018 at 02:26 PM.

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    The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    More Guardian Sundnace: Ophelia, Beirut, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Two, four, and five stars.

    Ophelia: Jordan Hoffman's review says "A shift in point of view reframes Shakespeare's tragedy but the novelty wears off instantaneously with bizarre additions and a lack of emotional engagement." It's "absolutely gorgeous" and has Daisy Ridley in the lead, with Naomi Watts as Gertrude, and it will "cut into one heck of a trailer," but "the project is madness with no method to it." He gives it two-out-of-five stars. That's a pan. This is Australian director Claire McCarthy's third feature.

    Hoffman writes an admiring four-out-of-five stars review of Beirut, an '80's spy thriller reminiscent ("when it is working well") of John Le Carré, and which he finds intelligent, with "Mad Men's" Joe Hamm and costarring Rosamund Pike. Mid-level spy movies are no stranger to this festival. Surprisingly, the Robert Seymour hoffman actual Le Carré film A Most Wanted Man debuted at Sundance - in 2014. Beirut features in an opening flashback in which the wife of Mason Skiles (Hamm's character, a diplomat) is killed in a fracas over a terrorist. Forward to '82 where Skiles is a heavy-drinking minor Boston labor mediator, but gets called back to Beirut to fix something. Beirut is in chaos. A US operative has been kidnapped and the kidnappers will speak only to Skiles. Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) directed, but perhaps more important, the screenplay is by Tony Gilroy of the four Bourne movies, Michael Clayton, Duplicity (which he also directed) and State of Play, plus many others.

    Hofman gives his highest mark, five out of five stars, to The Miseducation of Cameron Post, "Desiree Akhavan’s compassionate LGBT story," showing the wrong of "conversion therapy" to "cure" people of homosexuality, with a "career best" lead performance by Chloë Grace Moretz. The protag, Cameron (Moretz) is caught by her date at a school dance in an intimate moment with another girl, and packed off to "pray away the gay" at an institution/summer camp setting. One of the "bad kids" at the program Cameron falls in with is played by Forrest Goodluck, who played the Native American little brother opposite Leo DiCaprio in The Revenant. The beauty of the movie, Hoffman says, is in the precise details and the way everyone is treated with equal compassion. Here as in his Call Me by Your Name review Hoffman ends with an Out statement he closes with: "The Miseducation of Cameron Post will be a panacea for gay kids for years to come, so for that our prayers have been answered." Hollywood Reporter calls this movie "a delight" and Indiewire says it's "humble, poignant, and extremely touching."


    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-24-2018 at 08:33 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival

    Sundance caution, Sundance politics.

    It's a slow market. Besides the $10-million-plus deal for Assassination Nation, the Keira Knightley period film Colette has sold for $5 million, but there seems to be caution. Perhaps this is a "Patti Cake$ effect": the rap-based picture about an overweight New Jersey girl Fox Searchlight paid $10 million for last year wound up making only $800,000 at the box office - a pretty bad miscalculation. In its early days, visitors of the 2018 Sundance Festival were simply complaining that many of the films on offer were somehow flawed.

    But whatever the reason, Eric Kohn argues in a piece for Indiewire, the slow market is "good news for a festival overwhelmed by hype." Stranger and smaller pictures come to the fore, and there are more thoughtful conversations, when the focus isn't on hype and money. He focuses on what he views as small and interesting coming of age movies, listing We the Animals' Crystal Moselle's Skate Kitchen, which we've discuessd; Josephine Dekker's Madeleine Madeleine (not listed here yet); [I]The Miseducation of Cameron Post[/I;] Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade, about a kid who retreats into a false Facebook personality; and Boots Riley’s "outrageous satire" Sorry to Bother You (, reviewed by Eric Kohn in Indiewire. Sorry concerns a black telemarketer who employs a "white" voice to improve business. Armie Hammer and Danny Glover are in the cast as well as Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson.

    Certainly there is talk about the #metoo movement. And there was a rally with famous lady speakers.

    Articles about Sundance this year note the absence of Harvey Weinstein and his posse. But they say his importance has been overemphasized; that last year while Amazon and Netflix made big buys, Harvey bought nothing. Besides which despite the number of films he had a hand in, he wasn't famous, outside of Hollywood - or Sundance. Things are different. It's an older festival, with more gray hair, people who first came in their twenties now middle-aged, with fewer wild parties, less flash - no Paris Hilton in a fancy suite.

    As you would expect from the present mood, here is an emphasis on women. Brooks Barnes, New York Timnes:
    There are major documentaries on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Fonda, Joan Jett and the artist Yayoi Kusama, in addition to the one on Ms. Allred. Amy Adrion’s Half the Picture delves into gender bias in Hollywood. Alexandria Bombach’s On Her Shoulders looks at a young female activist and survivor of ISIS sex slavery.

    The actresses Chloë Sevigny, Laura Dern, Carey Mulligan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kathryn Hahn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rose Byrne, Daisy Ridley, Blythe Danner, Hilary Swank and Kelly Macdonald all anchor films. And 45 movies were directed by women, including indie stalwarts like Tamara Jenkins and Debra Granik.
    That's out of 122, but still no doubt a considerable increase over earlier years.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-26-2018 at 01:52 AM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    More sales.

    Hearts Beat Loud

    Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up Search for $5 million, and Hearts Beat Loud sold to Gunpowder & Sky. Lionsgate has bought the festival's opening night film about Oakland race relations, Blindspotting.

    We talked about Blindspotting here. Search adopts the all-online format of the 2015 Unfriended, which I found creepy and unpleasant. This one, starring "Star Trek’s" John Cho and "Will & Grace’s" Debra Messing with Aneesh Chaganty in his directorial feature debut, is about a father who loses online touch with his daughter and frantically tries online to find her. This one "opens up" the genre from Unfriended to multiple computers and even an iPhone.

    Hearts Beat Loud is (Hollywood Reporter's John De Fore says) "a semi-musical about a man (Nick Offerman) who just wants his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) to be in a band with him." It's a movie about a parent seeking to avoid the empty nest.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-26-2018 at 01:53 AM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    The triplets of Three Identical Strangers

    Two more interesting docs

    Neon, which co-bought the top-priced Assassination Alliance, has bought the rights to a documentary, Three Identical Strangers, directed by Brit Tim Wardle. It's about the differently named, because differently adopted Robert Shafran, Edward Galland and David Kellman, who at the age of 19 miraculously discovered they were identical triplets (which are about one in a million). Two wound up being students at the same community college and found each other when one was mistaken for the other by fellow students. The news stories about this discovery led the third triplet to come forward. This separation in the first place turned out to have been part of the Neubauer-Bernard experiment, participated in by the Louise Wise Services adoption agency charged with finding homes for the three identical brothers. Learning they had been deliberately separated infuriated the triplets, and also twins who turned out to have been part of the experiment, which was designed to study nature-vs.-nurture theories. Such experimentation on humans without their knowledge was obviously deeply unethical and pretty sick, the further irony being that the director of the project was a Holocaust survivor. Much of this is already known fact, assembled and synthesized in the film along with present-day interviews with the two remaining triplets (one died in 1995) with reenactments. Variety reviewer Davod Rooney gives an excellent summary of the story, which is fascinating and troubling. See further coverage of it by Eric Kohn in Indiewire.

    Charlie Phillips of the Guardian gives a top score of five-out-of-five stars to Singapore filmmaker Sandi Tan's documentary Shirkers. It concerns a never-finished film, "an exuberantly dreamy grrl-power-meets-noir crime story, shot guerrilla-style on the streets of her native Singapore in 1992" (Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter) by Tan and friends in their youth, a beautiful mixture of Heathers and Godard, according to Phillips. It's not clear if this was a lost masterpiece of just an ode to youth and friendship, but it's cool anyway, as well as "an elegy for a lost Singapore." "The Shirkers that Tan has made," Linden writes, "is a wry and wistful portrait of the artist as a young punk. Combining the 25-year-old material and new interviews with her filmmaking co-conspirators, it's a cine-essay on movie love, a capsule autobiography and a lament for what might have been. In the annals of lost films, Tan's original Shirkers may hold a special place, but in its long, long wake she's fashioned a crime-of-the-heart investigation that has a gumshoe pulse and casts a hypnotic spell."

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-26-2018 at 02:16 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    The Queen of Fear/Le reina del miedo

    More late Sundance arrivals

    The Catcher Was a Spy, a movieabout an enigmatic real-life major-league baseball player turned WWII intelligence agent that stars Paul Rudd, is a "fact-based misfire," says Dennis Harvey in Variety. Jordan Hoffman is more positive in the Guardian, giving Catcher three-out-of-five stars and describing Rudd as "fantastic." He grants that the film is "all plot and very little drama" but nonetheless finds it "engaging because the story is so neat."

    A Kid Like Jake adapted aby Daniel Pearle from his own play and directed by Silas Howard, starring Claire Danes, Leo James Davis and Jim Parsons, tells the story of a Brooklyn couple raising a little boy whose yen for dresses and girl toys may signal that he's a trans girl in the making. Describing it neutrally for Hollywood Reporter critic Leslie Felperin compares the film throughout her review to the TV trans series "Transparent," and concludes, "Again like Transparent, the hyper-articulate, sometimes selfishly honest people depicted here (shout-out is also due to Ann Dowd as Alex's monstrously competitive mother) aren't afraid to express their darkest, cruelest thoughts. . ."

    Damsel, directed by David and Nathan Zellner, is a kind of offbeat Western about a young couple out West played by Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska (who played a bizarre couple before), with Robert Forster. Todd McCarthy in Hollywood Reporter find's the brothers' two-hour-long effort to be different "terribly self-conscious," though that is "a shame" because "the brothers clearly have an affinity for the genre and for how to play with some of its tropes." Owen Gleiberman of Variety describes the film in more positive terns, admiring the way it's "minimalist and deadpan" and is clever in packing in every cliché of the genre. When Gleiberman says the Zellner's are obviously "major fans of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, I'm in, though it better be a good riff on that great film.

    The Queen of Fear/La resina del miedo, reviewed by Boyd van Hoeij in Hollywood Reporter, is a drama from Argeintina directed by Valeria Bertuccelli and Fabiana Tiscornia that chronicles the life of a successful Argentine stage actress, played by Bertuccelli. This is about a woman married to her status and her job who ignores her husband and children, but gets distracted by irrelevant things and disappoints her backers by taking a trivial excuse to leave Buenos Aires for Denmark. Van Hoeij has misgivings about the way the character is written but admires Bertuccelli's committed and complex performance.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-26-2018 at 09:54 AM.

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