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Entries in film festivals (206)

Tuesday
Jan282014

Sundance: Horror Comedies Shine with 'Cooties' and 'In the Shadows'

Our Sundance Film Festival coverage continues with Glenn Dunks on two of the festival's midnight movies.

Horror comedies can be so tricky sometimes. Is the film a horror movie with comedy or a comedy with horror elements? It might sound like semantics, but I feel it’s the difference, for instance, between Scream and Shaun of the Dead, both of which are excellent examples of the tight rope act that is the horror comedy genre mash-up. They knew exactly what they were doing and ultimately work as both a horror and a comedy without forgoing one half or the other. Cabin in the Woods, on the other hand, by all rights should have been a smart and scary horror movie, but instead lacked the tension that its jokes should have been buffering. It’s a tricky minefield to manoeuvre, but when it goes right the results can be fantastic. 

ravenous pre-teens and vampires after the jump...

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Sunday
Jan262014

Sundance Prize Winners

The Sundance prizes were handed out tonight and the top winners will be screening on Sunday the last day of the festival. =Glenn, Michael and I have a handful more reviews for you including a couple of these winners. But it figures that not one of the three of us caught the unquestionable champ, Whiplash starring Miles Teller as a drummer and JK Simmons as his military father, which took home both the juried top prize and the audience award for dramatic feature. You may recall that last year Fruitvale Station won both of those prizes too... but it wasn't able to convert that early rush of promise into Oscar nominations. The year before that those top prizes were split between Beasts of the Southern Wild (jury) and The Sessions (audience) which both went on to Oscar nods. The year before that Like Crazy (jury) and Circumstance (audience). Etcetera. Sundance is hit and miss in terms of its top films going on to further awards glory. Any guesses as to how Whiplash will fare further down the road? 

Full list of winners is after the jump.

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Sunday
Jan262014

Sundance: This Girl Walks Alone Into Greatness

From the Sundance Film Festival here is Glenn on 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'

Despite the high profile of vampire movies in the past decade, very few of them have been strong enough to justify their budgets and mainstream success, let alone done enough to warrant any sort of long-term attention. Buffy the Vampire Slayer concluded in 2003 and since then TV series True Blood and The Vampire Diaries have attempted to pick up where Joss Whedon left off. On the big screen, however, the only vampire property to strike any form of sustained reverence is Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish take on vampire lore, Let the Right One In – and, depending on who you ask, the American remake, Let Me In, too – although I did enjoy the Spierig Brothers’ high-concept Daybreakers as well (I didn’t care for Stake Land, but I hear people like that one, too). So it’s not only a surprise, but an genuine delight to report that Ana Lily Amirpour’s stark beauty, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is not just great movie, but should be considered an instant entry into the cannon of vampires on cinema.

With perhaps the most literal title of the festival, Amirpour’s American-made yet Iran-set film takes place in the fictional town of Bad City. A lawless wasteland of a location where a local pit is home to the rising number of dumped, abandoned corpses, and where thugs and pimps undertake their criminal enterprises is broad daylight. Oil drills chug and churn on the city outskirts sucking the land's resources even more than Bad City's low life residents, and a teenage boy takes advantage of a local drug dealer’s death by stealing his stash and moving in on his territory. Bad City, undoubtedly inspired at least in part by Sin City, is a town that both literally and figuratively is being drained of blood; where people don’t so much live and merely exist. It exists in a seemingly parallel world, a twilight zone of evil and it's the perfect place to go unnoticed. 

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Saturday
Jan252014

Sundance: Sophomore Directors Soar in 'Listen Up Philip' & 'I Origins'

Watching Alex Ross Perry’s mumblecore comedy The Color Wheel or Mike Cahill’s ambitious, but disappointing Another Earth in 2011 can’t really prepare you for their sophomore efforts, both of which premiered in Park City. Both Listen Up Philip and I Origins demonstrate a near stratospheric development for the pair in virtually every conceivable way. Cahill, especially, appears to have finally found a compelling way to conclude his high-concepts, which was one of the most frustrating elements of his debut. Perry on the other hand, has taken all of the promise found within his Indie Spirit-nominated gem and spun it into a literary tapestry that unfolds delicately and yet at breakneck speed.

You’d be forgiven for being taken entirely by surprise with Listen Up Philip thanks to its vivid, golden colourful strokes of 16mm beauty appearing in stark contrast to the minimalist aesthetic of his debut. Even more surprising is the structure that delightfully plays with audience expectations regarding the direction of certain characters. Just when you think Perry’s astute screenplay is teetering on the verge of monotony, it veers ever so delicately so that you may barely even notice. It’s a wonderful little game of bait and switch that helps make the film feel more intricate and less like two straight hours of people talking.

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Saturday
Jan252014

Sundance: The Raid 2: Raid Harder

From the Sundance Film Festival here is Glenn on the bone-crunching 'The Raid 2: Berandal'

"It doesn't end, does it?" asks a character in the excessively bloated sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal. He's talking about the depth of Indonesia's underworld, but I choose to take it literally and out of context, okay?! Fans of Gareth Evans' 2011 original will likely find nothing wrong in this film's 150-minute runtime - it's 9.7/10 IMDb rating only two days after its world premiere suggests just that - but as somebody who had hoped the original's 0% body fat take on the action movie formula would be given time to breathe and open up with the extended runtime, I was severely disappointed. 

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Much like The Raid (which absurdly went by The Raid: Redemption in the US), Evans' sequel sees a cop battle a seemingly endless stream of villains amongst the Indonesian underworld with little else in between. Funnily enough, it reminded me most of all of Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, which I also didn't like. Both are excessively indulgent and monotonous films that sap all the potential fun out of their concepts. The Raid 2 doesn't even allow its actors to revel in their villainry although I did get some enjoyment out of Ken'ichi Endô looking like Willem Dafoe. Likewise, the brief performance of Julie Estelle as "Hammer Girl" is fun and I'm tempted to compare her to a lesser Gogo Yubari from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol 1 (a film with about ten times the amount of colour, style, fun and pizazz as The Raid 2). 

Of course, looking for anything other than bone-crunching violence in one of these films is ultimately silly and futile. 150 minutes of almost constant nihilistic violence isn't my idea of a good time, although my crowd was certainly into it with clapping, laughing and hollering throughout. The action choreography is certainly impressive, there's little denying that, but eventually becomes little more than a processions of swinging fists and kicks. I enjoyed the lone, spectacularly filmed car chase sequence because it was at least a change of pace and allowed the eyes something different to concentrate on. 

Still, when characters take on the consistency of zombies, constantly getting up and fighting despite broken bones and gushing blood, it becomes hard to take any of it seriously. It was also eye-rolling worthy to see the film's hero so routinely saved at the last second by a gunman running out of bullets just as it looked like his number was up. The blood flows freely and the pulsating film score rarely gives you a moment of peace, all adding up to a sequel that took all the of the original worst habits and amplifies them. For many, I guess that will not be a problem. For me, however...

Grade: D+
Distribution: March through Sony Pictures Classics