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Entries in Sundance (62)

Friday
Jan302015

'The Stanford Prison Experiment' ...Of Future Stardom

Nathaniel again, down to my final two Sundance movies. (Michael stayed longer so he has more coming)

The Outsiders. School Ties. Go. Mean Girls. Dazed and Confused... These are movies people often marvelled at after the fact for capturing multiple future stars in the same ensemble before the title of "star" sat completely well on them. Certain movies function like abnormally prescient time capsules in that way and, who knows, perhaps The Stanford Prison Experiment will one day be among them?

"Guard" terrorizes "Prisoners" in THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT

It's not that the faces are complete nobodies exactly but, apart from Billy Crudup, as the possibly awful Dr. Philip Zimbardo who is behind the psychological experiment in situational behavior, most of them are lesser known. Or, if they're already rising stars, they don't exactly have that signature role or household name factor just yet.

The Standford Prison Experiment was a famous study from the 1970s in which a psychology professor and his team took a simple ad out in the paper for students to participate in a "psychological study of prison life" for 1 to 2 weeks for $15 a day. Students signed up thinking it was easy money but easy it was not...

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Friday
Jan302015

Sundance: Lily Tomlin's "Grandma" is a Sharp-Tongued Joy

Nathaniel reporting from Sundance. Or, rather, from Manhattan, while still thinking of Sundance and possibly my favorite film from that trip...

The first chapter of Grandma, an ornery new female-driven comedy, is called “Endings” a counterintuitive opening title, perhaps, but appropriate. Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) doesn’t have much taste for beginnings. A year and half before our story begins, this "writer-in-residence," who had a brief period of reknown as a feminist poet,  lost her life partner of nearly 40 years to cancer. She’s still bitter about it. We know that her new girlfriend of four months Olivia will soon be shown the door because she's played by Judy Greer who is contractually obliged to never have more than 3 scenes in a movie. [More...]

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Friday
Jan302015

Sundance: Inhibitions Are Abandoned in "The Overnight"

Michael C here to chime in on a film that has people buzzing in Park City...

Patrick Brice's The Overnight is one of those long night of the soul movies where things start out with dinner and laughter and then the characters drink and smoke away their inhibitions, repressed feelings bubble to surface, and the mood edges into the surreal as the night creeps toward sunrise. As soon as we spot the inviting blue glow of the pool we know some time around midnight the clothes are coming off and the characters will pass a point of no return...

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Thursday
Jan292015

Sundance: "The Witch" is a Riveting One-Of-A-Kind Horror Experience

Michael C. here with one of the big discoveries of Sundance 2015.

There is something happening in the horror genre right now.  Maybe its a response to the dreadful depths to which mainstream horror titles sank in the past decade but like antibodies fighting off an infection the indie scene has churned out one great movie after another in recent years: The Babadook, The Guest, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Under the Skin (which is totally horror, if not only horror). Like an unstoppable slasher the genre will just not stay down. Already at this Sundance we have had the astonishing It Follows and now comes Robert Eggers' The Witch another peak for the horror genre. 

The Witch is a true blast of originality that immerses the viewer in 1630's New England as a family of puritans banished to live isolated on the edge of wilderness is beset by the occult terrors residing in the nearby woods. The result is more than simply jump-outta-your-seat scary (though it is often that) it is genuinely unnerving in a way few films can manage. The effect is like a cold hand slowly closing over your heart.

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Thursday
Jan292015

Mom, James Franco & Jack Black Are Confused About Their Sexuality Again!

This article was originally published in a slightly shorter version in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Nathaniel reporting from Sundance. One of the most interesting trends of this year's Sundance Film Festival is confrontational stories about people being pushed out of or willfully stepping away from their sexual comfort zones. The Diary of a Teenager Girl has earned the best reviews and the most press but let's discuss two films with more LGBT appeal.  I Am Michael, a drama about religion and homosexuality, and The D Train, a comedy about a high school reunion, both feature grown men whose lives spiral out of control when they stray from their true selves. [More...]

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Thursday
Jan292015

Sundance: Fassbender Wanders The Frontier In The Unsatisfying "Slow West"

Michael C here reporting from an unseasonably warm Park City

John Maclean's Slow West is an ambitious western that falls short of its lofty aspirations because of its thin execution and its dud of a protagonist. The protagonist is 16-year-old Jay Cavendish played by Kodi Smit-McPhee as a naif spectacularly ill-equipped to deal with the dangers of frontier travel in 1870. The voice over from Michael Fassbender's tough guy bounty hunter opens the film with the observation that it's a miracle Cavendish made it as far he did without getting murdered. We in the audience size him up with his innocent doe eyes and his still-waiting-for-puberty physique and we quite agree. He would surely have been doomed had Fassbender's Silas not taken him under his wing as a travel companion. 

This all would be a fine dynamic for a film, the weathered cowboy dropping a cold dose of reality on the young fool with his romantic ideas about true love and the West. Unfortunately, Slow West tries to push the idea that Jay is some kind of pure soul with poetry in his heart who can impart a lesson to the brutes like Fassbender about aspiring to something higher. Actually I thought the kid came off like a dope...

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