Posts tagged Sundance Film Festival
MOVIE REVIEW: Menashe

Weinstein writes and directs what constitutes as a love letter to a culture, a community, and to the essence of fatherhood.  The lead’s personal plight is a compelling one done with grace and admiration for attaching the right layer of empathy.  It’s not overly heavy in any particular way, but Menashe carries enough honesty, enough will, and enough power to break any father’s heart.  There’s strength to be found in that.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Ghost Story

Welcome to the polarizing gamut of engagement, acceptance, and disquiet of A Ghost Story.  This is a wholly original film that takes preparation, patience, absorption, and reflection that some, or even many, may not be ready for.  Presented in the rounded and claustrophobic corners of a centered 1.33:1 aspect ratio, it is safe to say, you will see nothing like this all year and maybe several more.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Manchester by the Sea

There is an unmistakable layer of “people-watching” cinema brings to its artistic atmosphere and aesthetic.  An omnipresent camera grants private points-of-view, shines light on secrets, and challenges the observational skills of the audience.  Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” introduces the wearisome life of one solitary man and proceeds to unearth the repressed sorrow and unspoken emotions that lie underneath his mundane exterior.  The most praiseworthy character-driven films have the patience to cultivate its truths with substance and the wisdom to never give you everything.  Lonergan’s near-perfect jewel is a new exemplar of such qualities and one of the finest films of 2016.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Certain Women

Spareness and simplicity can either be a fountain of nuance and austerity or it can be a vacuum of plainness and lethargy.  Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt is a celebrated torchbearer of the minimalist film movement and her newest feature, “Certain Women,” boast three strong female leads in Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart.  Despite that base of acting forte and the patronage of Todd Haynes as an executive producer, the void outweighs any wellspring.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Birth of a Nation

Circling back to the “timely” label, the film bears the designation in equally positive and negative connotations, depending of your personal capacity.  Consider “The Birth of a Nation” to be the antithesis to “Selma” two years ago.  This film’s depiction of violent retaliation reverberates far differently than Martin Luther King’s example of nonviolence.  Audiences will wrestle with that polar opposite being empowering or troubling in justification.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Swiss Army Man

As ambiguous as this sounds, your love or hate of the new film and Sundance favorite, “Swiss Army Man,” will say something about your inner quirkiness, mindset, and, most of all, your heart.  Packed with detail and imagination beyond belief, this film defies classification and destroys the hyperbole, pretense, and comparative euphemisms that normally define films about friendship, the genre of buddy movies, and even unconventional screen love stories.  Movies that tug our heartstrings with a smile normally kill us with kindness.  The polarizing “Swiss Army Man” kills us with weirdness.  This film lets its WTF freak flag fly and encourages you to do the same.

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EDITORIAL: The Best of 2016 (so far)

Many of my personal most-anticipated picks and my crystal ball Oscar prognostications are still coming, but I have been lucky enough to see over 50 film films in the first half of 2016.  Since it's only been a half-year, I'll split a year-end "10 Best" list into a Top 5.  True to this website's theme, I present you my picks for the "Best of 2016 (so far)" coupled with their best life lesson from my full reviews. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: James White

51st Chicago International Film Festival U.S. Indies special presentation

Much of the resisted maturation journey playing out for the title character in Josh Mond's "James White" feels petulant and half-hearted, much like the character himself.  We learn that effort is by design because he is a character that needs fixing.  The only way James White can mature is through bottoming out and finding emotion in places other than himself.  "James White" is a difficult and unflinching look at both terminal illness and wasting one's life on selfish excesses. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Digging for Fire

Joe Swanberg is a leader of the "mumblecore" movement, which primarily employs naturalistic everyday settings with improvisational dialogue and a loose story structure.  Such an approach has been found to be a double-edged sword of open-endedness.  Either it's fresh and interesting enough to keep you guessing or it's maddeningly lost and too unstructured for not really coming to a conclusion or making a point.  This film adds another miss to the list for Swanberg.  This writer loves what he stands for, but hates the underwhelming results.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Z for Zachariah

Playing concurrently in limited theatrical release and on Video On Demand outlets after debuting at January's Sundance Film Festival, "Z for Zachariah" is based on Robert C. O'Brien's 1974 novel of the same name.  Written in the form of a diary during the paranoid peak of the 1970's, the post-apocalyptic novel reverberated with tension and clashes of survival.  Even with a trio of talented actors that turn heads, you would never know such crackle existed from the resulting film that falls flat at every turn.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

By tackling the subject of cancer and doing so in the guise of a quirky high school comedy, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" stands out as proof that a movie can be earnest and humorous at the same time.  It can be understated in one moment and then completely outgoing the next.  It is a film that can feel facetious and yet still be profound.  It takes the modern high school setting that is deliberately riddled with innate tropes, stereotypes, and cliches and masterfully steers around every single one of them to offer you something smart, touching, and, most of all, original.  That is no small feat and something to stand up and celebrate.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Dope

The next sure-fire addition to any list of possibly great coming-of-age films is "Dope," the fifth feature film from writer-director Rich Famuyiwa ("Brown Sugar," "The Wood').  "Dope" debuted in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival and was selected as the prestigious closing film of the Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in France last month.  Those are prominent feathers to have in any film's cap.  Better yet, they are kudos that are more than earned by this film's energetic brilliance.

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MOVIE REVIEW: I'll See You In My Dreams

Not too many films come along tailor-made for the senior demographic, and even fewer romances.  It's a shame too because none of that talent over the age of 40 has gotten worse.  If anything, they've honed their craft and waited for the right time to blossom once again.  For the lost-lost, 72-year-old Blythe Danner, the new film "I'll See You in My Dreams," an audience favorite from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, is a chance for her to emerge behind the "mom" roles from films like the "Meet the Parents" series of TV's "Will and Grace."

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MOVIE REVIEW: Whiplash

A movie like "Whiplash" shouldn't do all of what it succeeds at, but it does.  Before you even read what it's about, be assured that this film is a delicious piece of entertainment from top to bottom.  This is a rare treat combining remarkable acting, music, energy, and twists that will follow you out of the theater.  As of the calendar turning to November, this is the best film this writer has seen this year.  This is the new film to beat, as unexpected as that sounds.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The One I Love

“The One I Love” is a thinking film that skews much closer to the romantic comedy vein of its trailer, but offers just enough icy and sobering implications to get that hamster wheel moving in your head that will nudge you ever so slightly to the edge of your seat.  You won’t be gripping your arm rest or partner’s hand in tension.  Rather, you’ll be retreating to crossed arms of curiosity and chin-rubbing intrigue and attention.  Clever smiles outnumber dropped jaws.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Most Wanted Man

This is still a bit of a tough sell.  I think there's a large audience that wants explosions and sexiness with their spy thrillers.  Some are going to call all of this quiet work boring and maybe even somber, matching some of the mainstream thoughts on other John le Carre film adaptations like "The Tailor of Panama," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "The Constant Gardner," and "The Russia House."  Exciting or not, the man writes incredibly good thrillers.  I see past the need for action and love that the devil is in the details.  The slow burn factor works in "A Most Wanted Man" with compelling and steadily increasing story developments that maintain your investment.

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EDITORIAL: The 15 films to watch for the 2015 Oscars

Once one awards season ends, another one begins!  The winners from last night's 86th Academy Awards can bask in the glow of immortality for a while.  Meanwhile, business in Hollywood will quickly shift and move on to the 87th Academy Awards that will happen in February or March of 2015.  Here are 15 films to watch for the 2015 Oscars.

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