The Sundance Film Festival is known as a haven for indie filmmakers, but over its history it’s also been a very welcoming venue for indie-minded TV-makers as well. A surprising number of films spun off from television shows have premiered in Park City over the years, from WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (from the creators of The State) to RUN RONNIE RUN (from the creators of Mr. Show) to STRANGERS WITH CANDY (from the creators of either Temptation Island or Strangers With Candy, I forget.). To that great tradition, we now add TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, written and directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and made in the style of their beloved cult Adult Swim series, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! If you’re not familiar with Tim and Eric, I’m not inserting superlatives into the title; that’s the name of the show. And if you’re not familiar with Tim and Eric at this point, you probably don’t need to rush out to see their BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, as word out of Park City indicates it’s largely a for-die-hard-fans-only affair.
Just because a film plays well at a festival doesn’t mean it’s going to play well everywhere. We can all think of examples of movies that made big impressions on the crowds in Park City, or Cannes, or wherever, and didn’t make a similarly big impressions on mainstream audiences. So when you see a movie receive wild, ecstatic praise at a festival, you always have to keep that in the back of your mind. Was some part of the positive response a reaction to the combination of too little sleep and too much alcohol? Or will this thing travel?
The tragic case of the West Memphis Three, three teenagers accused, tried, and convicted of a crime they did not commit, is a story that simply must be told. But it already has been told: in a trilogy of superb documentaries entitled PARADISE LOST by directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Over the course of almost twenty years, Berlinger and Sinofsky chronicled the lives of the West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin — and systematically disproved the case against them. So the news of a brand-new documentary on the subject entitled WEST OF MEMPHIS was met by many with skepticism and confusion. Even with its impressive creative pedigree — it was produced by Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) and directed by Amy Berg (DELIVER US FROM EVIL) — some observers worried this documentary would simply rehash elements from the other three films. As a follower of the West Memphis Three’s case and a fan of the PARADISE LOST series (you can read my review of the last film here), I know I was.
On my computer at home, I keep a running list of every movie I watch (in a related story: I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 18. Can you believe it?). Beneath that list, I keep a second running list of all the movies I need to watch. When I can’t make it to a festival like Sundance, I look at reviews and tweets and take note of the stuff that I need to keep on my radar. This morning I added the first Sundance ’12 movie to that second running list: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.
Every year at Sundance there are the actors and actresses who “break out.” Last night, Melanie Lynskey made a strong early play for the title of Breakout Star of the 2012 festival, earning ecstatic reviews for her performance in the U.S. Dramatic Competition film HELLO I MUST BE GOING. After her impressive debut in Peter Jackson’s HEAVENLY CREATURES eighteen years ago, Lynskey embarked on a long and successful career as a character actress. HELLO I MUST BE GOING pushes her into the spotlight in a leading role that is garnering raves from critics across the board.
If you watched THE HANGOVER and thought it would work better as a thriller, then last night’s opening night premiere from Sundance 2012’s World Dramatic Competition, WISH YOU WERE HERE, will be right up your alley. Numerous critics out of Park City, including David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter and Steven Zeitchik from The Los Angeles Times, have drawn comparisons between the blockbuster American comedy about a bunch of buddies who wake up after a night of partying they can’t remember to find one of their ranks missing, and this Australian import from writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith about two couples who wake up after a night of partying they can’t remember to find one of their ranks missing. In other words, throw in Zach Galifianakis and a Mike Tyson tattoo, and we’re in Todd Phillips territory.
In “The Review Revue,” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: we steal some critical perspective on CONTRABAND.
2012’s surprisingly strong start at the box office continued last weekend with CONTRABAND, which earned — or, I guess in this case, counterfeited — an estimated $28.8 million from Friday to Monday, making it one of star Mark Wahlberg’s strongest openings ever. But did CONTRABAND deserve that massive monetary haul? Or did it rip off its customers the way Wahlberg’s character rips off a priceless Jackson Pollock painting? (More on that later.) Let’s find out.
In “The Review Revue” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: we exorcise the critical demons of THE DEVIL INSIDE.
In “The Review Revue,” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: Meryl Streep stars as Margaret Thatcher in THE IRON LADY.
There are few metaphysical certainties in this world. I only know of three: death, taxes, and annual Oscar talk about Meryl Streep. Streep has won two Academy Awards (for KRAMER VERSUS KRAMER and SOPHIE’S CHOICE) and received a record sixteen nominations, including three in the last four years for THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, DOUBT, and JULIE & JULIA. Her latest film, THE IRON LADY, has Streep the focus of renewed Oscar buzz, and could easily bump her career total to an even more astonishing seventeen nominations. The title of the film refers to the nickname of Streep’s character, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It — and its star’s incredible award track record — suggests a nickname for Streep: The Gold Lady.
But was The Gold Lady’s performance good enough to win over the critics? Or was THE IRON LADY’s reputation less than sterling? Let’s find out.