SFF

The Sundance Review Revue: TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE

The Sundance Review Revue: TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE

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.

The Sundance Review Revue: THE RAID

The Sundance Review Revue: THE RAID

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 Sundance Review Revue: WEST OF MEMPHIS

The Sundance Review Revue: WEST OF MEMPHIS

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.

ARBITRAGE hopes to sell high at Sundance '12

ARBITRAGE hopes to sell high at Sundance '12

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “arbitrage” is “the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies.” I don’t really understand what that means, so I am providing an alternate definition for the intelligence impaired. ARBITRAGE is “a dramatic thriller set in the world of high finance that is also one of the most buzzed about titles at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.” That’s a lot easier to understand, right? I think so. Let’s give Mr. Merriam and Lord Webster or whoever it is a ring and tell them it’s time to update that book.

The Sundance Review Revue: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

The Sundance Review Revue: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

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.

The Sundance Review Revue: HELLO I MUST BE GOING

The Sundance Review Revue: HELLO I MUST BE GOING

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.

Warm up and get down: Sundance 2012 opening night party

Warm up and get down: Sundance 2012 opening night party

After four fabulous premieres, the crowds in Park City headed over to Legacy Lounge for the first real party of the Sundance Season.

The Sundance Review Revue: WISH YOU WERE HERE

The Sundance Review Revue: WISH YOU WERE HERE

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.

Watch Sundance films from home…right now!

Watch Sundance films from home…right now!

If you’re a fan of independent film, there’s nothing better than being at the Sundance Film Festival. And if you’re a fan of independent film, there’s nothing worse than not being at the Sundance Film Festival. The future of indie cinema is unspooling before the eyes of your fellow cinephiles, and all you can do is sit back and read about it on Facebook. The Internet is a double-edged sword in this regard. Social media gives you instant and constant access to festival buzz — but for a long time you couldn’t act on that buzz until those buzzy movies found distribution and made their way to your local theater. Slowly but surely, though, the Internet is starting to bring Sundance films, old and new, right into your home. Now while Park City’s bustling, you can do a lot more than just refresh your Twitter feed for hours on end while you cry into a pint of ice cream (not that I would, y’know, do something like that. I have a very rich and full life of, uh, other things).

The Sundance '12 opening night round-up

The Sundance '12 opening night round-up

Have you filled all your travel size bottles of Purell? Looked online to find out how many packets of Emergen-C a human being can safely ingest without overdosing on potassium? Bought enough Powerbars to qualify as a minority investor in the company? Good, then you’re ready for Opening Night of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Which is fortunate, cause it starts in, like four hours.

SMASHED takes a shot at Sundance '12

SMASHED takes a shot at Sundance '12

As one of the stars of Breaking Bad, if Aaron Paul’s acting like he’s under the influence of a controlled substance, it’s usually meth. But in the Sundance ’12 U.S. Dramatic Competition film SMASHED, Paul trades in the crank for the drank. He plays Charlie, one half of a young married couple who love to have a good time and get absolutely hammered. But when Charlie’s wife Kate (SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead) realizes she needs to get sober, it not only changes her life, it changes their marriage as well.

HELLO I MUST BE GOING to Sundance '12's U.S. Dramatic Competition

HELLO I MUST BE GOING to Sundance '12's U.S. Dramatic Competition

HELLO I MUST BE GOING is a true Sundance film, and not just because it’s premiering later this week at Sundance ’12′s U.S. Dramatic Competition. Screenwriter Sarah Koskoff and director Todd Louiso — himself a Sundance alum from his 2002 feature directorial debut, LOVE LIZA — first developed the project at the Sundance Institute’s 2009 Screenwriters Lab and the 2010 Screenplay Reading Series. Then, as Louiso explains in his Meet the Artists interview below, Louiso went to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival looking to find a producer. On January 19th he gave the screenplay to Mary Jane Skalski. One year later, on January 19th, 2012, the film — produced by Skalski — makes it world premiere at the Eccles Theatre at Sundance.

WISH YOU WERE HERE — From Australia to Cambodia to Park City

WISH YOU WERE HERE — From Australia to Cambodia to Park City

If the sudden influx of smart crime films from Australia is any indication of the quality of life in Oz, it might be time to start worrying about our friends down under. Hopefully it’s just an indication of the quality of cinema in Oz — which has risen sharply, along with the cinematic crime rate, in the last few years. In 2009, we were blown away by THE SQUARE, a sharp neo-noir from Aussie stuntman-slash-director Nash Edgerton. In 2010, David MichĂ´d brought us ANIMAL KINGDOM, an epic tale of a Melbourne crime family in freefall; it won the World Cinema Jury Prize at that year’s Sundance Film Festival. This year’s Sundance’s World Dramatic competition features WISH YOU WERE HERE from writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith, who appeared in both THE SQUARE and ANIMAL KINGDOM. All three films and all three filmmakers are part of an Australian collective called Blue-Tongue Films that also includes Luke Doolan and HESHER director Spencer Susser. Edgerton and Darcy-Smith’s partnership goes all the way back to the 1990s, when the duo co-directed their first short film together. It was called LOADED. And, hey, lookee! Here it is!

LUV – Common comes to Sundance's U.S. Dramatic Competition

LUV – Common comes to Sundance's U.S. Dramatic Competition

In interviews, LUV co-writer/director Sheldon Candis likes to describe his film as a “driller” — part drama, part thriller. Candis, a USC grad and one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film for 2011, based the film’s coming of age story on his own life growing up on the streets of Baltimore. Looking for a father figure, he found one in an uncle — not realizing that, as he puts it in his Sundance ’12 Meet the Artists interview (see below), the man he idolized was “one of the most infamous and feared drug dealers” in the entire city.

Film intelligence: Documenting the new Best Documentary Oscar rules

Film intelligence: Documenting the new Best Documentary Oscar rules

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. Every week, we read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]).

1. Documenting Big Changes for the Best Documentary Oscar

Every year the movies that do and do not get nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award become a huge source of contention. In 2011, popular and acclaimed documentaries THE INTERRUPTERS, SENNA, and BEING ELMO — and JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER, cried ten thousand beleaguered Beliebers — all missed the doc Oscar shortlist. To rectify the situation, the Academy announced this week they are overhauling the nomination process for the Best Documentary category: among the changes, films will now need a one-week commercial release in New York and Los Angeles and a review from the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. Hopefully these changes will help the best and most important docs get the recognition they deserve and we’ll never hear about Oscar documentary controversies again. On the other hand, you never say never. [Indiewire]

What Bruce Willis should expect when he's expecting to go to Sundance

What Bruce Willis should expect when he's expecting to go to Sundance

To: bruce.willis@brucewillis.com
From: matt.singer@sundancechannel.com
Re: Sundance Preparedness List

Dear Bruce-

Your people asked my people to ask me to write up a list of things to remember before you head to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. They know you’ve been to Sundance before — back in 2008, you walked the red carpet in support of Barry Levinson’s WHAT JUST HAPPENED — but they’re apparently a little worried you might be a little “What just happened?” about the whole experience and need a Park City refresher. You may decide you want to fire your people for that. That’s between you and them. I just do as I’m told. Don’t blame this on me and then drive a car into a helicopter into my living room, or run barefoot with a machine gun through my kitchen. Thanks.

Parker Posey to host 2012 Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony

Parker Posey to host 2012 Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony

Sundance Institute announced today the 22 members of the six juries awarding prizes at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the host of the Awards Ceremony on January 28. The Festival takes place January 19 through 29 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – Traveling through time with Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – Traveling through time with Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza

The September/October 1997 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine featured a curious classified ad. It read:
“WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 322, Oakview, CA 93022. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”

Beasts and Saints: environmental drama at Sundance 2012

Beasts and Saints: environmental drama at Sundance 2012

Environmentally-themed drama generally takes one of two directions: the apocalyptic horror (think THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) or the docu-drama (i.e. ERIN BROCKOVICH). In other words, if environmental issues are going to play a role in a fictional film, they’ve got to play a big, central role. Two films in competition this year at the Sundance Film Festival play with that dramatic tradition, and incorporate “the environment” into the story in either genre-bending, or even mind-bending, ways.

Sundance Film Festival follow up: LIKE CRAZY

Sundance Film Festival follow up: LIKE CRAZY

Appropriately for a movie about a long distance relationship, LIKE CRAZY has come a long way since its Park City debut almost one year ago. It was acquired by Paramount Pictures as “the first big sale” of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, then went on to receive the fest’s Grand Jury Prize from a group that included filmmakers Jason Reitman and Kimberly Peirce. After Sundance, it hit the festival circuit, playing Toronto, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Savannah, and Stockholm, then opened in limited release last fall. In ten weeks, without ever playing on more than 150 screens, it’s already recouped most of the reported $4 million Paramount paid to acquire the film. All in all, that’s, like, crazy. (An obvious joke, but I promise that’s the only time in this post I’ll make it. Maybe. I still have a few paragraphs to go.)

FILLY BROWN – Hustlers & flow in the story of rising rap artist

FILLY BROWN – Hustlers & flow in the story of rising rap artist

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the world’s premiere venues for independent artists. If you’ve got a film playing Sundance, that means you had something to say and you begged, borrowed, and stole in order to say it. I suspect that’s a big reason why movies about independent artists — not just filmmakers, but painters, writers, and especially musicians — have done so well over the years in Park City. If you’re at Sundance, odds are you understand that story. Hell, if you’re at Sundance, you probably are that story.

Film intelligence: An online home for Sundance films and more

Film intelligence: An online home for Sundance films and more

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. Every week, we read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]).

1. Sundance Alumni Head Upstream for Distribution

Thousands of movies have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival over the years, but only a comparative handful of those movies ever find theatrical distribution. Now a new partnership between the Sundance Institute and film distributor New Video will offer hope to festival filmmakers whose work has fallen through the cracks of the studio system. Soon any director that’s ever played Park City will have the opportunity to release his or her film through Sundance/New Video onto one (or all) of six web portals: Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and SundanceNOW. Let the reconsideration of forgotten 90s indie gems begin. [The New York Times]

One to watch at Sundance: Lizzy Caplan

One to watch at Sundance: Lizzy Caplan

She’s been working steadily in film and television since the early aughts, but Party Down star Lizzy Caplan first caught my eye in director Matt Reeves’ 2008 film CLOVERFIELD. She played Marlena, the girl who gets bitten by one of the weird bug aliens and then — SPOILER ALERT! — explodes. 2012 looks to be the year Caplan’s career does likewise, with a bunch of high profile starring roles including two at this month’s Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance Film Festival Follow Up: PARIAH

Sundance Film Festival Follow Up: PARIAH

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since PARIAH premiered at Sundance. The Brooklyn based, coming-out story impressed audiences in Park City and is now in theaters (well, theaters in certain cities). It’s the end of an extensive Sundance cycle for writer/director Dee Rees, who premiered a short version of the semi-autobiographical story at the festival back in 2007 and was chosen as a 2008 Sundance Screenwriting & Directing Lab Fellow.

Tim and Eric bring the drama to Sundance with THE COMEDY

Tim and Eric bring the drama to Sundance with THE COMEDY

If Las Vegas was taking bets on the breakout stars of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the short odds would belong to Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The perennial cult favorites from the subversive Cartoon Network series Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! (which is so subversive, it’s — GASP!! — not even a cartoon) head to Park City this month with two brand new projects in tow. They wrote, directed, and starred in TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, which is part of this year’s Midnight slate, and they both appear in Rick Alverson’s competition film THE COMEDY.