Sundance Film Festival

Review Revue: PARANORMAN, COMPLIANCE, ROBOT AND FRANK

Going to the movies should never, ever be stressful (unless, of course, you’re planning on seeing the latest Lars von Trier flick). You want to see something new and relevant so that you can talk it up with your know-it-all friends. But you don’t want to sit through the one film that everyone thought would be great but… isn’t. So here is our formula, simplifying the should-you-see-it conundrum:
5 new releases x 2 critical samplings = what you should go see.

Simple enough, right? This week we have a serious creep, a kid born from a tree, RPatz cruisin’ in a limo, a jewel thief assisted by a robot and some unmentionable activity in the back of a fast-food joint.

PARANORMAN

Synopsis: From Laika, the same bunch who brought us CORALINE, this second stop-motion animated 3D feature follows awesomely creepy young Norman as he communes (and converses with) the dead.

Most typical critique: Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service:

Equal parts scary, intense, emotional and humorous, PARANORMAN is also a movie of messages, about what “scared, stupid people” are capable of (witch trials), of misjudging the “different” and the consequences of intolerance.

The quote not to miss: Justin Chang, Variety:

Few movies so taken with death have felt so rudely alive as PARANORMAN, the latest handcrafted marvel from the stop-motion artists at Laika.

Should you go see it?

Yes! This is the new standard in gleefully macabre storytelling for children — and adults.

COMPLIANCE

Synopsis: An unsettling account, based on a true story, of a touchy situation in the manager’s office of a fast-food restaurant involving a police officer on the phone accusing an employee of theft, and the frazzled manager who “complies” with everything the officer instructs her to do.
Most typical critique: Adam Litoviz, Globe and Mail:

COMPLIANCE develops an intriguing premise intelligently, inquisitively and uncomfortably.

The quote not to miss: Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly:

Zobel shoots his queasy little psych test with I’m-just-the-messenger documentary neutrality, challenging as he goes: Do you want to look away now? How about now? Will you walk out?

Should you go see it?

Absolutely. This one made major waves at the Sundance Film Festival this year. And check out our feature on the film and director Craig Zobel.

ROBOT AND FRANK

Synopsis: In this Sundance Film Festival winner, Frank Langella plays an aging burglar who receives a curious gift from his preoccupied son (James “Cyclops” Marsden): a dainty butler robot voiced by Peter Sarsgaard.

Most typical critique: Noel Murray, AV Club:

[Director Jake] Schreier elicits warm performances from Langella and Susan Sarandon, and even from his robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard).

The quote not to miss: John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter:

ROBOT AND FRANK reminds quirk-hardened veterans that an odd premise and big heart don’t have to add up to too-precious awards bait.

Should you go see it?

Another emphatic yes. This film is adorable, but still deals with some pretty serious and insightful themes. Plus, this is some of the best work in years from two exceptionally gifted actors, Langella and Sarandon.

COSMOPOLIS

Synopsis: David Cronenberg directs this Don DeLillo adaptation, starring Robert Pattinson as a paranoid finance big shot trekking across the city (and deeper into his own mind) over the course of one frenzied day.

Most typical critique: Justin Chang, Variety:

COSMOPOLIS probes the soullessness of the 1% with the cinematic equivalent of latex gloves.

The quote not to miss: David Ehrlich, Boxoffice Magazine:

Don’t panic, but Robert Pattinson may have been neutered.

Should you go see it?

This is a tough one. Depends on how weird you want to get. This is Cronenberg, after all…

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN

Synopsis: This Disney vehicle sees Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton planting a child in the backyard of their house. Yah, you read that right.

Most typical critique: Claudia Puig, USA Today:

Mostly, THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN feels contrived , if undeniably sweet.

The quote not to miss: Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush:

My eyes rolled so many times I probably looked like I was having a stroke.

Should you go see it?

Only if you’re in the mood for some major sap. Or you need to occupy the kids.