We know some of you hate reading those cumbersome long reviews, so here’s a gaggle of Sundance screening write-ups in three sentences or less. See if you can look forward to "Resurrecting the Champ," "Angel-A," "King of California," "Smiley Face," and more!
Comic actress Anna Faris nails the mannerisms of being high in the first half of this stoner comedy (super-slow thinking, paranoia, the munchies), but her character’s subsequent meandering adventure will totally harsh your mellow. THC enthusiasts will be mesmerized by the film’s opening credits, which recall that animated Junior Senior music video (you know which one I’m talking about). Otherwise, look for performances by John Cho, Adam Brody and John Krasinski, and an all-too-brief, but unforgettable bit by Danny Masterson (as Faris’ borderline-psycho sci-fi geek roommate).
Michael Douglas is a wacky dad! Evan Rachel Wood is an overly-mature teen! Unfortunately, the best part of watching this film is hearing Wilco’s "California Stars" play over the end credits, marking the end to a familiar story with one-too-many cute-clever tricks up its sleeve. I’ve got one nagging question: do they really sell scuba gear at Costco?
(Extra points to Douglas for growing/sporting the world’s most obvious Don Quixote beard for the year’s most obvious Don Quixote-esque character.)
A surprisingly good based-in-truth journalism story about a hungry sportswriter who happens upon a long-forgotten boxer, "Champ" benefits from an unusually vulnerable performance by Sam Jackson (with a high raspy voice and jittery, downcast eyes). Josh Hartnett puts in a pretty good desperation-tinged turn himself, and the script pulls both together nicely on a theme of love and baggage between fathers and sons.
As awe-inspiring as it is to watch man-made rockets launch into space, seeing said Discovery Channel-esque footage played over and over again (at least, footage that looks the same — who can tell their Apollo 7s from their Apollo 17s?) becomes terribly repetitive over the course of 100 minutes, despite the occasionally witty remarks of former astronauts (especially Apollo 11 orbiter Michael Collins) who have been there, done that, walked on the moon.
Justin Theroux‘s rom-com directorial debut is pretty conventional stuff — boy (Billy Crudup) meets girl (Mandy "Candy" Moore), boy begrudgingly falls in love with girl, boy’s personal dysfunctions alienate girl, boy must win back girl in the quirkiest way possible — but adds just enough intrigue to the mix (including Tom Wilkinson as Crudup’s beyond-the-grave mentor and a handful of colorfully painted characterizations) to make this love story not-so-routine. Moore’s dyed-dark hair and kohl-rimmed eyes (and at times, Crudup’s overly flamboyant mental illness schtick) are often "we’re putting on a show"-level distracting, but who can resist a love story set in Montauk, Long Island?
Luc Besson fans and lovers of old black and white romances may be able to forgive "Angel-A" its shortcomings; the tale of a diminutive down-on-his-luck hustler who saves (or is it the other way around?) an astronomically leggy blonde from jumping off a bridge is fun, touching, and beautifully shot on the streets of Paris, but cuts too quick to a convenient denouement to be fully believable. That aside, the 5’10" former Victoria’s Secret model (and aspiring filmmaker) Rie Rassmussen is phenomenal as the titular beauty in only her second feature-length gig, and her chemistry with French actor Jamel Debbouzze ("Amelie") is delightful to watch.
Talk about a road movie. This winding soul search of a film stars Lou Taylor Pucci as a nineteen-year-old who, alone after the death of his mother, steals a car and sets off across the Midwest in search of a long-lost half-brother; along the way, we can predict he’ll meet a bevy of oddball characters, each whom will help him along his quest in their own quirky way. Uneven pacing and too many brief cameos make some stretches of this film as long as a dusty highway and just as empty, though rolling, atmospheric music by indie folkster M. Ward carries you along, at least for a bit.
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