With Senh, Jen, and Terrible Tim Ryan roaming the streets of Park City, the Tomato readers have had plenty of Sundance reports to pick through. But I thought I’d contribute my own two pennies to the coverage, and give you the best-to-worst lowdown on the myriad movies I took in.
Ratings run on a 1-5 scale. I’ll keep the commentary brief because I have a whole lot of work to do!
The Descent – ***** – I see every horror flick under the sun. And this one actually scared me. And it gets even better the second time around.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated – ****1/2 – Master documentarian Kirby Dick takes a few shortcuts in this demolition of the MPAA ratings board, but I can’t imagine a movie geek who won’t have a darn good time with this doco.
Awesome; I F–kin’ Shot That! – ****1/2 – For Beastie Boys fans only. Like me!
Art School Confidential – **** – First half: really, really funny. Second half: Focuses on a less than fascinating subplot and the laughs sorta dry up. Still, if you’re a "Ghost World" fan, or you just love seeing the "art kids" get a nice satirical skewering, you’ll dig it fine.
Little Miss Sunshine – **** – One or two unwieldly subplots prevent this one from getting a higher rating, but I still liked it a whole lot. Carell, Kinnear, and Alan Arkin deliver some really solid, weird laughs here.
Off the Black – **** – A low-key and melancholy character study with Nick Nolte at the top of his game. (He plays an emotionally isolated umpire who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a high school pitcher.)
Factotum – **** – Matt Dillon as a pseudo-Bukowksi, and the guy delivers one of his best performances ever.
Special – **** – Michael Rapaport plays a guy who may or may not have inherited "super powers" after testing a freaky new prescription drug. Imagine if Kevin Smith had directed "Unbreakable."
Sherrybaby – ***1/2 – A rough-edged and sobering character study with Maggie Gyllenhaal at the top of her game. (She plays a recovering junkie fresh out of prison who’s trying to re-connect with her young daughter.)
TV Junkie – ***1/2 – Comprised entirely of Jim Kirkham’s home movies, in which he laughs, cries, becomes famous, and builds a family … all while battling a ravenous crack addicion.
Wordplay – ***1/2 – A lightweight but colorfully entertaining doco about the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and the various people who adore it. The presence of a hilarious Jon Stewart helps a whole lot.
Wristcutters: A Love Story – ****1/2 – Patrick Fugit finds himself in a bleached-out purgatory after committing suicide and sets off to find his old girlfriend.
American Hardcore – *** – If you’re a fan of the early-80s hardcore punk scene, this retrospective documentary will curl your toes. Felt a little redundant to me, but then again I’m not a member of the target audience.
13 Tzameti – *** – A slow-starting French thriller about a clueless kid who somehow finds himself trapped in an underground Russian Roulette tournament.
Lucky Number Slevin – *** – Too clever for its own good, but packed with familiar faces, this one’s a familiar gangster flick that’ll feel right at home on HBO.
The World According to Sesame Street – *** – Alternately fascinating, self-congrulatory, and even a little dull, this doco takes a look at the ways in which Sesame Street branches out to new markets across the world.
Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out – *** – Feels like Police drummer Stewart Copeland pulled a lot of home movie footage out of his garage, recorded a narration track, and released the thing as is. A few recent interviews might have helped … especially from someone not associated with the band. Still, fans should enjoy it.
The Hawk Is Dying – *** – A dry and fairly bizarre character study with Paul Giamatti as a sad-sack weirdo who has a (very) big sister, a (mildly) handicapped nephew, and an obsession with the capture and training of hawks. Most of the Sundancers I talked to liked this flick a lot more than I did, so take my lack of enthusiasm with a grain of salt, I suppose.
Salvage – **1/2 – The first of two horror flicks that feel like short films stretched out to feature length … and it doesn’t quite work. This one’s about a girl who keeps dreaming of being slaughtered by a brutal madman … over and over and over.
Subject Two – **1/2 – A beautiful-looking but frequently slow-moving medical thriller about a mad scientist who tries to cheat death by way of some freaky formula, only he has to keep killing his subject before he can bring him back to life.
The Darwin Awards – **1/2 – Easily the most disappointing Sundance offering (in my book, anyway), this is a clumsily unfunny comedy that starts out with a great cast and a killer concept … and does next to nothing with either.
All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise – ** – Hey this just in: Same sex parents really do love their children. Now imagine that one simple message delivered for 90 straight minutes.
Somebodies – *1/2 – The first ten minutes offered some really big laughs … and then the wheels just came off. The resulting flick feels like a "House Party 6: The New Generation," only with no-name actors in the Cedric and Bernie Mac roles. But hey, Roger Ebert raved over this one, so don’t go by me…
The Call of Cthulhu – ****1/2 – One of the coolest Lovecraft adaptations you’ll ever see, this flick is 47 minutes of pure old-school style. It’s short, it’s silent, and it’s absolutely excellent.
The Other Side – ***1/2 – A winking b-movie composed of perhaps 12 other concepts, from "The Hidden" to "Jacob’s Ladder," but it’s still just enough fun to keep you watching.
Love Is the Drug – ***1/2 – A nice-guy semi-nerd who works in a pharmacy falls in with the wrong crowd … and does some really stupid things to earn the affections of Ms. Lizzy Caplan. (Like you wouldn’t do the same!)
Things to Do – ***1/2 – A bit heavy on the Napoleon Dynamite wannabeism, but still oddly amusing enough to earn my recommendation. This one’s about an awkward office drone who quits his job and returns home to live with Mom & Dad, only to fall in with a goofy old acquaintance who inspires him to make a list of "things to do."
Find Love – ***1/2 – A mostly improvised romantic drama about the ways in which love can strike at the worst imaginable moments … kinda like a disease.
The Guatemalan Handshake – *** – Weird stuff. I kept nodding off. My apologies to the filmmakers.
The Actress – *** – Three Aussie roommates welcome a new woman into their lives, and much sex ensues.
So that’s 30 movies in 6 days. Hmph. I’ve done better. For a closer look at my festival reports have a peek over at JoBlo’s, eFilmCritic, or just stick around here at Rotten Tomatoes and see if you can spot the pic of me in which I look like a crack-addicted zombie.
Also please note that the opinions offered above are mine only, and do not represent any of the other Tomato farmers, so make sure your hate mail goes to the right email address.