Director Adam Wingard Talks THE GUEST, Dan Stevens’ Physical Transformation, the Way He Edits, His Next Two Projects, and More at Sundance 2014

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One of my favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was The Guest.  Directed and written by the team behind You’re Next (Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, respectively), The Guest is fantastic and as Matt said in his review, it “feels like a lost John Carpenter film from the director’s golden age.  The picture effortlessly moves between a nerve-wracking mystery to a gleefully dark comedy, and at its best it even mixes the two together.”   The story revolves around a soldier that befriends the family of a fallen comrade and becomes a threat to everyone around him when he may not be who he says he is.  Trust me, it’s a film you should be excited to see and I’m sure it’ll be released sometime this year.  The Guest stars Dan Stevens (in an amazingly dark turn), Maika MonroeLeland OrserLance ReddickChase Williamson, and Brendan Meyer.

Shortly after the premiere, I landed an exclusive video interview with Adam Wingard.  He talked about how You’re Next changed their approach to developing films, how they came upon the concept for The Guest, his process of editing, the length of his first cut, Stevens’ physical transformation and his topless scene, the other movie they almost made instead of The Guest (a non-stop chase action movie), and more.  In addition, Wingard talked about their next two projects, saying one is “a relentless horror film thrill ride” and the other has more action stuff in it, but both are totally different than anything else they’ve done.  Hit the jump to watch.

TOP 5: Sundance 2014, THE RAID 2 Trailer, Quentin Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT, New Trailer/Promo for Disney’s MALEFICENT, STAR WARS News

by     Posted 327 days ago

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If you’ve yet to check out writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s Short Term 12, what are you waiting for? The film hit shelves on Blu-ray/DVD on January 14th, rendering the “it’s not playing anywhere near me” excuse invalid. I had the opportunity to watch it last weekend and I was blown away. Much has been made of Brie Larson‘s performance and for good reason: it’s terrific. She’s not alone in that regard, though. The turns by Kaitlyn Dever and Keith Stanfield are nothing short of excellent and, in particular, a scene between Stanfield and John Gallagher Jr. in which Stanfield’s character, Marcus, bares his emotional scars via an original rap verse is equal parts heartbreaking and jaw-dropping. Watching Short Term 12 is an emotional roller coaster. You’ll laugh, cry, feel anger, love, hope, and despair. You’ll catch a glimpse of just how lonely a life can be and, at the same time, appreciate how opening ourselves up to the possibility of trust and love is a powerful decision that doesn’t come easily for all of us.

My Blu-ray/DVD recommendation of the week in the books, this week’s Top 5 highlights all of our Sundance 2014 coverage to date, a new trailer for The Raid 2 (including Matt’s Sundance review), Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight script leak, a new trailer for Disney’s Maleficent, and a variety of news from the Star Wars: Episode VII camp. Keep reading for a brief recap and link to each of the above.

Michael C. Hall and Vinessa Shaw Talk COLD IN JULY, the Film’s Multiple Tones, the Script, and More at Sundance 2014

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When you see a lot of movies, it’s always refreshing when you come across one that is thrillingly unpredictable.  That definitely describes Jim Mickle’s Cold in July, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  While most movies follow a certain trajectory, Cold in July pulls its audience into one tone, and then explodes it over halfway through the picture only to blow it up yet again.  If you not familiar with the film, the one line synopsis from Sundance is, “after killing a home intruder, a small town Texas man’s life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence.”  The film stars Michael C. HallDon JohnsonSam ShepardVinessa ShawNick Damici, and Wyatt Russell.  For more on the movie, read Matt’s review.

While at Sundance, I landed an exclusive video interview with Michael C. Hall and Vinessa Shaw.   They talked about the experience of reading the script for the first time, what the story is about, what it means to be part of Sundance, future projects, and more.  Hit the jump to watch.

Sundance 2014: THEY CAME TOGETHER Review

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When director David Wain does his own thing, it may not be for everyone, but he’s also at his best.  His more mainstream films, Role Models and Wanderlust, are entertaining, but his work on The State, Stella, and the classic Wet Hot American Summer is distinct, absurd, bold, and painfully funny.  His latest, They Came Together, is Wain embracing his unique comic voice as he turns to mock one of Hollywood’s easiest targets, the romantic comedy.  Despite the easily apparent flaws of that genre, Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter not only poke fun at the obvious tropes, but also let their delightfully twisted comedy burst through.  Further supported by Paul Rudd brilliantly and brutally skewering his familiar leading man persona, They Came Together doesn’t bring the rom-com to its knees, but it does deliver a well-deserved gut punch.

Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi Talk WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, Deciding on Which Jokes to Use, Their Writing Process, and More at Sundance

by     Posted 328 days ago

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One of the many great movies to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was writer-director Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s What We Do in the Shadows.  The mockumentary is about a group of a group of vampires who live together in Wellington, New Zealand.  Unlike some vampire movies that focus on young love, What We Do in the Shadows has the roommates struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.  Trust me, it’s extremely funny and I’m confident someone will purchase domestic rights so hopefully you’ll be able to see it sometime this year.  The film stars Clement, Waititi, Jonathon Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford and Rhys Darby.

The day after the premiere, I landed an exclusive video interview with Clement and Waititi.  They talked about how they wanted to premiere the film at the Transylvania Film Festival but they couldn’t finish it in time, how they got financing, being at Sundance, deciding on which jokes to use (since they did a lot of improvisation), filming on location and dealing with fans, why they used the RED camera, if they’re considering an extended cut on Blu-ray, deleted scenes, their writing process, the way they worked on set, future projects, and more.  Hit the jump to watch.

Simon Barrett Talks THE GUEST, the Pressure of Following Up YOU’RE NEXT, the Non-Stop Action Movie They Almost Made First, and More at Sundance 2014

by     Posted 329 days ago

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One of my favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was The Guest.  Directed and written by the team behind You’re Next (Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, respectively), The Guest is fantastic and as Matt said in his review, it “feels like a lost John Carpenter film from the director’s golden age.  The picture effortlessly moves between a nerve-wracking mystery to a gleefully dark comedy, and at its best it even mixes the two together.”   The story revolves around a soldier that befriends the family of a fallen comrade and becomes a threat to everyone around him when he may not be who he says he is.  Trust me, it’s a film you should be excited to see and I’m sure it’ll be released sometime this year.  The Guest stars Dan Stevens (in an amazingly dark turn), Maika MonroeLeland OrserLance ReddickChase Williamson, and Brendan Meyer.

Shortly after the premiere, I landed an exclusive video interview with screenwriter Simon Barrett.   He talked about the pressure and challenge of following up You’re Next, how much the project changed from inception to the final cut, the other movie they almost made instead of The Guest (a Korea-set action movie that would have been a non-stop chase scene for the entirety of the film), Stevens’ physical transformation, why they didn’t make cameos, and more.  He also revealed that he and Wingard already have their next two projects lined up, with the first set to shoot this year. Hit the jump to watch.

Sundance 2014: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL Review

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Sports are entertainment featuring athletic achievement, but too often they’re treated as a precious gemstone requiring constant polishing from sanctimonious sportswriters, an unremarkable commodity for owners, or both.  The notion that the sport should be fun isn’t unimportant, but it does fall through the cracks. Chapman and Maclain Way’s documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a potent reminder that sports can be fun and freewheeling while remaining respectable and financially successful.  The film provides not only a series of enjoyable anecdotes, but also a celebration of playing for the love of the game.

Anne Hathaway and Mary Steenburgen Talk SONG ONE, Bringing the Cast Together, Changes from Page to Screen, and More at Sundance 2014

by     Posted 329 days ago

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One of the many films to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was Song One, the directorial debut of Kate Barker-Froyland.  The film stars Anne Hathaway as a young woman who returns home after her brother is injured (Ben Rosenfield) and romantically connects with his favorite musician (Johnny Flynn).  Set against the backdrop of the Brooklyn music scene, Song One also stars Mary Steenburgen as Hathaway’s mom, which is perfect casting.   The film also features original music by Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice.

The day after the premiere, I landed an exclusive video interview with Hathaway and Steenburgen.  They talked about why they wanted to be involved in the project, how the cast came together, what changed from the page to the screen, Sundance, and more.  In addition, Song One is the first film Hathaway has produced, so she also talked about her producing duties.  Hit the jump to watch.

Sundance 2014: KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER Review

by     Posted 330 days ago

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If the words “true story” precedes a movie, it’s always misleading.  To tell an audience that something is based on a true story is to provide it with greater authenticity; it’s a short cut to making the fictional feel more factual.  Of course, not even documentaries are “true stories” since it’s always from a point of view, and just becomes something’s real, that doesn’t make it honest.  David and Nathan Zellner’s Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter thoughtfully examines why we need stories to be “true” even though we also crave the fantastical.  Unfortunately, the protagonist’s detached nature and baffling choices leave the picture colder than a Minnesota winter.

Sundance 2014 Acquisitions: THE SKELETON TWINS, GOD’S POCKET, and COLD IN JULY

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A few more films from the Sundance Film Festival have been acquired for distribution.

  • Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions will release the darkly comedic drama The Skeleton Twins, starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.  It was one of my favorite films from the festival, and you can read my review here.
  • IFC Films has picked up the feature directorial debut of Mad Men star John Slattery, God’s Pocket.  The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, and Christina Hendricks, and you can read Matt’s review here.
  • Per Deadline, IFC Films has also picked up the genre-hopping crime film Cold in July, starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson.  Read Matt’s review here.

Hit the jump to read the press releases for Skeleton Twins and God’s Pocket, and click here to catch up on all of our Sundance 2014 coverage.

Sundance 2014: THE RAID 2 Review

by     Posted 330 days ago

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When Gareth EvansThe Raid premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, audiences were floored.  It was as if someone had smacked us in the face about 800 times, and showed us that the action being churned out by Hollywood wasn’t half as effective as it could be.  No amount of CGI could ever pack the punch of a perfectly choreographed, perfectly shot, and perfectly edited fight scene.  The original’s barebones plot allowed the movie to mainline the action and get the adrenaline pumping.  It also created high expectations for The Raid 2.  Whereas the first movie was mean and lean, the sequel is epic and explosive with a twisting crime drama serving as the backdrop for some of the best action scenes you’ll ever see.  The violence is brutal; the set pieces are brilliant; and the movie hits so hard that your grandchildren will have bruises.

Sundance 2014: CALVARY Review

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The Catholic Church can give absolution to sinners who feel true repentance.  The Church is a vessel for God’s forgiveness.  But their cover-up of sex abuse was, by the morals of any civilized human being, unforgivable.  John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary is a dark, complex, and demanding meditation on faith, the limits of forgiveness, the necessity of compassion, the possibility of absolution, and inevitable reckonings.  Anchored by yet another incredible performance from Brendan Gleeson, Calvary is the rare film that shows the intricacies of religion without becoming pedantic in the process.

Sundance 2014: LAGGIES Review

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There is certain kind of movie that I would describe as a “Sundance Comedy”.  They’re technically indie films even though they feature movie stars, and they’re almost always fairly tame.  They’re cute at best and forgettable at worst, and Lynn Shelton’s Laggies has the distinction of being both.  What begins as a moderately interesting coming-of-age tale eventually devolves into something so light and airy that it’s on the verge of floating away, especially when the characters’ implausible actions do nothing to keep the story grounded.

Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan Talk LIFE AFTER BETH, Putting a New Spin on the Zombie Genre, the Crazy Cast, and More at Sundance 2014

by     Posted 331 days ago

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Writer/director Jeff Baena’s feature directorial debut Life After Beth puts a different spin on the zombie genre by revolving around a guy (Dane DeHaan) who must reexamine his relationship with his girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) when she unexpectedly comes back from the dead.  The film just had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s a sharply funny spin on the traditional “zombie movie” that blends the genre with a dramatic look at relationships in general; it also features Plaza’s most impressive performance to date.  The supporting cast is made up of a bevy of fantastic comedic actors including John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Paul Reiser, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Kendrick, and a host of delightful cameos.

Recently at Sundance, I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the film with its two leads, DeHaan and Plaza. During the course of our conversation, the two discussed the appeal of this non-traditional zombie conceit, working with the insanely talented cast, keeping the different stages of zombie deterioration straight while making the film, and more.  Additionally, Plaza talks about the “love fest” that is the Parks and Recreation cast and DeHaan considers the craziness to come with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  Read the full interview after the jump.

Sundance 2014: THE BABADOOK Review

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One of the great things about film festivals is that you can go in cold to almost anything.  There’s been little to no advertising, and you make choices based partially on what’s available at a certain time and partially on word-of-mouth.  Yesterday, I needed to fill in a gap in my schedule, and I remembered two of my friends had seen and liked The Babadook.  I didn’t actually ask them what they liked about it or anything at all about the plot.  My assumption: That’s a funny title, so I bet it will be a funny movie!  And I was oh so very wrong.  Writer-director Jennifer Kent has created a thoroughly creepy, nerve-wracking horror film with old-fashioned scare tactics.  However, Kent does her job so well that eventually The Babadook burns itself out as it keeps trying to claw away at our nerves.

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