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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Sundance 2014: BOYHOOD Review

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Boyhood is a miracle.  It is truly unique.  It is a masterpiece.  It is one of the best coming-of-age movies ever made.  These superlatives may seem grandiose or even hyperbolic, but Richard Linklater’s 12-year project is a work of art unlike any other.  More importantly, it’s a work that hits a thoughtful and emotional core.  It is a movie that not only draws us into the lives of the characters, but also causes us to reexamine our own lives.  Boyhood is both intimate and epic, subtle and overwhelming, and an absolute marvel.

Sundance 2014: COLD IN JULY Review

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Genre is a lifeline.  We cling to it in order to guide our expectations of a film, and while genres can be blended, we expect them to remain consistent.  But just because a clearly stated genre is conventional, that doesn’t mean it’s unshakable.  Jim Mickle’s 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.  It can be categorized as a “crime” film, but that doesn’t really do it justice as Mickle constantly shakes up the tone to where the picture can be jarring and schizophrenic.  But this approach also makes Cold in July thrillingly unpredictable.

Sundance 2014: IVORY TOWER Review

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After they leave higher education, young people are told they’ll be entering the “real world”, i.e. an unstructured environment where they’ll have to be self-sufficient.  They’ll also be entering an absolutely insane place where among the myriad of problems they’ll likely face is that the entry cost to the real world has put them in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.  The wretched economy has put them at an even greater disadvantage to where we’ve reached a crisis.  Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower examines this crisis from multiple perspectives, breaking down the problem, asking about the necessity of college, and potential alternatives or compromises.  The documentary could use a better organization, and yet it’s never wishy-washy.  At the very least, Rossi starts a conversation we need to be having.

Sundance 2014: YOUNG ONES Review

by     Posted 226 days ago

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There are rare times when everything in a movie can work—its direction, performances, etc.—and yet the picture somehow comes up short.  This is the problem with trying to judge movies piecemeal.  For all of the different aspects that make up a picture, we have to evaluate it as a whole.  Obviously, we can call attention to its outstanding aspects, but they have to lead, for better or worse, to some kind of impression.  Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones is remarkable in how it does so much right, and yet it leaves the viewer completely cold.  Its strengths are undeniable and its flaws are subtle, so subtle that it can be confusing as to how such a technically superb picture can be so ineffective.

Sundance 2014: WISH I WAS HERE Review

by     Posted 226 days ago

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It’s been ten long years since Zach Braff directed a feature film.  Those that fell hard for Garden State—myself included—looked forward to seeing another directorial effort from Braff, and now the time has finally come with Wish I Was Here.  Written by Braff and his brother Adam Braff, the story explores late-blooming maturity through the eyes of a struggling actor living in L.A. with his wife and two children.  Braff weaves in plenty of themes about loss, marriage, and parenthood throughout the film, but he throws so much into the pot that not all of it sticks.  The result is a disappointing mixed bag, with some of the film hitting just the right note while the rest of it falls completely flat.  Read my full review after the jump.

Sundance 2014: THE GUEST Review

by     Posted 226 days ago

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From 1974 to 1988, director John Carpenter was pretty much unstoppable. His films were scary, funny, strange, and thrilling.  Adam Wingard’s The Guest feels like a lost 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.  While Wingard carries the Carpenter-esque tone by making excellent use of Robby Baumgartner’s cinematography and Stephen Moore’s score, his greatest asset is Dan Stevens’ tremendous lead performance.  And even when the picture starts to get away from Wingard, it never ceases to be an entertaining ride.

Sundance 2014: A MOST WANTED MAN Review

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The spy thriller genre—like all genres—has its fair share of tropes and clichés.  The best entries are ones that take the foundation of the genre and expand upon it or put a new spin on the material.  Director Anton Corbijn’s latest film, A Most Wanted Man, is a solid and sharply smart entry into the spy genre that manages to explore dark characters and difficult topics while foregoing the typical action-heavy formula, sidestepping audience expectations in the process.  This is not a film that takes shortcuts just to make its audience happy, and though the final results may not delve as deep into some of its themes as one would expect, it still manages to be an involving, tense, and slow-burn thriller.  Read my full review after the jump.

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