My Year of Film Festivals: Looking Back at Sundance, SXSW, TIFF, and Fantastic Fest

by     Posted 1 year, 335 days ago

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I went to more film festivals this year than I ever had before.  I went to Sundance in January, SXSW in March, and TIFF and Fantastic Fest this month.  It’s exhausting, but it’s fun.  I see it as a nice break from the grind of delivering news stories.  It’s not that news is bad, or that it doesn’t have value, but it’s nice seeing the final product of the smaller films we’ve reported on since we probably only heard of them from a casting story as opposed to an onslaught of trailers and posters.  Obviously, there are film festivals where there are marquee titles making their last big push before opening in wide release (Sundance is the only festival where the biggest films—those filled with recognizable actors—might not even have distributors let alone a release date).  But it’s always a nice variety, and each festival has its own flavor.

After the jump hit the jump for my impressions of each festival.

Acquisition News: Weinstein Company Picks Up BACHELORETTE, Image Acquires GOATS, and Anchor Bay Nabs EXCISION

by     Posted 2 years, 203 days ago

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The 2012 Sundance Film Festival may be over, but the acquisitions are not. We’ve got three such stories to share with you today. First up, The Weinstein Company has closed a deal for North American distribution rights to the raunchy comedy Bachelorette. The film stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Adam Scott, and James Marsden and centers on four high school friends who reunite when the least popular of the group gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City. Matt praised the candidly despicable portrayal of the main characters, but was disappointed when the film tried to redeem their behavior towards the end. You can read his review here.

Deadline reports that The Weinstein Company plans on releasing the film through their new label Radius, which focuses on multi-platform release strategies. They plan on releasing Bachelorette on a multi-platform day and date release with a theatrical component. Hit the jump for acquisition news concerning the David Duchovny pic Goats and the horror film Excision.

Writer-Director Andrea Arnold Talks WUTHERING HEIGHTS at Sundance

by     Posted 2 years, 203 days ago

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At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, I was able to sit down with writer-director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) for an extended interview about her adaptation of Wuthering Heights that stars James Howson, Kaya Scodelario, Steve Evets, and Nichola Burley.  Here’s the short synopsis:

“What would you do if you were denied your soulmate? The passionate tale of Heathclith and Cathy, two teenagers whose elemental love for each other creates a storm of vengeance. From Andrea Arnold, comes a new take on the classic, a startling vision of desire and obsession.”

Like her previous films, Arnold has added a realistic take to the material, and it was one of my favorite films at Sundance.   During the interview, Arnold talked about being at Sundance, how she got involved in the project, her writing process, having the film vary its aesthetic depending on the characters age,  what she learned from showing the movie to friends, film vs. digital, what she has coming up, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview.

Directors Jake Schreier and Screenwriter Christopher D. Ford Talk ROBOT AND FRANK at Sundance

by     Posted 2 years, 204 days ago

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One of my favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director Jake Schreier‘s Robot and Frank.  The film is set in the near future and centers on an elderly ex-jewel thief (Frank Langella) whose kids (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) give him a caretaker robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), sparking an unlikely friendship. Susan Sarandon plays a librarian who serves as Langella’s only friend.  Since premiering at the festival, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn Films picked up the film for distribution, so you can expect to see it for yourself later this year.  For more on the film, you can read Matt’s review.

Right after seeing the film I got to sit down with Jake Schreier and screenwriter Christopher D. Ford.   During the interview we talked about the origin of the movie, how the script changed along the way, how they got financing, the design of the robot, the quick shooting schedule, what they learned during friends and family screenings, premiering at Sundance, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.

Mark Duplass Talks SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, Alex Kurtzman’s WELCOME TO PEOPLE, THE SKELETON TWINS, THE DO-DECA PENTATHLON at Sundance

by     Posted 2 years, 206 days ago

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One of the many films that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director Colin Trevorrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed.  Written by Derek Connolly, the film’s about a trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad that seeks a partner for time travel. One employee develops feelings for the paranoid but compelling loner and tries to discover what he’s really up to.  It’s based on a real ad that was passed around the internet in 2005 and the movie stars Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni.  Shortly after premiering, FilmDistrict bought the film, so you can look forward to seeing it at some point in the future.  For more on the film, you can read Matt’s review.

After seeing the movie, I got to sit down with Mark Duplass for an extended interview. We talked about being at Sundance, how he got involved in Safety Not Guaranteed and what it’s about, what it was like to watch the film for the first time with a big crowd at Sundance, and how the film changed during production.  In addition, since Duplass is involved in a number of other projects, we talked about the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman (Welcome to People), The Skeleton Twins (Bill Hader and Anna Faris as twins), Jeff Who Lives at Home, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, The League, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to watch the interview.

John Hawkes Talks THE SURROGATE, LINCOLN, Working with Daniel Day-Lewis, and More at Sundance

by     Posted 2 years, 206 days ago

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Led by a truly remarkable performance by John Hawkes, writer-director Ben Lewin‘s The Surrogate blew me away at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  The film’s based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung, who decides that he no longer wants to be a virgin.  With the help of his priest (William H. Macy) and a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt), we follow his amazing journey.  Trust me, The Surrogates is great on so many levels (which explains why there was a bidding war; Fox Searchlight won), and it’s definitely going to be a contender at the 2013 Academy Awards.  For more on the film, here’s Matt’s review.

Shortly after seeing the film, I sat down with John Hawkes for an extended interview.  We talked about being at Sundance, how he prepared for The Surrogate, the responsibility of playing a real person, his preference between a few takes or a lot, and so much more.  In addition, since Hawkes just worked with Steven Spielberg on Lincoln, he talked about how Tony Kushner‘s screenplay drew him to the project and what it was like to work with Daniel Day-Lewis.  Hit the jump to watch.

Aubrey Plaza Talks SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, THE TO-DO LIST (THE HAND JOB), PARKS AND REC, and More at Sundance 2012

by     Posted 2 years, 207 days ago

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One of the many films that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director Colin Trevorrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed.  Written by Derek Connolly, the film’s about a trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad that seeks a partner for time travel. One employee develops feelings for the paranoid but compelling loner and tries to discover what he’s really up to.  It’s based on a real ad that was passed around the internet in 2005 and the movie stars Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni.  Shortly after premiering, FilmDistrict bought the film, so you can look forward to seeing it at some point in the future.  For more on the film, you can read Matt’s review.

After seeing the movie, I got to sit down with Aubrey Plaza for an extended interview. We talked about being at Sundance, karaoke, what’s the last video game she’s played (Batman: Arkham City and Braid), 3D gaming, how she got involved in Safety Not Guaranteed and what it’s about, and what it was like to watch the film for the first time with a big crowd at Sundance.  In addition, she talked about Parks and Recreation, working with Bill Murray on director Roman Coppola‘s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, and director Maggie Carey‘s The To-Do List (aka The Hand Job), in which she plays a recent high school graduate intent on losing her virginity before going off to college.  She said filming some of it bordered on pornography.  Hit the jump to watch the interview.

Frank Langella Talks ROBOT AND FRANK, His First Book DROPPED NAMES, and More at Sundance 2012

by     Posted 2 years, 208 days ago

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One of my favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director Jake Schreier‘s Robot and Frank.  The film is set in the near future and centers on an elderly ex-jewel thief (Frank Langella) whose kids (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) give him a caretaker robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), sparking an unlikely friendship. Susan Sarandon plays a librarian who serves as Langella’s only friend.  Since premiering at the Festival, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn Films picked up the film for distribution, so you can expect to see it for yourself later this year.  For more on the film, you can read Matt’s review.

Right after seeing the film I got to sit down with Frank Langella for an exclusive interview.  During our extended conversation we talked about how he got involved in the project, how the script changed along the way, the design of the robot, the quick shooting schedule, filming on location, premiering it at Sundance, and a lot more.  In addition, Langella talked about writing his first book.  He told me, “It is called Dropped Names and it is about famous men and woman as I knew them from the age of 15 up to now, and I am dropping their names because they have dropped dead.  It is about famous people who are dead.”  Hit the jump for more.

Sundance 2012: Matt’s Review Scorecard and Wrap-Up

by     Posted 2 years, 210 days ago

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Like I did last year, I had a great time at the Sundance Film Festival.  It’s tough to complain about weather conditions or getting around when you have the privilege to watch and discover new movies all day.  Even better, plenty of Sundance 2012 films turned out to be pretty damn good.  For me, there weren’t any quite as excellent as Martha Marcy May Marlene or Project Nim from last year, but those movies set an incredibly high bar.  Many of my peers felt they saw something truly special with Beasts of the Southern Wild and I can understand the love even if it didn’t hit me with as much emotional impact.  Most of my peers also loved Liberal Arts and Sleepwalk With Me, and I’m sorry I missed those.  But all in all, the festival ran as smoothly as last year, the volunteers (especially those in the press tent) were awesome, and it’s always a joy to hang out with people from other movie websites.

Hit the jump for my festival scorecard where you can see an organized list of my ratings for the movies I saw (although I highly encourage you to read the full review rather than just glance at a letter).  While this is my wrap-up, Steve will be posting his Sundance interviews throughout the week so keep an eye out for those.

Sundance 2012: SIMON KILLER Review

by     Posted 2 years, 210 days ago

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Antonio Campos‘s Simon Killer is an amusing film both unintentionally and unexpectedly.  The film is rarely meant to be comedic and it rarely enters into so-bad-it’s-good territory.  What makes the film so amusing is how hard Campos is trying to make it exciting.  It is the definition of overcompensating as the aggressive direction, bizarre cinematography, and melodramatic performances try to convince the audience the dull plot and pathetic characters are worth caring about.  There’s even a moderately intriguing idea at the center of the protagonist’s motives, but it’s buried under meaningless sex, violence, and introspection.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead Talks SMASHED, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER and A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III

by     Posted 2 years, 210 days ago

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One of the many films that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director James Ponsoldt‘s Smashed.  Written by Susan Burke and James Ponsoldt, Smashed is about a young married couple – played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul – who are brought together by booze.  When Winstead’s character (Kate) decides to get sober, it creates its own set of problems.  While the film and subject matter could have easily drifted into a Lifetime movie of the week, what makes Smashed work is a career best performance by Winstead and fantastic work from the rest of the cast which includes Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally. For more on the film, here’s Matt’s review.

Shortly after seeing the film, I got to sit down with Winstead for an exclusive interview.  We talked about what it means to be a part of Sundance, how she got involved in Smashed and what it’s about, how she went about creating a three dimensional character, karaoke, working with director Timur Bekmambetov on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and who she plays, Roman Coppola‘s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, and what she has coming up.  Hit the jump to watch.

Sundance 2012: COMPLIANCE Review

by     Posted 2 years, 211 days ago

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In recent memory, only last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene made my skin crawl and stomach turn like Compliance.  In some ways, Compliance is far worse since it goes beyond two people and instead casts an accusatory finger at humanity and asks, “How easily can you be tricked into dehumanizing another person?”  Craig Zobel‘s incredible script and brilliant direction slowly puts you in a chokehold until you’re struggling to breathe and begging to be let go.  Compliance is almost impossibly difficult to endure and it only eases up when Zobel makes a minor mistake in casting, explanation, or resolution.  But these are small missteps in a film that sickens you to your core.  And then it gets worse when you remember that the story is based on true events.

Sundance 2012: THE OTHER DREAM TEAM Review

by     Posted 2 years, 211 days ago

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There is a world beyond American sports.  We would just prefer not to acknowledge it.  That’s why what we call “soccer” the rest of the world calls “football” and what we call “football” is played mostly with hands.  The Other Dream Team is an important sports story that had nothing to do with us, but shows a compelling drama far beyond our traditional winner-loser/rivalry dynamic.  Sports can serve as an important symbol of competition and reconciliation between major powers.  The Other Dream Team does an effective job of tying a popular sport to the world-changing events, but sometimes lets the historical events overpower the athletic events.

Sundance 2012: THE IMPOSTER Review

by     Posted 2 years, 212 days ago

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Never underestimate the power of a good dramatization.  The reenactment has taken on comic connotations due to its incompetent, lazy use on networks like The History Channel, but when used correctly, it can be an absolute powerhouse of documentary storytelling.  With his feature debut, The Imposter, director Bart Layton has delivered one of the best thrillers in years and it’s a documentary.  Layton’s mastery of dramatization ratchets up the intensity and fascination for a truly bizarre and disturbing case.  His only mistake is being so good at his job that we start to wonder if he’s mirroring his main character by trying to pull one over on the audience.

Sundance 2012: ROBOT & FRANK Review

by     Posted 2 years, 212 days ago

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Not even ornery old men can resist the lure of a special robot friend.  Robot & Frank‘s hook is in its title, but it goes beyond what could have been the premise for a weekly sitcom.  Instead, the film puts together a strong juxtaposition between a man who’s started to forget everything and a robot who can remember anything.  It’s a familiar story about memory being tied to personality, but Robot & Frank throws in the importance of teaching and passion as a way to keep remembering (if only for a little while longer).  With the exception of a confused epilogue, director Jake Schreier and screenwriter and Christopher D. Ford have managed to build a warm, funny, and charming movie around a thoughtful premise.

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