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Sundance 2012 – Top Eight and Bottom Three

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This was an unusual Sundance. Going into the festival, there were only two or three movies that I was really excited about. Maybe low expectations helped the scores, which were pretty high throughout. Here are my eight favorites and three that you should avoid.

Top Eight

Indie Game
Score: 93

West of Memphis
Score: 93

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Score: 92

Safety Not Guaranteed
Score: 92

Sleepwalk with Me
Score: 92

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
Score: 92

The End of Love
Score: 91

The Raid
Score: 90

Bottom Three

Red Hook Summer
Score: 44

I came into the festival looking forward to this movie, the latest from Spike Lee. It disappointed on almost every level.

The one level it didn’t disappoint on was Clarke Peters’ work. No matter how tone deaf or mannered the dialogue, Peters really throws his weight behind it, and brings a sense of the inner life of a widowed pastor. Unfortunately, this only makes him stand out more from the rest of the cast, most of whom appear to be first-time actors. Given the number of careers that Lee has launched over the course of his career, it’s difficult to see what drew him to anybody in this particular cast. Nearly all of them fade into the vibrant, oversaturated background and those who don’t stand out simply because their work feels like it might be more at home on a small community theater stage.

The sound design and mix felt almost as amateurish as the acting. Music cues drowned out dialogue in more than one place and simply felt like a demand for an unearned emotional response in others. It was a fundamental mistake to score this film with music from open to close. Many scenes seemed extended for no other reason than to make sure that entire musical phrases. There may be a tighter 45-minute movie screaming to get out of this 135 minutes, but finding it would first require that it be untethered from the unpleasant music.

If you were searching for areas to edit, it bears noticing that during the course of this movie, I sat through church three separate times. Each time, I got a full sermon and sometimes even more. One would think that judicious editing could start there. In fact, I don’t recall a single scene in the movie that felt paced at anything fast than a shuffling gait. I stopped counting the number of times that I checked the clock to see what time it is, and the first was 30 minutes in, which may be some kind of new record for me.

Spike asked Sundance audiences to make sure that people know this isn’t a sequel to Do The Right Thing. The two movies hardly belong in the same universe much less the same sentence with one another, but some of the confusion may come from the revisiting of Mookie, Lee’s own character from the previous movie. I suppose I can see the appeal of the cameo for Spike as an attempt to inject a few moments of levity and believable acting into the movie. At any rate, there is such a step backward in all areas of film making that I don’t think that, without his name on the poster, many people would identify this movie with the earlier one.

Score: 33

I enjoyed Rubber moderately. This movie was as interminable as the director was condescending and pretentious during the Q&A.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
Score: 26

I haven’t the words and, if I did, I doubt I’d waste them. Run.

Written by ireviewsomething

January 30, 2012 at 8:13am

Sundance 2012 – Day One

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Sundance 2012 – Day One

6:00 pm
Wish You Were Here
at Tower Theatre in Salt Lake
My Score – 84

9:00 pm
The Raid
at Broadway Cinema III in Salt Lake
My Score – 90

There was an ECW professional wrestler named Tommy Dreamer who got his nickname, “The Innovator of Violence,” primarily by beating people over the head with a Singapore cane. The world may have found a brand new innovator in Gareth Evans, a Welsh-born filmmaker who works in Indonesia. This straightforward story follows a Indonesian riot squad’s attempt to take down a local crime lord and play every bit like a video game with human avatars bearing the brunt of every kick, gunshot wound, and stabbing.

Evans’ stated goal of showing off silat is impressively carried out and shows the Indonesian martial art to be a highly kinetic and filmic discipline. The red-band trailers floating around for this movie hardly do it justice, as there is actually an impressive bit of restraint shown by the filmmaker. This makes The Raid a good counterpoint to a movie I saw opening night last year, I Saw the Devil. Where Devil reveled in showing the viewer every grotesque bit of graphic violence possible, the restraint shown in The Raid makes the few moments where the camera does dwell on a particular violent act much more visceral. Also adding to the heart-pounding action is an impressive keyboard-driven score by Joseph Trapanese which could have easily been pulled out of an 80’s action movie and fit the subject matter perfectly.

Movies seen thus far: 2
Today’s Favorite: The Raid
Festival Favorite: The Raid

Written by ireviewsomething

January 21, 2012 at 12:34am

Sundance 2012

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I just returned from a week in New Orleans, so lots of reviews on the way. In the meantime, Sundance approaches and here’s my tentative schedule of what I’m planning to see.

6 Wish You Were Here
9:45 The Raid

noon That’s What She Said
3:30 The Queen of Versailles
5:30 West of Memphis or Celeste and Jesse Forever at 6:30 if I can’t make the transition work
9:30 Red Lights
midnight The Pact

noon Indie Game: The Movie
3:30 Beasts of the Southern Wild
6 Filly Brown or 6:30 Hello I Must Be Going
9:30 This Must Be the Place or 9:45 Wrong

6 V/H/S
9 Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap

6 The End of Love
9 Room 327

6 For Ellen
9 John Dies at the End

6 Sleepwalk with Me
9 The Imposter

6:30 Safety Not Guaranteed
9:45 Luv
midnight Excision

noon Arbitrage
3 Red Hook Summer
6 Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
9:45 Shut Up and Play the Hits
midnight For a Good Time Call…

12:30 The Words
3 Predisposed or 3:30 Robot and Frank
6 The Tower TBA

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