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Tower Theatre

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The Tower is my favorite Sundance venue, bar none. The might be due to the amazing work of Rene Zepeda and his crew, but there is still much to love about the theatre itself.

Is the snack selection great? Nope! They do what they can out of the 5×5 space that serves as the snack bar, box office, video rental counter, and for all I know, place where the bodies are disposed of and tea cozy manufacturing plant.

I have never once gotten flack for bringing in outside food, though. Chow Truck parked there for the latter half of the week during this Sundance and I dragged many a package of root chips and other delicious food in with me. I got the sense that I probably could have taken in a full side of beef and nobody would have minded.

I love the amazing and eclectic films available for rent here. It’s hard to imagine that, given the existence of a quirky or obscure film, Tower doesn’t have a copy for you to borrow.

The seating is the key reason that I love the venue. It looks a little like my junior high school auditorium, but the seats, clearly created during a bygone era, were engineered so that actual human bodies can sit in them comfortably. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it’s really just meant to distinguish them from the seats at the Broadway. Maybe even more importantly than the seats themselves is the spacing between rows which is generous.

The slight rake of the auditorium combined with an elevated screen makes for a comfy viewing experience. Sure this place is tattered at the corners, but once the lights go down and the movie starts, do you really care that much about what the walls look like?

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February 2, 2012 at 9:37am

Broadway Centre Cinemas

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The majority of my visits to Broadway center around Sundance. When you spend enough time in a place, the good and bad reveal themselves pretty clearly.

I love the snack menu here. Short of serving a Brewvies-style full menu, it’s hard to imagine there being more variety. From the usual fare to Rico burritos and tamales and the delicious edamame, anytime I’ve found myself peckish prior to a movie, I’ve been covered.

I’m also a huge fan of the movie selection during the year. Between this theatre and Tower, the Salt Lake Film Society really does handle this niche in the film world very well for the city.

Downsides? Parking is a pain, and doubly so during Sundance. The fact that they’ve decided to jack the prices up during the festival has driven me to street parking in perpetuity. I realize that Broadway doesn’t control this directly, but it’s still a part of the experience.

The reason I’m off a fifth star? The seats. They are punishingly unergonomic, covered in grimy, stained upholstery, and the rows are placed maddeningly close to one another. If I don’t get an aisle seat, I can plan on my legs aching for hours afterward. Not a single seat in the house will stop my back from hurting after sitting in these seats for the length of a movie, though. If Broadway would reserve it for me forever after, I would happily buy a replacement seat for each of the two screens they use for Sundance movies, no lie.

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February 1, 2012 at 9:33am

Sundance 2012 – Day Six

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Sundance 2012 – Day Six

6:00 pm
For Ellen
at Tower Theatre in Salt Lake
My Score – 86

9:30 pm
John Dies at the End
at Tower Theatre in Salt Lake
My Score – 89

Movies seen thus far: 17
Today’s Favorite: John Dies at the End
Festival Favorite: Indie Game

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January 25, 2012 at 11:36pm

Sundance 2012 – Day Three

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Sundance 2012 – Day Three

Indie Game: The Movie
at SLC Library in Salt Lake
My Score – 93

This movie feels almost personal to me, having spent many years in the software development world and also having an indie game project with a couple of friends. Finding a way to wring the drama out of an activity as solitary as coding is an impressive achievement. The filmmakers culled through footage with 20 or so developers but showed off that old adage that casting makes a movie when they settled on their three main subjects. The creators of Super Meat Boy and Fez were a fascinating group to watch. This documentary is impressively paced and scored. I had high expectations going in and couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

3:30 pm
Beasts of the Southern Wild
at Rose Wagner Center in Salt Lake
My Score – 92

Having just returned from a post-Christmas vacation in New Orleans, I was primed to love this love letter to Louisiana, and wasn’t disappointed. Given that the film is an exploration of a young girl who lives in extreme poverty with her father in a rural part of the stated called The Bathtub, there is plenty of room for this to be depressing. Instead the movie is a beautiful celebration of a unique and joyful community.

Two interesting notes: the first is how differently my wife and I responded to the movie. She saw it as a movie about a child in physical and emotional peril. It is worth mentioning that this was the second movie of the day that she was away from our 14 month-old daughter. Something tells me that the second part probably explains the first fairly well, but given the perils depicted, my wife’s reaction isn’t completely unwarranted either. The second note: if the bottle cap trick depicted isn’t the most efficient way that a filmmaker has managed to make me respect and like a character in a long time, I don’t know what is. Also, if that trick is remotely possible without movie magic, I want to learn how to do it yesterday.

6:00 pm
Filly Brown
at Tower Theatre in Salt Lake
My Score – 79

9:45 pm
Broadway Cinemas III in Salt Lake
My Score – 33

Movies seen thus far: 11
Today’s Favorite: Indie Game
Festival Favorite: Indie Game

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January 23, 2012 at 8:27am

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

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January 21, 2012 at 12:34am

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