At Sundance, I saw five films and a collection of short films (that I won’t comment on). For the few who will be interested in my uneducated review of these films, I decided to make a post.
Pretty Bird (starring Billy Crudup and Paul Giammatti)
This was the first film I saw at the Festival and made me question why I had decided to come to the film festival. It was awful. That’s hard for me to say about something people put a lot of hard work and energy into. The true story the movie was very loosely based on seemed to be actually an interesting story. It was about three guys involved in building a rocket belt (a jet pack that allows you to fly for about 20 seconds). Greed comes into the picture and leads people to awful choices. The movie just seemed thrown together without intention. The director doesn’t make a point very well. I not only didn’t care about the characters, I found them annoying. Perhaps, the movie does offer warning to greed, but it’s really tough to come away warned at all. All in all, I wouldn’t recommend anybody to see this film.
The Last Word (starring Wes Bentley, Winona Ryder, and Ray Ramano)
This was my favorite movie I saw while I was there. The subject matter couldn’t have been much darker: a guy who writes suicide notes for people committing suicide falls in love with one of his client’s sisters. However, the movie was quite funny while still giving enough weight to the topic it was covering. The point of the movie is also redemptive as well. The movie was well-directed and well-acted. It wasn’t a pefect movie (Winona Ryder’s character seemed a little unbelievable). However, the movie was enjoyable and gave us something to talk about afterwards. This would be the movie I would most recommend to keep an eye out for.
The Escapist (starring Brian Cox)
This movie was a close second to the Last Word. It’s a prison break movie that takes place in Britain. The style, directing, editing, and acting in the film are all excellent. The only problem of the movie is that with there being so many other prison break movies and now a several season running TV show, many characters and plot points will seem familiar. For those who don’t like prison break movies and get squeamish at the rough life within the prison walls, you won’t like this movie. Without giving too much away, there is an interesting plot point that does lift the movie out of the typical formula and begs some thoughtful spiritual and philosophical discussion. With the above caution, I recommend this film as well.
Sugar (from the directors of Half Nelson)
Sugar is an engrossing cross-cultural experience of America through the eyes of a young Domincan baseball player trying to make it in the majors. I thought the movie was going to be a “baseball movie.” If that is what you expect when going to see this film, you will be disappointed. It’s a side of baseball that I haven’t been exposed to. But, baseball is not what drives the movie. Instead, it deals with the hopes, pressures, and challenges someone from a developing country has in coming to America. The most interesting part of the movie is when he is playing in a minor league club and living with a older couple in rural Iowa. The older couple’s granddaughter even invites the main character to her youth group. The scene shows the willingness to sometimes include and invite outsiders in evangelicals have, but their failure to really listen to and accomodate to outsiders. It was a great side point. While I came in with different expectations of what the movie was going to be about, I thought the movie was complex and thought-provoking. And, perhaps most importantly, the movie moved me to understand and have more compassion for those internationals living in America.
Be Kind Rewind (starring Jack Black and Mos Def; directed by Michael Gondry)
This was the movie I most wanted to see at the festival. The film is a celebration of the power of filmmaking to bring people together. The plot rests on a bizarre premise: all the films in a movie store get erased and people begin to film their own versions of the movie. That doesn’t seem nearly as bizarre as how it actually all happens in the film. Jack Black provides some very humorous moments. There is something noteworthy about the point of the film as well. It invites people to create something together rather than what our plastic, serialized culture gives us. With all that going for it, the film just didn’t work that well. I’m not completely sure why either. My best shot at it was that the movie was more about making the point then it was about characters or plot. As a result, the movie just wasn’t that interesting. That’s hard for me to say because it was the movie I was most looking forward to. It’s a movie I think you could pass on, but many will go to see Jack Black and come away a little disappointed.