Sundance London 2014: Round-up reviews

Sundance is back at the O2 Arena, London.

Sundance Film and Music Festival is back to Blighty for its third year. Here’s what I’ve seen and heard thus far…

 

Blue Ruin 

Dwight (Macon Blair) looks like he’s neither slept or shaved since whatever horrific thing happened, happened. He sleeps in his rusty car, takes baths in other people’s houses and seems to have no real motive for existence. When some unexpected news is delivered by a compassionate police officer, his hobo life is given a much needed objective: revenge.

The dark story uncoils by drip-feeding clues to Dwight’s patchwork past giving us a satisfying game of detective to the hows and whys of his misfortune. Bruce Willis, he ain’t and he could have done with schooling-up on some Liam Neeson movies before reaching for the rifle. However as anti-heroes go, he’s bloody brilliant and despite squirming at the bloodshed, you’ll want to give him a finger-chewed high five.

This low-budget, high thrill movie demonstrates that you don’t need a sweaty brute in a grubby white vest to carry a tense and satisfying revenge movie.

5of5-rating

Obvious Child

Abortion isn’t the the biggest rib tickler but Obvious Child has managed to make a rom-com out of one of comedy’s last taboos.

Donna (Jenny Slate) is a standup comedian. She burps and farts and has one-night stands with strangers to get over being dumped because yes, women do that too. The thing about women, however, is that they get pregnant. This Manic Pixie Dream Girl might be a familiar troupe, but what is refreshing is the breezy empowerment Donna adopts when deciding on the fate of her growing embryo. It doesn’t matter that the accidental sperm donor looks like Zeus and has nice shoes, there’s little debate in her mind, she’s going to have an abortion.

Jenny Slate (This Means War) gives a great performance. She’s genuinely hilarious and ridiculously adorable. She heads up a cast of small screen stars including the cherubic Jake Lacy (The Office), Richard Kind (Spin City) and David Cross (Modern Family).

4of5-rating

Fruitvale Station

It’s New Year’s Eve and Bay Area resident Oscar Grant III, is trying to make ends meet, keep himself out of trouble and enjoy watching 2008 tip to 2009 with his girl and his ‘bruhs’. He’s a good dad, a not so good boyfriend, but his heart is in the right place even though his fists may not be. We’re routinely reminded that Oscar is just a 22 year-old Average Joe on an everyday hustle. Anyone who remembers the real life news story, will have a compassion to the tale. For those who don’t – the ignorance will be bitter bliss.

It’s movies like this that remind us of the importance of film. They can be used to complete the sentences of those who no longer have the voice, and can place souls in the ghosts that ink the news. Fruitvale Station stands in the docks on behalf of those unable to stand and does this true story a remarkable justice.

A powerful debut for director Ryan Coogler and a long-overdue opportunity to see Michael B Jordan really spread his wings past being someone’s sidekick.

 

5of5-rating

Little Accidents

A dramatic, sulky story about what happens to a small town when a big disaster strikes. Some remarkable performances from a surprisingly starry cast considering this essentially being writer and director Sara Colangelo’s first feature film. Pains to say it but Chris Columbus being on board as producer may have had something to do with it – anyone responsible for the likes of The Goonies and Home Alone definitely gets the last Rolo.

Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games), Jacob Lofland (Mud), an all-grown-up Chloë Sevigny and the doe-eyed Boyd Holbrook (who looks to steal Ryan Gosling’s crown) all help unravel this tale of woe under the inky skies of this God-fearing suburb.

 

4of5-rating

They Came Together 

Seems Hollywood got tired of ripping apart horror films (RIP Scary Movie) but like a bored bully at half-term, its turned to rom-coms for a ribbing. Forgive your filthy mind, yes even the title of this movie is a spoof. Starring typecast casualties Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, this ro-meta-mance delivers genuine laughs as it shames all the stereotypical scenarios of romantic comedies. The only thing missing? Matthew McConaughey with a rose between his teeth. In-keeping with the stereotypes here – ladies, your bloke won’t mind being dragged along to this one.

4of5-rating

Memphis 

A film that got so caught up in being beautiful, it almost forgot its audience. Memphis follows Willis Earl Beal (a singer) as he explores his relationship with spirituality, his undeniable talent, women and nature. He reeeeally likes nature. Willis does a lot of sitting under trees like a bear in the woods but with a face like Eyore. All very odd, but wow does it look stunning. If you can bare the vanity of this film, and if hipsters don’t bother you, this film will give you the deep and meaningfuls. 

2of5 rating

The One I Love 

Mark Duplass is fast becoming the edgier Paul Rudd as he finds himself in yet another undeterminable film fusion of sci-fi, drama and romance. He and Elizabeth Moss play a married couple on the brink of breakdown as they head to a summer house to avoid the heartbreak hotel. As they try to recreate the magic, things get supernatural…and super creepy, and that’s not just because Ted Danson’s in it. Think The Double meets The Lake House and you’ll be close to getting the gist.

3of5-rating

Drunktown’s Finest 

The three main characters in this movie weave one poignant tale of self-discovery as their paths take them outside their home of their Native American reservation, and force them to consider the relationships that remain inside it.

A well-schooled teen trying to find her Native American parents, a have-a-go hero who can’t help but find his fist in someone’s face, and a sexy transexual (and wannabe model) who makes a buck from curious curb crawlers. All their jagged journeys provide a beautifully story of identity and coming-of-age. Some truly marvelous performances over jaw dropping scenery. Here’s hoping we see more from Sydney Freeland as she establishes herself as a skilled writer and director with this crowd-funded masterpiece.

5of5-rating

Hits 

Another churlish take on the fame game and another dismal look at our obsession with technology.  The small town characters may all be completely different, but they are united by their desire for acknowledgment in any stretch of the word, from fame to a thank you. Like escalator stairs over a cliff edge, it’s a gentle journey up and ends with a chaotic crash. Think Ben Elton does The Voice (but about five years too late).

2of5 rating

hits_3-750x400

#SundanceLondon

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