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2:00 PM on 04.10.2014

First trailer for Sci-Fi drama I Origins looks interesting

I Origins is a new Sci-Fi movie from Another Earth director Mike Cahill. It follows the story of Ian Gray, (Michael Pitt) a scientist who meets and falls in love with a mysterious woman (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) with st...

Liz Rugg

Review: Don Jon photo
Review: Don Jon
by Allistair Pinsof

Our rabid consumption of media informs our lives and habits as much as our upbringing. For Jon, that media obsession is porn. When he isn't debating what number to rate a girl at the club, he is masturbating three times a day. Or five. Or eleven, a brand new record.

Sex is boring to Jon, who craves the fantasy and control of porn. It`s an inherently controversial, funny, and poignant concept for a film, and Don Jon succeeds at all three. Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes the rare crossover from actor to actor-writer-director that many try but few succeed at.

[This review was originally posted as part of our Sundance 2013 coverage. Since its initial publication, the film was renamed Don Jon and screened at SXSW 2013. Edits have been made to reflect the title change, as well as Geoff's blurb for the film.]

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Review: Before Midnight photo
Review: Before Midnight
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

To follow up Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, two of the best character pieces ever made, was always going to be a challenge. Keeping that quality and that momentum going into a third film made another nine years later seemed like an insurmountable challenge. With Before Midnight, I wanted to temper my expectations, because I didn't want to be disappointed. A good (even great) follow up to a spectacular film can be buried under the weight of expectations, and if Before Midnight was going to be good (or even great), I wanted to give it a fair shot.

In the end, I wasn't able to temper my expectations. I saw Before Midnight expecting to see Jesse and Celine, nine years later, just as witty and compelling as ever. I expected to witness brilliant writing performed brilliantly, with brilliant direction keeping everything... well, brilliant. 

I was not disappointed.

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2:00 PM on 04.23.2013

Trailer: Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars is a Sundance selected documentary by director Richard Rowley which seeks to shed light on the extremely covert operations of the United States government's Joint Special Operations Command. Dirty Wars follows inv...

Liz Rugg

7:00 PM on 04.19.2013

Trailer: Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes

Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes stars Kaya Scodelario as a troubled young girl who starts baby sitting for her new neighbor Linda (Jessica Biel) who bares a striking resemblance to her deceased mother.  The film has ...

Liz Rugg

Tribeca Review: V/H/S/2 photo
Tribeca Review: V/H/S/2
by Allistair Pinsof

In the original V/H/S, numerous tapes littered the apartment of the film's depraved gang of psychos, leaving the viewer to wonder what else those cassettes contained and whether the viewer can stomach to watch any more.

S-VHS is a frivolous sequel that focuses on gross-out gags, outlandish monsters, and a bloody disgusting take on dark comedy. Yes, you can stomach watching more of these tapes because they aren't as shocking as last year's batch.

[This review was posted as part of our 2013 Sundance Film Festival coverage when the film was originally titled S-VHS. It has been reposted with second opinions from other staff members to coincide with its screenings at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.]

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Sundance Review: Before Midnight photo
Sundance Review: Before Midnight
by Allistair Pinsof

There is an ebb and flow to the laughter between the men and women of my theater, during Before Midnight. As Jesse makes a salient point about the manic nature of women, the men laugh. When Celine talks about the self-serving nature of men, the women laugh. Sometimes between the (now married) couple`s reminiscing, philosophizing, and bickering, something particularly universal and poignant is said that makes the men and women laugh in unison.

Before Midnight isn't a romance. It's a war between man and woman, each battling for righteousness and pride. The two lovers stand like titans on the screen, echoing our own complaints about the opposing sex. Words are thrown like punches, and when they go down together, the audience claps in unison.

[This review was posted as part of our 2013 Sundance Film Festival coverage. Due to some complications, a second review was written to coincide with the theatrical release. That can be found here.]

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Review: Upstream Color photo
Review: Upstream Color
by Allistair Pinsof

Part of me wants to wait until I fully understand every facet of Upstream Color before I review it, but a larger part of me suspects I never will. Might as well strike while the iron is hot.

Upstream Color is mind-altering, like the hypnotic drug forced on the film`s poor victims. It`s also frustrating, like their perpetual state of confusion and inability to communicate. It lingers in my mind, expanding in space, mystery, and discomfort, as I imagine a painful suppressed childhood memory might. Seeing through Upstream Color's haze isn't as exciting as being in it.

[This review was posted as part of our 2013 Sundance Film Festival coverage as well as our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of Upstream Color with second opinions from other staff members.]

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Review: Stoker photo
Review: Stoker
by Allistair Pinsof

[This review was originally posted as part of our 2013 Sundance Film Festival coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical release.]

Some time between being handed a Chinatown bootleg of Oldboy in 2005 and it shooting up IMDB's user charts over the years, I wondered if I was too forgiving of director Chan-wook Park. The hilariously overwrought child performances, the awful music that plays during action scenes, and the reliance on a twist ending to make sense of everything.

Park has become more sophisticated since Oldboy's release (now slated for a US remake by Spike Lee), but even with his English debut Stoker, some of his divisive sensibilities can't be shaken so easily. Adding on the burden of language barriers and a script that takes an hour to get anywhere doesn't do Park's shortcomings any favors.

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Sundance 2013: Top five films of the festival (and more) photo
Sundance 2013: Top five films of the festival (and more)
by Allistair Pinsof

Another Sundance, another 27 films reviewed.

Though this is only my third year, Sundance 2013 is by far the greatest one I attended yet. Even bolder, I'll say that it may be the greatest in the festival's history. Looking back on previous years, I don't think there is a stronger line-up of films displaying artistic integrity, transformation, or powerful imagery in Sundance's history. Even the films I didn't get to see will be talked about for some time to come, such as Escape from Tomorrow, a surreal drama shot at Disneyland without Disney's permission and thus bound to never reach retail in its current state.

I am happy with the films I did choose to see, as you can tell from the high praise given below.

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Sundance Review: The Way, Way Back photo
Sundance Review: The Way, Way Back
by Allistair Pinsof

The losers of high school dramas are cooler than me. Anthony Michael Hall and Jesse Eisenberg would be my high school's presidents, not wallflowers. It happens so often: the seemingly hopeless male protagonist, that we are supposed to believe is a geek, looks and acts more like a male model, filling his role only through cliche dialog.

The Way, Way Back is an enjoyable film for many reasons: the comedic performances, the pleasant atmosphere, the hilarious script ... but I respect it for possessing the tenacity to feature a truly banal lead actor with a believable transformation, one that leaves him where most on-screen "nerds" begin.

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Sundance Review: A.C.O.D. photo
Sundance Review: A.C.O.D.
by Allistair Pinsof

No longer just an alternative, divorce is practically inevitable. A.C.O.D. is a feel-good comedy with a cynical stance on marriage. Writer-director Stuart Zicherman doesn't say anything profound in this debut, but a strong comedic cast prop up his limp material.

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Sundance Review: Magic Magic photo
Sundance Review: Magic Magic
by Allistair Pinsof

Some laugh at what scares them. This act can be perceived as obnoxious and puzzling to someone else in a theater, but it feels completely natural during Magic Magic: A hypnotizing balancing act between horror and comedy (but never a horror-comedy -- e.g. Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland).

Awkwardness and unpredictability provide the links between genres, with Michael Cera and Juno Temple's performances acting as conduits. They bring out laughter from me -- whether it's derided from fear or comedic timing, I'm still uncertain.

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Sundance Review: The Gatekeepers photo
Sundance Review: The Gatekeepers
by Allistair Pinsof

In Israel's Shin Bet, I find an intelligence agency not so different from the CIA. In Israel's religious zealots, I find an extremist terrorist group not so different from the Taliban that our government tells us to fear.

The Gatekeepers is a compelling documentary because it dares to find transparency within an outfit that is employed to keep its actions secret. In opening up, the Shin Bet's directors reveal truths about obligation, vengeance, regret, and mistakes made over the institute's past 40+ years. These are truths that tell us a great deal about the Israel-Palestine conflict, reflecting America's own current day practices.

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Sundance Review: Lovelace photo
Sundance Review: Lovelace
by Allistair Pinsof

Pornography is a dirty business and I'm not strictly speaking about the clean-up crew. One doesn't have to deeply penetrate the industry to dig up tales of manipulation, abuse, and self-destruction.

1972 hit Deep Throat set the standard for a successful porno and its star Linda 'Lovelace' Boreman became the archetype: an object of lust on screen, a cheerful go-getter on set, and a lost soul at home.

Lovelace examines Linda's transformation from innocent Catholic to porn star, but fails to offer any insight, instead settling for common truths when her much more interesting career as an anti-porn advocate could have been addressed.

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Sundance Review: The Spectacular Now photo
Sundance Review: The Spectacular Now
by Allistair Pinsof

Sutter is the life of the party, and the joke of his high school. He is the embodiment of our YOLO teen culture. The one that turns Kendrick Lamar's lament on teenage alcoholism ("Swimming Pools") into a party anthem.

With no ambition and an alcohol dependency that's going from cute (hiding a flask at work) to crippling (his girlfriend broke up with him), what comes after his senior year of high school is uncertain. Sutter lives in the moment, but has a hard time remembering all those great moments through the haze of a hangover. He believes in everyone, yet no one believes in him.

The Spectacular Now is the rare high school drama that is smart, funny, and painfully true in its depiction of alcoholism's effect on youth and how accepting peers can be of a soon-to-be obstacle in life. The Spectacular Now is Ferris Bueller for a new generation, with a scoop of medicine aside the fun.

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Sundance Review: Very Good Girls photo
Sundance Review: Very Good Girls
by Allistair Pinsof

Dakota Fanning is now old enough to play the role of the older sister and it freaks me out. Witnessing a child actor, one much younger than me, mature into a young adult is a monumental event in life. It feels like a sign post, displaying the passage of time (much more than my 21st birthday ever felt). Well, this article isn't about the devastating impact of witnessing a child actor growing up. Nor is it about the slightly unnerving feeling of finding a girl attractive that you can't see without unseeing her performances from younger years. 

This is an article about Very Good Girls. This is not an article about Dakota Fanning, though she is one of the best parts of it. OK, now let's talk about Dakota Fanning.

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Sundance Review: Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes photo
Sundance Review: Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
by Allistair Pinsof

Throughout the entirety of Sundance, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes was the only movie I didn't take any notes on. I guess this is what is implied by "noteworthy," and Emanuel is not. For the life of me, I couldn't pick up my pencil and write anything of note, because something of note would have to exist in the first place.

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Sundance Review: Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman photo
Sundance Review: Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
by Allistair Pinsof

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is so forgettable a film that I started forgetting the plot while watching. Never to fear, all I had to do was recall the dozens of other films that cling to their genre tropes as tightly as this one. Even better, all I had to do was recall one of those operatic R&B music videos from the '90s (think: R. Kelly) to recall the plot, which goes something like: Guy meets girl, girl has mafia boyfriend, guy insists on having a relationship, and then bad things happen to guy. At least, give me a good slow jam!

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Sundance Review: Sound City photo
Sundance Review: Sound City
by Allistair Pinsof

An hour into Sound City, the film takes an unexpected detour, suddenly documenting a jam session between David Grohl and friends instead of documenting a notable music studio's history. It's in this transition that my initial suspicions becomes resoundingly clear: Sound City is basically a film Grohl made to justify his purchase of a really expensive soundboard.

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2:00 PM on 01.22.2013

Catdance Film Festival: best cat-inspired film fest

At this year's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Fresh Step brand cat litter hosted an event they called Catdance Film Festival 2013. They screened real short films - all about cats - which the internet is invited t...

Liz Rugg

Sundance Review: Big Sur photo
Sundance Review: Big Sur
by Allistair Pinsof

It was the public's idolization of Jack Kerouac that spurred him to move to a remote cabin and write Big Sur. It's funny then that this biopic of the same name subjects Kerouac to a similar treatment of worship and tribute that gets away from his true character.

Big Sur creates a world where Kerouac's friends drift in and out, as if they are figments of his imagination that stop existing when outside of his vision. That may be fine for an autobiographical novel, but it makes for a film that is shallow and sentimental as a Levi's ad.

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