27 films, 50+ pages of notes, 40 lattes, and 2 hours of sleep later, our Sundance coverage has come to an end.
Read our thoughts on some of the festival’s worst and best films yet, below. Come back tomorrow for our wrap-up to find out the winners and losers of Sundance 2012.
Director: Christopher Neil
This is a coming of age story about a young boy, isolated in the Arizona desert. The only present figures in his day-to-day life are his terribly mean new age mother, goats, and his father-figure Goat Man. Now, take all these elements and present them as-is and you have this train wreck. Everything plays out exactly as you’ve seen these sort of films play out before. The only interesting element the film has going for it is Goat Man (David Duchovny), a stoner who ventures into the desert with his trained goats. This feels like the stuff forgettable Showtime series are made of. — 36, Bad
Your Sister’s Sister
Director: Lynn Shelton
While Duplass has taken a step toward Hollywood with his upcoming comedy Jeff, Who Lives at Home, mumblecore’s little sis Lynn Shelton (Humpday) stands firm with intimate, awkward relationship-driven comedy. Rather than propping up the film’s accessibility with Emily Blunt’s pretty face, Shelton presents Blunt at an all-time attractive low (which is still pretty damn high, to be honest). Never mind that, however, as she is fantastic alongside co-stars Mark Duplass (his best performance yet) and Rosemarie DeWitt. Like Humpday, the humor and heart is in the details of this one-of-a-kind comedy. It’s unfortunate that the plot takes a dramatic turn at the end that sets the whole production off the rails. It’s fun while it lasts. — 79, Good
Director: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
The Words is at its best during the middle, when it ceases to be about the act of theft and addresses a more universal issue. Rory is part of a generation that live through facsimiles, while the old man was part of a generation that lived stories behind the stories they wrote. His words are the result of his successes, regrets, and pain. This promising avenue of discussion is ignored in the third act, which seems more interested in amping up relationship woes. The momentum and promise grinds to a halt. — 68, Decent [Read the full review]
Directors: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard
Full of dark twists and well earned scares, V/H/S is one of those rare horror films, like Blair Witch Project, that you wish you could experience again for a first time. Each director involved brings a masterful touch of suspense, humor, and horror to their story. As a larger narrative, the stories are perfectly juxtaposed to make one of the most thrilling times I’ve had in the cinema in years. It’s nostalgic and wonderfully progressive at the same time. It revives the found footage concept only to bury it for good. Ti West and crew saw it to its end and gave it the perfect send-off. — 86, Exceptional [Read the full review]
Director: Rodney Ascher
Room 237 is a documentary that could only have come in the age of the internet, where an endless array of crazed conspiracy theories for any subject are only a click away. This non-talking heads documentary, presents several conspiracy theory based around Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining. Each theory is crazier and more complex than the last. The film succeeds because it never directly makes fun of each theory, but still manages to poke fun at each one through clever use of editing and archive footage. Told primarily through clips from The Shining, it’s amazing that Room 237 works at all. Even though the theories grow redundant in the film’s last 30 minutes, Room 237 is also a great tribute to The Shining. By studying the details of the film, there are many revelations and solved mysteries that present themselves. This is a must-see for any Shining fan. — 70, Good
Director: James Marsh
Double-agent espionage films can go one of two ways: They can either be personal stories about the tension and pressure to keep your identity intact (Donnie Brasco) or they can be big budget action films (The Departed). Shadow Dancer shows there is a third way: Be so boring that it doesn’t even matter. This lifeless film tells the story of an IRA member (Andrea Riseborough) caught red-handed by an MI5 agent (Clive Owen) in 1990s Belfast. She is pressured into becoming an informant, which leads to some tragic situations with her family. The problem with Shadow Dancer is that it wants to be realistic but it’s just lifeless and cliche. All the major moments aren’t earned. Even the performances are lackluster, with Owen phoning it in and Riseborough walking around with a dour face like she’d been sucking on a lemon for two-thirds of her waking life. I love the concept surrounding the film: There are individuals who don’t care about political movements but will get involved for their own survival. Shadow Dancer just doesn’t make the most of its concept or cast. It’s minimalistic to a fault. — 47, Subpar