Welcome back! Now that we’ve been through my “bottom” five films from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival’s opening weekend, we get to the good stuff – the top five! Let’s just jump right in and see what is more than likely to be gracing a silver screen near you sometime this year (or quite soon even).
Filmed nearby at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Utah, comes a neat little film about the perils of skiing. It features some up and comers in the form of actors Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, and Kevin Zegers, who play Parker, Joe, and Dan respectively. We find the three hoping to have one last run down the hill before the resort closes for the week. At Mount Holliston they’re only open for the weekend and they bribe an employee to let them have one last hop down the hill before closing for a measly $100. Then all hell breaks loose for the three as they are left behind and abandoned on the lift. It’s pick your poison time as wolves, compound fractures, and frostbite all rear their ugly heads in a fight for survival that flies by in a scant 90 minutes or so. The characters are never too self-centered and their conversations feel real while the three try to figure a way out of their sticky situation. Luckily for everyone, this film opens (at least locally here in Utah) on February 5 and, having been picked up by Anchor Bay, should hopefully expand as a trailer makes it way around the net. A full review should be available next week.
Featuring one of the more interesting titles at this year’s festival for sure, Josh Radnor (of How I Met Your Mother fame) brings an at times heartbreakingly hilarious tale of friendships, relationships, and the things that make them work or how one can make things worse while not knowing what to do. When Sam (Radnor) wakes up late from yet another drunken one-night stand late for an interview concerning his debut novel he runs into young Rasheen (Michael Algieri), who Sam thinks has been left behind on the subway by his family. Rasheen doesn’t know how old he is and Sam is told that it was his foster family which left him and now Sam is stuck with a child in the place of a found pet on the street. This is the first of at least one too many plot lines, yet the supporting characters give so much attention to their work that it could be seen as a cross between Garden State and Love Actually. It does run a little too long and has tons of montages running rampant, but I’d rather watch a collection of scenes set to music than each individual scene dragged out in its entirety any day. The soundtrack is infectious and Kate Mara steals the whole show as Sam’s mysterious belle named Mississippi. Watch out for Kate in this summer’s Iron Man 2 playing opposite Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreu in at least one scene.
With a title like this one, how could anyone resist? Director Drake Doremus and a slew of writers, including star Andrew Dickler (hilariously cast as Sam Nussbaum), bring one of the funniest movies of the year that many may not ever get to see due to its (all appropriate) title. Sam really is a douchebag but this isn’t discovered until he takes off on a weird road trip with his brother Tom (a hilariously understated Ben York Jones). Sam is intended to be married to Steph (Marguerite Moreau) who has dragged Tom to join in the festivities and invest in some brotherly love after the two have not so much as talked on the phone in two years. Sam brings up the fact that Tom hasn’t had a girlfriend since the fifth grade and the two set out to find Tom a date for the wedding in the guise of one Mary Barger. Two wrong Marys don’t make a right and they start to feel that they may not find her after all, but sibling rivalry hits an all-time high and some new lows, wringing painful laughs out of every situation. Sam and Tom thankfully come off as real-life brothers and anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will appreciate the honest portrayal of both the “Brothers Gloom” and the relationship between Sam and Mary especially.
2. Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Two hillbillies, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Reaper’s Tyler Labine), head deep into the woods to spend a weekend fishing and relaxing in their new fixer-upper. Meanwhile, a group of over-sexed, drunken frat boys and girls hit the trees swillin' and tokin’ only to find their weekend party slashed to a halt as they mistakenly think that Tucker and Dale have kidnapped their friend Allison (30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden). With a heart of gold beating within, Tucker and Dale soon become convinced that Allison’s friends belong to a suicide cult as they accidentally begin to off themselves. Now the two poor hillbillies are up to their elbows retrieving body parts from the wood chipper or out of their freshly dug hole for the outhouse. First time feature director Eli Craig pounds every nail on the head and the laughs never stop from the very first scene as Craig and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson disembowel the killer-in-the-woods slasher tropes. Blood flies and the body count rises as the self-proclaimed head of the group, Chad (Jesse Moss) gets crazier by the second and poor Tucker and Dale just want to have another beer and play board games with Allison, who may or may not be falling in love with big ol’ Dale. The very definition of cult classic, this deserves to be seen on the big screen with an audience howling as hysterically as the one I was lucky enough to see it with here in Salt Lake City at the Tower Theater.
Going into this one my expectations were non-existent. All we knew was that it was a documentary about someone named Nev falling in love with Megan, the older sister of an 8-year-old girl named Abby. One day, Nev receives a package in the mail from Abby which is a painting of a photograph of Nev’s. Nev befriends Abby and becomes friends with her on Facebook and they start to email back and forth, all while Nev is sending new photos to Abby for her to paint. Things aren’t all that they seem as the New York-based photographer starts to fall in love with Megan and the relationship begins to open up, setting off a string of events that have to be seen to be believed. The less said about the plot the better. Knowing nothing myself going in, I have to give huge kudos to filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Never before has my mouth stood so agape at what I was witnessing on screen. The only way to describe this is as a sort of comedic/thriller hybrid. Except that it’s a documentary, so hilarious and engaging, yet also so remarkably chilling and intense. Trust me when I say that this is THE film of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is so far the absolute do-not-miss film of the year as well.