SATURDAY, January 19, 2013

Following a late evening hanging out at the Yarrow bar with Movie City News duo Kim Voynar and Ray Pride and Oxford Film Festival’s Melanie Addington, and strategizing how to keep the conversation lively while not-so-stealthily eating Kim’s cheese fries, I wake up just in time to bolt out of bed and make my way to the Eccles Theatre for the first of a hoped-for five-film day.

Entering the lobby, I see IDPR’s Bebe Lerner and attempt to say hello. She has no time for me whatsoever. Whoever her client is, I hope they appreciate the focus because my feelings are totally hurt for exactly 1.8 Sundance seconds. As I head into the theater.  

Don Jon's Addiction


The directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a comedy about a young bartender in Jersey who objectifies everything in his life to such an extent that sex in real life can never match up to the images from the pornography he is addicted to.

Gordon-Levitt’s character, Jon, spends his days and nights in a ritualistic routine of breaking down and assessing the perfection of the bodies of the women he and his buddies check out and try to pick up on at the local dance club, cleaning his apartment, working out, going to dinner with his family, going to church, and masturbating—a lot. He has a rock-solid life philosophy that works for him and is absolutely steadfast that he has it all figured out, except he’s beginning to become bored by it all. That is, until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a stunning, perfectly packaged Jersey princess who just might be his porn-perfection-dream come to life. But she turns out to be more demanding than he has had to deal with in the past, and his porn addiction proves to be tougher to shake than he anticipated. Enter Julianne Moore’s sardonic but emotionally damaged widow, and Jon’s entire worldview toward women and relationships is about to be turned upside down.

On the surface, Don Jon’s Addiction is loud, neon-bright, and in-your-face with its imagery, humor, and the presentation of its Jersey characters and scenarios. But while it is first and foremost a comedy (so curb that instinct to look for Shame-like pathos), Gordon-Levitt definitely has a statement to make regarding the similarity between the male objectification of women through porn versus the female objectification of relationships via romance movies (like Titanic) and media images. For the bonus round, Gordon-Levitt gets great performances by Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, and Brie Larson as his family. They are pretty much worth the price of admission themselves.

Expected Sundance Reaction:

On the whole, the film should be thoroughly enjoyed by the Sundance crowd. But there will be those that go in expecting a very different and much more serious movie given the subject matter. Those people will be sadly disappointed.

Expected Real World Reaction:

You can definitely expect this one at your local multiplex.

Immediately back in line for the next press screening, I strike up a conversation with Barbara Weitz, a professor at Florida International University who spoke of the inherent challenge of pulling people off the beach to see films at the Miami International Film Festival. While every film festival in a big city competes with all the other arts activity in that same city, it’s an even greater challenge when your alternative to a darkened theater is fun in the sun.

Sightseers Ben Wheatley 2013


Ben Wheatley’s new film takes us on an RV trip through the British Isles with Chris and Tina, a couple still flush in the discovery stages of their relationship. Chris is anxious to show the sheltered Tina some of his favorite sights—like the National Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, and The Cumberland Pencil Museum. However, more importantly he wants to get her out from under the roof she shares with her nasty and vindictive mother, who still blames her for the accidental death of their beloved lap dog.

The problem for Chris and Tina presents itself in the guise of a rude litterbug, a man one-upping Chris on his book-writing dream, a bachelorette party, and assorted other offending people standing in the way of Chris’s idea of propriety and Tina’s idea of making a lasting romantic connection with her man. And both discover an affinity and ease with dealing with each of those people and awkward situations with a sense of . . . finality. The flavor of the film is exemplified when Tina asks Chris: “Did you kill Ian? It’s gonna ruin the holiday.”

A wonderful follow-up to his films Down Terrace (09) and Kill List (11), Wheatley has crafted a hilarious and darker than dark comedy (mind you, this is very much British humor) about a couple truly discovering something new about themselves and each other. Namely, that they are both blithe sociopaths. There will be sightseeing—and blood.  

Expected Sundance Reaction:

The film should have a very welcome reception at Sundance, as it’s basically on a victory lap before it opens in theaters.

Expected Real World Reaction:

This one will be readily accessible in theaters and VOD. And it should be seen by anyone that has any kind of predilection for this kind of film.

Following the high of two back-to-back winners, I joined Sarah Harris (Dallas International Film Festival) and Eric F. Martin (filmmaker) at an “Oysters and Whiskey Party.” Naturally, I had neither oysters nor whiskey, but there was some very tasty buffalo and champagne on hand to make me not care.

I then happily run into Britta Erickson from the awesome Starz Denver Film Festival who lets me know she happily received the promo T-shirt and cast photo we sent out as thank-yous to the Kickstarter supporters of my film. She’s curious about the progress and introduces me to Jenny Bloom, who is the Festival Director for the Stanley Film Fest in May. It’s a film fest featuring horror and genre films presented at the hotel that served as the Overlook in The Shining. Promising… So, I quickly bail on that party while everything is still good movies and potential future coolness. A quick hour-and-a-half power nap later and it’s on to my first midnight movie of the fest.

Upon arriving at the Library Theatre, I sit next to Drew McWeeney (Hit Fix) hoping to duplicate the “good luck” when we sat in a similar area last year for Lucky McKee’s great The Woman. It was one of my favorite films from that Sundance “class” and the screening, with some fun controversy when an audience member, disturbed and disgusted by what he had seen, tried to prevent Lucky from reaching the stage to do the Q&A. Drew led the charge to defend Lucky and the film. You live for those moments here.

He tells me I can’t miss Escape From Tomorrow. A lot of people are talking about the movie that was shot on site in Disney World and Disneyland without permission. So it’s likely that film fests will be the only place you will be able to see the film. Great. Gotta juggle the schedule some more…

S-VHS 2013


The follow-up to last year’s successful horror anthology, V/H/S, this time delivered by Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, and Jason Eisener, S-VHS delivers more of the same thrills, chills, and gross-outs with minimal deviation from the path. 

With a wrap-around story about a private detective stumbling upon a cache of videotapes while tracing the whereabouts of a missing college student, the found-footage short films follow with a range of stories: an eye-implant camera that allows a man to see malevolent ghosts, a first-person look through a zombie’s experience stalking people, a visit to a cult compound that goes horribly and horrifically awry, and some un-chaperoned kids that face a night of horror together.

Like its predecessor, S-VHS is filled with mini-roller-coaster rides of hell, with no time and less patience for getting to the climactic moment of horror. Whereas previous anthologies like the Creepshow films routinely take the form of short stories with heavily moralistic endings, these just want to cut to the scares and the gore faster than a teenager can tweet “I’m bored.” As always, some segments are vastly better than others—easily the highlight is Gareth Huw Evans’s descent into a disturbing religious cult, with a most horrible and outrageous conclusion. To its credit, this batch of stories on the whole cut down on the overt misogyny (V/H/S was limited by a 13-year-old’s “boobies are awesome when they’re on screen” mentality), and amps up the gore in a major way. It’s meant to be fun, disposable, get-your-heart-rate-up entertainment for those that have difficulty sticking out the endurance of a 90-minute film. Or a plot. And, frankly, it works.

Expected Sundance Reaction:

This one was anticipated by people that loved and “discovered” the first one here. Those people should be very happy by the goods these guys have delivered.

Expected Real World Reaction:

There is a vast shortage of films that actually can scare audiences now. And this one is able to do that as well as not tax the short attention spans out there. It should get around just fine.