Review: 'The Hallow' offers up a thrilling Irish monster movie ride
Credit: eOne

Review: 'The Hallow' offers up a thrilling Irish monster movie ride

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
We're going to hear a lot more about this filmmaker.

PARK CITY - One of the things that a filmmaker can do in a film that will win me over in a big way is building actual physical monsters for a monster movie. I am a fan of what computers can do, of course, but there's still nothing better than a movie monster that is beautifully designed and that can actually be shot on-set as part of the scene.

Corin Hardy obviously understands that. His movie "The Hallow," which just had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival's Midnights in Park City program, and it feels like something that could easily be sold to a big mainstream audience. Even so, it also feels like something that was a labor of love for Hardy, who has a long list of things he's worked on over the years. He said this particular project has been cooking for eight full years now, and it certainly feels like something that was hand-crafted. Set on a small Irish island with a dense forest, "The Hallow" is very crafty in the way it sets up the horror elements it plays with, and like "The Shining," it is a film that could be entirely explained without the supernatural except for one… small… thing…

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Review: Ben Mendelsohn bets on Ryan Reynolds in shaggy 'Mississippi Grind'
Credit: Sycamore Pictures

Review: Ben Mendelsohn bets on Ryan Reynolds in shaggy 'Mississippi Grind'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
This one feels like a step forward for the filmmakers

PARK CITY - It feel like Altman is in the air these days.

There was, after all, a giant coffee table book about him that ended up under the trees of many a film nerd this Christmas, and little by little, his films are making their way onto Blu-ray, and Netflix just recently added a documentary that is a look back at his remarkable career. This fall also saw the release of "Inherent Vice," and while that is an adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel and very much a Paul Thomas Anderson film, there are more than a few echoes of Altman's "The Long Goodbye" in there.

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Review: Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis star in smart and funny 'Sleeping With Other People'
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis star in smart and funny 'Sleeping With Other People'

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Is this the 21st century's 'When Harry Met Sally"?

PARK CITY - One of the most justifiably adored romantic comedies of all time is "When Harry Met Sally," and in the quarter-century since its release, there have been many films that have been compared to it, normally coming up short. It's such a well-made movie that I resist making comparisons to it normally because I think it does other films no favors. So when I say that Leslye Headland's "Sleeping With Other People" is a 21st century worthy successor, that is very high praise.

Certainly there's nothing new about the notion about sexual tension between people who are "just" friends, and there's no groundbreaking insight here that elevates "Sleeping With Other People" automatically. Instead, it's a cumulative thing. There is real wisdom and honesty in every moment of the film, and that's refreshing in a genre that is built largely on fantasy every bit as disconnected from our reality as any superhero film. Romantic comedies have a bad name today, and they should. Most of them are pandering junk that reinforce gender stereotypes, and they set up these unhealthy ideas about how we're supposed to treat each other in relationships. I am frequently amazed when I see one of these films that is built entirely on the premise that everyone lies to everyone else, and yet we're still supposed to care whether or not they find love with one another. The mere notion of what "love" is in movies is often so twisted that I don't recognize it.

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Review: James Franco is the right guy to play gay-or-not in true story 'I Am Michael'
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: James Franco is the right guy to play gay-or-not in true story 'I Am Michael'

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
The movie's not as good as moments in it, but it's got something real to say

PARK CITY - I would guess there is no working actor right now more suited to playing the lead in "I Am Michael" than James Franco.

Walking into the film this morning, I didn't know what it was about. That's how I like to try to see as many movies as possible at Sundance, because it leaves the opportunity for surprises. As soon as it started, though, I recognized the material, and I became intrigued to see how they were going to approach telling the story of MIchael Glatze, who is best known for being a former high-profile advocate for gay rights who "went straight" in a very public way after a health scare, eventually becoming a Christian pastor and proclaiming himself heterosexual. That's a tough story to tell without demonizing either side of things, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to see a movie that played Glatze as a hero.

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Review: Margot Robbie shines in subtle end-of-the-world film 'Z For Zachariah'
Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Margot Robbie shines in subtle end-of-the-world film 'Z For Zachariah'

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
Fans of the book might be upset, but everyone else is in for a treat

PARK CITY - Until this week, I didn't even know there was a book called "Z For Zachariah," much less that it was by the same author as the wonderful "Mrs. Frisby and The Rats Of NIMH."

When we posted a clip from the new film adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's book, it immediately became clear from your reactions here and in e-mail that the book has passionate fans, and that many of them were upset by what seemed to be a whole new character invented for the film. I couldn't respond because I don't know the book at all, and to be honest, what matters to me is whether the film works on its own. You don't need to know a book to know whether or not a film plays, and in the case of "Z For Zachariah," the film most definitely plays.

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Review: 'The Witch' offers up a singular, upsetting vision of a family imploding
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: 'The Witch' offers up a singular, upsetting vision of a family imploding

HitFix
A
Readers
n/a
Robert Eggers, where have you been all my life?

PARK CITY - One of the downsides of spending a life mainlining genre films is that there comes a point where you start to feel like you've seen everything and there's no way to be surprised.

"The Witch" surprised me. Quite a bit.

Writer/director Robert Eggers deserves accolades for crafting something that feels timeless. His "New England folk tale" begins with a family standing before a Puritan court in a small plantation town in 1630. William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) stand accused of blasphemy, and William refuses to bend to the will of the court, convinced that he is a true Christian in a way that none of them can be. They are ejected from the community, and William sees it as an opportunity. He leads his family out into the wilderness, where they find a cleared area on the edge of a massive forest.

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Review: 'The Bronze' goes for the gold but can't quite earn a medal
Credit: Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Review: 'The Bronze' goes for the gold but can't quite earn a medal

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
A solid cast helps make things work even when the script doesn't get it right

PARK CITY - It's hard to believe that there's any downside to being on a giant mega-hit sitcom that runs for a decade, but if you're someone who dedicated your life to acting, a big hit could be a genuine trap. If anyone knows that, Melissa Rauch does.

Melissa Rauch joined the cast of "The Big Bang Theory" in the third season, playing a character who fell in love with one of the series regulars, and she has become an indispensable part of the ensemble. I didn't pay close attention to the re-negotiations over salary, but I know the cast got some big giant raises. One of the things that affords you, if you're one of those actors on that show, is a chance to push some personal projects into the spotlight.

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Review: 'Strange Magic' is a toxic and unpleasant formula for kids
Credit: Touchstone Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Review: 'Strange Magic' is a toxic and unpleasant formula for kids

HitFix
D
Readers
n/a
Boy, the subtext in this one is crazy

Every now and then, I find myself suddenly and unexpectedly angry at George Lucas, but not for reasons that have anything to do with "Star Wars."

There has been a refrain we've heard from him over and over during the past couple of decades, where he talks about returning to his roots and making experimental films that could never exist inside the studio system, movies that aren't created to be commercial product, but that come from a very personal place. And over and over, those comments lead nowhere and nothing happens.

I'd love to see him do it, though. I have a huge fondness for "THX-1138," Lucas's first feature film, which evolved out of a student film he made. I take Lucas at his word that commercial filmmaking was never meant to be the complete detour it became after "American Graffiti" and "Star Wars" both blew up into mega-hits, and for years, I believed his comments about returning to a more experimental style of storytelling. Whatever you end up feeling about the prequels, there is a feeling that Lucas is somewhat shackled by expectation, that he is bristling to simply play with the toys instead of having to satisfy the desires of fans who had been waiting decades for those films.

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Exclusive clip from 'Z For Zachariah' hints at Sundance film's explosive love triangle
Credit: Sundance Institute

Exclusive clip from 'Z For Zachariah' hints at Sundance film's explosive love triangle

But they're all so pretty!

One of the movies that has a ton of heat already focused on it even before the Sundance Film Festival begins is "Z For Zachariah." Chris Pine, a brunette Margot Robbie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star in this story that takes place "in the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization," according to the official synopsis. "Two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally-charged love triangle as the last known survivors."

Craig Zobel's last film that played here, "Compliance," was a cold-blooded and intensely well-made look at a true story that still gives me chills when I think about it. I am a huge fan of his first feature film, "Great World Of Sound," as well, and I am excited to see anything Zobel makes.

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Simon Pegg set to steer 'Star Trek' for real as he signs on to co-write new sequel
Credit: Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot

Simon Pegg set to steer 'Star Trek' for real as he signs on to co-write new sequel

Scotty is at the helm, indeed

One of the smartest things Marvel did when faced with Edgar Wright's departure from "Ant-Man" was enlist Paul Rudd to not only remain attached to star as Scott Lang in the film, but also to take a crack at the screenplay. When I was on the set of the film, it was apparent that Rudd and Adam McKay and Peyton Reed had a tight working relationship that allowed them to very quickly rebuild things a different way. By having Rudd become that involved with the script, there's a pretty good chance he's going to want to stay attached to star, and if anything, he'll become even more passionate than he was when his good friend Edgar was still attached.

Now Paramount's using that same (very smart) playbook, it looks like, with word breaking that Simon Pegg is going to co-write the screenplay for "Star Trek 3." No word in Deadline's piece about who Pegg might be co-writing with. I know that Edgar Wright recently wrote "Baby Driver" by himself, and as a result, it doesn't read like any of the Cornetto films. Not exactly. You can still hear Edgar's voice, but it's not tempered by anyone else's sensibilities.

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