<p>Michael Parks certainly works as hard as anyone could in Kevin Smith's 'Red State,' but is it enough?</p>

Michael Parks certainly works as hard as anyone could in Kevin Smith's 'Red State,' but is it enough?

Credit: The Harvey Boys

Sundance review: Kevin Smith's 'Red State' fails onscreen and off at its world premiere

A shoddy film and a bait-and-switch event fail to satisfy on any level

PARK CITY - If nothing else, it was worth attending tonight's 6:30 premiere of "Red State" at Sundance so that when I speak of tonight in the future, which will only be under duress, I can do so with authority.

Let me quote a tweet from earlier today, when @ThatKevinSmith was talking about tonight's screening.  For months now, he's been calling his shot a la Babe Ruth, talking about how he would auction off the rights to distribute "Red State" from the stage of the Eccles auditorium.  And let's be clear… this is not a case of me distorting his words or misrepresenting him, as he is so fond of claiming people do with him.  Here's what he said today, less than 12 hours ago:

"We've heard a few sight-unseen pre-emptive bids.  THIS MOVIE HAS NOT ALREADY BEEN SOLD.  After the screening, THEN we'll pick the distributor."

Kevin Smith… you are a liar.

We'll get into that after I review the film, which is actually not that difficult, since the film is almost unbelievably straightforward.  I think he's mistaken about the genre, since I wouldn't call what he made "a horror film," but let's grant him that much.  It's a horror movie.  Fine.  The set-up of the film seems to follow a familiar model, and at the same time, allows Smith to lampoon one of his favorite recent targets, the Phelps family. 

Read Full Post
<p>Even at 83, Roger Corman continues to make movies, guns blazing, and the new documentary 'Corman's World' pays tribute to his life and his work</p>

Even at 83, Roger Corman continues to make movies, guns blazing, and the new documentary 'Corman's World' pays tribute to his life and his work

Credit: A&E Indie

Sundance review: 'Corman's World' offers affectionate look at the legendary filmmaker

Great interviews help set the right context to appreciate Corman's life and work

PARK CITY - Before I get into the actual review, I'd like to start by directly refuting something Penelope Spheeris says during her interview in the film.  She talks about how sad it is that young film fans in their 20s these days have no idea who Roger Corman is.

Rest easy, Miss Spheeris.  Roger Corman's legacy was safe even before Alex Stapleton's charming new look at the man and his legacy.  Roger Corman was, is, and always will be.

"Corman's World" opens on the set of the latest uber-cheapie SyFy "original" film by Corman, called "Dinoshark," and one of the first things that is obvious is that no matter who is listed as the director of "Dinoshark," it's Corman calling the shots.  It's his movie.  And I suspect it's been that way for most of his career.  His imprint is visible in most of the hundreds of movies he has produced and directed over the decades, and his voice is incredibly clear.  He is, of course, most often canonized for the way he gave opportunities to a whole host of young filmmakers who went on to become some of the biggest names in Hollywood, but the great thing about this film is that it also finally brings the focus back to Corman himself as a filmmaker, and not just as a river to his people, so to speak.

Read Full Post
<p>Morgan Spurlock and Peter Berg, director of 'Hancock' and the upcoming 'Battleship,' discuss the use of product placement in Hollywood movies in a scene from the new documentary, 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold'</p>

Morgan Spurlock and Peter Berg, director of 'Hancock' and the upcoming 'Battleship,' discuss the use of product placement in Hollywood movies in a scene from the new documentary, 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Sundance review: The Greatest Review Ever Written For Morgan Spurlock's 'Greatest Movie Ever Sold'

Documentary on the omnipresence of advertising lands its points with humor

PARK CITY - Both public and press screenings were held today of the new Morgan Spurlock documentary "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," and already I'm seeing wild disagreements about the film.  What's interesting is that I can see both sides of that argument, and my own take on it doesn't mean I discount some of the things I'm hearing about it.  If you aren't entertained by the film, and if the sense of humor with which Spurlock throws himself into the idea of product placement doesn't work for you, then there's going to be little point sitting through it.  While I do believe it offers some new material regarding our relationship with advertising, I think the way it does it is so head-on self-aware meta-funny that it could easily turn off a viewer completely.

Spurlock takes a lot of heat from documentary snobs in the first place, and it's because, like Michael Moore, he shamelessly, happily indulges in agitprop, and even more than Moore, he's a populist.  His movies are meant to play to the cheap seats.  He is a commercial documentary filmmaker, and that's not an easy thing to be.  I don't think he is the most incisive or the most visually remarkable or narratively adept of documentary directors.  He is, however, an engaging onscreen presence, and he genuinely enjoys poking at things in a way that is meant to raise questions.  I don't think he answers the questions he raises, and I don't think this film is meant to be a mind-blowing expose.  Instead, it's Spurlock intentionally dunking himself into a process and filming it as a way of simply casting a little light on the way it actually works.

Read Full Post
<p>Evan Glodell, seen here with Jessie Wiseman, is the writer/director/star/producer/editor of the remarkable, wholly unique Apocalyptic love story 'Bellflower'</p>

Evan Glodell, seen here with Jessie Wiseman, is the writer/director/star/producer/editor of the remarkable, wholly unique Apocalyptic love story 'Bellflower'

Credit: Coatwolf

Sundance review: 'Bellflower' offers up an Apocalyptic vision of love and heartbreak

An amazing discovery marks Evan Glodell as a major new voice

PARK CITY - One of the very best experiences you can hope to have a festival is when you walk into a theater knowing absolutely nothing about a movie beyond a title and you walk out at the end of it head over heels in love.

Such is the case with me and the wild, gorgeous "Bellflower," a film that's playing here as part of the NEXT showcase, and one which I look forward to arguing about for years to come.  It is not an easily or immediately digested film, but I am fairly convinced that it's a special one, and I think writer/director/star/producer/editor Evan Glodell is something of a marvel.  This is such a personal, driven, particular film that I'm not sure what to expect from him in the future, but in this case?  Thank god he made this film, because no one else could.

"Bellflower" begins with a few quick images of violence and blood and fire, moving backwards, terrible things unhappening for a few moments, and then cuts to black, where we see an opening quote from Lord Humungous.  If you don't know who that is, you're probably not a giant fan of "The Road Warrior," aka "Mad Max 2."  He's the mostly-naked guy with the hockey mask and the crazy voice who seems to rule over all of the crazy bad guys trying to get into the oil refinery in that film, and since I saw that film in '82, that character has been one of my favorite in any film. 

Read Full Post
<p>Rutger Hauer is, indeed, a 'Hobo With A Shotgun,' and Sundance is better for it</p>

Rutger Hauer is, indeed, a 'Hobo With A Shotgun,' and Sundance is better for it

Credit: Magnet Releasing

Sundance review: 'Hobo With A Shotgun' offers up unhinged, depraved fun with Rutger Hauer and both barrels

Jason Eisener throws down with a wicked slice of gore-soaked mayhem

PARK CITY - As you may know, since you've decided to read a review for a film called "Hobo With A Shotgun," there is a film that is indeed called "Hobo With A Shotgun."

Let's back up.  When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were getting ready to release "Grindhouse," one of the things that people were excited about were the fake trailers that were going to be included in the film, and there was a SXSW/AICN contest for people to make their own fake grindhouse trailers, and the winner got to have their trailer shown before the premiere of the movie.  The winner of that contest was the absolutely deserving "Hobo With A Shotgun" by the absolutely talented Jason Eisener.  It's taken from that moment until tonight for Jason to finish the journey from that fake trailer to a real movie, and as far as I'm concerned, it was totally worth the wait.

He made another film in the meantime, a short that I saw here two years ago called "Treevenge," and that short is genuinely wonderful.  I didn't need him to make "Hobo" in particular, but I knew that Eisener was a guy who needed to be making feature films, and soon.  He's got a great sense of energy, and beyond that, he's able to mix an aggressively wild and sleazy style with some real smart just-under-the-surface substance, due in no small part to his collaborators John Davies and Rob Cotterill, who worked on the story and script with him.  I think something like this works best as collaboration because it's almost like you can hear them sitting together, cackling as they write, daring each other, spurring each other to go farther.  One thing's for certain… "Hobo With A Shotgun" is utterly unafraid to offend, exploit, excite, and entertain, drenched with hyperviolence and shot through with a wicked wit.

Read Full Post
<p>oh how 'meta'... again</p>

oh how 'meta'... again

Watch: 5 reasons to scream for the new 'Scream 4' trailer

Scream for joy, mostly

• "Peeping Tom" story line. If you're a fan of the 1960 classic directed by Michael Powell, about a disturbed young man who films the faces of the women he murders  you'll see the homage of sorts now that one of the "new version" rules is that the killer must "be filming the murders"

•Alison Brie - We love her as Annie on "community" and here she is at minute 1:15 in a slightly less humorous situation.

•Hayden Panetierre. There's a lot more Hayden in this trailer, and we like that. She's brassy and can rattle off a slew of horror remakes so fast it'll make your head spin. (min 1:44)



Read Full Post
<p>Michael Tully's new film 'Septien' is a disturbing look at a disturbed family.&nbsp; Like the dress on the guy on the right didn't give you a clue.</p>

Michael Tully's new film 'Septien' is a disturbing look at a disturbed family.  Like the dress on the guy on the right didn't give you a clue.

Credit: Nomadic Independence Pictures

Sundance review: Michael Tully's 'Septien' is uneasy look at unconventional family

'Smother The Demons,' indeed

PARK CITY, UT - When I went to Ireland to visit the set of "Your Highness," it was an odd and enjoyable group of people who went with me.  There were familiar faces like Devin Faraci and AICN's Quint and JoBlo's Mike Sampson, but there were also some people along who I have never seen on any other set visit.  One of those was Michael Tully, who runs the website HammerToNail, which is far more focused on the microbudget DIY world of filmmaking, which made it seem strange that he would join us at first.

Turns out Tully had more of a background as a filmmaker than he originally let on, and it was only later that I saw "Silver Jew," a documentary he made, and learned that he had worked on the early films of David Gordon Green as well.  That suddenly made perfect sense, and in his own set report about the film, he admitted to his own unease about the experience.  I've since run into Mike at several film festivals where he was working press, writing reviews, running down new movies he was interested in, and I've always enjoyed our conversations, even if I think we approach film in radically different ways.

Read Full Post
<p>Elizabeth Olsen has a wildly difficult job as the lead of the new horror film 'Silent House'</p>

Elizabeth Olsen has a wildly difficult job as the lead of the new horror film 'Silent House'

Credit: Elle Driver

Sundance review: Midnight horror film 'Silent House' innovates technically, not narratively

Is that enough to win over an audience? The filmmakers behind 'Open Water' hope so

PARK CITY, UT -- It is unusual for Sundance to open with a midnight movie, and especially with a press screening of a midnight movie.  I'm glad they did, though, even if I think "Silent House" is an exercise more than a movie.  And that's not a dismissal… just an observation.

I haven't seen "La Casa Muda," the film by Gustavo Hernandez, which was produced and released in Uruguay.  It played Cannes in 2010, and I remember seeing a trailer for it online and being impressed by what looked like a fair degree of technical polish and the clever idea of shooting the entire thing in one take.  Most of the reviews I read for the film liked the film up to a point, but the script seemed to pull some gymnastics that derailed the film for a number of viewers.  Considering the film only made its international premiere in May, it's sort of remarkable to be in January of the following year, already reviewing the remake.  It's also sort of remarkable that they made some major revisions to the structure and the characters, and yet they still have some of the same issues that irritated viewers in the original.

Read Full Post
<p>I'm going to go ahead and guess that very bad things are happening in this still from the new Japanese film 'Vampire,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival</p>

I'm going to go ahead and guess that very bad things are happening in this still from the new Japanese film 'Vampire,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Rockwell Eyes

First Look: Sundance gets ready to sink its teeth into 'Vampire'

What does this take on the classic archetype bring to the table?

PARK CITY - One of the movies I'm looking forward to here at Sundance this week is "Vampire," and right now, that's all I know about the movie.

I love that.  I love being at a festival and looking at titles and just taking a chance on something.  It's exciting because I've had some of my very favorite experiences that way, like when I sat through "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" simply because I wanted to see the movie playing after it, and I've had some of the worst experiences ever the same way.  I'll spare the filmmakers another kick in the teeth, but there have been movies I've bailed out on twenty minutes in because I've been so horrified by what I'm looking at.

With "Vampire," I'll admit it:  I'm curious to see a movie that's got balls big enough to use that title in the year 2011, in an age where there are roughly nine billion movies that have been made about vampires, and they have pretty much been run through every variation, every possible permutation.  I certainly think you can still make a vampire film that is interesting and provocative.  "Let The Right One In" and its American counterpart "Let Me In" both prove that, as did the recent Korean film "Thirst," but to just call your film "Vampire" implies a sort of ownership of the genre, like you're making a big statement about these movies or this particular monster archetype.

Read Full Post
<p>Neill Blomkamp, seen here directing Sharlto Copley in 'District 9,' has two more original SF&nbsp;films set up now, which should keep him busy for a while</p>

Neill Blomkamp, seen here directing Sharlto Copley in 'District 9,' has two more original SF films set up now, which should keep him busy for a while

Credit: Sony Pictures

Neill Blomkamp's 'Elysium' finds a home and a new project is announced

Is he the last great hope for original science-fiction onscreen?

Well, that didn't take long.

I included a link yesterday in The Morning Read to a story that indicated Neill Blomkamp was just starting his studio rounds with his new project "Elysium," which was already fully funded by MRC.  They were looking for a distributor, and it looks like Sony stepped up with a bid of $120 million, which locked the film up for them.  The cast is great already, with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley aboard, but what really gets me crazy is the idea that Blomkamp managed to pin down the elusive Syd Mead, whose work on films like the original "TRON," "Blade Runner," and "Conan The Barbarian" made him one of the most important concept artists in film in the '80s.  He does not work frequently, but his love of "District 9" is what evidently got him to say yes to Blomkamp where he's said no so many other times.

Now it looks like that quick turnaround on the "Elysium" deal has given MRC the confidence to greenlight another film immediately, which it appears that Blomkamp will shoot right after he's done with "Elysium."  The title, according to the report at Deadline, is "Chappie," and once again, it's an original SF film.

Read Full Post