<p>Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers, and Shawn Ashmore face an unwinnable situation in Adam Green's grim 'Frozen,' part of this year's midnight line-up at the Sundance Film Festival</p>

Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers, and Shawn Ashmore face an unwinnable situation in Adam Green's grim 'Frozen,' part of this year's midnight line-up at the Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Anchor Bay Films

Sundance 2010: 'Frozen' delivers the chills

Adam Green strips it down and makes it work

Adam Green is a firmly-established part of the LA horror scene at this point, and his film "Hatchet" has earned him a fairly solid fan base in the horror world.  I like Adam a lot, and I want to like "Hatchet" more than I do.  I like it in theory, but I just wasn't crazy about the actual execution of it.  It's sort of like how I felt about Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever."  By the time I saw it, I liked Eli a lot, but the film left me cold.

For me, "Frozen" is the moment when I get onboard.  I think Green's new film is impressively directed, well-acted, and does its job both effeciently and effectively.  It's another of this year's midnight movies at Sundance, and I would imagine this audience, after dealing with the weather at this year's festival, is going to feel an extra connection to the film as they watch it.

"Frozen" has been described as "'Open Water' on a ski lift," and that's certainly fair.  As much as I liked the performance in "Open Water," though, I always thought the film was just okay.  "Frozen" is much better as an actual movie.  Green expertly accelerates the desperation over the course of the film, and he punctuates the pervasive dread at just the right moments, in just the right ways.  This isn't anything like the reckless abandon of "Hatchet"... it's all about the slow burn that delivers on occasion with cruel precision

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<p>Just another hilarious moment from the family comedy laugh-fest '7 Days,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Just another hilarious moment from the family comedy laugh-fest '7 Days,' part of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Go Films/Sundance Selects

Sundance 2010: '7 Days' spills blood and tears

Upsetting story of revenge that earns its worst images

Here's the short version of this review:  I watched the film on a screener disc on my laptop with headphones on at the HitFix condo while our music editor Melinda Newman and our reporter Katie Hasty were both writing, and by the end of it, they told me that just by my body language and my reactions while watching it, I had convinced both of them to never see the movie.  As Dan Feinberg put it, "If a movie's making you cringe and turn away, I have to figure that's a movie I don't ever want to watch."

Fair enough.

How would you ever forgive yourself?

More than any other question posed by the ugly and provocative "7 Days," that's the one I keep coming back to.  If your child was kidnapped and murdered, how could you ever stop thinking about all the things you might have done different?  What if you'd walked with them that day?  What if you'd driven them instead?  What if you'd been there?

One of the things no one warns you about before you become a parent is the things it does to your imagination.  No one tells you about the way you suddenly aren't in control over the things that run through your head, the horrifying scenarios that play out a thousand times a day, unwelcome and impossible to forget.  You're walking across a parking lot and for just a moment, your child pulls his hand free of yours and runs ahead, and an entire sickening movie plays out behind your eyes in a flash, and you see it with IMAX clarity, your child crushed under a car's tire or struck and left brain damaged, and your reaction is almost always too extreme, an effort to just drive the image away, to safeguard them from every single possibility of harm to any degree.  That's some sort of primal brain chemistry defense mode that kicks in with new parents, I think.

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<p>Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and John C. Reilly all star in 'Cyrus,' a comedy by the Duplass Brothers that makes its debut at the Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and John C. Reilly all star in 'Cyrus,' a comedy by the Duplass Brothers that makes its debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Sundance 2010: 'Cyrus' is the funniest drama you'll see this year

Reilly, Hill and Tomei all click as the Duplass Brothers storm the mainstream

John meets Molly.

John likes Molly.

Incredibly, Molly likes John as well.

If only things were that easy.

That's "Cyrus" in a nutshell.  Mark and Jay Duplass wrote and directed the picture, and it is a small intimate film that Fox Searchlight can absolutely sell like a mainstream hit.  It is a smooth piece of satisfaction, and that's not soft praise.  There's a light, effortless quality to the film.  You never see any of the typical mechanics of plot.  Each scene is polished, burnished by both the improvisation process during shooting and an exhaustive, precise editing schedule that they enjoyed on the film.  This is a film as wise about the relationships between men and women as Albert Brooks in the "Modern Romance"/"Lost In America" phase of his career.  This is a grown-up movie, and yet paralyzingly funny in places.  It's uncomfortable, but it's not shot through with the casual misanthropic horror of a "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

"Cyrus" is an original, though, for all of the comparisons I just made.  I'm just trying to describe a general reaction on my part.  The film opens with John (John C. Reilly, who gives one of the best performances of his career here) being told by his ex-wife Jamie (the always awesome Catherine Keener, who is, not surprisingly, awesome) that she's going to be getting remarried to Tim (Matt Walsh).  It has, after all, been seven years since she divorced John.  Still, he hasn't moved on.  He hasn't recovered.  He hasn't even tried.  Jamie talks him into going to a party with her and Tim, and he reluctantly agrees.  At the party, he meets a woman, Molly (Marisa Tomei), and something clicks between them.  It's just natural and real and a reaction that makes perfect sense as staged by the film.

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<p>Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk play rednecks caught up in a horror film shown from an all-new perspective in 'Tucker &amp;&nbsp;Dale Vs Evil,' one of the midnight movies at this year's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk play rednecks caught up in a horror film shown from an all-new perspective in 'Tucker & Dale Vs Evil,' one of the midnight movies at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Eden Rock Media

Sundance 2010: 'Tucker & Dale Vs Evil' kicks off my midnights in Park City

Does the slasher-movie comedy deliver on its postmodern promise?

At the opposite end of the "Very Long Day With More Snow Than I've Seen In The Entire Past 25 Years," I found myself settling in just in time for the 11:59 show of "Tucker & Dale vs Evil," part of the Park City at Midnight line-up this year.  It's a strong midnight line-up in general, and I really wrestled with seeing either this or "Splice" tonight.  I'll see "Splice" on Saturday night, and I'm looking forward to it based on the reactions I'm hearing from people I trust.

I'm not sure if I'll be as effusive in my reactions to "Tucker & Dale," though.  I didn't think it was a bad film, and stars Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk are pretty fantastic together.  They are both comic gold pretty much every time they open their mouths, a matter of two guys with amazing timing playing off each other like clockwork.  My issues lie more with a screenplay that has a great idea but can't quite execute it with the nimble wit it deserves, and with a director whose work is solid, but not great at nailing down the biggest laughs that the film sets up.

If you haven't seen the unfinished promo reel that leaked online last month, the premise is fairly simple.  Labine and Tudyk play Dale and Tucker, two friends who are high-functioning hillbillies, good guys who have just bought a vacation cabin that they're planning to fix up.  As they're driving up to the cabin for the first time to do some rennovations and, time permitting, some fishing, they cross paths with a bunch of college kids who are also headed up to the same general area for some camping.  The shy but sweet Dale tries to talk to one of the girls, psychology student Allison ("30 Rock" hottie Katrina Bowden), and in the process, terrifies the entire carload of kids into thinking their lives are in danger from the sorts of crazed mountain folk who have become a staple in horror films.

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<p>One of the musical numbers from 'Bran Nue Dae,' a musical that is playing the Sundance Film&nbsp;Festival.</p>

One of the musical numbers from 'Bran Nue Dae,' a musical that is playing the Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Robyn Kershaw/Mayfan

Sundance 2010: 'Bran Nue Dae' kicks off day two with a bang

Australian musical is a smile from first frame to last

I published my final review of last night at about 3:00, fell asleep around 4:00, and by 8:30, I was sitting in the audience of the Raquet Club, ready for my first movie of Friday.  I'm not sure how I got up to do it, but now, at 3:00 on Saturday morning, I'm back at the HitFix condo, and I haven't slept yet, and I have several things I want to share with you before I crash, so I'll have to just throw a little more caffeine into the mix and see how far I get.

Bird Runningwater is the associate director of Native American and Indigenous Programs for the Sundance Institiute, and he came out to introduce the morning's screening.  This is actually the second time he's invited director Rachel Perkins to Sundance.  The first was for her film "One Night The Moon," which played here in 2002.  That movie was a musical, an operetta based on a true story about young girl who disappeared in the Outback in the early 1900s.  Grim stuff, supposedly.  She spent six years after that working on an Australian mini-series, a Ken Burns-like documentary project called "First Australians."  By her own description, that was much grimmer than "One Night The Moon," a really rough emotional experience for her as a filmmaker.

So when she finished those projects, she decided to get involved with an antidote to all that doom and gloom in the form of a film version of a 20-year-old Australian stage musical, and in my opinion, the result is the first real slamdunk of the festival for me, a movie that made me smile from the very start to the very finish, and handled properly, it's a film that I think could absolutely be sold to the same exact audience that made "Mamma Mia!" and "Slumdog Millionaire" big box-office hits.

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<p>A robot looking for love is the subject of the Spike Jonze short film 'I'm Here,' one of the films playing as part of 'Shorts Program I' at this year's Sundance Film Festival</p>

A robot looking for love is the subject of the Spike Jonze short film 'I'm Here,' one of the films playing as part of 'Shorts Program I' at this year's Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2010: 'I'm Here,' a new short film by Spike Jonze

Another technical knock-out from one of film's slyest pranksters

After "HOWL," I had to hurry across Park City from the Eccles Theater so I could make it to the Egyptian in time for the Shorts Program I.  Dan Fienberg already reviewed the majority of the films from that program tonight, but the one he left out is the one I was there to see, the new short film from director Spike Jonze.

There have been rumors about this one floating around for a while now, and there was some confusion on my part when the Kanye West short by Spike showed up.  I thought at first maybe that was the same one.  But it turns out "I'm Here" is an ambitious half-hour love story about robots starring Andrew Garfield and Sienna Guillory, and it kicked off the Shorts Program with style, ambition, and a gentle romantic touch.

As with the Wild Things in "Where The Wild Things Are," the robots here are a combination of practical costumes and digital post-production, and the end result is sort of magical.  Both robots come across as living things, and the low-tech design of the world is charming, giving it a handmade quality that really works.

The fim is unabashedly romantic, the story of library robot Sheldon (Garfield), shy and retiring, following every rule.  There's a sense from the way the film plays at first that robots are not valued members of society, and that Sheldon has accepted his place.  He's amazed by robots who don't just keep their head down.  

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<p>Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser try their damnedest to keep 'Extraordinary Measures' from playing like a cheesy TV&nbsp;movie... to no avail.</p>

Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser try their damnedest to keep 'Extraordinary Measures' from playing like a cheesy TV movie... to no avail.

Credit: CBS Films

The M/C Review: 'Extraordinary Measures' is nothing special

Even more infuriating, this true story isn't.

Y'know, my first thought after suffering through the puerile "What Happens In Vegas" was, "Wow, I hope someone hires this director to remake 'Lorenzo's Oil,' only really, really dull."

And, lo, my wish was granted.

I'd feel worse about beating up on this overly-earnest tearjerker if the "based on a true story" part of the equation were actually true, but it's not.  I've done quite a bit of reading in the last week on the story behind the film, and everything that's been changed was changed in service of what William Goldman once famously referred to as "Hollywood Horseshit."

Which, coincidentally, was a cop movie starring Harrison Ford, wasnt it?

Okay, okay, I'll dial back the snark a bit.  To be fair, the film's not as bad as "Legion," also opening today, and it's not as dull as "Creation," which opens next week, but anyone worried that CBS Films would basically make glorified TV movies will find plenty here to justify that fear.  Brendan Fraser, who is evidently on an all-butterfat diet these days, stars as John Crowley, a man who has two children who are afflicted with Pompe disease, a rare degenerative disorder that usually kills children very young.  Last year, when I was at Sundance, my wife called me to tell me that our oldest son had been diagnosed as pre-asthmatic, and I felt like my world was caving in.  Since then, I've learned it's not serious and that it may never turn into anything worse, but at the time, there was a powerlessness that hit me like a sledgehammer. 

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<p>Charles Dutton, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki, Dennis Quaid, and Tyrese Gibson all face the end of the world in 'Legion,' opening today</p>

Charles Dutton, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki, Dennis Quaid, and Tyrese Gibson all face the end of the world in 'Legion,' opening today

Credit: Screen Gems

The M/C Review: 'Legion' is terrifying, but not for the reasons they intended

With that strong a cast, the movie's got to be good... right?

I, too, love "The Terminator."

But just because I enjoyed that film in 1984 doesn't mean I want to sit through a witless dinner-theater retread of the movie featuring a cast that is capable of much better.

Take Adrianne Palicki, for example, who plays Sarah Connor in this film.  Beautiful girl, and her work on "Friday Night Lights" proves she's more than just a pretty face.  She's a genuinely skilled actress who seems to be drawn to roles where she gets to play damaged or where she's pushed to extremes.  Or take Lucas Black, who's been consistently good in pretty much everything he's done since he was a kid in "Sling Blade."  Then there's Dennis Quaid, who has often been better than the movies he was in, a big bag of charisma in search of the right vehicle.  Even Charles Dutton strikes me as a guy you shouldn't just waste like this.

My guess is Screen Gems paid well to make sure they had a big cast they could sell since they knew they were working with a first time filmmaker here.  They were smart enough to put their one great image -- angels with machine guns -- front and center in all the marketing materials, and it seems to get people excited.  But it's a shell game, because there's not a single fresh character beat or a genuinely good scene in the film.

You like that red-band trailer with the foul-mouthed fanged granny who runs up the wall?  Well, that's the whole scene.  You like that clip of Doug Jones as the freaky ice cream man?  You've seen every second of his screen time.  And the worst part about showing those two bits out of context is that there's not another moment in the film that even comes close to the invention on display in those beats.  And in context, they're so thrown away that they really don't resonate at all.

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<p>Aaron Tveit and James Franco star as Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg in 'Howl,' the opening night film at 2010's Sundance Film Festival.</p>

Aaron Tveit and James Franco star as Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg in 'Howl,' the opening night film at 2010's Sundance Film Festival.

Credit: Werc Werk Works

Sundance 2010: 'HOWL' kicks off the festival

James Franco does a nice Ginsberg impression, but the film just doesn't work

It's always tough to be the first film in a festival.  And at Sundance, the conventional wisdom I've always heard from veterans is that the oepning night film is rarely good.

Let's just say conventional wisdom held true tonight.

Before the film, Robert Redford talked about the way this project worked its way through various arms of the Sundance Labs on its way to the screen, and at one point, it was supposed to be a documentary.  I'm puzzled why the decision was made to shift the project to a narrative feature, since the end result is dramatically inert, a showcase for James Franco's technically adept but entirely unilluminating impression of Allen Ginsberg.

For those not familiar with their hipster history, Ginsberg wrote a four-part poem called "HOWL" which was published in book form by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1955.  As a result, Ferlinghetti was put on trial for the distribution of obscenity, and a chunk of the film deals with that trial.  Jon Hamm stands in for the defense, David Strathairn is the prosecution, and Bob Balaban plays the judge.  The courtroom scenes are all carefully constructed from transcripts, but despite the subject matter, these sequences are all surprisingly sedate.  You'd think that a trial about obscenity in the '50s would have been explosive, but based on what you see here, you'd be wrong.

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<p>Ryan Reynolds might want to scale back on the snappy patter to save his oxygen in 'Buried,' playing as a midnight movie at this year's Sundance Film Festival</p>

Ryan Reynolds might want to scale back on the snappy patter to save his oxygen in 'Buried,' playing as a midnight movie at this year's Sundance Film Festival

Credit: Versus Entertainment

Watch: Ryan Reynolds is in a tight spot in this teaser for 'Buried'

We get a first look at one of this year's Sundance midnight movies

I'm not claustrophobic, thank god, but I know plenty of people who are.

This may not be the movie for you.

Then again, I have a profound phobia of being kidnapped, so maybe this isn't the film for me, either, although I'm certainly planning to see it this week while I'm here in Park City.  "Buried" has been chosen as one of this year's midnight movies at the Sundance Film Festival, and I'm sure that's in no small part to the star power offered by Ryan Reynolds, who stars as an American contracted to drive trucks in Iraq.  He's taken hostage, told to record a message about a ransom, and then buried alive to wait as his kidnappers see if they're going to be paid or not.

When you're dealing with a premise like this, the first question is how do you make it visually and dramatically compelling.  You're talking about a movie where your lead character is locked in a box.  It's a real test for an actor, too, since you don't have someone else to play off of for long stretches of the film.

The teaser's fairly smart.  It just sets up the concept, but it still doesn't really show you what the experience of the film is going to be.  It was just sent out to websites today, and so we wanted to share it with you before the festival gets too crazy and we start to get overwhelmed:

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