<p>&quot;Rudderless&quot;</p>

"Rudderless"

Credit: J.R. Cooke

Review: Billy Crudup shines in William H. Macy's 'Rudderless'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Sundance closer also co-stars Selena Gomez, but don't see it for her
It's funny, but if you asked me to list my favorite actors, it would take me a while to get to Billy Crudup.
 
Probably that's Crudup has made some strange, but often admirable, career choices and has occasionally vanished in the background in the sort of paycheck roles I wouldn't begrudge him for a second.
 
However, when I think back on Crudup's body of work, he's given some performances that I consider to be all-time classics.
 
"Almost Famous," for example, doesn't work without Crudup's passionate, mercurial Golden God Russell Hammond. In a perfect world, Crudup would have picked up an Oscar nod for "Almost Famous." He did not. Instead, his highest profile acting honor is an Independent Spirit nomination for "Jesus' Son," a cult classic in which he gets astounding comedic mileage from some very dark material, etching one of cinema's best and most unique depictions of drug addiction. And although I may be a party of one on the movie, Crudup's commitment in Robert Towne's underrated "Without Limits" never ceases to impress me.
 
He's done decent work since then, but perhaps the reason I don't include Crudup among my favorite actors is because his last great performance -- unless you were a fan of his radioactive blue super-wang in "Watchmen" -- was all the way back in 2000.
 
That's no longer true. 
 
"Rudderless," one of the Closing Night films of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival represents a confident directing debut for William H. Macy and gives Crudup his best role in years. The actor responds with a performance that's funny, heartbreaking and confidently musical, anchoring a film with a challenging and sometimes shaky premise that very much requires his steadying presence.
 
More on "Rudderless" after the break.
 
Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Fed Up&quot;</p>

"Fed Up"

Credit: Scott Sinkler

Review: Obesity documentary 'Fed Up' isn't fresh, but it's persuasive

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Sundance doc continues a conversation about healthy eating
I'm into the third week of the TCA Press Tour/Sundance double-bill and things have begun to get just a bit punchy and, with punchiness, I start falling back on intellectually facile puns. 
 
So when I tell you that Stephanie Soechtig's Sundance US Documentary Competition entry "Fed Up" offers ample food for thought, you're going to have to take that with a grain of salt.
 
Oy. See what I did there?
 
Yeah. I have no pride. 
 
Just because it's punny doesn't mean it isn't true. One of the pleasures of Sundance is riding shuttles with passionate audiences discussing the movies they've just seen and I don't remember the last time I took a shuttle in which every single rider was so deep and loudly in conversation about the film that they just saw as after catching a matinee of "Fed Up."
 
It's telling that I don't think I heard a single person discussing "Fed Up" in terms of its cinematic quality or lack thereof. Nobody wanted to talk about whether or not "Fed Up" was a "good" movie, but everybody wanted to engage with the documentary's central polemic.
 
Even at a film festival, not everybody is equipped with the vocabulary or the desire to talk about the merits of direction or editing or cinematography, but no matter who you are or where you go, absolutely everybody has the vocabulary and the desire to talk about food and eating. And just as devoted moviegoers are stubborn in their subjective approval or disapproval of certain films, "eating" is something that most people think they know how to do correctly, so when a documentary like "Fed Up" comes along and assails the fundamentals of this very basic human process, everybody has an opinion and everybody wants to share the things that they're sure they're doing right and the things they're apparently doing wrong. 
 
So that's something I have to keep in mind when I'm reviewing "Fed Up."
 
I don't think it's a very good movie, but I think it's a hugely effective documentary, at least in certain contexts. It happens that the Sundance Film Festival is exactly the context in which "Fed Up" would be most superficially effective. The question is how the filmmakers, including executive producer and narrator Katie Couric, will be able to get "Fed Up" out into our national bloodstream so that its ideas will be able to circulate. Without wide distribution, concentrated most heavily among young viewers, it has no value at all. With wide distribution, particularly in schools, I've seen first-hand how well it instigates conversation. Ultimately, I think that Soechtig will be happier with that compliment than she'll be unhappy about any minor disappointment I feel in "Fed Up" as an aesthetic endeavor. "Fed Up" is designed to make people rethinking their eating habits, not to win Oscars.
 
More on "Fed Up" after the break...
 
Read Full Post
<p>Greg Kinnear and Peter Stormare in &quot;Rake.&quot;</p>

Greg Kinnear and Peter Stormare in "Rake."

Credit: FOX

TV Ratings: 'American Idol' carries FOX to Thursday win, 'Rake' disappoints

Greg Kinnear legal drama premiere loses nearly half of 'Idol' lead-in

 

Fast National ratings for Thursday, January 23, 2014.

Even a diminished "American Idol" was strong enough to carry FOX to a Thursday night ratings victory, albeit while CBS was in repeats and with an underwhelming debut performance from "Rake."

For the night, FOX averaged a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49 and 9.6 million viewers. CBS was second (1.9, 7.8 million), followed by ABC (1.1, 3.9 million), NBC (1.0, 3.2 million) and the CW (0.9, 2.2 million).

8 p.m. -- "Idol" won the hour for FOX with a 3.3 demo rating and 12.1 million viewers. CBS was second (2.4, 10.8 million), and it's worth noting that a "Big Bang Theory" repeat (2.9, 12.8 million) about tripled the audience for a new "Community" (1.1, 3 million) on NBC. Together, "Community" and "Parks and Recreation" (1.2, 3 million) barely finished in third for NBC, followed by the CW's "Vampire Diaries" (1.1, 2.7 million) and ABC's "The Taste" (1.0, 3.8 million).

9 p.m. -- CBS won the hour with repeats of "The Crazy Ones" and "Two and a Half Men," which averaged a 1.9 demo rating and 7.9 million viewers. The premiere of "Rake" (1.7, 7.1 million) lost nearly half its "Idol" lead-in among viewers under 50, and dipped at the half hour, but still finished the hour in second place, followed by more of "The Taste" (1.2, 4.1 million), the continually troubled "Sean Saves the World" and "The Michael J. Fox Show" on NBC (0.7, 2.4 million) and the CW's "Reign" (0.7, 1.8 million).

10 p.m. -- "Parenthood" (1.3, 4.3 million) narrowly won the demographic battle for the hour, but it was also the only non-repeat in the timeslot, and a CBS "Elementary" rerun (1.2, 7.6 million) did significantly better among total viewers. A "Shark Tank" repeat (1.1, 3.9 million) was third for ABC.

All ratings information comes from preliminary Fast National Nielsen data, which includes live and same-day DVR viewing. All numbers are subject to change

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Marmato&quot;</p>

"Marmato"

Credit: Sundance

Review: 'Marmato' mines for gold and drama in Colombia

HitFix
A-
Readers
n/a
Mark Grieco's documentary also features nefarious Canadians as villains
"Marmato" is Mark Grieco's first feature and he went all-in to deliver one of the best film's I've seen in this year's US Documentary Competition.
 
Over six years, Grieco lived in the Colombian mining village of "Marmato," serving as director, cinematographer and producer, wholly committing to telling the story about globalization, the illusion of progress, the insatiable human desire for riches and the decline of a way of life that is simultaneously woefully outmoded and yet authentic and worth preserving. 
 
Thanks to the duration of his presence in the region, Grieco has been granted a depth of access that allows him to populate the film with compelling and fully realized characters, while his background as a photojournalist has yielded a view of a unique corner of the world, one in which poverty and wealth overlap in the midst of great physical beauty. 
 
"Marmato" is somewhat hampered by telling a story that hasn't reached its conclusion, leading to an abrupt ending, but I liked Grieco's storytelling enough that I would gladly watch a sequel. [Might I suggest "More Mato" as the sequel title? No. I probably should not.]
 
Full review after the break...
 
Read Full Post
<p>This is Alyson Ragona.</p>

This is Alyson Ragona.

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 13 Auditions #4 - Atlanta

It's time for Keith, J-Lo and Harry to head to the Dirty South

Once again, the Sundance Film Festival has been good enough to take the entire evening off so that I can recap "American Idol."

Once again, I am lying.

However, it's time for some "American Idol" auditions from Atlanta.

Click through for my full reaction to Thursday (January 23) night's episode.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Love Child&quot;</p>

"Love Child"

Review: 'Love Child' looks at online addiction in South Korea

Sundance doc puts an unspeakable tragedy in cultural context
I don't know if Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia's "Web Junkie" is the perfect complement to Valerie Veatch's "Love Child" or if "Love Child" is the perfect complement to "Web Junkie," but I know that a being able to intellectually pair the two documentaries is one of the biggest advantages to this year's Sundance Film Festival programming obsession with the dangers of the Internet.
 
Of course, once audiences get away from Park City, it's unlikely that "Web Junkie" and "Love Child" are going to be viewable in tandem. "Love Child" is an HBO Films documentary and thus will get visibility through the premium cable giant, while HBO, unlikely Sundance, will probably be discerning enough to think that programming two documentaries on Asian countries and their explorations of the notion of Internet addiction might be overkill.
 
That wouldn't be exactly true.
 
It turns out that while "Web Junkie" lacked, "Love Child" confidently delivers, while what "Love Child" lacks is the thing "Web Junkie" does best. With careful editing, the two docs could be melded into one emotional and authoritative documentary on a captivating subject, but then you'd have a three-hour movie. [I'll be completing The Oy Vey The Internet Is Freaky Trilogy with "The Internet's Own Boy" tomorrow evening. I suspect it will be sufficiently its own thing that it will stand alone. We'll see!]
 
Click through for my full review of "Love Child," which is going up against "Web Junkie" in the World Documentary Competition at Sundance…
 
Read Full Post
<p>The stars of &quot;Land Ho!&quot;</p>

The stars of "Land Ho!"

Credit: Andrew Reed

Review: 'Land Ho!' offers understated charm and comedy

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson shine in Sundance favorite
Fortunately, it isn't my job to figure out what Sony Pictures Classics is going to do with its brand-spanking-new Sundance pickup "Land Ho!"  
 
The part of me that attempts to ponder the commercial possibilities of film festival acquisitions looks at "Land Ho!" and sees a tonally challenging international roadtrip comedy about a couple senior citizens played by a pair of stars who aren't just unknowns to mainstream audiences, they're barely-knowns even to art house snobs.
 
Fortunately, that's not a hat that I'm ever called upon to wear, at least not in practical terms. 
 
All I know is that "Land Ho!" plays. 
 
It's a funny and moving film about aging, but it's also a wacky journey across Iceland with two characters who are instantly likable and ultimately quite lovable. And with Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson, it's a perfectly cast buddy romp.
 
Getting audiences to see Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz' writing-directing collaboration won't be easy -- "Land Ho!" is playing in the NEXT program at Sundance and up until yesterday, it was flying way under the radar -- but once you're watching, it's hard not to be taken in my charm.
 
Read Full Post
<p>FOX tells me this is Melanie Porras and she'll appear on Wednesday's &quot;American Idol.&quot;</p>

FOX tells me this is Melanie Porras and she'll appear on Wednesday's "American Idol."

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 13 Auditions #3 - Detroit

The judges head to Motown for two more hours of auditions

Greetings from Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival comes to a screeching halt so that I can recap the Wednesday, January 22 episode of "American Idol."

Yup. The Festival has stopped all screenings for two hours tonight just for me.

Isn't that sweet of them? And then I'll head over to see "Land Ho!"

So click through and follow along for all of the Detroit auditions, or all of the Detroit auditions our condo wifi will allow me to watch...

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The Voices&quot;</p>

"The Voices"

Credit: Sundance

Review: Surprising 'The Voices' offers Ryan Reynolds and a Scottish talking cat

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Marjane Satrapi's Sundance premiere is a disturbingly funny treat
Some movies stumble into cult status by accident, aiming for mainstream approval, but landing wide of that mark. 
 
Other movies just shrug and steer self-consciously into a cult-friendly niche with every fiber of their being.
 
It isn't easy to do the former, but it's probably easier than the latter. Weirdness-for-the-sake-of-weirdness often just ends up trying too hard. It's almost like you need a certain earnestness to make a cult film seem genuine, rather than over-calculated.
 
"The Voices," which is premiering out-of-competition at the Sundance Film Festival, is designed pretty purely as a cult movie. It probably should never play in 3000 theaters and it's certainly not going to make $100 million. From the first frame to the last, it's begging audiences to raise a collective eyebrow and go along for the ride, knowing that if you're in from the beginning, you'll probably be in for the duration, but that if you don't crack an immediate smile within 30 seconds, it probably won't get better. 
 
"The Voices" is trying to be a cult film with a capital "C" and you can feel its effort in that direction... But it mostly works.
 
Carried to no small degree by wildly and successfully against-expectations direction from "Persepolis" veteran Marjane Satrapi, "The Voices" is "Psycho" by way of "Wonderfalls" by way of Francois Ozon. 
 
Perhaps a little more successful when winking at genre expectations than when playing things straight, "The Voices" is funny, disturbing and whimsical, anchored by an "Oh right, he can act" performance by Ryan Reynolds, an "Oh duh, she's effortlessly appealing" performance by Anna Kendrick and an "Oh wow, that's what it takes to make her interesting" performance by Gemma Arterton. 
 
More after the break…
 
Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Happy Valley&quot;</p>

"Happy Valley"

Credit: A&E Films

Review: 'Happy Valley' is a confounding look at Penn State post-scandal

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Amir Bar-Lev's Sundance doc should spark post-screening debate
Amir Bar-Lev's "Happy Valley," a documentary premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is not a film about the sex scandal that rocked Penn State University in late 2011, 
 
Make no mistake, you won't come away with any ambiguity regarding the allegations against Jerry Sandusky or the crimes for which he was convicted and sentenced to what amounts to a life sentence.
 
But this is not a documentary about interviewing witnesses, investigating timelines or attempting to get to the root of Sandusky's criminal behavior.  The accepted supposition is that Sandusky did what he was accused of doing and, with one major exception, the victims probably aren't ready for extended feature-length interviews (plus, it's all on the record anyway).
 
As its title might indicate if you happen to have any awareness of Penn State and Penn State football, Happy Valley is about a place and about a state of mind, both of which were crushed and vilified by the Sandusky case and its repulsive and saddening revelations.
 
And that's going to prove an immediate barrier-to-entry for many potential viewers who really won't be incorrect if they say, "Yes, it's unfortunate that many innocent people associated with Penn State saw their university's good name spoiled by this and it's probably disappointing to some fans of a powerhouse sports program that innocent athletes are being punished for the actions of a reprehensible assistant coach and it's arguably unfair to blame an entire community for this ugly mess, but... Sexual abuse. Children. Let's concentrate on the actual victims here and maybe down the road we can get around to restoring the joy of the tailgating experience for bushy-tailed coeds."
 
It's not that "Happy Valley" cheapens what happened to the victims in any way, but there are definitely people within the documentary whose sense of perspective is a wee bit askew and they're given ample platform. And there will certainly be viewers who think that any focus that looks away from Sandusky's actions is invariably a focus in the wrong place.
 
That's why "Happy Valley" is probably going to leave many viewers, possibly most viewers, angry. The question is just at the direction of the anger. Many people will just have a generalized anger because if the Jerry Sandusky scandal doesn't piss you off, you're not paying attention. But I know some people with Penn State sympathies or affiliations who are going to feel like "Happy Valley" is too hard on the show and I'm certain that many people outside of the bubble are going to feel it's too lenient.
 
Probably that's what director Amir Bar-Lev wants, though he continues to be a director who sells himself short by rushing to cover big stories.
 
[More after the break...]
 
Read Full Post