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SUNDANCEdaily | "Cane Toads: The Conquest," "It's a Wonderful Afterlife," "Joan Rivers" doc

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | feelingsoblahg.blogspot.com January 27, 2010 at 7:17AM

Cane Toads: The Conquest
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Cane Toads: The Conquest

Paul Fischer on genre site Dark Horizons praises the film, "Not only is Lewis’ film consistently fascinating and full of a very dry, parochial Australian humour, but technically his film is a dazzling achievement, in some ways more so than "Avatar" since Lewis uses the 3D technology in very subtle but quite brilliant ways to enhance his narrative. Make no mistake about it, "Cane Toads: The Conquest" is a documentary with a distinctly cohesive narrative style, offering a variety of points of view and telling a very Australian story that feels universal."

Pamela McClintock and Sharon Swart of Variety documents last night's 3D premiere, "A roar went up inside the Eccles theater on Tuesday night as director Mark Lewis humorously introduced his 3D documentary on Australian Cane Toads: "Welcome to 'Ava-toad.'"

At the Wall Street Journal, Michelle Kung sums up the film, "A quasi-sequel to his 1988 cult comedy-doc “Cane Toads: An Unnatural History,” Lewis’s updated look at the freaky amphibians mixes history, nature footage, re-enactments and colorful testimony from too-good-to-be-true average Australians, such as Merinda Sharp, who sends toads on “trips to Alaska” — a la the freezer, apparently the only humane and painless way to kill a toad."

Expect some awestruck commentary from Eugene Hernandez later this week on indieWIRE.

It's a Wonderful Afterlife

Gurinder Chadha's latest was a late addition to the fest's lineup; the film premiered last night in Park City. The "Bend it Like Beckham" filmmaker has waited a bit to unleash her new vision onto audiences. John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter starts by saying, "Broad and not too spicy, the London-set Indian rom-com is a crowd-pleaser with fair moneymaking potential," but ends on this note: "Chadha and her team, with their TV-sitcom color palette and quick comic pacing, clearly aren't shooting for plausibility, and audiences in search of a few easy laughs won't be disappointed -- though they might secretly wish for more interesting characters and richer local color."

Back to Paul Fischer at Dark Horizons sums up the film, "With references to Frank Capra, and even Brian de Palma’s "Carrie", Chadha’s latest film about an Indian woman living in London is a classic screwball romantic comedy with a twist in its story about the pressures on Indian women to get hitched. Set in West London, we have the indomitable Mrs. Sethi, a doting Punjabi mother obsessively seeking a marital match for her appealing, if slightly overweight, only daughter Roopie." What does he think? "There are ghosts and romance, music and pure comedy in this Capra-esque charmer. A fresh, wonderfully original and visually gorgeous entertainment that never forgets that it is also deeply human and very smart. The film should prove to be a commercial hit and it is very likely a US deal will be announced imminently."

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

"Because the media has made a punchline of Joan Rivers and because Joan Rivers has made a punchline of herself, I often find myself predisposed to disliking Joan Rivers," starts Daniel Fienberg, who concludes, "Directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' is a surprisingly sympathetic, and unsurprisingly funny, portrait of a woman who needs no introduction but, as I keep being reminded, often requires re-introduction."

Screen's David D'Arcy sees great prospects for the film, "This documentary by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg certainly justifies an arthouse theatrical release – it’s more revealing about Rivers than the successful documentary The September Issue was about its subject, Anna Wintour. Its campy tone should win over the gay audience, and her raunchiness will attract the young. Ever the workaholic, Rivers will be there to promote it, although the natural home for this film is television throughout the English-speaking world."

EW's Owen Glieberman is eloquent in his description of the legend and thus the film. "As you watch 'Joan Rivers — A Piece of Work,' you see and understand the insane courage it took for Rivers, as a woman, to blaze this trail. What’s inspiring is that while so many fearless comedians were consumed by their demons, Rivers is just the opposite. Letting her demons run wild is what saves her, every day. Her comedy prickles and stings because, as you get to know her, you can see that she is, above all, a compulsively frank and honest person. That’s the source of her biting vulgarity, and her majesty too."

The film, a competitor in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, premiered a few days ago, but Joan was feted last night, at a private engagement. Rivers, a spry 75, made the rounds past all of her industry admirers, weighed down by a necklace with a cluster of crystals the size of her wrinkle-less face. iW's Peter Knegt has video from yesterday's riotous Q&A and a list of the things he learned from the doc.

This article is related to: Features, cinemadaily