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Movie Reviews

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    A Tender Urban Love Story Grows During 9/11: 'Don't Let Me Drown" (Sundance '09)

    Other independent dramas use the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as emotional background but few with the skillful subtlety as first-time director Cruz Angeles in "Don't Let Me Drown." While primarily a young love story, arguably the most overly familiar of movie genres, "Don't Let Me Drown,...

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    An Engaging Portrait of Obsession: Robert Siegel's "Big Fan" (Sundance '09)

    A comic formula wrapped in lonely sentiments, Robert Siegel's "Big Fan" is an engaging portrait of obsession. Siegel, the former editor of "The Onion," wrote "Big Fan" several years ago while attempting to launch his screenwriting career; the darkly humorous story of a New York Giants aficionado cau...

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    Chancy, Over-The-Top 'Vicious Kind' is a Mixed Success (Sundance '09)

    Risky material matters more than the skilled technique and earnest performances throughout writer/director Lee Toland Krieger's battling brothers drama "The Vicious Kind." Granted, all the core ingredients of a quality dysfunctional family drama are here: family conflict, violence, sexual impropriet...

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    Coming-of-Age Drama "An Education" Is a Triumph for Director and Star (Sundance '09)

    Much is remarkable about the sweet and wonderful coming-of-age period drama “An Education,” the latest from Danish director Lone Scherfig and the first unqualified breakout at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. For Scherfig, who remains best known for her 2000 foreign-language comedy “Italian for Beginners,” “An Education” reveals a filmmaker talented at quality, mass-appeal storytelling. Veteran novelist and screenwriter Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”) adapts a short memoir by journalist Lynn Barber and expands it into a distinct, full-fledged script as satisfying as any of his previous stories. But its greatest surprise revol...

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    Man Out of Time: Terence Davies' "Of Time and the City"

    [An indieWIRE review from Reverse Shot.]

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    Move Aside Michael Moore, Charlyne Yi Breaks Out in Comic Doc "Paper Heart’" (Sundance '09)

    If the great comedian Bob Newhart had an Asian American love child it would be Charlyne Yi. She's the drollest comic working today and her deadpan style makes the comic documentary "Paper Heart," premiering in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, a fresh, irreverent road comedy.

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    The Peculiarities of Soullessness: Sophie Barthes' "Cold Souls" (Sundance '09)

    Sophie Barthes's "Cold Souls" belongs to a genre of self-reflexive movie actors playing themselves — and it's one of the few that has nothing to do with Charlie Kaufman. It doesn't take much effort to explain why Kaufman's name must come up here: Paul Giamatti plays himself in an amusingly surreal story that finds him selling his soul to refine his performance in a New York stage production of "Uncle Vanya." Later, eager to be whole again, he journeys to a risky soul-exporting operation in Russia, and eventually into his own tortured mind, to set things right. Cynics might consider it "Being John Malkovich" with slightly modified symbolism, b...

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    Dreamlike Images Bring Undeniable Sparkle to London Romance "Unmade Beds" (Sundance '09)

    Seek out the specific source of youthful energy that brightens Argentine filmmaker Alexis Dos Santos' lovely London romance "Unmade Beds" and you will fail. There's no guaranteed technique behind a film as colorful, vibrant and emotionally sweet as "Unmade Beds," a love story with the power to move ...

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    Race Drama "Toe to Toe" Ushers in the New Obama Cinema (Sundance '09)

    To call filmmaker Emily Abt's compelling coming-of-age tale "Toe to Toe" the debut film of the New Obama Cinema, qualifies her debut feature drama as an American movie that treats race and class with insight and enthusiasm equal to the excitement over President elect Barack Obama and his impact on r...

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    Beyond Gay: Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" (Sundance '09)

    Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" is a comedic "Revolutionary Road" for twenty-first century audiences. Shelton's third feature evokes many of the underlying themes present in Richard Yates' novel of suburban discontent. You wouldn't guess that from the premise: Set in Seattle's hip urban youth scene, the movie focuses on two straight buddies intent on fulfilling the unlikely goal of filming themselves having sex -- with each other -- for the town's local porn festival. To these hilariously mixed up journeymen, violating their sexual dispositions offers an absurd, idyllic escape from their mundane existence. Thanks to crisp, believable performances fr...

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