Chris O’Dowd

The Sundance Film Festival ran from January 18th to 28th this year; over 120 films were shown in ten days. For the fourth year in a row, I was on the (often snowy) ground, knocking out almost 20 films in five days in order to bring you the Best of the Fest. I present here the ten best films I saw – five features, four documentaries, and one special screening. Keep your eyes out for these during the coming year, as they are well worth your time and money. And if you’d like to know all the films that took home awards this year, you can see the winners here.

TOP FIVE FEATURE FILMS

1.) Search
(USA 2017, 101 min. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Category: Next)

Worried father David Kim (John Cho) uses the Internet to search for his missing daughter.

The word innovative doesn’t even come close to doing filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty’s first feature film justice. Using a narrative that unfolds completely on a computer screen (via video chats, texts, emails, Internet searches, and news videos), Chaganty immerses us in the story of recently widowed dad David (John Cho, excellent as always) and his desperate search for his missing teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La). Debra Messing, cast against type, is terrific as the San Jose police detective heading the investigation. Filled with red herrings and twists and turns you’ll never see coming, Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian’s South Bay-set mystery is as imaginative as their method of telling it. Both a celebration and a critique of our increasing reliance on technology, the brilliantly executed Search is my hands-down favorite film of the Festival. Sony Pictures acquired the picture for five million dollars in one of the Festival’s biggest buys, so a wide release will be forthcoming. The film also deservedly won both an audience award and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. Don’t miss this one. [read the whole post]

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We’ve got three final spotlights from the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival, which closed Sunday night after ten days of showcasing dozens of fresh and exciting titles. Festival highlights, photos, and videos are available at: http://mvff.com. We’ll see you at the Fest next year!

Wild
(USA 2014, 120 min)

Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) at the start of her long and often arduous journey.

Director Jean-Mark Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and writer Nick Hornby have turned Cheryl Strayed’s exceedingly popular memoir Wild into one of the best pictures of the year. Reese Witherspoon gives perhaps the fiercest performance of her career as Strayed, who, in the mid-1990s, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) solo as a way to cope with several losses in her life. A powerful meditation on grief, healing, strength, and redemption, Vallée’s picture benefits enormously from the emotionally raw performances of is two lead actresses. Laura Dern, as Strayed’s mother Bobbi, seen in flashbacks, is devastating as a young mother whose capacity for hope and love is beyond measure. Shot on location at various points along the PCT, Yves Bélanger’s cinematography is breathtaking, and fittingly accentuates the emotional complexity of Strayed’s story.

Release Date:
– Opens nationwide on December 5th

[read the whole post]

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Film Review: Calvary

by Chad Liffmann on August 8, 2014

Trying to find light in a very dark place.

Chris O'Dowd and Brendan Gleeson are laughin' it up!

Chris O’Dowd and Brendan Gleeson compare serious faces.

Pay close attention to the title.  The word is ‘calvary’, not ‘cavalry’.  If you go into watching Calvary expecting to see a charging army on horseback, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  Calvary, titled after the name of the hill outside Jerusalem where Christ was crucified and also a term used to describe great suffering, is a very dark yet beautiful and at times humorously allegorical tale.  The film is also a pointed study on the rocky relationship between Ireland and the Catholic church.  It’s a very tightly bound film without much fluff — with no air to breathe, Calvary can sometimes come across as contrived or forced. This winds up benefitting the film, since moments of contrivance are superseded by how these moments challenge our morality and judgmental nature.  Calvary expects us to listen closely to what the characters have to say, but also to open ourselves up to heavy discussions on the nature of sin, faith, life and death. It’s a tall order, indeed, but one that the film handles intelligently.

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Film Review: Cuban Fury

by Gordon Elgart on April 11, 2014

This movie will dance its way into your heart … or something like that.

Nick Frost stars in the Nick Frost vehicle, Cuban Fury

Nick Frost stars in the Nick Frost vehicle, Cuban Fury

There’s a type of comedy movie called the star vehicle. It’s an old fashioned concept, but basically, it’s when you take a funny person and write a movie around him that plays to his strengths as a comic actor. That’s what Cuban Fury is. It’s a chance for Nick Frost to do Nick Frost things with a strong supporting cast, and as this sort of film, it absolutely works.

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Film Review: Epic

by Chad Liffmann on May 24, 2013

Colin Farrell voices Ronin in Epic

Colin Farrell voices Ronin in Epic

Naming a film Epic is asking for a lot, especially when it’s based on a children’s book of a different and less demanding title, “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” by William Joyce.  Mirriam-Webster defines ‘epic’ as “extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.”  To focus Epic on inherently small things, like insects and miniature people in a world of forest trees and underground hives, is a problem in of itself.  Sure, things may look “epic” from the characters’ point of view, but from the perspective of a human being in the audience, not so much.  Luckily the visuals do look epic, they just don’t feel that way.  This is due in part because of the relatively banal storyline and uninspired character design for the protagonists.  It’s still a very playful film with just enough depth to satisfy adults, but as it tries to balance emotion and a tone oriented toward small children, it falls short.

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Film Review: This Is 40

by Jason LeRoy on December 21, 2012

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in THIS IS 40

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in THIS IS 40

starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Annie Mumulo, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham

written and directed by: Judd Apatow

MPAA: Rated R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material

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Film Review: “Friends With Kids”

March 9, 2012

starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Megan Fox, Edward Burns written and directed by: Jennifer Westfeldt MPAA: Rated R for sexual content and language

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