I arrived in Park City on Thursday, just too late to catch Robert Redford’s opening press conference, but I started watching movies yesterday so I’m all ready to report!
THE RAID – 8 out of 10
I was so bummed to miss this in Toronto and so excited I’d have a chance again at Sundance. Then I got to see a L.A. screening before I left. It certainly lives up to all the high praise it’s gotten. The Indonesian martial arts are noticeably unique to even the Thai and Chinese styles we love, so it’s very cinematic to watch them. Their finishing moves are amazing, and when you see a villain that’s even faster and tougher than our heroes it’s insane. There’s also a lot more gun violence than I expected and it’s beautifully filmed. The way the camera reveals what floor the gunmen are on and how the lighting exposes the cops’ position is pure art. The handheld camera shakes but that’s usually in preparation for an imaginative way to follow the action. The only criticism I could have is that at a certain point it does get tiring to watch these fight movies in dumpy slum buildings, warehouses and factories. I know those locations allow the filmmakers a vast space and a controllable environment, and they do make the story relevant to the setting (a police raid on a drug house), just maybe try building a nice set sometimes. Still, there are plenty of creative rooms in there with layouts to fight through and weapons to improvise, so it’s just an aesthetic point.
WISH YOU WERE HERE – 4 out of 10
This is the kind of important issue drama you expect to see at Sundance, so at least I got this one out of the way on the first night. Jeremy (Antony Starr) goes missing in Cambodia, shaking up the family left behind. At first the film lets us process a missing person drama by observing the effects on the family, not spelling things out but introducing them. The script pieces out dramatic information, but it becomes a cry movie where Steph (Teresa Palmer) has no one to talk to about her missing boyfriend, Alice (Felicity Price) can’t relate to her sister Steph or husband Dave (Joel Edgerton), and Dave’s just holding everything in and freaking out. The film really indulges actor-y scenes and hams it up to a point where Alice is sloshing wine and splashing it all over the place. I know it’s tough to deal with loss and uncertainty. What else you got? The film piles on tragedies instead of forcing the characters to resolve their issues, or even take responsibility for them. And then they explain it all. Also don’t do drugs.
HELLO I MUST BE GOING – 5 out of 10
And this would be the typical quirky indie comedy about a 30-something trying to find herself. I didn’t know they still make those. That’s why I get out into the world and experience these hip “scenes,” as the kids are calling them. Melanie Lynskey is good, playing a divorcee named Amy who has to live with her parents. It’s cute but never funny, and it has ALL the clichés of sneaking around the house like a kid, the bad forced setup blind date, younger characters commenting on how old she is, having to keep a secret so her dad can land the big client and even getting caught naked. So basically it’s an ‘80s movie without the jokes. There’s one joke they set up that really lands when Amy confronts her mother (Blythe Danner) but that’s it. Not horrible but it doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen done better.