Saturday, January 22, 2022

2022 Sundance Film Festival Capsule Reviews

Stay tuned to this page for capsule review updates of all the films I am watching during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Since I'm, watching so many movies in a short period of time, this is the best way to get my thoughts out there regarding all of them There will also be full feature reviews available for certain films as well as filmmaker interviews.

The Movie: Fresh

The Director: Mimi Cave

The Cast: Sebastian Stan, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Andrea Bang, Jojo T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Brett Dier, Dayo Okeniyi

The Story: The horrors of modern dating seen through one young woman's defiant battle to survive her new boyfriend's unusual appetites.

The Review:
For Mimi Cave's first feature film as a director, she provides a full course meal filled with the ugliness of humanity all wrapped into the dangers and pitfalls of the modern dating scene. Standout performances from both Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones highlight a twisted tale that will satisfy your appetite for body horror thrillers.

The Movie: After Yang

The Director: Kogonada 

The Cast: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Haley Lu Richardson

The Story: In a near future, a family reckons with questions of love, connection, and loss after their A.I. helper unexpectedly breaks down.

The Review:
A very quiet movie as is to be expected from Kogonada whose previous film Columbus had a very similar style and tone and which also featured a performance from Haley Lu Richardson. The story didn't grab me as much as I was hoping but the meditative exploration of artificial intelligence, family, and privacy is a worthwhile watch.

The Movie: Call Jane

The Director: Phyllis Nagy

The Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, Chris Messina, Joh Magaro, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Rachel Rosenbloom, Aida Turturro

The Story: A married woman with an unwanted pregnancy lives in a time in America where she can't get a legal abortion and works with a group of suburban women to find help.

The Review:
Elizabeth Banks' performance as Joy, a housewife turned activist, is clearly the centerpiece of this 1960's era period piece that is inspired by The Jane Collective, an underground organization that provided abortions to women who could not get one through a medical system that was (and still is) heavily weighted against women's rights. The movie, directed by Phyllis Nagy, is solid and anchored by the stellar cast which also includes Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Chris Messina.

The Movie: Watcher

The Director: Chloe Okuno

The Cast: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman

The Story: A young woman moves into a new apartment with her fiancé only to be tormented by the feeling that she is being stalked by an unseen watcher in an adjacent building.

The Review:
Chloe Okuno, coming in hot after directing a segment in last year's V/H/S/94 horror anthology, puts together a disturbingly dark and creepy debut feature film. Where the movie lacks in shock value and gore, it more than makes up for with atmosphere and subtle uneasiness which can be much more effective when executed correctly as it's done here. Also, if Maika Monroe is in a horror movie, you know it's going to be good with The Guest and It Follows being prime examples of this theory.

The Movie: Speak No Evil

The Director: Christian Tafdrup

The Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders

The Story: A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness.

The Review: 
If you ever wanted to see a horror movie that exposes the dangers and pitfalls of bring agreeable because you don't want to be rude, then this is the movie for you. Equal parts cultural dissection and slow burn horror thriller, expect the unexpected although I wish it had gone a little more over the top crazy at the end but that's also kind of the point.

The Movie: When You Finish Saving the World

The Director: Jesse Eisenberg

The Cast: Julianne Moore, Finn Wolfhard, Billy Bryk, Alisha Boe, Jay O. Sanders, Eleonore Hendricks

The Story: Evelyn and her oblivious son Ziggy seek out replacements for each other as Evelyn desperately tries to parent an unassuming teenager at her shelter, while Ziggy fumbles through his pursuit of a brilliant young woman at school.

The Review: 
This movie is what I'm going to call non essential storytelling, it has no real substance and the story basically what I expected from Jesse Eisenberg. It's basically two hours of rich white people being completely unaware of their privilege while using their privilege to somehow justify their existence. The characters were interesting mostly due to the strong performances from the cast and I think there's supposed to be some sort of message here but it was so unrelatable to me, I had trouble hanging on to the end.

The Movie: Free Chol Soo Lee

The Directors: Julie Ha, Eugene Yi

The Story: Asian Americans unite to free Chol Soo Lee, a Korean immigrant who was wrongly convicted of a gang murder, but once out, he self-destructs, threatening the movement's legacy and the man himself.

The Review:
This documentary sheds light on the life of a man who suffered decades of injustice thanks to a system and society that was (and still is) flush with racist views and policies. One of the most amazing things about Mr. Lee's journey through the "justice" system is how unwilling anyone was to admit or even acknowledge the wrongdoings that took place. This should be considered essential viewing during a time when #StopAsianHate is as big of an issue as it has ever been.

The Movie: Dual

The Director: Riley Stearns

The Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale, Maija Paunio

The Story: A woman opts for a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis but when she recovers her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death.

The Review:
A couple years ago, Riley Stearns gave audiences the offbeat comedy The Art of Self-Defense and is back now with a completely different, yet still offbeat, type of film in Dual. Karen Gillan is pretty fantastic in the dual role of a terminally ill woman and the clone that was created to replace her. The idea of humanity having the technology to replace itself through cloning is very intriguing and of course controversial and the way Stearns presents it is very through provoking while also taking care to make sure that the movie is a fun and engaging experience.

The Movie: Am I OK?

The Directors: Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allyn

The Cast: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jermaine Fowler, Kiersey Clemons, Molly Gordon, Sean Hayes, Tig Notaro, Odessa A’zion

The Story: Lucy and Jane have been best friends their entire lives. Only when Lucy embarks on a personal journey, will she face a test of her friendship, and her sense of self, on a path she may not be entirely ready to take.

The Review: 
As soon as I saw the names Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno, I knew this would be an extremely likable movie and they did not disappoint in any way. Notaro and Allyn pair up nicely both as directing partners and as life partners and the chemistry between all four ladies works to an endlessly satisfying result. The exploration of a 30 something coming of age and coming out story is so well thought out and the dialog is just so naturally brilliant, it was impossible not to like this movie. Also, Kiersey Clemons absolutely nails her performance.

The Movie: Hatching

The Director: Hanna Bergholm

The Cast: Jonna Aaltonen, Miroslava Agejeva, Stefano Douaihy

The Story: A young gymnast who tries desperately to please her demanding mother, discovers a strange egg. She hides it and keeps it warm, but when it hatches, what emerges shocks them all.

The Review:
Hanna Bergholm's feature film debut as a director is the type of horror movie that combines elements from different segments of the genre making it hard to label or define. If you're into body horror, dark fantasy, and cultural satire then you'll find a lot to like with this film.

The Movie: You Won't Be Alone

The Director: Goran Stolevski

The Cast: Noomi Rapace, Alice Englert, Anamaria Marinca

The Story: In an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia, a young girl is kidnapped and then transformed into a witch by an ancient spirit.

The Review:
This is definitely not your every day average witch movie with scares and spells and all that fun stuff. Director Goran Stolevski takes the opportunity to make his first feature film something a little different and more than anything else, it is that. The story is more of a meditation of humanity and a contemplation on what life is like looking at it from an outside perspective which is through the eyes of a teenage girl turned witch, one who can take over the life of anyone she chooses. There is still a fair amount of gore and witchcraft involved in the story but everything is told in a very quiet and solemn way.

The Movie: Nanny

The Director: Nikyatu Jusu

The Cast: Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls, Morgan Spector, Leslie Uggams

The Story: An immigrant Nanny, piecing together a new life in New York City while caring for the child of an Upper East Side family, is forced to confront a concealed truth that threatens to shatter her precarious American Dream.

The Review:
For her first feature film, director Nikyatu Jusu shows the horrors one can experience as an immigrant worker in America along with a more supernatural angle that takes things down a very dark path. Moody, intense, and at times shocking, this is a very strong debut by a director who shows a ton of promise.

The Movie: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

The Director: Adamma Ebo

The Cast: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown, Nicole Beharie

The Story: In the aftermath of a huge scandal, Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a prominent Southern Baptist Mega Church, attempts to help her pastor-husband, Lee-Curtis Childs, rebuild their congregation.

The Review:
Full disclosure, I could not finish watching this movie. It's rare that I turn a movie off before the credits role but I just couldn't take any more. The performances were so over affected, the whole thing felt like an SNL skit stretched out to a feature length film.

The Movie: Emily the Criminal

The Director: John Patton Ford

The Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Bernardo Badillo, Jonathan Avigdori, Kara Luiz, Megalyn Echikunwoke

The Story: Down on her luck and saddled with debt, Emily gets involved in a credit card scam that pulls her into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles, ultimately leading to deadly consequences.

The Review:
I love that Aubrey Plaza is showing that she can be much more than the snarky comedian she has been know as for most of her career and this movie is a big step in that direction. Gone are the wisecracks and in their place is a street savvy woman looking for any way out of a touch situation filled with debt and lacking in opportunities thanks to her criminal past. This is director John Patton Ford's feature film debut and I was very impressed with this tightly wound thriller that draws you in thanks to Plaza's strong performance and a crime ridden rabbit hole that keeps sinking deeper and deeper.

The Movie: Piggy

The Director: Carlota Martínez-Pereda

The Cast: Claudia Salas, Pilar Castro, Camille Aguilar, Carmen Machi, Julián Valcárcel, Laura Galán, Stéphanie Magnin Vella, Chema del Barco, Fred Tatien, Fernando Delgado-Hierro, Mabel del Pozo

The Story: An overweight teen is bullied by a clique of cool girls poolside while holidaying in her village. The long walk home will change the rest of her life.

The Review:
Carlota Martínez-Pereda takes on bullying and body shaming by trapping them in a horror movie that turns the tides in favor of an abused, overweight teenager who is clearly suffering from abuse that comes at from all sides. The drama is real and the added element of a serial killer, slasher type person into the mix makes things even more interesting because they're not the most evil person in the movie.

To keep track of all my Sundance reviews, interviews, and other festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at Sundance 2022.

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