Back to Movies Home Page  

Jonathan's Sundance Reviews, 2010 

Table of Contents

14 films this year!

LOVED... LIKED... Not for me... Want to see / Great Buzz...
Gasland *** Sympathy for Delicious Funeral Singers

Freedom Riders

Waiting For Superman *** Boy Documentary Shorts Bran Nue Dae
Bhutto *** Winter's Bone   Nummioq
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil *** Restrepo   Pat Tillman
Exit Through The Gift Shop ** Animal Kingdom  

Sins of My Father

HappyThankYouMorePlease **   The Oath
Catfish *     The Red Chapel
      Holy Rollers
      Nowhere Boy
      Extra Man
      Casino Jack
      Blue Valentine
      Please Give
Gasland (Netflix)

WINNER! Jury Special Award for Documentary
The first film I've ever seen TWICE at Sundance. See this film and tell your friends! Rivetting. Incredibly well done. Alarming.
In his first documentary feature, director Josh Fox journeys across America to examine the negative impacts of natural gas drilling, from poisoned water sources to kitchen sinks that burst into flame to unhealthy animals and people. Hydro-Fracturing, or "Fracking" is the latest technique used to extract natural gas from shale reserves deep in the earth. It is fast, messy, and un-regulated, thanks to the 2005 energy bill passed by Bush and Cheney, which exempted the Gas and Oil industries from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, SuperFund Act, and more. Learn how 596 chemicals may be coming to a town near you!

Waiting for Superman (Netflix)

WINNER! Audience Award - Best Documentary
Dynamic documentarian Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) weaves together the stories of students, families, educators and reformers to shed light on the failing public school system and its consequences on the future of the United States. Theme #1) Bad neighborhoods don't make the schools bad, but rather, bad schools make the neigbhborhoods bad, and in particular, it's the under-performing teachers who are holding the kids back. Magnet, Charter, and KIPP schools prove successful in the very worst neighborhoods, which formerly housed "failure factories" - schools where a minority of the students graduate, and the majority end up in gangs, prisons, or cemeteries. The success is nothing short of astonishing and inspiring. Further, a spotlight shines on the flaw in the system that revolves around teacher unions which protect teachers, not students.

Bhutto (Netflix)

In-depth and at times incendiary look at the epic life and tragic death of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, whose 2007 assassination sent her country's political system into a tailspin. As a passionate and outspoken voice of reason and democracy, Bhutto's return to the seat of power seemed inevitable; but as a deeply divisive figure, her death was perhaps inescapable as well.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Netflix)

Hilarious horror comedy that is destined to become an instant cult classic. A series of mishaps in the woods pit a duo of backwoods best friends at odds with a clique of college kids, and mayhem ensues. It's a buddy film, a love story, delightfully grissly.

Exit Through The Gift Shop (Netflix)

Filmmaker Thierry Guetta had been casually documenting the underground world of street art for years, but when he encounters Banksy, an elusive British stencil artist, his project takes a fascinating twist. Unimpressed with Guetta's footage, Banksy takes over filmmaking duties and Guetta reinvents himself as a street artist named Mr. Brainwash -- and, much to Banksy's surprise, immediately becomes a darling of the Los Angeles art scene. Also covers Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, and more! Awesome.

HappyThankYouMorePlease (Netflix)

WINNER! Audience Award - Best Drama
On the way to meet a publisher, aspiring novelist Sam (Josh Radnor) encounters 6-year-old Rasheen (Michael Algieri) alone on the subway. While struggling to decide whether to send him back to foster care, Sam looks after Rasheen and learns a few important life lessons. Meanwhile, Sam's friends deal with various romantic tribulations.

Catfish (Netflix)

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman document the strange series of events that unfolds when a gifted 8-year-old artist named Abby contacts Nev, a 24-year-old photographer (and Schulman's brother), through FACEBOOK. After Abby sends Nev a remarkable painting based on one of his photos, Nev begins corresponding with her family -- including her seductive 19-year-old sister. Realizing that something's not quite right, Nev sets out to uncover the truth.

Sympathy for Delicious (Netflix)

Struggling for survival on the rough streets of Los Angeles, newly paralyzed turntablist & DJ "Delicious" Dean O'Dwyer (Christopher Thornton) gains the supernatural ability to heal the sick. But he uses the gift to capitalize on his dreams of rock success in this offbeat drama. Written by Thornton, Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut also stars Orlando Bloom as the front man of a rock band and Laura Linney as the group's persistent manager.

Boy (Netflix)

Filmed in his native New Zealand, this comedy from writer-director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark) follows 11-year-old Boy and his younger brother, Rocky, whose rich fantasy lives are stopped cold when their father returns home after years away. Although Boy has imagined that his father (Waititi) is a dashing, accomplished hero who is related to Michael Jackson, in reality he is a failed gangster seeking to restore his family's faith in him.

Winter's Bone (Netflix)

WINNER! Grand Jury Award - Best Drama and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
In this noir drama set deep in Ozark territory, resilient teenager Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) goes on the trail of her missing drug-dealing father when his absence jeopardizes the safety of their family. The deadbeat dad has a critical court date pending, and Ree is determined that he make it -- despite the objections of the insular Dolly clan. Stark, dark, and not your ordinary walk in the park.

Restrepo (Netflix)

Sebasatian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, teamed with photographer Tim Hetherington to spend a year embedded with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan, documenting the hard work, fear and brotherhood that come with repelling a deadly enemy. Hunkered down with the soldiers in one of the region's most strategic valleys, the filmmakers uncover the dark humor, sleepless surreality and constant anxiety of war.

Animal Kingdom (Netflix)

WINNER! Grand Jury Award - Best World Drama
When his mother dies suddenly, a 17-year-old boy (James Frecheville) finds himself drawn into the clutches of a diabolical criminal family, until a good-hearted detective (Guy Pearce) makes a concerted effort to change the boy's fate. Australian writer-director David Michôd's first feature-length drama won the award, but I found it a bit thin.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Netflix)

This film didn't do it for me, but it might for you, especially if you have interest in psychic experiences. In an old country house, fortune teller Zel (Angela Bettis) tries to pacify a group of rebellious ghosts, including several blind musicians, a priest, bride and speechless child, who she's lived with for numerous years and all of a sudden yearn to leave. Written and directed by Tim Rutili, this bizarre film features a wealth of original music from his critically acclaimed post-rock band Califone.

Freedom Riders (Netflix)

Based on the award-winning book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, this documentary chronicles the daring and courage of a group of activists, black and white, who challenged the segregation laws of the Southern states. Directed by Stanley Nelson (The Murder of Emmett Till), the film focuses on how the civil rights campaign was conceived, and how the movement eventually became a major concern for the Kennedy administration.

Bran Nue Dae (Netflix)

In an idyllic port town on Australia's west coast in the summer of 1969, carefree 16-year-old Willie (Rocky McKenzie) enjoys hanging out with his pals and wooing a beautiful singer named Rosie (Jessica Mauboy) -- until his mom ships him back to a Catholic boarding school in Perth. An act of rebellion soon triggers a wild homebound journey for our young hero in this energetic adaptation of the beloved Australian stage musical from 1989.

Nummioq (Netflix)

Malik (Lars Rosing), a 35-year-old carpenter who's recently fallen in love, learns that he has a terminal illness and decides to join his friend Mikael (Angunnguaq Larsen) for a final boat trip on the waters surrounding their hometown. The voyage gives both men an opportunity to revisit their past and gives Malik the space to come to terms with his own mortality. Torben Bech and Otto Rosing direct this drama from Greenland.

Pat Tillman (Netflix)

When Pat Tillman, a former pro football player and decorated U.S. soldier, was killed in Afghanistan, the military reported that he'd died battling the Taliban. But later, a much different story emerged: Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Since that day, Tillman's family has waged their own war, fighting tirelessly with the government in order to unravel the truth behind the cover-up. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev documents their struggle.

Sins of My Father (Netflix)

Nicolas Entel's searing documentary tells the story of Pablo Escobar -- Colombian drug kingpin, murderer and family man -- through the eyes of his son Sebastian as well as the sons of two of Escobar's most prominent victims. Sebastian shares stories of living in luxury and on the lam, but more significantly, he attempts to end the cycle of bloody retribution and make peace with two of the men his father so deeply wronged.

The Oath (Netflix)

WINNER! Grand Jury Award - Best Cinematography in a Documentary
Oscar-nominated director Laura Poitras's documentary tells of two men whose fateful meeting in 1996 led them on a journey that would include Osama bin Laden, the horrific events of 9/11, Guantanamo Bay and a brush with the U.S. Supreme Court. Shot in Yemen, this intriguing film is the second installment -- after My Country, My Country -- of Poitras's "The New American Century" trilogy about post-9/11 America.

The Red Chapel (Netflix)

WINNER! Grand Jury Award - Best World Documentary
While in North Korea under the pretext of a cultural exchange, two Danish-Korean comics and a subversive journalist with a video camera attempt to ridicule their host nation's oppressive regime but encounter moral dilemmas and political manipulation. A bold look at the ethics of deceit, director Mads Brügger's darkly humorous documentary provides a rare glimpse inside one of the world's most secretive societies.

Holy Rollers (Netflix)

Inspired by a true story, director Kevin Asch's film tells the story of Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg), a young Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn who breaks with Orthodox tradition when he becomes an intercontinental Ecstasy smuggler for an Israeli drug cartel. A blend of neurotic coming-of-age dramedy and tense crime thriller, the film features Justin Bartha ("National Treasure") as Sam's pal Yosef and hip-hop recording artist Q-Tip in a supporting role.

Nowhere Boy (Netflix)

Raised by his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) since he was a young boy, charismatic 15-year-old John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) is suddenly reunited with his mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), which ignites a bitter battle between the two sisters for John's affections. Along the way, John inherits his mother's love of music and befriends fellow Liverpool lad Paul McCartney (Thomas Sangster) in this biopic of the music icon's formative years.

Extra Man (Netflix)

Forced to quit his prep school job after a humiliating incident, would-be dramatist Louis Ives (Paul Dano) heads to New York City, where he rents a room from has-been playwright Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) -- who earns a living escorting rich dowagers about town. Despite their huge age difference, the two develop a bond as Henry takes Louis under his wing and leads him on a series of wild adventures. Katie Holmes and John C. Reilly also star.

Skateland (Netflix)

Director Anthony Burns and screenwriter brothers Heath and Brandon Freeman tell the story of 19-year-old Ritchie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez), who finds his life at a crossroads when the Texas roller rink where he works is forced to shut its doors. Set in the early 1980s, this is a coming-of-age tale in which the hapless but hopeful protagonist must contend with his parents' divorce, shifting friendships and making choices on the path to adulthood.

Casino Jack (Netflix)

Kevin Spacey stars in this drama as disgraced political lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who defrauded Native American tribes out of tens of millions of dollars in his efforts to peddle influence in Washington's corridors of power. As justice closes in on Abramoff and his associates, the audacious scope of his scams comes to light. Based on true events, this film from director George Hickenlooper co-stars Kelly Preston and Barry Pepper.

Runaways (Netflix)

Dakota Fanning stars in this musical biopic as Cherie Currie, lead singer of the 1970s all-girl rock group the Runaways, whose meteoric rise up the charts was saturated with drugs and other excesses of that era. Though the Runaways started out as a novelty act, the rock 'n' roll chops of Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart), Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) and the other girls lifted the group to international stardom. Floria Sigismondi directs.

Twelve (Netflix)

High school dropout White Mike (Chace Crawford) is living large as a dealer of weed and an Ecstasy-like pill called Twelve to rich teens in New York's Upper East Side. But Mike's luck turns fast when his cousin is killed and his best friend is arrested for the crime. Based on 17-year-old Nick McDonell's acclaimed 2002 novel, this gripping drama also stars Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Kiefer Sutherland and 50 Cent.

Hesher (Netflix)

Struggling to accept the death of his mother, T.J. (Devin Brochu) befriends Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a twentysomething misfit who becomes both a mentor and a bad influence on the lost and awkward teen. Hesher soon invites himself to live with T.J. and his self-medicating dad (Rainn Wilson). Their bizarre relationship is tested when T.J. develops a crush on a supermarket checkout girl (Natalie Portman) who rescues him from a gang of bullies.

Blue Valentine (Netflix)

Once deeply in love, Cindy (Michelle Williams) and David (Ryan Gosling) have now grown dangerously apart: Cindy has dreams of improving her life and the motivation to make them come true, while David languishes in an eternal emotional rut. As the couple struggle to save their marriage, they hearken back to the golden days when life was filled with possibility. Derek Cianfrance directs this drama that also features Mike Vogel and Ben Shenkman.

Please Give (Netflix)

It's a comedy that threatens to rip the lid off the New York housing market as a young couple engages in a tenant feud with the wily granddaughters of an elderly woman to whom they rent an apartment. The indie all-star cast includes Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Catherine Keener, Kevin Corrigan and Lois Smith in this feature from veteran writer-director Nicole Holofcener ("Lovely & Amazing," "Friends with Money").

Go to J's Favorite Movies  

© 2004  Jonathan Shambroom.  Feedback