Sundance 2013: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF

The Atlantic

The Sundance Film Festival is underway, and reviews are pouring in for some of the major films exhibited — and the minor yet totally intriguing ones. There are definitely others out there (the Pussy Riot documentary, the comedy from the writers of The Descendants), and there are still five full days of movie marathoning in Park City, Utah, but here's a breakdown of what the critics are liking... and not so much.

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The Really Good

Before Midnight

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Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are back in what is perhaps the most indie trilogy of all time, and they are getting raves. Slate says it's "nearly perfect." HitFix says audiences will see "how much greater it is than it should be." The Hollywood Reporter says it "retains a clarity of spirit undimmed by 18 years." Yeah, no one is saying bad things about this movie:

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Jesse and Celine are back and ready for you to fall in love with them again. 

Fruitvale

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The dramatization of the true story of Oscar Grant, who was shot by a police officer in the Bay Area, has already been picked up by the Weinstein Company. Indiewire calls it an "incredibly moving and confident first feature." Per HitFix, what the "film does so well, and when it is at its best, is when it fleshes out and defines the life lost, the father trying to put his life back together and the pain that came with his death." The Hollywood Reporter uses that famous movie superlative "powerful." And it's never too early for Oscar talk in Park City. 

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

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David Lowery's fim about outlaws starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck is Malick-y in a way that works, as Screen Daily says. Indiewire waxed rhapsodic, saying it "channels genre expectations into sheer poetry." 

The Really Weird

Stoker

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We've been intrigued by the trailers for this film, and if the reviews out of Sundance are any indication we'll either love it or hate it. Indiewire says it's a "brutally empty, deeply unfortunate movie." The Hollywood Reporter says it's "one of the most artful chillers in ages." You decide. 

Two Mothers

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A movie starring Robin Wright and Naomi Watts as two best friends who use each others' sons as sex partners. Kyle Buchanan of Vulture says it's the "the best movie and the worst movie" of Sundance.

The Mixed, Yet Buzzy

Kill Your Darlings

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Though the film is getting a lot of press for the sex-fueled, adventurous performance from Daniel Radcliffe contained within, it's also getting good reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called it an "invigoratingly textured jazz riff -- spliced with hallucinogenic interludes, introspective detours and moments of romantic reverie." The Guardian says it's "best described as an intellectual moral maze, a story perfectly of its time and yet one that still resonates today." Variety is slightly more tempered, noting that the film "feels adventurous yet somewhat hemmed-in." Indiewire, while praising some elements of the film, goes mostly negative, explaining that it "doesn't really humanize these characters beyond half-drawn caricatures in an origin tale that wouldn't be out of place in an average super hero film." 

Don Jon's Addiction

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Your fantasy Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed and wrote this film about a man's fantasies, a.k.a. his obsession with Internet porn. You'll have a chance to see it, since it was acquired by Relativity. It also stars Scarlett Johansson and — get this — Tony Danza. All that said, it was called "endearingly masturbatory" by Variety, which strikes us as a kind of backhanded compliment.  

The Disappointments

C.O.G. 

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Though it's based on a David Sedaris story, Mike Ryan at the Huffington Post says as much: it's a "disappointment." The Hollywood Reporter points out that Sedaris would be "justified" if he wanted "to slam that rights door shut again after the curiously flat" film.

The Look of Love 

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When someone says a movie about a porn impresario "starts to feel like an interminably dull orgy," you know you've hit a roadblock. 

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