Things are winding down here in Sundance country, but those clever schedule-makers are always crafty enough to place a few "high-end" titles near the end of the shindig; that way they get the patrons (and the press) to spend a few extra days on the mountain! So without further chit-chat let's just get to the last of this year's Park City dispatches...
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
It's being advertised in rather lurid fashion, but aside from a few rather...harsh moments, the movie's actually got a pretty kind heart. Samuel L. Jackson stars as a jilted farmer who comes across a young woman who is A) beaten up quite badly, B) rather promiscuous with her body, and C) quite attractive indeed. (Christina Ricci plays the wayward hottie.) The story follows a pretty conventional path, but the actors make the thing perfectly watchable. Director Craig Brewer also brings a southern-fried flavor to the affair that makes things a little extra spicy.
Were it not for the lead performance from Oscar-winner Kevin Kline, you'd swear that this flick had originally been produced for network television. Handsomely shot but almost completely predictable, the movie's about a nasty slavery ring that runs between Mexico City and New Jersey. Kline plays a stout-hearted insurance investigator who teams up with the brother of a kidnapped girl, and together they (somehow) tracks the slimy jerks down. It's basically exactly what you'd expect from a melodrama that deals with a "hot button" issue like slavery rings, but (again) Kline brings a lot of class to the proceedings.
Now here's one that'll probably split audiences right down the middle, but if you're a fan of THE STATE or WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, then you'll probably enjoy a good deal of the silliness offered here. It's just a bunch of absurdist little sketches that (ostensibly) each have something to do with one of The Ten Commandments. Some of the stuff is stiff and tired, but when a good gag hits, it does so with full-force wackiness. (And I mean that in a good way.) The best of the bits belong to Paul Rudd, Rob Corddry, Winona Ryder, Gretchen Mol, and Liev Schreiber, but everyone else (Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt, Adam Brody, Jessica Alba) jumps into the lunacy with admirable tenacity ... even if their bits ain't all that funny.
A pretty obvious vanity project for the suddenly (and amazingly) fat Jared Leto, this one's about Mark David Chapman (aka The Guy Who Killed John Lennon). A colleague up at Sundance called it "De Niro's 'You Talkin to Me?' Speech," only in feature-length form." Couldn't have said it better myself. And yes, Lindsay Lohan is in the flick; she plays a Lennon super-fan who semi-befriends the squeaky-voiced weirdo. The movie's a big fat bore, basically, and if you go into it expecting some sort of insight as to why Chapman killed Lennon, you're going to leave pretty disappointed. (It has something to do with J.D. Salinger, that's all I know.)
EAGLE VS SHARK
Just wanted to throw a little love to this off-kilter little romantic comedy from New Zealand. Say ... Napoleon Dynamite meets When Harry Met Sally -- sorta.
The "I Heard It Was Good But Didn't Get to See It" List: Joshua, Once, Protagonist, Smiley Face, Snow Angels, Son of Rambow.