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02.03.2012by: Chris Bumbray

Sundance 2012 Wrap-up!

And so, another edition of the Sundance Film Festival is in the books. Itís amazing to me how quickly these fests tend to come up, but man, do they ever disappear just as quickly. For me, it was another terrific year full of great films, and once again, I had the opportunity to meet many truly amazing folks. Special shout outs have to go to my peeps Chase Whale, Matt Goldberg, Joey Paur, Sundance volunteer extraordinaire Abbey, my roommates- the ioncinema crew Nicholas Bell, Jordan Smith and Eric Lavallťe. All of these folks were great company, and I had a blast time hanging out with all of them.

But what about the movies? Methinks this was a very solid year, although early on in the fest I saw a couple of stinkers, including the execrable LAY THE FAVORITIE, the excruciation THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, and what has to be Spike Leeís worst film ever, RED HOOK SUMMER. Happily, the good far outweighed the bad, and compiling my top 10, I was amazed at just how strong the films were that I listed. Not one was added as an afterthought- which to me is the sign of a strong slate of films.

Check out all of my reviews below for a full run-down of what I saw.

THE RAID, CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER, RED LIGHTS, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, LIBERAL ARTS, SMASHED, RED HOOK SUMMER, V/H/S, WEST OF MEMPHIS, LAY THE FAVORITE, SIMON KILLER, THE WORDS, PREDISPOSED, ROBOT & FRANK, SHADOW DANCER, EXCISION, WRONG, ARBITRAGE, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, JOHN DIES AT THE END

#10- West Of Memphis

A two and a half hour, user-friendly look at the West Memphis 3, and their search for justice, WEST OF MEMPHIS probably won't tell you anything you don't already know if you've followed the PARADISE LOST series. However, if like me you're late to the case, WEST OF MEMPHIS is a solid primer, and a pretty sobering look at how these three men lost eighteen years of their lives, just because they happened to be different.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#9- Predisposed

When I wrote this up, a reader said it sounded like PREDISPOSED was trying to be this year's LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. That's not entirely offbase, with this comedy-drama that intermingles the story an an unconventionally artistic family, and their problems with addictions, having more than a little in common with that film (all it's missing is Alan Arkin). Still, I dug it, especially for the performances by leading man Jesse Eisenberg- who's far tougher here than you'd expect, Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, and the great Tracy Morgan. I'm shocked this hasn't been picked up yet.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#8- Wrong

Quentin Dupieux's WRONG melted my brain into ice cream. Now, what other Sundance entry can cliam that? Imagine a happier David Lynch, and you're not far off from what WRONG is, with this being the story of how if a man loses his dog, it could have potentially apocalyptic consequences. William Fichtner's dog-napping master Chang was a Sundance favorite.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#7- Safety Not Guaranteed

Yet another warm-hearted crowd-pleaser, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED benefits from the breakout star performances of it's two leads- PARKS & RECREATION's Aubrey Plaza (playing non-snarky for a change) and Mumblecore guru Mark Duplass (solid in the leading man role). This story about a supermarket checkout clerk who thinks he can time-travel, is far less twee than it sounds, and it's no wonder Film District picked this up, as it's another Sundance entry with breakout appeal.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#6- Liberal Arts

Josh Radnor's sophomore effort behind the camera really threw me for a loop, as I despised his first film; HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE. His follow-up, LIBERAL ARTS is far more assured, far less angsty, and beautifully acted by a superb cast including Radnor, Sundance golden-girl Elizabeth Olson, Allison Janney, and the always-great Richard Jenkins. This is another pickup via IFC, although one hopes this will go theatrical, as it has definite commercial appeal, in that it's very much in the tradition of something like 500 DAYS OF SUMMER.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#5- Celeste & Jesse Forever

Yet another crowd-pleasure, CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER was another big pickup by Sony Pictures Classics, and I'm nearly certain that they'll end up putting this out in a wide theatrical release, as it really does strike me as that kind of film. Stars Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are a terrific pair, and it really was a charming serio-comedy, and a nice treat from some of the more highbrow fare I saw at the fest.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#4- Robot and Frank

A total crowd-pleaser, ROBOT AND FRANK was one of the big buys of the Sundance film Festival, with Sony Pictures Classics having paid a pretty penny to get a hold of the rights. I truly believe this one could be a real sleeper if given the right kind of release, with star Frank Langella even being a potential award-season player towards the end of the year. We'll see.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#3- Simon Killer

Antonio Campos' SIMON KILLER was certainly one of the more polarizing films to play the festival. To be sure, even I didn't like it at first, with Brady Corbet's Simon being as repulsive a lead character as you're ever likely to see. That said, in the days after I saw the film, SIMON KILLER wouldn't stop kicking around in my noggin, and eventually I came to realize that not only was it actually pretty good- but it just might be great. IFC has picked up the rights, so expect a VOD release in the near future.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#2- The Raid

Fuckin' A! THE RAID gave the Sundance Film Festival a much needed shot of adrenaline, with it rocking the house, even at the usually stuffy press screenings. Easily the most fun I had in a movie theater at the fest. Director Gareth Evans, and star Iko Uwais are a dynamic star-director trio, who I expect big things from in the future.

Luckily, THE RAID should be hitting North American theaters relatively soon, with Sony Classics having picked up the rights. This is a must-see, especially on the big screen, with a massive sound system cranked up to 11.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

#1- Smashed

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul give simmering performances in this story of addiction. What THE LOST WEEKEND, and DAYS OF WINE AND ROSE were to their generation, SMASHED is to ours. It's not hard to relate to both characters, with both walking the fine line between normality and disaster, which is a specialty for so many addicts. The supporting performances by PARKS & RECREATION's Nick Offerman, and THE HELP's Octavia Spencer, are excellent.

Click here to read my full Sundance review of the film!

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