Thursday, 1 June 2017

Sundance London: Do the right thing

The fifth Sundance Film Festival: London kicks off tonight at Picturehouse Central, and the next four days will feature 14 feature films and 15 shorts, plus some revived classics. It's a great chance to see movies that are just a bit off the beaten path and then mix with the filmmakers and cast members too - and Picturehouse is a great place to hang out! Here are my comments on four films, with more to come over the weekend...

Crown Heights
dir-scr Matt Ruskin; with Lakeith Stanfield (pictured above), Nnamdi Asomugha 17/US ***
A powerful true story is recounted skilfully as this drama spans 21 years in the life of a man wrongfully accused of murder. Writer-director Matt Ruskin has several urgent things to say about the American judicial system, although his approach chronicles the events like a well-made TV docudrama rather than building a proper cinematic narrative arc. This leaves us feeling informed but not hugely involved, but it's essential that this story is told.

The Big Sick
dir Michael Showalter; with Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan 17/US ****
With a network of complex, realistic relationships, each with its own trajectory, this film feels rather long and somewhat tonally jarring for a comedy. It veers from snarky humour to giggly romance to some very bleak emotions as it goes along, but the themes it explores are powerfully resonant. And they give the film a surprising kick that echoes long after the credits roll.

Marjorie Prime
dir-scr Michael Almereyda; with Lois Smith, Jon Hamm 17/US ****
A rather talky script and lofty themes make it obvious that this film was adapted from a stage play (the playwright is Jordan Harrison). It's the kind of movie that holds the attention simply because it touches on so many big ideas in ways that spark thought. It's too brainy to be emotionally involving, but it's a bracing exploration of memory that carries a real wallop. It might even change the way you define your relationships.

dir Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott; with Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow 17/US 1h34 **.
This busy thriller unfolds in unexpected ways as it propels us along with the characters through an inventive premise. But it's all a bit haphazard, with uneven writing and acting and a gnawing sense that there isn't much of a point to all the carnage. Still, it's a ripping little action movie that refuses to let its low-key production values get in the way of its big ambitions.

~~~~~~~ ~~ ~~~ ~~~~
The only non-festival movie I've seen in the past week is Wonder Woman, which I really loved despite the too-digital climax. Sundance London continues over the weekend (watch for more updates here and full reviews on the site). Screenings coming up next week include the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me and Tom Cruise's The Mummy reboot.

No comments: