To The Bone – Heavy, but in a Good Way

When I went in to see To The Bone, I was thrilled we were able to score tickets, but was not sure what to expect from a film about a 20 year old anorexic girl who tries to get help from a doctor who runs a group home that is difficult to be accepted into.

Director/Writer Marti Noxon pulls it off in a surprisingly dramatic way with comedic tones throughout – and it works. Treating a serious matter with humor throughout gives the film a very real, no bullshit, realistic touch.

To The Bone, Keanu Reeves, Lily Collins, Marty Noxon, Sundance Film Festival

Ellen (Lily Collins) consults with Dr. William Beckham (Keanu Reeves) in To The Bone

Lily Collins plays the 20 year old anorexic patient in search of her purpose, her future, and essentially herself and Keanu Reeves plays the doctor who runs the group home and meets daily with his patients trying to help them save themselves.

Other members of the cast in key roles included Alex Sharp (the optimist and love interest), Lily Taylor (Ellen’s mother), and Carrie Preston (Ellen’s annoying step-mother).

Sundance Film Festival, To The Bone, Keanu Reeves, Marti Noxon, Lily Collins,

To The Bone cast goofs around (left to right Lily Collins, Carrie Preston, Director/Writer Marti Noxon, and Keanu Reeves)

One of the most surprising things about To The Bone is that Keanu Reeves turns out one of his best roles showing a wide range of emotion. Sure, I loved John Wick just like anyone else because of the straight and ruthless way in which Keanu plays him, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from him all these years. This is a new Keanu. And I like him. His no-nonsense doctor has a somewhat sick sense of humor and he laughs at himself, perhaps to let his patients know he cares, but must keep that safe distance.

Sundance Film Festival, To The Bone, Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves – To The Bone

The emotional intensity is there throughout the entire movie and not once did I find myself leaving the film to analyze or question whether or not a moment was real or whether the limits had been pushed too far or not.

Director Marti Noxon was forthcoming in telling the audience after the film that the movie was somewhat auto-biographical and that writing about her experiences and then turning them into a film with others who had similar eating disorders was therapeutic. They were very careful during filming to not put those actors at risk by having them relive their experiences or fall into old patterns.

This film is definitely worth the watch. It’s a unique story told by those who have lived through it, but not without cost. It’s an imaginative and truthful, original story told in a way I have not seen before.

The film was picked up by Netflix for about $8M. One third of the films at the Sundance Film Festival this year were directed by women. This may not reflect what is happening in the rest of the filmmaking world yet, if Marti Noxon’s work is an indication of the kind of storytelling we can expect in the future, it will soon be the norm.

#experiencesundance @sundancefest #tothebone #keanureeves @sundanceorg @sundancefestnow @firstlooktvfilm @filmindependent @scriptmag @variety


Sundance Film Festival, Beatriz at Dinner, Salma Hayek, Connie Britton

Beatriz at Dinner Leaves Us Starving

Well, I went in looking for great things from Beatriz at Dinner. Unfortunately, I came out VERY disappointed. The production quality was good enough and the sound was crisp – something you come to expect from a film loaded with stars like this one.

The film stayed away from the stereotypical Hollywood characterizations of the rich in the beginning, but unfortunately fell right back into it as time rolled on. The big house, the multiple security gates, the stuffy conversations about getting richer, and the mistaking Beatriz for one of the ‘help’ at the house.

Without spoiling the ending of a film you’ll wish you only spent $1.25 on at Redbox, I can tell you this. When the credits rolled, I knew one thing and I knew nothing.

I knew Connie Britton was the only true non-stereotype in the film, bringing some goodness to an otherwise selfish cast of characters and John Lithgow played one hell of a rich asshole that kills rhinos.

What I didn’t know is what in the hell happened with the ending of this film. As the credits rolled, I looked into the abyss searching for something I missed, but alas, the ending was without hope.

So, I stayed around for the Q&A after the film and was even more dumb-founded when the audience was asking questions and Salma Hayek was going on and on, not making sense, and not answering the questions. John Lithgow was entertaining as was Connie Britton, but after someone asked Salma another question and she continued to ramble on about how she loves diving and it’s the only place she feels safe (underwater breathing barely any oxygen), it was time to leave.

Where’s the beef?


Sundance Film Festival, Bushwick, Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista

Bushwick is Ambitious, but…

I should preface this review by saying that I go to Midnight showings at the Sundance Film Festival, not because I love losing sleep, but because I am really looking forward to a solid film and I have high hopes for it. I’ve seen some really bad ones (The Signal) and some really good ones (Cold in July).

The first Midnight film this year was Bushwick. It took a lot to get to this film coming from another, racing across town to get to it in time, finding out I thought it was at the Egyptian Theater and finding out it was at The Library. But…I got there in time and was pleasantly surprised to see Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow had made it in time to see me as well along with Co-Directors Jonathan Millot and Cary Murnion.

Sundance Film Festival, Bushwick

Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista resist the secession forces attempting to take a suburb in NY

It’s not frequent that a film is co-directed, but…there are good reasons for it sometimes. In the case of Bushwick, after the film, cast and crew alike took to the stage again (except Dave Bautista who had to go catch a very early flight to get back in time to film Avengers 3) and it made sense that there were co-directors here.

The film was shot in very long continuous shots (most were 12-15 minutes long) where the cameraman follows the relentless action around on foot without pause.

Sundance Film Festival, Bushwick, Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista


The concept is interesting, but…there is a reason it’s rarely done in films with much larger budgets than this one (i.e. Goodfellas). In this case, the story suffered in many aspects. I was not impressed with the shots of stairs and streets as the cameraman is following the actors across the city terrain. When the cameraman moves around the actors, I was sometimes treated to cyclone fences and walls for undetermined amounts of time. It was distracting and took me out of the action.

The character development was somewhat out of sequence and I didn’t feel like it was developed throughout the film enough for me to really care for the main character’s relationship. I think the filmmakers knew this because of an extended conversation between the two in a laundromat that felt hurried and forced.


On the bright side, this film felt like sort of a coming out of sorts for Brittany Snow. Her character was really the primary arc of the story and she got to stretch her acting wings. Since the film was done in long shots, much of the dialogue was made up as they went along. Not an easy thing to do. Most of the time the actors did well with it, but…there were other times where the dialogue came across campy.

Sound was prevalent in this film. Much of the fear came from the noise outside and the explosions you didn’t see, but heard. Dust falling from the ceiling and lights flickering brought a sense of urgency. It definitely felt like the city was coming apart.

What bothered me most was the crowd’s reaction. They laughed at times during scenes that were not supposed to invoke laughter. And they didn’t at times they should have. When that happens, it’s not a good sign. The ending was confusing, but…and will not do the film any favors in the distribution department.

I love the ambitiousness of the film and the concept is interesting, but the extended shots (only shot once) caused the story to suffer. Granted, Midnight audiences are quite different and somewhat fickle. They want what they want. I just didn’t get what I was hoping for.


Calm Before the Storm @SundanceFest

So this is what Park City looks like right now. It’s been snowing and windy, but today it looks peaceful. Sidewalks cleared of snow. Volunteers roaming the streets preparing for the real storm ahead. It’s called the Sundance Film Festival.

In one more day, this:

Sundance Film Festival, Snow, Robert Redford, ExperienceSundance

Main Street, Park City, UT

Will become this:

Sundance Film Festival, Snow, Robert Redford, ExperienceSundance

An evening at the Sundance Film Festival in Full Swing

Run almost entirely by hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, the festival has been growing the last 4 years. The mood has shifted each one of those years for various reasons. But, it’s still an incredibly fun and well done festival that I can’t help but go.

The Sundance Film Festival has the unusually good fortune of providing the festival-goer with a personal experience; allowing you to get close and connect to film crew, directors, actors. You’ll be exposed to new technologies and art forms you’ve never seen before – and in some cases you may never see again. Not because they suck, but because they are unique, one-of-a-kind experiences the artists chose to share at Sundance.

With any good storm, you’ve got your forecasters and your weather guides to help you navigate the turbulent events. In the case of the festival, your guides are your volunteers and they will all be wearing the same gear. The color of their gear and their uniform jackets change from year to year, but they’re not hard to spot and THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. If you need help of ANY kind, walk up to one of them and ask. They’re trained, knowledgeable, and I’ve never run into one in a bad mood.

Sundance Film Festival is funny, fries your brain, challenges what you think you know or believe, and is never short on bold style, crazy fashion choices, and colorful people!

Robert Redford’s commitment to staying the course and providing a venue where a unique voice can jump off of the page and onto the screen is endless. He’s witty, thoughtful, and smart. And for filmmakers and festival-goers alike, he’s considered an open-thinker, adventurer, and ground-breaker when it comes to promoting arts and artists alike with his ongoing @SundanceOrg workshops. The opportunities are endless.

Sundance Institute Workshops

Come to Sundance. Kick it with us. There’s so much to do you’ll forget about sleeping. And you’ll feel great doing it!

#experiencesundance #onlyatsundance @sundancefest @sundancefestuk @sundanceorg @sundancetv @sundancelive @sundancefestnow @firstlooktvfilm @filmindependent @scriptmag @cooperdance @variety @pamelaettlin @thr

The Shallows Blake Lively Oscar Jaenada Paradise

The Shallows – Scares Up Good Summer Fun

There’s no doubt from the trailers that Columbia Pictures is trying to draw comparisons to Universal Pictures’ classic shark thriller Jaws. My advice – don’t go in comparing the two and you won’t be disappointed.

The film doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Expect some good summer fun and you won’t leave feeling disappointed. It’s clear that Blake liked the script for the opportunity to show off her acting chops. She gets a chance to run the gamut of emotions in this film and handles it well.

It’s no secret the camera loves Blake’s post-baby body in this film and the director’s not shy with the number of angles from which he cares to show her to us.

1271033 - THE WALK

Blake waxes Lively in The Shallows

Director Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop, Unknown, Orphan) does employ the eyes of Cinematographer Flavio Martinez-Labiano with whom he has worked before (Non-Stop, Unknown) and you’re in good hands because of it.

This film has some of the best underwater photography I’ve seen. Not only is it purposeful and effective, but it’s clear and beautiful. When you film at a secret beach referred to as Paradise, even gruesome can be eye candy as both director and cinematographer work together to prove.

Shark in Wave

The film has some predictable moments, but the soundtrack is ‘patient’ and builds the tension. There is a clear use of silence and sound here that will both provide periodic relief and give you some ‘oh shit!’ moments.

Blake Crying

There were a couple of moments in the film where I noticed some homage being paid to other film classics, but without sacrificing it’s own identity.

I’ve been a fan of shark movies, but I’ve been disappointed for decades. The Shallows trailer drew me to it – to give it a shot – the bright colors, Blake’s willingness to leave the safety zone with the film choice, go with no makeup, and play the vulnerable heroine.

Blake Lively The Shallows Strong Heroine

Blake Lively afloat with rage in The Shallows

The rest of the cast  are very likable. You may remember Óscar Jaenada from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Here, he brings real warmth and char to his character. The dialogue is real, the humor honest, and I never felt like I was being condescended to.

The Shallows is timely, just in time for summer – sun, surf, skin,scares, and some stomach turning scenes. Try not to look away. It will make it difficult for some to return to the water.

@shallowsmovie @blakelively @vancityreynolds #theshallows #theshallowsmovie


Where to Watch Sundance Films

Before I started regularly attending the Sundance Film Festival about 5 years ago, I wanted to find a way to see those films that may never be projected onto many large screens at a theater near you. It wasn’t easy. Some films get purchased, but still never make it as a wide release. Some go straight to video, but with no marketing campaign whatsoever.

What to do?

I’ve seen a lot of films that were far better than some of the crap that gets shown at 2300 theaters in the U.S., not to mention whatever agreements were made for international distribution rights. Some of these films gripped me from beginning to end at midnight showings. And believe me, that’s not easy when I’m on my sixth straight day of no sleep!

The Lure

The Lure –  1980’s musical from Poland about two Sirens trying to hold on to their dream of swimming to America despite one of them being very bloodthirsty

At Sundance, no matter how long you stay awake, you can’t see them all.

Grant it, there’s a good chance you’ll see some really experimental shit (witness a shorts program this year – 90 minutes of twisted, sexually connotative, and gory non-stories), but without risk, sometimes you won’t find the reward.

So, here, without further ado, is  list of @SundanceFest films over the last few years and where you can see them now:

NETFLIX @netflix

Before I Disappear – Shawn Christensen, Fatima Ptacek, Emmy Rossum, Paul Wesley
At the lowest point of his life, Richie gets a call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his eleven-year old niece, Sophia, for a few hours.

Fruitvale Station – Michael B Jordan, Octavia Spencer
The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

Alive Inside – Michael Rossato-Bennett, Dan Cohen (founder)
Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it.

At the end of this documentary film, the maximum capacity theater of about 650 viewers were ALL sobbing with empathy and joy as the Director/Writer Michael Rossato-Bennett and Founder of Music & Memory Dan Cohen came on stage to a standing ovation. VERY powerful.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster
The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

Breathe In – Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan
When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family’s relationships and alters their lives forever.

Results – Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Giovanni Ribisi
Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.

Strangerland – Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving
A family finds their dull life in a rural outback town rocked after their two teenage children disappear into the desert, sparking disturbing rumors of their past.

HBO @hbo @hbonow

Wish I Was Here – Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin
A struggling actor, father and husband finds himself at a major crossroad, which forces him to examine his life, his family and his career.

STARZ @starz_channel

Whiplash – J K Simmons, Miles Teller
A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

SHOWTIME @showtime

Cold in July – Michael C Hall, Sam Shepherd, Don Johnson
When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.

This was a World Premiere at a midnight showing and so worth the wait! Film Noir at its best with stunning performances by Michael C Hall (of Dexter fame), Sam Shepherd, and Don Johnson in one of the best roles I’ve ever seen him perform. Twists coming out of nowhere will keep your attention.

Cold in July Michael C Hall

Cold in July – Michael C Hall gets gritty in this noir where not everything is as it seems

Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers 2013) – Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timerlake
A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

Begin Again – (by Once Again Director John Carney), Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levin, James Corden, Catherine Keener, CeeLo Green
A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.

This film had so many name cast members, I wasn’t quite sure about it. Most ensemble movies turn out to be shit because there are just too many egos on the screen and it takes a very talented director to maintain control and achieve their vision. The film renewed my respect for Keira Knightly who shows a very different side of herself. The chemistry is palpable and characters very likable. A very enjoyable film.

Boyhood – Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette
The life of Mason, from early childhood to his arrival at college.

Meru – Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, Grace Chin
Three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan big wall climbing.

Z for Zachariah (Rent/Buy) – Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally charged love triangle as the last known survivors.

Cooties (Rent/Buy) – Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad, Jorge Garcia, Kate Flannery
A mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages. An unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers in the fight of their lives.

Well, I have to be honest here. I went into this one expecting to leave wishing I could get back 120 minutes of my life back. It’s loaded with comedic talent and was getting so much good feedback, I had to catch the last showing of it at the festival. Glad I made it! A mix of comedy and horrific gore, I thought the film would lose itself, but instead, it created its’ own genre and owned it. Fans of @WalkingDead_AMC will love this film.

Cooties Kid

Not your everyday ‘cooties’

Mistress America (Buy Only) – Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Michael Chernus
A lonely college freshman’s life is turned upside-down by her impetuous, adventurous stepsister-to-be.

AMAZON PRIME @amazonprimenow @amazon @amazonvideo

Slow West – Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender
A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide.

It’s no secret I love going to the midnight World Premieres. They have a special feel and only real film enthusiasts show up to these. They’re always sold out and Slow West was no exception. This western not only had the most beautiful cinematography (it was filmed in the northwest), but the sound was crisp, dialogue witty, and full of surprises and hilarious visual riffs.

Sleeping With Other People – Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie
A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.

Sound City – Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor
A documentary on the fabled recording studio that was located in Van Nuys, California.

The Truth About Emanuel – Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel
A troubled girl becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother.

The original title “Emanuel and The Truth About Fishes” drew me into the mystery surrounding the troubled girl played by Kaya Scodelario. It was my introduction to this actress who turns out a wonderfully difficult performance. Jessica Biel may have put out her best here (though she did kick ass in Blade 3). This story won’t be for everybody. It is a bit difficult to follow, but if you’re in for a good drama, dark overtones, and some very stylistic visuals, this one is for you.  

Sundance 2016 Deals (So Far)

With streaming giants Netflix and Amazon Prime coming into play this year at the @SundanceFest, studios had to come to play if they meant business. And as you know, you have to pay to play.

Films that don’t get purchased with large distribution deals often will never see the light of day at the local movieplex. However, premium cable networks like @HBO have declared war on streaming sensations @Netflix and @Amazon.

However, with worldwide distribution on the net, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a great deal for filmmakers who really love their craft and just want to get their films in front of as many viewers as possible.

Here is a short list of many of the deals made @Sundance2016 this year:

Birth of a Nation – Fox Searchlight $17.5M

Equity – Sony Pictures (pre-festival deal)

Manchester by The Sea – Amazon $10M

The Fundamentals of Caring – Netflix $7M

Tallulah – Netflix $5M (pre-festival deal)

Indignation – Summit Entertainment $2.5M

The Intervention – Paramount Pictures $2.5M

Complete Unknown – Amazon $2M

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – The Orchard $2M + theatrical release

Wiener-Dog – Amazon (low 7 figure deal)

Author: The JT Leroy Story – Amazon $1M

Love and Friendship – Amazon (streaming rights) + deal with Roadside Attractions deal to provide theatrical release

Eat That Question – Sony Pictures Classics (undisclosed)

Morris From America – A24 (undisclosed)

Under the Shadow – Netflix (undisclosed)

Audrey and Daisy – Netflix (undisclosed)

Resilience – Brainstorm Media (pre-festival deal + undisclosed)

Sandstorm – Beta Cinema (pre-festival deal + undisclosed)

The Fits – Oscilloscope Laboratories (pre-festival deal + undisclosed)

Even though Amazon and Netflix came to the table with hoards of cash, some filmmakers wanted to have it their way. Manchester by the Sea was reportedly offered $20M by Netflix, but the offer was declined because the filmmakers didn’t want the film released to theaters and streaming at the same time.

#SundanceFest #SundanceFestNow #Sundance2016 @IFC @ETNOW @IFCFilms @sundancefestuk @filmindependent @variety @cooperdance