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Sundance Film Festival 2021 Round-Up

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Sundance Film Festival 2021 is over and despite being virtual, there were a lot of good films! I tried to watch as many new films as I could across the course of the festival, and I managed to see a total of 16 films. I’m going to be going over below what I thought of some of them and some films I’d recommend you keep an eye out for later in the year.

The best film that I saw at Sundance was Mass. You can read my full review of it here but in short, Mass was an absolutely stunning directorial debut from Fran Kranz. It follows two sets of parents meeting up to talk years after a tragic event involving their children. The script is so well written and the performances from the four leads are all phenomenal. This is a film that you should definitely look out for and seek out once it gets released, it could even be a big hit at the Oscars and other awards ceremonies next year.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ryan Jackson-Healy.

Another film that I absolutely loved was CODA. And it wasn’t just me that loved the film as it won awards from the Grand Jury for best US dramatic film as well as the Audience award for best US dramatic film. CODA isn’t your traditional coming-of-age film and that’s what made it all the more powerful as the film follows a Child Of Deaf Adults- a CODA. Despite the fact that it hits all the beats you expect a film like this to hit and it can be seen a somewhat generic coming-of-age film that doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the genre, it is still an incredible and emotional film. It was one of the best films of the festival and you can read more about what I thought of CODA here.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Judas and the Black Messiah is going to be a big hit this awards season, with predictions touting it as a potential Best Picture winner amongst other categories. Daniel Kaluuya is superb as Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield is just as electrifying as William O’Neil, the FBI informant inside the Black Panther Party. It’s a really timely film that will hopefully be seen by a wide audience as it releases on February 12th in cinemas in the US as well as on HBO MAX.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

The British horror film Censor was a really shocking and exciting film and it’s definitely not for everyone but if you’re a fan of violent and extreme horror films like this, you’ll love it as it’s a love letter to the video nasties of the 80s. Censor is a really impressive directorial debut from Prano Bailey-Bond and it has a great lead performance from Niamh Algar. Check out my full review of it here.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Prisoners of the Ghostland is quite a crazy film. It stars Nicolas Cage and Sofia Boutella and is directed by Sion Sono so already it’s clear that it’s going to be an entertaining ride with a mismatch of lots of different tones and styles. The film mixes the east and the west really well and it has some really amazing and ridiculous moments but it’s a film that’s really engaging and exciting and it’s one that’s definitely worth a watch.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This list features quite a few heavy films but Together Together is a really nice, light comedy film about platonic love starring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison. The film is about Matt (Helms) who hires Anna (Harrison) as the surrogate for his child but after spending more and more time together their relationship grows and develops and they begin to challenge their perceptions of love and relationships and connections between people.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Ben Wheatley is a filmmaker that a lot of people really love having made films including Kill List, Free Fire and High Rise although he’s a director that I’ve never really been mad-keen on. Saying that I really liked his latest film In the Earth. Or at least I liked certain aspects of it. It has some absolutely crazy, loud and flashy scenes that I thought were great although certain aspects such as story and character weren’t quite as good but overall I thought In the Earth was a good attempt at making a film during the pandemic that’s centred around a virus that’s ravaged the earth. You can find my full review of In the Earth here.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

On the Count of Three is a really good comedy/drama starring Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott. Carmichael also directs here with his feature debut and it’s a really impressive first film. It’s about two friends that decide they’re going to kill themselves at the end of the day and they’re going to make the most of their final day. It obviously deals with the heavy issue of suicide and it does so in a really careful and appropriate manner, but it also manages to keep the film funny at the same time. It’s a really good film, in particular the final 25 minutes or so which really take it up another level.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The best documentary that I saw at Sundance was Misha and the Wolves. I don’t want to divulge into too many details about it as it’s a remarkable story that you almost struggle to believe is real. It’s such a shocking story following the events after the publication of a woman’s Holocaust memoirs and it’s really a story that you have to watch for yourself to find out all the twists and turns in this staggering story.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tomek Kaczor.

Prime Time was a really interesting Polish film that had a thoroughly captivating plot and gets right into it from the get-go. It’s about a 20-year-old man with a gun that locks himself into a TV studio on the last day of 1999 along with 2 hostages. He has a message that he wants to share with the world and Prime Time is engrossing and engaging throughout. It’s a really good film with a great premise.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Charles Murphy.

R#J is a really innovative and fresh take on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The reason why this film felt so original and inventive is because the whole film takes place on phone screens. Think similar to 2018’s Searching or the two Unfriended films that take place on computer screens. Whilst not everything works in this modern day retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it’s just such a creative and new way of telling such a well-known story and even if the final film wasn’t amazing and it had some big flaws, it’s worth seeing R#J just for the impressive visuals and the impressive way that the story is told entirely through mobile phones.

Were you able to watch any films at Sundance this year? If you did, let us know in the comments what your favourite films were and what you thought of the films mentioned above.

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‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ Review | A Heartfelt Exploration of Love and Friendship with Outstanding Performances by Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson

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Tell That to the Winter Sea
Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson in a still from 'Tell That to the Winter Sea' (Kaleidoscope)

It takes time to understand that life is all about learning, growing, and changing. It’s about heartbreaks and dealing with them. Every stage brings new challenges and makes you think if you’ll ever reach your desired destination. In Jaclyn Bethany’s reminiscent drama, Tell That to the Winter Sea, this sentiment is distinctly captured through the touching journey of two characters, Jo (Greta Bellamacina) and Scarlet (Amber Anderson), who find themselves grappling with unresolved pasts.

There have been several movies around female friendships or relationships, but only a few have captured their essence, and Tell That to the Winter Sea is among them. The profoundly moving film starts with bride-to-be Jo (Bellamacina) reading a book while waiting for her school-time friend and first love, Scarlet (Anderson), on a girls’ trip to a country manor. Soon, we get to know that this trip is meant to celebrate Jo’s upcoming marriage. However, as soon as they meet, this trip becomes a moving journey of emotional discovery and unresolved feelings. Even with the festive atmosphere created by the rest of the group, Jo and Scarlet can’t help but deal with the lingering feelings from their shared past.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Greta Bellamacina as Jo in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

Directed by Jaclyn Bethany, the movie does a magnificent job of navigating the delicate terrain of past and present emotions through the eyes of its central characters. One of the primary reasons why this movie feels so personal is because of how authentic it looks. In many ways, we have endured heartbreak in love. Sometimes, we move on, but other times, we keep looking for answers by revisiting those moments. In Tell That to the Winter Sea, both central characters try to show that they have moved on, but in reality, it’s just the opposite and Bethany shows that with utter precision. Meanwhile, the script is a delicate blend of heartfelt dialogue and introspective moments. It’s fair to say that the script is the soul of this powerful drama. The writing shines in its ability to convey the unspoken and unresolved feelings between Jo and Scarlet. Their interactions are loaded with a glaring sense of nostalgia and unspoken yearning, capturing the beautiful essence of what it means to reconnect with your first love after years apart.

Another stunning aspect of the movie is its mesmerizing cinematography. The beautiful frames wonderfully complement the emotional landscape of the story, making the viewers feel like they are a part of the characters’ journey.

Acting-wise, both the film’s central characters are extraordinary in their respective roles. Greta Bellamacina as Jo is breathtaking as she brings a deep emotional resonance to her character and magnificently captures the complexities of love, friendship, and personal growth. One of the most striking things about her performance is how she makes viewers feel about her internal conflicts and struggles. It feels so real, raw, and authentic. She is truly one of the finest actors we have in the industry now. Meanwhile, Amber Anderson shows a wide emotional range and effectively portrays the complexities of her character’s feelings and experiences. Her performance feels deeply connected to her character’s past and present, making the audience empathize with her journey. The chemistry between both stars is mesmerizing, making their shared moments both powerful and poignant.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Amber Anderson as Scarlet in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

The supporting cast – Josette Simon, Jessica Plummer, Tamsin Egerton, and Bebe Cave – is equally compelling and adds depth to the story.

Overall, Tell That to the Winter Sea is a beautifully crafted film that offers a heartwarming and introspective look at love, feelings, and friendship. The film explores themes of the passage of time, and the bittersweet nature of moving forward is handled with a sensitive approach. It is a deeply affecting and memorable cinematic experience. For those who appreciate a thoughtful and emotionally resonant film, Tell That To The Winter Sea is an immersive watch.

Tell That to the Winter Sea will be released in UK theatres on May 31.

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Comic Book Movies

X-Men ’97 Review | Nostalgic, Epic & Marvelous!

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X-Men '97 (Disney)

Get ready for action-packed adventure, many surprise cameos and a storyline that takes

Plot

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

Review

X-Men ’97 is a revival of the classic 1990s animated television series. The storyline picks up directly after the events of the original series, maintaining continuity and preserving the beloved elements that made the original a hit show back in the day. Many of the original voice cast members have returned, including Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm and Adrian Hough as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, which adds a layer of originality and contributes to the overall nostalgia of the television show​. Here I’m feeling like a little kid again, watching the show on a Saturday morning. I was 7 years old when it was on television in the early mornings, and it still brings back fond memories.

There were a number of new stars who joined the show such as Ray Chase who replaced Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale who replaced Catherine Disher as Jean Grey, Holly Chou who replaced Alyson Court as Jubilee, A.J. LoCascio as Gambit, Matthew Waterson as Magneto, J.P. Karliak as Morph, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Ross Marquand as Professor Charles Xavier and Gui Agustini as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

The series starts off in a world where the X-Men grapple with the loss of Professor Charles Xavier. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Magneto rises to the occasion and becomes the new leader of the X-Men. This provides additional drama and the team dynamics is frequently tested with the new leadership. While dealing with the new leadership dynamics the X-Men finds themselves still dealing with people who would stop at nothing to end all mutants. The storyline doesn’t hold back on the action sequences and themes such as grief, loss and acceptance are touched on throughout the series.

The trailer of the show doesn’t spoil anything for the viewer, and I highly encourage you to watch every intro and try to spot any new changes. The show provides many cameos and easter eggs, keeping my hopes alive of a potential crossover.

The story ends with a twist, leaving you hungry for the next season, and as any Marvel movie or television show would have it, a mid-credits scene to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you are new to X-Men you can still jump in and watch the television series, but I highly recommend watching the original series to get you up to date with most of the lore and history of the X-Men.

X-Men ’97 keeps the legacy of our favorite mutants alive with a well-written story that is filled with emotion, surprises and promises of more adventures.

Thank you Beau DeMayo for an eXcellent story! I rate this show a 5 out of 5!

Will we skip the intro song? No! I don’t think we will. Make sure to catch the show on Disney Plus!

https://youtu.be/mp1Pax-QHlA?si=-fFlVYBRIPnLQyVO
X-Men ’97 Final Trailer (Marvel Entertainment)

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‘The Present’ Review | A Heartfelt Family Adventure with a Magical Twist

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The Present
A still from 'The Present' (The Movie Partnership)

In the heartwarming film ‘The Present,’ a young boy stumbles upon a mysterious grandfather clock with the extraordinary ability to transport him through time. Driven by the hope of reuniting his parents, he embarks on a magical journey with his siblings to prevent their family from falling apart. As they face challenges together, they discover the enduring power of love and the true meaning of family.

Over the years, we have seen a lot of time-travel movies, but ‘The Present’ is a bit different from those movies. It’s not about saving the world and defending the universe from aliens. It’s all about keeping a family together and feeling loved again. In Christian Ditter’s cute romantic-comedy film, we see Jen (Isla Fisher) and Eric (Greg Kinnear) having a dinner with their three children: Emma (Shay Rudolph), Max (Mason Shea Joyce), and Taylor (Easton Rocket Sweda). However, things go downhill when the parents announce that they are separating. The next day, an old clock that used to be in Eric’s father’s house arrives at their house and they decide to keep it in their basement. Something is written on the clock, and it reads, “This clock can help you now and then, but only you can change events.” Soon, Taylor finds out that the clock can be used to time travel and alter events. As a result, he stitches a plan, along with his siblings, to bring their parents together.

Shay Rudolph and Easton Rocket Sweda in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership’

The enchanted grandfather clock is a delightful narrative device that immediately draws the audience into a world where the impossible becomes possible. Who wouldn’t want to turn the clock back and alter certain events? The clock, intricately designed and exuding an air of mystical antiquity, serves as both, a literal and metaphorical centerpiece for the story. However, the movie is not just about the clock or what it does, it is about the extreme lengths children can go to restore their family. The themes of love, forgiveness, and the passage of time are woven throughout the film, offering moments of reflection and emotional resonance. The makers have subtly shown how challenging it can be to mend things, emphasizing the importance of understanding and empathy within familial relationships. Certain moments in the film would surely encourage you to let your family know how much they are valued.

Writers have done a great job in stitching a story that’s not complex. Everything that takes place in front of our eyes is neither flashy nor over the top, which makes the movie even more relatable. However, certain elements could have been infused to make the script even better. We could have seen a bit more emotional turmoil between the central pair to have a better idea about their state. On the other hand, the relationship between Jen and the kids should have been explored a little more. Apart from that, there are pacing issues in certain scenes, which could have been mended with tighter editing. Despite these shortcomings, ‘The Present’ is a charming film that offers a warm and engaging experience.

Isla Fisher and Greg Kinnear in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership)

Acting-wise, Isla Fisher and Greg Kinner are splendid in their respective roles. Both actors are fully committed to their roles and don’t miss a beat. Fisher has evolved as an actor and it would be a travesty if we don’t see her healing a big blockbuster soon. The young cast delivers commendable performances, particularly Mason Shea Joyce, whose wide-eyed innocence and determination drive the film forward. Meanwhile, Shay Rudolph is as wonderful as Emma. The chemistry between the siblings feels genuine, their camaraderie reflecting a realistic portrayal of sibling dynamics.

Overall, ‘The Present’ succeeds in delivering a touching, family-friendly adventure. Its enchanting premise, mixed with heartfelt performances, makes it a worthwhile watch, especially for families seeking a film with positive messages.

‘The Present’ hit UK cinemas on May 24.

 

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