We're reporting from the ground at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival this week, searching for the best new movies that will hit both theaters and the small screen in the coming months. Get all of our Park City coverage right here.
Jan 29, 2014
Oculus Rift at Sundance: games are just the beginning
Sundance describes the New Frontier portion of its annual film festival as a "creative space" for "multimedia performances, transmedia experiences," and other interactive art forms. This year that translated into a room of pure sensory overload: orange-red walls with matching plush couches, video projections, and in one corner, five stations gilded in chrome. That’s where a constant stream of visitors would sit down, plug in, and get transported into another world.Read Article >
Oculus had come to Sundance.
Cinema and snow: Sundance 2014 in photos
Take a sleepy mountain resort, bring in nearly 200 feature films and shorts, add a crush of filmmakers, industry peers, movie fans, and partiers — and you get the Sundance Film Festival.Read Article >
Every year Sundance takes over Park City, Utah for a dive into the latest in independent and mainstream films, and the movies shown often end up setting the agenda for the year to come. It’s the kind of scene where you can listen to Nick Cave talk about his movie in one moment, and then learn about the life of a local shop owner the next — and there’s no telling which will be the more interesting conversation. Back from our trip, we take a look at the things we saw along the way.
What to watch: our favorite movies of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival
By Bryan Bishop and Casey NewtonRead Article >
Strip away the spectacle and the snow, and Sundance is all about one thing: movies. For its 30th anniversary year, the film festival debuted an incredibly diverse selection of titles, ranging from the funny to the violent to the just outright odd. Below we’ve collected some of the films we liked the most so you know exactly what to look out for in the year ahead.
Jan 24, 2014
Google's creepy BigDog robot goes to the movies in the Sundance sci-fi drama ‘Young Ones’
Science-fiction films have often been the domain of grand designs and sweeping cityscapes, but over the past decade we’ve seen a more grounded approach to the genre. Movies like Her, District 9, and Looper put the focus on gritty, lived-in worlds filled with technologies that are clear descendants of the tools we use today. Here at Sundance, a new sci-fi drama from writer-director Jake Paltrow is joining that movement.Read Article >
Young Ones tells the story of a family struggling to survive in a future where water shortages have turned entire sections of the country into barren desert. It’s a world where every day is a struggle and flashy new technology is the exception, not the rule. But when it came time to imagine what the machines of tomorrow might look like, Paltrow enlisted the masters of modern robotics: Boston Dynamics, the robotics company recently purchased by Google.
Jan 23, 2014
'The Raid 2' review: bigger and bloodier
The following review was written during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.Read Article >
Let’s just get this out of the way: I wasn’t a huge fan of The Raid: Redemption. Gareth Evans’ Indonesian action flick was a video game riff on John Carpenter’s classic Assault on Precinct 13, and while its intense devotion to martial arts wizardry was certainly impressive, I found myself wanting more when it came to story and drama. So when it was announced that The Raid 2 would be debuting at Sundance — with a running time of nearly two and a half hours, no less — I was curious to see if Evans could bring something more to the table the second time around.
Jan 23, 2014
'The Internet's Own Boy' fights for reform after Aaron Swartz's deathRead Article >
Swartz’s story was widely chronicled in real time, including here on The Verge. Now his life and death are being profiled in a compelling new feature-length documentary. The Internet’s Own Boy, directed by Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists) represents an effort to bring Swartz’s story to a wider audience, one that is less steeped in the fight for unfettered access to information. The film, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, personalizes the story in part by introducing us to Swartz’s parents and brothers. Like many of us, they are still struggling to understand what happened to Aaron — and whether any positive change can result from the tragedy.
Jan 22, 2014
Reliving ‘Boyhood’: how Richard Linklater spent 12 years shooting one movie
“I don’t know what to say about the film, except 4,207 days ago we started shooting this film and we’re really happy to be here.” It was Sunday night, and director Richard Linklater was addressing a sold-out Sundance audience for the debut of his latest project, Boyhood. Festival audiences are used to seeing premieres of highly anticipated new films, but the energy in the Eccles Theatre was at a higher pitch than usual — and the director of Dazed and Confused and A Scanner Darkly was ready to unveil the most ambitious project he’d ever taken on.Read Article >
Boyhood tells the story of a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows from a six-year-old to a college freshman, and rather than relying on makeup, casting, or CG trickery, Linklater actually shot the film over 12 years. Starting in 2002, he assembled his cast — Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette star as the boy’s parents, while Linklater’s daughter Lorelei plays Mason’s sister — to shoot one section of the film. Each subsequent year they shot another sequence, continuing on until production finally wrapped last October: the same actors playing the same roles, aging in sync with their characters. Sequels and documentaries have caught up with people long after audiences have first met them, but a narrative film has never really attempted this sort of real-time examination of someone’s life before. Funny and evocative, the finished product is a truly unique look at the evolution of a family, and to hear the director and cast talk about the process, getting to the finish line wasn’t easy.
Jan 22, 2014
‘Life Itself’: a stirring tribute to Roger Ebert from the director of ‘Hoop Dreams’
The movies, Roger Ebert said, “are like a machine that generates empathy… It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” Life Itself, an engrossing new documentary based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name, inspires more than its share of empathy as it chronicles its subject’s final days. But the film by Hoop Dreams director Steve James also generates a sense of wonder. How did a chubby know-it-all from Urbana, Illinois, come through decades of alcoholism and loneliness to redefine film criticism and become one of the country’s greatest popular writers?Read Article >
It’s a journey worth taking, even if you know the broad outlines of Ebert’s life: an early love of writing leads him to newspapers, where he becomes a general-assignment reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times. The then-undistinguished job of film critic falls in his lap, and he throws himself into it, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. That same year, Ebert begins his career in television, a move that will ultimately make him the most famous critic in America. At the age of 50, he marries for the first time, and his wife, Chaz, becomes a central figure in his life, managing his affairs and becoming his caregiver after cancer takes his voice.
Jan 20, 2014
Blurred lines: how an app ruined the Sundance waiting game
Waiting, as the contemporary philosopher Tom Petty has observed, is the hardest part. And yet it was once the defining characteristic of a trip to Sundance Film Festival, where anything worth doing required arriving well in advance. That isn't true of the celebrities and the filmmakers, who wait for nothing. Nor is it always true of the press and employees of the film industry, who attend free screenings of their own.Read Article >
But for most of the 40,000 people who descend on Park City each year, getting tickets used to be an agonizing challenge, one that required vast stretches of time standing around. It was part of the unique charm of the festival: at a time when Hollywood barely makes anything that isn't a sequel and fewer Americans go to theaters than ever before, hundreds of people in Park City will clamor to attend a grim documentary about domestic violence. Sundance is an alternate universe where you try three times to gain entry to a Glaswegian folk musical written by the frontman of Belle & Sebastian, without ever fully understanding why.
Jan 20, 2014
Zach Braff's crowdfunded 'Wish I Was Here' reportedly bought for $2.75 million
According to Variety, the distribution rights to Wish I Was Here — the second film written and directed by actor Zach Braff after 2004's Garden State — have been purchased by Focus Features in a deal worth $2.75 million. Deadline reports the comedy drama will reach 500 screens on its theatrical release in the US.Read Article >
The movie, co-written by Braff's brother Adam, was partially funded by Kickstarter. Braff took to the crowdfunding site in April last year with a goal of raising $2 million. That money, he said, would help him retain creative control of the picture, but his project received criticism from people who felt celebrities with Braff's wealth and connections should stick with traditional funding models rather than use the ostensibly democratic crowdfunding model. Kickstarter themselves weighed in on the debate, saying that famous people were fully entitled to pitch their projects. Wish I Was Here went on to earn $3.1 million of its $5 million budget through the site.
Jan 19, 2014
Christopher Nolan on internet movie theories, his indie roots, and editing 'Inception'
Every January the Sundance Film Festival takes over Park City, Utah, but since 1995 the town has also played host to the festival's younger upstart sibling: Slamdance. Initially founded by a group of filmmakers who weren't accepted into Robert Redford's showcase, the Slamdance Film Festival has gone on to become a vital event in its own right — and one of its early discoveries was Christopher Nolan.Read Article >
Nolan's first feature Following was a black-and-white mystery shot over the course of a year for around $6,000. It screened at Slamdance in 1999, and tonight the festival honored the director with its inaugural Founder's Award. Nolan then sat down to talk to the audience of filmmakers and fans about the lessons he learned as an indie filmmaker, his frequent collaborations with brother Jonathan, and how Brad Pitt helped Memento get made.
Dec 24, 2013
Roger Ebert documentary will stream directly to crowdfunders from Sundance Film Festival
The crowdfunding campaign to complete Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert's life, has collected a little more than $100,000 since its launch last month. With such an ennobled subject, director Steve James soon followed up by announcing that the film is heading to the Sundance Film Festival in January. In addition, backers will be able to simultaneously stream the film at home when it premieres on January 19th. Viewers will also have the chance to take part in a Q&A after the movie.Read Article >
The documentary is still roughly $50,000 away from its goal, so James has extended the deadline to January 13th. The money will be used to finish post-production on the film. Ebert's wife Chaz took to RogerEbert.com today to express her feelings as the premiere approaches, saying, "I am looking forward to seeing it. I suspect that it will elicit both tears and smiles from me and my family, and that more than anything I will wish that Roger was there to see it with me."
Dec 18, 2013
Zach Braff's Kickstarter-funded film 'Wish I Was Here' is going to Sundance
This has been the year that high-profile filmmakers turned to Kickstarter to help fund their movies — and one of the more controversial examples will be debuting at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) co-wrote and directed Wish I Was Here, in which he plays a struggling actor learning to cope with the death of his father, and today Sundance announced that the film would have its world premiere at the festival this January. It joins 118 other feature-length films that will be screening at the festival, including The Raid 2 and Anton Corbijn's spy thriller A Most Wanted Man.Read Article >
Braff's film has proven to be a focal point in the conversation about the ethics of celebrities using Kickstarter for their projects. In March a Kickstarter project went live for a feature film version of the show Veronica Mars, with funding rocketing to over $5.7 million before all was said and done. While fans of the show were thrilled that they'd be seeing beloved characters again, others questioned whether it was appropriate to ask fans to fund a movie that they would then likely buy tickets for anyway.