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- Expensive and likely to run out of sale early.
- Eccles Theatre only; not valid at other theaters.
- B+ section only; not valid between Day 1 and Day 5.
- If you want to see every screening you are entitled to, you are pretty much stuck in this theater all day long. This venue is a school auditorium and not a commercial multiplex. There are not many hangouts in or around the premises. You don't have much time for driving around or taking the shuttle to reach somewhere else between two screenings.
- Access to many popular screenings mainly from the Premieres and U.S. Dramatic Competition categories.
- It is highly likely that a screening is preceded by a filmmaker introduction and followed by a post-screening Q&A with some production, crew or cast members.
- You are among the first people to be admitted to seating while there are still about 1,000 seats available.
- Most of the time, you are allowed to stay inside the theater for the next screening, while regular ticket holders are asked to leave.
The schedule at Eccles from day 6 to 11 for the 2013 festival was as follows:
Day 6 (Tue, Jan 22, 2013) 1. The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman 2. The Spectacular Now 3. Mother of George 4. Very Good Girls 5. Lovelace
Day 7 1. Lovelace 2. Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes 3. In a World... 4. A.C.O.D. 5. Big Sur
Day 8 1. A.C.O.D. 2. Concussion 3. Toy's House 4. Fruitvale 5. Sweetwater
Day 9 1. Sweetwater 2. C.O.G 3. The Lifeguard 4. jOBS 5. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
Day 10 1. jOBS 2. Don Jon's Addiction 3. Two Mothers 4. TBA 5. Award Winner Screening
Day 11 1. Award Winner Screening 2. Award Winner Screening 3. Award Winner Screening 4. Award Winner Screening
The following is the list of titles that can be watched with the Eccles Pass B. There are fewer duplicate screenings and more TBA screenings than last year. Used to its fullest, this pass should allow you to watch 17 to 21 different titles, depending on what the TBAs and award winners will be.
Day 7 (Wed, Jan 22, 2014). 1. Hits 2. The Skeleton Twins 3. Happy Christmas 4. Little Accidents 5. The Voices
Day 8 1. The Voices 2. Life After Beth 3. Dear White People 4. Lambert & Stamp 5. Fishing Without Nets
Day 9 1. I Origins 2. Jamie Marks is Dead 3. The Sleepwalker 4. Rudderless 5. They Came Together
Day 10 1. Rudderless 2. Frank 3. Wish I Was Here 4. Boyhood (2014) 5. U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
Day 11 1. World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic 2. U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary 3. U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic 4. Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic presented by Acura
What a great film can do to a seemingly ordinary character
Brooklyn is a film about Eilis, who crosses the Atlantic to America in the 1950s. She is a mildly career-motivated young Irish woman who is handed a dream opportunity without ever asking for it. Contrary to what typical immigrant protagonists are like, she neither really works her way up to success nor once finds herself in a life-and-death situation. Rather, this film shows us that a woman of just a usual background can tell an important story that is surprisingly relevant to us all.
The main contributor to that surprise is the lead actress, Saoirse Ronan, who plays her role meticulously while also constantly owning the tone of the film. Her delicate and sincere portrayal makes all Eilis's issues, however selfish or insignificant they may seem at first, materialize in your mind, and makes you hope that her pain will somehow ease. Already a one-time Oscar nominee, Ronan reaffirms her acting strength with this exceptional performance. Of all emerging young adult lead actresses, she is likely the most charismatic one in 5 years since Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone.
From start to finish, Eilis feels just like a girl-next-door. That homey feeling extends to Emory Cohen's Tony, an Italian plumber she meets in the New World. With their small height difference, she almost towers over him in her shoes as they stroll outside, which, helped by their natural chemistry, gives them the authenticity of a couple that you might actually know in real life, as opposed to one of Hollywood's ideal.
This film is a remedy for anyone who is losing faith in good filmmaking. It is a splendid reminder that you can tell a great story without resorting to excessive twists and effects. With the remarkable performances from the entire cast, there is hardly a dull minute in the film, and it only gets more interesting towards the end. Speaking of the end, Eilis's tips to a new immigrant she meets at the end still hold very true today. They are not only the best advice that you could ever hear from anyone, but also evidence that America is and has always been the land of opportunity.
Beyond the Reach (2014)
A simple action thriller with some guilty pleasure for Jeremy Irvine fans
Michael Douglas has played a number of relentless corporate types before, and in The Reach he goes to the extreme. His character is devoid of redeemable human values and just ugly and grumpy with money to burn. He is a cruel advocate of globalization and a merciless hunter who likes to equip himself with excessive firearm.
When he enters the desert with a young tracker played by Jeremy Irvine, it soon becomes apparent pitting these two against each other is inevitable. Irvine plays a young and naive small town man far removed from urban life. The only thing he cherishes is his girlfriend (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) that he has known since childhood, who unfortunately can't wait to skip their hometown and be somewhere else.
The filthy rich entrepreneur vs. innocent hometown boy formula is trite but you can still enjoy it for the sheer absurdity of it. Irvine is perfectly stoic and his bare torso is tossed around in many scenes for the guilty pleasure of his fans. There is not real drama in the film but you can find some good action sequences in the backdrop of the spectacular desert, which should keep you entertained throughout.
Time Out of Mind (2014)
Not the most effective film, yet its intention is felt
Watching Time Out of Mind requires a lot of patience. For one thing, every time a scene becomes interesting, it abruptly cuts to another, disallowing your attention to take a full hold. Another thing is the voyeuristic long lens and unfiltered city noise, which are meticulous, but only work as obstacles when you try to observe the main character closely.
The ultimate problem is, however, this story of a homeless man tells not much more than what you have known or imagined before. It's hard to sympathize with Richard Gere's protagonist who is in constant denial, and the film, for the most part, visualizes only what is already visible, and merely scratches the surface of this troubled soul's current state.
The later part of the film becomes noticeably engaging when it employs some close-up shots and background music. You finally start feeling for each character and recognize the chemistry of actors, but you cannot help but wonder if the dramatic value of this is really worth all the leading time.
The film's execution is thus questionable, but one thing for sure is the sincere intention of actor-producer Gere. He wants us to take another look at the problem we all know exists by presenting it the way it is. It's interesting to know that, in his panhandler costume, the lead actor still looks handsome and healthy; yet people choose to go around and never bother to look close enough to notice a movie star. It would have been a far more interesting film if Gere had also delved into the minds of those people passing by, instead of just glancing over the mind of the homeless man.
I Origins (2014)
Beautiful and poignant film that provokes some thoughts about genealogy
Ian (Michael Pitt) is a young doctor mesmerized by the beauty and mystique of the human eye. Together with his collaborator, Karen (Brit Marling), he spends most of his time in his lab. We know little about their back story other than they are work-obsessed researchers who like to keep it in the close circle of a few scientists.
At a costume party, Ian meets Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), a model in masquerade with only her eyes exposed. Normally you might not find someone in disguise very charming until you see her face in its entirety. For Ian, however, the intricate details of her eyes are all it takes to fall for her. Her accent, along with her constant need to get her point across in the language and culture that are foreign to hers, works as the catalyst for their romantic relationship.
I Origins takes advantage of Sofi's exotic Argentine-French background, Ian's another coworker of East Asian descent, an Idaho farmer family with African American ancestry, and a story arc in India to lend a sense of universality. The film's story is somewhat predictable, but a bold assumption it makes on human iris patterns helps advance the film steadily and allows for it to resonate with us on a personal level. Regardless how much faith we have in science or fate, this film successfully brings our attention to the complexity of our body which we seldom acknowledge.
The Voices (2014)
Unconventional psychological thriller that serves like a romantic comedy
The Voices starts almost like one of Jim Carrey's romantic comedies. It has uplifting opening music, a pastel color scheme, cartoon creatures, and a lonely male protagonist named Jerry, who is seemingly just another hard-working guy at the factory. Although there are certain hints that this film is not entirely what it seems at first, you are basically led to believing it is your average comedy experience with just a minor twist or two.
Jerry, played by Ryan Reynolds, has a couple of love interests at his workplace -- Fiona and Lisa, played by Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick, respectively. While Arterton's character is a bit of a nag, Kendrick's character is her usual girl-next-door type, and they both lend a lot to the romantic comedy feel of the film.
Then again, at some point it becomes clear that this is one of those psychological thrillers that challenge the border between good and evil. While most such films ultimately make you feel disturbed or instill fear in you, this one accomplishes the exact opposite by forcing you to see things from the perspective of the lead character. You may find yourself laughing at things you shouldn't, or you may feel somewhat sickened by the dark nature of the story. Whichever your reaction is, you notice the unique way how this film sheds a light on the mindset of its protagonist.
Labor Day (2013)
A film that stimulates different types of hunger
For a relatively young filmmaker, Jason Reitman is a keen observer and a skilled storyteller. In "Thank You for Smoking" and "Up in the Air" he has offered unique and insightful views into the business world, and in his latest "Labor Day" he continues to intrigue us with a different subject, a fragmented family that yearns to become full again.
Kate Winslet, Gattlin Griffith, and Josh Brolin bring palpable chemistry as a tired single mother, her whole-world adolescent son, and a ragged man who walks into their life by chance. The somewhat contrived setup is compensated with an intimate observation of these very different characters, as they learn to appreciate and show us precisely what they can do to complement each other. Like other Reitman films, this one has signs of wisdom embedded here and there. There may be a simple quote that comes to greater significance in a later scene, or a plot device that may start making sense when the film is about to finish.
The ending is rather rushed and roughly executed with the older version of Winslet looking eerily lively and the brief appearance of Tobey Maguire that feels superfluous. Still, the meticulous and sensual narrative of the film is so inspirational that, when the film is over, you will find your senses heightened in more ways than one.
In Secret (2013)
A nice little story that challenges the conventional protagonist vs. antagonist formula
Elizabeth Olsen's latest title role performance is not as showy as her first; when she broke out with "Martha Marcy May Marlene" in 2011, her character's heart and mind were the primary focus of the film. She used her bland looks like the Japanese Noh mask or the Greek Archaic smile, which you could interpret as an expression of any emotion you would like, thus lending mysteries and ambiguities. In "Therese" Olsen goes a lot lighter, allowing us to detach from, or even dislike the apparent protagonist if we choose so.
By contrast, Therese's mother-in-law, Madame Raquin is played by Jessica Lange with a heavy emotional emphasis. Few actresses entertain the idea of playing characters with special physical conditions. Fewer can play them convincingly. Even fewer can play them without words. With Lange they all come as standard. While seemingly playing an antagonist, Lange makes a surprisingly gratifying character.
Tom Felton's frail Camille is Therese's arranged husband, and Oscar Isaac's strong Laurent is Therese's extra-marital affection; these two actors are also solid as they play friends and enemies with polar opposite characteristics.
While by employing a comedic tone director Charlie Stratton takes away some gravity from the serious subject, he nonetheless makes the antique material accessible by wider audience. It is a rather simple story with nothing mysterious about its plot or its characters' feelings and motives, but at the same time, so cleverly ambiguous on the moral ground that you cannot easily decide for which character to root.
The Railway Man (2013)
An astonishing story about two former enemies in a lesser-known front of World War II
The Pacific theater of the second world war is often characterized by a number of such decisive battle fields as Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The Railway Man is a reminder of the madness of war that reached beyond those well-known battle fields and the profound effects it had on individuals who fought in the Southeast Asia region.
Colin Firth embodies the suffering of Eric Lomax, a veteran who still experiences post-traumatic nightmares decades after the war. Nicole Kidman plays his wife Patti with utmost grace and compassion, and Stellan Skarsgård's portrayal is nothing short of perfection as he plays the fellow veteran who is also torn by his friend's immeasurable pain. Rounding out the strong performances is Hiroyuki Sanada's Nagase, a former translator of the Imperial Japanese Army who took considerable part in Eric's torture.
While the flashback scenes led by younger actors (Jeremy Irvine and Tanroh Ishida) could use some improvements, the current post-war scenes are recreated to near perfection with mature performances from the more experienced cast members. It is also noteworthy that the film does not hesitate for a moment to refute the wrong notion associated with "tragedy of war," a term often misused to make a war sound as if it were a mere chance event and not a product of malice. The film makes it clear the pain inflicted upon Eric Lomax is nothing but an act of crime, and from that accord comes an unusual relationship between two former enemies that only a film based on a true account can deliver.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Overall good execution, with plain narrative which lacks statement
This is a good film with great acting all around, directed by an emerging, enthusiastic filmmaker. With that being said, there is nothing special about its storytelling that makes it stand out.
First, the film starts with a "Based on a true story" disclaimer, which adds nothing but confusion to its content. The director has admitted that 'Katie' does not represent a real-life individual but a composite of multiple people, which implies that he has brought significant dramatization. Given that many narrative films today are inspired more or less by true events, this opening message only makes you wonder how much of the story is actually true.
Second, the film ends with a sequence of text-only frames which forces you to read multiple pages about what happens afterwards. A simple gimmick of, for example, adding actual still images to the background, or showing newspaper headlines, would have made this sequence more effective. Such creativity should be a no-brainer in this digital age, when everyone is equipped with a video-capable device, ready to become an instant YouTube correspondent in case of an emergency, as clearly demonstrated by this very film.
Last but not least, the film refuses to make any statement or offer any new insight, and you are eventually left to wonder what message to take away from it. It is a rather plain recreation of serial events, the fidelity of which is not even guaranteed. "Fruitvale" is ultimately saved by the splendid performances of its cast, adequate pacing, and high-adrenaline content, but left with much to be desired in the top-level concept.
Mostly absurd but ridiculously fun to watch
There are ways for women to overcome their physical inferiority to men. The heroine of this film, played by January Jones, somehow learns it, and carries out her plans with a vengeance. The film later becomes an absurd but fun ride like "Red Eye" with its female lead replaced by another pretty blond, and set in the spectacular backdrop of the wild, wild New Mexico.
Jones is clearly not gunning for major awards here, and striking deep emotions is apparently not a requirement for her part. She needs to look sassy and resolute in her cute costume, and she sufficiently delivers within that realm.
Ed Harris is fantastic as a lunatic sheriff. The performances by the rest of the supporting cast are also sound, especially by Jason Isaacs.
Country music heartthrob Jason Aldean is naturally menacing as the bad guy's right hand man. He has a reasonable shot at a moonlighting career in movies of this genre outside his day job as a singer.
"Sweetwater" will surely rub old school Western fans the wrong way, but if you are open-minded about crossing formats, you just might find this popcorn Western a perfect pastime.
Arrogance alone does not make the most valued company in the world
This film's biggest problem is that Ashton Kutcher's portrayal of the title character uses the same presentation-like delivery for almost every scene. This approach works when he is actually doing a presentation, but it is simply a distraction when used in scenes where he is at home with his family. Of course, it is meant to show that Steve Jobs was in a constantly elevated state of mind even around his most beloved, but the film takes his aloof attitude and bad temper as far as he is almost dehumanized at the end.
"JOBS" starts out feeling realistic when the title character first introduces the iPod and harks back to his student days, but from there it almost resembles the biopics of rock musicians who fall out of their heydays due to alcoholism and substance abuse. By the end Kutcher is portraying the most arrogant lunatic on the planet instead of the most inspirational entrepreneur of our time, and there is not an explanation why he has become so mentally detached from the world surrounding him. The most disappointing omission of all, however, is the lack of his "Toy Story" aspect, a portion of his life which could have substantially restored his humanity in this film.
Middle of Nowhere (2012)
Decent and effective competition film
Middle Of Nowhere is perhaps as good as a low-budget indie can get, and also a textbook example of a Sundance competition film. It has a solid screenplay, aptly selected melancholy tones/music, long pauses, a couple of twists and a camera trick, etc., but nothing evasive to turn off the audience. Every aspect of being a good small narrative film is pretty much covered.
Quite naturally, the most valuable asset of such a film is the chemistry of a committed cast. Omari Hardwick is reasonably stoic and almost possesses the angst of a Denzel Washington character who has been pushed around too long. Emayatzy Corinealdi, as the film's emotional core, convincingly depicts a devoted wife's slow transition in priorities. With her rich experience in both cinema and TV, there's little wonder how Lorraine Toussaint goes instinctively maternal towards two younger actresses and leads them to fairly palpable family dynamics.
This is a relatively simple tale of a young wife who teeters between naivety and strength, but the skillful and effective storytelling supported by good performances offers a decently enjoyable viewing experience.
Hello I Must Be Going (2012)
Much lighter and funnier than the synopsis makes it sound
Hello I Must Be Going doesn't really question the morality or credibility of its central theme -- romantic relationship between a woman and a man where she is almost a couple of decades older. The film cleverly escapes the creepiness surrounding it and actually ends up being very funny. It should be attributed to screenwriter Sarah Koskoff's unabashed celebration of the positive effects that sexual human contacts have on one's spirit, and female lead Melanie Lynskey's depressed yet oddly optimistic portrayal of the 30-something divorcée. For a Sundance Lab product, which often tends to be just dark and ambiguous, this is somewhat a refreshing change of tone.
The only indie cliché this film resorts to is the background of its main characters, who are all connected to filmmaking. However, this convenient setting on the filmmakers' part is not a real problem with the film, as there is a tangible character development of a woman slowly reopening to her senses, which should easily resonate among general audiences. All in all, this is an easy-to-follow indie with no ambiguity that makes your head spin. It clearly has adult contents with a few f-bombs, but nothing too graphic, and offers a pretty relaxed and enjoyable narrative.
Possibly Woody Harrelson's best performance
This is another collaboration of Oren Moverman, Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster after their terrific direction and performances in The Messenger, but Woody is not a somewhat goofy foil to Ben Foster anymore. If you didn't think you saw the full potential of Woody in The Messenger, then you may have a redemption in Rampart, as he plays an all out brutal and uncompromising cop. Ben Foster, on the other hand, bows down to take a less stellar role here; I didn't realize who was playing his part until I saw a few close-ups of the character, but his chemistry with Woody is mostly intact and there is some important dialog between these two. It's just, this is clearly Woody's vehicle, and nobody even comes close to his driver's seat.
Woody's Dave Brown makes his relentless attitude apparent early, when he's bent on grilling a young female cop for ordering excess food that she has no intention to consume. It's only the beginning of his alienation from every woman in his life, though. He treads on a self-destructive route as he eats, vomits, and ruts like a complete beast under a little influence. Near the end we're reminded that he is only a human after all, and that's when we also realize he probably hasn't raised a hand against a woman once. A beast with a heart - an oxymoron only experienced actors can make believable.
The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
Adapted by a passionate, musically-oriented filmmaker to cater to casual filmgoers
I was a little anxious before getting into this film that I might not belong to the right audience for it, mainly because it was adapted from a play that I had no knowledge about. I probably did not get it exactly like critics who studied literature extensively, or someone familiar with another film based on the same play featuring Vivien Leigh.
However, as it turns out, The Deep Blue See is something that you are not supposed to get at the first time. Director Terence Davies himself admitted later in the Q&A, that he didn't know what the play was really about until he read it 3 or 4 times. Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston weren't very familiar with it before they joined the project, either. If anything, they were at first just as clueless as regular filmgoers about this legendary play.
There is a pretty good amount of background music going on throughout the film, but the most artistic part is the long sequence near the end that uses no music. The scene has limited dialog, contrasted only by the sound of a pendulum or, if I'm not mistaken, children playing somewhere afar, while two main characters take turns to express their feelings. At that point, it becomes clear that the film's theme is rather simple, but the director is using all the time in the world to convey it. I noticed a similar approach when I watched a French film called "Lourdes" about a year ago. It must be a fairly common technique outside the Hollywood system.
The problem with this technique, though, is sometimes it is hard to tell what's exactly going on in the protagonist's mind. It's a flip side of relying on elliptical shots that can also misguide the audience if they're not well attuned to the cadence of the moment. Perhaps the film should have continued to use background music to set the mood correctly, or better yet, it should have been made into a musical as the director half-jokingly suggested during the Q&A. Although it might have involved more funding and risks, the musical format might have been more appealing to the general public.
Nice to see relatively unknown actors given as much time as name actors
I watched the film at the Toronto International Film Festival three days ago. 360 is very multi-threaded, and there are probably 8-10 "main" characters equally in focus, and many of them are played by relatively unknown actors whose primary languages are not English.
Each character is multicultural or itinerant one way or another, and connected to a few other characters as though they were international flight hubs themselves. Many modes of transportation are cleverly used as contact points or transition points for those characters. Although it's sometimes very hard to grasp all the relationships at once, different characters, languages and locations make watching this film an interesting experience nonetheless.
Out of those many stars, perhaps Anthony Hopkins, Maria Flor, Jude Law, Gabriela Marcinkova play slightly more important roles than other actors (it's worthy to note Flor and Marcinkova don't even have their IMDb head pictures as of now). It's a refreshing change to see none of the big names are claiming the entire show.
Though all the threads neatly come full circle by the end, I wish the filmmaker had added a bolder message or impact to make the film more enjoyable to compensate the lack of true lead characters. There are religious and monogamy related themes that I felt only half explored. The voice-over in the beginning encourages us to take chances in life. 360 could have been a much more compelling story if it had heeded its own advice.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Depressing, but elaborate story that obscures the boundary between normal and abnormal
I watched this film last month in Salt Lake City at the Sundance Film Festival. Even though I didn't find it particularly entertaining, I noticed this Jury Award winner for directing had no user review yet, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents' worth.
The film starts out with the lead character Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) running away from what seems to be a self-sustaining rural establishment of several youths led by a middle aged man (John Hawkes), and trying to rediscover herself as she seeks shelter under her older sister's roof. The story then unfolds in two convoluted threads; one that takes place in reality where she tries to adapt to her sister's and brother-in-law's high-maintenance life, and one that harks back to the memories of the cult that exploited her in the name of a meaningful relationship. As the boundary between the two threads becomes vague, we see Martha plunge into abysmal depression, to make us all fret that she may be already damaged beyond the point of no repair.
The depiction of the main character's endless descent is a turn off for a casual film watcher like myself, who'd like to see a glimmer of hope in the most depressing of films. However, there is no denying the film is well-executed, shot in serene rustic settings with grappling performances by the cast.
Elizabeth Olsen swings back and forth between Martha's normal and abnormal moments with great authenticity. Not only she is effortless in doing so, she also hints at sibling rivalry with a terrific nuance. This film should put her on "25 emerging actresses under 25" or some similar lists if she hasn't been recognized yet.
Fans of John Hawkes's will not be disappointed, as he gives another solid performance as a backwoods haggard, but this time sans the heroic aura he had in Winter's Bone. In one scene, he even takes the guitar out and serenades Martha with disturbingly eloquent lyrics.
The director, Sean Durkin, is certainly on top of his game and succeeds in just showing the "basic human needs to belong to a group." However, what he expects us to take away from the film is not entirely clear to me. I just hope he uses his great skills for more pleasant themes in the future.