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Sundance 2021 Reviews Day 4

Sundance Day 4 I watched more movies in a day than I've ever done for the festival, and by the end of the day my brain was a pile of mush. I'd like to watch some of these on their own to see if I feel differently when I can give them a bit more attention, but as it was, these were my initial reactions to the films I saw.


MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE

I really wanted to like this movie, and honestly I'm not sure where the disconnect for me was because all of the pieces were there for this to be a lovable Sundance indie (joining the ranks of Sing Street and The Way Way Back). I think the big problem is that I've seen this done before and done better. Still, it's amiable enough that many people out there will really like it. RATING: 7/10


HOW IT ENDS

This end of the world comedy is a simple exploration of dealing with regret, and its execution is as quirky as they come. The film basically is a series of cameos as one woman tries to make peace with her inner self (literally) before the world ends. Compared with a lot of the movies I've been watching for the festival, this felt light and fluffy like cotton candy and equally as colorful. Its lightheartedness was pretty refreshing for me and I loved its message. It's not the tightest or most memorable film I've seen, but I enjoyed watching it during a day where I watched a LOT. RATING: 7/10


MAYDAY

Mayday is a Wizard of Oz-esque parable where one young woman enters an alternate dream reality where life is turned upside down. She joins a small group of woman soldiers at war with all the men they come across. This film started so strong, and the cinematography and color grading is absolutely gorgeous. It's a beautiful film to watch. But...it loses its momentum fast and the middle section feels really clunky. I just kept wondering what exactly was the point of it other than to make a thin allegory of feminism. Overall Mayday was disappointing despite some good performances from Mia Goth and Grace Van Patten. RATING: 6/10


THE BLAZING WORLD

While the last film was a version of Wizard of Oz, this one is a gothic horror version of Alice in Wonderland. The Blazing World tries to channel the dark fairy tale aesthetics of Guillermo del Toro a la Pan's Labyrinth, and while it's not nearly as successful, I have to give it credit for its effort and ambition. And The Blazing World is certainly ambitious. I loved its attempt at creating its own fairy tale, I just wish it could have really stuck the landing. RATING: 7/10


PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

Of all the movies that would have really benefitted from being seen with an audience during this festival, this one stands out the most. This film plays out like an Eastern version of Mad Max with an unhinged Nicolas Cage as our unlikely hero. He gets a few moments here to add to his legendarily over-the-top canon and it makes me wish he was operating at that level the whole film. But as it is, it definitely has some moments of sluggishness when he's not around but you still gotta admire the filmmakers' aspirations. RATING: 7/10


STRAWBERRY MANSION

Strawberry Mansion was all about a reality in which dreams are audited by the government and one man's discovery that we are being fed subliminal advertising during our sleep. I really loved the concept of this movie, and I appreciate the attempt to translate this idea onto the screen, but this movie was nearly unwatchable aside from the visuals. It's about as interesting as someone relaying a crazy dream to you that makes no sense and in which you completely have no investment in what happens. You never connect with these characters because the movie doesn't seem to want you to. In the right hands (ie Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, or Charlie Kaufman), this could have been incredible, but with the style here it just doesn't translate. RATING: 3/10


VIOLATION

One woman's crusade for revenge against her brother-in-law is chronicled in Violation. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good female revenge story (see The Nightingale), and this film has moments of utter brilliance, but I found myself feeling a lot more sheer frustration and incredulousness at the actions depicted here. I love the non-linear storytelling and the way things unfold, as well as the acting by lead Madeleine Sims-Fewer, but I feel like we're missing a few earth shattering revelations to justify the level of brutality that is enacted here. The first half of the film is great, but the second gets bogged down in the details that just aren't as compelling. RATING: 5/10

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