When Mike Cahill took the stage after the world premiere of 'I Origins' at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival he spoke excitedly about how special speakers were installed in the theater to take advantage of the film's rich sound mix. Did they movie have a good sound mix? Yeah, I suppose it did. But, did it do anything to make up for the half-assed storytelling and dull performances in this desultory and frustrating film? Uh, no.
2014 Sundance Film Festival
If Zach Braff had made his Sundance premiere ‘Wish I Was Here’ immediately after 2004’s ‘Garden State,’ the filmmaker’s latest would probably have scanned as a step forward for the multi-hyphenate, with a richer storyline and a better sense of style. But a decade on, the film doesn’t even remotely read as a progression for its creator, no matter how appropriate a double feature it would make with its predecessor. It may have been 10 years since Braff made a film of his own (for ‘Wish I Was Here,’ he serves as star, co-writer, director, and producer), but his filmmaking has not emotionally matured in the slightest in the interim, and ‘Wish I Was Here’ is tangible and cinematic proof of that.
It starts with a screeching chicken and a dimly lit poultry farm and the kind of stomach-turning opening credits sequence that makes a pretty solid argument for the merits of vegetarianism. Set in the apparently poultry-centric small town of Fort Chicken (“Chick It Out!”), Jonathan Miliott and Cary Murnion’s ‘Cooties’ (mostly) cleverly combines bits of old school horror, killer kid flicks, and deadpan humor for its amusing and gory tale of kids gone totally wild. And no, all the circles and dots in the world can’t save you from these rabid elementary schoolers, because no schoolyard tricks will satiate their hunger.
It's more than just “OK to be Takei.”
If you are one of the six million people who follow the internet meme-machine that is George Takei on social media, you know that this catchphrase was just one example of 'Star Trek''s original Mr. Sulu using his wry wit to promote marriage equality and normalize the gay lifestyle.
Mixing genres never works, especially surrealist comedy and character-based drama. Indie filmmakers often try it, and the seesaw of quirk and forced pathos is what makes people roll their eyes and wish for "a real movie." But once in a while it does work - and when it does, as with Lenny Abrahamson's 'Frank,' the result is something of a miracle.
'Frank,' co-written by Peter Straughan ('Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy') and Jon Ronson (the journalist/author of 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' and 'The Psychopath Test') and starring Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and, wearing that ridiculous papier-mache head, Michael Fassbender, is a readymade cult classic.