CJ’s Virtual Visit to the Sundance Film Festival

This year’s virtual festival features Lucille Ball, John Boyega, Bill Cosby, and Emma Thompson.

I’ve been to the New York Film Festival, the Chicago Film Festival, and the Boulder International Film Festival in person, but I’ve never found the time to travel to the Sundance Film Festival. However, because of the latest Omicron variant, all its movies and events have been pushed to online. I managed to grab some tickets for a few virtual screenings, and one of the movies I’ve already seen and admired is even on their schedule.

You can expect full reviews of them with the star ratings before they come to theaters or streaming services, but for now, these are just summaries of what to expect.

“The Worst Person in the World” (Opens Feb 4th in NY and LA).

I didn’t specifically see it at this festival, but it was one of the most remarkable lineups.

“The Worst Person in the World” is a Norwegian film focusing on one woman, who can’t decide what her career opportunities are and she has two love stories that don’t quite pay off. It’s quite a reflection of life when those can’t seem to get their lives figured out, and transcend from one drama to the next. What are we doing, where are we going, and how do we know when we’re there?

Writer/director Joachim Trier presents 12 chapters of the main heroine’s life, and Renate Reinsve is marvelous and delightful in the role of Julia. He knows the stakes of life, and how not everything is supposed to work out the way movie-goers expect. Both international and independent feature reflect on life and directions of people, who either make good or bad choices, and they all depend on where one thing leads to. “The Worst Person in the World” has a certain kind of meaning within its nature, and it’s compelling.

“Lucy and Desi” (Streaming on Amazon Prime March 4th)

Amy Poehler directs this documentary on some of the best T.V. couples, who have had their upsides and downsides. Lucille Ball redefined the women of television with “I Love Lucy” by not being afraid to make a fool out of herself, using the right fashion, and by being authoritative. And Desi Arnaz was also known as Cuban Pete, the king of the rumba beat.

Like “Being the Ricardos” with Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, this documentary shares its love for the classic celebrities, as well as their highs and lows. It’s a well-documented story about how Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz came to be and where they went off into. As some of the best female entertainers, Poehler delivers the goods and tells it like it was.

“892” (Release Date TBA)

John Boyega gives a full-throttle performance as the deceased ex-Marine Brian Brown-Easley (1983-2017), who resorted to holding a Wells Fargo hostage. He doesn’t want money from them, he wants his disability check, which he has been neglected. He needs to get his story out there. And also in a tremendous performance is the late Michael Kenneth Williams in his final role as another Marine and sergeant, who wants to help him.

The tension thickens as the movie unfolds, but the real question that was asked at the time was: “Did Brian Easley have to die?” Writer/director Abi Damaris Corbin reminds people about what happened, how life in the army can destroy a person, and how society can turn their backs on you. It’s gripping and powerful.

“Alice” (In Theaters March 18)

Keke Palmer becomes Pam Grier meets Harriet Tubman in a movie about a woman named Alice, who escapes from slavery, and finds herself in 1973, when she embraces the power to fight back against her captors. Common is also cast as a former Black Panther, who failed to fight back, and thus has developed cynicism. But with Alice’s motivation, he comes around.

Racism is still going on in this world, and there are even those who want to bring back the horrifying days of slavery. In her movie debut, writer/director Krystin Ver Linden expresses that with a courageous and stylish attitude, and both Palmer and Common deliver the goods, but “Alice” should have done more than just presenting the Power to the People. It’s a mixed bag for me.

“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” (Date TBA)

In this British comedy-drama, Emma Thompson stars as a middle-aged woman, who enlists the help of a much younger sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to finally give her an orgasm. But before she can get her groove on, she and he both engage in one conversation after the next.

Certain conversations are a little boring, but there’s a spark between the two leads that really shines. “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” isn’t just about the pleasures, but it’s also about how these two individuals in different generations deal with the outcomes of their own lives. Thompson gives a fine performance, but the real discovery is McCormack, whose breakout role should really get him more roles. Kudos to director Sophie Hyde and screenplay writer Katy Brand for giving him a connection with Thompson.

“We Need to Talk About Cosby” (Series Premiere This Sunday on Showtime)

This Showtime 4-part documentary series focuses on how Bill Cosby touched America with his shows that made him “America’s Dad,” and the influences he’s had on people. But more importantly, it also focuses on how he was labeled a sexual predator.

I had to skip a few clips and credits, because the Sundance website gave us a 5-hour limit, and I had to take a breather or two, but I still caught in some of its most important topics. The drugs he gave to his prey, the shows that made him iconic, and how Cosby believed he had the power to do whatever he wanted. If you have the stomach, and it’s okay if you don’t, then this series will test your senses.

“Emily the Criminal” (Release Date TBA)

Here’s another piece of evidence of how Aubrey Plaza has a knack for starring in independent features, after “Black Bear” and “Ingrid Goes West.” She plays a former artist with a felony conviction, who needs to pay off her student loans, and ends up getting involved with stolen credit cards. Theo Rossi is also amazing as her new boss and friend, and like all crime dramas, there are consequences. But Plaza knows how to thrive on them.

“Emily the Criminal” delivers the goods in a crime drama that has more attitude and grip than “Kajillionaires,” and that was a good movie. This one is more complex in giving Plaza something to work with. Writer/director John Patton Ford makes one of the most provocative debuts I have ever had the pleasure of seeing on film.

“Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul” (Release Date TBA)

Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown star in this baptist mockumentary in which they plan to reopen their megachurch, after sexual misconduct allegations made against the pastor were made. They plan to reopen the church the same day another Baptist church is opening its doors: Easter Sunday.

It’s not a major comedy hit, because it tends to lag at times, but it does have some laughs and has some real emotions. Even mockumentaries, like “The Office,” know when to combine humor with heart. Hall and Brown both deliver with spontaneous energy and true intentions. Written and directed by Adamma Ebo and produced by Adanne Ebo (the Ebo twins) and Daniel Kaluuya, this remake of a short film knows when to praise the Lord.

These are the movies I saw at the Sundance Film Festival. Hopefully, I’ll get to go to the real show in Park City, Utah, but in the meantime, I’m glad to get a little taste of what to expect down there.

Categories: Film Festival

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