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‘What We Do in the Shadows': a hilarious vampire mockumentary
Film Reviews / Highly Recommended / Independent film / New this week / Now playing

‘What We Do in the Shadows': a hilarious vampire mockumentary

“Vampires have had a really bad rep. We’re not these mopey old creatures who live in castles — well, most of us are, a lot of us are — but there are also those of us who like to flat together in really small countries like New Zealand.” With these words, the 18th century dandy … Continue reading

SFFS Artist-in-Residence Sally El Hosaini on writing and directing ‘My Brother the Devil’
Bay Area / Film / Film Interviews / Interviews

SFFS Artist-in-Residence Sally El Hosaini on writing and directing ‘My Brother the Devil’

Sally El Hosaini’s directorial debut, “My Brother the Devil” is a touching and sensitive story of two Arab brothers in Hackney, London. The eldest, Rashid (James Floyd) is already ensconced in gang life, and he wants desperately to keep he younger brother Mo (Fady Elsayed), who idolizes him, from making the same mistake. Just when … Continue reading

Don’t be fooled by the title, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is Anastasia’s film
Film Reviews / New this week / Now playing / Recommended

Don’t be fooled by the title, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is Anastasia’s film

The image of Anastasia’s hands being bound during sex — whether with a silk tie or leather cuffs — is not a degrading one: physically unable to participate, to give him pleasure, means everything is about her ecstasy, as she throws her head back and bites her lip. Even when not bound, he won’t let her do so much as caress his back, so deep-rooted are his intimacy issues. Then again, this spares her having to do any work — another part of the fantasy. Although how she can ever fall in love with him, given there’s nothing two-sided about this relationship is a little hard to swallow — no matter how many orgasms he magically gives her without instruction or serious feedback. Their relationship seems to involve little more than frequent sex and expensive dinners: they never actually talk, even as Anastasia begs Christian to open up….And it’s a shame, because what Johnson brings to the part is not just a believable innocence and pluck, but playfulness and emotional maturity. When Christian first ties up her hands with one of his grey silk ties, she giggles at the role-playing: she’s submitting on her terms, aware that she’s still got control even though Christian is such an insufferably emotionally controlling guy.
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Sundance interview: ‘H.’ directors Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia discuss their sci-fi film for the digital-age, creating ordered chaos, and glitch art
Film Festivals / Film Interviews / Independent film / Recommended

Sundance interview: ‘H.’ directors Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia discuss their sci-fi film for the digital-age, creating ordered chaos, and glitch art

The new film from co-directors Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh, “H.,” which premiered in the NEXT section at Sundance and is now screening at Berlin, is an unconventional science fiction thriller — one of the most inventive and unique films I saw at the festival. Structured almost like a classical, Greek tragedy, it explores mass … Continue reading

Sundance Review: ‘Take Me to the River’ is creepy, unsettling, and a tad thin
Film Festivals / Film Reviews / Recommended

Sundance Review: ‘Take Me to the River’ is creepy, unsettling, and a tad thin

Perhaps the most polarizing film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, writer-director Matt Sobel’s “Take Me To The River” has left some critics grossed out and others fascinated with this evocative, probing mood piece that winds up a bit thin. It’s certainly eerie and creepy, but it’s well worth a watch for its excavation of family … Continue reading

Best of Sundance NEXT 2015: Poekel’s bittersweet and quiet ‘Christmas Again’
Film Festivals / Film Reviews / Independent film / Recommended

Best of Sundance NEXT 2015: Poekel’s bittersweet and quiet ‘Christmas Again’

I saw a handful of films from the Sundance NEXT section this year — “Christmas, Again,” “Cronies,” “Take Me To The River,” and “H” — a program usually reserved for more experimental, boundary-pushing films than the juried, competition films. Most of these were more mood pieces than narrative ones: visually assured, evocative, and thought-provoking, if … Continue reading

Sundance Interview: ‘Glassland’ writer-director Gerard Barrett
Film Festivals / Film Interviews / Interviews

Sundance Interview: ‘Glassland’ writer-director Gerard Barrett

Irish writer-director Gerard Barrett’s second film, the sensitive and heartbreaking “Glassland” — about an almost grown boy, John (Jack Reynor) and the stress he faces when he’s forced to become his parent’s (Toni Collette) parent — premiered at Sundance last week. It’s a touching story of the bond between mother and son, which persists even through incredibly difficult … Continue reading

Best of Sundance 2015: John Crowley’s moving, romantic ‘Brooklyn’
Film Festivals / Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

Best of Sundance 2015: John Crowley’s moving, romantic ‘Brooklyn’

Colm Toíbin’s “Brooklyn” was in many ways a perfect book, a taut and heartwrenching story of a young Irish woman, Eilis, and her traumatic experience immigrating to America in the 1950s: the way it left her in limbo, no longer comfortable in Ireland and always an outsider in her new home. John Crowley’s screen adaptation, … Continue reading

Sundance Interview: ‘Homesick’ Director Anne Sewitsky and lead actress Ine Wilmann
Film Festivals / Film Interviews / Interviews

Sundance Interview: ‘Homesick’ Director Anne Sewitsky and lead actress Ine Wilmann

Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky’s (“Happy, Happy”) wonderful new film, “Homesick,” screened at the Sundance Film Festival this week in the World Dramatic Competition. Starring Ine Marie Wilmann, who gives a terrific performance, the film follows a late 20-something children’s dance teacher, Charlotte, who, because she never received any real parental love, has become desperate, clingy, … Continue reading

Sundance Review ‘Homesick': Sewitsky’s touching and complex film is among the festival’s best
Film Festivals / Film Reviews / Highly Recommended

Sundance Review ‘Homesick': Sewitsky’s touching and complex film is among the festival’s best

Norwegian filmmaker Anne Sewitsky’s moving, funny, and devastating “Homesick” — one of the best films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — opens in a psychiatrist’s office, where Charlotte (the terrific Ine Marie Wilmann) describes her mother as saying she wants to be there, but never really wanting to be there. She’s the kind of … Continue reading