The Sundance Reel

Tis the season for another fabulous film review panel. Rick Brough, Katy Wang, Barbra Bretz and Libby Wadman talk about the films expected for the upcoming 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The film panelists weigh in on the movies that are being considered Oscar contenders and discuss a few of the the upcoming Christmas blockbusters.

Angelina Jolie returns for another outing as the legendary Walt Disney character Maleficent. The new film raises the question, is she a clasic villainess or a misunderstood stepmom?

This week’s film is Maleficent-Mistress of Evil, starring Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Elle Fanning.   

"Judy" is a bio-pic that follows the legendary Judy Garland through the last few months of her life interwoven with flashbacks to her youth at the MGM studios. In a telling opening moment, Judy is staring at a wall while the studio head, Louis B. Mayer asks her, “What do you see beyond this wall?” He then describes a world beyond full of girls—who he constantly reminds Judy are prettier and thinner than her—but who are doomed to live mundane lives. Judy, on the other hand, is destined to be set apart and is tasked with the job to give all those ordinary people dreams.

“The Peanut Butter Falcon”, a bitter-sweet buddy comedy, won the Audience Award at South By Southwest this year.

“The Peanut Butter Falcon”, with its Bluegrass soundtrack is set in the Outer Banks, which adds an eerie mystique. The film contains too much redneck violence to be called charming yet watching the dynamics between the actors I saw something magical take place.

Rather than tell you the story, which you'll love...I'm focusing on the making of the film and the diverse and interesting cast.

Downton Abbey is back, this time on the big screen.

To the relief of many fans, who have been suffering withdrawal for the last 3 years, Downton Abbey is back! This time, however, as a big screen production rather than a television series.

The new science-fiction film “Ad Astra” is spectacular and looks awesome. It’s also about moody astronauts in space.

In the Star Trek universe, you recall, the mission was always “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

In James Gray’s film “Ad Astra”, the characters act like they want to believe that. But this is a different universe.

Brad Pitt stars as astronaut Roy McBride, who is famously cool and steady amid the hazards of space. Early in the movie, he survives a disaster at a satellite station that would have Capt. Kirk calling for his brown pants.

“Brittney Runs A Marathon”, a breakout Indie film of 2019, won the Audience Award in the US Dramatic competition at Sundance Film Festival.

I gave “Brittney Runs A Marathon” 5 stars in my Sundancer Newsletter review because it is my absolute favorite type of Sundance film; I laughed, teared up, flat-out cried, laughed some more and left smiling.

Add another film to the rock idol genre with the new release of “Blinded by the Light”, a film that plays homage to The Boss through the eyes of a die-hard fan.

I’ve seen my fair share of rock-inspired films recently, including the biopics of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Elton John in “Rocketman”, and the Beatles fan narrative “Yesterday”.

There’s no arguing that the list of rockers ripe for a film profile is long, and it’s not surprising that a film about an avid Bruce Springsteen fan has rounded out this year’s trend.

The documentary “Maiden” premiered at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival and was a 2019 Sundance Film Festival favorite in the SPOTLIGHT category.

This documentary was my absolute favorite of the entire Sundance Film Festival. It is a fantastic story so well told, well-filmed and well-edited that anyone viewing it regardless if they have an interest in yachting will be drawn into the competition the suspense the risk and the result.

The new film, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” doesn’t get a thumbs down but it’s not the best outing for an indie director who was discovered at Sundance.

Well known independent film director and screenwriter, Richard Linklater, has returned to the big screen with the comedy drama, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, based on the 2012 book of the same name by Maria Semple.

A standout at Sundance 2019, "The Farewell" is a dramedy that’s based on an actual lie.

Family dynamics and the dichotomy of Asian-American culture are at the centerpiece of filmmaker Lulu Wang’s comedy/drama “The Farewell”. The film, which premiered this year at Sundance and was based on as Wang calls it “an actual lie” was really a true story that originally aired on This American Life.

The new flick “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” shows off a variety of monsters—some are creepy, some are disgusting, and some may just have you exclaiming, as one character does, “You are @#+% me!”

It is Halloween of 1968, in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania, an industrial town that has known better days. And a group of high schoolers dare to venture into the old haunted Bellows mansion. There are three misfits, the sister of one of the teens, and the class bully.

Quentin Tarantino’s new film is out. It’s too long, but can it be saved by the ghost of Sharon Tate, and the sight of Brad Pitt taking his shirt off?

Based on a classic 1964 Australian children's book of the same name “Storm Boy” will be adored by every member of the family.

Other than crying over “Old Yeller” when I was a kid, I don't get overly emotional at animal films. Never in a million years would I have guessed I'd sob multiple times through 'a boy and his pelican' story. Watch “Storm Boy” and you'll know what I mean.

Set in Australia, this little film has it all gorgeous scenery, a charming child, family drama, wild animals, scary local rednecks, gunfire, passion about the environment and a happy ending.

The latest Spider-Man movie is being examined by a person who admits she’s mostly a stranger in the Marvel Universe.

Here I am, once again reviewing a movie in a genre I don’t know much about. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is the latest installment from Marvel Studios and I have only seen a few Avenger movies. But perhaps this makes me the perfect lab rat to test whether this movie is strong enough to stand on its own or if it’s full of weak storytelling that has to lean on the whole franchise for support.