Sundance 2015: ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ is an honest, sweet and powerful coming-of-age tale

“I had sex today…..holy shit.”, says Minnie to her herself, or to the audience – hell, you get the impression that whoever is listening is good enough for her. Minnie is someone who has an awful lot to say about herself, but struggles to find someone to listen to her. Marielle Heller’s debut as a writer/director takes place in the 1970s and follows 15-year-old artist Minnie (Bel Powley), who enters an affair with her mother‘s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård) and discovers her sexuality.

Sundance 2015: ‘Hellions’ is nothing but a pile of stale homages

Back in 2008, director Bruce McDonald released the horror film Pontypool, which was inventive and claustrophic. Pontypool promised a great new voice in horror, but it’s a promise that McDonald hasn’t lived up to since. Still, it was hard not to walk into Hellions expecting great things. Sadly there is very little in this film to admire. Hellions follows teenager Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose), who must survive Halloween night when evil trick-or-treaters come for her.

Sundance 2015: ‘Prophet’s Prey’ is a powerful and unsettling documentary

Growing up not too far from Colorado City in a small town in Southern Utah, polygamists (members of the Fundamentalists of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) were not an out of the ordinary sight. You’d find them occasionally in town wearing with the women wearing the pioneer dresses and the boys dressed in their Sunday best, each person wearing the signature polygamist hairstyle of a poof and a braid. There was always this “otherness” quality about them though, when you’d see one you’d ask friends if they had seen them too. It was only as we grew older that we would learn about the horror of the church and how evil of a person Warren Jeffs was. Plenty of people do crazy things when they think God is on their side, but Jeffs does the most despicable and evil things.

Sundance 2015: ’99 Homes’ is a bold, big and tense examination of the American dream

“America doesn’t bail out losers, America bails out winners!” preaches Richard Carver (Michael Shannon), like a modern day Gordon Gekko of real estate to the young, innocent but determined Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield). This is what the American dream is now. It’s not enough to work hard anymore, achieving the American dream is to win at all costs. Ramin Bahrani’s examination of the American dream and the corrupt nature of it follows Dennis Nash, a young father who with his son and mother (Laura Dern) are evicted from their family home. To get it all back, Dennis begins working for the man responsible for his troubles, greedy real estate broker Richard Carver. This is the American dream.

Sundance 2015: ‘Tangerine’ is the type of film that Sundance was created for

Tangerine is the type of film that Sundance was created for: It is bold, it is something that Hollywood would never make, it is a film liberated from formal limitations and it gives definition to the thrown-around term “independent”. Sean Baker’s latest film revolves around Sin-Dee (Kiki Katina Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), who embark on a crazed search to find Sin-Dee’s pimp Chester (James Ransone) on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles after Sin-Dee learns that Chester has been cheating on her.

Sundance 2015: ‘Turbo Kid’ is a blast from the gory and campy past

Turbo Kid is as if your favorite Saturday morning cartoon from the 80s got the most fucked up live action adaptation, and yes, that’s a compliment. Based off the short they did for The ABCs of Death, the film from Yoann-Karl Whissell, Anouk Whissell and François Simard takes place in an apocalyptic wasteland in 1997 where a young kid (Munro Chambers) becomes friends with a girl named Apple (Laurence Lebeouf). When Apple is captured by the evil overlord Zeus (Michael Ironside), the kid finds a superhero suit that gives him the powers to free Apple and save the wasteland.

Sundance 2015 – ‘Glassland’ boasts incredible performances in tense and intimate thriller

One of the most well acted films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival comes from Ireland. Glassland, by director Gerard Barrett, follows John (Jack Reynor), a young taxi driver in Dublin who gets involved with the local criminal underworld in order to make the necessary money to put his alcoholic mother (Toni Collette) in recovery and reunite and fix his broken family. It’s an intimate character thriller that operates on a slow but tense burn.

Sundance 2015: ‘Cloro’ has a strong central performance in an otherwise dull film

Cloro (that translates to Chlorine in English) is a film that has admirable qualities but is ultimately a dull affair. There are moments that director Lamberto Sanfelice makes effective, but for the most part he spends the duration of the feature seemingly uninterested in his own material. Jenny (Sara Serraiocco) is a 17-year old synchronized swimmer who is forced to uproot her life and move to the mountains to take care of her little brother and father, who is recovering from a nervous breakdown of some sort. Here she waits until she can return to her synchronized swimming team.

Sundance 2015: ‘Slow West’ is a tense and thoughtful revisionist western

After the film finished, writer and director John Maclean acknowledged how surreal it felt to be premiering a western at Sundance of all places. After all, John Ford filmed many of his classics in the state of Utah, making it a sort of mecca of westerns. This however is very different from the traditional western as it is seen through a foreign lens and with a postmodern knowledge. It calls to mind other revisionist westerns from this century such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Proposition and Red Hill. The plot takes place in 1870 and follows 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who has traveled from Scotland to the American west to find his love, Rose (Caren Pistorius). Accompanying him is a mysterious and formidable drifter, Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender).

Sundance 2015: Ben Mendelsohn is the jackpot in otherwise middling ‘Mississippi Grind’

The first shot of the film is a rainbow: The rainbow becomes a sort of plot device for Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn), a down and out gambler who strikes up a friendship with drifter Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) and the two head out on a road trip through the South to win back Gerry’s losses in writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s character driven road trip. For them the rainbow is a symbol of their friendship, a sign of good luck for bets, and ultimately what both are searching for – the beauty after the rainy storm both of them are experiencing.

Sundance 2015: ‘Dope’ is actually pretty dope

The first image in the film is a breakdown of the various meanings and uses of the word “dope” – drugs, stupid person, and slang for something being very cool. This is a pre-cursor to the overall theme of the film, that any one label is never representative of just one thing. Each of the central characters are dealing with labels being thrown at them, and through them a running dialogue throughout the film unearths what it means to be true to yourself. Director Rich Famuyiwa’s film follows Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a high school geek in Inglewood, CA, who with his friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) – who are all obsessed with 90s hip hop culture – end up with a bag of dope from a local drug dealer, and must figure out how to unload it all before things go from bad to worse.

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