Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I love this time of year, when Sundance reviews start rolling in. It's like sneaking a peek at the rest of the year in terms of smaller films. So much of what happens at Sundance affects the following year of film that it's like reading tea leaves or having a crystal ball. Please... keep it coming. I look forward to coverage from many of you based on the mail we got pre-fest.
Harry and the fellas, Max Rebo here. I haven't had any type of scoop for you guys that I've tried sending in years, but here's my first day of Sundance coverage.... Myself and my colleague, Droopy McCool, have four reviews for you. One for a great movie, a not so great movie, and two pretty good movies. First up: Morgan Spurlocks new film: Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? I caught an advance screening of this film. How? It's a secret. SPOILER WARNING: No, he doesn't find Osama. SPOILERS OVER This movie was a little bit of a disappointment. It's interesting and has a few good points, but overall it's a piece of fluff that seems more of a self-aggrandizing wink and nod to Spurlocks own sense of self than a hard-hitting search for Osama bin Laden. Spurlock's juvenile framework for the film is more of a distraction than a benefit. (Comparing himself to Woody Allen, George Lucas and Orson Welles in a character select screen...? Come on. But you read that right, there's a character select screen of filmmakers because a lot of the film carries a "Spurlock vs. Osama" video game motif) Another motif the film carries is baseball cards. Everytime an al-Quada operative is mentioned, Spurlock cuts to a baseball card of their head super-imposed on a baseball star and checks out their "stats". It's like a 13 year old made this movie. I can't imagine why the Weinsteins ponied-up millions of dollars for this. I had hoped that after super-size me, Spurlock would pull out a film. It showed a lot of promise, but this one is a big step back. True, there are a few great moments in this movie (like Spurlock getting kicked out of a Jewish neighborhood in Israel and interviewing an Imam that actually preaches the destruction of America, etc.) but it's all so underwhelming because of the presentation. Spurlock seems to think he's a celebrity and he's just not yet and it added a slightly obnoxious tone to the film. I like Spurlock, don't get me wrong, but he hasn't earned this kind of treatment yet. And then just as soon as he finds out where Osama probably is, he flees the country to have his baby and shows me an image I never, ever wanted to see. The moments in the movie that I wish that he would have focused on are the interviews with people that I don't get to see on the news (like that Imam I mentioned). He takes us to grocery stores and shopping malls and neighborhoods in these countries and actually goes a ways in humanizing these people, which is great. If he'd have packed the film with that kind of insight front to back instead of video game cut-scenes, this would be a relevant, hard-hitting documentary. But you have to hand it to the man. He's brilliant. The marketing behind the last few months with the "did he find him? did he not find him?" was a masterstroke and I hope that he can keep it up as long as he can, because this film won't make much money otherwise. Moving on: Speaking of Spurlock and Super-size me, I saw a film called Killer at Large. It was playing at a private venue, not part of the festival (though I'm not sure why it wasn't). This film seems like it has a bone-to-pick with Supersize-me. Not intentionally, but it makes Super-size me look quite skin deep. Killer at large tackles the entire obesity epidemic in america and explains why we're all fat (myself included) and getting fatter (again, me too) on a number of levels. From our evolution to our environment and from our stress levels to public policy and the farm bill. It tackles all of that and gets a lot of really amazing footage that you won't beleive. ( i.e, a 12 year old getting liposuction, a hidden camera interview with the Vice President of McDonalds, Fahrenheit 9/11-style revelations about the bush administrations culpability in the obesity epidemic, how my fat ass contributes to global warming, etc.) Hell even their trailer has the surgeon general coming out and saying, balls out, obesity is a bigger problem than 9/11 (it's on their website: www.killeratlarge.com) And remember how McDonalds did away with supersizing right after Super-size me came out? This film goes into how not only was that just a marketing ploy, things just got worse. It's got interviews with all kinds of people I wouldn't expect to see here (like Ralph Nader and Neil Labute and that rabbi from the Learning channel among tons of others) but it's entertaining and almost too informative. What's even more interesting about this film, too, is that it's really hard to peg. There is no narrator and none of the filmmakers are in it. It's the kind of journalistic kind of infotainment that's been lost to time in recent years. This is definitely one to watch out for. Now, I'm going to pass the keyboard over to my good friend and bandmate, Droopy McCool: So I saw the Hunter S. Thompson bio-doc, GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON. I really liked it. The movie took us rationally through the life a man, who was a living contradiction, always pushing the limits, struggling in break new idea of journalism, culture and politics. The filmmakers spend a lot of time embellishing the legend of Hunter S. Thompson at time with out giving it any meaning beyond "oh haha, that crazy guy." and since the movie is already to long I could have done with out these charms as I and probably anyone else who is gonna watch this movie saw Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we already know these stories. The length and the stories that just really factor into the bigger story of this man’s life are director, Alex Gibney, only real mistake. I was impressed by his movie Enron: The Smartest Guys in The Room a few years ago at Sundance and I will look forward to his next film. Over all the movie is fun, educational, has Johnny Depp as the Narrator, it's heart breaking at moments, it has a great sound track (mostly Sixties and Seventies stoner rock but good you know.) I recommend it to almost anyone. And unless you’re a religious zealot you'll probably enjoy the movie. Then I saw CHOKE. The most surprising thing about Choke is that I didn't hate it. I don’t want to blaspheme, but I do hate the novel written by Chuck Palahnuick. Having said that, I have to say that I love Sam Rockwell. I could watch him drink coffee, find it interesting, and then probably laugh, so when I see him fake-choking on food in restaurants so a stranger can save him and feel better about their lives and help take care of him with money and gifts I am very entertained. When our protagonist travels carelessly from mother obsessed scenes to the sex addicts anonymous meetings he goes to to meet women and women at, I struggle a little bit as it’s just not sold as well as it was in Fight Club (let’s face it, it’s pretty much the same thing). I always enjoy watching Sam Rockwell though. But, in the last third of the movie, I struggle as the movie attempts to convince me that Victor Mancini (Rockwell), is the son of Jesus Christ and a healer of the sick. As this prosperous and dysfunctional story becomes the center of the movie, and demands that you believe this in order to proceed along with the movie I am forced to slap my forehead in agony. The thing is thought I do believe people are going to like this movie. I do on some level. Rarely can it be said that the film is better than the book. In this case it is. But, I just didn’t like the book all that much to start with, so that’s a testament to the director about how deftly he adapted and then cast the film. The relationship between Kelly MacDonald's character is a very charming one (it reminds me of what the relationship between Marla Singer and the nameless narrator of Fight Club), this one actually works though. Overall, I would suggest seeing this if you have a dark sense of humor. You might find it as preposterous as I did, but you'll certainly enjoy yourself. So, thanks for listening to our rambling on these four films. Lapti Nek, Max Rebo and Droopy McCool