PARK CITY — In this follow-up to last week's "3 reviews of movies playing at Sundance," we have three new selections that really celebrate the breadth of the festival. Beginning with the movie that won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, and working our way down to a very generic, but still lovable, paint-by-numbers submission, here are three more reviews of movies that played at Sundance.
You're going to be hearing a lot about writer/director/actor Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" in 2016.
Sundance's U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic winner tells the true story of Nat Turner — an educated slave who leads a rebellion against several Virginia plantations. Parker's uber-violent, unapologetic, and occasionally uneven portrayal of the events surrounding Turner's life deliberately adopts the same title as D.W. Griffith's 1915 film, a movie often credited with bringing rise to a second era of Ku Klux Klan.
Parker's film successfully challenges audiences, while celebrating the life of an unsung American hero. Where Parker falls short in capturing performances or a single seamless narrative he more than makes up for in power and voice.
When the dust settles, Griffith's film will still be remembered as a technically superior film, but if we're drawing on Parker's "The Great Debaters" days, there's no question 2016's "The Birth of a Nation" wins most compelling argument.
As far as road trip movies go, "The Fundamentals of Caregiving" is a good-natured one.
Starring Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts and Selena Gomez, "Caregiving" follows Ben (Rudd) as he tries to cope with the loss of his son. In an effort to get his head back in the game, Ben pauses his writing career to take a six-week course on caregiving, which eventually introduces him to Trevor (Roberts) — a teenage boy suffering from muscular dystrophy.
Together, the two embark on a week-long road trip where they confront their pasts, pick up hitchhikers and see obscure American landmarks. With one of the most bizarre feel-good finales ever committed to celluloid, "Caregiving" manages to ask its audience a few interesting questions while also showing off the charms of its charismatic cast.
"The Fundamentals of Caregiving" is hardly a must see, though if you're a fan of any of the cast members, you'll have a pretty good time with the easy 90-minute runtime.
On a considerably lighter note, John Krasinski's take on love, death, birth and marriage is kind of the big friendly hug you'd expect from the likable "Office" star.
The very familiar tale borrows its plot from over 80 percent of all other independent movies, as an unhappy man trying to move on with his life is suddenly called back to his hometown with news of a sick relative — see where this is going? While home, he's reminded of what's important and … yawn … he finds a renewed sense of purpose while facing the problems he'd left behind.
OK, I'm kind of mocking the very generic and overdone premise, but I have to say, "The Hollars" was a pretty good television show parading around as a Sundance entry. And while it may not have enjoyed the finesse of a feature film, I probably heard more laughing and/or sniffling throughout "The Hollars" screening than I did anywhere else in Park City.
If you're not looking for an important film, and you'd just like to laugh and cry to a movie you'll forget about in the morning, absolutely check out "The Hollars."