The most exciting films at this year's indie movie-fest Sundance include tales of clones, soul-stealing machines, lonely astronauts and an undead Third Reich. So what did the critics think of these indie-SF beauties?
Paul Giamatti plays himself — a famous actor, but struggling with an internal crisis. Looking for sweet relief, Giamatti checks out a New York soul extraction facility. But after he has his ever loving soul removed, angsty calamity ensues.
Cinematical on Cold Souls:
Here, though, he [Giamatti] gives what may be his best performance, stretching to play several variations of himself, and manages several seemingly incompatible things — investing real heart into what's essentially a character defined by a science-fiction device, finding real emotion in surreal inventions and yet giving his everyday moments a deft, askew energy.... Cold Souls looks and feels like a Charlie Kaufman film, but it's somehow slipperier and yet simpler, more complex and yet more direct. Part of the pleasure of Cold Souls is that as we watch Paul Giamatti struggle to understand his soul, we can't help but cast a glance towards our own.
Variety on Cold Souls:
An amusing slice of existential whimsy with an Eastern European bent, Cold Souls posits a world in which humans can have their souls extracted and implanted in each others' bodies. It's the sort of idea one can imagine Charlie Kaufman running wild with, but Sophie Barthes' writing-helming debut is too well-behaved and conventional, stylistically and metaphysically, to achieve the desired levels of creative lunacy. Marketing will need to emphasize the pic's goofy premise and Paul Giamatti's enjoyable performance to overcome cool but respectful critical response.
Moon: Lonely and anger management-challenged space miner Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) lives by himself on a far-away moon, harvesting resources. Comforted only by Kevin Spacey's voice as the home robot, the miner awaits the end of his contract, until space madness and the company's ulterior motives force Sam to come face to face with a scary reality. But what did the critics think?
Film School Rejects On Moon:
While not perfect by any means, Moon is yet another impressive work of independent science fiction. In which we have a young director with an ambitious vision, a perfectly cast lead and the creativity to bring it to life without having to work on a Michael Bay-sized budget... if there is any reason to see this movie, it is that you should once again behold the brilliance that is Sam Rockwell. The man gives a remarkable performance, taking the film from a well-executed indie to a potentially very memorable entry into the sci-fi genre
Slashfilm on Moon:
Produced on a low budget by first time filmmaker Duncan Jones, Moon makes great use of realitic sets, a remote control robot, old school miniature work, and even some CG. Like last year’s Sleep Dealer, I’m convinced that Moon is at the beginning of a new renaissance of indie sci-fi feature films which will challenge Hollywood’s big budget
computer generated spectacles.
Grace: A young pregnant woman loses her baby while still in her womb. She insists on carrying the stillborn child to term. After the birth, little Grace comes back to life — but with a taste for blood. Paul Solet's deeply disturbing film is already making waves when audience members passed out at the Egyptian screening.
Dread Central On Grace:
Grace is very much the antidote to what plagues most of the horror genre today. For those who are tired of the endless remakes and reincarnations of overseas films, Grace very well could be the movie you need to see to restore your faith in the idea that there is still an artistic vision within the horror genre. I know it has restored mine.
Bloody Disgusting On Grace:
At the Sundance screening I attended, the audience whooped, hollered, and screamed, and two men reportedly fainted during the show. It’s true that Solet takes the audience on a twisted ride down a very dark birth canal, but is it dark and twisted enough? Sundance audiences may scream and faint at the likes of Grace, but the die-hard horror fan will be merely amused by Solet’s bloodthirsty baby shenanigans. Without much of a plot driving the action, the film’s success depends solely on mood and tone, and Grace, although diverting, isn’t quite haunting enough to make a lasting impact.
Dead Snow: Bring on the undead Nazi zombies! This Norwegian flick follows a group of vacationing snow bunnies to the mountains, where their crazy partying awakens a pack of undead Nazis. Blood, blood and more blood. And snow.
Fearnet on Dead Snow:
Although not exactly all that scary, Dead Snow earns big points for enthusiasm, creativity, and a powerful devotion to all things ultra-splattery...Dead Snow is little more than a 90-minute excuse for some wintry wildness and subzero slaughter, but most of the highlights are spot-on amusing, and the finest moments of gore 'n' gristle go down surprisingly well.
Movieblog on Dead Snow:
The filmmakers used over 450 litres of blood to create a horror film that harkens back to the feel of those created in the 1980s: little substance and a lot of slashing. The film is spiced with a number of great moments of homage to other horror films.
The Clone Returns Home: An astronaut dies on a mission, but never fear — he's got a clone, who can be imprinted with his memories. Unfortunately his clone replacement malfunctions, and is stuck on a tragic memory from the dead astronaut's youth. The clone escapes to find answers and solace from his burdened memories, much to the dismay of the ailing widow and the clone company.
Variety on Clone:
Bewitchingly intense low-budgeter has few special effects but achieves a glossy sheen, thanks to excellent lensing and well-chosen architectural backdrops. Attachment of Wim Wenders as exec producer will act as pic's passport to fests. Deliberate pace may deter those not already discouraged by the bland title, but careful handling may reap commercial prospects, especially from Asia buffs.
Additional reporting from Julia Carusillo