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Review: Comedy rules among Sundance offerings

Web posted on:
Thursday, February 04, 1999 12:35:27 PM EST

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- By now it's been generally agreed that this year's Sundance Film Festival was not typical of past festivals. Fewer edgy films and many more accessible movies were featured this year then ever before. Nostalgia ruled and comedies were rampant.

Paul Clinton reviews the hottest films at Sundance
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Out of the 118 films shown at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, I ended up snagging tickets for 12 features and four documentaries. (CNN only paid for three days in Park City -- so give me a break.)

Approximately 70 Sundance films still don't have theatrical distribution deals at this time. Many never will. However, you can see most of them sooner or later on cable, either on the Sundance Channel or the Independent Film Channel.

Some of the more notable and award-winning films at Sundance 1999 -- such as "The Blair Witch Project," "Three Seasons" and "Forever Fever" -- have distribution deals, but no release dates at this time. CNN Interactive will review them as they are released.

However, the following four movies were among the 18 that weren't in competition and instead, were either world or North American premieres. These films will be in theaters soon.

Go to 'Go'

"Go," starring Jay Mohr, Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Scott Wolfe and Taye Diggs, among others in this large ensemble cast, is an outrageous, unconventional comedy that takes place over a 48-hour period. The plot unfolds with three interconnected stories all beginning at precisely the same moment. No one is quite who they seem to be, and just when you get a handle on a character -- once again -- no one is quite who they seem to be.

This movie may have been financed and distributed by TriStar, but it still deals with typical film-festival topics like drugs, sex, rave parties and a road trip. Writer John August and director Doug Liman, who brought is "Swingers," have a fairly new and fresh take on the subjects. This film will strike best at the 20-something market, but also has a little bit of something for the 30-on up crowd as well.

"Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"

Stylish 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'

When the British film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" made its North American premiere at Sundance, it had already opened to good reviews in England. The film debut of London-raised Guy Richie, 30, who up to now has done only commmercials and music videos, it is being distributed in the United States by Gramercy Pictures. This caper movie moves like lightning. Four men -- Tom, played by Jason Flemyng; Bacon, played by Jason Statham; Soap, played by Dexter Fletcher; and Eddie, played by Nick Moran -- are caught up in a scam that goes from bad to worse to downright deadly.

They owe money to all the wrong people.

Some of the villains are played by actual ex-cons. I'm not sure whether this is creative or lazy casting, but it works here. However, I digress. If the guys don't get some cash soon, they'll begin to lose fingers one at a time. The plot is very complicated and often convoluted, and the British accents are at times hard to understand. But overall, this comedic "Pulp Fiction" wanna-be is stylish and funny.



Watch a clip from "Jawbreaker"

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'Jawbreaker': 'Heathers' meets 'Clueless'

"Jawbreaker," which stars Rose McGowan -- with a camero by her boyfriend Brian Warner, a.k.a. Marilyn Manson -- Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, Carol Kane, Pam Grier, and Judy Greer, is sort of a wanna-be cross between "Heathers" and Clueless" -- an intersection where I don't want to be.

But this movie, distributed and financed by TriStar/Columbia films, wasn't made for men in their 40s. Despite the major studio connection, this film's reported $3 million budget is definitely in the independent range. Overall, this second film by 26-year-old Darren Stein is a fiendish, but fairly predictable story, splashed with bright, viberant colors. It's both a sendup of, and a homage to, the teen-age dark comedy and horror genre.

All three main leading ladies (McGowan, Gayheart and Benz) turn in believable performances as spoiled high school brats. McGowan is especially good at being very bad in this story of a teen-age prank that turns into mayhem and murder. If it's your cup of tea -- go ahead and drink it -- but don't add sugar, it has enough sweet and sour to last a long, long time. My advice -- wait for the video.

Messy, loud '24-Hour Woman'

"24-Hour Woman" is a mess -- a very loud mess. The film is directed by one of the darlings of the Sundance Film Festival Nancy Savoca. But this story of a career woman and new mother who wants to have it all is annoying at best.

From the first frame to the last -- the music, the yelling, the screaming and the crying never stops. Starring Rosie Perez (she's taken diction lessons and finally, I can understand her), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (nominated for an Oscar for "Secrets and Lies") and Patti Lupone, this is one of those movies which should have been good, but isn't.

Perez's character, Grace, is one of the producers of a cheesy New York City morning show starring her husband Eddie, played by Diego Serrano. When she becomes pregnant, her impending motherhood becomes part of the show, and the program's fans (people who really need a hobby) follow her and Eddie through every trimester. As she struggles to succeed at work while preparing for the pitter-patter of little feet, she finally has to hire an assistant at work -- played by Jean-Baptiste.

This is supposed to be a movie about the myth of having it all and the traditional roles played by men and women in terms of career and family. Ultimately, it's neither. Everyone becomes increasingly neurotic until as a viewer, you just want to scream. And I could do without the scene of Perez running around while hooked up to a double breast pump, thank you very much.

The above films, while all low-budget, aren't considered by many to be truly representative of Sundance since they weren't in competition at the festival. But they do have a major plus in terms of reviewing them -- they will actually be in theaters.

Other Sundance films expecting wide release in the upcoming months include "Thick As Thieves," starring Alec Baldwin; "Sugar Town," starring Rosanna Arquette and Ally Sheedy; "Happy, Texas," a comedy starring William H. Macy and Illeana Douglas; and "A Walk On The Moon," starring Diane Lane, Liev Schreiber, Anna Paquin and Viggo Mortensen. "Moon" is produced by Dustin Hoffman and Tony Goldwyn and is Goldwyn's directorial debut.

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