BOXOFFICE weighs in on two radically different, yet equally praised, films that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

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on January 23, 2009 by BOXOFFICE Staff

UPDATED : Make sure to check out what Ray Greene and Cathleen Rountree had to say about the two most buzzed-about films at Sundance, Black Dynamite and An Education .

From 1/21/09: B OXOFFICE's Ray Greene has delivered high praise to Spike Lee's Sundance entry, Passing Strange :

Nothing at Sundance 2009 will be better than Spike Lee’s amazingly cinematic transcription of Passing Strange, the sensational Broadway musical by journeyman rock and cabaret artist Stew (leader of LA band The Negro Problem) about his own life and struggle for identity. Tender, sexy , funny, moving and profound, Passing Strange bears comparison not just to the great works of the American musical theatre but to literary landmarks like James Baldwin’s Another Country and (especially) Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Read the entire review here .

Meanwhile, The Informers, an adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, is shaping up to be the worst film of the festival. According to Mr. Greene:

A slow, self-important exercise in aimless and dispirited debauchery reminiscent of Mark Kanievska’s failed movie version of Less Than Zero, The Informers squanders a solid cast (including Kim Basinger, Billy Bob Thornton, Rhys Ifans, Mickey Rourke and a criminally underutilized Winona Ryder) aiming at something akin to the moral grandeur of Hal Ashby’s masterpiece of LA ennui Shampoo. But The Informers gets a lot closer to the soul of ‘80s cultural driftwood like General Hospital, Knots Landing, Dynasty and other soap operas of the period built on slow boiling melodrama, hectic and disconnected plotting and a kind of middlebrow suburban disdain for anyone having better sex than the audience is.

Read the entire review here .

More reviews:

500 Days of Summer (Starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Paper Heart (Starring Michael Cera)

Big Fan (starring Patton Oswalt and Michael Rappaport; written/directed by The Wrestler 's Robert Siegel)

The September Issue (doc about Vogue magazine)

When You're Strange (doc about The Doors)

Also: Reporter (doc about Nicholas Krystof, produced by Ben Affleck)

Make sure to check back frequently for more reviews...

Past updates:

According to B OXOFFICE's Ray Greene, Spring Breakdown is one of the first duds of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival:

The annual Sundance “What the f---” moment has arrived in the form of Spring Breakdown, a very bad genre exercise starring some very good comedic actresses who really should change agencies soon. Amy Poehler, Parker Posey and co-scriptor Rachel Dratch are Gayle, Judy and Becky, three aging geeks who can’t get over their college era rejections. Then Becky gets an unexpected order from her dragon lady boss, a female senator (Jane Lynch, keeping her dignity while others sink doomed around her) who is up for the vice presidency: keep an eye open the senator’s daughter (Amber Tamblyn, still looking twelve) and make sure she doesn’t embarrass mom with public lewdness. So Gayle, Judy and Becky hit the road for the mythical party town of “San Padre” to relive their past, learn life lessons and have a “spring breakdown!”

For about eight minutes you feel like co-writer/director Ryan Shiraki might be onto something: a send-up of the chick flick “empowerment” sub-genre, leavened with a richly warranted swipe or two at the teen sex farce. But Shiraki doesn’t seem to understand the difference between satire and lazy genre comedy, and so the tone of his movie veers wildly

Click here for the full review.

Other notable reviews:

Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey lend some star power to Moon, the debut film of Duncan Jones that had its premiere at Sundance.

According to B OXOFFICE critic Ray Greene:

If there’s still an audience for old-school, ideas-driven allegorical science fiction, it will undoubtedly find much to cheer for and perhaps a bit to laugh at in first-time director Duncan Jones’ ambitious if slightly uneven debut Moon. Anchored by a dexterous performance from indie stalwart Sam Rockwell and shot in a lean, expressive and slightly surreal visual tone that recalls Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Moon harkens back to pre- Star Wars American science fiction films of the early to mid-70s—pictures like Westworld, Silent Running and Soylent Green that tried to extend the staggering creative and box office achievement of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey into other topics and treatments.

Click here to read the entire review.

Meanwhile, B OXOFFICE's Cathleen Rountree caught the opening night screening of Mary and Max, a stop-motion flick that features the voices of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette and Eric Bana.

According to Ms. Rountree:

This year’s selection, the clay animation feature Mary and Max surpasses the brilliant British Wallace and Gromit series and lacks the relentlessly bizarre clay animation of both the surreal Czech-born master Jan Švankmajer and his American progeny, the Brothers Quay. But even if you’re not a fan of the stop motion animation technique, head for the nearest theatre featuring the latest offering from Adam Elliot, the Academy Award-winning Australian writer/director, whose Harvie Krumpet won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. You won’t be sorry, but you will be stirred to the quick by a wide-range of emotions. Expect Mary and Max to collect critical kudos and secure a commercial coup.

To read the rest of B OXOFFICE's review of Mary and Max click here . Also, make sure to check back often as more reviews come in!

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