Sneakin a Sundance Peek

One week from now the Christmas for movie lovers begins. Just as every January rolls around, so with it comes the Sundance Film Festival. And as usual there are oodles of movies that have piqued my interest. I'll be attending four this year (with the final one to be the best of fest, and thus a wild card..) which is the most I've ever done! Watch out for next year though... I may just go all out. For now though, here's the top ten films I'm most excited about this Festival go 'round.

10. Z FOR ZACHARIAH. Sundance Summary: In a post-apocalyptic world, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature.

What caught my interest: The premise and the cast! Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, About Time,) Chris Pine (Star Trek, Jack Ryan) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) are all solid performers and I'm incredibly intrigued to see how they'd all play together in this post-apocalyptic love triangle film.

9. THE BRONZE.  Sundance Summary: In 2004, Hope Ann Greggory became an American hero after winning the bronze medal for the women’s gymnastics team. Today, she’s still living in her small hometown, washed-up and embittered. Stuck in the past, Hope must reassess her life when a promising young gymnast threatens her local celebrity status.

...they create a lovably loathsome character who makes Tonya Harding look like Grace Kelly. Featuring a star-making performance by Rauch, unforgettable scenes, and many quotable lines, The Bronze is comedy gold.

What caught my interest: Who doesn't like bratty entitled former Olympians? Here there's only one cast member I recognize is the talented Gary Cole who is wonderful in pretty much everything he's in. But really.. that synopsis of that film pretty much sells me.

8. THE WITCH. Sundance Summary: A colonial family leaves plantation life and attempts to reap their harvest on a fledgling farm at the edge of an imposing ancient New England forest. Soon, superstition and dread set in as food grows scarce, a family member goes missing, and the children's play takes on a frenzied and menacing undercurrent. As they begin to turn on one another, the malevolent machinations of an ethereal presence from within the woods exacerbate the growing corruption of their own natures.

What caught my interest: I'm of the opinion that there need to be far more stories about the Salem witch trials and the scandals around the 1600's so I was thrilled to learn of this movie's existence. I'm not familiar with any of the cast or crew... but I hope it's great.

7. BROOKLYN. Sundance Summary: Set on opposite sides of the Atlantic, John Crowley’s Brooklyn tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Based on Colm Toibin’s acclaimed novel, director Crowley and writer Nick Hornby craft a deeply effective, sweeping romance. The sumptuous filmmaking vividly depicts a rapidly progressing world. Surrounded by a stellar cast of supporting characters, Saoirse Ronan gives a captivating performance as the luminous Eilis. The heart of this highly accomplished work evokes a timeless portrait of leaving home and the excruciating decisions one must make.

What caught my interest: The involvement of writer Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch, About A Boy, An Education, Wild) definitely put this film on my radar. But the fact that it pairs Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson made me pretty darn excited too. As I'm writing this I'm thinking I might have to find a way to see this movie even though I didn't order tickets for it!

6. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. Sundance Summary: Greg Gaines is an awkward, self-deprecating high school student determined to coast through his senior year as anonymously as possible. Avoiding social interactions like the plague, Greg spends most of his time remaking wacky versions of classic movies with his only friend, Earl. Greg’s well-meaning mother intervenes, forcing him to befriend Rachel, a classmate who's been diagnosed with leukemia. Against his better judgment, Greg concedes. Both Greg and Rachel are surprised—even shocked—to find out that they actually like each other. Tentative at first, this unlikely duo becomes inseparable. But when Rachel gets sicker, Greg’s well-fortified world is changed forever. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will tickle your funny bone and tug at your heart.

What caught my interest: This plot. Also the fact that Nick Offerman is in this and the last Sundance movie I saw with him in it was The Kings of Summer, which I LOVED. But really I always love movies about filmmaking so that angle intrigues me. Hopefully, the other stuff isn't too schmaltzy. But this sounds like it could be another Son of Rambow, which is a very good thing.

5. THE D TRAIN.  Sundance Summary: Dan Landsman is the overly enthusiastic head of his high school reunion committee and also the group's laughingstock. To impress his so-called friends, he vows to convince their most famous former classmate—Oliver Lawless, the star of a national Banana Boat TV commercial—to attend the reunion to increase attendance. Dan travels to Los Angeles and spins a web of lies, igniting an intoxicating excitement for the first time in his humdrum life. In exchange for Oliver's precarious friendship, Dan sacrifices his relationships with his wife, son, and boss, and loses himself in his obsession for approval and recognition.

In their bold directorial debut, Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul tell the story of a man desperate to fit in at nearly any cost. Jack Black's Dan Landsman is both lovable and pathetic in his quest to prove his self-worth to others. As played by James Marsden,Oliver's charm and good looks are alluring, yet his vanity and apathy are dangerously manipulative. These surprisingly relatable characters remind us that our desire for social acceptance goes way beyond adolescence and can plague us well into adulthood.

What caught my interest: Okay really all that needed to be said were the names Jack Black and James Marsden.

4. DIGGING FOR FIRE. Sundance Summary: Young married couple Tim and Lee have planted the seeds of a family in their East L.A. duplex. Three years after the birth of their son, they’re still adjusting to the joy and pain of life with kid, navigating potty talk at the dinner table, disagreeing over preschools, and putting off doing their taxes. For a change of pace, they decide to house-sit for one of Lee’s Westside yoga clients. Once there, Tim discovers something suspicious in the yard that gets the wheels in his head turning, and Lee, worried that he will become obsessed with digging deeper, decides to drop their toddler off with her mother for a much-needed night out on the town. Sans-wife, Tim invites his buddies over, and a “boys-will-be-boys” scenario ensues, full of drinking, awkward joint-passing, and perhaps getting a bit too close to a girl who isn’t the mother of his child. 

Under Swanberg’s direction, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jake Johnson deliver dead-on portrayals of parents on the verge of a nervous breakdown that will ring true to anyone who has ever juggled parenthood with keeping a marriage exciting.

What caught my interest: I'm really not sure what it is about this movie that has me so intrigued. I guess thinking of Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Orlando Bloom all being somehow in the same movie?

3. DON VERDEAN. Sundance Summary: Don Verdean is a man of faith who has devoted his life to biblical archaeology, scouring the globe in search of artifacts that back up the teachings of Jesus Christ. Now, traveling from town to town, he and his devoted assistant, Carol, spread the gospel by peddling books and DVDs out of his shabby RV, while his Holy Land contacts, Boaz and Shem, do the digging from afar. When evangelical preacher Tony Lazarus offers to bankroll Don’s modest roadside operation, the escalating pressure to find increasingly significant relics leads Don and his team down a less-than-righteous path. With more than just the word of God on the line, Don finds himself in the midst of a spiteful feud between two opposing congregations, leaving him to question what is truly important in life.

With a fantastic ensemble cast in tow, director Jared Hess returns to the Sundance Film Festival with this hilarious and biting satire that explores the thin line between faith and fabrication.

What caught my interest: Jared Hess can be pretty hit or miss. His first two films were cult classics, but his most recent was AWFUL. It's been 5 years since that and in between his wife directed Austenland... so here's hoping it's more on that end of the spectrum. Also I love Sam Rockwell. So there's that. (That said... Sam Rockwell was in Gentlemen Broncos too.. ehhh.) Really hope this film is not terrible.

2. MISTRESS AMERICA. Sundance Summary: Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke—a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town—she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke's alluringly mad schemes. Mistress America is Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's new comedy about dream-chasing, score-settling, and cat stealing.

What caught my attention: movie about cat stealing? COUNT ME IN. Also I really enjoyed Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach's last collaboration was the amusing Frances Ha. Greta Gerwig seems to specialize in playing awkward women and thus I feel I sort of relate with her.

1. TRUE STORY. Sundance Summary: On-the-rise New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel receives troubling news from his editors that he is accused of falsifying part of an investigative piece on child laborers in Africa. Jobless and disgraced, Michael retreats from the city and falls into a depression. One day, he hears startling news that a fugitive accused of murdering his family was captured in Mexico claiming the identity of "Michael Finkel of The New York Times." Intrigued by the story, he travels to interview the accused, identified as Christian Longo, to help save his name.

Rupert Goold’s shrewd first feature pits Jonah Hill against James Franco in a psychological cat-and-mouse game obscured by many "truths." As the two calculating men share their stories in private, their similarities become clear while their motivations are less so. David Kajganich scripts Finkel’s memoir into a subtle portrait of an unlikely friendship.

What interested me:
 Wow what a plot! And even crazier it's a true story. This sounds absolutely fascinating. As much as I enjoy Franco and Hill in comedic roles, I do enjoy their serious work as well and this sounds like it could be a great film for both of them.

To find out more about these films and others that are screening at the Sundance Film Festival click HERE.


Sarah said...

That's Jemaine Clement in Don Verjean!

It sounds like there are some interesting movies coming to Sundance this year. Enjoy! I can't wait for your reviews.

Barbara Newson said...

Great collection!

Johanna said...

Sounds good. I'm in. We have to find out how to view what doesn't get picked up.