It's here it's here! The most wonderful time of the year for movie lovers is HEEEEEEERE!!! Sorry, excuse me for a few moments while I try to contain my excitement that it is time yet again for the Sundance Film Festival. Over the next two weeks I'll have several reviews of the films I scored tickets to, but in the meantime, check out my list of the ten movies that debut during the Festival that I'm anticipating most. Let's begin!
10. WIND RIVER
Official Sundance Summary:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent Cory Lambert discovers a body in the rugged wilderness of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner, but she’s unprepared for the difficulties created by the oppressive weather and isolation of the Wyoming winter. When she employs Cory as a tracker, the two venture deep into a world ravaged by violence and the elements.
Wind River is a stark look at life on the edge of an imposing wilderness, where the rule of law is eclipsed by the laws of nature.
Acclaimed screenwriter Taylor Sheridan makes his directorial debut with the final film in his trilogy of screenplays on the American frontier. He showed the power of his writing in Sicario and Hell or High Water, both of which reverberated with unforgettable characters and dialogue, while creating a level of texture and detail that felt more like a novel. Sheridan continues that here, with an excellent cast—including many Native American actors—that vibrantly brings to life this thrilling tale of forging morality in extreme nature. For more info and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: A solid cast in a movie by first-time director Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan also wrote the screenplay for some solid flicks already, namely: Sicario and Hell or High Water. I'm hopeful he'll have as much talent as a director as a screenwriter.
9. THE KILLING GROUND
When young couple Sam and Ian escape the confines of urban living for a weekend getaway at a remote campsite, they arrive to find a neighboring tent set up with its inhabitants nowhere in sight. As day turns to night and then to day again, the young couple becomes increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of their unknown fellow campers. When they discover a toddler wandering alone on the campground, things go from bad to worse, thrusting them into a harrowing fight for survival in a place miles from civilization, where no one can hear them scream.
Teeming with dread and unnerving tension, the debut feature of writer/director Damien Power draws heavy inspiration from Michael Haneke's Funny Games and Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, utilizing the film’s sparse locations to considerable effect. As jagged pieces of the puzzle are carefully revealed one by one, Killing Ground evolves into a brutally violent thriller that will force you to think twice the next time you dare venture beyond the city’s bright lights. For more info and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: Look. I love the horror genre, and the last few years Sundance always debuts a breakthrough horror film. Just the description of this one is very unsettling.
Emotionally challenged Amanda and contemptuous Lily reboot their childhood friendship after years of instability and judgment, thrown back together by standardized-test tutoring. When Lily’s icy stepdad, Mark, conspires to ship her off to reform school instead of her dream college, Amanda’s nonchalant quips about killing him suddenly seem enticing. Even as Amanda’s sinister tendencies surface and the girls hatch a plan, the mutual manipulation that has always defined their relationship threatens to derail their ambitions.
First-time director Cory Finley’s impressively stylish and assured filmmaking evokes a high-class world that is simultaneously familiar and strange, dripping with acidic dark wit and a disquietingly eerie score. Finley nurtures and coaxes astounding chemistry out of his talented cast, from the capricious friendship that binds Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, 2015) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, 2015), to the unruly vulnerability of Anton Yelchin as their unlikely co-conspirator. Firmly staking his claim as a filmmaker to watch, Finley comfortably basks in the quiet chaos of his characters and leaves behind a beautiful and orderly trail of destruction. For more info and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: First off, I love the cast...and any chance I can get to see the late Anton Yelchin in his final roles I plan to take. This sounds kinda like the plot of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, just replace time travel with murder. What can go wrong with that?
Official Sundance Summary:
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a hard partying New York scene girl who is thrust into crisis when her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), grows sick of her antics and kicks her out of their apartment. With no other options, she moves back to her hometown and quickly regresses, drinking every night until last call and accepting a job at a bar owned by her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). One day she wakes up and blurrily finds out that Seoul was terrorized by a giant creature the night before. Eventually, Gloria begins to suspect her own drunken actions are bizarrely connected to the monster rampaging in South Korea.
Writer/Director Vigalondo, aided by an outstanding cast, weaves a twisty, funny tale with real depth and emotional resonance. Colossal is proof that the ambitions of indie filmmakers can be epic in scope without losing their humanity. For more info and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: This plot is so off the wall, I just have to see how it's executed!
6. MARJORIE PRIME
Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past.
Built around exceptional performances from a veteran cast and shot with the intimate rhythm of mortality, Marjorie Prime shines a light on an often-obscured corner in the world of artificial intelligence and its interactions with death. Bringing us robustly into the future, Michael Almereyda’s poetic film forces us to face the question—If we had the opportunity, how would we choose to rebuild the past, and what would we decide to forget? For more info and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: Once again, this festival brings some really fascinating stories, and this one really intrigues me. Different perceptions of the same memory is a really interesting idea that I am excited to see what they do with. Plus John Hamm never hurt anything either.
Tour-de-force: a term so overused that we need an undeniable acting performance to renew its meaning for cinema. Cate Blanchett has just given us one, going all-out in Manifesto. Already respected as one of the best actresses in film, Blanchett raises the bar even higher by playing 13 different roles in Manifesto, embodying some of the most influential and emotional artist manifestos in history.
The architect of this unique film idea is director Julian Rosefeldt, a veteran of intricate films and installations. In Manifesto, he uses the words from various twentieth century manifestos of artists, architects, and filmmakers for dialogue. With a gorgeous production and luscious cinematography that would make Baz Luhrmann proud, Rosefeldt puts Blanchett in the everyday world—as a housewife, a factory worker, or a TV anchor—declaring the words that have inspired whole art movements. Manifesto is entertaining while also asking us to question if these passionate statements still hold true and inspire us today. For more information and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: The preview of this movie was insane, but let's be honest...the reason to see this movie is for Cate Blanchett's performances.
4. THE DISCOVERY
What would you do if there was proof of an afterlife? The answer to this question is rivetingly explored in The Discovery, where world-renowned physicist Doctor Thomas Harber (Robert Redford) is able to scientifically prove the existence of an afterlife—but with dire consequences. His estranged son, Will (Jason Segel), tries to confront the situation by returning to the New England–esque island where he grew up. He crosses paths with Isla (Rooney Mara), who's returning to the island for mysterious reasons of her own. The tale unfolds over the ensuing days as the regret of past choices forces these lost characters to reflect on how they've gotten to where they are.
Director/co-writer Charlie McDowell (2014’s The One I Love) returns to the Festival with another metaphysical thriller that uses a fascinating premise as a launching point to explore complex issues in a deftly absorbing fashion. Enlisting a world-class cast who use their unique qualities to infuse humor and humanity, The Discovery plays to both the head and the heart. For more information and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: Firstly, I loooooved The One I Love. It was so bizarrely fascinating and this premise sounds really interesting to me. Plus it's got a solid cast.
3. INGRID GOES WEST
Ingrid is an unstable young woman with a checkered past of obsessive behavior. She secretly moves to Los Angeles to get close to Taylor Sloane—an Instagram “lifestyle guru” with a fabulous artist boyfriend, a camera-ready terrier, and an array of new products and brands to promote to her followers. After Ingrid adopts a Taylor-made identity for herself, her machinations to prove she’s BFF material for her Insta idol are underway—that is, until she meets Taylor’s obnoxious brother Nicky, who threatens to tear down her façade.
Aubrey Plaza is fearless in her performance as Ingrid, whose elaborate fabrications and unsettling behavior lead to an avalanche of harrowing and squirm-worthy situations. In the modern world of self-appointed social media “influencers,” where emojis are preferred over real emotion, writer/director Matt Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith brilliantly satirize the ideal lives we create online, yet at the same time acknowledging the effects of a technologically dominated society where the human needs for truth and connection are still essential to our being.
Famed scientific pioneer Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan) is mysteriously found dead shortly after the unveiling of his latest and most groundbreaking achievement—a device that can extract, record, and play a person’s unfiltered memories. After his death, Gordon’s reclusive wife, Carolyn (Julia Ormond), recedes into her own private world until a mysterious man (Peter Dinklage) knocks at her door, claiming to be a past acquaintance. With questionable motives, he steals the machine in an attempt to unravel his own personal demons, launching an exploration into a troublesome past filled with guilt, grief, and betrayal.
Through the glass of the mind’s eye, director/co-writer Mark Palansky steadily introduces pieces of an intricate puzzle that don’t always fit, leading us down a winding path where our human consciousness often defines reality. Rememory is a striking and uniquely stylized portrait of loss and recovery, reminding us that we are nothing more than the memories we keep. For more information and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: I know I'm sounding redundant here, but once again this story just fascinates me. Such a cool premise! Plus I really loved the movie Penelope and hope this film is just as magical.
1. A GHOST STORY
Lauded filmmaker David Lowery, last at the Festival with the lyrical Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), reunites with his collaborators for a haunted tale like no other—one conceived in secret and fueled by the spirit of pure, creative expression.
Lowery's meticulously sparse narrative contemplates a spectral figure who was once a man (Casey Affleck). Prematurely taken from this Earth, he makes his way toward his former home, where he is fated to remain forevermore. Shrouded in a white sheet, he observes the lament of his grief-stricken lover (Rooney Mara). Bearing unseen witness to her pain, the wisp stands sentry for years to come, interacting only with time as it hurtles further and further forward, the remnants of his humanity quietly evaporating.
Making full use of his singular abilities as a visual storyteller and finely tuned craftsman, Lowery boldly returns with an enriching experiment in micro-cinema that gorgeously defies categorization. For more information and showtimes click HERE.REASONS EMILY WANTS TO SEE IT: Casey Affleck is already riding the wave of success with last year's Sundance Selection Manchester By The Sea, and so I'm really looking forward to seeing this project with him and Rooney Mara. Plus, this basically sounds like a dramatic version of a Lifetime Movie Network movie and that can only be a good thing right? Haha!
Other films catching my eye: Band-Aid, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, Newness, The Polka King, Wilson, Sidney Hall, XX and Brigsby Bear.
So stay tuned! The fun has just begun! Plus, I will be posting my Top Ten of 2016 list very soon (either tomorrow or Monday,) so keep an eye out for that as well.