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Sundance Preview 2016

Sundance is here! Sundance is here!!! The only reason to endure Utah in the winter has finally begun, and as I'm sure you've noticed, I couldn't be happier. This year, as with any other, I've got my eyes set on several movies and I'm pretty excited about each one of them. Looking back on my anticipated lists of years past, I don't ALWAYS make good choices (like say the years True Story and Cooties were my #1 which both ended up getting really mixed reviews, and The D Train which got really negative reviews all around,) BUT I seem to get at least 50% or so half of these movies that I'm excited for MIGHT just be very good! A few of these films I have confirmed tickets for, while others I'm going to try my luck at standby. Either way, you'll be hearing soon enough whether or not I was right on my predictions. The reviews will be pouring in from me over the next two weeks so make sure to keep an eye out, but first let's look at the movies I'm most interested in seeing. 10. WIENER-DOG

Sundance Summary: Wiener-Dog tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading a certain kind of comfort and joy. Man’s best friend starts out teaching a young boy some contorted life lessons before being taken in by a compassionate vet tech named Dawn Wiener. Dawn reunites with someone from her past and sets off on a road trip picking up some depressed mariachis along the way. Wiener-Dog then encounters a floundering film professor, as well as an embittered elderly woman and her needy granddaughter—all longing for something more. Twenty years ago, Todd Solondz took the Sundance Film Festival by storm when Welcome to the Dollhouse won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1996 Festival. Since then he has gone on to establish himself as one of the most uncompromising voices working in film. Wiener-Dog is vintage Solondz, brimming with brilliantly caustic and truthful observations about the human condition. He has a unique ability to find humor in the darkest of subject matter, allowing an empathetic light to shine on it." What caught my interest: There's something silly about seeking out a movie at the Sundance Film Festival that's about a wiener dog of all things right? I embrace this silliness. 9.TALLULAH

Sundance Summary: "Young vagabond Lu lives in a van and is fiercely independent in her hand-to-mouth existence. This daily struggle has become tiresome for her privileged boyfriend, Nico, who unceremoniously leaves her one night. When a chance encounter incites her to impulsively “rescue” a baby from a negligent mother, Lu, at a loss for what to do, turns to the only responsible adult she knows: Nico’s unsmiling academic mother, Margo, who believes she’s the child’s grandmother. Thrown together despite differences in class and worldview, Margo and Lu make a lovable, if tense, odd couple. The two are bound to each other as they tentatively form a haphazard family, though Margo has no idea that the police are hot on Lu’s trail for absconding with a child. In the winsome lead performances, Ellen Page plays the scrappy, free-spirited Lu while Allison Janney’s Margo is equal parts measured and bemused as their characters wrestle, and often clash, over responsibility, motherhood, and their uncertain futures. Writer/director Sian Heder combines warmth, madcap humor, and a deep understanding of human nature in this delightful dramatic comedy about the serendipitous unpredictability of life." What caught my attention: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and a baby plot? This sounds familiar. Well, I was awfully fond of Juno... 8. THE REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING

Sundance Summary: Having suffered a tragedy, Ben becomes a caregiver to earn money. His first client, Trevor, is a hilarious 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. One paralyzed emotionally, one paralyzed physically, Ben and Trevor hit the road on a trip into the western states. The folks they collect along the way will help them test their skills for surviving outside their calculated existence. Together, they come to understand the importance of hope and the necessity of true friendship. Director/screenwriter Rob Burnett is a clever navigator, steering us around clichés and avoiding nostalgic potholes in this re-imagined road movie. The chemistry of Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts is a delight to witness, and the ensemble cast is funny and insightful as they guide our pair to grow in unexpected ways. As in life, every wrong turn is a surprise and every misadventure a new possibility. In The Fundamentals of Caring, an unlikely gaggle of misfit travelers turns a personal journey into a joyride of a film. What caught my attention: I LOVE road trip movies. Haha just kidding, but I think the concept behind this one sounds intriguing and Paul Rudd is pretty amiable. PS, I'm not entirely sure what the heck the real title is to this movie. Sundance has it as Fundamentals of Caring, and IMDb has the title I list...but whatever this movie is called, it has my attention! 7. SING STREET

Sundance Summary: "With 1980s Dublin mired in recession, Conor’s parents move him from a comfortable private school to a rough inner-city public school where the scrappy 14-year-old forms a band. Mentored by his older brother, a dropout who’s hip to cool tunes, Conor starts to compose lyrics and the glam-ish band finds its “no covers” groove. Renaming himself Cosmo, he convinces the mysterious, über-cool Raphina to star in their music videos (and tries to win her heart in the process). John Carney, whose musical passion and DIY vibe refreshed a genre withOnce and Begin Again, spins a loosely autobiographical story in which music again offers a refuge–from school and family strife. He spent over a year collaborating on original music (a throwback to ‘80s vibrancy) that’s catchy but plausible for a youth band, and his talented cast plays it like they mean it. Carney’s nostalgia isn’t only for a bygone Dublin and its soundtrack, but for that moment when you pour your heart into something, and it can mean everything to you. When songs can save your life." What caught my attention: I really loved Begin Again! I've never seen Once, but I've heard only wonderful things about I'm sure another movie about John Carney's passion with songwriting will be awesome. Plus as evidenced by God Help the Girl, I really dig teen/young adult indie musicals. 6. CHRISTINE

Sundance Summary: Christine (Rebecca Hall) is an ambitious 29-year-old news reporter in Sarasota, Florida, circa 1974. Relentlessly motivated to succeed, she knows she has talent, but being a driven career woman in the 1970s comes with its own challenges, especially when competition for a promotion, unrequited love for a coworker, and a tumultuous home life lead to a dissolution of self. With ratings in the cellar, WZRB’s station manager issues a mandate to deliver juicier and more exploitative stories, a style firmly at odds with Christine’s serious brand of issue-based journalism. To accomplish her goals, she must overcome her self-doubt and give the people what they want. As made evident in his previous features, Afterschool and Simon Killer, director Antonio Campos is well-versed in translating the damaged psyche to film. This latest effort elevates his style to the next level; bathed in dread and peppered with sharp humor, Christine is a hypnotic and arresting portrayal of a woman at a crossroads." What caught my attention: Rebecca Hall is a severely underrated actress and this just screams the type of role that she could hit out of the park. 5. THE HOLLARS

Sundance Summary: "John Krasinski’s big-hearted family comedy takes a touching look at the ties that bind. Krasinski plays John Hollar, a frustrated graphic novelist anxiously awaiting the birth of his baby with girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick). When his mother, Sally (Margo Martindale), is diagnosed with a brain tumor, John flies back home, where denial runs deep in the family tree. While his loving but fractured family pulls together to prepare Sally for surgery, John takes a second look at the life he left behind. Krasinski, last seen at the Sundance Film Festival with his directorial debutBrief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009), takes a gentle approach to the dysfunctional Hollar clan, leavening the heart-tugging drama with inspired character-driven comedy. The large ensemble cast (including Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Josh Groban, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Mary Kay Place) gives the relationships a lived-in feeling, while Krasinski offers a warm, funny, warts-and-all look at the importance of family." What caught my attention: John Krasinski!!!! I love this guy. I'm interested to see if he has talent as a director (I never got around to seeing his first feature.) Plus it sounds like he's gotten together a good ensemble cast. I'm very fond of Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. 4. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

Sundance Summary: "Set in the opulent drawing rooms of eighteenth-century English society, Love & Friendship focuses on the machinations of a beautiful widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who, while waiting for social chatter about a personal indiscretion to pass, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica—and herself too, naturally. She enlists the assistance of her old friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), but two particularly handsome suitors (Xavier Samuel and Tom Bennett) complicate her orchestrations. Adapting Jane Austen’s unpublished early novella Lady Susan, Whit Stillman returns to the Sundance Film Festival (where his Metropolitan premiered in 1990) in top form with his latest comedy of manners. Kate Beckinsale excels in her role as the deliciously devious Lady Vernon and delivers each line with relish. With exquisite period detail and a script teeming with bon mots and witty dialogue, Love & Friendship is a rare—and rarified—treat." What caught my attention: I'm a huge sucker for anything Jane Austen. I'm just sad this isn't based on her truly hilarious parody that's actually titled Love & Friendship. 3. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Sundance Summary: "Lee Chandler is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city. His brother’s heart has given out suddenly, and he’s been named guardian to his 16-year-old nephew. As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren’t enough, his return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy. Casey Affleck’s astonishing performance captures all the substance and crumbling complexity of Lee—a guy frozen in anguish and barely holding it together—who must now step beyond self-imposed isolation to connect with his nephew. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me, 2000 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner) masterfully depicts human brokenness and the possibility of transformation through subtle, small moments between characters. There are no quick fixes in the working-class New England town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, just the imperfect struggle to meet loss with integrity and decency, day by day." What caught my attention: Yes this kinda sounds like a more dramatic version of Raising Helen, but it has a really good cast. Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler are pretty much always terrific so if nothing else, it should have solid acting. 2. CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Sundance Summary: Ben (Viggo Mortensen) lives with his wife and six young children, isolated from society deep in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. A devoted father, Ben dedicates his life to transforming his kids into extraordinary adults. He immerses them in an academically and physically rigorous environment and instills in them a rare and primal connection to the natural world. When a tragedy strikes, the family is forced to leave their self-created paradise. Suddenly the children must face the excitement and the perils of an unfamiliar outside world while Ben is compelled to reexamine his idea of what it means to be a parent. Viggo Mortensen shines as the captain of this tribe in a fearless performance that is alternately playful and emotionally raw. Writer/director Matt Ross (28 Hotel Rooms), an accomplished actor himself, brings those skills to the table as evidenced by the fine ensemble work of his young cast. With Captain Fantastic, Ross returns to the Sundance Film Festival with a fascinating second feature." What caught my interest: I think the concept sounds really interesting. This has all the ingredients of being deeply touching and poignant, yet with moments of lighthearted sweetness. 1. SWISS ARMY MAN

Sundance Summary: "Alone on a tiny deserted island, Hank has given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a dead body washes ashore, and he soon realizes it may be his last opportunity to escape certain death. Armed with his new “friend” and an unusual bag of tricks, the duo go on an epic adventure to bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams. Music video gurus “The Daniels,” a.k.a. Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, craft a wholly original debut feature bursting with limitless creativity both in content and form. Their consistently surprising script spans a wide range of emotions: from the ridiculously absurd to a touching exploration of what it means to be human. Given what are likely to be some of the most unique roles of their acting careers, co-leads Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe give their all to a movie that celebrates the wonder that cinema offers." What caught my attention: At this point, you can pretty much sell me on the name Paul Dano alone. This guy consistently turns in some of the best character acting performances right now. But couple that with the bizarre premise and getting the chance to see Daniel Radcliffe play a corpse?? Sign me up! Plus, I tend to really love when music video directors turn into movie directors. They have an eye for the visual and the whimsical, so I'm excited to see what these directors bring to this story.


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