Christmas is fast approaching, and The Playlist team are getting ready to head to their respective homes, where we're likely to spend the holidays convincing our elderly relatives that they should be excited for Nicholas Winding Refn's "Drive," and making snarky comments while our niece tries to watch "Madagascar 2." But it also means that Sundance is fast approaching, with the festival that tends to set the agenda for the rest of the year, at least in the indie world, kicking off on January 20th.
The promising line-up appeared a few weeks back, and piece by piece, sneak peeks at some of the films that'll be premiering in Park City have been trickling out -- it was only last night that we had the first look at Tom McCarthy's "Win Win," for instance, and Kevin Smith's "Red State" debuted its first images a couple of weeks back.
Today, there are five first looks at big Sundance films, as well as their official festival synopses. Perhaps the most anticipated is the Miguel Arteta comedy "Cedar Rapids," with Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche, but there's also the coming-of-age comedy "Homework," with Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts, Paddy Considine's directorial debut "Tyrannosaur," starring the great Peter Mullan, and two promising documentaries - "Troubadours," which follows LA singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King in the 1970s, and "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," a Morgan Spurlock film which in theory will delve into marketing and product placement, but in reality will likely focus mostly on the ego of Morgan Spurlock. Check them all out after the jump.
Miguel Arteta returns to Sundance with a comedy about a group of insurance salesmen who use the opportunity to attend an annual convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a way to escape their doleful existence . . . like Vegas but with corn.
Tim Lippe has been living in a small town his whole life and gets a rude awakening when he arrives in the "giant" metropolis of Cedar Rapids. However, his boyish charm and innocence eventually win over his fellow conventioneers, but he becomes disheartened when he uncovers corporate corruption. When it seems his life—and chances to succeed—are completely topsy-turvy, he finds his own unjaded way to turn things around.
Cedar Rapids deftly straddles that line between laughing at and with its subjects thanks to Arteta’s skilled direction and Ed Helms’s hilarious, yet thoughtful, performance. John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. play off Helms perfectly to fashion characters that are eccentric, yet honest. Filled with quotable dialogue and unforgettable scenes, Cedar Rapids achieves the impossible: it makes insurance fun.
"The Greatest Movie Ever Sold"
Acclaimed filmmaker and master provocateur Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) returns to Sundance with tongue-in-cheek perfection as he examines the world of product placement, marketing, and advertising by making a film financed entirely by product placement, marketing, and advertising.
We live in an age where it’s tough even to walk down the street without someone trying to sell you something. It’s at the point where practically the entire American experience is brought to us by some corporation. Utilizing cutting-edge tools of comic exploration and total self-exploitation, Spurlock dissects the world of advertising and marketing by using his personal integrity as currency to sell out to the highest bidder. Scathingly funny, subversive, and deceptively smart, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold shines the definitive light on our branded future as Spurlock attempts to create the "Iron Man of documentaries," the first ever "docbuster"! He may very well have succeeded.
George (Freddie Highmore), a smart teenage loner, has made it to his senior year despite the fact that he has never completed an assignment. Enter Sally (Emma Roberts), the school beauty, who hides her melancholy behind the protective mask of popularity. An unlikely connection blooms as these kindred spirits bond over their troubled parental relationships. With his education hanging by a thread, George concedes to let Dustin mentor him. Dustin is a successful artist, and he’s 25 years old—finally, someone George can respect! With Sally and Dustin by his side, George blossoms and dares to look toward the future. But George soon learns that life and love have a way of dashing dreams as rites of passage and mounds of homework threaten to do him in on the eve of his graduation.
Buoyed by a gifted cast, Gavin Wiesen’s accomplished first feature is a winningly perceptive drama that breathes fresh life into the beloved coming-of-age genre.
Framed by the illustrious careers of James Taylor and Carole King, Troubadours delves into the quietly explosive singer-songwriter movement in Los Angeles during the early 1970s. From their home at impresario Doug Weston’s Troubadour club in West Hollywood, artists like Taylor, King, David Crosby, Jackson Brown, Joni Mitchell, and Kris Kristofferson (the list goes on) wrote and performed songs with intimately personal lyrics, marking a transition from the politically focused songs of the ’60s. While some rock critics denigrated the music, the spirit among the musicians was one of collaboration and inspiration, and these singer songwriters flourished.
Morgan Neville creates a riveting chronicle of the time, weaving together archival footage, rare performances, and interviews from a veritable who’s who, including Elton John, Steve Martin, and Bonnie Raitt. Troubadours takes us deep into the scene (and its inevitable demise) and celebrates the pure, timeless music and the undeniable legacy of these groundbreaking singer songwriters.
Renowned actor Paddy Considine’s first feature behind the camera is a tour de force propelled by the sheer intensity of its performances and storytelling.
Joseph (Peter Mullan), a tormented, self-destructive man plagued by violence, finds hope of redemption in Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity-shop worker he meets one day while fleeing an altercation. Initially derisive of her faith and presumed idyllic existence, Joseph nonetheless returns to the shop and soon realizes that Hannah’s life is anything but placid. As a relationship develops, they come to understand the deep pain in each other’s lives.
An unconventional love story, Tyrannosaur transcends its bleak circumstances through Joseph and Hannah’s vigorous impulse toward redemption. Shouldering the weight of burdened lives with great humanity and a deep understanding of our capacity to heal, Mullan and Colman deliver two of the most outstanding performances of the year. Considine’s portrait of these two lost souls, bloody but unbowed, is a devastating and profoundly beautiful experience.