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Sundance Wrap: The 5 Best Films Of The Festival, Plus Our Complete Coverage

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 28, 2013 at 2:09PM

First festival of the year? Done and dusted. Every year, the movie industry heads en masse to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford's celebration of independent cinema, which has become increasingly important over the years, in the hope of uncovering the next big thing. Last year's festival brought "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which went on to be one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and a Best Picture nominee at the Academy Awards, and while there wasn't a singular breakout in the same way, the festival was certainly in good form.
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Prince Avalanche Emile Hirsch Paul Rudd
"Prince Avalanche"
It's been a rough few years to be a David Gordon Green fan. We didn't begrudge him his shift into commercial comedy with "Pineapple Express," partly because the film was so much fun, but subsequent excursions, in "Your Highness" and "The Sitter" tested the patience of fans who fell in love with his early pictures like "George Washington" and "All The Real Girls." But the director was back on form in a big way at Sundance this year with the "meditative, funny and sublime" "Prince Avalanche." A remake of the Icelandic film "Either Way," it's essentially a two-hander starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a pair of highway road repairmen -- Alvin (Rudd) and his dim-witted brother-in-law Lance (Hirsch) -- that according to Rodrigo Perez's review, serves as "an affecting meditation on men, relationships, nature and rebirth that might be Green's most vital film to date." The two actors "have chemistry to spare," while the film's also aided by gorgeous cinematography and a "wistful and sonorously beautiful" score, making it a combination of Green's recent comic work and his more lyrical early pictures that feels like "the logical, next-phase direction for the filmmaker." Ultimately, Rodrigo's review concluded by saying that the film is "a deeply enjoyable, wondrous delight that you shoudl give yourself over to when it eventually hits theaters," which will come courtesy of Magnolia.

Escape From Tomorrow
"Escape From Tomorrow"
Playing in the NEXT section with almost no fanfare, "Escape From Tomorrow" quickly became one of the word-of-mouth buzz titles of the festival, in part because people were unsure if the film would ever be screened outside of Park City. The feature debut of writer/director Randy Moore, the film follows a father on vacation with his family at a theme park, who discovers he's been fired from his job, and starts to lose his grip on reality. The twist? The film was shot surreptitiously (in black-and-white, no less) entirely at Walt Disney World in Florida, without the approval of the Mouse House suits. It may yet cause legal headaches down the line, but aside from the conceptual talking point, the film was deemed an impressive debut, not least by our correspondent William Goss in his review. He acknowledges that the film is "bugnuts," but "clearly stems from some of the very real frustrations that families are met with in the face of overwhelming corporate homogeneity." And while it's "a bit on the sloppy side," there's some impressive craft involved, not least from composer Abel Korzeniowksi ("A Single Man,") who contributes " a score of unlikely grandeur",  and from leading man Roy Abramsohn, who "handles the story's unlikely demands with aplomb." The legal issues are looking up, according to some experts, so hopefully "this potential cult classic" will be able to be seen by all before too long, though it currently doesn't have distribution.

Toy's House Alison Brie Nick Offerman
"Toy's House"
 Three years back, the short "Successful Alcoholics" premiered at Sundance, and became something of a Playlist favorite. This year, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, fresh off his Comedy Central series "Mash Up," returned with his first feature, and the results were just as pleasing. Following a trio of kids on the cusp of adolescence, who avoid their strained relationships with their parents by escaping into the woods to build a house, the film blends Amblin Entertainment, Terrence Malick and Michael Bay into "a crockpot of comedy and coming-of-age film without a trace of irony." According to Cory Everett's review, the young, mostly unknown cast (excepting TV favorites like Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Hannibal Burress) "are excellent," especially the "completely unpredictable" Moises Arias, and while the film has an out-there premise, "the feelings are all real... and the film treats them seriously." The director and first-time writer Chris Galletta "are in perfect unison, harmonizing to create what feels like a fresh comic voice," and while there are obvious comparison points, "the film firmly carves out its own identity." "Beautiful and dark and also funny," it has a good chance of becoming a crossover success when CBS Films release it into theaters.


Reviews:

"Upstream Color" [A]
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" [A-]
"Prince Avalanche" [A-]
"It Felt Like Love" [A-]
"Escape From Tomorrow" [B+]
"Toy's House" [B+]
"Breathe In" [B+]
"Narco Cultura" [B+]
"Afternoon Delight" [B+]
"Don Jon's Addiction" [B+/B]
"Before Midnight" [B]
"The Spectacular Now" [B]
"In A World" [B]
"Crystal Fairy" [B]
"The Way Way Back" [B]
"S-VHS" [B]
"The East" [B-]
"C.O.G." [B-]
"Touchy Feely" [B-]
"Kill Your Darlings" [C+]
"Austenland" [C]
"Emanuel & The Truth About Fishes" [C-]
"The Look of Love" [D+]
"The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman" [D+]
"Stoker" [D-]
Preview: "Top Of The Lake"

Interviews:

Drake Doremus ("Breathe In")
David Gordon Green ("Prince Avalanche")
Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Julianne Moore/Tony Danza ("Don Jon's Addiction")
Frederik Bond ("The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman")


The 15 Breakout Artists Of Sundance 2013

   - Oliver Lyttelton & Rodrigo Perez

This article is related to: Features, Sundance Film Festival, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Prince Avalanche, Upstream Color, Escape from Tomorrow, The Kings Of Summer


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