By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 15, 2013 at 2:08PM
We're barely into 2013, and already the film festival circuit is kicking off again. It's only a matter of weeks since The Playlist hung up our collective traveling pants from our last festival trip of 2012 (Marrakech), but even ahead of Berlin next month, we're packing our bags again for one of the major dates in the cinephile calendar -- the Sundance Film Festival.
For over thirty years, the festival has served as a major showcase for independent cinema both from the U.S. and abroad, helping to discover the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Thomas Anderson and David O. Russell, among many others. And the 2012 edition brought with films that were talked about for the rest of the year including "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Middle Of Nowhere," "The Sessions," "Searching For Sugar Man," "Smashed," "Room 237" and many others.
Now, we're only a day or two away from catching our flight to Robert Redford's Utah hideaway, and to serve as a precursor to our coverage, we've gathered up 25 films -- some reassembled from our Most Anticipated coverage, some of which are new picks -- that number among the most promising in the line-up. Check them out below, and let us know what you're most looking forward to in the comments section.
Synopsis: Having spent most of his life torn between his bitterly divorced parents, a man must try to bring them back to good terms before his brother's wedding, while discovering that his childhood psychiatrist wrote a book about him.
What You Need To Know: While our long-professed desire to see Adam Scott in a leading role led to less-than-happy results with "Friends With Kids," there's still no doubt as to the talents of the "Step Brothers "and "Parks & Recreation" actor, and this new comedy seems like it could be a far more promising proposition. Scott is joined by a top-notch bunch of comic talent, including Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, Clark Duke, Adam Pally, Ken Howard and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (with Jessica Alba also involved), and the premise is pretty ripe for hilarity and something a little more besides. And whatever hesitation caused by the presence of "Elektra" co-writer Stu Zicherman, who co-wrote the script and makes his directorial debut here, is counter-balanced by long-running "Daily Show" writer/producer Ben Karlin as his co-writer. And indeed, the Black Listed screenplay was, at least in the early form we read, a pretty good little comedy that should give the cast plenty to play with. There's always the possibility that this turns out to be this year's Park City equivalent of the underwhelming "Bachelorette," but we're definitely hopeful that "A.C.O.D" will be something more.
When: January 23rd and 24th at the Eccles Theater in Park City, Jan 25th at the Sundance Resort Screening Room, and Jan 26th at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
Synopsis: Four years after their crime spree was brought to an end by the authorities, a young couple, Bob and Ruth, are reunited when he escapes from prison.
What You Need To Know: Attracting talent like Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Nate Parker for your first big feature suggests that you might potentially be a big deal, and all the promise that David Lowery has shown over the last few years looks to come to a head with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." A familiar name on the indie circuit thanks to his debut feature "St. Nick," and his short "Pioneer" (which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2011), Lowery's all over Park City in 2013, as an editor on "Upstream Color," and the co-writer of NEXT entry "Pit Stop," but his '70s-set Texas crime tale is undoubtedly his magnum opus this year. There are obvious echoes of "Badlands" and "Bonnie & Clyde" here, but it sounds like Lowery has his own take at work, and he couldn't ask for a more talented cast. "Pariah" and "Middle Of Nowhere" DoP Bradford Young is shooting the film too, so it should look glorious.
When: January 20th at the Eccles in Park City, the 21st at the Rose Wagner in Salt Lake City, the 22nd, the 23rd and the 25th at the Redstone, MARC and Prospector Square Theatres respectively, and the 24th at the Sundance Resort.
Synopsis: Now in their forties, Celine and Jesse meet nine years after their last rendezvous in France, this time in Greece.
What You Need To Know: Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, but Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are clearly enamored of the romantic duo of Celine and Jesse, first introduced in “Before Sunrise” in 1995. The trio earn the best misdirection award of 2012 -- earlier in the year, all three of them in separate interviews gave the, “who knows?” answer (though Hawke kind of gave up the ghost) when quizzed about a third picture in this would-be trilogy, but by September they had shot the entire thing in secret. While it’s been called a type of conclusion to this will-they-or-won’t-they romance, Linklater himself has suggested that the picture doesn’t end on so much of a definitive note that they couldn’t do another follow up if they wanted.
When: Park City: the 20th at the Eccles, the 21st and 26th at the MARC. Ogden: the 23rd at Peery's Egyptian. SLC: 24th at the Salt Lake City Library Theatre. And the 25th at the Sundance Resort.
Synopsis: A retelling of the story of the Beltway Snipers -- two men who killed ten people, and wounded a further three, in Virginia and Maryland in 2002.
What You Need To Know: A little over a decade ago, the Washington D.C. area was terrorized by The Beltway Sniper, a shooter who struck, seemingly at random, over the space of twenty days. The perpetrators turned out to be John Allen Muhammed, a Nation of Islam member, and his seventeen-year-old accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. Now the story is coming to the screen, thanks to art director/filmmaker Alexandre Moors, best known for his work with Kanye West on "Cruel Summer," alongside videos for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Talib Kweli. While the cast has some familiar faces, including "Out Of Sight" and "Grey's Anatomy" actor Isaiah Washington as Muhammed, and Joey Lauren Adams and Tim Blake Nelson among the other co-stars, we're hoping for something closer to Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" than to a Lifetime movie reconstruction. That said, we're curious to see if Moors' approach has the substance to match the style, but it's certainly an intriguing prospect, and quite different from many of the other festival entries.
When: January 19th at the Library Center Theater in Park City and the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, Jan 21st at Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, January 23rd at the Sundance Resort Screening Room, and Jan 24th at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre in Park City.
Synopsis: A happily married New York City music teacher is drawn to a young British foreign exchange student.
What You Need To Know: Between 2010's "Douchebag" and 2011's breakout "Like Crazy," youthful director Drake Doremus has virtually become part of the furniture at Sundance in recent years. And he's back in 2013 with "Breathe In," a drama the prolific filmmaker had already completed photography on before "Like Crazy" was even in theaters. Reuniting him with the ludicrously talented star of the latter, Felicity Jones, "Breathe In" also sees the always-welcome Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan getting involved too, in a production that uses the same semi-improvised process that Doremus has made good use of in the past. But it's not just business as usual; word is that Doremus is using a more classical, handheld-free aesthetic, which should be interesting to see. "Like Crazy," for all its beautiful flaws, certainly made us keen to see more from the director, so this is high on our list for Park City and beyond.
When: 19th at the Eccles in Park City, 20th and 25th at the MARC, 22nd at the Rose Wagner and 26th at the Library Theater, both in SLC.
Synopsis: In a hotel in 1980, a group of programmers try to create the ultimate computer chess program.
What You Need To Know: Probably one of the most talented directors to be part of that dreadful m-word American film movement (m*mbl*c*re), Andrew Bujalski has been sorely missed since we last saw him in 2009 with the fantastic and criminally underseen "Beeswax." Thankfully his new film, a period piece if you will, not only succeeded in its crowd-sourcing endeavor but completed shooting late in 2011, and will premiere at Sundance in just over a week. While the "Funny Ha Ha" filmmaker has shied away from big names ("Dazed and Confused" actor Wiley Wiggins is the biggest name involved), this film will mark his move away from celluloid and flatbed editing -- instead, the PortaPak digital cameras of the era will be used. It sounds like an interesting prospect and quite a bizarre world, especially considering how far we've come technologically since then. Smartly, Bujalski has insisted that he will not include any wink-wink 1980s references, but his camera will be watching these characters like a hawk and there will be plenty of humor despite the lack of Suncoast Video references.
When: 21st, 22nd and 25th at the Library Center, Redstone and Prospector Square, respectively, in Park City, and the 23rd at the Tower Theater in SLC.
Synopsis: A Casanova figure sets out to find a more fulfilling sex life, but learns some life lessons along the way.
What You Need To Know: Almost every major star tries to step behind the camera at some point, to varying effect -- some turn out Clint Eastwood or Ben Affleck, others closer to Johnny Depp (whose "The Brave" hardly got any kind of release). Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn't hanging around -- he's barely turned 30, but the "Looper" star, who's been sponsoring all kinds of interesting creative work through his hitRECord projects, is making his feature writing/directing debut at Sundance this year. Seemingly a light, comic take on "Shame," the idea of casting yourself as a sex addict opposite Scarlett Johansson might seem like a vanity project, but there's plenty of other promising talent involved, including Julianne Moore, Rob Brown and, of all people, Tony Danza. It's one of those projects that could go either way, but given Gordon-Levitt's pretty great choice in projects in general, we've got faith that he'll come up with something interesting when he's in charge.
When: Jan 18th, 19th and 26th at the Eccles in Park City, plus the 22nd at the Library Center, while it hits the Rose Wagner in SLC on the 19th, and the Sundance Resort on the 21st.
Synopsis: A young woman is hired to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists, only to fall in with their inscrutable leader and their cause.
What You Need To Know: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij re-team after last year’s fascinating genre-bender “Sound Of My Voice,” with Marling handling co-writing and starring duties once again. With that picture, and 2011’s “Another Earth,” Marling’s announced herself as a major voice in genre filmmaking, but for her follow-up with Batmanglij, it looks like they’ve opted for a more expansive, unsettling experience, with urban political statements cross-bred with an escalating sense of doom. All accounts are that “The East” is going to boldly toe the line between the group’s dangerous beliefs and the horrible aftermath of their actions, with Marling at the center of a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgaard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Patricia Clarkson.
When: 20th at the Eccles in Park City, 21st at the Library Center in Park City, 25th at the SLC Library Theatre, 26th at Peery's Egyptian in Ogden, and 27th at the Sundance Resort Screening Room.