Synopsis: A documentary that sees Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl bring together a legendary group of musicians to record a new album in a legendary analog recording studio in the San Fernando Valley.
What You Need To Know: Dave Grohl's already something of a polymath; drummer for Nirvana (among others), frontman and guitarist for Foo Fighters and, of course, member of the Moopets. And hot on the heels of the latter, he's making his own directorial debut with this promising-sounding documentary about the Sound City recording studio in Van Nuys. Opened in 1969, it was where classic albums including Nevermind, Rumours, After The Gold Rush and Rage Against The Machine were all recorded, and Grohl's assembled a selection of big names who once used the non-digital studio, to record a new album including Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield and Paul McCartney. The trailer promises muso heaven, while he's brought in some doc heavyweights, including some of the people behind "The Cove" and "Dogtown & Z-Boys" to give him a hand. But Grohl's smart enough that he probably could have done the whole thing on his Macbook and it would still be one of the best music documentaries of the year.
When: In Park City at the MARC on the 18th and the LIbrary Center on the 19th and 24th of January, with the Sundance Resort on the 19th, and the Salt Lake City Library Theatre and the Tower Theatre on the 22nd and 27th. The film's then released on February 1st, with the record following in March.
Synopsis: A heavy-drinking high-schooler is drawn to an outcast classmate.
What You Need To Know: One of a handful of teen flicks to premiere this year, "The Spectacular Now" marks the return of two separate Sundance successes: duo Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber who wrote "(500) Days Of Summer" and director James Ponsoldt, whose film "Smashed" won a ton of acclaim in Park City last year. The trio have teamed on an adaptation of Tim Tharp's coming-of-age novel, and Ponsoldt's got a great cast together, with "Smashed" lead Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bob Odenkirk and Andre Royo among those involved. Perhaps most excitingly of all, he's got two of the most hotly tipped young actors around filling the lead roles, "Rabbit Hole" actor Miles Teller and "The Descendants" star Shailene Woodley. While it might seem a bit Sundance-by-numbers at first glance, we liked Neustadter and Weber's script, which is raw and truthful and less precious than '(500) Days,' and Ponsoldt showed plenty of promise with "Smashed." Could this be 2013's answer to "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower"?
When: Park City on the 18th and 25th at the Library Center, the 20th at the Redstone and the 22nd at the Eccles, plus the Tower Theatre in SLC on the 23rd.
Synopsis: An strange and creepy uncle moves in with a teenage girl and her emotionally unstable mother after her father dies. Although the girl, India, has suspicions about his motives, she finds herself drawn to him.
What You Need To Know: Pitched somewhere in between horror, family drama and psychological thriller, “Stoker” is the English-language directorial debut of Park Chan-wook, the heralded South Korean film director behind "The Vengeance Trilogy" (which includes “Oldboy"), "Thirst" and "Joint Security Area." Written by actor Wentworth Miller under a pseudonym, the picture stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. It will be interesting to see how the Southern-Gothic flavor of the screenplay translates in the hands of a foreigner, but we assume this might be the beginning of a new career in America for the director if all goes well.
When: 20th and 21st at the Eccles in Park City, 23rd at the Sundance Resort, 25th at the Rose Wagner in SLC, and 26th at Peery's Egyptian in Ogden. Fox Searchlight release the film on March 1st.
Synopsis: A police detective attempts to solve the disappearance of the pregnant 15-year-old daughter of a drug kingpin in a small New Zealand town.
What You Need To Know: Almost all of the films heading to Sundance are hoping for theatrical distribution, but there's one that has no intention of even courting it -- the epic mystery "Top Of The Lake," a seven-hour TV miniseries. But even so, it's one of the most anticipated premieres of the festival, because it marks the return of Jane Campion (who co-directed with commercials veteran Garth Davis, as well as co-writing the script) to the festival where her debut "Sweetie" first unspooled a quarter of a century ago. The idea of Campion (whose last film, "Bright Star," numbers among her best) turning her hand to long-form narrative is an exciting one, and this seems like it could be the kind of material that brings out the best in her. "Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss leads a cast that also includes Peter Mullan, David Wenham and "The Piano" star Holly Hunter.
When: One showing only, at the Egyptian on January 20th. But it should air on the Sundance Channel, and elsewhere later in the year, before too long.
Synopsis: A massage therapist is unable to do her job when she suddenly develops an aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.”
What You Need To Know: Writer/director Lynn Shelton is practically a mainstay at Sundance and with good reason. She's been lumped into the fast and loose mumblecore movement with organic, naturalistic comedies like "Humpday," but she's also matured well beyond that delineation with the observational exploration of family and lovers in the insightful, sharp and keen, “Your Sister’s Sister.” Her 'Sister' actress Rosemarie DeWitt takes the lead here, with recognizable neurotic character actor Josh Pais as her brother and Scoot McNairy as her boyfriend, while the solid indie cast is rounded out by Ellen Page, Allison Janney and Ron Livingston. On paper, this one has everything going for it and Shelton is on a roll.
When: Park City gets it at the Eccles on the 19th, the Egyptian on the 21st, the MARC on the 23rd, and the Library Center on the 24th. SLC gets it at Rose Wagner on the 19th, and the Sundance Resort on the 20th.
Synopsis: Three young teen boys try to claim their freedom by building a house in the woods.
What You Need To Know: One of the most impressive short films of the last few years was "Successful Alcoholics," a sort of shorter, funnier, better version of "Smashed," which starred T.J. Miller and Lizzy Caplan among others. The film was a big hit at Sundance in 2010, and three years on, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is back in Park City with his first feature. Based on a script by Chris Galletta that finished high on the 2009 Black List, we're expecting an offbeat combination of "Moonrise Kingdom," "Son Of Rambow" and"Where The Wild Things Are" (we may yet be way off...), and while the film has a trio of newcomers in the lead roles, there's some ace comic talent in the supporting cast, including "Community" actress Alison Brie, and "Parks & Rec" duo Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as some of the boys' parents. We've been tipping Vogt-Roberts for big things for a while, and we think this has a good chance of being one of the breakout hits of the festival.
Release Date: Library Center on the 19th, Prospector Square on the 21st and 26th, the Eccles on the 24th, all in Park City, and the Tower in SLC on the 25th.
Synopsis: A young woman is abducted and seemingly brainwashed via an organic material harvested from a specific flower. She later meets a man and after the two fall for each other, they come to realize he may also have been subjected to the same process.
What You Need To Know: Nine years back, Shane Carruth made a hell of a debut at Sundance with the micro-budgeted time travel picture "Primer," a fearsomely impenetrable, ingeniously clever little film that's become a cult hit over the years. Now, after a false start or two (he was working on a script called "A Topiary" for a while), Carruth is back in Park City, and it's one of the most anticipated film of the festival. Another unclassifiable, firmly original science fiction tale, footage and synopses released so far aren't giving much away, but it looks like his filmmaking has taken a big step forward, and the film seems to have a relationship-y core to it that might make it more accessible to the more casual fan. Might being the operative word. We're sure it'll be, at heart, another complex, mind-bending headfuck, and we wouldn't want it any other way. Carruth himself stars, alongside actress Amy Seimetz ("You're Next," "Tiny Furniture").
Release Date: The Eccles on the 21st, the Egyptian on the 22nd, Prospector Square on the 24th and Library Center on the 26th, all in Park City. Sundance Resort gets it on the 23rd, and the Tower in SLC screens it on the 25th. Beyond that, Carruth seems to be self-releasing it in some way on April 5th.
Synopsis: A 14-year-old on vacation with his mother and her new boyfriend gets a job at a water park, where he finds a new friend and mentor.
What You Need To Know: Despite winning an Oscar for their screenplay for "The Descendants," Jim Rash and Nat Faxon are probably most familiar (at least to discerning comedy fans) for their regular roles on awesome-but-low-rated sitcoms "Community" and "Ben & Kate." But that could change as their directorial debut "The Way, Way Back" finally unspools. A coming-of-age tale (that seems, on the surface, to share a certain amount of DNA with Greg Mottola's 2009 Sundance flick "Adventureland"), this was the script that saw Faxon and Rash come to Alexander Payne's attention, and we're still excited about this one, not least because of the cast. Relative newcomer Liam James ("The Killing") takes the lead, with Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet and Faxon & Rash themselves all taking roles. When that many awesome people are gathered in one place, you figure there must be something special, and so long as the writers don't drop the directorial ball, this could be big.
When: The Eccles in Park City on the 21st, with screenings also at the MARC on the 22nd and 26th. The Rose Wagner in SLC gets in on the 22nd, and it comes to Ogden's Peery's Egyptian Theater on the 24th, and the Sundance Resort on the 27th.
Honorable Mentions: We only have so much space, so there's plenty more in the line-up, any one of which could turn out to be the real highlight of the festival. Among them are: a rare lead role for the great Kathryn Hahn in "Afternoon Delight"; David Sedaris adaptation "C.O.G"; Keri Russell/Bret McKenzie rom-com "Austenland"; the intriguing "Concussion" starring Robin Wiegert; the potentially powerful competition entry "Fruitvale" starring Michael B. Jordan; Kristen Bell in "The Lifeguard"; George Tillman Jr's "The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete"; western "Sweetwater" with Ed Harris and January Jones; "Two Mothers" starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright" and "Very Good Girls" with Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning.
As for genre fans, that itch could be scratched by remake "We Are What We Are"; live-action "Wreck-It Ralph"-ish "Virtually Heroes"; found-footage sequel "S-VHS"; Dermot Mulroney in "The Rambler"; and/or Leslie Bibb and Rob Corddry in horror-comedy "Hell Baby." More questionable are a pair of biopics: Ashton Kutcher as the founder of Apple in "jOBS," and Amanda Seyfried as the star of "Deep Throat" in "Lovelace." Documentary lovers have plenty to look forward to, including new films from Alex Gibney ("We Steal Secrets," about Wikileaks), Lucy Walker ("The Crash Reel," about snowboarding) and Sebastian Junger ("Which Way Is The Front Line From Here?," a tribute to his late "Restrepo" co-director Tim Hetherington.
- Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez