By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 15, 2014 at 1:00PM
Synopsis Kaia’s quiet life with her boyfriend in isolated rural Massachusetts is disrupted by the arrival of her pregnant sister (and her fiancé), who comes into conflict with Kaia over the way she is restoring their father’s estate and treating the relics of their childhood.
What You Need To Know: The feature debut of director Mona Fastvold, this Norwegian/U.S. co-production is probably mostly on our radar because it’s co-written by rising star Brady Corbet, who also takes a role here. But with Fastvold coming from a music video background, we also have high hopes for the visual style. The two are due to collaborate again on Corbet’s directorial debut (which is slated to star Juliette Binoche) next, so obviously the experience here seemed worth repeating, which can only bode well.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects? It may not have a huge amount of name-recognition going for it, but the sisters-in-conflict theme and what looks from early stills to be a cool, slightly eerie dreamlike-ness of tone could see it contend for an award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, which would bring it a different sort of buzz.
“The Better Angels”
Synopsis: Indiana, 1817. Men and women (including a young Abraham Lincoln) must battle against nature and disease to survive in log cabins. This drama explores Lincoln's family, hardships, the tragedy that marked him forever, and the two women who guided him to immortality.
What You Need To Know: First and foremost it earns its pedigree as having Terrence Malick as one of the movie’s producers. First time narrative feature filmmaker A.J. Edwards is however, no stranger to moviemaking. He's worked with his mentor/producer often, as an editor on “The New World” and as a second-unit director and editor on “The Tree of Life,” “To the Wonder,” and the upcoming “Knight of Cups.” You can’t pay for a better film school than that. On top of it all, it stars Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley, so that’s hard to beat.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects? Very good, though the black and white movie sounds much more stark and meditative, which could make it a Sundance awards or arthouse breakout hit rather than a big indie film buy. Still, even then most difficult of films get bought by major players if the buzz is loud enough.
"They Came Together"
Synopsis: Joel, an executive for a candy store chain comes to New York to shut down a tiny sweet shop only to fall for the owner, Molly. But that's not the only obstacle in their path...
What You Need To Know: Thirteen years after making fun of the teen summer camp genre with "Wet Hot American Summer," David Wain, and co-writer Michael Showalter are back (after a big studio hit with "Role Models" and a big flop with "Wanderlust") for another genre-riffing comedy that landed at no. 49 on our Most Anticipated 2014 Films list. This time, they're turning their attentions to the romantic comedy ("You've Got Mail" in particular, but the genre in general, it seems), with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as the star-crossed central couple, and a comedy all-star cast including Cobie Smulders, Ed Helms, Melanie Lynskey, Max Greenfield, Michaela Watkins, Jason Mantzoukas, Michael Ian Black and, uh, Michael Shannon. Wain's directorial efforts have been patchy to various degrees (as was 'Wet Hot...' to be honest) but they've also all been pretty funny and the rom-com genre's been ripe for a proper spoofing for a while, with Rudd and Poehler a couple who could viably headline a real rom-com, but are capable of subverting it too.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects: With this cast we can’t see the film having trouble finding a distributor so it’s really just down to how funny it is. But even if it’s as hilarious as we hope, it feels like too much of a sure thing to ever get labelled “a breakout.”
“The Young Ones”
Synopsis: In what sounds like a not-too-distant dystopian future, water is scarce and land is withering away. A father defends his land from bandits, but the boyfriend of his teenage daughter has his own takeover plans in mind.
What You Need To Know: Jake Paltrow hasn't directed a feature since his 2007 Sundance entry, "The Good Night," and while that one failed to launch in any memorable way, Gwyneth’s younger brother is back with an ambitious-sounding sophomore effort. Michael Shannon stars as the protective father, Elle Fanning (in one of two appearance on this list) and Kodi Smit-McPhee play his kids, and Nicholas Hoult stars as the boy with coup d'état ideas in his head that will surely make for an ugly showdown.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects? Like many films with Hollywood stars, its prospects are good, and better than those films without names. It’ll have to depend just how breakout-good it is though, as the 2014 crop is an extremely competitive one.
Synopsis: A documentary on the life and career of immensely respected film critic Roger Ebert, who passed away last year.
What You Need To Know: Not only is the sadly-missed Roger Ebert an absolutely cracking subject for a documentary; as a newspaperman, Pulitzer winner, television star and latterly a major Internet presence as his illness robbed him of the power of speech, this documentary is being put together by a master of the form—“Hoop Dreams” and “The Interrupters” director Steve James, who promises the honest look at Ebert’s life that apparently the man himself was firm he wanted. So we can expect a fascinating insight, not just a hagiography, into a man that many of us here credit with at least partially inspiring our own love of movies.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects? Ebert was a figure of national importance, had immense name-recognition and respect and was widely seen in his latter years as something of a guardian angel of the film world (another such figure in Martin Scorsese, who gets a producer credit here). As such, we can’t see this being anything but a hot-ticket item at Sundance, especially with revered documentarian James at the helm.