"God Help The Girl"
Synopsis: Over one long Glasgow summer, a young fantasist girl forms a band with a guy and a girl.
What You Need To Know: Not many indie musicians have turned to film direction, but there's something about the storytelling in the music of Scottish tweecore favorites Belle And Sebastian that's always made Stuart Murdoch seem like he could do the job well. In the works for a few years now, "God Help The Girl," based on Murdoch's concept album from a few years back, is a full-blown musical, set in Murdoch's home of Glasgow, produced by "Rushmore"'s Barry Mendel, funded in part through Kickstarter, and starring Emily Browning ("Sucker Punch"), Hannah Murray ("Game Of Thrones") and Olly Alexander ("Enter The Void"), and since we love a good musical here at the Playlist, it landed on our 100 Most Anticipated Films of 2014 list (we love it even more when someone's as ill-advisedly ambitious as to make their feature debut with a musical). It could still be a mess, but Murdoch's had some top-flight technical support, has a strong central trio in the leads, and the songs are already out there and already good, so we're optimistic about this.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects: The film has been selected to play in the World Dramatic competition and is a blend of elements that Sundance often finds fairly irresistible: off-beat charm, indie music, coming-of-age, misfits-finding-their-place. So if it hangs together at all as a movie, it’s got strong potential to be one of those famous Sundance breakouts, though it may be overall too lightweight to take an actual award.
“Wish I Was Here”
Synopsis: A 35-year-old struggling actor/father/husband decides to home school his kids after he can no longer afford to send them to private school.
What You Need To Know: Director Zach Braff seized the zeitgeist for better or worse with his 2004 debut, “Garden State,” which soon became the poster boy for cute, quirky Sundance dramedy. But like it or not, “Garden State” had its charms and was an assured directorial debut. It’s taken him nine years to get another film off the ground and he had to do so, controversially, by going to Kickstarter to get it funded, but that shouldn’t have much to do on the final verdict of the film. Written by Zach and Adam Braff, “Wish I Was Here” also co-stars Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, and Joey King and could do for existential crisis what “Garden State” did for twentysomethings, only this time with a hell of a lot more responsibility and problems.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects? Presumably great. “Garden State” was a big hit for Fox Searchlight ($35 million off a $2.5 million budget), and presumably buyers will be circling this one like hawks hoping that lightning strikes twice.
"The Raid 2: Berandal"
Synopsis: Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, this sees supercop Rama going undercover in prison to befriend the convict son of a fearsome mob boss, in the hope of uncovering corruption in Jakarta's police force.
What You Need To Know: A couple of years back, "The Raid" arrived like a knee to the throat of the action scene: a relentless Indonesian actioner, directed by ex-pat Welshman Gareth Evans, that saw instant star Iko Uwais fight his way through a tower block full of gangsters by any brutal means necessary. Evans ignored the advances of Hollywood to make this follow-up, subtitled "Berandal" (which translates loosely as 'scamp,' we believe). Uwais, who's presumably spent the last couple of years recovering, is reprising his role for a sequel that's bigger and bolder in scope, and though "The Raid" wasn't perfect, at least to anyone who cares about plot and character and things like that, it was a blast of pure adrenaline-cinema heady enough to land the sequel at no. 45 on our Most Anticipated Films of 2014 list. This time out the action looks to be bigger and crazier than anything in the original, with prison riots, car chases and subway brawls all glimpsed in trailers. Best of all, there seems to be something more of a storyline this time, the film shifting gears from "Assault On Precinct 13" to something closer to "Donnie Brasco" by way of "A Prophet." And with a two-and-a-half hour running time, there'd better be a little substance in there somewhere...
What Are Its Sundance Prospects: Interesting. It’s a deeply genre film, but if it’s like the first one, it’s such pure, pared-back genre, and foreign-language to boot, that it kind of becomes arthouse anyway. And expect an up-to-their-eyeballs-in-relationship-dramas festival crowd to lap this up gratefully. “The Raid” picked up the Midnight Madness award at TIFF and various audience awards from other festivals, so if this delivers it could be looking at a similar profile here.
Synopsis: An anthropologist doing research in Morocco returns to New York to discover that her brother, a young musician, has suffered an accident that has left him comatose.
What You Need To Know: It’s an interesting concept: An estranged brother and sister and the near-death of one of them propels the other into their world, in this case, the music scene of Brooklyn. Anne Hathaway stars as the emotionally distant sister who tries to make up for lost time by honoring her brother’s commitment to music and in doing so meets his musical idol. Tonally, it’s probably a tricky dance to get that right, but the talent is top notch. For one, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and Johnathan Rice wrote the music together, so the music angle is obviously covered. On top of Hathaway (who already demonstrated she has crazy singing pipes, see “Les Miserables”), the film also co-stars Johnny Flynn (as the hunky musical idol), Mary Steenburgen and Ben Rosenfield.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects? Sundance is full of optimists because everyone wants to be there in case “the next big thing.” And so this one has tons of “Once”-like potential (a film that was a big breakout hit for Fox Searchlight), so if it’s remotely good, buyer will come running.
Synopsis: A young woman stuck in arrested development flees a proposal from her boyfriend and hides out at the home of her new 16-year-old friend.
What You Need To Know: Lynn Shelton is hitting a seriously prolific period, and only a year after "Touchy Feely" (which was barely a year after "Your Sister's Sister" cropped up at TIFF '11), she's back again, with another organic comedy-drama, albeit one that, she told us, is a little more tightly scripted than her previously partly-improvised pictures (for the first time, she's working from someone else's screenplay: "Laggies" is written by novelist and “This American Life” contributor Andrea Siegel). She's also assembled her starriest cast to date: Keira Knightley takes the lead role, with Chloe Moretz as her teenaged friend, and Sam Rockwell, Mark Webber, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin and Kaitlyn Dever among the rest of the cast. Ben Gibbard, of "Death Cab For Cutie" and "The Postal Service" contributes the score.
What Are Its Sundance Prospects: If we were betting people, we’d probably punt a few quid on “Laggies”‘ chances for Sundance breakout status. “Touchy Feely” premiered here last year, and while it didn’t fully connect with critics or audiences, it feels like the festival is looking for an opportunity to boost Shelton, and this higher-profile, more tightly-scripted film could be the one they get behind, especially as its offbeat relationship logline, Sam Rockwell-ishness and hip indie musician involvement, are traditionally Sundance-friendly elements, and its female focus feels timely. It also made no. 48 on our Most Anticipated 2014 list.