By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 10, 2012 at 12:20PM
Synopsis: A privileged hipster hangs out with his vapid pals in Williamsburg, as they gradually test their limits.
What You Need To Know: Satirizing hipsters might seem like shooting really trendy, ironic fish in a barrel, but in the hands of filmmaker Rick Alverson ("New Jerusalem"), we wouldn't expect "The Comedy" to focus on easy targets and low-hanging fruit. Featuring a dramatic debut from Tim Heidecker in the lead, along with his partner Eric Wareheim (their other movie, in their more recognizable guises, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," also bows at Sundance) and an acting role from LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, the film adds up to an intriguing mix of Brooklyn icons that should deliver something more knowing and self-reflexive than it might initially seem. The Sundance brochure makes it sounds more like "Dogtooth" than "Greenberg," which is something that we're certainly on board for.
When? Sundance - 21st, 23rd, 26th & 28th (Park City) 24th (Sundance Resort), 27th, (SLC)
"Comes A Bright Day"
Synopsis: Two young people fall in love after being taken hostage during the robbery of a jewelery store.
What You Need To Know: Imogen Poots had a pretty good 2011, between a supporting turn in "Jane Eyre" and a lead in "Fright Night." Craig Roberts had a pretty good 2011 too, thanks to his lead role in Richard Ayoade's "Submarine." And now, two of the brightest talents to come out of the U.K. in the last twelve months have been paired up, in an intriguingly genre-hopping picture, from debut writer-director Simon Aboud. The pair are backed up by Kevin McKidd ("Rome," "Grey's Anatomy") and veteran Timothy Spall, while costumes come from famed designed Paul Smith, so if nothing else, it'll be the best-dressed film since "A Single Man." Blending thriller, heist and romance, it's an odd little mix, but the casting has us interested enough to want to see how it all turns out.
When? May make a sales appearance in Berlin, but otherwise it'll likely turn up later in the year.
Synopsis: The story follows computer programmers in the 1980s as they test artificial intelligence... through chess tournaments.
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 last summer and is likely to crop up any day now. While the "Funny Ha Ha" filmmaker will be keeping it real by using people he knows as opposed to trained actors for the main roles (a gaggle of folk including a "former comp sci student turned treehouse-dwelling chocolatier"), this film will mark his move away from celluloid and flatbed editing -- instead, the 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? We'd put cold hard cash on a SXSW premiere.
Synopsis: A young Hungarian writer hires a housekeeper, an eccentric, fiercely private woman, and begins a relationship that changes both their lives.
What You Need To Know: Now that she's got her Oscar in the bag, Helen Mirren seems to be taking parts in, well, whatever the hell she feels like -- from commercial projects like "Red" and "Arthur" to more offbeat fare like "The Tempest" and David Mamet's HBO Phil Spector movie that will air later in 2012. But "The Door" promises to be one of her most challenging, fascinating roles to date. Based on the excellent novel by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo, and helmed by one of the country's top directors in Istvan Szabo (no relation -- the director of "Sunshine," "Taking Sides" and "Being Julia"), she'll play the maddening, mysterious housekeeper in what could turn out to be a film that gets her further awards buzz. Szabo's somewhat underrated these days, but the combination of him and Mirren should be an interesting one.
When? Szabo's been a Cannes favorite in the past, but less so recently; Toronto may be more likely.
"The End of Love"
Synopsis: An out-of-work actor is forced to become a single father when his son's mother suddenly passes away.
What You Need To Know: Having stolen the show repeatedly in Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," Mark Webber steps back behind the camera to follow-up his debut "Explicit Ills," which won three awards at SXSW, including the Narrative Feature Audience Award. This time, he's starring as well, alongside his own two-year-old son and a cast of famous pals that includes Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Cera, Jason Ritter and Amanda Seyfried. It could just be the kind of man-child-grows-up narrative we've seen many times before, but in Webber's hands we're expecting something much rawer and more honest, and it could really elevate him into the big leagues.
When? Sundance - 21st, 23rd, 25th & 27th (Park City), 22nd (Sundance Resort), 24th (SLC).