Our Top 10 Sundance Film Festival 2012 Movies to Keep An Eye On
by Alex Billington
January 18, 2012
"We are, and always have been, a festival about the filmmakers." Kicking off this week in soon-to-be-snowy Park City, UT is the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where both Ethan and I are headed for 10 days to see films non-stop. To clue everyone in on some of the movies we've taken an interest in, here's our pick of the Top 10 films we're excited for, ones we're keeping an eye on and will be seeing at the earliest opportunity. Alex has chosen five he's interested in, and Ethan has also chosen another five he's excited to see. You never know how any of these will turn out, but I'm hoping some of them are truly as great as they sound on paper.
The kind of Sundance films that I'm always hoping to see every year are those like 500 Days of Summer or The Wackness (two of my favorites), or fantasticly dark dramas, like Moon or Donnie Darko. I'm always partial to sci-fi, which there's not too much of anyway, but beyond that I just love a good coming-of-age story, or something to bring out the wonder and emotions inside me, all wrapped around a great story. So without further ado, here are our Sundance 2012 picks, with a few more lists linked at the bottom:
Alex's Top 5 Sundance 2012 Pre-Fest Picks:
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
This one is on the top of my list because it sounds like it might be 500 Days of Summer of this year's fest, with a great cast and amusing premise, about a "divorcing couple" who tries to maintain their friendship while pursuing other people. Andy Samberg, who I love as a comedic actor in these kind of roles, and Rashida Jones, who I have a big geek crush on (come on!), play the two leads. But the cast includes other great actors like Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Eric Christian Olsen, Ari Graynor and Chris Messina, too. It looks like it could be funny, sweet, and a big crowd-pleaser, I'm very anxious to catch this as its premiere.
Robot and Frank
Directed by Jake Schreier
I'm not familiar with this first-time director, but it's the concept that intrigues me the most. One of the only other outright sci-fi films in this year's Sundance line-up, Robot and Frank stars Frank Langella as a curmudgeonly old man who receives a caretaker robot (seen above). Sundance describes it as a "delightful dramatic comedy, a buddy picture, and, for good measure, a heist film." This just sounds like it's going to be an absolute blast to watch, both entertaining and impressively made, hopefully. The cast includes Langella's buddy from The Box, James Marsden, as well as Liv Tyler and Susan Sarandon, plus Peter Sarsgaard as the voice of the robot. I truly hope this turns out as awesome as it sounds.
John Dies at the End
Directed by Don Coscarelli
My Sundance experience isn't complete without a totally wacky, insanely wild, off-the-walls Midnight Madness flick, and this is the one I'm expecting to fit the bill and knock the roof off the Library at its Midnight Premiere. I got a fun early preview of some footage from this at Fantastic Fest last year, coming from the director of Bubba Ho-Tep and Phantasm, and it looks wonderfully wacky and twisted in every way. I don't think anyone will be able to look at soy sauce in the same way again after watching this. I'm anxious to see what wackiness and tricks Coscarelli has up his sleeves this time around. Did you see that trailer?
Save the Date
Directed by Michael Mohan
Sometimes a good promo photo is really all a film needs to sell me, and this is an example of one of those. The story is about two sisters, played by Alison Brie and Lizzy Caplan, who "fumble through the bumpy emotional landscape of modern-day relationships, forced to relearn how to love and be loved." It sounds quite funny and it looks quite raunchy, obviously, which is always fun at Sundance. The cast also includes Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend and Mark Webber. This just seems like an all around good the time, and if the title is an early indication, this is certainly a film I'll be saving the date to catch the world premiere of.
An anthology horror named after a classic (or honestly, quite crappy) near-dead video format, produced by Bloody-Disgusting's own Brad Miska. They've already sold me! If I remember correctly, we're going to see seven different horror vignettes wrapped around this premise: "When a group of petty criminals is hired by a mysterious party to retrieve a rare piece of found footage from a rundown house in the middle of nowhere, they soon realize that the job isn’t going to be as easy when they find stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes. As they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last." I'm nervous about what we'll find on these tapes.
Ethan's Top 5 Sundance 2012 Pre-Fest Picks:
West of Memphis
Directed by Amy Berg
There are those who seemingly think there's nothing left to say on the topic of the West Memphis 3, the three teenage boys wrongly imprisoned for 18 years after being convicted of the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, after HBO's Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries. However, when it comes to this new documentary from director Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil) and producer Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, there's a unique angle as the latter Lord of the Rings filmmakers quietly funded the continuance of the investigation without which these three boys may never have been cleared. If you're not convinced just yet, check out this extended trailer right here.
Red Hook Summer
Directed by Spike Lee
It's always fun when a big name filmmaker turns up at the Sundance Film Festival, but it's even more exciting when a director like Spike Lee turns up with a film looking for distribution that calls back to his beginnings with the film Do the Right Thing. Said to follow a young Atlanta boy spending his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather who he's never met, the film will also see Lee get back in front of the camera as Mookie, the main character from his aforementioned breakthrough racially charged film. It's his first non-documentary feature since Miracle at St. Anna in 2008, so I'm pumped.
Directed by Josh Radnor
Josh Radnor first turned up at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 with HappyThankYouMorePlease, and now the "How I Met Your Mother" star is back behind the camera with another indie, this one starring last year's Sundance starlet Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene). With a cast that includes Radnor himself along with Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Zac Efron and more, this story of a 30-year old alumni's romance with a 19-year old college student definitely has my attention. But can it top the buzz that came from Olsen's performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene last year? Stay tuned to find out.
The First Time
Directed by Jon Kasdan
After Submarine made my Top 10 Films of 2011, hearing that the film's young star Craig Roberts was starring in another coming-of-age romance sounded like just what the doctor ordered. Combine that with the fact that the film comes from writer/director Jonathan Kasdan, son of iconic Raiders of the Lost Ark and Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and this sounds like the kind of film that truly takes off after Sundance. Two teens meet at a party and end up end up discovering what it's like to fall in love for the first time over the course of a weekend that turns "magical, romantic, complicated and funny." I've always been a sucker for films like this, so here's hoping I'm not disappointed.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Normally the science fiction concept of time travel is reserved for big budget action films, but the idea itself can be much more interesting within the confines of an indie scale film. Therefore, Safety Not Guaranteed, a film about a trio of magazine employees investigating a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel, sounds right up my alley. Featuring Aubrey Plaza (Funny People), Mark Duplass (Humpday), and "New Girl" star Jake M. Johnson, this has all the makings of a quirky comedy, even if there ends up not actually being any time traveling in the film.
For more Sundance 2012 previews articles, check out: Daniel Walber at Movies.com's Six Shorts from Sundance's First-Time Feature Directors, Jordan Raup at The Film Stage's 10 Must-See Festival Favorites Hitting Park City, Matt Patches at Hollywood.com's A-List Stars Making Their Splash at Sundance, Christopher Rosen at Moviefone's Television Stars Invading Park City, Katey Rich at CinemaBlend's 5 Returning Sundance Successes to Watch, and Allison Loring at Film School Reject's 15 Must-See Films of Sundance 2012. Plenty of potentially superb films on the 2012 line-up to watch.
You can follow our Sundance 2012 coverage and updates in this category. The festival kicks off January 19th and runs to the 29th, with films premiering for 10 days. I'm excited to see some great Sundance films!