Sundance 2014: Our 11 Most Anticipated Films We Can't Wait to See
by Alex Billington
January 14, 2014
It's almost time! Kicking off this week in snowy Park City, Utah is the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where both Ethan and I are headed for 10 days to see fresh new indie films non-stop. To help get everyone up to speed on some of the films we're interested in, here are 10 Sundance 2014 films that we're excited for, ones we're keeping an eye on and will be seeing at any earliest opportunity. Alex has chosen
five six he's interested in, and Ethan has also chosen another five he's excited to see from the unique and hopefully entertaining 121-film line-up this year. There are many films to see, and you never know how any of these will turn out, but I'm hoping some of ’em are as good as they sound on paper. Take a look at our picks below.
This is my (Alex's) eighth year returning to Sundance, and Ethan's fourth year back. We're both very excited and happy to be attending Sundance as press again, and can't wait to dive into the films, as there's so many on both of our lists to see. For now, here's our final list of our Top 10 most anticipated pre-Sundance films.
Alex's Top 5 Sundance 2014 Pre-Fest Picks:
The Raid 2 Tuesday Night Premiere in Eccles
Directed by Gareth Evans
Rama is back! Director Gareth Evans' action-packed, kick ass martial arts extravaganza The Raid first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in late 2011, before making its way to Sundance in early 2012. Now Evans is back with the sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal, which has already been teased with some footage. This time he's getting the royal treatment - The Raid 2, starring Indonesian actor Iko Uwais once again, will premiere in the 1,700 seat Eccles theater late on Tuesday night. It's going to be an incredibly awesome experience to sit inside that venue and watch some of the craziest, balls-to-the-wall action 2014 has to offer.
Steve James' Roger Ebert Doc Life Itself
Directed by Steve James
What better place to premiere a documentary about the late film critic Roger Ebert than Sundance. I can tell you right now that this film is going to make me cry. A lot. Director Steve James is a Sundance regular, responsible for one of the biggest breakout documentaries in the festival's history, Hoop Dreams in 1994. This time he's telling the crowdfunded story of "two thumbs up" critic Roger Ebert, his life, and his passion for cinema and how it in turn inspires life. Although I've read and explored all the details of Ebert's life, his death still impacts me, and I'm both nervous and excited to see how beautifully this documentary captures all that he was, is, and will always be. This is one of the bigger premieres at Sundance, but I will be there.
Anne Hathaway Starring in Song One
Directed by Kate Barker-Froyland
Pulling the old Sundance cliche: could this be this year's Once? This year's Garden State? I'm not sure, but I have a really, really good feeling about this film. Aside from the fact that Anne Hathaway is starring in a charming, music-infused indie drama, this might be one of the breakout gems of the festival, if it's as good as it sounds. The plot involves Hathaway befriending her late boyfriend's singer/songwriter "hero", James Forester, ans becoming immersed in the Brooklyn music scene. As described: "In vibrant coffeehouses and clubs they frequent, love and grief intermingle." I'm planning to catch the world premiere of this film just because it sounds so wonderful, and I want to be one of the first to (hopefully) fall in love with it at the festival.
Michael Tully's Comedy Ping Pong Summer
Directed by Michael Tully
Following up his feature debut, Septien, director Michael Tully returns to Sundance with another comedy. This time he's telling the coming-of-age story of boy obsessed with ping pong in a film titled Ping Pong Summer, starring John Hannah, Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson and Amy Sedaris. Set during a family vacation in the summer of 1985, this seems like one of those perfectly amusing indie comedy gems just waiting to be discovered and I've got my sights on it already. It reminds me a bit of Napoleon Dynamite, or last year's The Way Way Back, or that other 2010 Sundance gem that not many people saw, Skateland.
The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
Directed by Brian Knappenberger
This is one of my personal picks, a documentary (that I helped fund on Kickstarter) about the late Aaron Swartz, a young internet activist/pioneer, who was found dead in an apparent suicide in early 2013. The documentary from Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists) delves into his short but active life, what lead to his death, and will hopefully focus on his big issues, the things he was fighting for (that might've had a hand in his fate). As described, it "explores Aaron’s arrest, the prosecution’s tactics in bringing the case to trial through the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the CFAA, and the impact a seemingly small hacking gesture had on Aaron's life and the future of information access on the internet."
Special Last Minute Addition!: Linklater's Boyhood
Directed by Richard Linklater
Added to their line-up right at the very last minute, this is one last film I just had to include on this list right as I was about to publish, as I'm still riding off of the momentum of Richard Linklater's perfect Before Midnight, which premiered at Sundance 2013 last year. Linklater is back again with an extremely ambitious project - he has been chronicling the life of a family in Austin, specifically a young boy growing up in this family. He has been filming for nearly 12 years, with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette co-starring. Reportedly running at nearly 3 hours in length, it's going to be extraordinarily breathtaking (in every sense) to see what Linklater has captured in 12 years time on top of watching the narrative he's discovered within.
For all of Alex's Sundance 2014 updates: Follow @firstshowing
Ethan's Top 5 Sundance 2014 Pre-Fest Picks:
God's Pocket with Philip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by John Slattery
Marking the feature film directorial debut of "Mad Men" star and occasional episode director, John Slattery, is God's Pocket, which is enough to get me interested in the U.S. Dramatic Competition entry. But throw Philip Seymour Hoffman into the mix as a man trying to cover up the accidental death of his stepson Leon, and the film is one of my most anticipated of the fest. It also helps that Slattery (who also co-wrote the screenplay based on Peter Dexter's novel of the same name) has brought fellow "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks (losing the red hair for this role in these first look photos) and Sundance favorites like Richard Jenkins and John Turturro as well. I'm certainly looking forward to screening this one.
Zombie Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth
Directed by Jeff Baena
In a film that almost seems like a spiritual sequel to Shaun of the Dead, after you consider the ending, Life After Beth sounds like an interesting new twist on the zombie horror trope. In the film, Dane DeHaan decided to keep his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) around after she has surprisingly turned into a zombie. The premise itself is great, not to mention a supporting cast that includes John C. Reilly, Paul Reiser, Anna Kendrick, Alia Shawkat and Molly Shannon, but what's truly exciting is this is co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope banner and written/directed by I Heart Huckabees co-writer Jeff Baena. Here's hoping this U.S. Dramatic Competition entry has some bite. See more first looks.
Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Following the adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, this big screen take on yet another slow, quiet thriller from author John le Carré already sounds enticing. Yet again, the presence of the always fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman has brought my interest to an even higher level. Anton Corbijn (The American) is directing, which means this will be another refreshing, slow-burning thriller, this time helped along by the likes of Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright. This looks like just the kind of film to perfectly counter-program the blockbuster action thrillers we get so much of today. See first look photos.
Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins
Directed by Craig Johnson
Take two "Saturday Night Live" alums like Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader and throw them into a dark, dreary, dramatic setting, and that sounds like the perfect Sundance film to me. Wiig and Hader play two estranged twin siblings who coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and confront the reasons their lives went so wrong. The Sundance programmer who selected the film says the two comedians give "astonishing, dramatic performances," and I can't wait to see what that's like. The film isn't a complete downer though since the characters' relationship is also said to be funny, so count me in.
They Came Together Starring Paul Rudd
Directed by David Wain
Wet Hot American summer is arguably the best Sundance comedy of all-time, and the film is actually one of the most stellar comedies in general. Therefore, it's no secret why I'm thrilled that director David Wain is returning to the fest with They Came Together, a loving spoof of New York set romantic comedies featuring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd in the lead roles. Other great names like Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Max Greenfield and Christopher Meloni are in tow, but you can guarantee there will be plenty of other cameos. With a story reminiscent of the classic You've Got Mail, this parody of unlikely love sounds like a hit just waiting to happen. This is my own most anticipated film to see at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
For all of Ethan's Sundance 2014 updates: Follow @ethan_anderton
For more Sundance 2014 previews articles from around the web, highlight more indie picks, check out: The Film Stage's 26 Most-Anticipated Films, Buzzfeed's 50 Highly Anticipated Films and WSJ's Six Sundance Films Attracting Early Buzz (plus the full guide on Sundance.org). We'll update with more links once they're available. Plenty of interesting films on the 2014 line-up, so let's get this thing underway.
You can follow our Sundance 2014 coverage and updates in this category. The festival kicks off January 16th and runs to the 26th, with films premiering for 10 days. We're excited to be back for yet another year!