Sundance is so close you can almost smell the slush-stained Uggs. Even if you can't make it to Park City - although you can watch some of the Sundance features on VOD! - we've cobbled together a handy guide to the movies that look the most interesting, have the most buzz, and are the most drool-worthy for us film nerds. For all your Sundance needs, you can hit up any of Cinematical's conveniently tagged articles here.
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Stars: James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn
This might be one of the hottest tickets at Sundance. Jam-packed with big names, including that body-pillow loving rapscallion Franco, HOWL zeroes in on one of America's most famous poets, Allen Ginsberg. With episodes from the poet's early life and his blossoming as a poety, from the trial itself, to the dramas he faced afterward, the story of HOWL sounds engrossing and illuminating. Plus, director/producer Gus Van Sant (Milk, Paranoid Park) is one of the exec producers.
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat, Tatum O'Neal
This one has us all praying, as Monika wrote, "Please let this be good. Please let this be good." Artist and music video director Sigismondi wrote the script and is behind the camera, so this is sure to look like something other than a typical rock back biopic, especially since the rock band in question is anything but typical. Even if you're not familiar with the band The Runaways and their anthems like "Cherrybomb," surely the cast will lure you in. The Runaways stars Kristin Stewart as Joan Jett, who began the band with Sandy West (Stella Maeve from "Gossip Girl"), Cherie Curie (Dakota Fanning), and Scout Taylor-Compton as Lita Ford. Another notable actor in the cast is the ultra-talented Michael Shannon, who plays their manager Kim Fowley. Obviously, rock band drama reigned, and The Runaways is a fictionalized portrayal of what went down with the girls coming of age, dealing with sleazy recorder producers and their even sleazier manager, and much more. Thankfully, it's already been picked up by Apparition, and fans will be able to check out The Runaways on March 19th. Whether or not it will live up to its promise - well, keep your fingers crossed!
Director: Spencer Susser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch
TJ's world has been falling apart since his mom died, with his dad (Rainn Wilson) and grandmother (Piper Laurie!) equally crippled by grief. Natalie Portman, who also is a producer on the project, plays Nicole, a local girl who works in a supermarket who manages to reach out to TJ (Devin Brochu) and his family. (It will be interesting to see how they manage to make her look like a normal, non-insanely gorgeous person.) And the titular character, Hesher, is yet another wild card in TJ's world; a homeless anarchist with homemade tattoos, bridling with anger at the world, who ends up living with the family and bringing a whole new dimension to TJ's world.
Director: Josh Radnor
Stars: Malin Akerman, Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber, Tony Hale
Actor Josh Radnor ("How I Met Your Mother") wrote, directed, and stars in this indie about New Yorkers "trying to be a little happier and a little less cynical," as he told Erik Davis in this quickie Q&A. A New York story of Sam and his friends – oh, and the kid he found lost on the subway -- and the daily struggle to figure out our place in the world, HappyThankYouMorePlease features a great ensemble cast, including the fantastic Zoe Kazan. Here's hoping it lives up to its premise and promise.
Welcome to the Rileys
Director: Jake Scott
Stars: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo
Gandolfini (In the Loop) and (Frozen River) star as the Rileys, a suburban couple devastated by the loss of their daughter several years before. Estranged from each other and still in mourning, they find different ways to cope – Doug has an affair and Lois develops agoraphobia. When Doug's mistress dies from cancer, he seeks refuge in New Orleans, and surprisingly enough, befriends a young prostitute, played by K-Stew herself. Leo and Galdolfini are both strong onscreen presences; it's Kristin's time to prove she can step up to the plate and not just act with her hair.
The Company Men
Director: John Wells
Stars: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Rosemary DeWitt
Written and directed by John Wells ("The West Wing"), The Company Men follows the lives of three midlevel corporate employees after they've been laid off. It's an impressive cast, Wells certainly has the drama chops to pull this off, and unemployment is a concern across all tax brackets, but will it be possible for audiences to empathize? This sounds almost like the inverse of Up in the Air: what happens after the papers are signed and you've filed for unemployment and you're faced with "What now?"
Director: Aaron Schneider
Stars: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs
What happens when a small town's Boo Radley decides to throw his own funeral party before he dies? Get Low, which has already been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, is set in the '30s in Tennessee and reeks of Southern Gothic goodness. Felix (Duvall) is the town mystery, armed with a shotgun and an angry mule, and everyone wants to attend his party, if only to find out what the hell his deal is. Get Low played at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival and has been building a quiet buzz every since.
The Killer Inside Me
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson
The Killer Inside Me is a classic pulpy noir by Jim Thompson, and this could be hit or miss, but definitely one that has had people talking. Casey Affleck was nominated for an Oscar for his awesomely creepy turn in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and was equally swell in Gone Baby Gone, but Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson are the wild cards. Of course, the real story is about Affleck's character Lou Ford; as in most pulps, women take the backseat to the story, so perhaps The Killer Inside Me will please fans of the book. Winterbottom also has a doc at the festival, The Shock Doctrine, based on the book by the same name by Naomi Kline.
I Am Love
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Pippo Delbono, Alba Rohrwacher, Marisa Berenson
The story of an Italian rich Italian family whose members are eagerly awaiting their grandfather's announcement of who shall run the family business, I Am Love naturally has family drama to spare. Tilda Swinton stars as the mother of the household trying to keep it all together; her presence alone means it's one to watch.
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Stars: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steele, Ann Guilbert
Beloved writer/filmmaker Nicole Holofcener hasn't given fans anything to chew on since 2006's Friends With Money, but thankfully the previously "Untitled Nicole Holofcener Project" is finally ready for viewing. Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt star as a couple coveting their neighbor's apartment, biding their time for the occupant to die so they can buy it and knock out the walls to make their apartment bigger. (It's New York. This stuff happens.) Unfortunately, her granddaughters present a bit of a problem...
Director: Sam Taylor-Wood
Stars: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Ophelia Lovibond, David Threlfall
So far this well-reviewed biopic has received more buzz about the affair and engagement between the director and star Aaron Johnson, but critics have already put this story of the young John Lennon on the BAFTA long list. A coming-of-age story about a man who inspired so many, Nowhere Boy also shows the more painful side of Lennon's upbringing in Liverpool. Newcomer Johnson is getting props for his portrayal of Lennon, as is Anne-Marie Duff, who plays Lennon's mom. Nowhere Boy was written by Matt Greenhalgh, who also wrote the screenplay for the Joy Division biopic Control.
The Violent Kind
Directors: The Butcher Brothers
Stars: Cory Knauf, Taylor Cole, Bret Roberts, Christina Prousalis, Tiffany Shepis, Joe Egender
The Butcher Brothers (Phil Flores and Mitchell Altieri) and their film The Violent Kind has horror geeks drooling with anticipation. A simple party thrown by a local biker gang goes horribly wrong, and not just "Oh, someone spiked the punch" wrong. A rockabilly gang, a biker chick possessed by who knows what, a cabin in the woods... Check out the disturbing clips!
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Stars: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac, David Hewlett
There are so many things we've never learned from horror movies, and one of the biggest is not to eff around with DNA. A group of scientists disregarded this important rule and created a crazy animal/lady that could destroy them – and the world! Icky!
HorrorSquad has the full round-up of Sundance's impressive midnight movie round-up here.
Director: Jessica Hernández, Johnny O'Hara
The life story of assassinated Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto features "exclusive interviews from the Bhutto family and never-before-seen footage" of this groundbreaking political figure.
Director: Adrian Grenier
Adrian Grenier turns the tables on titular teen Austin Visschedyk after the paparazzo snaps a photo of the Entourage star. Soon Visschedyk finds himself on the other side of the camera as the subject of this documentary directed by Grenier about Hollywood, the cult of celebrity, and Grenier's own questions about fame and "mutual exploitation."
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Directors: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg
Rivers is, if anything, a piece of work, and this doc shows all sides of the sharp-tongued comedian and performer who paved the way for Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho, among other brash and brilliant comedians. The directors spent over a year with Rivers, and the result is a look beyond Rivers' act and into her own struggles within the Hollywood machine and in life.
12th & Delaware
Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing
The directors who brought you Jesus Camp are back with another controversial subject: the fight over abortion. The title refers to an intersection in Fort Pierce, FL, where an abortion clinic sits on one side of the street and a pro-life organization sits on the other. This micro view of the fight over abortion was made the year that Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, was killed in church, making him a martyr to the pro-choice movement and his killer a hero to the pro-life movement.
8: The Mormon Proposition
Directors: Reed Cowan, Steven Greenstreet
How involved was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in passing Prop 8, the "California Marriage Protection Act," in California? This doc takes a close look at the mobilization among Mormons in Utah and California to "protect marriage" from the LGBTQ community. Whatever your position, this doc (co-directed by a former Mormon missionary) is sure to spark discussion.