Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sundance Picks A-L

If a film festival was ever made for me, this would be it. I am going to go to Park City one day, that's an absolute certainty. But, sigh, until that fairytale becomes a reality, I've had a good nosy of the schedule and with the illusion of believing I am making an actual list of films I am going to see, here are the pick of the films I, going to see. One day. When they finally come to the UK in the middle of 2011....

Blue Valentine
Dir Derek Cianfrance 
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Another film which explores relationships and love in a middle class suburban setting, and I'm always a sucker for those, but this one made me take notice in particular because of the subject matter - being one person at the beginning of the relationship but then developing into your true self as time goes by while your partner remains on the start line. Plus Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both credible, interesting and exciting actors and if the chemistry is right, and the script is good, this could be a really worthwhile addition to my favourite genre. The trailer hasn't been made yet, but you can see a clip on the film's official website here.

Dir Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu

No, not the Roald Dahl memoir (although go read it, it's good), this is the new film from New Zealand talent Taika Waititi, who if not a household name has definitely got gems on his CV that you'll recognise: namely the hilarious and brilliant Flight of the Conchords and 2008 cult hit and overall lovable oddity Eagle Vs Shark. This looks to have the same delightful humour, but this time told from a child's perspective with an insight into the Maori culture. Should be a lot of fun.

Dir Rodrigo Cortés
Ryan Reynolds
Now here's a curious little one: if you thought Phonebooth couldn't be done, then the restrictions for this film are beyond imagination. Buried stars Ryan Reynolds as a driver in Iraq who is attacked and later wakes up in a trapped cofin with only a handful of objects and no idea how he got there or how to get out. And that's it - the next 90 minutes or so is just us, the camera, and an increasingly frenzied actor. I'm definitely intrigued to see how this one plays out, how the director can pad this out into the taut little thriller it promises with so little to play with. It's also going to be a major test for Ryan Reynolds, who so far, has had a very bland career. This could be a true breakout role, a breakout piece of film work. Here's the teaser trailer:


Enter The Void
Dir Gaspar Noé 
Nathaniel Brown, Paz De La Huerta 
From the premise, to the weird A Clockwork Orange teaser trailer, to the uneasy realisation this is from the same guy who gave us Irreversible, I have to admit that this film freaks me out a little! It caught my eye because the story sounds so interesting, and could be a revelatory portrayal of a ghost, of limbo, of an NDE (I bloody love NDEs, I wrote my dissertation on them). And it's been quietly getting good feedback, so it's obviously not emerged a total mess, or gone the other way and repulsed everyone with pretention. We'll just see how this one goes, see what Sundance makes of it, and I'll wait for the full trailer to be swayed. 

Four Lions
Dir Chris Morris
Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali
This may not mean a lot to the native Americans attending Sundance, but to us Brits who grew up chortling and quoting from The Day Today and diligently watching anything else Chris Morris cast his eye over - the rarity making it lucrative - this film has been a long time coming. It's his first film actually, and true to form he's not settled for anything mainstream or easy, rather having a go at trying to make a comedy....out of terrorism. While many will start murmuring "contraVERsial!", people should watch, as Chris Morris has a habit of pushing the media and social boundaries and getting it right. Whilst raking up Ofcom points, of course. Also penned by the writers of Peep Show, the probability of this being a triumph is already secure. Here's the first clip to wet your appetite.

Dir Adam Green
Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers
I'm not sure what to make of this one. The premise is intriguing - three young skiers take the last chairlift down from the mountain and get stuck midway down as the resort shuts down for the night leaving them trapped in suspension as a snowstorm moves in. But after seeing the trailer, I'm not sure if the director has managed to put enough imagination and inventiveness into the remaining story (apart from all the icky frostbite, frozen fingers being ripped off from frozen bars, etc). I know I shouldn't judge films on the trailers alone, but it didn't seem solid and rich enough in action to fully excite me. I shall wait for reaction. Meanwhile judge for yourself on the quirky thriller:

Grown Up Movie Star
Dir Adriana Maggs
Shawn Doyle, Tatiana Maslany 
This looks like a great adolescent coming of age film, reminding me a lot of Thirteen. Set in Newfoundland as well, an isolated icy place that will be amazing to see on the big screen (once again, my love for icy desolate wildernesses reigns!). I've always maintained Canadian cinema has a lot going for it and they've had some excellent releases lately (C.R.A.Z.Y, Pontypool, West of Pluto). Let's hope this one from first time director Adriana Maggs can keep the Maple Leaf flying high - it certainly looks laden with strong, emotional performances fuelled by the naivety of becoming famous.

Dir Josh Radnor
Malin Akerman, Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber 
One film I'm really excited about! Completely my kind of film: a group of New Yorkers in their 20s who are struggling with life, love, career and friendships - but written by a newcomer (we don't have How I Met Your Mother over here) and starring a real indie cast. Heaven! This film's been getting quite a bit of buzz as well, so I was disappointed when I couldn't find a trailer for it. Still, the set up is convincing and strong enough not to need one - it certainly gets flagged up by me! Plus, it has the excellent Zoe Kazan in it (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Revolutionary Road).

Dir Spencer Susser 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Devin Brochu 
We've arrived at the Natalie film! Hurrah! She signed up for this one quite a while ago, and it's nice to see her heading back to her indie routes, as does Joseph Gordon-Levitt who looks like he has a nice meaty role to exploit here ala Brick - complete with Neanderthal look! Details about this are just beginning to emerge, and it looks like it's a darkly humorous tale focusing on the friendship between loner Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) and young boy TJ, whose just lost his mother in an accident. Natalie plays the local grocery girl (hee!) who befriends them. Unfortunately no trailer as of yet (it'll be on culturemouse soon as) to see exactly what tone and vision this is going to take, but Natalie rarely makes a bad choice. It's a biased recommendation from me!

The Killer Inside Me
Dir Michael Winterbottom
Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson
For all the rigid criteria I use to judge whether I see a film or not, this film doesn't tick any of my boxes. In fact it exudes some pretty hefty warning signs: it's noir! I hate noir! Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson are in it! I HATE Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson! Yet, with all that seemingly going against it, I am strangely drawn to this film and want to go and see it. I have my reasons - it's darkly stylish and smoky, it's about a serial killer (I LOVE serial killers!...ahem) and most importantly Casey Affleck's in it, and he's a damn hard actor to turn down these days. I think he has really blossomed in the last couple of years with excellent turns in The Assassination of Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone and continues to go from strength to strength. I can't not see this film. Plus, I've always wanted to like noir...

Others of note:
The Company Men - one of the most talked about Sundance films focusing on redundancy
Douchebag - taking a road trip to find lost love and avoid an impending wedding
The Dry Land - Brothers without Natalie, and erm, brothers
The Extra Man - Paulo Dano and Kevin Kline get friendly
Get Low - BILL MURRAY!?!
I Am Love- Tilda Swinton being amazing and fierce in patriarchal family drama
Jack Goes Boating - Philip Seymour Hoffman's first directorial piece in which he also stars
The Kids Are Allright - a brother and sister seek out their biological father who helped their gay parents conceive

M-Z will be with you shortly!

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