Friday, 20 January 2012

Sundance 2012 Picks: M-Z

Nobody Walks
US Dramatic Competition
This is one of the most talked about films at Sundance this year and has such a stellar cast that I’m excited about it. A well-off liberal family in LA takes in a young artist so she can help finish her film project. But the easy-going and comfortable family are shook up by her presence as she tests relationships and causes each member to slowly unravel into a mess of heated and sexual complications. And that young artist is played by the gorgeous Olivia Thirlby, who is one of my favourite actresses – can’t wait to see her in a role like this. Filling out the rest of the screen are Rosemarie DeWitt, Dylan McDermott, Jane Levy (Suburgatory) and John Krasinski. It’s also co-written by Lena Dunham, whose Tiny Furniture is out later this year.

The Pact
Another horror for you now – this time the full length feature film from a short film which debuted at the festival last year. The Pact assumes the form of the classic haunted house story, but with promise of shifting genres, unnerving tension and the telling title, this may end up being much more than that. Annie (Caity Lotz – Stephanie from Mad Men) returns home unwillingly for her mother’s funeral, but notices something decidedly different – and sinister – about her childhood home and she enlists the help of a policeman and clairvoyant in trying to pin down the evil presence. Nicholas McCarthy’s debut film is said to be heavily influenced by Psycho, Ringu and Suspiria but more than anything the director wanted to make a ghost story that keeps people guessing.

Red Lights
This film intrigues me more and more each time I read about it. A skeptic psychologist (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant (Cillian Murphy) investigate paranormal activity in the hope of denouncing all of the claims as false. But when they get involved in investigating Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a psychic who returns after being missing for 30 years, their faithlessness is put into real question until inexplicable events challenge them entirely. This is the new film from Rodrigo Cortes, the director who brought Buried to the festival a couple of years ago. I wasn’t a huge fan myself, but this film looks set to deliver some terrific performances and again, we’ll be waiting to the last frame to see which way things will turn. Also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Joely Richardson, Toby Jones and Craig Roberts.

Save The Date
US Dramatic Competition
The other wedding themed film I mentioned in my earlier A-L Picks post with Lizzy Caplan. She plays Sarah, the 'naughty sister' who's just got out of one relationship and already she's headlong into another, not really caring about doing the right thing. And then there's Beth (Alison Brie), the 'good sister' who's in the middle of planning her wedding to her fiance Andrew and not shy in spurting out advice to her carefree sibling. But as always, no relationship is straightforward, and as cracks appear, they both need each other's help. Surprisingly, this is written by three men (Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan - who also directs) so I'm intrigued to see what voice comes out. It has nice shades of Rachel Getting Married without the docu feel, and I'm looking forward to it. "It's about all these damaged people who mess each other up, 'cos that's what people do."

Simon Killer
US Dramatic Competition
From the director of Afterschool comes another dark thriller, this time set on the streets of Paris. Simon (Brady Corbett) has come to Europe from America after a difficult break up from his long term girlfriend. Lonely and drifting through the unknown foreign city, he falls in love with a prostitute (Mati Diop) whom he barely knows. But we, as the audience, are about to find out it's us who barely know Simon. Antonio Campos also worked on last year's success Martha Marcy May Marlene and here he has one of the most gripping films of the festival. The only thing not working for me is the title - what's he trying to say to us? Couldn't he think of a better one that that? Ahh, unreliable narrator gone crazy.

US Dramatic Competition
The one thing that struck me reading up about this film, about addiction, is that it "is interested in the unglamorous middle path - what stumbling through recovery looks like." We may start with the hedonistic and destructive world of addiction, but that's not what this film is about or where it's going. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) are a married couple who like to have a good time together, and that involves knocking back the alcohol - hard. After a particularly bad ride, Kate goes cold turkey and in the harsh light of sobriety must evaluate whether she actually has any real relationship with her husband at all. Guaranteed to be chock full of amazingly raw performances, I have a feeling this one will be talked about a lot.

Wish You Were Here
World Dramatic Competition
This is the film that I'm most excited about talking about this year! And with a premise like this, how could I not be? Four friends go on a dream holiday to South East Asia. Only three come back. As they try to get on with their lives at home, events keep leading back to that fateful night when one of the group went missing. I'm such a sucker for mystery stories like these, especially when there's more than a bit of sinister intrigue around the circumstances. Alice and Dave are the couple who go off to Cambodia with Alice's sister Steph and her new boyfriend Jeremy, who disappears one night. Back in Australia secrets unravel about what actually happened out there on holiday, and as one character begins to change irrevocably, the others get suspicious... Teresa Palmer, Antony Starr, Felicity Price and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) star in Kieran Darcy Smith's stylish debut from Australian cinema (one of my faves).

The Words
So, aspiring writers out there, if you were struggling to find the words to write your first novel, and then you uncovered a dead man's complete and brilliant manuscript just left untouched - would you pass it off as your own? That's the central dilemma (well, not dilemma, he goes and does it) facing the main character of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (who bizarrely did the story for Tron Legacy)'s enticing new film. Respect and recognition may come with terrible consequences, and can you live with the guilt of what you've done and your own impersonation? Such a compelling script has attracted some big names: Bradley Cooper (the writer), Zoe Salanda, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, Dennis Quaid... This is one to keep an eye on post fest.

World Dramatic Competition
Perhaps I'm wrong in thinking things can't get any more batshit crazy than Quentin Dupieux's last film Rubber, but I'm probably wrong. HA HA HA HA wrong! I am so wrong. Anyway, Wrong is his new film premiering at Sundance and from what I can gather - which is never very much from his films - Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) has lost his beloved dog Paul and hires a detective to go find him. But that's as sane as things get as the trailer is utterly bonkers. We'll encounter an array of weird characters and ludicrous situations on the journey to find the dog and lose our minds. I'm still slightly scarred from Rubber but hell, I'll go with it.

Your Sister's Sister
Iris lets her friend Jack stay in her father's empty log cabin in a remote location so he can have some time to grieve following the death of his brother. But what she doesn't realise is her sister, Hannah, is also staying at the cabin after going through some personal difficulties of her own. Arriving at the lodge to check up on him, Iris finds two of her closest people bonding in a way that inflicts jealousy, a sibling rivalry but also offers up one or two surprises. Lynn Shelton's new film starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass premiered at Toronto last September to great reviews, and is now getting another prominent festival turnout at Sundance. Blunt and DeWitt are always worth watching, as is a good tussle amongst sisters over the same guy. 

Also worth looking out for...

Room 237 (New Frontier) - die hard The Shining fans believe they have cracked the film's secret hidden messages and codes in this intriguing documentary
West of Memphis (Doc Premieres) - last year three men were acquitted for the ritual murders of three boys in Arkansas. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh help to tell the story
Young and Wild (World Dramatic Competition) - the secret diary of a Chilean teenager: the daughter of a strict religious family rebels with her own sex blog

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