Sundance 2014: Buzzy Premieres Lean Toward Comedy, Documentary All-Stars Unveiled, Redford Books Failure Workshop

Sundance 2014: Buzzy Premieres Lean Toward Comedy, Documentary All-Stars Unveiled, Redford Books Failure Workshop

The Sundance Film Festival has unveiled the films selected
to screen in its out-of-competition Premieres and Documentary Premieres
sections. This is where the better-known directors and stars show up for red carpet walks in front of the Eccles Theater, and where much of the acquisition heat will be focused. The 2014 festival runs January 16-26 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. Sundance director John Cooper and his staff have been trying to make the festival experience better for audiences by creating an online wait list solution via a new app, “so you don’t have to wait in line so much,” says Cooper. “You can do the wait list through your smart phone.”

Cooper and his head programmer Trevor Groth say that Hollywood agents and managers are applying less pressure now to try and get prime opening slots for their films–the first Sundance weekend now runs through Wednesday, says Cooper. “We’re more transparent and they’re less rigid.”

“They’re trusting us to do our jobs,” says programmer Trevor Groth. “Over the last few years it’s gotten smoother, this was the best yet.”

Clearly, this year’s Sundance is strong on comedy, as Michael Winterbottom reunites with Steve Coogan in “A Trip to Italy,” and Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and Ed Helms topline David Wain’s “They Came Together.” Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton created “Laggies” with comedic novelist Andrea Siegel. “The Guard” writer-director John Michael McDonagh reunites with Brendan Gleeson with dark Irish comedy “Calvary.” Gleeson’s son Domhnall stars in “Frank,” which is generating early buzz mostly because star Michael Fassbender took a big chance by wearing a giant ceramic head throughout the film. 

Several Sundance regulars return with new work. Documentarian Steve James is back with “Life Itself,” his portrait of the late critic Roger Ebert; Alex Gibney will unspool music doc “Finding Fela,” Amir Bar-Lev explores the truth behind the Jerry Sandusky pedophile scandal in “Happy Valley,” Rory Kennedy looks back at “Last Days in Vietnam,” and in “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger,” Joe Berlinger (the “Paradise Lost” West Memphis Three trilogy) explores the way Boston law enforcement dealt with the crime lord who finally was sentenced for his many sins. “What’s new in the documentary world,” says Sundance director John Cooper, “is the topical issue that is still happening; the window is shrinking. There’s a timely urgency in the documentaries.”

Actress Brit Marling rejoins her “Another Earth” director Mike Cahill in feature “I Origins,” a story that explores where we all came from. Sundance regular Gregg Araki adapts a Laura Kasischke novel, “White Bird in a Blizzard,” starring Shailene Woodley and Eva Green. And Anton Corbijn adapts John Le Carre spy thriller “A Most Wanted Man” with an all-star cast. Jake Paltrow (“The Good Night”) brings a dystopian western to Sundance, “Young Ones.” 

Continuing this year’s actor-director trend, William H. Macy directs “Rudderless,” starring Billy Crudup as a grieving father who starts a rock band; the film co-stars Macy and wife Felicity Huffman. 

To celebrate the 30th anniversary this year, Sundance is mounting a Cinema Cafe panel on the idea of failure called Free Fail, which was Robert Redford’s idea, says Cooper. “He sees failure as a true component of the creative process, one that we don’t celebrate nearly enough. Instead of trying to deny it, we are looking at failure as part of what creativity is.” Likely Best Actor Oscar nominee Redford may or may not participate depending on his schedule.

Along with other workshops to be announced, including one on film criticism inspired by Steve James’ Roger Ebert doc, they’re planning to screen one film that they failed to show at a past Sundance. (No, it’s not “One False Move.”) 

In addition to those announced today, films in the U.S. and
World Competition and NEXT were announced November 4 (full lineup), and Spotlight,
Park City at Midnight, New Frontier and Sundance Kids sections were announced
November 5 (full lineup)

Full lineups below:


A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly
anticipated dramatic films of the coming year. Presented by Entertainment


Calvary / Ireland, United Kingdom (Director and
screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh) — Calvary is a blackly comedic drama about
a priest tormented by his community. Father James is a good man intent on
making the world a better place. When his life is threatened one day during
confession, he finds he has to battle the dark forces closing in around him.
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran,
Marie-Josée Croz.


Frank / Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Lenny Abrahamson,
Screenwriters: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan) —

Frank is an offbeat comedy about a wannabe musician who
finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant garde rock band led by
the enigmatic Frank—a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie
Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy.


Hits / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Cross) — A
small town in upstate New York is populated by people who wallow in unrealistic
expectations. There, fame, delusion, earnestness, and recklessness meet, shake
hands, and disrupt the lives around them. Cast: Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh,
James Adomian, Derek Waters, Wyatt Cenac, Jake Cherry.


I Origins / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mike Cahill)
— A molecular biologist and his lab partner uncover startling evidence that
could fundamentally change society as we know it and cause them to question
their once-certain beliefs in science and spirituality. Cast: Michael Pitt,
Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi.


Laggies / U.S.A. (Director: Lynn Shelton, Screenwriter:
Andrea Seigel) — Laggies is a coming of age story about a 28-year-old woman
stuck in permanent adolescence. Unable to find her career calling, still
hanging out with the same friends, and living with her high school boyfriend,
Megan must finally navigate her own future when an unexpected marriage proposal
sends her into a panic. Cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloë Grace
Moretz, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin, Mark Webber.


Little Accidents / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sara
Colangelo) — In a small American coal town living in the shadow of a recent
mining accident, the disappearance of a teenage boy draws three people
together—a surviving miner, the lonely wife of a mine executive, and a local
boy—in a web of secrets. Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Chloë Sevigny,
Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas.

The rest of the lineup, after the jump…

PREMIERES, continued: 

Love is Strange / U.S.A. (Director: Ira Sachs,
Screenwriters: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias) — After 39 years together, Ben
and George finally tie the knot, but George loses his job as a result, and the
newlyweds must sell their New York apartment and live apart, relying on friends
and family to make ends meet. Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Darren
Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson, Marisa Tomei.


A Most Wanted Man / Germany, U.S.A. (Director: Anton Corbijn,
Screenwriter: Andrew Bovell) — Based on John le Carré’s bestselling book, Anton
Corbijn directs this modern-day thriller with Academy Award–winning actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, and two-time Academy
Award nominee Willem Dafoe headlining an ensemble cast. Cast: Philip Seymour
Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe.


Nick Offerman: American Ham / U.S.A. (Director: Jordan
Vogt-Roberts, Screenwriter: Nick Offerman) — WARNING: MINOR NUDITY AND NOT
SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS. This live taping of Nick Offerman’s hilarious one-man
show at New York’s historic Town Hall theater features a collection of
anecdotes, songs, and woodworking/oral sex techniques. The routine includes
Offerman’s 10 tips for living a more prosperous life, so hearken well. Cast:
Nick Offerman.


The Raid 2 / Indonesia (Director and screenwriter: Gareth
Evans) — Picking up where the first film left off, The Raid 2 follows Rama as
he goes undercover and infiltrates the ranks of a ruthless Jakarta crime
syndicate in order to protect his family and expose the corruption in his own
police force. Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio
Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad.


Rudderless / U.S.A. (Director: William H. Macy,
Screenwriters: Casey Twenter, Jeff Robison, William H. Macy) — When a grieving
father in a downward spiral stumbles upon a box of his deceased son’s original
music, he forms a rock ‘n’ roll band, which changes his life. Cast: Billy
Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Huffman, Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne,


They Came Together / U.S.A. (Director: David Wain,
Screenwriters: Michael Showalter, David Wain) — This
subversion/spoof/deconstruction of the romantic comedy genre has a vaguely, but
not overtly, Jewish leading man, a klutzy, but adorable, leading lady, and New
York City itself as another character in the story. Cast: Amy Poehler, Paul
Rudd, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Max Greenfield, Christopher Meloni.


The Trip to Italy / United Kingdom (Director: Michael
Winterbottom, Screenwriters: Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Michael Winterbottom) —
Michael Winterbottom reunites Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for more delectable
food, some sharp-elbowed rivalry, and plenty of laughs. Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob


The Voices Inside / U.S.A., Germany (Director: Marjane
Satrapi, Screenwriter: Michael Perry) — This genre-bending tale centers around
Jerry Hickfang, a lovable but disturbed factory worker who yearns for attention
from a woman in accounting. When their relationship takes a sudden, murderous
turn, Jerry’s evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog lead him down a
fantastical path where he ultimately finds salvation. Cast: Ryan Reynolds,
Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver.


White Bird in a Blizzard / U.S.A. (Director and
screenwriter: Gregg Araki) — Based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Kasischke,
White Bird in a Blizzard tells the story of Kat Connors, a young woman whose
life is turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her beautiful, enigmatic
mother. Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh
Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane.


Young Ones / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jake
Paltrow) — When a series of events is set into motion, altering his young life
forever, Jerome is forced to make choices that no child should ever have to
make. Cast: Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning, Kodi Smit-McPhee.




Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects
comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.
Each film is a world premiere.


The Battered Bastards of Baseball / U.S.A. (Directors:
Chapman Way, Maclain Way) — Hollywood veteran Bing Russell creates the only
independent baseball team in the country—alarming the baseball establishment
and sparking the meteoric rise of the 1970s Portland Mavericks.


Finding Fela / U.S.A. (Director: Alex Gibney) — Fela
Anikulapo Kuti created the musical movement Afrobeat and used it as a political
forum to oppose the Nigerian dictatorship and advocate for the rights of
oppressed people. This is the story of his life, music, and political


Freedom Summer / U.S.A. (Director: Stanley Nelson) — In the
summer of 1964, more than 700 students descended on violent, segregated
Mississippi. Defying authorities, they registered voters, created freedom
schools, and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Fifty years
later, eyewitness accounts and never-before-seen archival material tell their
story. Not all of them would make it through.


Happy Valley / U.S.A. (Director: Amir Bar-Lev) — Was Jerry
Sandusky’s pedophilia an open secret in the town that had always thought of
itself as Happy Valley? Did legendary coach Joe Paterno know about it? With
rare access to key players in the scandal, Happy Valley deconstructs the story
we think we know to expose a modern American tragedy.


Last Days in Vietnam / U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy) —
During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army
closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt
to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront a moral
quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate only U.S. citizens.


Life Itself / U.S.A. (Director: Steve James) — Life Itself
recounts the surprising and entertaining life of renowned film critic and
social commentator Roger Ebert. The film details his early days as a
freewheeling bachelor and Pulitzer Prize winner, his famously contentious
partnership with Gene Siskel, his life-altering marriage, and his brave and
transcendent battle with cancer.


Mitt / U.S.A. (Director: Greg Whiteley) — A filmmaker is
granted unprecedented access to a political candidate and his family as he runs
for President.


Revolution / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Greg Barker)
— Revolution tells the stories of ordinary individuals who are transformed by
the moral and personal challenges they encounter when standing up for what they
believe is right. Powerful and tragic, yet inspirational, their struggles for
freedom echo across history and offer hope against seemingly impossible odds.


This May Be the Last Time / U.S.A. (Director: Sterlin Harjo)
— Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo’s Grandfather disappeared mysteriously in 1962. The
community searching for him sang songs of encouragement that were passed down
for generations. Harjo explores the origins of these songs as well as the
violent history of his people.


To Be Takei / U.S.A. (Director: Jennifer Kroot) — Over seven
decades, actor and activist George Takei journeyed from a World War II
internment camp to the helm of the Starship Enterprise, and then to the daily
news feeds of five million Facebook fans. Join George and his husband, Brad, on
a wacky and profound trek for life, liberty, and love.


WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. Bulger / U.S.A.
(Director: Joe Berlinger) — Infamous gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s
relationship with the FBI and Department of Justice allowed him to reign over a
criminal empire in Boston for decades. Joe Berlinger’s documentary chronicles
Bulger’s recent sensational trial, using it as a springboard to explore
allegations of corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement.

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