"Lincoln" (World Premiere)
Technically a world premiere, AFI's coup in landing the first public screening of Steven Speilberg's "Lincoln" was overshadowed by the "work-in-progress" screening that occurred during the New York Film Festival a few weeks back. And while most have suggested there was little "in progress" about that screening, a world premiere is a world premiere, and early word suggests LA audiences are in store for something special. Closing up AFI next week, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis in a sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated performance as the 16th president of the United States. Adapted by "Angels in America" scribe Tony Kushner from Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of Lincoln, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," it covers the final four months of Lincoln's life. [Peter Knegt]
"The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On"
The only American film in AFI FEST's "breakthrough" section, Drew Denny's hilarious, honest "The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On" is based on her performance artwork she created in memory of her dad. Denny herself also stars in the film -- as a woman who sets out on a roadtrip from LA to Austin with her best friend. Shot on Super 16 and digital, its a beautiful film that works as a lovely ode to female friendship. [Peter Knegt]
Two years after his "Littlerock" won both the Gotham Awards' Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You prize and the Indie Spirits' Someone to Watch award (quite the duo), up-and-coming American director Mike Ott returns with "Pearblossom Highway." The film follows to friends, Cory and Anna, who are struggling to find a place in the world. Like "Littlerock," it features Cory Zacharia and Atsuko Okatsuka (who also co-wrote) in the lead roles, effectively bringing excepts of their real life stories into the film. Coming to AFI FEST from its world premiere at the Viennale, its a poignant, unique little film from a filmmaker who refuses to work within convention. [Peter Knegt]
"Rise of the Guardians in 3D”
It may not have much to do with showcasing fresh indie-film talent, but DreamWorks Animation’s new 3D all-star extravaganza is likely to be a very hot ticket. Directed by first-timer Peter Ramsay and scripted by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, “Rise of the Guardians in 3D” pits an ultimate team-up of children’s icons — Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, Santa Claus, Sandman and Tooth Fairy — with celebrity voices (Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman) against an evil spirit looking to corrupt kids’ dreams. The film’s Gala matinee screening at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Nov. 4 is the rare family-oriented event for those looking to take a break from the rest of the program. There’s even a geek angle: this is one of the DWA projects executive producer Guillermo del Toro worked on. And if the film skews more “How to Train Your Dragon” than “Shrek,” audiences will be glad they snuck a peek before its over-booked Thanksgiving theatrical release. [Jay A. Fernandez]