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The 25 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2013 Sundance Film Festival

The 25 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2013 Sundance Film Festival

We’re barely into 2013, and already the film festival circuit is kicking off again. It’s only a matter of weeks since The Playlist hung up our collective traveling pants from our last festival trip of 2012 (Marrakech), but even ahead of Berlin next month, we’re packing our bags again for one of the major dates in the cinephile calendar — the Sundance Film Festival.

For over thirty years, the festival has served as a major showcase for independent cinema both from the U.S. and abroad, helping to discover the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Thomas Anderson and David O. Russell, among many others. And the 2012 edition brought with films that were talked about for the rest of the year including “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Middle Of Nowhere,” “The Sessions,” “Searching For Sugar Man,” “Smashed,” “Room 237” and many others.

Now, we’re only a day or two away from catching our flight to Robert Redford‘s Utah hideaway, and to serve as a precursor to our coverage, we’ve gathered up 25 films — some reassembled from our Most Anticipated coverage, some of which are new picks — that number among the most promising in the line-up. Check them out below, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments section.

Synopsis: Having spent most of his life torn between his bitterly divorced parents, a man must try to bring them back to good terms before his brother’s wedding, while discovering that his childhood psychiatrist wrote a book about him.
What You Need To Know: While our long-professed desire to see Adam Scott in a leading role led to less-than-happy results with “Friends With Kids,” there’s still no doubt as to the talents of the “Step Brothers “and “Parks & Recreation” actor, and this new comedy seems like it could be a far more promising proposition. Scott is joined by a top-notch bunch of comic talent, including Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, Clark Duke, Adam Pally, Ken Howard and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (with Jessica Alba also involved), and the premise is pretty ripe for hilarity and something a little more besides. And whatever hesitation caused by the presence of “Elektra” co-writer Stu Zicherman, who co-wrote the script and makes his directorial debut here, is counter-balanced by long-running “Daily Show” writer/producer Ben Karlin as his co-writer. And indeed, the Black Listed screenplay was, at least in the early form we read, a pretty good little comedy that should give the cast plenty to play with. There’s always the possibility that this turns out to be this year’s Park City equivalent of the underwhelming “Bachelorette,” but we’re definitely hopeful that “A.C.O.D” will be something more.
When: January 23rd and 24th at the Eccles Theater in Park City, Jan 25th at the Sundance Resort Screening Room, and Jan 26th at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”
Synopsis: Four years after their crime spree was brought to an end by the authorities, a young couple, Bob and Ruth, are reunited when he escapes from prison.
What You Need To Know: Attracting talent like Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Nate Parker for your first big feature suggests that you might potentially be a big deal, and all the promise that David Lowery has shown over the last few years looks to come to a head with “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” A familiar name on the indie circuit thanks to his debut feature “St. Nick,” and his short “Pioneer” (which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2011), Lowery’s all over Park City in 2013, as an editor on “Upstream Color,” and the co-writer of NEXT entry “Pit Stop,” but his ’70s-set Texas crime tale is undoubtedly his magnum opus this year. There are obvious echoes of “Badlands” and “Bonnie & Clyde” here, but it sounds like Lowery has his own take at work, and he couldn’t ask for a more talented cast. “Pariah” and “Middle Of Nowhere” DoP Bradford Young is shooting the film too, so it should look glorious.
When: January 20th at the Eccles in Park City, the 21st at the Rose Wagner in Salt Lake City, the 22nd, the 23rd and the 25th at the Redstone, MARC and Prospector Square Theatres respectively, and the 24th at the Sundance Resort.

“Before Midnight”
Synopsis:  Now in their forties, Celine and Jesse meet nine years after their last rendezvous in France, this time in Greece.
What You Need To Know: Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, but Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are clearly enamored of the romantic duo of Celine and Jesse, first introduced in “Before Sunrise” in 1995. The trio earn the best misdirection award of 2012 — earlier in the year, all three of them in separate interviews gave the, “who knows?” answer (though Hawke kind of gave up the ghost) when quizzed about a third picture in this would-be trilogy, but by September they had shot the entire thing in secret. While it’s been called a type of conclusion to this will-they-or-won’t-they romance, Linklater himself has suggested that the picture doesn’t end on so much of a definitive note that they couldn’t do another follow up if they wanted.
When: Park City: the 20th at the Eccles, the 21st and 26th at the MARC. Ogden: the 23rd at Peery’s Egyptian. SLC: 24th at the Salt Lake City Library Theatre. And the 25th at the Sundance Resort.

“Blue Caprice”
Synopsis: A retelling of the story of the Beltway Snipers — two men who killed ten people, and wounded a further three, in Virginia and Maryland in 2002.
What You Need To Know: A little over a decade ago, the Washington D.C. area was terrorized by The Beltway Sniper, a shooter who struck, seemingly at random, over the space of twenty days. The perpetrators turned out to be John Allen Muhammed, a Nation of Islam member, and his seventeen-year-old accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. Now the story is coming to the screen, thanks to art director/filmmaker Alexandre Moors, best known for his work with Kanye West on “Cruel Summer,” alongside videos for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Talib Kweli. While the cast has some familiar faces, including “Out Of Sight” and “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Isaiah Washington as Muhammed, and Joey Lauren Adams and Tim Blake Nelson among the other co-stars, we’re hoping for something closer to Gus Van Sant‘s “Elephant” than to a Lifetime movie reconstruction. That said, we’re curious to see if Moors’ approach has the substance to match the style, but it’s certainly an intriguing prospect, and quite different from many of the other festival entries.
When: January 19th at the Library Center Theater in Park City and the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, Jan 21st at Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, January 23rd at the Sundance Resort Screening Room, and Jan 24th at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre in Park City.

“Breathe In”
Synopsis: A happily married New York City music teacher is drawn to a young British foreign exchange student.
What You Need To Know: Between 2010’s “Douchebag” and 2011’s breakout “Like Crazy,” youthful director Drake Doremus has virtually become part of the furniture at Sundance in recent years. And he’s back in 2013 with “Breathe In,” a drama the prolific filmmaker had already completed photography on before “Like Crazy” was even in theaters. Reuniting him with the ludicrously talented star of the latter, Felicity Jones, “Breathe In” also sees the always-welcome Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan getting involved too, in a production that uses the same semi-improvised process that Doremus has made good use of in the past. But it’s not just business as usual; word is that Doremus is using a more classical, handheld-free aesthetic, which should be interesting to see. “Like Crazy,” for all its beautiful flaws, certainly made us keen to see more from the director, so this is high on our list for Park City and beyond.
When: 19th at the Eccles in Park City, 20th and 25th at the MARC, 22nd at the Rose Wagner and 26th at the Library Theater, both in SLC.

“Computer Chess”
Synopsis: In a hotel in 1980, a group of programmers try to create the ultimate computer chess program.
What You Need To Know: Probably one of the most talented directors to be part of that dreadful m-word American film movement (m*mbl*c*re), Andrew Bujalski has been sorely missed since we last saw him in 2009 with the fantastic and criminally underseen “Beeswax.” Thankfully his new film, a period piece if you will, not only succeeded in its crowd-sourcing endeavor but completed shooting late in 2011, and will premiere at Sundance in just over a week. While the “Funny Ha Ha” filmmaker has shied away from big names (“Dazed and Confused” actor Wiley Wiggins is the biggest name involved), this film will mark his move away from celluloid and flatbed editing — instead, the PortaPak digital cameras of the era will be used. It sounds like an interesting prospect and quite a bizarre world, especially considering how far we’ve come technologically since then. Smartly, Bujalski has insisted that he will not include any wink-wink 1980s references, but his camera will be watching these characters like a hawk and there will be plenty of humor despite the lack of Suncoast Video references.
When: 21st, 22nd and 25th at the Library Center, Redstone and Prospector Square, respectively, in Park City, and the 23rd at the Tower Theater in SLC.

“Don Jon’s Addiction”
Synopsis: A Casanova figure sets out to find a more fulfilling sex life, but learns some life lessons along the way.
What You Need To Know: Almost every major star tries to step behind the camera at some point, to varying effect — some turn out Clint Eastwood or Ben Affleck, others closer to Johnny Depp (whose “The Brave” hardly got any kind of release). Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t hanging around — he’s barely turned 30, but the “Looper” star, who’s been sponsoring all kinds of interesting creative work through his hitRECord projects, is making his feature writing/directing debut at Sundance this year. Seemingly a light, comic take on “Shame,” the idea of casting yourself as a sex addict opposite Scarlett Johansson might seem like a vanity project, but there’s plenty of other promising talent involved, including Julianne Moore, Rob Brown and, of all people, Tony Danza. It’s one of those projects that could go either way, but given Gordon-Levitt’s pretty great choice in projects in general, we’ve got faith that he’ll come up with something interesting when he’s in charge.
When: Jan 18th, 19th and 26th at the Eccles in Park City, plus the 22nd at the Library Center, while it hits the Rose Wagner in SLC on the 19th, and the Sundance Resort on the 21st.

“The East”
Synopsis: A young woman is hired to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists, only to fall in with their inscrutable leader and their cause.
What You Need To Know: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij re-team after last year’s fascinating genre-bender “Sound Of My Voice,” with Marling handling co-writing and starring duties once again. With that picture, and 2011’s “Another Earth,” Marling’s announced herself as a major voice in genre filmmaking, but for her follow-up with Batmanglij, it looks like they’ve opted for a more expansive, unsettling experience, with urban political statements cross-bred with an escalating sense of doom. All accounts are that “The East” is going to boldly toe the line between the group’s dangerous beliefs and the horrible aftermath of their actions, with Marling at the center of a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgaard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Patricia Clarkson.
When: 20th at the Eccles in Park City, 21st at the Library Center in Park City, 25th at the SLC Library Theatre, 26th at Peery’s Egyptian in Ogden, and 27th at the Sundance Resort Screening Room.

“Emanuel And The Truth About Fishes”
Synopsis: A teenage girl forms a friendship with the young mother who moves in next door.
What You Need To Know: The increasingly busy schedule for Rooney Mara ultimately meant that something had to give, and the actress had to drop out of a reunion with “Tanner Hall” director Francesca Gregorini on this coming-of-age drama. In her place is “Skins” and “Wuthering Heights” star Kaya Scodelario, who’s looking like an early prospect to be this year’s Felicity Jones-style breakout star. Joining a cast that also features Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor, Jimmi Simpson and rising British actor Aneurin Barnard, this promises a stylized take on the indie drama from a director whose “Tanner Hall” showed promise, even if it wasn’t all the way there. If she can step up her game — and if Scodelario fulfills the promise that she’s long showed — this could definitely be one to watch.
Release Date: 18th and the 21st at the Library Center in Park City, plus the Eccles on the 23rd and the MARC on the 25th. Also going to Ogden at Peery’s Egyptian on the 19th, and the SLC Library Theatre on the 20th.

“I Used To Be Darker”
Synopsis: A pregnant Northern Irish woman runs away to relatives in Baltimore, only to discover that her aunt is on the verge of getting divorced.  
What You Need To Know: Matthew Porterfield‘s “Putty Hill” became something of a critical hit when it premiered in Berlin three years ago, and the picture kept up that momentum when it was released in the U.S. in 2011. Now, Porterfield is ready to strike again with a crowd-funded follow-up that shot late last summer, which reunites him with much of the same creative team, musicians Ned Oldham and Kim Taylor and newcomers Hannah Gross and Deragh Campbell leading the cast. Hopefully we can expect the same realistic, truthful approach, and the same picturesque Baltimore locations, but with a musical leaning that some have compared to “Once.”
When? The Yarrow Hotel in Park City on the 19th, also showing at the Temple in Park City on the 20th and 25th, and the 21st at Broadway Centre in SLC.

“In A World…”
Synopsis: A vocal coach sets out to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a successful trailer voice-over artist.
What You Need To Know: Lake Bell is another of those actresses who’s consistently been cropping up in high-profile film and TV roles that somehow, despite her being beautiful, funny and immensely talented, have never quite led to her becoming a household name. But after premiering a short at the festival last year, and directing two episodes of the excellent “Children’s Hospital,” she’s back in Park City for her feature debut, which delves into the competitive world of voiceover artists. The set up, with the promise of family conflict and romance, might not be that different from some of the competition, but the voice-over angle should give it some freshness, and Bell should bring a new sensibility to things. And she’s certainly got a great cast assembled, with “Children’s Hospital” alumni Rob Corddry, Ken Marino and Nick Offerman joining Geena Davis, Demetri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Jeff Garlin and, as her father, “A Serious Man” stand-out Fred Melamed. The chance to see the latter as the vocal cords behind movie trailers seems like it would be worth the price of admission on its own.
When: January 20th at the LIbrary Center Theatre in Park City, January 21st at the Rose Wagner in Salt Lake City, and January 22nd, 23rd and 26th at the MARC, Eccles and Egyptian respectively, all in Park City.

“In Fear”
Synopsis: A young couple on their way to a music festival become lost and tormented by a mysterious stranger.
What You Need To Know: As far as British genre fare goes, Big Talk Productions has one of the more solid track records out there. They’ve barely put a foot wrong on the big screen thanks to the likes of “Shaun Of The Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” “Attack The Block” and “Sightseers” (which also screens at Sundance this year), and it’s their involvement that’s pricked up our interest in this under-the-radar genre entry. The premise might not seem particularly ground-breaking, but the process that director Jeremy Lovering — a TV veteran who worked on “Miss Austen Regrets” and “Money” — put his cast through seems more interesting. Alice Englert (“Ginger & Rosa“) and Iain De Caestecker (soon to be seen on the small screen in Joss Whedon‘s “S.H.I.E.L.D“) weren’t shown the script, and didn’t know what was going to happen to their characters, which has the potential to be something fresh and chilling, while production notes promises a film with smarts to match the scares. Could we be looking at the next breakout genre flick from across the pond?
When: January 20th at the Egyptian in Park City, January 22nd at the Broadway Center in Salt Lake City, and January 23rd and 25th at the Prospector Square and Redstone Theatres in Park City.

“Kill Your Darlings”
Synopsis: Young Allen Ginsberg arrives at Columbia University and immediately makes friends with Lucien Carr, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, planting the seeds for what would become the Beat movement. But their lives are shattered when an older man in love with Carr is found dead.
What You Need To Know: “On The Road” made a decent fist at adapting the Beat classic last year without ever feeling truly inspired. Will an attempt at going back to the early days of some of the movement’s key figures be more successful? First time writer-director John Krokidas has the benefit of a doozy of true-crime story here, and he’s certainly assembled an interesting cast, with Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg, Ben Foster as Burroughs, Jack Huston as Kerouac, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr and Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker (with Michael C. Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyra Sedgwick also featuring). There’s the risk that it could come across as a sort of Beat Muppet Babies, or “On The Road: First Class.” But there’s a good story here, and a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera, so we’re definitely feeling optimistic.
When: Four Park City screenings: the Eccles on the 18th, the Redstone on the 19th, the Egyptian on the 23rd, and the Library Center on the 25th. Also screening at the Rose Wagner in SLC on the 20th.

“The Look Of Love”
Synopsis: Biopic of Paul Raymond, the pornographer who, thanks to canny investment, became one of Britain’s richest men, and the self-styled “King Of Soho.”
What You Need To Know: We’re on record as being big Michael Winterbottom fans, but even we struggled a little bit with his last theatrical release, “Trishna.” 2013 brings two films from the director, and while we’re looking forward to “Everyday” too, it’s “The Look of Love” that really has our attention.  Over a decade on from “24 Hour Party People,” one of the best British films of the ’00s, Winterbottom reteams with star Steve Coogan for the fourth time for a film that seems to be a sort of spiritual sibling to that earlier one. Digging into seedy London of the 1960s and beyond, rather than Manchester in the 1970s, it promises to be as stylistically playful, but darker in tone. “Control” writer Matt Greenhaigh penned the script, and the cast is strong too, with Anna Friel, Imogen Poots and Tamsin Egerton as the women in his life, and comic talent like Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Sarah Solemani and Chris Addison also cropping up. We haven’t looked forward to a Winterbottom film this much in years.
When: The Eccles on the 19th and 20th, the Rose Wagner in SLC on the 23rd, Sundance Resort on the 24th, and back in Park City for the MARC on the 26th.

“Magic Magic”
Synopsis: An American tourist, traveling with friends through rural Chile, is struck by crippling insomnia which makes her start to lose her grip on reality.
What You Need To Know: After a few quiet years, 2013 marks the return of Michael Cera to our screens. He’s barely been glimpsed since the release of “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” but between the return of “Arrested Development,” plus appearances in “This Is The End” and another Sundance flick “Crystal Fairy,” he’s firmly on the comeback trail, and “Magic Magic” might be the most promising film on his slate. Marking the return of “The Maid” director Sebastian Silva (who won the dramatic jury prize at the festival in 2009, and who also helmed “Crystal Fairy”), it seems to be a heady and picturesque sort of psychological thriller which, with cinematography by Wong Kar-Wai‘s legendary DoP Christopher Doyle, should look pretty stunning. And the talent in front of the camera is equally strong, with the excellent Juno Temple in the lead role, Emily Browning and Catalina Sandina Moreno in support, and what promises to be a very different kind of part for Cera, that could turn out to be something very interesting indeed.
When: January 22nd and 24rd at the Library Center Theater in Park City, January 24th at the Salt Lake City Library Theatre, and the 26th at the Egyptian Theatre back in Park City.

”The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman”
Synopsis: Traveling abroad, Charlie Countryman falls for a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart is connected to Nigel, her violent, charismatic ex. As her dark past increasingly envelops him, Charlie resolves to win her heart, or die trying.
What You Need To Know: Swedish-born first-time feature-length filmmaker Fredrik Bond might be an unknown in the film world,  but he has accumulated numerous awards throughout the course of his successful career as a commercial director including one at Cannes. The two leads are Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood, and the excellent supporting cast features Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Rupert Grint, Vincent D’Onofrio, James Buckley, Aubrey Plaza and Melissa Leo. Written by Matt Drake (who also wrote “Project X“), the music is by Christophe Beck and Dead Mono, with songs by Moby and more, so at the very least the picture should have some good tunes in it. And it’s being sheperded by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, the producers behind “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Ruby Sparks,” and Alexander Payne‘s upcoming film, “Nebraska” so you know they at least have good taste.
When: 21st and 22nd at the Eccles, and 26th at the Library Center, both in Park City. Plus 25th at the Rose Wagner in SLC.

“Prince Avalanche”
Synopsis: Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives at odds with each other and the women they left behind.
What You Need To Know: You kind of never know what director David Gordon Green is going to do next. Just when he appeared to be the heir apparent to Terrence Malick with lyrical, poetic indie films, the filmmaker pivoted to comedy and even became part of the Judd Apatow gang when he helmed “Pineapple Express.” Three silly comedies later, Green was supposed to take on a remake of “Suspiria,” but quietly, while no one was looking, shot and completed “Prince Avalanche,” a remake of the Icelandic film “Either Way,” in Texas last year. A two-hander, the picture stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch (who Green almost worked with years ago on a a shuttered project called, “Bully“), with no else listed in the cast other than 77-year-old character actor Lance LeGault. Said to be a meditative character study, this may be the “getting back to his roots” movie that many have been asking for.  And to give it some appropriate mood, the score has been written by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, Green’s longtime music collaborator from the indie folk band Ola Podrida.
When: 20th and 24th at the Library Center Theatre in Park City, plus 21st at the Egyptian, and 25th at the SLC Library Theatre.

“Sound City”
Synopsis: A documentary that sees Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl bring together a legendary group of musicians to record a new album in a legendary analog recording studio in the San Fernando Valley.
What You Need To Know: Dave Grohl‘s already something of a polymath; drummer for Nirvana (among others), frontman and guitarist for Foo Fighters and, of course, member of the Moopets. And hot on the heels of the latter, he’s making his own directorial debut with this promising-sounding documentary about the Sound City recording studio in Van Nuys. Opened in 1969, it was where classic albums including Nevermind, Rumours, After The Gold Rush and Rage Against The Machine were all recorded, and Grohl’s assembled a selection of big names who once used the non-digital studio, to record a new album including Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield and Paul McCartney. The trailer promises muso heaven, while he’s brought in some doc heavyweights, including some of the people behind “The Cove” and “Dogtown & Z-Boys” to give him a hand. But Grohl’s smart enough that he probably could have done the whole thing on his Macbook and it would still be one of the best music documentaries of the year.
When: In Park City at the MARC on the 18th and the LIbrary Center on the 19th and 24th of January, with the Sundance Resort on the 19th, and the Salt Lake City Library Theatre and the Tower Theatre on the 22nd and 27th. The film’s then released on February 1st, with the record following in March.

“The Spectacular Now”
Synopsis: A heavy-drinking high-schooler is drawn to an outcast classmate.
What You Need To Know: One of a handful of teen flicks to premiere this year, “The Spectacular Now” marks the return of two separate Sundance successes: duo Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber who wrote “(500) Days Of Summer” and director James Ponsoldt, whose film “Smashed” won a ton of acclaim in Park City last year. The trio have teamed on an adaptation of Tim Tharp’s coming-of-age novel, and Ponsoldt’s got a great cast together, with “Smashed” lead Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bob Odenkirk and Andre Royo among those involved. Perhaps most excitingly of all, he’s got two of the most hotly tipped young actors around filling the lead roles, “Rabbit Hole” actor Miles Teller and “The Descendants” star Shailene Woodley. While it might seem a bit Sundance-by-numbers at first glance, we liked Neustadter and Weber’s script, which is raw and truthful and less precious than ‘(500) Days,’ and Ponsoldt showed plenty of promise with “Smashed.” Could this be 2013’s answer to “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower“?
When: Park City on the 18th and 25th at the Library Center, the 20th at the Redstone and the 22nd at the Eccles, plus the Tower Theatre in SLC on the 23rd.

Synopsis: An strange and creepy uncle moves in with a teenage girl and her emotionally unstable mother after her father dies. Although the girl, India, has suspicions about his motives, she finds herself drawn to him.
What You Need To Know: Pitched somewhere in between horror, family drama and psychological thriller, “Stoker” is the English-language directorial debut of Park Chan-wook, the heralded South Korean film director behind “The Vengeance Trilogy” (which includes “Oldboy“), “Thirst” and “Joint Security Area.” Written by actor Wentworth Miller under a pseudonym, the picture stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. It will be interesting to see how the Southern-Gothic flavor of the screenplay translates in the hands of a foreigner, but we assume this might be the beginning of a new career in America for the director if all goes well.
When: 20th and 21st at the Eccles in Park City, 23rd at the Sundance Resort, 25th at the Rose Wagner in SLC, and 26th at Peery’s Egyptian in Ogden. Fox Searchlight release the film on March 1st.

“Top Of The Lake”
Synopsis: A police detective attempts to solve the disappearance of the pregnant 15-year-old daughter of a drug kingpin in a small New Zealand town.
What You Need To Know: Almost all of the films heading to Sundance are hoping for theatrical distribution, but there’s one that has no intention of even courting it — the epic mystery “Top Of The Lake,” a seven-hour TV miniseries. But even so, it’s one of the most anticipated premieres of the festival, because it marks the return of Jane Campion (who co-directed with commercials veteran Garth Davis, as well as co-writing the script) to the festival where her debut “Sweetie” first unspooled a quarter of a century ago. The idea of Campion (whose last film, “Bright Star,” numbers among her best) turning her hand to long-form narrative is an exciting one, and this seems like it could be the kind of material that brings out the best in her. “Mad Men” star Elisabeth Moss leads a cast that also includes Peter Mullan, David Wenham and “The Piano” star Holly Hunter.
When: One showing only, at the Egyptian on January 20th. But it should air on the Sundance Channel, and elsewhere later in the year, before too long.

“Touchy Feely”
Synopsis: A massage therapist is unable to do her job when she suddenly develops an aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother’s foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.”
What You Need To Know: Writer/director Lynn Shelton is practically a mainstay at Sundance and with good reason. She’s been lumped into the fast and loose mumblecore movement with organic, naturalistic comedies like “Humpday,” but she’s also matured well beyond that delineation with the observational exploration of family and lovers in the insightful, sharp and keen, “Your Sister’s Sister.” Her ‘Sister’ actress Rosemarie DeWitt takes the lead here, with recognizable neurotic character actor Josh Pais as her brother and Scoot McNairy as her boyfriend, while the solid indie cast is rounded out by Ellen Page, Allison Janney and Ron Livingston. On paper, this one has everything going for it and Shelton is on a roll.
When: Park City gets it at the Eccles on the 19th, the Egyptian on the 21st, the MARC on the 23rd, and the Library Center on the 24th. SLC gets it at Rose Wagner on the 19th, and the Sundance Resort on the 20th.

“Toy’s House”
Synopsis: Three young teen boys try to claim their freedom by building a house in the woods.
What You Need To Know: One of the most impressive short films of the last few years was “Successful Alcoholics,” a sort of shorter, funnier, better version of “Smashed,” which starred T.J. Miller and Lizzy Caplan among others. The film was a big hit at Sundance in 2010, and three years on, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is back in Park City with his first feature. Based on a script by Chris Galletta that finished high on the 2009 Black List, we’re expecting an offbeat combination of “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Son Of Rambow” and”Where The Wild Things Are” (we may yet be way off…), and while the film has a trio of newcomers in the lead roles, there’s some ace comic talent in the supporting cast, including “Community” actress Alison Brie, and “Parks & Rec” duo Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as some of the boys’ parents. We’ve been tipping Vogt-Roberts for big things for a while, and we think this has a good chance of being one of the breakout hits of the festival.
Release Date: Library Center on the 19th, Prospector Square on the 21st and 26th, the Eccles on the 24th, all in Park City, and the Tower in SLC on the 25th.

“Upstream Color”
Synopsis: A young woman is abducted and seemingly brainwashed via an organic material harvested from a specific flower. She later meets a man and after the two fall for each other, they come to realize he may also have been subjected to the same process.
What You Need To Know: Nine years back, Shane Carruth made a hell of a debut at Sundance with the micro-budgeted time travel picture “Primer,” a fearsomely impenetrable, ingeniously clever little film that’s become a cult hit over the years. Now, after a false start or two (he was working on a script called “A Topiary” for a while), Carruth is back in Park City, and it’s one of the most anticipated film of the festival. Another unclassifiable, firmly original science fiction tale, footage and synopses released so far aren’t giving much away, but it looks like his filmmaking has taken a big step forward, and the film seems to have a relationship-y core to it that might make it more accessible to the more casual fan. Might being the operative word. We’re sure it’ll be, at heart, another complex, mind-bending headfuck, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Carruth himself stars, alongside actress Amy Seimetz (“You’re Next,” “Tiny Furniture“).
Release Date: The Eccles on the 21st, the Egyptian on the 22nd, Prospector Square on the 24th and Library Center on the 26th, all in Park City. Sundance Resort gets it on the 23rd, and the Tower in SLC screens it on the 25th. Beyond that, Carruth seems to be self-releasing it in some way on April 5th.

“The Way, Way Back”
Synopsis: A 14-year-old on vacation with his mother and her new boyfriend gets a job at a water park, where he finds a new friend and mentor.
What You Need To Know: Despite winning an Oscar for their screenplay for “The Descendants,” Jim Rash and Nat Faxon are probably most familiar (at least to discerning comedy fans) for their regular roles on awesome-but-low-rated sitcoms “Community” and “Ben & Kate.” But that could change as their directorial debut “The Way, Way Back” finally unspools. A coming-of-age tale (that seems, on the surface, to share a certain amount of DNA with Greg Mottola‘s 2009 Sundance flick “Adventureland“), this was the script that saw Faxon and Rash come to Alexander Payne‘s attention, and we’re still excited about this one, not least because of the cast. Relative newcomer Liam James (“The Killing“) takes the lead, with Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet and Faxon & Rash themselves all taking roles. When that many awesome people are gathered in one place, you figure there must be something special, and so long as the writers don’t drop the directorial ball, this could be big.
When: The Eccles in Park City on the 21st, with screenings also at the MARC on the 22nd and 26th. The Rose Wagner in SLC gets in on the 22nd, and it comes to Ogden’s Peery’s Egyptian Theater on the 24th, and the Sundance Resort on the 27th.

Honorable Mentions: We only have so much space, so there’s plenty more in the line-up, any one of which could turn out to be the real highlight of the festival. Among them are: a rare lead role for the great Kathryn Hahn in “Afternoon Delight“; David Sedaris adaptation “C.O.G“; Keri Russell/Bret McKenzie rom-com “Austenland“; the intriguing “Concussion” starring Robin Wiegert; the potentially powerful competition entry “Fruitvale” starring Michael B. JordanKristen Bell in “The Lifeguard“; George Tillman Jr‘s “The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete“; western “Sweetwater” with Ed Harris and January Jones; “Two Mothers” starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright” and “Very Good Girls” with Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning.

As for genre fans, that itch could be scratched by remake “We Are What We Are“; live-action “Wreck-It Ralph“-ish “Virtually Heroes“; found-footage sequel “S-VHS“; Dermot Mulroney in “The Rambler“; and/or Leslie Bibb and Rob Corddry in horror-comedy “Hell Baby.” More questionable are a pair of biopics: Ashton Kutcher as the founder of Apple in “jOBS,” and Amanda Seyfried as the star of “Deep Throat” in “Lovelace.” Documentary lovers have plenty to look forward to, including new films from Alex Gibney (“We Steal Secrets,” about Wikileaks), Lucy Walker (“The Crash Reel,” about snowboarding) and Sebastian Junger (“Which Way Is The Front Line From Here?,” a tribute to his late “Restrepo” co-director Tim Hetherington.

– Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez

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