This week, The Sundance Film Festival returns once again to take over Park City, Utah, from January 22nd to February 1st. As one of the largest independent film festivals in America, the week-long event totals over 45,000 attendees — from studio heads to producers to critics and even to fans — who will all flock to catch the dozens of films that will carry us into 2015.
Last year saw world premieres for Boyhood, Whiplash, and The Babadook, and this year looks just as promising. Noah Baumbach reunites with Greta Gerwig for Mistress America, Eli Roth and Keanu Reeves offer scares with Knock Knock, Jason Segel brings David Foster Wallace back to life in The End of the Tour, and Joe Swanberg leads an all-star cast on an adventure in Digging for Fire.
In anticipation of their forthcoming coverage, Consequence of Sound’s Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman and Film Editors Justin Gerber and Dominick Suzanne-Mayer have rounded up their own top picks for the days ahead. Some are funny, most are sad, and a couple are downright terrifying. Read along and be sure to keep an eye out for their reviews starting this Friday.
Patrick Brice’s Creep was a swift, unnerving entry for the found footage genre at last year’s SXSW Film. Alongside Mark Duplass, the young writer and director turned a simple premise — man is hired to film another strange man at a remote cabin — into a fascinating little horror film that prodded the brain with its clever dialogue and awkward situations. This year, he’s back with another curious project, only this time he’s working with an expanded cast of comic heavyweights such as Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, and Jason Schwartzman. The Overnight captures the evening of a young Los Angeles couple, who get to know the parents of their son’s new friend. If Creep leads by example, then we’re in for some trademark, hilarious reaction shots by Scott and Schilling. Can’t wait. –Michael Roffman
This is a bit of a cheat because while I am looking forward to seeing It Follows at an upcoming midnight screening at Sundance, I already saw David Robert Mitchell’s horror film at a festival from late last year. I’m more looking forward to the reactions of a new audience as well as my colleagues, hoping my months of hyping the movie weren’t for nothing. As for the film’s plot, I have to be careful so as to not ruin the surprises (the less you know the better), but know that a seemingly innocent sexual encounter has a high school student (The Guest’s Maika Monroe) on the move from … what, exactly? That’s for me to know, and for the audience of unsuspecting moviegoers to find out. –Justin Gerber
Well, that’s one way to do it: UK filmmaker Rupert Goold is making the jump from the small screen to independent cinema with an A-list cast of budding Oscar nominees that includes James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Felicity Jones. True Story captures the chilling, real-life relationship between disgraced journalist Michael Finkel (Hill) and the FBI’s Most Wanted murderer Christian Longo (Franco), who lived for years outside the states under Finkel’s name. It’s dark territory for all parties involved, but a solid opportunity for Franco to silence his most recent critics and for Hill to show off what he learned from Martin Scorcese in his first dramatic performance following 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It should be delicious. –Michael Roffman
Z for Zachariah
Here’s what we know: Z for Zachariah is an adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1974 novel about a young woman who manages to survive some sort of population-killing catastrophe, only to find herself at the center of a love triangle with two men. As far as the trio know, they’re the last three human beings left on Earth, and yet there’s still time for petty squabbling. Pretty squabbling, too; the trio is Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chris Pine (Star Trek), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). And at the helm is Craig Zobel, whose last feature, Compliance, left Sundance audiences divided and mortified in its too-plausible nightmare scenario. –Dominick Mayer
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Richard Linklater filmed Boyhood over the course of a dozen years. It took producer Brent Emery just as long before they could start shooting The Stanford Prison Experiment, thanks to unforeseen problems behind the scenes. The movie is here at last and boasts a cast that includes Billy Crudup (Almost Famous), Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin, the future “Flash” for the DC film universe), Olivia Thirlby (Juno), and Nelsan Ellis (True Blood). The experiment in question took place in the early ‘70s and was a study based in the psychology of imprisonment. Volunteer students were given the roles of guards or inmates, and what followed is fascinating to say the least. Curious to see if this adaptation does its material justice. –Justin Gerber
Andrew Bujalski’s last film, Computer Chess, was a delightfully stiff, weird miracle of a kind, a chronicle of a tech-dev competition in a nondescript hotel that was equal parts hilarious, awkward, and potentially sinister. Results, his latest, sounds a little high-concept for the lo-fi filmmaker, the story of personal trainers (Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce) who end up in a tentative, opposites-attract kind of situation. If any director working today is capable of mining true weirdness from a premise this simple on paper, Bujalski’s probably it. –Dominick Mayer
Sleeping with Other People
Leslye Headland has a promising resume. Her cruelly underrated series Terriers was terrific, 2012’s indie comedy Bachelorette was cute in all the right ways, and last year’s About Last Night wrenched an admirable performance from Comedy’s Biggest Star, Kevin Hart. Her latest, Sleeping with Other People, finds her in rather comfortable territory, thanks to a tangible rom-com premise and a friendly cast featuring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet, and many more. Sudeikis and Brie star as Jake and Lainey, former college lovers who reunite over a decade later in New York City, only to discover they’ve become serial cheaters. We’re banking on divine chemistry for this one. –Michael Roffman
Rick Alverson’s The Comedy debuted at Sundance in 2012 to a polarized reception. The director returns to the ‘Dance this year with Entertainment, a movie starring and co-written by Gregg Turkington that looks to be just as wonderfully intense as his last film. Turkington plays “The Comedian”, a struggling stand-up in search of his estranged daughter. A description like that usually falls into the trappings of sentimental schmaltz, but with a script courtesy of Alverson, Turkington, and co-writer Tim Heidecker, we’ll go ahead and assume that Entertainment will take us on a dark journey we’d never wish to go on outside the comforts of a movie theater. Hoping to give it five bags of popcorn with a couple “APPLAUSE” signs for good measure. –Justin Gerber
At last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, there came word of Mia Hansen-Love’s new film Eden, an epic chronicling the rise and fall of a French DJ in the ‘90s during the first true boom of EDM. It’s an era ripe for an inquiry into its rapid rise and sudden, drug-fueled descent, and the early notices on Eden have been largely kind. Plus, the soundtrack is partially being handled by everybody’s favorite French automatons, Daft Punk, who also helped get the thing made in the first place by taking a pay cut. Dying scenes are an endlessly ripe source for storytelling material, so this’ll absolutely be one to see. –Dominick Mayer
Michael Fassbender (Shame) stars in this 19th-century period piece as a mysterious traveler who helps a young boy search for the woman he loves across the wild American frontier. Slow West marks the proper directorial debut of John Maclean, who shot the film across New Zealand and Scotland. Already, A24 Films acquired the picture back in December, which leads us to believe there’s something special in this unique independent western. It also helps that they snagged the great Ben Mendelsohn (A Place Beyond the Pines) and that young Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is on the rise. Yeehaw? –Michael Roffman