The Premieres section is probably the most popular slate of films at Sundance. This is because the movies usually have ensemble casts along and well-known directors. Many are still independently produced, but they’re usually picked up quickly by distributors.
As expected, the Sundance Premieres lineup for January features a long list of who’s who in Hollywood. Richard Gere, James Marsden, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, David Duchovny and Bruce Willis are just some of the well-known names you’ll see starring in the movies below. There’s also a brand-new Spike Lee film tucked nicely in the middle there. As a final note, aside from ‘2 Days in New York’ (which is listed as a French film) and ‘Shadow Dancer’ (which is a British film), the rest of the movies are of American origin.
‘2 Days in New York’
Director: Julie Delpy
Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau
Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, and Alex Nahon
Synopsis: In this sequel to ‘2 Days in Paris’, Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix.
Thoughts: Is it bad that I don’t want to see this simply because Vincent Gallo is involved with it and the dude gives me the creeps? He isn’t mentioned in the cast credits here, but he is listed as “Himself” in the IMDb cast list. Disregarding how off-putting Gallo is to me personally, the synopsis for the film just doesn’t resonate with me. With so many other movies to see in such a short time span, this won’t be one that I’m going to wait in line for.
Director and Screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki
Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, and Nate Parker
Synopsis: A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help.
Thoughts: Everything sounds well and good about this movie, except for the fact that it’s written and directed by the same man who wrote ‘The Informers’, which was my most hated film that I’ve ever seen at Sundance. Yes, even worse than Joel Schumacher’s dreadful ‘Twelve’. The cast seems convincing, but after the punishment I took watching ‘The Informers’, I don’t think I’ll be clamoring to see any more of Jarecki’s work any time soon.
Director and Screenwriter: Leslye Headland
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, and Kyle Bornheimer
Synopsis: Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding.
Thoughts: First-time director Leslye Headland sure landed a swanky ensemble cast for her debut film. It’ll be weird watching Kirsten Dunst in something that seems far more grounded than ‘Melancholia’. Her performance there was, in my mind, one of the best of the year. She was so convincing as a lunatic, it’ll be strange to see her in a movie that, from the synopsis, seems like the set up to a romantic comedy.
Director and Screenwriter: Marshall Lewy
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, and Danny Masterson
Synopsis: A former Britpop rocker has long settled for an unfettered life working on a farm outside of L.A. When he’s caught driving drunk and faces deportation, he must confront past and current demons in his life to stay in the country.
Thoughts: This is sure to be an introspective, soul-searching cinematic piece, which isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you’re into. I remember a Sundance film a year or so ago called ‘Shrink’ with Kevin Spacey that followed this same kind of theme. Now, had the Britpop rocker been played by Russell Brand, maybe I’d be a bit more curious, but only morbidly.
‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, and Emma Roberts
Synopsis: Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships.
Thoughts: Come on, this one has to be a comedy, right? Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg starring together makes me think so, anyway. Heck, Jones is one of the writers. I’m intrigued just by the names on the cast list. I’ll probably end up seeing it just because of that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one turned out to be a deadly serious drama. Sundance surprises you like that.
‘For a Good Time, Call..’.
Director: Jamie Travis
Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon, Lauren Anne Miller
Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, and James Wolk
Synopsis: Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living, the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture.
Thoughts: Mark Webber is a busy man at Sundance. He’s involved in three movies if my count is correct. But the biggest surprise about this movie is that the press release sent by the Sundance people doesn’t mention that Seth Rogen is part of the cast. IMDb does mention that, however. In what capacity does he star? I have no idea. He could be a two-second cameo or a main character. It’s just interesting to know that he’s in it but wasn’t listed as part of the cast. Oh and the other thing IMDb says that the “unconventional business venture” is actually a phone sex line. Hence the “good time” when people call.
Director: Christopher Neil
Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier
Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, and Ty Burrell
Synopsis: Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he reconnects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics.
Thoughts: Yes! Any movie that has two of my favorite television actors (Ty Burrell and David Duchovny) is a movie I’m watching, regardless of whom else is involved or what the synopsis of the story is.
‘LAY THE FAVORITE’
Director: Stephen Frears
Screenwriter: D.V. Devincintis
Cast: Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Rebecca Hall
Synopsis: An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage.
Thoughts: The Sundance folks also forgot to mention that Vince Vaughn stars in this movie. I’m not sure if that makes me want to see the film more or less. The good news is that it’s directed by Stephen Frears. Yes, he directed ‘The Queen’, but he also just directed a great little comedy called ‘Tamara Drewe’, which I enjoyed enormously. Plus, there’s just something about a group of “geeky older men” that makes me laugh. Oh, Bruce Willis’ character is named Dink, and Vaughn’s is named Rosie. So, there’s that.
Director and Screenwriter: Josh Radnor
Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, and Elizabeth Reaser
Synopsis: When 30-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them.
Thoughts: I just recently started watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ all the way through, so I’ll be headed to this one to see what kind of a director/screenwriter Josh Radnor is. He directed another Sundance film called ‘happythankyoumoreplease’, which got quite a bit of critical acclaim, but I never ended up seeing it. Sundance left out the information (purposefully?) that Zac Efron stars in one way or another. But if we learned anything from last year’s festival, it’s that Elizabeth Olsen makes any movie she’s in a must-see. She’s that good. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t watched ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ yet.
Director and Screenwriter: Michael Walker
Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais, and Cheyenne Jackson
Synopsis: Pete is having trouble resolving a happy marriage and family life with rising debt and a job he hates. When his new boss pulls him into the maelstrom that is her life, money and opportunities come his way, but at what price?
Thoughts: Parker Posey is a Sundance Film Festival mainstay. It’s like she’s in at least one film every year, which is okay because I find her easy on the eyes. Also, the synopsis sounds vaguely interesting, and Eric Mabius (star of the now-defunct BBC series ‘Outcasts’) stars as Pete. I may end up giving this one a whirl.
‘Red Hook Summer’
Director: Spike Lee
Screenwriters: James McBride, Spike Lee
Cast: Clark Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, and Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Synopsis: A young Atlanta boy spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before.
Thoughts: I’ve never been a huge Spike Lee fan, but I know that there will be people clamoring to see his next joint. I may make it a point to see it just because I know that it’s going to be one of those films that’s talked about throughout the festival, but I don’t know if I’d try and cram it into my schedule if it doesn’t fit nicely anywhere.
Director and Screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, and Toby Jones
Synopsis: Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic.
Thoughts: Forget the big names like De Niro, Murphy and Weaver, Elizabeth Olsen is mentioned so I’m seeing this one. That’s right. She’s really that good. Until she proves me wrong, I’m seeing everything she’s in.
‘Robot and Frank’
Director: Jake Schreier
Screenwriter: Christopher Ford
Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, and Liv Tyler
Synopsis: A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker.
Thoughts: Robots and James Marsden. That’s all I need to know. A curmudgeonly character played by Frank Langella is only icing on the cake.
Director: James Marsh
Screenwriter: Tom Bradby
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aiden Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen
Synopsis: When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot, she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller.
Thoughts: Marsh has been the man behind two documentaries that went on to receive critical and audience acclaim: ‘Man on Wire’ and ‘Project Nim’. Now he’s trying his hand at crafting a thriller from Tom Bradby’s 1998 novel of the same name. There’s also the prospect of seeing Clive Owen act, which is always a plus. On a totally unrelated note, don’t think it’s gotten past me that both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are in movies at Sundance this year. My goal is to snap a picture with them together. Hey, an ‘X-Files’ geek can dream, can’t he?
Directors and Screenwriters: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Zoe Saldana
Synopsis: Aspiring writer Rory Jansen finds another man’s haunting memories in a collection of lost stories and claims them as his own, propelling him to literary stardom.
Thoughts: Lee Sternthal was one of the writers on ‘Tron: Legacy’, in case that helps. Other than that, this is a cast of very well-known actors featuring two of Hollywood’s most beautiful women. The film’s star power will certainly cause long lines no matter what.
Remember to follow me on Twitter @AaronPeck. I’ll be tweeting all sorts of advanced 140-character movie reviews and pictures of random celebrities I see around town.