The prospect of heading back to the snowy mountain that houses the Sundance Film Festival brings up many questions – is my jacket warm enough? Do I have boots with good traction so I do not slip on the ice? Will I be able to use my iPhone with gloves on? But beyond these basic survival questions, the one major question is: what films do I want to see?
The Sundance lineup gets increasingly more impressive with each passing year and the festival program for 2013 certainly lives up to that standard. After putting together the puzzle that is a festival schedule (a task not for the faint of heart) I am genuinely looking forward to all the films on my list, but these are the ten films I am most looking forward to plopping down in a (hopefully) warm theater to watch. Stay tuned to FSR for my reviews and see if these films end up being ones that should be added to your own “must-see” lists for the year.
We here at FSR declared Matthew McConaughey the Performer of the Year for 2012 and it looks like McConaughey has no intention of letting that title slip in 2013. Playing a downtrodden outlaw hoping to make an easy escape, McConaughey seems well poised to bring the film’s title character, Mud, to life. Writer/director Jeff Nichols made quite the stir at the festival two years ago with Take Shelter and Mud looks to be an impressive follow-up.
Most young adults starting their careers (and hopefully their lives) aspire to greatness as you take that next step, but there is always the fear that you may end up eight steps back. The Lifeguard brings this fear to life as Leigh (Kristen Bell) finds herself back at the starting line, living with her parents and lifeguarding at the local condo-complex, just as she did in high school. But Leigh’s life is not all nostalgia as she also finds herself in an entirely new (and dangerous) relationship.
Dave Grohl makes his filmmaking debut by bringing audiences behind the walls of the historic Sound City. Once known for its unique recording set-up, the days of digital quickly made the analog driven Sound City outdated. Grohl brings back some of the studio’s well-known artists (such as Trent Reznor, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty) to not only pay tribute to this slice of music history, but to also dust off that old soundboard and create a new album that prove old school recording techniques may not yet be dead.
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
Breaking away from the Steven Spielberg protégé, blockbuster robot-fighting image he is best known for, Shia LaBeouf brings audiences Charlie Countryman – a young man who finds himself wrapped up in the mysterious and exhilarating world of Eastern Europe (and a woman named Gabi, played by Evan Rachel Wood) as he tries to fulfill his deceased mother’s final wish. LaBeouf has shined in smaller indie dramas before (see: A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints) and The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman seems to bring the actor back to those more stripped down roots in an electric film that promises to be both visually and aurally stimulating.
Sounding almost like a new take on Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Ass Backwards tells the story of two best friends, Kate (June Diane Raphael) and Chloe (Casey Wilson), looking to redeem themselves from past humiliation. But rather than returning home for their high school reunion, Ass Backwards has these two former beauty queens going back to their hometown’s pageant circuit to try and (finally) win the crown. With last year’s For a Good Time Call… again proving female buddy comedies are just as funny as male-driven ones, and Wilson proving her ability to be hilarious on a weekly basis on Happy Endings, Ass Backwards seems like a must-see for those looking for a good laugh.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) are two outlaws trying to keep their relationship intact despite Bob taking the blame for one of Ruth’s missteps (and getting incarcerated for it) and Ruth’s struggle to now raise their daughter alone. Set against the stark landscape of the Texas hills, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints looks to explore relationships, whether romantic or that of a parent and child, and the universal issues that even those who are not law breakers can relate to.
Few portray manic and slightly unhinged better than Adam Scott and A.C.O.D. should allow him spin out as “A Child Of Divorce,” Carter, a man still trying to navigate the rocky waters between his parents. It is sad enough when a child finds themselves in this position, but when an adult is still trapped in the middle, it brings up a whole new slew of issues and questions – ones that should be handily answered by an all-star cast including Scott’s Parks and Recreation co-star Amy Poehler (who plays his step-mom here), Jane Lynch as his childhood therapist, and Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara as Carter’s divorced parents.
Zero Dark Thirty may have Jessica Chastain poised for Oscar gold for her role as a CIA agent who refuses to give up on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, but Manhunt reveals it was a team of women, known as “the Sisterhood,” who began the search at all. This team uncovered intelligence of a then unknown terrorist organization (Al Qaeda) and it was not until events of 9/11 that their warnings were taken seriously. Director Greg Barker does not try and make a narrative out of these true events, but instead brings audiences a documentary that plays like a penned thriller.
The Spectacular Now
Adapted from the novel of the same name, director James Ponsoldt brings to life Tim Tharp’s story of a young man who prefers to live in the “now,” a trait that may be severely clouding his future. The charismatic Miles Teller plays Sutter Keely, who finds his “now” shaken after encountering his polar opposite in Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley.) Woodley grabbed audience’s attention in The Descendants and Teller did so as well with his role in Rabbit Hole, proving both are more than your standard “teen actors” which makes their pairing in this coming-of-age tale one worth noting.
Kill Your Darlings
Daniel Radcliffe has done well to expand beyond his Harry Potter roots by taking on challenging roles and does so once again in Kill Your Darlings, playing a young Allen Ginsberg. Director John Krokidas takes audiences inside a lesser-known portion of Ginsberg’s life during the beginning of his relationship with Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), much to the jealousy of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall.) When Kammerer turns up murdered, Ginsberg, Carr, and their friends are blamed and suddenly their carefree, rule-breaking lifestyle is forever changed. Surrounded by an impressive cast including Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen, Ben Foster, and Jack Huston, Kill Your Darlings shows how the bohemian Beat generation may have grown from slightly disconcerting roots.
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