Sundance

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Keri Russell became a pop cultural fixture in 1998, when she starred as the title character on Felicity, perhaps one of TV’s finest coming-of-age dramas. So much the pop cultural fixture, there was an uproar heard round the world when she got a simple haircut. Though Felicity ended in 2002, and since then, Russell has continued to produce meaningful acting work. 2013 alone is a huge year for her, as she is starring as an undercover KGB operative in the critically revered FX drama The Americans, starred in Jerusha Hess‘ directorial debut Austenland, which just premiered at Sundance, and is starring in Dark Skies, an alien invasion thriller that opens this Friday in theaters. In Dark Skies, directed by Scott Stuart, Russell plays Lacey Barrett, a woman who faces absolute hell as her family is targeted by aliens who control the forces of nature, including three separate flocks of birds that mysteriously fly into their home. Lacey and her husband Daniel (Josh Hamilton) fight with everything they have to protect their two children against the aliens, but are instead thought to be the abusive parties by their narrow-minded suburban community. Russell was kind enough to make time for an interview, and had a lot to say about Dark Skies, her interestingly unsympathetic character on The Americans, the delights of Sundance, and the final episodes of Felicity.

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Sound City Movie

There are many legends that surround the music industry, but Sound City was an actual place that embodied a mythology. Located in Van Nuys, California (i.e. the Valley, i.e. this is when you groan), Sound City was an outdated dump that refused to let the digital revolution through its front doors, but bands continued to seek it out because of two reasons: the staff that welcomed you in like you were one of their own, and the Neve console. The beautiful board that lived at Sound City was custom ordered and gave the studio its signature sound – a perfect distribution that made even distortion sound good. But it was not that this board was magical or that the studio was designed to create this effect (it ironically was not designed at all, just lucked out on having such good acoustics), it was thanks to the “magic” of analog recording which provides a warmth that digital is not yet able to duplicate. Dave Grohl‘s documentary Sound City is certainly a story about the studio and all the artists that recorded there, but that story focuses truly on this board and the one-of-a-kind sound it was able deliver.

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Hand stamps

I should have known it was coming on Sunday, when a perfectly attractive young lady who was sitting next to me on a Sundance Film Festival shuttle loudly huffed to a pal sitting behind us, “I haven’t even kissed anyone in a year! I just need to make out with someone tonight. Anyone!” Her sentiments were matched by just about everyone else on Day 5 of the Sundance Film Festival, as I witnessed high school dance-style bump and grind dancing at a swank party at the Grey Goose Lounge, a drunk man on Main St. screaming at a cab driver that he knew that the cab driver won’t pick him because he wanted to have sex with him (surely, sir, it could have nothing to do with the fact that you’re drunk and screaming in the middle of Main St. at two in the morning), and another taxi passenger asking random strangers if they had hookers or blow. Everyone at Sundance has gone mad and sex-obsessed and insane. Me? I was just tired.

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We’re exploring Sundance’s past all week, so we’ve got the usual batch of stellar short films with a Sundance twist. It’s like being there without the snow boots or Harvey Weinstein ruining screenings on his cell phone. Why Watch? In 2002, Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader) screened her short film about an aging lesbian couple on their way to a bridge game and earned an honorable mention at Sundance. It’s easy to see why. With an acerbic, hilarious performance from Jeanette Miller as an elderly nag and a bizarre catalyst that spells doom for more than just the couple, it’s a kind of shock to the system that feels like Erma Bombeck by way of Chuck Palahniuk. And, yes, it’s about the JELLO. What will it cost? Only 7 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.

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You Don't Know Jack Movie

Plane tickets to Park City aren’t too terribly expensive, but with the added cost of puffy winter jackets and hangover cures, Sundance can be a bit out of reach for most of us. I mean, that’s why I’m not there right now, and charcoal doesn’t really prevent a post-drinking headache anyway. Fortunately, we’re covering the festival from top to bottom (at least other FSR writers are), and there are websites like Focus Forward Films which has added a few Sundance titles to its roster of movies so you can watch them from home. As of an hour ago, they’re hosting Morgan Spurlock’s You Don’t Know Jack, Albert Maysles’ The Secret of Trees — which are both in the fest’s short film competition — as well as The Cleanest Pig, Techistan, and The Contenders – which are all getting a special premiere screening at the Holiday Village Cinema today. For more information on the films, check after the jump:

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It Felt Like Love

When you are young, summer is supposed to be a fun, laid back time where there are no classes to get up for and no homework to complete, but it can also teeter on boring with long days that can drag when there is little to do. Lila (Gina Piersanti), who we meet staring out at the expanse of the ocean, is spending the summer at the beach with her friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni), and Chiara’s boyfriend Patrick (Jesse Cordasco), making Lila the de facto third wheel. At first it seems like Lila does not mind and prefers to simply observe her friend, never giving the impression she is jealous when she is often left sitting on the beach alone while Chiara and Patrick play in the surf. But that all changes when Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) walks by and her focus shifts.

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Escape from Tomorrow

The Disney theme parks are dubbed the “happiest place on earth” for a reason – they bring to life the fantasy of Disney’s movies and the fairy tale characters that populate them. While the parks are clearly geared towards children, they also give adults the chance to “be a kid again” and get lost in the fantasy themselves. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) has taken his wife Emily (Elena Schuber), daughter Sarah (Katelynn Rodriguez), and son Elliot (Jack Dalton) on a family vacation to Disney World, but on the last day of this seemingly idyllic trip, Jim gets a disappointing call from his boss (which he decides to keep secret from his family) and it seems to send him into a bit of a tailspin as the day wears on.

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People will hate Drake Doremus’s Breathe In. They will walk out of the theater and be sad and confused and maybe even (probably, really, more than anything) angry. They will hate it because they will hate the characters that exist inside of the film, and they will hate it because they make them mad, and they will hate it because it is not Like Crazy 2. And that’s okay, because while Breathe In will elicit all these emotions (and, quite likely, more), it is an immensely accomplished and measured film, an assured follow-up to Doremus’s other Sundance hit, 2011’s Like Crazy, and even more assured because it is not like Like Crazy, not at all, and that is something to marvel at. While Doremus and his co-screenwriter, Ben York Jones, turned their eyes on a couple that should be together in Like Crazy, when it comes to Breathe In, they go in the complete opposite direction, to a couple that should, by no means, be together. And while we all know that as every minute of Breathe In steadily ticks by, they don’t know that (or, at least, they refuse to believe that), and the result is car crash cinema done right. You can’t look away. But you can’t cheer for it in the slightest.

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History of the Eagles, Part One starts off with backstage footage of the band before a concert in 1977 as they warm up in perfect harmony, reminding you from the forefront there is a reason this band was as successful as it was, for as long as it was — this group had a distinct and catchy sound. On the heels of one of the Eagles’ founders, Glenn Frey, stating, “We made it, and it ate us,” the film flashes forward to present day as key members of the band, in all its different incarnations, reminisce on their time as members of the Eagles. The origin story of the Eagles is not unlike most band origin stories, with Frey and fellow founding member Don Henley each getting into music with the hopes that it would get them girls (particularly after watching girls’ reactions to The Beatles). With Frey hailing from Detroit and Henley from Texas, the two eventually made their separate ways out to Los Angeles and became part of Linda Rondstadt‘s backing band. The experience of performing every night had Rondstadt’s people hoping to make a “super band” to back their singer, but Frey and Henley had a different idea and decided to start their own band instead, forming what would eventually become the Eagles.

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Whenever Sundance begins again and I prepare to head back to Park City, one word comes to my mind: early. Because every time I have headed off to the snowy mountains that surround this festival, I find myself — and I know many others do as well — setting my alarm for the wee hours to get up, get to the airport, and get to the festival with hopes of making the most of those precious few hours left in the day by the time I arrive. This is especially true for me, as I usually get in on the official third day of the festival and screenings are well under way. But the second I’m here, that early wake up call is a distant memory and it feels like I’m back in a home away from home (granted this home is a bit colder and I have to be even more careful not to slip and fall while walking), getting back into the festival swing of things.

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Sundance Day 1

“The plane is overfueled for such a short flight, so we’re too heavy to take off right now, so we’re going to drain some fuel and bring up some baggage from underneath to redistribute what we’ve got.” These are not the words that any sane person wants to hear on any sort of flight, especially on a plane so small that the one flight attendant has to sit on a jump seat that, by all accounts, unfolds straight off the cockpit door (does that seem safe to you? it doesn’t seem safe to me) or on a plane so small that drink service is limited to only five Coca-Cola products (no booze) or even on a plane so small that the one bathroom is enclosed by a folding door that accordions in (no room to even open up a door completely on this flight). And no person who is headed to her fourth Sundance wants to hear those words from a tense-looking flight attendant who mutters to the gate agent who has somehow popped up inside the front galley, “How many children are on the flight? Are there any babies?” Do the babies know something we don’t know? I would very much like to get to Sundance, tonight if possible, but I am not entirely sure that I want to die in the process. And that’s how my fourth Sundance kicked off.

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S-VHS

What the hell is that? And that, horror fans, is the best way to leave your audience salivating for more when it comes to premiering a first trailer for the newest entry in your burgeoning horror anthology film franchise. Over at ShockTillYouDrop, the first trailer for S-VHS has popped up mere days before the film premieres at this week’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a slim little number, but it kicks off with a slice of what I’m guessing might be my favorite section from the new film – a child’s birthday party at what looks to be a family’s cabin in the woods, interrupted by something that likes to screech like a combination banshee and T.Rex. Banshrex. T.Shee. Either way, I can’t wait to meet it. This time around, the directing talent behind the anthology film includes Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, and Jason Eisener, so yes, there’s probably going to be something here for everyone. I saw and reviewed the first VHS at last year’s Sundance and flipped for it (and screamed and cried and tried to hide in my sweater and scarf to no avail), so my hopes are quite high for this next entry. Ready to see some of what the next chapter in the VHS franchise holds? Take a look at the first trailer for S-VHS after the break. Have your sweaters and scarves at the ready.

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Harvey Milk

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest independent fests in the country, but it probably has the best reputation for launching filmmaking careers and being the only thing in January that will be remembered around Oscar time 13 months later. It’s debatable just how “indie” it is — especially with studio shingles routinely picking up audience favorites for distribution — but it’s difficult to deny the raw directorial power that’s moved through Park City over the years. Names like Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, The Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh can count themselves amongst the Sundance ranks, but there are many, many more. In that (independent) spirit, here’s a double-size list of tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from 12 directors who made a name at Sundance.

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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Prince Avalanche

Expectations? This is my first Sundance Film Festival, so the only things I know I’ll encounter are movies, cold snow, overpriced sandwiches, and familiar faces. It should be a great time provided the movies are good, the snow is outside my boots, the sandwiches are tasty and the faces are friendly. Prepare for some very disgruntled tweets otherwise. Looking through the list of titles playing Sundance this year, I tallied a whopping thirty-eight films that I want to see. Kate Erbland said that made her too nervous, presumably because it’s so close to her age (something she’s very conscious of, EDIT: not even close, Hunter!), so she asked me to drop it to a more youthful number. It wasn’t easy to do, but through a complicated series of algorithms and drinking games, I knocked off twenty-eight. What remains are my ten most anticipated films of Sundance 2013! Read them, and be as excited as I am at the prospect of maybe getting in to see them!

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C.O.G.

Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see. After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.

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Mud

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.

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IL FUTURO

If you’re attending Sundance this year and have already started thinking, “man, I would really love to see a dramatic feature that stars Rutger Hauer as an aging and blind B-movie star who is also a hermit and who was also Mr. Universe and who also lives in a rococo mansion in Rome,” then we have got the only film you’ll need to see at this month’s film festival. Based on Roberto Bolano‘s novel “Una Novelita Lumpen,” Alicia Scherson‘s Il Futuro stars Hauer as, well, an aging and blind B-movie star who is also a hermit and who was also Mr. Universe and who also lives in a rococo mansion in Rome – but wait! there’s also romantic intrigue here! Co-starring Manuela Martelli as a recently-orphaned adolescent who is tricked by her dirtbag friends into seducing Hauer’s Maciste, the film centers on the unexpected relationship that blossoms between the pair. The film will have its World Premiere later this month at Sundance and, as such, has rolled out that lovely new poster above, which we are pleased to premiere here on FSR. The future is now! And, also, retroactively back then!

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Sundance Logo 2013

Just when we thought the 2013 Sundance Film Festival was done rolling out exciting new cinematic gems for us to get, well, excited about, the festival has just announced four late-breaking additions to the January festival. These titles include a newly struck preservation print of Robert Rodriquez’s El Mariachi (which premiered at the 1993 festival and will show as part of their “From the Collection” series), the world premiere of music doc Muscle Shoals, and yet another new Sebastián Silva joint (Magic Magic). The film is actually the second Michael Cera-starring Silva film we’re getting at the festival (what a bromance!), as the pair’s Crystal Fairy was previously announced as an in-competition title. Though Magic also centers on some American kids on a road trip in Chile, Crystal Fairy is classified as a comedy; Magic Magic, a horror flick that will show as part of Park City at Midnight, sounds like its nightmarish cousin. Now that sounds like it could be a good time. And then there is Wrong Cops, Quentin Dupieux‘s still-in-the-making New Frontier film, which sounds bonkers in only the best way. The Wrong and Rubber filmmaker again returns to the festival with the new feature, starring Mark Burnham, Marilyn Manson, Steve Little, and Eric Wareheim, which centers on a Los Angeles that’s so crime-free that it’s the cops who have to break the law. Yes. Basically, just yes. Check out the full list of the just-added titles after the break.

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Ashton Kutcher in jOBS

While some of might still be holding out for that Aaron Sorkin-penned Steve Jobs biopic, there’s still Joshua Michael Stern‘s Sundance-premiering, Ashton Kutcher-starring jOBS to look forward to. Yet, surely, no one is looking forward to this one quite as much as Kutcher, who looks tickled pink to not only be starring in what sounds like a quality film (sorry, Just Married!), but pretty excited by how much he looks like the Apple founder, as evidenced by a brand new still from the film. We can’t wait for Kutcher to fill out those black turtlenecks later in the film, however. jOBS will serve as the Closing Night Film of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and its official fest synopsis tells us: “The true story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life. jOBS is a candid, inspiring and personal portrait of the one who saw things differently.” The film also stars Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, and Matthew Modine. The film was just picked up for Canadian distribution by Remstar Films, in collaboration with Entertainment One. The film also has Swiss and Italian distribution lined up. While there is no word yet on domestic distribution or release, it seems like a safe bet that won’t last soon, as jOBS will surely sell very soon, likely before it even bows at Sundance. [ComingSoon]

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