[From Jan. 19 to 29, Flixist will be bringing you live coverage, from Park City, Utah, of Sundance Film Festival 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]
While other festivals, at times, have me splitting the difference between two films I feel apathetic toward, Sundance pits me with so many tough scheduling decisions that I have constant panic attacks.
This year has one of the best line-ups I’ve ever seen. From niche horror to promising indie drama debuts, there is something for everyone at Sundance 2012. These are all films someone is bound to love and most are more than likely to receive buzz that will last long after the festival ends. We at Flixist have the privilege to see some of 2013 and 2014’s best films a couple years early, and these are the ones I have the best gut-feeling about.
Stay tuned to our live coverage, when the festival kicks-off Thursday night, to find out which one of these are winners.
When an action film with a minimal plot can make waves of hype at Toronto Film Festival, it’s a given that Flixist will pay attention. The Raid is an action film that cares for little else other than giving its actors (who are also its fight choreographers) an excuse to give each other one hell of a beatdown. The film’s plot resembles an old Capcom arcade game in its simplicity: A SWAT team must take out a mob boss at the top of a tall apartment complex. The film follows their trek from the bottom to the top, as they engage numerous thugs. The trailer shows off some of the Indonesian Silat fight-style and director Gareth Evans’ stylized visuals, but I’m a bit worried that the paper-thin plot will cut into my enjoyment of this unique Indonesian action flick.
With a mix of up-and-coming horror directors — some great (Ti West), some not so great (Joe Swanberg) — coming together for a film of loosely tied vignettes, V/H/S could be a brilliant merging of Creepshow and Four Rooms. There is a well established camaraderie between the film’s directors, as most have worked on each other’s films on some level. This could elevate the film or it could make it an self-referential mess between friends. Regardless, it’s a refreshing take on a genre rarely seen at Sundance. Also, Ti West!
Like every art form before it, it was only a matter of time until game development became accessible to the masses. Sure, Richard Garriott was independent and making games by his lonesome in the ’80s, but now everyone has access to cheap tools, advice, and entertainment. As a result, the landscape of games has changed. Indie Game shows us what the experience has been like from behind the monitors of some of the decade’s most influential games made by the most unlikely programmers. How do you make talking heads and programming interesting? You make it look really dramatic and cool, if this trailer is any indication.
Somethings you don’t realize you love until they are gone. James Murphy (AKA LCD Soundsystem) made a massive impact on the music world, despite having released only three albums and a handful of singles. Although I never loved his music, I can’t argue against him being a unique voice that stood out over the past decade. His self-depreciating lyrics, pristine production, and candid nature in interviews presented a new type of rock star. Murphy, for better or worse, called it quits on April 2. Shut Up and Play the Hits wraps-up the LCD Soundsystem story with an interview with writer Chuck Klostermann, beautifully shot footage of the band’s farewell show, and a look at Murphy when the lights go out. This could be the rare music documentary that transcends the “for fans only”-wall.
It’s not Sundance without a couple quirky indie comedies, but Predisposed looks like the most promising of 2012’s selection. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a child prodigy who is trying to make amends with his burnout mother, played by Melissa Leo. While taking his mom to rehab, things go awry and the two are hijacked and held hostage by two drug dealers (one of which is played by Tracy Morgan). The four then go on a crazy road trip full of lots of screaming and bonding. It’s like River Wild! … without a boat … and Kevin Beacon. It’s also worth noting that Predisposed is an expansion of directors Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner’s award-winning 2008 short.
If you don’t know Mark Duplass’ name yet, you will by the end of 2012. With his excellent Jeff, Who Lives at Home on its way to theaters, multiple starring roles in films (not to mention FX TV series The League), numerous producing credits, and various scripts floating around Hollywood, Mark Duplass is quickly ascending to the realm of indie movie somebodies. With a great cast, including Kristen Bell and Jeff Garlin, and an amusing premise (“Two magazine employees interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.”), Saftey Not Gauranteed could be Duplass’ first hit from the other side of the camera.
Based on the beloved David Wong novel, John Dies at the End is an offbeat horror film about undead drug addicts from another dimension. With only two fresh faced teens and a very disgruntled-looking Paul Giamatti to save the world, things don’t seem so easy. While the source material and premise is enough to get giddy about, it’s the film’s attached director that sets this one over the top. Phantasm is an absolute horror classic, and I can’t wait to see if Don Coscarelli taps into that horror genius again.
Despite its flaws, Buried was an inspired film of suspense that stood out at Sundance 2010. Director Rodrigo Cortés’ follow-up is a much more ambitious film with bigger stars and a story that can’t be boxed-in (see what I did there?) With nothing but a dull teaser that shows star Robert De Niro turning his back, there isn’t much to gather here. All we know is that the film follows paranormal investigators (Sigourney Weaver, Cilian Murphy) who are out to debunk a world famous psychic (Robert De Niro). With an amazing cast (which also includes Elizabeth Olsen) and premise, this could be Cortés raising to the ranks of Christopher Nolan’s mastery of suspense and mystery.
After watching this trailer, I was left completely dumbfounded. Everything from Sean Penn’s tongue-in-cheek caricature of Robert Smith to a chubby kid butchering one of the greatest songs ever written made me smile. A crude, perplexed smile. This Must Be the Place is an offbeat, quirky dramedy but not of the type that has become so popular in recent years. This isn’t about a cute family, coming of age, or finding an excuse to play 20+ college radio hits in under 120 minutes. It’s about … hell, I don’t really know what it’s about, but I can’t wait to find out!
Despite Richard Linklaters’ Before Sunrise and Before Sunset being two of my favorite films, I was shocked by how fantastic actress-turned-director Julie Delpy’s spiritual successor 2 Days in Paris turned out. Now, she gives that overlooked gem its own Before Sunset-esque sequel. Instead of trying to build a fruitless relationship with Adam Goldberg’s Jack, she now has a relationship with a new man, played by Chris Rock, in New York. Rock and Delpy are two great tastes that should never go together. Or, so I assume. I’m ready to be challenged and surprised again. Also, Vincent Gallo plays himself. That’s a good thing. I think?