The annual cinematic party known as The Sundance Film Festival has officially wrapped as of this past weekend, with a number of brand new independent features having been adored, critiqued, and loathed by a number of the internet’s buzzing critics. Big studios have bought some hot news properties and each and every film is hoping to be 2013’s Little Miss Sunshine or Beasts of the Southern Wild. Last week, I rounded up ten films that were hot off the presses, some lingering the safety of a release date with a distributor and others keeping their fingers crossed every second of the day looking for a studio to bring them from the festival circuit into the multiplexes. Some of the films I touched on last week have since been acquired – The Spectacular Now, Before Midnight, Fruitvale (which also went home with the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award this year) were among those selected in the last seven days – and this week I have seven more films that have become highly desired commodities. With the festival over, the films below are mostly ready to be distributed, but what will be interesting to see is whether they make the transition from festival darling to renowned piece of cinema. Here are seven buzzed about films from the second, and final, week of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival:
1) Prince Avalanche
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch
Plot: Two men spend an entire summer together repainting lines on highways in Texas in areas devastated by wildfire. This truthful, comedic coming-of-age tale comes from David Gordon Green, who returns to the style of filmmaking that originally put him on the map before he joined the directing ranks of HBO’s Eastbound & Down and helmed the stoner hit, Pineapple Express.
Sundance Reviews:“Both Rudd and Hirsch do strong work here, with the former channeling his more sedate and serious side while the latter goes for broke comedically at times. Hirsch actually resembles a young Jack Black in more than a few scenes thanks to his wry smile and method-actor weight gain. This is not a joke. They could be brothers. Rudd in particular agrees with the opportunity to break from his typically sarcastic rom-com straight man to deliver a buttoned-up character with damaged depths. B” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
“By ‘going back to his roots,’ Green has made his most confident movie in years. The film is gorgeously shot, patient in its pacing, and takes a sweet approach to its lonesome characters. B” – Matt Goldberg, Collider.com
Distribution: Though no definitive date has been released, a Summer 2013 release has been secured after Magnolia picked up distribution rights for David Gordon Green’s film. Mostly positive reviews and the two lead actors were enough to score it a distribution deal right out of Sundance.
2) The East
Directed by: Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard, Brit Marling, Patricia Clarkson, Julia Ormond, Toby Kebbell
Plot: A female elite intelligence operative is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group that is known for carrying out destructive covert operations on major corporations. Her will is tested as her priorities change while spending time with the members of this group.
Sundance Reviews: “The East is going to be an easily accessible thriller for mainstream audiences, with all the subtlety and specific insight that made Marling’s indie films such standouts for those who discovered them…it shows there’s a long future of inventive drama ahead in the works of Batmanglij and Marling…The East is rad! 8.5/10” – Fred Topel, CraveOnline
“The East happens to be Scott-Free production, meaning that it’s one of the last films we’ll ever see that’s associated with the great Tony Scott. I couldn’t help but feel throughout like this would have been a movie he would have been proud to be associated with – as this has the same kind of intensity his best vehicles have. 9/10” – Chris Bumbray, joBlo.com
Distribution: Fox Searchlight Pictures will be distributing The East at some point in 2013.
3) Breathe In
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Cast: Guy Pierce, Amy Ryan, MacKenzie Davis, Felicity Jones, Kyle McLaughlin
Plot: Like Crazy director Drake Doremus returns with Breathe In, a familial drama about the collapse of one particular family’s dynamic when a foreign exchange student enters their upstate New York town and they happily take her in and serve as her host family.
Sundance Reviews: “…A beautiful predominantly piano score from Dustin O’Halloran (who did the score for Like Crazy), makes every moment feel extravagant and almost haunting…But as with Like Crazy, what makes this film more engaging than, any other film of this kind is the performances. Pearce, Ryan and Davis make you feel like they’re a family. It’s not necessarily easy to relate to them, but each of their performances made me care. 7/10” – Ethan Anderton, FirstShowing.net
“To his credit, Doremus handles this potential full-blown melodrama with delicacy, restraint and a very grown-up attitude…In addition to the fine work from the two leads [Pearce and Ryan], newcomer Davis is a real find…” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
Distribution: No deal has been made for Doremus’ Breathe In.
4) Two Mothers
Directed by: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright
Plot: A pair of childhood best friends who grow up and become next door neighbors suddenly fall for each other’s son.
Sundance Reviews: “If Two Mothers were about two fathers, it would be the shock film of the Sundance festival, if it could ever have been made at all. It is definitely flawed, with dialogue that sometimes sparkles with secrets and hidden meanings and at other times drops like falling timber, but if you embrace its wilful oddness, Anne Fontaine’s study of two still very attractive women trying to fight back against the incoming tide of time is an incredibly provocative piece of work, featuring a brave and vulnerable performance by Naomi Watts (who seems perhaps a little too young) and a career-high acting masterclass from Robin Wright (who is cast perfectly). 4/5” – Damon Wise, The Guardian
“Two Mothers could be easily parodied as “MILFs Down Under” or “Cougars in Paradise” or “Mommys’ Mid-life Fantasy.” But the basic story, from a novella by Doris Lessing, explores the travails of inconvenient love that fills the voids of loneliness and fear felt by two women about to see their sons move on to adulthood.” – Glen Warchol, Salt Lake Magazine
Distribution: Exclusive Releasing has picked up Fontaine’s Two Mothers and it will get a release in theaters and on VOD platforms the exact same day – exact date coming soon.
Directed by: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sánchez, Adam Wingard
Plot: Following on the heels of last year’s surprise hit, VHS, the horror anthology sequel follows two private investigators who break into the house of a missing student to look for clues regarding the young man’s disappearance. They find a collection of cassette tapes and watch each one in succession, but the grisly contents of each tape lead toward a far more sinister reason behind the student’s disappearance.
Sundance Reviews: “I’ve said on numerous occasions that the norm for horror anthology movies is that there is either one bad entry, or a single, solitary good one. S-VHS bucks that trend with, yes, a standout as the centerpiece, but overall a fine string of scary installments that makes the original V/H/S, even its better entries, pale in comparison. Now if only the film actually included something shot on S-VHS, or even screen in that format within the story, they’d be on to something. 8.5/10” – William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
“In analog terminology, the S-VHS standard should be higher quality, but there’s no obvious improvement over last year’s V/H/S, which Magnolia released theatrically and probably will just hit “replay” for the latest version…” – Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter.
Distribution: Magnolia tossed down $1 million to distribute the sequel, just as Justin Lowe predicted
Directed by: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Sharon Stone, Chris Noth, Adam Brody, Wes Bentley, Hank Azaria, Eric Roberts, Chloe Sevigny, Bobby Cannavale, James Franco, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Patrick
Plot: A biopic of adult film actress Linda Lovelace (star of Deep Throat), who was abused by her coercive husband who forced her into the pornography business before she stood up for herself and finally took control of her sprawling life.
Sundance Reviews: “The maturity of the lead actors and the space they have to give excellent performances make Lovelace more than a domestic violence PSA or a Lifetime movie with nudity. Epstein and Friedman remove their film from a larger issue regarding the public’s ownership of an infamous celebrity, but they do a strong job of taking the smaller story and still making it feel heartbreaking and thoughtful. B-“ – Matt Goldberg, Collider.com
“Making a huge swing from the sweet, innocent Cosette in Les Miserables to the queen of porn, Seyfried has been decked out in curly black hair and freckles and otherwise deprettified to an extent to approximate the look of her real-life character. She gives a strong, credible performance that catches Linda’s insecurities and exacts sympathy and regret for all that happened to her, even as she might not seem to completely inhabit the role at all times.” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
Distribution: RADiUS-TWC – a branch of The Weinstein Company – snatched up Lovelace and will distribute it domestically in the fall of 2013.
Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, James Woods, Matthew Modine, Kevin Dunn, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren
Plot: A biopic surrounding the events that transported the late Steve Jobs from college dropout to one of the most inventive and revolutionary technological minds of the 20th and early 21st Centuries.
Sundance Reviews: “An often-solid performance by Kutcher; a very solid series of supporting performances (particularly by Gad); surprisingly well-paced and quite entertaining. C+” – Kate Erbland, Film School Rejects
“Kudos, then, to Ashton Kutcher who, while hardly topping film-makers’s wish lists, delivers a surprisingly effective turn as the man, down to his awkwardly hunched posture. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jobs, Kutcher even emulates his voice, to some degree. The problem with Stern’s film isn’t his leading man, then, as many would have expected, but rather everything around him. 2/5” – Ed Gibbs, The Guardian
Distribution: Despite many mixed reviews, some veering into the negative realm, Open Road has claimed the Kutcher-led jOBS and it will be released in less than three months, on April 19th.
We will be tracking each of the films covered in this two piece column from now until they are released in theaters; expect to hear more about the seventeen films discussed between last week and this week all year long and, perhaps, next Oscar season.
Article by Mike Murphy