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Sundance Film Festival 2012 Preview!

01.16.2012by: Chris Bumbray
Itís that time again! Once again, I`m packing my bags, dusting off my passport (I`m Canadian) hopping a plane and heading off to Park City, Utah for that ten-day orgy of independent and world cinema known as the Sundance Film Festival! I`ll be there for the whole thing (Jan 19-29), and once again, I can`t even begin to do justice as to how excited I am. Sundance is like my super bowl, and the fact that I get to attend for is an incredible treat.

The programming gurus at Sundance have, yet again, chosen another exciting lineup of films to unveil. The following is a list of twenty films Iím particularly keen on seeing. Being Sundance, it wouldnít surprise me a bit if the real gems of the fest are totally under my radar, as that kind of thing has a tendency to happen at Sundance. Iíll never forget wandering into a press screening of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE last year knowing nothing about it and being blown away. Hopefully a few of these will blow us all away once they start hitting theaters later this year.

Wish You Were Here

WISH YOU WERE HERE is another example of Australian noir, which- thanks to films like LANTANA, ANIMAL KINGDOM, and THE SQUARE, is one of the more exciting things currently happening in world cinema. Joel Edgarton, who made a splash in WARRIOR, stars as a family man who`s recently returned home from a trip to Cambodia, from which one of his travelling companions never returned. Sounds like my kind of flick.

Shadow Dancer

SHADOW DANCER is probably my most anticipated film of the fest, with it starring one of my favorite actors- Clive Owen, and rising star Andrea Riseborough. The story of a Belfast woman forced to inform on the IRA in order to save her son, SHADOW DANCER would already be a tremendously exciting project, but the fact that it`s the latest film from James Marsh (who in addition to docs PROJECT NIM & MAN ON A WIRE, also helmed RED RIDING 1980) makes this even more of a must see. I have ridiculously high hopes for this.

The Words

One of the reasons I`m more curious to see THE WORDS is that it was shot in Montreal- which happens to be the place I call home. Bradley Cooper, who`s everywhere these days, stars alongside Zoe Saldana as a writer who plagiarizes someone else`s work, and pays the (perhaps supernatural) consequences. This is the closing night film. This sounds like a big deal, but last year`s was FLYPAPER, which was probably the worst film I saw at the fest. That said, THE WORDS also has a bunch of press screenings scheduled, which is usually a good sign, and shows that the producers have a lot of confidence in it.

Red Lights

RED LIGHTS is one of the more star-studded films to play the fest, starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Olsen (officially the new Sundance IT girl), and Robert De Niro (which, Iím sad to say, says absolutely nothing about a filmís quality anymore). A supernatural thriller, this is directed by another Sundance veteran, Rodrigo Cortťs, who made a splash two years ago with BURIED.

Red Hook Summer

RED HOOK SUMMER sounds like a return to old-school Spike Lee, with it being a coming of age tale about a young boy spending the summer with his religion crazed Grandpa, played by THE WIREís Clarke Peters. That itís a Spike Lee joint makes this an automatic must see, but what really intrigues me is seeing Clarke Peters in a lead role.

The Raid

Iím still kicking myself for missing this back at TIFF. One thingís for damn sure- I wonít be missing it here. Gareth Evansí THE RAID is already being called a new martial arts classic, and being a long time devotee of the genre, Iím dying to see it. For those of you not in the know, THE RAID centers on a lone SWAT team member, forced to battle his way through an apartment building overrun with bad guys. And yes, the English remake right have already been bought. I believe this will be the first time that THE RAID plays with the new Mike Shinoda (of Linkin' Park) soundtrack.


Jesse Eisenberg, fresh off THE SOCIAL NETWORK (minus a detour for 30 MINUTES OR LESS) stars as a music prodigy, who has to balance his career with a drug addict mother, played by Melissa Leo, who, in addition to just winning an Oscar for THE FIGHTER, also starred in last yearís Sundance entry, RED STATE. This is playing the last night Iím at the fest and will likely be my last film. Hereís hoping itís a good one, although with Eisenberg and Leo, Iím inclined to think itís AT LEAST good.

Nobody Walks

I know nothing about NOBODY WALKS, except that, according to the very brief plot posted on the imdb, ďa family takes a young artist into their homeĒ. Sounds pretty emo, but Iím intrigued by the involvement of Lena Dunham (TINY FURNITURE), whoís also headlining Judd Apatowís new HBO series. John Krasinski, and Olivia Thirlby co-star.


A thirteen-year old spends the day following around his ex-con uncle, played by rapper Common. Iím a big fan of Commonís as an actor, as the guyís got charisma to burn (it doesnít hurt that heís a fellow baldie). Apparently, this is a pretty harsh crime drama, which sounds good to me. It co-stars Danny Glover, Meagan Goode, and THE WIREís Michael K. Williams (Omar in daí house!!!).

John Dies at the End

Based on the popular web-novel by David Wong, JOHN DIES AT THE END comes from Don Coscarelli- his first feature since BUBBA-HO-TEP. Interestingly, Paul Giamatti, who was rumored to play The Colonel in the long-rumored BUBBA NOSFERATU is on-board to class things up a bit. Iím very intrigued to see this one, based on both the source material and Coscarelliís involvement. Couldbe the genre hit of the festival. I wouldnít be surprised if this one also hits SXSW and Fantasia over the next few months.

Liberal Arts

Josh Radnor, who made his directorial debut at Sundance two years ago with HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE is back with LIBERAL ARTS. Yet another film about a thirty-something with arrested development, this one finds Radnor, at 35, re-enrolling in University to recapture his glory days, and falling for an 18 year-old freshman. Iíd say the plot sounds like an emo version of BACK TO SCHOOL, were it not that, at 30, Iím doing virtually the same thing myself by heading back to University for a second degree. Elizabeth Olsen, who owned Sundance last year with MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is onboard to play his love interest, as is the great Richard Jenkins, and Zac Efron, of all people.

Lay the Favorite

The most star-studded film of the fest, LAY THE FAVORITE comes from THE GRIFTERS director Stephen Frears, and stars Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vince Vaughn. More than anyone else, Iím curious to see how Vaughn fares in this. I think the guyís got a lot of talent, but heís wasting it in horrible films like THE DILLEMA, FRED CLAUS, and COUPLES RETREAT, which Iím sure are great for his bank-account, but have destroyed his credibility amongst the generation of fans that discovered him in SWINGERS. Hopefully Willis, whoís always gone back and forth between big-budget blockbusters and riskier fare, will show him the way itís done.


A serio-comedy about a young boy who goes to find his long-lost father, a goat herder played by none-other than David Duchovny. Sounds pretty ďsundancyĒ doesnít it? Duchovny alone is enough to get me to check this out, but the supporting cast, including Vera Farmiga, and Keri Russell also intrigues. This is a big question mark for me, as the premise sounds a bit too ďquirkyĒ in a bad way if you catch my drift. Again, this is a wait and see type of thing.

The First Time

Jon Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, made a mini-splash a few years ago with his film IN THE LAND OF WOMEN. Since then, heís kept quiet, but now heís back with THE FIRST TIME, a ďquirkyĒ story of high school love. Usually, Iíd cross this off my list, but Iím intrigued by the buzz (which is excellent) and the cast, including Craig Roberts, who was brilliant in a Sundance entry from last year, SUBMARINE.

For Ellen

An acting showcase for Paul Dano, who plays an unsuccessful rocker who finds out heís a dad. I doubt this will be quite as zany as it sounds, as Dano tends to be a pretty somber guy. Iím certainly intrigued, as Iíve always felt he had great potential as an actor. My only problem with him is that, like his contemporary Ben Foster, he sometimes goes a bit off-the-deep end in his performances (I was never a fan of his work in THERE WILL BE BLOOD, which I thought was too hysterical). Subtlety goes a long way, but Foster seems to have found his way recently, and I wouldnít be a bit surprised if Dano does too, and eventually blows us all away.

The End Of Love

Mark Webber, who everyone will no doubt remember as part of Sex Bbomb in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, wrote, directed, and starts in this indie dramedy about a young, single father. Webber managed to enlist some pretty big names to join him on-screen, including PILGRIM co-star Michael Cera, and Amanda Seyfried. I like Webber as an actor, but I've yet to see his other film as a director- EXPLICIT ILLS. That said, he seems like a smart guy, and I like seeing a gender spin on the young single parent-thing.


Three women (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher) are asked to be the bridesmaids of a woman they used to torture mercilessly in high school. Considering the three leads, along with the top-notch supporting cast, including the always funny Adam Scott and James Marsden, BACHELORETTE will have a lot of eyes on it after its Park City debut. If it delivers, it might end up as one of the big deals of the fest, as, in the wake of BRIDESMAIDS, female driven wedding comedies are all the rage. Iíll be there because, well, I happen to find all three leading ladies both scorchingly hot, and incredibly talented.

Celeste & Jesse Forever

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER takes a look at two high-school sweethearts (Andy Samberg & Rashida Jones) who went on to get married, and now are in the midst of possibly the most amicable divorce ever. But will it stay that way? Considering that this is a comedy, I assume not. Jones also co-wrote, and as a fan of hers, Iím curious to see how this turns out. The buzz is great, and supposedly Emma Roberts (who Iím not a big fan of) apparently steals the show in a supporting part. Weíll see.


GRABBERS has, hands-down, the best plot-line of any film playing the fest. Get this: a small Irish town is invaded by aliens, who happen to be allergic to alcohol. Now, the only way to defeat these invaders is to get really, really drunk. Fuck yeah, sounds like my kinda invasion! IF this actually happened, Iím convinced that us here at, just might be mankindís only hope of survival. I better start carrying a flask of whiskey around with me at all times, just in case.


On a somewhat more highbrow note, ARBITRAGE is a high stakes financial thriller from director Nicholas Jarecki, who's mostly known for his James Toback documentary, THE OUTSIDER. Richard Gere plays hedge fund magnate who makes a deadly error and, according the outline "must turn to an unlikely person for help". Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, and Brit Marling, who made a big splash at Sundance last year with ANOTHER EARTH co-star.

The reason I'm keen on ARBITRAGE stems mostly from Gere who, despite appearing mostly in films that have attracted little notice recently, has been doing a good job transforming himself into a darker character actor. He stole BROOKLYN'S FINEST, and was totally underrated in THE HUNTING PARTY. Hopefully, this is worthy of his talent, unlike THE DOUBLE.

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