The 2013 Sundance Film Festival preview!

It’s that time again! Yessssss!!! For the last few years, I've been lucky enough to attend the Sundance Film Festival on behalf of JoBlo.com, and once again- lucky guy that I am, I’ll be heading back to beautiful Park City, Utah. I can’t wait to dive into another ten day film marathon- and Sundance, along with TIFF always promises quality.

However, unlike TIFF (where most of the movies are already somewhat established), the films showing at Sundance are so under-the-radar that you honestly don’t know what to expect going in- making the festival sleepers all the more exciting. Some highlights of the last few years include TAKE SHELTER , CYRUS , MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE , BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, THE SESSIONS , and more. While it’s too early to tell which Sundance movies are going to break out, the following fifteen are the ones I’m most psyched to see.

Sundance 2013 kicks off Thursday night- so expect my first reviews to start coming in Friday morning, and daily over the next ten days. Until then- check out my coverage of Sundance 2012 to get an idea of the types of reviews that will be coming in. Also make sure to keep an eye on twitter- both @joblocom , and @cbumbray for the latest news.


Park Chan-Wook’s English-language debut, STOKER, is probably the highest-profile movie to bow at this year’s Sundance. Unlike many of the other films showing, it’s already secured distribution (having been produced by Fox Searchlight). STOKER only comes out in March, but the fact that Fox is confident enough to premiere it at Sundance is a really good sign. My guess is that STOKER is a killer flick. The trailers suggest this is kind of a horror take on Alfred Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT, with standout work by stars Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. However, the guy that I think is going to explode off STOKER is Matthew Goode. Anyone that caught his Australian indie- BURNING MAN from a couple years ago knows that Goode is maybe only a film or two away from the big-time. STOKER may well be that film.

2- Don Jon's Addiction

Written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, DON JON’S ADDICTION features the much in-demand star as a sex and porn-addicted “Don Juan” type, who attempts to become less selfish. Scarlett Johansson is on-board as his presumable love-interest. Levitt casting himself as a “can’t miss” ladies man who’ll know doubt have plenty of love scenes with gorgeous women may sound like a bit of an ego-trip, but I trust Levitt. He’s done enough good work over the last few years that I presume this will be more less SHAME than the rom-com it sounds like.

3- Before Midnight

BEFORE MIDNIGHT is Richard Linklater’s latest installment in his on-going “Before” series- starring (and co-written by) Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I loved BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, so I’m anxious to see how Jesse and Celine are doing nine years after their reunion in SUNSET. Are they still together? Possibly. I've spent almost a decade wondering after the ambiguous note SUNSET ended on- although I wouldn't be a bit surprised if MIDNIGHT leaves me pondering their fate for another nine years.

4- S-VHS

V/H/S was one of my favorite midnight movies from Sundance 2012. Sure- it was uneven, but when it worked it did so brilliantly. The V/H/S gang is back at it again- only twelve months later, although as far as directors go only Adam Wingard is back for another go-round. The new directors include HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN's Jason Eisener and THE RAID: REDEMPTION’s Gareth Evans- which is intriguing. Anthology films are always a mixed-bag (see the recent ABC’s OF DEATH) - but given the talent involved, I assume at least one of two of the segments will be worth-watching, or possibly even brilliant.

5- The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

A star vehicle for Shia LaBeouf, THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN wins the Sundance award for the year’s most pretentious title. Hopefully the film itself won’t be as insufferable (although the “narrated by John Hurt” credit in the press notes gives me pause)- as I genuinely like LaBeouf and the plot, that sees him fall in love with the mistress of a violent crime boss, sounds appropriately pulpy. This could be a lot of fun- or it could be absolutely awful. Either way- it’s a must-see.

6- Mud

MUD is the latest from director Jeff Nichols, whose last two films (SHOTGUN STORIES & TAKE SHELTER ) were brilliant. His regular leading man, Michael Shannon is back- although this time he’s in a supporting part, with the cast being led by Matthew McConaughey- who’s currently in the midst of an amazing career resurgence in indies, and Resse Witherspoon (who, with this and Atom Egoyan’s upcoming THE DEVIL’S KNOT- seems to be taking a page from her co-star). MUD actually premiered to an enthusiastic response at Cannes in May- although I suspect Nichols may have spent the last few months tinkering with it as it sat out TIFF. I have faith that MUD is going to be one of the festival’s gems- as Nichols is truly the real deal

7- The Look of Love

THE LOOK OF LOVE is the second of two highly anticipated porn-based biopics (the other being LOVELACE) to play this year’s Sundance. This one tells the stranger-than-fiction tale of London porn baron Paul Raymond, played by Steve Coogan. THE LOOK OF LOVE re-teams Coogan with Michael Winterbottom, which is terrific news as the two seem to bring something special out in each other. Their other movies together (24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, TRISTRAM SHANDY, THE TRIP) have been superb, and I have VERY high hopes for this one, which also stars Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, and Stephen Fry.

8- Ain't Them Bodies Saints

AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS tells the story of two star-crossed lovers/outlaws, who go on the lamb in the hills of Texas. Likely, this will be one of the big acquisition titles, boasting Casey Affleck (who's been largely MIA since his Joaquin Phoenix doc I'M STILL HERE) and Rooney Mara in the leads. It sounds to me like a mix between BONNIE & CLYDE and Robert Altman's THIEVES LIKE US. If it's half as good as either, this could be a major sleeper.

9- The Spectacular Now

The director of SMASHED - James Ponsoldt is back one year later with another much buzzed about entry- THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Not only does this reunite him with SMASHED star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but it also features Shailene Woodley in her first big post- DESCENDANTS role, and comes from the writers of 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. A teen love-story, this could be a huge title- provided that it delivers. On the basis of Ponsoldt's work on SMASHED , I'm guessing that it does.

10- Prince Avalanche

After several years working in big studio comedies, David Gordon Green returns to his roots with this arty two-hander set in the summer of 1988- centering on two highway road workers (Paul Rudd & Emile Hirsch) as they work against the desolate landscape. I tend to prefer Green's artier fare to his comedies, so I'm anxious to see this. Also- it'll be interesting to see Paul Rudd stretch, and Emile Hirsch is always worth watching.

11- Hell Baby

Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon both wrote and directed this Sundance Midnight entry about a couple (Rob Corddry & Leslie Bibb) who are terrorized by a demonic baby. While I've disliked most of the movies Garant & Lennon have written, it's entirely possible that, directing their own script, they'll pull off a film that's at least a hundred times funnier than any of the SCARY MOVIES or A HAUNTED HOUSE.

12- The Rambler

I don't know anything about THE RAMBLER other than what's in the Sundance program. Apparently, it's some kind of horror-comedy with an apparently standout turn by Dermot Mulroney as the titular character who navigates treacherous back roads and small towns in an effort to reunite with his estranged brother. Sounds intriguing, and it's nice to see Mulroney get a solid role.

13- The East

Zat Batmanglij- who directed the underrated SOUND OF MY VOICE is back at Sundance with THE EAST- another Fox Searchlight title, starring Brit Marlin as a private contractor send to infiltrate a radical extremist group, only to find herself falling for the charismatic leader- played by Alexander Skarsgard. Ellen Page, Julie Ormond, and Patricia Clarkson co-star. Searchlight is known for their taste- so I have an inkling this will be very good.

14- jOBS

Ashton Kutcher's Steve Jobs biopic- not to be confused with the one that's being written by Aaron Sorkin, is a movie everyone seems ready to hate and/or dismiss. Kutcher's not exactly known for his top-notch movies, but then again, it's entirely possible that this will be a pleasant surprise. Call me crazy, but I think Kutcher's capable of a lot more than he's been giving us over the last few years. Jobs is a fascinating figure- and this could be interesting, especially if it's a "warts and all" telling.

15- Lovelace

Rob Epstein, and Jeffrey Friedman- the directors of HOWL and THE LIFE & TIMES OF HARVEY MILK are back at Sundance with this star-studded biopic of the world's first porn superstar- Linda Lovelace. Anyone who's seen INSIDE DEEP THROAT can tell you what an interesting story this is- with it playing like a real-life BOOGIE NIGHTS. Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Adam Brody, Sharon Stone, and James Franco (as Hugh Hefner!) star.

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