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Sundance 2018 preview!

It’s Sundance time again! I really love this fest, and believe it or not, this will be the eighth year in a row I’ve covered it for JoBlo.com, so I guess you could say I’m a vet at this point. Every year, I see at least a dozen good-to-great movies, and some of them wind up getting nominated (and sometimes winning) Oscars. Last year I saw WIND RIVER, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, GET OUT and THE BIG SICK. Will Sundance 2018 have similar break-out potential? The following are the ones I think are most likely to make waves.

1. BODIED

Technically, Joseph Kahn’s BODIED isn’t actually part of the Sundance Film Fest, not being an official selection. Rather, YouTube, which recently acquired the Eminem-produced film is doing a special event at one of the theaters, where the film will screen for free for those lucky enough to get a ticket. A provocative look at the urban rap battle phenomenon and the way it’s co-opted by white suburbanites, this already played to raves at TIFF (where I missed it - doggone it) and at Fantastic Fest, and wound up on many influential bloggers’s top 10 of 2017 list.

2. BEIRUT

Brad Anderson (THE MACHINIST) directs this Tony Gilroy (MICHAEL CLAYTON, ROGUE ONE) scripted period thriller, which stars the great Jon Hamm as a former diplomat called back into the foreign service to mediate a hostage taking, with the culprits being those responsible for the death of his wife ten years earlier. Rosamund Pike co-stars, along with Dean Norris (unrecognizable in the trailer) and Shea Wigham.

3. BURDEN

Garrett Hedlund looks to follow-up his successful MUDBOUND with another controversial drama, with this one starring him as a die-hard KKK member whose attitudes are changed when he falls in love and starts a family. Forest Whitaker co-stars as an African-American pastor who takes him in, while buzz has it Tom Wilkinson steals the show as Hedlund’s Grand Wizard-father.

4. WILDLIFE

Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with this period family drama, set in the sixties, which he co-wrote with partner Zoe Kazan. The cast for this one makes it one of the most anticipated movies of the fest, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan playing the leads.

5. THE CATCHER WAS A SPY

This Paul Rudd-vehicle, which stars him as real-life ballplayer turned O.S.S agent Moe Berg was supposed to play TIFF, but got pulled at the eleventh hour when the film wasn’t able to be completed on time. Four months later, it finally makes it’s debut, and it should be a good one as Rudd’s passion projects tend to be pretty good. Mark Strong, Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce co-star.

6. DON'T WORRY HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT

Gus Van Sant directs Joaquin Phoenix in what’s being tipped to be a powerhouse performance, starring him as alcoholic jokester John Callahan, who winds up paralyzed after a binge. None other than Jonah Hill co-stars in what’s among the most tantalizing awards-play at the fest this year.

7. A FUTILE & STUPID GESTURE

David Wain directs this biopic of National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney, played here by Will Forte. Joel McHale co-stars as Chevy Chase, while Domhnall Gleeson and Emily Rossum co-star. This one makes its debut only forty-eight hours before it premieres on Netflix.

8. ROBIN WILLIAMS: COME INSIDE MY MIND

Several years later, I still find it hard to wrap my head around Robin Williams’s suicide, which I must admit left me in a major funk given how I grew up with his movies. This doc promises to give us some perspective into his life and work, and also seems to be endorsed by his family, which I think is important.

9. WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR

I hate the way people seemingly can’t speak about Mr. Rogers without nasty innuendo, as throughout his career his reputation was beyond reproach. By all accounts, he was a wonderful man who truly empathized with his young audience, and there’s no doubt a great story just waiting to be told here in this doc. In fact, Focus has already snapped up the rights, and is giving it a wide theatrical release this summer.

10. SUMMER OF '84

Francois Simard, Anouk & Yoann Whissell return to Sundance with their follow-up to cult hit TURBO KID, a coming-of-age murder mystery set in, you guessed it, suburbia circa-1984. While I must admit the eighties nostalgia in this post- “Stranger Things” era is getting to be a little familiar, I have no doubt the TURBO KID gang has a demented take that should make this - at the very least - unique.

11. ARIZONA

While genre fans are no doubt psyched for his HALLOWEEN sequel, Danny McBride’s got another genre entry out this year with the sci-fi ARIZONA. A mystery project, this co-stars Rosemarie DeWitt and is apparently set during the 2009 housing crisis.

12. MANDY

Nicolas Cage returns to genre in this apocalyptic, eighties-set romp directed by BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW’s Panos Cosmatos (son of the legendary George Pan!). I’ve yet to see BLACK RAINBOW, but plenty of folks have told me great things, making this a pretty interesting prospect. I’m game, especially with Cage in the middle of a good run, with TIFF’s MOM & DAD being exactly the kind of midnight movie I hope he keeps making.

13. WHITE FANG

While I liked Jack London’s classic novel as a child, I must admit I’d have no interest in seeing a new version, particularly not a CGI animated version, were it not for the cast - which includes the great Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman and Paul Giamatti. With them involved, I’m hoping this is more than psuedo-Disney flick.

14. STUDIO 54

Here’s another doc I can’t wait to see - a warts and all examination of the decadent Studio 54, the coke-fueled disco club to end all coke-fueled disco clubs. The Miramax film with Mike Myers wound-up like an after-school special (although the newly reconstructed director’s cut is much better), so this doc has a good opportunity to set the record straight. I bet this will be a fun one.

15. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Lynne Ramsay’s first film since WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. Already picked up by A24 following it’s Cannes debut, Phoenix stars as an Army vet sucked into the world of human trafficking, with him trying to rescue a young girl. Apparently, this is a hallucinatory genre deconstruction, and with Ramsay and Phoenix involved, I’m sure it’ll be something.

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