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Ten Sundance 2019 movies we're looking forward to seeing!

It absolutely amazes me to say this, but this is my tenth year in a row covering the Sundance Film Festival. That’s right - I’ve been going to Park City, Utah to review movies at Robert Redford’s iconic festival for a full decade. In that time, some years have been a tad lean, while others have been jam-packed with breakout hits that connected in a big way. In the last two years alone I’ve seen CALL MY BY YOUR NAME, GET OUT, THE BIG SICK, HEREDITARY and many, many more turn into giant hits, and kudos to Sundance for being the ones to shine a spotlight on outside the mainstream cinema time and time again.

What’s interesting though, is how much of a voice the fest has recently become for genre cinema, specifically elevated horror. Movies like THE BABADOOK, COLD IN JULY, THE WITCH, THE GUEST and, of course, the aforementioned HEREDITARY and GET OUT all made their debuts here and to be sure, this list of the movies I’m most looking forward to covering is pretty genre heavy. Every year or so there are a handful of breakouts, and these are some of the ones I figure will get people talking.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile

Zac Efron’s making a big move at this year’s Sundance with EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE, the long-awaited Ted Bundy bio-pic from director Joe Berlinger (the PARADISE LOST trilogy). Efron looks like he’s going to make an uncanny Bundy, one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, who used his megawatt charisma and movie-star good-looks to win the trust of his thirty-plus victims. Efron is backed up by a great supporting cast, including Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich & Jim Parsons. If this one is half as good as it has the potential to be, expect it to be one of the hottest-acquisitions of the fest.

Velvet Buzzsaw

While I was initially a bit suspicious of Netflix bringing director Dan Gilroy’s VELVET BUZZSAW, which re-teams him with NIGHTCRAWLER stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, to Sundance so close to its Netflix premiere (less than a week), the amazing trailer that dropped around the holidays has people buzzing. When I heard about this film I expected it to be less genre-based than it seems to actually be, and if this really is straight-up horror, you can’t ask for a better place to premiere than Sundance.

Relive

Blumhouse returns to Sundance with what’s being described as a supernatural thriller by way of a time warped police procedural. David Oyelowo stars as a detective investigating a murder, and while his acting alone is enough to make this a must-see, the involvement of director Jacob Estes, whose MEAN CREEK stands as something of a classic, makes this even more appealing.

Fighting With My Family

In recent years, Sundance has become famous for their surprise screenings, with GET OUT having made its world premiere that way. Last year, Jason Reitman brought us TULLY, and this year MGM uses the platform to launch their WWE-Paige biopic, FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY. Now, I take a bit of issue with this being dubbed a “surprise screening” as it was announced weeks ago, so there’s not really much of a surprise. That said, I’m eager to see what’s sure to be a crowdpleaser. With Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn, Lena Headey and The Rock as part of the cast, not to mention the great Stephen Merchant at the helm, I’m expecting this one to be a damn good time, and perhaps a bit of a tonic from heavier fare.

The Nightingale

Jennifer Kent returns to Sundance following THE BABADOOK in what’s set to be a victory lap with THE NIGHTINGALE, an epic, period horror-thriller that made its world premiere at Cannes last spring. While the initial reviews seemed to be mixed, I think Sundance will be a much better fit for what several people in the know have already told me is an excellent, albeit unusual thriller. I’m very eager to check it out.

The Lodge

Rising genre voice Veronika Franz follows-up her GOODNIGHT MOMMY with THE LODGE, starring the up-and-coming Riley Keough in what seems to be a contained thriller taking place in a snowbound cabin, with dark religious undertones. With Franz at the helm, I have no doubt this will be terribly creepy, and I’m eager to see how Keough does in a lead as she’s always seemed poised to breakout.

Wounds

Sundance’s Midnight selection has always been great, and one of the best of the so-called “arthouse horror” movies I ever saw was Babak Anvari’s UNDER THE SHADOW, which played the section a few years ago. Anvari is back with the star-studded WOUNDS, starring Dakota Johnson and Armie Hammer as a young couple in New Orleans who witness a violent attack and find themselves drawn down a rabbit hole that threatens to destroy them. I believe this is one of the few movies playing the fest that already has a distribution deal in place, with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna, making this screening all about buzz. They must be pretty confident.

The Report

Sundance has always been eminently political and there are several interesting films playing the festival this year with that sensibility. To me, the most intriguing of them all is Scott Z. Burns’s THE REPORT, which is produced by Vice, and examines the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used by the CIA post 9-11. Get a load of this cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney & Michael C. Hall. This should be a good one.

Memory: The Origins of ALIEN

Alexandre O. Philippe, the director of 78/52 (his analysis of PSYCHO) takes a deep dive into Ridley Scott’s seminal ALIEN. No mere making-of, Philippe tends to get deep, with this being billed as an exploration into “the deep resonance of myths and our collective unconscious.” Interesting, although my issue with Philippe in the past has been that he reaches a little too much, finding things to suit his thesis that weren’t ever really there in the work of the auteurs he profiles. That said, his movies are always interesting, and given how the film has become such a cultural milestone, an exploration of the ALIEN mythos might be really fascinating.

Late Night

I’m surprised it’s taken Mindy Kaling this long to make the jump to the big screen, as she’s always struck me as a movie star waiting to happen. As in several other breakout vehicles from Sundances past (CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER, THE BIG SICK), the star, in this case Kaling, does double duty as screenwriter, with this being her take on late night TV, with Emma Thompson playing against type as the acid-tongued host she works for. Sounds a bit like MORNING GLORY meets THE LATE SHIFT. I’m in.

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