10 Must See Movies From The 2011 Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah came to a close this past weekend. While most of the buzz went to documentaries like How to Die in Oregon, Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times, and Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, we decided to do a countdown of feature length movies from the U.S. Dramatic Competition, NEXT competition, and those not in competition (plus one doc we just couldn’t pass up) that you should definitely see – whether it’s in the theater, on demand, or through Netflix.
Red State follows three horny high-school boys who come across an online ad from an older woman looking for a gang bang, so they hit the road to satiate their lust. But what begins as a fantasy takes a dark turn as they come face-to-face with a terrifying “holy” force with a fatal agenda. Film’s written and directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, etc.) whose last movie “Cop Out” was a real disappointment. Cast includes John Goodman, Stephen Root (King of The Hill, Office Space), Kevin Pollak (Usual Suspects), Oscar nominee Melissa Leo (The Fighter), and Michael Parks (Grindhouse, From Dusk Till Dawn). It’s a venture into uncharted territory for Smith, but initial reviews have been positive.
This minimalist sci-fi drama features a bright young woman recently accepted into MIT’s astrophysics program who begins an unlikely affair with a brilliant, successful composer about to have a second child with his loving wife. The situation gets more complicated when a duplicate Earth is discovered (see pic above), presenting one of them with the opportunity to travel to the other Earth and embrace an alternative reality.
Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges, Beowulf) stars as a salty village cop in Ireland who has a subversive sense of humor, a caustic wit, and an uncanny knack for keeping people at arm’s length. When a straitlaced FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) chasing an international drug-smuggling ring hits town, this Irish officer has no intention of letting the arrival disrupt his routine of hookers and wisecracks. Initially, he relishes offending and ridiculing the agent, but a murder and a series of peculiar events draw the reluctant sergeant into the investigation. Film’s written and directed by first time feature length director John Michael McDonagh.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
The description on IMDb reads, “A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.” Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) dissects the world of advertising and marketing by using his personal integrity as currency to sell out to the highest bidder. While we wanted to shy away from picking any docs (because there are so many that are awesome), we thought this one would probably have the most appeal to our users. We’ve all seen 2004′s Super Size Me and we’ve all had that same reactions – wow, I really want McDonald’s right now – quickly followed by wow, I think I’m gonna puke.
Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover) plays a small town insurance agent who gets a rude awakening when he arrives in the “giant” metropolis of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His boyish charm and innocence eventually win over his fellow convention attendees, but he becomes disheartened when he uncovers corporate corruption. When it seems his life—and chances to succeed—are thrown for a loop, he finds his own unjaded way to right the ship. Co-stars include John C. Reilly whose also in another fest favorite “Terri”, Anne Heche (HBO’s Hung), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Avatar), and Isiah Whitlock Jr who’s also in another festival entry “Gun Hill Road”. Rounding out the cast in minor roles are funnydudes Rob Corddry, Stephen Root (see Red State above), Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!, The State), and Mike Birbiglia, who’s currently living in a Macy’s window.
Paul Giamatti plays a struggling attorney who volunteers as a high-school wrestling coach and takes on the guardianship of an elderly client in a desperate attempt to keep his practice afloat. When the client’s teenage grandson runs away from home and shows up on his grandfather’s doorstep, Mike’s life is turned upside down as his win-win proposition turns into something much more complicated than he ever bargained for. Film also stars Amy Ryan (The Office), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, Larry Sanders Show), and Bobby Cannavale (TV’s Blue Bloods, The Ten). Try not to confuse this with 2010′s British drama Win/win. Classic mix-up!
A middle class husband and father lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife and 6 year old deaf daughter. He has terrifying dreams of violent supernatural storms but keeps the visions to himself, opting to channel his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His frantic behavior places a strain on his relationships at home and in the community. Are the dreams a foretelling of cataclysmic weather-related events to come or a possible onset of mental illness that runs in his family? The film was voted “Best Narrative Film” in indieWIRE’s survey polling film critics and bloggers. You may recognize Eastbound and Down’s Katy Mixon playing Nat.
TJ is a mad bastard, and his estranged 13-year-old son Bullet is on the fast track to becoming one, too. After being turned away from his mother’s house, TJ sets off across the country to a region of northwestern Australia to make things right with his son. Grandpa Tex has lived a tough life, and now, as a local cop, he wants to change things for the men in his community. This is the first feature length work of fiction from documentary filmmaker and producer Brendan Fletcher.
Paul Rudd plays a down on his luck dude who always seems to find himself holding the short end of the stick—being conned into selling pot to a uniformed cop, being dumped by his girlfriend, and worse yet, losing custody of his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. When he turns to family, he is passed from sister to sister while he gets back on his feet. His best intentions produce hilariously disastrous results, bringing the family to the cusp of chaos and ultimately the brink of a silver lining. Cast notables include Elizabeth Banks (pretty much everything), Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones (see “Cedar Rapids” above), Adam Scott (Derek from Step Brothers), Black Swan‘s Janet Montgomery and the subject of a recent “Brofile” TJ Miller.
A mysterious vagrant discovers a nearly frozen local man while wandering through the snow-covered plains of North Dakota and stops to lend a hand. He soon learns the man was en route to collect his pen-pal girlfriend from a correctional facility, and decides to pull “a robbery” as The Situation would say. Blinded by his desire for love, the vagrant decides to take matters into his own hands—forever changing the destinies of all three people. Like a lighter version of Fargo meets a darker version of Napoleon Dynamite.
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