Sundance Film Festival Preview

1/20/2010 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Spencer Morton

The Sundance Film Festival is a defining moment in cinema each year. The 10-day-long film fest gives the ‘little’ films a big stage. Last year “Precious,” “An Education” and “The Cove” all showed at Sundance. Each went on to critical acclaim. This year’s festival kicks off on January 21. Which films should we watch out for? Here’s a look at a few:


Ryan Reynolds stars as Paul Conroy, a contract driver working in Iraq. A convoy that he is driving is ambushed and he wakes up to one of the most horrific scenarios imaginable. He is buried alive in a coffin with nothing more than a lighter and a cell phone. He has to fight claustrophobia and oxygen depravation while figuring out a way to survive.

Finally, here is a film that will give Reynolds an opportunity to showcase his unheralded acting abilities. He will be the only on-screen talent in the film. Wait a minute--90 minutes of watching Ryan Reynolds struggle to fight his way out of a coffin? If that sounds like a terrible movie to you, I don’t blame you. To me, it sounds extremely promising. Spanish director Rodrigo Cort├ęs takes the helm in this thriller. Do he and Reynolds have what it takes to sustain 90 minutes of intense film-making in such close quarters?


Director Spencer Susser returns to Sundance after premiering his well-received short film “I Love Sarah Jane” there in 2008. This year, he makes his feature film debut with the personal, semi-autobiographical “Hesher.” The story follows TJ [Devin Brochu] as he tries to cope with the tragic passing of his mother. Enter Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He’s a loser, an arsonist, an unkempt train-wreck with graphic, homemade tattoos and an intense disdain for the world.

Hesher is on the fast track to nowhere, until he meets TJ. They bond and help each other though their problems. Susser claims the film is a drama with elements of comedy thrown in. Rainn Wilson nabs a supporting role as TJ’s grieving father, Paul. “Hesher” seems very original and has the makings to be a tremendous film. Look for a showcase of powerful performances. Click here to check out still images of Gordon-Levitt as Hesher. He’s looking a little different than his character in “(500) Days of Summer.”

Get Low

Have you ever wondered what people would say about you when you’re dead? That’s what Felix (Robert Duvall) wonders in “Get Low,” the story of a grizzly old hermit who throws a funeral party--for himself. Set in 1930s Tennessee, the film co-stars Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black.

Look for a heartwarming, captivating performance by Duvall. It’ll be interesting to see what issues director Aaron Schneider wants to address here. Will he look at the pain and loneliness of growing old? Will he expand on that and look into other possible themes such as the shallowness of society? Hopefully, all the great parts will add up to a magnificent whole.

The Company Men

Now for a film that many people will be able to relate to--“The Company Men.” The film focuses on a year in the lives of people in a community as the major company in town begins to downsized. Bobby (Ben Affleck), Gene (Tommy Lee Jones) and Phil (Chris Cooper) are three men struggling to avoid the axe. Will they, their families, or their community survive?

Craig T. Nelson, Maria Bello and Kevin Costner co-star. “The Company Men” sounds slightly familiar, but is very relevant to modern America. This is director John Wells’ feature film debut. Let’s see if he can muster up enough originality and heart-felt emotion to do this all-star cast justice.


Imagine that Jonah Hill is the dysfunctional, havoc-wreaking son of the woman you’re trying to fall in love with. John C. Reilly faces that dilemma in “Cyrus.” Reilly’s character, John, is a hopeless romantic lingering in the afterthoughts of a recent divorce. He meets Molly (Marissa Tomei) and they hit it off. That’s when John meets Cyrus (Jonah Hill).

Despite Cyrus’ deeply dysfunctional nature, Molly and he have a deep bond with one another. Will John fit into the picture? The film plays out in a hilarious and horrific way. If you're “Mr. Woodcock” or “Man of the House," so am I, but this seems different. The Duplass brothers are directing. One of their previous films, “Baghead,” was unpretentious, hysterical fun. They should be able to adapt this old tale into something a little more fresh.

Welcome to the Riley’s

“Welcome to the Riley’s” is a story of pain, guilt and how to cope with loss. Doug (James Gandolfini) and Lois (Melissa Leo) have been dealing with the death of their daughter for eight years. Each has different coping mechanisms. Doug has a torrid affair with a waitress in town. Lois is harboring secrets and feels guilty over their daughter’s death.

When things go sour for Doug, he skips town and goes to New Orleans on a business trip. He becomes acquainted with underage stripper and prostitute Mallory (Kristen Stewart). Doug views this girl as a way to salvation. If he can save her from her troubled ways, maybe he can save himself from the guilt and sins he’s committed. This film has potential written all over it. Gandolfini is a powerhouse actor, and Stewart really has a chance to shine here. This will be one of the big contenders in the Dramatic Competition at Sundance.

Animal Kingdom

This Australian film delves into the seedy criminal underworld of Melbourne. “Animal Kingdom” is the story of J (James Frecheville), a 17-year-old boy trying to survive in a sadistic criminal family. Guy Pearce plays Leckie, a detective who believes he can help J escape this hell.

Australian cinema has delivered some tremendous films in the past few years. Last year, there was “Samson & Delilah” and “The Square.” Both films were little seen, but highly touted. Look for “Animal Kingdom” to continue the string of quality films to come out of Australia.

Sympathy for Delicious

Mark Ruffalo makes his directorial debut with “Sympathy for Delicious,” the story of DJ “Delicious” Dean and his fight to produce quality music, inspire others and battle the streets of Los Angeles--all while in a wheelchair. Delicious (Christopher Thornton) once had a promising career. Now that he is confined to a wheelchair, he must battle internal demons in order to rise to the top again. He attempts to find solace in the controversial world of faith healing.

The Stain (Orlando Bloom) is a rock star. Along with the rest of the band, he takes in Delicious and teaches him how to experiment with faith healing. Delicious unfortunately gets more than he bargained for. Ruffalo is a marvelous actor, but how is he behind the camera? Will Bloom ever be known as anything other than a pirate or an elf? “Sympathy for Delicious” seems like a step in the right direction.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes


  1. Stunsail said...

    The Square might have been little seen, but turns out its getting Stateside distribution.