Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Thoughts on the Films of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

Blog Post #13
For reasons known and unknown I am drawn into the “festival circuit”. I read about films a year or so out from when the majority of people see them in theaters.

Last year I read about films that premiered at Sundance 2012 and saw about 10 of them throughout the year. While not all masterpieces I can say I liked every one of them and for people that know my discerning nature that unto itself is a miracle.

When the list of 2013 films were announced yesterday I decided to get the jump on them.

Below is the list of the films I found intriguing and on some my "Cool Black’s Mad Commentary:" and as always I'm always looking for the Black  Faces :-)

Also you will see that I'm attracted by not only the synopsis of the film, but in many cases the cast. As Trevor Groth, director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival said to The Hollywood Reporter"With some of the more interesting television that's happening now, you've got stars coming up in those ranks that aren't like studio-system blockbuster actors, but they're well-known actors who do really interesting work." 

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Ain't Them Bodies Saints / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I like the actors attached.

Fruitvale / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Coogler) — The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I like the actors attached. Black  Faces :-)

In a World... / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lake Bell) — An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation. Cast: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: This seems funny.

Kill Your Darlings / U.S.A. (Director: John Krokidas, Screenwriters: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas) — An untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that led to the birth of an entire generation – their Beat revolution. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHann, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen.

The Lifeguard / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Liz W. Garcia) — A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager. Cast: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, David Lambert.

Mother of George / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriter: Darci Picoult) — A story about a woman willing to do anything and risk everything for her marriage. Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Anthony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, Bukky Ajayi.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I saw Dosunmu's last directorial effort Restless City and interested to see what's next for him.Black  Faces :-)

The Spectacular Now / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber) — Sutter is a high school senior who lives for the moment; Aimee is the introvert he attempts to "save." As their relationship deepens, the lines between right and wrong, friendship and love, and "saving" and corrupting become inextricably blurred. Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I like the cast ESPECIALLY Shailene Woodley! Loved her performance in The Descendants.

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
American Promise / U.S.A. (Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson) — This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: Sounds really great. Black  Faces :-)
Blackfish / U.S.A. (Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite) — Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top Sea World trainer. Blackfish shows the devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.
Dirty Wars / U.S.A. (Director: Richard Rowley) — Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill chases down the truth behind America’s covert wars.

Gideon's Army / U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter) — Gideon’s Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.

God Loves Uganda / U.S.A. (Director: Roger Ross Williams) — A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to infuse African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law. Black  Faces :-)

Manhunt / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Greg Barker) — This espionage tale goes inside the CIA’s long conflict against Al Qaeda, as revealed by the remarkable women and men whose secret war against Osama bin Laden started nearly a decade before most of us even knew his name.

Narco Cultura / U.S.A. (Director: Shaul Schwarz) — An examination of Mexican drug cartels’ influence in pop culture on both sides of the border as experienced by an LA narcocorrido singer dreaming of stardom and a Juarez crime scene investigator on the front line of Mexico’s Drug War.

Twenty Feet From Stardom / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Neville) — Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight.  Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we've had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead – until now.

Valentine Road / U.S.A. (Director: Marta Cunningham) — In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy from point of impact, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as its startling aftermath.

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Google and the World Brain / Spain, United Kingdom (Director: Ben Lewis) — In the most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet, Google has been scanning the world's books for 10 years. They said the intention was to build a giant digital library, but that involved scanning millions of copyrighted works. World Premiere

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: Sounds really intriguing. Like watching Skynet (from the Terminator films) in progress.

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer / Russian Federation, United Kingdom (Directors: Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin) — Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial: the three young artists or the society they live in? World Premiere
Cool Black’s Mad CommentarySounds intriguing mostly to see more about what this controversy about this group is about.

DAY ONE FILM NEXT 
Blue Caprice / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriters: R.F.I Porto, Alexandre Moors) — An abandoned boy is lured to America and drawn into the shadow of a dangerous father figure in this film inspired by the real life events that led to the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. Cast: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Joey Lauren Adams, Tim Blake Nelson, Cassandra Freeman, Leo Fitzpatrick.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryAs someone who was living in Maryland when this real event happened I have been intrigued about seeing a film adaptation. It was part of our everyday lives as you didn't know when or where the sniper could strike in your own backyard. Black  Faces :-)
Milkshake / U.S.A. (Director: David Andalman, Screenwriters: David Andalman, Mariko Munro) — In mid-1990's America, we follow the tragic sex life of Jolie Jolson, a wannabe thug (and great-great-grandson of legendary vaudevillian Al Jolson) in suburban DC as he strives to become something he can never be – black. Cast: Tyler Ross, Shareeka Epps, Georgia Ford, Eshan Bay, Leo Fitzpatrick, Danny Burstein.
Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: This sounds wild. Black  Faces :-)
Newlyweeds / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shaka King) — A Brooklyn repo man and his globetrotting girlfriend forge an unlikely romance. But what should be a match made in stoner heaven turns into a love triangle gone awry in this dark coming-of-age comedy about dependency.Cast: Amari Cheatom, Trae Harris, Tone Tank, Colman Domingo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Adrian Martinez.
Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I like the actors attached. Black  Faces :-)
A Teacher / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Hannah Fidell) — A popular young teacher in a wealthy suburban Texas high school has an affair with one of her students. Her life begins to unravel as the relationship comes to an end. Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Jonny Mars, Julie Phillips, Chris Dubeck.

This is Martin Bonner / U.S.A.(Director and screenwriter: Chad Hartigan) — Martin Bonner has just moved to Reno for a new job in prison rehabilitation. Starting over at age 58, he struggles to adapt until an unlikely friendship with an ex-con blossoms, helping him confront the problems he left behind. Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Richmond Arquette, Sam Buchanan, Robert Longstreet, Demetrius Grosse.

More films are due to be announced and when they are I might add to this list, but for now those sound intriguing.


UPDATE: NOVEMBER 30, 2012
From The Hollywood Reporter, "The Sundance Film Festival unveiled on Thursday (November 29, 2012) the selections for three noncompetition categories that often produce films that become crowd favorites." These films are just showing to the audiences and distributors at Sundance and not vying for any prizes. 

Below are some more of what I find intriguing. No discernible Black  Faces :-) in this next crop, but I'm not going to hold it against them.  LOL

Stories We Tell (documentary) / Canada (Director: Sarah Polley) — Sarah Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryI like Sarah Polley as an actor and this sounds like an intruguing doc.

PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT
All the titles in this category are world premieres.
Ass Backwards / U.S.A. (Director: Chris Nelson, Screenwriters: June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson) — Loveable losers Kate and Chloe take a road trip back to their hometown to claim the beauty pageant crown that eluded them as children, only to discover what really counts: friendship.Cast: June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Alicia Silverstone, Jon Cryer, Brian Geraghty.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryLOVE the title and the cast is good.
In Fear / United Kingdom (Directed and story by: Jeremy Lovering) — Trapped in a maze of country roads with only their vehicle for protection, Tom and Lucy are terrorized by an unseen tormentor exploiting their worst fears. Eventually they realize they've let the evil in – it’s sitting in their car. Cast: Alice Englert, Iain De Caestecker, Allen Leech.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryThis sounds wild. Sounds like it could be good!
kink (documentary) / U.S.A. (Director: Christina Voros) — A story of sex, submission and big business is told through the eyes of the unlikely pornographers whose 9:00-to-5:00 work days are spent within the confines of the San Francisco Armory building, home to the sprawling porn production facilities of Kink.com.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryThis also sounds wild. Also sounds like it could be good!
S-VHS / U.S.A., Canada (Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener, Screenwriters: Simon Barrett, Jamie Nash, Timo Tjahjanto & Gareth Huw Evans, John Davies) — Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his abandoned house and find another collection of mysterious VHS tapes. In viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be terrifying motives behind the student’s disappearance. Cast: Adam Wingard, Lawrence Levine, L.C Holt, Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Hughes.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryAs The Hollywood Reporter states, "The creative team behind V/H/S is back for this year's festival with S-VHS, which, while not a traditional sequel, uses the original film's found-footage format. "

Now I saw V/H/S , and many of the Sundance 2012 films linked below at the 2012 Maryland Film Festival (You can read more about that here) and it was WILD to say the least. (The full review is linked below). I would be interested in seeing a sequel.

UPDATE: DECEMBER 4, 2012

More noncompetition categories. This one noncompetition PREMIERES—World Premieres.

Don Jon's Addiction / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Joseph Gordon-Levitt) — In Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s charming directorial debut, a selfish modern-day Don Juan attempts to change his ways. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown.
Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryAlways leery of Actors turned directors, but this one also has a great cast.
The East / U.S.A. (Director: Zal Batmanglij, Screenwriters: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling) — An operative for an elite private intelligence firm goes into deep cover to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective attacking major corporations.  Bent on apprehending these fugitives, she finds her loyalty tested as her feelings grow for the group's charismatic leader. Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson.

Cool Black’s Mad CommentarySounds good and good cast.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete / U.S.A. (Director: George Tillman Jr., Screenwriter: Michael Starrbury) — Separated from their mothers and facing a summer in the Brooklyn projects alone, two boys hide from police and forage for food, with only each other to trust.  A story of salvation through friendship and two boys against the world. Cast: Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright.

Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryThey had me at "Brooklyn", but the good cast and Black  Faces :-) don't hurt none ;-)
jOBS / U.S.A. (Director: Joshua Michael Stern, Screenwriter: Matt Whiteley) — The true story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life. jOBS is a candid, inspiring and personal portrait of the one who saw things differently.Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Matthew Modine.

Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryHaving just read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson earlier this year (even though a competing film is being made from the Isaacson book) I'd be interested in seeing this.
^CLOSING NIGHT FILM^
Lovelace / U.S.A. (Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Screenwriter: Andy Bellin) — Deep Throat, the first pornographic feature film to be a mainstream success, was an international sensation in 1972 and made its star, Linda Lovelace, a media darling. Years later the “poster girl for the sexual revolution” revealed a darker side to her story. Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, James Franco, Sharon Stone.

Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryIntriguing story and good cast

Stoker / U.S.A. (Director: Park Chan-Wook, Screenwriter: Wentworth Miller) — After India's father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie comes to live with her and her mother, Evelyn. Soon after his arrival, India suspects that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives but becomes increasingly infatuated with him. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Nicole Kidman.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: The director is Park Chan-Wook, director of the EXCELLENT 'Oldboy' and the screenwriter is Wentworth Miller, the tattooed genius from 'Prison Break'. I'm in.
Very Good Girls / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Naomi Foner) — In the long, half-naked days of a New York summer, two girls on the brink of becoming women fall for the same guy and find that life isn't as simple or safe as they had thought. Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Boyd Holbrook, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I like the cast.
The Way, Way Back / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash) — Duncan, an introverted 14-year-old, comes into his own over the course of a comedic summer when he forms unlikely friendships with the gregarious manager of a rundown water park and the misfits who work there. Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Liam James.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I like the cast.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES
ANITA / U.S.A. (Director: Freida Mock) — Anita Hill, an African-American woman, charges Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment in explosive Senate hearings in 1991 – bringing sexual politics into the national consciousness and fueling 20 years of international debate on the issues.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: I assume there are going to be some 
Black  Faces :-) in this LOL

Linsanity / U.S.A. (Director: Evan Leong) — Jeremy Lin came from a humble background to make an unbelievable run in the NBA. State high school champion, all-Ivy League at Harvard, undrafted by the NBA and unwanted there: his story started long before he landed on Broadway.

Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryEven though I only saw him play once, I got caught up in the linsanity pop culture hype and I'd be interested in seeing this doc.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks / U.S.A. (Director: Alex Gibney) — In 2010, WikiLeaks and its sources used the power of the Internet to usher in what was for some a new era of transparency and for others the beginnings of an information war.

Cool Black’s Mad CommentaryI've always been fascinated by WikiLeaks and would be interested in seeing a doc about them.

The World According to Dick Cheney / U.S.A. (Directors: R.J. Cutler, Greg Finton) — How did Dick Cheney become the single-most-powerful nonpresidential figure in American history? This multi-layered examination of Cheney's life, career, key relationships and controversial worldview features exclusive interviews with the former vice president and his closest allies.

Cool Black’s Mad Commentary: Even though I don't agree with a damn thing he says I am fascinated about as the doc description says "How did Dick Cheney become the single-most-powerful nonpresidential figure in American history?"

See ALL the 2013 coverage at the Sundance Official Website by clicking their 2013 logo below

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Sundance 2012 films I have reviewed in alphabetical order. Click the poster to read the review.

Beasts of the
Southern Wild
Compliance


LUV
V/H/S

Middle of Nowhere

















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