Sundance 2014: Most Anticipated in the Premieres Section

The Sundance Premieres section is “A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated dramatic films of the coming year.”

Shannon The Young Ones
Michael Shannon in Jake Paltrow’s “Young Ones”

Young Ones

Written and directed by Jake Paltrow

USA, 2014

It’s always a mix of delight, discomfort, and teeth-grinding tension when Michael Shannon (Bug, Take Shelter, The Iceman) takes center stage. His exacting performances often subtly build upon instability and transfix the audience as a countdown to imminent emotional combustion begins. This sci-fi drama by Jake Paltrow (The Good Night) is set to showcase Shannon and rely on his strong air of deeply held convictions to boldly deliver the film’s gritty premise of humanity’s struggle in a future deprived of water. The rest of the acting ensemble are coming of age as promising talents that may complement Shannon’s gravitas. Elle Fanning shined in Ginger & Rosa while Kodi Smit-McPhee has been plugging away in films (recently as the voice of Norman in ParaNorman) since he pulled his weight in another dystopian future, alongside Viggo Mortensen in The Road.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, and Domhnall Gleeson in “Frank”


Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan

Michael Fassbender stars in Frank, a far-fetched and abstract sounding story that’s actually rooted in the real-life escapades of a late UK comedian who famously donned a papier-mache head. Chris Sievey was a musician out of Manchester with a punk band called The Freshies who created an alter ego named Frank Sidebottom. It’s unclear how much of the movie will touch upon Sievey’s spirit behind the wackiness or Domhnall Gleeson’s (from About Time and the Harry Potter series) reaction to Frank’s outrageous antics, but the challenging premise of partially obscuring Fassbender is a provocative creative gamble. Hopefully music and the art of performance will collide to make for a magnetic whirlwind of a movie.

The Raid 2
Gareth Evans’ “The Raid 2”

The Raid 2

Written and directed by Gareth Evans

Director Gareth Evans delivered non-stop fighting free from CGI with The Raid: RedemptionAlthough it lacked character detail and emotional connection, it proved to be exhilarating just to watch for the amazingly sustained action as a police force in Jakarta, Indonesia took on an organized crime syndicate held up in high rise building. The Raid is remarkable in its dedication to maintaining suspense and keeping the audience on their toes. Furthering the story of Officer Rama from the first film, the second part of the series isn’t confined to a single building but opens up a whole slew of dangerous nooks and crannies for the crime syndicate to get the drop on him in Jakarta. A third installment is already planned.

LOVE IS STRANGE Alfred Molina John Lithgow photo by Jeong Park
Molina and Lithgow in Ira Sachs’ “Love is Strange”

Love is Strange

Directed by Ira Sachs

Written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias

Ira Sachs’ moving Keep the Lights On premiered at Sundance 2012 and was notable for the rich details that it painted of a relationship that just happened to be about a same-sex couple. Armed with the towering respect and accomplishments afforded to two well-known actors, Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, Sachs has turned overtly political with a story intent to drive home the complexities and consequences of combating the inexplicable bigotry we still confront in modern-day society. It isn’t too much of a leap to assume that Sachs’ proclivity and flair for exploring emotional accountability will  factor into the film’s reception.

THE ONE I LOVE Elisabeth Moss Mark Duplass Photo by Doug Emmett
Moss and Duplass confront each other in “The One I Love”

The One I Love

Directed by Charlie McDowell

Written by Justin Lader

The irresistible combination of Elisabeth Moss (fresh off of Top of the Lake) and Mark Duplass (of the Duplass Brothers’ empire of independent film) has the potential to be a bristling character study full of wry observations. However- Sundance 2013 gave us Linklater’s Before Midnight and set the bar extremely high for discursive stories about long-term relationships straining under the weight of revelation and cyclical behavior. Following so soon in the footsteps of Before Midnight‘s heavy-hitting scenes, this film will have to throw some major surprises at us to make the dialogue feel worthwhile. Even though it lacks the epic and cathartic span of  the Linklater trilogy, these actors are more than enough to draw us into at least entertaining getting immersed in their story.

They Came Together
Rudd and Poehler in David Wain’s “They Came Together”

They Came Together

Directed by David Wain

Written by Michael Showalter and David Wain

From the director and writers of Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models comes a film with a cast so suspiciously likable that expectations are all over the place as to how David Wain has woven together a love story that is palatable and pleasing without being sickeningly sweet. The plot sounds much like the classic The Shop Around the Corner, which was remade into the odd (and ironically corporate) You’ve Got MailPaul Rudd, Amy Poehler, and the inspired casting of Michael Shannon are excellent selling points but it is David Wain’s history of writing off-the-wall content for the short lived TV series The State, Children’s Hospital  as well as his web series Wainy Days that intrigues and gives hope that this opportunity to successfully bring together so many talents won’t be bungled. A title so shamelessly tongue-in-cheek is a good indication of what Wain may have to offer.

— Lane Scarberry

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