Sundance 2015: 14 Movies To Know
This comedy-drama from writer-director duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) follows Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises) as they bet their way down south on a road trip that will lead them to a high-stakes game in New Orleans. Capturing the scuzzy casino demi-monde of bettors, losers, and dreamers, the Sundance catalog stakes a claim that the movie ''instantly joins the classic canon of films about gambling.''
The producers of Fruitvale Station, the 2013 Sundance prizewinner, return with this coming-of-age story about a trio of ''geeks'' from Inglewood, Calif., in a punk/hip-hop group. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood), it features a mash-up of DIY punk, Yo! MTV Raps, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, with supporting turns by rap stars A$AP Rocky and Tyga as well as original music by Pharrell Williams.
Click to watch the Dope trailer.
Provocative Chilean director-screenwriter Sebastián Silva returns to the festival with his fifth feature premiere, costarring in his own edgy drama alongside Tunde Adebimpe (frontman for the Brooklyn indie-rock group TV on the Radio); they play a gay couple trying to conceive a baby with the help of their best friend (Kristen Wiig). Expect a barbed critique of modern bohemia's blithe social mores. But if this sounds sweet, be warned—it isn't.
The End of the Tour
In this emotional drama based on real events, director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) chronicles the five-day interview/intellectual ping-pong match between Infinite Jest novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel in a wig and do-rag) and Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg).
Torture-porn auteur Eli Roth (Hostel) and Keanu Reeves are hardly synonymous with indie excellence. And yet here they are teaming up for a midnight movie that follows a married man's wild encounter with two beautiful strangers—a night when fantasy seduction slams into nightmarish havoc.
An American Western shot in New Zealand and Scotland, it stars Michael Fassbender as a mysterious traveler leading a Scottish teenager (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Kodi Smit-McPhee) across the 19th-century frontier in search of the woman the boy loves. Fun fact: Slow West marks the debut feature-directing effort by John Maclean, former DJ and keyboard player for the cultishly popular Scottish art-rock quintet the Beta Band.
Z for Zachariah
In this sci-fi drama, Margot Robbie stars as the survivor of a nuclear disaster whose isolated farm existence is turned inside out when a dying scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and fellow post apocalyptic refugee (Chris Pine) wander in from the wasteland. Things get tricky when they vie for her affection.
Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig—respectively, the writer-director and writer-star of 2013's indie sensation Frances Ha—regroup with this comedy that's cryptically described in Sundance literature as being about ''dream-chasing, score-settling, and cat-stealing.''
The Hunting Ground
Documentarian Kirby Dick blew the lid off military sexual assaults with his 2012 exposé The Invisible War. Now he's back with this documentary examining rapes on American college campuses, detailing their institutional cover-ups and toxic social legacies. ''You're following the story of two women who started an organization to help. And they're gathering strength as they start to realize the epidemic it is—one that's being ignored,'' says Sundance director John Cooper. ''It's a very powerful film. One of the most powerful and enraging films we show.''
Click to watch the trailer for The Hunting Ground
In this adaptation of Irish novelist Colm Toibin's 2009 bestseller, Saorise Ronan stars as a young Irish woman in 1950s New York torn between her family back on the Emerald Isle and the young, Italian-American plumber (Emory Cohen) who has won her heart.
Last Days in the Desert
Written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives, Albert Nobbs), the drama follows a crucial Biblical event: Jesus Christ's post-baptism 40-day fast during which he is visited by Satan and must resist temptations of the flesh. Ewan McGregor portrays both the Son of God and the devil in this faith-based festival entry shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, the Oscar-winning cinematographer behind Gravity and Birdman.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Academy Award-winning documentary director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Mea Maxima Culpa) trains his investigative lens on the Church of Scientology in this scathing exposé. Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, it chronicles the controversial Church's origins, present-day practices, and alleged abuses through interviews with former members (and was reportedly vetted by 160 lawyers to head off lawsuits by the notoriously litigious organization).
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Unlike so many other MTV specials and Behind the Music rockumentaries chronicling the fallen rock icon who took his own life in 1994, Montage of Heck reveals Cobain's heretofore unseen side: as a multi-disciplinary artist. Produced by the Nirvana frontman's daughter Frances Bean—who has seldom previously spoken out about her father—it showcases his paintings, poetry, and short fiction, and features interviews only with the people who knew him best.
I Smile Back
Foulmouthed funny woman Sarah Silverman gets uncharacteristically somber in her first dramatic lead role. As a New York housewife chafing against the demands of motherhood and manicured suburbia, she self-medicates with booze, drugs, and extramarital bad decisions. Until, that is, looming family dissolution forces a bid at redemption.