Ben Robins on the ten must-see movies at Sundance 2018…
The ridiculously celebrated indie festival to end all indie festivals will return for another banner year in January, and it’s no doubt set to be another big one. Having kicked off the careers of everyone from the Coen Brothers to Tarantino to most recently, Whiplash and La La Land’s Damien Chazelle, it’s a fairly reliable way to get a heads-up on the brightest and boldest new filmmakers in the biz, so it only makes sense to take a closer look at what’s coming up.
We don’t have much to go on – synopses and the occasional still picture – so lets let the casts and crews speak for themselves.
American Animals (dir. Bart Layton)
Written and directed by documentary vet Layton (the BAFTA winning filmmaker behind 2012’s seriously ace The Imposter), American Animals not only boasts an already proven talent in the director’s chair, it doubles up with an incredibly exciting young cast too.
Lead by X-Men’s Evan Peters and The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s Barry Keoghan, the plot digs deep into a crime genre staple, setting up four young men who plan an ambitious heist off the back of some inspiration from the movies themselves. Expect something new, and with Film4 backing it, we’re hoping Layton’s first foray into narrative film will make a big splash at other festivals throughout the year too.
Mandy (dir. Panos Cosmatos)
If you’ve never had the pleasure of sitting through Panos Cosmatos’s positively enchanting Kubrickian nightmare Beyond the Black Rainbow, boy are you in for a treat. Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough star here, in a “primal wilderness” 1983, with Cage leading a bloody revenge crusade against an unhinged religious sect who, as it so happens, murdered his one true love.
Premiering as part of the fest’s ‘Midnight’ section, expect bold, beautiful colours and a lot of blood. Oh, and character-actor legend Richard Brake continuing to chew up the scenery big time too.
Eighth Grade (dir. Bo Burnham)
Arguably the most exciting of the lot, young genre-bending comedian Bo Burnham shot this one largely in secret, with most only really learning of its existence when it popped up on Sundance’s January schedule. Centring on a teenage girl fighting her way through her final week of eighth grade, we’re still not entirely sure if it’ll be part-musical like most of Burnham’s work to date, but we can almost guarantee it’ll cut a whole lot deeper than meets the eye.
Despite still only being in his late 20s, Burnham’s risen from cult stardom on YouTube to having several tours and Netflix comedy specials to his name (the most recent, the overwhelmingly refreshing Make Happy, is pretty much a stand-up masterpiece), and although this is technically his first film, he’s been playing around with script ideas for ages, even managing the massively under-appreciated reality-TV send-up Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous a few years back He’s a talent that never fails to surprise and amaze, so the idea of a feature-length movie with his own unique stamp on it has got us pretty much jumping for joy.
I Think We’re Alone Now (dir. Reed Morano)
Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as two troubled survivors struggling the other side of the apocalypse, directed by The Handmaid’s Tale’s Reed Morano – sold yet? The idea of seeing Dinklage back in a mighty dramatic role again is hugely attractive, and with Morano’s deep, dark and beautiful photography taking centre stage, what is there not to love about this one?
Mike Makowsky’s script sounds like it takes a bit of a detour from the usual end-of-the-world yarn too, focussing in on a recluse in his element, who’s very much put off by the appearance of another survivor. And with this standing as just one of a number of feature projects Morano’s got lined up too, this could be the start of something extra extraordinary for her.
Sorry to Bother You (dir. Boots Riley)
Skirting over into a very different world altogether now, American rapper Boots Riley’s directorial debut looks to be one of the fest’s oddest entries this year. Set in what Riley himself describes as a “macabre” alternate version of Oakland, the film follows a black telemarketer who uncovers a magic key to success, and, well that’s about all we have.
But aside from the weird-ass story, what really sold us on Sorry to Bother You (besides that must-have t-shirt from the promo image) was the cast at the centre of it all. Deep breath now, currently confirmed is: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Steven Yeun, Terry Crews, and David Cross. Even just those first two names alone would have us pumped.
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