The 2014 Sundance Film Festival is just starting to wrap up, and as it's usually the first venue to see what upcoming films might make a splash this year, it's time to look at several that received rapturous response and have already been bought by a distributor. These are the ones that caught my eye, and will be released sometime in the coming months:
WHIPLASH; Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons. Dir. Damien Chazelle
Miles Teller, the standout from The Spectacular Now, stars in this film about a teenage drummer who's run through the ringer by a near sadistic music teacher (J.K. Simmons). This was the first film of the festival to grab everybody's attention.
"This is a muscular and accomplished work of kinetic cinema based around two tremendous acting performances." (Salon)
"The film is gripping, funny and inspiring: Imagine 'The Karate Kid' with Mr. Miyagi played by R. Lee Armey." (New York Post)
LAGGIES; Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell. Dir. Lynn Shelton
The new dramedy from indie director Lynn Shelton stars Keira Knightley as a directionless young woman who befriends teenager Chloe Grace Moretz. It also received a very positive response from the festival crowd and was picked up the new studio A24 for release.
"Funny, human, clean and still messy, 'Laggies' is the indie film equivalent of a bumblebee- it shouldn't be able to fly and manuever, but it does and does so superbly." (Film.com)
"Keira Knightley gives a delightfully loose-limbed performance in Lynn Shelton's polished sixth feature." (Variety)
THE SKELETON TWINS; Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig. Dir. Craig Johnson
I'm looking forward to this one- starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as an estranged brother and sister who reunite after his suicide attempt, the performances are both highly praised and their chemistry is tops, as usual. Another comedy-drama, the kind of movie that tends to shine at Sundance.
"Sibling bonds are fertile territory for indie dramedies, but 'The Skeleton Twins' distinguishes itself from the pack with a pair of knockout performances from SNL veterans Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig." (Variety)
"It is rare to see a film as tonally balanced as 'The Skeleton Twins.' It is both a tearjerker and a crowdpleaser, often in the same scene." (Film Threat)
LIFE, ITSELF; Director Steve James
Another one I'm excited about- the director of Hoop Dreams, Steve James, began this documentary about the life of the great Roger Ebert in 2011, and it apparently brought audiences to tears at every festival showing. The title was taken from Ebert's own memoir, and he was thrilled to know that the director of a movie he so passionately championed from the beginning wanted to document his long, rich life.
"A fulsome appreciation of the life and work of the world's most famous film critic." (Hollywood Reporter)
"James cuts- as in all of his best work- straight to the human heart of the matter, celebrating both the writer and the man, the one inseparable from the other, largely in Ebert's own words." (Variety)
BOYHOOD; Director Richard Linklater
Finally, the last movie out of Sundance that really caught my attention is Boyhood, the epic coming of age film from director Richard Linklater, who's literally been filming this movie for 12 years. He followed a 6 year old boy as he grew to the age of 18, filming a couple of weeks every year, and according to critics, the result is a deeply moving tribute to the evolution of human life.
"Perhaps never has the long arc of the journey from childhood to college been portrayed as cohesively and convincingly as Richard Linklater has done in a film that can be plain on a moment-to-moment basis but is something quite special in its entirety." (Hollywood Reporter)
"Unshakeable, witty, and deeply felt, the film will be paying emotional dividends for a long, long time." (Time Out New York)
"There's a rough-edged, organic quality to 'Boyhood' that recalls the work of European helmers Linklater so admires: Fassbinder, Bergman, Bresson." (Variety)