Best Bets at Sundance 2013

It's not easy figuring out which films to see at Sundance. You don't really know anything about them and often have to rely on the past performance of key players. That's why the upcoming movies by directors Drake Doremus, Michael Winterbottom and Lynn Shelton, just for starters, look so appealing. You also look for strong ensembles made up of quality actors who often gravitate to quality roles, like Peter Sarsgaard's participation in Lovelace or Ben Foster in Kill Your Darlings. Here's a short of list of some of the big names and possible finds at the Fest. - Keith Simanton
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1.
Touchy Feely (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's floundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his healing touch. (88 mins.)
Director: Lynn Shelton
“ I'm a big fan of writer/director Lynn Shelton. Her works are largely improvised but Shelton is a director who can edit with rigor, down to the essentials of the tale. Touchy may be her most plot-driven piece to date as a family experiences different reactions to their tactile abilities, including a healing touch. Her superb cast boasts some of my recent favorites including Your Sister's Sister Rosemarie DeWitt, DeWitt's real-life husband Ron Livingston, Ellen Page, and Scoot McNairy. ” - keithsim
 
2.
Breathe In (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family's relationships and alters their lives forever. (98 mins.)
Director: Drake Doremus
“ I am very taken with writer/director Drake Doremus. His last film at Sundance was the well-received Like Crazy and he returns with Breathe In. Like Like Crazy it stars Felicity Jones, again as a foreign exchange student but this time she infiltrates the home where the patriarch Keith, played by Guy Pearce, is in a bit of a mid-life crisis. ” - keithsim
 
3.
Kill Your Darlings (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. (104 mins.)
Director: John Krokidas
“ I'm cautiously optimistic for this first feature from John Krokidas. The Beats have proved a difficult force to capture on film (On the Road rambled endlessly, Heart Beat had arrhythmia) but, again, a collection of excellent actors gives me hope. In addition to Radcliffe, DeHaan, Hall and Olsen there's also the always fascinating Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, Dave Cross as Louis Ginsberg and, for that extra tangy dour note, Jennifer Jason Leigh. ” - keithsim
 
4.
The Look of Love (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
The life of Paul Raymond, the controversial entrepreneur who became Britain's richest man. (101 mins.)
“ The last time I saw Michael Winterbottom in Sundance he was on the stage of the Eccles Theater receiving a decidedly mixed reaction to The Killer Inside Me. Actually he was getting upbraided by a woman in the audience who found the film "reprehensible" and "misogynistic." The Look of Love, however, looks to be more along the lines of the director's lighter and more approachable fare, like 24 Hour Party People and The Trip. Like those two films Look also stars Steve Coogan who portrays the real-life London porn baron turned property millionaire Paul Raymond. If it's Winterbottom it nearly automatically hits my "must-see" list. ” - keithsim
 
5.
Stoker (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
After India's father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother. She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him. (99 mins.)
Director: Chan-wook Park
“ The plot description and the trailer make me think of an updated, upsexed version of Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. That's likely given that Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) was inspired to become a director after seeing Hitch's Vertigo. Wasikowska has the Teresa Wright role here, and the undercurrents of sexual attraction to her "Uncle Charlie," played by Matthew Goode carrying the same character name as Joseph Cotten in 1943, are uncomfortably fleshed out. ” - keithsim
 
6.
Lovelace (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
The story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life. (93 mins.)
“ In 2005 producer Brian Grazer brought the documentary Inside Deep Throat to Sundance, amidst much tittering (oh, stop it). This year brings another view of the same theme with Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried as the actress whose tumultuous life in and out of the porn industry is intertwined with the mechanizations of her manipulative husband (played by Peter Sarsgaard). Co-directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who also co-directed the 2010 Sundance Opening Night film, Howl, this looks more like the sleaze-caked Wonderland than the still-sleazy but energetic and excellent Boogie Nights. ” - keithsim
 
7.
In a World... (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protg. (93 mins.)
Director: Lake Bell
“ Sure it's an insider's story, that of a voice-over artist, but it certainly sounds original, which always a welcome change-of-pace. Bell has always struck me as a sharp customer so her first feature film should be worth catching. And it has the always inventive and watchable Demetri Martin. ” - keithsim
 
8.
Prince Avalanche (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind. (94 mins.)
“ Will Prince Avalanche be David Gordon Green's Sideways, gaining indie cred while involving a larger audience? Let's hope so. It doesn't look to be in the same lamentable vein as his last few outings, Pineapple Express, Your Highness or The Sitter but will the director of George Washington ever return? ” - keithsim
 
9.
Upstream Color (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. (96 mins.)
Director: Shane Carruth
“ The name Shane Carruth, the writer/director of Upstream Color, should be familiar. Nine years ago, Carruth made waves as the writer/director of the mind-twist Primer. He's back with a film about a couple that features, as one half of the equation, Amy Seimetz, so watchable in The Off-Hours, among others. But the teaser trailer looks super-creepy and the full trailer looks super pretentious. But let's look past all that, shall we? ” - keithsim
 
10.
Don Jon (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love. (90 mins.)
“ Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings his directorial feature film debut, in which he also stars, to Park City. Addiction is about a sex-crazed Lothario who ends up getting more than he bargained for when he engages in relationships with two very different women (played by Scarlett Johannson and Julianne Moore). JGL also wrote the screenplay for the film. ” - keithsim
 
11.
Jobs (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
The story of Steve Jobs' ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century. (128 mins.)
“ It has to force your game to a different level when you're competing against Aaron Sorkin. That's what Joshua Michael Stern is facing with his Ashton Kutcher biopic of Apple founder Steve Jobs, as Sorkin too is working on such a film. Fortunately, jOBS has already been bought for distribution by Open Road films so it doesn't have the same concern that almost all of the films at Sundance have, which is being seen outside of Utah in January. ” - keithsim
 
12.
Charlie Countryman (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
While traveling abroad, a guy falls for a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart has its origins in her violent, charismatic ex. (103 mins.)
Director: Fredrik Bond
“ First-time feature director Bond comes to Sundance with a script by Matt Drake and Drake owes me for Project X (I still want to punch Costa in the gut, just once). Bond has a stellar cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood as the gangster's moll as well as Mads Mikkelsen and Melissa Leo. You've also got to hand it to LaBeouf, who, for most of his career (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints in '06, Lawless in '12), has worked hard to take challenging projects and shed his corporate tentpole/franchise image though, it must be said, without much critical recognition or success. ” - keithsim
 
13.
Before Midnight (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna. (109 mins.)
“ For a certain age group, watching Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke reunite for another go-round of director Richard Linklater's Before series is like getting a high-school reunion "save the date" notification. Before Sunrise was in 1995 and Before Sunset in 2004 and it will be illuminating to see what these three (Hawke, Delply & Linklater) do with these two characters. Remember, all three were nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sunset. ” - keithsim
 
14.
The Way Way Back (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park. (103 mins.)
Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
“ I can't believe I'm including this coming-of-age film from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Okay, yes I can. They adapted The Descendants. "But," my memory warns, "You typically can't stand the self-absorbed, Sundance, coming-of-age film. Think of The Art of Getting By, for heaven's sake!" "But," I counter, "I loved Greg Mottola's Adventureland, which debuted in Park City in 2009." "But," memory serves, "then there was The First Time (okay, you quite liked Britt Robertson)" "But don't forget," I tell my memory a little later, "Rocket Science. It was gimmicky but clever..." ” - keithsim
 
15.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl." (95 mins.)
Director: James Ponsoldt
“ See? This is where it leads. I've also added writer/director James Ponsoldt's coming-of-age film, The Spectacular Now! My excuse this time is, first off, the cast. There's Miles Teller at Sutter, the protagonist who finds himself strangely infatuated with social outcast Aimee, played by Shailene Woodley. The second is Smashed, Ponsoldt's effective drama about the strain an alcoholic couple goes through when the wife decides to sober up, which generated dark-horse Oscar noms for Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I must ask, however, is there not an air of Not Another Teen Movie's Janey Briggs ugly duckling character in having Woodley play a homely misfit? ” - keithsim
 
16.
Afternoon Delight (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Rachel is a quick-witted and lovable stay-at-home mom. Frustrated with the realities of preschool auctions... (98 mins.)
Director: Jill Soloway
“ First-time feature director Jill Soloway has brought in several actors that intrigue me very much, including Kathryn Hahn, Josh Radnor, and Jane Lynch for Delight, a story about a bored housewife who tries to save a stripper. What intrigues me in particular is the presence of Juno Temple as the one who needs saving. She's been consistently good in smaller films like Little Birds and Killer Joe. ” - keithsim
 
17.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
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. (96 mins.)
Director: David Lowery
“ Writer/director David Lowery has been busy. He's not only the helmer and scribe here, he's the editor of Sean Carruth's film, Upstream Color. Bodies has another excellent cast including Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a couple on a mid-west killing spree. Also has Ben Foster. Confused lovers on a murderous lam has proved potent in the past and the Sundance guide invokes titles like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde. ” - keithsim
 
18.
Sound City (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A documentary on the fabled recording studio that was located in Van Nuys, California. (107 mins.)
Director: David Grohl
“ Documentaries are typically the best offerings at Sundance and this year looks to be no exception. One of the best looks to be Sound City with first-time director Dave Grohl (yes the musician from Nirvana and Foo Fighters). Grohl's film is about the legendary production studio, with a special sound board, that helped produce some of the greatest albums of the '70s and '80s. ” - keithsim
 
19.
The Crash Reel (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Fifteen years of verite footage show the epic rivalry between half-pipe legends Shaun White and Kevin Pearce... (108 mins.)
Director: Lucy Walker
“ To be honest I am not terribly interested in extreme sports or skiing but this film is directed by Lucy Walker, a friend of the site, and a director who has a pretty good track record of creating astounding documentaries. I first encountered her work in 2002 with the excellent and unflinching Devil's Playground, about rumspinga in the Amish community. She's also been nominated for two Oscars, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom in '11 and Wasteland in '10, so this film, about Kevin Pearce, a snowboarder who critically injured himself and his long road to recovery, should be worth a watch. ” - keithsim
 
20.
When I Walk (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
In 2006, 25-year-old Jason DaSilva was on vacation at the beach with family when, suddenly, he fell down... (84 mins.)
Director: Jason DaSilva
“ I would never accuse the Sundance programmers of being sentimental or maudlin so, when a film like this makes the program, it must be special. The filmmaker, Jason DaSilva, turned the camera on himself when, at 25, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and kept it trained while he dealt with the ravages of the disease. ” - keithsim
 
21.
Life According to Sam (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A moving look at a couple's inspiring efforts to save their only son Sam from the rare and fatal premature-aging disease of progeria. (94 mins.)
Stars: Sam Berns
“ And the same must be said for this film. The plot description reads like the plot for Lorenzo's Oil. When their only son, Sam, is diagnosed with a rare and fatal disease, progeria, Sam's parents, two doctors fight to find a cure. As a result, Sam has passed the average death date of the disease by three years, they've identified the gene at fault, created the first drug trials for treatment, and revealed the amazing discovery that progeria is linked to the aging process in all of us. ” - keithsim
 
22.
Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Filled with testimony and recollections from actual C.I.A. agents, this in-depth account reveals the remarkable true story of the pursuit of the world's most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden. (102 mins.)
Director: Greg Barker
Stars: Nada Bakos
“ With all of the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty it will be intriguing to hear a different slant on the tracking and dispatching of Osama bin Laden. ” - keithsim
 
23.
Adore (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A pair of childhood friends and neighbors fall for each other's sons. (112 mins.)
Director: Anne Fontaine
“ I enjoy a good cinematic carwreck as much as the next person and Anne Fontaine's film about two friends (Watts and Wright-Penn) who fall in love with each other's sons looks like a rush hour, jackknifed tractor-trailer. How she's going to manage to make this look as anything other than highbrow smut is the real challenge. It doesn't look like it's taking the comedic angle, as did The Oranges in '11 or Blame It on Rio in 1984 (neither that successfully). That means it's likely a drama and hoo-boy, I can't wait to see the wailing and gnashing of teeth and horrible comeuppance that must be sitting like a gargoyle at the end of this film. ” - keithsim