most anticipated Sundance movies

This week, three members of the /Film crew are heading to Park City, Utah for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. We’ll have reviews and reactions galore from the year’s first major film festival, a place where major movies debut, hidden gems are discovered, and the basic shape of the entire year in film begins to take form. If this Sundance is like every other Sundance, we will see some of the best movies of 2019 and discover some incredible new talent over the next week. It’s our job to put them on your radar.

The festival officially kicks off on Thursday. Before it gets underway, we’re writing about our 12 most anticipated 2019 Sundance movies, the films that we have high hopes for and are going out of our way to make sure we see, no matter what. Here they are, in no particular order.

Wounds

Wounds

Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) plays a New Orleans bartender who retrieves a cell phone left behind after a bar fight and experiences mysterious and disturbing things when he starts receiving calls and texts on the stranger’s phone. Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) plays his girlfriend, who insists on investigating this odd scenario, and from the photo above, it appears as if her search leads to some haunting discoveries. Zazie Beetz (Atlanta, Deadpool 2) plays a supporting role, and while the cast is obviously talented, another reason to be excited is because this is the second feature from writer/director Babak Anvari, who made the Iran-set horror thriller Under the Shadow in 2016. That film still has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do with this one. (Ben Pearson)

Late Night

Late Night

Mindy Kaling has been around the block when it comes to comedy, especially in television as the creator, executive producer, and star of her own series, but she’s yet to take a lead role on the big screen. That changes with Late Night, a new film from Nisha Ganatra, the director/producer of Amazon’s Transparent, not to mention episodes of The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Girls. The film finds Kaling hired as the single woman in a writers’ room full of men for a late night talk show hosted by Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), but it might be too late for her to make an impact on the show as the ratings are falling and the network isn’t happy. This sounds like the making of a great showbiz comedy. (Ethan Anderton)

Relive 1

Relive

After an LAPD detective’s family is killed in what appears to be a grisly murder, the detective receives an impossible phone call from his young niece – one of the deceased victims. Using the time-twisted situation to his advantage, the detective (played by Selma‘s David Oyelowo) encourages the niece (A Wrinkle in Time‘s Storm Reid) to gather enough clues for him to try to solve the case. That’s a fantastic premise – it reminds me of the underrated Denzel Washington film Deja Vu – so we’re hoping writer/director Jacob Estes (Mean Creek, The Details) pulled it off. (Ben Pearson)

The Death of Dick Long 1

The Death of Dick Long

Dick is dead, but his pals Zeke and Earl don’t want anyone discovering how that happened. But Zeke’s wife and daughter become increasingly suspicious, and Zeke and Earl are terrible at covering their tracks, so this is a recipe for disaster. The movie itself, though, sounds intriguing – especially since it hails from director Daniel Scheinert, one half of the directing duo DANIELS, who made Swiss Army Man, one of the biggest cinematic surprises of the past decade. The Sundance guidebook describes Billy Chew‘s script as “daring, provocative,” and “outrageous”, so my fingers are crossed for another surprising gem. (Ben Pearson)

Memory: The Origins of Alien

Memory: The Origins of Alien

The last time director Alexandre O. Philippe was at Sundance, he delivered a deep dive into Psycho in the form of the documentary 78/52. Now the filmmaker has set his sights on Alien. But rather than diving into only the making of the movie, the film will also focus on “the deep resonance of myths and our collective unconscious” thanks to the collaboration of director Ridley Scott, genius artist H.R. Giger, and writer Dan O’Bannon. Even though Alien has been explored time and time again, it sounds like this documentary might help us see the classic sci-fi film in a whole new light. (Ethan Anderton)

Sweetheart 1

Sweetheart

JD Dillard debuted his first movie, a low-budget superhero film called Sleight, at Sundance a few years ago, and now he’s back with his sophomore effort, a creature-feature that stars Kiersey Clemons (Dope) as a woman who has washed ashore on an abandoned tropical island. But when night falls, she realizes she’s not alone after all and must fend off the malevolent force that’s coming after her. I still haven’t seen Sleight, but that setup and the involvement of Clemons, who was at last year’s festival leading the crowd-pleasing Hearts Beat Loud, is enough to pique my interest. (Ben Pearson)

buzzsaw sundance

Velvet Buzzsaw

Screenwriter Dan Gilroy made his directorial debut with the wonderful, disturbing character study Nightcrawler, featuring a killer performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Gilroy followed it up with the very disappointing Roman J. Israel, Esq., but judging by the recently released, incredibly bonkers trailer, he’s about to bounce back in a big way with Velvet Buzzsaw. The film reunites Gilroy with Gyllenhaal, and the results look utterly unhinged. Gyllenhaal (using one of his patented Goofy Gyllenhaal Voices) plays a snobby art critic named Morf Vandewalt (!!) who meets his match in a series of paintings left behind by a dead artist. But there’s something…wrong with these paintings. Something supernatural. And all hell is about to break loose. Velvet Buzzsaw looks like the type of weirdo horror-comedy that people will be talking about all year. (Chris Evangelista)

Big Time Adolescence

Big Time Adolescence

As a sucker for a good coming-of-age indies, this offering from first-time director Jason Orley sounds right up my alley. The film follows a 16-year old teen named Mo (Griffin Gluck) who doesn’t seem to be following the right path growing up, and that’s mostly thanks to his best friend Zeke (Pete Davidson), a college dropout who used to date Mo’s older sister and has no direction in life. But that’s not stopping Zeke from teaching Mo the ropes of dealing drugs, partying hard, and ghosting girls. What else do you need to know in life? (Ethan Anderton)

report sundance

The Report

Hey, look at this cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael C. Hall, Matthew Rhys, Jennifer Morrison, Maura Tierney and Ted Levine. That’s off the chain, as the kids say. This group of talented actors all star in The Report, a new drama from frequent Steven Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns. The film follows the true story of a Senate staffer (Driver) tasked with looking into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program in the wake of 9/11. The investigation uncovers the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”, which basically amounted to torture. The Report sounds like the type of film tailor-made to win awards, and I’m fine with that. I can’t resist this cast, and I’m always up for a political thriller. (Chris Evangelista)

extremely wicked sundance

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Zac Efron as serial killer Ted Bundy? It sounds strange, but it might just end up being brilliant. Efron trades in his abs for Bundy’s disarming every-man quality – the quality that made it so easy for him to prey on women. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile tells the story of Bundy through the lens of his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins). As Bundy’s body count rose, and his crimes made headlines, Kloepfer became convinced that he was the killer. So much so that she reported him to the police. And yet…she continued to stay with him for quite some time after. Extremely Wicked hails from filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who primarily makes documentaries – he’s responsible for the Paradise Lost films about the West Memphis Three, as well as several other notable docs. Extremely Wicked marks his return to narrative films after his somewhat troubled debut: 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. I don’t want to say I’m a “fan” of serial killers, because that would be crazy. But I’ve always been fascinated by them, and I’m very interested to see what Berlinger, Efron, and Collins do here. (Chris Evangelista)

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Jillian Bell has brought plenty of laughs to the table as a key supporting character in movies like 22 Jump Street, Office Christmas Party, and Rough Night, but here, she’s the titular character in the comedy Brittany Runs a Marathon. After living a party life in New York, Brittany isn’t doing so well health-wise. After finding out that she has a high heart rate, high blood pressure, and even more cautionary symptoms, she decides to get her crap together and hit the sidewalk. A one-block run increases little by little every day, but is this really a turning point for Brittany? With Bell in the lead, this film from first-time director Paul Downs Colaizzo sounds like it could be a nice little comedy, perhaps with some inspiration too. (Ethan Anderton)

lodge sundance

The Lodge

In The Lodge, a pair of siblings really don’t care for Grace (Riley Keough), the young woman their recently divorced father plans to marry. Grace’s attempt to bond with the brother and sister fall flat, and the siblings instead dig up some dirt on Grace’s tragic past. Needless to say, this ends up backfiring when the two find themselves snowed-in with Grace in a cabin in a remote village. Creepy, disturbing things follow. The Lodge comes from Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, who were responsible for the Austrian horror film Goodnight Mommy. I didn’t really enjoy the Goodnight Mommy script (it featured a rather dumb, obvious twist), but there was a genuine air of menace and terror in the movie, and if the filmmakers can translate that vibe onto a better story, I’ll be thrilled. (Chris Evangelista)

***

All photos courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

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