Sundance has left the big guns till last, boasting star-studded casts, reputed directors and Sundance favorites in their Premieres and Documentary Premieres programmes.
The Festival's programmer Trevor Groth and director John Cooper have certainly fulfilled their agenda of cross-cultural pollination in several movies. Dutch director Anton Corbijn presents his Hamburg-set UK-US-German John L Carre adaptation, A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman as well as German stars Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss in her English-language debut.
Iranian-born Paris-based Marjane Satrapi meanwhile delivers her first American film, The Voices (pictured), a gender-bending tale starring Canada's Ryan Reynolds as a disturbed though lovable factory worker, who yearns for the attention of a woman in accounting. When their relationship takes a murderous turn, his evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog give him some guidance. Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and our own Jacki Weaver also appear in the film.
Australia's Kodi Smit-McPhee takes a leading role in the sci-fi thriller Young Ones, which harks back to his work in John Hillcoat's The Road. Shot in South Africa and directed and written by Jake Paltrow (Gwyneth's brother) the film is set in a near future when water has become the most precious and fastest dwindling resource on the planet. The story follows 14 year-old Jerome as he uses his wits to protect his family and survive in a violent and unforgiving world. The film also stars Michael Shannon as Jerome's dad, Elle Fanning as his sister and Nicholas Hoult.
Variety calls the Premieres section “an annual hotbed of distributor interest”. At least three films already have Australian distribution with Madman continuing on with sequels by two of their regulars. Gareth Evan's The Raid 2 will certainly be one of the festival's hot tickets, while Michael Winterbottom will present his fifth movie with Steve Coogan, The Trip to Italy, a follow-up to their successful 2010 droll comedy The Trip.
There will be a lot of laughs in Sundance 2014 it seems. Transmission has the Irish black comedy, Calvary, John Michael McDonagh's follow-up to The Guard, where The Guard's star Brendan Gleeson again takes centre stage as a priest tormented by his community. Also an Ireland-U.K. co-production, Lenny Abrahamson's Frank should generate interest, as Michael Fassbender returns to his native lingo for the first time in a while—and has the chance to be funny. Billed as an offbeat comedy, Frank tells of a wannabe musician (Domhnall Gleeson, Brendan's son) who finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant garde rock band led by the enigmatic Frank (Fassbender), a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head.
After Prince Avalanche in 2013 Paul Rudd (recently in Australia for Anchorman 2) returns to Sundance with a romantic comedy spoof, They Came Together, co-starring Amy Poehler.
Ira Sachs, who made an impression two years ago with Keep the Lights On, brings another gay New York romance, Love Is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a longtime couple.
Gregg Araki has attracted major actresses - Shailene Woodley (from the hit The Spectacular Now), Eva Green and Gabourey Sidibe - to his adaptation of Laura Kasischke's novel about a young woman whose life is turned upside down by her mother's disappearance. Lynn Shelton returns after this year's disappointing Touchy Feely with Laggies, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell. William H. Macy makes his directing debut with the Festival's closing film, Rudderless, about a grieving father (Billy Crudup riffing on his Almost Famous role) who forms a rock'n'roll band after he stumbles upon a box of his deceased son's original music. Macy features as does his wife Felicity Huffman while Selena Gomez's presence has already been widely noted.
The Premieres documentary program includes Paradise Lost director Joe Berlinger's Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, while the ubiquitous Alex Gibney explores the life of Nigerian musician and human-rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti in Finding Fela.