The Sundance Film Festival is the premiere place for cinema buffs to soak in films rooted in every corner of the globe. Movies that dabble in every genre and utilize every stylistic trick in the book. The fest also provides a glimpse into the future: although most of the films that play at Sundance arrive without big name distributors attached to them, rarely do they walk away without a company primed and ready to release them to the general public. Meaning, if you're not at Sundance now, you'll be watching the movies one way or another before the year's end.
Sundance 2013 follows the buying trend, with a handful of movies being picked up by movie studios in the last 24 hours. Here is the first wave of festival purchases — indicating these movies are right around the corner for you to see.
Daniel Radcliffe washed away any memories of Harry Potter, thrilling us in the Beat poetry-infused Kill Your Darlings. Sony Pictures Classics obviously felt the same way, as they've purchased the film, which also stars Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, and Elizabeth Olsen, for an unknown release date (but put your money on the fall or winter — this one could have award season legs).
The Way, Way Back, feature directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Academy Award-winning writers of The Descendents, was buzzing up a storm after its premiere at Sundance, many comparing it to the uber-successful Little Miss Sunshine. Further strengthening the analogy, the film has been bought by LMS studio Fox Searchlight for the pretty penny of $10 million. The movie stars Steve Carell, Toni Colette, and Sam Rockwell.
We praised the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge for her work in Austenland earlier this week, and now the film has found a home at Sony Pictures Classics. SPC bought the film $4 million and will release the Keri Russell-led comedy this summer. Expect the name of Austenland's producer, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, to be on all of the posters.
The Weinstein Company is always on the hunt for potential Academy Award contenders, and it may have found one in Fruitvale. The true story focuses on police brutality and sports a performance by young star Michael B. Jordan that is wowing audiences. In a press release, studio mastermind Harvey Weinstein said of Fruitvale, "I was completely amazed by this incredible film. This earth-shattering story is one that needs to be told, and we are honored to be able to share Oscar’s story with audiences everywhere." Oscar's story indeed.
Will audiences turn out to see Naomi Watts and Robin Wright sleep with each other's kids? Exclusive Releasing hopes so, as they've picked up the drama Two Mothers, which will roll out in limited release this summer.
CBS Films has picked up the throwback comedy Toy's House, which conjured up memories of movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me when it premiered earlier this week. The movie stars Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, and a number of kids ready to break out.
Lovelace, a biopic of Deep Throat headliner Linda Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried, only premiered in the late hours of Tuesday night. But that didn't stop it from being quickly snatched up, with Weinstein Company's multi-platform offshoot company Radius picking it up. Like last year's Bachelorette, expect Lovelace to pop up on VOD before making its way to theaters.
In the genre market, eOne has bought the distribution rights for the frightening horror remake We Are What We Are. No word on when the midnight movie may make its way to theaters. What's the best month for cannibal movies?
Finally, we reported earlier this week that Relativity picked up Joseph Gordon-Levitt's porn-infused feature debut Don Jon's Addiction, with a promise to pour major bucks into its release. Another Sundance movie targeted for a strategic summer release.
[Photo Credit: R. O'Neil/INFphoto]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.