Sundance ’08: Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Page, Mischa Barton Flicks Have Us Amped

Here are the flicks we're most excited to see at the film festival; our onslaught of coverage starts Thursday.

As far as U.S. moviemaking goes, it’s the Super Bowl of Cinema, the World Series of Watching and the Final Four of Film. We’re speaking, of course, about the one and only Sundance Film Festival.

Once again, your MTV Movies team will be strapping on the snowshoes and heading to Park City, Utah, for the fest, which runs from Thursday through January 27. We’ll be fueled by memories of the first time we saw “Little Miss Sunshine” and the moment when we knew “Napoleon Dynamite” would become a household name — and fueled by a whole lot of Red Bull for those late-night screenings too.

While there are several dozen candidates vying for breakout status in the Class of 2008, there are some flicks that already have us drooling in anticipation. Be sure to stay close to MTVNews.com and the Movies Blog for in-depth coverage beginning Thursday, but in the meantime, read on for our list of the Ten Most Anticipated Films we’ll be first in line to see.

10. “The Great Buck Howard

Why We Care: After digging up info on the film for what seems like five years, we’ll finally witness the big reveal of this illusionist drama starring John Malkovich as a master of the craft and Colin Hanks as his naive assistant. High-powered dad Tom Hanks plays his son’s father for the first time onscreen, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah appear in the film and provide the score.

What We Fear: The younger Hanks recently admitted to the MTV Movies Blog that Dad only worked two days on the film, which promises an extended cameo at best. Also, after the recent double-barreled action of “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist,” “Buck Howard” will have to pull some new tricks out of its hat in order to live up to its title.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Colin and Tom Hanks, Emily Blunt and Malkovich will fly in to briefly attend the film’s premiere, but it will be held in neighboring Salt Lake City, thereby ensuring a reduced press presence.

9. “Hamlet 2

Why We Care: The hook is hilarious: A failed actor turned high school drama teacher (Steve Coogan) seeks his 15 minutes when he writes an over-the-top sequel to Shakespeare’s most sacred of texts, and then gets his lit-hating students to act it out. Featuring an impressive supporting cast including Amy Poehler, Catherine Keener and Elisabeth Shue, it might just be the first American film to tap into Coogan’s considerable talents. “Hamlet 2″ sounds like a cross between “Waiting for Guffman” and “Election.”

What We Fear: It also sounds like it could be a cross between “The Last Shot” and Keanu Reeves’ “Much Ado About Nothing.” And it’s hard to forget that Coogan’s career has stumbled badly with Stateside clunkers like “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Coogan, Poehler, Shue, Keener, David Arquette and Melonie Diaz

8. “Welcome”

Why We Care: Kirsten Dunst makes her writing and directing debut (!) in this short film about a family’s complicated arrangement with the unfriendly inhabitant of its ghost-ridden home. Starring Winona Ryder, the flick also features a cover of the Turtles classic “Happy Together,” sung as a duet between Dunst and Jason Schwartzman. Could we bear witness to the birth of a new Sofia Coppola?

What We Fear: Unfortunately, it’s only 13 minutes long.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Surprisingly, no one. Ryder, however, is scheduled to be there to promote a different movie, “The Last Word.”

7. “Choke

Why We Care: Seeing as how “Fight Club” remains quite possibly the greatest film of the past decade, anything from the fiercely original mind of Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the book on which the movie was based, simply cannot be ignored. This time around, actor Clark Gregg (“In Good Company”) makes his directorial debut with the twisted tale of a con-man sex addict (Sam Rockwell) who pretends to choke on food at restaurants, then suckers his good-Samaritan lifesavers into giving him money. When we visited the set last year, the flick was looking delightfully demented, and many consider the bestselling source to be Palahniuk’s best novel.

What We Fear: Back in the day, it looked like “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” were going to mix with Rockwell’s talents for a potent combination, and both those films ultimately fell short. Hopefully, the third time’s a charm.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Rockwell, Gregg, Anjelica Huston, Bijou Phillips

6. “Sunshine Cleaning

Why We Care: Another film we’ve had on our radar for what seems like an eternity, this dark comedy comes from the producer of that not-so-”Little” Sundance hit that also had “Sunshine” in the title. This time around, red-hot actresses Emily Blunt and Amy Adams are the little misses, cast as crime-scene cleaners trying to tidy up their own lives along with the gruesome locales they inhabit. With Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin and “24″ star Mary Lynn Rajskub in secondary roles, the flick has better support than Pamela Anderson on a Maxim shoot.

What We Fear: The plot is reminiscent of a brilliant, overlooked mid-’90s flick called “Curdled.” Never heard of it? Exactly.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Blunt and Rajskub, with Adams currently unconfirmed. Hopefully, she can set aside those “Enchanted 2″ script meetings and find time to pop out of a Park City sewer.

5. “Funny Games

Why We Care: Quite possibly the best trailer of 2007, this Naomi Watts thriller also boasts a cool, tear-filled poster that has “The Ring” written all over it. A remake of the Austrian film of the same name, it tells the story of a family taken prisoner by a pair of psychotic young men. It could herald a return to ultraviolent classics like “Straw Dogs” and “A Clockwork Orange” and, speaking of Orange, might finally bring “Reservoir Dogs” star Tim Roth back from the dead.

What We Fear: The track record of recent American thriller remakes (“The Messengers,” “Dark Water”) isn’t exactly stellar. Also, Watts could just as easily go “Ring” as she could “Ring 2.”

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Watts, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett

4. “Smart People

Why We Care: It’s Juno’s world, we’re just living in it. And for all those wondering what actress Ellen Page is doing next, here’s your answer. “Smart People” follows a widowed literature teacher (Dennis Quaid) who falls for a former student (Sarah Jessica Parker) while doing his best to hold together a life complicated by a troublemaking brother (Thomas Haden Church) and disapproving kids (Page, Ashton Holmes).

What We Fear: By all accounts, Page’s role in the film is somewhat minimal. If “Smart People” turns into a garden-variety Quaid/Parker romantic comedy, we’ll be outta there before the popcorn goes cold.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Quaid, Parker, Church

3. “Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?

Why We Care: In 2001, the most powerful nation in the history of the world seemingly poured all its resources into finding one man. Seven years later, a smartass documentary filmmaker is dropping hints that he may have actually done what George Bush couldn’t and located the man responsible for 9/11. The first inclination is to dismiss Morgan Spurlock’s travels around the globe as self-promoting nonsense, but then again, this is the guy who had enough drive and determination to turn himself into the “Super Size Me” guinea pig.

What We Fear: That Spurlock really did find Osama but forgot to put film in the camera that day.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Spurlock. Bin Laden is currently unconfirmed.

2. “The Wackness

Why We Care: You might remember this film causing a media stir when it first began shooting after word leaked that there’d be an onscreen romance between 64-year-old Ben Kingsley and former infant superstar Mary-Kate Olsen. Regardless, the story of a teen drug dealer and his drug-addicted shrink sounds promising, as do additional stars Famke Janssen, Method Man and the underrated Josh Peck.

What We Fear: Said Kingsley-Olsen love scene.

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Peck, Kingsley, Method Man and Olivia Thirlby, with Mary-Kate only dropping into the red-carpet premiere.

1. “Assassination of a High School President”

Why We Care: Last year we also visited the set of this flick, which has thankfully dropped its sophomoric alternative title, “The Sophomore,” and returned to its edgier, original moniker. A cross between “Rushmore” and “All the President’s Men,” it tells the darkly comic tale of a high school newspaper reporter (“Rocket Science” star Reese Thompson) who teams with a sexy student (Mischa Barton) to solve the case of some stolen SATs. Bruce Willis, Michael Rapaport and soon-to-be Sundance darling Melonie Diaz (starring in four films this year!) are among the notable supporting stars in what is hyped as the best script Hollywood has produced in years.

What We Fear: That Mischa will be driving herself around Park City

Who’ll Be at Sundance: Barton and Thompson

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