Forget Christmas, Thanksgiving and Arbor Day — everybody knows that for true movie lovers, the most important holiday season of all kicks off this week. That's right, folks, it's time once again for the Sundance Film Festival — and you can bet the MTV Movies team will be in Park City, Utah, in full force, bringing you the latest from the snowy slopes and screening rooms.
But you'd never go to the supermarket without a shopping list, and you can't enter Robert Redford's movie paradise without an idea of what movies you need to target. With that in mind, here's a sneak peek at 10 films — and potential instant classics — we have in our crosshairs:
Ryan Reynolds, trapped in a coffin for an hour and a half — the premise makes us curious, claustrophobic and more than a bit concerned that it can't be pulled off by anyone as effectively as Quentin Tarantino did when he buried Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill." But ultimately, risky filmmaking is what Sundance is all about. And if this movie about a U.S. contractor in Iraq who wakes up in a coffin with only a lighter and cell phone is as daring as its plot, it could be something special.
The story of John Lennon's childhood — imagine the possibilities.
Without Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and the other Beat poets, the counterculture elements of our society could never have spent the past five decades questioning authority so effectively. Now, James Franco continues his truly one-of-a-kind career trajectory while playing Ginsberg — a peace-loving precursor of the hippie movement who wrote in 1955 that he was watching "the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness," then became the subject of a landmark obscenity trial.
Based on the true (!) story of a young Hasidic Jew lured into the world of drug trafficking in the '90s, the flick stars Jesse Eisenberg coming off "Zombieland." It sounds just crazy enough to work.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an insanely good actor. In this movie, he's also simply insane. The star couldn't be any more different at this year's Sundance than he was with last year's "(500) Days of Summer," this time portraying a nihilist, anarchist antisocialist who is malnourished, smokes cigarettes like they're candy and spends his spare time in a van giving himself tattoos. Co-starring Rainn Wilson and Natalie Portman, don't be surprised if this drama/comedy gives us the next great Napoleon Dynamite-esque breakout character.
"The Killer Inside Me"
If you haven't read Jim Thompson's 1952 noir novel, you're missing out on one of the most fascinating depictions of a homicidal mind ever committed to the written page. But despite several attempts, it's never been captured effectively on film. Now, Jessica Alba, Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Simon Baker and some other big names are determined to fix that oversight under the watchful eye of "24 Hour Party People" filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. If this flick can effectively unlock "the sickness" that fuels serial-killing sheriff Lou Ford, it could become the new "American Psycho."
Now that "The League" has been renewed for a second season and "Humpday" got some modest attention, people are beginning to take note of the Duplass brothers, an unfortunately too-well-kept Sundance secret from years past. Now, these immensely funny dudes have the help of Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei in a flick about a recently divorced man, the woman he's fallen in love with and her son from hell.
"The Extra Man"
Starring Katie Holmes, Paul Dano, Kevin Kline and, yep, John C. Reilly again. From the same writer as the HBO series "Bored to Death," this dark comedy tells the story of a prep-school teacher (Dano) who gets fired and then becomes an escort on the Upper East Side of New York out of desperation. Reilly, naturally, plays his competition.
Starring Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks and a pile of newcomers, this comedy is about a valedictorian who gets caught smoking weed — then devises a plan to get the entire student body high, so no one can be punished. The plot follows in the footsteps of "Smiley Face" and "Assassination of a High School President," two of the more underrated films to come out of Sundance in recent years. And, hey, any film that casts Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith), Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and Booger (Curtis Armstrong) is worth watching at least once.
"The Company Men"
How does a first-time filmmaker land a cast like Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello and Craig T. Nelson? With a really, really good script. The advance buzz on this corporate-downsizing drama is that it's "Up in the Air" meets "Traffic," which is a comparison that has us asking only one question: When can we start lining up outside the theater?
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