The Sundance Film Festival currently taking place in Park City, UT, is definitely an event I one day hope to experience in person. Spanning about two weeks (this year the dates were: January 21-31), festival goers are treated to some great, others not so good—but all certainly interesting—films vying for their place in film history. Though some will inevitably see wider releases, for others, the festival might be the only place you’ll be able to watch them. This year, there are several films that have piqued my interest and caught my eye, films I am sure will get some sort distribution deals and we will be able to see in theaters soon. Here is my list of movies that premiered at Sundance that I think we should continue to keep an eye out for.

Sing Street

  • Director: John Carney (Once, Begin Again)
  • Starring: Ferida Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aiden Gillen

This, for all intents and purposes is the story of my very own childhood, or at least, how it played out in my head. A true heroes journey, a boy falls in love with a girl and he does what any boy would do to have a chance at spending more time with her: Start a band so that he can put her in his video. Instant classic! Add to that, the allure and mystique of the 80’s and its music, and you have the ingredients for what is going to be an amazing film. This is like The Goonies meets School of Rock in the best possible way. The basic premise of the movie is: A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band and moving to London. Pretty straightforward, almost a blank canvas that director John Carney seems to have filled with copious amounts of charm and joy coming not only from his actors but from the original songs he helped co-write as well. I honestly cannot wait for this movie and its soundtrack to be released. This looks like one of the best films coming out of the festival this year. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you don’t have a huge grin on your face by the end of it…

Captain Fantastic

  • Director: Matt Ross (28 Hotel Rooms)
  • Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George McKay, Kathryn Hahn

Another movie I feel is a fantastical incarnation of my life is a story of a father who raises his children in a paradise of his own making free of society’s distractions and its influences, until by some twist of fate, he is forced to thrust them into a world completely alien to them. Described as a “hippie fantasy come to life” Mortensen as the “iconoclast patriarch”: teaches his kids to be self-sufficient in nature, as well as fully educated on history, politics, languages, sciences and more, having educated them all to the point that his eight-year-old daughter can recite the declaration of independence by memory while his oldest son has been accepted to Yale, Brown, Harvard, M.I.T and more. All of the kids possess genius level IQ’s and a distaste for what they’ve been taught is a fascist system of power. To give you an idea, instead of Christmas, their big holiday is Noam Chomsky day.

Again, a dream reality I wish was my own, this movie sounds brilliant and expertly executed. It’s also really great to see Viggo Mortensen in something that many are saying only he could have played. Often described as seeming insane, as a father myself, I know how the love for your children and the lengths one would go to in order to protect and/or express your love to one’s own kids can often appear crazy, foolish or unwise, that old adage certainly applies here: Love makes you do crazy things. There is no trailer for this one yet, but here is a red carpet interview with the director and cast.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

  • Director: Taika Waititi (What we do in The Shadows, Boy, Thor: Ragnarok)
  • Starring: Sam Neil, Julian Dennison, Rhy Darby, Rima Te Wiata

Many of us, regardless of our age, have had their lives affected by one if not many of Amblin’ Entertainment’s movies. They made classic family films like ET, The Goonies, The Land Before Time, Little Giants, Young Sherlock Holms, Super 8, Gremlins, and Hook as well as other films like Saving Private Ryan, the Jurassic Park franchise, Schindler’s List, the Back to The Future franchise, Men in Black, and Lincoln, to name a few. So when a film is said to have successfully recaptured the old Amblin vibe, its best we pay attention to that film. And The Hunt for Wilderpeople definitely looks like it has indeed captured that fun adventure-comedy feel that we’ve all grown up with and love. The premise: A rebellious city kid named Rocky (Julian Dennison) and his grumpy foster uncle (Sam Neill) hide out in the sprawling New Zealand bush in order to keep from being separated by overzealous child care workers. Though not overly exciting, just seeing Dennison as the wannabe gangster Rocky partake in some hilarious mischief in his native New Zealand in the teaser trailer makes this completely worth watching. On a different note, I think more than the two movies above, my expectations are pretty high for this movie considering that Waititi’s next film is Thor: Ragnarok! Though, if the rumors are true and Thor will also be having a bit of a buddy adventure-comedy with the green one himself, the Hulk, through all of Asgard. And from what I’ve read so far, we need not worry. If the success of Neil and Dennison’s interactions are anything close to what he gets from Hemsworth and Ruffalo, we can rest assured that Waititi will nail it. So my excitement is twofold. What do you guys think? Check out the teaser trailer below:

Honorable Mentions:

Those three are my most anticipated of the festival. But, there are so many other great films debuting there as well. Here are a few honorable mentions we can look forward to seeing sometime this year:

Miles Ahead

  • Director: Don Cheadle
  • Starring: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Keith Stanfield

Plot: An ambitious Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor) looking to do a story on the reclusive Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) finds himself drawn-in by the troubled musician on a dangerous quest to find his missing session tapes. At the same time, Davis reflects on his turbulent relationship with his ex-wife/muse (Emayatzy Corinealdi).

Thoughts: I think this is going to be a great biopic. It’s being described as a showbiz/thriller story. It seems like this is going to be more of a "movie" than a straight retelling of a certain part of the artist’s life, which is extremely intriguing. I think it seems more entertaining to see the spirit of Davis shine through in a fictional retelling of a certain portion of his life than just a mere beat-for-beat version of his story.

Birth of a Nation

  • Director: Nate Parker
  • Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union,

Plot: The True Story of Slave Nat Turner (Nate Parker) who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831.

Thoughts: This one is going to make a lot of noise. If the title of this movie sounds familiar, it’s because director Nate Parker took it from the famous 1915 movie “The Birth of a Nation” which depicts the rise of the KKK in America. From what I’ve read so far, they are saying this is going to be an intense viewing and quite appropriately situated at this time, as we are currently going through this huge diversity disparity debate in Hollywood. Be prepared, this one might be a little heavy.

Eddie the Eagle

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, Christopher Walken

Plot: The true story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards (Taron Egerton). A humble plasterer by trade, Eddie pursues his Olympic dream by qualifying as Britain’s most accomplished ski jumper, which proves to be relatively easy as it’s a sport the UK has never competed in.

Thoughts: Who doesn’t like a good underdog story? Sports movies can be hit or miss, but I generally enjoy watching a good underdog story and from the descriptions and Google searches, it seems as though Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards is the patron saint of underdogs everywhere. Expect your heartstrings to play a grand concerto in your soul as you watch this movie.

So, those are my picks. Let me know if you guys are looking forward to other movies that I might not have pointed out. Or, if you're actually at the Sundance Festival, let me know how its going and what you've enjoyed watching so far.

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Later kids!

-JVN

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