Last week, I brought you my first set of picks for the most promising-looking films of Sundance. This week, I present to you my other picks to keep on your radar that have emerged from Park City!
1. The Witch:Here’s a pick for all you horror fans out there. The Witch sounds as though a serial killer decided to wreck havoc on "Little House on the Prairie". Directed and written by Robert Eggers, The Witch follows a colonial family as they leave the comforts of plantation life and attempt to grow a harvest on a creepy farm in the middle of a New England forest. Since this is a horror film, nothing goes as planned, and soon the food goes scarce, the family becomes superstitious, and they begin to turn on one another. Critics have been impressed by the creepy production design and sound (you can’t have a truly horrifying movie without disturbing sounds) as well as by the slow unravel of the family. I’ve always been a fan of psychological horror films, and this one sounds like a terrible Freudian dream.
2. Chuck Norris vs Communism:The title alone of this documentary caught my attention, but the subject of the film is what kept it. In the 1980s, Romanians suffered from a lack of communication with the outside world (due to a Communist regime). However, thanks to smuggled VHS tapes and screenings at friends' houses, Romanians had access to the Western world through film -- primarily action flicks. They had the opportunity to bask in the glory of some of the finest action stars of the 1980s, including Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and, of course, the great Chuck Norris. The film is an interesting look at how those in totalitarian regimes get to experience the rest of the world. I also find the film to be quite relevant, considering North Korea’s reaction to the film The Interview (and pretty much any film that was not made by their own government).
3. Dope:Dope won the bidding war at Sundance -- the film finally sold for $7 million to Open Road films. It’s not a surprise that the film was a festival favorite; Dope sounds like a much-needed coming-of-age story for Millennials. Set in Inglewood, CA, the film follows Malcolm (Shameik Moore) a geeky high school student trying to survive amidst the drugs and gangs of his rough high school. As he enters his senior year, Malcolm’s life becomes more hectic as he juggles SAT testing and his college application for Harvard. After he is randomly invited to an underground party, Malcolm meets a rather motley crew and begins to learn the true meaning of the word “dope”. The film boasts an impressive cast, including Forest Whitaker, Chanel Iman, Zoe Kravitz, and basketball player Rick Fox. As a teacher who works with students who are Ivy league-bound, I’m curious to see how Malcolm is portrayed, and what choices he ultimately makes.
4. The D Train:Starring Jack Black and James Marsden, The D Train is another coming-of-age story -- for adults. The film follows Dan Landsman (Black), a lonely, sad family man who never quite grew up. He is the chair of his school reunion committee, and he’s not having much luck getting his fellow alumni to commit. He decides that he can change this once he sees the most popular boy from school, Oliver Lawless (Marsden), pop up in a commercial, so he takes the next logical step: he hops a plane to Los Angeles and convinces Lawless to come to the reunion. Thanks to a twist early in the film, Lawless and Landsman form an unusual friendship, and it turns out that neither one has really grown up. The D Train seems to convey the theme that, no matter who you were in high school, that cliché doesn’t have to follow you. The film sounds quite charming, and I’m curious to see the unique pairing of Marsden and Black.
5. The Wolfpack:Documentaries focusing on the power of film appeared to be all the rage at Sundance this year. The Wolfpack has a fairly similar theme to Chuck Norris vs Communism,but an even more surprising twist. The Angulo Brothers spent their lives locked away from society in a New York apartment, where they learned about the outside world through films. The brothers, nicknamed “The Wolfpack”, reenacted their favorite scenes from films and wondered if the world beyond their confines was similar to their favorite scenes. Their lives changed forever when, one day, one of the brothers escaped -- and the rest of the brothers had to learn how to adapt to the real world. The Wolfpack sounds like a remarkable story; can you imagine being locked away for most of your life and then being thrown into the middle of New York City? I’m a sucker for inspirational documentaries, and this film sounds like it fits the bill.