Frank & Calvary to screen in Premieres at Sundance

Carpetbagger - The Hollywood Blog of The New York Times

Fassbender and Poehler Make the Sundance Premieres Cut

By BROOKS BARNES

Sundance programmers on Monday unveiled their 2014 Premieres lineup, and, while it is too early to say what art-house hits might lurk among the titles, there are some obvious attention grabbers.

Ryan Reynolds co-stars with an evil talking cat in “The Voices.” William H. Macy will make his directorial debut with “Rudderless,” a drama about a grieving father who forms a rock band. “Frank” stars Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal as eccentric musicians. (Her character plays the theremin.)

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a gay couple? “Love Is Strange,” all right.

And several established documentarians — Alex Gibney, Rory Kennedy, Joe Berlinger — will don their ski hats in January and unfurl films that look at the musical movement Afrobeat, Vietnam and the gangster James (Whitey) Bulger.

Of the narrative films, four already have secured theatrical distribution: Michael Winterbottom’s “Trip to Italy”; the Amy Poehler-Paul Rudd comedy “They Came Together”; “A Most Wanted Man,” based on John le Carré’s best-selling book; and “The Raid 2,” which explores the inner workings of a Jakarta crime syndicate.

The others will be hoping for a lot of applause and a charmed distributor with a big checkbook. (Hey, it worked last time around for Premieres selections like “Don Jon,” “Before Midnight” and “The Way, Way Back.”)

Here is the entire list, with summaries provided by the festival, which runs Jan. 16 through 26:

PREMIERES/NARRATIVE

Calvary (Director and screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh) — In this blackly comedic drama about a priest tormented by his community, Father James is a good man intent on making the world a better place. When his life is threatened during confession, he has to battle the dark forces closing in around him. Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Marie-Josée Croze.

Frank (Director: Lenny Abrahamson, Screenwriters: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan) — In this offbeat comedy, a wannabe musician finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant-garde rock band led by the enigmatic Frank — a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy.

Laggies (Director: Lynn Shelton, Screenwriter: Andrea Seigel) — In this coming-of-age story, a 28-year-old woman is stuck in permanent adolescence. Unable to find her career calling, still hanging out with the same friends, and living with her high school boyfriend, Megan must finally navigate her own future when an unexpected marriage proposal sends her into a panic. Cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin, Mark Webber.

Little Accidents (Director and screenwriter: Sara Colangelo) — In a small American coal town living in the shadow of a recent mining accident, the disappearance of a teenage boy draws three people together — a surviving miner, the lonely wife of a mine executive and a local boy — in a web of secrets. Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Chloë Sevigny, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas.

Love Is Strange (Director: Ira Sachs, Screenwriters: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias) — After 39 years together, Ben and George finally tie the knot, but George loses his job as a result, and the newlyweds must sell their New York apartment and live apart, relying on friends and family to make ends meet. Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson.

A Most Wanted Man (Director: Anton Corbijn, Screenwriter: Andrew Bovell) — Based on John le Carré’s best-selling book, Anton Corbijn directs this modern-day. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright.

Nick Offerman: American Ham (Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Screenwriter: Nick Offerman) — This live taping of Nick Offerman’s hilarious one-man show at Town Hall in New York features a collection of anecdotes, songs, and woodworking/oral sex techniques. The routine includes 10 tips for living a more prosperous life. Cast: Nick Offerman.

The One I Love (Director: Charlie McDowell, Screenwriter: Justin Lader) — Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for the weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma waiting for them. Cast: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson.

The Raid 2 (Director and screenwriter: Gareth Evans) — Picking up where the first film left off, “The Raid 2″ follows Rama as he goes undercover and infiltrates the ranks of a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate to protect his family and expose the corruption in his own police force. Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad.

Rudderless (Director: William H. Macy, Screenwriters: Casey Twenter, Jeff Robison, William H. Macy) — When a grieving father in a downward spiral stumbles upon a box of his dead son’s original music, he forms a rock band, which changes his life. Cast: Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Huffman, Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne, William H. Macy.

They Came Together (Director: David Wain, Screenwriters: Michael Showalter, David Wain) — This subversion/spoof/deconstruction of the romantic comedy genre has a vaguely, but not overtly, Jewish leading man, a klutzy, but adorable, leading lady, and New York City itself as another character in the story. Cast: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Max Greenfield, Christopher Meloni.

The Trip to Italy (Director: Michael Winterbottom, Screenwriters: Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Michael Winterbottom) — Michael Winterbottom reunites Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for more delectable food, some sharp-elbowed rivalry, and plenty of laughs. Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon.

The Voices (Director: Marjane Satrapi, Screenwriter: Michael Perry) — This genre-bending tale centers on Jerry Hickfang, a lovable but disturbed factory worker who yearns for attention from a woman in accounting. When their relationship takes a sudden, murderous turn, Jerry’s evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog lead him down a fantastical path where he ultimately finds salvation. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver.

White Bird in a Blizzard (Director and screenwriter: Gregg Araki) — Based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Kasischke, this film tells the story of Kat Connors, a young woman whose life is turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her beautiful, enigmatic mother. Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane.

Young Ones (Director and screenwriter: Jake Paltrow) — When events alters his young life forever, Jerome is forced to make choices that no child should ever have to make. Cast: Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning, Kodi Smit-McPhee.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (Directors: Chapman Way, Maclain Way) — Hollywood veteran Bing Russell creates the only independent baseball team in the country — alarming the baseball establishment and starting the meteoric rise of the 1970s Portland Mavericks.

Finding Fela (Director: Alex Gibney) — Fela Anikulapo Kuti created the musical movement Afrobeat and used it as a political forum to oppose the Nigerian dictatorship and advocate for the rights of oppressed people. This is the story of his life, music and political importance.

Freedom Summer (Director: Stanley Nelson) — In the summer of 1964, more than 700 students descended on violent, segregated Mississippi. Defying the authorities, they registered voters, created freedom schools, and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Fifty years later, eyewitness accounts and never-before-seen archival material tell their story. Not all of them would make it through.

Happy Valley (Director: Amir Bar-Lev) — The children of “Happy Valley” were victimized for years, by a key member of the legendary Penn State college football program. But were Jerry Sandusky’s crimes an open secret? With rare access, director Amir Bar-Lev delves beneath the headlines to tell a modern American parable of guilt, redemption, and identity.

Last Days in Vietnam (Director: Rory Kennedy) — During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese desperately try to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront a moral predicament: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate only American citizens.

Life Itself (Director: Steve James) — This is the surprising and entertaining life of renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert. The film details his early days as a freewheeling bachelor and Pulitzer Prize winner, his famously contentious partnership with Gene Siskel, his life-altering marriage and his brave battle with cancer.

Mitt (Director: Greg Whiteley) — A filmmaker is granted unprecedented access to a political candidate and his family as he runs for president.

We Are the Giant (Director: Greg Barker) — This documentary tells the stories of ordinary individuals who are transformed by the moral and personal challenges they encounter when standing up for what they believe is right. Powerful and tragic, yet inspirational, their struggles for freedom echo across history and offer hope against seemingly impossible odds.

This May Be the Last Time (Director: Sterlin Harjo) — Sterlin Harjo’s grandfather disappeared mysteriously in 1962. The community searching for him sang songs of encouragement that were passed down for generations. Mr. Harjo explores the origins of these songs as well as the violent history of his people.

To Be Takei (Director: Jennifer Kroot) — Over seven decades, actor and activist George Takei journeyed from a World War II internment camp to the helm of the Starship Enterprise, and then to the daily news feeds of five million Facebook fans. Join George and his husband, Brad, on a wacky and profound trek for life, liberty and love.

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (Director: Joe Berlinger) — Infamous gangster James (Whitey) Bulger’s relationship with the F.B.I. and Department of Justice allowed him to reign over a criminal empire in Boston for decades. This documentary chronicles Bulger’s recent sensational trial, using it as a springboard to explore allegations of corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement.

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