Between 22 January 1 February 2015, the Sundance Film Festival will be rolling out some of the most exciting new movies the world of filmmaking has to offer. Invading Utah's snowy Park City, these are the hits of tomorrow, from screwy little horror films to devastatingly affecting dramas. If you want a head's up for what to look out for over the next 12 months, Sundance is the place to be.
And this year, the festival has some real treats in store, with films starring the likes of Michael Fassbender, Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Margot Robbie among many, many others.
Total Film will be there, braving the snow in our long johns, and we're positively foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Here are 20 of the most awesome-looking films we're excited about watching.
And be sure to follow us on Twitter for updates, pics and breaking reactions to these films and more!
A change of pace for Michael Fassbender after last year's humungous X-Men: Days Of Future Past, this 19th-century-set New Zealand drama sees The Fass playing an enigmatic loner.
He becomes an unpredictable ally to 16-year-old Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he embarks on a quest to track down the woman who stole his heart. Meanwhile, the law's hot on his heels. We're expecting dusty terrain aplenty and Fassy getting intense.
Showing as part of the fest's midnight screenings programme, this new fright flick from Pontypool director Bruce McDonald looks primed for an October 31st release when it's inevitably snapped up for distribution and unleashed on mainstream audiences.
Set over a single Halloween night, the plot sees teenager Dora (Chloe Rose) attempting to survive when she's set upon by malevolent trick-or-treaters. Teens? Check! Bogies? Check! Scares aplenty? CHECK! We can't wait.
A world premiere at Sundance, this is one of those dark dramas that Nicole Kidman does so well. On the night of a devastating sand storm, her teenage kids vanish in the Australian desert, prompting her and hubbie Joseph Fiennes to embark on a hunt to find them with a little help from Hugo Weaving's local policeman.
We love it when Kidman does gritty dramas like this and considering the strength of her other recent 'dark' outings (see Stoker and The Paperboy), we can't wait for Strangerland.
Z For Zachariah
Before she slips into her Harley Quinn costume for Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie (The Wolf Of Wall Street) heads up this adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's pulp-y 1974 sci-fi novel.
She plays the last woman on Earth, who's surviving in a post-apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by nuclear war. Things get worse, though, when two strangers (Chewitel Ejiofor and Chris Pine) stumble into her life. With director Craig Zobel behind the camera (returning to Sundance three years after he made festival-goers squirm with true-life shocker Compliance), we're anticipating tension you can cut with a knife.
Director Rodney Ascher was responsible for wonderfully weird doc Room 237 (which took a look at crazy fan theories on Kubrick's The Shining), and he's back at Sundance with another documentary this year.
This horror-infused head-scratcher looks set to scare the bejeezus out of us as it explores the phenomenon of sleep paralysis (in which people are still conscious but physically paralysed while sleeping). Part documentary, part horror movie, Ascher describes The Nightmare as a bizarre trip through the looking glass. We're already getting chills.
Call Me Lucky
Sundance was made for people like Bobcat Goldthwait, the one-time Police Academy actor (remember Zed?) who's gone on to forge a career as one of the most boundary-pushing and darkly humorous directors working today.
In a departure from his searing features God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad, Goldthwait recruits Patton Oswalt, David Cross and Margaret Cho among others for this doc, which honours bar comic and political satirist Barry Crimmins. Knowing Goldthwait, it'll be unflinching and raucously entertaining.
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl
Like your drama in corduroy trousers and a matching moustache? This 1970s-set coming-of-ager from debut director Marielle Heller (based on Phoebe Gloeckner's graphic novel) looks tailor-made for you.
Bel Powley stars as a 15-year-old artist who falls for her mother's suave, whiskey-swilling boyfriend (Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgrd respectively). Could this be the new Ghost World? It's looking good.
It's been all quiet on the Jack Black front recently, but he's back with a vengeance in this dark comedy from debut directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel.
Black plays Dan Landsman, who's still haunted by his gawky student days as his 20th high school reunion approaches. In an attempt to prove he's a new man, Dan befriends one of the popular guys from school (James Marsden), but a wild night out may ruin everything...
If you caught Andrew Bujalski's last film, the stunning Computer Chess, chances are you'll be as excited as us about the director's new creation.
Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce play personal trainers whose lives are turned upside down by a wealthy new client (Kevin Corrigan). Between that cast and Bujalski's unique sense of humour, we're imagining Burn After Reading gone wild(er).
And now for something a little bit different... At least, different if you're Eli Roth, who's finally back in the director's chair for good (though his cannibalism movie The Green Inferno his first since 2007's Hostel: Part II remains stuck in distribution hell).
The splatter auteur promises his new flick will be a departure from the kind of eye-popping gore-fests he's known for. Knock Knock sees Keanu Reeves' life thrown into disarray by two young girls, and Roth describes the film as tense and scary, but it's not a horror film. We're looking forward to seeing what he's cooked up...
A gay Brooklyn couple (Sebastian Silva and Tunde Adebimpe) turn to their friend Polly (Kristen Wiig) when they want to have a baby, but their lives are complicated by the aggressive behaviour of a man in their neighbourhood called The Bishop (Reg E. Cathey).
Director Sebastian Silva is no stranger to accolades and awards in 2009, his second film, The Maid, won two trophies at Sundance, plus a Golden Globe nom later on. We expect to see him collecting a gong at some point by the end of the fest.
I Am Michael
James Franco is no stranger to controversy (hello, The Interview), and with this timely drama, he tackles another troubling real-life subject in the form of Michael Glatze, the one-time advocate for gay rights (and founder of magazine Young Gay America) who went on to renounce his homosexuality and become an anti-gay preacher.
Starring alongside Zachary Quinto, Daryl Hannah and Emma Roberts, this is also notable as Franco's fourth film inspired by a real-life gay man (see also Milk, Howl and Interior. Leather Bar).
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Two years after director Kyle Patrick Alvarez received a Grand Jury Prize nomination at Sundance for C.O.G. (a fish-out-of-water drama starring Jonathan Groff), his third feature takes a sure-to-shock peek at a real-life psychological experiment as Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) selects 24 men to play the parts of inmates and guards in a mock prison.
With a cast list to die for (Crudup's joined by Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan and Olivia Thirlby), this has 'awards magnet' written all over it.
While he waits to suit up again as Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield leads a stellar cast (also starring: Michael Shannon, Laura Dern) in this drama, which went down a storm when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2014.
Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a young father living with his mum (Dern) who fights back against a greedy real-estate broker (Shannon) who evicts him from his home. It's been a while since we saw Garfield out of the Spider-suit, and by all accounts, he's fantastic here.
Digging For Fire
Sundance favourite Joe Swanberg returns to snowy Utah. And despite being known for his mumblecore dramas (last year he debuted feel-bad festive flick Happy Christmas), his latest is a theatrical adventure yarn that looks set to get pulses racing.
Though the plot's being kept under wraps, we know that Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt play a couple who embark on solo escapades after discovering a bone and a gun take from that what you will. Its about the pleasures and pains of building a family with someone, Swanberg muses. And with cinematographer Ben Richardson on board (he shot other fest favourite Beasts Of The Southern Wild), this should look fantastic.
Described as an electronic-dance-music epic, this drama from director Mia Hansen-Lve (The Father Of My Children) navigates the French club scene of the '90s, where a DJ rises to fame, only to see his fortunes crash and burn.
Inspired by the life of Mia's brother Sven, who counts Daft Punk among his friends, Eden has taken its sweet time getting onto screens thanks to tricky music rights but with those all now put to bed, we're excited for what should be a sonorous experience to remember.
Chuck Norris Vs Communism
And the award for the festival's best movie title goes to... this shoestring doc from debut director Ilinca Calugareanu. She takes a look at how pirated copies of action flicks starring the likes of Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee landed in communist countries in the 1980s, giving Eastern audiences hope for revolution.
This is how Chuck Norris and the other action heroes played their part in the fight against communism, Calugareanu explains. These films were more than a source of entertainment. Bring. It.
We're still chewing our nails into oblivion as we wait for season three of Orange Is The New Black to premiere on Netflix, so we're looking forward to getting our Taylor Schilling fix in this comedy at Sundance.
Schilling and Adam Scott star as a couple who move to Los Angeles. When they meet the mysterious Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), though, a family playdate starts to spiral out of control. Sort of sounds like Carnage crossed with The Burbs.
Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy and Mlanie Laurent head up this domestic drama about an estranged mother and son.
Nana (Connelly) gave up her son 20 years ago, but when he tracks her down, her new life is thrown into disarray. Director Claudia Llosa earned an Oscar nom in 2010 for The Milk Of Sorrow, and this is her first feature since, meaning we're expecting something seriously hard-hitting.
Though the fest organisers deny that Sundance functions as a marketplace for distributors to snap up the next big thing, there's no getting around the fact that plenty of films find homes after showing there. Or, in the case of Mistress America (recently acquired by Fox Searchlight), they're bought just days before the fest opens.
Not hard to see why. This new film from Frances Ha duo Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig is another examination of ennui in the big city as Lola Kirke's drifting New York freshman is rescued from her apathy by her soon-to-be step-sister (Gerwig). Considering the success of Frances Ha, this should be another intoxicating cocktail of cool tunes and witty asides.
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