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Sundance 2014: A Preview

Sundance 1

by on January 15, 2014

For the past 20 years, Utah’s Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden get overrun with industry types for the annual Sundance Film Festival, a ten day celebration of the finest in independent or lesser-seen cinema. In recent years, Sundance has become the place for filmmakers all over the world to premiere or exhibit their latest offerings, and hopefully get some kind of distribution deal out of it. This year’s festivities run from January 16th-26th and have a huge array of films to choose from. Below you’ll find a list of some of the ones that sound interesting to us, and maybe you should keep a lookout for them in the near future. In no particular order, with descriptions from the Sundance official film guide:

Cooties
Cooties
Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s first film, Cooties, focuses on the virulent underbelly of grade school. Except this time, the bug that’s going around is transforming the student body from spazzes, tattletales, and brats into deranged, cannibalistic mutants. After an uncharacteristically blood-soaked recess, the surviving teachers and students band together in a desperate attempt to leave the building without being permanently dismissed.

Written by Saw and Insidious writer Leigh Whannell and Glee co-creator Ian Brennan, the film stars Elijah Wood, Allison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, and Nasim Pedrad.

Killers
Killers
Mr. Nomura is an eerily handsome, sharply dressed, sociopathic serial killer who preys on the women of Tokyo. In Jakarta, a world-weary journalist named Bayu finds himself unexpectedly falling into vigilantism after brutally killing two sadistic robbers. When each posts videos of his violent sprees online, the pair find one another on the Internet and begin a toxic and competitive duel. While Bayu clings to the hope that he can resume a normal life, Nomura continues to spill blood without remorse. Killing, advises Nomura, is something everyone ought to consider.

Timo Tjahjanto, codirector of the V/H/S/2 segment “Safe Haven,” returns to Park City at Midnight, collaborating with longtime filmmaking partner Kimo Stromboel on their bleak and blood-soaked second feature as creative team The Mo Brothers.

The Signal
Signal
Nick and Jonah are MIT freshmen with a passion for hacking. While driving cross-country through Nevada with Nick’s girlfriend, Hailey, they follow rival hacker Nomad’s clues to a location 180 miles away. After a terrifying confrontation with Nomad in the middle of the desert, the trio regain consciousness in captivity. Struggling to comprehend the true nature of their confinement, they discover they are part of a plot much larger than themselves.

With his second sci-fi feature, William Eubank continues to prove that grand scale can be achieved on any budget. Starring up-and-comer Brenton Thwaites as Nick and Laurence Fishburne as his stoic captor, The Signal is a contemporary genre film with heart and imagination to spare. Beautifully shot and energetically directed, it lets the circumstances behind the trio’s imprisonment slowly unravel, leading to an epic and mind-blowing conclusion.

What We Do In the Shadows
Darkness
Consider the living quarters of vampires, and stodgy old castles in Transylvania may come to mind. But these aren’t your typical bloodsuckers. Viago (379 years old), Deacon (183 years old), Vladislav (862 years old), and Peter (8,000 years old) have chosen to share a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. Unfortunately for them, it’s hard to make new friends due to their constant thirst for blood. Without any mortal chums left to invite them in to all of the hip establishments around town, they’ve lost touch with the current social scene. Can these creatures of the night put aside their differences as roommates and adapt to modern society?

In What We Do in the Shadows, frequent collaborators Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement share writing, directing, and acting duties—all with precise comedic timing. The end result is a hysterical mockumentary that unearths a secret, supernatural society where friendship and camaraderie are just as important as feasting upon the flesh of mortals.

The Raid 2
Raid 2
Immediately following the events of the original, The Raid 2 tracks Officer Rama as he is pressured to join an anti-corruption task force to guarantee protection for his wife and child. His mission is to get close to a new mob boss, Bangun, by befriending his incarcerated son, Uco. Rama must hunt for information linking Bangun with corruption in the Jakarta Police Department while pursuing a dangerous and personal vendetta that threatens to consume him and bring his mission — and the organized crime syndicate — down around him.

Filmmaker Gareth Evans gloriously reunites with star Iko Uwais for this epic martial-arts sequel. No longer confined to a single building, the fight spills across the streets of Jakarta, from prison yards to subway cars. Evans packs his film with enough jaw-dropping action and groan-inducing hits to rival a Hollywood studio’s entire summer slate.

A Most Wanted Man
A Most Wanted Man
Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John Le Carre’s psychological novel follows German spy Gunther Bachmann as he tracks down Issa, a suspicious Chechen-Russian immigrant on the run in Hamburg. Pressured by his German and American colleagues to capture and interrogate his suspect as a Muslim terrorist, Bachmann instead asks for more time to carefully track Issa’s movements and his relationship with his German immigration lawyer, Annabel Richter. Using his secret contacts and keen skill, Bachmann uncovers a connection between a world-renowned Muslim philanthropist and a terrorist group and devises a plan to use Issa and Annabel in a brilliant ploy to expose the scheme.

The Trip to Italy
Trip
Michael Winterbottom’s largely improvised 2010 film, The Trip, took comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon—or semifictionalized versions thereof—on a restaurant tour around northern England. In this witty and incisive follow-up, Winterbottom reunites the pair for a new culinary road trip, retracing the steps of the Romantic poets’ grand tour of Italy and indulging in some sparkling banter and impersonation-offs. Rewhetting our palates from the earlier film, the characters enjoy mouthwatering meals in gorgeous settings from Liguria to Capri while riffing on subjects as varied as Batman’s vocal register, the artistic merits of “Jagged Little Pill,” and, of course, the virtue of sequels.

Obvious Child
Obvious Child
Jenny Slate stars as Donna Stern, a 27-year-old Brooklyn comedian whose unapologetically lewd, warmhearted wit is pretty irresistible with audiences. When she gets heartlessly “dumped up with” by her two-timing boyfriend, Donna plunges into some light stalking and heavy moping. Hitting a serious low point, she performs a dreary set of break-up vengeance and Holocaust jokes and drunkenly falls into bed with a nice young professional named Max—not remotely her type. A few weeks later, condoms be damned, she’s pregnant. Now Donna, incapable of telling anything but the naked truth when she’s on stage, will resort to any means to avoid telling Max the score. As her date with Planned Parenthood draws near, she must confront her doubts and fears like never before.

Wish I Was Here
Braff
Following his celebrated debut feature, Garden State, Zach Braff delivers a new postcard from the edge of existential crisis, this time playing a thirtysomething family man wrestling with a few minor hindrances—like his disapproving father, an elusive God, and yes, adult responsibility. Aidan Bloom is a pot-smoking actor whose last job, a dandruff commercial, was longer ago than he cares to admit. Pursuing his thespian dream has landed him and his wife in tough financial straits, so when his grumpy father can no longer pay for the kids to attend Jewish Yeshiva, Aidan opts for homeschooling. To the chagrin of his hyperdisciplined, religious daughter and the delight of his less-than-studious son, Aidan takes matters into his own imaginative hands, rather than sticking to the boring old traditional curriculum. This is the movie which was funded on Kickstarter.

So, keep your eyes open for these and all of the other films being featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.