If the in-competition lineup announced yesterday for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival seemed a little lacking in star power, the fest made up for it today with its out-of-competition announcements. Almost all of the films in the Premieres section boast big names — Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Katie Holmes, and Paul Rudd, just to name a few — and between that and the newly developed Documentary Premieres section meant to showcase works by already high-profile directors, there are some big concepts, too. Expect some political controversy, as films on evangelicals, Saddam Hussein, and Ronald Reagan will all be tussling for press attention (and, if Kevin Smith gets his way, an in-the-room distributor). Here’s a look at the lineup, including the Park City at Midnight entries — congratulations, Hobo With a Shotgun!
Cedar Rapids / U.S.A. (Director: Miguel Arteta; Screenwriter: Phil Johnston) — A wholesome and naive small-town Wisconsin man travels to big city Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at a regional insurance conference. Cast: Ed Helms, John C Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alia Shawkat, Sigourney Weaver.
The Convincer / U.S.A. (Director: Jill Sprecher; Screenwriters: Jill Sprecher & Karen Sprecher) — An insurance salesman, caught in a caper involving a rare musical instrument, sets off a series of dramatic consequences. Cast: Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup, David Harbour.
The Details / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jacob Aaron Estes) — When hungry raccoons discover worms living under the sod in a young couple’s backyard, the pest problem sets off a wild and absurd chain reaction of domestic tension, infidelity, organ donation and murder by way of bow and arrow. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert.
The Devil’s Double / Belgium (Director: Lee Tamahori; Screenwriter: Michael Thomas) — An extraordinary chapter in recent history providing a chilling vision of the House of Saddam comes to life through the eyes of the man who knew too much. Cast: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Mimoun Oaissa, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast.
I Melt with You / Canada, U.S.A. (Director: Mark Pellington; Screenwriter: Glenn Porter, based on the story by Glenn Porter and Mark Pellington) — Four friends gather every year to celebrate their friendship. This year they are unexpectedly forced to confront a forgotten promise they made 25 years earlier. As they examine choices they’ve made, they realize that what they said they would do with their lives and what they have done are entirely different. Cast: Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, Christian McKay, Carla Gugino.
Life in a Day / United Kingdom (Director: Kevin Macdonald) — Life in a Day is a historic global experiment to create the world’s largest user-generated feature film. On July 24, 2010, professional and amateur filmmakers captured a glimpse of their lives on camera and uploaded the footage to YouTube, serving as a time capsule for future generations.
Margin Call / U.S.A.(Director and screenwriter: JC Chandor) — Over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis, the key people at an investment bank struggle to decide how to handle an emergency business situation while examining the personal and moral implications of every action they take. Cast: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci.
The Music Never Stopped (Director: Jim Kohlberg; Screenwriters: Gwyn Lurie and Gary Marks, based on the story “The Last Hippie” by Oliver Sacks) — A father struggles to bond with his estranged son who suffers a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. He learns to embrace his son’s choices and to try to connect with him through the power of music. Cast: J.K. Simmons, Julia Ormond, Cara Seymour, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mia Maestro.
My Idiot Brother / U.S.A.(Director: Jesse Peretz; Screenwriters: Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall) — After serving time for selling pot, Ned successively moves in with each of his three sisters as he tries to get back on his feet. His best intentions quickly bring the family to the cusp of chaos and ultimately the brink of clarity. Cast: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer.
Perfect Sense / United Kingdom (Director: David Mackenzie; Screenwriter: Kim Fupz Aakeson) — A poetic and magnetic love story about two people who start to fall in love just as the world begins to fall apart. Cast: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Ewen Bremner, Stephen Dillane, Denis Lawson and Connie Nielsen.
Red State / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kevin Smith) — A group of misfits encounter extreme fundamentalism in Middle America. Cast: Michael Parks, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, John Goodman, Melissa Leo.
Salvation Boulevard / U.S.A. (Director: George Ratliff; Screenwriters: Doug Max Stone and George Ratliff, based on the novel by Larry Beinhart) — An evangelical preacher who has captivated a city with his charm frames an ex-hippie for a crime he did not commit. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei.
The Son of No One / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Dito Montiel) — Two men in post-9/11 New York are forced to relive two murders they committed as young boys. Their lives start to unravel by the threat of the revelation of these shocking and personal secrets. Cast: Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche.
Win Win / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Tom McCarthy, based on the story by Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni) — When a disheartened attorney moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach stumbles across a star athlete, things seem to be looking up. That is, until the boy’s mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything. Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor.
Becoming Chaz / U.S.A. (Directors: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato) — Born biologically female, Chastity Bono invites the viewer into a deeply personal journey as he transitions from female to male, embracing his true self, which is Chaz.
Bobby Fischer Against the World / U.S.A. (Director: Liz Garbus) — The drama of late chess-master Bobby Fischer’s career was undeniable,as he careened from troubled childhood, to World Champion and Cold War icon, to a fugitive on the run.
Granito / U.S.A. (Director: Pamela Yates) — A documentary film intertwines with Guatemala’s turbulent history and emerges as an active player in a nation’s struggle to heal itself and serve up justice.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Spurlock) — A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement is financed and made possible by branding, advertising and product placement.
The Interrupters / U.S.A. (Director: Steve James) — From the Academy Award-winning director of Hoop Dreams comes a story of ex-gang members who are now protecting their communities from the violence they themselves once employed.
Reagan / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Eugene Jarecki) — Reagan examines the enigmatic career of one of the revered architects of the modern world - icon, screen star, and two-term president Ronald Reagan.
Rebirth / U.S.A. (Director: Jim Whitaker) — Weaving together five stories of individuals whose lives were profoundly altered by the 9/11 attack with unprecedented time-lapse footage of Ground Zero composed over ten years, what emerges is a chronicle of grief’s evolution and a nation healing.
These Amazing Shadows / U.S.A. (Directors: Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton) — The history and importance of the National Film Registry unfolds in a roll call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film, and indeed the American experience itself.
PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT
The Catechism Cataclysm / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Todd Rohal) — After becoming disinterested with the church, a priest tracks down his old classmate, a former metalhead whom he idolized in high school. When the two embark on a canoeing trip together, all hell breaks loose. Cast:Steve Little, Robert Longstreet, Walter Dalton, Miki Ann Maddox, Koko Lanham.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Madeleine Olnek) — A shy greeting card store employee unknowingly falls for a lesbian space alien while two government agents closely track their romance. Cast: Lisa Haas, Susan Ziegler, Jackie Monahan, Cynthia Kaplan, Dennis Davis, Alex Karpovsky, Rae C Wright.
Corman’s World: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel / U.S.A. (Director: Alex Stapleton) — Tracks the triumphant rise of Hollywood’s most prolific writer-director-producer, the true godfather of independent filmmaking. Cast: Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, James Cameron, Roger Corman.
Hobo with A Shotgun / Canada(Director: Jason Eisener; Screenwriter: Johnathan Davies) — A hobo hops from a train with dreams of a fresh life in a new city, but instead finds himself trapped in an urban hell. When he witnesses a brutal robbery, he realizes the only way to deliver justice is with a shotgun in his hands and two shells in the chamber. Cast: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey.
The Oregonian / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder) — After surviving a brutal car accident, a simple farm woman limps down the road into the nightmarish unknown. Cast: Lindsay Pulsipher, Robert Longstreet, Matt Olsen, Lynne Compton, Barlow Jacobs, Chadwick Brown, Jed Maheu, Roger M. Mayer.
Septien / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Tully) — A reclusive sports hustler returns home to his family farm after years of absence to reunite with his two eccentric, unhinged and emotionally damaged brothers. Cast: Robert Longstreet, Onur Tukel, Michael Tully, Rachel Korine, Mark Robinson, John Maringouin.
Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren) / Norway (Director: Andre Ovredal) — A group of student filmmakers get more than they bargained for when tangling with a man tasked with protecting Norway from giant trolls. Cast: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Hans Morten Hansen, Johanna Mørch, Tomas Alf Larsen.
The Woman / U.S.A. (Director: Lucky McKee; Screenwriters: Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee) — When a successful country lawyer captures and attempts to “civilize” the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades, he puts the lives of his family in jeopardy. Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand.