One of the best features of the Sundance Film Festival are the actors who made trips there early in their careers…and come back again even when they could be resting on their mainstream, Hollywood laurels. Mark Webber’s END OF LOVE is one of those films that brings some of those festival faves back to Park City. Michael Cera (PAPER HEARTS), Amanda Seyfried (ALPHA DOG), Jason Ritter (THE DRY LAND), and Shannyn Sossamon (WRISTCUTTERS) join Webber on screen for the story of a young father struggling with the death of his son’s mother.
This week on Sundance Channel, we’ve got samplings of culture from Germany, Belgium, and New York City. With the exception of THE WAVE, most of these indulge a lighter side: just what we need in the dark days ahead. We’ve got something for every one, from MAN ON WIRE to a period romance with bisexual undertones.
THE SURROGATE is, so far, one of the most anticipated films for Sundance 2012. To the list of best-known actors in this year’s festival, including John Krasinski, Bruce Willis, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Danny Glover and Common, THE SURROGATE adds Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, and Oscar nominee John Hawkes. Hawkes, whose recent turns at Sundance have included a cult leader and a Meth addict, now plays a paralyzed journalist and poet. The film is based on the true story of how polio survivor Mark O’Brien, who spent much of his life on an iron lung, eventually lost his virginity with help from his priest and a sex surrogate. O’Brien’s relationship with the surrogate, played by Helen Hunt, changes both of their lives. Ben Lewin, himself a polio survivor, writes and directs.
Well, the Oscars got something right. Though they overlooked Sundance 2011’s other top doc HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, HELL AND BACK AGAIN is on this year’s shortlist.
Director Danfung Dennis documents the story of 25-year-old Nathan Harris, a Marine Corps sergeant who was severely injured in Afghanistan. The film follows his recovery and transition back to life back home in North Carolina. Cut jarringly with Dennis’s own footage from behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, HELL delivers a violent jolt back home. This winner of Sundance’s World Cinema Jury Prize and World Cinema Cinematography Award is still in theaters, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go now.
Dominic West as serial killer Fred West in APPROPRIATE ADULT.
If you’ve gotten even a whiff of Hollywood’s turd platter this season (Tower Heist? Seriously?), then the Sundance Channel has the cure. Instead of Kristen Stewart, we give you Lena Dunham. Rather than Brett Ratner, we’ve got Stanley Kubrick. And in place of Adam Sandler’s drag, we’ve made Dominic West over as a serial killer. Here are our picks for this week’s films that won’t leave you brain dead: