To keep you ahead of the curve at your next film-geek name-dropping party, we've compiled a list of the most anticipated science fiction, science, fantasy and documentary films screening at this year's Sundance.
Robot and Frank
Directed by Jake Schreier and starring Frank Langella and a robot!
Set sometime in the future, Robot and Frank is a delightful dramatic comedy, a buddy picture, and, for good measure, a heist film. Curmudgeonly old Frank lives by himself. His routine involves daily visits to his local library, where he has a twinkle in his eye for the librarian. His grown children are concerned about their father's well-being and buy him a caretaker robot. Initially resistant to the idea, Frank soon appreciates the benefits of robotic support — like nutritious meals and a clean house — and eventually begins to treat his robot like a true companion. With his robot's assistance, Frank's passion for his old, unlawful profession is reignited, for better or worse.
John Dies at the End
Adapted from the warped internet tales of Cracked.com's David Wong (aka senior editor Jason Pargin). Don Coscarelli has taken the wild future world of drug use to a whole new tripped level. What's real and what's fake? We don't know.
On the street, they call it "soy sauce." It's a paranormal, psychoactive drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. Its users drift across time and dimensions, but some who come back are devoid of all humanity. While most of Earth's inhabitants remain blissfully oblivious to its threat-make no mistake-an otherworldly invasion is under way, and mankind needs to be saved. Enter John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. How can these guys possibly be expected to rescue mankind from certain destruction?
Safety Not Guaranteed
This film is entirely centered around the amazing internet meme of one man, a mullet and a personal ad seeking a partner for time travel. It also stars Aubrey Plaza (love her!).
Three magazine employees are sent to investigate a personal advertisement placed in the newspaper: guy seeking partner for time travel. They venture to the coast and set up a haphazard surveillance. Darius is recruited as the shill; her dry wit and cynical nature are perfectly suited to trap this enigmatic oddball, Kenneth, and get a good story. But it is she who first sees past the paranoid loner façade to the compelling person inside. The drawback? This still doesn't rule out the possibility that he just might be crazy.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
A magical little movie, whose characters have the names Hushpuppy and Wink.
Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl, lives with her father, Wink, in "the Bathtub," a southern Delta community at the edge of the world. Wink's tough love prepares her for the unraveling of the universe; for a time when he's no longer there to protect her. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness, nature flies out of whack-temperatures rise, and the ice caps melt, unleashing an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. With the waters rising, the aurochs coming, and Wink's health fading, Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother.
The BBC Being Human's Russell Tovey finds out the the only way to keep himself safe from the bloodsucking alien invasion is to remain drunk at all times. Sounds like a plan to us.
Something sinister has come to the shores of Erin Island, unbeknownst to the quaint population of this sleepy fishing village resting somewhere off Ireland's coast. First, some fishermen go missing. Then there is the rash of whale carcasses suddenly washing up on the beach. When the murders start, it's up to two mismatched cops-an irresponsible alcoholic and his new partner, a by-the-book woman from the mainland-to protect the townsfolk from the giant, bloodsucking, tentacled aliens that prey upon them. Their only weapon, they discover, is booze. If they want to survive the creatures' onslaught, everyone will have to get very, very drunk!
Check out the cast in this film — Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones AND Leonardo Sbaraglia. Sadly, this strange trailer, featuring De Niro doing his best dramatic chipmunk tells us nothing. So here's the official synopsis:
Two investigators of paranormal hoaxes, the veteran Dr. Margaret Matheson and her young assistant, Tom Buckley, study the most varied metaphysical phenomena with the aim of proving their fraudulent origins. Simon Silver, a legendary blind psychic, reappears after an enigmatic absence of 30 years to become the greatest international challenge to both orthodox science and professional sceptics. Tom starts to develop an intense obsession with Silver, whose magnetism becomes stronger with each new manifestation of inexplicable events. As Tom gets closer to Silver, tension mounts, and his worldview is threatened to its core.
The Meaning of Robots
The press release calls this project a behind the scenes making of an "epic stop-motion robot sex film." In!
The benevolent Mike Sullivan, age 65, has been shooting an epic stop-motion robot sex film in his apartment for the last 10 years. Obsessed with constructing the miniature robot porn stars, his apartment now overflows with thousands of them.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
On the surface this looks like a movie about two men opening up a mall to pay back their loans. But with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim behind the lens there's no telling what secret circle of hell the audience will be dipped in.
Tim and Eric are given a billion dollars to make a movie but squander every dime, and the sinister Schlaaang Corporation is pissed. Their lives at stake, the guys skip town in search of some way to pay the money back. They happen upon a chance to rehabilitate a bankrupt mall full of vagrants, bizarre stores, and a man-eating wolf that stalks the food court, and they see dollar signs-a billion of them.
Travis Wilkerson's documentary about restoring this dwarf planet to its classic planet status has perked our interest, but will there be robot sex in it?
The Atomic States of America
Past Sundance filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce have returned with a documentary inspired by Kelly McMasters's memoir about growing up in a nuclear-reactor community.
Jeff Orlowski uses time lapse photography of glaciers to show the effects of global warming.
The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia
A documentary focused on the science behind Dyslexia research.
A Fierce Green Fire
A documentary about the environmental movement.
How to Survive a Plague,
Faced with their own mortality, an improbable group of mostly HIV-positive young men and women broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. How to Survive a Plague is the story of two coalitions-ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)-whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making.
Song of the Spindle
An animated discussion between a Sperm Whale and a man, in which each tries to convince the other that their brain is bigger.