The Sundance Institute effectively filled out its slate for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival with the announcement of the always star-friendly premieres category. It's also where many former Sundance filmmakers bring their second, third and even fourth films back to the fest.
This year the category features 16 world premieres and almost all of them are from Sundance alumni, including Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”), Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”), Joe Swanberg (“VHS”), Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”), James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”), Michael Almereyda (2000's “Hamlet”), Rodrigo Garcia (“Nine Lives”), Benson Lee (“Miss Monday”), Leslye Headland (“Bachelorette”), and Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman (“American Splendor”).
Some of the intriguing titles include Paul Weitz's “Grandma” with Lily Tomlin and Laverne Cox, Ryan Fleck and Anna Bowden's “Mississippi Grind” with Ryan Reynolds and Sienna Miller, Garcia's “Last Days in the Desert” featuring Ewan McGregor as Jesus, Charles Stone III's “Lila & Eve” with Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez, Justin Kelly's “I Am Michael” which finds James Franco playing a gay activist who becomes a Christian pastor, Ponsoldt's “The End of the Tour” with Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky and Joan Cusack, Leslye Headland's “Sleeping with Other People” featuring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie and Adam Scott, and the “Frances Ha” team of Baumbach and Greta Gerwig reuniting for “Mistress America.”
While the festival usually adds one or two additional premiere titles or special screenings before it kicks off, this year's overall slate is heavier on impressive filmmakers and seemingly commercial-friendly films rather than buzzworthy stars.
A complete rundown of this year's premieres category is as follows…
Director: John Crowley, Screenwriter: Nick Hornby, based on the book by Colm Tóibín)
1950s Ireland: Eilis must confront a terrible dilemma – a heartbreaking choice between two men and two countries, between duty and true love.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent.
“Digging for Fire”
Director: Joe Swanberg, Screenwriters: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg
The discovery of a bone and a gun sends a husband and wife on separate adventures over the course of a weekend.
Cast: Jake Johnson, Rosemarie Dewitt, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick.
Director: Jared Hess, Screenwriters: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Biblical archaeologist Don Verdean is hired by a local church pastor to find faith-promoting relics in the Holy Land. But after a fruitless expedition he is forced to get creative in this comedy of faith and fraud.
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Jemaine Clement, Amy Ryan, Danny McBride, Leslie Bibb, Will Forte.
“The End of the Tour”
Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriter: Donald Margulies
This story of the five-day 1996 interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace explores the tenuous yet intense relationship that develops between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave, sharing laughs and also concealing and revealing their hidden vulnerabilities.
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston.
Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda
Experimenter is based on the true story of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans' willingness to obey authority by using electric shock. We follow Milgram from meeting his wife through his controversial experiments that sparked public outcry.
Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Jim Gaffigan, Kellan Lutz, Taryn Manning, John Leguizamo.
Director and screenwriter: Paul Weitz
Self-described misanthrope Elle Reid has her protective bubble burst when her 18-year-old granddaughter, Sage, shows up needing help. The two of them go on a day-long journey that causes Elle to come to terms with her past and Sage to confront her future.
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Sam Elliott.
“I Am Michael”
Director: Justin Kelly, Screenwriters: Justin Kelly, Stacey Miller
The controversial true story of a gay activist who rejects his homosexuality and becomes a Christian pastor.
Cast: James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts.
“I'll See You in My Dreams”
Director: Brett Haley, Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
A sudden loss disrupts Carol's orderly life, propelling her into the dating world for the first time in 20 years. Finally living in the present tense, she finds herself swept up in not one, but two unexpected relationships that challenge her assumptions about what it means to grow old.
Cast: Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Malin Akerman, June Squibb, Rhea Perlman.
“Last Days in the Desert”
Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Garcia
Ewan McGregor is Jesus – and the Devil – in an imagined chapter from his 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis, setting himself up for a dramatic test. Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer, Tye Sheridan.
“Lila & Eve”
Director: Charles Stone III, Screenwriter: Patrick Gilfillan
Lila, a grief-stricken mother reeling from her son”s murder, attends a support group where she meets Eve, who urges her to take matters into her own hands to track down her son”s killers. They soon embark on a journey of revenge, but also recovery.
Cast: Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Shea Whigham, Julius Tennon, Ron Caldwell, Aml Ameen.
Directors and screenwriters: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden
Gerry is a talented poker player whose habit is getting the best of him. He convinces younger player Curtis to join him on a road trip, and they begin gambling their way towards a high-stakes game in New Orleans. During their journey, true motivations are revealed, and the two bond.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard, Robin Weigert.
Director: Noah Baumbach, Screenwriters: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is rescued from her solitude by her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke, an adventurous gal about town who entangles her in alluringly mad schemes. Mistress America is a comedy about dream-chasing, score-settling, makeshift families, and cat-stealing.
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke.
Director and screenwriter: Benson Lee
Seoul Searching is a comedy set in the '80s about a group of foreign-born Korean teenagers who meet at a Seoul summer camp to learn what it means to be Korean. The three boys, from the U.S., Mexico, and Germany, then meet three girls who rock their world.
Cast: Justin Chon, Jessika Van, In-pyo Cha, Teo Yoo, Esteban Ahn, Byul Kang.
“Sleeping With Other People”
Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland
Jake and Lainey impulsively lose their virginity to each other in college. When their paths cross twelve years later in NYC, they realize they both have become serial cheaters. Bonding over their chronic infidelity, they form a platonic friendship to support each other in their quests for healthy romantic relationships.
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet, Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne.
“Ten Thousand Saints”
Directors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman, Screenwriters: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Based on the acclaimed novel, Ten Thousand Saints follows three lost kids and their equally lost parents as they come of age in New York's East Village in the era of CBGB, yuppies, and the tinderbox of gentrification that exploded into the Tompkins Square Park Riot of 1988.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Emily Mortimer, Julianne Nicholson, Hailee Steinfeld, Emile Hirsch.
Director: Mora Stephens, Screenwriters: Mora Stephens, Joel Viertel
Sam Ellis is a man on the rise – a hot-shot federal prosecutor on the cusp of a bright political future. But what was meant to be a one-time experience with an escort turns into a growing addiction – a new demon threatening to destroy his life, family, and career.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Lena Headey, Richar Dreyfuss, Ray Winstone, John Cho, Dianna Agron.
The 2015 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 22 through Feb. 1, 2015. Look for complete coverage from Park City on HitFix.