Here's a list of Sundance films that are either directed by or starring Hollywood's finest:
3 Backyards [drama]
Cast: Edith Falco, Embeth Davidtz (Fracture), Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut)
The Gist: "A trio of brief, yet potentially life-altering, adventures unfold on one seemingly normal autumn day."
Elaboration: "In a complacent suburban neighborhood, an emotionally troubled businessman (Koteas) wanders around his hometown while waiting for a delayed flight, a starstruck housewife (Falco) embarks on an peculiar trip when she gives her famous neighbor a ride to the local ferry, and an eight-year-old girl takes a wrong turn on the way to school and finds herself in an unexpected adult realm."
Directed by Diego Luna
Plot: "Adorable little Abel has problems in the head. His mother collects him from the psychiatric ward hoping not to upset him. She carefully discusses with his teacher how to deal with the absence of Abel’s father. The entire family is on pins and needles, worrying about Abel breaking down. But things take an interesting turn when the little boy emphatically carves out a new role for himself in the family—he decides to become the father of the house. Abel transforms the fear his family has about his episodes into the respect due to the head of the household. Oddly enough, it works! That is, until a stranger shows up at the breakfast table, claiming to be Abel’s father."
Blue Valentine [drama]
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, and Mike Vogel
The Gist: It's "an intimate, shattering portrait of a disintegrating marriage."
Elaboration: "On the far side of a once-passionate romance, Cindy (Williams) and Dean (Gosling) are married with a young daughter. Hoping to save their marriage, they steal away to a theme hotel. We then encounter them years earlier, when they met and fell in love—full of life and hope. Moving fluidly between these two time periods, Blue Valentine unfolds like a cinematic duet whose refrain asks, where did their love go?"
Cast: Ryan Reynolds
Plot: "After his convoy is attacked by a group of insurgents, Paul Conroy (Reynolds), a U.S. citizen working as a contract driver in Iraq, awakens to find himself buried alive inside a coffin. His captors have given him nothing but a lighter and a cell phone, which he must use to find some way of meeting their five-million-dollar ransom demand. Faced with limited oxygen and unlimited panic, Paul finds himself in a tension-filled race against time to escape this claustrophobic deathtrap before it’s too late."
The Company Men [drama]
Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, and Rosemary DeWitt
Plot: "One of the first casualties of a corporate downsize is Bobby Walker (Affleck), a hot-shot sales executive who is living the idyllic life—complete with two kids and a mortgaged picket fence. His boss, and founder of the company, doesn’t take Bobby’s severance well, and he storms into the boardroom to demand a reprieve of the severe measures. He learns quickly that some choices are out of his hands, and this is only the beginning. We embark on a journey that is all too familiar in today’s recessionary economy: one that will test friendships, loyalties, and family bonds."
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Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and Catherine Keener
Plot: "Alone and acutely depressed, having just learned of his ex-wife’s wedding plans, John (Reilly) can’t believe his luck when he encounters beautiful, charming Molly (Tomei) at a party. The two get along famously and launch a passionate affair, until Molly’s 21-year-old son, Cyrus (Hill), enters the scene. Will Molly and Cyrus’s deep and idiosyncratic bond leave room for John?"
The Dry Land [war drama]
Cast: America Ferrara, Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Ryan O’Nan ("The Unusuals"), Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, June Diane Raphael (Year One)
The Gist: "James (O'Nan) returns from Iraq to face a new battle—reintegrating into his small-town life in Texas."
Elaboration: "His wife (Ferrera), his mother (Leo), and his friend (Ritter) provide support, but they can’t fully understand the pain and suffering he feels since his tour of duty ended. Lonely, James reconnects with an army buddy (Valderrama), who provides him with compassion and camaraderie during his battle to process his experiences in Iraq. But their reunion also exposes the different ways that war affects people—at least on the surface."
The Extra Man [comedy]
Cast: Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, John C. Reilly, Katie Holmes
Plot: "Louis Ives (Dano), a lonely dreamer who fancies himself the hero of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, leaves his job and heads to Manhattan to become a writer. He rents a room in the ramshackle apartment of Henry Harrison (Kline), a wildly eccentric, but brilliant, playwright who happens to be an “extra man”—a social escort for the wealthy widows of New York’s high society. The two form an unexpected bond."
Get Low [dramedy]
Cast: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black (Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift)
Plot: "Felix (Duvall) is a miserable old hermit who has lived in an isolated cabin for the past 38 years. He catches word that an old friend has passed away and hatches a plan to throw himself a “funeral party.” He even wants the townsfolk, who either despise him or fear him, to attend the party and share all the crazy stories they may have heard about creepy old Felix. Is he a fugitive? A murderer? Or something worse?"
Directed by Josh Radnor (Ted on CBS’s "How I Met Your Mother")
Cast: Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Malin Akerman (Couples Retreat and 27 Dresses), and Tony Hale ("Arrested Development")
The Gist: "Six New Yorkers juggle love, friendship, and the keenly challenging specter of adulthood."
Elaboration: "Sam Wexler (Radnor) is a struggling writer who’s having a particularly bad day. When a young boy gets separated from his family on the subway, Sam makes the questionable decision to bring the child back to his apartment and thus begins a rewarding, yet complicated, friendship. Sam’s life revolves around his friends—Annie (Akerman), whose self-image keeps her from commitment; Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) and Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan), a couple whose possible move to Los Angeles tests their relationship; and Mississippi (Mara), a cabaret singer who catches Sam’s eye."
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, John Carroll Lynch
The Gist: "Hesher is the story of a family struggling to deal with loss and the anarchist who helps them do it—in a very unexpected way."
Elaboration: "TJ (Devin Brochu) is 13 years old. Two months ago, his mom was killed in an accident, leaving TJ and his grieving dad to move in with grandma (Piper Laurie) to pick up the pieces. Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) is a loner. He hates the world—and everyone in it. He has long, greasy hair and homemade tattoos. He likes fire and blowing things up. He lives in his van—until he meets TJ.
HIGH School [comedy]
Cast: Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, Matt Bush (Adventureland), Sean Marquette (Chris's little brother), Colin Hanks
Plot: "So it’s the end of the school year, and smarmy Principal Gordon (Chiklis) has suddenly instituted a zero-tolerance crusade against his nemesis, the reviled marijuana. A mandatory drug test for all students is to be administered, failure of which will result in immediate expulsion. Normally, this would be of no consequence to straight-arrow valedictorian Henry Burke (Bush), except he just tried ganja for the very first time. With his college scholarship hanging in the balance, Burke begrudgingly teams up with charismatic pothead Travis Breaux (Marquette) to do the only thing they can think of to neutralize this threat—get the entire student body stoned."
Holy Rollers [crime drama]
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland and Adventureland), Justin Bartha (The Hangover), Ari Graynor (Whip It and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), rapper Q-Tip
The Gist: "Inspired by actual events, Holy Rollers uses the incredible story of Hasidic Jews smuggling Ecstasy in the late ’90s as a backdrop to examine the difference between faith and “blind” faith."
Elaboration: "Sam Gold (Eisenberg), an insulated Hasid on the cusp of manhood, is frustrated by the constraints of his beliefs and his father’s poor business decisions. When Sam is presented with an opportunity to make some real money smuggling Ecstasy between Amsterdam and New York, he cautiously accepts it—and quickly finds himself seduced by the allure of the secular world. Caught between life as a smuggler and the path back to God, Sam and his worlds begin to unravel."
Cast: James Franco, David Strathairn (The Bourne Ultimatum), John Hamm ("Mad Men"), Mary-Louise Parker ("Weeds"), Jeff Daniels, Treat Williams ("Everwood")
The Gist: "It’s San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial."
Elaboration: "Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg (Franco) to find his true voice as an artist; society’s reaction (the obscenity trial); and mind-expanding animation that echoes the startling originality of the poem itself. All three coalesce in a genre-bending hybrid that brilliantly captures a pivotal moment—the birth of a counterculture."
Jack Goes Boating [romantic comedy]
Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan ("The Wire"), John Ortiz (Fast and Furious)
Plot: "Jack (Hoffman) and Connie (Ryan) are two single people who on their own might continue to recede into the anonymous background of the city, but in each other begin to find the courage and desire to pursue their budding relationship. In contrast, the couple who brought them together, Clyde (Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), are confronting the unresolved issues in their rocky marriage."
The Killer Inside Me [dramatic thriller]
Cast: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson
Plot: "Based on the novel by legendary pulp writer Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me tells the story of handsome, charming, unassuming small-town deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Affleck), who has a bunch of problems. Women problems. Law-enforcement problems. And an ever-growing pile of murder victims in his west Texas jurisdiction. All the while Lou manages to remain his stoic self. However, as evidence is discovered over the course of the investigation, suspicion begins to fall on Lou. But in this savage and bleak universe, nothing is ever what it seems."
Mother & Child [drama]
Cast: Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot: "Destiny plays a part in the lives of three women—a 50-year-old physical therapist, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years earlier, and a woman looking to adopt her first child. In this exploration of one of nature’s most basic instincts, their pasts intertwine, inform, and evolve to reveal their innermost desires."
Night Catches Us [dramatic romance]
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Jamie Hector (Max Payne), Wendell Pierce ("The Wire")
The Gist: "In the summer of ’76, as President Jimmy Carter pledges to give government back to the people, tensions run high in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood where the Black Panthers once flourished."
Elaboration: When Marcus (Mackie) returns—having bolted years earlier—his homecoming isn’t exactly met with fanfare. His former movement brothers blame him for an unspeakable betrayal. Only his best friend’s widow, Patricia (Washington), appreciates Marcus’s predicament, which both unites and paralyzes them. As Patricia’s daughter compels the two comrades to confront their past, history repeats itself in dangerous ways."
Please Give [comedy]
Cast: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steele (Spanglish)
Plot: "Kate (Keener) and Alex (Platt), a married couple who run a successful business reselling estate-sale furniture, live in Manhattan with their teenage daughter, Abby (Steele). Wanting to expand their two-bedroom apartment, they buy the unit next door, planning to knock the walls out. However, before doing so, they have to wait for the occupant, Andra, a cranky elderly woman, to die. The wait becomes complicated when the family develops relationships with Andra and her two grown granddaughters."
The Romantics [romantic dramedy]
Cast: Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel ("Las Vegas" and When in Rome), Anna Paquin ("True Blood"), Adam Brody ("The O.C." and Jennifer's Body), Malin Ackerman (Couples Retreat and 27 Dresses), Elijah Wood, Candice Bergen
Plot: "Seven close friends—all members of a tight, eclectic college clique—reconvene at a deluxe seaside wedding to watch two of their own tie the knot. Lila (Paquin) is the golden girl preparing for her dream wedding, and Laura (Holmes) is Lila’s maid of honor. Once college roommates, Laura and Lila have been best friends since their first meeting on campus, but Lila’s groom, Tom (Duhamel), is the man they have long rivaled over. Promiscuity and hi-jinks abound as the drunken friends frolic in the nearby surf and revel in the nostalgic haze of their glory days."
The Runaways [biopic]
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Alia Shawkat (Whip It), Tatum O’Neal
Plot: "Of all the bands to come out of the 1970s Los Angeles music scene, The Runaways are by far the most uniquely fascinating. This is partially due to their music, but more so to the fact that they were teenage girls whose wild and reckless lifestyle was the stuff of legend. Focusing on the duo of guitarist/vocalist Joan Jett (Stewart) and lead vocalist Cherie Currie (Fanning) as they navigate a rocky road of touring and recordlabel woes, the film chronicles the band’s formation as well as their meteoric rise under the malevolent eye of an abusive manager."
Cast: Shiloh Fernandez ("United States of Tara" and "Jericho"), Ashley Greene (Twilight saga), Heath Freeman ("Raising the Bar"), Taylor Handley ("Hidden Palms"), AJ Buckley ("CSI: NY")
The Gist: "It’s 1983, and Skateland, the roller rink and local hangout of a small town, is becoming a fading memory of an earlier time, when disco and roller-skating were king."
Elaboration: "The party scene is getting stale, and 19-year-old Ritchie’s (Fernandez) romantic life is as cloudy as his future. He struggles to make sense of it all, and decisions do not come easily to the carefree young man. When tragedy strikes his friends and family, Ritchie must face the music—and make the biggest decision of his life."
Splice [sci-fi horror thriller]
Cast: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead), David Hewlett ("Stargate: Atlantis")
Plot: Clive (Brody) and Elsa (Polley) are young, brilliant, and ambitious. The new animal species they engineered has made them rebel superstars of the scientific world. In secret, they introduce human DNA into the experiment. The result is something that is greater than the sum of its parts: a female animal/ human hybrid that may be a step up on the evolutionary ladder. They think they may have created the perfect organism—until she makes a final shocking metamorphosis that could destroy them—and the rest of humanity.
Sympathy for Delicious [dramedy]
Directed by Mark Ruffalo
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Laura Linney
The Gist: "Recently paralyzed DJ “Delicious” Dean (Christopher Thornton) battles the mean streets of Los Angeles, struggling to survive in his wheelchair."
Elaboration: "Yearning to walk again, and fighting to spark the ashes that were once his career, Dean
turns to the dubious world of faith healing and gets much more than he bargained for. Lured by easy money and the heat of fame, Dean sells out to an unstable rock band, stomping the dreams of so many who see him as their only hope. World-famous DJ “Delicious” must now tackle his own worst demon—himself—if he is ever to conquer his “handicap” and find true healing."
Teenage Paparazzi [documentary]
Written and directed by Adrian Grenier
Cast: Adrian Grenier (HBO’s "Entourage"), Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Whoopi Goldberg, Paris Hilton, Perez Hitlon, Kevin Connelly, Lindsay Lohan, Eva Longoria Parker, Mario Lopez, Rosie O'Donnell
Plot: "When precocious 13-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk snapped a photo of celebrity Adrian Grenier, little did he know his life was about to change. Turning the tables on the juvenile paparazzo, Grenier stepped on the other side of the lens in an attempt to mentor a teenager obsessed with the lure of the Hollywood lifestyle. Grenier develops a meaningful relationship with his camera-clicking young friend as he attempts to reconcile their mutual exploitation. Indeed, Grenier puts himself on the line here, trying to make sense of his own recently acquired fame."
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [comedy]
Cast: Tyler Labine ("Reaper"), Alan Tudyk ("Dollhouse"), Katrina Bowden ("30 Rock"), Jesse Moss (The Uninvited)
Plot: "Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine), two hillbillies heading to their “fixer-upper” cabin for some relaxin’, discover they ain’t alone in them woods. They encounter an SUV full of vacationing college kids, and Dale unintentionally creeps them out. But later, as he and Tucker are fishing, Dale rescues one of them—the pretty blond Alison (Bowden)—after she falls into the lake. Assuming she’s been captured, the indomitably preppy college kids rally to find her."
Cast: Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Kiefer Sutherland, Ellen Barkin
Plot: "Based on the critically acclaimed novel by Nick McDonell, written when he was only 17 years old, Twelve is a chilling chronicle of privileged urban adolescence on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Set over spring break, the story follows White Mike (Crawford), a kid with unlimited potential, who has dropped out of his senior year of high school and sells marijuana to his rich, spoiled peers. When his cousin is brutally murdered in an East Harlem project, and his best friend is arrested for the crime, White Mike is hurled on a collision course with his own destiny."
Welcome to the Rileys [drama]
Cast: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo
The Gist: "Trauma transforms us. Years after their teenage daughter’s death, Lois and Doug Riley, an upstanding Indiana couple, are frozen by estranging grief."
Elaboration: "She (Leo) isolates herself in their immaculate suburban home. He (Gandolfini) philanders with a local waitress, anesthetizing pain with easy passion. When he loses his mistress to cancer, Doug, beset by further heartache, escapes to New Orleans on a business trip. Compelled by urgencies he doesn’t understand, he insinuates himself into the life of an underage hooker (Stewart), becoming her platonic guardian. Meanwhile, Lois summons all of her remaining force to overcome agoraphobia and venture south to reclaim her marriage."