ScreenCrave is back at Sundance Film Festival again with Brendan Walsh, Christie Ko and myself covering, in the somewhat freezing cold to bring your some of the best indie films of 2012. The schedule is packed with what looks like numerous amazing films with phenomenal filmmakers. One of our favorite Sundance veterans is Mark Duplass (Cyrus – 2010, Humpday – 2009, Puffy Chair – 2005) who is here with four, count ‘um, four films this year and there are many newcomers that I’m sure we’ll be saying “are the REAL filmmakers” in a week’s time.

So, to break it down, I’ve picked the top 5 films that I’m excited for this Sundance 2012, which was extremely challenging. Check out the list below… and be sure to check out Brendan’s Top Five Films To See At Sundance 2012 as well!

UPDATE: Watch Mali Elfman and Brandan Walsh go through their Top 5 Most Anticipated Sundance Films below:

5. Chasing Ice

Director: Jeff Orlowski
Screenwriter: Mark Monroe
Producers: Jeff Orlowski, Paula DuPré Pesmen, Jerry Aronson
Cinematographer: Jeff Orlowski

Synopsis: In this breathtakingly beautiful documentary, filmmaker Jeff Orlowski follows National Geographic photographer James Balog as he brings to life the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS)—a massive photography project that placed 30 cameras across three continents to gather visual evidence of the Earth’s melting ice.

Why I Like it: Paula DuPre Pressman, who produced the award winning documentary The Cove, is back with another poignant and important film.

4. Wish You Were Here

Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith
Screenwriter: Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price
Producers: Angie Fielder
Cinematographer: Jules O’Loughlin
Actors: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Antony Starr

Synopsis: Two expectant parents join their younger sister, Steph, and her new boyfriend, on an impromptu tropical getaway in Cambodia that goes terribly wrong when one of them disappears. After, the survivors attempt to return to their normal lives in Sydney, but their recovery begins to fall apart when a stinging truth about their time in Cambodia is revealed.

Why I Like it: Every year at Sundance I’m blown away by what up and coming Australian filmmakers bring to the table. They have a way of presenting raw, colorful, vibrant and emotional films from interesting perspectives, unlike filmmakers from almost anywhere else in the world. That joined with an amazing. The director, Kieran Darcy-Smith, who is more known for his acting in Animal Kingdom and The Cave, is premiering as a feature film director with a stunning cast. Can’t wait to see what they come up with!

3. Robot and Frank

Director: Jake Schreier
Screenwriter: Christopher Ford
Producers: Galt Niederhoffer, Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Lance Acord
Cinematographer: Matthew Lloyd
Actors: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Peter Saarsgard

Synopsis: Set sometime in the future, Robot & 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.

Why I Like it: First time feature filmmaker with a high concept idea, a character driven plot and one hell of a cast! Bit of comedy, bit of emotions, if done well, what’s not to be excited for?

2. Safety Not Guaranteed

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenwriter: Derek Connolly
Producers: Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf, Stephanie Langhoff, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Cinematographer: Benjamin Kasulke
Actors: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni

Synopsis: 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.

Why I Like it: Again, a high concept idea that revolves around character, but this time based on an actual true event that you may have seen sent to you in a mass e-mail a couple of years back. Plaza and Duplass, are both great comedians, with a subtle yet extremely effective delivery. I’ll likely see all of Duplass’ films and I didn’t want to put him on the list more than once, but it’ll be great to see him in his numerous films at the festival!

1. Red Lights

Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés
Producers: Adrián Guerra, Rodrigo Cortés
Cinematographer: Xavi Giménez
Actors: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones, Leonardo Sbaraglia

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.

Why I Like it: Time to get dark and dramatic! This is what Sundance is all about! One of my favorite, memories from Sundance 2010 was Rodrigo Cortes film Buried. He’s a phenomenal director, with a great eye for detail. It’s a shame he didn’t use his old cinematographer Eduard Grau, but I’m sure Xavi Giménez, best known for The Machinist will be able to capture Cortes vision.

That all coupled with Cillian Murphy leading the film with a phenomenal supporting cast including Elizabeth Olsen who blew audiences away with her performance last year in Martha Marcy May Marlene and I think we may have a winning combination!

Other Must See Films:

  • The Comedy
  • For Ellen
  • Nobody Walks
  • I’m Not a Hipster
  • Goats
  • Finding North
  • The Last Elvis

Watch Mali Elfman and Brandan Walsh go through their Top 5 Most Anticipated Sundance Films below:

Check back soon for reviews and more!