Sundance 2019: The Rock, Zac Efron, Demi Moore among stars on fest screen
Heavyweight documentaries on Harvey Weinstein and Michael Jackson are among the highlights of this year's film festival.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Penetrating documentaries, horror chillers and A-list stars will be some of the hallmarks of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
The festival kicks off on Friday as Hollywood hitmakers and indie creators turn up in Park City, Utah, to watch movies and make deals in the snow. Read on for a preview of the films set to make waves this year.
Amazon has already won an Oscar. Netflix is nominated for best picture this year. It's safe to say the streaming services are power players in the movie industry, and several Sundance films will show up to stream soon. That includes Paddleton, produced by mumblecore veterans the Duplass brothers. In this Netflix black comedy, Mark Duplass and Ray Romano play misfit neighbours shaken up when one of them gets cancer.
Heavyweight documentaries dominate the festival. The movie industry takes a long hard look at itself in Untouchable, an examination of the rise and fall of movie mogul and accused sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein's run of indie hits was inextricably interlinked with the history of Sundance, which could make this uncomfortable viewing for some festival-goers.
Another documentary, Leaving Neverland, talks to people claiming to have been sexually abused by Michael Jackson. The late pop star's estate and fans have denounced HBO and Channel 4 who produced the two-part, four-hour film.
Political firebrands and best-selling writers are profiled in Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins, Where's My Roy Cohn? and Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire. Steve Bannon is profiled in The Brink, while Knock Down the House casts a vote for a new era as it follows new political candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Technology is also under the microscope in Park City. The Great Hack exposes the inner workings of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that sucked in Facebook users across the globe. And another scandal is uncovered in The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, which looks into the fraud behind blood-testing company Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes.
On a lighter note, at Sundance no one can hear you scream about how much you love the Alien movies. Memory: The Origins of Alien is a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration and influences behind Ridley Scott's classic sci-fi shocker, drawing on Greek and Egyptian mythologies, the art of Francis Bacon and the twisted vision of artist H.R. Giger.
Fact from fiction
True stories will also be big in fictional form, with not one but two films highlighting political whistleblowers of recent years. The Report stars Adam Driver and delves into the revelation of CIA interrogation methods, while Official Secrets sees Keira Knightley headline dirty dealings leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Another Netflix entry is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Written, directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, it's based on the life of William Kamkwamba, a teenager in Malawi who cobbled together a solution to save his family and village from famine.
Last year Hereditary was a standout of the festival, and there's plenty of horrifying horror movies in the 2019 lineup.
Kiersey Clemons is a castaway menaced by a malevolent force on a solitary island in Sweetheart. It's produced by Jason Blum, the producer behind hits like Get Out, Glass and the Purge movies. He also produced Relive, in which David Oyelowo gets a phone call from his murdered family. Spooky!
I Am Mother stars Rose Byrne and Hilary Swank in a dystopian sci-fi chiller following a teenage girl raised by robots. Another teenage girl is in trouble in Share, expanded from a short film by director and screenwriter Pippa Bianco. The teenager at the centre of the story discovers a disturbing video from a night she doesn't remember, with chilling results.
Little Monsters is a zombie movie with a touch of class -- a school class, that is, as teacher Lupita Nyong'o tries to protect her junior charges from the undead. In Wounds, Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson unravel after finding a phone left behind at a bar.
The festival also includes storytelling in all kinds of multimedia form, including new TV shows and virtual reality experiences. We'll being you reviews and features from Park City, so keep it CNET.