Penn appears, with teased-out hair and glam makeup, in "This Must Be the Place." He plays a retired rock star hunting for the Nazi war criminal who executed his father. Frances McDormand and Judd Hirsch also star. The movie is directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, who co-wrote with Umberto Contarello. The movie, which surprised audiences at the Cannes Film Festival last May, will screen in Sundance's Spotlight section.
Also in the Spotlight section is the Norwegian drama "Oslo, August 31," the story of a young recovering drug addict (Anders Danielsen Lie). The man, in a single day, has a job interview and meets up with old friends and explores a deep existential crisis. It's directed by Joachim Trier, who adapted Pierre Drieu La Rochelle's novel with co-writer Eskil Vogt.
Lastly, in the Park City at Midnight program, there's "John Dies at the End," whose title is sort of a spoiler. It tells of two college dropouts, John (Rob Mayes) and Dave (Chase Williamson), who are humanity's only hope when it's discovered that the latest designer drug, Soy Sauce, is actually part of an alien-invasion plan. The cast includes Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown ("Cowboys & Aliens") and Glynn Turman ("Super 8"). Based on a David Wong novel, it's written and directed by B-movie king Don Coscarelli, whose past films include the "Phantasm" series, "The Beastmaster" and "Bubba Ho-Tep."
The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan 19-29 in Park City, and at venues in Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance resort.
- Sean P. Means