Sundance Film Festival 2014: Whiplash, Happy Christmas, and Five Other Movies to Watch For

Entertainment Jan. 28, 2014 AT 8:20PM
Miles Teller Us Weekly film critic Mara Reinstein picks seven standout movies from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, including the award-winning Whiplash, starring Miles Teller Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Miles Teller is poised for superstardom. The That Awkward Moment actor is earning raves for his performance in Whiplash, which debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah -- and he's not the only one to watch. More than 100 feature films were screened at the annual event, but these seven, chosen by Us Weekly film critic Mara Reinstein, are the best of the bunch.

Whiplash

The spectacular wow: This riveting story of a jazz drummer (Miles Teller) pushed to perfection by his abusive music school instructor (a searing JK Simmons) never breaks its rapid-fire tempo. Just wait until you see the incredible Teller pound away on the instrument and work his fingers to the bloody bone. (P.S. The film won the two biggest prizes at the festival.) 

PHOTOS: Celebs at Sundance

Happy Christmas

Sometimes, the smallest of movies provide the biggest emotional payoffs. This micro-budgeted, 78-minute dramedy -- in which an aimless 27-year-old (Anna Kendrick) moves in with her stable older brother, his wife and their adorable toddler -- is a fine example.

Life Itself

Just months before he died, esteemed film critic Roger Ebert gave the thumbs up to allowing cameras chronicle his cruel battle with thyroid and salivary gland cancer. The result is a moving and unflinching documentary about an ordinary Midwestern newspaper man who opined his way to a wonderful life.

PHOTOS: Stars' big breaks

Skeleton Twins

Bill Hader -- yes, Stefon himself -- is a dramatic revelation as a sardonic suicidal actor. Reunited equally lost, estranged twin sister (Kristen Wiig), the two gingerly tackle their issues together. They bond while lip-syncing a certain 1987 No. 1 pop hit!

Boyhood

Two divorces (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) raise their kids in Texas in a low-key epic. The fascinating hook: Director Richard Linklater filmed all the actors for weeks at a time over a span of 12 years. It must be seen to be believed.

PHOTOS: Breakout stars

Laggies 

Let’s agree that Keira Knightley is not the obvious choice to play a 28-year-old suburbanite stuck in permanent adolescence. But the actress delights in a sharply observed coming of age comedy. Chloe Grace Moretz (her angsty teen pal) and Sam Rockwell (her grown-up love interest) add to the film’s breezy charm.

Wish I Was Here

Zach Braff’s controversial Kickstarter project has spawned a big-hearted, deeply personal gem. Aiden (Braff) is a struggling L.A. actor whose cloudy portrait of domesticity involves a loving wife (Kate Hudson), two kids, a dad dying of cancer and a mildew-filled pool. Braff, also the director and co-writer, delves into life’s biggest questions with humor and pathos.

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