Two Films For Philly Movie Fans at This Year’s Sundance Festival

This year’s Sundance Festival is in full swing out in Park City, Utah, where two Philly-centric films are enjoying some much-hyped screen time.

Mad Men star John Slattery makes his directorial debut in the film version of former Philadelphia Daily News columnist’s Pete Dexter’s 1983 novel God’s Pocket. The black comedy takes place in a fictional South Philly neighborhood called God’s Pocket, where a construction worker named Leon is killed in a tiff when a co-worker conks him on the head. Leon has such a miserable reputation around town that everyone involved swears it was an accident. His mother — played by Slattery’s delicious Mad Men booty call Christina Hendricks — is suspicious, so she sends her husband Mickey, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, out to search for clues.

Reviews haven’t been great. The Hollywood Reporter says the film “only partly succeeds in its aim to derive outrageous humor from its hardscrabble setting, ultimately playing like a movie by the Coen Brothers directed with one arm tied behind their backs. Theatrical outlook is iffy, although it could go over nicely as an offbeat home screen special attraction.” It’s getting a lot of buzz at Sundance, though, thanks to the A-list talent behind it.

Documentary Happy Valley was filmed in the year after Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest in 2011 on numerous counts of child sex abuse charges. The flick features interviews from a handful of people involved in the scandal, including Sandusky’s son, Matt, who told the Hollywood Reporter that he saw the film as an “opportunity to come forward and to explain myself, my role.” The film delves into some tough questions, like, “Were Sandusky’s activities an open secret in the town,” and it takes a crack at evaluating the Penn State football program’s willingness to cover up his actions. Philadelphia has the highest percentage of Penn State graduates in an major metro area in the nation, and the story was all over local press as a result, including this great feature by Bob Huber in Philly Mag. So chances are high this one will make it to a screen near you very soon.