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Premieres, docs and dramas to watch at Sundance

  • Article by: SANDY COHEN
  • Associated Press
  • January 16, 2014 - 3:05 AM

PARK CITY, Utah — Because only the most dedicated (and sleepless) cinephiles could see all 117 feature-length movies playing at the Sundance Film Festival, which begins Thursday, here's a short list of the U.S. dramas, documentaries and premieres expected to generate buzz over the event's 10 days:

— "Camp X-Ray": Kristen Stewart leaves "Twilight" and "Snow White" behind in this drama by first-time writer-director Peter Sattler. Stewart plays a recent military recruit forced to navigate fuzzy ethical lines as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, where she forms an unconventional friendship with one of the detainees.

— "Dear White People": Writer-director Justin Simien makes his feature-film debut with this sharp, playful satire of race in contemporary America that follows a bi-racial student at an Ivy League school who hosts a radio program called, "Dear White People."

— "Fed Up": Katie Couric and filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig explore the American obesity epidemic in this documentary that examines the effects and pitfalls of the dietary guidelines issued 30 years ago by the U.S. government through the lives of three obese kids struggling to lose weight.

— "Finding Fela": Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney turns his lens toward Fela Kuti and the hit Broadway show he inspired, "FELA!" Gibney intersperses interviews from throughout Kuti's career with footage from the stage show in this portrait of a pioneering musician.

— "Frank": Frank, who hides himself inside a large, fake head, leads an avant garde rock band in this offbeat comedy about a musician in search of himself. Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal star.

— "Happy Valley": Director Amir Bar-Lev (2010's "The Tillman Story") explores identity, guilt and redemption in this documentary premiere about the effect of Jerry Sandusky's arrest had on Happy Valley, the community of Penn State University.

— "Laggies": Lynn Shelton directs this coming-of-age story, which stars Keira Knightley as a perpetually adolescent 28-year-old who panics when her boyfriend proposes and hides out in the home of her 16-year-old friend (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her handsome, single dad (Sam Rockwell).

— "Life After Beth": Part love story, part zombie flick, this comedy tracks what happens when Zack's beloved girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza), unexpectedly dies, then even more unexpectedly comes back to life.

— "Love is Strange": John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play longtime lovers who finally marry after 39 years together, only to find themselves faced with new living arrangements when one partner is fired from his job.

— "Low Down": John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Peter Dinklage and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea tell the story of Jazz pianist Joe Albany, whose personal demons challenge his deep love for his young daughter.

— "Skeleton Twins": "Saturday Night Live" alumni Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader reunite on the big screen as estranged siblings forced to come together after a crisis.

— "They Came Together": Fresh off her Golden Globe win for comedy actress, Amy Poehler stars opposite Paul Rudd in this tribute to the American romantic comedy by writer and director David Wain.

© 2014 Star Tribune