The Sundance Film Festival has become known as a place where little movies (and the people who make them) can find recognition. This year, there are quite a few to anticipate, with enough star power to attract the attention of most movie mavens.
The festival, which runs Jan. 19 through 29 in Park City, Utah, will open with the screening of "Friends With Money," written and directed by Nicole Holofcener and featuring an ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Scott Caan, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand.
The closing film on Jan. 27 will be "Alpha Dog," written and directed by Nick Cassavetes and starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Ben Foster, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone. The story is inspired by true events and the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a suburban drug dealer who became one of the youngest men ever on the FBI's most wanted list.
Other festival highlights are expected to include the Opening Night Gala in Salt Lake City Jan. 20, featuring the U.S. premiere of "Kinky Boots," directed by Julian Jarrold and starring Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nick Frost and Sarah-Jane Potts. It's a romantic comedy about a small town shoe factory where people find new ways to manufacture their product to survive and adapt.
To showcase the diversity of contemporary cinema, the Sundance Film Festival offers 17 selections of the latest work from established directors and world premieres of highly anticipated films.
"A Little Trip To Heaven," Iceland/U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Baltasar Kormakur) — A husband and wife tangle with an investigator over her dead brother's million-dollar insurance policy.
"Alpha Dog," U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Nick Cassavetes) — A drama inspired by the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a suburban drug dealer who became one of the youngest men ever to be placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List.
"Art School Confidential," U.S. (Director: Terry Zwigof; Screenwriter: Daniel Clowes) — Believing that art school will bring him success and the girl of his dreams, an untalented young man becomes embroiled in a murder that makes him a celebrity.
"Cargo," Spain/UK (Director: Clive Gordon; Screenwriter: Paul Laverty) — After getting mixed up in trouble while traveling through Africa, a young backpacker stows away on a Europe-bound cargo ship filled with mysteries.
"The Darwin Awards," U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Finn Taylor) — A forensic detective and an insurance claims officer investigate a potential winner of a Darwin Award which honors "those who accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways."
"Don't Come Knocking," Germany/U.S (Director: Wim Wenders; Screenwriter: Sam Shephard) — A washed-up and disillusioned Western movie star returns home, where he reluctantly faces elements of his past and an entire life that he had missed.
"Friends With Money," U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Nicole Holofcener) — A drama about three married women, their husbands, and their lone single friend.
"Kinky Boots," U.K. (Director: Julian Jarrold ; Screenwriter: Geoff Dean/Tim Firth) — In an effort to save his father's small-town shoe factory, a man finds an unlikely ally in Lola, a brassy cabaret singer.
"Little Miss Sunshine," U.S. (Directors: Johnathan Dayton, Valerie Faris; Screenwriter: Michael Arndt) — A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.
"Lucky Number Slevin," U.S. (Director: Paul McGuigan; Screenwriter: Jason Smilovic ) — A case of mistaken identity lands a man in the middle of a murder being plotted by one of New York City's crime bosses.
"Neil Young Heart of Gold," U.S. (Director: Jonathan Demme) — A musical portrait of icon Neil Young, shot over a two-night performance at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
"The Illusionist," U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Neil Burger) — In turn-of-the-century Vienna, a magician uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.
"The Night Listener," U.S. (Director: Patrick Stettner; Screenwriter: Armistead Maupin/Terry Anderson/Patrick Stettner) — In the midst of a crumbling relationship, a radio show host begins speaking to his biggest fan, a young boy, via the telephone. But when questions about the boy's identity arise, the host's life is thrown into chaos.
"The Science of Sleep," France/U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Michel Gondry) — A man held captive by the people in his dreams tries to wake himself up and take control of his own imaginings.
"The Secret Life of Words," Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Isabel Coixet) — A nurse forgoes her first holiday in years, opting to travel to a remote oil rig where she cares for a man suffering from severe burns.
"Thank You For Smoking," U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Jason Reitman) — Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, who manages "spin" on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his 12-year-old son.
"This Film Is Not Yet Rated," U.S. (Director: Kirby Dick ) — A breakthrough investigation into Hollywood's best-kept secret: the MPAA film ratings system and its profound impact on American culture.