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MOVIES: Sundance Reveals Final 2015 Festival Films

Keanu Reeves stars in "Knock Knock." Photo credit: Eduardo Moreno

The final batch of feature-length films for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival has been announced – and the independent movies are chock-full of celebrity actors. The Premieres and Documentary Premieres categories were among the last to be announced. Though neither section is a competition category, films in the Premieres section of Sundance are typically among the most commercial titles of the festival.

This year 16 films make up the Premieres category. Cast members include Orlando Bloom, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Reynolds, Winona Ryder, Marcia Gay Harden, Viola Davis, James Franco, Emma Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Alfre Woodard, Jason Sudeikis, Ethan Hawke and Anna Kendrick. Many of the filmmakers in this category have premiered films at Sundance before.

John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival, says, “Filmmakers in the Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections do not shy away from controversial, challenging and provocative subject matter. Their work enrages, engages and entertains audiences, shining a light on issues and people we thought we knew.”

In fact, controversial films span these two categories. In the Premieres section audiences will find “Experimenter,” the true story of a social psychologist who tested peoples’ willingness to obey authority by using electric shock; “I Am Michael,” the true story of a gay activist who rejects his homosexuality and becomes a Christian pastor (starring James Franco); and “Last Days in the Desert,” an imagined chapter from Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and prayer where Ewan McGregor plays both Jesus and the Devil.

James Franco, Zachary Quinto & Emma Roberts star in the controversial "I Am Michael." Photo credit: Cara Howe.

In Documentary Premieres, controversial films include a profile of eight former members of the Church of Scientology (“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”); a startling exposé of rape crimes and their cover-ups on U.S. campuses (“The Hunting Ground”); and a documentary chronicling the rise and fall of the controversial Black Panther Party (“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”).

But these categories also offer other movie choices: both dramas and comedies. In the Premieres section audiences can catch “Lila & Eve,” starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez as two distraught mothers who team up to avenge their children’s murders. And festival-goers can pick from several comedies including “Don Verdean” – a comedy of faith and fraud where a biblical archaeologist attempts to find Holy Land relics (starring Sam Rockwell, who has two films at Sundance). Other Documentary Premieres include a history of hip-hop fashion (“Fresh Dressed”) and a journey through Kurt Cobain’s life (“Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck”).

Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez play mothers seeking justice in "Lila & Eve." Photo credit: Bob Mahoney

Since its first announcement last week, Sundance has also revealed films in the Spotlight, New Frontier, Special Events and Park City at Midnight categories. Spotlight consists of films from around the world that have already premiered before the festival. New Frontier champions films that explode traditional storytelling, often creating a crossroads with art and media technology. The new Special Events category showcases episodic work, short films and live performances. And Park City at Midnight features horror flicks and unruly films that audiences can catch at midnight showings.

Trevor Groth, Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival, said, “This year's Park City at Midnight selections have much to offer genre enthusiasts. With everything from futuristic fantasies to paranormal nightmares, it's an all-out trip to the cinematic edge.”

Park City at Midnight includes a Kevin Bacon-helmed flick about two 10-year-old boys stealing an abandoned cop car (“Cop Car”) and a Keanu Reeves picture where two beautiful young girls turn a married man’s fantasy into his worst nightmare (“Knock Knock”).

Kevin Bacon's sheriff takes on two young boys in "Cop Car." Photo credit: Jon Watts.

In the New Frontier category viewers can see “Station to Station,” composed of 60 one-minute films featuring different artists, musicians and perspectives. Spotlight films include “Aloft,” starring Jennifer Connelly as a struggling mother who encounters the son she abandoned 20 years earlier. And Special Events entries include “Misery Loves Comedy,” which highlights actors and comedians like Tom Hanks, Larry David and Jimmy Fallon reflecting on the trials of turning laughter into a profession.

Sundance will also feature a Sundance Kids category for the second year in a row to offer younger movie-goers an independent offering.

The 2015 Sundance Film Festival will showcase 118 feature-length films representing 29 countries. These films were selected from over 4,000 feature-length entries. The festival also presents short film programs chosen out of more than 8,000 submissions.

The upcoming festival runs from January 22 to February 1 in Park City, Utah. Screenings are also shown in surrounding Utah cities.

See the first batch of Sundance films announced in the competition categories.

About the Author - Tonya Papanikolas
Tonya Papanikolas is an entertainment journalist who loves covering the Sundance Film Festival. She spent more than 10 years as a broadcast news anchor/reporter and now does everything from hosting to writing. She covers television, movies and entertainment news for SpoilerTV. She also writes SpoilerTV reviews.