At Sundance: Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll


Sundance showcases more than 125 movies. USA TODAY has found 10 that stand out.

Pretty Bird

Whom it's for: Fans of American Splendor and Dedication, also misanthropic science geeks.

The story: This comedy about a group of entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt stars Paul Giamatti (Sideways) as the surly aerospace engineer and Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) as the moneyman, out to relieve a multimillionaire of his cash in a deal that doesn't go up, up and away. "They have this kind of James Bond jet-pack, and it leads to complete mayhem as they try to steal it from each other," says Giamatti, who co-produced. "I play a fairly tightly wound guy. He's unemployed and feels he has never gotten his due as the kind of genius that he is, always screwed around by his other employees and cut out of the deal. … He slow-burns through the whole movie."

Of note: Features a real-life rocket-pack flight. "We found a guy who flies them," the actor says. "But it's incredibly dangerous."

The Wackness

Whom it's for: Children of the '90s, unethical psychiatrists.

The story: Set in 1994 amid the hip-hop immersion of high-school kids everywhere, Josh Peck (Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh) stars as a marijuana dealer who trades weed for therapy with his psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), before falling for the doctor's stepdaughter (Juno best friend Olivia Thirlby). "She is kind of a learning experience for him," says Thirlby. "He's really, really into her, and she's kind of not taking him quite as seriously. He learns the hard way that just because you're physically intimate doesn't mean you're going to be in love." Plus, she is weirded out by the boy's business deal with her stepdad. "She's endeared to Dr. Squires, but ultimately thinks he's kind of a joke," Thirlby says.

Of note: Mary-Kate Olsen and Method Man in cameo roles.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Whom it's for: Directionless college grads, lovelorn Steelers fans.

The story: Based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, this coming-of-age story chronicles the summer after college graduation for Art Bechstein (Jon Foster of The Door in the Floor). He's a confused son of a mobster who is infatuated with a stunning librarian (American Beauty's Mena Suvari) and befriends a drug-addicted thief, Cleveland (Garden State's Peter Sarsgaard), whom he must protect from his father's cronies. Meanwhile, he falls for both Cleveland and Cleveland's girlfriend, Jane (Sienna Miller). Art deals with a lot of stuff," says director Rawson Marshall Thurber, taking a somewhat serious turn from his goofy comedy Dodgeball. "Art is so enamored with Cleveland and Jane that he tumbles into these adventures with them, and it becomes dangerous."

Of note: A rare (and brief) appearance of the Steel City accent, which yinz gotta hear ta rilly buhleeve. "We have one character who does it, but it's blink and you miss it," Thurber says.

U2 3D

Whom it's for: Rock fans, especially those seeking a front-seat ticket for a 10th of the concert price.

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