Way out West, 2010 is shaping up to be the Sundance Film Festival's Year of the Blonds - Joan Rivers ("Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work"), Valerie Plame ("Countdown to Zero"), Philip Seymour Hoffman (making his directorial debut with "Jack Goes Boating") and, of course, Robert Redford, who always manages to make an appearance, if only to remind people what his independent film festival - which opens Thursday - is supposed to be all about.
Redford, founder of the Sundance Institute and guiding light of the going-on-three-decades-old fest, will be participating Jan. 28 on a panel after a screening of "The Shock Doctrine," the Michael Winterbottom-directed adaptation of the Naomi Klein book, which is just one of a provocative lineup of political movies on tap for the thousands expected in Park City, Utah, this week.
"The Mormon Proposition," for instance, examines the Utah-based church's entanglement in California's gay-marriage fight; "12th and Delaware" takes on abortion, and the aforementioned "Countdown to Zero" targets the Wild West status of global nuclear weapons.
On the lighter side, "Cane Toads: The Conquest" is the 3-D feature version of Mark Lewis' cult fave about the loathsome amphibians' march across Australia. Katie Holmes does double duty in "The Romantics" - shot on the North Fork - and "The Extra Man" (partly shot on Long Island, as well). And Michael Chiklis stars in "High School," as an unctuous principal whose zero-tolerance pot policy creates havoc in the hallways.
The festival runs through Jan. 31.