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Five movies to watch for at Sundance 2012

Robert De Niro in "Red Lights."

Robert De Niro in "Red Lights." Credit: Robert De Niro in "Red Lights."

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival kicks off in Park City, Utah, Thursday, and unless you're one of those lucky moviegoers who can afford the expensive journey from New York to the Wasatch Mountains, you're probably wondering why you should care.

The answer: The festival traditionally offers the first look at many of the most significant movies coming out in the year ahead. It's hard to accurately gauge what will hit before the fest begins, but we've parsed the roster to come up with some of the films that we think are likely to catch on in Park City and beyond.

'Red Lights'
"Red Lights" is a film about investigators of paranormal hoaxes, starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro, who plays a blind psychic. It sounds like a film that belongs in multiplexes, not at Sundance, so we're intrigued by its presence in Park City. Could it be different from the Hollywood norm?

'Lay the Favorite'
After 21 years, director Stephen Frears ("The Grifters") returns to Sundance with this comedy about a cocktail waitress (Rebecca Hall) who is swept up in the world of Las Vegas sports gambling. Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn are among the big-name actors who will presumably be given the chance to journey outside their comfort zones here.

'Shadow Dancer'
Director James Marsh ("Man on Wire") takes a crack at narrative filmmaking with this IRA drama, in which a radicalized Belfast mother (Andrea Riseborough) becomes a mole for British intelligence. Marsh is a great director, and it's been a long time since we've seen a top-notch film about the Troubles. Clive Owen co-stars.

'Red Hook Summer'
Spike Lee gets back to his low-budget, localized roots with this look at a young boy from Atlanta spending the summer in Red Hook. The movie promises to be a return to form for Lee, who has been a more prolific Knicks fan than filmmaker in recent years. Starring Clarke Peters.

While it's a mistake to automatically lump all such films together, this movie about bridesmaids taking part in a wild bachelorette party could be the next best thing to that "Bridesmaids" sequel that may or may not get made with Kristen Wiig. Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and Kirsten Dunst star in this one.

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