Picks and Pans Review: Sundance Film Festival

updated 02/05/2007 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/05/2007 01:00AM

>Every year, Hollywood hits Park City, Utah, to check out a bumper crop of new indie movies. Here are some of the most buzzed-about films at this year's festival (for more on Sundance, see page 58).

HOUNDDOG Perhaps the most talked-about Sundance entry is a tedious southern gothic yarn starring 12-year-old Dakota Fanning. Even before its debut, the film was generating heat over a scene in which Fanning's character is raped by an older boy. Fear not, this isn't cheap exploitation: The rape scene is handled with restraint, and the movie deals with the topic of sexual assault in a sensitive manner.

THE SAVAGES Portraying bickering siblings forced to care for their ailing, elderly father, Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman give enormously engaging performances in this amusing, beautifully nuanced film from director-writer Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills).

GRACE IS GONE In a topical drama, John Cusack gives a heart-tugging performance as a man who can't bring himself to tell his two daughters that their mother died in Iraq.

AN AMERICAN CRIME Based on a true story, Catherine Keener plays Gertrude Baniszewski, a sadistic killer whose crimes shocked the Midwest in 1965. Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand) is compelling as her victim.

YEAR OF THE DOG Molly Shannon is hilariously poignant as a woman who comes unhinged following the death of her adored dog.

WAITRESS In an engaging, folksy comedy, Keri Russell shines as a pregnant waitress. Costars include Cheryl Hines and the late Adrienne Shelly, who wrote and directed the film prior to her murder last November.

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