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Here's what's going down at Sundance!

2015-01-27 14:00

Utah  — The Associated Press is all over the Sundance Film Festival, from its premieres to the Hollywood glitz. Here's what they've seen and heard:

First look: Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, a fiery, evocative and deeply felt look at one of rock's most misunderstood and tragic figures, presents a portrait of a man and an artist in despair with the aid of never-before-seen home videos, personal notes and archival footage.

The film, a fully authorised account of Cobain's life, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday and airs on HBO in May.

Director Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture) spent eight years putting the movie together. The insightful film pulsates with vitality and rage in its examination of the short life of Cobain, from his childhood in Aberdeen, Washington to his suicide in 1994 at the age of 27.

"He just wanted to have a family. I think the perception of Kurt all these years has been so off — this whiney white male who didn't like fame," said Morgen at a screening Monday. "It's a story of a guy who dies of a broken heart. It's a real tragedy."

Morgen uses everything from Nirvana's music, Cobain's private writings, drawings, to-do lists, animation and archived interviews to tell a dizzyingly complicated story. It also does not shy away from showing both the dark and lightness of Cobain, and includes honest and heartbreaking interviews with his parents, sister, stepmother, a former girlfriend and Love.

"I didn't want to make a film about fantasy and unfortunately for the past 25 years, Kurt has represented heroin chic," said Morgen. "It's brutal and it's ugly and it's dark and you don't want to look at it. But I felt this represented's important for the public to stop deifying him."

Sundance and selfies with celebrities

Star-watchers looking for photographic evidence of their celebrity sightings were likely to find success on Park City's Main Street.

As actors and filmmakers make their way from premieres to interviews to appearances, most travel on foot, where they're often swarmed by fans asking for selfies.

Toni Collette, sporting a platinum crop like Annie Lennox, was trekking uphill when a fan asked for a photo. She obliged and flashed a massive smile while remaining in motion.

John Leguizamo patiently posed with dozens of fans outside a restaurant. Blake Anderson of Workaholics agreed to snap a photo with anyone who asked.

Kevin Smith posed with a fan inside a Main Street venue, then hung around to chat. Known for giving love to his fans, the director feigned offense when others in the crowd didn't ask for their own selfies.

Cobi Smulders quick quote

"Luckily I had just finished a Marvel film so I was already in a training mentality and then this movie happened and I was really just trying to focus on like as much cardio as possible because in this film I do a lot of running and a lot of running in 100 degree heat in was like a was very much like all one shot running around, sprinting. So I had to build up my cardio to be able to get to that place and also not to like, die."

- Cobie Smulders on playing a personal trainer in the Sundance comedy Results

Ryan Reynolds says he’s dangerous at poker

Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn ventured deep into the heart of America to film the gambling drama Mississippi Grind, a gritty, 70s-style road trip movie about two near-strangers travelling from Dubuque, Iowa to New Orleans.

The production spanned the heartland as they drove all over Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama, going to little towns and little casinos and off the beaten path racing tracks, often filming the "road trip" scenes while they were also actually travelling elsewhere.

To prepare for their roles as expert gamblers, the two went out on the town with a "poker czar" a few times before they were "thrown to the wolves with genuine, 14-hour a day sitting at a table grinding killers," said Mendelsohn.

It was Reynolds, though, who had the advantage at the tables, mostly because he just isn't that good at poker.

"I would say that I am mediocre at best. I noticed that they were more afraid of me," he said. " The idiot who shows up at the table and doesn't know what he's doing is the most dangerous."

First look: Good Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed house — not with a star-studded red carpet, but with police protection.

Based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 book of the same name, Oscar winner Alex Gibney's film claims that the church routinely intimidates, manipulates and even tortures its members, tracing the rise of the religion and its founder, former science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor as head of the church, David Miscavige.

Oscar winner Paul Haggis left the church in 2009 after decades of membership.

"I was part of this for 30 years before I spoke out," he says in the film. "I was deeply ashamed."

Another former member who left the church in 2013 said its approach is "like brainwashing."

The Church of Scientology released a statement Sunday characterizing these former believers as "the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former Church members kicked out as long as 30 years ago for malfeasance, who have a documented history of making up lies about the Church for money."

The church says Gibney refused to meet with the 25 members it offered as sources. Gibney says the church declined all requests for interviews, as did Miscavige, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, both of whom are Scientologists.

The film traces Cruise's relationship with the church, and claims it intentionally broke up his marriage with Nicole Kidman because she was not a believer. Scientology's biggest celebrity spokesman was largely absent from the church during his nearly 10-year marriage to Kidman.

Gibney and Wright said the church has threatened them with litigation. Former members said they've fared far worse: They've been slandered online, followed, filmed and seen their loved ones stalked and intimidated.

Former Scientology spokesperson and senior executive Mike Rinder said he hopes the film will raise public awareness about the church's methods: "I would love it if the FBI, after seeing this film, said, 'We need to do something more energetic.'"

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