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What to stream: Sundance edition

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23 2014 5:50 p.m. MST

A scene from "Life in a Day."

National Geographic

As all good movie fans should know, the prestigious Sundance Film Festival is under way in Utah when the mountain town of Park City becomes a bustling hub of independent cinema and journalists.

Even for locals, though, making it in to some of the screenings can be next to impossible.

Luckily, there are plenty of amazing films from previous festivals available to stream online, including many suitable for broad audiences and families. Here are a few picks from Sundance’s documentary and dramatic feature categories from years past, as well as three recommendations for TV series newly available on the streaming services this month.

Sundance movies

“Senna”Relying mostly on archive footage, this documentary about Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna plays out like a perfectly plotted sports movie, dastardly foreign archrival included. Whether or not one is a racing fan (or even a documentary fan), this is a must-watch.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Chasing Ice” — Winner of the Excellence in Cinematography Award at the 2012 festival, “Chasing Ice” provides a truly breathtaking look at the efforts of environmental photographer James Balog to document the world’s changing glaciers over the course of multiple years using time-lapse photography.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Life in a Day” — Edited together from 4,500 hours of footage all filmed on the same day by random people around the world and submitted via YouTube, “Life in a Day” is a snapshot of a single day on Earth — a crowd-sourced documentary about what it means to be human. One of the best films to play at Sundance in 2011. For non-Netflix subscribers, it’s also available in its entirety on YouTube.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Smoke Signals” — Native American poet and author Sherman Alexie adapted one of his own short stories for this road trip movie about two Couer d’Alene American Indians, Victor and Thomas, traveling to Arizona to collect the ashes of Victor’s estranged father. “Smoke Signals” won the Sundance Audience Award when it premiered in 1998.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Upstream Color” – After making a splash at Sundance with his low-budget time travel thriller “Primer” in 2004, multi-hyphenate filmmaker Shane Carruth returned last year with this visually enthralling (albeit extremely obtuse) film involving behavior-affecting parasites. It's as indie as it gets. In other words, probably not for everyone.

Rating: Not rated (probable PG-13)

Available on: Netflix Instant

“Robot & Frank” – The great Frank Langella stars as an aging jewel thief who uses his new companion robot to restart his career as a criminal. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times named this sci-fi drama as one of the best films of 2012. It also won first-time filmmaker Jake Scheier the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Rating: PG-13

Available on: Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime Instant

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