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Butter, Oranges and How to Survive A Plague are among indie movie offerings

Joe Leydon, The Oranges, cast photo, October 2012
Hugh Laurie, center, leads the cast of The Oranges The Oranges/Facebook
Joe Leydon, Mondo Cinema, October 2012, Jennifer Garner, Butter
Jennifer Garner gets caught up in Butter The Weinstein Co.
News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_How to Survive a Plague_Peter Staley
A scene from the movie, How to Survive a Plague Photo by William Lucas Walker

Two offbeat indies that have been popping up hither and yon on the international festival circuit throughout the past year are finally kicking off commercial releases this weekend – and both are opening at the Sundance Cinemas.

Hugh Laurie segues from his long run as the acerbic antihero of TV’s House to The Oranges, first-time feature filmmaker Julian Farino’s dark comedy about a discontent New Jersey suburbanite who falls for the ravishingly beautiful and entirely age-inappropriate daughter (newcomer Leighton Meester) of his across-the-street neighbors.

Laurie is the love-smitten protagonist, Catherine Keener is his understandably upset (and ultimately vengeful) wife, and Oliver Platt and Allison Janney are the baffled and embarrassed neighbors.

In Butter, a political satire set in a Midwest milieu where blue-ribbon competitions are not unlike bloodsports, Jennifer Garner plays Laura Pickler, the frightfully ambitious wife of a much-lauded butter-carving champ (Ty Burrell) – known widely, if not always admiringly, as “the Elvis of butter" – who decides to retire so that others might have a crack at the Iowa state title.

Laura vows to keep the title in the family, despite her lack of discernible butter-carving talent and, more important, serious competition from a young African-American orphan (Yara Shahidi) portentously named Destiny. Look for Rob Corddry, Alicia Silverstone, Olivia Wilde and Hugh Jackman – yes, that Hugh Jackman – in supporting roles.

On a more serious note: The Sundance Cinema run of How to Survive a Plague – writer-director David France’s acclaimed documentary about the activists who sparked the search for an AIDS cure – will begin off Friday with a 6 p.m. reception (followed by a 7 p.m. screening) to support HIV/AIDs testing in the Greater Houston area through Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and AIDS Foundation Houston. You can read more about it here.

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