’s SXSW Film Preview


For the first time in a few years, will be down in Austin, Texas for the annual South by SouthWest Film Festival, running from March 8 through March 16, with our writers Edward Douglas and Joshua Starnes seeing movies, sharing their opinions and hopefully talking to some of the directors and cast.

It began as a music festival where bands and music industry types could get together and bond and maybe even sign a couple of deals, but in 1994 they added the “Film and Multimedia Conference” which essentially broke off into a full-fledged film festival that lasts nine days.

This year’s film section is kicking off on Friday, March 8, with two big movies opening in the coming weeks, the magical comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Warner Bros. – March 15), starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin, and then the remake of Evil Dead (TriStar Pictures – April 5), which is quite a double feature. We’ll have reviews of both of those by this coming Saturday, March 9.

The festival’s Closing Night film on March 16 is Brit Marling and Yal Batmanglij’s follow-up to Sound of My Voice, the cult thriller The East (Fox Searchlight – May 31), which co-stars Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page and Patricia Clarkson.

South by SouthWest is screening a lot of movies that have premiered at other festivals (like The East) but will be screening for Austin audiences for the first time. Local Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater brings the third chapter of his dramatic triptych Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classic – May 24), once again starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, to the festival.

After premiering at Venice and Toronto last year, Harmony Korine’s most mainstream film Spring Breakers (A24 – March 15) will get Austin residents ready for Spring Break with a crime thriller starring some of Disney’s biggest stars: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgins and James Franco, but this is definitely not Disney-friendly.

Primer director Shane Carruth returns with his second feature Upstream Color (erbp – April 5), in which he plays a man drawn to a woman for unknown reasons.

Another SXSW regular, David Gordon Green is also bringing his new movie Prince Avalanche (Magnolia), starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, arriving in Austin after winning awards at Berlin.

The Avengers director Joss Whedon gathered some of his friends, including Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg, to do a modern-day version of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions – June 7).

Jeff Nichols’ second movie Take Shelter got a lot of attention a few years back and he returns with Mud (Roadside Attractions – April 26), starring Matthew McConaughey as the title character, a homeless guy who becomes the mentor to two kids.

Likewise, James Ponsoldt did the festival circuit last year with his film Smashed, which received enough acclaim that he could immediately jump into The Spectacular Now (A24 – August 2), an adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel by (500) Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. This one stars Miles Teller (Footloose) as popular high school party animal Sutter Kelly, who falls for the socially inept Aimee, played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon’s Addiction (Relativity) premiered at Sundance and was picked up for distribution in a heated auction and he’ll be bringing it to SXSW as he portrays Jersey-based sex addict Jon Martello who wants to ends his promiscuous porn-filled lifestyle and settle down with one of two very different women.

Like most good film festivals, SXSW has a strong Midnighters section full of cool genre flicks and this year’s roster includes Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (Anchor Bay Films – April 19), starring his wife Sheri Moon as a radio DJ in Salem, Massachusetts who comes across a mysterious album that hearkens back to the town’s violent witch-killing past. Having had success with their previous anthology, more filmmakers come together for V/H/S 2 (Magnet) including Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (You’re Next–which is also playing at SXSW), Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) and more.

E.L. Katz makes his directorial debut with the comedy Cheap Thrills (right), reuniting Pat Healy and Sara Paxton from Ti West’s The Innkeepers along with Ethan Embry, David Koechner and Amanda Fuller, about a new dad experiencing problems at work and home when he meets a rich couple who offers him a way out of his problems.

Others Midnighters include Haunter from Cube director Vincenzo Natali, Xan Cassevetes’ Kiss of the Damned (Magnet – May 3), and the self-explanatory Big Ass Spider!.

Although many of the movies above have already had their festival debuts, there are quite a number of World Premieres of movies that are up for acquisition at the festival and how well they play in front of audiences may determine how quickly they’re picked up for distribution so that audiences outside Austin will have a chance to see them.

Highly prolific indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg is a veteran of SXSW with many of his early films like LOL having premiered at the festival, and his new movie Drinking Buddies, starring Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) and Ron Livingston, is said to breakaway from the “Mumblecore” style he helped originate as it has Wilde and Johnson playing friends Kate and Luke, who end up alone with each other for a weekend, away from their significant others.

Former “The State” member Ken Marino is going to be at SXSW in a big way, not only by showing a couple episodes from Season 2 of his hit show “Burning Love” but also starring in Jacob Vaughn’s Milo as a man suffering from chronic stomach problems which he discovers is a demon baby living in his colon. It co-stars Patrick Warburton, Stephen Root, Gillian Jacobs (“Community”), Mary Kay Place and Peter Stormare.

Radha Mitchell and Michelle Monaghan star in Jessie McCormack’s Gus as a married woman unable to conceive and her best friend who gets pregnant one night and offers to give her the baby, so she moves in with the baby’s future parents.

Bryan Poyser was at Sundance a few years back with the Duplass Brothers-produced Lovers of Hate and now he’s back with The Bounceback starring Michael Stahl-David as a guy who travels down to Austin in hopes of running into his ex (Ashley Bell), as their respective friends (Zach Cregger, Sara Paxton) try to keep them apart.

Written and produced by Neil LaBute and based on his play, Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s Some Girl(s) stars Adam Brody as a writer who travels across country meting up with his ex-lovers to make amends before getting married. The girls are played by Jennifer Morrison, Mia Maestro, Emily Watson, Zoe Kazan and Kristen Bell.

Paul Walker co-stars in Hours, the directorial debut by screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5, The Thing), with Genesis Rodriguez as a couple who arrive at a New Orleans hospital on the eve of Hurricane Katrina, forcing him to try to protect their prematurely born baby.

Working Title Films has a fairly healthy ongoing relationship with Universal Pictures and Focus Features so it’s strange to see them bringing a movie to a festival looking for buyers, and that’s the case with Borat and Bruno co-writer Dan Mazer’s romantic comedy I Give It a Year, starring Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Rafe Spall, Simon Baker, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng and Stephen Merchant, looking at that difficult first year of marriage.

As you might expect from a film festival that originated out of a music festival, there are a lot of music-based docs playing in Austin over the next couple weeks in the “24 Beats Per Second” section which includes The Punk Singer, about Bikini Kill and Le Tigre front person Kathleen Hanna, Muscle Shoals and Born in Chicago, about the Alabama and Chicago blues scenes, respectively, plus the acclaimed Sundance hit Twenty Feet from Stardom. Playing outside that section is The Punk Syndrome, about Finnish punk band Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day made up of four developmentally-challenged guys,

Otherwise, we don’t normally cover many docs at film festivals, but we’re definitely curious about Josh Johnson’s Rewind This!, produced by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), which looks into the phenomenon of the underground VHS trade which includes backyard filmmakers, piracy and a continued boom of a type of media many feel is long dead.

There are hundreds more movies playing over the next week in Austin, but the ones above are just a small sample of what’s being offered at this year’s SXSW.

Look for our SXSW Film coverage over the next week right here on!