2016 SXSW Film Preview: Best Bets of the Fest

Today marks the beginning of the South by Southwest Film Festival, which runs through March 19, where we’ll roam the sun-scorched streets of Austin in search of the next great movie — along with a goodly number of Denton residents.

With a diverse lineup of 143 features and 114 shorts, where to begin?

Headlining films worth the trip

There are a handful of headlining films that promise star power and quality. The first of the heavy hitters is the opening night film: Richard Linklater’s spiritual-sequel to Dazed and Confused, titled Everybody Wants Some.

With its charming cast (Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch and Tyler Hoechlin) and an endearing story about a group of college kids kicking back the weekend before school starts up, it just may be what SXSW needs to get off to a big start.

Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) has become one of those filmmakers who makes you stand up and take notice with each new feature. His latest, Midnight Special, brings together an impressive ensemble (Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver) to tell a Spielberg-like story of a powerful young boy (Jaeden Lieberher) pursued by the government for his unique abilities.

Then, there’s Hardcore Henry, an action film shot entirely in a first-person point-of-view. Replete with grenade tossing and unhinged combat, the film places you in the eyes of a human-robot hybrid going on a bloody rampage to save his spouse from a raging psychopath.

Reheated Sundance dishes

Then again, who needs all the big Hollywood stuff when there are plenty of hidden gems to discover coupled with movies coming in with obvious buzz?

For anyone who missed them in Park City, Utah, there are a slew of familiar titles from the Sundance Film Festival here, including Chad Hartigan’s Morris From America. It stars Craig Robinson (The Office) in a coming-of-age story about a rap-loving teenager (Markees Christmas) growing up in Germany.

Narrative and documentary

Of the 30 or so films between these two categories, there are two titles you should be made aware of: Beware of the Slenderman (a documentary on an Internet-generated boogeyman) and My Blind Brother (a narrative starring Adam Scott and Nick Kroll as two brothers competing for the same girl).

Midnight horror

After a day full of intense dramas, there’s nothing quite like winding down with a few spooks.

First up is Mike Flanagan’s Hush, a thriller about a deaf woman (Kate Siegel) stalked by a crazy killer. The other is “Untitled Fede Alvarez/Ghost House Thriller” (not the actual title), following some teens (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) who break into a blind man’s home, thinking they’ll pull off a breezy crime. The resulting horror is anything but easy.

Special screenings

Whether they are “work-in-progress” cuts or secret, SXSW doesn’t come without its special engagements.

Sausage Party, featuring the voices of Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig, is an R-rated animated comedy about supermarket items that fall out of a shopping cart and go on an adventure. Weird, yes, but funny nonetheless.

Keanu is also a sure-bet for chuckles, dropping comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele into an action comedy of epic proportions: friends retrieving their stolen cat from a street gang. Kitties and bullets? Never thought I’d see the day, but I’m there.

Lastly, there is the secret screening, a huge source of borderline anticipation. Last year brought thrills with Furious 7. This year, it could be so many things: Batman v. Superman, Neighbors 2, or The Jungle Book. With Rogen’s already scheduled attendance, I’m putting my money on Neighbors 2.

Others to consider: Born to Be Blue, In a Valley of Violence, Outcast, Preacher, Shovel Buddies, and Vice Principals.

Previously published on DentonRC.com.

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