Loves Her Gun
"Loves Her Gun"
Synopsis: After being attacked in the street, a woman moves from New York to Austin to feel safer, and gets involved in Texas gun culture.
What You Need To Know: As far as hot-button issues right now, guns and gun control are about as topical as it gets. After all the tragic incidents of the last twelve months, and political pledges to get guns under control, it's likely to dominate headlines for some time to come, which makes the premiere of "Loves Her Gun" well-timed. The second feature from director Geoff Marslett (making a sharp about-turn from his previous effort, the animated "Mars," which screened at the festival in 2010), it promises to dig into the allure and the danger of guns in a way that could well end up catching the zeitgeist. And it features what buzz suggests is an impressive turn from lead Trieste Kelly Dunn, who turned heads a few years back in the excellent "Cold Weather." It's under the radar, for sure, but the teaser trailer (watch here) has enough to make us keep an eye on this one over the next couple of weeks.
When: Sat March 9th at the Violet Crown, further screenings at the Topfer on Monday 11th and Friday 15th, and the Alamo Village on Tuesday 12th.

Kelly And Victor
"Kelly & Victor"
Synopsis: A young couple meet in a Liverpool nightclub, and soon embark on an affair, one that has potentially dark consequences.
What You Need To Know: "Kelly & Victor" picked up a lot of buzz on the festival circuit last year, and gets its U.S. premiere at SXSW, which could see it follow in the footsteps of earlier British-made festival hits like "Weekend" and "Attack The Block." The feature debut of music video veteran Kieran Evans --who's worked on videos for the likes of Saint Etienne, Kylie Minogue and Doves and helmed the music doc "Vashti Bunyan: From Here To Before" -- it toplines rising stars Antonia Campbell-Hughes ("Bright Star") and Julian Morris ("24," "Once Upon A Time") as the central couple. Packed with some fairly graphic sex scenes, and a soundtrack curated by legendary indie label Domino Records, including cuts from Wild Beasts and King Creosote among others, from most of what we've heard, this could be one of the hidden gems of the festival.
When: Saturday March 9th and Thursday March 14th at the Violet Crown, plus Tuesday 12th at the Stateside.

Scenic Route
"Scenic Route"
Synopsis: Two estranged best friends are on a road trip together when their truck breaks down, leading them to fight not only each other, but for their survival too.
What You Need To Know: He's had a slightly rough ride so far -- his acclaimed Black Listed script "The Beaver" was virtually buried after star Mel Gibson was disgraced, while his excellent TV series "Awake" and "Lone Star" were both swiftly cancelled -- but we still reckon Kyle Kinnen is one of the more interesting and distinctive writers out there. Which is why "Scenic Route" grabbed our attention. On its own, the idea of a version of Gus Van Sant's "Gerry" starring "Transformers" actor Josh Duhamel and Jack Black substitute Dan Fogler isn't a wildly appealing one, but with Killen (who has something of a homecoming here, as an Austin native) scripting, this could be more interesting than it looks on paper. And the visuals may be distinctive as well, thanks to commercials veterans the Goetz Brothers making their feature debuts here. It's a bit of a flip of a coin, but maybe this could show us Duhamel and Fogler in a whole new light?
When: Friday March 8th and March 15th at the Topfer Theatre, then Saturday 9th at the Alamo Slaughter, and Tuesday 12th at the Alamo Village.

Synopsis: An aimless young man decides to climb Mount Kilimanjaro after his girlfriend leaves him.
What You Need To Know: The excellent Brian Geraghty didn't quite get the boost off "The Hurt Locker" that his co-stars Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie did. He's popped up here and there ("Flight," the terrible "ATM,"), but either hasn't been taking, or hasn't been offered, the same big-money roles as his two former colleagues. But things are looking up: Geraghty just joined the cast of "Boardwalk Empire," and the next week sees him headlining a promising-sounding indie at SXSW. While it could be seen as not a world away from its competition, the title and premise at least suggest some ambition beyond another movie about an aimless slacker. And the cast that first-time writer and director Walter Strafford has assembled is a good one, with Geraghty joined by Alexia Rasmussen ("Tanner Hall"), Abigail Spencer ("Mad Men"), Bruce Altman, Jim Gaffigan and Diego Klattenhoff ("Homeland"). Hopefully the film is the showcase that Geraghty's been deserving of for the last few years.
When? Saturday March 9th at the Stateside, then Sunday March 10th at the Alamo Slaughter, and Tuesday 12th at the Alamo Ritz.

Some Girl(s)
"Some Girl(s)"
Synopsis: On the eve of his wedding, a writer travels the country to make amends to past lovers.
What You Need To Know: For all the cinematic crimes that Neil LaBute has been responsible for ("Lakeview Terrace," "The Wicker Man"), he can still be an incisive writer, on stage and screen, when it come to the politics and power balance between men and women, as demonstrated by earlier work like "In The Company Of Men" and "Your Friends And Neighbors." Which is why it's promising that this film version of one of his better plays is on the way, and it tackles the kind of subject matter he made his name on. Directed not by LaBute, but by Daisy von Scherler Mayer (who was behind "Party Girl" and "Madeline," but more recently has been working on TV shows like "Mad Men"), this sees the charismatic, still somewhat underused Adam Brody take over a role played on stage by Eric McCormack and David Schwimmer, with Emily Watson, Jennifer Morrison, Mia Maestro, Zoe Kazan and Kristen Bell making up those he's visiting along the way. Whether von Scherler Mayer is able to make the source material cinematic is the big question (though the country-hopping structure should help), but the play and cast are strong enough that this can't really be a disaster, and could well turn out as one of the better films of the festival.
When: March 9th at the Topfer Theater, followed by Monday 11th and Tues 12th at the Alamo Village, and Friday 15th at the Stateside Theatre.

Honorable Mentions: We're not quite convinced by the festival's big opener, the Steve Carell and Jim Carrey led comedy "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," but hopefully the cast and festival slot indicate that it's better than the average comedy. Also catching our attention: Michelle Monaghan and Radha Mitchell in drama "Gus"; horror "Plus One" from "Last House on the Left" director Dennis Illiadis; lo-fi comedy "The Bounceback"; "Burma" which stars Christopher Abbott from "Girls"; the Civil War-set "The Retrieval"; John Sayles' latest film "Go For Sisters"; "Good Night" starring the omnipresent Alex Karpovsky"; Hurricane Katrina drama "Hours" with Paul Walker and "The Wait" with Jena Malone and Chloe Sevigny.

Among the documentaries that caught our eye were "Hawking" about the genius scientist; "Downloaded," from "Bill & Ted" star Alex Winter about Napster and the music industry; "Milius" about renegade filmmaker John Milius; "The Imposter"-goes-hip-hop premise of "The Great Hip Hop Hoax" and "The Punk Singer" about riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna.

Plus there are the films that have already screened elsewhere, including Zal Batmanglij's "The East," Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers," Northern Irish music biopic "Good Vibrations," UK rom-com "I Give It A Year," Joss Whedon's take on "Much Ado About Nothing," Nick Cassavettes' "Yellow," horror anthology sequel "V/H/S 2" and much buzzed-about slasher flick "You're Next." If you're off to Austin, have a great time, and let us know what you're looking forward to.