"The Heart Machine"
Synopsis: A man begins to suspect that his long-distance girlfriend, whom he met online but has never met in person, has been living in the same city the whole time and sets out to find her.
What You Need To Know: OK, yes, potentially precious indie-quirky premise alert. We certainly get that. But the lead cast has two of our favorite up and coming actors: John Gallagher Jr. (HBO's "The Newsroom," "Short Term 12") and Kate Lyn Sheil (who impressed in both "Sun Don't Shine" and her stint on Season 2 of "House Of Cards"). So he lives in Brooklyn, she lives in Berlin, and they’ve never met in person. Looking for clues, the man starts to doubt his girlfriend and in the process oversteps boundaries of privacy in the desperate quest for his answers, and while that sounds sad and funny and what it potentially says about the growing trend of online relationships hopefully is insightful. Directed by Zachary Wigon (his latest short “Someone Else's Heart” a won a Hammer To Nail contest last year, and featured Libby Woodbridge who also just appeared in “House of Cards”), "The Heart Machine" is the filmmaker’s directorial debut (he’s also a film critic for the Village Voice, Slant and other film sites, which will be a fun one for him to negotiate), but top-notch actors signing up for this one leads us to believe there’s something possibly special to discover.
Synopsis: Young newlyweds Paul and Bea travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods.
What You Need To Know: Ygritte from “Game Of Thrones” (aka Rose Leslie) may be enough to get some people in the door, but this has more to offer than a connection to the hit HBO show. Harry Treadaway—twin brother of Luke Treadaway—has been forging his own path and 2014 could be a big year for him, as he’s also bagged a part in the upcoming Showtime series “Penny Dreadful.” And “Honeymoon” could be another another showcase for the rising actor. And with the debut by director Leigh Janiak nabbing the Midnight slot at SXSW, this tale of romance turned sinister could be a surprise.
"I Believe in Unicorns"
Synopsis: An imaginative teenage girl runs away from home with an older punk rock drifter.
What You Need To Know: Yes, the title is tres precious and yes, it’s about a teenage girl who escapes into her imagination when times get tough and that means stop motion-animation of unicorns, dragons, underwater acrobatics and other “My Little Pony”ephemera, but early buzz on this one is still strong (plus the Kickstarter trailer is enchanting). Directed by Leah Meyerhoff, a Student Academy Award nominated director, her NYU short "Twitch" won the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2005 and received a lot of acclaim. Moreover, the movie features Julia Garner (“Electrick Children”) Amy Seimetz (“Upstream Color”) and we’ve heard good word on its two teenage leads Natalia Dyer (“The Healer”) and Peter Vack (“I Just Want My Pants Back”). It’s always possible the lyrical filmmaking is a little too much, but we have to say, we’re already intrigued. Check out our exclusive clip from the film right here for a taste.
"Leave the World Behind"
Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look at the electronic dance phenomenon Swedish House Mafia as they embark on their worldwide farewell tour, appropriately titled One Last Tour.
What You Need To Know: A couple of years ago LCD Soundsystem doc "Shut Up and Play the Hits" played at SXSW and people were literally dancing in the aisles. The same thing should happen when "Leave the World Behind" screens. The similarities don't end there: like LCD Soundsystem, Swedish House Mafia (composed of deejay/producers Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso) were at the top of their game when they decided to call it quits. The documentary thoughtfully examines why they chose to disband, along with showing you just what the tour looked like, in all of its giant-LCD, lasers shooting into the crowd glory. Even those who can't quite grasp the cultural importance of the current dance music craze will likely get transported by the colorful, surprisingly emotional "Leave the World Behind;" it's like "Shut Up and Play the Hits" with an adorable Swedish accent.
The Mainstream Movies To Catch: “Veronica Mars,” “Chef” “Neighbors”
What You Need To Know: SXSW in recent years has had trouble procuring big, decent mainstream movies and has been relegated with debuting whatever’s big coming out in March and April (see recent duds like “Burt Wonderstone”). This year is much the same. The "Veronica Mars” movie is buzzed about because of its Kickstarter campaign, but it’s a wonder if it’ll even make back the $7 million it made in donations given that it’s going to be a limited release/VOD movie. Maybe more interesting is Jon Favreau’s “Chef,” which finds the writer/director/actor leaving the tentpole land of “Cowboys & Aliens” behind for his roots in character based drama and comedy. Co-starring Sofia Veraga, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr. and Bobby Cannavale among others, Favreau directs, writes and stars in a story about a failing chef who starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. The most promising of the lot, at least on a mainstream comedy level is “Neighbors,” a Nicholas Stoller/Seth Rogen comedy (Stoller was behind "The Five-Year Engagement" and “Get Him To The Greek”) that looks and smells like a Judd Apatow-comedy, but actually is those same dudes on their own (they’ve left the nest, but seemed to have kept the template intact). Co-starring Zac Efron and Rose Byrne, it's about a 30-something couple with a newborn baby whose life is thrown into turmoil when a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. It could be amusing.