"A Night in Old Mexico"
Synopsis: Having been edged off his ranch, cantankerous oldster Red Bovie rejects the idea of moving to a trailer park in favor of hopping into his Cadillac with his newfound grandson and road tripping to Mexico for a little debauchery, adventure and grandfatherly bonding.
What You Need To Know: All you really need to know is that this is the long-dearly-held passion project for Robert Duvall, who stars along with Jeremy Irvine, in a movie that reteams him with “Lonesome Dove” screenwriter William D. Wittliff. Which is not to say the Cuban-born Spanish director, Emilio Aragon, doesn’t have a good story too—the actor/composer/director is the son of a famous clown, and was himself a TV presenter in the '90s before moving into TV production, acting and even co-founding a TV station. This is his second directorial feature, and comes a full nine years after Duvall first attached himself to this project calling Bovie “one of the best characters I’ve had in my life.”
Synopsis: Described as a "21st Century 'Rear Window,'" "Open Windows" is the tale of a man (Elijah Wood) who scores a date with the world's hottest actress (Sasha Grey) after winning an online contest. At the last minute he gets a call that his date has been canceled but the voice at the other end gives him an equally tantalizing option: spy on her for the rest of the night. He agrees to the voice's suggestion. And then things go horribly wrong.
What You Need to Know: "Open Windows" is the third film directed by the ridiculously talented genre contortionist Nacho Vigalondo. His first film as a writer/director, "Timecrimes," was an ingenious low budget time travel thriller that was equal parts Terry Gilliam and Brian De Palma, while his second film, "Extraterrestrial," played like a post-apocalyptic Woody Allen film. This new film seems to fully indulge his love of De Palma and, obviously, Alfred Hitchcock, with a divinely simple set up and, we're assuming, full commitment from his two leads. Wood, in particular, has grown into a fine genre performer in things like this year's exemplary "Grand Piano." While "Extraterrestrial" didn't exactly deliver the kind of follow-through we expected from the creator of such a twisty-turny gem as "Timecrimes," this seems like it could be a tantalizing return to form.
The TV Presentations
What You Need To Know: SXSW is embracing TV in a big way in 2014, with six hotly-anticipated series set to get their premieres in Austin, something almost unprecedented for a big film festival. The Seth MacFarlane-produced, Neil deGrasse Tyson-presented, visual-effects-packed reboot of Carl Sagan's space series "Cosmos" is first up. Then, there's the pilot for AMC's "Halt And Catch Fire," a drama starring Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace set in the 80s Texan computing world that's hoping to be the next "Mad Men," followed by the first look at the series adaptation of hometown hero Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Til Dawn," which begins airing soon on Rodriguez's own El Rey network. Following that, and perhaps most hotly anticipated of all, there's the first episode of "Penny Dreadful," the Gothic horror show from "Skyfall" creators Sam Mendes and John Logan, and starring Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton and more, which doesn't hit Showtime until June. And finally, there's the first couple of episodes of "Office Space" creator Mike Judge's hotly anticipated HBO comedy "Silicon Valley," and the first glimpse at a new Brad Pitt-produced Hulu series about a medium starring Tyler Labine called “Deadbeat.” Yeah, that one's less exciting on paper, but still.
Synopsis: A fast-paced Texas thriller in which the lives of James, a directionless college dropout, and Webb, a career criminal with his back against the wall, violently collide.
What You Need To Know: Starring up-and-coming actor James Landry Hébert ("Gangster Squad," "Seven Psychopaths," "Looper") as the unhinged criminal, this one evidently screened early for a select few and already gained some good Twitter buzz (yes, we actually just wrote that). Short filmmaker and video director Alex R. Johnson makes his debut here, which he also wrote and it also features Beth Broderick, Skyy Moore, Jason Douglas and Ashley Rae Spillers. Equally intriguing, and potentially counter-intuitively savvy for a thriller, is a score by Andrew Kenny, the founder of the slo-core group The American Analog Set and its more countrified successor The Wooden Birds. And this teaser clip looks pretty good too.
Synopsis: When an old neighbor in a rent-controlled apartment dies, Barri suspects foul play. Her fiance disagrees, so she recruits her roommate Jean to join her in an investigation that will ultimately uncover just as much about the other occupants of the building—and her flat—as it does about the central mystery.
What You Need To Know: Looks like we picked the wrong week to give up using the word “hipster” but this Brooklyn comedic film noir has a few things going for it, especially a promising cast including Alia Shawkat, Annie Parisse, Jason Ritter and Kevin Corrigan, along with husband and wife team Lawrence Michael Levine and Sophia Takal, with Levine directing for the third time. His last time at bat was the well-received indie “Gabi on the Roof in July,” starring Lena Dunham and Amy Seimetz, among others and we also warmly reviewed “Green” in which he starred with Takal directing, in 2011.
Honorable Mentions & More: Wait! We may have already seen these, but they are worth tracking down if you're on the ground in Austin: Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”; the outsider-art psych-rock comedy “Frank” starring Michael Fassbender; Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive”; the "You’re Next" filmmakers new midnight film, "The Guests"; David Gordon Green's "Joe" starring Nicolas Cage; Jason Bateman's directorial debut "Bad Words"; the drama "Hellion" with Aaron Paul; "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter" starring Rinko Kikuchi; Michael Pena as "Cesar Chavez" and “The Raid 2.” Click on the links folks for our reviews, but yes, if you haven't yet seen those they are all (ok mostly all) worth seeing.
Other films that sound interesting (and there are lots) include ”Starry Eyes,” the documentary about ‘80s pop band Spandau Ballet, “Soul Boys Of The Western World”; the Edwyn Collins doc about the former Orange Juice frontman and solo artist, “The Possibilities Are Endless”; the documentary “That Guy Dick Miller” about character actors Dick Miller (who you’ll recognize from Roger Corman and Joe Dante films especially). We hear good things about “She's Lost Control,” which screened in Berlin, which we missed. Also sounding intriguing are “Predestination” a time travel thriller that reunites Ethan Hawke with the sibling directors of “Daybreakers”; the Australian black comedy “The Mule” which features a supporting turn by Hugo Weaving; “The Mend” starring Josh Lucas; “Break Point” with Jeremy Sisto, and “Doc of the Dead: The Definitive Zombie Culture Documentary” (from the guy that brought you “The People Vs. George Lucas”) to name just a few. SXSW almost always has to live in the shadow of Sundance, but it’s hard to argue that there’s an eclectic slate every year that usually has something for everyone.