Film Features

South By Southwest 2019’s Most Anticipated

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We’re excited to be sending contributors Kevin Cookman and Alexander Ignacio Larios to South By Southwest in less than one week’s time! As anticipation reaches a fever-pitch, we thought we’d take a quick look at what we’re most excited to see. 

South By Southwest Adopt a Highway

ADOPT A HIGHWAY

Director: Logan Marshall-Green

Post-FIRST REFORMED Ethan Hawke has kept himself quite busy with Vincent D’Onofrio’s THE KID, RZA’s CUT THROAT CITY, and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s THE TRUTH, all within 2019. And yet another actor-turned-director, Logan Marshall-Green, can’t do much better than getting him. Hawke plays ex-convict Russell Millings, who discovers a live newborn baby abandoned in a dumpster. Already that’s bound to raise some red flags. Worst case scenario, this will be burdened by an emotionally manipulative narrative but still carried by one of the best actors in the business, so I’m still down. Here’s hoping this won’t fade away into the tidal wave of other Ethan Hawke content coming our way. [Alexander Larios]

South By Southwest The Art of Self-Defense

THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE 

Director: Riley Stearns

It’s hard not to feel for local Austin-born director Riley Stearns lately. He started off making cute shorts with his then-wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead, of 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE and SCOTT PILGRIM fame, but after she left him for Obi-Wan McGregor following FARGO S3, things went downhill. Yet now he has enough clout to write and direct a dark comedy Jesse Eisenberg vehicle, while Ewan and Mary are broken up. Eisenberg plays Casey, who after getting attacked, joins a local dojo headed by an enigmatic sensei played by Alessandro Nivola. Whether this is a moodier piece given Stearn’s circumstances or will punctuate the humor with Eisenberg’s knack for comedic timing is anyone’s guess, though. [Alexander Larios]

South By Southwest The Beach Bum

THE BEACH BUM

Director: Harmony Korine

Six years after SPRING BREAKERS, the movie that launched a million film school undergrad careers, is skater-punk legend Harmony Korine’s newest feature, another sun-soaked odyssey through the crevices of Miami. This looks to be Korine’s most explicit autobiography yet, a late-period self-portrait of a trash auteur, a poet if you will, having dinner with Jimmy Buffett in the evening and three hours later sharing a laced joint with the homeless surf rocker burnouts down by the pier. We’ve been conditioned to expect an exact template from Korine, but as his mythic reputation attracts more and more A-level cast members, how dangerous can his films feasibly be? THE BEACH BUM looks to be a lighthearted change of pace for Harmony, now a husband and father, but has he been defanged? Or is there a treasure trove to be unearthed in his free-wheeling, rose-tinted career in casual debauchery? We’re in for a God-level McConaughey performance either way. [Kevin Cookman]

South By Southwest Body at Brighton Rock

BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK

Director: Roxanne Benjamin

You may not know it, but producer Roxanne Benjamin has been at the forefront of the 2010’s horror boom, her credits seeing her as producer for the gnarly V/H/S franchise and writer for several other spooky omnibuses. Her directorial feature debut, BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK, teases a juicy pulp premise—a rookie park ranger finds a dead body on a remote trail and must guard it until authorities arrive. I don’t know about you, but horror grounded in a logical basis only to spiral into the abyss of violent, unthinkable Hell is the filet mignon of the genre, and knowing Benjamin’s pedigree? I’m braced for quite the survival thriller, man, color my interest piqued. [Kevin Cookman]

South By Southwest Booksmart

BOOKSMART

Director: Olivia Wilde 

Olivia Wilde continues the star-turned-director movement with her first feature. Though it’s a classic coming-of-age comedy premise, BOOKSMART features Beanie Feldstein, who stole so many scenes in LADY BIRD that seeing her where she shines again gives this film some potential. Feldstein joins Kaitlyn Dever, who was an awesome emotional powerhouse in SHORT TERM 12, as studious high school seniors Molly and Amy, who are trying to cram four years of partying in on the night before their graduation. It may sound a bit cookie-cutter, but some comedic heavy hitters from yesteryear like Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis joining insure some chance of chortle. [Alexander Larios]

THE DAY SHALL COME

Director: Chris Morris

If FOUR LIONS, the bold and outrageous comedy about up-and-coming suicide bombers, joked about homegrown religious radicalization, THE DAY SHALL COME, of which very little is known about, perhaps looks to have a laugh over the FBI’s attempted revolutionary plants, fabricated to stifle the oppressed. As per usual, director and British satirist Chris Morris unearths the comedic well in an arid landscape, but 2019 is a galaxy’s-removed social climate from 2010’s. With everyday life feeling like tumbling in a whirlpool of despair none far removed from our front doors, I’m not sure if audiences still have the patience for this fashion of dark humor. Or maybe we’re in a place where Morris’ wry, laissez-faire comedy is exactly what the doctor ordered. We’ll see how this story, one purportedly loosely based on Malcolm X’s legacy (oh dear Lord), is received. [Kevin Cookman]

South By Southwest Everybody's Everything

EVERYBODY’S EVERYTHING

Directors: Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan

No, you reading that Pitchfork story about Terrence Malick executive producing a Lil Peep documentary was not a mid-afternoon fever dream hallucination—it’s a SXSW premiere. A portrait of the late alternative-rap artist, EVERYBODY’S EVERYTHING will be a determining factor of how we document the current hip hop moment. The moralization of the opioid crisis has stood as the topic of hot-button debate, those who tragically succumb to addiction often utilized as political linchpins or vocally proclaimed as doofuses who wasted their lives away. Gustav Åhr’s untimely passing stirred a ravenous discourse, one very likely to be reheated upon how this documentary chooses to portray Peep. Whether or not Jones or Silyan want their film to be the crux of the conversation is out of their control—EVERYTHING’S EVERYTHING looks to be a key domino in how we preserve and approach cultural history. [Kevin Cookman]

South By Southwest The Highwaymen

THE HIGHWAYMEN

Director: John Lee Hancock

Hancock is known to be a director of lighter fare, but he’s showing some guts taking on a project with two incredible leads and an interesting spin on a legendary American story. Portraying Bonnie and Clyde’s saga from the perspective of the law brings attention to not only police efforts, but also the very real public terror that engulfed the nation at the time. Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner play former Texas rangers Manny Gault and Frank Hamer, who are recruited by a desperate police force to help apprehend Bonnie and Clyde. Of course, with two A-listers Netflix is pulling out all the stops with this one, planning to create an interactive experience exclusively at SXSW based on the film. Whether that be a prohibition-era speakeasy, the crime duo’s hideout, or a police station, it will be by far the most Texan thing anyone can be a part of. [Alexander Larios]

South By Southwest Long Shot

LONG SHOT

Director: Jonathan Levine

Okay, so we’ve been due for a raunchy comedy with Seth Rogen hooking up with Charlize Theron for a while now, but what about—now get this—Rogen hooking up with President Theron! LONG SHOT involves gonzo journalist Fred Flarsky, played by Rogen, reunited with his first crush and former babysitter Charlotte Field, played by Theron, who now is one of the most influential people in America and going at a presidential run. Field, as many candidates do, is concerned about her relatability, so Flarsky figures that he could join her campaign tour as a speechwriter. But of course, chaos ensues as the two grow a little too close. Will it be worth a watch or just another forgettable comedy? Chances are… 50-50. (The joke is that 50-50 is one of the films Jonathan Levine previously directed. Remember? With Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Well, it’s that brand of comedy.) [Alexander Larios]

South By Southwest Us

US

Director: Jordan Peele

The highest profile premiere of SXSW 2019 is Jordan Peele’s much-awaited sophomore feature, US, a doppelgänger creature feature. Do I… Look, do I have to say much? You’re watching this! You likely already have tickets purchased to watch this! Later this March, in fact! Peele’s been on an roll graced by God, but with his Twilight Zone reboot on the horizon, and in production nearly simultaneously as US, I’m interested to see how Peele makes the distinction between one-off network content and feature-length stories. His insistence on US not being a film based in race, despite obvious overtones present in the marketing alone, has been giving me pause, as well as some, frankly, underwhelming trailers. Yet, every time I doubt this movie, I urge myself to remember GET OUT and remember that I’m in safe hands—I simply hope astronomical levels of success haven’t pressured Peele into safe storytelling. [Kevin Cookman]

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