South By Southwest is like the renegade cousin of prim and pristine Sundance. The film portion of the Austin, Texas-based festival has been kicking for seventeen glorious years, with a week of innovative films by a mix of emerging filmmakers, fresh faces, established talent and a few of the best hold-overs from Sundance.
SXSW finds its roots in rock and roll, and that spirit is alive and burning in this year's film selections. Horror flicks, music docs, sci-fi adventures, introspective dramas, off-kilter comedies and hedgehogs who love drinking beer -- no stone goes unturned.
Here are nine movies we're dying to see, but you can see the full slate over at the official SXSW film site.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the duo behind "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," are as much movie buffs as they are movie stars. Their latest road trip flick "Paul" is an ode to everything geek, from its beginnings at San Dieo Comic-Con to its stylistic homage of '80s Spielberg to Paul himself, an alien on the run from Alien 51 who sidetracks their whole vacation. Paul is a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed little bugger, which makes perfect sense when you realize the movie is directed by the guy who brought us "Superbad." With all those comedic elements in place, "Paul" sounds prepared to kick off the festival at light speed.
Horror director Ti West wowed the SXSW crowd in 2008 with his old school slasher flick "The House of the Devil" and now he's followed it up with another twist on a classic genre staple: the ghost story. "The Innkeepers" follows two employees of the The Yankee Pedlar, believed to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country, on a hunt for paranormal evidence. Whether they find a trace of ghostly activity is a mystery, but count on them crossing paths with some weird and unexpected guests along the way.
'Attack the Block'
Joe Cornish may not be a big name in the American comedy scene (he had a long-running sketch show in Britain called "The Adam and Joe Show"), but if his debut feature hits big, that may change. Doing for aliens what "Shaun of the Dead" did for zombies, "Attack the Block" pits teen girl Sam, a gang of young hoodlums and some dim-witted cops against an invading alien force. Helping Cornish to balance the action and comedy is Executive Producer Edgar Wright, director of "Shaun." The pedigree alone has us in a seat for this one.
'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'
The implosion of NBC's late night programming was digestible for most thanks to Conan O'Brien's comical interpretation of the behind-the-scenes nightmare, but Rodman Flender's road trip documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" promises to be a more intimate look at the incident and aftermath. Following Conan on the "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour," the doc peels back the hilarious exterior of late night's funniest act to present the real Conan. We're expecting a few tears from both funny and heartfelt moments.
Duncan Jones' sci-fi one man show "Moon" made a splash with both the art house crowd and genre fans alike, and tipped off Hollywood to a new up-and-comer. With a little help from the studios, Jones is back at South by Southwest to debut his next, "Source Code," a big-budget thriller looks to have all the brains of "Moon" with a few added explosions for kicks. The trailer teases just the right amount: it's a little bit "Bourne," a little bit "Groundhog Day" and a whole lot of mind-bending time travel logic. This one may require multiple viewings.
Joseph Khan's Ice Cube motorcycle flick "Torque" was a well-directed, lifeless action flick that failed to make much of an impression with audiences. Now, Khan is back with a vengeance with his SXSW film "Detention," whose trailer looks colorful, manic and bizarre in all the right ways. In the film, a group of high schoolers, pulled straight from a John Hughes movie, find themselves the targets of a serial killer...and slapped with detention that runs straight through prom. Fitting in somewhere are UFOs, Dane Cook as a smarmy school principal from the firey pits of hell - a cinematic amalgamation that should be mind blowing regardless of the film's coherency. Meaning, the film looks fun as all get out.
After Mel Gibson's career meltdown last year, everyone and their brother has been wondering if his performance in "The Beaver" can wash away the bad tastes and remind us that, first and foremost, he's a great actor. Directed by Jodie Foster, "The Beaver" stars Gibson as an unfulfilled man who decides to battle life's demons by communicating through a Beaver puppet. The movie co-stars the on-the-rise Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence, the latter who has on multiple occasions called Gibson's work in the movie "Oscar-worthy." We'll see...
'Scenes from the Suburbs'
For all the people who saw the Grammy's and asked, "Who is Aracde Fire?" comes a new, 30-minute short film by Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich," "Where the Wild Things Are"). Intertwined to the themes and music of the band's latest album, "Scenes from the Suburbs" takes a look back at a narrator's fuzzy memories the past, which include a war-torn, dystopian suburb and a moment in time when his friends grew apart. We had a taste for the film in the music video for "The Suburbs," but we'll finally see the bigger picture when Jonze's heartbreaking tale screens at SXSW.
Opening May 13, audiences will get their first taste of the big Hollywood comedy "Bridesmaids" when it debuts (in an unfinished form) as a festival closer. While female-driven comedies outside of the rom-com world haven't fared well at the box office, many wonder if the magic of Judd Apatow (the man behind "40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad") can give a boost to some of the funniest ladies in the biz. The trailer for "Bridesmaids" looks just as raunchy and edgy as its male counterparts, so we're anxious to see if it can pull off the, supposedly, undoable. Having a line-up headed by Kristin Wiig never hurts.