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SXSW 2013: The Festival's Most Buzz-Worthy Films

Annie Lloyd |
March 11, 2013 | 8:37 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" boasts a cast full of comedic heavy-hitters. (Warner Bros.)
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" boasts a cast full of comedic heavy-hitters. (Warner Bros.)
Film festivals serve as the major stomping grounds for Hollywood's elite and the indie auteurs aspiring to get their big break. They're a time of excitement, with celebrity-studded premieres of much-discussed films as well as unknown surprises. South by Southwest is no exception. Located in Austin, Texas, the festival runs for about a week and a half every March. SXSW isn't just a film festival, though; it's also a major music and interactive festival. What it lacks in acquisitions and future Oscar contenders (I'm looking at you, Sundance), it makes up for in character, style, and the excitement of being a crossroads for talent in every major medium. Here's a round up of the most noteworthy and much-discussed films premiering. 

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"

One way SXSW creates excitement around films is by designating “headliners.” These films already have a strong media presence with big-name stars or creative, allowing for major red carpet events and galas. This year’s headliners offer a wide variety of stories and talent. The first headliner premiere of the festival was “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” The film boasts big-name comedy stars Steve Carell and Jim Carrey, as well as the versatile and talented Steve Buscemi. The movie centers on Carell and Buscemi’s magician characters. Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, respectively, have a duo act in Vegas that they attempt to maintain despite growing to despise each other. The arrival of newer, sexier street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) creates competition for them to regain their former glory. The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a mixed review, describing it as "some laughter but little magic in by-the-book Las Vegas comeback tale.” The film’s high profile has helped it to garner interest despite a not-so-great reception. It opens wide on March 15th.

"Spring Breakers"

Another headliner has been in the news for months now due to the total reinvention of all its actors. Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” has its US premiere at South By Southwest, bringing James Franco, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine’s chaotic story to the screen at long last. The movie centers on four girls who go to jail after attempting to steal money for spring break, only to get bailed out by a cornrowed and grill-wearing James Franco. He leads them on an insane and ridiculous journey from there. The trailers portray what seems to be nothing other than a raucous ride, but apparently it’s a fairly well made one. The film currently has a 71% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it opens wide on March 15th as well. 

"Downloaded: The Digital Revolution"

Outside the realm of headliners, many other films are making a splash. The world learned about Sean Parker most notably through 2010’s “The Social Network,” but this year’s “Downloaded: The Digital Revolution” makes an effort to reveal the truth about his and Shawn Fanning’s Napster revolution. The documentary comes from Alex Winter of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” fame. Originally conceived as a narrative screenplay, the idea matured to become the documentary released at South by Southwest. The film had its world premiere at the festival on March 10th. 

"Much Ado About Nothing"

Another movie guaranteed for success is Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” The film marks a strong departure from last year’s monster success “The Avengers.” He shot the movie in black and white and used many actors those who follow Whedon will be familiar with. Whedon considers the film “a deconstruction of the romantic comedy that it is inventing,” as he told The Hollywood Reporter. The movie originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and makes its limited release on June 7.

"Drinking Buddies"

A film that brought big talent to its premiere at SXSW is Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies.” The cast includes Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Anna Kendrick. Johnson and Kendrick have established themselves as strong comedic players, but the genre is new for Wilde. The actress most often stars in dramatic or action-based roles, but she’s making a switch with “Drinking Buddies” (as well as in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” coincidentally). Swanberg dealt with these big name stars by allowing a lot of improvisation on set. He told Huffington Post that “you're not watching famous Hollywood actors playing roles, what you're seeing is their personalities shining through.” The film has yet to announce a wide release date.

Independent Films

 Besides the big-name films, festivals also provide a chance for independent movies to get distribution. The two big sellers so far are “Cheap Thrills,” picked up by Drafthouse Films, and “Haunter,” with IFC Midnight gaining the rights. The festival is still going strong so more deals are sure to follow.

Reach Staff Reporter Annie Lloyd here. Follow her on Twitter here



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