Joe Swanberg’s filmography is a fascinating evolutionary timeline; with each new film, the former mumblecore pioneer (and occasional agitator) has showcased increasing maturity. Win It All is his most grown-up film to date — despite the fact that it centers on the all-too-familiar man-child archetype. For his latest effort, Swanberg reunites with Digging for Fire star and co-writer Jake Johnson, who pulls double duty once again, this time with much more consistent results.
Dozens of movies play at the SXSW Film Festival every year, making it impossible to see all of them in just eight days. Even if you attended the annual insanity in Austin last week, chances are pretty high that you missed at least a few good movies. And if you’re a cinephile who skipped the fest entirely (congrats on your sleep), you might be wondering which films are worth putting on your radar. Lucky for the sleepless and the well-rested alike, we’ve put together a handy list featuring some of the best films from SXSW 2017.
Sharlto Copley is the kind of guy you want on your side when the shots start flying, though you might not think that’s the case after seeing Free Fire. The first full-fledged American production from UK director Ben Wheatley is a wild warehouse free-for-all featuring an absolute murderer’s row of actors, including Copley, Armie Hammer and Brie Larson (among many others). In a film where every man (and woman) is out for himself, perhaps no one is more self-serving than Copley’s Vernon, a narcissistic gun-pusher who is, for lack of a better adjective, kind of a weenie. But on a stunt ranch just outside Austin during SXSW, Copley was far from cowardly on the frontlines of the paintball battle field.
You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but what of the works they left behind? Anton Yelchin’s remarkable talent was (and remains) undeniable, but not even he could save Porto, for which the primary selling points are: That it was produced by Jim Jarmusch, stars Yelchin in one of his last roles, and is vaguely reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s far superior Before trilogy.
Early on in Gemini, the new indie film from director Aaron Katz, John Cho’s Detective Ahn tells Lola Kirke’s Jill that it’s often some seemingly innocuous and overlooked detail that winds up being “the key to solving the whole thing.” That one line says as much about Gemini as its cool, reflective aesthetic, which tips its hat — without paying outright homage — to late ’80s and early ’90s thrillers, including films like Mulholland Dr., Lost Highway and the lesser-seen and under-loved Bad Influence.
A former cop busted for crooked behavior is released from prison and returns home after six years, hoping to leave his life of crime behind and reconnect with his estranged family — but that life isn’t eager to let him go so easily. Director Evan Katz’s follow-up to 2013’s Cheap Thrills is a lean, mean neo-noir that addresses an age-old question: Do people ever really change? They can if they truly want to, but that’s not the case here.
Atomic Blonde is an easy sell: It’s Charlize Theron in a stylish spy thriller from one-half of the directing duo behind John Wick. But the first solo directorial effort from David Leitch is a little more James Bond than Blonde Wick — James Blonde, maybe, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s certainly more plot-driven (and at times, slightly convoluted) than John Wick, but no less enjoyable, and though the action scenes are every bit as awesome as you’d hope, it’s not quite the film you might be expecting.
Gareth Edwards pretty much had the dream moviemaking experience when he directed Last year’s Rogue One: He got to be a part of a franchise he’d loved since he was a kid, but he also got to contribute his own ideas to an almost entirely original story within that franchise instead of being bound by the confines of an already-established plotline. At SXSW on Monday, Edwards delivered a keynote speech about his work in Star Wars and becoming a filmmaker, and revealed that one of the planets in Rogue One got its name from a fortuitous misspelling at a coffee shop.
You know an Edgar Wright film when you see one, even if Simon Pegg isn’t nearby — the distinctive (and often heartfelt) sense of humor, the impressive editing, the momentum, and the predictably awesome soundtrack, all working in time to deliver a film that’s remarkably poignant for such a well-oiled machine. Baby Driver might not be quite what you’re expecting from the director of Scott Pilgrim and Shaun of the Dead, and yet it’s entirely what you’re hoping to see. Despite some of its unexpected qualities and low-key visual style, it is perhaps the most Edgar Wright film to date.
“My mantra has always been to scare the living s— out of you.” Those were Ridley Scott’s final words before he unleashed three scenes from Alien: Covenant to a packed theater at SXSW last night. Scott was joined by stars Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender and Danny McBride at a special screening of his original Alien, preceded by a sneak peek at footage from Covenant. You’re warned of potential spoilers from here on out, but it’s doubtful that Scott, who seems very confident about his “quite clever” prequel, would allow us to see footage that gave away too much.