Now in its 27th year, SXSW is like the late bloomer who stuns his parents by announcing his basement-based online venture is now worth a million bucks. The Austin, Texas-based festival isn’t glamorous, like Cannes, or corporate, like Toronto, or even insistently anti-Hollywood, like Sundance. Compared to its more-pedigreed rivals, SXSW is simply more chill. It puts the festive back in festival – there’s a giant music and growing interactive element as well – and artists of all sorts are eager to come to the party. Jimmy Kimmel Live will broadcast there for a week. Lady Gaga will drop in. Wes Anderson is swinging by with The Grand Budapest Hotel.
This year’s SXSW, the 21st edition with a film slate, features 89 world premieres, as well as several titles that will be showing in the U.S. for the first time. All in all, there are 133 feature-length movies to see, which is especially overwhelming since the festival opens Friday night and lasts just nine days. But here are 11 world premieres you shouldn’t miss:
Chef: Jon Favreau says his latest movie, in which he also stars as a famous chef who loses everything following an ugly Twitter-war with a food critic, is a throwback to his Swingers days. He’s got more than a few famous friends along for the ride, with Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, and Sofia Vergara aboard to help his chef start a new life running a food-truck.
Predestination: Ethan Hawke reunites with Daybreakers directors Michael and Peter Spierig for this time-travel thriller based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story, All You Zombies. Hawke plays a veteran agent for a government agency that is tasked with skipping through time to stop criminals before they strike. In his final assignment before retirement, he has to recruit his younger self to stop the one criminal in time that has long eluded capture.
Neighbors: Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play a married couple with a new baby whose idyllic suburban life is upended when a raucous college fraternity movies in next door. Zac Efron and Dave Franco play the Animal House’s top dogs, and the trailer’s best bits promise that the film will appeal to most everyone who enjoyed director Nicholas Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall or The Five-Year Engagement.
Creep: First-time director Patrick Brice stars in a suspense thriller that on the surface resembles Safety Not Guaranteed. Brice plays a down-on-his-luck videographer who answers a cryptic Craigslist ad to film a stranger in a desolate mountain town. The stranger is played by Safety’s Mark Duplass, and once they start filming, Brice’s character realizes he may have signed on for more than he bargained for.
Open Windows: No one is having more fun after presumably making millions from a blockbuster franchise than Elijah Wood. The one-time hobbit has had fun exploring his dark and warped side in recent movies like Maniac, Grand Piano, and Cooties, and in Open Windows, he plays a fan who wins a contest to meet his favorite actress (Sasha Grey). When she cancels last minute, the fan is approached with an even more tempting offer: to gain access to a series of hidden cameras and spy on her from his laptop.
Space Station 76: If the art and fashion of Space Station resemble clunky old-school sci-fi that remind you of The Black Hole or Buck Rogers, well, that’s sorta the point. Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Matt Bomer, and Jerry O’Connell star as a crew of astronauts whose chemistry is thrown off balance when an attractive assistant captain comes aboard. It’s a comedy, for sure, so hopefully it’s a Galaxy Quest for people who never heard of the Kobayashi Maru.
Veronica Mars: The Kickstarter-funded resurrection of TV’s favorite teenage crime-solver finally gets its close-up when Rob Thomas’ movie premieres in Austin on March 8. It should be interesting to see whether the filmmakers tried to purely please die-hard fans of the cult series, or aimed for the less-obsessed, more-mainstream audience.
The Heart Machine and Honeymoon: Two completely different movies in style and tone, but they share the similar framework of a relationship being stressed by unusual circumstances. In The Heart Machine, The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr. becomes paranoid that the woman he’s dating via Skype might be lying about her long-distance circumstances. In Honeymoon, Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie and her new husband (Paul Treadaway) have their marital bliss punctured by something horrible in the woods surrounding their remote mountain retreat.
We’ll Never Have Paris: Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) co-directed the movie with his wife Jocelyn Towne, based on a particular traumatic stretch of their courtship. Helberg plays a version of himself and Melanie Linskey plays his girlfriend, who flees to Paris after an ugly fight and takes up with a handsome Frenchman. Helberg follows her there to win her back. Let’s presume it’s funny and extremely personal: Helberg told Variety that the script cut so close that he vomited on his first draft, and that “the sex scenes will make you cry.”
Faults: An expert on mind control (E.R.’s Leland Orser) is recruited by a couple to save their daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) from a cult and deprogram her. But once he kidnaps her and tries to bring her back to her former life, they engage in a challenging and chilling duel of the minds. Winstead’s husband Riley Stearns directed the movie, based on his Black List script from 2013.