1. “Evil Dead”
Oh good gravy! If advance word on this high style remake of the 1981 shoestring-budget horror cult classic is to be believed, I’m going to need some serious medication to make it through Friday night’s world premiere. Just look above at the terror-stricken face of Jane Levy (Suburgatory) — and that’s before she becomes a knife-licking demon.
2. “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”
One of the best things about SXSW is that it welcomes mainstream, audience-pleasing fare that other film festivals would never seriously consider showcasing. Last year, 21 Jump Street got the red carpet treatment, and this year the Steve Carell/Steve Buscemi/Jim Carrey magician comedy will premiere in Austin on Friday night, a week before it arrives in theaters.
3. “Zero Charisma”
If you’ve played Dungeons and Dragons even a little, chances are you’ve come across a player or two for whom the seminal role playing game seems more real to them than their actual lives. This dark comedy follows such a die-hard D&D fanatic, and how his life unravels when a dastardly hipster invades his weekly game.
4. “Good Ol’ Freda”
For the first time in half a century, Freda Kelly — the secretary to the Beatles for their entire time together — reveals what it was like at the center of the biggest band in the world. Produced with the blessing of living Beatles Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, the film managed to finagle the rights to four of the band’s songs. That is devotion.
5. “Mr. Angel”
In the vast and varied world of pornography, Buck Angel stands essentially alone: A butch, bald man covered with tattoos who’s proud to have a vagina. The 68-minute documentary chronicles how Buck navigated a difficult childhood and harrowing adolescence to become the man he is today — happily married with seven dogs and a passionate crusade to tell his story and the story of female-to-male transgendered people like him.
6. Much Ado About “Much Ado About Nothing”
Joss Whedon’s black-and-white adaptation of this blithe Shakespeare comedy about the merry war between the sexes premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival. For its stateside debut (in advance of its June theatrical bow), Whedon and much of the cast — including Alexis Denisof (Angel), Amy Acker (Angel, The Cabin in the Woods), Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly), and Clark Gregg (The Avengers) — will gather for a lively discussion of the madcap 12-day shoot that Whedon assembled at his gorgeous home during his vacation time after wrapping production on The Avengers. (Yours truly will moderate the discussion.)
7. “Bates Motel” Sneak Preview, and Discussion With Creator Carlton Cuse
While his fellow Lost compatriot Damon Lindelof has been off writing feature films with Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird, Carlton Cuse has been busy working on another out-of-the-box TV series with a creepy-cool mythology: A&E’s Bates Motel, a prequel to the horror classic Psycho starring Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as a teenage Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) as his formidable mother Norma.
After a sneak peek of the first episode a week before its premiere, Cuse will sit down for an in-depth discussion of how one transforms one of the most iconic films of the 20th century into a viable TV series.
8. A Conversation with Danny Boyle
After Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, director Danny Boyle attempts to continue his winning streak with the head-trippy art heist thriller Trance. He’ll discuss the film — and preview some footage — with The New York Times’ David Carr, and we’ll hope and pray no one makes a joke about phoning a friend. (Well, after we just did, anyway.)
9. Hot Leading Men Going Gritty and Dark
It’s the perpetual peril of the handsome leading man: No one wants to cast you in anything other than bland and boring leading roles. Impossibly pretty actors Paul Walker, Josh Duhamel, and Adam Brody are attempting to break free of those chains by embracing dark and gritty roles in three similarly small-scaled indie films premiering at SXSW. In Hours, Walker plays a desperate widowed father trapped in a New Orleans hospital in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, with his premature newborn baby clinging to life on a respirator with a battery that can only hold a three-minute charge. In Scenic Route, Duhamel and Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) are two buddies whose friendship violently deteriorates after they become stranded on a desert road. And in Some Girl(s), an adaptation of a Neil LaBute play, Brody plays a successful author whose pre-wedding tour of ex-girlfriends (including Kristen Bell, Jennifer Morrison, and Zoe Kazan) reveals some quite uncomfortable truths about him.