South by Southwest, the annual conference of film, tech, music, gaming and comedy, kicks off in Austin this Friday, March 9. The 25th edition of the SXSW Film Festival — or “South-By,” as it has affectionately been dubbed — boasts the kind schedule that would draw even the most niche film fan to the Lone Star state. The festival has always been one of the country’s most reliable discovery zones — it’s where the likes of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, and Bridesmaids later, first picked up heat. Last year, Baby Driver, The Disaster Artist, and Atomic Blonde delighted festivalgoers and went on to critical and box-office success. Ever since the 2018 lineup was released, the RT team has been busy speculating about which film will be this year’s breakout hit. Rotten Tomatoes See It Skip It host Jacqueline Coley thinks it might be one of these buzzy titles.
In Theaters Friday April 6
John Krasinski opens the festival with his new film A Quiet Place. Directed by and starring Krasinski alongside his wife Emily Blunt, the horror pic centers on a family living in seclusion in the woods. The group turns to sign language as a way to escape an malevolent unseen force that is drawn to sound. The movie’s tagline, “If they can’t hear you, they can’t hunt you,” hints that while the movie may be quiet, the audience won’t be.
In Theaters Friday April 6
Since he’s taken a page from the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson playbook, we can now confidently call John Cena a bona fide movie star. The former WWE champ has made memorable appearances in actions films like The Wall, comedies like Trainwreck, and even an Oscar-nominated children’s film, Ferdinand. Cena returns to SXSW with Blockers, a madcap comedy that follows a group of parents who are trying to prevent their daughters from completing a sex-pact to lose their virginities. Starring Leslie Mann and directed by Kay Cannon (writer of the Pitch Perfect films), Blockers has the makings of another surprise comedy hit.
In the latter part of his career, Bill Murray has cultivated a mythical status as a legendary party-crasher and popup bartender. The Bill Murray Stories follows director Tommy Avallone as he searches for meaning in Murray’s many unexpected adventures with everyday people. It features rare and never-before-seen footage of the comedy icon in situations previously presumed to be urban legend, and I for one am very intrigued to discover the truth behind the tall tales. Murray is expected to attend SXSW — and go home with new stories to tell.
Hot off of our first look at him as Cable in Deadpool 2 — seriously, we’ve watched that trailer 20 times — Josh Brolin comes to SXSW as Buck Ferguson, a big game hunter. With his trusted cameraman Don (Danny McBride), Buck sets out for an epic weekend adventure to reconnect with his young son. McBride re-teams with his The Foot Fist Way director and co-writing partner, Jody Hill (pictured, left); the pair are perhaps best known for their small-screen treasures Vice Principals and Eastbound & Down. The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter looks to return the duo to their film origins with a broad comedy tailor-made for the raucous Texas crowd.
Let’s just call 2018 the year of Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Irreplaceable You, Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, and now Fast Color have the British thespian poised to — finally — break into the mainstream. Helmed by director Julia Hart, Fast Color follows Ruth (Mbatha-Raw), a woman forced to go on the run when her superhuman abilities are discovered. Years after abandoning her family, Ruth is left with only one place left to hide: home. Hart clearly possesses an eye for talent. Her first directorial effort, Miss Stevens, which also premiered at SXSW, introduced a young upstart prodigy from LaGuardia High School named Timothée Chalamet.
In theaters Friday March 23
Wes Anderson returns to theaters after a four-year hiatus with what might be the buzziest property of the festival. Featuring the voices of Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum — along with a laundry list of Anderson’s usual suspects — Isle of Dogs closes out the SXSW film festival with its North American premiere. Critics from Berlin and Glasgow have already raved about the stop-motion canine adventure; it’s currently sitting pretty at 97% on the Tomatometer with 29 reviews. Anderson’s previous animation effort, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was another critical darling and was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Fun fact: Isle of Dogs is also the most anticipated March movie among Rotten Tomatoes’ followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In Limited Release Friday June 29
Boots Riley has created a satirical masterpiece: I assert this as fact, despite a more muted response from audiences at Sundance, who found the film more divisive. Riley’s farce about a telemarketer who uses his ‘white voice’ to gain corporate advancement is a film that demands to be seen with a crowd. The crowds of SXSW, known for boisterous reactions, are likely to have a festival favorite in this hyper-realized version of dystopian Oakland. Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, and Lakeith Stanfield star in Sorry to Bother You, which could be this year’s Get Out dialed up to 11.
South by Southwest Film Festival is March 9-17, 2018.