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SXSW: Fest opens with world premiere of Jon Favreau's 'Chef'

The SXSW Film Festival kicked off last night in Austin with the world premiere of Jon Favreau’s Chef, an easygoing charmer about a man rekindling his bonds with both his craft and young son. The movie, which Favreau wrote, directed, and stars in, marked what was clearly a personally reinvigorating return to his indie roots. Inspired by foodie gems like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, Big Night, and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Favreau has made a shaggy dog story about a creatively frustrated chef who opens a food truck after losing his restaurant job. He hits the road with his sous chef (John Leguizamo, at his grooviest) and his 11-year-old son (charming newcomer Emjay Anthony), making beautifully-filmed pit stops in foodie meccas New Orleans and Austin. (And did the Austin audience ever appreciate the hometown doting.) Sofia Vergara plays Favreau’s ambivalent ex, and there are cameos from friends-in-high-places Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Dustin Hoffman.

Favreau was joined on stage by Leguizamo, Anthony, and Oliver Platt (who plays a food blogger whose harsh review at the beginning of the story sends the chef into a tailspin) after the screening for a Q&A. When asked about the theatrical release of the film (it opens on May 9), Favreau sounded relaxed about its box office chances. “It’s going to be swimming in those same shark-infested waters as Iron Man did…and it’s not Iron Man.”

SXSW: 'Wild Canaries' motion posters for the screwball comedy starring Sophia Takal, Alia Shawkat, Jason Ritter -- EXCLUSIVE

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There are two types of people in the world: chaos muppets and order muppets.

For Wild Canaries writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine, an order devotee, his wife, actress and director Sophia Takal is the chaos variety. “It can be very, very funny sometimes for the two of us to be in a living situation together. I think that was something he wanted to explore in a comedy,” Takal told EW. Levine agrees: “Sophia is just so funny and wacky in our everyday life and I really wanted to do a movie that would show that off.”

The result? Wild Canaries — a screwball murder mystery in the vein of The Thin Man series, about a newly engaged couple Barri and Noah (played by Takal and Levine) who both react to the death of their elderly downstairs neighbor in different ways. Barri suspects murder. Noah thinks that’s insane.

“It’s really based on our dynamic. Our real dynamic,” she said. Barri enlists her roommate Jean (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) to aid in the amateur investigation. Everyone is suddenly a suspect — from their deceased neighbor’s son (Kevin Corrigan) to the suave, hipster building owner (Jason Ritter) — and relationships become more fraught than ever as the riotous, high-stakes caper evolves.

“[Levine] wrote it right before we got married, so I think a lot of commitment phobia is in there, too,” Takal says about the film, which is premiering at SXSW. Levine says, “I think a lot of those anxieties that exist as you approach marriage — fear of being betrayed, fear of making a mistake, thinking long and hard about if you really trust somebody — these were things that were on my mind. So when I started to write a murder mystery, the one I came up with reflected those fears.

Adds Takal: “We’re exploring things that are relatable but also couching it in a fun mystery.” READ FULL STORY

SXSW: Check out an exclusive clip from cult actor doc 'That Guy Dick Miller' -- VIDEO

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If you’re a fan of Roger Corman or Joe Dante then you’re probably also a fan of Dick Miller, who is something of a fixture in both their filmographies.

And even if you’re not, there’s a very good chance you’re at least familiar with his face, given that the veteran character actor has appeared in more than 150 films and TV shows, including The Terminator, both Gremlins movies, and Star Trek: Next Generation. READ FULL STORY

SXSW: Aaron Paul has a 'Hellion' on his hands -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

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For about 20 seconds, Hellion seems like it might be a quiet, introspective portrait of two young boys in Southeast Texas — lyricism in the vein of David Gordon Green’s George Washington or Terrence Malick’s, well, everything. Malick’s longtime producer Sarah Green and modern auteur Jeff Nichols even produced it.

Then the motorcycle engines start revving and the atonal dawn sounds turn to screaming guitars. Hellion is something else. Hellion is heavy metal lyrical.

In Kat Candler’s film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will also be featured at SXSW, Aaron Paul plays Hollis, a grief-stricken widower and mostly absentee father to two young boys. The eldest, Jacob (the beguiling Josh Wiggins) is a troublemaker and the younger seems to be on the same path. Nothing is easy for this family, and things just continue to go downhill for them when the state steps in.

EW has an exclusive clip of Hellion’s explosive opening. Not even Jesse Pinkman was this angry.

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SXSW: Nick Damici on his new horror-drama 'Late Phases' -- EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS

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Over the past few years, actor Nick Damici has faced off against bloodthirsty virus victims (Mulberry Street), vampires (Stake Land), and cannibals (last year’s terrific  We Are What We Are). So what’s next on the agenda for the New York-based thespian and excellent cook? That would be werewolves.

In acclaimed director Adrián García Bogliano’s new horror-drama Late Phases, Damici is a war veteran whose son (Ethan Embry) forces him to move into a retirement community beset deadly animal attacks. “I play a blind 70-year-old guy who moves into a retirement community upstate,” elaborates the actor. “First night he’s there, a werewolf attacks him. And then it’s war — the blind guy against the werewolves.” READ FULL STORY

Andre Benjamin is Jimi Hendrix: See the singer's soft side in first 'All is By My Side' clip -- EXCLUSIVE

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Filmmakers have been trying to bring Jimi Hendrix’s life to the big screen for decades, and with JIMI: All is By My Side, John Ridley has finally succeeded where directors Paul Greengrass and the Hughes brothers had been stymied in recent years. The Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave brought the iconic rock star, who died in 1970 at the age of 27, back to life with the help of André Benjamin. The movie didn’t have the support of the Hendrix estate so it makes do without his music, but critics nevertheless applauded when the biopic debuted at last fall’s Toronto Film Festival. The movie makes its U.S. debut on March 12 at SXSW.

All Is By My Side tells the Hendrix’s in the year before he became a rock legend, when he was still a back-up guitarist named Jimmy James playing dingy New York clubs. A well-connected groupie named Linda Keith, however, sees in him something special. She brings him to 1966 London, where Jimmy transforms into Jimi. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll ensue. The film culminates with Hendrix being invited to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, the historic all-star concert that made him an icon.

In an exclusive clip from the film, Jimi and Linda (Imogen Poots) have a heart-to-heart before he flies to California. They’re no longer together, but he wrote a song about her, he says. Linda, however, is the kind of gal that inspires lots of rock songs: Keith Richards penned “Ruby Tuesday” about her. In the clip below, you can sort of see why.
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Pat Healy talks about getting bloody for black-comedy 'Cheap Thrills'

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People who like Pat Healy should love his new movie, the blacker-than-black-comedy Cheap Thrills. And people who don’t like the actor? They may love it even more.

In this directorial debut from E.L. Katz, Healy plays a freshly fired family man named Craig who, together with an old acquaintance portrayed by Ethan Embry, is convinced to undertake ever crazier challenges for money by a rich couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton). We don’t want to say too much more but we can confirm that Healy’s character undergoes all manner of mental and physical trials, including getting a bloody nose as the film’s poster clearly shows (see above). READ FULL STORY

SXSW announces Lena Dunham, Jason Blum, and Casey Neistat as keynote speakers

In addition to panels, workshops, and more, SXSW is adding a new feature to this year’s festival: daily keynote sessions. And today, the festival announced that the first speakers will include Girls creator Lena Dunham, founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions Jason Blum, and writer, director, and editor Casey Neistat.

“Though our conference has long featured dynamic speakers, we’re kicking it to a new level this year. By adding a daily Keynote, we aspire to further highlight and draw all eyes to creators who impact our culture in diverse and fascinating ways,” Janet Pierson, Head of SXSW Film, said in a press release. “Our first three keynotes epitomize the root of what SXSW Film stands for: singular vision, DIY creation, and gleefully coloring outside the established lines.”

For a full list of the festival’s first round of panels, visit SXSW.com/film. The complete conference lineup will be announced in early 2014.

Cheers! Magnolia Pictures acquires Anna Kendrick comedy 'Drinking Buddies'

With a cast including Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston, it was only a matter of time before Joe Swanberg’s largely improvised comedy Drinking Buddies would get a distributor. After premiering at the SXSW Film Festival, Magnolia Pictures announced that it had acquired the North American rights to the film. It’s expected to hit theaters later this year.

Set in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, Drinking Buddies tells the story of a pair of brewery (Wilde and Johnson) employees who flirt their way from friendship to…something else. Innocent enough, until you realize that both are in relationships. Kendrick and Livingston play the poor fools who can’t compete with craft beer-induced love.

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Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna reveals illness, reconfirms awesomeness in 'The Punk Singer'

The Punk Singer, Sini Anderson’s intimate, invigorating portrait of Riot grrrl founder and former Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, world premiered at SXSW this week and it’s the film I can’t stop thinking about. In it, Hanna reveals for the first time that she dropped out of the music scene after being stricken low by Lyme Disease, a diagnosis that took six long, hard years for doctors to make. At its terrifying peak her illness robbed Hanna of that raw belt of a singing voice and she worried she’d soon be bound to a wheelchair. Watch a clip below: READ FULL STORY

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