ENTERTAINMENT
03/21/2016 11:12 am ET

Pay Attention To These 7 Movies And TV Shows That Premiered At South By Southwest

Mike Birbiglia and Andre Royo were two of the festival's stars.

Mike Windle via Getty Images
The cast of "Don't Think Twice" attends the movie's South by Southwest premiere.

The barbecued streets of Austin quieted down on Sunday as South by Southwest came to a close. The Huffington Post was on hand earlier in the week to absorb the film portion of the 11-day festival, which also features tech and music. Some of the conference's higher-profile offerings ("Midnight Special," "Pee-wee's Big Holiday") are already available for your viewing pleasure. Others ("Hardcore Henry," "Everybody Wants Some," "Demolition") are headed your way in April and beyond.

Outside of the aforementioned films, we want to spotlight some of the best of SXSW. A few indies deserve to break out the same way "Krisha" and "Mr. Robot" did last year, while a couple of A-list projects could become bright spots in 2016's comedy lineup. Here are just a few highlights to look out for.

  • "Little Sister"
    SXSW
    "Little Sister" opens with a Marilyn Manson lyric: "Fail to see the tragic / Turn it into magic!" It's a song Colleen, the central character played by Addison Timlin, would have worshiped during her goth-kid adolescence, and it's a mantra she'd adopt now that she's moved far from home to become a nun. Combining those disparate identities atop the small-town backdrop of the 2008 presidential election, writer/director Zach Clark makes his protagonist's search for belonging a winning examination of a lifetime surrounded by tribulation and indifference. Colleen is summoned home after her mother (Ally Sheedy) leaves a mental hospital and her brother (Keith Poulson) is gravely burned in the Iraq War. Accurately described in SXSW press materials as a "sad comedy," "Little Sister" seeks a past Colleen can't quite redeem and a future she's working hard to reconcile.
  • "Don't Think Twice"
    SXSW
    The first half of "Don't Think Twice" is an expeditious laugh marathon. The second half is a bittersweet meditation on coming to terms with the speed at which life sometimes forces us to grow up. Mike Birbiglia's directorial follow-up to "Sleepwalk with Me" chronicles a tight-knit improv troupe contending with the loss of their home theater and one member's sudden success on a "Saturday Night Live" analogue. The talented sextet, whose other members are played by the likes of Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key, bubbles with chemistry, but "Don't Think Twice" gives each an affecting storyline that results in a teary portrait of moving up and moving on.
  • "Tower"
    SXSW
    Using the same animation technique employed in "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly," Keith Maitland recaptures America's first mass school shooting. On a harrowing Texas day in 1966, an ex-Marine killed 14 people and injured 32 others. Fifty years later, the events unfold in both nightmarish and humanizing ways, thanks to the subjects Maitland calls upon to illuminate the 90-minute standoff. "Tower" won the documentary feature competition's grand jury prize.
  • "The Arbalest"
    SXSW`
    If David Lynch and Wes Anderson had a cinematic baby, it might look something like "The Arbalest." A surreal story of revenge, obsession and the complexities of creative genius, Adam Pinney's eccentric movie traces a reclusive toy inventor's (Mike Brune) infatuation with a woman (Tallie Medel) who wants nothing to do with him. Even though "The Arbalest" may not pack as much cargo as it thinks it does, the movie is original and assured. Set in the late 1960s and '70s, the sleek period detailing looks like an episode of "Mad Men." For sheer unorthodoxy, this is an impressive choice for a grand jury prize champion at a mainstream festival.
  • "Hunter Gatherer"
    SXSW
    The gruff exterior that greets the run-down city streets in "Hunter Gatherer" gives way to a sweet story of companionship. "The Wire" star Andre Royo plays an ex-con who concocts featherbrained schemes to make money while struggling to win back the affections of his girlfriend (Ashley Wilkerson). Along the way, he finds a partner in crime (George Sample III) who's just dense enough to help and just sweet enough to become his true ally, rendering Joshua Locy's movie a portrait of hard-boiled cluelessness galvanized by the comfort of human connection.
  • "Preacher"
    SXSW
    AMC seems to have found its next potential hit in "Preacher," Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's adaptation of the comic series about a small-town clergyman whose unconventional powers send him on a quest to find God. A mix of subversive humor, bold action and outré mystery, the pilot of "Preacher" promises a genre-intensive treat for newcomers and fans of the series.
  • "Keanu"
    Warner Bros.
    Plenty of critics didn't take to "Keanu," and I admit the deliriousness of a 12:30 a.m. "work-in-progress" screening may have made me loopy. But I thought Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key's raucous comedy -- directed by Peter Atencio -- was packed with laughs. It doesn't quite stick the landing, ending with an overlong action set piece and walking back a couple of the movie's funniest gags. But "Keanu," the illogical tale of two pals who infiltrate a Los Angeles drug ring to retrieve their stolen cat, gets it right where it counts: via belly-aching punch lines, a precious feline and spirited buddy-comedy antics.

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