In a time of witches, swords and magic, an ancient evil has risen to power and has been enslaving humankind. Through the ages, heroes rise and fall trying to take down this evil, but what will it take to stop it?
If you are a fan of Heavy Metal and films of its ilk, then THE SPINE OF NIGHT may seem like it was tailor made for you. Viciously-graphic violence, harsh explosions (mainly involving blue fire) and obscene nudity are just the start of what you are in for over the course of the Film’s 93-minute running time. It initially felt like a blueprint for a live action epic, but there is no way any of the wild happenings here would ever make it to the big screen in any form other than this rotoscoped animation style. Some moments look genuinely incredible with how vividly detailed they are, and others are cruder than you would ever expect. The technique is rarely used so extensively in modern animation, so it was refreshing to see it employed here, allowing the Filmmakers to make interesting and unique choices in telling their blood-soaked story.
Where THE SPINE OF NIGHT lost me was in its pacing and structure. The majority of the Film is told in jumpy episodic flashbacks, with very few characters appearing in multiple segments. It makes latching onto any one element of the story difficult, and takes a bit of time to jump on board for – especially when the flashbacks are so non-linear. And while it is fun to hear voices like Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt and Joe Manganiello as these characters, I found so many of their performances to be dull, lifeless and generally unenthusiastic. I was excited to watch and love this Film, but merely found myself admiring the scope and style and not much else.
THE SPINE OF NIGHT screens at SXSWThursday, March 18, 2021 starting at 9 PMET.
SXSW 2021 kicks-off March 16 and runs through March 20, 2021 this year. Team Mr. Will is thrilled to bring you coverage virtually this year, giving you the scoop on some of the hottest titles to premiere at the Festival. The Film Festival component of SXSW includes digital Premieres, Screenings, and Q&As, a total 75 films, 84 short films, 30 special events, 5 episode premieres, 6 episodic pilots and more.
Here are some of Team’s most anticipated titles of SXSW 2021 which should be on your radar:
MR. WILL (Twitter: @mrwillw)
POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA
Wes Hurley writes and directs this quirky autobiographical Dark Comedy details his journey from a child fleeing the USSR with his mail order bride mother, to the United States in search of a better life. In-competition as part of the Narrative Features program, the Film examines the pressures of a young man to conceal his sexuality and what it means for him and his mother to continue hiding it. Above this, the coming-of-age story navigates the new immigrant experience as a high schooler and what it’s like, adding a bit of inclusion and diversity to the programming slate at SXSW. It screens 11:00 AM on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
WOMEN IS LOSERS
Lissette Feliciano directs and writes this Feature starring Lorenza Izzo (Once Upon a Time…. in Hollywood). The Dramedy centers on a young woman named Celina‘s (Izzo) world is turned upside down when she gets pregnant and the cycle of poverty that occurs when her family aren’t supportive and it is up to her to rewrite her destiny with an empowering message. And Canada’s Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) also stars! WOMEN IS LOSERS is in-competition in the Narrative Features program and streams Tuesday, March 16, 2021 10:55 AM.
DEMI LOVATO: DANCING WITH THE DEVIL
Global Superstar Demi Lovato made headlines after being rushed to the hospital following an opioid overdose. This Documentary goes deep as she speaks candidly about her ordeal and demons over the past decade, opening SXSW 2021. The four-part DocuSeries directed by Michael D. Ratner, arrives on YouTube Originals March 23, 2021, but we will have a chance to see it first at the Festival, followed by a Q&A. So stoked to hear about the star’s re-claiming back of her own life and lessons learned. The Film screens Tuesday, March 16, 20217:00 PM with Q&A to follow at Tuesday, March 16, 2021 9:00 PM.
INTRODUCING SELMA BLAIR
Selma Blair is the first star I ever took a Selfie with and I’ll never forget that moment and how kind she was to me! Blair has been very open about her battle with Multiple Sclerosis and this Documentary directed by Rachel Fleit, bravely recounts her journey dealing with mortality and self-acceptance. This is about empowering and inspiring in the face of crippling disability and we can’t wait to be uplifted and hear Blair speak openly. This Film just got picked-up by Discovery+ so there will by a chance for all to see soon. This screens Tuesday, March 16, 2021 beginning 3:00 PM.
THE LOST SONS
This Documentary from Ursula Macfarlane is a story so unbelievable you have to see it to believe. The story centers on a man named Paul Fronczak who was kidnapped at a young age only to be reunited with his parents by the FBI. Case closed. But then growing-up he always felt there was something different about him from his family and when he decides to delve deeper, a whole world unbeknownst to him is unravelled. We see at what cost truth comes at. Riveting storytelling which will rivet you. THE LOST SONS screens beginning Tuesday, March 16, 2021 5:00 PM.
AMANDA GILMORE (Twitter: @GilmoreAmanda)
This was my most anticipated of SXSW 2020 and thankfully they’ve included it in this year’s lineup. It follows a film development executive whose “guiding voice” has been lying to her about everything. It stars Olivia Munn, Luke Bracey, Justin Theroux, and more. This screens Thursday, March 18, 2021 5:00 PM.
Writer-Director Stacey Gregg is making her feature-directorial debut with Here Before. It’s a psychological thriller, starring the ever-talented Andrea Riseborough, and follows a bereaved mother who begins to questions her reality. This screens Wednesday, March 17, 2021 1:00 PM.
Natalie Morales is making her feature-directorial debut and starring in this drama about a Spanish teacher (Morales) and her student (Mark Duplass), who develop an unexpected friendship. Critics are already praising for its exploration of platonic love. This screens Wednesday, March 17, 2021 3:00 PM.
Canadian actress and filmmaker Megan Park is making her feature-directorial debut at the fest. It follows student Vada as she navigates the emotional impacts of a school tragedy. It’s got a powerful cast consisting of Shailene Woodley, Jenna Ortega, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, and more. This screens Wednesday, March 17, 2021 5:00 PM.
THE SPINE OF THE NIGHT
This Midnighter animated film has a killer Cast consisting of Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel, Joe Manganiello, and more. It’s being described as an ultra-violent, fantasy epic about dark magic falling into sinister hands. This screens Thursday, March 18, 2021 9:00 PM.
DAVE BALDWIN (Twitter: @davemabaldwin)
BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION
Harry Shum Jr. (who you will remember from Crazy Rich Asians, the Shadowhunters TV series and last fall’s romantic drama All My Life) leads this Midnighter as a ’90s Video Archivist who gets involved a conspiracy around pirated broadcasts. Sight unseen, that sounds like a film that plays in the same sandbox as David Cronenberg’s legendary horror film Videodrome. I am not expecting a film that is nearly as grotesquely gnarly as that, but I cannot help but be intrigued by whatever Director Jacob Gentry has cooked-up here. Since it is screening on Day 1 of the Film Festival, I will not have to wait long to find out. Premieres Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 9:00 PM.
When I was in High School, I worshipped at the altar of Kevin Smith. The man had a gift for writing hilariously-profane dialogue and had the means of injecting the kind of quiet poignancy you would never expect from stoner comedies. Clerks remains one of the biggest influences on my writing career, so having the opportunity to be among the first to see a Documentary on the life and times of Smith has me breathlessly anticipating Director Malcolm Ingram’s film. This was one of the films that was supposed to be at last year’s Festival, so here is hoping there is a great reason why they waited for this year’s Festival to premiere. Premieres Wednesday March 17, 2021, 1:00 PM.
I am weary of getting excited about films that receive praise and buzz after premiering in Berlin, but I am willing to make an exception for Mark Duplass. The multi-hyphenated Actor and Filmmaker stars here with Natalie Morales as a student who develops a friendship with his Spanish teacher over Zoom classes. Duplass’ independent work tends to stumble into the personal and the natural, and I expect Language Lessons to fall along the same lines. There is an inventiveness that comes with telling a story over Zoom (just ask last summer’s super effective Horror chiller Host), so I may be setting my expectations a bit too high – but I have faith that I will really enjoy this one. Premieres Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 3:00 PM.
I am a fan of Midnight movies, can you tell? This one concerns a wealthy family, their guests, a fancy dinner and the mysterious server tending to their every need. It certainly sounds like something creepy is amiss just from the logline, and the mysterious still accompanying it of a woman staring at a broken shard of glass has my curiosity piqued. And did I mention it is spoken entirely in Welsh? Sounds like the only thing missing is the screaming crowd I won’t possibly be able to replicate around me. Premieres Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 9:00 PM.
HOW IT ENDS
I was not able to watch HOW IT ENDS at Sundance in January, so I was very excited to see it pop up in the “Festival Favourites” section on the SXSW schedule. The story revolves around the personal journey Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones, who Co-Wrote/Co-Produced/Co-Directed with her husband Daryl Wein) takes on her way to an end of the world party and everyone she runs into along the way. I have been a longtime fan of Lister-Jones’ work in Film and Television (her character Fawn Moscato on New Girl still cracks me up), so I am intrigued to see how funny a film about an asteroid hurtling towards Earth can be. With a Supporting Cast featuring Nick Kroll, Lamorne Morris, Charlie Day, Whitney Cummings and Olivia Wilde, this one feels bound to be something special. Premieres Thursday, March 18, 2021 3:00 PM.