The Dallas International Film Festival is back once again to bring movie lovers 10 days of new feature films, documentaries, shorts and more. Running April 9-19 at Angelika Film Center Dallas and other locations, the festival features almost 170 films, including 11 world premieres.
Those numbers sound daunting, so we're here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff. The 14 films below represent some, though certainly not all, of your best chances for success at this year's festival.
I'll See You in My Dreams
The opening night film stars Blythe Danner as a retiree who gets shaken out of her nice but monotonous lifestyle by the appearance of two men — one a pool cleaner 40 years her junior and the other a smooth-talking fellow retiree. Danner, director Brett Haley and other filmmakers will be in attendance on opening night. In addition to the April 9 screening at Majestic Theatre, it also screens on April 10 at the Angelika.
Have You Been Flying Blah Airlines?
We'll be honest: This is not a great movie. Instead, it's a five-hour-and-45-minute pseudo-ad for Virgin America designed to show what flying on other non-fun airlines feels like. So why recommend it? Because anyone who can sit through the entire film on April 10 will receive 2,500 Elevate points from Virgin, or the equivalent of one free flight.
5 Flights Up
Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman are two of the most cherished actors in America, so who wouldn't want to see them together? This film juxtaposes their characters' current stage in life, in which they need to decide if they should move from their fifth floor apartment, with their beginnings when interracial relationships were still taboo. It plays at the Angelika on April 10.
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Nearly everyone who grew up in the early 1980s was a fan of Steven Spielberg's classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. This documentary takes a look at two boys who took that fandom to the extreme — spending seven summers making their own version of the film — and their quest to finish it 30 years later. It plays at the Angelika on April 10 and 11.
Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World
Back in November 2013, thousands of people from around the San Francisco area helped stage one of the most elaborate Make-a-Wish events ever for Miles Scott, who was afflicted with leukemia. This documentary shows how the event evolved from what was supposed to be a small one to something that eventually reached even the president of the United States. It screens at the Angelika on April 11.
Playing It Cool
One of the Centerpiece Screenings at this year's DIFF, Playing It Cool stars erstwhile Captain America Chris Evans in a rare romantic comedy role. In a bit of meta storytelling, he plays a screenwriter tasked to write a romantic comedy, which could be a problem because he doesn't believe in love. It screens at the Angelika on April 11 and at Texas Theatre on April 17.
Animated Shorts Competition
Short films too often get short shrift, even at film festivals, but this year's animated shorts competition is one you shouldn't miss. Among the eight films shown are Pixar's latest, Lava, which the rest of the world won't get to see until June when it officially premieres before Inside Out, and World of Tomorrow, a trippy sci-fi film that Entertainment Weekly calls a "masterpiece." The shorts screen at the Angelika on April 12 and 13.
You're not likely to see another documentary quite like The Wolfpack. The five Angulo brothers grew up in Manhattan, but they were rarely allowed to go outside. They learned about the world through movies, which led to the quintet's reenacting their favorite films. The film uses home movies and new footage to give a full portrait of five unique individuals. It screens at the Angelika on April 13 and 14.
Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot
Every Dallas Mavericks fan knows what a sweet shooter Dirk Nowitzki is, as was especially evident during the Mavericks' title run in 2011. This documentary goes behind-the-scenes to look at Nowitzki's relationship with coach and mentor Holger Geschwindner, who helped refine his shot as a youngster in Germany. It shows on three screens at the Angelika on April 14 and once more on April 16.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This film about an unlikely friendship between two teenagers could be this year's The Fault in Our Stars. A socially awkward boy is forced by his mother to befriend a leukemia-stricken girl, only to find that they share more than he thought possible. The film, which co-stars Nick Offerman, Connie Britton and Molly Shannon, plays at Cinemark West Plano on April 16.
Many a filmmaker has tried his hand at making a Western, but it's not often one comes from the other side of the pond. Scottish filmmaker John Maclean directs up-and-comer Kodi Smit-McPhee as a lovelorn teenager who travels from Scotland to the American West to search for his love, only to fall in with a mysterious traveler played by Michael Fassbender. It screens at the Angelika on April 17 and 19.
The Lego Movie
Aside from getting a chance to see the best animated film of 2014 (which was criminally overlooked by the Oscars) on the big screen again, this screening also features an appearance by the film's writers and directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who are on quite the creative roll with this, the 21 Jump Street series and new show The Last Man on Earth. Lego plays at the Angelika on April 18.
Love & Mercy
The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson is the subject of this biopic, starring Paul Dano and John Cusack as younger and older versions of the man who has famously struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues. You can get a fuller understanding of the man with this film, then see him in concert when he comes to town in June. The film shows at the Angelika on April 18.
Director David Gordon Green, who grew up in Richardson, is a festival favorite in Dallas, having had films at DIFF and the USA Film Festival the past two years. He's back for a third straight year with Manglehorn, a film starring Al Pacino as a locksmith looking to find love again, possibly in the form of Holly Hunter. It screens at the Angelika on April 19.