Events like the USA Film Festival — taking place April 24-28 at Angelika Film Center Dallas — give movie-lovers two great opportunities. The first is to see new and interesting films weeks or even months before they hit theaters. As a bonus, many filmmakers and stars come along for the ride, letting audiences get up close and personal with people they would normally never encounter.
Befitting a lineup that's full of great choices, the festival has managed to coax a number of big names to come out for the 2013 edition.
The headliner on Wednesday's opening night is writer/director David Gordon Green for his film Prince Avalanche. Although he's become known recently for helming such comedies as Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter, Green first gained acclaim for a series of dramatic films. Prince Avalanche, despite starring Paul Rudd, returns to those roots.
Thursday night brings Jim Rash and Nat Faxon to town for The Way, Way Back. The writing duo, making their co-directorial debut with this film, may be familiar to some for their acting roles, most notably Rash as Dean Pelton on NBC's Community and Faxon as Ben on Fox's recently canceled Ben and Kate. But they earned their film bona fides by winning an Oscar for co-writing 2011's The Descendants.
On Friday, Joss Whedon fanatics get to geek out with both a screening of the director's new film, Much Ado About Nothing, and an appearance by one of the film's stars, Amy Acker. A Dallas native, Acker is a longtime member of the Whedonverse, having appeared in Angel, Dollhouse and last year's The Cabin in the Woods.
Saturday features two familiar character actors — Dallas' own Stephen Tobolowsky and Abby Miller. Tobolowsky hosts a series of short films, including one in which he stars. He is known for his roles in films like Groundhog Day and for his countless TV appearances, most recently on Showtime's Californication. Miller, starring in Congratulations, has a shorter resume, but she has made a recent impact as Ellen May on FX's Justified.
Finally, you may get the chance on Sunday to pretend you're part of Kevin Connolly's entourage. The Entourage actor directed one the festival's closing films, Big Shot, a documentary about John Spano, a supposed Dallas business mogul who almost got away with buying an NHL team despite having no money. The festival hopes to lure Connolly to town, but his attendance is still pending.