When the sixth annual Lone Star Film Festival kicks off Wednesday with Billy Bob Thornton's Jayne Mansfield's Car, it will be heading into what may be its biggest year yet in terms of name-brand Hollywood films.
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, Dustin Hoffman and Thornton are some of the stars who will have their work shown during the five-day fest at the AMC Palace in downtown Fort Worth.
Even though the Lone Star festival is short by comparison to similar showcases -- the Dallas International Film Festival runs 10 days, for example -- the task of deciding what to see can still be daunting. For the full schedule, go to lonestarfilmsociety.com. Here are six films you won't want to miss:
A Royal Affair
It is the late 1700s, and the Danish throne is in crisis. The weak, simpleton king has married an Englishwoman who begins having a secret affair with his studly physician and confidante. More than that, the physician believes in the Enlightenment, setting him -- as well as the king and queen -- up for war with their religiously conservative court. It's all deliciously juicy stuff handled with the right amount of suspense, intrigue and smoldering romance in the Danish-language drama that is the country's official Oscar entry in the foreign language category. It features three riveting performances: Alicia Vikander as the young queen who can't hide her disgust for the man she is forced to marry; Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, as the flamboyant, idiotic king; and the always reliable Mads Mikkelsen (Three Musketeers, Clash of the Titans) as the doctor caught in the middle of affairs of state and heart. 9 p.m. Thursday.
Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper proved that he was more than just a pretty face in the entertaining 2011 thriller Limitless, but he really ramps up his game here, playing a teacher with emotional issues who's having trouble adjusting to life after spending eight months in lock-up. He throws himself into the part with a giddy energy, and he is equaled by Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone, The Hunger Games), as his equally troubled newfound love. Here, Lawrence for the first time is playing a mature woman, not someone still fighting her way out of girlhood. Director David O. Russell, after the straight-ahead dramatics of The Fighter, returns to the more comedic sensibilities of such earlier films as Flirting With Disaster without abandoning the story's serious underpinnings. A real crowd-pleaser, it's no surprise that it won the Audience Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. 9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.
Ornette: Made in America
One of Fort Worth's most inventive musical exports is saxophonist Ornette Coleman, the living legend who helped invent the adventurous style known as free jazz. In this 1985 documentary, director Shirley Clarke charts Coleman's life growing up in a segregated Cowtown and how he used that as a launching pad for his musical explorations. And, for jazz fans, Made in America also includes such notables as bassist Charlie Haden, trumpeter Don Cherry and author William S. Burroughs. 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.
Not many movies about Australian Aboriginals end up on American screens but this one, about four young women in 1968 trying to make it as an R&B group, seems tailor-made for a global audience. On the surface, it's Dreamgirls or Sparkle Down Under, but dig a little deeper and it really is about a particular time, place and culture that is often invisible to much of the world. Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids) co-stars as their manager and his inclusion could be seen as pandering to Hollywood's demands for some spark of star wattage. Still, anything that gives exposure to underrated actress Deborah Mailman (Bran Nue Dae, The Secret Life of Us) deserves to be supported. It has already been a big hit in Australia and could find an audience here. 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Back in 2006, much of the talk on the film-festival circuit was about this low-budget horror film that began as a thesis project from Fort Worth native Chad Feehan. But the film, starring Amber Heard, Luke Grimes and Robert Earl Keen, fell into a distribution hole and was rarely seen after that. Now, LSFF gives North Texans the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Director Jonathan Levine went on to garner acclaim for The Wackness and his breakthrough hit, the warm and witty 50/50. Feehan, a producer on Mandy Lane, most recently co-wrote Paranormal Activity 4. 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.
It's a Disaster
David Cross, Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, Erinn Hayes and Kevin M. Brennan star in this comedic drama about four families getting together for brunch only to find out the world may be ending. It was a hit at the Los Angeles Film Festival, with the Tonight at the Movies site calling it "the actual movie that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World wanted to be." Hayes and Brennan will be at the screening. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.
Cary Darling, 817-390-7571