Well the SXSW FIlms selection started off with a bang yesterday, March 7th 2014. I had the pleasure of attending two premiering films, Chef and The Infinite Man (reviews to come shortly). I stood in line among hundreds of individuals with film badges (press and film lovers alike), all very eager to jump right in to the primordial ooze. These particular premieres were held at the gorgeous Paramount/Stateside Theatre at 713 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701. Plenty of famous directors/actors are in town for Q&A’s about their films, interviewing, & general ogling. Many feature length, short, and documentary films are premiering this coming week, some are even competing and being judged in each category. These films are also open to SXSW wristband holders and the general public, but the badgers have priority, so seating is limited. Other theaters surrounding the downtown area are also premiering films (Alamo Ritz, Zach Theater, Vimeo Theater & Long Center to name a few). I’m looking forward to attending many films and workshops throughout the week.
Information about the Film section of the festival can be found here: http://sxsw.com/film/
Austin Daze: Our social network has been exploding about this iTunes festival, everyone seems to have their opinions about what’s going on but I figured I’d hit up the one person that knows about all things SXSW, and that’s you. Can you tell us what’s happening? Is it good, is it bad?
Louis Black: You know, it wasn’t our idea, they decided to come to town to do this big event, and we would have much rather had the venue to do stuff in, but they made the deal, they came to town, and then we negotiated with them, because we’d rather have something this big be part of SXSW, and not be completely separate from it. So, it’s not our ideal kind of programing or our ideal use of that venue, but we are happy, with what we have negotiated. Read the rest of this entry »
It might have been prudent to leave Robocop frozen on the screen from the original 1987 film. Robocop does try to stand up on its own robotic legs, falls short, and the signal is somewhat lost. Like its predecessor, Robocop takes place in the not-to-distant future in a crime riddled Detroit. Apparently, the once bankrupt city seems to be thriving with Omnicorp (OCP), the technological giant supplying soldier drones throughout the world, with the exception of the United States.
The film starts with a parodied talk show news pundit, Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), who is blindly favoring one side of the political coin. Novak enlightens the world to why these super soldiers are not favored among Americans, but should be embraced. According to one politician, Hubert Dreyfuss (Zach Grenier) who oposes OCP, the People want to see the moral dilemma between right and wrong and these robotic soldiers are obviously lacking in these departments. This theme of morality is skimmed during parts of the movie, but does not completely make it to the main stage for more than a brief scene or two. Novak believes in Omnicorp, its owner Raymond Sellars (played by a long lost Michael Keaton), and their contributions to society. This version of Robocop has Alex Murphy (played by Swedish Joel Kinnaman “The Killing”) as an undercover police officer who is Read the rest of this entry »
Forty years ago today a movie was released that scared audiences so badly that it inspired an entire cultural fixation on horror – William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. In a time when movie tickets cost about a dollar, The Exorcist grossed a staggering $441 million, and it’s still among the highest-grossing films ever.
But why did The Exorcist strike such a chord with audiences? It’s a little difficult to imagine a horror movie having this kind of effect in today’s world, but that’s because so many films since 1973 have copied The Exorcist’s recipe for success: existential horror that eats at characters’ — and audiences’ — feelings of safety in their own belief systems, the fact that it’s based on a “true” story, and of course, nauseatingly convincing and gruesome special effects!
The Exorcist centers around the demonic possession of a young girl, Regan (played by Linda Blair), which strikes directly at the atheistic views of her mother, Chris (played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn). As the exorcist himself (played by Max von Sydow) comes to see that it’s actually a powerful demon, if not the Devil himself that he’s facing, Chris is also forced to accept that her worldview — and through her, that of “sophisticated” movie audiences the world over — must be totally upended to account for the undeniable evidence of this diabolical manifestation. In 1973, realism was strongly in force in mainstream cinema, and that realism combined with the incredible supernatural story spelled existential dread for audiences — and they loved it.
Adding to the realism in the midst of the fantastic was the fact that the events in The Exorcist were based on an actual 1949 exorcism involving a young boy in Maryland. Although the Catholic Church sent an exorcist (at the request of the boy’s family) and officially considered the case to actually be one of demonic possession, modern audiences were highly skeptical of such an occurrence being “real” … until they saw the movie, which portrayed everything so straightforwardly that many retroactively came to view the 1949 event as real as well.
Part of why audiences could suspend disbelief so readily is that The Exorcist used groundbreaking special effects techniques that even today, when moviegoers are jaded and used to computer-generated effects, can look viscerally real – and of course are horrifyingly scary if accepted as such. Famous scenes like the one in which Regan “spider walks,” (only seen in the recently released director’s cut, since it was originally scrapped because the wires holding up the stuntwoman were visible) and particularly the scene where Regan’s head turns around 360 degrees as she taunts and challenges the exorcist, are hallmarks now of frightening cinematic imagery and have appeared in many other films in the 40 years since The Exorcist’s release. Modern cineastes must force themselves to remember that even if the effects, such as the “pea soup” vomit bursting forth from Regan’s mouth as the devil tries to break the exorcist and Regan’s mother, look somewhat crude by today’s CGI standards, they were extraordinarily convincing to 1973 audiences.
The success of The Exorcist led not only to several direct sequels to the film, but also to an entire subgenre of horror movies depicting demonic possession in everyday American settings. The cultural impact of this movie was such that a little known horror writer named Stephen King found himself receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars for the paperback rights to his first book, Carrie — later made into an influential Brian DePalma movie — and kick-started his career as a horror novelist.
Thanks to the spiritual and existential dread and horror that it both showed in its characters and produced in its viewers, combined with what today we would call a “viral” story about the true incidents that inspired the film as well as its groundbreaking special effects, The Exorcist is still powerful enough to scare audiences today, 40 years after it first appeared in theaters.
The modern crime thriller usually leaves something to be desired. It seems that in the race to deliver chills and thrills to the audience filmmakers today sacrifice taut narrative for complexity. This approach, though at times effective, neglects the fact that the real thrill comes from character, not plot. While it can be interesting to watch the web of schemes unfold, if you don’t care about the people involved in the twists and turns then what is the point? Some of the best works of crime and noir are deceptively simple; take Akira Kurosawa’s “Stray Dog” for example. Sure, his tale about a cop seeking his stolen gun takes a few twists and turns but it never sacrifices itself to unnecessarily complex maneuverings. Its power comes from its simplicity; it never fails to remember that while the stakes are high it’s the characters that matter.
In the same vein, “Graceland” manages to be both taut and engaging without relying on overly complex twists and turns. It is, truly, an entirely character driven piece of filmmaking that will keep you guessing and on edge until the very end.
“Graceland” follows impoverished limo driver Marlon Villar (played by Arnold Reyes). Marlon struggles in the depths of poverty, trying to raise his daughter while his wife languishes in the hospital awaiting an operation they cannot pay for. In an effort to make money for his family, Marlon will take any job his employer offers him including the taxiing of teenage prostitutes to and from the congressman’s lair. Though disgusted by his employer’s predilection towards young girls, Marlon sees no other option. Reyes gives a powerful performance of this conflicted soul, torn between his morality and his desire to support his family and save his wife’s life.
One day, while driving both his and his employer’s young daughters home from school, they are ambushed by a gang of kidnappers. The events quickly take a tragic turn when mistaken identity leads to the death of his boss’s daughter and the kidnappers take his own daughter. Now, Marlon is forced to play both sides. Knowing that the kidnappers expect ransom for a girl who is no longer living, Marlon must protect this information in order to ensure the release of his own daughter. Along the way we are taken deeper and deeper into the congressman’s pedophilia which may or may not play a role in the kidnapper’s scheme.
It’s a deceptively simple morality tale wrapped in the guise of thrilling revenge. I found myself rapt from the very beginning and curious as to where this film would take me. I do have to mention that there were some uncomfortable scenes involving the congressman’s terrible nature that might be a bit much for some viewers. I won’t go into too much detail but I will admit wondering if the actresses used were actually of age. There was nothing profane or vulgar about the scenes, let me be clear, but even assuming the actress was 18, she looked every bit the 13 the story wanted to show.
That wasn’t a complaint or meant to be detraction, mind you. Rather it’s an example of the raw, visceral nature of this film that explores the darkest, most twisted depths of the human soul. “Graceland” is a remarkable work that stayed with me for days after its screening.
This news found me mid afternoon Thursday, I have been thinking a lot about it, ever since.I have read many words about the man, about his contributions and how he fueled many voices to enter in the dialogue about film. I will chime in here and join this illustrious list of friends, colleagues and fans. Above all else, the main feeling I have when thinking about him is GRATITUDE.
I grew up watching Siskel and Ebert, and was hooked almost immediately. It really intrigued me to see people discussing film in such a manner. I had not been accustomed to such a dissection of the elements of film. From their discussions I learned a lot about the history of film and began my own explorations. It didn’t matter whether I agreed or not with their decisions, it was how they each backed up their arguments. That is what I learned, how to support my believes on film with a history of cinema. Many years later, when I was starting the newspaper Austin Daze, Ebert was an advocate for other reviewers. He had come out in support of the online trend of reviews, and I thought that was very cool. He opened so many doors. I never got to meet Ebert in person, but many of my friends did, and I feel that he helped so many people grow into their professions. A few months after being in town I attended a QT fest at the Old-School Alamo. It was there, amongst strangers, that I was able to discuss films, even among characters such as QT and other famous directors. At that place, it really didn’t matter who you were, or what you had done, as long as you could hold your own and discuss the films with knowledge of other films. Thank you for the tools Mr. Ebert. I am grateful for what Ebert has done in making criticism about movies mainstream, and for showing the world that with an understanding of the elements, then you can argue or have an opinion. This really goes beyond film…….
It’s a sort of truism that nothing truly great is ever released this time of year; springtime movie goers, still sailing on the winds of the holiday epics from just a few months prior, are teased with trailers promising us jaw-dropping blockbusters to be released this upcoming summer. With the awards season behind us, it’s simply too soon to be shown anything that seeks to buck the rules of style and convention in an effort to push the boundaries of narrative form. No, spring is a time to release the fluff, the filler, and the just-a-movies.
Of course, I don’t necessarily mean that in the negative. Not every movie needs to be action packed, bang a minute summer romp or have the thrills and drama of the fall and winter Oscar bait months. Some movies exist purely to tell you story and, if they’re doing their job right, entertain you in the process. Read the rest of this entry »
For the last 30 years, physicist and world’s smartest man Stephen Hawking has blurred the lines between scientific discovery and pop cultural phenomenon; at this point in life, you’ve most likely either read his breakthrough book A Brief History of Time or you’ve meant to for years. You’ve seen him guest on the Simpson’s and Star Trek: The Next Generation. If science has a rock star, then there’s no one else that can fill the role besides Professor Hawking. All this, from a man whose body is so crippled with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) that he is, at this point, little more than a brain trapped by his body.
A new documentary that premiered at SXSW this year delves into the life of the world’s most famous physicist and offers an intensely intimate portrait of one of the greatest minds of our (or any) generation. Hawking, directed by Stephen Finnigan, takes you deep inside the life and times of the good professor and allows you to see behind the wheelchair and into the desires of a man who was given 2 years to live over four decades ago.
Told in his own voice, that instantly recognizable electronic drone, viewers are shown a side of Hawking that we’ve never seen before. We see the struggles of a man who has no choice but to be spoon fed his morning coffee and even champagne at a party in his honor at Oxford University. While there’s nothing terribly shocking about these revelations—because of course he’s spoon fed his beverages, how else could he drink?—it’s much different to actually see it up close and personal. Here is a man who has changed the way scientists view the universe in ways not seen since Albert Einstein first proposed relativity almost a century ago; he is trapped inside of his own body which long ago betrayed him and can no longer so much as breath without the assistance of a machine. The only muscle, in fact, that he still has any sort of control over is a tiny muscle in his cheek, with which he controls the computer that has long since become his voice and, therefore, his sole means of communication to the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Horror just ain’t what it used to be; the advent and subsequent rise of the slasher genre in the late 70’s and early 80’s brought the focus less on visceral terror and more on violence and gore as a means to horrify the audience. And while there have been several masterpieces of this movement (can anyone forget their first encounter with Freddy?) the blood and body counts just kept rising as each movie tried its damnedest to outdo the last; this, of course, eventually evolved into the torture-porn movement we’ve seen over the last decade and the violence escalated.
To be clear, I’ve got nothing against violence in movies or horror and I love certain slasher and torture-porn movies. They have their place and most likely always will be a mainstay sub-genre of horror. I do lament the decline of the cerebral, however; movies like the original Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and even The Shining made their marks on both cinematic and horror history by being, first and foremost, atmospherically disjointing. Violence was implied, for the most part, and the real horror took place psychologically, in the mind of the characters and the audience. There was a subtlety to these films and to the horror movement of the 60s and 70s that is, frankly, terribly lacking in today’s horror culture. Read the rest of this entry »
As part of the opening night festivities for the 20th annual SXSW Film Festival, the premiere of the highly anticipated Hollywood comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was held at the paramount theater. It seemed a little odd that a major film such as this would make its debut at , our little festival, but I suppose it’s all a part of the winds of change. Every year, more and more bigger releases make their first public showing in Austin. Last year, for example, saw the openings of both Bridesmaids and the big name Hollywood remake of 21 Jumpstreet as part of the South By party. So I suppose it makes sense that they would try their hands at this one as well.
There was much fanfare as moviegoers wrapped around the block in attempt to make their way into the screening which featured appearances by stars Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey, and Olivia Wilde. It was rather exciting to be a part of that experience, I’ll say that much. As to the movie itself? Well, let’s just say that there was nothing at all incredible about it.
The movie follows lifelong friends and magician team Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton as they attempt to overcome the perils of a stale act and egotism. Wonderstone (Carrell) has long since forgotten the passion he held for magic in his youth, the passion that drove him to pursue his dream of becoming a world famous stage magician. He has a cush job at a Vegas hotel and lives the lavish life of a stardom that includes a personal suite in Vegas as well as the much touted “largest bed in the state”. Read the rest of this entry »
Runtime: 107 minutes
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout and language
Action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his much-anticipated return to the big screen in Korean director KIM Jee-Woon’s hard-hitting U.S. directorial debut, THE LAST STAND.
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez’ path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever.
At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in THE LAST STAND. Directed by KIM Jee-Woon and written by Andrew Knauer, THE LAST STAND also stars Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford and Genesis Rodriguez. The film is produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura [the TRANSFORMERS series, RED, GI JOE, SALT]. Lionsgate Presents, A Lionsgate/di Bonaventura Pictures Production.
While they do have good attributes, I feel in essence they rob the theater goer of the freshness of the movie experience. I do watch some trailers for projects that I am excited about and I like to know what my favorite directors, writers and actors are up to, but for the most part I steer clear. I love movie magic. I know that if i was not deep into what I dig already, I would be somewhere in the film biz. I love being affected by film. The good conversations that happen with others after a screening and having thoughts about said film for weeks after are two of my favorite things. This evening, I saw a well made film with a friend and clean slate. I knew nothing, except the title. I wish everyone could do this.
The film is called, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD . It has some well known actors. I bet the trailers are all over TV. This was well written, directed and acted. The cheesy stuff was very minimal. See this one. It opens tomorrow. That is all I will say…………
Marshall Allman is probably best known as Sam Merlotte’s resentful shape-shifting brother on the HBO series True Blood, but as star and executive producer of Blue Like Jazz (based on the comedic and inspirational best-seller by Donald Miller), he’s no longer in anyone’s shadow. While Blue Like Jazz screened at SXSW, I had the opportunity to sit down with Allman and talk about the pressures of bringing a beloved book to the big screen. The following is a transcript of our conversation:
DW: Let’s start at the beginning. How did Blue Like Jazz come to you?
MA: I got an email out of the blue from a friend who knew some folks who wanted to contact me about this movie. It just slipped through the cracks and I honestly just forgot about it. A couple of weeks later he emailed again and said, “Hey, I really wanna give these people your contact info.” You know? Like, come back to Earth! So I said, yeah, and later that night I got an email from writer/director Steve Taylor that said, “You’re on the short list of actors we’re considering for the lead in this film, will you read the script and let us know if you’re interested?”
DW: That’s pretty flattering.
MA: Oh yeah, but you know when you get a script that doesn’t come from your agent …
DW: … you have no idea if it’s quality?
MA: I’ll tell you right now, 95% of the time it’s junk and you can tell within the first 5 pages. So I got a few pages in with this one and I was like, wow. So I emailed him back just a couple hours later right after I read it and said, “Hey man, I know you have your short list of actors but your search is done! I’m the guy, and thank you for the offer.” (laughs) He wrote back and said, “That wasn’t necessarily an offer…” (laughing)
DW: But there’s one forthcoming?
MA: Yeah, he said, “I won’t offer it to anyone else until we meet.” So about a week later we met and I was really nervous. We sat down at a little place to eat lunch and he came in and handed me a mixed CD, kind of like a soundtrack that he envisioned would go with the film and he said, “You got the part, man.” So I was really grateful. It made it easier for me to eat my meal.
I met A. Sabin and David Redmon on the verandah of the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Town Lake. Sabin is darkly beautiful and carries a quiet confidence, while David is a bit more intense. They look like the serious, award-winning documentarians they are, but that doesn’t stop them from getting distracted and a bit giddy when we’re joined on the terrace by a couple of celebrities posing for local press. After the excitement dies down and David and I discuss our shared roots in the DFW area, we dig in to the topic at hand: Girl Model, a film which documents the recruiting of under-age girls in remote Siberia for modeling in Japan.
Three-quarters of the way into our interview, things take a dark and unexpected turn, but we began with some background on the story.
DW: How did you first hear about this agency doing cattle calls in Siberia?
AS: We were approached in 2007 by Ashley, the model scout. At that point she sent us an email and the story was about modeling and prostitution, and the fine line between both. But our style of filmmaking is verite so we document events as they unfold. For us that creates a complexity in the story. So we had obvious concerns that she said this is the story that I think you should follow. We sort of pulled back and said we don’t want to make an investigative piece. But that’s how we initially got the story through Ashley and then it became something quite different.
DW: I have to say that’s surprising to me because Ashley seems so conflicted about what she’s doing. It wouldn’t seem like she would approach you to open herself up like that.
AS: She’s complicated. I think that’s why audiences respond to her so strongly because they’re trying to figure her out, to understand her motivation. Read the rest of this entry »
This haunting documentary opens on a huge ‘cattle call’ of girls from small villages in Siberia. They stand in bikinis, some with arms folded across their breasts, others with slumped shoulders, signs of obvious self-consciousness. They are here to audition for an opportunity to model in Japan, but most don’t look like future models at all. It looks more like a very large gym class lined up for weigh-in. They don’t flaunt or carry themselves in a presentational manner. No matter how pretty they may be, most of them look like gangly, innocent youngsters and that’s exactly what they are. As young as 13, they’re here because they dream of “getting out” and making money for their struggling families. But it will mean leaving behind everything they know and finding themselves in a strange land, at the mercy of a cruel industry.
When we first meet Ashley Arbaugh, an American scout who works exclusively for the Japanese modeling agency, she tells us she believes she’s “saving” these girls and giving them a chance in the west. But as we get a creepy feeling watching these minors being poked and prodded like so much market beef, and photographed in skimpy clothes so their bodies can be assessed and measured, Ashley fully admits that it’s the look of wide-eyed innocence they’re after. She then tells us that they pre-screen girls even younger than 13 in the villages. “Before anybody else gets there, we get the girls.”
Jack Black saunters in wearing a cool black western shirt, black jeans, and neon lime green sneakers. He’s also carrying a drink which may or may not contain something more than Coca-Cola at 1pm. Sometimes thoughtful and incredibly articulate, other times profane and silly, he keeps the roundtable interview jazzed. He’s got a touch of magic about him. He’s also got a fine performance in Bernie that he is (rightfully) proud of.
I was invited to attend this roundtable interview with several other journalists (local and national). The following is an edited transcript, and an audio file of the last few minutes of the interview in which Jack serenades us with some Tenacious D.
Glory be, and long live rock.
QUESTION: How does it feel to join the ranks of Jack Nicholson and Jack Lemmon who romanced Shirley MacLaine on screen?
JB: You know that’s a lot of pressure. Those are some powerful Jacks.
QUESTION: You give her a foot massage so that’s even more intimate according to Pulp Fiction rules.
JB: Is that in Pulp Fiction? They say a foot massage is more intimate than intercourse? Yeah, and I didn’t just rub the feet. I also buffed and shined’em. You saw it. It was a full-on thing there.
(He pretends to blow residue from a buffer as he does in the film.)
Kay McConaughey (affectionately known as K-Mac) plays a small town gossip in the new film Bernie, directed by family friend Richard Linklater, and co-starring her son Matthew, whom you may have heard of.
Her character, Tassie, is one of the more memorable “locals” through which the film’s narrative is told. She plays a ballsy gal with plenty to say and steals the movie in her few brief scenes.
I sat down with K-Mac in the Lobby Lounge restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel while SXSW frenzy buzzed around us. Looking nowhere near her 80 years and having more energy than most kids I know, she chatted about the movie, her book, her famous son, and being a grandma.
DW: I’ve just come out of a roundtable interview with Matthew and Richard. They talked about you…
KM: (laughs) Yeah, well, Richard’s so low-key and sweet. I hope I get to see him in a suit before I die. I’ve never seen him in a suit no matter what the premiere is and I go to all of his.
DW: How did you get involved with the film Bernie?
KM: Rick called me and said, “There’s a part for you in this movie Bernie and I cannot imagine anybody playing Tassie but you.” I’m good friends with him and his family so it’s not like… I mean he just comes right out and says, “It’s you, K-Mac. It’s got you all over it.” So he emailed it to me and I said, “Rick, you’re right. That sounds like me.” I said I’d love to do it.
DW: The part you play is one of the townspeople, one of the gossips, and it all seems so natural. Was it ad-libbed or scripted?
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the bustling Four Seasons Hotel in Austin with SXSW excitement buzzing all around, Matthew McConaughey and Richard Linklater arrive to talk about their film Bernie. The two have worked together and been friends since we first saw McConaughey in Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993). Their rapport is obvious as the two casually open up about their latest endeavor.
Bernie is a twisted, quirky comedy; the true story of a beloved and cheerful small-town mortician who befriends the meanest (and wealthiest) widow in town and ultimately kills her. It stars Jack Black as Bernie, Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie Nugent, and Matthew McConaughey as District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson.
The following is an edited transcript of the discussion in which 10 journalists were invited to ask questions.
QUESTION (to MM): In this film and in some of your best work you play a lawyer. I’m trying to think of all the films where you played a lawyer…
MM: What have we got here… A Time to Kill, Amistad, Lincoln Lawyer and this … yeah.
QUESTION: And you wanted to be a lawyer originally, you were pre-law?
MM: I did. That’s where I was headin’. Then I luckily ran into a friend of ours, Don Phillips, in a bar and he introduced me to this guy (motions to Linklater). And yeah, this is much more fun.
QUESTION: How does Bernie fit into your “J.K. Livin” philosophy?
(“Just keep livin” is a quote from Dazed and Confused that McConaughey has adopted as his personal philosophy and it is the name of his production company.) Read the rest of this entry »
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Movie I Didn’t Want to See, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy 21 Jump Street
I hated the TV show “21 Jump Street.” It’s not even worth discussing why. It just sucked in so many ways. I became a Johnny Depp fan pretty much the second he gave them all the finger and went off to make weird movies. I groaned when I saw the trailer for the big screen remake and I went to the premiere at SXSW under duress. And then a funny happened: God help me, I liked this movie.
Let’s add to my reasons for trepidation the fact that I’ve been slow to appreciate the charms of Channing Tatum. Or to put it another way: until now, I could barely stand the sight of the guy, let alone entire movies that showcase his sub-par acting and hunkdom routine. That’s a little harsh, and I know that now because I’ve seen 21 Jump Street in which he displays stellar comic timing and only uses his good looks as the butt of jokes (not unlike Mr. Depp some moons ago.) Jonah Hill is consistently hilarious in the film, and let’s face it, Jonah Hill is consistently hilarious in everything. He can deadpan like no other and has a special gift for wringing belly-laughs out of awkward situations.
In addition to (surprisingly) excellent casting, the writers, Michael Bacall (Project X, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Jonah Hill (with a story credit) have a lot of fun turning the typical high school stereotypes on their heads. Schmidt (Hill) was uncool in school but a good student. Jenko (Tatum) was popular but not too bright. When they’re given the undercover assignment as high school narcs, now in their mid-20s, their phony names and personas get mixed up. Suddenly Schmidt is the cool kid and Jenko is the science geek. Read the rest of this entry »
Meet Bernie (Jack Black), the nicest guy in the small rural town of Carthage, TX. He volunteers for charity, directs local community theater, goes above and beyond the call of duty as assistant funeral director, has a lovely singing voice that he lends to gospel classics in church, checks in on grieving widows in his spare time, befriends the most reviled woman in town, and kills her.
“Bernie” is based on a crime story that proves the adage “truth is stranger than fiction.”
There is so much about the film (and Bernie) that is odd, and often endearingly so. The story is structured around interviews of quirky and colorful local residents who are eager to share their thoughts about the crime. These are interspersed with re-enactments of the events as they unfolded in 1998. It’s at once funny and chilling that most everyone in town sides with Bernie even though he confessed to shooting an elderly woman four times in the back.
The offbeat tone of the film is established in the opening sequence in which a competent and cheerful Bernie demonstrates to a class of future-morticians how to make corpses look good. (You’d be surprised how much super glue comes in to play.) Read the rest of this entry »