Yakona, meaning “rising water” from the local native american language, is the first documentary style film (by filmmakers Paul Collins & Anlo Sepulveda) I’ve seen at SXSW. Unfortunately I was unable to stick around afterward for the Q&A.
Yakona is about the San Marcos River and is absolutely breathtaking to watch, but There is practically zero dialogue in Yakona with a runtime over an hour. Visually Yakona is gorgeous and should keep your attention with this alone, showcasing the various creatures that inhabit and surround the flowing river. It’s less of a documentary and more of a visual odyssey the likes of something one might find on National Geographic. Yakona seems to be filmed with crystal clear high-def cameras exploring the underwater wonderland, with dramatized scenes intermittently thrown in depicting the native americans from the area battling what seem to be white frontiersmen. Yakonas visuals are accompanied by, an at times harrowing symphonic score, by Justin Sherburn. His score beautifully builds as the viewers watch the rich rivers history and present conditions. This film seems to also be focused on educating the public about the potentially perilous future for the San Marcos River (construction and pollution alike), but thanks to the filmmakers and the good people of San Marcos, it seems to be in good hands.
The Paramount premiere’s “Neighbors,” by director Nicholas Stoller 3/8/2014. It ain’t no party like a Seth Rogan party. Seems as if every time Seth Rogan enters a room or appears on screen, there’s bound to be gut hurdling laughter. Even during SXSW film panel with director and cast members, nobody could keep a straight face. Neighbors is one of our top favorites so far and if you like to laugh, go see this movie.
Alright, so I was skeptical about The Infinite Man because it’s treading on dangerous grounds being a movie about time travel, but man it gets everything right. Even after creating multiple paradoxes which are usually rife with continuity errors and loopholes (don’t worry, they all get closed up…), The Infinite Man dissolved my skepticism pretty quickly. Get out and see this one if you are at SXSW, it’s a must, or definitely look for it when it gets released. Read the rest of this entry »
Disclaimer: Do not go see this film on an empty stomach. Chef is full of food pornography and it will make you hungry.
Chef celebrated its world premiere at the SXSW Film festival on March 7th, opening night. Director/Writer/Lead Actor, Jon Favreau was in attendance along with other fellow co-stars (John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, and real life Chef and film correspondent, Roy Choi) for a Q&A following the film. Chef was a perfect opener for the festival. It’s a lighthearted “feel good” type of flick and some of it was filmed in Austin to boot.
Chef is a story about a renowned chef (played by Jon Favreau) whose creativity is being stifled by an L.A. restaurant owner, played by the brilliant Dustin Hoffman. After going to war through social media over a food critics’ (played by Oliver Platt) scathing review, Favreau’s character decides to leave the restaurant behind and explore the apparently generous world of Food Trucks. His ex-wife (Sofia Vergara from Modern Family) convinces him to take a trip with her and his son, (newcomer Emjay Anthony) to Miami in order to hook him up with her ex-husband (Robert Downey Jr.), who happens to have an abandoned food truck sitting behind his office building. Read the rest of this entry »
The Paramount Theater and SXSW 2014 present the world premiere of Chef, directed by Jon Favreau. With panel including cast members John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, rising child star Emjay Anthony and film chef consultant, Roy Choi. Followed by after party featuring none other than hometown hero and friend, Gary Clark Jr, 3/7/2014.
The 2014 Texas Film Awards honor Louis Black with the Texas Film Lifetime Achievement Award and director Robert Rodriguez with the Star of Texas Award for From Dusk Til Dawn, including cast members Danny Trejo, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson and Greg Nicotero. Austin local, Amber Heard was also presented with the Austin Film Society’s 2014 Texas Film Hall of Fame Rising Star Award, 3/6/2014. We also saw our good friends Adrian Quasada and John Branch on stage playing with the house band who played backup for Robert Rodriguez and Del Castillo. Munny Chicha then performed at the way cool after party.
Variety presents an exclusive press conference with Steven Gaydos moderating, with Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linkletter, David Gordon Green, Amber Heard, Fred Williamson and Texas Film Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winner Louis Black, 3/6/2014.
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.