Lone Star Cinema: Spy Kids

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Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara and director Robert Rodriguez during filming for SPY KIDS

When the recent news broke that Alexa Vega will play a recurring character on the upcoming season of country music soap Nashville, now seemed like a perfect time to revisit the original Spy Kids. I tend to picture Vega as she appeared in the Robert Rodriguez film, but she has grown much since then. She's even married... twice.

In 2001, she and co-star Daryl Sabara (whose first role was as Murphy's baby on '90s cultural touchstone, Murphy Brown) played Carmen and Juni Cortez, troubled private-school kids. Their parents Ingrid (Carla Gugino, Karen Sisco, Sucker Punch) and Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) are consultants who have not yet admitted to the children that they used to be secret agents (who met cute at the Hotel Belen, better known as the Omni Hotel downtown). 

When evil genius/children's TV show host Floop (a colorful Alan Cumming, The Good Wife, X-Men 2) and his Minion (Tony Shalhoub, post-Galaxy Quest, pre-Monk) capture the elder Cortezes, their secret comes out. Carmen complains to family friend Felix (Cheech Marin, Up in Smoke, Nash Bridges), "My parents can't be spies -- they're not cool enough!" Of course it is now up to the younger generation to save the parents, using tech made by Machete (Danny Trejo, Machete, From Dusk 'til Dawn).

At the Texas Premiere for 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For'

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Robert Rodriguez on the Red Carpet of Sin City 2Sin City: A Dame to Kill For had its Texas premiere at the Paramount Theatre last week, and writer/director Robert Rodriguez was on the red carpet for the hometown screening that benefited the Austin Film Society. Unfortunately co-director/co-writer Frank Miller missed his flight and with back-to-back premieres -- Los Angeles, Austin, New York -- it was not possible for him to be at the Austin screening.

Rodriguez said he made Miller a co-director because he knew visual storytelling, and as a fellow cartoonist Rodriguez knew Miller would love the experience.

"It's exactly the same thing, but you are using a camera and your paper characters will now talk to you because they are actors, and that will give you the biggest thrill." Additionally, Rodriguez told Miller that he would "be able to tell backstories that aren't even in any of your books.

Local and world-famous musical artists with roles in the film were out in full force at the screening, more than making up for the lack of lead actors and actresses.

Slackery News Tidbits: August 25, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin filmmaker David Modigliani takes viewers on a journey into Louisiana's past in the documentary 61 Bullets, set to premiere at this year's New Orleans Film Festival (Oct. 16-23). The movie, which discusses the mysterious deaths of U.S. Senator Huey Long and surgeon Carl Weiss in 1935 inside the state's capitol and follows Weiss' family's attempt to clear their name in Long's murder, received a $10,000 Austin Film Society Grant in 2009.
  • In distribution news, RADiUS has acquired the U.S. rights to the SXSW 2014 Grand Jury awardwinner The Great Invisible (Elizabeth's review), Deadline reports. The documentary, by former Austinite Margaret Brown (Elizabeth's interview), depicts the response to 2010's Deepwater Horizon explosion and resultant oil spill through the eyes of those affected. Music for the movie was composed by Austinite David Wingo.
  • The SXSW 2013-screened Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton (Don's review) returns to Austin for a screening on Wednesday at 7:30 pm in the AFS Screening Room. The documentary tells the story of Broughton, an influential writer and experimental filmmaker.
  • AFS will host a preview screening of No No: A Dockumentary (Caitlin's review) with filmmakers in attendance on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 pm at The Marchesa. The Austin-shot documentary, which screened at SXSW this year, tells the story of controversial baseball pitcher Dock Ellis. Read Caitlin's pre-SXSW interview with director Jeffrey Radice for more details about the movie.

Movies This Week: August 22-28, 2014

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Sin City 

The Austin Film Society teams up with aGLIFF tonight to bring the new documentary To Be Takei (my review for Paste) to the Marchesa for a one-off screening. It's a touching and genuinely funny profile of George Takei, whose career has taken him from Star Trek to social media icon and gay rights activist. This month's Roger Corman series continues this weekend with X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes. This 1963 thriller screens tonight and again on Sunday in a 35mm print. On Wednesday night, AFS presents SXSW doc Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton (Don's review) and then the Barbara Stanwyck Essential Cinema series will close Thursday with Ball Of Fire. Screening in 35mm, this classic 1941 Howard Hawks comedy, written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, pairs Stanwyck with Gary Cooper.

Over at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, The Complete David Lynch series is winding down but has several more gems on the way. This weekend, they've got a 35mm print of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard on Saturday and Sunday as part of the "influences" sidebar of this series. Ingmar Bergman's 1968 feature Hour Of The Wolf also screens as an influence title on Monday night. The last feature film from David Lynch in the series happens on Wednesday night, 2006's Inland Empire. He hasn't made a full-length film since and this 3-hour surrealist epic will start a little earlier (at 6:45 pm) due to its length. A few extra afternoon matinees of Inland Empire are thrown in on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Also at the Ritz, there's a Robin Williams Memorial Screening of The Fisher King on Sunday afternoon (with all proceeds being donated to Comic Relief) and a Zzang!!! screening of The Monster Squad on Sunday night. 

There's a very special event tonight at the Alamo Slaughter Lane. DJ/Producer/Record Label Owner Andy Votel is going to be on hand for Kleksploitation, an "entirely re-contextualised version of [Andrzej] Zulawski's psychedelic, proto-electric scores for the cult Pan Kleks trilogy of children's films from the 1980s with live DJ accompaniment." Slaughter (and Lakeline) also will be screening Reservoir Dogs again on Sunday and Wednesday.

aGLIFF and AFF Reveal Lineup Details

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the homesman still

The Austin Film Festival has announced its first wave of film screenings, including Centerpiece Film Black and White (directed by Mike Binder and starring Kevin Costner), documentary 21 Years: Richard Linklater, and Dawn Patrol, directed by AFF regular Daniel Petrie Jr. This initial list is a mix of world and regional premieres and provides glimpses of a diverse program; among other things, festivalgoers will have the chance to see a Texas-based political documentary, a pioneer drama with an all-star cast, and Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role of Alan Turing.

The writer-focused festival runs Oct. 23-30 and includes feature films, short films, film competitions and conference panels. See below for a list of the titles announced so far, and find out more about attending AFF here

If you're ready to get festival season started already, don't forget that the 27th Anniversary Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) takes place in just a couple of weeks (Sept. 10-14) at the freshly remodeled Alamo South Lamar and the Stateside Theatre. This year's festival includes over 100 films and the theme is "We're not an Audience. We're a Community."

aGLIFF's opening-night film will be Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine and the centerpiece is Regarding Susan SontagThe program promises a diverse array of genres and subjects and also includes a secret screening of "one of the best-reviewed films of 2014" -- any guesses? Either way, this year's fest looks like a thoughtful and festive collection of films and events. Badge information and the full lineup are available here

Stay in touch for more festival updates, and read on for the festival-provided descriptions of the AFF films announced so far.

Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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Marv from Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForTrue confession time -- the first time that I watched Sin City (2005), I wasn't enthused due to my naivete. However, a recent viewing with the mindset of watching a graphic novel brought to life changed my perspective drastically. I found myself engaged by the characters, and therefore I was anxious to see what co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller had in the cards with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

This film is both a prequel and sequel at the same time, as we learn more about the central characters from the first installment -- Marv (Mickey Rourke) is still bashing in heads but this time he gets called in to help Nancy (Jessica Alba) and Dwight (Josh Brolin) with their own personal vendettas. Nancy grieves for the death of her childhood hero and only love, Hartigan (Bruce Willis), who keeps his promise to never leave her even if he is a tormented ghost witnessing her demise.

An interesting subplot serves as the prequel that explains why Dwight's face had been transformed after his encounter with the deceptive and psychopathic Ava (Eva Green), who leaves men in her wake including police partners Mort (Christopher Meloni) and Bob (Jeremy Piven). We also learn more about the loyalty that Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the rest of the women of Old Town have for both Dwight and Marv.

TAMI Flashback: Happy Birthday, John Henry Faulk

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John Henry Faulk

John Henry Faulk may not be the most famous of famous Austinites -- but he should be. A revered folklorist, storyteller, writer, actor, teacher and civil rights activist, Faulk's ties to Austin run wide and deep.

Born in 1913 in South Austin (his boyhood home is now the elegant Green Pastures restaurant), he spent most of his life in the River City. As a University of Texas student, he was a protégé of the Holy Trinity of Texas letters -- J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, and Roy Bedichek. He earned a Master's degree in folklore and taught English at the university until the outbreak of World War II, when he joined the Merchant Marines and then came home to serve as an Army medic at Camp Swift in Bastrop.

After the war, Faulk's storytelling talent landed him a career as a popular radio talk show host and entertainer. He hosted The John Henry Faulk Show at WCBS in New York for six years, appeared on TV many times and served as vice president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). But Faulk's radio and TV career ended abruptly in 1957, a victim of anti-communist hysteria and blacklisting. (Faulk was famously liberal, but no communist.)

Lone Star Cinema: Giant

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Giant

A poster for Giant billed the iconic Texas film as The GIANT of Them All.

The poster hardly exaggerated. Running more than three hours, starring three of Hollywood's biggest stars of the era, spanning more than two decades and set against the vastness of a cattle ranch, Giant seemed as big as Texas itself when it was released in 1956.

To the film's legions of fans and many critics, Giant is still a giant. No other film captures the mythical Texas -- if not the real one -- quite like George Stevens' epic story. Countless films have been made here, but with its swaggering view of life in the Lone Star State, Giant may be the most Texan (again, in the completely mythical sense) of all.

Based on a 1952 novel by prolific novelist and playwright Edna Ferber, Giant is the story of the Benedict family, owners of a 595,000-acre West Texas cattle ranch. The film opens in the early 1920s, when Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson) travels to Maryland to buy a prized stud horse. He meets the horse owner's daughter, socialite Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), and the two marry after a whirlwind romance.

Photo Essay: Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Post-Renovations

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 Alamo S Lamar & Highball

With little fanfare and zero warning, the eagerly-awaited news went out this week that 1120 South Lamar, the crown jewel and flagship Alamo Drafthouse location, home of Fantastic Fest, gathering place for filmmakers and celebrities, clubhouse for movie geeks, hangout for hipsters, and destination for Austinites of every variety, was to finally emerge, like a phoenix from the ashes (or perhaps like sweet zombie Jesus, if that’s more your thing). Point is: Something this great couldn’t stay dead, and it’s back!

Slackery News Tidbits: August 18, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin Film Festival teams up with the Texas Film Commission and the Bullock Texas State History Museum for a screening of Blood Simple on Wednesday at 7 pm in the museum's Texas Spirit Theater. Blood Simple, which follows a Texas bar owner on his search to prove his wife's infidelity, marks this year's final screening in the Made in Texas Film Series. 
  • AFF announced more panels and panelists for this year's conference: Dallas Buyers Club writer Craig Borten; Sergio Sanchez, writer of The Impossible; Philipp Meyer, author of the The Son, a soon-to-be-adapted AMC television series; and the writers of the hit TV series Bob's Burgers, Lizzie and Wendy Molyneux.
  • The Music Bed, a music licensing company for filmmakers and photographers, is hosting a contest to help fund short movies. Filmmakers are encouraged to submit their short film idea online to collect public votes in an effort to win the grand prize, chosen by The Music Bed staff, of either a custom movie score or up to $7,500 in music licensing. Two runners-up will be chosen by popular vote. The deadline to submit short movies is Sept. 1.
  • The Contemporary Austin will host a free screening of Impossible Light on Thursday at 7 pm at the Jones Center (700 Congress Ave.). The indie doc traces the story behind "The Bay Lights," the installation of 25,000 LED lights along San Francisco's Bay Bridge. 
  • Austin-based indie production company Studio e2 will host the short movie showcase for women-directed projects, Shorty Shoots Too, on Friday, Aug. 28 at 8 pm at at East Seventh Eats (1403 E. 7th St.).  
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