In 2009 audiences were treated to one of the funniest comedies in recent history: The Hangover. The Todd Phillips-helmed film demonstrated that adult comedy could turn out serious box office numbers. The success of The Hangover was accomplished by weaving together a highly engaging story that can be classified as a comedic whodunnit. The hook for this film was the mystery surrounding the "who" and the "dunnit." The first part was the "who." Who wrecked the expensive Las Vegas suite? Who is this baby we just found in our wrecked hotel room? And finally who does this tiger belong to? The second part was the "dunnit." What happened to Doug (Justin Bartha)? What happened to Stu's (Ed Helms) tooth? And finally: What the hell happened last night? The characters retrace their steps from the prior evening, slowly unraveling the story layer by layer.
2011 brought the return of the "Wolfpack" in The Hangover Part II. This time the boys wake up in a wrecked hotel room in Bangkok. Now, instead of a tooth missing, Stu has a brand new tattoo ... on ... his face! This film is pretty much a beat-for-beat rehash of the original film, possessing some fresh jokes and situations thrown in. While successful at the box office, this movie didn’t enchant audiences like the original.
Now 2013 brings us the Wolfpack once more in The Hangover Part III. This time no one wakes up in a wrecked hotel room, nor is anyone missing. The story now revolves around the kidnapping of Doug by a drug kingpin named Marshall (John Goodman). Marshall wants his stolen gold returned and enlists the Wolfpack to do his bidding. Why the Wolfpack? Marshall blames them for his gold getting stolen by rival drug kingpin Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the drug dealer from the previous movies. The film is spent in a series of capers that take the characters from Arizona to Tijuana and finally the place where it all started: Las Vegas!
Has it really been 18 years since Jesse and Celine met on that train in Before Sunrise? Indeed it has, and the long-awaited third outing in Richard Linklater's romantic trilogy finally graces Austin theaters today. Don't miss Before Midnight; if the critics are right -- and really, aren't we always? -- the story is as fresh and captivating as ever. (Even I -- who would rather have a root canal than watch most rom-coms -- loved the first two films and can't wait to see the third.)
If even the best of rom-coms isn't your thing, there are a surprising number of alternatives this holiday weekend. My top pick is the Austin Film Society "Spotlight on John Cassavetes" series, which wraps up with Husbands, a 1970 tragicomedy starring Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk as three middle-age men who mourn a friend's death and live out their midlife crises on a drunken trip to London. Husbands screens tonight and Sunday at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre.
The AFS Essential Cinema series features The Makioka Sisters, a 1983 Japanese import that depicts the pre-war lives of four sisters from a wealthy Osaka family and draws parallels between their stories and Japan's seasonal variations. The Makioka Sisters screens Tuesday at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre.
The Alamo Drafthouse is hosting screenings of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (pictured above), former Dallasite Terence Nance's film about a young man's relationship struggles. Part live action, part stop motion and part hand-drawn, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty screens Saturday and Monday at the Alamo Ritz. Both screenings include a Skype Q&A with Nance. (Refer to Elizabeth's article for more information about the film.)
How do you up the ante of the high-octane blockbuster that was Fast Five in 2011? You take action that was already ramped up to 11, and you crank it up to whatever insanely high number you can conjure up in your head. But Fast & Furious 6 isn't just a good action film, it's done something far more fascinating. It has made the entire Fast and Furious series one of the great movie franchises out there.
We didn't know it at the time, but on June 18, 2001, when a silly Point Break ripoff about street racing hit theaters, we had just entered Phase One of a classic action franchise that didn't even exist yet. The Fast and the Furious spawned a silly sequel, and we figured that'd be the end of it. A third one came out, different plot, different characters, was it even from the same universe? Just when we thought we had enough, a fourth had arrived, and it brought back the original band and one of the characters from three. We had to have been done with the franchise because the fourth entry was kind of weak, but we were treated to a fifth, and treated is absolutely the appropriate word.
Fast & Furious 6 begins where Fast Five left off. Dom (Vin Diesel), Bryan (Paul Walker) and the rest of the family are living in a country that doesn't extradite. With plenty of money from their last job, they're living the high life. Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), however, never let them out of his sight. Now, Hobbs needs their help catching some ultra-ruthless thieves who plan to build a particularly dangerous device.
The entire team comes back, and they do what they do best. Yeah, it's a paper-thin plot, and only two new characters are introduced. None of that matters because the film is fantastic, plain and simple. Ultimately, what Fast & Furious 6 is, is the best reward imaginable for those fans who've been with this franchise from Day One. If you've loved every film in this franchise, and every time you've left the theater after watching these movies you've wanted to race the guy next to you leaving the parking lot, this sequel is better than the best-tasting candy.
Hyperbole aside, yes, it's a dumb action movie. It's not going to win any awards, but it doesn't need to. The most important thing this movie has done is make a series that is now six movies deep a classic action franchise. Fans can sit down and watch all six of these back-to-back and not flinch through any one of them, because this sixth one ties it all in so perfectly. There isn't one that's a little off, or has to be defended as kind of okay. Every Fast and Furious movie is essential to this point, and you just don't see that kind of quality in franchises anymore (I'm talking to you, Resident Evil).
Documentary films often tell us the facts about a particular subject. They can be political or religious, or perhaps based on an idea that most people cannot wrap their minds around. But sometimes, you get lucky and see a film that lets you behind the scenes of something most people only dream about. That's how I felt about Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, opening Friday in Austin.
I may not know much about fashion, but having a fashion merchandising major/style guru for a sister, I had a little bit of knowledge under my belt -- certainly enough to appreciate a good movie about fashion. The trailer had enticed me, clearly riddled with various designers talking about how getting to show their line at the esteemed Bergdorf Goodman's was the highlight of their career. Writer/director Matthew Miele takes his viewers not only into the heart of the store, but to some areas that you would not have thought twice about -- for example, the elaborate window displays the store produces every few months.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's spotlights some well-known names in fashion, such as Vera Wang, Michael Kors, and Dolce & Gabanna, giving us their opinion on the glory that is Bergdorf's (or "BG's," as some designers lovingly call it). Even though these designers are everywhere in retail, they all talk about how their one goal, the Academy Award of their career, was to be sold and showcased at Bergdorf's. The story then goes on to talk about the history of the store, as well as how fashion has evolved over the past century. A few new designers when the film was shot in 2011 are followed, and we as the audience get to sit in on a few meetings with them and Bergdorf's executives such as Linda Fargo, who is compared in status to the well-known Vogue editor, Anna Wintour.
In addition, cosmetics, shoe and purse designers also share their tales of getting into the store. Bobbi Brown talks about how she hoped that she could sell at least 100 tubes of lipstick her first month at Bergdorf's; she ended up selling over 100 tubes on her first day alone.
Here's hoping you haven't seen the first trailer for Before Midnight, which is basically a big spoiler. There seems to be a shared thought among fans of Richard Linklater's "Before" films that one wants to be surprised when they walk into the theatre and see how Celine and Jesse work out this time. Before I caught the SXSW screening in March, I did read Debbie's review because I was too excited and had to know. That being said, is it possible to review this movie without giving too much away? I will try.
Before Midnight takes place during one long day in Greece. First we see Jesse (Ethan Hawke) at the Kalamata airport, talking to his adolescent son before the kid has to fly back to the States where he lives with his mom. Jesse's face during this scene is periodically pierced with regret, as he wishes his son could stay longer. After Jesse is picked up from the airport, he and Celine (Julie Delpy) talk while driving through Greek countryside -- after the SXSW screening, Linklater noted during his Q&A that this car scene is over 13 minutes long, with no cuts. He also commented that every location they used in Greece was found during a two-day visit.
Although he now lives in Brooklyn, filmmaker Terence Nance was born and raised in Dallas, where his movie An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premiered at the Dallas International Film Fest in 2012. The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz will host two screenings of this art film over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, including a Skype Q&A with Nance after both showings.
Nance's feature-length debut has received much attention, with pop culture figures such as Jay-Z, Joy Bryant and Wyatt Cenac jumping in as producers (Questlove is listed as an associate producer). The film is narrated in part by Reg E. Cathey (Square One, y'all!), but Nance is all over this movie. He wrote, edited, directed, produced, scored and even worked on some of the animation for this picture.
Kids aren't the only ones who look forward to summer. With sky-high temperatures and the last day of school approaching, Slackerwood brings you some suggestions of great summer film camps in the Austin area -- perfect for parents searching for fun summer activites for the kids.
A film or movie camp is a great tool for kids interested in the filmmaking or creative process. Many of the workshops start with the basics, taking your child through the pre-production, shooting, and post-production stages of a film set. Classes are also geared towards other crafts such as acting, editing, animation and writing for the screen. At the end of many of these camps, friends and family are invited to attend a screening of the movie(s) that campers helped make, or campers can bring home a DVD to hold their own private screening party.
We've listed the camps below according to age, meaning the classes accepting the youngest students are listed from the top to bottom of the page. Many camp sessions begin in early June, so act quickly to sign up for classes. They typically run for one to two weeks at a time, although a few are longer. A few camps around town (such as the Austin Film Society's Summer Filmmaking Camp) already have sessions that are sold out, but do have waiting lists available.
It's like Christmas in May for Austin classic film fans. Last week the schedule for the summer classic film series at Paramount and Stateside was announced. Movies from various decades will screen in 35mm at Paramount and digital HD projection at the Stateside from late May through early September. The lineup this year is lighter on the screwball genre than I would prefer, but there is still oh-so-much to choose from. There's sure to be something for everyone.
Tickets for each film are $8 (this covers double features as well) online. If you expect to see many, buying Flix-Tix or becoming a Film Fan could be a worthwhile investment. [Pro tip from Jette: The higher-level Film Fan memberships include free garage parking during the movies.]
Here are some of the selections we Slackerwood contributors find noteworthy:
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967) -- Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty rob banks in Arthur Penn's game-changing crime romp that blazes through north Texas [my Lone Star Cinema post]. (Wed 5/29 at 10 pm, Stateside)
- The Wild Bunch (1969) -- Sam Peckinpah's brutal Western stars William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan. You all know I'm squeamish about violence and yet this is one of my very favorite films. I refuse to listen to any news about a remake involving Will Smith. (Wed 5/29 at 7:15 pm, Stateside) -- Jette Kernion
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- The New York Times profiled the Austin film scene in Sunday's edition and interviewed locally based industry heavy hitters like Richard Linklater, Elizabeth Avellan, Bryan Poyser (Elizabeth's interview) and Andrew Bujalski (Jordan's interview), among others. Worth a look for the photos alone.
- Speaking of Linklater, he has now filed suit against his insurance company, alleging breach of contract, The Austin Chronicle reports. His Paige, Texas property, near Bastrop, which housed scripts, production materials, publicity information, among other movie memorabilia, was damaged in 2011's wildfires.
- More more Linklater: Filmmaker Gabe Klinger has created a Kickstarter campaign for his documentary about the Austin filmmaker and director James Benning, according to Filmmaker Magazine. The project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by June 8. More than $8,000 has been raised so far.
- More than 65 research fellowships have been awarded by The University of Texas Harry Ransom Center for the 2013-2014 academic year to support humanities projects that require substantial onsite use of HRC collections of manuscripts, art, films, and other resources. Austin author Alison Macor (Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids) has received a research fellowship for her work about the life and career of HRC.
In 2009, J.J. Abrams accomplished the impossible and successfully negotiated an unwinnable scenario by rebooting the Star Trek franchise with a new cast in a story that maintained continuity -- yet also broke somewhat -- with the establish Trek universe. This reset gave him license to play with the characters in entirely new ways; for instance, the relationship between Uhura and Spock. With the newly released Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams plays with the entire character of the Federation itself, playing out logically the results of events that created his alternate universe and arriving at a colder, harder conclusion that doesn't sit well with many hardcore fans.
Based on his Daily Show appearance this week, in which Abrams explained his goal was to make a movie for moviegoers and not just Star Trek fans, some have said he is only concerned with his film making as much money as possible. My own feeling was that Abrams again succeeded in bringing to life a story that is true to the characters on the Enterprise, but a disturbing departure from Gene Roddenberry's vision of The United Federation of Planets.
This is not the first time Trek fans have seen a darker vision of the future: The clandestine agency known as Section 31 mentioned in Star Trek Into Darkness has appeared a number of times in the various TV shows, which have also hinted at a much darker future for the Federation in centuries to come.
But the events on screen now, in this movie, are the darkest we've seen for the classic Trek characters, aren't they? As much as we might want to blame the effects of Christopher Nolan's Batman films for the darkening of comic-book and sci-fi films, there is precedent for a darker side of the Federation scattered through classic episodes. A 13-year-old Jim Kirk witnessed the massacre of 4,000 colonists by Governor Kodos during a food shortage on Tarsus IV (episode "The Conscience of the King"). The Federation also was known to have violent criminals and treated the criminal behavior as a sickness to be cured via therapy in one of several installations known as asylums ("Whom Gods Destroy").
It is also very well established that pre-Federation history included a series of wars that nearly destroyed civilization on Earth, and that but for the civilizing influence of the Vulcans, the UFP would have been a much more warlike body. In fact, classic Trek includes a mirror universe in which events did play out differently, resulting in a fleet where starship captains murder their way into command.