Review: We Are the Best!

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We Are The Best!

Swedish director Lukas Moodysson's filmography has had a spotty history of even being seen in the United States. His earlier works Show Me Love and Together managed to receive distribution here, but some of his more serious films (like the brutal sex-trafficking drama Lilya 4-ever and A Hole In My Heart) never were even properly released here. In 2009, he made his English-language debut with a film called Mammoth that IFC released stateside and then he fell off the radar for a few years.  

He's finally returned to the big screen with We Are the Best!, a lighthearted adaptation of the graphic novel Never Goodnight, written by his wife Coco Moodysson. Set in 1982 Stockholm, we're introduced to Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), two 13-year-old best friends who don't really fit in socially at school. They're tomboyish and seem to live in their own little world, mostly happy to be excluded by their peers and misunderstood by their parents. When they get the idea to start a punk band, they recruit a shy Christian girl from their class named Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) who is an excellent guitarist. Since Bobo and Klara don't even know how to play instruments, they get Hedvig to help them prepare for a school talent show.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 16, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network will have its corporate headquarters and production in Austin, becoming the first general entertainment network to have a formal production home in Texas, Deadline Hollywood reports.
  • The Orchard, a pioneering independent music, film and video distribution company and top-ranked multichannel network, has acquired worldwide rights to acclaimed sports feature No No: A Dockumentary (Caitlin's review), directed by Jeffrey Radice (Caitlin's interview). The documentary premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, then screened at SXSW. The feature, which will be available through The Orchard's documentary imprint Opus Docs, takes an in-depth look at the life surrounding baseball legend Dock Ellis.
  • The completely University of Texas at Austin-staffed feature Arlo and Julie (Elizabeth's review) was profiled in the university's yearlong series, "The Creative Campus." The comedy, about a neurotic couple (former Austinites Ashley Spillers and Alex Dobrenko) who become obsessed with a mysterious puzzle, made its world premiere at this year's SXSW and was directed by UT Lecturer Steve Mims.
  • In award news, Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater and the Austin-shot feature Intramural recently won fan-favorite awards at this year's Seattle International Film Festival, according to The Seattle Times. Linklater's latest, Boyhood, which chronicles the life of a child from age six to 18 and stars native Texan Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, won Best Director; fellow Austin filmmaker Andrew Disney's Intramural, about a fifth-year college senior's last-ditch attempt at an intramural football win, won Best Guilty Pleasure.

Movies This Week: June 13-19, 2014

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 We Are The Best!

The Austin Film Society continues its "Rebel Rebel" series this weekend with a brand new 35mm print of Jamaa Fanaka's 1976 film Emma Mae. Tonight's screening at the Marchesa is free to AFS members, and the movie will play again on Sunday afternoon. AFS is also sponsoring a screening of The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, starring Tommy Lee Jones, on Wednesday night at the Texas Spirit Theater (inside the Bullock Texas State History Museum). It's free for AFS members, as well as AFF, Cine Las Americas and Bullock Museum members. Julio Cedillo and producer Eric Williams will be there for a post-screening Q&A. Head back to the Marchesa on Thursday night for a 35mm print of Truffaut's Jules And Jim. The film is part of this month's Essential Cinema series on films Of World War I. 

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has programmed a weekend of classic biker flicks to celebrate the annual ROT Rally called "Hell's Angels On Reels!" Saturday will feature The Wild Angels, Sinner's Blood and She-Devils On Wheels while Sunday's got Run Angels Run, Hell's Angels Forever and The Losers. All six films will screen from 35mm (or 16mm) prints. Also this week at the Ritz, Russ Meyer's Up! screens on Monday night in a 35mm print from the Meyer estate and 1934's The Scarlet Empress plays on Wednesday as part of this month's "Dietrich & Von Sternberg in 35mm" series. Elsewhere at the Drafthouse, both Alamo Slaughter Lane and Alamo Lakeline have Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade screening digitally on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and Alamo Village will be hosting Muay Thai Warrior on Tuesday night for its "Eastern Fury" martial arts series. 

Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

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How To Train Your Dragon 2It has been five years since Hiccup befriended Toothless and brought peace between the Vikings of Berk and the dragons in How to Train Your Dragon. Now they're back for an adventure with new villains, increased stakes, and of course, bigger dragons in How to Train Your Dragon 2.

All of the original voice cast returns in this sequel by writer/director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch), and they are joined by Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou (Amistad) and Kit Harington (Game of Thrones). The characters are already well established by the 2010 film as well as two seasons of the Dreamworks Dragons TV series that continued their story, but this film is almost entirely about Hiccup and Toothless, leaving the rest of their friends largely in the background.

A young man now, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) no longer has to struggle for the approval of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) and is full of confidence as the leader of Berk's dragonriders, but he grows restless, longing to explore and learn about the world as Stoick demands more time of him at home to prepare for his role as the future chief of the island.

On another of his frequent explorations, Hiccup discovers a dragon trapper (Harington) and learns of a terrifying new menace. This sets off a chain of events that takes the characters through a much darker, more grown-up story arc much like the progression of the Harry Potter series, which aged with its viewers. Stronger emotions, good and bad, are brought to the surface and explored through serious themes including duty, war, loss and budding sexual attraction. Strong topics for a kids' film, but weaved skillfully through a powerful action-adventure tale.

Visually, Dreamworks Animation has always held a reputation for producing the top films, but they've set a new bar with How to Train Your Dragon 2. New animation software and touch-screen technology allowed animators to directly manipulate characters by hand, and if you look closely, fans of other dragon-related series may notice some easter eggs including a nod to Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern.

Review: 22 Jump Street

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22 Jump Street

Fresh off the runaway success of The Lego Movie, the directorial team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller returns with what will likely be summer's most satisfying comedy for adults. Even though the trailers didn't inspire much confidence that 22 Jump Street would actually be any good, it turns out that this wholly unnecessary sequel was worth waiting for.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprise their roles as Jenko and Schmidt, two cops on the hunt for drug dealers. While the first film followed the inspiration of the original Fox series by having them go undercover in high school, 22 Jump Street sends the guys to college. The movie is 150% in on the joke, repeatedly making fun of movie sequels and encouraging the stars to do everything "just like last time" with a knowing wink to the audience. So often, that's what we all hate about Hollywood movies, but it works perfectly here. 

Photos: Ken Taylor Mondo Gallery Show

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Once again, avid collectors lined up last week to be among the first to see and purchase art from the latest Mondo gallery show. This show, running from May 30 to June 21, presents exclusively prints and original works from perennial favorite artist Ken Taylor.

Review: Ida

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Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska in IDA

Two women are on a journey in Ida, by director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love, The Woman in the Fifth), opening Friday in Austin at Regal Arbor. Orphaned Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska making her film debut), a novice nun, has just found out she is Jewish and her birth name is Ida. Her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza, Suicide Room, Rose), a listless alcoholic judge, is taking her to find her lost family.

One can assume that since it's the late Fifties or early Sixties in the People's Republic of Poland, and Anna is Jewish and in her twenties, the story of what happened to her family is likely tied to the previous Nazi occupation.

Pawlikowski chose to shoot his film in black and white, which adds to the historical aspect of the narrative, but used a squishy 1.37:1 aspect ratio which almost negates any cinematic feeling Ida might have. Within these limits, the director still captures some beautifully framed shots. The stairs in the hotel lobby, the placement of Anna's head in the frame -- there are artistic touches here. The cinematography -- boxy as it may feel -- reflects how Anna keeps herself apart.

ATX TV Fest 2014: Intense Discussions with the 'Archer' Gang

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When I received my confirmation email to meet writer/producer Matt Thompson and Archer cast members Lucky Yates (Doctor Krieger), Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis) and H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer) in the Les Paul room of Maggie Mae's, I thought for sure I was being pranked. I've not been to that bar in a while, but I certainly didn't remember it having an upstairs room. Sure enough, as I serendipitously found parking right next to the bar that Friday afternoon, I discovered that the Archer team had found a little spot to beat the humid Austin heat -- a getaway from the growing buzz of 6th Street on a Friday afternoon.

The guys were as I anticipated: laid back, relaxed and quick to make jokes about any topic that came up. We talked about the film scene in Austin and their panel at the Ritz during ATX Television Festival -- and were interrupted from time to time by other fest panelists who knew the guys and wanted to stop and chat.  After chatting with Parnell about being alumni from the same college, a few nut/bear jokes (don't ask) and what kind of pants are appropriate to wear in a recording studio, we finally got down to discussing the creation of the show.

Slackerwood: Where do you draw inspiration for these storylines in each episode?

Matt Thompson: They mostly come from whatever Adam Reed [the show's creator, who also plays Ray Gillette] feels like doing. People think that it's super-well planned out, but it's really not. We did, however, know the big plot points that we wanted to happen in this latest season but other than that, we kind of make them up as we go along.

Get Ready for Fall Film Fests, Old and New

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Mignola Bride of Frankenstein posterAustin's getting fest-y (and the rising summer temps aren't to blame) with recent news about two new fall film festivals, plus some updates from a longtime local favorite fest.

The fest-o-meter will get turned up a few notches as the weather (hopefully) starts to cool beginning in September with the inaugural MondoCon. Sponsored by the Austin-based art-and-media company/gallery Mondo, MondoCon is scheduled to take place smack dab in the middle of Fantastic Fest, the city's annual genre festival, from Sept. 20-21 at the Marchesa.

MondoCon will be more than a poster show -- with panels, screenings, special guests from various disciplines and good food options. Single and full-weekend tickets are on sale while supplies last. All VIP badges for Fantastic Fest get full-weekend admission.

Fan favorite artists and legends like Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and award-winning comic book artist Bernie Wrightson, among others, are expected to be in attendance at MondoCon. In celebration of the festival, Mignola created a sold-out movie poster for The Bride of Frankenstein (pictured at right).

MondoCon will be accepting volunteer applications in conjunction with Fantastic Fest. Volunteer information will be available next month.

The holidays can, indeed, be out of this world. And a group of local filmmakers and science-fiction enthusiasts are pushing those boundaries with the launch of Austin's first dedicated science-fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin, from Dec. 4-6 at Galaxy Highland 10 (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd.).

Bears Fonte, former director of programming for Austin Film Festival, founded Other Worlds Austin as a shorts program after discovering the number of excellent sf movies that other fests just didn't seem to have room for. Now that he's no longer with AFF, he expanded his idea into a full weekend festival for science-fiction shorts and features alike.

Summer Film Series Updates: Cinema East, Sound and Cinema, Cinema 41

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i believe in unicorns still

The lineup for this year's Cinema East series has been announced, and once again the programmers have selected a solid slate of indie films to fill a few summer Sunday evenings. The outdoor screenings begin around 9 pm at the French Legation, admission is $3-$5, and food and drinks are available to buy. Also important: The BYOB policy is once again in effect this year. 

We've seen a few of the scheduled movies and are excited about the rest, and filmmakers are scheduled to attend five of the seven screenings. If you're not one to let the Texas heat get you down (it's not so bad after the sun sets and you have a beer in your hand), this is the perfect chance to stretch your weekend to the fullest while checking out a few recent independent films.

Here's the schedule:

I Believe in Unicorns (6/22) -- This fantasy-tinged coming-of-age story (pictured above) explores an imaginative young girl's first encounter with troubled love. Director Leah Meyerhoff will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. 

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