Fantastic Fest Reveals More Movies and a New Director

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The seventh annual Fantastic Fest is just over a month away, and the anticipation is building, especially with the newly announced second wave of programming.

What stands out the most for me is the announcement that Alamo Drafthouse veteran Kristen Bell is officially the Fantastic Fest Director. If you've ever spent any time at the South Lamar Alamo, you've probably seen Kristen (not to be confused with the star of Veronica Mars) as General Manager, taking care of business and making sure guests have a good experience. She's been an integral part of making Fantastic Fest a success in years past. Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League said, "We are all excited to have Kristen assume this expanded role at the festival and look forward to working with her to continue to improve what is undoubtedly my favorite eight days of the year." Congratulations, Kristen!

As deserving as Kristen is, you're probably more interested in hearing about what's going to be onscreen and not behind the scenes at next month's fest. The second wave of titles includes 17 new world, North America and U.S. premiere films, including a special vintage program of Asian Grindhouse titles called "Movies on Fire: Hong Kong Action Classics," which will be introduced by New York Asian Film Festival's Grady Hendrix. The first wave was announced in July.

Review: Fright Night

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Fright NightThis summer's movies have included a number of remakes, revisits and reimaginings. The latest of these, opening this weekend, are Conan the Barbarian (look for my review this weekend) and Fright Night, Craig Gillespie's take on the 1985 suburban vampire hit. Newcomers will love this horror-comedy set on the outskirts of Las Vegas, and fans of the original should have no complaints.

This remake was in good hands as Gillespie has a short but sweet resume with the Ryan Gosling hit Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Woodcock, and a number of episodes of United States of Tara. Handling the screenplay was Marti Noxon, who is no stranger to vampires after writing for Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in addition to a number of other TV series, and she did a fantastic job. Her script echoes the 1985 source but takes surprising and unexpected turns.

Not the least of these is the reimagining of Peter Vincent as portrayed by David Tennant. While Tennant has similar voice and facial features to Roddy McDowall, as well as the energy and British accent, this Peter Vincent is a rock star at the peak of his career as opposed to McDowall’s older foundering TV host. Tennant is reported to have visited Las Vegas to watch Criss Angel, and his performance here is at times an unflattering caricature of the performer, but perfect for the story as written. Tennant fans will find this a treat and a glimpse of what we can expect from him post-Doctor Who.

Anton Yelchin as the teenage hero of the movie, Charley Brewster, is the focus of the story.  Having just "grown up" and traded in his nerdy best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Charley tries being part of the jock crowd to impress his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). After a few people have gone missing, Ed approaches with wild stories about Charley's new neighbor, and then the action begins. While 1985's Fright Night involved a slower build up, Gillespie's hits hard and doesn't stop, making for a more exciting while only slightly less suspenseful update.

Review: Senna

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Senna

Editor's Note: Apparently Violet Crown Cinema has pushed back the release date of Senna to Friday, August 26. Enjoy the review anyway as a sneak peek of what's ahead!

Please welcome our newest contributor, J.C. De Leon.

If you know me, you know that I love sports. Because of that, I also naturally love sports documentaries. They are the only types of documentaries that (most of the time) aren't pushing an agenda onto you. These documentaries are stories that come from real life, and sports can tell stories in a cinematic way like no other aspect of life can. This is the reason that I'm surprised more movie lovers aren't also sports fans. True, we all need a break from having to watch so many movies, but sports can be an escape that provides cinematic-like tension. That's why we love them, whether we realize it or not.

A great thing about sports documentaries is their ability to take a sport you might not necessarily have any interest in, and tell an amazing story that makes you really care about its subject. Case in point with Senna, directed by Asif Kapadia and a product of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, this documentary tells the legendary tale of a humble Formula One racing icon from Brazil, Ayrton Senna.

Review: The Whistleblower

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The Whistleblower

If you have any sense of humanity, the movie The Whistleblower will piss you off. It will not piss you off in the sense that it is a bad movie. It will piss you off because The Whistleblower shines a light very brightly on mankind's inhumanity. And by inhumanity, I am talking about sex trafficking and slavery.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, a war raged in the region known as Bosnia Herzegovina. What was initially a territorial war eventual became a bitter and horrific conflict between the Serbs and Croats and included numerous atrocities including genocide, ethnic cleansing and the rape of numerous women and children. The Whistleblower is set after the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the conflict.

The Whistleblower stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovak, a female police officer who moves to Bosnia to serve as a UN peacekeeper. When Kathryrn arrives in Bosnia she finds herself enmeshed in a corrupt, testosterone-ruled world. She finds local police officers who neglect their duties, she finds leaders who ignore obvious abuses right under their noses ... Kathryn basically discovers wolves guarding the sheep. The worst thing she finds is rampant sex trafficking and slavery of young girls.

Slacker 2011: Mike Dolan Captures It in One Shot

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Slacker 2011

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with Mike Dolan. Dolan is from Oklahoma and started his film career as an actor, appearing in movies such as Biloxi Blues, Courage Under Fire and Lolita. He also had a role in Geoff Marslett's locally shot film Mars. Mars premiered at SXSW 2010 along with Dolan's feature directorial debut, Dance with the One (Debbie's review), shot in Austin with a primarily local cast and crew (and soundtrack).

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

Mike Dolan: We shot the scene (#15 -- but who knows that) where the Old Anarchist arrives home with his daughter Delia to find a Burglar in the house. Apparently the Burglar was on a hunt for TVs, but instead gets caught up reading the books he discovers, and then the Anarchist is totally cool with him, in fact invites him to take whatever he wants, and insists he won't call the cops. They have a nice chat about an Anarchist assassin, then go for a walk, and later the Anarchist invites the Burglar to stay for dinner. Basically a typical afternoon in Austin.

Review: The Guard

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The Guard

The Irish buddy-cop comedy The Guard, opening Friday at Arbor and Violet Crown, is an interesting study in contrasts between typical American crime films and their European counterparts. Slow paced, quiet and character driven, The Guard has all the hallmarks of box-office disaster for any American movie about cops and their adversaries. There is little action or gunfire until the climax and a scant splatter or two of blood.

What The Guard does have -- which may not be enough to hold the interest of domestic audiences -- is plenty of wit and sparkling chemistry between its stars.

Set in Ireland's rural west -- a rugged, misty landscape where the first language for many is Gaelic -- The Guard explores the unlikely alliance between Irish Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) and American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), who team up to investigate an international drug smuggling ring linked to the disappearance of one of Boyle's fellow officers. The pair are a classic (actually, completely clichéd) cop movie odd couple, a brash, subversive rule-breaking small-town cop with a fondness for prostitutes paired with a low-key, straight-laced FBI agent.

Slacker 2011: PJ Raval Does It Guerilla Style

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Slacker 2011

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with Austin cinematographer and filmmaker PJ Raval. He's directed several short films as well as the feature documentary Trinidad, about the "sex-change capital of the world." His cinematography credits include local movies such as Room and Gretchen, as well as the Academy-Award nominated documentary Trouble the Water and Kyle Henry's Fourplay shorts.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you re-shoot?

PJ Raval: The scene I directed is lovingly referred to as "Rantings" or Scene 22, which originally featured a young woman doing a walk of shame who passes a senior man on the street who is recording thoughts about getting older into a tape recorder. He then gets interrupted by a man driving past in a car w/ loudspeakers attached to the roof broadcasting a rant about a "free weapons giveaway program." Needless to say that was the original and I interpreted and updated into the Austin I see today.

Slackery News Tidbits, August 16

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • The SXSW Panel Picker is now open for voting. You can give a thumbs-up on any panel suggestions you'd like to see at the SXSW Film Festival next March. A number of the 177 SXSW Film proposals are from Austin folks or feature Austinites in the panel. Of course I'll naturally suggest you take a look at Jenn Brown's panel proposal: "Removing Barriers Between Press, PR and Producers" (and vote for it!). If you'd like to promote a panel, feel free to do so in the comments.
  • In case you hadn't noticed, aGLIFF has been slowly releasing their 2011 film festival lineup, with lots of posters and previews available through their Facebook page. We'll have more details on the lineup soon, but in the meantime check out their full schedule. The fest takes place from Sept. 6-11 this year at three venues: Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, Violet Crown Cinema and the Paramount. Not to mention the party venues, and you know aGLIFF has some of the best fest parties in Austin.
  • Speaking of local film festivals, Fantastic Fest is gearing up and their notorious annual bumper contest is now underway. You have until September 5 to submit a very short film with the theme "Altered States" that ends with the fest's traditional "That's fantastic!" phrase. These bumpers always make me wish I had any filmmaking talent (and more time) to try one myself.
  • Another filmmaking opportunity: Drafthouse Films is seeking a 26th short film for their The ABC's of Death anthology. They're accepting submissions for the "T is for ..." slot through October 1. You can see and vote on the current submissions. Let's get some Austin filmmakers in there, please ... better yet, some female Austin filmmakers. You know who you are. Go for it!

Slacker 2011: Geoff Marslett Shoots 20-Plus Shorts in One

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Geoff Marslett

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with local filmmaker and instructor Geoff Marslett. Marslett's feature Mars premiered at SXSW 2010 (Jenn Brown's review). Mars is an animated movie based on a live-action green-screen shoot that took two years of hard work to animate. Marslett is currently working on a new feature ... well, I'll let him tell you about it in the following discussion.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

Geoff Marslett: I was responsible for scene 16. This was basically the robber's getaway after he steals a book from the anarchist, all the way through the video backpacker-surreal TV watching sequence. To make my job a little tougher, and because I really enjoyed working on the project, I worked on a short little bit of transition before and after my part of the remake.

Slacker 2011: Stuck On On Puts It All Together

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Slacker 2011In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF). As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with Allison Turrell of Stuck On On. Stuck On On is an Austin company that specializes in post-production/finishing work for films, such as color correction, music composition, voiceovers, sound design, and digital mixing. Stuck On On worked with Austin Film Society and Alamo Drafthouse to help make a finished feature out of the Slacker 2011 segments from individual filmmakers. They've also worked on local movies such as Winnebago Man, Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, blacktino and DMT: The Spirit Molecule.

Slackerwood: What got Stuck On On interested in this project?

Allison Turrell: We got involved because we loved the original Slacker and we love and support the Austin Film Society and the Austin filmmaking community. We’ve worked with several of these directors, producers, DPs and editors before and this was an opportunity to work with some new faces as well. We've also worked on previous films that received TFPF funds including The Happy Poet, Where Soldiers Come From, The Eyes of Me and The American Widow Project. We wanted to give back to the community.

What kind of work did Stuck On On do for Slacker 2011?

We assembled the 24 vignettes. We also conformed all 24 projects because everyone shot with a wide variety of cameras. We are dialogue editing, re-record mixing, sound designing, color correcting and making the final Blu-ray that will screen at the Paramount. All of these services vary depending on the scene. Some folks had their scene mixed and/or color corrected.

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