Looking for something to see in theaters this weekend? Here are the new movies opening in Austin today or within the week.
Movies We've Seen:
The Bridge on the River Kwai -- As part of their Digital Classics series, the Alamo is showing a digitally restored version of the WWII classic with the famous whistle. If you don't get the reference, get your ass over there to see (and hear). (Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar)
Fair Game -- When a CIA agent's cover is blown by White House official, it's big news and it was bound to get turned into a political thriller. With Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in the cast, it's no surprise it's out in time for awards season. Read Elizabeth's review for more details. (Arbor)
Four Lions -- The first of the Alamo Drafthouse distribution comany films is out in limited release and -- no surprise -- Austin is one of the first cities for it to play. Jihad as a comedy? Why, yes. Read Mike's review to find out more. (Alamo Lamar)
Opening this election week, Fair Game is chock full of drama. Based on the true story of how sources in the Bush administration outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, the movie is a mix of genres: spy movie, family drama and political intrigue. I'd say that the film ranks up with All the President's Men as far as political pictures go. It shares the same drive and energy, and it gives an informative look into part of the mess the administration got itself into. Not only that, but the movie shows the strain this action put on Plame's marriage. Fair Game strikes a good balance in its depiction of politics/CIA elements with more domestic elements.
Fair Game kicks off in late 2001, with Plame (Naomi Watts) in Kuala Lumpur posing as Canadian Jessica McDowell (one of her many aliases). Not ten minutes later, we see her at dinner with friends back in DC, refraining from comment on political discussion even as her husband (Sean Penn) can't help from participating. She tells any friends/acquaintances who ask that she is a venture capitalist, while in secret she serves as a spy for the CIA.
When the Bush administration asks for investigation into rumors of large amounts of yellowcake uranium from Niger being sold to Iraq, Plame's boss (Michael Kelly) asks if her husband can look into it. And thus the shenanigans begin!
DreamWorks Animations brings in their mastermind behind their successful Madagascar franchise, Tom McGrath, to deliver their latest animated 3D film, Megamind. This 3D movie is action-packed and visual eye candy, reminiscent of but not meeting the technological standards set by Wall-E and Despicable Me. The storyline and characters are engaging enough for Megamind to at least have temporary success, but will it have a lasting impact on audiences?
The world of Megamind revolves around two central characters, Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt), whose lives resemble that of Kal-el aka Clark Kent/Superman. Sent as babies from their home planets doomed for destruction, they land on Earth, where they are adopted by strangers. Metro Man lives a life of luxury, but Megamind is unfortunately diverted into Metro City prison where he's raised by inmates. He's sent to a school for gifted children where he is constantly upstaged by Metro Man. Megamind eventually accepts his fate of being bad is the one thing he is good at, and thus begins a never-ending battle waged between the two rivals.
With his Drafthouse Films' first release, Tim League is taking a sizable risk, one that will hopefully pay off. Exploding onto U.S. screens in several cities this weekend (including Austin, of course), Four Lions takes dark comedy to new levels as it tells the story of a ragtag group of Muslims who have self-organized into a jihadist cell. Written and directed by Chris Morris, the film opened to moderate success in the UK this summer.
While the movie has received critical acclaim (Four Lions was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and has just received five BIFA nominations), the real test for the film will be how it is received by American audiences. The arthouse crowd is well acclimated to British comedy, but with the exception of Monty Python, Britcom appeals to a soberingly small section of the U.S. public, so Four Lions will have to fight an uphill battle to fill the seats. A U.S. tour by Tim League, Bad Ass Digest chief editor Devin Faraci, and Chris Morris, as well as a "Twitter bomb" and great word-of-mouth publicity, should help.
Here's what's going on in Austin film news this week:
- Austin Film Festival announced its audience awards yesterday, and many are for movies with local connections (yay!). The narrative feature award went to Dig, from local filmmaker/instructor Stephen Belyeu. There was a tie for narrative short award -- locally shot (and very funny) Sleep Study, from John Merriman and Kerri Lendo; and Blind Date, directed by Joe Rosen. The narrative student short award went to A Lone Star State from Joseph Saito. Visit the AFF site for a full list of the awards.
- Are you suffering from film-fest withdrawal? The Austin Polish Film Festival starts tomorrow night and runs through next weekend. The fest shows features on the first weekend, then shorts and documentaries on the second weekend. The fest takes place at the Texas Spirit Theatre in the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. If you need a fest rest, at least check out the finalists from the fest's student poster contest.
- Sunday, November 14 is going to be a big day for documentary filmmakers in Austin. First of all, at 2 pm, Spike Lee will screen and discuss parts of his latest documentary about New Orleans, If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise. Tickets are free, but you need to get them in advance from The University of Texas. I plan to be there, with a big box of tissues (I went through nearly a whole box during When the Levees Broke).
Likeable murderers in film are usually limited to those we admire for their style, not for being sweet and sympathetic. Miss Nobody is an exception and one of the sweetest black comedies you'll likely ever see from its vivacious opening credits til the startling final shot.
With its Pushing Daisies sensibilities, Miss Nobody is the colorful and cheerful murders-by-number tale of an insignificant admin assistant who takes a chance and becomes an executive ... with a pesky little body count. The invisibly mousey Sarah Jane McKinney (Leslie Bibb) follows up on her friend's suggestion to apply for a promotion, only to find her true calling as she climbs a particularly deadly corporate ladder. When a most fortunate accident launches Sarah Jane's career, she finds herself at the mercy of some of the most Machiavellian corporate execs on screen. This is a truly cutthroat business environment, leaving Sarah Jane no choice but to employ some creative career enders.
Writer/director Dax Shepard, cinematographer/director David Palmer and producer Nate Tuck were on the red carpet for the premiere of Brother's Justice at AFF 2010. The trio were also the stars of this mockumentary about Shepard's efforts to delve into the martial arts genre, although Palmer is most often behind the camera as "the camera guy." It's the natural relationship between Shepard and Tuck as they try to enlist more people in their project that I enjoyed the most. Check back soon for my interview with Shepard, Palmer and Tuck.
Here are more photos from the event, including the cast and crew of the short film The Legend of El Limbo, which preceded Brother's Justice. First up is star Dax Shepard.
It's my birthday today, and this reminds me of the way we celebrated my birthday three years ago. The day before, my husband took me to Alamo Ritz and we had an impromptu picnic in the smaller Ritz theater, right before the grand opening of Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz in the larger theater. Read my Ritziest Birthday Ever post for the full account. I've got a couple more photos after the jump -- my favorite, however, is from SXSW 2008.
Since 2007, I've been to a number of events and screenings at Alamo Ritz, from Butt-Numb-a-Thon to Bruce Campbell, and have enjoyed the theater very much. I hope it'll be around for a long time.
Of course, the Ritz has been around for much longer than the three years it's been an Alamo Drafthouse theater. Alamo is celebrating the theater's 81st birthday tomorrow with a special screening of The Jazz Singer. This being the Alamo, they're not just showing the movie -- it will be preceded by a performance from jazz musician Erik Hokkanen and his band, and admission includes a three-course meal and champagne toast. Now, I'd be happy with 81 more years of the Ritz, please.
Take a classic slasher setup, a bunch of young people isolated in the woods, and turn the trope on its overly predictable ear and you get the indie horror film I Didn't Come Here to Die by Austinite Bradley Scott Sullivan.
With one of the best ever taglines ("Volunteer work is a killer"), Sullivan's screenplay takes a small group of "Volunteers of American Generating Goodwill" out to a remote location to start work on what will eventually be campgrounds for underprivileged urban youth. As the first team to work on the project, they're roughing it in tents, with no phone service, and supposedly, no alcohol and no fraternization. All the rules in place are for safety's sake, but once rules start being broken, everything and everyone starts down a slippery, bloody slope.
Austin Film Festival is over for another year, but we're still covering it. And now that official photos from AFF are available for the panels related to By Way of Helena, here they are. Above are DB Sweeney and Jeff Fahey, who took the lead roles during Friday's script reading.