Movies This Week: Attack the Crazy Cowboys and Smurfs

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I'm pleased that one of the movies I've enjoyed most this summer is opening this weekend -- the one with the aliens. No, not the one with the cowboys and aliens, the one with teenage London hoodlums and aliens. In addition to your choice of movies featuring outer-space creatures, you can also enjoy Smurfs and Steve Carell (not in the same movie), and some good indie films.

Of course, as usual Austin has plenty of special screenings going on. On Sunday night, Alamo Drafthouse's Cinema Club brings Bell Book and Candle back to the big screen, followed by a discussion with Austin Chronicle film critic Marc Savlov.On Monday, you can head to the AT&T Conference Center to hear horror writers Tom Holland and Austinite Alvaro Rodriguez take part in an Austin Film Festival Concersations in Film called "Words That Go Bump in the Night." Then on Tuesday, Holland and Rodriguez will hold a Q&A after a screening of the original Fright Night at Alamo Ritz.

Movies We've Seen:

  • Attack the Block -- This monster-meets-London-gangs movie won a lot of fans at SXSW and is back in Austin to hopefully win some more. I saw it recently and thought it was a great summer movie. Definitely check it out. (Alamo South)
  • Cowboys & Aliens -- Jenn says in her review that the latest film from Jon Favreau (Iron Man) "plods along with too many subplots" and is ultimately disappointing. The movie stars Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde and at least it isn't in 3D. I may drag out my Adventures of Brisco County Jr. boxed set instead.(wide)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love.  --  Steve Carell stars in this romantic comedy that Elizabeth says is neither a chick flick nor a bromance, and doesn't pass the Bechdel test. But she ends her review by noting that the movie may still be good enough for multiple viewings. Directed by the Bad Santa writers. (wide)

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

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Steve Carell learns as Ryan Gosling woos in Crazy, Stupid, Love

As much as I hate the term "chick flick," it has come to define a certain type of film I tend to guiltily enjoy watching -- a movie where women play a large role and a romance is likely to be in the works. That being said, although Crazy, Stupid, Love. is all about romance (budding, broken, and unrequited), this ain't no chick flick. It doesn't really count as a "bromance" either, but it does focus on men and how they relate to each other and the women in this film. Let's just call it a genre-defying romantic comedy, if that makes any sense.

There are multiple characters and relationships depicted in Crazy, Stupid, Love. The main interaction is between accountant Cal (Steve Carell), who finds out in the opening scene that his wife wants a divorce, and hunky younger womanizer Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Cal is broken-hearted after separating from his high-school sweetheart Emily (Julianne Moore); Jacob pities him and takes him under his wing. Carell and Gosling are terrific in their scenes together.

Review: Cowboys & Aliens

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Take scrappy Wild West folk and pit them against interstellar aggressors, and what should you get? With Jon Favreau directing, you might expect something smart, fast-paced and fun. After all, Favreau's Elf endeared Will Farrell to audiences who had no appreciation for the man -- no small feat -- and Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were both satisfying summer blockbusters. Unfortunately, Cowboys & Aliens has more in common with Snakes on a Plane than with Iron Man.

The concept of "cowboys versus aliens" couldn't be simpler, but the movie plods along with too many subplots. Understandably, archetypal western characters abound. Daniel Craig's broody, silent stranger upsets the uneasy peace of a dirtwater town run by a dictatorial cattle baron, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Townspeople like saloonkeeper Doc (Sam Rockwell) suffer the patronage of Dolarhyde's spoiled, mercurial son (Paul Dano), thanks in part to worshipful ranch hand Nat Colorado (Adam Beach). The dutiful, tolerant sheriff (Keith Carradine) cares for his orphaned grandson Emmett (Noah Ringer). Gingham clad gun-toting Ella (Olivia Wilde) slouches along in the background and says even less than the preacher (Clancy Brown). After alien raiders strafe the town and steal away many townsfolk, a tenuous alliance forms to recover loved ones.

TAMI Flashback: The University of Texas Tower Shootings

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UT Tower Shooting

This article is the ninth in a Slackerwood series about the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video library.

August 1, 1966 may be the worst day in Austin history. On that day, 25-year-old University of Texas student Charles Whitman went on a shooting rampage from atop the university tower, killing three people inside the tower and 10 more on the ground below, and wounding 32 others. In the early morning hours before the shooting spree, Whitman also stabbed his mother and wife to death.

The horror of that day lives on in many Austinites' memories. Thanks to reporters and cameramen at Austin's KTBC-TV who covered the story at great personal risk, the horror also lives on in dramatic news footage of the tragedy.

The TAMI library includes several videos about Whitman's rampage. The best of them is Neal Spelce Collection, No. 1 - UT Tower Shooting, a 25-minute broadcast that aired on KTBC on the day of the killings. The video is a startling record of the day's events and a fascinating study in early television journalism.

Slacker 2011: Chris Eska Gets to Destroy a Camera

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still from 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). The trailer is now available. 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.

Today's interview is with Chris Eska, the TFPF grant-winner whose dramatic film August Evening won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

Chris Eska: The final scene where a group of friends drive around in a convertible with Super 8 cameras before running to the top of Mt. Bonnell and throwing a camera from the top.

Slackery News Tidbits, July 26

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Filmmaker Magazine has named this year's "25 New Faces of Independent Film," and a couple of those faces are very familiar here in Austin. Local filmmaker Joe Nicolosi is the mastermind behind the very funny bumpers at this year's SXSW Film Festival, and DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery was also at SXSW 2011 this year with his short film Pioneer.
  • Speaking of SXSW 2011, local feature Natural Selection (Debbie's review), which won several awards at the fest, has been picked up for U.S. theatrical and DVD distribution by Cinema Guild. The release date is set as "this fall," and I'll let you know when more info is available about an Austin release date.
  • And have we mentioned yet that Richard Linklater's latest film, Bernie, has found distribution? Millenium Films picked up the dark comedy, which was shot in Central Texas and stars Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine. No word yet on a release date -- so far, the film has only officially screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
  • If you're fond of chess and want to see it on the big screen, you'll be happy to hear that filmmaker Andrew Bujalski (SXSW 2010 selection Beeswax) is working on a feature called Computer Chess, which he wants to start shooting in Austin next month. It's about chess players and computer programmers in the 1980s. Bujalski still needs money to use for equipment rental and post-production costs, and has set up a fundraising project. The accompanying video is amusing, especially if you know which local filmmaker is playing the "Hollywood executive."

Slacker 2011: Karen Skloss Shoots in 35mm

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Slacker 2011, taken by Patrick Rusk

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. The trailer is now available. 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.

Today's interview is with Karen Skloss, whose first film, Sunshine, premiered on Independent Lens last year. Skloss also edits feature documentaries, and worked on Taken by Storm and 2004's Be Here to Love Me (streaming on Hulu).

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

Karen Skloss: I re-shot the Madonna's pap smear scene and a few short scenes that followed it: the "t-shirt terrorist" and "wants to leave the country." It's about 9 minutes of the original film.

Lights. Camera. Help. Combines Filmmaking and Activism

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BornforthisMoment

Many film fans in Austin care as much about activism as they do about movies. If you're passionate about both, you won't want to miss the Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival.

The third annual installment of the festival, happening July 28-30, gives non-profit and cause-driven films well deserved attention by screening them in a theater setting. The festival is a non-profit event; all films are submitted for free, and all ticket sale proceeds go directly to the organizations that produce the winning films.

Lights. Camera. Help., the first festival of its kind, is the brainchild of Austinites David J. Neff, Aaron Bramley and Rich Vasquez.

Review: Captain America

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Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell & a crowd of soldiers in Captain America

Perhaps Iron Man made me expect too much from superhero movies. That Marvel film combines a great storyline and thoughtful acting along with the requisite blow-'em-up special effects. While Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun summer movie, it's far less cohesive than that related film, and far less memorable as well.

First off, I'll admit that I'm not very familiar with the Captain America canon. I happened upon this primer on NPR's Monkey See blog the day I saw the film, so I knew a little of what to expect, but there were still some surprises thrown in!

Captain America: The First Avenger is mainly an origin story of how Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) comes to be Captain America, WWII propaganda figure and hero of the Allied armed forces. Rogers begins the film a 98-pound small-statured man who keeps trying to enlist, but is continually denied because of his size and health conditions. His pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan in a vanilla performance) takes him along to a "World Expo," where we first see Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, quite believable as Iron Man's dad).

Movies This Week: Captain Terri with Benefits

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Terri

A couple of weeks ago, this looked like it would be a drab weekend for new movies: another big dopey comic-book extravaganza (in 3D) and yet another tired romantic comedy. However, it turns out that most of us at Slackerwood have actually enjoyed these films, at least a little, and would recommend them to you. This has been a great summer to learn not to make negative predictions about movies we haven't seen yet.

For those who aren't convinced, Austin once again provides plenty of options. You can head over to Ballet Austin on Sunday afternoon to watch the 2000 film Center Stage followed by a ballet class -- the last in the Ballet Austin/Austin Film Festival series. That night, Cinema East is showing locally shot movie Rainbows End (an AFF 2010 selection) on the French Legation lawn. On Wednesday night, you might like this month's Celluloid Handbag selection at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz: the original Mildred Pierce. Or you could head to the Hideout for Cinema 41's screening of Coming Apart. But what I want to do most is see Paper Moon again in a theater, and the Paramount is obliging me by showing it on Wednesday night as part of a special Iron & Wine presentation.

Don't forget our Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies for other inexpensive moviegoing options.

Movies We've Seen:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger -- I liked this movie more than Elizabeth, whose review will be published Saturday. She says, "While Captain America is a fun summer film, it's not very cohesive or memorable. If you want to see it, find a 2D showing, as the 3D adds nothing to it." I agree about the 3D, but this was my first comic-book adaptation of the summer and I think I picked the best of the lot. (wide)
  • Friends with Benefits -- Mike was annoyed that this romantic comedy with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake screened for press on the same night as Captain America ... and then pleasantly surprised by what he calls "this year's best date movie" in his review. (wide)
  • Terri  (pictured above) -- Don caught this movie at SXSW. Check out his review, in which he notes: "A funny and entertainingly odd take on the adolescent (and adult) desire to be accepted, Terri is a modest but finely made film that will ring true with anyone who's ever felt like an outsider looking in." (Arbor)
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