Ready, Set, Fund: Queens, Teens and Lazer Team

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Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and fundraising endeavors related to Austin and Texas independent film projects.

With summer in full swing, we've happened upon several Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns of films gearing up to shoot over these next few months. Headlining these campaigns is the Lazer Team project, the first feature film to be made by Austin production group Rooster Teeth (Red vs. Blue). A bit elusive in the plot description, the story is described as a live-action sci-fi comedy that takes place in the aftermath of receiving an alien signal on Earth.

The Indiegogo campaign raised an impressive $650,000+ on its first launch day, and has now crossed the $1.5 million mark. I'm sure it's due to not only a large fan base, but the impressive incentives offered. Already sold out of the highest two, perks include 20-second voicemails from your favorite Rooster Teeth personality ($400 donation), a Virtual LAN Party with the RT team ($2,000 donation), and even a walk-on role in the film ($6,000 donation). You can watch the video below for more information. The campaign ends on July 6.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 23, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Austin will be the setting of two upcoming TV series. KUT reports that HBO is developing God Save Texas, about a freshman Texas legislator wooed by energy lobbyists. Writer/co-producer Lawrence Wright is basing the show on his play Sonny's Last Shot. No word yet on whether it will actually be shot in Austin. And per Austin Business Journal, Amazon is producing Hysteria, a series starring Mena Suvari as a psychiatrist at The University of Texas at Austin who's investigating a teen epidemic related to the title. This series might actually shoot locally, considering a recent casting call.
  • Local screenwriter/author/former film critic C. Robert Cargill has his next project lined up: He's co-scripting The Outer Limits with Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote the horror feature Sinister with him too. The movie will be based primarily on an episode of the 1960s anthology show titled "Demon with a Glass Hand," originally written by Harlan Ellison. (via Hollywood Reporter)
  • Cinema Eye Honors, which recognizes documentary filmmaking, announced its shortlist last week for the Nonfiction Film for Television Award. The ten candidates include All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State, the HBO documentary about the Texas governor that screened in an earlier incarnation as Ann Richards' Texas at Austin Film Festival 2012 (Debbie's review). Anyone out there seen both, and can comment on the differences?

Movies This Week: June 20-26, 2014

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Obvious Child

The Austin Film Society has teamed up with Dan Halstead of Portland's Kung Fu Theater to host the 2nd annual "Old School Kung Fu Weekend" at the Marchesa. Three films will screen tonight and three more tomorrow, all directly from rare 35mm prints. The lineup is top secret and most of the movies have never before played in town. Passes are available for the entire series or individual tickets will be sold at the door, capacity permitting.

The AFS Screening Room hosts an Avant Cinema screening on Wednesday night of the 1947 film Dreams That Money Can Buy, created by avant-garde masters Hans Richter, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder and John Cage. Thursday night's Essential Cinema selection is Abel Gance's J'Accuse. Presented in a DCP of a recent restoration, this 1919 silent classic presents a love triangle between a soldier, his wife and her lover during World War I. 

After a week off, the Marx Brothers retrospective picks back up this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. The Big Store was their last film for MGM and was originally released in 1941. This rarely-screened film plays from a 16mm print tomorrow afternoon. There are still a few tickets left for Sunday's Merylthon at the Ritz. Celebrating Meryl Streep's 65th birthday, the marathon will feature five secret titles, all screening from 35mm prints. The Ritz also has Russ Meyer's Mudhoney in 35mm on Monday night and The Devil Is A Woman in 35mm on Wednesday, which wraps up their salute to Dietrich and Von Sternberg. 

Review: Jersey Boys

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Jersey Boys

Directing Jersey Boys is an interesting career choice for Clint Eastwood. Did he make the right choice?

Fans of the stage musical Jersey Boys may think so; at its heart, the film is true to the smashingly successful stage version. It's also a safe bet that fans of the Four Seasons (Google them, millennials) will like the movie, which features many of the group's hits.

But fans of the exalted filmmaker's best work may be disappointed. Of course Jersey Boys isn't meant to be another Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby or Gran Torino -- but even by the lightweight standards of crowd-pleasing musicals, Jersey Boys feels a bit empty.

A biography of the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys opens in mid-Fifties New Jersey, where teenage lead singer Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), perform in New Jersey clubs with an early incarnation of the group, the Four Lovers. Among their fans is neighborhood gangster Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who isn't a great role model for young Valli and but helps him escape a close call.

Review: Obvious Child

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Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

One of the films I regret missing at SXSW is Obvious Child, which opens in Austin on Friday. Jenny Slate (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation) stars as Donna, a raunchy stand-up comedian. A one-night stand with cute yuppie Max (Jake Lacy, The Office) leads to Donna's accidental pregnancy, and she schedules an appointment to have an abortion. Unlike many other movies or TV shows (Juno, Sex and the City) where a character wants an abortion and then changes her mind, Donna is resolute in her decision.

What she is uncertain about is pretty much everything else. Her boyfriend just broke up with her in a gross bar restroom (props to the set designers for creating a truly dingy-looking bathroom). The bookstore where she works is closing, and her career in stand-up is far from explosive. Her mother (Polly Draper, thirtysomething) encourages her to make real plans for the future. Max seems too straight-laced to be her type, but Donna really likes him. She's just not sure what his response to her news will be.

Director Gillian Robespierre based her first feature on her 2009 short of the same name, which also starred Slate.  There's a raw feeling to the humor and to Slate's portrayal of Debbie. Her post-breakup, wasted stand-up set is terrifically awkward for all involved. A small complaint would be that this set seems to last longer than it should, but it truly showcases Debbie's feeling of humiliation.

TAMI Flashback: The Roy Faires Collection

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Roy Faires

This article is the ninth in Slackerwood's second series about the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video library. For an overview of the TAMI site, refer to this article in the first series.

Today's Austinites may not be familiar with Roy Faires. But in the Seventies and Eighties, he was a fixture of local TV news and a household name in the River City.

The University of Texas graduate worked at Austin's PBS affiliate, KLRU-TV, from 1971 to 1976 as a news anchor, reporter and producer, and hosted the Who Knows the Answer? weekly quiz show for high-school students.

Faires then joined Austin's ABC affiliate, KVUE-TV, where he wore many hats and won many awards. In his 13 years at the station (1976-1989), he was a news reporter, anchor, director, editor and producer, as well as an entertainment reporter and film critic for the Good Morning Austin morning show. He also worked on the weekly Crime Stoppers segments, which helped solve local crimes, and Wednesday's Child segments, which helped find adoptive parents for children in foster care.

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.

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