Shane Black is one of the pioneering Hollywood screenwriters of the contemporary action genre. The screenwriter for Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, Last Action Hero and his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang now takes the reins of one of the biggest and most-beloved moneymaking franchises in the golden age of comic-book Hollywood. A $200 million budget is proof Marvel and Disney think Iron Man 3 is in good hands, but canon-obsessed fanboys may not agree.
Co-scripted with TV writer Drew Pearce (who's also credited in the upcoming Pacific Rim and Sherlock Holmes 3), this entry in the series incorporates many fan-favorite storylines and characters from the Iron Man comics. Though they're brought together in a mega-blockbuster of an action film, one or two departures from established canon will be the subject of controversy among hardcore fans for the foreseeable future. Naturally, I won't go into specifics here (no spoilers!) but moviegoers who are more interested in what's onscreen and less concerned with the printed page will have a great time. I guarantee it.
If that phrase is familiar to you, you'll understand when I say this movie is all about suits. It's clear from a shot in the trailer that in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has more suits than a Men's Wearhouse. At least a double-digit percentage of the effects budget must have been spent on animating Stark putting on, taking off, getting into or being knocked out of one of his battle-armored suits. In fact, Robert Downey Jr. probably spends more screen time putting on his superheroic suits than actually fighting in them.
That's probably a deliberate choice, as the story heavily involves Stark's internal conflict between spending time with the people he loves and spending every moment working to protect them. This is a struggle we've seen before in films like Superman II, when Clark gives up his powers to be with Lois, or to an extent in the 2007 Spider-Man 3, when Peter Parker's emotional turmoil affects his superhero abilities.
After the events at the end of The Avengers, Tony Stark is suffering from insomnia and panic attacks as he works ceaselessly to improve his armor designs. After challenging a mysterious terrorist figure known only as The Mandarin to a one-on-one battle, the resulting surprise (?) attack leaves him stranded, forced to deal with the powerful enemy minus his usual limitless resources and therefore prove Iron Man is Stark himself, and not just the battle suit. This theme is echoed in the heroics of Don Cheadle as Col. James Rhodes, aka War Machine, who likewise finds himself forced to operate outside the suit when they team up.
By the time you read this, I'll be in Fredericksburg for the Hill Country Film Festival. I love a film fest that's in one theater, where you get to know all the filmmakers and half the audience, and where short films prevail and celebrities do not. I wish the weather were less capricious, but you can't have everything. If you're in Austin instead, your best bet may be that fabulous new release about heroes who use their iron technology to assist mankind. Of course I mean the Austin documentary Trash Dance, which has a weeklong run at Violet Crown.
Hoping to get back in town Sunday in time for Alamo Drafthouse Ritz's Cinema Cocktails screening of the 1949 musical On the Town, a favorite of mine, screening in 35mm. Who couldn't love dance numbers from Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen and especially Ann Miller, with a script from Comden and Green? And you can have a Manhattan while you watch.
On Monday, don't forget Stateside Independent is screening the delightful Austin food-truck-centric comedy The Happy Poet (Elizabeth's preview), with some cast members in attendance. Or you could head to Alamo Village for Austin Film Festival's screening of AFF 2012 documentary Spinning Plates (Debbie's review).
Stateside Independent will screen The Happy Poet -- which premiered at SXSW 2010 -- Monday, May 6 at 7 pm [ticket info]. Cast members Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek and Liz Fisher, and producer David Hartstein, will be there for a Q&A following the movie.
In The Happy Poet, a comedy filmed in Austin, unemployed writer Bill (writer-director Paul Gordon) dreams of running a cart that sells local/organic vegetarian snacks: eggless egg-salad sandwiches, basil pesto pitas and the like. There's just a slight hitch in his plans: He's practically broke and has to insinuate to the man selling him the food cart that he will be selling hot dogs instead. He makes the snacks at his apartment in the morning (my baker friend would be distressed to see his lack of plastic gloves) and stakes out a spot to sell his wares.
Bill, bespectacled and hesitant, is aided in this venture by friends who help him advertise and come up with a name for his business -- The Happy Poet. Ironic, because Bill seems only slightly satisfied at times. He lacks much of a backbone and has to deal with disappointment. Thankfully, Bill grows through his experience with the food cart and all it entails.
When Chris Nicola traveled to the Ukraine, it was to understand his own family's history and explore caves. Not only did he inexplicably discover everyday objects such as buttons and shoes in a remote cave, but he also unearthed a rumor of a group of Jews who lived in a cave. These discoveries led to an incredible Holocaust survival story of how 38 people lived underground for a year and a half -- the longest recorded sustained underground survival -- to escape the death camps. Nicola confirmed the story by locating 14 of the original cave inhabitants.
The experiences of these Ukrainian Jews is captured in the documentary No Place on Earth -- which opens in Austin tomorrow at Regal Arbor -- by longtime television producer Janet Tobias in her film directorial debut. The survivors are now in their eighties and nineties, but they were quite young when they took refuge in the cave. According to Tobias (from the press notes), "There were no leaders in the cave above about 35. And they were doers – they weren’t thinkers and analyzers. They really didn’t have the time to sit around and contemplate."
No Place on Earth can easily be described as a docu-drama rather than documentary, as the movie relies mostly on dramatic re-enactments of the group's experience in the cave. This vérité style is enhanced with interwoven present-day interviews with the main storytellers, including brothers Saul and Sam Stermer and sisters Sonia and Sima Dodyk. Thanks to the resourcefulness and determination of the brothers, the group had a community that survived despite the odds -- often with very little food or water for days on end, and with very little light.
Trash Dance opens Friday for a weeklong run at Violet Crown Cinema.
The adage that one person's trash is another person's treasure is relevant to Trash Dance, but doesn't apply in the strictest sense. In the Austin indie documentary and the dance performance it celebrates, the treasure isn't the trash -- it's the unlikely beauty of trash collection.
Director Andrew Garrison's film is an inspiring look at the Trash Project, Austin choreographer Allison Orr's ambitious dance performance featuring 24 City of Austin Solid Waste Services Department employees and 16 large sanitation vehicles. (That's right -- trash trucks.) The performance and the film find artistry in the mundane world of picking up garbage; more importantly, they show us there is dignity in even the hardest and least desirable jobs.
Creating the dance was a year-long project starting in late 2008. Orr knew that to choreograph such a work, she had to get to know the workers, earn their trust, understand what they do and study their movements. So she spent many days the job with them, and not just as an observer. She emptied garbage cans, picked up litter, collected dead animals (a task she could barely stomach) and learned to appreciate the finer points of picking up trash. Garrison's film crew tagged along, capturing every messy detail and introducing us to some of the people who keep our world clean.
Slackerwood is giving you the chance to see The Kings of Summer next week, almost a month before it opens in Austin theaters ... and at no cost. This popular Sundance 2013 comedy will have a preview screening on Thursday, May 9, at 7:30 pm at Regal Arbor. Austin Film Society has offered us a limited number of spaces on a will-call list to give to Slackerwood readers -- each space is for two people (you and a guest).
If you're on the list, you and your guest will have "secured" space in the theater -- the theater isn't being overbooked, although specific seats aren't reserved for you. This means you won't have to stand in a long line wondering if you'll get in. However, I'd recommend getting there early anyway, in case there's a standby line for unfilled seats.
The Kings of Summer is a coming-of-age movie about three young men who run away from home and spend the summer building and living in their own house in a remote wooded area. The teens are played by Nick Robinson (no, not that one), Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias. The supporting cast includes Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Alison Brie.
Former Austin film critic Chase Whale reviewed the movie for Twitch when he saw it at Sundance under the title Toy's House. He praised the script and called the movie "an unforgettable coming-of-age comedy that's sweet, witty, and brings back the joys of being young and full of life."
Here's what you have to do to get on the list for this screening: Use the Slackerwood contact form to send me a message with your name and email address. I'll add your name to the list, which I'll send to Austin Film Society, and they'll have it at the Arbor that night. Check in at the box office when you arrive. The deadline to send me your info is 10 pm on Friday, May 3 so I can forward all the names to AFS in time for the screening.
By Cameron Bergeron
If you were at Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane a couple of Saturdays ago, you might have noticed something special was going on inside the 400 Rabbits bar. Alamo Drafthouse and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery hosted the 6th annual Off-Centered Film Fest. The live DJ and purple t-shirts with high tops on them expressed this year's hip-hop festival theme. Fest events included a live rap battle featuring Austin's owner indie-rap sensation P-tek, a screening of 8 Mile, a reunion of Sam Calagione's craft brew inspired hip-hop act Pain Relievaz and much much more.
The fest kicked off Thursday and continued through the end of the week. Calagione, the founder of the Delaware based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, brought the best his brewery had to offer, while the Drafthouse and Antonelli's Cheese Shop worked closely together to insure the menu and the beer selection paired perfectly witheach event. The fruits of this diligent work could be savored at the Saturday pre-show mixer at 400 Rabbits. Each available beer was paired with a cheese, or in the case of the Theobroma, a chocolate to complement.
Here's the latest Austin film news.
- Locally shot film The Happy Poet will return to Austin next Monday at the Stateside Theater, with some of the cast and crew in attendance for a post-screening Q&A (Jordan's interview). Paul Gordon's comedy will be released on DVD and online streaming June 25. The Happy Poet, which premiered at SXSW 2010 (our review), tells the story of Bill (Gordon), an out-of-work poet who uses the last of his money (and a loan) to buy an all-organic, mostly vegetarian food stand. The cast also includes Chris Doubek and Jonny Mars.
- Austin videogame label Devolver Digital has created a new division for film distribution. They've acquired their first film for theatrical and VOD release: Cancerpants. Don saw it at aGLIFF in 2011 and said it's "a terrific documentary about Austinite Rochelle Poulson's fight against breast cancer." He added: "Shot in Austin and astutely directed by Nevie Owens, Cancerpants is a starkly honest portrait of Poulson's battle, a film that doesn't shy away from the often unpleasant details of her story." Look for it on VOD outlets starting May 7, with screenings in several cities -- including Austin, natch -- planned for May 30.
- The music documentary A Band Called Death, which screened at this year's SXSW Film Festival, is also gearing up for its May 24 VOD release and June 28 limited theatrical release through Drafthouse Films, the distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse. A Band Called Death takes a walk down a sometimes blurry memory lane, when, in the 1970s, three African-American brothers from Detroit formed the punk band Death (Debbie's preview). The documentary follows the band's newfound popularity, decades after they split.
Austin filmmaker James Christopher is directing Twitchy Dolphin Flix's new mockumentary-style features The XXXX Saga: Rise of the Beaver Slayer and The Porn Movie Massacre (no, they're not pornos). Check Slackerwood for his updates as the production continues.
This weekend was, in many ways, what Twitchy Dolphin is about. We shot a lot. And we did a lot of shots! (Not really.)
Twitchy has built a reputation of being a family -- and a team that puts the work first, that is working hard for each other not just for "making it." It's a team that has people traveling from all over to make movies with us. So for our second-to-last weekend, we had Mike Donis (Toronto), Marc Wasserman (LA), Dave Cohen (Florida) and Janet Mayson (Illinois) on set. It's always as much a family reunion as it is work. We've always prided ourselves in making the experience of being on set as much a reward as anything else. I think we did that this weekend.
We started with some XXXX and XXXX2 scenes on Wednesday evening. Andrea Dettling's character Chastity and Mike Donis's Bill England shot their romantic moments. Andrea also did her scenes with Vanessa Perry as Miss Prissy. These scenes dealt with Chastity training Miss Prissy to prepare for life on an adult film set. Yes, a popsicle was involved.
Thursday, we got Billy Kring threatening to use his Smith and Wesson to violate a guy and I took another turn as Mike Antonio, a rather prudish cop. The night was a lot of fun, playing on the police procedural tropes. Billy, one of the nicest guys I've ever known, just killed us as he went on his "I'm tired of defending your crap to the commissioner" rant.
Friday followed, a highly anticipated day. Hard Rocket landed. And Marc Wasserman, in the role, did not disappoint. He's been prepping for months, shredding his body to the point that he refused to take his shirt off at times. Dave Cohen stepped in, making his Twitchy debut as an unfortunate father of two porn star sisters. Not to be outdone, Clif Haley, Sarah England and Ben Tubbs rolled in to shoot their scenes as the writers for XXXX Films. The scene was live, ripe with improv ("Whora the Explorer?") and carrying on. Epic.
Friday followed with a couple of the bigger ensemble scenes, including the Quad X wedding scene. We then decided to have the wrap party. I know, I know. We still have three days left, but with so much of the cast here from out of town for the shoot, we figured what the heck.
And it was epic. We had new shots (Hard Rockets) and Aaron Gaudin's new microbrew imprint Montage Brew made a special brew for the occasion (Vagin-ale). Marc took his shirt off. Over and over again. Beer pong was played, behind-the-scenes pictures shared and we took a moment to thank everyone for all the work on the film so far. We're a family and that's what it felt like. And Marc Wasserman eventually did put a shirt on.
So who else is going to see Hands on a Hardbody tonight at the Marchesa? Read Don's review to find out why so many of us are so pleased to see this 1997 documentary available again. Filmmaker S.R. Bindler will be there with one of the film's subjects, Benny Perkins ... I hear there will even be an actual Nissan Hardbody in attendance. If you're not interested (because you're crazy) you could head over to Blue Starlite and watch Dazed and Confused.
Austin Film Society's Best of the Fest series brings the movie In the Family to the Marchesa on Sunday and Monday nights. It's about a father whose partner dies and leaves their son to his sister, sparking a difficult custody battle. Writer/director/actor Patrick Wang will attend the screenings.
On Monday night, Alamo Drafthouse's Cinema Club series continues at the Ritz with a 35mm screening of Grand Hotel, the glitzy 1932 drama starring John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. Author and University of Texas professor Tom Schatz will discuss the movie afterward. And if those aren't enough Monday night choices, you might also consider The Frames: In the Deep Shade, a documentary about Glen Hansard's band screening at Stateside.