Review: Hellion

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Hellion

Jacob Wilson is a troubled kid. Like many teenagers, he's a rebel without a pause, constantly battling the adults in his life while figuring out who he is. But adolescent battles are far worse for Jacob than for most 13 year olds; his life can be as noisy, chaotic and dangerous as the motocross races he enters for a shot at stardom and a little respect from his family and friends.

Jacob (Josh Wiggins) is at the center of Hellion, Austin filmmaker Kat Candler's gritty new feature based on her 2012 short of the same title. We can't really blame Jacob for being the titular troublemaker. His mother is dead; his alcoholic father, Hollis (Aaron Paul), tries to take care of his sons, but needs to try harder. With his father physically or emotionally absent much of the time, Jacob must look after his little brother, Wes (Deke Garner). He also hangs out with a group of budding delinquents who entertain themselves with criminal mischief around their scruffy working-class neighborhood.

Photo Essay: A Hill Country Flyer Jaunt to See 'Snowpiercer'

Snowpiercer

I had little idea what to expect from the movie Snowpiercer, as I had not even seen a trailer. But buzz for the movie had been overwhelmingly positive, and Tim League and the crew of the Alamo Drafthouse throw some of the best parties around -- so I found myself in a line late Saturday afternoon to board the Hill Country Flyer for a trip to Burnet and a Rolling Roadshow presentation of the film with director Bong Joon-ho in attendance for a Q&A.

Lone Star Cinema: Nadine

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Nadine

There were high hopes for the Austin-made comedy Nadine when it was released in 1987.

The filmmaker, Robert Benton, had an impressive track record as a screenwriter (Bonnie and Clyde, What's Up, Doc and Superman) and writer/director (The Late Show, Kramer vs. Kramer and Places in the Heart). Nadine also had two white-hot stars (Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger) and a strong supporting cast (Rip Torn, Glenne Headly, Jerry Stiller and a host of other great character actors).

But sadly, Nadine was a flop -- and for the most part, deservedly so.

Nadine is the story of the titular Nadine Hightower (Basinger), a struggling hairstylist in 1954 Austin. Strapped for cash, she poses for some nude "art studies" but now has second thoughts about the photos. When she visits photographer Raymond Escobar (Stiller) to retrieve them, she witnesses his murder. She also mistakenly steals secret plans for a new road -- valuable plans to anyone wanting to buy land along the roadway.

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.

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