April 2015

Box-Office Alternatives: Salt of the Earth

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Wim Wenders' captivating documentary The Salt of the Earth (2014) opens Friday in Austin after numerous festival screenings and heaps of critical praise. The Oscar-nominated documentary film follows famed photographer Sebastiao Selgado as he embarks on one of the most ambitious projects of his 40-year career in an effort to capture the planet's true essence and beauty.

I've no doubt that Wenders' Salt of the Earth is the wonderful piece of filmmaking others have claimed it to be. Yet when I hear the phrase "salt of the earth," my mind can't help but think of the stirring 1954 independent drama of the same name as well as the important social significance it conveyed and the controversy that surrounded the movie.

Set within a New Mexico mining town, Salt of the Earth (1954) centers on husband and wife Ramon (Juan Chacon) and Esperanza (Rosaura Ruevueltas), a happily married couple expecting their third child. Ramon's grandfather once owned the land where the family lives. However, by the 1950s, ownership has reverted to the white man and Ramon now spends his life as an employee of the local mine. When poor working conditions force Ramon and his fellow miners to go on strike, their actions trigger a chain of events that may forever change the lives of Ramon, Esperanza and the whole community.

Site News: Slackerwood Prepares to Wrap Up

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Pennybacker Bridge

I've been writing for and editing Slackerwood now for about nine years -- a long time, especially on the internet. And while it's been a wonderful experience, I feel like it's time for me to move on.

May 27, 2015 will be the last day we'll publish content to Slackerwood. The site will still remain online and searchable but it'll be an archive, essentially. Over the next month, we'll be winding down with a few final editions of regular columns and other coverage.

Why close the site? Because Slackerwood doesn't deserve an even slightly restless editor, to paraphrase Jon Stewart. Editing and publishing Slackerwood, while often delightful and rewarding, is a time-consuming job. After nine years, I'd like to spend that time doing other things, like more writing.

Review: Adult Beginners

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Adult Beginners posterHave you seen the indie film about the young ambitious-but-party-loving professional who has to move in with relatives after a heartbreaking business failure? Or how about the one where the estranged siblings are thrown back together and try to rebuild a strong relationship, in spite of their parents? Or maybe the movie where the single person or childless couple learn how much they've missed by not having children in their lives.

Adult Beginners retreads these all-too-familiar paths, but in such a pleasant way -- and with such an amusing cast -- that it's rarely tiresome. 

Jake (Nick Kroll) is one of those entrepreneurial types so familiar here in Austin (although he's wheeling and dealing in NYC) ready to launch The Next Big Thing. At the peak of his fabulous launch party, however, the venture collapses irretrievably, leaving him broke, unemployed and lacking any belief that he can do much of anything successfully. Jake moves in with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) and her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale), out to their parents' old home in the suburbs, and he agrees to be their son Teddy's nanny in return for room and board.

At this point the movie shifts into predictable patterns: Jake learning how to care for a child, Jake dealing with nannies, Justine and Danny coping with having a self-centered man-child in their home, Jake and Justine rebuilding their relationship. I keep mixing up plot elements in my head with The Skeleton Twins (especially because of the pool element) and even In a World (unrelated: keep an ear out for Fred Malamed's voice in this movie too).

As with both those movies, the cast adds strength and interest to the more familiar aspects of the plot. Kroll and Byrne may not look much like siblings but they have the interaction down pat -- especially during/after Skype calls to their father and his wife. Byrne's character is probably the best-written of the bunch, with some lovely moments that push the role above the standard "exasperated but supportive wife and sister" cliche. I particularly liked a scene in a coffeehouse with a student she's mentoring. Cannavale's character is far more standard but he hits every note perfectly.

Movies This Week: April 24-30, 2015

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Adult Beginners

Lots of festivals are happening around the Austin/Central Texas area over the next week. The 18th annual Cine Las Americas fest got underway last night and will continue through Sunday. Featured films, in categories that include narrative and documentary feature and short films, screen at Marchesa Hall, The Mexican American Cultural Center and at Jones Auditorium on the campus of St. Edward's University. All selected titles either contain English subtitles or screen in English. The festival focuses on work from the US, Canada, Latin America, and the Iberian Peninsula.

The 8th annual Off-Centered Film Festival also kicked off last night. The partnership between Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Alamo Drafthouse has a theme of "yacht rockin'" this year and they're raising money for The National Wildlife Federation. In addition to the yearly short film competition, they'll be showing the Marx Brothers classic Monkey Business, Joon-ho Bong's The Host and hosting a rare 35mm screening of Cabin Boy with star Chris Elliott and director Adam Resnick in attendance. Finally, the Hill Country Film Festival begins Thursday night and will continue into next weekend -- Jette will be out in Fredericksburg covering that one for us.

All of this means fewer specialty screenings over the next week, especially with Austin Film Society because the Marchesa is going to be in use for the entire weekend. AFS will host a screening of Jean Cocteau's 1932 film Blood Of A Poet in the AFS Screening Room (1901 E 51st St.) Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Richard Linklater returns to the Marchesa for a 35mm presentation of Richard Pryor's Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling. Out of print on home video and unavailable on digital services, this is a very rare opportunity to catch the movie on the big screen. Robert Ellis Miller's The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter will be featured on Thursday night for the current Essential Cinema series dubbed "Songs Of The South." 

Drafthouse Staff Will Take Over the Screen in New Film Series

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You know those shadowy figures in the dark who bring you your milkshakes and pizzas every time you go to the Drafthouse? They’re getting their chance to share their own film-geek tendencies with audiences in a new film series at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

Titled Staff Picks, the monthly series will allow Drafthouse employees to showcase their favorite movies. The series kicks off Sunday night with a screening of the Patrick Swayze movie Road House (1989), with the 1990s baseball film The Sandlot planned for May.

The series is the brainchild of Nuclear Salad contributor Jason Dubinsky, who also works as a server at the Drafthouse. He felt the random film choices amongst fellow co-workers/cinephiles was ripe for prime Alamo viewing.

Review: Ex Machina

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Ex MachinaScreenwriter Alex Garland is responsible for a number of highly regarded science-fiction screenplays including 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go and Dredd. With Ex Machina, which opened Friday, Garland for the first time adds directing on top of his writing credits. Ex Machina has taken the film festival circuit by storm and received accolades as a Drafthouse Recommends title. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel this movie is overrated.

Ex Machina is a richly beautiful, smart, thought-provoking work of science fiction that unfortunately suffers from a viciously sexist underlying theme. Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, a charismatic cyber genius who at the age of 13, wrote the software that would eventually become Google. He invites Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), an employee chosen by lottery, to spend a week at his remote estate for a kind of sick Willy Wonka-esque robot nightmare tour.

Nathan explains to Caleb that he has been brought to spend the week playing the human role in the Turing Test, a standard of artificial intelligence research in which a human and an AI interact. The AI passes the test if the human can't tell he's talking to a computer. Of course, it should be obvious already that by telling Caleb he's going to speak to an AI that Nathan has blown the parameters of the test.

But Nathan's plan is darker and unclear. He spends his mornings working out and his evenings passing out drunk with very little time in between for any real scientific research, and during ominous power outages Ava (Alicia Vikander) tells Caleb that Nathan can't be trusted. Tensions mount as Caleb is so convinced by Ava that he begins to doubt his own humanity.

So why do I call it sexist? Aside from gratuitous nudity and the fratboy lifestyle Nathan leads, the premise of this film is two men sitting in judgement of an innocent woman, deciding her fate. She lives her very brief life on a leash, completely under the control of Nathan, subject to his whims and frustrations. Caleb falls head-over-heels in love with her in the blink of an eye, and then she is presented as a manipulative stereotype, using her sexual appeal to influence him. 

Movies This Week: April 17-23, 2015

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Roar

The Austin Film Society's "French Noir" series continues tonight with a Free Member Friday screening at The Marchesa of Henri Verneuil's The Burglars, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Omar Sharif, and Dyan Cannon. Based on the pulp novel by David Goodis, tonight's digital screening is free for all AFS members, and the movie will also screen on Sunday afternoon at The Marchesa.

Monday night, SXSW alumni Above All Else (Don's review) is presented by The Texas Observer. Austin filmmaker John Fiege and two subjects from the documentary about the Keystone XL pipeline protests in East Texas will be on hand for a post-film panel discussion with Forrest Wilder, associate editor of The Texas Observer. The current Essential Cinema series, "Songs Of The South," continues this week on Tuesday night with a screening of To Kill A Mockingbird. Richard Linklater is taking the week off from the new installment of "Jewels In The Wasteland," but it will return next week. 

Over at the Violet Crown Cinema, the "Asian Movie Madness" series features Patrick Leung and Corey Yuen's Hong Kong classic Blade Of Kings this week. This 2004 feature was nominated for four Hong Kong Film Awards and is a sequel to The Twins Effect. Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and Jackie's son Jaycee Chan star in this action-packed film that will play Tuesday night. 

Box-Office Alternatives: Passion

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Child 44 (2015) opens Friday and features one of the darkest plots of any Spring release opening wide in recent memory. Focusing on a string of unsolved child murders in soviet Russia, the grim mystery features the always-watchable Noomi Rapace as the film's female lead.

Since hitting it big with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), Rapace has deservedly enjoyed a steady career in a variety of complex film roles. It's never anything but a pleasure seeing an actress of Rapace's talent at work, yet I can't help but notice that in so many of her projects, including Child 44, she is usually second fiddle to her male co-stars.

One of the few exceptions is Rapace's work alongside Rachel McAdams in Brian De Palma's sexually charged thriller, Passion (2012). After advertising executive Christine (McAdams) takes credit for an idea from her associate Isabel (Rapace), a personal and professional tug of war between the two women begins, leading to mind-bending consequences.

Adapted by De Palma from a 2010 French film (Crime d'amour), Passion is one of the few De Palma films to feature two female leads as central characters. While they might not have been the focus of his films in the past, the filmmaker has always had a knack for portraying strong and confident women onscreen. Michelle Pfeiffer's ice queen in Scarface (1983), Nancy Allen's streetwise call girl in Dressed to Kill (1980) and even Melanie Griffith's ditzy socialite in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) each mixed strength and sexuality in a way which suggested they were not merely an object in a man's world, but rather an equal player.

Lone Star Cinema: Fort Bliss

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Michelle Monaghan and Oakes Fegley in FORT BLISS

It's nonsensical that actress Michelle Monaghan isn't a bigger name in Hollywood. She is an excellent foil to Robert Downey Jr. in cult dark comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and inspires Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code. She was even in the lauded first season of True Detective (which I didn't watch). Fort Bliss, a film written and directed by Claudia Myers, is a special treat for Monaghan fans. Instead of supporting an A-list actor onscreen, Monaghan gets her chance to lead a film.

She plays Staff Sgt. Maggie Swann, recently returned from service in Afghanistan. Maggie is an army medic, quick to respond to injuries in the field, yet thrown by the changes that have occurred while she's been abroad. Her young son Paul (Oakes Fegley, This Is Where I Leave You) has lived with Maggie's ex-husband Richard (Ron Livingston, Office Space) and grown extremely close to Richard's new wife Alma (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Entourage). Maggie expects a warmer welcome from her son than what she receives. Her father (John Savage, The Deer Hunter), also a veteran, reminds her about the story of Rip Van Winkle, and how long absences mean dealing with change upon return.

Drafthouse Films Pays Tribute to Forgotten 'Roar'

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When Drafthouse Films announced that it had acquired Roar for distribution, and that the 1981 feature would have a limited theatrical run in Austin, I couldn't help but take the opportunity to write about the film taglined "the most dangerous movie ever made."

Roar tells the story of Hank (Noel Marshall), who lives on a game preserve with a variety of wild animals including lions and cheetahs. When his wife Madelaine (Tippi Hedren) and children (including Hedren's real-life daughter Melanie Griffith) come to stay, the question of whether humans and wild animals can co-exist is put to the test with highly gripping results.

Not many people know about Roar today except for a handful of film enthusiasts. For them, Roar exists as one of the most problem-plagued productions in cinematic history, rivaling the likes of both Heaven's Gate (1980) and Cleopatra (1963) in terms of behind-the-scenes catastrophe. Factors such as financial issues, intense weather conditions and the overall unpredictable behavior of many cast members resulted in a production that lasted over a decade.

Movies This Week: April 10-16, 2015

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This weekend, the Austin Film Society continues their French Noir series with Claude Sautet's Max & The Junkmen, a film that was never distributed in the United States upon its release in 1971, but finally circulated in a restored print in 2013. This rarity plays tonight and again on Sunday in 35mm at the Marchesa. David Lynch's Blue Velvet picks up a second screening in 35mm on Sunday evening and Richard Linklater will be on hand to introduce the film and lead a post-film discussion. Linklater returns Wednesday night for L'Argent, Robert Bresson's final feature, and Elizabeth Taylor stars in Suddenly, Last Summer on Thursday for Essential Cinema. 

The Paramount is hosting golfer Ben Crenshaw, actress Anne Archer and filmmaker Terry Jastrow on Wednesday night for the Austin premiere of The Squeeze. Jastrow has been a producer on Wide World Of Sports and The Olympics and this is his directorial film debut. Based on a true Texas-based story, it follows a talented young golfer who gives up his dreams of playing on the PGA Tour after he becomes involved in high-stakes gambling. 

Specialty screenings at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz this week include 1943's Journey Into Fear on Saturday and the unfinished film It's All True on Monday night, both in 35mm as part of the Orson Welles retrospective. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis star in Artists & Models, a 1955 comedy that is part of the Cinema Cocktails series on Sunday and Wednesday.

Review: While We're Young

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Naomi Watts in While We're Young

While We're Young, the new film from Noah Baumbach, touches on multiple themes in its hour-and-a-half running time, some more effectively than others. From the ethics of documentary filmmaking to choosing a childless life to the habits of Brooklyn hipsters, there's something here for almost everyone -- which is likely why the comedy feels more mainstream than Baumbach's previous works.

The lead characters, married couple Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), direct and produce documentaries respectively.  They stumble into a friendship with free-spirited couple Jamie (Adam Driver, Frances Ha) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried, Mean Girls). The older couple is enamored of Jamie and Darby and their lifestyle. Why spend a weekend with your best friends who just had a baby when you can spend it taking hallucinagens under instruction from a shaman accompanied by Danny Kaye's "Inchworm" and Vangelis tunes?

Kat Candler Wants to Teach You Indie Filmmaking

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Kat Candler Still PhotoLocal filmmaker Kat Candler is hosting a two-day indie filmmaking workshop May 2-3. As frequent Slackerwood readers surely know, Candler is an award-winning writer and director. Her films Hellion (both short and feature), Black Metal and Jumping Off Bridges screened at Sundance, SXSW Film Festival, and many other film festivals.

Candler's feature film Hellion, starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis, was a Sundance Creative Producing Lab participant and premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. I saw the movie at Sundance 2014 --- read my review and Don's review -- and interviewed Candler while I was there. Hellion was released in theaters last June through IFC Films.

Candler is also a 2014 Sundance Women’s Initiative Fellow, and was one of the panelists for the "Indie Filmmakers Share Their Secrets For Working With Actors" session at the SXSW Film Conference last month.

Box-Office Alternatives: The Four Seasons

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It seems the time is upon us once more for another Nicholas Sparks adaptation. The master of the sentimental once again sees another one of his novels featuring lovesick characters overcoming the complexities of life translated to the big screen with The Longest Ride (2015). The story depicts two different small-town romances (one from the past, the other from the present), which share life-altering links.

If there's one thing a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel does very well, it's giving seasoned pros plum roles to sink their teeth into and remind fans what exactly made them legends. Paul Newman, James Garner and Gena Rowlands all enjoyed scene-stealing parts in Sparks adaptations that earned them raves, even if the films themselves floundered.

Alan Alda fills that category this time around, playing a bedridden man with regrets over his past. With so few film appearances these days, Alda's performance just might be reason enough to catch The Longest Ride. In any case, it gives me the perfect excuse to write about my favorite Alan Alda movie, The Four Seasons (1981).

SXSW 2015: All Our Coverage

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Updated April 7, 2015.

Slackerwood was all over the SXSW Film Festival this year. Here's the list of all our guides, features, interviews, reviews and photos.

SXSW Review: Being Evel

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Evel Knievel Photos

"Fast, faster, and disaster"
-- Johnny Knoxville, producer of Being Evel

Generations have been affected over several decades by the spirit of legendary icon Evel Knievel. As a child growing up in the 70s, my own most prized possession was my Evel Knievel stunt cycle and action figure. "Popping a wheelie" on my bicycle was an exhilarating micro-attempt to emulate the excitement of witnessing Evel's televised stunt jumps.

Filmmaker Daniel Junge was influenced enough to tell the complex story and legacy of a hero who wasn't always the good guy in his new documentary Being Evel. Junge has artistically created a thorough portrayal of an extraordinary man who was inherently flawed. Knievel's lavish spending and frequent womanizing were quite public, as were his temper and stubbornness. As a showman and king of the daredevils, Knievel set the foundation for the culture of action and extreme sports in the United States.

SXSW 2015: 'Being Evel' in Austin

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Daniel Junge and Lathan MacKay of Being Evel

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Daniel Junge (Iron Ladies of Liberia) was in Austin last month for the SXSW screenings of Being Evel, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2015. The documentary highlights the dynamic and stark reality behind icon Evel Knievel, who launched his stunt cycle in the 60s and 70s, inspiring generations and impacting the daredevil culture.

Junge's short film Saving Face, which follows the heart-wrenching experiences of acid attack survivors in Pakistan, won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short as well as an Emmy for Best Documentary. His film They Killed Sister Dorothy, which documented the murder of 73-year-old activist Catholic nun Sister Dorothy Stang, won the SXSW Grand Jury and Audience awards in 2008. His most recent documentary Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and is set to be released by Radius/Weinstein.

Junge hosted a Q&A session after all three of the SXSW screenings of Being Evel with consulting producer Lathan McKay of Evel Knievel Enterprises (pictured at top). The pair hosted an informative and engaging dialogue with audience members. Junge spoke about the  intensity of working with the Knievel family as "not always easy, but it's always entertaining" and his appreciation of the collaboration. Junge said the film was the fruition of 35 years of "reconciling the hero in my mind with the real person who is sometimes less than heroic."

Movies This Week: April 3-9, 2015

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3 Hearts 

This weekend, the Austin Film Society continues with "Perfect Criminals: The 70's French Noir Connection" series, and Friday night has a killer (no pun intended) double feature on tap. Alain Delon stars in Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 gangster film Le Samourai (for a one-off screening) paired with Le Cercle Rouge, another Melville classic from 1970 that also stars Delon. The latter film will screen again on Monday night and both are presented in 35mm at the Marchesa. Amanda Wilder's Approaching The Elephant is screening on Tuesday for Doc Nights and David Lynch's Blue Velvet screens in 35mm on Wednesday night as part of the "Jewels In The Wasteland" series, although this edition will only include a video introduction from Richard Linklater due to an unexpected conflict. Essential Cinema on Thursday night will feature Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire, the 1951 film based on the Tennessee Williams play that features scorching performances from Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. 

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz begins an Orson Welles retrospective this weekend. The theater will screen Chuck Workman's 2014 documentary Magician: The Astonishing Orson Welles along with a 35mm print of Citizen Kane on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The series continues with 1942's The Magnificent Ambersons in 35mm on Monday evening and Thursday afternoon. Just in time for Easter, they've also got a few Big Screen Classics screenings of Monty Python's Life Of Brian on Sunday and Monday. If you're looking to celebrate Rex Manning Day, Girlie Night is presenting a 20th anniversary screening of Empire Records on Wednesday. Considering the home video versions have switched over only to presenting an extended cut of the movie, this is a good chance to watch the original theatrical version again!

Alamo South Lamar is adding a few late-night screenings of Resurrection Of A Bastard this week. This graphic novel adaptation from the Netherlands was a Fantastic Fest selection from 2013 that has recently received U.S. distribution. It's also worth noting that if you're deaf or hard of hearing, South Lamar will be hosting an open captioned version of Furious 7 on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps a little more fitting for Easter Sunday, the Alamo Village has Jesus Christ Superstar and the Alamo Lakeline celebrates the day with Mel Gibson's Passion Of The Christ

SXSW Review: I Dream Too Much

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I Dream Too Much

I Dream Too Much, which premiered at SXSW last month, brought former Austinite Katie Cokinos back to town on the festival circuit. Written and directed by Cokinos and starring Eden Brolin, Diane Ladd and Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black), I Dream Too Much is a coming-of-age film and a second-coming-of-age film all in one.

The story focuses on Dora (Brolin), a perky undergraduate with a poetic bent who dreams of joining her best friend on summer vacation in Brazil. Her overbearing mother has other ideas, as she wants Dora to pursue a career in law. Her assignment, then, is to spend the summer preparing to take the LSAT.

In order to satisfy her urge to travel and with the justification that it's a quiet place where she can study, Dora volunteers to care for her ailing aunt Vera (Ladd), a wealthy socialite best known as the wife of an acclaimed novelist. The trip will prove more interesting than Dora expected, and both she and Vera will find in each other inspiration and direction.

This is Cokinos' first filmmaking credit, and she has put together a charming movie that benefits most from likable, believable characters. Some of the dialogue felt awkward, particularly in early scenes between Dora and her mother (Christina Rouner). That all disappears the moment a venerable talent like Diane Ladd comes onscreen. Suffice to say she steals the show as the childless matriarch recluse who hosts a poetry club in her home (but never attends). Her poise and presence are perfect for the character, and you can see Brolin make use of her example to elevate her own performance.

Box-Office Alternatives: Hitchcock

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Helen Mirren is perhaps the only actress of her generation who can come close to matching Meryl Streep in terms of still finding quality film roles and delivering spellbinding performances. This week, she takes on the role of a real-life Austrian immigrant, seeking justice for her family by reclaiming a lost piece of art stolen during WWII, in the drama Woman in Gold (2015). Early reviews have been mixed, yet Mirren, as usual, has been showered with praise for another stunning portrayal from the Oscar winner.

For all the nuance that Mirren no doubt brings to Woman in Gold, it surely won’t be able to hold a candle to her finest post-Queen role, as the wife of the master of suspense in Hitchcock (2012). Based on the book by Stephen Rebello, Hitchcock chronicles Alfred Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) long journey in bringing the now-classic Psycho (1960) to the screen. The film depicts the legendary director’s battles with studio heads, censors and actors over the shocking content of the movie as well as the strain it put on the relationship between his wife/collaborator Alma Reville (Mirren).

Like many films based on the making of Hollywood movies and the people behind them, Hitchcock spent many years in development (with the two leads firmly attached) while producers decided which story they wanted to tell. In the end, they opted for both.

SXSW Review: Welcome to Leith

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Welcome to Leith

White supremacists move to a very small North Dakota town and start buying property, encouraging their friends to do the same so they can eventually "take over" the town. You can picture the resulting documentary -- the interviews with town members, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the tension about how this potentially explosive situation will end. But you might not predict that Welcome to Leith would skillfully show you that the situation is not as clear cut as it sounds, and show the poisonous side effects of not just hate, but fear.

The film opens with an ominous 911 call -- a woman in Leith believes herself to be in peril from men roaming the area with guns. But how did matters get to that point? Welcome to Leith backtracks to show us. It begins when Craig Cobb, whom the SPLC calls "one of the top ten white supremicists in America," buys property in the town of Leith -- three miles, 24 residents, one bar. Cobb is part of a group called the Creators and has a history of publishing personal identifiable information about people who cross him ("doxxing" before that was even a word).

After Cobb buys property in Leith -- at an unbelievably low cost -- he encourages other white supremacist group leaders to buy land there and join him, with a goal of taking over the town entirely. He donates a tract of land to Tom Metzger, founder of the White Aryan Resistance. You can guess what the neighbors think -- especially the town's lone African-American resident, whom Cobb approaches about selling land. Imagine how you'd feel to see a swastika painted on a sign on your neighbor's property. The town leaders decide to change water and sewer ordinances in a way that could possibly drive the unwanted new residents out of town again.

SXSW Review: A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

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The topic of bullying seems to be a mysterious one. It's talked about quite often, with advocates both young and old rallying for it to be taken seriously within school systems. And yet, legislatures don't think it's an issue worth fighting for. A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is a documentary film that shows us what the fight against bullying looks like in reality.

You might recognize Lizzie Velasquez right away. Diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder from birth, she was given the heartbreaking title of "World's Ugliest Woman" by an online YouTube bully at the age of 17, sparking millions of comments about her appearance. Her disorder, which is discussed more in the film, is one that makes her unable to gain weight (at 25, her current weight is only 58 pounds).

What makes Lizzie's story so unique is that instead of letting that incident bring her down, it sparked a flame that has since erupted into a movement. In 2013, she was asked to do a TED Talk here in Austin about how bullying effected her, and how she decided to devote her time to creating a YouTube channel that spreads internet encouragement and advice for those struggling with similar situations. Since then, she's spoken to thousands of people all over the country, not to mention countries outside of the U.S. The doc shows us what daily life is like for her: getting recognized everywhere she goes, making her daily YouTube videos, even tackling Washington by pushing to create an anti-bullying bill.

SXSW Review: The Overnight

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The Overnight

Here we have a pair of newcomers to Southern California, watching their little boy on the playground. Oh look, he's sharing his gummy worms with another boy. Oh look, here comes the boy's dad, fussing about the non-organic ingredients in the gummy worms. And just when you think this is going to turn into another Carnage, it turns out the dad is kidding, the atmosphere lightens, and everyone becomes friends ... for the moment.

After the above prologue, The Overnight sticks to its title, set primarily at a dinner party. And as the evening slowly unravels, the tension builds quite effectively and it's difficult to tell what this movie is and where it's going. It's funny, but is it ultimately a comedy? Will it be a dark comedy with a body count? Some kind of inversion on a home invasion film? Eventually you give up wondering and accept that you won't be able to relax until the movie ends.

Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott), eager to make friends in their new neighborhood, accept a dinner invitation from Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) after meeting on the aforementioned playground. The little boys are fast friends, but Emily and Alex are more hesitant about a couple that seems a little bit ... off. Kurt wants to show off Charlotte's acting talent by showing a video clip that only enhances the awkward feelings in the air. Kurt shows Alex his studio, with art that is ... unexpected. Charlotte takes Emily on an errand that is ... entirely unexpected. If I keep trying to describe the atmosphere, I'll run out of ellipses.