Rod Paddock's blog
Every year there are films that receive a lot of hype. Sometimes these films live up to the hype and and sometimes they disappoint. I recently saw one of these highly hyped films, The Raid: Redemption, and let me say it right now this movie lives up every bit of the hype.
The Raid: Redemption received a great deal of attention at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and word quickly spread that this was a must-see film. A lot of us hoped that that The Raid: Redemption would be a last minute addition to Fantastic Fest 2011. But luck did not shine on our screens as Gareth Evans's Indonesian action film was unavailable from the studio. This simply added to its mystery. A lucky 1,200 filmgoers did get to see the movie at the Paramount during SXSW this year, spreading still more good buzz.
The Raid: Redemption tells a story of a police raid gone wrong. A small team of Indonesian police officers descends on a drug lord's compound -- a high-rise, low-rent apartment complex with the head honchos at the very top. This small team quickly finds itself overrun and outgunned by the drug lord's hired army of thugs.
This film is an excellent mashup of themes developed in some of my favorite genre films. We have a group of police officers outgunned and trapped, a la Assault on Precinct 13. We have a high-rise slum used as a drug lord's castle, a la New Jack City. And finally we have shootouts and kung-fu battles, a la Shoot em Up and Fists of Fury. This movie seeps action from every pore.
This movie works on numerous levels. The cinematography immerses the viewer into the cold dinginess the tenants occupy. Life under the control of drug-dealing thugs is not pleasurable and The Raid: Redemption shows that. The choice of color palette highlights this cold dinginess.
Films serve many purposes. Some movies are meant for pure simple entertainment, others provide a means of escape from reality and some are used to shine a light on the human condition. Being Flynn falls into the latter category. This film shines a light on many facets of the human condition: the relationship between fathers and sons, the problem of self medication in the form of substance abuse, and finally how quickly you can go from being fully employed with a roof over your head, to sleeping on a park bench. Being Flynn does a good job of this without senseless pandering.
Being Flynn is the story of Nick Flynn (Paul Dano). Nick is a struggling author (aren't we all) whose entire existence seems to revolve around being abandoned by his father Jonathan (Robert de Niro) at a young age.
The first act of the film is filled with imagery illustrating both Nick's and Jonathan's current battles with their demons. We see Nick's failed relationships with women, his flirtation with the bottle and of course the struggles that seem mandatory in every aspiring author's life. In Jonathan's case, we see a self-proclaimed master storyletter, who drives a Yellow Cab while sipping screwdrivers from an orange-juice container.
Super Meat Boy is your typical boy-meets-girl story. The protagonist goes to world's end, avoiding hazard after hazard, all in the name of rescuing his damsel in distress: Bandage Girl. Fez tells the story of namesake Fez, who makes his way through a Brazil-like world in search of love. Braid takes place in a time-shifting multi-dimensional universe. The lead character Tim travels through time and space solving riddles in order to save, yes you guessed it, a princess. Are these the titles of new indie movies that took SXSW 2012 by storm? No, these are descriptions of three independent video games covered in the delightful documentary Indie Game: The Movie.
We live in a culture of mass entertainment. We love our movies, our music, our sports and we especially love our video games. Alongside our love of mass entertainment we also love our underdogs. You know, the lady (or gentleman) who against all odds strives to overcome adversity and triumphs. Indie Game: The Movie is the story of video games and underdogs. In this case the underdogs are the people known as independent game developers.
Some documentaries give insights into events of the past, while others take place in the present and comment on current events. The movie We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists definitely takes place in current times. You might not have heard about Anonymous, but there is some certainty that this group's actions have affected you or someone you know.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists gives historical and social context to a group of loosely affiliated hackers who participate in an activity known as hacktivism. The activities of this group occur in both terrestrial and online venues. The origin of Anonymous comes from a website called 4chan.org. 4chan.org is a website started by SXSW 2011 speaker Chris Poole, where people can post and comment on images uploaded by other users. Users are not required to sign up for an account and can simply post images and content under the name Anonymous. This is where the hacker group derived their moniker.
In the movie we learn that one of Anonymous’s earliest hacktivism activities was against the Church of Scientology. In 2008, a video of Tom Cruise talking about the Church of Scientology surfaced and in typical Church of Scientology fashion they tried to get it removed from the internet. The Church of Scientology is well known for attacking news organizations and websites critical of their organization. When the Cruise video surfaced, the Church of Scientology went on blast and sent numerous DCMA notices to websites and new organizations.
A capacity crowd waited hours in the rain on Friday for the SXSW 2012 opening-night film, The Cabin in the Woods. This waterlogged crowd soon found out that the wait was definitely worth it. The evening's festivities began with an introduction of the movie by director and co-writer Drew Goddard and producer and co-writer Joss Whedon. The house lights were lowered and 90 minutes of sweet joy were unspooled before a capacity crowd of 1200 at the Paramount Theatre.
After voraciously devouring this delectable meal of a movie, we were re-greeted by Whedon and Goddard, who quickly brought out four members of the film's cast: Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Kristen Connolly and Anna Hutchison. The Q&A was a riot with Whitford and Jenkins providing tons of laughs. You can tell these two gentlemen had a great time working on this film.
Right before I moved to Austin, I broke off a long-term romance. The romance was rather tepid by then, so I used my move as an opportunity to simply end it. I had no idea that just a few months later, that romance would be rekindled. What is this romance and why is it relevant to a movie website? Well, that romance was with my VCR and right before I moved I took crates of VHS and two VCRs to Goodwill.
Little did I know that I was moving to a hive of movie fandom. I knew Austin had a cool film scene but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I learned about quote-a-longs, I mastered the pancake, I heard all about people with numb butts and I soon learned about VHS fandom. There are lots of subgenres of film fandom and one of these subgenres is the lover of films and videos available only on VHS. Little did I know I was one of these lovers as well, and my feelings were simply repressed.
The 332nd Fighter Group of World War II was known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Toward the end of the war they became known as the "Red Tails" for the painted tails of their P-51 Mustang Aircraft. This fighter group is well known for several reasons: Its pilots were all African-American men, who served with distinction and were some of the most highly decorated fighter pilots in World War II. The 332nd has appeared in a number of documentaries, films and television shows. Red Tails is the latest attempt to tell the story of these airmen.
Red Tails has been a work in progress by executive producer George Lucas for over 20 years. Sadly, that 20 years of effort went to waste. This movie fails on so many levels, it boggles the mind -- how could 20 years of effort produce such an amateurish piece of work? Red Tails tries to tell the story of the 332nd through a series of non-believable and sometimes stereotypical caricatures.
A number of areas are problematic in this movie. The first and primary problem is with the screenwriting. The dialogue is pedantic, boring and many times simply ridiculous. In one scene, the new P-51 Mustangs arrive and the pilots decide to paint the tails red (hence their nickname). One of the pilots exclaims, "Let's paint the tails red like the Red Baron!" Hey dumbass, the Red Baron was German, you know the guys we are fighting. I cannot count the number of times that characters German and American exclaim, "Look, the pilot is African. Look, the pilot is black." This coming from people flying at 150 knots plus.
It's really difficult to know whether the writing issues come from screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder or the emperor himself, George Lucas. It's hard to tell who put in a character with the call sign "Ray-Gun" who actually has a Buck Rogers raygun with him. Has to make you wonder.
Another major problem concerns the performances themselves. Every performance seemed forced and unbelievable. With a cast of great actors like Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrence Howard and Bryan Cranston, you would think director Anthony Hemingway could draw out some great acting. He fails on every level. During combat, no one breaks a sweat. Even the injuries are laughable. Think Paul Reubens' death in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The big difference is we were treated to over 40 minutes of that weakness.
Imagine looking out of the window of your high-rise apartment building and seeing a blast of nuclear hellfire coming your way. After having your breath taken away, what would you do? In a post 9/11 world, your reaction should come naturally: You would get the heck out of Dodge.
You make for the stairwell and are greeted by fellow tenants making their way to the ground floor. As you reach the ground floor, the door flies open, exposing you to heat that feels like the force of a thousand suns. Oh crap, now what? Head for the basement! Lucky for you, there is a basement, and only a few of your fellow tenants have made for the basement door. By the skin of your hair you force your way into the basement. You have made it to salvation as the metal door shuts behind you.
You are safe, but for how long? You will soon find out what it is like to be a survivor. You have entered the world of The Divide.
The threads that make up the fabric of civilized society may not be bound as tightly as you think. Given the right catalyst the threads can come unbound rather quickly. The Divide illustrates what happens when a patchwork of people are thrown together in a confined space, with a low amount of resources and no idea of whether the world they inhabit even exists. The movie, which originally screened in Austin during SXSW 2011, provides a fresh angle on how people react to a post-apocalyptic world.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." In this story, the survival of the basement denizens can be attributed to Mickey (Michael Biehn), the building supervisor. It seems Mickey has been preparing for some type of terrorist attack and already stocked the basement with supplies. We quickly understand that it was not Mickey's intention to share his shelter and food with others, but he now does so reluctantly.
Screenwriters Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean have constructed a rich set of characters who waste no time understanding the reality they will face. What will they eat? How will they deal with human waste? When will they be able to return to the surface? Along with practical issues, it doesn't take long for the characters to establish a pecking order. Mickey asserts his position immediately; this is his world and he makes that very clear. Eva (Laura German) and Sam (Ivan Gonzalez) are a married couple with issues, Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette) is a mother with a a young child. Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and Adrian (Ashton Holmes) are brothers accompaniedby Bobby (Michael Eklund), Josh's lover.
Through time immortal we have viewed Santa Claus as a sweet, portly, cookie- and milk-addicted grandpa, who brings us happiness and joy. This joy is delivered in bundles of presents delivered with FedEx-like efficiency down a fireplace. It is well known that that Santa has a list of who's been naughty and who's been nice. He brings the joy to the nice kids and coal to the naughty ones. I don’t know about you, but I cannot recall ever receiving that bag of coal in years where my naughty points exceeded my nice points. So what if Santa decided to actually punish the kids who were naughty? This is the concept Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale explores.
The first act of this movie from Finland deals with a mining company that unearths something buried under a small mountain on the Finnish/Russian border. That something is Santa Claus and he's not that jovial bowl of jelly we've grown to love. He's a vengeful grandfather with a bone to pick. He's ready and willing to punish the naughty kids and adults. It's this juxtaposition that makes Rare Exports so enjoyable. I appreciated being exposed to a new, fresh and somewhat twisted view of the Santa Claus mythology. It's a real treat to have a character such as Santa Claus juxtaposed the way it was in Rare Exports, which originally premiered in Austin at Fantastic Fest 2010.
Want to watch? Rare Exports is available at I Luv Video and Vulcan Video, and will also be showing at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz this weekend. There is one item you need to know: The DVD/Blu-ray and the website include two short films that formed the inspiration for this movie. I highly recommend watching these AFTER you see Rare Exports. I would consider them spoilers for what happens in the third act of the film. After watching the film, I found them to be whipped cream on a serving of pumpkin pie.
A subtitled trailer for Rare Exports is embedded below.
Austin Diner. A university-area co-op. The La Quinta on 35 and Oltorf. The Ramada Inn on 35 and 290. A local entertainment writer's home.
What do all of the above sites have in common? Are they gathering places for movie geeks, crime scenes, or places where I have crashed? If you answered yes to any of these, you would be wrong. These are all places in Austin where independent filmmakers have shot movies. They are also places where I've worked as an extra.
The process of making movies has always fascinated me. I grew up in California, specifically in the Antelope Valley, which is popular with filmmakers. Hundreds of movies have been shot in the desert where I lived, from Duel to Terminator 2. It was not uncommon to come across film sets while driving the backroads.