Debbie Cerda's blog

Review: The Identical

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The Identical

Firmly ensconced in the Great Depression, a young destitute couple is faced with a tough choice -- how to survive with two newborn sons when they can barely feed themselves -- in the drama The Identical. William Hemsley (Brian Geraghty) finds the answer at a evangelical tent service as the preacher Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) reveals that his wife Louise (Ashley Judd) is barren. The Hemsleys give one of their sons to the Wades with the promise that neither boy is to know of the other until after their biological parents pass away.

Blake Rayne debuts as the twin brothers who live very different lives. Drexel Hemsley achieves fame and fortune as a rock and roll star. Ryan Wade grows up under the ever watchful eye of his preacher father and patient mother. He tries to please his father by becoming part of the ministry, but he knows that it's not the true calling that he hears and shares with his estranged brother -- that of music.

At the Texas Premiere for 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For'

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Robert Rodriguez on the Red Carpet of Sin City 2Sin City: A Dame to Kill For had its Texas premiere at the Paramount Theatre last week, and writer/director Robert Rodriguez was on the red carpet for the hometown screening that benefited the Austin Film Society. Unfortunately co-director/co-writer Frank Miller missed his flight and with back-to-back premieres -- Los Angeles, Austin, New York -- it was not possible for him to be at the Austin screening.

Rodriguez said he made Miller a co-director because he knew visual storytelling, and as a fellow cartoonist Rodriguez knew Miller would love the experience.

"It's exactly the same thing, but you are using a camera and your paper characters will now talk to you because they are actors, and that will give you the biggest thrill." Additionally, Rodriguez told Miller that he would "be able to tell backstories that aren't even in any of your books.

Local and world-famous musical artists with roles in the film were out in full force at the screening, more than making up for the lack of lead actors and actresses.

Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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Marv from Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForTrue confession time -- the first time that I watched Sin City (2005), I wasn't enthused due to my naivete. However, a recent viewing with the mindset of watching a graphic novel brought to life changed my perspective drastically. I found myself engaged by the characters, and therefore I was anxious to see what co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller had in the cards with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

This film is both a prequel and sequel at the same time, as we learn more about the central characters from the first installment -- Marv (Mickey Rourke) is still bashing in heads but this time he gets called in to help Nancy (Jessica Alba) and Dwight (Josh Brolin) with their own personal vendettas. Nancy grieves for the death of her childhood hero and only love, Hartigan (Bruce Willis), who keeps his promise to never leave her even if he is a tormented ghost witnessing her demise.

An interesting subplot serves as the prequel that explains why Dwight's face had been transformed after his encounter with the deceptive and psychopathic Ava (Eva Green), who leaves men in her wake including police partners Mort (Christopher Meloni) and Bob (Jeremy Piven). We also learn more about the loyalty that Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the rest of the women of Old Town have for both Dwight and Marv.

Review: The Giver

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The GiverReleased in 1993, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner The Giver by Lois Lowry has been one of the most controversial and influential novels of the 1990s. Banned from schools across the nation for being "violent" or "unsuited for younger age groups," this dystopic tale centers around Jonas, a young boy who lives in a literally colorless world of contentment.

Screenwriters Robert B. Weide and Michael Mitnick have adapted this book in the sci-fi thriller film The Giver, directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt, The Patriot Games).

In what at first appears to be an utopian society of "Sameness" with absence of pain and suffering, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) seems content with his friends and family. He lives with his parents, the dutiful nurturer Father (Alexander Skarsgard) and his more stern and unyielding Mother (Katie Holmes). His classmates Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) are frequent companions, and prepare to receive their life assignment as even choices have been eliminated in this seemingly perfect society.

Jonas receives the most prestigious and ominous assignment of all -- as the Receiver of Memory, he must learn and keep the dark history of the Community to guide the Elders and prevent the tragic mistakes of the past. However, as he begans to learn from the current Receiver who is now referred to as "The Giver" (Jeff Bridges), he discovers the dark history behind his community that has led to the absence of joy, pleasure, and color from their lives as well.

Jonas is faced with the difficult choice of accepting the role that he has been given, or do what he can with the aid of others to bring the Community back to the "real" world. Either way he must deal with the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), who is fearful and distrusting of human nature in his journey.

Ready, Set, Fund: The Puzzle of Successful Crowdfunding

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Director and Stars of Mijo (My Son)

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

I enjoy skimming over the last three years of our "Ready, Set, Fund" monthly column and seeing how many film funding campaigns have achieved success. A gratifying experiences of writing this feature is following projects from their infancy and on through their maturation to the big screen.

Sadly though, I see far too many campaigns that never get off the ground. There are a multitude of reasons for failure, but often I suspect it's due to too high of a goal in an "all or nothing" campaign, too short of a timeframe or simply not enough effort put into the creation and support of a fundraising campaign. Research and maintenance are critical components of any successful fundraising endeavor, and can require a substantial amount of time, money and resources.

Film on Tap: The Craft Beer Explosion Continues

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Beer Diaries at the Whip InIt's difficult to even begin to describe the phenomenal growth and activity in the craft beer industry this year, but it's evident from the number of selections on tap and on retailers' shelves that craft brewing is booming. As the number of Texas craft breweries increases, existing ones are prospering with brewery expansions and new beer offerings.

Filmmaker Mike Mann (Brewed) and host Greg Zeschuk have been documenting and sharing stories from many of these Texas breweries through their ongoing web series, The Beer Diaries. Zeschuk recently visited the brewers of Kamala Brewing at the Whip In (pictured at top), an award-winning brewpub here in Austin.

Another recent episode features the first cooperatively owned and managed brewpub in the world, Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery, and an upcoming show takes viewers behind the scenes of the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner. Check out one of my favorites below featuring Live Oak Brewing Company founder Chip McElroy.

Review: Coherence

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Coherence still photo

Schrodinger's cat is an imaginary illustration of a paradox: "When does a quantum system stop existing as a superposition of states and become one or the other?" Writer/director James Ward Byrkit explores this thought experiment and various results in his first feature, Coherence, which adds a new dimension to the typical dinner party film.

Coherence evolves at an intimate dinner gathering of four couples: former dancer Em (Emily Baldoni) and Kevin (Maury Sterling), former Roswell actor Mike (Nicholas Brendon) and his introverted wife Lee (Lorene Scafaria), older couple Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) and Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), and Amir (Alex Manugian) who brings his new girlfriend Laurie (Lauren Maher).

It's quickly revealed that Laurie has an intimate history with Kevin, which leads to awkward moments, but Em is more concerned about something she's heard -- the astronomic event of a lifetime taking place that same night. Miller's Comet is due to pass near Earth, and reports of strange occurrences during previous passings are a discussion point after Em's phone inexplicably cracks.

Sounds Like Film: Austin Composer Brian Satterwhite

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Brian Satterwhite

I talk in pictures, not in words
--
"And Through the Wire" by Peter Gabriel

Welcome to Sounds Like Film, Slackerwood's new monthly feature on music in local and independent film.

Music plays an integral role in film. Whether it's a well-placed song with lyrics to enhance a mood or scene or a film score that evokes an emotional response, the audience's experience is heightened by music. Studies have demonstrated that music stimulates several areas of the brain: the auditory, limbic and motor regions as well as the less-understood orbitofrontal cortex which is thought to be key in sensory integration.

This concept relates to our movie experience in many ways, as familiar songs or scores can evoke a particular emotion or memory. In my own experience, there are many film-related compositions that can do just that -- Simple Minds "Don't You Forget About Me" in The Breakfast Club, Ennio Morricone's title track "For A Few Dollars More" or "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel in Say Anything. Pan's Labyrinth was released almost eight years ago, yet I can't listen to "Mercedes Lullaby" by Javier Navarrete without tearing up, and often within the first few notes while watching the heartbreaking scene the song is matched to.

The creative forces that deserve recognition for this key element in movies are songwriters, composers and musicians. Within the local and Texas film industry, a number of individuals contribute their talents on a regular basis. One of the main objectives of this new column is to spotlight their talent and work.

Review: The German Doctor

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The German DoctorFollowing the fall of the Third Reich and the liberation of the German Nazi concentration camps, many of the leaders directly involved fled to South America. One of the most famous of those officers was Josef Mengele, a physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Due to his barbaric and deadly human experiments performed on prisoners as well as role in the section process for the gas chamber executions, Mengele was known as "The Angel of Death."

Argentian filmmaker Lucia Puenzo's novel Wakolda focuses on this infamous man and the true story of an Argentinian family who unknowingly boarded Mengele at their home, now adapted by Puenzo as  the movie The German Doctor. Whereas the novel is told through Mengele’s point of view during his exile in South America, the film instead relies more on 12-year-old Lilith (Florencia Bado). Born premature and having suffered from several illnesses at an early age, Lilith is an underdeveloped prebuscent girl who struggles to fit in at her new German-run school in Patagonia.

A chance encounter while traveling to their new home in the tourist town of Bariloche brings Lilith's family, including her pregnant mother Eva (Natalia Oreiro) and dollmaker father Enzo (Diego Peretti), to the attention of a mysterious and charming German doctor (Alex Brendemühl). The doctor quickly entrenches himself in Lilith and Eva’s favor, offering to help with their growth and medical care. He becomes the family's benefactor as he helps Enzo mass produce his designs at a doll factory.

Puenzo lets the audience know within the first act of The German Doctor  that this mysterious doctor is the notorious Mengele. He's received as a hero by fellow Nazis also hiding out in Bariloche, but photographer Nora Eldoc (Elena Roger) -- who is also a Mossad spy and victim of one of Mengele's sterilization practices -- recognizes him immediately. This approach increases the tension as we witness the interaction between the doctor and his naive victims. When asked by Eva whether he's had any experience with childbirth and twins, his reply "hundreds" has a chilling impact. Young Lilith becomes lethargic and experiences pain in her bones as the doctor increases her growth hormone.

Review: Jodorowsky's Dune

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Jodorowsky's DuneIn the mid-Seventies, Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was known for his radical arthouse films El Topo and Holy Mountain, took on the greatest challenge of his film career -- adapting for the screen one of the most classic sci-fi novels in history, Frank Herbert's Dune.

For two years, Jodorowsky worked an overwhelming number of hours with his creative team, including French comic-book artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud, screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (Dark Star, Alien), artist H.R. Giger (Alien), and sci-fi paperback illustrator Chris Foss to create over 3,000 storyboards and dozens of paintings along with incredibly detailed costumes and a tome of a script the size of a large phone book.

The film was to star Jodorowsky's own 12-year-old son, Brontis, who endured two years of daily martial arts training in preparation for his starring role alongside icons such as Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and Salvador Dali. Although the film was never made, it left an indelible mark on cinema with evidence throughout many sci-fi cult films of the last few decades including Blade Runner and Alien.

Director Frank Pavich reveals the impact of Jodorowsky's attempt in Jodorowsky's Dune, a fascinating and inspiring documentary about the greatest epic film that was never made. The movie opens Friday in Austin.

Pavich weaves interviews with the creative team involved in the massive project, including audio transcripts of the late Dan O'Bannon and supporters such as Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn and film journalists Devin Faraci and Drew McWeeny. Most importantly, we meet the charismatic and enthralling Jodorowsky himself. 

Cinematographer David Cavallo creates an intimate portrait of Jodorowsky in the comfort of his home, setting the stage with images of his scripts, books, and feline companion. The animation by Syd Garon (Blackfish) is stellar, breathing life into the storyboards by Moebius and paintings by Giger that had me giddy with anticipation.

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