Debbie Cerda's blog

Fantastic Fest 2014: Fantastic Debates

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Jenny Jacobin Coached by Marko Zaror

It's been a couple of years since I've attended the Fantastic Debates, but since I began "casually" training in boxing earlier this year I wanted to see how well this year's debate participants would fare in the ring. This unique showcase of battle of wit, intellect and combat techniques features both rounds of debate and boxing.

Chilean martial artist and actor Marko Zaror (The Redeemer) was onhand (pictured above) to coach Alamo Drafthouse/Drafthouse Films staffer Jenny Jacobi and founder Tim League. The tenth anniversary of Fantastic Fest featured four matches at professional kickboxer and former world champion Randy Palmer's South Austin Gym, with the following participants and topics:

  • Filmmakers Joe Lynch (Everly) and Josh Ethier (Almost Human) with "RESOLVED: Samurais are infinitely more badass than cowboys in cinema."

Fantastic Fest 2014: Chaos Reigns (Again)

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ABCs of Death and Australian ContingencyTwo days into Fantastic Fest and it already feels like Day Five -- daily downpours, full parking and an overflowing lobby can't deter the spirit of the 1,650 attendees at this year's jam-packed film festival. The theme song that comes to mind is Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." My mantra of "it's a marathon, not a sprint" has already been replaced with the festival motto "Chaos reigns," as I've managed to fit in five films, three red carpets, two parties and two late nights in just the first two days. Let's not even discuss how much I've already spent on alcohol at The Highball.

ABCs of Death 2 was one of the opening-night films, bringing together 26 directors from around the world. The filmmakers were sworn to secrecy about which letters they were assigned until the premiere of this ambititous anthology produced by Tim League and Ant Timpson. You can see Timpson in the above photo with writer/actor David Ashby, director Dario Russo of Danger 5, and ABCs of Death 2 segment producers Todd Brown and Marc Walkow.

Fantastic Fest 2014 Guide: Boozin' It Up

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The HighballA lot has changed since Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar last hosted Fantastic Fest, in 2012. The craft beer scene across the nation continues to grow, and both Austin and the Alamo Drafthouse offer fabulous selections to demonstrate the dedication and passion that brewers and beer enthusiasts have for a good brew.

Texas has experienced a welcome growth of local craft breweries along with an influx of world-renowned breweries from across the United States -- Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Epic Brewing, Founders Brewing, Odell Brewing are just a few on local tap walls.

Alamo Drafthouse recently announced the launch of a new beer program, featuring a new style every month. This month's offering is Octoberfest, a deep gold to copper-colored lager that typically features bright clarity and a solid, off-white head. This style is composed of Vienna and Munich malts that contributes a toasty caramel and rich melanoidin character with some moderate hop bitterness and mild sweetness. Current Octoberfest selections on tap at Alamo South Lamar include the traditional Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen as well as Texas favorites -- Real Ale Brewing Company's Oktoberfest, Houston's Karbach Brewing Company Karbachtoberfest and Port Spiral Oktoberfest.

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.

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