Blogs

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.

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