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Review: Footloose

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Footloose

Director Craig Brewer has two critical hits to his name. Both Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan were exceptional works from a natural talent. Now, Brewer has taken on the challenge of remaking an 80s classic with Footloose, but the real challenge for him has been one of marketing a fantastic work that people are too ready to dismiss as a blasphemy without having even seen it. In fact, Brewer is perhaps the world's biggest fan of the 1984 movie that made Kevin Bacon a star. He has taken the film on the road, touring cities around the US and stopped in Austin a couple of weeks before Fantastic Fest to present the movie along with star Kenny Wormald. (see photos here)

Brewer has realized an updated yet timeless version of the story about a city boy who brings dance back to a small town paralyzed with grief. Fans of the original will find it hard to dislike this one. Footloose is the same movie in almost every way, but with a couple of background adjustments that result in a better presentation. Nothing revolutionary, but I won't spoil them. You may not even notice consciously, but the result is stronger character motivation and a better film.

Dennis Quaid is much more relatable as a grieving father than the unflinching fire-and-brimstone preacher portrayed by John Lithgow in 1984. This is where Brewer's vision departs from the original. This isn't a story about religious intolerance, and the script makes a pointed remark on that if it wasn't already clear. Kenny Wormald's Ren is a richer, more complex portrayal, still headstrong but more of a golden boy than Bacon's take on the role, and he has a strong relationship with his uncle Wes Warnicker (Ray McKinnon)

Footloose is a movie about dancing, of course, and the cast reflects that. Wormald has been dancing since the age of 6, is an instructor, and was previously seen in You Got Served. Costar Julianne Hough, who plays preacher's daughter Ariel Moore, is best known from Dancing With the Stars. It is Miles Teller's performance as Willard, however, that makes the biggest impression. Following up a strong dramatic performance in last year's Rabbit Hole, he shows breadth as the comic relief here in a very demanding physical role. In fact, the only weak character was Andie MacDowell's Vivien Moore, a part written with the belief in mind that a reverend's wife should be seen and not heard. In most scenes, she smiles and is silent.

Movies This Week: The Footloose Firefly Weekend Way

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Need to get your "free" on? The Whole Foods Sunset Supper Cinema tonight features Hook at the Lamar location. On Wednesday, Cine Las Americas presents Rosa blanca (White Rose) plays at the MACC as part of its free "Literature in Mexican Cinema" series. Plus, you can find free screenings during the week as part at various Austin Public Library locations.

You have one more chance to catch Austin Chronicle cover-story filmmaker Heather Courtney's Where Soldiers Come From (Jette's review), on Saturday at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. If you haven't already seen it, it's another outstanding locally made film we can't recommend enough.

Cine Las Americas also presents Octubre at the Alamo Village on Sunday. While this movie isn't free, it did win the 2010 Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes. Check the Alamo website for more.

Movies We've Seen:

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (pictured above) -- A documentary about the process of developing and delivering some of the most unique cousine at what was considered the world's best restaurant, as well as the imagination of chef Ferran Adrià. Read my review for more ... then go to dinner; you will be hungry. (Violet Crown)

Fireflies in the Garden -- This semi-autobiographical drama of family reconciliation was filmed in Austin, Bastrop and Smithville with an all-star cast. J.C. says, "Never judge a book by its cover and Fireflies in the Garden is a good example why." Read his review for details. (Cinemark Tinseltown)

Review: The Way

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The Way

Separation and loss of a loved one, particularly that of a child, is the greatest cause for grief. Until we can learn to accept and deal with that grief, it can be crippling. In Emilio Estevez's latest film, The Way, his father Martin Sheen's character undertakes a task of enormous difficulty to pay homage to the memory of his son and come to grips with his loss.

Tom Avery (Sheen) is a widower, an opthalmologist who spends his free time on the golf course. His relationship with son Daniel (Estevez) is strained as Daniel is having something of a mid-life crisis and drops his graduate studies to travel and see the world. In France, he undertakes a pilgrimage along El Camino d Santiago, a walk of over 800 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. But he is killed on the very first night of his journey when a freak storm arises in the Pyrenees.

Summoned to France by the authorities, Tom recalls their last conversation and decides to pick up Daniel's backpack and complete the pilgrimage in his son's place. Along the way, he encounters several people who are themselves coming to grips with personal demons, and they form an unlikely support group.

The Way is a poignant movie, shot along the length of the Camino de Santiago and full of breathtaking views of remote mountain villages, farmlands and cathedrals. The scenery alone is enough to elicit tears, without the grave import of Tom's journey. At key places along the route he stops to spread his son's ashes.

As if planting the seeds of his own redemption, Tom's personality begins to bloom with the help of his companions. The first, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) is a Dutch bon vivant who hopes the walk will help him lose weight, though he can't help sampling heavily of the local cuisine at each stop. The second, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), intends to quit smoking at the end of the journey. The last, Jack (James Nesbitt) is an Irish travel writer stuck in a career rut.

Review: Weekend

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Weekend

We've all seen love stories that make us wish we had the chance to be as happy as all of the beautiful people on the magnificent big screen. Often times the stories are cheesy, way too impossible to ever happen, or simply too perfect to ever happen to anyone, much less you. Andrew Haigh's film Weekend tells a (sort of) love story between two guys over who meet over a weekend hookup in October in England. It's a seemingly honest look at a burgeoning relationship between two gay men and the issues and/or topics that come up for discussion as they contemplate going public.

Russell (Tom Cullen) goes out to a gay club one night after hanging out with his straight friends and he catches the eye of Glen (Chris New). Fast forward to the next morning where Glen very enthusiastically wants to chat about the night they just shared, while Russell is very sheepish about it.

Review: Fireflies in the Garden

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Fireflies in the Garden

On a surface level, Fireflies in the Garden looks like a film that could easily be ignored amongst the myriad of options that filmgoers have to choose from. Cheesy tagline, a poster reminiscent of a Lifetime Channel movie, and Ryan Reynolds with a beard, which means he'll be serious and not that funny. As life should have taught us all by now, you never judge a book by its cover and Fireflies in the Garden is a good example why. Illustrating the sad and unfortunate way that life has a tendency of being when it shows a family what's really important, this film examines how one family deals with the pain of a sudden loss -- the loss of the one piece of the family that didn't deserve to leave in the first place.

Michael Taylor (Reynolds) is a famous author on a plane to visit his home for his sister's college graduation. In between consciousness on the plane, he flashes back to his childhood to a memory where his father Charles (Willem Dafoe) is berating him for "being so God-damned smart," while his mother Lisa (Julia Roberts) coddles and defends Michael. On the way to celebrate the graduation of their daughter Ryne (Shannon Lucio), Michael's cousin Christopher is playing in the street and when Charles swerves to miss, they run into a pole instantly killing Lisa. This causes a rift in the family bigger than the rift between Michael and Charles.

Review: El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

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Opening with a headshot of chef Ferran Adrià sampling a luminescent fish popsicle in the dark, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress immediately lets you know this isn't just another food documentary. The movie returns to Austin after screening at SXSW this year for a run at Violet Crown Cinema.

A pioneer in the molecular gastronomy movement, Adrià is a controversial chef whose legend is based on the extreme re-imagining and deconstruction of food both common and exotic, and whose restaurant was considered the best in the world. While some dishes are as visually sensual as a Georgia O'Keefe painting, some are more remiscent of an Edward Weston photograph, transcending the commonplace. What looks like a peanut in the shell may actually be completely edible, with a salty "shell" enveloping a liquid peanut, or a mojito cocktail contained within sugarcane.

At the beginning of the film, Adrià and his staff are packing up the restaurant at the end of its typical six-month season. But Adrià and his three head chefs are not off for a vacation; instead they head to Barcelona and the laboratory where they meticulously document their experiments to create new dishes. Starting with something as simple as the lowly sweet potato, the chefs painstakingly try different methods to bring out the flavor in a juice form, which will become a meringue.

Fantastic Fest 2011: All Our Coverage

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Updated October 11, 2011.

Slackerwood was all over Fantastic Fest 2011. Here's a list of all our coverage (after the jump) in one handy-dandy location.

Ready, Set, Fund: From 'La Perdida' to 'The Wolfman'

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La Perdida still photo

Austin filmmaker Miguel Alvarez caught the attention of local audiences with his short films in 2010: the science-fiction themed Mnemosyne Rising, which premiered at SXSW, and the biographical Veterans at Austin Film Festival -- check out my AFF 2010 review of Veterans. This year, Alvarez contributed to a segment of Slacker 2011 -- read Elizabeth Stoddard's interview with Alvarez and producer and former AFF Film Program Director Kelly Williams here. Alvarez is now undertaking his first feature film with La Perdida (pictured above), a re-imagining of the traditional Mexican folktale of La Llorona combined with the Greek myth of Cassandra, but set in the middle of the 21st century. Described by Alvarez as a "lo-fi sci-fi drama," this movie will explore the universal themes of loss and redemption combined with time travel.

Alvarez is currently seeking funding for pre-production expenses of La Perdida through the crowdfunding site United States Artists here. Funds raised will provide Alvarez with a six-week research and writing sabbatical in Mexico City, where the story takes place. Alvarez's goal of $6,500 by Friday, November 4, will help get the project off the ground by covering pre-production expenses. You can learn more about the project in this pitch video.

Kelly Williams is also producing Pit Stop, which is seeking funding from the community. Find out more about this and other interesting and deserving projects in need of donors after the jump.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: October 2011

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Rocky and Bullwinkle

Ssshhhhh ... you hear that? That's the sound of a very quiet month for family features in theaters. The closest we'll come in the month of October is Real Steel (Mike's review), a PG-13 robot-brawl movie with Hugh Jackman, and that's really only for older kids. There are a few special events mentioned below, but October is a wasteland for new releases for families.

Fortunately there's a whole world of home video options – so many, in fact, that it makes recommending home videos problematic. In this column, I focus on DVD/Blu-ray releases (which can be confusing as older movies make their first appearance on Blu-ray) and the Netflix "Watch Instantly" streaming service. (I call it Netflix Instant but the streaming service seems to have had a number of names over the years.) This can make my recommendations somewhat repetitive as a film like Disney's Tangled makes its way down the chain from theatrical to DVD and finally to Netflix Instant. Imagine how much more repetitive it would get if I included the other services, each of which has its own release windows.

Since there aren't any theatrical films to recommend this month, I'll use this space to spell out the different tiers of service available for home video -- maybe it will help you make some decisions about what services you want to use. If you don't need the discussion of video rentals, you can skip down to the home video recommendations below.

Slackery News Tidbits, October 11

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Here's the latest Austin and Central Texas film news, as well as some special screening information.

  • Austin-based director Michael Dolan will be present at two area screenings of his 2010 feature film Dance With The One, as part of a tour sponsored by the Texas Independent Film Network. The San Marcos premiere of the movie will take place on 7 pm this Wednesday, Oct. 12, in room 206 of the Texas State University-San Marcos Department of Theatre and Dance. In addition, Dolan and actress Dana Wheeler-Nicholson will be at the Austin Film Society screening room on Friday, Oct. 14 to show the film. Dance with the One (Debbie's review) is about a small-time Texas pot dealer who gets in over his head when the million dollars' worth of hash his boss has given him suddenly goes missing. The movie stars Austinite Gabriel Luna and is the first film made by the University of Texas Film Institute, a non-profit organization in the UT College of Communication.
  • The Austin School of Film and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image will host a free Home Movie Day at 7 pm on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Austin School of Film. People are encouraged to bring their 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm home movies to screen during the event. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image will also screen selected movies from the organization's travels around Texas.
  • Podcasts are now available for free from John Pierson's UT RTF master class. Guests from the film and television industry, such as Fight Club producer Art Linson, Sin City producer Elizabeth Avellan and actor Steve Buscemi (Fargo) have spoken with RTF students through the department's visiting guest program. The 30-minute master class sessions can also be heard monthly on KUT FM.
  • Alamo Drafthouse Village will be closed for about 10 days this month (Oct. 17-27) due to construction. They're expanding their lobby area, and should be open just in time for a pre-Halloween screening on The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct. 29.
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