Here's the latest Austin-related film news:
- The SXSW Film schedule for 2010 is now available. Get ready to try to cram as many films and events into eight days as you can. We are putting the final touches on our annual SXSW Film Festival Venue Guide as well as some other guides, so keep an eye out.
- Speaking of local film festivals, Cine Las Americas has just unveiled their poster for the 2010 fest, which takes place from April 21-29 this year.
- Busy tonight? I'm planning to head over to the Harry Ransom Center around 7 pm, myself. Steve Wilson, the Associate Curator of Film, will lead a free tour of the HRC's current "Making Movies" exhibit. The HRC has all kinds of movie-related goodies archived, and while I don't know exactly what they're displaying now, it's all good.
On the From Mexico with Love DVD box cover, E Latino Weekly describes the film as "a modern-day Rocky." The comparison is probably inevitable, as both films are about scrappy underdog boxers. Sadly, From Mexico with Love has as much in common with Sylvester Stallone's poignant masterpiece as Dear John has with From Here to Eternity; both films involve beach-related wartime romance, but that's where the similarity ends.
To be fair, the creators of From Mexico with Love probably had good intentions. The film -- released today on DVD -- attempts to meld a crowd-pleasing sports story with serious commentary about the plight of migrant farm workers living on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Think Rocky meets Lone Star.) Unfortunately, the film delivers its political messages with jackhammer subtlety, and any sincere attempt at social relevance is no match for a thoroughly clichéd plot and dialogue apparently lifted from the lesser works of Dolph Lundgren.
The film's protagonist, Hector (Kuno Becker), is an impoverished Laredo farm worker who supplements his meager income by boxing in unsanctioned and unruly low-rent prizefights. Hector's world includes the expected characters: cynical immigrant smuggler Tito (Steven Bauer), grizzled boxing trainer Billy (Bruce McGill), and the conveniently beautiful love interest, Maria (Danay Garcia). Hector is a devoted son to his ailing mother, who labors alongside him in the fields despite her persistent coughing and wheezing. When the callous farm boss (apparently, there are no noncallous farm bosses, at least in movies about migrant workers) cuts mom's pay because she can't pick the required daily amount of vegetables, Hector brawls with the boss and soon finds himself unceremoniously dumped on the Mexican side of the border.
As someone who closely follows Austin film news, it's impossible for me to talk about Whip It -- or to watch it -- without facing the issues of its setting and production. The rollerderby movie was written by a former Austinite, is set in Austin and a nearby small town, makes Austin practically a character ... and apart from a few days of shooting scenes of notable locations here, was shot in Michigan. Should we count it as an Austin film? Does it matter, especially for non-locals?
Regardless of where it was filmed, Whip It -- now available on DVD and Blu-Ray -- is a charming film, aimed at a teenage crowd but enjoyable by grownups as well. I don't need to tell you how refreshing it is to watch a movie written and directed by women, in which the girls and women are all fairly strong and well-rounded characters who do much more than dream about or follow the menfolk.
Bliss (Ellen Page) is a high-school girl in small-town Central Texas. Her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) has pushed Bliss and her younger sister into the regional beauty pageant circuit, insisting that it will help them later in life. Bliss is also working part-time with her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) at a local diner with a giant pig on it. While in Austin shopping for clothes, Bliss finds out about rollerderby and is fascinated. She decides to sneak off to join a banked-track rollergirl team, the Hurl Scouts, lying about her age. A whole new world opens as she becomes Babe Ruthless.
The soundtrack to Stingray Sam, the Fantastic Fest fave that had people singing for days afterwards, is now on sale. Written and performed by director Cory McAbee and co-produced with Robert Lurie, it's full of delightful absurd and often deconstructed songs like "Lullaby" or the progeny naming song "Fredward."
The episodic interplanetary adventure musical is still on the festival circuit, wowing crowds with its old-school serial wrapped in Western sensibilities. Both the soundtrack and the movie itself are available for purchase online at corymcabee.com, as digital media downloads or as discs.
To celebrate, we're giving away DVDs and soundtrack CDs. Find out how to win after the jump.
Lots of SXSW news -- 119 features, 80 panels, and 130 shorts, with plenty of local representation. But we have a whole month to go until we get to see them. It's going to be a long month, isn't it? In the meantime, here are this week's new films opening in Austin theaters.
The Last Station -- Turn-of-the-century historical drama about Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and his family and legacy starring Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy and Paul Giamatti. The cast alone (pictured above) makes it worth a watch. We missed the press screening, but see what Kimberley Jones has to say over at the Austin Chronicle. (Arbor)
My Name is Khan -- A Mumbai Muslim with Asperger's is detained at LAX after 9/11 because of his "suspicious" behavior. The movie was not pre-screened. (Tinseltown South)
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief -- Another "teen is the chosen one" type of movie, only this the kid is the descendant of a Greek god. Based on the book by Rick Riordan, directed by Chris Columbus. This film didn't pre-screen in Austin so we haven't seen it, but try James Rocchi's review over at MSN. (wide)
Being a single twentysomething gal sucks on Valentine's Day. Right? Because you spend the day wailing and whining, planning anti-Valentine's Day parties that no one RSVPs to, and scarfing down candy, since that candy is the closest thing to a soulmate you will find for the day. Or so the Garry Marshall-helmed Valentine's Day would have us believe, by having Jessica Biel's character do just this. Despite the ginormous cast, don't look for self-confident women in this film ... unless you count the all-too-brief appearances by Queen Latifah as a sports agent.
The main story -- what there is of it -- tends to focus on the plight of a confident, happy-go-lucky flowershop owner, Reed (Ashton Kutcher). Reed's best friend is an elementary-school teacher, Julia (played by a chipper-despite-all-odds Jennifer Garner). Both of them are dealing with their own relationship issues; it's Valentine's Day, after all -- at least that's what somebody seems to say every five minutes throughout the film. There are also various subplots: a football player (Eric Dane) making a big life decision, an army captain (Julia Roberts) flying home to see a loved one after 11 months overseas, a little boy trying to express his love for his valentine, an office temp/phone sex worker (Anne Hathaway) dealing with the possibility of a new relationship, an older couple (Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo) taking care of their grandson, and more!
When I was a kid, every Saturday afternoon I loved watching classic horror films -- the Hammer Horror films of the late '50s and early '60s, including repertoire actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and Roger Corman and American International Pictures pulp flicks with Vincent Price. The predecessors that paved the way were the Universal Pictures horror films of the 1940s, most memorably The Wolf Man featuring Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. Dark and suspenseful, full of beasts and gypsies, the original Wolf Man identified many concepts about werewolves that extended beyond traditional folklore.
Directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji, The Rocketeer), the 2010 version of The Wolfman embraces many of these concepts -- silver bullets, power of the full moon -- in what I'd hoped would be a true homage to the classic. The script written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self contains threads of the 1941 screenplay, but with a few added twists for this modern large-scale version.
Steve Buscemi's obvious love for indie film coupled with his often fearless role choices means that on occasion his choices end in a miss, not a hit. In the case of Saint John of Las Vegas, it's more miss than hit.
A quirky near-morality tale of a recovering gambler on the verge of a change in luck and love, insurance agent John Alighieri (Buscemi) is up for a promotion if he helps prove fraud on an insurance claim. While he leaves a budding romance with a smiley-obsessed co-worker (Sarah Silverman) behind, he embarks on a surreal journey to the outskirts of Las Vegas with Virgil (Romany Malco), his new mentor in insurance fraud investigation.
Here's the latest Austin-related film news this week:
- Cinematical has posted a teaser trailer for Simon Rumley's Austin-shot horror film Red White & Blue, which is playing SXSW next month. I do believe a great deal of that trailer is set at the Broken Spoke. And Debbie, is that your house where all the, er, shenanigans are occurring? (Speaking of shenanigans, this is not a G-rated trailer by any means.)
- Over at The Dallas Morning News, Joe O'Connell tells us that a new TV pilot is shooting in Austin next month called Gen Y. Two other pilots will be shooting soon in Dallas, too.
- On the other hand, Chris Garcia reports that Waxahachie native and UT alumnus Robert Benton's biopic of Lyndon B. Johnson may not get to shoot in Texas. Apparently HBO prefers the film incentives in Georgia or Louisiana over the Lone Star State. (What would LBJ think?) It's weird, because HBO shot Temple Grandin here in Austin a couple of years ago when the incentives weren't as good as they are now. Go figure.
- On a related note, the film The Texas Killing Fields, starring Sam Worthington, will start filming in April ... in Louisiana. Could be worse. Could be Michigan.
The SXSW Film Festival has just announced its conference lineup, as well as its short films for 2010. I can't pick out all the Austin connections for you yet -- I'm working on that now, and we should have a list posted soon.
You can read the full list of panels and shorts on the SXSW Film website. Here are some of the highlights:
- "A Conversation with Michel Gondry," moderated by Elvis Mitchell
- "Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spill Their Guts," moderated by my Cinematical colleague Scott Weinberg, with an amazing lineup of panelists: Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Ti West and Ruben Fleischer
- Jeffrey Tambor's Acting Workshop, one of the highlights of previous conferences
- Quadrangle, the short documentary from local filmmaker Amy Grappell about a couple-swapping experiment, which won an award at Sundance this year
- Short films from Bradley Beesley, Bill Plympton, Steve Mims and Guy Maddin; and a music video from local cinematographer/filmmaker PJ Raval