Twenty-eight years ago, before most of the world had heard of the Internet, before most people even had touch-tone phones, Disney inspired an entire generation of would-be computer hackers with the glorious adventure TRON. Now the studio is back with TRON: Legacy, a successor that will surely be a crowd pleaser. This modern update is faithful to the spirit of the original, but lacking in original story elements that will leave some viwers wanting more.
The story revisits Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and ENCOM about 28 years after the first movie. After defeating the evil MCP and returning to the real world, Flynn's success with his TRON game has led to ENCOM becoming a virtual Microsoft and Flynn running it as the leading shareholder. Then he mysteriously disappears, leaving his juvenile son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) all alone for 20 years, until one night a mysterious message draws him into the world of his father's creation.
I've never thought of myself as a sports-movie fan, but I'm realizing that I truly am a sucker for boxing movies. I don't watch real-life boxing matches, I'm not a fan of the sport other than that I've been known to like the workouts, but show me a movie where a man is jumping rope or a woman is working the heavy bag and you have my attention. The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings) and based on real-life personalities, is no exception.
The Fighter is about two brothers, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), either of whom could be described by the film's title. Dicky is an ex-fighter who had his moment in the spotlight years before, allegedly knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard. Dicky is supposed to be training his little brother so Micky's boxing career can take off, but he has what is eventually revealed as a serious drug problem and Micky is left to struggle on his own. The fights that Dicky and the brothers' mom Alice (Melissa Leo) are setting up for Micky do nothing to help him, either.
Eventually Micky is left to decide whether to continue with his mother as his business manager and his brother as his trainer, or find another way to try to make it as a boxer and face the wrath of his very large, very close family. He's also trying to cultivate a romance with local bartender Charlene (Amy Adams), whom his sisters and mom can't stand.
The notorious con artist Steven Russell has been both amazingly corrupt and amazingly clever. An expert at fraud and embezzlement, he masterminded many astonishing scams and escaped from prison several times. Known for his high IQ and impersonation skills, he outwitted corporate executives, bank officials, and law enforcement alike, conning his way into high-level jobs as easily as he conned his way out of prison cells.
Given Russell's notoriety and anti-hero fame, as detailed in the book by Houston journalist Steve McVicker, a movie about his life is almost inevitable. His criminal escapades and charming rogue persona are perfect fodder for a cinematic treatment. That film is I Love You Phillip Morris, a tragicomic romp written and directed by Bad Santa writers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. While entertaining, the movie isn't quite as smart or clever as its subject.
Opening on Friday in Austin, I Love You Phillip Morris is really two stories: one chronicling Russell's life of deception and the other exploring his relationship with the titular Morris, a lover whom Russell met in a Texas jail. (The title may be misleading, as the film has no connection to the tobacco company with the same name.) I Love You Phillip Morris is ambitious in scope, equal parts true-crime caper film, love story and commentary about homophobia.
In the late 1960s, Austin was rapidly outgrowing its sleepy small-city persona. Although the population was one-third its current size (there were 251,000 residents in 1970), Austin saw some fundamental changes that shaped the city we know today, including the birth of the high-tech industry.
As the population grew, Austin's surprisingly small media market became ever larger and more competitive. Today's Austinites may find it hard to believe that until 1965, Austin had only one commercial TV station, KTBC-TV (owned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson), which carried programming from CBS, ABC and NBC (and the largely forgotten DuMont network until its demise in 1956). KHFI-TV (now KXAN-TV) signed on in 1965 and carried NBC programming starting in 1966, and KVUE-TV signed on in 1971, carrying ABC programming.
All of which brings us to the first Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) video I'm highlighting in this article, To Market, To Market, in Austin, Texas. Produced circa 1969, this short promotional film is an overview of programming on the KTBC network's TV and radio stations. The film was intended to sell advertising time; I'm not sure how effective it was in wooing advertisers in its day, but today it's yet another intriguing peek at life in mid-century Austin.
Some people have a Christmas tree, some don't. At my house, we have a movie tree that happens to be on display in December and January. It is pink and sparkly and just about all the ornaments on it are related to movies in some way. (It helps that movies have been made about SpongeBob, The Simpsons and now even Yogi Bear.) Every year I like to buy a new ornament or two. Last year, I went crazy on Etsy and eBay. It's a little tricky because the ornaments can't be too big ... it's a small tree.
This year, I have only bought one ornament so far, but I am very proud of it. I was stumbling around on the Paramount Theatre's website, to see which holiday movies were playing this month, and found out that the Paramount sells Christmas ornaments. They aren't cheap, but they are really lovely ... even the box the above ornament arrived in is lovely. The ornament in the above photo portrays the Paramount's stage and fire curtain. You also can get an ornament designed to look like one of the theater's chandeliers, but I went for the one that obviously looks like the Paramount. Now I have something related to Austin film on my movie tree.
Does anyone else know of any Austin-related, movie-related tree ornamentation? I wouldn't mind buying something from Mondo Tees, for example, but I don't remember seeing anything holiday-ish the last time I was there.
After the jump, you can see my whole movie tree. The film wrapped around the base is a trailer for Bride and Prejudice that I bought at a Mondo Tees clearance sale. That's not real popcorn, either -- I'm too lazy for that. The fact that it is in front of a print from, yes, the Paramount is entirely coincidental.
Academy award winner writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) takes the helm of the suspenseful drama The Tourist as it sails through from a cafe in Paris to the canals of Venice. Joined by seasoned writers Christopher McQuarrie (Valkyrie, The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Vanity Fair), Donnersmarck would at first glance appear to be making an homage to Stanley Donen's classic espionage thriller Charade, which starred Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. However, The Tourist is actually a remake of French writer/director Jerome Salle's 2005 crime thriller Anthony Zimmer, which starred French film star Sophie Marceau.
The Tourist centers around Frank (Johnny Depp), a math teacher from Wisconsin who is traveling through Europe. What appears to be a chance encounter on a train with a mysterious beautiful woman is actually no mistake. Elise (Angelina Jolie) deliberately picks him out to throw police off the trail of her lover and embezzler Alexander Pierce, who stole over two billion dollars from his mobster boss Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff). Since both Pierce and Shaw are British citizens, the British authorities want the taxes from the money. To complicate matters, no one but Elise knows what Pierce looks like and he is rumoured to have had millions of dollars worth of plastic surgery to alter his physical appearance.
Some of the prestigious and/or just plain good end-of-year films are starting to trickle down to Austin, finally. Like Black Swan. We're seeing a few other interesting films opening today as well. And Black Swan. Are you going to see Black Swan? You should.
Movies We've Seen:
Black Swan (pictured at top) -- The most anticipated film by cineastes this year, Darren Aronofsky's stunning psychological thriller is not just about ballet, but ballet with the gorgeousness of The Fountain, and as visceral as The Wrestler. This fractured fairy tale doesn't disappoint. Read my review for more. (Alamo Ritz, Arbor)
The Tourist -- Johnny Depp at his worst, and I don't mean as a villian. Angelina Jolie as a trite seductress snares him in a banal thriller. Look for Debbie's review on Saturday. (wide)
Don't be surprised if Darren Aronofsky's latest film, Black Swan, makes you want to see a ballet. From the first shot to the last, Black Swan is an allegorical performance piece wrapped up in a psychological thriller.
The twisted sister of Aronofsky's previous film The Wrestler, Black Swan centers on an emotionally fragile ballerina at a precarious cusp in her career, when her company is about to cast an ambitious re-imagining of Swan Lake. Obsessed with perfection, Nina (Natalie Portman) auditions for the coveted lead at the risk of her delicate psyche.
Like the roles she's rehearsing on stage, Nina is trapped by powerful forces beyond her control. Demanding artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) forces Nina out of her comfort zone, while her mother (Barbara Hershey) is passive-aggressively protective. Rival dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) is always around to remind Nina of what she is not, and just how insecure her position is.
Earlier this week I had a flashback to my childhood Christmases -- the sound of springs creaking on an unseen attic door as it opened evoked a sense of excitement and anxiety. As a child, I imagined it was Santa Claus coming down from the attic because we did not have a real fireplace. As I grew older I realized that my parents hid our presents up there. It was a bit unnerving and overwhelming to think that Santa knew if whether I was bad or good, and could enter our house at will.
In the movie Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, opening at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar tomorrow just in time for the holidays, Finnish writer and director Jalmari Helander reminds us of the not-so-jovial myths behind the mystic icon of Father Christmas. Helander first introduced his take on the origin and life history of Santa Claus in the short darkly humorous films Rare Exports Inc. (2003) and The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions 2005 (2005), which went viral on the internet. Find out where to watch these award-winning short films after the jump.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale begins a couple of weeks before Christmas with a secretive dig in the depths of the Korvantunturi Mountains, located on the border between Russia and Finland. An American businessman with a multinational corporation delivers specific safety instructions to the site supervisor, as it is revealed that the "mountain" in which they are digging is actually the ancient tomb of Santa Claus. Two young boys, Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) and Pietari (Onni Tommila), misbehave by sneaking in through the border fence to investigate the dig. Pietari researches the story of Father Christmas, and is disturbed by what he finds.
I was stunned yesterday to hear the news from the Austin American-Statesman that the Texas Film Commission had denied film incentives to Machete, the latest feature from Robert Rodriguez and his local production company Troublemaker Studios. The commission cited the proviso in Texas law that can deny such benefits to movies that portray the state of Texas in a negative light. Unfortunately, this means a lot of Hollywood productions are going to view Texas in a negative light for future location shooting possibilities.
For the most part, the Texas film incentives program, revised in 2009, is similar to programs in other states. Movies, TV and videogame productions over a certain budget amount can apply for tax rebates up to a certain percentage of their budget. Productions apply for these rebates after the film is completed, and usually after it is released in theaters. Machete opened in theaters in September.
One proviso in the state law is causing the problems here: The Texas Government Code, section 485.022(e), states that the Texas Film Commission "is not required to act on any grant application and may deny an application because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion, as determined by the office, in a moving image project. In determining whether to act on or deny a grant application, the office shall consider general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the citizens of Texas." (Thanks to Rodney Perkins for pointing me at the right section.)