Ghost Ghirls is a new online comedy series presented by Yahoo!Screen that follows two young female ghostbusters as they solve mysteries of paranormal phenomena. Portrayed by comedians Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci, the pair emulate Shawn and Gus of Psych more than Sherlock Holmes and Watson as they attempt to convince their clients and local law enforcement of their legitimacy as investigators.
Ghost Ghirls was created by Jeremy Konner, Lund and Blasucci, who also serve as executive producers -- seen above with fellow executive producer Jack Black. Konner, who is best known for his Drunk History series on Funny or Die, also directed Ghost Ghirls.
An exclusive sneak preview of two episodes of Ghost Ghirls was presented at SXSW 2013, featuring hilarious cameo appearances by Dave Grohl, Val Kilmer, Molly Shannon and numerous other celebrities. I thoroughly enjoyed the witty writing and well paced storylines, and look forward to more adventures with the paranormal pair. Following the screening, Lund and Blasucci along with Black and Konner hosted a Q&A as comical as their on-screen performances. The audience was then treated to an intimate performance by Black's band Tenacious D.
See more photos from the event after the jump.
With its origin in music and a 20-year history of supporting mainstream and independent film, Austin’s SXSW creates a unique atmosphere where both universes sometimes collide to create splendid works of art. This year’s festival managed to once again create a unique melding of music and film via the documentary This Ain't No Mouse Music! It's a heartfelt movie that tells the story of Chris Strachwitz and his unique music label Arhoolie Records.
Directed by Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling, This Ain't No Mouse Music! spans a period of over 50 years. Strachwitz's story begins in the summer of 1960 when he travelled to Navasota, Texas to record songwriter and guitarist Mance Lipscomb. During the same trip, Chris also met and recorded legendary bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins. In order to promote these two legendary musicians, Chris founded his own record label, Arhoolie Records. It was all melody from there.
Here's the latest in Austin film news.
- Disney has hired DFW-area filmmaker (and former Austinite) David Lowery and producer Toby Halbrooks, whose film Ain't Them Bodies Saints premiered at Sundance this year, to script a remake of the animated movie Pete's Dragon. If this sounds unlikely, bear in mind that Lowery's first feature, St. Nick, was about two children who run away from home. And don't forget his short Pioneer, about a father and son. (Jette adds: Now, someone please release St. Nick on DVD? Finally?)
- Austin-based filmmaker Elizabeth Mims' documentary Only the Young (Elizabeth's AFF review), which follows three Southern California teenagers, will air July 15 on PBS's award-winning TV series POV, according to Austin Movie Blog.
- In festival news, the Hill Country Film Festival announced its lineup last week, which includes the feature-length thriller The Iceman, starring James Franco, and the 2013 Academy Award-winning short Curfew. The festivities take place May 2-5 in Fredericksburg. Texas movies at the fest include short films Black Metal, Do Over, Happy Voodoo, Fourth and Orchard, The Secret Keeper and Where am I Texas.
- Austin Film Society Artistic Director Richard Linklater presents "Land and People: Recent Films of James Benning" April 6-8 at Alamo Ritz and the AFS Screening Room. Hailed as one of the most significant and groundbreaking avant-garde filmmakers, Benning began exploring the American landscape on film in the early 1970s. His recent films, 13 Lakes, Ten Skies, the war and Stremple Pass, were made between 2004 and 2012.
Chan-wook Park might not be a familiar name to you, but one of his greatest films is one you've more than likely at least heard of -- Oldboy, the Korean drama that is heavy on violence and style. His American debut feature film, Stoker, has a lot of the familiar tones that are right in Park's wheelhouse. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney and Matthew Goode all bring some great performances to an otherwise textbook drama about a family that is shrouded in secrecy among themselves.
India Stoker's (Wasikowska) world turns upside down when her best friend in the world, her father (Mulroney), suddenly dies in a car accident on her 18th birthday. To help the family settle in during these rough times, an uncle India never knew about, Charles (Goode) emerges and unsettlingly has charm and wit that is evident to everyone except India.
Marathon-length viewing of 30 Rock episodes laid the groundwork for my fandom of Second City and Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey, but it was her witty insightful book Bossypants that set my admiration of her in stone. I was a bit conflicted about reviewing the dramedy Admission both due to my bias as well as being skeptical about an onscreen romance between Fey and co-star Paul Rudd. Although Rudd is no stranger to being a romantic lead, the combination of these actors who often portray rather quirky characters left me wondering how well they would mesh. The result is a light-hearted vehicle to explore chemistry between Fey and Rudd, with veteran comedic actress Lily Tomlin stealing scenes with her portrayal of a strong feminist.
Based on a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz and directed by Paul Weitz (About A Boy), Admission focuses on Princeton University admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey). Portia seems to be content with her prestigious and challenging job and stable live-in relationship with English department chair Mark (Michael Sheen). However, she finds that her life is not as perfect as she has thought, having to compete with colleague Corinne (Gloria Reuben) for the coveted position of head of admissions ... and her boyfriend leaving her for his pregnant mistress.
Hoo boy -- is it ever a busy week in Austin movie land! No less than 13 new movies are releasing in River City theaters, and among the usual forgettable and formulaic fare are a couple of standouts.
The Gatekeepers, a documentary about the Israeli security agency Shin Bet, is generating great critical buzz and is the Austin Chronicle's Pick of the Week. And don't judge the over-the-top dark comedy Spring Breakers by its title or trailer; this bikini-clad, candy-colored commentary about youthful excess is getting great reviews. (It will surprise no one that Spring Breakers tops my list of films to see this weekend. Social commentary? Copious youthful nudity? The Gatekeepers can wait a week.)
If none of the baker's dozen of new releases interests you (really, you should be a bit more adventurous), the Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema series is presenting the Palestinian import Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling, Something's Wrong with Your Head) on Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. A modern day retelling of an ancient Sufi parable, the film is the story of two lovers who caught between Israeli occupation and Palestinian traditions. Director Susan Youssef will attend the screening.
Austin transplant Andrew Bujalski has been putting audience members in check since the world premiere of his fourth feature Computer Chess (Debbie's dispatch) at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The critically acclaimed, Austin-shot film, about an eccentric group of computer chess programmers who gather at a hotel for a chess tournament in the 1980s, got back to its roots Monday when it screened during SXSW 2013.
Bujalski found most of his merry band of polyester-clad "nerds" through an open casting call for extras, although he already knew local actor/computer wiz Wiley Wiggins (Dazed and Confused), whom he met in Austin back in 1999.
Extras (including Slackerwood contributor Rod Paddock) joined the cast for 10-plus hour days during the summer of 2011 and grew in numbers for the movie's tournament hall scene. With the air conditioning turned off for sound recording purposes, Bujalski says the cramped room "got to smell very bad." But even under these sometimes grueling conditions, the unpaid extras returned to set day after day with the promise of free food and a chance to embody a culture that excites and motivates them.
Although Computer Chess has been met with positive acclaim by SXSW festivalgoers (despite Bujalski's initial thoughts that the movie would "alienate" audiences), most of those who experienced the culture it portrays firsthand have yet to see the film. Computer Chess is scheduled to be released by Kino Lorber late this year. In the meantime, the movie's next screenings will be at the Sarasota Film Festival in early April.
I spoke with Bujalski earlier this week and found out fellow Seguin High School alum Carlyn Hudson was one of the film's co-producers, that there's a Goodwill Computer Museum in Austin, and that I can buy a vintage camera for under $100.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's acting talent is no surprise to people who have followed his career as he made perhaps the smoothest-ever transition from child star to adult actor. His selection of unique and unusual roles has given him a wide body of work to showcase his talents and prevented typecasting. But Levitt is multi-dimensional -- sponsoring a collaborative art project he named HitRecord, he's drawn thousands of print and digital artists, writers and musicians into his cooperative efforts with a goal of eventually producing a crowdsourced feature film.
To that end, he has written, directed, produced and starred in his latest feature, Don Jon. Originally titled Don Jon's Addiction for its Sundance debut, he changed it before the movie's SXSW screening, because he said it gave the audience false expectations that it was entirely about porn addiction.)
Don Jon relates a kind of second coming-of-age story about Levitt's character Jon, who spends his days working out and his nights at the bar with his friends looking for a perfect "10." In spite of his success as the leader of this hunting pack, Jon finds no woman can match the sexual pleasure he receives from himself in front of a computer screen as he surfs internet pornography.
Even when Don meets his perfect girl Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and falls completely in love, she is unable to satisfy him. Even as she is unable to satisfy his expectations based on porn, he is finding it difficult to meet Barbara's expectations as a white knight based on the romance movies she voraciously watches every night. His situation is complicated by Esther (Julianne Moore), his night-school classmate who takes an interest in him and causes him to reconsider what he wants in a relationship.
Though Don Jon is Levitt's directorial debut, it would be a disservice to describe the film using words like "for a first-time director." Don Jon is a masterful work of writing, directing and acting, period. It is a sexy, funny, and wholly insightful expose of exactly what young people are doing wrong as they build relationships. Levitt understands cinematic language so well he can telegraph his intentions visually without the need to spell them out for the audience.
By Kayla Lee
It all started on the red carpet, just before the screening of director Ramin Bahrani's (Goodbye Solo, Chop Shop) new film At Any Price on the last day of SXSW 2013. The stars of the film, Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, graced the streets of downtown Austin with their friendly humor and welcoming smiles. The screening, which took place at the Paramount Theatre, had a great turnout. The crowd was ecstatic when Janet Pierson welcomed the director and stars onto the stage to brief the crowd before the movie started.
An exhilarating atmosphere filled the room as Quaid and Efron greeted the guests with their down-to-earth swag and demeanor. After their brief introductions, it was time for the show. It was exciting to see Quaid (who sometimes lives in Austin) looking to the crowd for approval throughout the film from the balcony. Judging by the laughter from the audience and his constant smiling down into the crowd, I believe all were pleased.
What would you do to save your family from homelessness? How far would you go? Those are the questions Pat Healy must answer in the movie Cheap Thrills, which played at SXSW and has since been acquired for distribution by Drafthouse Films.
Scripted by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga and directed by E.L. Katz, Healy stars as Craig, a writer struggling to make a living for his family as an oil-change mechanic. After the worst day of his life, Craig stops by a local dive bar for a drink he can't afford and meets former high-school buddy Vince (Ethan Embry), who he has not seen in five years.
After reluctantly staying for just one more drink, Craig finds himself in the middle of an unlikely adventure when the two are invited to celebrate with the bar's only other occupants, birthday-girl Violet (Sara Paxton) and her multi-millionaire husband Colin (David Koechner).
What follows is best left for the screen, but it is a disturbing and exhilarating experience. Healy and Embry are fantastic actors and both completely believable as they portray the awkard semi-tension between friends who have grown somewhat apart. That dynamic is obliterated by Koechner. Cheap Thrills couldn't have worked without any of the three, but Koechner is a regular Mephistopheles offering the friends a deal they can't refuse, and a tour through a hell of their own making. This is the kind of easygoing passive-aggressive sadist character Koechner has spent a career perfecting.
One of the most intense films I've ever seen, Cheap Thrills well deserves the SXSW audience award it earned in the Midnighters category. Unlike many schlocky midnight features, this is the kind of movie that should only be shown at midnight. It's exceptionally graphic, but Katz has mastered the art of don't-show and tell, with a single sound effect that left half the audience jumping completely out of their seats and the rest curled instantaneously into the fetal position.