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Review: Night Moves

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night moves still

Kelly Reichardt is a deliberate filmmaker. The scenes she writes, directs and edits rarely feel hurried or careless, and the stories she tells, incredibly focused, have a way of slowly building towards bigger and (usually frightening) truths about society and the people who exist on its fringes. 

Two of Reichardt's earlier films, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, portray melancholy wanderers with uncertain future prospects, and in many ways Night Moves does this, too. Though more overtly suspenseful than her previous work, her latest effort still maintains a measured restraint as the story advances towards a clearer view of the ambiguous situation at hand. 

It's tough to describe the plot of Night Moves without giving too much away, but it's fair to say that eco-terrorism, paranoia, simmering frustration and CSA boxes all come into play. Set in gray, moody Oregon amongst co-op dwellers and vaguely rebellious idealists, the story follows three particularly ambitious outsiders as they work to carry out a law-breaking and attention-grabbing plan. 

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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Edge of TomorrowHow do you fight an enemy that already knows exactly what you’re going to do? You throw a Tom Cruise missile at them, someone who doesn’t know himself what he’s going to do. That’s what Brendan Gleeson's General Brigham does in Edge of Tomorrow, the first and possibly best blockbuster action film this summer.

Directed by Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) and scripted by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) based on the Japanese comic All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow begins at the end of a war to save the planet from a mysterious alien invader. General Brigham is ready to lead a concerted push from every nation to encircle and destroy the enemy, and he calls Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Cruise), a US Army talking head public-relations officer who’s never seen a day of combat in to cover the D-Day style invasion.

A pathetic attempt to blackmail his way out of putting boots on the ground lands Cage busted to a rank of private and branded an attempted deserter, where he is put under command of Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), outfitted with a mechanized combat suit, and dumped on the deadliest beach ever to see an invasion. In less than five minutes, Cage is dead, and that ends the first of countless times he must repeat the day, Groundhog Day-style, due to a one-in-a-million accident.

He meets up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) aka "Full Metal Bitch," the war hero responsible for Earth’s lone victorious battle at Verdun, and learns from her that he must improve his skills through innumerable deaths as he is the only hope for humanity’s survival.

McQuarrie’s script is intelligent and tight, providing just enough information and leaving just enough unsaid to encourage the audience to read between the lines. Great cinematography and crisp editing keep the action going at a brisk pace, so none of the repeated scenes grows stale.

Summer Viewing: Linklater Follows Up 'Jewels in the Wasteland' with Early 80s Film Recs

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Eating Raoul

By Richard Linklater

[Editor's note: Austin Film Society co-founder and filmmaker Richard Linklater recently curated "Jewels in the Wasteland," a series focusing on films of the early 1980s. Today, as a guest columnist for Slackerwood, he recommends other movies he was unable to include in the series.]

We're looking forward to continuing the "Jewels in the Wasteland" series at some point with films from 1984-1986! Below are various titles that would have fit nicely in this first section of 80s films. Before we get going again, we'll likely have some one-off screenings (hopefully Pixote and Baby It's You) that represent additional titles from the first part of the 80s, so keep an eye out for them.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out the below suggestions:

  • Last month's Atlantic City begs you to continue with both Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre and Bill Forsyth's Local Hero with Burt Lancaster. If you love Local Hero like I think you will, please check out an earlier film of his, Gregory's Girl. I noticed Danny Boyle included a clip from it during his Olympic opening ceremonies.

Review: Filth

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FilthMy first thought on how to describe Filth, which opens Friday for a nightly late-night run at Violet Crown, was that it felt something like Trainspotting meets Fight Club. Then I saw the credits and learned indeed it was based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, who also wrote Trainspotting. (I watched the movie before seeing any publicity materials that clearly indicate this fact.) That it stars James McAvoy (who bears some resemblance to Ewan McGregor) following a self-destructive path of crime and debauchery plays into this comparison.

Filth begins with a murder, which Bruce (McAvoy) is assigned to investigate. Success will lead to a promotion, which Bruce is hell-bent on achieving in hope of winning back the love of his estranged wife and eliciting the return of her and their child. Possessed of a mean streak, however, he spends more time pranking his fellow police in hope of ruining their chances of competing for the promotion.

Jon S. Baird, who wrote and directed Filth, is clearly influenced by Stanley Kubrick. The true plot reveals itself as the mystery unfolds over the course of the film, and Bruce frequently has hallucinations where he is transported to the hotel room from the final scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There his psychiatrist, Dr. Rossi (Jim Broadbent), berates him for being a pig and hints that his problems are at least in part due to not taking his medicine.

As he continues his downward spiral, scheming and causing trouble for his friends and coworkers, Bruce also attempts to fill the ever-growing hole in his heart with sex everywhere he can find it. He takes his best friend Bladesey (Eddie Marsan) on a brothel tour while also wooing his wife (Shirley Henderson, aka Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter series) as a prank phone caller.

Rarely would I so describe a movie, but Filth is very Scottish. Some of the dialogue was difficult to follow for one not familiar with the vernacular, though the loss of finer nuances did not make the plot unclear.

AFS Doc Nights Preview: Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq

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George Balanchine and Tanaquil Le Clercq, from Afternoon of a Faun

Perhaps, as I was, you are unfamiliar with the name Tanaquil Le Clercq. This skilled dancer, a principal with the New York City Ballet struck with polio at the age of 27, is the focus of Afternoon of a Faun. The documentary about the ballerina's life comes from Nancy Buirski (The Loving Story), and is the Austin Film Society Doc Nights selection for June.

Tanaquil, known to her friends as "Tanny," started dancing at a young age and impressed choreographers such as George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.  A friend says, "Her body created inspiration for choreographers." She would form strong relationships with those two -- going on to marry Balanchine in 1952 and having a decades-long intense friendship with Robbins. Correspondence between Tanny and Robbins is read during Afternoon of a Faun, showing her dark humor and glimpses of her character, as well as the deep affection felt between them.

Along with these letters, director Buirski compiles interviews with friends and fellow dancers, vintage video, old photos, and audio clips from a past interview with Le Clercq to give the viewer a sense of the ballerina's story. Even in the sometimes scratchy video clips included in the movie, Le Clercq's magnificent talent is obvious. Her performance of Balanchine's La Valse is especially haunting. Portions of Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun start and close the film.

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq will screen on Wednesday, June 11 at AFS at the Marchesa. Ticket information is on the AFS site.

Get Ready for ATX Television Festival 2014

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ATX Television FestivalAustin television fans have been gearing up for the 3rd annual ATX Television Festival (or as the festival likes to say, "Season 3"), running from Thursday, June 5 to Sunday, June 8 in downtown Austin. The relatively new festival features a handful of current television shows as well as a few retrospectives and panels that focus on the behind-the-scenes world of TV. Venues include Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and Stateside at the Paramount.

The full lineup was recently released, and Nineties kids will once again rejoice at the fact that another childhood favorite is coming to ATX. A cast and crew reunion of Hey Dude! is one of the headliners, bringing fan favorites such as Christine Taylor and David Brisbin to town. That's not the only reunion the fest has planned, though. Everwood and Roswell cast members are also coming together again to discuss what it was like to work on these popular shows.

A "Cancelled Too Soon" section is one of the planned series, featuring episode reviews and mini-marathons of the shows My Generation, Enlisted and Men of a Certain Age. These caught my attention because I'm curious to know what a panel discussion about a cancelled show could entail. (I'll try to hit one of these up so I can fill you in.)

Current television shows are also in the mix, including the highly anticipated Season 2 premiere of Orange is the New Black. (The screening takes place the morning of the show's official Season 2 release date on June 6.) Other screenings include episodes from Bates Motel, Archer, Hemlock Grove, Parenthood and many others. A few series premieres are also set to screen, including pilot episodes from the shows Legends, Mulaney, The Night Shift, Reckless and The Strain.

Review: Palo Alto

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 Palo Alto

Twenty-seven-year-old Gia Coppola enters the family business with this hypnotically observational debut feature based on a short story collection by James Franco. She ended up focusing on several of his stories, combining characters and situations into one fleshed-out screenplay that attempts to examine the aimlessness of upper class teenage life in Southern California. Anchored by impeccable cinematography from Autumn Durald and a great score featuring original compositions by Blood Orange's Devonte Hynes and Gia's cousin Robert Schwartzman of the band Rooney, the film takes its time to float around the storyline without feeling unfocused.

April (Emma Roberts) runs with the popular crowd, but she doesn't quite fit in. She's shy, she plays soccer and is shamefully called out at parties for being a virgin. She has a crush on a quiet artist named Teddy (Jack Kilmer in his acting debut), but is being pursued by her single-dad coach Mr. B (Franco himself). As a frequent babysitter for his kid, April ends up having quite a bit of private time with Mr. B, which develops into an infatuation on his part. Roberts, who is herself a few years older than the character she is portraying, adds a believable realism to the relationship as a girl who is flattered and even excited about the attention, but can't really understand why a man who is so much older is attracted to her. 

AFS Essential Cinema Preview: Films of WWI

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paths of glory still

The latest Austin Film Society Essential Cinema series, "Films of World War I," runs on Thursdays at 7:30 pm, from June 5-24, at the Marchesa. The following column from programmer Chale Nafus offers some background on the movies selected to screen.

In August 1914, World War I broke out in Europe, ostensibly because of the assassination of the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But Germany and France had been itching for war, the former to extend her territories, the latter to regain Alsace-Lorraine, lost to the Prussians in 1870. A series of interlocking treaties pulled Great Britain, Italy and Russia into the maelstrom until the entire continent was up in flames and running red with the blood of millions. Each side thought it would win and be home for Christmas.

Four years later, when the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 (because of American military power entering the war in 1917 and exhaustion on the part of all combatants) nearly 10 million people (soldiers and civilians) had died. Three empires (Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman) fell and were carved up by greedy neighbors or ethnic groups with long memories. Monarchies disappeared, to be replaced initially by well-intentioned attempts at parliamentary governments, but many of those would turn fascist in the 1920s and 1930s. Diseases, especially influenza, traveled home with soldiers and decimated civilian populations. The world was forever changed by The Great War, only to begin the entire process over again on an even larger scale 20 years later. 

Motion pictures were in their adolescence when World War I began. Italy started making feature films in 1913 about the glorious Roman empire, and in the US, D.W. Griffith was filming his racist masterpiece The Birth of a Nation (1915). By the end of the war, the feature-length film was the new norm for film producers all over the world. World War I inevitably became a subject for narratives. Many such movies would question the entire endeavor. One of the first to do so was by French filmmaker Abel Gance.

Slackery News Tidbits: June 2, 2014

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Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin Film Society has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to present a screening of Hanna Ranch, a documentary about a fourth-generation cattle ranch in Colorado, tonight at 7:30 pm at the Marchesa Hall. 
  • In more AFS news, the nonprofit recently announced the participants of this year's Artist Intensive, a workshop for emerging narrative feature writer-directors in Austin with projects in various stages of development or pre-production. Filmmaking husband/wife team Julia Halperin's and Jason Cortlund's La Barracuda (Jordan's interview), Stephen Belyeu's and Gregory Day's The Father, filmmaker-musicians Karen Skloss's and Jay Tonne Jr.'s The Honor Farm and local filmmaker Clay Liford's Slash (an expansion of his short of the same name; Debbie's interview) were selected by the programming committee of AFS's board of directors. Each writer-director team will be matched with mentors who will provide project feedback later this month. 
  • The Central Texas-shot indie-comedy Cinema Six (Jette's Dallas dispatch), about the hijinks of three longtime small-town movie theater employees, is now available for free on Hulu
  • Bill and Turner Ross's lyrical documentary Tchoupitoulas, which screened at SXSW 2012, is now available to watch for free online at Doc Alliance Films. The film follows three adolescent brothers on a nighttime journey around New Orleans' French Quarter.

Movies This Week: May 30-June 5, 2014

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 Chinese Puzzle

This weekend, the Austin Film Society has booked a 35mm print of Douglas Sirk's striking melodrama All That Heaven Allows for their new "Rebel Rebel" series at the Marchesa. One of my all-time favorites, the film screens tonight and Sunday afternoon. It is being released on Blu-ray next month from the fine folks at The Criterion Collection, but it's genuinely exciting to finally have a chance to finally see it projected on the big screen. On Monday evening, AFS is teaming up with The Nature Conservancy for a screening of Hanna Ranch, a documentary about a fourth-generation cattle ranch. Emily Hanna will be in attendance for the film. Powell and Pressburger's 1943 feature The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp is screening Thursday evening at the Marchesa. The screening kicks off a new Essential Cinema series in June, "Films Of World War I."

The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series is delivering special sing-along engagements of The Sound Of Music this weekend. Saturday night's evening screening is a special benefit for the AIDS Services of Austin and will be hosted by Rebecca Havemeyer! This screening is intended for an adult audience and will include a "fancy dress costume parade at intermission." Family-friendly sing-alongs will be on hand Sunday afternoon and evening. Tickets for all three showtimes are $15 and there are no passes or flix-tix accepted. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Paramount brings us a double feature of films set during the Great Depression: The Grapes Of Wrath and Sullivan's Travels will both screen in 35mm prints. 

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