Shot in Austin

Review: Men, Women & Children

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Men, Women & Children

A better title for Men, Women & Children might be The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Internet. Another might be The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie.

I had hoped Jason Reitman's latest film would be up to the lofty standards of his best work, Juno and Up in the Air. But what could have been an insightful look at how the Internet has shaped our lives is instead a slight, heavy-handed and melodramatic cautionary tale about the dangers (at least from the film's point of view) that lurk online.

Shot in Austin, Men, Women & Children follows a group of teens and adults whose online activities land them in a heap of trouble. Among them are a mostly happy couple, Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Don Truby (Adam Sandler), who let their sexual boredom get the better of them; Helen finds extramarital action thanks to hookup site Ashley Madison, and Don hires an escort after perusing his son's favorite porn sites.

Meanwhile, paranoid and overprotective mom Patricia Beltmeyer (Jennifer Garner) obsesses over the online activities of her daughter, Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), monitoring her every text and Facebook post. (She even tracks the poor girl's whereabouts via her cell phone.) Despite her mom's spying and smothering, Brandy still manages to carry on a secret relationship with football star Tim Mooney (Ansel Elgort), who quits the team so he can devote more time to online role playing games.

Lone Star Cinema: Spy Kids

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Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara and director Robert Rodriguez during filming for SPY KIDS

When the recent news broke that Alexa Vega will play a recurring character on the upcoming season of country music soap Nashville, now seemed like a perfect time to revisit the original Spy Kids. I tend to picture Vega as she appeared in the Robert Rodriguez film, but she has grown much since then. She's even married... twice.

In 2001, she and co-star Daryl Sabara (whose first role was as Murphy's baby on '90s cultural touchstone, Murphy Brown) played Carmen and Juni Cortez, troubled private-school kids. Their parents Ingrid (Carla Gugino, Karen Sisco, Sucker Punch) and Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) are consultants who have not yet admitted to the children that they used to be secret agents (who met cute at the Hotel Belen, better known as the Omni Hotel downtown). 

When evil genius/children's TV show host Floop (a colorful Alan Cumming, The Good Wife, X-Men 2) and his Minion (Tony Shalhoub, post-Galaxy Quest, pre-Monk) capture the elder Cortezes, their secret comes out. Carmen complains to family friend Felix (Cheech Marin, Up in Smoke, Nash Bridges), "My parents can't be spies -- they're not cool enough!" Of course it is now up to the younger generation to save the parents, using tech made by Machete (Danny Trejo, Machete, From Dusk 'til Dawn).

Fantastic Fest Interview: Tyler Mager and Americo Siller, 'Witch'

Cast of Witch

The short film Witch is one of two Austin-shot shorts accepted for programming this year at Fantastic Fest 2013. It's screening as one of the Short Fuse selections. I spoke with local writer/directors Tyler Mager and Americo Siller about the production.

Slackerwood: Which of you had the idea for Witch? And what was the inspiration?

Tyler Mager: We came up with the idea together over numerous writing meetings. 

Americo Siller: It's a bar, a beer, a table, and a two-hour talk as Tyler scribbles everything down in a spiral notebook.

Mager: It started with an idea of classic supernatural monster mythology and how it would be looked at now. If a crazy psycho was going around eating the hearts of victims, most would automatically think it was, you know, some sort of serial killer. But what if it was a witch, an honest-to-goodness evil entity that lives through the life force of others. So we decided to maintain the realistic aspects of a potential serial killer while still staying true to classic witch mythology.

Quick Snaps: The Red in 'Red White and Blue'

RWB

Since Simon Rumley's Red White & Blue will be returning for a screening at Fantastic Fest this week, I felt it was high time I shared an exclusive behind-the-scene photo I'd taken during the shoot at our house, where part of the film was shot. Nick Ashy Holden ("Alvin") was taking a coffee break while Emmy award nominee makeup artist Meredith Johns (off-screen) put, the finishing touches on his special effects makeup. 

With all the new media nowadays it's increasingly difficult for filmmakers to keep a lid on their projects, but it's also a great way for filmmakers to promote their films with less money and effort if done properly. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger are not only free, but can have a viral effect if fans help promote a film. Red White & Blue was able to secure locations and extras through the Alamo Drafthouse blog, and is how our house was selected as a filming location. Check out more behind-the-scenes photos after the jump.

TXMPA Meeting Tonight

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Update: I've now heard that anyone is welcome to attend the meeting -- it's just that you have to be a paid TXMPA member if you want to vote on any of the meeting issues/elections.

I just received a press release about the Texas Motion Picture Alliance (TXMPA) meeting that's taking place tonight. This is a meeting of the TXMPA Central Region Caucus, and it will be held at Mother Egan's (on 715 6th Street) from 6:15 to 8 pm. Admission is for dues-paying TXMPA members only and tonight's agenda is focused on nominations and elections. If this interests you, visit the TXMPA website to join online. (They won't be able to take credit cards at the venue tonight.)

If you don't know why TXMPA is important right now, check out the cover story in this week's Austin Chronicle, about the dismal lack of film productions shooting in Texas these days. Or you can read last Sunday's Austin American-Statesman article about how Shreveport, Louisiana -- of all places -- is surpassing Austin in film production.

I've posted the rest of the press release after the jump. (Thanks to Janet Pierson for the heads-up on this.)

SxSW 2008 Through the Lens of Mike Hedge

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Mike Hedge is a photographer and friend to Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, they who made Four-Eyed Monsters. Mike put together this incredible music video of every shot he took between leaving for SxSW and driving home. Obviously there was a bit of forethought that went into this because as the pictures whiz by for only three frames each, there are a few mini-movie sequences that play out.


SXSW 2008 from mikehedge on Vimeo.

You can also see Mike's set of SxSW pix on Flickr.

Thanks to Chris Hyams of B-Side Entertainment (my employer, and where much of the office bits of the video were shot) for passing this along.

Forget Snakes on a Plane ... I'm waiting for Penguins on a Harley

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Snakes on a PlaneApparently the Alamo Drafthouse doesn't feel like Snakes on a Plane is quite sufficient. The theater chain wants to encourage other movies with animals trapped on vehicles, wreaking havoc. So they've started a contest: Blanks on a Blank.

Anyone can register a team to make a short film -- you don't have to live in Austin. When you register, the site randomly selects an animal and a vehicle for you. You could end up with Hippos on a Big Wheel, Hyenas on an SUV, or Ants on a Log. After you're assigned an animal and vehicle, it's up to your team to make a 3-5 minute short based on the premise before August 3.

As the shorts are submitted, they'll be posted to the Blanks on a Blank site, so everyone can enjoy Penguins on a Harley. The best shorts will be shown before Alamo's midnight screening of Snakes on a Plane on August 17, with prizes to be awarded to the top entries. Alamo will also host a "Best of Austin" night featuring local submissions.

I'd be tempted to enter, but I'm not sure I could do any better than Cat on a Couch or maybe Cockroach on a Toilet (based on a scary real-life incident in our house earlier this week).

My favorite rule for this contest: "All films must contain the line of dialogue '(your randomly chosen animal) on a motherfucking (your randomly chosen vehicle).'"

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