August 2013

Review: The Grandmaster


The Grandmaster

It's impossible to write about Wong Kar-Wai's latest film without an explanation of the controversy surrounding the release. When The Grandmaster was released in China at the beginning of the year, it ran 130 minutes. The movie was then slightly trimmed down to 123 minutes before premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. Between Berlin and further international release, the movie was cut down to 108 minutes

Many fans have criticized The Weinstein Company (which owns the distribution rights for the film in most territories) for attempting to dumb the film down for American audiences, but by all accounts the editing was done under the full supervision of Wong Kar-Wai, who recently stated that he "always wanted to have a U.S. version that was a bit tighter and that helped clarify the complex historical context of this particular era in Chinese history."

The film works as a complex origin story, presenting the life of martial-arts legend Ip Man (Tony Leung), although his story is intertwined with a fearless female fighter named Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) who initially challenges him to gain back her family's honor.

Movies This Week: August 30 - September 5, 2013


Cutie and the Boxer

The Austin Film Society is wrapping up their "Films Of Johnnie To" series with his 2005 crime drama Election. It screens in 35mm tonight and Sunday afternoon at the Marchesa. They'll also be hosting former Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson at the AFS Screening Room on Monday night for a rare VHS presentation of Blonde Death, a film directed by "the world's angriest gay man." 

The Summer Classic Film Series at the Paramount has just about come to a close for another year. On Tuesday and Wednesday evening you can see two of my favorite Woody Allen films, The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Radio Days, presented in 35mm. On Thursday night, Gone With The Wind is the last official film of the series (although TCM's Robert Osbourne will be stopping by next Friday for a presentation and Q&A about the film as the last event of the summer). Hopefully you've seen some of your favorite films on the big screen this summer and taken a chance on a few movies you'd never seen before as well. 

As always, there are some really diverse and interesting things playing at the Alamo Ritz. First up, there's a free Kid's Club screening of Disney's classic Bedknobs & Brooksticks on Saturday afternoon. Sunday provides us with another 16mm installment of Sprocket Society, Shirley Clarke's previously banned 1962 drama about heroin junkies called The Connection and, if you need something a little lighter, Rodney Dangerfield starring in Back To School.

Review: Cutie and the Boxer


Cutie and the Boxer

Are the sacrifices involved in making great art worthwhile? That's one of the questions posed by Cutie and the Boxer, the debut documentary from Zachary Heinzerling about two artists and how they work ... and how they live together as husband and wife, as they've done for nearly 40 years.

Ushio Shinohara is an internationally acclaimed artist whose "boxing" paintings and motorcycle-themed sculptures were considered an integral part of the Pop Art influence in Japan in the 1960s. Now it's the 2010s, and Ushio has been living in New York since at least 1970 -- that's when he met his wife, Noriko an aspiring artist more than 20 years his junior. Ushio has just turned 80, and the couple are living with their son in a small New York apartment that has seen better days, trying to figure out how to pay the rent and utilities.

The documentary doesn't rely on spoken or written narration to get us up to speed. The audience has to pay attention and learn who these people are, and where, and when, from watching them onscreen. This draws us closer into the lives of the Shinoharas.

Review: I Declare War


I Declare War

I have very fond memories from when I was a kid of exploring the trails and vast wooded acres behind the house my grandparents lived in, alongside my cousins (and our friends who often found an excuse to come spend weekends with us because there was also a massive pond for swimming in the summer). We didn't often play things like Capture the Flag, but occasionally we were allowed to use my grandma's gigantic camcorder to make silly commercials and short movies.

Those summer days of my youth came flashing back to me during I Declare War, a clever Canadian reimagination of young kids playing war games in the woods, which won the Audience Award last year at Fantastic Fest.

The movie jumps us right into action, with two teams deep into another round of competition against one another. One side is headed up by PK Sullivan (Gage Munroe), a take-charge leader whose winning strategies come in part from his frequent viewings of Patton. The other side is initally led by Quinn (Aidan Gouveia), who is quickly overtaken by a devious boy named Skinner (Michael Friend) who runs a coup to prove he can outwit PK and lead his friends to a triumphant victory. The only problem is that Skinner actually has a personal score to settle with PK and he's not above breaking the established rules of the game to win.

AFS Essential Cinema Brings Back the Banned


last tango in paris

If you're interested in seeking out cinema known for stirring up controversy over the years, set aside your upcoming Thursday nights to attend the next Austin Film Society Essential Cinema Series. "A Darkened Screen: Films That Were Banned" will feature six films that, for various reasons and subject matter, aroused disapproval from authorities and were not allowed to reach regular theater audiences.

AFS Director of Programming Chale Nafus offers this explanation: "The basis for the series is not just films that have shocked. Rather, they are films that have been banned in various countries for political, religious, social or sexual reasons."

Nafus and AFS programmer Lars Nilsen searched through available titles of once-banned films (censorship can't be enforced forever, after all) to put together a series presenting distinct moments in history spanning different styles, aesthetics, and world views. As Nafus says in his introduction, "We are happy with the six selections we have made, since they exemplify the variety of reasons films might receive the official stamp of 'disapproval.'"

Ready, Set, Fund: Animation Love and Movie Geekiness

Is There Anyone Out There?

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

I've had a passion for animated films for as long as I can remember, having grown up with Disney classics such as Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty ... and as an adult, enjoying The Iron Giant. A short animated film project that's currently funding on Kickstarter through September 10 caught my interest -- Is There Anyone Out There?

Texas writer/director Jonathan Reynolds has brought together a talented creative team to support this family-friendly film, which addresses the universal question in a whimsical manner. 

The score for Is There Anyone Out There? has already been performed and recorded in Austin by British composer Andy Dollerson and Austin's own Tosca String Quartet. San Antonio-based voice actor Terry Anderson is providing the narration for the tale of two boys questioning their fathers whether there's life beyond their own planet.

Mike Blizzard Tracks Local History in 'Also Starring Austin'


Bus station in Slacker

For those of us who get our kicks seeing how many locations in locally shot films we recognize (see my Miss Congeniality review), producer/political consultant Mike Blizzard (No No: A Dockumentary) is currently working on a project along those lines entitled Also Starring Austin

Still in the works, this documentary will include clips from feature films, TV shows, shorts or music videos filmed in town to show the changes in Austin through the years. Slackerwood has already reviewed some of the movies (Don's review of Roadie is another example), but some are a bit harder to find. Also Starring Austin will also include interviews with people from the Austin film community.

In an interview we conducted by email, Blizzard, a current member of the Austin Film Society Board of Directors, explained more about the project.

A Day at Lights. Camera. Help. 2013


Balkan Band plays after the Brasslands screening

By Christina Bryant

The fifth annual Lights. Camera. Help Film Festival at Alamo Drafthouse Village was quite a whirlwind trip around the world and back in time. On opening night, I excitedly sat in the packed theater for A Film About Kids and Music: Sant Andreu Jazz Band. The documentary followed a talented jazz band of students ranging from age 6 to 18 in Spain, led by their fierce conductor Joan Chamorro. It was amazing to see these kids mastering jazz standards by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong that were written decades before they were born. If a six-year old named Elsa can play a mean trumpet to a packed concert stadium, maybe it's time I dust off my grade-school violin.

Director/producer Ramon Tort and Joan Chamorro received a standing ovation as the credits rolled. Later, I wasn't surprised to learn the film went on to win Best Feature at the festival. I'd like to thank the translator on stage after the screening, as Tort and Chamorro were most informative in their native language. A person in the audience asked why the children sang in English. Chamorro simply replied, "It's American music. We learn through the models and the models are American."

Slackery News Tidbits: August 26, 2013


Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • Fantastic Fest's international co-production market for genre films called Fantastic Market/Mercado Fantastico, which aims to connect international genre film projects with potential production partners, sales agents and distributors, has announced 16 projects for its inaugural edition. Selected films includes The Wrong Place by director Alejandro Brugues, whose film Juan of the Dead, which marked Cuba's first entry into Fantastic Fest, screened at the festival in 2011. The market will premiere in conjunction with this year's Fantastic Fest from Sept. 19-21. Austinite Robert Rodriguez's El Rey network will collaborate with Mexican production and distribution outlet Canana Films to produce the Fantastic Market.
  • In more festival news, Cine Las Americas will hold a season launch party on Wednesday, Sept. 4 from 6-10 pm at Malverde (400-B, W. 2nd St.) to celebrate the festival, which is in its 17th year, and hear announcements about its 2014 season. There will be complimentary beverages for members and donors.
  • Austinites and University of Texas alums Jason Cortlund's and Julia Halperin's film Now, Forager (Jordan's interview) will be released on iTunes Tuesday, with releases on other digital platforms slated for next month. The ode to food and fungi was a 2013 Texas Independent Film Network Selection, having previously been recipients of the Austin Film Society Grant (formerly called the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund).

Review: The World's End


The World's End posterI found the latest movie in Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy, The World's End, just as I expected. This is not at all a bad thing -- there's nothing worse in moviegoing than disappointed hopes. (That's not true. Unexpected graphic cruelty to animals is a lot worse.)

But Wright, co-writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost deliver a comedy/genre film along the same lines as their previous two endeavors, and do it very entertainingly, to the point where I hope the word "trilogy" is more of a guideline than an ending.

This time around, Pegg plays Gary King, a burned-out Peter Pan in his forties whose greatest memories are from his teenage days leading a gang of five. He loves to tell the tale of the night they tried to drink a pint in each of the dozen pubs in their small town -- the "Golden Mile" of drinking -- and how glorious it was even though they never got through all 12 pubs.

Gary wants to get the band back together, so to speak, and try the Golden Mile again with his now-fortysomething mates. But everyone else has grown up, particularly his best friend Andy Knightley (Frost), who has become a buttoned-up teetotaler after some event with Gary obliquely alluded to in hushed voices.

The first third of The World's End (named after the twelfth pub) focuses on this lone loser who still wants to be a teenager, and his attempts to recreate his glory days and rekindle his old friendships. And then, just as the pathos is about to feel a little wearing ... the plot shifts sideways. Really sideways and maybe upside-down. With a cherry on top. Just as it did when the zombies showed up in Shaun of the Dead.

Movies This Week: August 23-29, 2013


                                                   Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Austin Film Society continues their "Films Of Johnnie To" series this weekend with the Austin premiere of his latest crime thriler, Drug War. It screens at the Marchesa tonight and on Sunday afternoon. The Pre-Code Stanwyck series is sadly coming to a close this week with Tuesday night's screening of Frank Capra's The Miracle Woman from 1931. If you haven't made it out on any of the last few Tuesday evenings, I'd highly encourage you to give this last week a shot. The prints have been incredible with lively post-film discussion.

AFS also brings us a very special event on Thursday to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Richard Linklater's The School Of Rock at the Paramount. Linklater will be in attendance along with star Jack Black, writer/co-star Mike White and many of the younger cast members from the film.  

Speaking of the Paramount, we're getting close to the end of another stellar Summer Classic Film Series, but there are still several films you won't want to miss. The Texas Tribune is programming this weekend's series, which includes a 35mm screening of Ron Howard's The Paper this evening. A few double features of His Girl Friday and Woman Of The Year are happening on Saturday and Sunday. Next week, the Paramount fires up their 70mm projector for a pair of movies whose beauty cannot be properly displayed on your television at home: 2001: A Space Odyssey plays on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and West Side Story is set for Friday. 

Review: Ain't Them Bodies Saints


Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Critics often urge readers to see a particular film in a theater, noting that the movie looks and sounds so amazing on a big screen, they'll miss something valuable by watching on a TV or worse yet, a laptop or tablet. I've said it myself any number of times. I'm certain that if I'd seen Ain't Them Bodies Saints in a movie theater, that is exactly what I would tell you.

And yet, watching the movie from a studio-watermarked DVD on a laptop, sitting on my bed, I was entirely absorbed by the beauty and intensity of this movie, struck by the subtle soundtrack, as mesmerized as I might have been if I'd seen it projected from 35mm at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

It's not an unfamiliar story, enriched by unexpectedly nuanced characters. Ruth (Rooney Mara) discovers she's pregnant with Bob's child, and shortly after, they're caught by police after committing a crime in their small Texas town. Bob (Casey Affleck) ends up imprisoned while Ruth waits and cares for the child. Bob can't bear to be penned up away from his family, and meanwhile Sheriff Wheeler (Ben Foster) and retired criminal Skerritt (Keith Carradine) are keeping an eye on Ruth in different ways.

Tickets to AFF's Film & Food Party Now On Sale


Austin Film Festival Film & Food Party poster

Are you looking for a place to network, bid on movie memorabilia, and nibble on tasty tidbits from local restaurants? Austin Film Festival's 11th annual Film & Food Party -- a fundraiser for AFF's Young Filmmakers Program -- offers you the chance to do just that in one night. 

Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) will be the honorary chair for the event on Wednesday, October 23 at the Driskill -- the night before AFF begins.

Jette took me as her plus-one to last year's party, and we got to taste a variety of flavors from local spots. While I was slightly disappointed that the "cheese balcony" only had two or three types of cheese available (I was expecting a ridiculous cornucopia of cheeses), I did enjoy them all. Mini cupcakes and sweet-and-spicy popcorn were among other yummy options available.

Restaurants involved in the Film & Food Party this year include Foreign & Domestic, Garrido's, Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, and Kenichi ... along with many more.

To give you some idea of the scope of the silent auction, items in 2012 ranged from a leather messenger bag (which Jette bid on*) to spa bundles to autographed scripts and movie posters. The live auction is likely to include some nifty getaways. 

Slackerwood's own Marcie Mayhorn is on the planning committee for the festivities, so it's sure to be great. You can buy tickets on AFF's site; $100 online, $125 at the door, $80 for AFF members or badgeholders.

Review: You're Next


Family dinners can be hell. Just ask the Davisons, or what's left of them, in the horror flick You're Next, opening Friday. During a rare family dinner to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Rob Moran), a mysterious gang of masked murderers invades the Davisons' grand backwoods vacation home, only to find out that one of the victims harbors a deadly secret themselves.

Director Adam Wingard may be best known for his low-budget horror films A Horrible Way to Die (which also co-stars AJ Bowen) and V/H/S, and it's this keen sensibility to make something visually grand out of nothing that puts You're Next ahead of other recent horror and suspense films. But that's not saying much.

The blood-splattered "You're Next" on walls and glass is a schtick that's been done to death and that the movie could have done without (and would've been better if it had). I'm pretty sure the film's cast, which also includes filmmaker Joe Swanberg, Texas native and filmmaker Amy Seimetz, Nicholas Tucci and Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D), didn't need a set cue to begin screaming or appearing to be really distressed. That's what Swanberg's character was there for.

'Black Metal' Back On The Scene (and Online)


It's always a great joy for us to bring you updates on our local filmmakers, so when we heard that Black Metal is back on the radar, we here at Slackerwood couldn't have been more thrilled. Director Kat Candler and the rest of her team announced  Monday that the film has been selected as a finalist in TheWrap's Short List Film Festival.

Now in its second year, TheWrap has brought together 12 awardwinning shorts, showcasing the best of the best of this year's top international festivals. The films are available to stream online and on your mobile device until next Thursday, August 29.  Viewers can then go and vote on which films they think should make it to the finalist round. This year's winning films will get a first-look deal, will be aired on an MTV network and will receive a package of camera equipment for their next short or feature.

Review: In a World...


L: Fred Melamed and Lake Bell, R: Demitri Martin and Lake Bell in IN A WORLD...

In a World... is the kind of film you find yourself recommending to various friends the week after seeing it -- or at least I did. Lake Bell wrote and directed the feminist comedy*, in which she also plays Carol, a struggling female voiceover artist in a world of men, ahem. In between gigs -- which is most of the time -- she works as a vocal coach. When an opportunity arises for her to compete against men who are better known in the business, she takes it.

Carol has grown up in the shadow of her father, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), a renowned voiceover artist. Sam hopes to hand off his legacy to heir apparent Gustav (Ken Marino, Wet Hot American Summer) and tells his daughter that the "industry does not crave the female sound." That's just a taste of the institutional sexism Carol has to confront. She stammers her way through awkward situations, yet she's utterly composed in the recording booth.

We've Got Tickets (for You) to 'The School of Rock' Reunion


Bernie red carpet/benefit

Would you like to spend an evening with the two gentlemen above -- Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater and actor Jack Black -- and watch The School of Rock too? Of course you would ... and we're giving away two pairs of tickets to the Austin Film Society-sponsored event. Keep reading.

Linklater, Black, screenwriter/actor Mike White, actress Miranda Cosgrove and other younger cast members from The School of Rock will be at the Paramount next Thursday, August 29 for a special tenth-anniversary screening of the movie. Tickets are available at several levels -- VIP ticketholders also have the chance to attend an afterparty at the Gibson Austin Showroom where the band from the movie will perform.

As if that weren't enough, you can also purchase tickets to a special Moviemaker Dialogue with Mike White, moderated by Kimberley Jones of The Austin Chronicle, on Wednesday, August 28 a the Marchesa. If you're an AFS "Make" or higher-level member, admission is free (although you still want to reserve a ticket online).

Interview: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, 'The World's End'


Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost at Alamo Lakeline by Jack Plunkett

I had the chance to participate in my first roundtable interview in late July when writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost stopped in Austin on their "Last Call Tour." They met with press on a Saturday afternoon and did a Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse's new Lakeline location that night (pictured above), all to celebrate their latest film together, The World's End.

In The World's End, a group of men in their forties are reunited by Gary (Pegg), a man who aims to be cool and is determined to take on "The Golden Mile" -- a pub run -- with his former schoolmates. The planned excursion will finish in the wee hours at the final pub, The World's End... if the group can make it that far.

To combat any nervousness I had, I re-watched some episodes of Spaced on Netflix before heading up to the Four Seasons Hotel. When I walked into the room where Pegg and Frost were sitting (Wright was running late), it felt somewhat similar to running into old friends. After seeing his bleak look in The World's End, I had worried Pegg was aging prematurely, but he looked perfectly fine that day in a polo shirt and glasses. Frost also wore specs with his dark, pearl-buttoned shirt.

AFF 2013 Announces First Wave of Film Programming


sombras de azul

In addition to the short films already leaked via Twitter, the Austin Film Festival has now announced the first ten films of the 2013 lineup (including one from an Austin-based director) as well as a special retrospective series featuring an array of talented directors. Jonathan Demme will even screen scenes from a work in progress.

Standing out from the list are Alexander Payne's latest (Nebraska), a documentary about religious conflict within a family (Mom, Dad, I'm Muslim), and the world premiere of Sombras de Azul (production still above), based on the experiences of Austin director Kelly Daniela Norris, who traveled to Cuba in the hopes it would help her come to terms with her brother's suicide.

In an interview last year, Norris described the challenges of creating such a personal film and discussed how she was able to finish the project with the help of Kickstarter. Norris also drew from her experience working with award-winning television writer David Milch and calls Sombras de Azul "a diaristic manifestation of my need to heal." 

Austin Film Festival will run from Oct. 24 to 31 at venues around the city. This is the 20th anniversary of the screenwriter-focused festival, and we'll continue to keep you updated as more films (with hopefully many more Austin and Texas connections) are announced. Badges for AFF 2013 are available here.

Lone Star Cinema: Local Hero


Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster and Peter Capaldi in Local Hero

Just a few weeks ago, there was much buzz around the internet about the new Doctor picked for the BBC series Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi.  Sure, he's best known now for his acerbic Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It and In the Loop, but Local Hero is what first brought Capaldi to my attention many moons ago. It seems a good time to revisit the 1983 film about a Houston oilman's visit to a small Scottish town.

The film opens to jangly guitar music as Mac (Peter Riegert) navigates a highway in Houston. He is about to be assigned a trip to Scotland in hopes he can negotiate a deal to buy out the seaside village of Ferness.  The company for which he works, Knox Industries, has plans to gut the town and place an oil refinery on that coast.

The head of this company is Felix Happer, played by Burt Lancaster. Happer lives in a penthouse atop the company's downtown office building, somewhat closed off from the world except for abrasive visits from his therapist and phone calls from prime ministers. Happer is an astronomy enthusiast and instructs Mac, before he sends him off, "Keep an eye on Virgo for me." 

'You're Next' Cast at Alamo Slaughter


The Dwight Tilley Band's 1977 single "Looking For The Magic" played on repeat in my mind after last Monday's preview screening at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter of the horror flick You're Next, which first screened locally at Fantastic Fest 2011. It was life imitating art because the song played repeatedly throughout the movie. I even felt kind of bad that I was jammin' out to the song in my head while characters were being slaughtered left and right on screen.

I had to work to shake myself out of the power-pop stupor when two of the film's leads, Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and A.J. Bowen (A Horrible Way to Die and Austinite Emily Hagins' Grow Up, Tony Phillips) appeared on stage after the movie to discuss experiences on set and their feelings about each other, whiskey (thanks A.J. for sharing) and the film's Aug. 23 theatrical release. Some members of the large audience were wearing fox, tiger and lamb masks freakishly similar to those worn by the film's murderers.

Slackery News Tidbits: August 19, 2013


Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League is looking to hire an apprentice, reports The Austin Chronicle. If you think you have what it takes to join the "big leagues," review the job's description via League's Facebook post and apply. 
  • In more Drafthouse news, Austin-based screenwriter and Alamo programmer Owen Egerton directed the music video for Austin-based musician Bob Schneider's latest single, "Wish the Wind Would Blow Me," on location at The Highball. The Drafthouse-owned bar and event venue is being renovated next to the theater chain's South Lamar location. 
  • The Drafthouse news continues with the announcement of this year's Fantastic Fest Bumper Contest, which invites the public to create the most outrageous and entertaining 15-45 second video possible that represents the festival and its current theme, "Intergalactic Fantastic." Deadline to submit entries is 11:59 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The selected bumpers will play before Fantastic Fest screenings. Find out more here about how you can get involved. 
  • Butcher Boys, originally titled Boneboys, which was filmed in Austin and Taylor, is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on Sept. 6, followed by a VOD and DVD release beginning Oct. 8, according to JoBlo. Writer/producer Kim Henkel, who co-wrote the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, teamed up with two former Texas A&M University- Kingsville students, co-directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, on the low-budget horror comedy about a family of cannibals. The film previously screened here during Austin Film Festival 2012.

Review: Jobs



If Jobs were an Apple product, it might be called the iFlop.

Maybe that bit of snark is a bit too harsh, for the Steve Jobs biopic seems well intentioned. It plays like a sincere attempt at a mildly artsy, warts-and-all portrait of Jobs. But like Apple's worst missteps (remember the Newton?), Jobs is a clunky and buggy film that may frustrate its audience, especially viewers familiar with Jobs' life and career.

Jobs opens when Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) is a teenage college dropout auditing classes at Reed College, dabbling in drugs and seeking spiritual enlightenment. The movie spends a lot of time on his early career, when he co-founds Apple in 1976 in his parents' garage with his friend and fellow nerd Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad).

Jobs desperately needs funding for the company and finds a sugar daddy in semi-retired Intel manager Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), who becomes a longtime Apple board member and figures prominently throughout the film. Jobs then fast-forwards through the growth of Apple, the birth of the Macintosh and Jobs' increasingly rocky relationship with the Apple board of directors, culminating in his ouster from the company in 1985.

Movies This Week: August 16-22, 2013



The upcoming week is absolutely packed with incredible archival screenings to tell you about, and there are a couple of new releases that are worth making time for as well. First up, let's focus on the Austin Film Society, who are continuing their Johnnie To series with 35mm screenings of 1999's Running Out Of Time this weekend. In advance of the upcoming local opening of Computer Chess, AFS is also hosting Andrew Bujalski on Sunday afternoon for a Q&A at a rare 35mm screening of Funny Ha-Ha. Essential Cinema presents the outrageous pre-code Night Nurse with Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Cable in 35mm on Tuesday night while director Matt Wolf is stopping by on Wednesday for a Doc Nights premiere of his new film Teenage

The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series has a some tremendously well-programmed 35mm double features on deck this week including Spirit Of The Beehive and Pan's Labyrinth on Sunday, and Chinatown and Sweet Smell Of Success on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. They've also got a special Austin Pride screening of The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Stateside serves up a digital Bergman double feature on Sunday as well with The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries

As always, the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz has a little something for everyone booked this week. Broadway Brunch returns tomorrow with the 1954 version of A Star Is Born, starring Judy Garland, in 35mm. Kid-Thing, the latest film from local filmmakers The Zellner Bros., is also screening tomorrow afternoon. On Sunday, there's a 16mm Sprocket Society matinee, another Shintoho Mindwarp double feature and a Karen Black memorial screening of Five Easy Pieces in 35mm. Looking ahead into the week: Music Monday has a print of the stunning Jazz On A Summer's Day that has me strongly considering staying out late on a school night, Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy shows up with a few random 35mm shows from Tuesday to Thursday and Fritz Lang's Rancho Notorious plays on Wednesday night as part of the She Died With Her Boots On Western series. 

Review: Kick-Ass 2


Kick-Ass 2 posterThe movie Kick-Ass 2 has already seen a bit of controversy as of late -- one of its stars, Jim Carrey, decried the amount of violence in it and announced his change of heart about gun violence on film after the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut late last year. He said he would not participate in any promotion of the movie, he just took his check and went about his way.

As it turns out, the gun violence is actually one of more tame elements in the sequel to the breakout hit from 2010. Homophobia, pedophilia, sexualization of minors and rape humor are much more stinging in Kick-Ass 2.  All of that ickiness (the only word really) turned what was a highly anticipated sequel with some really well-shot and kind of cool action scenes into something that makes you feel dirty for watching at times.

The story begins a short time after the events of the first film. Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is enjoying the legacy that his superhero alter ego has left on the city, but he's not done being a hero. Neither is Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). Every day she uses the fighting skills her father taught her, and she skips school and continues to train to become even more of an ultimate bad-ass killer than she was in the first movie.

Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass train until she has a change of heart, leaving Kick-Ass to fend for his own until he joins a band of similarly motivated superheroes. Meanwhile, a new supervillain is emerging (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and his name is one that I won't utter here, but he is the son of the crime boss Kick-Ass killed in the first movie.

A lot of Kick-Ass 2 feels like a retread of the first movie, which is a sure-fire way for a sequel to immediately feel inferior to the first one. The movie also has this incredibly strange subplot with Mindy (aka Hit-Girl) trying to fit in with the popular mean girls at her school. If you've ever wanted to see a short film version of Mean Girls with the naive girl fighting back in a pretty disgusting way, you'll get to check that off your bucket list here.

Review: Lee Daniels' The Butler


The Butler Movie PosterWith the current social climate and concern over racism, it seems an appropriate time for a film about the civil rights movement in America to remind everyone how much has -- and perhaps hasn't -- changed in the last 50 years. In Lee Daniels' The Butler, we witness significant events and the politics that both impeded and fueled efforts by African-Americans and their supporters to effect change.

The Butler was inspired by a true story and tells the story of African-American Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who serves as a butler in the White House for multiple presidents throughout several decades, including the civil rights movement.

Born in Macon, Georgia in the 1920s, as a young boy Cecil Gaines works in the cotton field with his mother and dad until brutal overseer Thomas Westfall (Alex Pettyfer) swiftly and violently tears Cecil's family apart. Cecil is taken into the "big house" by the sympathetic Annabeth Westfall (Vanessa Redgrave), where he learns the valuable skills of a house servant. Recognizing that he will likely suffer the same fate as his father at the hands of Thomas, Cecil travels in search of a new life and employment in a safer environment -- not an easy task in the South.

Desperation drives him to commit a theft for which he could be hanged, but instead he is rescued by hotel butler Maynard (Clarence Williams III). Under Maynard's tutelage, Cecil not only gains experience as a professional servant but how to survive in a white man's world. From there Cecil makes his way to Washington, D.C. where he continues to work as a hotel butler until he is discovered and plucked to the most prestigious location of all -- the White House during the 1957 Eisenhower Administration.

Thus begins the journey of Cecil in The Butler -- as a silent observer of the politics behind the movement that affects himself and his family. While he quietly accepts his fate, his son Louis (David Oyelowo) questions and acts upon the disenfranchisement he and his peers experience. Scenes are intertwined between Cecil going about the daily functions of special events at the White House, and Louis's activism with the Freedom Riders and later the Black Panthers. Meanwhile, Cecil's wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) deals with the disconnect between her husband and eldest by filling the void with booze and the attention of philandering neighbor Howard (Terrence Howard).

Review: Prince Avalanche


prince avalanche

"Melancholy buddy comedy" isn't a description that comes in handy very often, but if you've seen any of Austinite David Gordon Green's previous films, this summary for his latest makes sense. With a resume that includes sensitive indies (George Washington, All the Real Girls) as well as mainstream bigger-budget fare (Pineapple Express and several commercials), it’s no surprise to hear that Prince Avalanche, which screened at SXSW a few months ago, is a finely drawn story of friendship and loneliness that alternates between being goofy and existential. 

Inspired by a 2011 Icelandic film called Either Way, Prince Avalanche is set in 1988 but filmed in the region of Texas destroyed by the Bastrop wildfires of 2011. Working as a road crew tasked with re-striping roads and installing signposts throughout the badly charred acreage are Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch). Thrown together by circumstance, these opposite personality types are at first indifferent companions, but before long have gained enough knowledge about each other's neuroses and failed relationships to establish an awkward understanding punctuated by moments of anger and macho rivalry.

With only four onscreen characters and a compact 94-minute running time, at first it's easy to shrug Prince Avalanche off as just a sweet movie that's admittedly a little quirkier than your average summer offering. Having seen it twice now, I was newly impressed by the little details my SXSW-weary eyes didn't fully appreciate when I first saw the movie back in March (here's Elizabeth's review). 

Be Next to See 'You're Next' (Free!)


You're Next mural at Fantastic Fest 2011

Not many Austinites have had the chance to see You're Next yet. The horror film, directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, screened during Fantastic Fest 2011 and again at SXSW earlier this year. Jordan attended a special screening earlier this week with stars AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton in attendance (look for her write-up soon). But the movie isn't officially being released in Austin theaters until August 23.

Slackerwood is giving you the chance to see You're Next early -- and for free! -- next Wednesday, August 21 at 8 pm at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. We have a limited number of admit-two passes to give away.

After the jump, you'll find promotional codes and links to the Gofobo website where you can enter the code to get an admit-two pass for the screening of your choice. These are first-come, first-served passes and seating is not guaranteed. If you've been to preview screenings, you know that often more tickets are given out than there are seats, so you'll want to arrive early to stake out a good spot in line (especially for a horror film at Ritz).

The cast of You're Next includes AJ Bowen, who is also in the Austin-shot Grow Up Tony Phillips; Texas filmmaker Amy Seimetz (Sun Don't Shine); filmmakers Joe Swanberg and Ti West, who regularly screen their films at Austin fests; and Barbara Crampton, who's graced a number of movies including Body Double and Re-Animator. Several Slackerwood contributors have seen You're Next. Their reactions:

Review: The Spectacular Now


The Spectacular Now

Most movies about teenagers are so unreal, you'd swear the people who make them never were teenagers.

Not so for the charming and bitingly realistic The Spectacular Now, a film that perfectly captures a universal teenage quandary: whether to live in the moment or plan for the future.

As the film opens, the moment -- that is, the now -- is pretty spectacular for the film's protagonist, popular party boy Sutter Keely (Miles Teller). The high-school senior doesn't study much or bother dwelling on life's unpleasantries. He's too busy hanging out at parties, getting it on with his sexy and equally popular girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson), working at his easy job in a clothing store and nurturing his budding alcoholism.

All is well until Cassidy has enough of Sutter's noncommittal attitude and dumps him. But a potential rebound comes quickly: After a late-night bender to numb the pain, he awakens on someone's front lawn and meets nerdy nice girl Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), who helps him find his car while he helps her deliver newspapers. This meet-cute moment is The Spectacular Now's least plausible plot point, but all is forgiven as the film heads for places far darker and more believable.

Fantastic Fest Adds More Films to 2013 Lineup


Fantastic Fest 2013 posterYesterday, Fantastic Fest announced the second wave of programming for the ninth year of the festival, taking place September 19 - 26 at Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. See below for descriptions of 19 movies making their world, North American or US premieres next month in Austin.

Locally, fan excitement is increasing for the fest, with just over a month until curtain. Film Threat and contributor Noah Lee (@noahphex on Twitter) maintains a playlist on his blog of all available trailers for announced Fantastic Fest titles, which he just updated after yesterday's announcement.

Fantastic Fest is always friendly to returning talent, and the additions to the lineup include titles directed by festival veterans Ben Wheatley (Sightseers), Shion Sono (Love Exposure), Alex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus), Eugenio Mira (The Birthday), and Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood).

A few Austin and Texas-connected cast and crew are in the announced films: Austin resident Elijah Wood appears in Eugenio Mira's film Grand Piano. Blue Ruin star Kevin Kolack was born in Austin. Robin Wright, voicing the lead in The Congress, was born in Dallas and was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame earlier this year. Finally, Sarah Shahi, also in The Congress, was born in Euless, a graduate of SMU and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

Here's the list of films added to the Fantastic Fest 2013 lineup, with descriptions from the press release:

A FIELD IN ENGLAND (England, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Ben Wheatley, 90 mins
During the British Civil War, when magic was science, an alchemist forces a group of deserters to help him locate buried treasure, and sends them all straight into the mouth of madness.   

Film on Tap: More Drafthouses Equals More Beer, Plus 'Saison de Walt'


Glass Half Full

It's been a busy month for Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League with new locations opening across the "Magnited States of America," from north Austin to Dallas/Fort Worth and even Yonkers, New York. I was most excited by the new location at Lakeline, the largest Drafthouse location to date with ten screens and a craft beer-themed bar. Glass Half Full offers a 32 craft beer lineup, including 9 rotating taps of special and season beer selections comprised mostly of Texas brews.

The intriguing beer cocktails and mixes concocted by Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris are a refreshing re-imagining of craft beer libations. My personal favorites so far include the "Elderflower Snake Bite" made up of Pearlsnap Pils and Ace Cider with a hint of St. Germain, and the "Hopalong Cassidy" made of Old Tom Gin, Cointreau, fresh grapefruit and India Pale Ale syrup, which has converted me from a non-gin drinker.

Folks in the Dallas/Fort Worth area can finally enjoy the food and drink offerings of Alamo Drafthouse at the newly opened the Richardson location. which features an extensive and impressive wine, beer and cocktail menu. In addition to the Silence of the Lambs Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio and The Cannibal Chianti, I noticed the aptly titled Kung Fu Girl Riesling and Norton Reserva Malbec -- be ready for some interesting Sommelier Cinema pairings with James Wallace as Dallas/Fort Worth creative manager. The stellar beer selection features the high-caliber diversity of DFW regional craft breweries, including Lakewood Brewing Co. Temptress Stout, Peticolas Brewing Company Velvet Hammer Strong Ale, Revolver Brewing Blood & Honey Pale Wheat Ale and Deep Ellum Brewing IPA.

AFF Screens Texas Shorts on Wednesday


AFF Texas Shorts imageThe Austin Film Festival has compiled a slate of short films for "An Evening of Texas Shorts" as part of their 20th anniversary celebration. This Wednesday evening at the Texas Spirit Theatre of the Bob Bullock State History Museum, 11 shorts with Texas ties from past AFFs will be shown (tickets are $5, free for AFF members).

In the program:

Some Analog Lines (2006), David Lowery
An essay film about technology. Lowery's buzzworthy feature Ain't Them Bodies Saints comes out later in August.

The Significant Other (1994), Tassos Rigopoulos
A single woman's friends bug her about finding a guy. Filmed at an Amy's Ice Creams (it looks like it's the original Guadalupe location) in 1993 and shot on 16mm.

Oh My God (2004), John Bryant
Looks like this one is a very dark comedy. Jette says, "I had to watch it peeking between my fingers over my eyes, but it was hilarious." The short also screened at Sundance Film Festival. Bryant is currently running a crowdfunding campaign for another dark comic short, John 3:16.

Pigeon: Impossible (2009), Lucas Martell
Animated short about a special agent troubled by a pigeon in his suitcase. Martell is now working on a new short film, The OceanMaker. Watch Pigeon Impossible below:

Austin Filmmakers Carry 'The Book of Joe' to Hollywood


It's an amazing honor to see local filmmakers' work showcased here in town. It's even more amazing when those same filmmakers have the opportunity to present their movies outside of Texas. Such is the case with Austin filmmaker Mario J. Pena and his sci-fi short film The Book of Joe.

Pena's film has been selected to screen in the "Midnight Madness" shorts program on August 17 during the HollyShorts Film Festival in Los Angeles, California. This will be the second festival run for the film following its sold-out world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival's Shorts Fest Weekend this past June.

The film was produced and shot last year here in Austin, and is Pena's most recent collaboration with producers Alex Davis-Lawrence and Samantha Rae Lopez, as well as art director Dana Archip. Archip and Pena's previous work includes the winner of the 2010 Fantastic Fest Bumper Competition, Cherry Pie. The Book of Joe also appears to be a first for several local actors, including Geronimo Son, Stephanie Ard and Mike Vera.

Slackery News Tidbits: August 12, 2013


Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • The Austin Film Society announced the three jurors who will determine the recipients of this year's $116,000 AFS Grant, formerly the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund. Jacqueline Lyanga, director of the L.A.-based American Film Institute Fest; filmmaker Ry Russo-Young, whose latest feature Nobody Walks won a special grand jury prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival; and 2010 Guggenheim Fellow Matt Wolf, who was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine, will be in charge of selecting the recipients of the funds, which can be used toward production, post-production and distribution of independent films. 
  • Renaissance man Ron Deutsch announced that he will teach his 20th Chef du Cinema class on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Central Market North. Students will learn to prepare a three-course menu inspired by the Oscar-nominated film, O, Brother, Where Art Thou? The adventure-comedy will be screened -- and food will be eaten- -- after the demonstration, which includes jailbird barbeque, Pappy O'Daniel's buttermilk biscuits and honey butter, and strawberry-rhubarb pie.
  • Alamo Drafthouse CEO and founder Tim League may be entering the ring during this year's Fantastic Fest Debates, oral arguments that lead to physical boxing with gloves and headgear, Austin Movie Blog reports. This is all in the name of defending the movie-theater protocol that has made the Drafthouse famous (talk, text and social media-free), which recently came under fire with website The Wrap's article and blogger Hunter Walk's post suggesting that it's time to reinvent the moviegoing experience. Last week, Austinite David Delgado tweeted that League should consider fighting Walk in one of the festival's annual debates. League's response came in the form of a tweet to Slackerwood contributor J.C. DeLeon, where he accepted the challenge. 

Review: Elysium


Elysium Still Photo

Science fiction has often been used as a vehicle for political and social commentary throughout film history. Most notably is Fritz Lang's 1927 classic Metropolis, featuring a dystopian society with distinct separation between the wealthy and the working classes. More recently, writer/director Neill Blomkamp employed social allegory in the 2009 awardwinning and thought-provoking futuristic film District 9.

Blomkamp returns to the theme of xenophobia with new movie Elysium, but this round the veil drops even more. It's 2159 and the Anglo wealthy class lives on an utopian man-made space station named Elysium, while the rest of the Earth's teeming population, who mostly speak Spanish, work and live in deplorable conditions to support the inhabitants of Elysium. Matt Damon plays Max, an inhabitant of Earth who's trying to break from his past as a car thief and stay on the straight and narrow, working in an assembly plant that builds the service and law enforcement robots for Elysium.

An industrial accident leaves Max with less than a week to live, and he must find a way to Elysium for a cure -- even if it means returning to his former crime gang, led by software and hardware genius Spider (Wagner Moura). When the high-stakes heist turns into an unexpected opportunity to change the entire course of the human race, Max's friend Julio (Diego Luna) and childhood sweetheart Frey Alice Braga also become entangled in a life-or-death encounter.

Movies This Week: August 9-15, 2013


The Act Of Killing

It seems as though opening movies on the weekend isn't enough for the studios during the competitive summertime marketplace. Two films this weekend actually were released on Tuesday night (We're The Millers and Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters) to get a jump on their share of the box-office pie. In addition to several wide releases, there's a new Woody Allen comedy and one of the year's best documentaries hitting town. But first, let's take a look at some of the unique repertory screenings that are happening around town over the next week.

Austin Film Society launches their Films Of Johnnie To series tonight with a 35mm booking of The Mission at the Marchesa. That will play again on Sunday night and there are three more Hong Kong classics on deck in the weeks ahead. The Essential Cinema Pre-Code Stanwyck series packed the house last week for a rare look at early talkie Mexicali Rose. This Tuesday night, you won't want to miss Ladies They Talk About, a gritty women-in-prison tale from 1933 that AFS programmer Lars Nilsen calls "one of the glories of pre-code cinema."

If you're looking for something more contemporary, AFS has a special advance screening of Sundance fest favorite In A World... on Thursday night. Director/writer/star Lake Bell will be in attendance at the Marchesa and this gives you a chance to see it before it opens in town later this month. 

The incredible World Cinema Classics portion of this summer's Paramount lineup is in full swing with many highly recommended films that you'll want to savor on the big screen. This Saturday and Sunday, you can take the whole family out to see The Red Balloon, White Mane and The Neverending Story at the Paramount while the Stateside has a more decidedly grown-up double feature on Sunday afternoon of Fellini's Amarcord and De Sica's Umberto D. A fully restored 35mm screening of 1967's groundbreaking documentary Portrait Of Jason is also taking place at the Paramount on Saturday and Sunday evenings, co-presented by Polari

Review: Planes


Disney's PlanesIt has been seven years since the release of Pixar's still-beloved movie Cars and two since the critical flop of sequel Cars 2. The question to be answered this weekend is "Will Disney's Planes fly?" Audiences will have to decide for themselves, but my opinion is that the animated film soars while not quite reaching the lofty heights of Cars. Unfortunately, since Planes is under the umbrella of Disney and not Pixar, no animated short precedes the feature, and I did not spy a cameo from the Pizza Planet truck.

With a story in many ways similar to Dreamworks' Turbo, Planes features some topsy-turvy casting choices. Comedian Dane Cook voices the lead character while more recognizable talents like Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Sinbad and Val Kilmer are, ahem, waiting in the wings. (Kilmer and Top Gun co-star Anthony Edwards are cast as a pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets.)

While the story of an underdog farmboy living his dream and making it big is instantly recognizable to adults, the much younger target audience should find the plot engaging. There are plenty of touches to keep the adults interested as well. The multinational cast of characters integrates both planes and cars imbuing them with human personalities that range from clever to completely hilarious. In particular, the split personality of a German Taylor Aerocar that alternates when it converts from car to plane was a delightful touch.

Review: Blue Jasmine


It has been my experience that most people either love or hate Woody Allen films. A rare few fall somewhere in the gray area, but most tend to lean strongly towards one side or the other. I find myself more often than not falling towards the "love" side, but usually with a few apprehensions. This is how I felt about Blue Jasmine.

I was head over heels for 2011's Midnight in Paris, especially since I hadn't been a huge fan of Allen's films for the past few years. It restored my faith in Allen's filmmaking, and thus got me ready for Blue Jasmine. (I will note that I have not yet gotten a chance to check out To Rome With Love, so bear with me.)

The film follows Jasmine, played by the always beautiful Cate Blanchett, and her recovery from a recent mid-life crisis. We discover that her late husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was an embezzler and a fraud, leaving her with no money and nowhere to go. Desperate for help, she turns to her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) for a place to stay while she gets back on her feet. Like most of Allen's movies, the lineup features a handful of other great actors such as Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale and many others.

Mondo's Most Evil Show Yet: A Rogue's Gallery


Whose evil eyes are these?

Mondo, the collectible art division of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, will celebrate cinematic villains and monsters for its next gallery show, "A Rogue's Gallery," which runs from August 23 through September 14 here in Austin. The exhibit will include both prints and original works of art from popular Mondo artist Jason Edmiston. The show will feature stunning new work that celebrates all things evil from films like Ghostbusters, Robocop, They Live, The Terminator and many more.

The opening will take place Friday, August 23 from 7 to 10 pm with regular hours to follow for the show's duration. The Mondo Gallery is located at 4115 Guadalupe.

Check out some preview images and details from the artist after the jump (and find out who those evil eyes in the teaser image above belong to).

Review: The Act of Killing


Anwar Congo and dummy in The Act of Killing

Anwar Congo is a slender, grizzled old man from Indonesia who enjoys spending time with his grandkids. But back in the 1960s, he tortured and killed hundreds of people suspected of being Communists. He is one of several such men that filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer spent years filming for his movie The Act of Killing. Oppenheimer had hoped to make an earlier film about the culture of fear in Indonesia, but was thwarted along the way. So he asked these boastful killers to participate in a film where they would play themselves and/or the victims they murdered.

This idea isn't as bizarre as it sounds. During the course of their filmmaking, selective memory is evident as a former prison guard confesses he had no idea that folks were being tortured in the office next to him (doubtful!).  Sadism serves as a sort of theme. Congo frets that he doesn't want to come off as sadistic in the film they're making, and repeatedly says -- almost as if to assure himself -- that he was never sadistic in his treatment of the people he killed. And yet. During a break from shooting a pillage scene, one of Congo's pals (trigger warning!) fondly remembers his days of raping 14-year-old girls, and the group around him makes sounds of approval. Another of Congo's contemporaries recalls killing Chinese people in the streets -- including the father of his girlfriend at the time. 

In The Works: Local Craft Beer and Cycling Film '1400 Miles'


Davis Tucker

Successful documentaries often spring from life's most dramatic events, and one that weaves together personal growth, craft beer and cycling sounds compelling in an especially Austin-centric way. Production begins next month on 1400 Miles, a locally-based project with life-affirming aspirations, and we thought we'd give you a little preview. Full disclosure: senior Slackerwood contributor Debbie Cerda is a producer for this feature-length documentary -- a fact we're happy to share. 

Made by the team behind Crafting a Nation (executive producer Courtney Cobb, director Thomas Kolicko), 1400 Miles will follow North by Northwest brewery owner and founder Davis Tucker (pictured above) as he undertakes a 14-day, 1400-mile bike ride to raise awareness for prostate cancer. Traveling with several other "craft beer pioneers" and inspired by NXNW brewmaster Don Thompson's recovery from the disease, Tucker will bike his way from Austin to Denver beginning in mid-September and end up at the Great American Beer Festival in October.

Review: We're the Millers


We're the MillersHumor in the vein of The Hangover or There's Something About Mary has become predictable in its attempts to shock and disgust. We're the Millers is more of the same. The story is so painfully simple, the biggest surprise is that it took four writers (Bob Fisher and Steve Faber of Wedding Crashers and Sean Anders and John Morris of Sex Drive and Hot Tub Time Machine) to bring it to life.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball), Jason Sudeikis stars as David Clark, a thirtysomething pot dealer who gets in a bind the one time he tries to do the right thing. With his supplier's stash along with his own life savings stolen, David finds himself choosing between death and a simple drug-muling mission across the border in Mexico.

In need of a cover, he recruits neighbors Rose (Jennifer Aniston), Kenny (Will Poulter), and Casey (Emma Roberts) to pose as his white-bread American family. The makeshift family then bonds over the course of a road trip filled with the usual hijinks involving such topics as forced gay sex, incest, wife swapping, attempted rape and the obligatory shots of genital exposure.

Sudeikis is treading water here, playing the straight man through most of the antics against such talented foils as Ed Helms, Luis Guzmán, Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman, who gets some of the best material in the script. Though not rich with complex plot, the script is good for a few laughs with a number of clever one-liners.

What's Streaming: Too Hot To Handle


In case you didn't notice, it's hot outside. Unbearably hot. They say that the winter is the perfect time to snuggle up on your couch and watch a good movie?  Well, I vote for the opposite: sure, being outside is fun, but some days it's too much to handle the Texas heat for even a few minutes. 

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I found my online streaming picks this month centering around things or scenarios that generate heat: kitchens, confrontations, physical attraction. This somehow then led me to a slew of documentaries that Netflix has on the exploration of human sexuality, and the psychology behind physicality and comfort around people. And while I won't bore you with my latest term paper on the subject (because I now feel I could write one), I will share the films that stemmed from last month's movie-watching adventures.  Not all of the choices are directly connected to this subject, but I feel that all of them have an underlying theme: the discovery of one's self.

Let me know if you have recommendations for this month. After all, the selection of options to choose from seems to be growing each month. Enjoy! 

Lone Star Cinema: Along Came Kinky...Texas Jewboy for Governor


Along Came Kinky

Why the hell not?
-- Campaign slogan for Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman

Should Kinky Friedman be governor of Texas? There are plenty of reasons why the hell not. There also are plenty of reasons to watch Along Came Kinky ... Texas Jewboy for Governor, a lively 2009 documentary about Friedman's quixotic campaign for the office.

A mystery novelist, satirist and proudly offensive musician by trade (his band, the Texas Jewboys, was famous for songs like "Asshole from El Paso"), Friedman entered the 2006 Texas gubernatorial race with no political experience but plenty of name recognition as a Texas icon. He found himself in an unprecedented four-way race that offered voters and pundits plenty of political Lone Star lunacy.

The campaign was surprisingly fierce and competitive, at least to determine who would be runner-up to incumbent governor Rick Perry. Perry relied on his incumbency and redder-than-red conservative record to remain comfortably ahead in the polls and fly above most of the political fray throughout the race. Meanwhile, Friedman locked horns with mostly unknown Democrat Chris Bell and brash longtime Texas politician Carole Keeton Strayhorn (like Friedman, an independent candidate) in a battle for the voters' attention, if not a realistic bid for victory.

Catch 'Spectacular Now' and 'In A World...' with Filmmakers


The Spectacular Now

Good news for movie lovers who follow film festival news and buzz: Austinites will have the chance to see a couple of Sundance 2013 standouts in the coming days thanks to the Austin Film Society.

On Thursday, Aug. 8, AFS will screen the much talked and tweeted-about The Spectacular Now in advance of its wider opening in a couple of weeks, and director James Ponsoldt will be in attendance. The story follows two high schoolers who fall in love despite their opposite "types" (Shailene Woodley plays good girl Aimee and Miles Teller is popular party boy Sutter), and has won the hearts of many critics.

Slackery News Tidbits: August 5, 2013


Here's the latest Austin and Texas film news.

  • A bevy of movies about Austin cyclist Lance Armstrong are slated for theatrical releases in the next year or so, Austin Business Journal reports. Paramount Pictures has hired J.J. Abrams to direct a Bradley Cooper-fronted flick, while Warner Bros. is moving ahead with a project from the perspective of Armstrong's former teammate Tyler Hamilton. Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) is also set to direct a biopic starring Ben Foster, with a documentary by Sony Pictures Classics rounding out the front.
  • The full soundtrack for SXSW 2013 feature Prince Avalanche (Elizabeth's review) is available online, according to Entertainment Weekly. Post-rockers Explosions in the Sky teamed up with fellow Austinite David Wingo to score the Bastrop-shot film, written and directed by Austinite David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express). The Prince Avalanche soundtrack will be available for purchase Tuesday, in anticipation of the movie's theatrical release this Friday. 
  • Film producer and Houston native Ryan A. Brooks was profiled in Your Houston News. The UT baseball alum went on to produce his first independent film, Happy Hour, a 2002 Austin Film Festival selection. After moving to L.A., Brooks established his production company, Gold Gloves Productions, which distributed the SXSW 2004 Audience Choice Award-winner Slam Planet. His film Inocente, about a young, homeless artist in San Diego, won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short this year. 
  • Fellow SXSW alum Rewind This! (Mike's review), which traces the cultural and historical impact of VHS, will be released on iTunes Aug. 27, with pre-orders being taken now. Beginning Sept. 10, the Austin-made documentary will also be available on other VOD/streaming platforms including Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Xbox, Playstation, Cinemanow and Vudu. 

Movies This Week: August 2-8, 2013



This is one of those weekends where I've been actively creating an evolving list for myself to try and figure out how many movies I can realisically fit in over the next few days. While not much is happening in terms of new releases, there is a true embarrasment of riches when it comes to local classic film screenings.

Do you want to see A Clockwork Orange in 35mm at the Alamo Ritz on Saturday? Maybe you'd prefer a Keith Coogan double feature at the Ritz with Adventures In Babysitting and Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead tomorrow evening? How about catching Back To The Future and The Karate Kid in 35mm at the Paramount on Sunday? Those picks alone would fill up your weekend, but then you could try to squeeze in a double feature of digitally restored titles from the new Shintoho Mindwarp series followed by a 35mm screening of Trainspotting at the Ritz. After all of that, I really hope that you got paid this week, because you have a lot of tickets to buy over the next 72 hours alone. 

Looking ahead to mid-week, you're not going to get a break. The Paramount begins an amazing lineup of World Cinema Classics that begins on Tuesday with double features of 8 1/2 and Nights At Cabiria followed by Le Petit Soldat and Max And The Junkmen. Also on Tuesday night, there's a CineBrew event at the Violet Crown. They'll be screening David Lowery's 2009 SXSW favorite St. Nick with Lowery in attendance along with producers James Johnston and Adam Donaghey, and cinematographer Clay Liford. All attendees will be getting a pint of Amarillo Hefe and tastings of Pioneer Yellow Rose with their ticket purchase as well. 

Review: Blackfish



Like many polemical documentaries, the horrifying Blackfish is a challenge to review. Its subject -- the mistreatment of killer whales who perform at SeaWorld and other water parks -- is emotionally charged, and any critic with a glimmer of sympathy for animals will find it hard to separate the film's message from its cinematic qualities.

Blackfish focuses on Tilikum, an outsized 12,000 lb. killer whale who has been performing at water parks since his capture in 1983. Eager to perform but sometimes dangerously unpredictable, Tilikum has killed three people -- trainer Keltie Byrne at Sealand of the Pacific in 1991, SeaWorld Orlando visitor Daniel Dukes in 1999, and star SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

Tilikum's deadly history is uncommon, but Blackfish argues that his life story is not. Via heartbreaking archival footage and interviews, the film explains that capturing wild killer whales was commonplace for decades and especially cruel: the whale hunters captured only young whales as the distraught adults looked on helplessly. (In the wild, killer whale offspring stay with their mothers for life.)

Find Out AFF's 2013 Lineup ... Via Twitter


AFF 2013 logoSlackerwood has a standard process for publishing details about a local film festival's lineup and other news. Someone from the festival, or the fest's PR company, sends us a press release with the info. We do a little research to find out the Austin and Texas connections, write it up into an interesting (I hope) article, maybe add a nice photo or two and embed some trailers ... and share it with you.

Austin Film Festival, however, is shaking things up this year in a fun way. Programmers Bears Fonte and Ryan Darbonne will be announcing the first films in the 2013 lineup via Twitter. It seems that we'll all find out together what the first batch of the festival's shorts programming will be sometime today. It hasn't happened yet.

So if you are interested in finding out what will screen at the October 24-31 festival, follow @austinfilmfest on Twitter today. You might also want to check out @BearsFonte and @RyanDarbonneATX too just in case. Meanwhile, the suspense is killing me.

We've already covered AFF's previous conference and honoree announcements, if you want a little taste of what the film fest and conference will be like this year.