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Slackery News Tidbits: Fantastic Fest-Free Edition

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LebowskiFestGuess what? Austin has had film-related news in the past week that has nothing to do with Fantastic Fest. Really! I'm as surprised as you are. Let's look at all the interesting stuff we at Slackerwood missed while we were watching festival films and then recuperating. If we left out anything else, feel free to share the news in the comments section.

  • Austin filmmaker/instructor Kat Candler is on fire this month, I swear. You can catch her 2006 feature jumping off bridges tonight at the Windsor Park branch of Austin Public Library at 6:30 pm. She also has two new short films playing at Austin Film Festival later this month: Quarter to Noon and Love Bug. Finally, a feature-film screenplay that she wrote with Chris Mass (Chalk), The Spider in the Bathtub, has just been optioned by LAF Studios, with Candler to direct.
  • Speaking of AFF, Austin Business Journal has an interview with festival co-founder Barbara Morgan.
  • Renovations on Austin's (now all-digital) public access television studios are complete. This Saturday, Oct. 10, the public is invited to digital fusion fest, an open house for the upgraded facility. Stop by and learn how you can create your own video for cablecast and other media.

Slackery News Tidbits: Golden Hornet at Alamo, 'Goat' in NYC

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Artois the Goat at SXSW 2009

We have lots of news and events information for you today, and only one of these items is part of Fantastic Fest -- okay, maybe two. Remember to keep an eye on our Event Calendar if you want all the details about upcoming events.

  • Cabin Fever 2 plays Alamo Ritz this Wednesday, Sept. 23, with many cast members in attendance. It's an Austin School of Film fundraiser screening, sponsored in part by Fantastic Fest.
  • Film and video artist Luke Savisky and Golden Hornet Project’s Graham Reynolds and Peter Stopschinski, will perform live as part of the Fantastic Fest opening night festivities. Graham and Peter will improvise music to live projections from Savisky onto the front facade of the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 9:30 pm.
  • Austin film and SXSW selection Artois the Goat -- cast and crew shown above -- will have its New York premiere at the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival on Sept. 25.

Slackery News Tidbits: Austin Movies Everywhere

SXSW: 'Nerdcore Rising' at ACC

Over the past week, an amazing number of news items have rolled in about distribution for Austin movies or movies that have played in local fests. Check out this list to see if any of the movies you've liked at recent fests will be getting a wider release and a second chance to grab audiences.

  • Richard Linklater's most recent films are both in the news this week. First of all, Me and Orson Welles, which played at SXSW this year, now has U.S. distribution through Cinemax. As Linklater told us during the Extract red carpet, the movie will hit theaters around Thanksgiving. Jette thinks it's the best Zac Efron movie she's seen to date.
  • In addition, Linklater's documentary about Longhorn baseball and coach Augie Garrido, Inning by Inning, is now available on iTunes. The movie was released on DVD in May. Jette doesn't like baseball much, but liked this movie a lot anyway.
  • Speaking of movies you can watch from a computer or other device, the locally shot feature For Love & Stacie, written and directed by Raymond Schlogel, is now available for viewing online at Underground Planet

Group Review: World's Greatest Dad

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World's Greatest Dad

The indie comedy World's Greatest Dad, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, finally hits Austin theaters this week after debuting at Sundance earlier this year. Jenn and Jette both saw the movie and are very much divided in opinion. One thought it was "edgy in all the right ways" and the other complained that "the stale humor and often flat acting put me to sleep." Keep reading to find out more.

The Summary:

Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a high-school poetry teacher who really wants to be a published author. He's having trouble getting his girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore) to commit, too -- she seems more interested in a colleague who's a more successful writer and teacher. But Lance's biggest problem is with his sullen, sex-crazed son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), who wants to spend all his time looking at extremely kinky pictures on the Internet, occasionally taking a break to insult everyone around him. Kyle is driving Lance up the wall, and then something happens to Kyle that changes everything.

Let's start with Jenn Brown:

If World's Greatest Dad was a festival film, I would have walked out, even as someone willing to give slow and seemingly pointless movies a chance. I like black comedy, and stories that challenge social mores and questions. It took forever to get to the first point: the loss of a son only a father could love. The stale humor and often flat acting nearly put me to sleep. With a protagonist sleepwalking through life until tragedy wakes him up, there needs to be greater care taken in bringing the story to life.

Review: A Trio of Women Vs. 'Inglourious Basterds'

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Inglourious Basterds

All three of us -- Debbie, Jenn and Jette -- saw Inglourious Basterds last weekend during Cinemapocalypse. We hope that the incident with the Nazi flags, and the presence of writer/director Quentin Tarantino and actor (normally filmmaker) Eli Roth, didn't bias us one way or another.

The Summary:

Inglourious Basterds is set in Europe during WWII, and is about the ways in which several characters survive (or not) while working to defeat Nazi Germany. The title characters, the "Basterds" (Brad Pitt, Roth et al) are a secret U.S. military group of Jewish soldiers all determined to strike fear into German soldiers by their acts of extreme violence. But that's not all. Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) is determined to have her revenge, particularly on a certain Colonel Landa (Christophe Waltz). And actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) has some very secret, very special information that raises the stakes significantly.

What did we think? Keep reading to find out which one of us compared the characters to Hollywood actors from the Thirties and Forties, who praised the strong female characters and who found it disconcerting but still worth seeing.

Group Review: District 9

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District 9

This week, all three of us saw District 9, the science-fiction produced by Peter Jackson that is Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut. Jenn caught it at a special screening with Blomkamp and the film's star, Sharlto Copley, in attendance.

Keep reading to find out which one of us praised it as "old-school science fiction," who admired its unpredictability but wished the politics were less shallow, and who "spent almost two hours on the edge of my seat" and wants a sequel.

The Summary:

Twenty years after an alien vessel stops over Johannesburg, tthe worker-class aliens from the ship who resemble crustaceans are still not acclimated into Earth society. They are trapped in a slum known as District 9. The multi-national corporation tasked with alien affairs decides to relocate them outside the city, and milquetoast Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is promoted to head the project. A freak accident in one of the shanties has unexpected results, putting Wikus at odds with his employer and finding himself with more in common with the aliens than he would ever expect.

Review: Jenn & Jette on 'Julie & Julia'

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Julie and Julia

Julie & Julia has one connection to Austin, which isn't mentioned at all in the movie: the real-life Julie Powell grew up here, leaving for the Frozen Yankee Tundra when she went to college. In the movie, when we hear Julie's mom on the phone, as voiced by Mary Kay Place, the strong Texas accent sounds more Dallas than Austin, but that's Hollywood for you.

The movie, directed by Nora Ephron, is a blend of two stories about cooking: Julie Powell's book Julie and Julia about her attempts to cook her way through a Julia Child cookbook, which she tracked on a blog; and My Life in Paris, about Julia Child's learning to cook, teach cooking, and eventually co-author her first cookbook.

Fittingly, Jette and Jenn saw Julie & Julia and have some opinions to share. Let's start with Jenn:

If you are on a diet, don't go see Julie & Julia. Seriously. You will gain five pounds before the closing credits, and have an irresistible urge for beurre blanc (that's a white wine/butter sauce, for the culinarily challenged). Even at a run time over two hours, with some scenes desperate for a trim, it's destined to take its place next to Under the Tuscan Sun as a film that makes gourmet retailers very, very happy.

Group Review: Funny People

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Funny People

This week, Debbie and Jette and Jenn all watched Judd Apatow's latest film, Funny People. The comedy stars Seth Rogen as Ira Wright, an up-and-coming comedian who lucks into a job assisting the rich and famous comic/movie star George Simmons (Adam Sandler). George is fighting some health problems, which leads him to reminisce about his long-lost love Laura (Leslie Mann). The cast includes Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzmann, Eric Bana, and a number of other comedians, as well as other members of the Apatow family.

Austin has a very small connection in this film: Jonah Hill is wearing an Alamo Drafthouse t-shirt -- one of the Badass Cinema shirts -- during one scene in the film. No, Seth Rogen does not appear next to the Alamo South lobby's hot dog in this movie, but we live in eternal hope.

Let's start with Jette this time:

Funny People is supposed to be writer/director Apatow's Big Important Movie. And perhaps it is, but I didn't find it all that involving ... or all that funny. For one thing, the film would have been vastly improved by having about a half-hour trimmed. It would also have helped to have at least one character that I liked or empathized enough with to care about what was going on with them.

Group Review: 500 Days of Summer

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(500) Days of Summer

The three of us -- Debbie, Jenn and Jette -- enjoyed doing the group review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince so much that we decided to try it again with the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, which is opening in Austin today. Jenn and Jette caught the movie at SXSW, where it closed the festival this year; Debbie just saw it this week. What did we think?

Let's start with Jenn Brown this time:

(500) Days of Summer was certainly a hit at SXSW this year, and surprisingly, guys with allergic reactions to romantic films of any sort were raving about it. It's a flawed but worthy tale, spiced up by jumbling the story, skipping randomly through the relationship from initial crush to beyond, even when stumbling over cliched plot devices.

The story is as simple as its tagline: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't. What makes it refreshing is that it's not only a bit of role reversal, at least by Hollywood standards, but focuses on the bittersweet aspects of romance. And there are few actors more engaging as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who always completely and enthusiastically embodies the roles he plays. Zooey Deschanel, as Summer, has some chemistry with Gordon-Levitt, but had more verve in Elf than she does in this role, making the object of affection not as believable as it might.

Group Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Harry Potter 6

The latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, opens today in local theaters (and everywhere else). Rather than write the traditional long review, several of us at Slackerwood who have seen the movie thought we'd all pitch in and share our thoughts on the film. Let us know if you like this format -- we're considering it for other upcoming movies.

Let's start with Debbie Cerda:

As the sixth film in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is definitely made for an audience familiar with the young wizard and the history of Hogwarts. There is very little exposition, but the tight screenplay delivers a lot of the familiarity of many of the characters that fans have grown to love or hate.

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