Don Clinchy's blog

Lone Star Cinema: Baby, the Rain Must Fall


Baby, the Rain Must Fall

Baby boomers and younger fans of Sixties pop music may remember folk singer Glenn Yarbrough's "Baby, the Rain Must Fall," a major 1965 hit that remains a staple of oldies radio station playlists.

Less well remembered is that Yarbrough's hit is the title song from Baby, the Rain Must Fall, a 1965 movie starring Steve McQueen and Lee Remick. In many ways, the lackluster drama deserves its relative obscurity. But with many Texas connections, it's a significant part of the state's film history.

Set in Columbus, Texas, Baby the Rain Must Fall is the story of Columbus native Henry Thomas (McQueen), an aspiring rockabilly singer/guitarist recently paroled after serving a sentence for stabbing a man during a bar fight. Thomas does his best to stay sober and out of trouble with help from Deputy Sheriff Slim (Don Murray), a lifelong friend who keeps an eye on him. Not so helpful is Henry's elderly, controlling foster mother, Kate Dawson (Georgia Simmons), who wants him to give up his singing career and threatens to have him sent back to prison if he doesn't abide by her wishes.

Movies This Week: February 1-7, 2013



As a public service, I must open this week's column with a follow-up to the opening of last week's column: Despite its parade of stars, Movie 43 sucks. I know you're shocked.

Most of this week's new releases look to be no better, with the possible exception of Warm Bodies, which has garnered some positive reviews. Once again, I encourage lovers of great cinema to avoid their local multiplexes in favor of some interesting special screenings at smaller venues.

Speaking of which, the most important film industry trend in recent years is the transition from film to digital production and exhibition. Anyone interested in this transition shouldn't miss Side by Side, Christopher Kenneally's documentary about the digital future of movies. Chock-full of interviews with famous filmmakers from Martin Scorsese to George Lucas to David Lynch, Side by Side takes a balanced look at the film and digital formats, intending to foster discussion about the new technology. The film screens -- probably digitally -- Saturday and Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Movies This Week: January 25-31, 2013


The Love God

Oh, if only Movie 43 had screened for press before it opens this weekend. The premise -- a search for the world's most banned movie -- and cast are tantalizing. (Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Seth MacFarlane, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman, Halle Berry and a dozen other famous faces -- yeah, even Snooki -- in the same movie? Yowsa -- I'm reminded of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.) But prudent filmgoers should wait awhile to find out if this star-studded but unreviewed collection of comic shorts is any good. Let your friends take one for the team by seeing it first.

Two other new releases are critically vetted and worth a look, depending on your taste: Amour is outstanding but oh-so-sad, and Quartet is a Dustin Hoffman-helmed comedy that's garnering some good reviews but may not be for everyone.

The Love God? (pictured above) also may not be for everyone, but I'm recommending this Alamo Drafthouse screening because it features a live appearance by the patron saint of film criticism, Joe Bob Briggs. This 1969 comedy stars Don Knotts as the publisher of a bird-watcher's magazine that becomes a porn magazine in the hands of an unscrupulous business partner. I'm sure Joe Bob has plenty to say about this largely forgotten film, which screens Wednesday at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Movies This Week: January 18-24, 2013


The Devil and Daniel Johnston

It's January; we know this because the temperature sometimes dips below balmy, but also because great new movies are rarer than a Panhandle Democrat. The esteemed Rust and Bone is required viewing this week*, but skip the other new releases unless you can't resist imported horror, middling crime drama or California's less-than-esteemed former governor.

Fortunately, Austin's ever-bustling film culture offers plenty of alternatives for those seeking escape from our frigid 50-degree winter weather. Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema series continues with the Chinese drama Empire of Silver. Set in 1899 during the waning days of Imperial China, the film focuses on a wealthy banking family trying to survive political upheavals brought on by the Boxer Rebellion and revolutionary outbreaks. Empire of Silver screens on Tuesday at the Alamo Village. (Due to the closure of Alamo South Lamar, AFS screenings are now at Alamo Village. The theater seats only 118 so buy your tickets for all screenings ASAP.)

Fans of Latin American cinema will enjoy Bolívar soy yo! (Bolívar Is Me), a Columbian comedy about an actor revered for portraying Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan leader who played a key role in freeing Latin America from Spanish rule. The actor is so admired for his portrayal that reality and fiction begin to mix, and eventually he believes he's Bolívar. Cine Las Americas presents Bolívar soy yo! for free on Wednesday at the Mexican American Cultural Center.

Lone Star Cinema: Brewster McCloud


Brewster McCloud

The Brewster McCloud DVD cover advertises the movie as "A different kind of film from the director of M*A*S*H."

Different. Now, there's an understatement.

Robert Altman's 1970 avian-themed follow-up to M*A*S*H is, well, an exceedingly odd bird. A sloppy mishmash of satire, crime caper and comic (but not terribly funny) weirdness, Brewster McCloud is hardly the renowned director's best work. But it's an interesting movie -- I wouldn't say it's a good one -- and one worth watching, if only to inspire a post-viewing discussion of what the hell Altman was thinking when he made it.

One thing Altman apparently wasn't thinking of is a coherent story. The titular McCloud (Bud Cort) is an introverted, intellectual young man who lives in the bowels of the Astrodome. His dream is to build a set of mechanical wings and fly, so he spends his days studying birds, building his wings, exercising to build up his muscles and sort-of-rejecting the advances of kooky Astrodome tour guide Suzanne Davis (Shelley Duvall, in her debut role). Watching over McCloud is Louise (Sally Kellerman), a guardian angel of sorts (she's certainly no angel) who gives him encouragement and protection.

2012 in Review: Don's Top 10 and Other Lists


Beasts of the Southern Wild

Here are my top ten and other notable films from last year. To be eligible for my list, a movie had to release in the U.S. in 2012 and screen in Austin in 2012 also. (Some well reviewed 2012 releases have not yet opened in Austin.)

10. Searching for Sugar Man
This superb documentary about singer/songwriter Sixto Rodriguez would have made my top ten list even without its irresistible soundtrack (which I dare you not to buy after seeing the film). Although the publicity surrounding Searching for Sugar Man has spoiled some of its "Whatever happened to this guy?" premise, it's still an engaging story and a great tribute to a musician whose terrific songs were nearly forgotten for decades. (Jordan's review)

9. Bernie
My third-favorite Richard Linklater film -- nothing can top Slacker or Dazed and Confused -- is the best comedy of 2012. Based on the true-crime tale of Bernie Tiede, a Carthage, Texas mortician accused of murdering wealthy widow Marjorie Nugent in 1996, Bernie is a thoroughly engaging and hilariously dark romp that nails the East Texas milieu with a cast of spot-on small-town characters. Jack Black is perfect as the gentle and generous Tiede; so is Matthew McConaughey as tough-on-crime District Attorney Danny "Buck" Davidson. (my review)

Review: Promised Land


Promised Land

The politically charged Promised Land is a far better movie than it could have been, given that issue-oriented "message films" are sometimes little more than preachy, plot-thin polemics.

Fortunately, Gus Van Sant's drama focuses more on its plot and characters than on the issue behind the story, the natural gas extraction method known as "fracking." While no doubt a message film, it soft-pedals its politics -- and even acknowledges the issue's complexity -- while delivering an interesting story.

Promised Land is the story of Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), two energy company sales executives dispatched to the rural town of McKinley (the state isn't specified) to convince the locals to sell natural gas drilling rights to their properties. Butler and Thomason expect their job will be an easy one; McKinley has long been economically depressed, and they're offering what seems like large amounts of money to the town's ever-poorer residents.

Their job gets complicated, however, when local schoolteacher Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) disrupts a community meeting about the gas drilling. Warning everyone of the dangers of fracking -- which involves injecting fluid into wells under high pressure to break rocks and release the natural gas trapped within them -- Yates and his supporters convince local officials to delay their decision to allow fracking in the town. Enter environmental activist Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), and things quickly grow heated as Noble wages his own anti-fracking campaign and does his best to interfere with Butler and Thomason's work.

Review: Django Unchained


Django Unchained

Django Unchained is every bit a Quentin Tarantino film.

Whether this is a compliment or a criticism depends, of course, on your opinion of Quentin Tarantino films. If you adore Tarantino's cinematic trademarks -- the sometimes incongruous mix of oddball humor, seemingly endless conversations, horrific violence, and soundtrack music so unlikely that it somehow works perfectly – you will adore Django Unchained.

If you don't adore such things, you probably already know enough to skip Django Unchained in favor of saner and more easily digestible fare such as Lincoln or Les Miserables. Which is just fine; Tarantino is an acquired taste, and even some devout Tarantino fans have yet to fully acquire it. (I love all things Tarantino, except the violence when it exceeds my tolerance for gore and the conversations when they exceed my tolerance for people who don't know when to shut up.)

Django Unchained is arguably Tarantino's most ambitious film, a sprawling, 165-minute (sigh) period piece set in the South in 1858. The story opens as German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), encounters Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who can help Schultz identify his quarry: the Brittle brothers, three fugitive murderers who had brutalized Django in the past. Schultz acquires Django, promising to free him when he and Schultz capture the Brittles.

Movies This Week: December 21-27, 2012


A Christmas Story

Like the family members you may be visiting for the holidays, this week's new releases are an odd assortment. Judd Apatow fans can get their comedy fix with This Is 40; Quentin Tarantino fans can get their, uh, Tarantino fix with Django Unchained, perhaps the only Western ever to feature a German dentist. History buffs might check out Hyde Park on Hudson, but are advised to read its tepid reviews first. Also, there is some kind of fancy-pants musical based on an old French novel or something.

Those not interested in the new releases may well stick with DVDs or Netflix; it's not a banner week for special screenings beyond the usual holiday fare. Of course, the usual holiday fare isn't always a bad thing. My favorite Christmas film -- naturally, the snarky A Christmas Story (pictured above) -- screens Friday through Sunday at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. And Elf fans will enjoy quoting along with Buddy and his friends at screenings at the Ritz on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. To stay on good terms with Jette, I must also plug the Alamo Kids' Camp presentations of The Muppet Christmas Carol, showing all week at the Alamo Lake Creek.

Movies We've Seen

Hyde Park on Hudson -- Bill Murray stars as Franklin Roosevelt in this story about FDR's love affair with his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley. The film focuses on a weekend in 1939 when Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visited the Roosevelt home in upstate New York. Elizabeth isn't impressed -- as she says in her review, "On paper, Hyde Park on Hudson seems bursting with promise, but the lazy screenplay, uncomfortable acting, and other factors ruin it." (Arbor)

Review: In Our Nature


In Our Nature

What's the nature of In Our Nature? Smart but rather dull, like a sophisticated person who needs better stories to tell.

I had hoped the producers of Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy -- two of my favorite quiet little movies -- would deliver another entertaining and keenly observant film with In Our Nature. But while Vincent Savino and Anish Savjani's new film says some compelling things about human relationships, it suffers from a plodding pace and only mildly interesting narrative.

In Our Nature is set entirely in an upstate New York weekend home, where young Brooklynites Seth (Zach Gilford) and Andie (Jena Malone) hope to spend a romantic weekend. Shortly after they arrive, Seth's long-estranged father, Gil (John Slattery), who owns the house, shows up unexpectedly with his much-younger girlfriend, Vicky (Gabrielle Union). Tempers flare immediately, as Seth and Gil blame each other for the scheduling mix-up.

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