Don Clinchy's blog

Movies This Week: April 19-25, 2013


It's a Disaster

I'm not one to issue ultimatums, but this week's cinematic circumstances force me to do so: If you don't see It's a Disaster (pictured above), I'm afraid we can't be friends. I'll accept no lame excuses, people; we both know you can find the time to watch this indie comic masterpiece with strong ties to the Austin film industry. You must see it -- and don't think I won't ask to see your ticket stub next time we meet.

If you'd rather pick your own movie than be my friend, you have lots of other choices. The Cine Las Americas International Film Festival continues through Monday; passes and individual tickets still are available for the remaining films. If you're in the mood for a totally different sort of festival, the beer-centric and aptly named Off-Centered Film Festival also continues through Saturday. (Refer to Jordan's overview of the festival for more information.)

French New Wave fans shouldn't miss the Austin Film Society's screening of Zazie Dans Le Métro, Louis Malle's 1960 satirical fantasy about a 12-year-old girl who escapes the watchful eye of her uncle to explore the sights of Paris. Presented as part of the AFS Essential Cinema series, Zazie Dans Le Métro screens on Tuesday at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre.

Movies This Week: April 12-18, 2013


WR: Mysteries of the Organism

It's another so-so week for new releases, with one notable exception: To the Wonder. Terrance Malick fans shouldn't miss the great director's latest meditation on love and life; I also recommend it for adventurous filmgoers unfamiliar with Malick's sometimes enigmatic style.

Austin has two film festivals to choose from this week. The Austin Jewish Film Festival starts Saturday night and runs through next Friday, primarily at Regal Arbor. Read Chale's preview for more info and some recommendations.

For fans of Latino and indigenous films, the Cine Las Americas Film Festival kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Sunday, April 21. Now in its 16th year, the festival features a wide variety of movies from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, including the latest narrative films by breakthrough directors, studio releases, documentaries, short films, entertaining animation series, and youth films. Film passes -- a bargain at $80 -- are available now.

Review: To the Wonder


To the Wonder

If you're a fan of Terrence Malick, you'll likely be a fan of To the Wonder.

The esteemed filmmaker's latest feature is in every way a Malick film, bearing his unmistakable stamp with its dreamy vibe, spiritual explorations and heavenly visual style. To the Wonder is gorgeous, complex, tragic, sometimes confounding and, like all of Malick's work, definitely not for everyone. I mean this as a compliment.

In To the Wonder's striking opening montage, we're drawn into the white-hot romance between Neil (Ben Affleck), an American traveling in Europe, and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a Ukrainian divorcee raising her 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) in Paris. After a whirlwind affair, Neil invites Marina and Tatiana to live with him in a place rather unlike Europe -- his native Oklahoma.

Movies This Week: April 5-11, 2013


Somebody Up There Likes Me

Evil Dead. This week, these two words are all that matter to horror fans, as the long-awaited reworking of the cult classic The Evil Dead hits theaters. (Actually, two other words matter just as much: Bruce Campbell. I'm not into horror flicks, but yeah, he is the coolest.)

For the rest of us, there is the homegrown comedy Somebody Up There Likes Me (pictured above). Fellow River City film fans, I beg, urge and implore you to see this terrific Austin movie. Sadly (and unsurprisingly), the Friday night show with director Bob Byington and star Nick Offerman in attendance is sold out. But worry not -- there are plenty of other screenings. You also might like the Slamdance 2012 awardwinning feature Welcome to Pine Hill, screening at 9 pm Monday at Stateside.

True cinephiles won't want to miss this week's Austin Film Society Essential Cinema Plus series, which presents four recent films by legendary avant-garde filmmaker James Benning. Screening on Saturday at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz are 13 Lakes and Ten Skies, which document landscapes and skyscapes. On Sunday at the AFS Screening Room is the war, focusing on Russian activists. The series wraps up Monday at the AFS Screening Room with Stemple Pass, a study of the isolation of nature. Benning will attend all screenings; following 13 Lakes and Ten Skies, AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater will conduct a Q&A with the director.

Review: Wrong



As a fan of Quentin Dupieux's delightfully Dadaistic 2010 feature Rubber, I had high hopes for his new film, Wrong. I envisioned a movie just as quirky as Rubber, but with a more mainstream plot about a man searching for his lost dog.

I was, well, wrong. (Sorry -- I couldn't resist.) Wrong certainly is quirky and absurd, but it lacks the endearingly odd humor, cool factor and narrative originality of Rubber. It's weird, but not engaging.

Wrong is the story of Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), who awakens one morning to find that his dog, Paul, has gone missing. What happens next probably will make no more sense in written form than it does on screen, so I'll just say that while looking for his beloved pet, Dolph embarks on journeys both physical and mental.

Along the way, Dolph encounters a host of strange situations and oddball characters, among them a flaky pizza restaurant employee, Emma (Alexis Dziena); his Hispanic gardener with a French accent, Victor (Eric Judor); a hot-tempered pet detective, Ronnie (Steve Little); and the mysteriously metaphysical pet-care book author, Master Chang (William Fichtner). All of them interact with Dolph in off-kilter ways, some of which make more sense than others in the context of the story.

Review: NO



Although set in 1980s Chile, the historical drama NO is eerily relevant to contemporary America, where politicians and political agendas are marketed like any other product.

A fictional story, NO is based on actual events during the campaign to oust Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1988. Under international political and economic pressure to bring democracy to his country, Pinochet is forced to call an election; the nation will vote yes or no on extending Pinochet's rule for another eight years.

Pinochet's opposition, commonly known as The NO, has 27 days to convince the voters to oust their leader, and is granted 15 minutes of TV airtime every evening to make their case. Pinochet also gives himself a nightly 15 minutes.

Opposition leaders hire René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal), a brazen but successful young advertising executive, to create their TV broadcasts. Not surprisingly, Saavedra envisions a brash and unorthodox campaign: Rather than pandering to voters' fears of Pinochet's violent regime, the ads will present a sunny and optimistic picture of the country's democratic future. The voters don't want to be reminded of murder and repression, Saavedra argues -- they want to be happy, and the campaign theme should be "Happiness is coming if you vote NO!"

Movies This Week: March 22-28, 2013


Cinema Six

Hoo boy -- is it ever a busy week in Austin movie land! No less than 13 new movies are releasing in River City theaters, and among the usual forgettable and formulaic fare are a couple of standouts.

The Gatekeepers, a documentary about the Israeli security agency Shin Bet, is generating great critical buzz and is the Austin Chronicle's Pick of the Week. And don't judge the over-the-top dark comedy Spring Breakers by its title or trailer; this bikini-clad, candy-colored commentary about youthful excess is getting great reviews. (It will surprise no one that Spring Breakers tops my list of films to see this weekend. Social commentary? Copious youthful nudity? The Gatekeepers can wait a week.)

If none of the baker's dozen of new releases interests you (really, you should be a bit more adventurous), the Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema series is presenting the Palestinian import Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling, Something's Wrong with Your Head) on Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. A modern day retelling of an ancient Sufi parable, the film is the story of two lovers who caught between Israeli occupation and Palestinian traditions. Director Susan Youssef will attend the screening.

SXSW Review: Swim Little Fish Swim


Swim Little Fish Swim

Anyone pursuing a career in the arts will appreciate Swim Little Fish Swim, a film about the perennial battle between art and commerce, between dreams of success and the unkind reality that shatters those dreams.

An engaging and appealing movie by French filmmakers Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis, Swim Little Fish Swim is the story of Leeward (Dustin Guy Defa) and Mary (Brooke Bloom), a struggling young couple living in a tiny Chinatown apartment with their three-year-old daughter, Maggie (Olivia Costello) -- or "Rainbow," as her always creative father prefers to call her.

That Leeward and Mary cannot agree on what to call their daughter speaks volumes about their troubled relationship. A talented musician, Leeward considers himself a misunderstood artist and refuses to accept paid gigs for The Man, fearing they will stifle his creativity. (He won't even record a CD of his songs; that would be much too mainstream.) He's also a self-styled New Age visionary who opposes most forms of capitalism and consumerism, much to the annoyance of Mary, a sensible, hardworking nurse who wishes her husband would grow up, face the responsibilities of adulthood and help her pay the bills.

SXSW Review: Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton


Big Joy

James Broughton's epitaph says about all you need to know about him: Adventure -- not predicament.

For those who want to know more, the splendid documentary Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton is a terrific tribute to the revered poet, writer and pioneering experimental filmmaker.

Born in 1913, Broughton overcame a difficult childhood to have a long, fulfilling career and personal life. His father died when Broughton was five, and his overbearing mother sent him to military school at age 9, hoping to break him of his effeminate tendencies. These experiences no doubt informed his work and his lust for life and love as an adult.

He began making experimental short films in New York in the 1940s and made 23 in total, all deeply personal and many featuring groundbreaking themes and copious nudity, which was largely forbidden during his early career. (One of his best-known films, the award-winning 1967 fantasy romp The Bed, is perhaps the nudest film of its era. It played in a San Francisco theater for more than a year.)

SXSW Review: The Retrieval


The Retrieval

I've been a fan of Austin filmmaker Chris Eska's work since 2007, when his beautifully shot and quietly affecting feature August Evening became one of my favorite Texas films. So I had high hopes for his new feature, the historical drama The Retrieval -- and I'm happy to report that it lived up to my expectations in every way. In a word, The Retrieval is outstanding.

The Retrieval is thematically complex, but the story is deceptively simple. Set during the Civil War, the film follows 13-year-old Will (Ashton Sanders), a fatherless boy who has taken up with a bounty hunter gang. Gang leader Burrell (Bill Oberst Jr.) sends Will on a risky mission to retrieve Nate (Tishuan Scott), a wanted man with a lucrative bounty on his head. To ensure Will's return with Nate, Burrell threatens the boy with death if he doesn't bring back his quarry.

Will and his fellow gang member Marcus (Keston John) find Nate digging graves in a Union graveyard and convince their unwitting prey to follow them back to Burrell's gang, under the ruse that they're leading him to see his dying brother. Along the way, the initially aloof Nate and Will begin to bond, developing an unexpected surrogate father-son relationship.

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