Elizabeth Stoddard's blog

Home Video Review: Goats

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Graham Phillips, Ty Burrell, and Keri Russell in Goats

[Editor's Note: Goats was originally scheduled to open in Austin theaters in August, but the local theatrical release was canceled shortly beforehand. As a result, we held Elizabeth's review until the movie's home video release date, which is today. You can find this movie on DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video and Netflix Watch Instantly.]

In theory, Goats seems like your typical coming-of-age story based at a boys' school. But really, Christopher Neil's directorial debut, based on a screenplay and novel by Mark Poirier, is slightly more than that tired premise. Fourteen-year-old Ellis (Graham Phillips, who plays Zach Florrick on one of my current favorite TV dramas, The Good Wife, and looks years past 14) heads to an East Coast prep school, leaving his hippie/trust-fund-baby mom (Vera Farmiga) to her own devices in Arizona with only the groundskeeper "Goat Man" (David Duchovny) to watch out for her. 

Goat Man is something of a spiritual guide to Ellis. He provides Ellis with plenty of weed and serves as a makeshift father figure since Ellis' dad has been out of the picture for years. This new prep school is his dad Frank's alma mater, however, and Ellis keeps finding hints of his dad's times there. Frank (Modern Family's Ty Burrell) invites him to his home in D.C. for Thanksgiving, and assumptions Ellis had made begin to unravel.

The Latest News on Austin Film Festival 2012

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Iron Giant poster designed by Ben GarnerAs October draws closer, updates from the Austin Film Festival have become more frequent. Last week, we received several bits of news about this year's fest, which runs from October 18-25. Here are the items that have come up since our last AFF post:

  • AFF has selected award-winning screenwriter Eric Roth as their 2012 Distinguished Screenwriter. Roth won an Oscar and a WGA award for his screenplay for Forrest Gump. Other screenplays Roth has worked on include The Horse Whisperer, Ali, The Good Shepherd, The Insider, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. More recently, Roth adapted the screenplay for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. He's currently exec-producing the upcoming Netflix miniseries House of Cards with David Fincher and Kevin Spacey. Roth will host a screening of The Insider and lead "A Conversation with Eric Roth" during this year's conference.
  • Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will be honorary chair for the Austin Film Festival Film & Food Party on Wednesday, October 17, the night before the fest officially begins, at the Driskill Hotel. Tickets are now available, with discounts for AFF members and badgeholders. This will be the tenth year for the gala event, which benefits the Young Filmmakers Program at AFF. Austin's food scene will be represented by culinary staff from Olive & June, Foreign & Domestic, Haddingtons, Trento and other local restaurants.
    [Aside from Jette: I've been to this event twice and it is great fun if you're a foodie. There are also live and silent auctions and fancy cocktails, not to mention a great crowd.]

Faces of Austin 2013 Open for Entries

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Faces of Austin

The City of Austin is looking for short movies for their Faces of Austin 2013 project. The shorts can be music videos, documentaries, narrative -- anything that depicts the vibrancy and diversity of our fair city. As in years past, selected entries will premiere during Community Screenings at the SXSW Film Festival, and then be shown at City Hall, on Channel 6 and in other showcases throughout the upcoming year. 

Entries to this program must be made by a local filmmaker (or commissioned through an Austin organization) and filmed in Austin or about Austin-area topics and organizations. The short must be 10 minutes or less in length, and can't be selected by SXSW for any of its other short programs.

AFF 2012 Lineup So Far: Superheroes, Flight and a Disaster

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Kerri Lendo in Pictures of Superheroes

The 2012 Austin Film Festival will take place October 18-25, and some of us are waiting with bated breath for the full film schedule to be released. Until then, we have this week's announcement to hold us over. The creator of The X-Files, Chris Carter, will receive the fest's Outstanding Television Writer Award, and episodes from The X-Files and Millennium will be shown at the festival. Carter will also serve, along with director Paul Feig and screenwriter Brian Helgeland, as a guest programmer for AFF. Paul Feig has already chosen the films he will present: my favorite favorite film Bringing Up Baby and the 1976 blaxploitation flick The Human Tornado.

Robert Zemeckis's new drama, Flight, which includes a star-studded cast led by Denzel Washington, will serve as the Centerpiece film. Washington plays a pilot who averts disaster, only to be caught up in the resulting investigation (or so I infer from this nail-biter of a trailer). Now we know why John Goodman had a ponytail in a couple of his Community cameos last season!

The other AFF films announced early include a few with Lone Star connections. Having its world premiere at the fest will be Pictures of Superheroes (pictured above), an Austin-shot comedy about a woman who cleans house for two strange men. This movie is produced by Kelly Williams and directed by Don Swaynos, both hailing from our fair city.

Review: Robot and Frank

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Frank Langella and robot in Robot & Frank

In the near future, elderly former jewel thief Frank (Frank Langella, Dave and Frost/Nixon) lives on his own in Cold Spring, New York, until one of his kids provides him with a VGC-60L health-care aide. This is the premise for Robot & Frank, a sweet sci-fi comedy from new director Jake Schreier and screenwriter Christopher D. Ford. There are hidden layers to this film. Unlike other preview screenings I've attended, no one clapped at the end of this one; I assume it's because most of us were stunned at the depth of emotion in a movie based on what seems at first a silly concept.

Frank is a cantankerous man, suffering through the early stages of Alzheimer's, whose usual routine is to walk to the dying library to flirt with librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) and check out duct-taped hardbacks, then head to a beauty store that was once a favorite restaurant and pocket random items. Once a week, his son Hunter (James Marsden, X-Men) drives a 10-hour round trip to visit his dad and worry over him. Daughter Madison (Liv Tyler, Lord of the Rings) checks in with Frank from her travels afar through Skype-like conversations. Hunter decides that the best way to care for his dad is to give him a caretaker robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard).

Lone Star Cinema: Bonnie and Clyde

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Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and ClydeReading Mark Harris's wonderful Pictures at a Revolution last month, I was reminded that Bonnie and Clyde has some deep Texas ties. The original idea for the 1967 film -- Warren Beatty's first producer credit -- was conceived by first-time screenwriters David Newman and Robert Benton. Benton, who was born in Waxahachie, grew up hearing about the real-life bank-robbing duo who came to a violent end. Benton's dad even attended Parker and Barrow's funeral!

Newman and Benton came to Texas as they worked on their screenplay to talk to small-town residents who witnessed the crimes and remembered the stories. Later, as the movie was being shot over ten weeks in north East Texas, some of these same townspeople were used as extras.

The long tale of how Bonnie and Clyde (finally) made it to screen is fascinating, especially the way Harris tells it (I can't recommend Pictures at a Revolution enough, seriously). French directors Francois Truffaut, who Newman and Benton really wanted, and Jean-Luc Godard passed up the chance to make Bonnie and Clyde. Despite his initial resistance to the film, Arthur Penn ended up taking the reins.

Faye Dunaway's Bonnie is all sharp angles, sass and sexual frustration. Clyde, played by Beatty, was bisexual in the original script for Bonnie and Clyde, but Penn chose to make him impotent instead. In the first ten minutes of the film, Bonnie fondles the gun Clyde has pulled out to impress her. I wrote in my notes as I recently rewatched the movie, "So much sexual tension!" Another thematic constant in the film is the foreshadowing of their death. Bonnie runs in a field of dry, dying wheat, and a playful tumble on a hill by one of the kids in her family mimics the final movement Clyde makes at the end of the film.

'Fourplay' Among aGLIFF 2012 Headliners

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Still from My Brother the Devil

On Wednesday, the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) announced four films that will headline the October fest, now in its 25th year. The "centerpiece" will be former Austinite Kyle Henry's Fourplay, filmed with many local cast and crew members. Henry's work is a compilation of shorts, each a tale of sexual intimacy set in one of four cities (San Francisco, Tampa, Austin and Skokie, according to the film's official site). The San Francisco short screened at aGLIFF 2010; the Tampa short premiered at Cannes 2011 and later screened at Sundance (Debbie's post, Don's review).

The opening-night film will be Cloudburst, a drama about a lesbian couple (Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker) who escape their nursing home in the States in hopes of getting hitched in Canada. The fest will close with My Brother the Devil (pictured above). Sally El Hosaini's full-length debut depicts two brothers dealing with issues of identity, prejudice and sexuality in urban London. (trailer)

Slackery News Tidbits, Mid-week 'El Mariachi' Edition

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El Mariachi at ParamountSome Austin film news that couldn't wait for next Monday:

  • Robert Rodriguez's classic El Mariachi turns 20 this year and the Austin Film Society, AMD and El Rey Network will be hosting an anniversary screening later this month at the Paramount. Before his 1992 microbudget feature film shows on August 30, Rodriguez's early short Ismael Jones and the Eyes of the Devil makes its screen debut. A Q&A will follow the screenings, and then the Troublemaker Studios filmmaker and his band Chingón will play songs from some of his movies for the audience.

    Pre-sale tickets are available for AFS members through 5 pm on Thursday, Aug. 16. Tickets open up to the general public Friday, Aug. 17 at noon. Proceeds from the event benefit the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund.
  • Richard Linklater's Bernie, a hit among local theatergoers (and still playing at the Violet Crown and Arbor), is available for purchase on iTunes already! The Jack Black comedy about a Texas mortician will be released on DVD Tuesday, Aug. 21. Read Don's review to learn more about the film.
  • If, like me, your Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook feed is already filling up with friends and others saying, "Vote for my panel at SXSW!" you likely already know: The SXSW Panel Picker is now open. There are 159 panel ideas vying for space at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival and Conference -- you can vote for your favorites through August 31.
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me, local filmmaker Bob Byington's latest feature, has been making the festival circuit. Over the weekend it earned a special jury prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. Read Don's review from SXSW, where the film premiered.

Big Love: AGLIFF and AIDS Services of Austin Celebrate 25 Years

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BIG LOVE event posterThe Dobie Theater and Events Space will be the site of great celebration this weekend. Both aGLIFF (Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival) and AIDS Services of Austin are celebrating 25 years in our fair city, and are throwing a fundraiser bash at the former campus arthouse theater. On Saturday, August 18 starting at 6 pm, the fun begins with a schedule of four films followed by a dance party at 9 pm.

The first film of the night starting at 6 pm is 1986's Parting Glances, one of Steve Buscemi's first films and the only film made by director Bill Sherwood, who died in 1990 from complications due to AIDS. This historic independent dramedy focuses on a gay couple soon to be separated when one of the men heads to Africa for two years. Buscemi plays ex-boyfriend Nick, living with AIDS.

Show Me Love, a Swedish drama from 1998 about two teenage girls who begin a tentative relationship, plays at 6:15 pm.

The documentary Vito will have its Austin premiere at 7:45 pm. The film, which aired on HBO earlier this summer, chronicles the life of Vito Russo, gay rights and AIDS activist and author of The Celluloid Closet. Jette saw this movie at Dallas International Film Festival in April and highly recommends it. View the trailer at the end of this post.

Another documentary also shows at 7:45 pm. 1990's Paris Is Burning reflects on the drag scene in 1980s NYC. 

The party afterwards features music from DJ Mouthfeel, along with complimentary drinks and treats. You can read more on the Facebook event page. Tickets start at $35 and the funds directly benefit aGLIFF and AIDS Services of Austin.

Review: The Bourne Legacy

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Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy

Is an action movie really an action movie if only a third of it moves at a fast pace? The Bourne Legacy is the slowest of that genre I've seen in a while. The overwhelming sense of urgency woven into the earlier trilogy is missing in this new addition to the franchise. Unfortunately, also missing is any convincing reason for the audience to root for the new protagonist, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).

Like Jason Bourne, Aaron Cross is part of a covert operation by the U.S. government. Elements of The Bourne Ultimatum (even exact scenes) show up in The Bourne Legacy as these ops are about to be exposed. Cross is involved in Outcome, a program which doses former soldiers with viral pills to increase their smarts and physicality and make them super-spies or something like. Retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton with gray hair), afraid that the secrets of the Department of Defense's program will soon come to light, decides to end the program.

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