Rod Paddock's blog

Review: Broken City


Broken City

Many modern filmmakers attempt to recreate the atmosphere and tone of film noir. Some succeed and many more fail. Allen Hughes' first solo effort Broken City is a middle-of-the-road noir. Rough dialogue and an obvious set of twists make for an overlong trip into familiar territory.

Broken City begins with a city in turmoil. Officer Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is on trial for shooting a perpetrator who was recently released on a technicality for raping a young girl. After being exonerated by the court officer, Taggart is summoned to appear before Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Commissioner Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright). These two men have come into possession of evidence that would incriminate Taggart in the shooting. They soon convince Taggart to resign from the police force.

We flash forward seven years. Taggart is now working as a private investigator with a cash-flow problem. Conveniently, Mayor Hostetler summons him to his office with a job of his own: the investigation of his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones). As can be expected in noir style films, things do not go as planned. The rest of the movie is spent uncovering the various subterfuges, turns and twists common to these types of films.

Alamo South Lamar Memories: Closing with 'Chainsaw'


Alamo Drafthouse on South LamarTwo things for which the Austin, Texas film community is well known are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. The first is a legendary horror movie from 1974, made by a very independent Austin film community. The second is the theater chain that represents all that is exciting about film exhibition. Owned and operated by true film geeks, Alamo Drafthouse is a home away from home for movie lovers worldwide.

On January 3, these two worlds combined to celebrate the temporary closing of a cathedral of film worship: Alamo Drafthouse Galactic Headquarters, located on Austin's South Lamar Boulevard. 

Last month, the news spread that the Lamar theater would be closing for nine months (or thereabouts) for a massive remodel. Accompanying this closure would be an evening of kick-ass Drafthouse events on January 3, including special screenings of films like John Dies at the End, Pieta, Pretty in Pink, The Big Lebowski and ... drumroll please ... a double feature of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from 1974 and its most recent sequel, to be released in theaters the next day: Texas Chainsaw 3D. Not only would we be seeing these two movies, but TOBE FREAKING HOOPER (who co-wrote and directed the original film) would be in attendance.

I had to be there! A few days later, tickets went on sale and I managed to score seats for this epic event.

I arrived at the theater an hour early to hang out with friends and see what the Drafthouse had cooked up. True to form, the Drafthouse crew had set up a photobooth with props and costumes. We had a little fun with this:

Alamo South Lamar Memories: Fantastic Fest 2008


Fantastic Fest 2008I moved to Austin from Seattle a little over four years ago. Before I moved to Austin I made sure of one thing: Did Austin have any decent film festivals? Seattle has one of the best  festivals in the country and I didn’t want to go without that annual experience. After some quick research I found SXSW and the Austin Film Festival. Check and check! My high (in my mind) standard was met. 

Along with some great film festivals, Austin houses one of the best theatre chains in the US of A: Alamo Drafthouse! As an avid moviegoer it took me all of five seconds to recognize the greatness of this theatrical experience. I think I watched five or six movies at the Drafthouse before actually moving here. 

On one my many visits to the South Lamar theater in 2008, I noticed a blurb in the monthly guide advertising something called Fantastic Fest. I did a little digging and came up with one reaction: HELL YA! This is THE type of festival I wanted to attend. So I ponied up for a badge and a few short weeks later I experiences filmic bliss.

I was exposed to some of the coolest films in all of mankind! I watched Let the Right One In, Repo: The Genetic Opera, Donkey Punch, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Treevenge, Tokyo Gore Police, The Wreck, Not Quite Hollywood and many many others. I was also introduced to the mania that is Nacho Vigalondo (come to Fantastic Fest to see him in person). The festival was insane and I felt right at home. And over the years Fantastic Fest has become a real home with real family to me.

Review: This Is 40


This Is 40

Viagra, flatulence, misbehaving children, troubled businesses, aging parents -- this list could describe late-night infomercial topics, but for our purposes it describes the litany of topics brought to the fore in this winter's charming comedy This Is 40 from filmmaker Judd Apatow.

This Is 40 explores the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), two characters we met in Apatow's 2007 hit comedy Knocked Up. Pete and Debbie are a typical suburban couple with a house, two precocious young daughters, a pair of struggling businesses, difficult relationships with aging parents ... and life clocks striking 12 on that most dreaded age: 40!

The film starts in the bedroom where Pete and Debbie are about to have "relations" when Pete confesses to Debbie his recent ingestion of Viagra. Oops! Debbie has a negative reaction to this and conflict begins. The story then proceeds to take us through the successes and difficulties of the couple's complicated lives. Pete's record company is experiencing difficulties, his father is a drain on family resources and he is afraid of admitting failures to his wife. Debbie is experiencing similar difficulties. One of her business's employees is stealing from her, her relationship with her father is strained at best and worst of all: She is turning 40. The movie is spent dealing with the realities of life, accompanied by some good heartfelt laughs.

Review: Hitchcock



One of the greatest horror films of all time is Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Just a few short months ago I hadn't seen this classic movie. I wrote up my experience watching it for Horror's Not Dead: Sins of Omission: Psycho. Little did I know then that a biopic was being filmed that would document the process of making this classic film. The biopic is called Hitchcock, and it opens in Austin theaters today.

Possessing a great cast and strong story, Hitchcock tells the story of Alfred Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and the difficulty they experienced bringing Psycho to the big screen. While still under contract to Paramount Studios, one of Hitchcock's assistants brings a book to the director's attention: Robert Bloch's Psycho. Psycho is a fictional story based loosely on the life of the infamous serial killer Ed Gein. Soon after reading the book, Hitchcock decides it will be the foundation for his next film. When Paramount refuses to finance the film, Hitchcock decides to produce the film himself. After the director mortgages his house, production begins. The remainder of the movie is spent with Hitchcock as he's producing, casting, shooting and ultimately promoting his horror masterpiece.

The performances delivered by the film's lead actors are remarkable. Anthony Hopkins delivers a perfect representation of one of the world's greatest and most well known directors. Accompanying Hopkins on his journey are Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. Mirren plays Hitchcock's wife and uncredited film making partner Alma Reville, and Scarlett Johansson plays Psycho's lead actress Janet Leigh. Both of these actresses deliver amicable performances in their respective roles.

Review: Red Dawn


Red Dawn 2012

Every generation has their boogeyman and these boogeymen often inspire the types of films being made. Films like Godzilla and Them were created because of our fear of The Bomb. Movies like Psycho and Easy Rider were reflections on our distrust of The Man or "our fellow man."

Then came the 1980s, a time of reflection for our decade about the time spent fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. Two films stand out: Red Dawn and Platoon. Platoon was a reflection of the hardship inflicted on the soldiers during the Vietnam conflict. Preceding Platoon by two years was Red Dawn. The 1984 film asked a question: What would happen if our country was invaded by a superior force, this force being the Soviet Union? The Viet Cong would be replaced with a bunch of high-school kids.

Here in 2012, the contemporary remake Red Dawn is a superficial representation about what would happen should another country -- in this case North Korea -- invade the United States. 

Set in Spokane, Washington, the story centers around two brothers, Jed and Matt Eckert. Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is a Marine, home on leave after tours of duty in Afghanistan. Matt (Josh Peck) is Jed’s younger brother and quarterback of his high-school football team, the Wolverines. As the invasion begins, Jed, Matt and a small group of their friends escape the battle and head for the hills surrounding Spokane.

Review: Lincoln


You all know the story of Abraham Lincoln. Born and raised in a log cabin -- shopkeeper, lawyer, U.S. Representative, Senator and finally 16th President of the United States of America. Lincoln's presidency was full of historic events: Prior to his inauguration, the South seceded. Within months of his inauguration, the Civil War begins and Lincoln is tasked with prosecuting a war to keep our young country intact. After winning a second term in a landslide, Lincoln begins the task that will define his presidency and our country's future: the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Steven Spielberg's newest film Lincoln recreates the tumultuous time when the 13th Amendment was proposed, argued and finally passed by the both houses of Congress. Lincoln takes you to a time you think you know, but probably do not.

The movie does a faithful job of creating the world of mid-19th-century Washington, D.C. -- a crowded and dirty city, highly appropriate for the dirty business that is lawmaking. This is a city with rutted roads, slathered in mud occupied by people comfortable lying (literally and figuratively) in it. An appropriate setting for the passage of one of the most controversial amendments. The atmosphere for this film is a pillar of its success, it is immersive.

Review: The Oranges


The Oranges

There is an old saying: "Show me a family, and I will show you dysfunction." Human beings living in close proximity are a formula for dysfunction, and The Oranges kicks open locked doors so we can take a look at this ailment firsthand.

The Oranges tells the story of two families, the Wallings and the Ostroffs, across-the-street neighbors in the small suburban town of Orange, New Jersey. One holiday season Nina Ostroff (Leighton Meester) returns home after a rough breakup with her fiancé and is thrown into the fetid routine she tried to escape. Almost immediately, Nina's mother attempts to set her daughter up with the dashing Toby Walling (Adam Brody). Things don't go as planned with Toby, and Nina finds herself falling for the head of the Walling clan, David Walling (Hugh Laurie). This is where a new level of dysfunction is reached. This "Lolita"-like relationship threatens to break apart decades of marriage and close friendships. We have The Oranges.

Fantastic Fest Review: Frankenweenie



Fantastic Fest is an eight-day feast of genre film. Some films are the meat course and others are dessert. The opening-night movie at this year's festival, Frankenweenie, is a flavorful appetizer. With this animated feature, Tim Burton has recaptured the whimsical mojo that he exhibited with his seminal film Beetlejuice.

Frankenweenie is the story of young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky. Early in the film, Sparky is run over by a car, sending Victor into a tailspin. But in science class the next day, his teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) demonstrates the effect of electricity on a recently deceased frog. Victor is inspired! Armed with a potential solution to return his dog from the grave, Victor concocts his own science project. Victor digs up Sparky, sets up a lab in his home's attic and waits for a lightning storm. His wishes come true -- after receiving a high voltage charge, Sparky is reanimated.

Review: End of Watch


End of Watch

David Ayer is the master of creating movies that explore the seedy underworld of police corruption. Ayer’s genesis of Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day was genius enough to help Denzel Washington win an Academy Award. With End of Watch, Ayer takes us on an exploration of the white-hat side of law enforcement -- we get to hang out with the good guys this time.

End of Watch follows the life of Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), two run-of-the-mill beat cops who patrol one of the rougher neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Taylor and Zavala find themselves in the crosshairs of a Mexican drug cartel after they arrest one of its members transporting narcotics and firearms. 

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