Rod Paddock's blog

Fantastic Fest Interview: Eric Vespe and Aaron Morgan, 'No Way Out'

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Aaron Morgan and Eric Vespe

Claustrophobia? Check. Dark rooms? Check. Things that go bump in the night? Check. A crazed gentleman in excruciating pain? Check! If you checked of any of those items, you definitely need to see the short film No Way Out, staring AJ Bowen, at this year's Fantastic Fest.

I recently had the opportunity to screen the movie and discuss it with local filmmakers Aaron Morgan and Eric Vespe. We chatted over tacos and queso at Austin's famous institution Torchy's Tacos.

Slackerwood: How did you two meet?

Aaron Morgan: I used to host touring short film festivals with Atom Films back in 2000. One of the places I did the short film fest was at the original Alamo on Colorado. I'd been a fan of Eric's writing on Aint it Cool for a while and I invited him out to watch the short films.

Review: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

This summer has been crowded with remakes and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is no exception. Unfortunately, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is not really that exceptional either. I am not saying it's a bad film, but I am also not saying it's a great film either. The movie has interesting moments with an abundance of horror movie cliches thrown in.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a remake of a 1973 made-for-television movie of the same name, directed by Troy Nixey with a script from Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins. The story revolves around our protagonist Sally (10-year-old Bailee Madison), who is shipped off to live in a centuries-old estate with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and stepmother Kim (Katie Holmes).

It doesn't take long for Sally to find out why you should be afraid of the dark. The estate is not inhabited by just Sally and her parents -- the estate's basement (more about that in minute) is also inhabited by creatures I would describe as gremlins. And these are not the cutesy mischievous gremlins we met in the 1984 Joe Dante film, these are nasty little creatures and you will be freaked out when they appear onscreen. You will be further freaked out when you see what ends these little creatures will go to in order to achieve their goal, harassing Sally.

Review: The Whistleblower

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The Whistleblower

If you have any sense of humanity, the movie The Whistleblower will piss you off. It will not piss you off in the sense that it is a bad movie. It will piss you off because The Whistleblower shines a light very brightly on mankind's inhumanity. And by inhumanity, I am talking about sex trafficking and slavery.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, a war raged in the region known as Bosnia Herzegovina. What was initially a territorial war eventual became a bitter and horrific conflict between the Serbs and Croats and included numerous atrocities including genocide, ethnic cleansing and the rape of numerous women and children. The Whistleblower is set after the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the conflict.

The Whistleblower stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovak, a female police officer who moves to Bosnia to serve as a UN peacekeeper. When Kathryrn arrives in Bosnia she finds herself enmeshed in a corrupt, testosterone-ruled world. She finds local police officers who neglect their duties, she finds leaders who ignore obvious abuses right under their noses ... Kathryn basically discovers wolves guarding the sheep. The worst thing she finds is rampant sex trafficking and slavery of young girls.

Robert Rodriguez Reveals Upcoming Projects at Comic-Con

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Robert Rodriguez

On Thursday afternoon, Robert Rodriguez took the stage of the infamous Hall H at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con with a plethora of announcements, and I was fortunate enough to be there to hear them all. The Austin filmmaker started his panel with an overview of a number of projects in varying states of development.

The first project he mentioned was the imminent release Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Rodriguez spent time explaining Smell-o-vision -- a scratch-and-sniff card that's a throwback to gimmicks of John Waters and William Castle. He also took credit for reinvigorating 3D technology. I'm not so sure I'd list this as an accomplishment, but that is just one man's opinion.

In more exciting news, Rodriguez announced Troublemaker Studios is greenlit to make two sequels to the grindhouse classic Machete (Jette's review). These sequels will be named Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. Rodriguez joked that the last one would take place in outer space and will bring to the world (I paraphrase) "The first Mexican in space." Maybe he forgot Khan.

Review: Larry Crowne

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Larry Crowne

I love summer. I especially love the summer movie season. We go to the metroplex to watch films packed with cowboys, robots, aliens, wizards and superheroes. We go to escape from our reality. Finding quality films in this environment can be difficult but every once in awhile you find yourself seated in front of a true gem. For me this gem is a film called Larry Crowne.

Larry Crowne takes its name from its lead character, played by Tom Hanks. It opens with our protagonist being fired from his job at a Wal-Mart-like retailer. The reason: Larry lacks a college degree. Upon being fired, Larry re-evaluates his life and decides to explore returning to college via his local community college. While visiting the college, Larry is advised to him to take a couple of classes: speech and economics. The classes are taught by Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) and Dr. Matsutani (George Takei). Each of these actors brings their respective characters to life in unique and amusing ways.

Beer and Tacos with Critic-Turned-Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill

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Fantastic Fest 2007: Awards ceremony

2011 has been a banner year for local film writer C. Robert Cargill. Cargill, known to Ain't It Cool News readers as Massawyrm and to Spill.com readers as Carlyle, recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary at AICN. In even better news, the movie critic just signed a deal for the production of a screenplay he wrote.

A couple of weeks ago, we sat down for beer and tacos at Austin's famous Torchy's Tacos.

Slackerwood: How did you start writing?

Cargill: I wrote my first story when I was five. It was a Scooby Doo episode where I drew all of the pictures and wrote the story.

When I was 15, there was a girl that was kidnapped in San Antonio and this captivated the town for some time. At some point they found a suspect, a guy that had helped with the search. They raided his house, after which his name and picture were all over the news. Everyone was talking about him. They were talking about him as though he was guilty. It was a huge media circus. I all of 15 years old, asked myself how could they treat him like that. This really pissed me off. I wrote an editorial and sent it to both local newspapers. The following week, both newspapers printed it. That editorial was the first time my parents realized that I was serious about it [being a writer] and I got the first taste of being published. So I wrote a couple more letters to the editor, kept writing, went to college, studied philosophy and film and was always working on stuff.

Review: Everything Must Go

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Everything Must Go

When it comes to choice of roles, Will Ferrell and Tom Cruise share something in common. They regularly choose roles that are safe and play in a limited range. In a Tom/Will movie Tom is Tom and Will is Will. But every once in awhile they break from their self-created molds and pick roles that color outside of the lines. For  Cruise, the roles that color outside the lines include Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia and Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder. For Ferrell, the role of Nick Halsey in Everything Must Go is his departure from a typical Will Ferrell movie.

Nick Halsey is having a particularly bad day: Fired from his job, returns home to find all his worldly possessions strewn across the lawn ... and to add insult to injury, the locks to his house have been changed by his wife. But his misery doesn't stop there. I won't go into details. Let's just say that more bad stuff happens.

After these initial tragedies, Nick gets drunk on PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) Tall Boys and eventually crashes on the front lawn of his house in a recliner. Having nowhere else to go, he sets up shop on the front lawn. In a normal Will Ferrell movie this is the point where we get silly slapstick comedy laced with filler to take us to the next comedy skit. Not this time. Ferrell does a commendable job of showing the despair of a man that has just lost everything. He carries this emotional thread throughout the movie.

Kevin Smith Brings 'Red State' to Austin

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Kevin Smith in Austin

Filmmaker Kevin Smith is currently doing a national roadshow for his latest movie, Red State. Last night, I had the opportunity to catch the screening here in Austin at the Paramount. This is a must-see movie. The most difficult aspect of this movie is describing it. The movie has elements of a dark comedy mixed with intense action thriller sometimes bordering on horror. For what Smith claims to be his second-to-last movie, he has redefined himself.

Red State opens with three high-school boys setting off for a sexual encounter they've arranged via a swinger's website. This encounter takes them to a trailer in the woods inhabited by Sara Cooper, played by 2010 Academy Award winner Melissa Leo. It doesn't take long to learn that Sara is actually a wolf in sheep's clothing.

After consuming drug-laced beer, the boys find themselves prisoners of ultra conservative preacher Abin Cooper (brilliantly played by Michael Parks). Preacher Cooper is based on the real minister Fred Phelps, of the Westboro Baptist Church (better known as the church that likes to protest funerals). The initial scenes of these kids being imprisoned takes you immediately (almost jarringly) from a happy-go-lucky Porky's type adventure to the realization that these kids are in Deep Bandini.

SXSW Review: Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

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Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

I have a confession to make: I really enjoyed Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, a new documentary by director James Moll that played SXSW this year.

Foo Fighters: Back and Forth traces the story of the band Foo Fighters from their start in 1995 to the recording of their current album. For those of you who don't know the Foo Fighters, it's the band David Grohl founded after the tragic death of his Nirvana band mate and friend Kurt Cobain.

One of the things I really liked about this documentary was how the story was told. Where a lot of documentaries are told using narration, this documentary was told using interviews of current and former band members. I really liked hearing the stories of the band from the people that actually lived it. I can imagine that Moll's background doing interviews for the Shoah Project has something to do with this.

SXSW Review: Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times

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Page One

There could not have been a more timely documentary to show at SXSW 2011 than Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. The first three months of 2011 will go down as a major turning point in the worlds of social media, online news reporting and SEO (search engine optimization) and The New York Times seems to be at the center of it all in one way or another.

Page One shines a light on the difficulty of real news reporting in the world of media convergence and content aggregation. We see new media evangelists trumpet the demise of the "old media" while harvesting the old media's content for their own purposes. We see reporters work on pointed and difficult stories. We see how stories are crafted from ideas, carefully researched and turned into stories. We see the triumphs and the stark realities facing news organizations today. We see the reality of The New York Times in 2011.

Arguably the most compelling character in the story is David Carr. David is a well respected writer for The New York Times and former speaker at SXSW. Throughout the movie we see David defending the track record of The New York Times against new media upstarts. This movie takes us into the mind and process of a quality reporter who cares about getting stories right and does not shrink in the face of adversity. If The New York Times ever needed a defender, they definitely have their man in David Carr.

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