J.C. De Leon's blog

Review: My Week with Marilyn


My Week with Marilyn

Without a doubt Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic figures in American cinema. In fact, it's an injustice to limit the magnitude of her legend to just film. She was a star, plain and simple. Her presence would bring any man to his knees and falling in love with her wasn't even a choice, it was a certainty. To know her on that level is something very few people who are alive today can attest to, but My Week With Marilyn, based on memoirs by Colin Clark, gives us a glimpse at Marilyn the person, as well as the fragile and sensitive artist she really was. The movie opens today in Austin.

Clark was an avid film lover who came from a family of means. Despite his love of movies, he grew up working in the family business and had no business performing silly little jobs on film sets. But his tenacity and determination as a young man in 1956 landed him a job as a third assistant director on Laurence Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe. Despite his willingness to learn the craft of becoming a filmmaker, Clark was drawn to Marilyn in a way that many at that time were all too familiar with. She needed constant reassurance and praise, almost always had moments of self-doubt and couldn't be considered a reliable performer because of these issues.

But My Week with Marilyn isn't about how legendary the appeal of Marilyn Monroe was, it was about the effect she had on one man, and how her guard around him was, from his perspective, let down a bit. Michelle Williams does a great job portraying a side of Marilyn Monroe that I don't think anyone alive has ever seen. To play someone whose star power is that huge in such an intimate role takes talent and Williams really owns up to the task. It isn't enough to just look beautiful, or be able to sing and dance and talk like her, but to carry yourself with the kind of humility Marilyn had, while still being obviously aware of her star power ... and that's where the movie really steps up beyond a simple retelling of a week in someone's life. This might be the only time this side of Marilyn Monroe has ever been written and fans of hers owe it to themselves to get to know her on this level.

Old Murder House Theatre Re-Creates 'Aliens' ... On Ice


Old Murder House TheatreA very lucky few people in Austin have seen very unique renditions of movies like Home Alone, Die Hard and Robocop. Those few who've witnessed The Old Murder House Theatre and their hilarious brand of comedy can attest to seeing something they won't soon forget. Well, their next act is no different.

If you're reading this, it must mean you love movies, and chances are you at the very least tolerate the classic sci-fi film Aliens. As great as it would be for them to perform their usual prop driven comedy on a stage as they usually do, they're stepping up their game and taking this act not to a stage, but to a rink. That's right, Aliens On Ice. I'll say it again because it's just that damn good: Aliens On Ice. You can catch this production next weekend at the north location of Chaparral Ice.

The Old Murder House Theatre is headed by local actor Sam Eidson, whom you might have seen in Austin films such as My Sucky Teen Romance and Natural Selection. You might recognize some of the other cast and crew involved too.

We've reprinted the press release about the show below ... followed by some videos from the troupe that you won't want to miss.

Support Local Filmmakers' 'Three Day Journey'


Chris Todd

Local production company Rocket Crab Films (director Chris Todd pictured above) are throwing a special benefit screening of classic Austin movie Dazed and Confused on Wednesday, November 9 at 10 pm at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Rocket Crab is raising funds to shoot a short film that they hope will ultimately lead to a full-length feature based on the short.

Here's a synopsis of the short film Three Day Journey, a Western, from writer Patrick Palmer:

"Judah is dying. Stricken with tuberculosis, he has little time left on this earth. Judah has tasked Luther, his only real friend, with ending his life early sparing him the pain of his debilitating illness.

AFF Review: Butter



Similar to the way butter can sometimes be that last thing to transform a recipe of seemingly unrelated ingredients into a delicious meal, writer Jason Micallef's script for Butter manages to bring together a diverse cast and even sometimes puts them in unfamiliar territory to create a uniquely original and hilarious comedy. On paper this might not sound like a movie that could possibly work, but it does, and it does it with gusto. Butter is straight up one hell of a hilarious film.

Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) carves butter. Not much more to him than that, he leads a simple life making amazing carvings out of butter and he couldn't be happier. His wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) loves the privileges and fame that come from being Mrs. Bob Pickler, wife of a champion butter sculpter. But after 15 years of being the gold standard when it comes to butter carving, Bob is encouraged to let someone else try to achieve the buttery glory. This does not please Laura.

Meanwhile, we are treated to wonderful narration by a little orphan girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) whose life experiences have made her quite the noble philosopher. She's seeking her place in life and when she's adopted by a couple in the same town as the Picklers, she might have finally found her calling.

Review: Anonymous



"To be or not to be?" might be regarded as one of the greatest questions ever asked. But the topic raised on whether or not William Shakespeare actually wrote the words credited to him might be a better question, according to the film Anonymous. Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) takes a break from showcasing all of the ways our world could come to an end by directing a movie that offers up a theory that could very well shatter the world of many an aspiring writer and/or playwright. Anonymous is a very well acted film, and if you're a fan of Shakespeare, it does put the viewer in the shoes of those who first witnessed plays written by ... well, I suppose whomever they might have been written by.

Anonymous opens in the present day, on a Broadway show where a lone man stands onstage and ponders the question of whether  Shakespeare wrote the words attributed to him. He offers evidence such as the lack of actual historical manuscripts as proof that the question is a legitimate one.

We're then transported to the time in which we know Shakespeare lives. This is a time in which a play that might offer up a sarcastic word about the royalty of the country or others who may be in charge could be considered seditious, and the playwrights would be arrested on sight. On one occasion, the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) witnesses a rather impressive play and he bails out the writer but offers a condition -- he will allow this writer to put his name on his manuscripts so someone will get to witness them. As it turns out, the plays are amazing, and jumping on an opportunity, an illiterate actor named William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) steps in to accept credit from an adoring crowd.

AFF Review: Austin High


Austin High

Sometimes it can be a gift and a curse being a movie geek living in this great town of Austin, Texas. We do things our own way, we're weird, and we embrace that fact with open arms while the red counties look in cautiously at our liberal nature. We make films here. Sometimes they're awesome and sometimes they're not. Usually though, they fall in between. Austin High is one of those in-between films, and it's the type of movie most people in Austin will love, but others who don't "get it" won't really grasp and will therefore shun the film.

Austin High is a film that could be great. It's got funny moments, a good story, effortlessly good performances ... but as a film overall, it might be a little too Austin.

Samuel Wilson (Michael S. Wilson) is the principal of the high school he attended while growing up in here in Austin, Lady Bird High. Although he's grown up to become an adult who helps mold the minds of the future's youths, he still likes to get high with his buddies. Yeah, they're the same buddies he got high with in high school and they still meet up in the same spot to toke up in the morning.

Review: The Thing


The Thing

There's a funny thing about 2011's The Thing. A few things, actually. It's funny that the film is almost a carbon copy of its original, which itself was a remake of another film. Yeah, this is essentially a remake of a remake. Though it's marketed as a prequel, and we'll finally get to see what exactly happened to the Norwegians whose station lay abandoned in John Carpenter's class film from 1982, The Thing is still pretty much exactly the same movie from 1982. It's funny how when a movie like this is almost an exact replica of its original how much it makes that film almost unwatchable, but it does. If this film had any other name, it might have been an all right standalone horror film, but The Thing burdens itself with the weight of its predecessor, and it collapses under all that pressure.

During a routine expedition in Antarctica, a group of Norwegians come across a remarkable discovery, something that has never been seen before by human eyes. The man in charge of the expedition seeks out Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young but surely experienced paleontologist. Upon arriving in Antarctica, it's clear that this is no normal discovery, but once they get their find back to camp, strange things start happening to the crew.

Review: Weekend



We've all seen love stories that make us wish we had the chance to be as happy as all of the beautiful people on the magnificent big screen. Often times the stories are cheesy, way too impossible to ever happen, or simply too perfect to ever happen to anyone, much less you. Andrew Haigh's film Weekend tells a (sort of) love story between two guys over who meet over a weekend hookup in October in England. It's a seemingly honest look at a burgeoning relationship between two gay men and the issues and/or topics that come up for discussion as they contemplate going public.

Russell (Tom Cullen) goes out to a gay club one night after hanging out with his straight friends and he catches the eye of Glen (Chris New). Fast forward to the next morning where Glen very enthusiastically wants to chat about the night they just shared, while Russell is very sheepish about it.

Review: Fireflies in the Garden


Fireflies in the Garden

On a surface level, Fireflies in the Garden looks like a film that could easily be ignored amongst the myriad of options that filmgoers have to choose from. Cheesy tagline, a poster reminiscent of a Lifetime Channel movie, and Ryan Reynolds with a beard, which means he'll be serious and not that funny. As life should have taught us all by now, you never judge a book by its cover and Fireflies in the Garden is a good example why. Illustrating the sad and unfortunate way that life has a tendency of being when it shows a family what's really important, this film examines how one family deals with the pain of a sudden loss -- the loss of the one piece of the family that didn't deserve to leave in the first place.

Michael Taylor (Reynolds) is a famous author on a plane to visit his home for his sister's college graduation. In between consciousness on the plane, he flashes back to his childhood to a memory where his father Charles (Willem Dafoe) is berating him for "being so God-damned smart," while his mother Lisa (Julia Roberts) coddles and defends Michael. On the way to celebrate the graduation of their daughter Ryne (Shannon Lucio), Michael's cousin Christopher is playing in the street and when Charles swerves to miss, they run into a pole instantly killing Lisa. This causes a rift in the family bigger than the rift between Michael and Charles.

Review: Straw Dogs


Straw Dogs

As horror/thriller film fans, we must come to grips with the fact there will be remakes. There will be remakes of widely known horror movies, and there will even be remakes of the some of the more obscure films that we may hold more dear than the iconic films of the genre. It's always a pleasant surprise when these remakes turn out to be pleasant surprises that provide a fresh perspective and added nuances to the originals. It doesn't happen often nearly enough.

Straw Dogs, directed and co-written by Rod Lurie, is an example of a remake that is not a pleasant surprise, and that is a fact that shouldn't come as a surprise to any of the original Peckinpah classic film's fans. Not overall terrible, but when something like this is remade and is simply a halfway decent thriller with a bit of a misguided focus, why remake it in the first place?

David Sumner (James Marsden) and his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) move to Amy's hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi where David can have some peace and quiet to work on his next screenplay and Amy can get back in touch with her roots. Tensions rise as some of the locals around town, particularly Charlie (Alexandar Skarsgard) and his group of cronies, begin to express their displeasure at David's unfamiliarity with the area.

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