Matt Shiverdecker's blog

Movies This Week: January 10-16, 2014



It was a a real pleasure to see Godard's Breathless last weekend on the big screen thanks to the Austin Film Society. Their Godard vs. Truffaut series continues this weekend with Truffaut's New Wave classic The 400 Blows. Screening in glorious 35mm, it plays this evening and again on Sunday afternoon. AFS also is hosting Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer (Elizabeth's preview) as a Doc Night pick on Sunday evening and a 35mm print of 2003's The Return for their Essential Cinema series of contemporary Russian films on Thursday night. All screenings take place at the Marchesa. 

The Alamo Ritz has 35mm screenings of Scorsese's Raging Bull as part of their Alamo 100 series on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. Unrelated to the AFS series, the Ritz also has Godard's Masculin Feminin playing on Monday night in 35mm as part of a double feature with Erotissimo for their Pop.Art.Film series. The Alamo 100 brings Charlie Chaplin's City Lights to the Slaughter Lane location on Saturday with Terry Gilliam's Brazil screening on Sunday. Not to be outdone, the new Alamo Lakeline has a special Afternoon Tea presentation of Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility on Sunday afternoon. 

University of Texas radio-television-film alumnus Scott Harris brings his documentary Being Ginger to town Monday night with a special Tugg screening. Focusing on a red headed man's quest for love, there are still a handful of tickets available here. Funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the director will be on hand afterwards for a Q&A. 

Movies This Week: January 3-9, 2014



The new year may be here, but new movies are not. January is typically a dead zone for anything other than big studios burying genre pictures while rolling out potential Oscar nominees across the country. This weekend, there is only one new release and it's pretty strictly for horror fans. Everybody else should look into the amazing specialty screenings we've got on hand over the next week and maybe make a run to Vulcan Video or I Luv Video to ease into 2014 from the comfort of your couch. 

You don't want to stay at home all weekend, because then you'd miss some very special local bookings. The Austin Film Society is launching a "Godard vs. Truffaut" series with Godard's Breathless (pictured at top) this weekend at the Marchesa. It screens in 35mm tonight and again on Sunday afternoon. I don't know why you'd want to take sides in this battle, but if you're new to these classics of the French New Wave, you need to check out several films before making up your mind. AFS will alternate between the two directors every weekend through the end of February. They've also got a new Essential Cinema series showcasing the last 20 years of Russian cinema. On Thursday night, you can see 2004's The Rider Named Death in a 35mm print, also at the Marchesa.

Per usual, the Alamo Ritz has some great programming gems to offer us. Raiders Of The Lost Ark is playing in 35mm tonight, tomorrow and again on Wednesday as part of the new "Alamo 100" series. Another new series called "Pop! Art! Film!" debuts with a double feature on Monday night with Batman: The Movie in 35mm paired with a digital screening of Who Wants To Kill Jessie? The theater is also paying tribute to the late Peter O'Toole with 70mm screenings of Lawrence Of Arabia tonight, tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

Movies This Week: 2013 Year-End Edition


  The Wolf Of Wall Street

We may not have any snow in Austin, but there's a cinematic avalanche at area theaters this week and it rolls through to the end of the year. Honestly, I think the studios are pushing way too many titles into the marketplace for the holidays and a few of these wide releases are going to fall victim to pure audience apathy (I'm looking at you, Walter Mitty).

There's a lot to cover, so I'm just going to break down what is out this week and what else will be opening on Christmas Day. If you've got some time off work in the next two weeks and want to head to the movies, we'll have reviews of almost all of these films that will be posting between now and next weekend. One thing's for sure, there's a little something for everyone.

If you want to see some holiday movies in a theater, various Alamo Drafthouse locations are showing It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and a quote-along version of Elf. Alamo Kids Camp returns for the holidays with several family-friendly selections, most notably Hugo. (So your kids can enjoy some Scorsese this season too.) And on Dec. 30, to get you in a New Year's Eve mood, Alamo Ritz's "Cinema Cocktails" series continues with The Hudsucker Proxy. (You know, for kids.) Blue Starlite Drive-in also has some holiday favorites and other crazy double-features before finishing off its winter season at the end of the month.

Now Open In Austin

American Hustle -- David O. Russell hasn't wasted any time between awards seasons. After earning raves for Silver Linings Playbook, he returns with the unlikely true(ish) story of a con man and his seductive partner forced into participating in an FBI sting operation to bring down a bunch of public officials. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are all uniformly excellent in this surprisingly funny story, but it remains to be seen if it will be able to beat the 8 Oscar nominations Playbook picked up last year. Don has our review and he really enjoyed it, although he ultimately feels that it's "a triumph of style over substance." (wide)

Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


Anchorman 2

Even though my boyfriend commonly jokes, "Which movie are you going to make me read tonight?", my arthouse leanings are generally no match for Will Ferrell. Sometimes all I want to do is turn my mind off for a few hours and laugh at pure idiocy. If Ferrell is the star of a movie, I'm pretty much a sucker for it. When I was offered the chance to see and review Anchorman 2, I leapt at the opportunity, much to the chagrin of said boyfriend. 

It's been almost a decade since we first met Ron Burgundy. Early in this long-awaited sequel, Ron and his wife Victoria (Christina Applegate) split up after she is offered a network anchor position instead of him. After hitting rock bottom, Ron is approached by an upstart network called GNN that's preparing to launch a 24-hour news channel. He goes on a cross-country trip to put his old news team back together for GNN, but they become disheartened to learn that they're relegated to a 2-5 am shift. After a confrontation with GNN's primetime anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden), Ron makes a bet and eventually becomes the network's most successful anchor, avoiding actual news and filling his time slot with animal stories and live car chases. 

Movies This Week: December 13-19, 2013



It's a relatively light weekend for new releases, with most area theaters stacking up screens for the multiple formats of the new Hobbit adventure. In the weeks ahead, things should pick up considerably as we sail full-steam ahead into year-end prestige titles for awards season. 

If you're looking for holiday classics, the Paramount has 35mm screenings of White Christmas and Meet Me In St. Louis playing on Sunday and Monday. The Austin Film Society has a much darker holiday offering at the Marchesa with Zach Clark's White Reindeer on Saturday night. This new release from IFC Films won raves at SXSW earlier this year and lead actress Anna Margaret Hollyman will be in attendance for a Q&A.

Speaking of dark, AFS also is bringing the new film from Claire Denis to town this weekend. Bastards (pictured above) is an unsettling story of betrayal and sexual intrigue with a final shot that made my jaw drop. Featuring an amazing score by Tindersticks, it plays at the Marchesa tonight, Sunday and again on Tuesday. Neil Jordan's 1982 debut film Angel plays for Essential Cinema on Thursday evening. This film is difficult to come by stateside and is a part of the "First Wave Of Irish Cinema" series.

Review: Out Of The Furnace


Out Of The FurnaceScott Cooper transitioned from small-time actor into big-time director when his debut film Crazy Heart earned Jeff Bridges a Best Actor Oscar in 2009. It has taken five long years for his follow-up film, Out of the Furnace, to be made and released -- and that was partially due to Cooper's insistence that Christian Bale play the lead role of Russell Baze, a long time steel miner in rural Pennsylvania struggling to make the best out of his life. 

Russell has a beautiful girlfriend named Lena (Zoe Saldana) and works hard to make the lives of those around him better, checking in on his ailing father every morning before work and bailing his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) out of his gambling debts even though he doesn't really have the money. Rodney has been on four tours to Iraq and has no interest in following in his brother's footsteps of working for a living. He's always on the hunt for a quick buck, teaming up with a local bar owner (Willem Dafoe) who specializes in underground bare-knuckle fights to make enough cash to stay afloat. 

On the way home from paying off some of Rodney's debts, Russell drives home from the bar after having one too many and gets into an accident, killing two people. As he goes off to jail, his life slowly begins to slip away from him. His father's health gets worse, his girlfriend refuses to see him and his brother goes further and further off the deep end. While we aren't shown exactly how many years he's incarcerated, the world that Russell returns to after he is released from prison is far different than it was when he went away. 

There is an artful slow-burn to the filmmaking on display here, but Out Of The Furnace shows that no matter how many talented actors you have, some stories just can't be redeemed. It's just not very original and even though Relativity is doing a full-court press for awards season, it's hard to imagine this revenge thriller gaining much traction.

The best thing about the movie, quite surprisingly, is Woody Harrelson. He gives a frightfully good performance as the ringleader of an Appalachian crime syndicate who spends his days violating women, cooking up meth and throwing fights so that he can make as much money as possible. He's pure evil personified, but even this gritty role (which kicks off the movie in a disturbingly violent way) doesn't save Out of the Furnace from feeling like something we've seen a million times before. 

Movies This Week: December 6-12, 2013


 The Punk Singer

If you're getting in the Christmas spirit, you'll want to head over to the Paramount on Sunday for 35mm screenings of Love Actually. They've got two afternoon matinee showings. If that doesn't work for you, it's also a Girlie Night booking at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Tuesday, but that appears to be a digital screening (for those of you, like me, who care about such things). 

Speaking of the Ritz, they've got a Kung Fu Double Feature on Sunday night from the American Genre Film Archive, Richard Donner's Superman in 35mm on Monday and Sweet Smell Of Success on Wednesday night. If you've got six hours to spare on Thursday evening, they're also showing a double feature of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug in 35mm. If you want to forgo the high frame rate/IMAX/3D options, it's a rare opportunity to see new releases on film. 

The Austin Film Society continues its Jan Nemic series tonight with Pearls Of The Deep at the Marchesa. This collection of five short films from 1966 is "considered a manifesto of the Czechoslovak New Wave" according to the AFS program notes. AFS is also presenting a screening of Go For Sisters on Saturday night at the Alamo Slaughter Lane with John Sayles in attendance for a Q&A. Sayles will be back at the Marchesa on Sunday night for his 1987 film Matewan, in a brand new 35mm print struck by UCLA. This is your chance to ask questions of a master director whose work has helped to shape the independent film movement in the United States.

Review: Narco Cultura


Narco Cultura 

Director Shaul Schwarz examines the drug war in Mexico in the riveting and occasionally gruesome documentary Narco Cultura, opening Friday in Austin. Schwarz is an Israeli photojournalist who shot a series of images in 2011 on the violence erupting across Juarez, but decided the topic needed to be brought to life on the big screen. With this movie, he keeps the spotlight on Juarez, which has become the murder capital of the world while sitting directly across from the safety and relative security of El Paso, Texas.

What struck me right away about the film was the on-camera interviews with children, who could not be older than 10, talking about the murder of their family members as though it was the most common and natural thing in the world. Their day-to-day reality is skewed in an obscenely harmful way thanks to the drug syndicates who rule the streets. 

The violence in Juarez grew slowly, but steadily over the years with the murder rate eclipsing 3600 people last year alone. We are introduced to several police officers who work as the "C.S.I." of Mexico, a specialized unit that has been targeted by the drug lords. Every day they are on the job, they are taking the risk that they'll be killed, most likely to be followed on their way home after they leave the office. The irony is that for all of the evidence that they gather, there is such widespread corruption that the majority of cases are never solved. 

Movies This Week: November 27 - December 5, 2013



The Austin Film Society is taking a few days off for the holidays, but will return this weekend with a special series called "Jan Nemec: Rediscovered Treasures of the Czechoslovak New Wave." 2005's Toyen screens on Sunday night (December 1) while Diamonds Of The Night and A Loaf Of Bread play next Monday and Wednesday. All three titles are screening in rare 35mm prints. Meanwhile, the latest AFS Essential Cinema series on Irish cinema (our preview) screens 1995's Nothing Personal next Thursday. 

The Paramount is kicking off its annual Holiday Film Series with Elf on Sunday and a double feature of It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story next Wednesday. All films are screening in 35mm and there will be a few more titles in the weeks ahead. Check out Elizabeth's chat about the series with Paramount programmer Stephen Jannise.

The Alamo Drafthouse begins a new film series focused on journalism this Sunday and Tuesday with Citizen Kane at Slaughter Lane and Lakeline and Almost Famous on Tuesday at the VillageThe Ritz has 35mm screenings scheduled for Labyrinth (free, Alamo Kid's Club this Saturday), Ladies And Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains (on Monday night) and Zodiac (next Wednesday). 

Movies This Week: November 22-26, 2013


Kill Your Darlings

This is an abbreviated, pre-Thanksgiving edition of Movies This Week. While everything pretty much got out of the way of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this weekend, some new movies will open mid-week to take advantage of the holiday. As such, we're just going to cover what is playing over the next few days and then return on Wednesday with a new post so you can plan your moviegoing accordingly. 

The Austin Film Society only has one event lined up before the holidays and that is tonight's special presentation of The Unspeakable Act. It's happening at the AFS Screening Room and online ticketing closes at 3pm, so you'll want to plan ahead to attend.

The Alamo Ritz has a couple more screenings of To Kill A Mockingbird for their "Tough Ladies" series happening this Saturday and Sunday. On Monday night, you can catch a very rare screening of Taxi Zum Klo (also at the Ritz) for this month's installment of Homo Arigato and Anime fans will want to head to the Alamo Lakeline on Tuesday for a 25th anniversary celebration of Akira on the big screen, although you should be aware that the distributor is only providing the English-dubbed version. 

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