Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Red Mars Battle

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It's spring! Wildflowers are in bloom, and movie geeks of the world are at the end of their annual migration to central Texas for 10 days of film and fun. And oh, yeah, those other two conferences.  But there are a few other films opening in town this week.

Movies we've seen:

Battle Los Angeles -- The shock and awe right from frame one is exhaustingly effective, with chiseled-jaw Aaron Echkart as a Marine sergeant on the verge of retirement who finds himself up close and personal in an alien invasion. The battle scenes are intense but falters further off point every time it slows down. Look for Mike's review on Saturday. (wide)

Red Riding Hood-- Another fairy tale, this time with the hooded gal torn between suiters when something kills her sister. Can't quite muster up the interest in this one with SXSW upon us. Read Debbie's review for more. (wide)

Austin at SXSW 2011: Emily Hagins, 'My Sucky Teen Romance'

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Emily Hagins

Anywhere else but Austin, the idea of an 18-year-old veteran filmmaker would seem odd. Still months away from her high school graduation, Emily Hagins is the envy of many filmmakers with her third feature, My Sucky Teen Romance, world premiering at SXSW at the fest's biggest and most coveted venue, the Paramount.

If you’ve been living under a rock, or somewhere besides Austin, Hagins began her film career at the tender age of 11 or so when she penned her first script, for a zombie movie called Pathogen. That production ended up being the inspiration for the documentary Zombie Girl. Pathogen may not be available on Netflix, but it put Hagins on the radar of local film fans and the indie scene as someone to watch. She completed her second feature, The Retelling, in 2009.

Hagins met me for brunch at Olivia in South Austin, and with the gorgeous weather we were having, we enjoyed the meal outside in the sunshine. I have sunburn already; just because it's March in Austin doesn't mean you can go SPF-free, and I was reminded (ow). I was also reminded why Hagins is a talent to watch in the future. Read more and you'll probably end up agreeing with me.

SXSW 2011: Even More Austin Films, Thanks to AFS and Reel Women

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Slackerwood: Keir O'Donnell and Bradley Jackson on the set of 'The Man Who Never Cried'

I was going to do this big write-up about Austin films at SXSW, and Austin Film Society beat me to it on the Persistence of Vision blog. Thanks, Bryan, you did my work for me. Mosey on over there to see a comprehensive list of the Austin-connected films at SXSW this year.

Trying to pick which films to see from that list is hard, and I'm going to try to see them all, although I have to admit my personal favorite on that list is My Sucky Teen Romance, by Emily Hagins, which has such good buzz it's premiering at the Paramount. Watch this space for my interview with Emily over lunch at Olivia in South Austin this weekend. I unashamedly admit I’m not entirely objective, since I know Emily and quite a few people who worked on the film (not bragging, honest!) but when the SXSW film team chose the Paramount for very good reasons. It's Austin, indie, sending up pop culture, it's all good.

But wait! There's more! AFS announced the Austin Film Society ShortCase 2011, featuring AFS member shorts. If you aren't a festival veteran, you know that the shorts reels at Austin festivals are outstanding and SXSW is certainly no exception, and AFS isn't just a film appreciation society but an active association of filmmakers of all levels. This year's ShortCase includes The Man Who Never Cried, which you may remember Slackerwood's Debbie Cerda reviewed earlier this year. As I was researching this, I saw that Jackson worked on Script Cops, which played as bumpers for Austin Film Festival a few years ago. Hilarious stuff. Just remember that the shorts reels are very popular, so don't wait til the last minute to get to the venues when they play.

Movies This Week: Barney's Beastly Rango Bureau

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There are two ways to tell it's really spring in Austin, the first being our beloved bluebonnets a-blooming. The other, when thousands of people flock to Austin for one of the three SXSW conference/festivals. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves it's not just about film, but that's the most important one, right? Get ready, because the flock is returning in a week. In the meantime, there are a few movies opening in town this weekend.

Movies We've Seen:

The Adjustment Bureau -- Based on Philip K. Dick's cautionary tale Adjustment Team, about free will, this thriller is certainly well cast. But is it worth it? Elizabeth took a chance on it and her review tells us more. (wide)

Barney's Version -- Barney Panofsky takes a look back at his life in this Oscar-nominated film (for make-up) starring Paul Giamatti. It also earned Giamatti a Golden Globe. Read Don's review for more. (Arbor)

Beastly -- Apparently it's fairytale month, with Beastly opening today and Red Riding Hood next weekend. But just how beastly can Alex Pettyfer be? Not very. Read my review for more. (wide)

Rango -- Apparently this 3D animated comedy about a Wild West lizard is more for adults than kids, and has gotten lots of good buzz. I wish I hadn't been so busy prepping for SXSW to make an advanced screening, especially after reading Mike's review. (wide)

Review: Beastly

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It's dangerous to tempt fate, whether it's baiting a curse-hurling witch or titling a substance-versus-style plotted film "Beastly." In the case of the latter, it's all too tempting to hurl that invective right back at the movie. Unfortunately, it's too self-conscious to earn that moniker.

Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) stars as Kyle, the vicious, entitled scion ruling over the in-crowd at his prestigious prep school. It's good to be Kyle, or like him, and in his world if you're not like him, you're dumb and/or ugly. All too quickly he offends one of the outcasts who just happens to be a witch (Mary-Kate Olsen).

Beastly doesn't waste a lot of time before jumping into the story, or character development. After Kyle flaunts his position and power one too many times, Kendra (Olsen) curses Kyle to look as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside. Apparently Kyle isn't so ugly on the inside as he appears, as Beastly can't quite go beyond the realm of "pretty-ugly." Instead of making him hideous, he's actually more attractive (and interesting) with his stylish disfiguration. Even Kendra, who is called ugly, has a Lady Gaga freak-chic sensibility that is more likely to cause a fashion craze than it is to repel.

Photo Essay: 'A Splice of Life' in the Barbecue Capital of Texas

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Yes, we have another set visit for you. Jette and I braved the Texas highways to go all the way to Lockhart to visit the production of the latest Singletree Productions comedy, A Splice of Life. It was a tough drive, and Jette and I had to recuperate before getting to the set by stopping by Smitty's for some barbecue. So yeah, later on we had to explain why we smelled like smoke. It's like crack, but better. But that's not why we were there. No, we were there to see some moviemaking.

Movies This Week: Angry Oscar Robot Hall Nation

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It's finally here: Oscar weekend. Are you going to glam it up at aGLIFF's Red Carpet Bash with a live Oscar telecast? Will you head to The Highball for their "Hollywood party" (with a TXMPA gathering beforehand)? Or do you have private viewing plans? Come on, 'fess up and tell us how you celebrate the most popular short guy in Hollywood.

Movies We've Seen:

Drive Angry 3D -- Patrick Lussier may have last brought us My Bloody Valentine 3D, but he also brought us Red Eye. So is it worth it? Mike braved the traffic to find out just how angry Nic Cage is in this shot-in-not-retrofitted-to-3D actioner. Read Mike's review for more. (wide)

Oscar Shorts: Animated Program -- I haven't seen every one of these, but the one I have seen is worth full price just to see it's six minutes of perfection that is the short Day & Night, which premiered before Pixar's Toy Story 3 last year. Yah. That one. So you know you wanna see the rest of the Oscar-nominated animated delights screening in one program for your pleasure. (Alamo South Lamar)

Austin at SXSW 2011: Clay Liford's 'Wuss'

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Clay Liford

Congratulations to filmmaker Clay Liford, whose latest feature Wuss will have its world premiere in the Lone Star States category at SXSW 2011 next month.

Remember Clay? Last year at SXSW, My Blackberry Ate My Clay Liford Interview when I talked with him and producer Barak Epstein about Clay's cerebral science-fiction genre-crossing movie Earthling, and touched briefly on his 2008 short My Mom Smokes Weed. The man is batting a thousand -- getting two features into SXSW two years in a row is no mean feat. He spent a Sunday brunch at Olivia a couple of weeks ago chatting with Jette and me about his latest projects -- we all ate smoked gouda grits, and the Blackberry did not eat the interview this time.

As it happens, My Mom Smokes Weed star Nate Rubin plays the lead in Wuss. Rubin stars as Mitch, a high-school teacher who can't seem to escape the fate of the eponymous archetype the title implies, being repeatedly bullied by his own students until an unlikely alliance results in a "friendship that stretches the use of the word 'inappropriate'." Wuss also stars Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Chuck) and local actor/filmmaker Alex Karpovsky (Lovers of Hate, Tiny Furniture) among others.

Movies This Week: Get Another Sanctum Company Roommate

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I'm so happy that the celebrity groundhog predicts an early end to winter because this former Bostonian has had enough of frozen water pipes. Thankfully, there are plenty of good movies to watch, and several new ones -- plus one previously released -- have come to our local theaters, including two Oscar nominated films. We'll see more in the coming weeks as the arthouse films hit theaters outside of LA and NY, but we've plenty to see now.

Movies We've Seen:

Another Year (pictured above) --  Mike Leigh's character studies may be an actor's dream but they can be hit or miss for audiences. Personally, I loved Topsy Turvy and Vera Drake, but Happy-Go-Lucky left me cold. Still, I can't help but appreciate the alchemy of his casting and the sheer range of stories he brings to the big screen. Another Year focuses on a serenely married couple in the eye of the emotional storms around them in the course of a year. Leigh's script is up for an Original Screenplay Oscar. Read Don's review for more. (Arbor)

The Company Men -- John Wells (The West Wing, China Beach) has worked on so many outstanding television shows and films as writer and producer, his credentials seem impeccable. Unfortunately, this study of men at different levels in their careers who find themselves collateral damage in the current economic upheavals apparently was researched back in the 80s. As a veteran of "outplacement" in recent years, I know there are serious flaws in some of his plot devices. Read Jette's review for more on this AFF 2010 selection. (wide)

Get Low -- Last in theaters this fall, apparently Get Low's two Oscar nods for Robert Duvall and Bill Murray is getting more well-deserved attention and is back in a local theater for those of you on the north side of town. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Read my review for more on this tale of reputations and redemption. (Cinemark Round Rock)

Sanctum -- While being billed as "James Cameron's Sanctum," the director is actually Alister Grierson. This survival thriller is inspired by co-writer Andrew Wight's own experiences with cave diving. They couldn't resist putting a "what could go wrong" comment in the trailer that also makes sure you know it's filmed for 3D. Um, yah. Anyway, Mike braved the depths of an early screening so he can tell you more in his review. (wide)

And the Oscar Partiers Go to ... aGLIFF's Red Carpet Gala

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aGLIFF knows how to party. I know from experience: the crowds are fun, witty and very welcoming. So just imagine their annual Red Carpet Gala complete with a live Academy Awards telecast this year, so big it's moving to Austin Studios. If anyone can create celebrity sensation, aGLIFF's party planners can.

On Sunday, February 27, paparazzi, a red carpet and a champagne reception await you as the hostess with the mostest, Rebecca Havermeyer, will be on hand to greet you like the Austin celebrity you are. When you get to your private table, your waiter will be ready with some Oscar-themed cocktails, starting at 5:30 pm. Above, you can see Miz Havermeyer chatting up then-Austin filmmaker Kyle Henry, whose Fourplay: San Francisco short played aGLIFF 2010 with overwhelmingly positive reactions. (Henry's in Chicago now, but we still can't stop thinking of him as belonging to Austin.)

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