Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Biutiful Prada Mechanic Inside Rite


Oscar season is finally here. And now you can see, or see again -- some of the nominated films. And Lemmy is doing well enough that it's moving from Lamar over to the Village through Feb. 3, so catch it while you can.

Movies We've Seen:

Biutiful -- Deliberately slow, Alejandro González Iñárritu's "road to redemption" tale features the always watchable Javier Bardem. And yes, it's nominated for Outstanding Foreign Language Film (Mexico -- even though the story takes place in Spain). Read my review for more.

Inside Job (pictured above) -- When Oscar nods, films that have already left the cineplexes suddenly find themselves back in theaters, and Inside Job is no exception. This is the type of documentary that just may change your attitude about the shell game companies and governments play with money. So if you have been ostriching over the apparently rather avoidable $20,000,000,000,000 global disaster that no natural disaster can top, this is your opportunity to catch up. it's also a great "hub" film for several other recent documentaries that dive deeper into some of the tangents. If you have ever invested, or bought a house, this is one doc you must see. I didn't catch this until the "For Your Consideration" screener arrived in December, but I'm definitely glad I saw it.

The Mechanic -- Remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film of the same name and co-starring Jan-Michael Vincent, director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) takes an updated version of Lewis John Carlino's script and uses Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland, and the always watchable Ben Foster and let's them take on the action tale featuring professional assassins hell-bent on revenge. Read Debbie's review to find out more.

Review: Biutiful



Believe it or not, early in his career Javier Bardem was known for his smouldering good looks, and not his outstanding performances; he didn't even get credited for being in No News From God (an underrated gem of a film starring Penelope Cruz). In the last decade, that's all changed, and his latest Oscar-nominated performance in Biutiful is no exception, a movie seemingly made for someone who can entrance an audience just by his presence.

Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams) has a penchant for examining the less glamorous aspects of the human condition and finding incredible beauty in it, in the send of a flower that forces its way through cracked pavement to produce a small, startling bloom.

In Biutiful, Uxbal (Bardem) is a man doing what he can to care for his family, a middle man on the edge of legality and realities. Uxbal sees what most of us don't: people struggling to make a living in sweatshops, selling knockoffs on the street, and even the souls of the recently passed. He makes a living from those he tries to help, and the irony does not quite competely escape him. When Uxbal gets unwelcome news, it seems every decision in his life is coming back to haunt him, from helping the employers of illegal immigrants find work, to his schizophrenic ex trying to return to the family she abandoned.

A Unique 'Food Design' Mini-Feast at Alamo


If you ever thought it was just the American food industry that was mercenary about marketing and selling food, think again.  Apparently it's no different in Europe. 

Earlier this week Edible Austin and Austin Museum of Art teamed up with Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar for a mini-feast and dialogue on Food Design, a 2009 Austrian documentary about the science behind food marketing and commercial research.  And in under 40 minutes, chefs John Bullington and Chris Kincaid (pictured above) managed to send out three courses with five separate preparations on each, making the film an interactive experience.

Pictured above are the chefs plating the first course; despite the poor quality of the picture you can get a sense of the frenetic pace they kept to keep the food moving.  And while we didn't see any of the courses in full light save the first and most monochromatic,  the fact we couldn't really see the food enhanced the tasting experience. it was quite a learning experience all the sensations of each different preparation.

Movies This Week: Lemmy Strings Back Somewhere



This weekend, Austin Film Society's Bryan Poyser finds out if his second nomination for a Spirit Award means he needs an acceptance speech. Poyser wrote and directed Lovers of Hate, which is up for the prestigious Cassavetes Award. I'm fully in the "honor just to be nominated" camp, but I would love to see Poyser and the film get more exposure and recognition. But in the meantime, there are new movies coming out this week.

Movies We've Seen:

No Strings Attached -- Going from an Aronofsky masterpiece to an Ashton Kutcher vehicle is not what I expected from Natalie Portman, but perhaps she needed something light after such heavy material? This romantic comedy is about the complications of a strictly physical relationship, and is directed by Ivan Reitman. Look for Mike's review this weekend. (wide)

Somewhere -- Sofia Coppola's latest is an overdue coming-of-age for a not-so-young anymore actor (Stephen Dorff) when he starts spending more time with his tweenage daughter (Elle Fanning). This serviceable character study will likely satisfy Coppola's fans, but might be too studied for others. Elizabeth reviews. (Alamo Lamar, Arbor)

Lemmy (pictured above) -- Motorhead's lead singer gets the biopic treatment in this eponymously titled documentary. Jette reviewed this movie when it played SXSW in 2010 -- it was her first exposure to Motorhead, and she was delighted. (Alamo Lamar)

Movies This Week: The Green Rabbit Valentine Dilemma


It may be chilly outside, but the award season is heating up in movie theaters. Now, finally, Austin audiences get to see the "smaller" arthouse award contenders that were previously only screened at festivals. And we've got a couple examples of small films grappling with emotional concerns, along with movies that are pure diversion. Which will you see?

Movies We've Seen:

Blue Valentine -- Raw and sporadically affecting, this AFF selection starring two outstanding actors (Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling) reveals the unravelling of a relationship. Bring a hanky or three if your heart is feeling a bit fragile. Read Don's review for more. (Alamo Ritz, Arbor, Barton Creek)

The Dilemma -- Do you tell your best friend their significant other is cheating on them? That's the plot, at least in theory, but from the trailers it just looks like an excuse for bad pratfalls and inanity and Vince Vaughn. Look for Debbie's review on Saturday morning. (wide)

The Green Hornet -- Michel Gondry takes on the 1960s TV series, with Seth Rogan and Jay Chou starring as the unlikely superhero and his more popular sidekick, Kato (played on TV by the late Bruce Lee). And woohoo, you have a choice of 3D or 2D. Jette reviews. (wide)

Rabbit Hole (pictured at top) -- John Cameron Mitchell always knows how to break my heart in the most profound and watchable ways, without being melodramatic. This time the director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus takes on the limbo between tragedy and healing, as a couple tries to deal (and not) with an unspeakable loss. Adapted for the screen by David Lindsay-Abaire from his original screenplay. Elizabeth reviews. (Arbor)

2010 in Review: The Year of Doubek


Chris Doubek

While you might not recognize his name, Chris Doubek has turned into one of the most visible local actors in Austin, and this year he's owned the Austin indie scene with no less than four films featuring his diverse talent. He may be hamming it up in the picture above from SXSW 2010, but Slackerwood has declared 2010 the Year of Doubek for good reason.

If there was an Austin Film Actor of the Year award, Doubek would have annihilated the competition. At SXSW 2010, it was impossible to turn around without bumping into Doubek as he was running around between premieres of his movies including Clay Liford's Earthling, Paul Gordon's The Happy Poet, and Brian Poyser's Lovers of Hate. He's so good, he has had at least one role written just for him.  

Movies This Week: Country Made in Summer Casino Season


How 'bout that cedar fever? Me, I've managed to avoid allergies for over a decade, but this week they are kicking my sinuses to kingdom come and back. Thank goodness there are theaters to hide in where the pollen count is hopefully lower.

Movies We've Seen:

Casino Jack -- I wish I liked this biopic from Austin Film Festival better, it's got all the makings: Kevin Spacey in an outrageously real role in a contemporary cautionary tale about a man who helped contribute to the current financial and political climate. Read Don's review for more. (Arbor)

Country Strong -- Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw headline this country music drama. Of all the film formulas, the aspiring country star has got to be one of my least favorite. Will this (along with TRON: Legacy) help Garrett Hedlund become a star? Read Mike's review to find out. (wide)

Made in Dagenham -- This perfect serviceable period piece is about an equal rights strike that brought Britain to its knees in the 1960s, but there are two things you should know. First, the fact that it got made is a testament to its relevance. Second, Sally Hawkins gives an outstanding performance that will be robbed if she doesn't win awards. Read Elizabeth's review for more. (Arbor)

Movies This Week: Austin on Netflix Streaming



We interrupt this regular column to bring you something a little different, particularly since no new films are opening in Austin on this last day of the year. Instead, here are some options for streaming movies on Netflix so while you're hungover tomorrow, you can be a couch potato and still catch some great Austin-connected films.

I had no idea how many films connected to the Austin film scene were available online for streaming. Sure, many things appear on video on demand, when you have to pay additional money, but did you know that Netflix alone has many Austin films available for streaming, as well as even more of the selections from our film festivals? It's not just classics like Paris, Texas and Tender Mercies but a wide range of newer and obscure films, or the television critical darling Friday Night Lights that has the first four seasons available on streaming. Several newer locally filmed and produced indies are available, and even more obscure films from local fests.

Here are some selections of note that you can watch right now if you have Netflix: first with Austin and Texas connections, then selected films from various Austin film festivals. 

August Evening -- This Texas Filmmaker Production Fund award winner following an undocumented farm worker and his widowed daughter-in-law was nominated for a Best Actor Spirit Award for Pedro Castaneda and won the John Cassevetes Spirit Award in 2008.

Chalk -- This AFF hit is the bastard love child of The Office and The Real World, as lived by young, new teachers. Written and directed by locals who tried their hand as teachers (Chris Mass and Mike Akel), they also shot most of it in Austin. It's funny, heartbreaking, and a great example of the independent spirit, and if you have any connection to the Austin film viewing scene, several faces will stand out as extras. (Jette's Cinematical review from AFF 2006)

Movies This Week: Little True Gulliver King


It's that time of year again, the silly season is in full source and Christmas is just around the corner, meaning the studios are unleashing the films they hope will earn them some creds as For Your Consideration season is fully underway. The Austin Film Critics Association has just announced its 2010 awards, so look below to see which films opening this week are especially worth your money when you take a break from the holiday rush. Other AFCA award winners that are still in theaters include Black Swan, The Fighter and The Social Network.

Movies We've Seen:

The King's Speech -- Opens on Saturday. Colin Firth (who won AFCA's Best Actor Award for this role) plays a second son to an ailing monarch in a world on the verge of world war. Geoffrey Rush co-stars as his self-made speech therapis. More affected than I like my Oscar-worthy films, but the leads are outstanding as usual and Helena Bonham Carter channels the future Queen Mum as a much younger woman with understated verve. Look for Elizabeth's review on Friday. (wide)

Little Fockers -- Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro in yet another Focker film. It looks to me like it's more of the same, this time with little kids, so if you need a dose of anti-gravitas normally found in the Oscar contenders and are a fan of Stiller's brand of comedy, this is probably your best bet. See Mike's review for more. (wide)

True Grit -- The Coen brothers reinterpret the Charles Portis novel, with Jeff Bridges taking on the iconic Rooster Cogburn role.  Hailee Steinfeld just won a Best Supporting Actress nod in the AFCA 2010 awards, and the film is on the AFCA's Top 10. True Grit was also locally filmed (in part), so make sure to check out this Western revenge tale sure to get some Oscar attention. See Mike's review for more. (wide)

Movies This Week: The Rare Swan Tourist Chronicles



Some of the prestigious and/or just plain good end-of-year films are starting to trickle down to Austin, finally. Like Black Swan. We're seeing a few other interesting films opening today as well. And Black Swan. Are you going to see Black Swan? You should.

Movies We've Seen:

Black Swan (pictured at top) -- The most anticipated film by cineastes this year, Darren Aronofsky's stunning psychological thriller is not just about ballet, but ballet with the gorgeousness of The Fountain, and as visceral as The Wrestler. This fractured fairy tale doesn't disappoint. Read my review for more. (Alamo Ritz, Arbor)

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale -- This popular Fantastic Fest 2010 selection is a Finnish black comedy about Santas. Be warned; this is not Elf. Debbie tells you more in her review. (Alamo Lamar)

The Tourist -- Johnny Depp at his worst, and I don't mean as a villian. Angelina Jolie as a trite seductress snares him in a banal thriller. Look for Debbie's review on Saturday. (wide)

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