Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Waiting for a Dark Red Jackass


Here are the new films opening in Austin this week. We've got an action film, some interesting docs, a couple of Bollywood films ... and the indescribable third film in the Jackass series. What sounds good to you?

Jackass 3D -- Steve-O, Johnny Knoxville and company are at it again, in high-definition 3D. I admit I laughed at parts in the 10 minutes or so they showed at Fantastic Fest, but if you have a low gag threshold, there's a lot of flying feces in it. Mike Saulters can tell you more about it in his review. (wide)

Red -- I missed this movie at Fantastic Fest, and despite all the talkers at the preview screening I went to, it was well worth it. So worth it, I stayed just to make sure there wasn't a stinger after the credits (there wasn't). Retired (and extremely dangerous) spies get the old gang back together again to figure out who is trying to kill them. Read my review for more. (wide)

Review: Red



What could make audiences flock to a movie that rehashes plots from True Lies, The Whole Nine Yards, Mrs. and Mrs. Smith, and a dash of Space Cowboys just to name a few?  In the cast of Red, an all-star cast clearly in it for the fun of it.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA operative who's so incapable of adjusting to the quiet life. His only real relationship is with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a pension-fund agent at a call center in another state, who talks romance books with him. When his past life catches up with him, Frank runs for the help of his old friends, including Joe (Morgan Freeman) and the less-than-stable Marvin (John Malkovich). Their search for the truth leads them halfway around the country, chasing a conspiracy and shooting up several cities east of the Mississippi.

Chasing them around the country is CIA operative William Cooper (Karl Urban), who does his job so well he can multitask a grocery list while carrying out an assignment. When Cooper eventually finds out his targets are designated RED -- Retired Extremely Dangerous -- it's clear that more is behind his assignment than a simple kill order. And the longer Frank is on the run, the more he gets reacquainted with people from his past, using all their unique skills to uncover the truth.

(Free!) Santo Superestrella Series from Cine Las Americas



Cine Las Americas has been honoring both the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence and the 100th anniversary of its revolution all year with a variety of film series. The latest is free, and perfect for the season, as it celebrates that famous masked superhero ... Santo.

If you're not familiar with the Santo legend, Santo was a professional wrestler in Mexico in the early 20th century. Santo was so popular he not only became a folklore icon, but spawned a series of 52 films from 1958 through 1982, with the most famous film being Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women), which was featured on MST3K. Locals who frequent the Alamo Drafthouse have probably at least seen some clips of Santos films as part of the Alamo pre-shows. But you can now see five of those films in their entirety for the hefty sum of whatever amount of fuel it costs for you to get to the Mexican American Culture Center (MACC) on River Street. 

The Santo Superestrella series runs from October 18 through November 15. Best of all, it's free, and open to the public.  All screenings start at 8 pm, and include English subtitles.   

AFF 2010 Preview: Parties and Panels



Badgeholders at Austin Film Festival usually have a clear idea what panels they want to go to in the four days of panels, pitches, mentoring sessions, and more. Whether you're a professional, still aspiring for pro status, or just a fan, there is something for everyone among the panels. If you're a first-time badgeholder or don't have any set plan, here are some of the panels of interest, particularly those with an Austin twist.

I should point out for AFF newbies that not every panel is open to everyone. AFF has strong teaching ties, as well as the script competitions, so some are restricted to those specific groups, but they are clearly marked.  But don't worry, the conference includes plenty of panels left over for the rest of us, and some even run twice. 


Going to the Opening Remarks may seem unnecessary, but it's a good way to find out last-minute changes, additions and special guests. Following that, AFF Conference: How to Work it just may help you strategize your time and maximize your badge. You can follow that with A Conversation with Edward Burns moderated by James Faust of the Dallas International Film Festival. I haven't heard Burns talk, but Faust should keep the conversation moving.

Fantastic Fest Review: We Are What We Are



Family dramas usually don't involve ritual murder and the consuming of human flesh. But that's not the only thing that makes We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay) stand out in writer-director Jorge Michel Grau's first feature, and not just because it won two awards at Fantastic Fest this year (Best Film and Best Screenplay-AMD Next Wave).

Grau's merciless, gritty thriller centers on a destitute family reeling from the sudden loss of their patriarch. But unlike most families, he's not the breadwinner so much as their only procurer of victims for their bloody rituals. They don't especially mourn for him but have to find his successor and keep to their rituals. Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) assumes it's his responsibility to be the man of the house, but he's ill equipped, despite the urgings of his sister Sabina (Paulina Gaitan), who clearly favors Alfredo over her other, impetuous brother (Alan Chávez). All the while their mother Patricia (Carmen Beato) seems paralyzed with grief, as the clocks in the house seem to be counting down to some point of no return.

AFF 2010 Preview: The Feature Films


In a little more than a week, ten screens around town will fill up with some of the best films of the year -- including potential Oscar contenders -- at Austin Film Festival, which runs from October 21-28.

If you haven't heard, AFF is one of the qualifying festivals that help films along the road to the Oscars, such as last year's selections An Education and Precious. You could say that AFF is the kick-off to "for your consideration" season, when studios start releasing and screening the films they hope will bring home at least one little gold statue.

Now, those films usually play just once at Austin Film Festival, and usually at the Paramount, the biggest venue in town. But this year, Austin Film Festival is also using Austin Convention Center to show movies, and while their seats are no more comfortable than the Paramount, it means more people can see them. So hopefully there won't be so many disappointed people who couldn't see An Education because it screened at the smaller theater in Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz.

Movies This Week: My Secretariat Soul Buried Without Men Story



This week's new movies opening in Austin:

Buried -- If you're claustrophobic, this is not the film for you. I got really tense during this movie that's shot entirely "in the box." But if you're not, and like tense thrillers and plays on words, this is a must-see -- now, before people start talking about it. Read my review for more. (wide)

It's Kind of a Funny Story -- When a depressed teen (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into to a psychiatric hospital, he ends up in the adult ward with Zach Galifianakis. And as Don points out in his review, Galifianakis can act. (wide)

Life as We Know It -- Pretty people are forced into caring for a baby of their deceased friends, starring the current It Girl of rom-coms, Katherine Heigl, and the much more interesting Josh Duhamel. Apparently Josh Lucas has a role, too. I haven't seen it. (wide)

My Soul to Take -- Wes Craven is back with another horror tale, this time focusing on teens born the same day a killer died. Is this the Halloween film of the season? (wide)

Review: Buried


How does a movie about a man buried alive in a coffin stay interesting for an entire 95 minutes?  In the case of Buried, very easily, if very tensely.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up inside a wooden box with no light save his lighter. He has no idea who put him there, or why, and for the next hour and a half he manages to desperately try to free himself. Despite only one person appearing on camera, the film has is an extensive cast list. Paul eventually discovers he has a phone, which is his only lifeline. The problem is he doesn’t know exactly where he is, which makes convincing anyone to help him even more challenging.

Director Rodrigo Cortés, writer Chris Sparling (An Uzi at the Alamo) and cinematographer Eduard Grau (A Single Man) focus only on Paul. Keeping all the action within the box, and only knowing what Paul knows, keeps the tension high throughout the film. Almost all the shots are contained with the same dimensions Paul is trapped in, giving it a claustrophobic feel that may cause some audience members real distress. Even those without fear of enclosed spaces will find themselves reacting to the constraints of the images, although it eases up after the first half-hour.

Fantastic Fest Review: A Somewhat Gentle Man


Chances are, you've never seen a Norwegian film. Unlike other Nordic countries, Norway isn't exactly known as a cinematic powerhouse. Thanks to a simmering little film starring a Swedish actor, that may start changing. 

A Somewhat Gentle Man (En ganske snill mann) is a fair description of a small-time criminal released from prison after serving a 12-year sentence. Whatever he was in his pre-prison days, the now passive Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) has the opportunity to start his life over, only there isn't much of a life for him on the outside. He has no job, his wife left him, and his son is busy with a life of his own. Reliant on the charity of his old crime boss to find housing and gainful employment, Ulrik is not so much a broken man but a diminished one, a stranger in his own life. For all his passivity, Ulrik is the unlikely catalyst for change in the lives around him who use him for their own gain.

Ulrik's old boss Rune (Bjørn Floberg) gets to pretend he's still a crime boss, despite driving a cranky older car and working with an often-abused sidekick (Gard B. Eidsvold). He benevolently reminds Ulrik of the fact he financially supported the family that's disowned him and the importance of revenge as finds Ulrik a place to stay and a job. Ulrik ends up in Rune's sister Karen Margrethe's basement, with a job in Sven's (Bjørn Sundquist) garage, where the lovely and surly Merete (Jannike Kruse) lurks.  Karen Margrethe (Jorunn Kjellsby) is a worn battleaxe of a woman, hard used by men, but finds an unlikely opportunity in Ulrik. Sven just wants Ulrik to keep fixing cars and to stay away from Merete. Ulrik obliges them all until his reticence to get even with the snitch who landed him in prison forces Ulrik to start taking somewhat gentle steps into regaining control of his life.  

Fantastic Fest Review: Drones


In a festival filled with brutality and and splatter effects, one might think a straightforward rom-com would get lost in the gore. But Drones was not only a refreshing break, but stands on its own as a witty tale of an office romance with a twist ... aliens.

Yes, aliens. Yet the film contains no CGI, no prosthetics or special cosmetics, just a guy and a gal and impending alien invasions. "Boy meets girl but she's an alien" is not a new plot device, but writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker capture interpersonal dynamics with dry wit while embedding a science-fiction theme within a very typical office, although with a very unusual copy machine. 

Brian (Jonathan M. Woodward, Firefly) is a dedicated worker bee of an office drone, who has a crush on Amy (Angela Bettis, May) across the aisle. Brian's best friend and coworker Clark (Samm Levine, Inglourious Basterds) pushes Brian into finally asking Amy out. Things get complicated when Brian finds that his girlfriend isn't just out of this world, she's from out of this world. And so is his best friend.

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