Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Farewell Wild Vampire Nanny During Winnebago Time

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This week's big news is that Landmark is closing the legendary Dobie Theater after Sunday's shows. A lot of reminiscing has been going on, most of which is about memories predating the theater's Landmark days, back when it was an independent theater. Our own Jette was interviewed about it on News 8 Austin after her post waxing nostalgic earlier this week. Surprisingly, two new films are opening there today, and a whole lot of films opening or returning to Austin big screens.

Cairo Time -- Described on IMDb as a "A romantic drama about a brief, unexpected love affair that catches two people completely off-guard," its stars (Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig) are the main attraction for me. (Dobie)

Farewell -- Looking up this French spy thriller, I was surprised to see the likes of Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) as "Femme jogging" and an international cast, it makes me wonder if it's worth seeing. Since it's the same director who directed Kruger in Joyeux Noël, an acclaimed film with an international cast, it certainly piques my interest. (Arbor)

Life During Wartime -- Todd Solondz (Palindromes, Welcome to the Dollhouse) wrote and directed this dark comedy about families and secrets in a manner I suspect only Solondz can make equally horrifying funny and beautiful. Ciaran Hinds as a convicted pedophile? Wow. (Dobie)

Movies This Week: Expendables Get Scott Love

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Wow, apparently that special Scott Pilgrim screening with the director and cast last night was nutcluster. We were going to cover the event, but couldn't bear the idea of waiting in an hour-long (at least) line in triple-digit weather. I hope it lives up to the hype. We were able to get to other films opening in town this week, though, including a few lesser-known films you might enjoy.

The Dry Land --  Uneasy homecoming of a Texas vet, starring America Ferrera and Wilmer Valderrama written/directed by former Austinite Ryan Piers Williams.  Read Don's review. (Arbor)

Eat Pray Love -- Adapting the best-selling book about a woman travelling the world in search of herself has more people talking than Under the Tuscan Sun.  Elizabeth can tell you how faithful and effective the adaptation was (or was not). (wide)

The Expendables --  Such a man-cave movie there's even a man-cave in this romanticized actioner featuring some of the hottest action stars around (past and present).  Check out Debbie's review. (wide)

Review: Get Low

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Robert Duvall returns to the big screen in Get Low, a tale of intentions, reputations and secrets too powerful to remain kept in a Depression-era small town.

When recluse Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) comes to town, tongues wag, conjuring up nearly unspeakable tales, each one worse than the last. Rumors range from strange powers to cold-blooded murder, and he's become such a frightful figure that he's the bogeyman children scare themselves with, as they wonder just what the old man does on his land so far from town. Townsfolk are shocked when he shows up in down in his mule-drawn wagon at a time when cars are taking over the road. Felix is planning for a funeral. But not just any funeral, a living one -- where anyone and everyone who has a story about him will come and tell it to the rest of the gathers and Felix himself.

Local funeral-home owner Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) is more than willing to take Bush's money and sets his assistant Buddy (Lucas Black) to ensure a tidy profit. But what seems an eccentric wish turns into a mystery: Why has Bush isolated himself all these years, and what is his relationship with Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), recently returned to town? As the funeral party plans evolve, the mystery deepens, as Felix clearly has an agenda revolving around his past secrets.

aGLIFF Will 'Howl' with James Franco This Year

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Everyone's been talking about Fantastic Fest, but the first film festival of September is as dear to my heart as the one that ends the month. Last year was my first aGLIFF, and it will not be my last. The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) recently announced its opening-night, centerpiece and closing-night films, as well as the parties. The email announcement promised a wide range of films from "Ticked Off Trannies to The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister" and with that tease, here are details on the three films we know, and the parties associated with them: Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, BearCity and Howl.

Last year's fest was a lot of fun, with a great staff, fun films and wonderful guests. The program was full of interesting, provocative, and enjoyable movies that had a much broader scope than I'd expected in a niche festival. Even with a power outage delaying films on the weekend, Sharon Gless (Hannah Free at the fest, currently in Burn Notice on TV) entertained crowds until the films could start again, and then wowed the crowds with an absolutely delightful Q&A. After such good memories of aGLIFF22, I'm really looking forward to seeing what GLIFF23 brings us this September.

The Opening Night film is the New Zealand production Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls. In two words, yodeling lesbians. Kiwi Yodeling Lesbians, no less. The official tagline for this documentary about Jools and Lynda Topp is even better: "A profile of the world's only comedic, singing, dancing, lesbian twin sisters." I suspect there will be much to talk about at the opening-night party at Annies. The Closing Night Party at AFF was there last year, and it was fun and the food delish.

Up All Night at Cinemapocalypse with 'The Expendables'

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When the second annual Cinemapocalypse -- entitled Expendables Cinemapocalypse -- was announced a few weeks ago, the anticipation was extreme. People set alarms to make sure they didn't miss out on getting tickets, and the event sold out in mere minutes, even with a technical problem. The rush wasn't just for a sneak preview of The Expendables, but for the whole event, especially after the success of the 2009 Cinemapocalypse events in Austin and other cities.

The original Cinemapocalypse event was a West Coast variation of the Rolling Roadshow in early 2009, with an eight-night, four-city series of exploitation films from the Alamo vault, along with special guests. Last July, Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz rocked the socks off a theater full of film geeks with an all-night grindhouse event, also called Cinemapocalypse. The event was bookended with the local premiere of Inglourious Basterds complete with Quentin Tarantino himself, and ending with the historical drama Ip Man, based on the life story of Bruce Lee's Kung Fu master.

The highly anticipated event exceeded expectations with over 12 hours of films, trailers and special guests that left everyone as satisfied as they were exhausted. It was such a big deal that people were begging for our two-part report before the event because they couldn't get in. Unfurling Nazi banners during Inglourious Basterds and a surprise appearance from Robert Forster raised the bar again for Alamo Drafthouse events. Unfortunately, the bar was now impossible to reach.

We Need More Non-Stinking (Film Fest) Lanyards

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You do need a stinking badge, but do you need a stinking lanyard?

We're about to get back into local film festival season: aGLIFF and Fantastic Fest in September, Austin Film Festival in October, and Austin Asian American Film Festival in November (not to mention Lights. Camera. Help. last week as well as other fests around Central Texas). So lanyards -- which every festival badgeholder needs -- are on my mind, especially after throwing out so many of them before my recent move. 

Festival and conference badges come in all shapes and sizes, and you can find many, many lanyard styles out there to go with them, from cheap elastic strings to classic thin cords to fancy flat ribbons. But not all lanyards are created equal. This isn't apparent for people who don't attend a lot of conferences and festivals, but for those of us who do, that rope around your neck that grants you access can be as annoying as a noose.

Movies This Week: The Disappearance of Twelve Flipped Middle Guys

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It seems to be a bit of a boys' club in theaters this week, with kidnappers, cops and internet moguls (all male). But upon closer look, you can find a lot of diversity in movies opening in Austin today. I'm still hoping to make it up to the Arbor to see SXSW selection Winter's Bone, which has been doing very well. Whatever films I end up seeing, I'm going to enjoy the cool air conditioning as my home A/C is struggling in the afternoons with these triple-digit temps. What are the new releases in town, you ask? Just look below.

Aisha -- Bollywood remake of Jane Austen's Emma (or as some younger folks might know it, Clueless). (Cinemark Tinseltown 17)

The Disappearance of Alice Creed -- Brilliant beginning to an overambitious thriller that doesn't completely succeed. Worth watching if only to dissect where it went wrong (and I mean that in a good way). Read my review for more. (Lamar)

Don Seenu -- All I can tell you about this Bollywood film is it's a comedy. (Cinemark Tinseltown 17)

Flipped -- Nostalgic saccharine variation on Boy Meets Girl directed by Rob Reiner, based on a children's book. Read my review for more. (wide)

Review: The Other Guys

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Imagine some comedy geeks playing a drinking game while conjuring the most ridiculous cop movie ever. Then have one of them with no sense of subtlety whatsoever write it up with more expositive outbursts than any one film should ever have. And then have everyone in the film take every possible joke too far. The result is The Other Guys.

The movie's premise is that there are superstar cops, and then there are The Other Guys. You know, the ones who just can't make the grade. It's a promising premise until it gets overloaded with bad jokes and caricatures, and The Other Guys doesn't let up from scene one, with a preposterous chase and arrest worthy of a Die Hard spoof. Every joke is repeated ad nauseum, not once or twice, but over and over, each rendition more painful than the last, and very few of them were funny. In fact, this reviewer only laughed twice, and had more fun watching other reviewers mimic her flabbergasted expressions.

Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

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For the first ten minutes or so of The Disappearance of Alice Creed sets an unsettling tone as two industrious men silently and meticulously complete increasingly unnerving DIY work on a van and an apartment.

Fraught with sinister possibilities, the twisty plot reveals itself in fits and starts in The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Two men (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston) kidnap a young woman (Gemma Arterton) for ransom, and as in most thrillers, things are not as they initially appear. Very little is revealed before Alice's abduction, and very little exposition is used, allowing the story to reveal itself almost at the pace Alice learns about her captors and their intentions.

The nearly overwhelming ambition of writer/director J. Blakeson's script could easily have taken a darker, exploitive path with titillating abuse of the victim, but only toys with those conventions. Instead, the focus is on the relationships of the three characters and how they evolve over the course of the 100 minutes of the film. Unfortunately, Blakeson's direction lacks the subtlety necessary to build and deliver on the initial riveting attention. Over and over the audience ended up laughing at sudden reveals that belied the artistry of the opening sequence.

Review: Flipped

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Flipped is Hollywood's latest attempt to mine the nostalgic gold found in coming-of-age stories set in the mythical golden age of the mid-20th century.

Adapted from Wendelin Van Draanen's "young readers" novel, Flipped is the story of Bryce, a boy who moves across the street from Juli, who seems to have an asphyxiating crush on the new kid in town. Over a five-year period the story flips between both points of view. A twist on "he said/she said" -- or in this case, "he thought/she thought" -- the plot unfolds as their relationship evolves and everything is seen from two skewed perspectives.

Flipped is as much a story of two very different families as it is about a boy and a girl. Despite living across the street from each other, the sensation of class divide is reinforced. Bryce's father clearly values appearances and the importance of reputation, while Juli's father is comfortably blue collar, with a hint of artist -- his landscapes sell well at the county fair according to rumor. As the two children reach pubescence the differences between their lifestyles comes to a head.

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