Jenn Brown's blog

Want to Host a Visiting Filmmaker for Fantastic Fest?


Mandrill Crew and Cast at Fantastic Fest 2009 by Slackerwood

Could the next Marko Zaror be staying at your place in September?

One my favorite things about Austin's festivals, and Fantastic Fest in particular, is the camaraderie. There's a tremendous feeling of community, and it's common for out-of-towners to stay with locals, especially since most of their waking time will be spent around the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

Cut to last month when some friends of mine -- other Fantastic Fest veterans -- noticed that the Fantastic Fest website didn't include anything about housing. We found something about hotels, but nothing else. We talked about Butt-Numb-a-Thon and how one person in particular who has a guest room had a great time hosting an international guest for BNAT, and was thinking it would be fun to host someone else for Fantastic Fest.

That made me think about  how Alamo and Fantastic Fest staffers have often hosted visiting filmmakers on tight budgets -- one year a call went out looking for housing options for some shorts filmmakers from Colombia. So I passed on the suggestion to Jill, the Guest Manager for Fantastic Fest, and guess what? Now you can host a filmmaker yourself.

Review: Cropsey


One of the most iconic devices in horror films is a maniac terrorizing a local town, the worst of which is one who preys on children. But what if the urban legend turns out to be real? 

Filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio explore a real-life horror story of a boogeyman legend come to life in Cropsey, a movie about a series of murders centering on an abandoned state institution on Staten Island, New York, the suspect, the victims, and perceived versus actual guilt.

The "Cropsey" urban legend is so pervasive in the Hudson River valley region of New York, even people in outlying areas are familiar with it. Details change, but the core is the same: there's a maniac, he's armed, and he hunts kids. From a time when it was still common for kids to spend hours on their own without adult supervision, such cautionary tales kept some of us who were old enough to leave our own yards to be just a little more careful. On July 9, 1987, Jennifer Schweiger disappeared, and suddenly the boogeyman was real.

Movies This Week: I Am Luv Eclipse the Airbender Cropsey



It's a light week for film releases, but then, with the last Twilight film coming out, who in their right mind wants to take on that? Still, there are options this Independence Day weekend.

Cropsey -- Cropsey (pictured above) takes on the boogieman concept with the real story of a local neighborhood, missing kids and a man so creepy he's tried for murder. This documentary will make you think about how quick we are to judge, and the monsters among us.  If you love true crime or fictional, this is a must-see during its three-day run at the Alamo. (Ritz)

I Am Love -- Tilda Swinton stars in a early 19th century period piece set in Milan and described as "the fall of the haute bourgeoisie due to the forces of passion and unconditional love." You had me at Swinton. (Arbor)

I Hate Luv Storys -- Oh, how I weep for the English language sometimes. This latest Bollywood flick pairs a jaded guy with a gal in love with love.  (Tinseltown 17)

Movies This Week: Micmacs and More



As I'm preparing this, you'd think there was some nepotism going on, but honestly, it's not. It just so happens that Don got to review several limited release films over the last few weeks and they all seem to be opening today. And me, well, one of my reviews has been embargoed since March. But it's all good ... you get to read about what we've been seeing below. 

Cyrus -- Mark and Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair) hit the mainstream with name stars in their latest relationship twister, but they maintain their offbeat roots as John (John C. Reilly) finds new love with Molly (Marisa Tomei), then meets her son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). The Duplass brothers' deft touch for making uncomfortably realistic comedy continues. Read Don's review for more. (Arbor, Alamo Lamar)

Grown Ups -- Adam Sandler, David Spade and Rob Schneider cancel out Steve Buscemi, Selma Hayek and Maria Bello in this infantile reunion comedy. And it's directed by Richie Brockleman, err, Dennis Dugan. Um. Yeah. Don sacrificed his dignity to watch this one, so read his review for more to see if my analysis is on target. (wide)

Review: Micmacs


Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet has finally returned to the darkly whimsical form that won him a place in the heart of many a cineaste with Micmacs (Micmacs à tire-larigot), a hit at both Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2009 and SXSW 2010. The film opens today at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and the Arbor.

Through improbable circumstances, Bazil (Dany Boon) loses everything after a bullet gets lodged in his skull. Homeless, he's taken in by a motley crew of salvaging outcasts making a living off Paris' discarded junk. When Bazil happens upon the weapons/munitions companies that cost him his old life, he and his new friends embark on a series of capers to shut both companies down and bring their chairmen to justice.

If you're unfamiliar with Jeunet's peculiar brand of cinema magic, then imagine Chaplin's Little Tramp in a contemporary ensemble caper film. Dialogue is limited, relying heavily on the gestures and expressions of the actors that helps Micmacs transcend language barriers. In fact, many scenes in the film rely on classic street theater techniques similar to silent film comedy devices.

Review: Knight and Day



Summer films are generally full of actions and at best light on substance. The latest Tom Cruise vehicle fits the formula; look too closely and the plot falls apart. But if you don't, you just might enjoy the action thriller Knight and Day

June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is on her way back home with precious cargo -- vintage car parts needed before her sister’s wedding -- and at the airport, she keeps bumping into Roy (Tom Cruise), an enigmatic charmer. Suddenly June is caught between Roy and his handlers with the federal government, which tells her he's a rogue agent, in a cat-and-mouse game that crosses the globe.

In mostly typical romantic thriller action, June makes some bad choices and Roy keeps saving her, all while keeping to his personal mission, which may or may not be what he says. Things are rarely what they seem within Knight and Day, and mostly it works. There are some clever moments, some of which are diminished by bouts of lazy scripting (or perhaps interference to keep it Hollywood). 

Movies This Week: Solitary Mother and Jonah Toy Story


We haven't really had much of a summer movie summer, have we? That may be changing with the third Toy Story movie finally coming out. It's funny how most of the "summer" movies come out before the summer solstice, isn't it? It's another light release week for Austin, but the variety is impressive. 

And let me just say thank you to Marc Savlov at the Austin Chronicle for a lovely profile of Slackerwood in his "The Cool Keeps On" article this week in the Screens section (but that's a really unflattering camera angle). But on to this week's openings... 

Jonah Hex -- Josh Brolin as the lead is a plus, but Megan Fox as a costar is not.  This graphic novel adaptation may be in wide release, but there wasn't an advance screening, which is a bit telling.  (Wide)

Knight and Day -- Shhh, can't tell you about the next summer actioner in detail, but the Gateway has a special advanced screening on Saturday. This isn't a free sneak, but it will let you see the latest Tom Cruise film, and well, if you like action...

Movies This Week: Please Give the Karate A-Team the City of Emergency


What is with this heavy weather? Intense thunderstorms, July's sweltering heat in early June? At least we have plenty of theaters to chill in. Many films are holding their own from the blockbuster wannabees to the indies getting the time to find their audiences. But there are a few new ones to check out.

The A-Team (pictured above)-- Guaranteed to be a man-cave must-have, but with Bradley Cooper shirtless for half the movie, there's plenty for the ladies to look at, too. Joe Carnahan revives the much-beloved 80s TV staple, with an all-star cast and following Hannibal Smith's philosophy: "Overkill is underrated." Read my review for more. (wide)

Karate Kid-- This reimagining has incited protests (including one in Austin tonight). Despite the misnomer (it's now kung fu, not karate), this overlong, over produced story full of cliches isn't as bad as feared. In fact, cast against type Jackie Chan in a serious role and Jaden Smith shine when they can overcome the overpolished dialogue and story. Still, it's at least 20 minutes too long with too many prettified training montages that are a bit creepy considering the star is supposed to be 12 years old. See Debbie's review for more. (wide)

Review: The A-Team



Hollywood has always been green; it's the color of money, and recycling properties is a sure return on investment.  So it's no surprise that the 80s cult classic The A-Team was dusted off and re-imagined for a new audience on the big screen. The A-Team (2010) updates the story with an unlikely team of Army Rangers framed, court-martialed and imprisoned, only to break out to track down the real culprits.

In the mid-80s, Stephen J. Cannell ruled TV. The king of action-filled TV hours (along with co-creator Frank Lupo) is  responsible for many manly hours of TV drama. Watching the renegade Vietnam vets irreverently dole out justice wasn't just a guilty pleasure; it was refreshing from the onslaught of gravitas pigeonholing Vietnam vets as troubled at best, psychotic killers at worst. 

When the news broke about yet another "re-imagining" of a beloved cult classic, skepticism was the polite reaction. With Joe Carnahan helming and co-writing the script with Brian Bloom, one of the co-stars. The director behind Smokin' Aces is more likely to honor the original than most. 

Movies This Week: Get Him to the Killers Marmaduke Lunch


It's only the start of June, and it feels like July. What is up with that? Good thing there are plenty of theaters, and new movies coming out. But don't forget to check the listings and there are a lot of smaller releases still holding on around town.  But on to the new films...

9500 Liberty --  A timely doc about fear mongering and anti-immigration law in the web 2.0 era and in a country founded by immigrants. Read Don's review for more, and keep an eye out for Debbie's interview with one of the filmmakers. (Dobie) 

Get him to the Greek -- I am not a fan of Russell Brand, but this anti-buddy comedy looks like it actually might be funny. Record company intern Jonah Hill is teamed with outrageous rocker Brand, who has to be at the titular Greek for a concert. Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, who penned Yes Man and the latest Fun with Dick and Jane, I'm not quite sold. Jette has a different view of Brand, so check out her review. (wide)

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