Jenn Brown's blog

Review: Splice

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Some movies are hard to dismiss for the overall quality and cheats used during the story because they are simply so brazenly ambitious they deserve acclaim for the chutzpah. Splice has all the chutzpah of groundbreaking science fiction with as much mishugas that often comes with an auteur work.

Vincent Natali isn't new to genre-bending concepts; his first screenplay and directorial debut was Cube. While Cube was not a groundbreaking film, it was a throwback to provocative sci-fi with horror elements that challenge the morality of the characters without taking the safe way out.

Splice focuses on Elsa and Clive, two rock-n-roll geneticists who make the cover of Wired and are riding high on their success of creating a new life form that produces compounds valuable to the pharmaceutical company that gave them free reign -- until now. Their ambitions curbed by corporate reality checks, but both Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) chaff at the restrictions in project scope. Playing fast and loose with genetic material, including human samples, Elsa defies the new directives -- and Clive's ethical concerns, an unapproved experiment ultimately leading to nightmarish consequences. 

Movies This Week: Sex and the Sands of Survival

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Not a lot of new films out this week, with too many screens taken up by other blockbusters and the new hopefuls.  Many of the arthouse and indies are holding strong, and you know how I feel about those.

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead -- Romero is at it again, with this Fantastic Fest 2009 selection pitting islanders against zombies. (Alamo Lamar)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time -- Jake Gyllenhaal takes on a video game adaptation.  Is it worth it? Debbie knows, and you can read more in her review. (wide)

Sex and the City 2 -- The girls are back, but to find a story they're vacationing in the Middle East. Um. Yeah. Elizabeth saw it and lived to tell the tale; see her review for more. (wide)

Movies This Week: Casino Jack and the Forever After Kites

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The Good, the Bad and the Weird expands to Dobie this week. I'm pleased to see that Human Centipede is held over at Alamo South, which also held over Exit Through the Gift Shop along with the Arbor. Best Worst Movie is back for a nightly run at Alamo Village. Come to think of it, most of the arthouse films that opened last week are still in town, which makes me happy.  But there are some new options this week, which we have listed below. 

Casino Jack and the United States of Money (pictured above) -- Alex Gibney's portrait of Washington superlobbyist Jack Abramoff is apparently a stranger-than-fiction type doc. Haven't seen it yet, but it certainly looks interesting, as it includes "international intrigue with Indian casinos, Russian spies, Chinese sweatshops, and a mob-style killing in Miami."  That's politics for you. (Arbor) 

Hausu -- Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 film includes a teenage girl, remote home, elderly aunt, and what Alamo's Zack Carlson describes as "a crushing, 300-fisted assault on the senses, so viciously paced and perfectly presented." But if that isn't enough to convince you to see this horror classic, how about Timecrimes director and Fantastic Fest regular Nacho Vigalondo describing it as "the greatest movie I have ever seen?" (Ritz)

Review: Shrek Forever After

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When Shrek first appeared on the big screen, many people were pleasantly, uproariously surprised at how funny and accessible the film was for all ages. Bathroom humor blended with cutting wit and good-natured silliness, upending quite a few fairy tales. Four films into the franchise, however, Shrek Forever After is encumbered by a preposterous preceding film and the simple fact that nothing stays fresh forever.  

It's been less than a year in Shrek's life since we last him, yet he's already feeling the strain of domestication. With a twist on It's a Wonderful Life-esque stories, Shrek's "happy ever after" is just a little too domesticated, so when Rumplestiltskin offers to give him a day before his life changed, Shrek gets more than he asked for. Suddenly he's thrown into a world where ogres are underground, fighting for their lives, and his beloved Fiona has had a very different life.

Movies This Week: Exploding Harry Hood Secret Exit Letter Mission

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Both The Human Centipede and The Good, The Bad & The Weird continue at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, two films you might not be able to see in a theater unless you lived in Austin. But it's also a fantastic weekend for new arthouse films, with several opening at the Arbor and the Dobie that are worth your attention. 

The Exploding Girl -- It's a summer of love for an epileptic girl who has a new boyfriend, but also has a friend staying for the summer. Sorry, this one never made it to my radar, so I know nothing more about it.  (Dobie)

Exit Through the Gift Shop -- This crowd pleaser has been making the film geek corner of the twittersphere explode, and the AFS screening, on two screens no less, sold out quickly.  The tagline for this documentary is "The incredible true story of how the world's greatest 'Street Art' movie was never made" and apparently doesn't do it justice. Keep an eye out for Debbie's upcoming review. (wide)

Review: Robin Hood

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Robin Hood

Filmmaker Ridley Scott clearly wants to repeat the success of Gladiator with another military actioner helmed by Russell Crowe -- this time, Robin Hood. Unfortunately, he chose a much beloved legendary character and gave it the "legend begins" treatment and recycled elements of other movies to make an overlong, uninteresting mess.

It's not just the start of the Robin Hood legend, it's a lot of backstory full of Hollywood "re-imagining" and gritty "accuracy" that strips away most of the romanticism and interest.  Brian Helgeland's script takes too many cues from David Franzoni's Gladiator script: battle-weary soldiers too long at war, an aging ruler, a morally (and otherwise) bankrupt heir and a beautiful headstrong woman caught up in her circumstances, all balanced by a charismatic man of the people other men want to follow, and who reluctantly ends up leading. Helgeland also borrows heavily from his own A Knight's Tale script as well, with bittersweet memories and impersonating a lord. The new twists to the story are improbable, distracting and often ridiculous. 

Movies This Week: The Secret of Iron Man Babies

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So The Good, The Bad, The Weird has been held over at Lamar, and that makes me oh so very happy. There's not much coming out this week, but that's no surprise, who wants to take on Iron Man as he takes over the cineplexes? But there are a few new options out there.   

Babies -- This doc features a year in the lives of four babies in very different places around the world, including San Francisco, Mongolia, Japan and Nambia. Check out Debbie's review. (wide)   

Iron Man 2 -- Tony Stark returns with a vengeance, but so does the son of his father's rival. While it might not be as amazing as the first, it is summer blockbuster fare well worthy of your movie dollars. Read my review here. (wide)  

Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis -- Israel Kasztner was a Hungarian Jew who helped Jews escape only to be assassinated after accusations of collaboration.  (Arbor)

The Secret of Kells (pictured above) -- Ever hear of the Book of Kells? Well there's an animated story of the boy behind the priceless illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks in the 9th century. Brendan Gleeson does one of the voices. (Dobie)

Review: Iron Man 2

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Sequels are dicey choices for movie fans; either they're following up a bad movie so they aren't given a fair chance or an unexpected good one, so the expectations are too high.

Iron Man 2 falls into the latter category -- there was a lot of noise about it likely being a bad film, and surprisingly it won over many audience members. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has managed to master his suit, defeat the bad guys and become an international hero. Unsurprisingly, Iron Man has become a pop icon since there are no bad guys left to risk the wrath of Iron Man. He cockily dismisses government attempts to take control of the technology, especially after rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) fails miserably in replicating similar suits. Only all is not well, especially when someone else (Mickey Rourke) has the original technology, and is out for Stark's blood. 

Stark is perhaps one of the most vainglorious characters on film, with hubris and brains to back it up. Downey again proves he's more than capable of making Stark equally aggravating, entertaining and sympathetic. In fact, the entire cast is full out outstanding actors a lot of people would pay just to read the phone book, but luckily for us, they do a lot more than that. Don Cheadle has taken over the role of Lt. Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes and Cheadle has always had the knack of standing up to larger than life co-stars.  Along the same lines, Gwyneth Paltrow again has to balance exasperation with adoration as she tries to keep her boss and unrequited crush from ruining his company. 

2010 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin

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Paramount's summer movies begin

Check out our 2011 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin for the latest information.

Updated on July 5 with new Alamo Lake Creek series, on June 11 with details on Deep Eddy Pool Movies, and on June 9 with details on the new Cinema East series and specific films for the 101X series.

Last year's Guide to Free Summer Movies in Austin was Slackerwood's most popular article nearly every week through the fall, and one of our most viewed articles for 2009. Apparently everyone wants to know about free movies playing in town this summer -- well, why wouldn't you? So we're not going to wait for summer this year to bring you the 2010 edition, which we'll keep updating as more movies are announced.  

Austin is home to at least 16 film series this summer, 12 of which are free, so you can watch movies on a budget practically every weekday this summer, especially if you're looking for family fare. (If you liked Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, boy are you in luck ... it's playing in nearly every children's series throughout the summer.) Some of the series are outdoors -- be sure to bring lawn chairs or a blanket.

Only a few series haven't announced their schedules yet, so you can start planning now. In addition to the movies listed below, bear in mind that Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz still hosts Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday screenings each week that cost a whopping dollar to attend ($2 if you buy online). Also, keep an eye on our Event Calendar for free movies that aren't part of a regular series.

New Film Series: The Mexican Revolution Films of the 70s

Cine Las AmericasDid you know that 2010 marks both the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence and the 100th anniversary of its Revolution? I didn't until this year's Cine Las Americas International Film Festival. 

To celebrate the dual anniversary, Cine Las Americas is programming related free movies and Mexican films in general for the rest of the year, starting with a four-film series co-presented by the Harry Ransom Center.

"The Mexican Revolution Films of the 70s" includes four rare features by influential directors that explorethe Mexican Revolution and other national realities from a period of unprecedented latitude. Here are the four films and the descriptions from the Cine Las Americas website:

  • El prinicipio (The Beginning), directed by Gonzalo Martínez Ortega. "Mexico is in the midst of Revolution when the protagonist returns after studying in Paris to find his native town in Chihuahua occupied by Francisco Villa’s revolutionary forces. He visits his deserted home and remembers people and events from his adolescence that provide glimpses of pre-Revolutionary society under dictatorship." (May 6)
  • Cananea, directed by Marcela Fernández Violante. "Colonel William Greene, in an expedition across the Sonoran desert, stumbles upon large copper reserves. Almost immediately he decides to set up mines and he quickly becomes one of the wealthiest men in the region. His ambition, however, leads him to mistreat and exploit the men working in the mines." (May 13)
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