Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Chloe Betrayed Red Riding, Mother

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There is life after SXSW, and it looks like a lot of movies waited until our attention wasn't drawn to the fest. Several films are opening this week, so you have plenty to choose from.

Chloe -- Take a stale marriage and an attractive escort, throw in Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Seyfried, who headline the cast of Atom Egoyan's latest. Remember Where the Truth Lies? (wide)

Formosa Betrayed -- Inspired by actual events, an FBI agent is entangled in a murder investigation that involves the U.S. State Department, the Chinese Mafia and the Nationalist Chinese Government. The cast includes James Van Der Beek, Wendy Crewson and John Heard. (Galaxy Highland)

SXSW 2010: Catch the Films You Missed Through VOD

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If you live in Austin, or stuck around after the fest, you had the chance to see "Taste of SXSW" screenings of four films from the fest at Alamo earlier this week. But did you know that you can still see several films from SXSW 2009 and 2010 via cable TV and/or internet video on demand (VOD)? 

I have Time Warner here in Austin, so I can't tell you how to find your VOD channels on other cable/satellite networks. It was hard enough to find on TWC. But if you're familiar with the VOD options with your digital TV provider, I'm sure you can find these films. On TWC, these are all on channel 1000 (Movies on Demand), and the newer ones are under the category SXSW 2010.  The films you can see there are:

SXSW Spotlight: My Blackberry Ate My Clay Liford Interview

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SXSW Film 2010I had a great interview with Earthling director Clay Liford. Only my dog ate it. Or rather, my Blackberry. So I don't have notes or the audio.

What you missed was hearing an unrepentant sci-fi geek talk about "R-Cubed" -- rockets, robots, and ray guns -- and how science fiction is far more than that. Liford's subtle science-fiction film Earthling harkens back to old-school science fiction. The Dallas filmmaker spoke at length about post-WWII science fiction and the power of that period in the genre's history. 

He also went on to talk about early science-fiction films, such as the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, and his dislike for the recent remake.  And how he wanted to create an indie film with science fiction elements that didn't rely on R-Cubed. 

You'll also miss the admiration he has for his lead actress, Rebecca Spence, and not only how much she brought to the role of Judith, and how much she carries on her shoulders within the structure of the film. On top of all that, you don't get to hear how much respect she had for her director, who made a fundamental change in casting that switched gender of a character she had to interact with intimately. 

SXSW Review: Mars

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The animated feature debut of Austin filmmaker Geoff Marslett, Mars, is a refreshing antidote to the dark and provocative films that usually crowd out the less dramatic films.

Mars is the story of has-been astronaut Charlie Brownsville (Mark Duplass), whose fame is in decline but still valuable enough to be included in the crew of the first manned mission to the red planet.  Literally there as a backup and PR frontman, Brownsville is merely a talking head while Casey Cook (Zoe Simpson) and Captain Hank Morrison (Paul Gordon) do the real work, trying to beat the second unmanned mission to Mars to find out the fate of the first.

On the surface, Mars looks like science fiction, but in reality, it's a lighthearted love story. Brownsville may be a showman with his bedazzled and Western-yoked suit, but despite his bravado, he actually does have a valuable speciality. Cook, like any intelligent woman, has little patience for a wastrel, but eventually realizes there's more to Brownsville. 

SXSW 2010: Jenn's Wrap-Up

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Geoff MarslettIt's over, and I've got the post-fest funk. I'm tired, I'm cranky, and missing out-of-town friends already. I just counted; I only made it to 23 films, plus another five I saw in advance. This is my lowest number of films seen at SXSW by far. I do have three more screeners by the DVD player, so I'll break 30 eventually.

Most Memorable Moments? Besides the beer in the lap, I'd have to say it's a tie between making the Thunder Soul guys tear up with the standing ovation at screening #3, and the crazy ranting woman at Red White & Blue screening #2.

Unexpected Favorite? Thunder Soul was a surprise because I had no idea that this high school band had not only left such an impression on the musical history of the U.S., but that the double-disc reissue of their music is a perpetual strong seller for Waterloo Records. As it happens, the documentary was filmed at just the right time. Powerful stuff. And it was one of those I was going to skip, but too many people suggested it.

Stuck in my Memory? The Happy Poet, hands down. I can't stop thinking about it. I'm a proud Austinite, so I'm primed to give an Austin film a chance. But you know what? I liked it a lot on its own merits. Until I saw Thunder Soul, it was my favorite film of the fest, because it made me smile and stuck with me. Paul Gordon's story and performance really resonated with me, I was rooting for Bill and his clueless perseverance of wanting something better for himself and others was disarming. The Happy Poet is a great example of the power and value of "small" films worthy of greater attention.

Keeping it Weird? Mars director Geoff Marslett, hands down (pictured right). I liked the guy just talking to him at a pre-fest interview brunch, as he's articulate and forthcoming. Talking to him during the festival, and seeing him first in blue heart sunglasses and then in that bedazzled onesie, proclaiming it had essence of Duplass, well, Marslett is certainly keeping Austin weird. Plus he's making fun movies to boot. No wonder he wins best teacher awards at UT. Got some great photos of the guy, including the ones already posted in my SXSW dispatches.

SXSW Review: Tucker & Dale vs Evil

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Rednecks versus college kids? That's a horror genre cliche. In the case of Tucker & Dale vs Evil, it's 88 minutes of horror comedy gold. 

Tucker and Dale are two rednecks complete with an old truck and possibly older overalls who are going to their new vacation cabin for the weekend. Unfortunately, it's Spring Break, so an SUV-load of college kids are heading the same direction. Things get bloody when a coed nearly drowns.

The best comedy exposes truths and flips stereotypes on their proverbial ear, and that's the power of Tucker & Dale vs Evil. In this case, the college kids keep flipping out, assuming the earnest and philosophical Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and the soft-hearted Dale (Tyler Labine) are straight out of Deliverance.  Tudyk and Labine have an onscreen chemistry that belies the fact it's their first film together and not a life-long bromance like their characters. 

SXSW 2010: More Audience Awards

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The SXSW Film Festival announced more 2010 audience awards today in the Spotlight Premieres, Emerging Visions, Lone Star States, 24 Beats Per Second and Midnighters categories. One Austin-shot film and one Houston film were among the winners.

The juried awards were announced Tuesday night, but these accolades are from the audiences. With 134 feature-length films, these are the ones audiences really went wild for. So without further ado...

SPOTLIGHT PREMIERES
Winner: Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission (listen to Debbie's interview with Garriott)
Director: Mike Woolf (of Austin's Beef and Pie Productions)

LONE STAR STATES
Winner: Thunder Soul (pictured above)
Director: Mark Landsman

SXSW 2010 Day 9: That's a Wrap, but a Taste of SXSW (and Coverage) Continues

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SXSW Film 2010Remember my Survival Guide? I remember a few people laughing at me saying to plan for all types of weather. Little did you know you had to plan for sunblock to scarves?  The windchill is below freezing right now. BRRR. 

I almost didn't leave the house this morning, but there was the promise of barbecue after the first screening. The Paramount wasn't sold out for Waking Sleeping Beauty, but it was very full for the last day-first screening.  It was worthwhile, too. Don Hahn, a Disney animated film producer, used vintage footage and audio interviews to tell the story of Disney animation from 1984-1994. And what a time, too.  I highly recommend this film if you get a chance to see it.

Then, it was a Smitty's run with half the film bloggers in town for SXSW. But not just a Smitty's run, a Smitty's and Black's. Personally, I preferred Smitty's, even though they were out of prime rib. But the pork ribs were amazingly good. Had to wait quite a while to get it, too, as we weren't the only ones with the great idea for Smitty's, but the line was much more tolerable close to the flames of the pit. 

Then it was back to freeze in line for the closing-night Film, Four Lions, a terrorist comedy. Only, it wasn't so much a comedy but slapstick with a serious ending.  I wanted to love it, but it sabotaged itself at the end. 

SXSW 2010 Day 8: Five in One Day, and a Revisit to Mars

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This is it folks. One day left. Friday was quite a full day for me. I don't know about you, but I'm kinda looking forward to it ending and not just the fact that means the music people will leave.  But it also means the films are coming to a close, too.

Today was my first five-film day of SXSW 2010. And what a group of films. I started off with brunch at the Ritz for All My Friends are Funeral Singers with a live score performed by Califone. As it turns out, the music came first, then the film, with the intent of a live score version as the final part of the trilogy, and the director is in the band. 

Next, I dodged many already tipsy wristbanders to get over to Thunder Soul. This is going to be the standout film of SXSW 2010 and while I normally don't participate in awards forecasting, I bet that it will at least get an Oscar nod.  A friend had recommended it, and she mentioned she knew about "Kashmere" and well, I'm not big on the music docs.  But like many people, did I get my eyes opened. Kashmere is not a band per se, but a groundbreaking 1970s high school stage band  in Houston that shook up the music world, focusing on their band director, Conrad O. Johnson. 

Two of his former students who organized and performed a reunion concert as a tribute to the man who changed their lives.  Step aside, fictional Mr. Holland.  Conrad Johnson's Opus is the many lives he touched, and through him, many more.  During the Q&A everyone had to comment how much they loved the movie and two people mentioned they were inspired to pick up their instruments again. It's now by far my favorite movie of SXSW 2010.  And now I know that Waterloo records has the double disc re-release of the Kashmere Stage Band recordings ...

Movies This Week: Diary of a Runaway Repo Hunter

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I know, I know, it's still SXSW but there are other movies out. And one coming out today just played SXSW. 

The Bounty Hunter -- Gerard Butler is another fractious rom-com, this time as a bounty hunter after his ex Jennifer Aniston. Yeah.  (Wide)

The Cry of the Owl -- Claude Chabrol's latest is a sexual revenge thriller based on a Patricia Highsmith novel.  (Arbor)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid -- Haven't seen it, but love the tagline: "I'll be famous one day, but for now I'm stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons." Chloe Moretz from Kick-Ass is in it, as is Steve Zahn. That makes it worth catching to me. (wide)

That Evening Sun -- SXSW 2009 selection about a southern man dealing with family betrayals and feuding with a neighbor. Starring Hal Holbrook.  (Arbor)

A Prophet -- How do you make a criminal kingpin? The Beat that My Heart Skipped director Jacques Audiard shows us with this simmering tale of a young Arab with nothing and no one who rises to the top despite the odds. An outstanding performance by Tahar Rahim. For more details, read my review. (Arbor)

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