Jenn Brown's blog

Review: The White Ribbon


Michael Haneke's morality tale The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte) is racking up wins and nominations, including two Oscar nods and the Palm D'Or. Yet all the attention seems to be more of a nod to the roots of fascism than to the film itself.

Set in a seemingly bucolic German village prior to WWI, The White Ribbon reveals the town's ugly underbelly. An act of malice fells a horse and lands a village doctor in the hospital. Shortly after, a mill accident results in the death of a mother. The German village is full of secrets and malice, with few true innocents, showing everyone as either victim or culprit ... or both.

The director of Caché and Funny Games (both versions) enjoys deconstructing the bête noire in idyllic settings. The film covers roughly a year in the life of the village, but at 144 minutes, the observations are diffused and obscure instead of focused and observant. With long, silent, black-background opening credits, The White Ribbon is not a movie for the average movie fan. In fact, it will challenge even the cineastes among us to sit still through what feels like real time. While it's been nominated for cinematography awards, if seen on a less than perfect screen, The White Ribbon is hard on the eyes.

Breaking News: 'She's Out of My League' Stars in Austin Tomorrow


Tomorrow at Birds Barbershop, two of the stars of the new film She's Out of My League are expected to make an appearance. So guys, if you need a haircut, you might want to head down there around lunchtime.

Alice Eve (Crossing Over) and Krysten Ritter (Confessions of a Shopaholic) will provide male grooming tips to four lucky Austin gentlemen on Thursday from 1-2 pm at the Birds Barbershop on 1902 South Congress to promote the romantic comedy, which also stars ubergeek Jay Baruchel.  It's only an hour, guys, so I recommend getting there early. And perfect timing if you need to de-scruff before SXSW.

The plot centers around Baruchel as Kirk, stuck in a dead-end security job when the gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve, pictured above) falls for him, stunning Kirk and everyone he knows.

She’s Out of My League opens in Austin on March 12.

Contest: Win the 'Stingray Sam' Soundtrack and DVD


The soundtrack to Stingray Sam, the Fantastic Fest fave that had people singing for days afterwards, is now on sale. Written and performed by director Cory McAbee and co-produced  with Robert Lurie, it's full of delightful absurd and often deconstructed songs like "Lullaby" or the progeny naming song "Fredward."  

The episodic interplanetary adventure musical is still on the festival circuit, wowing crowds with its old-school serial wrapped in Western sensibilities. Both the soundtrack and the movie itself are available for purchase online at, as digital media downloads or as discs.

To celebrate, we're giving away DVDs and soundtrack CDs. Find out how to win after the jump.

Movies This Week: My Name is Percy Wolfman St. John Khan of the Last Station


Lots of SXSW news -- 119 features, 80 panels, and 130 shorts, with plenty of local representation. But we have a whole month to go until we get to see them.  It's going to be a long month, isn't it? In the meantime, here are this week's new films opening in Austin theaters.

The Last Station -- Turn-of-the-century historical drama about Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and his family and legacy starring Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy and Paul Giamatti. The cast alone (pictured above) makes it worth a watch. We missed the press screening, but see what Kimberley Jones has to say over at the Austin Chronicle. (Arbor)

My Name is Khan -- A Mumbai Muslim with Asperger's is detained at LAX after 9/11 because of his "suspicious" behavior. The movie was not pre-screened. (Tinseltown South)

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief -- Another "teen is the chosen one" type of movie, only this the kid is the descendant of a Greek god. Based on the book by Rick Riordan, directed by Chris Columbus. This film didn't pre-screen in Austin so we haven't seen it, but try James Rocchi's review over at MSN. (wide)

Review: Saint John of Las Vegas


Steve Buscemi's obvious love for indie film coupled with his often fearless role choices means that on occasion his choices end in a miss, not a hit. In the case of Saint John of Las Vegas, it's more miss than hit.

A quirky near-morality tale of a recovering gambler on the verge of a change in luck and love, insurance agent John Alighieri (Buscemi) is up for a promotion if he helps prove fraud on an insurance claim. While he leaves a budding romance with a smiley-obsessed co-worker (Sarah Silverman) behind, he embarks on a surreal journey to the outskirts of Las Vegas with Virgil (Romany Malco), his new mentor in insurance fraud investigation.

'Temple Grandin' Biopic Screening Brings Autism Advocate to Austin


On Thursday, HBO and Austin Film Festival (AFF) teamed up for a special regional premiere of the locally shot HBO's new docudrama, Temple Grandin, the story of a woman who pioneered changes in cattle management and turned into a powerful advocate for understanding autism. 

The reception was held in the same exhibit hall as SXSW at the Austin Convention Center, but used the entire space, with one half a reception area with open bar and several food stations. The stations included some film-specific themed concoctions, including Jello shots (shown above) and sliders. The sliders were tasty, and I hate to admit it, but so was the Jello.

The red carpet was very casual, with Grandin frequently approached by people thanking her for her work, making it less of a spectacle than normal, especially since it was an indoor red carpet. All were grateful for that, as it was a rainy night. Despite the rain, there was a high turnout; the reservation list was closed a week early as the response was so strong. Several groups were invited, not just AFF members and those associated with the production, but a local autism group and cattle association as well.

Big Beef at Fantastic Fest 2010


It's barely February, and Fantastic Fest 2010 already has news!  A few days ago, John Bullington let the cat out of the bag about a feast event -- or should I say the cow -- when he mentioned on Facebook he is going to be cooking a local, grass-fed, 600-pound cow for Fantastic Fest in September. 

Bullington, the executive chef at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, has been enticing palates at the Alamo for years, with movie feasts that sell out in hours. He also flexes his culinary skills a bit with special events at Fantastic Fest, particularly the annual filmmakers luncheon and dinner events like the Truffe truffle feast in 2009. A lot of planning goes into these events, and now he's got less than eight months to plan a carnivore's delight of a feast. 

In the picture on the left, Bullington, along with Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League, may very well be discussing another crazy plan for the festival. Be assured that when these two pair up and mix film and food, no holds are barred. 

Chef Bullington's plan for the 2010 fest is not just a roast beef. He intends to roast the cow whole, which will take 17 hours over a huge firepit, "Argentinian style." The cow has already been picked out, and when I spoke with John on Friday, he joked about getting pictures of the cow and putting it on t-shirts. 

Based on the already overwhelming response, pigs and lamb will probably added to the menu to make sure there will be plenty of meat to go around.If you remember the feast at the premiere of Seventh Moon at Fantastic Fest 2008, despite having two whole roasted pigs, that ran out quickly, so Fantastic Festers are definitely carnivorous. 

Movies This Week: Dear John with Love


It is a very, very light week for movie releases, folks, at least in Austin. There are several movies getting limited release, but only two new regular-run films in town that I can see. And with the SXSW features lineup announced, we're all distracted anyway. 

Here's what's opening in Austin theaters this week:

Dear John -- A serviceable romance about a serviceman and the coed who loves him. It's Nicholas Sparks through and through, but despite that, it's not bad. Channing Tatum does big and broody sensitive guy well, and he and Amanda Seyfried have solid chemistry.  It's a little romance that despite tripping up at the start of the third act, is an entertaining journey. And it has a refreshing twist I won't spoil. Read Debbie's review for more details.(wide)

From Paris with Love -- Am I the only one tired of John Travolta playing the same foul-mouthed tough guy? Every time I see the trailer, I am reminded of Broken ArrowThe Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Swordfish. That's not an endorsement.   

Movies This Week: When on the Edge of La Danse, My Son


Here's what's opening in Austin this week:

Edge of Darkness -- The trailers look like Ransom meets Taken with Mel Gibson being the angry father again. Check out Debbie's review for details. (wide)

La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet -- Arthouse documentary (pictured above) about fine arts, surprise, and in particular seven productions of the famed dance troupe. (Arbor)

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done -- Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is barely out of theaters in Austin as his next film takes its place. The only similarities is a story featuring cops and references to post-death dancing. David Lynch executive produced, and it shows. Read my review for more. (Alamo Ritz)

Review: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done


Werner Herzog's latest film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done is already opening in a few theaters while his previous film, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, is still playing first-run houses. Who can explain the minds of film distributors. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done may benefit from the buzz of the other film and gain more interest than it deserves. The movie opens Friday at Alamo Ritz.

A psuedo-cop procedural smashed with a psychological drama, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done is the tale of a murdered woman that turns into a standoff with her disturbed son. Werner Herzog wrote the screenplay with Herbert Golder, but it feels more like a partnership with Executive Producer David Lynch, right down to the casting of Grace Zabriskie (Twin Peaks, Inland Empire) as the murder victim. 

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