Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Everybody's Adrift in Armored Brothers


Tired of turkey yet? I still have a pot of turkey soup, but with the chilly weather, it's hit the spot. There's quite a wide variety of new films out today, so take a look at the new options for taking a break from the holidaze.

Adrift in Tokyo -- A perpetual student rambles through Tokyo with the debt collector who'll cancel his debt in this surreal, funny, and sweet film. If you like your cities wierd and quirky with lots of heart and randomness, you just may fall in love with Adrift in Tokyo, and it's by the grace of Fantastic Fest that we're getting to see it, because it doesn't have U.S. distribution, so go help prove it's worth seeing (because it really is). Be aware though, it's only playing single shows Friday through Sunday, so catch it while you can. Read my review for more.  (Alamo Ritz)

Armored -- Armored truck guards plan a heist, but the plan goes awry.  I want to see it not just for some great actors (Jean Reno and Fred Ward for starters), but because it's by Nimród Antal, the director behind Kontroll. (wide)

Review: Adrift in Tokyo


On Tuesday night, Fantastic Fest held a special screening of Satoshi Miki's Adrift in Tokyo, a film the fest organizers tried to get for FF2008, and one that hasn't any U.S. distribution.  Thanks to a special arrangement, the film is getting a special engagement run at the Alamo Ritz, which kicked off with a free screening primarily for Fantastic Fest badge holders. 

On a purely technical level, Adrift in Tokyo doesn't really fit into the Fantastic Fest programming categories other than being, well, fantastic. Austin Film Festival goers who fell in love with another Japanese film, Happy Ending, are sure to love this quirky, surreal piece of cinema. The Keep Austin Weird crowd will want to make Tokyo a sister city as well after viewing the eccentric leads and the quirky random characters that wander in and out of the film.

Movies This Week: Fox and Old Dog Ninja Assassins


Why, yes, we are doing Movies This Week early. But it's also the start of the holidaze, with movies opening today and Thanksgiving feasts tomorrow, so Wednesday is the new Friday.

Opening in Austin theaters:

Fantastic Mr. Fox -- Wes Anderson's love child with the spirit of Roald Dahl is destined to top quite a few Best Of lists this year. The puppetry is mesmerizing, and you're sure to leave smiling. In short, it's cussing good.  Read my review, and see once now so you're only slightly distracted when you go to the Alamo feast. After you see it once, you'll really want to see it again. It does hold up, and if you see movies on Thanksgiving, this is the movie to see.

Ninja Assassin -- Slick, dark Hollywood sword-porn. What it lacks in plot it makes up for in unimpressively outrageous fight scenes so dark you can barely see what's going on. Debbie saw it, and is willing to tell you more in her review.

Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox


Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's love child with the spirit of Roald Dahl, is destined to top quite a few Best Of lists this year.  There's really no other way to start a review of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Fox (George Clooney) and Felicity (Meryl Streep) are living in a cozy little warren, but Fox dreams of something bigger. After they move into a tree, Fox can't resist the siren's call of returning to his thieving ways. It's very much a Dahl story and a Wes Anderson one, for the betterment of both. Fox and Felicity have a misfit son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) with the quirky angst of a typical Anderson child of larger-than-life parents. 

The story includes an equal amount of self-awareness and silliness, set to music that will make even a grumpy adult regress to childhood. With the exception of a rat and "Boggis Bunce and Bean, three farmers equally mean," all the characters have an earnestness that lends a disarming charm. The energy is in part because Anderson had his actors re-create some of the scenes when recording their voices. So characters running around under a tree was recreated with actors in a field running around under a tree. That playful sensibility is infused through every scene.

Movies This Week: The Precious Blind Side Messenger


It actually feels like fall, doesn't it?  More Oscar hopefuls are starting to crowd the theaters.  In case you need to take a break from watching your Blu-Rays of Up and Star Trek, there are several new movie options out there in theaters. 

Antichrist -- Chaos Reigns! Lars von Trier knows how to make two kinds of films: provocative and thoughtful, and provocative and pretentious. Antichrist wants to be the former, but it's really the latter. 

The Blind Side -- John Lee Hancock makes an inspirational film for the discerning filmmaker.  Yes, I am among the growing number of people saying they aren't ashamed to admit they really liked Sandra Bullock's latest movie.  The only flaw is that being based on the true story of Michael Oher, this football heartwarmer wasn't filmed in Texas. Read my review or check out Jette's review on Cinematical.

Review: The Blind Side


Sandra Bullock hasn't had the most consistent track record in recent years. For every Infamous, she's got an All About Steve and The Proposal. It's frustrating, because she has it in her to be an impressive actress.  Thankfully, she did The Blind Side with John Lee Hancock to even out the balance.

This "football is salvation" film opens with an explanation of football with a voiceover by Bullock. It seems like a gimmick, but it actually sets up the story well, and underscores Bullock's portrayal of the real-life woman, Leigh Anne Touhy.  It's a case of the truth being stranger than fiction; few would accept this story if it weren't based on the real-life story of NFL player Michael Oher, as adapted from Michael Lewis's book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

Review: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire



One of the most anticipated films at Austin Film Festival this year was Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, a movie that is both a condemnation of "the system"and a tribute to the human spirit.

It's set in 1987, when the AIDS scare is in full swing, and an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence. The epidemic of teen pregancies is being treated with punitive action, and girls like Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) are the epitome of failure of the system. Illiterate, raped, abused and tormented, Precious is a walking ghost with no hope other than a fantasy life where she's loved, and occasionally white, slender, and gorgeous. Precious has sailed through school despite never even doing homework or being able to read, and usually only noticed by bullies.  When she's told by her principal she's being expelled, it seems like that's it for her, but it's just the beginning.

AAAFF Dispatch: Day Four


AAAFF 2009

Tonight the four-day Austin Asian American Film Festival ended its 2009 run with two documentaries: the short My Mother Said (Kuna ni nanang) and the feature Old Partner (Wonangsori).

My Mother Said, by filmmaker Jessica Sison, is the highly personal musings of her 99-year-old grandmother, recounting highlights from her life. Starting out with images of an old woman in a church, and the titular song, it's a documentary with an abstract feel as the woman recounts her history, such as being there for her own mother's death and lacking any mementos of her mother. My Mother Said was the second film in two days that used Ilacano, a language spoken in the Philippines, the other being Fruit Fly.

Old Partner, a South Korean documentary, is an uneven film with some powerful moments, but rambles on more than the film's complaining wife. An aging farmer who does everything by hand faces the inevitable death of his equally elderly ox, which he's had for half of his life. Despite the constant nagging of his wife and his own failing health, every day the farmer goes out to his fields with his ox; it's painful to watch both of them move, although not as painful as it is for either of them. At times seemingly callous, it's hard to deny the intense bond between the two. While the farmer's typical response to his wife is is a grunt, or "huh," if the ox makes a noise, it gets his full attention. 

AAAFF Dispatch: Day Three


LA Renigen and HP Mendoza

What a great day at Austin Asian American Film Festival.  I managed to see four features despite a migraine, because the last film was the one film I absolutely had to see (and it didn't disappoint). 

The day started with People in the Shadows, a documentary on people in the streets of Tehran. It was more verite, and not enough cinema for me (specifically, not enough context). 

But then there was White on Rice, with a quick introduction by co-star Lynn Chen. Hiroshi Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima) plays Jimmy, who, despite being in his forties, is still relying on other people to get by -- currently his sister, nephew, and long suffering brother-in-law. When his brother-in-law's niece Ramona (Chen) comes to stay, Jimmy becomes obsessed.  Look for a supporting role by James Kyson Lee (Heroes), including an unexpected breakfast-cereal-related costume scene.  It's funny, and a crowd pleaser, which is good, because it was another sold-out crowd.

AAAFF Dispatch: Days One and Two with Chi Pham


The Austin Asian American Film Festival's second night has ended.  The only film on Opening Night, The Speed of Life by UT's Ed Radtke was sold out.  I didn't make it to the opening party because I had to get up in the morning.  I did get a chance to talk briefly with Chi Pham by lucky happenstance. [pictured above, center].  

Chi Pham happened to strike up a conversation with a friend and me and ended up sharing quite a bit of his story. Pham plays Dad in All About Dad, the story of a domineering Dad who just can't control his kids any longer.  Pham had quite a journey into becoming a bit of a celebrity. Mark Tran and his production were in jeopardy of shutting down because they couldn't find a bilingual actor to play the father. They scattershot posters all over San Jose, California.  Pham happened upon one, but before he could actually have the audition, his home was lost in a fire, and lost his voice for some time.  But despite the circumstances, he was hired.  He's quite a character, too.  After the screening of All About Dad he was surrounded by dozens of people wanting a photograph with him. 

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