Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: Serious Wild Afghans and Coco


Afghan Star

This is the week before Austin Film Festival starts, and the studios are slowly starting to release their Oscar hopefuls. It's quite a selection this week, a little something for everyone.

Where the Wild Things Are - This adaptation of Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book is one of the most anticipated films of the year, I had very high hopes for it. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to them, although I'm hard pressed to say exactly why. It's definitely a good film, and worth catching, although it's more a film about childhood than a kid's flick. Check back with Slackerwood later today for my review. (wide)

Afghan Star - Havana Marking's documentary (pictured above) about the risks that aspiring pop stars take to appear on the Afghanistan television show Pop Idol was popular at SXSW, and finally gets a local theatrical release. I haven't seen it but I've heard great things, and it's good enough to be the UK's official submission to the 82nd Academy Awards. (Dobie)

Fantastic Fest 2009: Jenn's Wrap-Up


It's over a week after Fantastic Fest, why are we still writing about it?  Because it was Fantastic Fest, and Chaos Reigns.

FF09-Lunch Down Terrace guys-cYou may have heard that even Variety picked up on the Chaos Reigns meme.  Chaos did reign, from a sexy Swede turning grown women and a few men into quivering fans, to Zack Carlson's amazing save of a Yatterman screening by split-screen magic to show subtitles from a screener with the actual film. We had traditions continued, from David Strong nudity (you had to be there, but if you've been to a Fantastic Fest related event, this is not shocking) to the extreme, watching Tim League in a patriotic unitard battle Uwe Boll in the boxing ring (Boll politely didn't wipe the floor with League). 

I finally understood the draw to karaoke, watching Matt Dentler belt out "Paper Planes" and Nacho Vigalondo going all out on classics, with poses that would put Elvis to shame. Tiffany Sullivan, new mom and Fantastic Fest veteran, even got a "Chaos Reigns" onesie for her infant son, photos of which are now plastered all over the Internet.

My biggest regret was missing the Fantastic Fest Awards, and the amazing flip done by Mandrill star Marko Zaror. And missing Mandrill as well.   If you want to get a sense of the actual experience, it's been posted on YouTube. I highly recommend you go to the Fantastic Fest YouTube page to catch most of the Q&As, and some of the special events, like the Fantastic Feud fights, as well as a brilliant compilation of "Chaos Reigns" chants. I think between Nacho Vigalondo and Tim League, the Alamo Army is alive and well, and ready to do their bidding.

Free Classic Mexican Horror Movies at the Mexican American Cultural Center


The Living CoffinCine Las Americas has teamed up with Austin Parks and Recreation and the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) for another free film series. Earlier this year, during the Cine Las Americas film festival, all films shown at the MACC were free, including Crude, which is currently at the Arbor.

The new series is "La Hora Fria: Classic Mexican Horror," and will run from October 21 to November 6, 2009, with all shows starting at 8 pm. It's a great way to prepare for Day of the Dead. The series is part of the Mexican Bicentennial celebrations, and will showcase a collection of Mexican horror from the late 1950s. These six films reinterpret classic horror such as Dracula and Frankenstein as well as Mexican folk tales such as La Llorona.  All films are in Spanish with English subtitles. 

For more information about the "La Hora Fria: Classic Mexican Horror" series, visit the Cine Las Americas website.

Review: We Live in Public


We Live in PublicEver wonder about how much people share their lives in social media these days?  Believe it or not, someone was actively exploring those very possibilities long before the new millennium. DIG! Director Ondi Timoner brought her latest documentary, We Live in Public, to Austin for a special one-week engagement. 

The film focuses on Josh Harris, a dot-com entrepreneur who was ahead of the curve, and a social media pioneer long before MySpace. Harris's story is the cautionary tale of a dot-com pioneer, but the story told here is much more. Harris didn't just have skyrocketing success only to crash in the dot bomb. Even his parties had ulterior motives. 

Among his projects was "Quiet: We Live in Public," a social experiment where artists lived in a sealed community -- eating, sleeping and living with every action being recorded.  There was no privacy of any sort, and every imaginable action was recorded, including some you might not consider. Even after "Quiet" ended, Harris's experiments didn’t, with both celebrated and condemned results.

Director Ondi Timoner not only explores Josh Harris's history as a social media pioneer, she was a participant in "Quiet," so has intimate knowledge of that project. Despite her insider knowledge, Timoner balances the story in We Live in Public with material that contemplates the consequences of living without boundaries.

Movies This Week: Crude Retreats in Public


We Live in Public

We've hit the lag that comes before the Oscar rush, folks. Not a lot of big new movies are coming out this week, but a few indie/arthouse films are opening here in Austin. The only new film in town we were given the opportunity to see before it opened was Couples Retreat, but we were all sickly slackers who didn't make it. 

We Live in Public opens at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar with director Ondi Timoner in attendance Friday and Saturday night. It's a cautionary tale about how much we are living in public, oddly enough. 

Paranormal Activity is getting another shot at the Austin box office after last weekend's special run at the Alamo Drafthouse, only this time with a couple more theaters added.  It didn't scare me, but I'm hard to scare, and it did keep my attention all the way through.  If you like being scared, you owe it to yourself to check out this flawed but very worthy ghost story.

Movies This Week: Fantastic!


Whip It

Sorry we didn't do a real Movies this Week last week; Fantastic Fest is all-consuming. Chaos reigns, and all. This week, we have some very Austin-centric films opening that we think you should know about.

Whip It --Drew Barrymore's directorial debut only filmed in Austin a few days, but most people won't be able to tell. If you ever needed an excuse to go to the Alamo Ritz to see one, now you have a reason, because one of the few interior scenes shot in Austin is right there. Go see it anyway, because it's fun, and chocked full of girl power. And there's Zoe Bell!!

Zombieland -- This gala film from Fantastic Fest is now open.  Who said zombie films are dead?  It's another fun one, and a real crowd pleaser. The Fantastic Fest audience went wild when the main character revealed he'd been a student at UT when the zombie outbreak began. The first part of the movie is set in Texas, although it was shot in Georgia.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #8: Closing Night Chaos Reigns!


FF09ChaosReignsIt's over. I can't believe it's over. Chaos Reigned.  I was ready for it to be over; eight days of films and fun, nearly nonstop, it can't go on forever, and the party has to end. But it ended on several high notes. 

I had a brief interview with the Spierig brothers, who brought Daybreakers in for the Closing Night film, although it's not getting released until January.  Despite my forgetting my notebook and being dead-tired, the highlight was their response to my saying "How can you forget someone who pulls a gun out of their ass?!" Having seen Undead, and loving it, it's hard to forget Mungo McKay. 

I ended up walking out of Dirty Mind, not because the film is bad, but because I was tired, and not in the mood for white-on-light subtitles.  Bad subtitles is a pet peeve of mine, especially having seen amazing ones in films like Daywatch and Slumdog Millionaire.  At least use yellow or a border around the letters, please!

Even less fun was the final secret screening, which turned out to be Universal Soldier: A New Beginning. Director John Hyams, Dolph Lundgren, and Andrei "the pitbull" Arlovski were in attendance for the film. I'm definitely not the film's demographic, and I found the fighting very monotonous and over simplified.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #7: Stingray Sam, Doghouse and Hipster Epidemics


Not many official films today, as the festival is winding down, at least for me.  I didn't manage to catch Yesterday as planned because a press screening started late. I can't say much about that, but I think I can say that if you like Vampire stories, you're in for a special treat for the Closing Night film.

FF09-CoryMcAbeeDrPepperI did manage to catch Stingray Sam after having had a nice chat over at the Highball with director/star Cory McAbee (shown at left). Chris Holland and I introduced him to the wonder that is Dublin Dr. Pepper, which the pharmacy next door stocks.  If you haven't had one, it's very good, and made with real cane sugar. Nice guy, and he looks like he should be a regular at the Highball. 

Anyway, Stingray Sam is a lot of fun, and people applauded throughout this episodic film. When I mentioned seeing the film to other festgoers, they got very excited; it seems the previous screening included the audience singing along.  I suspect the crowd I saw it with was a bit tired. Still it was fun, and with an energetic Q&A, it's a highlight of the fest, for sure.  At some point I should be posting excerpts from the Q&A.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #6: Private Eyes and Crazy Racer Feasts


FF09-Private Eye QandA by you.

I'm so tired.  But I'm a bit tense. only two days left, and I can feel the start of Post Fest Depression wanting to rear its ugly head.  But there's two full days left. While there are still a lot of people attending, the numbers are dwindling, so you have a better chance of getting into stuff now, rather than later.

And before I forget, you can see the Fantastic Fest Awards winners online, and several have additional screenings in the next couple of days.  And yes, VIP badges for next sold out even faster than last year. 

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #5: Scrappy Tim League vs Uwe Boll



What did I do yesterday? Well, I got nearly 6 hours of sleep, which made it easier to stay up late.  Yet I managed to make it to four and a half films, and catch a glimpse of Scrappy Tim League take on Uwe Boll in a boxing match and walk away to tell the tale.  

The first I can't tell you about. I'm sworn to secrecy until opening day. But many festgoers will likely be filling a theater for it later today. I also caught Bronson, House of the Devil, Terribly Happy, a special press screening of Trick r Treat and part of [REC]2.

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