Jenn Brown's blog

Movies This Week: The Footloose Firefly Weekend Way


Need to get your "free" on? The Whole Foods Sunset Supper Cinema tonight features Hook at the Lamar location. On Wednesday, Cine Las Americas presents Rosa blanca (White Rose) plays at the MACC as part of its free "Literature in Mexican Cinema" series. Plus, you can find free screenings during the week as part at various Austin Public Library locations.

You have one more chance to catch Austin Chronicle cover-story filmmaker Heather Courtney's Where Soldiers Come From (Jette's review), on Saturday at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. If you haven't already seen it, it's another outstanding locally made film we can't recommend enough.

Cine Las Americas also presents Octubre at the Alamo Village on Sunday. While this movie isn't free, it did win the 2010 Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes. Check the Alamo website for more.

Movies We've Seen:

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (pictured above) -- A documentary about the process of developing and delivering some of the most unique cousine at what was considered the world's best restaurant, as well as the imagination of chef Ferran Adrià. Read my review for more ... then go to dinner; you will be hungry. (Violet Crown)

Fireflies in the Garden -- This semi-autobiographical drama of family reconciliation was filmed in Austin, Bastrop and Smithville with an all-star cast. J.C. says, "Never judge a book by its cover and Fireflies in the Garden is a good example why." Read his review for details. (Cinemark Tinseltown)

Review: El Bulli: Cooking in Progress


Opening with a headshot of chef Ferran Adrià sampling a luminescent fish popsicle in the dark, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress immediately lets you know this isn't just another food documentary. The movie returns to Austin after screening at SXSW this year for a run at Violet Crown Cinema.

A pioneer in the molecular gastronomy movement, Adrià is a controversial chef whose legend is based on the extreme re-imagining and deconstruction of food both common and exotic, and whose restaurant was considered the best in the world. While some dishes are as visually sensual as a Georgia O'Keefe painting, some are more remiscent of an Edward Weston photograph, transcending the commonplace. What looks like a peanut in the shell may actually be completely edible, with a salty "shell" enveloping a liquid peanut, or a mojito cocktail contained within sugarcane.

At the beginning of the film, Adrià and his staff are packing up the restaurant at the end of its typical six-month season. But Adrià and his three head chefs are not off for a vacation; instead they head to Barcelona and the laboratory where they meticulously document their experiments to create new dishes. Starting with something as simple as the lowly sweet potato, the chefs painstakingly try different methods to bring out the flavor in a juice form, which will become a meringue.

Movies This Week: Ides of Real Restless Hedgehog


The Sunset Supper Cinema at the Whole Foods flagship on Lamar is showing the 1982 musical Annie tonight as a sing-along. With the cooler weather, it's sure to be crowded, so get there early. And don't forget the free movies at various Austin Public Library locations; check out the August Insider's Guide for details.

Austin Film Society's next Essential Cinema series, "Goin' for Baroque: Ken Russell, Peter Greenaway, Derek Jarman," kicks off Tuesday with Russell's iconic rock opera Tommy. And you know what they say: "That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball." Check the event details on the AFS website for more.

On Wednesday and Thursday, do not miss the SXSW Presents screenings of Where Soldiers Come From (Jette's review) at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. It's one of the incredible documentaries supported by the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund, directed by Austin filmmaker Heather Courtney, with an internationally relevant story. Courtney's on the cover of the Austin Chronicle this week, with a great feature story about the film.

Movies We've Seen:

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) -- The sequel to the anatomically plausible horror film The Human Centipede was the opening night film at Fantastic Fest, but wasn't a crowd pleaser. Read Rod's fest review. (Alamo South Lamar)

The Ides of March -- A contemporary political thriller with elements of old school, slow-build potboilers sure to please most cyncics regardless of their political affiliation. In fact, Don says to skip it if you're looking to restore your faith in politics; read his review to find out more. (wide)

Review: Margaret


It's never a good sign when a film spends over five years between production and release, and Margaret, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's follow-up to You Can Count on Me, is a classic example of why. No amount of star power in its cast can redeem this confused tale of consequences and affluent angst.

Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) is a spoiled teen whose self-centeredness contributes to a fatality, and emphasizes her disaffected life with an equally narcissistic mother and a father distracted by his new life in California. In theory, Lisa's life implodes, but little that happens in the movie shows any real difference between the before and the after. Instead, Lonergan's script alienates with the sheer banality of upper middle class life in New York City.

Review: Restless


All too often, when a movie can be described as sentimental, it's usually not a compliment. Gus Van Sant's latest film Restless however is a welcome reminder that death-themed films needn't rely on the suffocating pedestrian solemnity so common in heartfelt fare.

A solemn young man (Henry Hopper) meets an effervescent young woman (Mia Wasikowska) at a funeral of all places. After a few more chance encounters, the pair finds they both have a fascination with death, but neither obsession is quite what it seems; Enoch is trapped by his past, and Annabel has embraced her future. For a while they have a whimsically sweet present, as they humor each other's morbid fantasies with a faith in one another rarely seen in real life, let alone on the jaded silver screen. But it starts seeming less healthy and more a folie à deux to Annabel's protective sister (Schuyler Fisk), especially after Enoch and Annabel share confidences, and Annabel so easily accepts the existence of Enoch's spectral best friend, Hiroshi (Ryo Kase).

'Butter' and 'Union Square' Bookend Austin Film Festival


Austin Film Festival has just announced its opening-night, centerpiece, and closing-night films for the 2011 fest. The previously announced feature Jeff Who Lives at Home, directed by former Austinites Jay and Mark Duplass, will serve as the anchoring centerpiece selection, with Jay Duplass in attendance. Two newly announced titles will bookend eight days of films, starting in just two weeks.

The comedy Butter (pictured above) will open the fest on Thursday, October 20 at the Paramount. The feature film takes place in the "cutthroat" world of competitive butter sculpting, and stars Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Ty Burrell and Olivia Wilde. 

AFF's closing-night movie is Union Square, with actress Mira Sorvino in attendance. Union Square is the story of a reluctant reunion between estranged sisters. It's directed and co-written by Nancy Savoca (Dogfight, Dirt), and the cast includes Sorvino and Daphne Rubin-Vega (nominated for a Spirit Award for her performance in Jack Goes Boating). 

Movies This Week: 50 Soul Interrupters Vs. Numbers


Tonight, you can catch a special free screening of Amélie as part of the Whole Foods Sunset Supper Cinema; seating is limited, and starts around 6:30 pm. I'm seriously thinking of going to try some of the food specials, which include a crème brûlée shake.

Then get a triple-shot of filmmaker Ti West, who's been in town for Fantastic Fest. On Saturday he's doing a Moviemaker Dialogue over at the AFS screening room, on Sunday The Roost and The House of the Devil play Alamo Drafthouse Village, followed by an AFS Best of the Fest screening on Monday of The Innkeepers.

On Tuesday, check out the lastest Essential Cinema screening Peking Opera Blues over at Alamo South Lamar. And apparently AFS is kicking of a new "season pass" option -- Season Pass holders get into the Essential Cinema screenings for free.

Now on to the films opening in Austin today, many of which played SXSW to enthusiastic audiences, so don't pass up the chance to see them with an Austin audience before award season starts.

Movies We've Seen:

50/50 -- I've seen a lot of cancer-themed movies this year, but 50/50 stands out as it's inspired by the writer's own experiences. While the title relates to the survival chances, Don says in his review that it "also could refer to the odds that with a great cast and some genuinely poignant and funny moments, the movie can survive its entirely formulaic storyline."

The Interrupters – Using a disease prevention model, the Chicago-based, CeaseFire employs "violence interrupters" to curb the spread of violence through relationships, mediation and other alternatives. Often raw with no rhetorical punches pulled, it's about as different from Thunder Soul as you can get, but equally worthy. Read my review for more.

Thunder Soul (pictured above) -- You will regret seeing this equally moving and entertaining doc made in Houston celebrating the life and work of Conrad "Prof" Johnson, who brought international attention to the Kashmere Stage Band performing popular funk and original compositions that rivaled the work of professionals. You will be dancing in your seat. Read my SXSW review for more. (Alamo South Lamar)

Review: What's Your Number?


Romantic comedies are a staple of the Hollywood moviemaking machine, and for good reason: people like to laugh and to enjoy a love story, an often unbeatable combination. Romantic comedies are also notoriously cheap to churn out, which explains why a retread with careworn tropes and outdated mores like What's Your Number? gets released.

Vacuous Ally Darling (Anna Faris) puts more effort in smoothing her unmussed hair and accentuating her already ample bust before her boyfriend rouses from bed than she does anything else in her life. But when she finds herself reading a women's glamrag article about the number of men the average woman sleeps with, she starts contemplating how many men she's bedded and to her horror realizes she's a slut, at least according to the magazine. Her insecurities go into overdrive as her sister's wedding approaches.

Cue the lothario Colin (Chris Evans) who lives across the hall, who first tantalizes us with obscured frontal nudity, then suddenly reveals he just happens to have the sleuthing skills to help Ally track down her exes so she doesn't sleep with one more guy and doom her to never marrying.

Review: The Interrupters


Violence is an infectious disease, epidemiologist Gary Slutkin tells us early in The Interrupters. Using a disease control model that curtail epidemics by disrupting their spread, CeaseFire employs "violence interrupters" (their actual job title) in various Chicago communities. The interrupters themselves are all too familiar with the consequences of violence, and coupling street cred and relationship building they help stop escalating tensions with the goal of reducing violence on all levels.

Director Steve James follows three of the interrupters over the course of a year as they cajole, counsel and educate the communities they serve, offering alternatives that have significantly decreased violence. Unsurprisingly, it's not an easy job, but the interrupters aren't trying to apply a dressing to an open wound any more than they are sanctimonious do-gooders. Each one, whether profiled or not, has learned consequences of a violent lifestyle in the neighborhoods they serve, giving them common ground. The vibrant Ameena fiercely supports those she helps. Cobe takes a more subtle approach, although equally determined. Eddie is quiet, unassuming and still coming to grips with his own past.

Movies This Week: Incendiary Elite Dolphin Moneyball


Life Above All

Fantastic Fest isn't the only movie-related event going on in town this week (although it often feels different when attending the fest). Austin has some interesting special movie events that tie into other film festivals.  As this goes live, the Cine Las Americas free screening of El Infierno is about to start. And while Incendiary: The Willingham Case has a theatrical release in town today, there is a special reception at tonight's screenings with local filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey, Jr at Violet Crown Cinema. Seats are limited, so don't wait any longer to buy your tickets, as you will want to talk about the film after you see it.

If you were lucky enough to see Thundersoul at SXSW 2010, you probably want to watch it again on Thursday at Alamo Drafthouse Village as part of the Austin Film Society "Best of the Fest" series. If you haven't, you'll want to see it, and not just because Jamie Foxx is now attached and actively promoting the film. You will be dancing in your seats, inspired to reconnect with your dreams and determined to fight for music programs in schools as you enjoy the story of a Houston high-school music teacher who turned a stage band into a world-renowned funk band still selling albums today. 

Finally, if you need to get your "bad film" on, Wild in the Streets is the next film in the free(!) series "Bad Film Festival" at Austin Public Library's Carver Branch.

Movies We've Seen:

Dolphin Tale 3D -- Chris has mixed feelings, and says his "litmus test for any kids' movie is whether it entertains the adult members of its audience while keeping kids engaged." Find out what Chris and his daughter thought about it in his review. (wide)

Incendiary: The Willingham Case -- This locally produced documentary couldn't be more relevant if it tried. Regardless of your politics, Incendiary focuses on facts, not opinion, and the disturbing resistance of admitting to potential errors. Don reviewed and says it's "the sort of provocative documentary the Powers That Be don't want you to see." If you don't believe him, read my SXSW review. (Violet Crown Cinema)

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