Debbie Cerda's blog

Fantastic Fest Photos: Meeting the Heads of 'Machine Gun Woman'

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Machine Gun WomanChilean director/writer Ernesto Diaz Espinoza has returned to Austin once again for Fantastic Fest to premiere his latest Latin-sploitation action film, Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman. Accompanying Diaz Espinoza was the Machine Gun Woman herself, Chilean television star Fernanda Urrejola, as seen above on the red carpet. Diaz-Espinoza first visited Austin in 2007 for Fantastic Fest where he premiered Mirageman, along with a screening of his earlier project, the first Chilean martial-arts film Kiltro starring Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror.

With Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman, Espinoza has crafted another humorously entertaining exploitation film that centers around a beautiful and mysterious hit woman clad in machine guns, stiletto boots and not much else. The Machine Gun Woman is tracked by other killers-for-hire including Santiago, a videogame-playing deejay who must deliver her to a crime boss or face his own death.

Fantastic Fest Review: Black Out

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Black Out Still PhotoFilms centering around a protagonist attempting to fill in the blanks of his/her past run the gamut from The Hangover to Memento, and in my opinion have been quite overdone. However, Dutch fillmmaker Aren Toonen delivers a fresh take with his comedic crime drama, Black Out. Toonen effectively weaves wickedly funny humor into a crime thriller that keeps viewers engaged.

Jos Vreeswijk (Raymond Thiry) wakes up with more than a hangover, as he finds a dead body in his bed the day before his wedding. Despite the realization that he has no memory of the last two to three days, Jos assesses and addresses his situation very quickly, as he is no stranger to dealing with a crime scene. Through the use of voiceover narration by Jos, we learn that 10 years ago he was a shakedown henchman for drug dealers, but he gave up a life of crime and his coke connoisseur ex-wife Coca Inez (Rene Fokker) for a career as a waiter and lovely fiancee Caroline (Kim van Kooten).

Jos must locate both the wedding rings and ten kilos of coke that have gone missing, while dodging a colorful and violent assortment of criminals including former Russian ballet dancer and kingpin Vlad "The Gay Basher" (Simon Armstrong), his rival Charles aka "Grandpa" (Edmond Classen), and the lovely and destructive duo of Charity (Katja Schuurman) and Petra (Birgit Schuurman).

Fantastic Fest 2012: The Many Faces of Zack Carlson

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Zack CarlsonOf all the film experiences Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas has to offer, the most consistent and long-running are the weekly series Music Monday, Terror Tuesday, and Weird Wednesday. Zack Carlson and Lars Nilsen are the Alamo Drafthouse's "Cult and Culture" programmers behind the latter two, scouring the earth -- sometimes literally -- for unique and seldom seen 35mm prints to screen. These films could never be described as highbrow art, but have an appeal to film enthusiasts who want to see films that challenge the norm and are outside the comfort zone for mass appeal. I'll never forget the first time I saw Carnival Magic, nor the story about how Carlson secured a copy of a print. Watching that surreal movie with a Weird Wednesday audience is a memorable adventure worth experiencing.

Zack Carlson is more than just a film programmer, with many creative collaborative projects not just in movies but across multiple mediums including books and cartoons. He's written, acted in and produced film projects. This year at Fantastic Fest, attendees can see the premiere of the documentary he produced, The American Scream. Directed by Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie), this film follows three households in sleepy Fairhaven, Massachusetts as they dedicate thousands of hours along with a seemingly infinite amount of creative energy to capture the Halloween spirit in their haunts.

I recently spoke with Carlson at his Halloween-themed home about The American Scream, as well as about other projects he's involved with including the American Genre Film Archive and Fantastic Fest.

Review: Dredd 3D

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Judge Dredd 3D stilll photo

Movies based on comic-book characters can run the gamut from campy to straight action, and often have the greatest critics within the comic fanbase. British science-fiction anthology 2000 AD's best known and longest-running fictional character is Judge Joe Dredd, a law enforcement officer in Mega City One, a violent post-nuclear city that stretches from Boston to Washington. Chaos reigns within the streets, and drones are used to target suspects. With so many crimes occurring every minute, law enforcement officers have been given the title of "Judges" with the authority to arrest, sentence and exact punishment -- whether condemned to iso-cubes or executed on the spot.

Dredd 3D features Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) as he assesses rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who despite her marginal scores on the judge aptitude exams is a highly desirable candidate due to her psychic abilities. A "routine" call to investigate a homicide scene in the Peach Trees block becomes a fight for survival as the two judges stumble into a drug turf war. People are addicted to a new drug, Slo-Mo, which makes the user feel as if time has slowed down to an ultra-slow speed.    

Three gangs struggle for control of the Peach Trees block, but it is the ruthless ex-prostitute and drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang who reign in the 200-story vertical slum. When Judge Dredd and his trainee attempt to leave the complex with a pivotal member of Ma-Ma's clan, the pair become trapped within and marked for execution by Ma-Ma. The residents of Peach Trees eagerly become vigilantes in order to be allowed out of the locked-down complex by killing the judges on the run. 

Review: 2 Days in New York

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2 Days in New York Still Photo

Five years after Julie Delpy introduced her neurotic character Marion and her oddball family in 2 Days in Paris, the actress/writer/director reunites several of the same characters in the romantic comedy 2 Days in New York, opening in Austin this week.

Unfortunately Delpy's real-life mother Marie Pillet, who played Marion's mom in the first film, passed away in 2009. However, Delpy's father Albert Delpy returns as Marion's eccentric father Jeannot, with Alexia Landeau along as Marion's boyfriend-stealing sister Rose. Ex-boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon) also makes an appearance, but he's less suave and more buffoonish than in the first film, and even fat family cat Jean-Luc makes a cameo.

Marion is no longer with her neurotic boyfriend Jack from 2 Days in Paris, and continues to live in New York with their child as well as new American boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock) and his daughter. When Marion's family travels to New York and stays in their small apartment, cultural differences and antics by Rose and Manu threaten their previously stable home. Rose's exhibitionism and Manu's indiscreet drug buys dig the hole even deeper as Marion must deal with her photo gallery exhibit premiere. Marion's neuroses aren't as prevalent as in 2 Days in Paris, but they are most certainly triggered by Rose and Manu. 

Fantastic Fest 2012 Guide: The ABCs of Fantastic Fest

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FF ABCs

Welcome to the 2012 Fantastic Fest Survival Guide. With help from Slackerwood contributor and Fantastic Fest vet Mike Saulters, I've tried to cover every little thing you might want to know while you're spending the week in lovely south central Austin. Literally, I've covered fest tips from A to Z in honor this year's The ABCs of Death, which will have its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest 2012. If we left anything out, feel free to post a comment.

A few notes about relative location: If you are standing in front of Alamo and facing South Lamar (the big busy street), left is north and right is south. Left/north takes you to Barton Springs Road (land of many restaurants and a couple of coffee shops) and eventually downtown. Right/south takes you away from downtown but about a mile down, to a number of good restaurants (and the cheap yet tasty Maria's Taco XPress) as well as Office Depot and CVS.

Check out our other 2012 Fantastic Fest guides for more helpful advice: The Most Fun Homework You'll Ever Do, Planning Your BBQ and Beer Run and XX Team Power! The Fantastic Fest Females Survivor Guide.

Fantastic Fest 2012 Guide: Planning Your BBQ and Beer Run

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bbq run - ff09 (4)"Over time the process of creating pit barbecue has transformed such modest spots into great spaces, where the smoke and heat have penetrated the walls and the people who toil within them."
-- 
Wyatt McSpadden, Texas BBQ, University of Texas Press

As a native Texan, I enjoy joking about the four basic food groups of Texas: Tex-Mex, BBQ, Southern-fried, and beer. Every year the increasing number of Fantastic Fest attendees from all over the globe seem to be most fascinated with BBQ, although beer is certainly not neglected. Much of that credit goes to Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League, who has spearheaded barbecue-themed road trips to favorite iconic stops around Central Texas for film lovers and visiting filmmakers, as seen above.

Texans take their BBQ very seriously, even more so then the "beans or no beans in chili" argument. With BBQ it's "sauce or no sauce" that evokes major controversy, and when sauce is allowed the flavors may ranges from sweet to peppery to holy habanero hot. Perfecting the technique of smoking a brisket until there's a perfect pink smoke line while leaving a moist center is critical to many pitmasters, and a nice "bark" is achieved through the use of a pepper rub.

Let me state for the record -- this guide is not meant to provide a comprehensive list of the best Austin has to offer. There are already plenty of BBQ blogs and lists around for reference. And yes, many Texans prefer the "BBQ" spelling over the generic "barbecue." (That's another argument you can enjoy.)

Movies This Week: September 14-20, 2012

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La Maleta Mexicana PosterGearing up for Fantastic Fest 2012 is keeping Slackerwood contributors busy planning their schedules for eight days of movies and parties. I'm already looking forward to seeing Karl Urban in Dredd 3D as well as The American Scream, a documentary about several haunted houses in Massachusetts. Attendees of The American Scream are invited to a homemade haunt created onsite exclusively for Fantastic Fest by the film's subject Manny "The Halloween Guy" Souza.

Cine Las Americas presents The Mexican Suitcase (La Maleta Mexicanaon Wednesday, September 19, 7:30 pm, at the Jones Auditorium on the St. Edward's University Campus, as part of their "Transitions in Spanish Cinema Series." The Mexican Suitcase features original negatives -- thought to be lost -- from photojournalists who met in Paris in 1936 and traveled to Spain to document the Civil War, discovered in the back of a closet in Mexico City in 2007. A Cine Las Americas International Film Festival Audience Award winner, this documentary focuses on the truth behind historical ties between Mexico and Spain.

The upcoming week features two extraordinary films shot in 70mm -- Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master which opens on September 21 and Samsara, which opens today. Find out more about Samsara below. In addition, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is showing Ghostbusters in 70mm all week long.

Movies We've Seen

Samsara -- From the filmmakers behind Baraka and Chronos comes another visually stunning journey around the world, shot in luscious 70mm. The images of the ancient and modern world are both thought-provoking and engaging -- read more in my review. (Alamo South Lamar, Regal Arbor, Violet Crown Cinema)

Other Movies Opening in Austin

Arbitrage -- Written and directed by 25-year-old newcomer and NYU Film School alum Nicholas Jarecki, this film features Richard Gere as Robert Miller, as a hedge fund magnate dealing with both personal and financial scandals. Also starring Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth, Arbitrage has received enough buzz to watch at least for Gere's performance as a fat cat who may or may not have to account for his greed. (Alamo Slaughter Lane and South Lamar, iPic at the Domain)

Review: Samsara

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Samsara still photo

Director Ron Fricke (Baraka, Chronos) and producer Mark Magidson reunite to bring audiences another visually stunning and dynamic portrait of life on earth with Samsara. The first movie in over a decade shot entirely on 70mm film, the theme of Samsara is based on its translation from the Sanskrit language. Literally meaning "to flow on" through the cycles of life and thus the "ever-turning wheel of life," the filmmakers explore the interconnections between cultures and societies around the globe.

Samsara was filmed over a period of five years in 25 countries, documenting sacred rituals, disaster zones, urban industrial sites, as well as natural and historical wonders. The audience is treated to over an hour and a half journey across the continents, visiting a range of sights from the Wailing Wall in Old City, Jerusalem to the lingering and decaying aftermath of post-Katrina floods in New Orleans' Ninth Ward; from the natural wonders of Yosemite National Park to the flow of the tides at Mont St. Michel, France, and then to Petra, Jordan.

Like its predecessors Baraka and Chronos, Samsara is a non-traditional documentary relying on visual images and music to connect viewers to the tapestry of ancient and modern world woven by the filmmakers. Composer Michael Stearns returns as well and provides a well-matched score to the film.

Ready, Set, Fund: A Convergence of Mediums

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Black and Write

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

The first anniversary of the "Ready, Set Fund" monthly feature was a few weeks ago, and reflecting over the past year I'm pleased by the personal connections I've made with local filmmakers whose projects have been featured. Several filmmakers have reached out often with invitations to set visits or simply to provide progress reports.

Last week I was invited to moderate a Q&A at a local fundraising event for Shane Hazen's movie Here/There/Now/Year Ago, which was featured in August's column. Funding on Indiegogo was extended through today (ends Wednesday, September 12, at 1:59 am CST), and last week's party at Club Deville featured live music as well as several stand-up comedians including lead actress Ashley Barnhill. Taking the stage after comedy talent was slightly intimidating, but Hazen and Barnhill were relaxed and receptive to my questions about their upcoming film project. I was impressed to witness the collaboration between the local comedy and film communities in the audience for this film project.

The documentary Black and Write, which is funding through September 30 on Indiegogo, also exemplifies a convergence between media. In this film, Author C. Mikki portrays the challenges of black authors and the publishing business. Find out more about this and other film projects currently funding after the jump.

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