Debbie Cerda's blog

Review: The Lucky One

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The Lucky One

The Lucky One is the latest romantic drama based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, starring Zac Efron. These two facts alone should be enough to ward off anyone with a Y chromosome from this film. A word of advice -- don't be fooled that the main character is a Marine who has served three tours in Iraq, this movie does not have broad appeal. Sparks is known for his modern romance novels, and the story of The Lucky One appears as a thinly re-imagined mashup of Message in a Bottle and Dear John with the tracking down of a found object and star-crossed lovers.

The Lucky One features Efron as Logan Thibault, a Marine who travels on foot from Colorado to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq to search for the unknown woman he believes was his guardian angel during the war. His discovery of the photo of a smiling blonde beauty happens at such an opportune moment that it saves his life in an Iraqi war zone, and he keeps the photo as a good luck charm.

With only a lighthouse as a landmark in the photo, he tracks down Beth (Taylor Schilling) who lives with her Nana (Blythe Danner) and son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). Logan's intent is simply to thank her, but instead winds up working at her dog kennel. Logan quickly encounters Beth's dominating ex-husband who is also a local deputy sheriff. Beth herself struggles with the pain from losing her younger brother Drake a year earlier in the Iraqi war, without clear resolution of his death.

Ready, Set, Fund: A Force in Nature

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Force of Nature still photo

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

While volunteering a few years ago at SCARE for a CURE, a local nonprofit interactive haunted adventure, I was impressed by the talent, dedication and enthusiasm brought to our team by students from The Art Institute of Austin (AI). The culmination of countless hours from initial concept to the final production of their art design, have contributed significantly to the continued success of SCARE.

Several of the AI students I befriended through the SCARE community project have taken on other creative endeavors, most notably AI's Eric Stewart and Anton Curley's documentary project, Nemesis Rising, which has followed local multimedia performance troupe The Intergalactic Nemesis on their national tour. Producer Stewart has another potential film project should it reach its funding goal, the documentary A Force In Nature (seen above), which is six years in the making and over 80% complete. AI instructor and filmmaker Hayden Yates is producing, directing, and has handled most of the cinematography which focuses on octogenarian Icelandic sculptor Jóhann Eyfells who set up his studio in Fredericksburg, Texas in 2003. The remaining filming will be done in Iceland in June with post-production in Austin including editing by Vishwanand Shetti and Ian Candler.

Find out more about other local film projects seeking funding -- including Jonny Mars' America's Parking Lot, which debuted at SXSW Film Festival last month -- after the jump:

Review: Footnote

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Footnote

I've long been a fan of foreign films, but often feel alienated by films that focus on Jewish culture due to my own ignorance and unfamiliarity. I was hesitant about viewing Footnote, which is centered around two characters involved in Talmudic studies, but as the Israeli official selection to the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year's Oscars I felt this film might provide me with much needed insight. I was pleasantly surprised not just by the content and narrative, but the filmmaking in this award-winning movie.

The main theme of Footnote is rivalvry between men -- most notably that of father and son Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) and Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi), both professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Eliezer is a philologist, studying the historical language of the Talmud. On the brink of the publication of groundbreaking research that has taken over 30 years, his work is sniped by another rival at the university who proves his thesis but makes his work unnecessary. His greatest pride is having been referenced in a footnote in a manuscript by a teacher and mentor.

Eliezer's son, Uriel Shkolnik, is more successful for his studies and receives accolades and adoration for his cutting-edge theories on the de-feminization of the Jewish man. However, over-achiever Uriel also demands "constant mild flattery" and wants more recognition for himself. When a clerical error jeopardizes who is the true winner of Israel's most prestigious national award, The Israel Prize -- for which Eliezer has been passed over for 20 years -- Uriel must come to terms with the rivalry between himself and his father, and make a decision that greatly impacts both men's lives.

Nonprofits: Submit Your Films to Lights. Camera. Help.

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Lights. Camera. Help. FestivalSubmissions are now open for the fourth annual Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival, which will take place September 12 - 15, 2012 at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. This cause-driven nonprofit film festival does not charge a fee to submit a film prior to June 15 -- after that a $20 fee applies, but note that all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the prize winners.

Filmmakers and nonprofits have until June 30 to participate. This year the festival expects to award over $5,000 to the causes represented by the winning films in three categories: best PSA (up to 3 minutes), best short film (3-29 minutes) and best feature (30 minutes and up).

Any film that heavily features a cause is eligible to submit to the Lights. Camera. Help. Nonprofit Film Festival, including films by or about nonprofit, non-governmental and/or grassroots organizations. Dramatic, documentary, experimental and animation films are all welcome, and filmmakers are strongly encouraged to focus on storytelling rather than straight PSAs. Details on the submission process are available on the Lights. Camera. Help. Nonprofit Film Festival entry submission page. All films must be received in the Lights. Camera. Help. office by June 30, 2012.

Movies This Week: April 6 - 12, 2012

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Still of the Hunter

The Austin Film Society begins a new Essential Cinema series Tuesday, featuring films from South East Europe. This year AFS welcomes Vera Mijojlic, director of the annual South East European Film Festival of Los Angeles (SEEFest) as curator of SEEFest: Austin. Her knowledge and experience of this multi-ethnic melting pot fuels her ability to educate and promote cultural diversity amongst film audiences. This year six films return along with one "TBA mystery film."

The first film in this series, Fuse (Gori Vatra) screens on Tuesday, April 10 at 7 pm at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. General admission tickets are $8 and AFS members pay just $5. Fuse is a satire that focuses on the tension in a rural town when U.S. President Bill Clinton is set to visit to witness the results of the peace accords. Bosnians and Serbs must be able to work together to convince the President as well as one another that they can truly live in peace.

Movies We've Seen:

Boy -- This bittersweet comedy is a timeless and often imaginative while brutally honest tale of a young boy desperate for a father. I highly recommend seeing this film -- read my review for details. (Regal Arbor)

Undefeated -- Elizabeth says in her review that she "started Undefeated as a skeptic, but as the film progressed, the story of these four guys and their football program drew me in. I don't watch many sports movies, but Undefeated is definitely one of the best I've seen." (Regal Arbor)

Review: Boy

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Still Shot 'Boy'

Several years ago I travelled through the South Island of New Zealand with a group of close friends and was amazed by the diversity and stark contrast between eco-regions. Sadly we didn't have time or plans to make it across to the North Island, but I vowed to go back especially to see the Maori inhabitants in their rural setting. The East Coast of the North Island has a reputation for unemployment, poverty and isolation. Academy Award nominee and writer/director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark, Two Cars, One Night) uses this location as the setting for the bittersweet comedy Boy, which has won several awards including an AFI Fest Audience Award and the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Boy weaves a complex narrative both whimsical and tragic, relying mostly on the imagination of two brothers -- 11-year-old Boy (James Rolleston) who exaggerates his life and confides his innermost secrets to a pet goat, and younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) who believes he has magic powers so strong that they were responsible for the death of their mother during his birth.

Film on Tap: Burton Baton Meets the Waco Kid

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Sam and ChipFilm on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.

The most significant local event that infuses film with beer is the annual Off-Centered Film Fest (OCFF), now in its fifth year in Austin, which runs Thursday, April 19 through Saturday, April 21 this year. A collaboration of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the festival features craft beer-themed films and events.

Tickets go on sale today for the OCFF, which includes a Rolling Roadshow screening of Mel Brooks' comedy, Blazing Saddles, a spaghetti Western feast paired with selections from the Dogfish Head portfolio and a special screening of the short-film fest finalists. As usual, Dogfish Head founder and head brewer Sam Calagione will be on hand for all of the festivities and this year he's bringing along his favorite comedic actors, writers and directors including David Wain (Wanderlust), Ken Marino (Role Models, Wanderlust) and Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad),  to co-host and cavort as they celebrate film and beer. As I learned in my interview with Calagione last year, he was roommates with Marino and Truglio in New York and they served as his "quality analysis" for his homebrew experiments.

Nothing quite says Blazing Saddles like a quote-along with a buttload of cap guns, pies, and baked beans on hand at the Thursday night Rolling Roadshow screening in downtown Austin's Republic Park. Like last year's Strange Brew event, in addition to Dogfish Head selections several local breweries will represented, including Independence Brewing, Real Ale Brewing and Live Oak Brewing (Sam Calagione seen above with Live Oak founder Chip McElroy). Special kegs will be on hand from (512) Brewing, Circle Brewing, Hops & Grain, Jester King, South Austin Beer and Thirsty Planet. Members of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild will be manning a booth where you can not only join the guild as an enthusiast, but also "pie a brewer" for a small donation to benefit this non-profit supporting Texas craft beer-related mission.

Find out more about this special weekend and a report of the offerings at the new Alamo Slaughter after the jump.

Review: Wrath of the Titans

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Wrath of the Titans

Two years after the 3D reboot Clash of the Titans, another filmmaking team has taken liberty with the 1981 screenplay centered on the legend of Perseus in Wrath of the Titans. With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning under his belt as well as the forthcoming reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, director Jonathan Liebesman has no fear of sequels or re-inventions. Clash of the Titans lead actors Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Danny Huston reprise their respective roles from the 2010 movie as Perseus, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon.

Wrath of the Titans finds son of Zeus and demi-god Perseus living the life of a simple fisherman with his son Helius (John Bell), widowed after the death of his wife Io. Perseus' father pays a visit to ask for his help -- as faith in the gods diminish, most of the gods are gone, leaving Hades and Ares to seek their revenge on Zeus and free the giant Kronos. Hades resents Zeus for having banished him to Tartarus, and God of War Ares (Edgar Ramirez) is vengeful against his father and half-brother Perseus.

Not wanting to leave his son, Perseus refuses Zeus' pleas and shortly thereafter, Zeus is captured and imprisoned in the heart of Tartarus. By draining Zeus of his divine powers, Hades and Ares attempt to free the giant Kronos, leader of the imprisoned Titans and father of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, and leader of the likewise imprisoned monsters known as the Titans. Poseidon is destroyed by Ares as well, but not before he tells Perseus how to rescue his father and defeat Kronos -- by enlisting the aid of his son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and locating the Fallen One, Hapheastus (Bill Nighy). As architect of the underworld labyrinthic prison Tartarus and creator of the gods' weapons including Zeus' thunderbolt, Hades' pitchfork and Poseidon's trident, Hephaestus is vital to Perseus' quest to save his father and mankind from the Titans' wrath.

AFF Conversations in Film: Writer Ted Tally and 'Silence of the Lambs'

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Alvaro Rodriguez and Ted Tally at AFF Conversations in Film

My number-one recommendation to anyone interested in screenwriting in Austin is to pay close attention to the Austin Film Festival (AFF) offerings. Not just the mentoring sessions and panels at the festival itself in October, but also throughout the year when AFF hosts "Conversations in Film" screenings and sessions. This series brings veterans of the television and film industry together with fans as well as emerging filmmakers and writers to discuss their works and the medium.

The most recent Conversations in Film session, on Sunday, March 25, at the Harry Ransom Center, featured Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ted Tally (White Palace, The Silence of the Lambs, All the Pretty Horses) and was moderated by Alvaro Rodriguez (From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, Machete) -- seen above. Tally has received acclaim for his adaptations of the works of bestselling authors including Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Harris, Rosellen Brown and George Dawes Green. Following the conversation, a special screening of an original 35mm print of Silence of the Lambs -- recently listed on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" film -- took place at the Bob Bullock Museum theater.

Find out more about Tally and what he revealed about his transition from playwright to screenwriter as well as his thoughts on director Jonathan Demme after the jump.

Cutting the Ribbon at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter

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Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Robert Rodriguez and Tim League

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema had a soft opening of their newest location during SXSW, but the official grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Slaughter Lane location wasn't held until last Thursday, March 22. Members of the press and special guests enjoyed a morning filled with tasty tacos and coffee ... and Bloody Marias and mimosas. As a bonus, mid-morning screenings were open for attendees to try out the new seating and dining design of the theaters, which allow for easier access to seats for both patrons and staff.

Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Machete) was in attendance along with Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, as you can see in the above photo. Rodriguez not only referred as the Alamo Drafthouse concept as being innovative, but he called League the most "innovative exhibitionist in the country, if not the world," and praised the Drafthouse creators saying that despite their growth, it is obvious that they care so much to keep the integrity of a small business that grows organically.

See more photos from the event below including Rodriguez's introduction to the Drafthouse ceremonial sabrage.

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