Movies This Week: November 7-13, 2014


Big Hero 6

With the Austin Film Festival now in our collective rearview mirrors, the local film calendar is going to start turning more actively towards some of the biggest films of the year. Most of them will not be blockbusters (although Interstellar certainly is), but many titles will be hopefuls for awards season. As far as Christopher Nolan's new film goes, we are very fortunate to live in a market where it's playing in all available formats. While you can see it in 4K digital or even digital IMAX, the preferred format for this one is actual film and you can catch local screenings in 35mm, 70mm (at the Ritz) and even a proper 15-perf 70mm IMAX print at the Bob Bullock (where the screen towers six stories above you). Sadly, this will be the final movie screened on film at the museum before they convert to digital projection, so I'd encourage you to take in the experience there.

Birdman (Mike's review) expands to the multiplex this weekend as Fox Searchlight adds screens at the AMC Barton Creek and Cinemark Hill Country Galleria (while continuing on at Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, Alamo South Lamar, Regal Arbor and Violet Crown) and Sony Pictures Classics is taking Whiplash to the Alamo South Lamar (while it continues at Regal Arbor and Violet Crown). 

The Austin Film Society has a special screening tonight of Austin Film Festival alum Winter In The Blood at the Marchesa. Local filmmakers (and twin brothers) Alex and Andrew Smith (The Slaughter Rule) had their latest feature picked up for distribution this fall by Kino Lorber. Featuring a score by Austin rockers Heartless Bastards, Alex Smith and some of the cast members will be in attendance for a Q&A after tonight's screening.

On Sunday afternoon, AFS is bringing in former Austinite Margaret Brown for a special advanced screening of The Great Invisible (Elizabeth's review), her documentary about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW earlier this year. The film, which also has a local score thanks to Ola Podrida's David Wingo, will not be opening locally until mid-December, so here's a chance to see it early and enjoy a post-film Q&A. Another fantastically programmed "Essential Cinema" lineup kicks off on Tuesday night at the Marchesa. Dubbed "From The Islands: Contemporary Filipino Films," the first movie in the series is Alvin Yapan's Debosyon, a 2013 "fantasy film about a young man's love for a mysterious woman living alone in a forest." Wednesday evening will bring in Food Chains for the "Doc Nights" series. This new documentary narrated by Forest Whitaker was directed by Sanjay Rawal and explores the costs of human labor and the abuses of farmworkers that help provide our food supply. The film focuses on tomato pickers in Southern Florida and their attempt to bring change and "a more humane, transparent food chain."  

There's a lot of great programming across the Alamo Drafthouse locations this week. On Monday, a brand new series spotlighting 12 films from 1999 in 35mm will begin with Being John Malkovich at the Ritz and The Blair Witch Project is scheduled for Thursday night at South Lamar. Future titles in the series include Eyes Wide Shut, The Limey and Bringing Out The Dead. 

The Alamo Slaughter Lane is serving up Afternoon Tea on Saturday afternoon with 1988's Dangerous Liasons, a sensual drama with Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Uma Thurman. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, they'e got The Fifth Element and Tuesday night brings William Wyler's 1946 award-winning war drama The Best Years Of Our Lives (which also screens at Lakeline the same night). Earlier this year, Alamo patron Neil Wilson contributed to the American Genre Film Archive's Indiegogo campaign and his reward was to pick a star for a mystery marathon. His sublime choice is Walter Matthau and five mystery titles will be screening in 35mm at the Ritz on Sunday for "Waltered States."

On Tuesday, the Ritz has a new documentary from Portuguese director Joaquim Pinto called What Now? Remind Me that chronicles his cinematic career and his experience living with HIV for more than twenty years. The film is Portugal's official submission to the Foreign Language category of the 87th Academy Awards. The "Clint Eastwood: B-Sides" series continues on Wednesday at the Ritz with Honkeytonk Man in 35mm. Also this week, the Alamo South Lamar has two 35mm screenings of Mike Judge's Idiocracy on Sunday and they're bringing back Miami Connection for one show on Thursday night. Finally, Tough Guy Cinema has two screenings of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior up at the Alamo Village on Sunday and Wednesday. 

Movies We've Seen

Big Hero 6 (pictured above) - Disney's latest animated feature is a multicultural adventure with a story that originally began as a Marvel Comic. Hiro Hamada is a robotics prodigy who gets help from his brother Tadashi, a group of friends and a robot named Baymax to fight crime. The co-directors of Bolt bring this one to life and Mike's review calls it "clever and funny with entertaining characters" and also praises the film for "presenting modern Asian-American leads as positive role models in a major Hollywood studio production for children." (wide, available in 2D and 3D screenings) 

Force Majeure - One of the most interesting films I saw at Fantastic Fest this year, mainly because I had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was that it was about an avalanche at a ski resort, so I assumed it was a graphic horror flick. Instead, it turned out to be a darkly comic Swedish drama about gender norms and instinct. Swedish director Ruben Ostlund depicts the layers of complexity that can develop in a relationship that we rarely want to talk about. It's got a whopping 94% on Rotten Tomatoes to recommend it, but get ready to be surprisingly uncomfortable for two hours and have a lot to talk about afterwards. (Regal Arbor, also currently slated to open at Violet Crown on December 5)

Interstellar - There has been endless chatter about Christopher Nolan's efforts to save celluloid with his latest science-fiction epic, including what I noted above about the various formats that you can see the film in locally. There's no question in my mind that you need to see it on the biggest screen imaginable, but the real question becomes is it worth your time? At almost three hours long, I still answer with a resounding yes. It's funny because Marcelena and I both had different reactions to it - I found the final act to be problematic and a bit silly while her review indicates that she lost interest a bit in the middle, but found the last act of the film to be "compelling (and quite thought-provoking)." I love that the film is getting people talking and earning good reviews without across-the-board fanboy raves. (wide, available locally in 35mm, 70mm and 15-perf IMAX 70mm film formats in addition to 4K digital projection at the multiplexes)

Open Windows - Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey star in this latest effort from Nacho Vigalondo. Marcelena reviewed this during SXSW and thought it was "one hell of a thrilling ride." I though the movie fell pretty flat as a thriller, all things considered, but it was fun to watch since it was shot in Austin and the city gets a lot of screen time, including a pretty awesome chase sequence. (nightly showtimes at the Alamo South Lamar, also available on VOD)

Also Opening In Austin

Citizenfour - Director Laura Poitras had already been working for several years on a documentary about government surveillance after 9/11 when, in January 2013, she started receving encrypted emails from a whistleblower who turned out to be Edward Snowden. The resulting documentary features footage from when she travelled with Glenn Greenwald from The Guardian to meet and interview Snowden. Steven Soderbergh signed on as a co-producer of the film and it's being released through The Weinstein Company's Radius arm in partnership with HBO Documentary Films, which will air it next year. (Alamo South Lamar, Regal Arbor, Violet Crown)

Laggies - Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell lead an excellent cast in this new indie film by Lynn Shelton (Your Sister's Sister, Humpday). This is the first time that Shelton is directing a film from a script that she did not write, but reviews are substantially better than those she got for her last feature, Touchy Feely. (Regal Arbor)

Why Don't You Play In Hell? - Winner of the People's Choice Award in the Midnight Madness sidebar of the Toronto Film Festival last year, the latest feature from Japanese director Sion Sono is being released by Drafthouse Films. Described as "an action film about the love of 35mm," I can't be the only person disappointed that it's only being exhibited digitally especially with Nolan's big-screen push for prints this week. (Alamo South Lamar, also available on VOD)