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Review: Ninja Assassin


Ninja Assassin

V For Vendetta director James McTeigue and producers Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers join forces again to splatter the screen with gore galore in Ninja Assassin. This film is not for the weak of heart or stomach -- be prepared for graphic dismemberment and fountains of blood. Ninja Assassin has displaced Daybreakers on my list for the amount of blood used in a film production.

The story centers around Raizo (Rain), a renegade ninja from the Ozunu clan. The clan is a secret organization that kidnaps young children, training them to become silent killers. After the merciless killing of the female ninja who touched his heart, Raizo denounces his Ozunu family. Skilled in the use of a kusarigama weapon, Raizo takes revenge on his former family by executing them.

Review: Old Dogs


Old Dogs

Just in time for the holidays, John Travolta and Robin Williams team up for the family comedy Old Dogs. The premise of the story is that two longtime friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead to them being placed in the care of 7-year-old twins.

With the encouragement of buddy Charlie (John Travolta), Dan (Robin Williams) gets wild during a night in South Beach which apparently results in more than a 24-hour marriage, hangover and annulment. When Mommy aka South Beach Vicki (Kelly Preston) is ordered by the court to serve two weeks in jail after chaining herself to a tree in protest, Dan offers to take care of the kids. Screwball comedy ensues, Japanese businessmen are both impressed and offended by the antics of the buddy team along with their junior executive, played by Seth Green.

Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon


New Moon

Probably the most anxiously awaited sequel of the year, The Twilight Saga: New Moon is breaking records for pre-sold sellouts as Twilight fans prepare for the second installment in the series. Director Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, About a Boy) takes the helm of this teen romance/fantasy, with screenplay writer Melissa Rosenberg returning to bring Stephenie Meyer's novel to life.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) and "vegetarian" vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) begin to publicly display their romance, much to the chagrin of her other friends including childhood friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Following a potentially fatal incident at Bella's 18th birthday party, the Cullen family abandons the town of Forks, Washington. Bella is heartbroken and inconsolable, isolating herself completely from all friends -- until Jake helps her refurbish a pair of old motorbikes. Their relationship helps her to slowly heal from the loss of Edward.  However, it turns out that as a member of the Quileutes tribe, Jake has his own secret supernatural powers to deal with, which are tied to the reason why Edward ended his relationship with Bella.

Review: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men



When I saw Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men at the 1997 SXSW Film Festival, I was unsettled by the brutal portrayal of misogynistic behavior of its main characters.  Though I originally intensely disliked the film, I realize now my references to LaBute's work twelve years later is compelling evidence of the film's ability to hit a nerve. John Krasinski's directorial debut of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men evokes a similar response, as it explores the dark and disturbing nature of men and their complex relationships with women. Based on the book by David Foster Wallace, this film pushes viewers out of the comfort zone and exposes the darker nature of human interactions.

Review: Pirate Radio


Pirate Radio

As a kid growing up in the late Sixties, my secret late-night habit was to listen in the dark to pop music on my tabletop Hi-Fi transistor radio, glowing on the lightstand next to my bed. As I listened to the DJ, I imagined that the band was playing right there in the studio. The new ensemble comedy Pirate Radio -- released in the U.K. as The Boat That Rocked -- captures the romance between pop music and the young people of the Sixties.

Interview: John Krasinski


John Kraskinski on the set of Hideous Men

John Krasinski (Away We Go, The Office) will be in Austin this weekend to premiere his directorial debut of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men as part of the Celebrity Guests Signature Series at the Alamo Downtown. I spoke with John by phone before his arrival in Austin, and here's what he had to say.

Tell us about your film Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

It's a book by David Foster Wallace that I had read in college. Without being overly sentimental, it's basically not only been my passion to get it made into a movie, but it was also the thing that made me want to be an actor. I had been acting in college just for fun with friends, and after being a part of this staged reading that we did, it made such an impact on me emotionally. In one of those big ways it had a huge impact by how provocative and honest it was. It was one of those things where I really wanted to give acting a shot after that.

Review: The House of the Devil


Tom Noonan in The House of the Devil

Just in time for the Halloween weekend, horror film The House of the Devil opens in theaters nationwide. This film is set in the 1980s, but takes viewers back even further to the psychological horror films of the late 1960s and 1970s, including horror classics Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist. Like its predecessors, The House of the Devil delivers horror built on slowly built tension and Satan worshippers.

Jocelin Donahue (The Burrowers) plays Sam, a pretty college sophomore who accepts a babysitting job at a remote Victorian mansion deep in the woods despite the misgivings of her best friend, played by Greta Gerwig (Hannah Take the Stairs, Baghead), and lack of an actual baby to watch. There Sam meets Mr. and Mrs. Ulman (Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov), who don't seem quite right. As the night progresses and a lunar eclipse begins, things get even worse for Sam, culminating in climatic and final scenes worthy of classic horror.

Review: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant


Vampire's Assistant

Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant was one of the Fantastic Fest gala events last month, and demonstrates that we just can't get enough vampire movies at the moment. This film is based on the popular series of books by Darren Shan called The Saga of Darren Shan, a fantasy-adventure about a teenager who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Though the main character in the book is 12 years old, in the film Darren is 16. He is introduced to a fantastic world of sideshow freaks, vampires and creatures of unknown origins.

The exposition takes viewers on a fast track, so if you aren't familiar with the books you might be confused by references to the "Vampaneze." The special effects and scenery in Cirque Du Freak are visually striking, but they can't hide the stilted acting. John C. Reilly as Larten Crepsley has great comedic timing, but it is difficult to see the character instead of the star power of Reilly. The young stars Chris Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson do well for their first major film, but it is consummate actor William Dafoe who lends his own personal touch without overshadowing the character that really steals the show.

Review: Coco Before Chanel


Alessandro Nivola and Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel

Coco Chanel is a name synonymous with a classic style, of simple lines and comfortable fit but not always for everyone. Such is the film Coco Before Chanel, a biopic by Anne Fontaine based on the book Chanel and Her World: Friends, Fashions, and Fame by Coco's official biographer Edmonde Charles-Roux. Fontaine's film is less about the events of Chanel's life and more a window into the provincial beginning and formative years of a woman who defied standards and became an internationally known icon.

Young Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel and her sister were abandoned in an orphanage after the death of their mother. As young women, the Chanel sisters become chanteuses in provincial France. While working as a part-time seamstress, Coco (Audrey Tautou) meets and becomes the courtesan of millionaire playboy Balsan, devilishly played by Benoît Poelvoorde. She moves into his country house, where she hides from his guests at the request of the baron. During this time Coco meets and drinks with Balsan's polo-playing friends, which includes the affluent and self-made Arthur "Boy" Capel, dashingly portrayed by Alessandro Nivola.

Quick Snaps/News: 'Beeswax' Returns to Austin


SXSW 2009

Did you catch Beeswax at SXSW this year? The latest movie from now-an-Austinite Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation) has been playing fests around the country, and I've been waiting for it to return to the city where it was shot. During the festival, I took this photo of writer-director Bujalski and SXSW Film Director Janet Pierson, who has a role in the film.

I'm happy to announce that Beeswax will open in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar (where I took the above photo, coincidentally) on Friday, October 9 and, where it is scheduled for at least a week. Update: Austin Film Society members can get a discount for the 7:05 pm screening, which Bujalski will attend and hold a Q&A.

From my Cinematical review: "Bujalski seems to be working to make his film as natural as possible, as if we were peeking in on real people from the window, but accomplishes this while still making Beeswax fascinating to watch."

I've got photos from the SXSW screening of Beeswax at the Paramount, after the jump.

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