Local Cast and Crew

Film on Tap: Austin Takes the Gold and Beer Week Begins


Austin Beerworks Team

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

Over 49,000 beer enthusiasts descended upon Denver, Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) earlier this month, and Texas craft beer was well-represented. This year’s festival competition featured 732 breweries from around the United States entering 4,809 brews to be judged and distinguished as the best of American craft ales, lagers and specialty libations. Texas brewers received 10 awards this year with four gold, two silver and four bronze medals, including a gold to Austin Beerworks (seen at top with Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian) for their Black Thunder German-style schwarz beer.

In addition to Texas brewers, several Austin film-related projects and businesses took part in the festivities surrounding GABF. Alamo Drafthouse's Beverage Director Bill Norris and Creative Director John Gross made the trip to Denver, with Gross moderating "The Business of Fun: Beyond The Beer" panel. North by Northwest founder Davis Tucker was on the panel along with representatives from Odell's Brewing and Oskar Blues, discussing how craft beer goes beyond just drinking and brewing and supports many other business sectors including marketing and design.

VOD Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane


All the boys may love Mandy Lane, but this girl doesn't.

After spending seven years in distribution limbo, the first feature from Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies), All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, screened at this year's Fantastic Fest and is available for anyone to watch on various VOD outlets. But for me, having seen the film once was enough.

If I want to watch a 21st-century The Breakfast Club, I'll go hang out in my campus's Quad. That way I won't have to see star and Austin native Amber Heard (Machete Kills) constantly tucking her hair behind her ear or making sidelong glances in an effort to portray the "good girl" (a la Kristen Stewart). You know that really uncomfortable, borderline-gastrointestinal-disorder look? That is not method acting. 

Mandy Lane is not only shy and quiet, but has been ostracized by her peers for years, that is, until she sprouted acceptable-sized breasts and began participating in high-school track. 

Interview: Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo, 'Machete Kills' (Part Two)

MACHETE KILLS Red Carpet 2013

Continued from Part One, here's the rest of my interview with Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and Machete Kills star Danny Trejo, pictured above at the Fantastic Fest red carpet with actress Alexa Vega.

Slackerwood: It seems like you enjoy revisiting your characters in multiple movies -- why do you think you want to keep bringing the characters back?

Danny Trejo: Well, they're good actors.

Robert Rodriguez: I was very much inspired by George Lucas. He wanted to do a Flash Gordon movie, but couldn't get the rights, so he wrote his version instead, which is called Star Wars. I thought, that's such a cool thing. Instead of going and doing a James Bond movie, go and make your own James Bond series, and put things in it that you love -- base it on my family, call it Spy Kids. Or do a guitar-player series of movies.

You know, actually El Mariachi was designed to be a low-budget series, so I started with the genesis in the very first movie. He doesn't become the guy with the guitar case full of weapons until the last scene in the movie. Spy Kids -- they don't become "spy kids" until the last scene in the movie. And Machete doesn't really become that iconic icon holding up the machete and leading the people until the last scene of the movie.

Interview: Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo, 'Machete Kills' (Part One)

Machete Kills Fantastic Fest

If you haven't seen Machete Kills yet (Don's review), the best way to see it is with a large and enthusiastic audience -- or even a small group of lively friends. It's such silly fun that audience reactions are a must. Robert Rodriguez shot the sequel to Machete in the Austin area, whether you recognize it or not, with a cast that includes Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga. It even includes a fake trailer for a third Machete film ... set in outer space.

And of course, Danny Trejo returns in the title role, which he's been playing since Uncle Machete appeared on the scene in Rodriguez's 2001 movie Spy Kids.

I sat down with Rodriguez and Trejo shortly before the movie opened Fantastic Fest this year -- the photo of Rodriguez, Alexa Vega and Trejo above is from its premiere that evening. Here's what they have to say about James Bond, film franchises, Texas film incentives and shooting in Austin, among other things. There may be minor spoilers if you consider Machete Kills spoilable, which it isn't, really.

Slackerwood: So about 15, 20 minutes into the movie, I realized I was watching a James Bond film -- definitely when I saw the speedboat.

Robert Rodriguez:  Yeah, the speedboat! You're like "Wow, he's a secret agent. He's a Mexican secret agent."

Watch Highlights of 'Dinner with the Danger Gods'


Gary Kent, Bud Cardos and Zack Carlson

Something happened on September 27 that you should all know about. If you were at the Austin Film Society event "Our Dinner with the Danger Gods," you don't need me to tell you that it was a night for the ages. Those who witnessed it won't forget it. We welcomed a panel of some of the greatest stuntmen in the world to sit down at a table with no prepared material, eat steaks, drink whiskey and tell stories, jokes, lies, whatever. It was an event designed not only for the audience but for the legends themselves.

If you weren't at the event, our friend Brandon Grey filmed it, and it looks beautiful. Zack Carlson, who hosted the Danger Gods the previous evening at Fantastic Fest, and I moderated.

Fantastic Fest Quick Snaps: 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place' Red Carpet

Simon and Zeke Hawkins

Generally Fantastic Fest programming is heavily centered around films from around the world, so it was great to see Texas production We Gotta Get Out of This Place on the slate of premieres at this year's festival. Directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins (seen above) may be LA filmmakers, but this thrilling drama set in the rural outskirts of Corpus Christi is firmly rooted in Texas.

Producer Justin X. Duprie is from the small town of Taft, Texas, where primary production of the film took place. Duprie had described his hometown to writer Dutch Southern, who was inspired to write the screenplay for We Gotta Get Out of This Place.

Fantastic Fest Review: We Gotta Get Out of This Place


We Gotta Get Out of This PlaceWe Gotta Get Out of This Place was shot in Taft and Corpus Christi, Texas, during winter months where endless dead cotton fields perfectly represent the inescapable bleak feelings suffered by small-town high-school students on the cusp of starting new adult lives. Playing something like a more mature version of Something Wicked This Way Comes minus the supernatural element, writer Dutch Southern's screenplay inserts a maliciously scheming petty criminal father-figure into a teenage love triangle, with deadly results.

Mark Pellegrino (Dexter, Lost) has a career packed with dark roles, but Giff is a unique character. The rural mafia boss is uneducated but possesses a devastating crafty intelligence. Perhaps slightly insane, he is predatory, with a charming, even seductive personality that reveals his vicious intent with the punchline of his never-ending one liners. He employs teens B.J. (Logan Huffman) and Bobby (Jeremy Allen White), whom he coerces into working a heist for him to repay a small fortune that B.J. has stolen and then blown in a weekend of partying with Bobby and girlfriend Sue (Mackenzie Davis).

Like Pellegrino, the other leads in this movie are cast true to type. Best known for his role in the ABC reboot of V, Huffman's portrayal of B.J. is a Jim Nightshade analogue. With no prospects for college as a way out of town, he embraces Giff as a mentor and the only hope of finding success.  He realizes too late that he is in over his head.

Jeremy Allen White's Bobby, like the light-haired Will Halloway, is more heroic, but his better education and plans to attend college with B.J.'s girlfriend Sue result in a growing feeling of alienation between the lifelong friends. Feelings of betrayal become deadly, and they could all pay the price.

Gary Kent Prepares You to Meet the "Danger Gods" on Friday


Gary KentBy Ellie Kotapish

Prepare yourself for jaw-dropping tales and a night in Austin with five of the most daring men in Hollywood. Starting in the 1960s, these "Danger Gods" have been performing stunts of extreme levels for many years. But they are capable of more than just crashing cars and freefalling from tall buildings.

I had a sneak preview of what's to come at Friday night's "Our Dinner with the Danger Gods" event, as special guest Gary Kent (pictured at right in his early stuntman days) discussed revolutionary cinema in the 1970s along with his experience as a stuntman and filmmaker.

Counterculture takeover:

The '60s were a time of revolution in the streets as well as the studios. This change is evident not only in the content of the films but also in the filmmakers themselves. Kent entered into this counterculture takeover fully aware of this "new energy," as he described it. It was this revolution in filmmaking that lured Kent to Hollywood in the first place.

With television absorbing audiences, drive-ins were left with a different crowd and "no product," Kent said. At the same time, this vacuum at the heart of the exhibition market meant independent filmmakers finally had a place to showcase their work. And with no studio control, the subject matter had virtually no limits.

Love of the stunt:

As all these forces were beginning to coalesce, Kent took a bus to L.A. to pursue acting under the naive impression that the actors performed their own stunts. It didn't take him long to realize that his skills as a stuntman were in higher demand than his acting talents.

Kent's first gig as a stuntman – with no experience whatsoever – was on Monte Hellman's film The Shooting (1966). At the same time -- and shooting in the same locations -- he doubled for actors Jack Nicholson and Cameron Mitchell on the film Ride in the Whirlwind (1966).

Fantastic Fest Interview: Tyler Mager and Americo Siller, 'Witch'

Cast of Witch

The short film Witch is one of two Austin-shot shorts accepted for programming this year at Fantastic Fest 2013. It's screening as one of the Short Fuse selections. I spoke with local writer/directors Tyler Mager and Americo Siller about the production.

Slackerwood: Which of you had the idea for Witch? And what was the inspiration?

Tyler Mager: We came up with the idea together over numerous writing meetings. 

Americo Siller: It's a bar, a beer, a table, and a two-hour talk as Tyler scribbles everything down in a spiral notebook.

Mager: It started with an idea of classic supernatural monster mythology and how it would be looked at now. If a crazy psycho was going around eating the hearts of victims, most would automatically think it was, you know, some sort of serial killer. But what if it was a witch, an honest-to-goodness evil entity that lives through the life force of others. So we decided to maintain the realistic aspects of a potential serial killer while still staying true to classic witch mythology.

International Fests Provide a Preview of Texas Films


dallas buyers club

It's both fun and frustrating to follow the blogs and twitter updates of people attending fall film festivals (Venice Film Festival ended last week and Toronto International Film Festival ends Sunday). The abundance of fresh reviews being published online makes it easy to start building an "I wanna see that" list, but hearing critics' boasts and brags about their favorites can stir up a distracting amount of jealousy and impatience (that's true for this movie fan, anyway).

Luckily Austin ranks somewhat reasonably as a film city so we'll get to see many of these enticing movies soon enough (especially with Austin Film Festival just a few weeks away). While we wait, here's a list of titles with Texas or Austin connections that have been stirring up some buzz at recent festivals. As usual, it looks like our local filmmakers and actors are doing the Lone Star State proud. 

Dallas Buyers Club -- This based-on-a-true-story drama is set in Dallas and stars Austin regular (and future Oscar-nominee?) Matthew McConaughey. Based on the breathless reactions to its world premiere in Venice and North American premiere at TIFF, it's likely that Jean-Marc Vallee's film about HIV in 1986 is on its way to awards recognition of some kind. Between McConaughey's performance (and physical transformation -- he dropped a ton of weight for the shoot) and the dark subject matter (illness, homophobia, illegal drug smuggling) this one has critics all aflutter -- it actually has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes right now. 

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