Reviews

Theatrical and DVD reviews.

Review/Interview: Paper Heart

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Paper Heart

Paper Heart blurs the lines between fantasy and reality as Charlyne Yi explores the concept of the validity of Love and expectations before relationships even begin, with co-director Nick Jasenovec (pictured above).

Earlier this summer, Jasenovec was in Austin for a special screening of Paper Heart as well as for interviews. Mixing genres is dangerous enough, but Yi and Jasenovec mix documentary and narrative with surprisingly good results. Yi is not just the co-director, but the star, who interviews real people about the subject of love, as well as playing an alternate version of herself in a budding relationship with an alternate version of Michael Cera (played by Cera). Jasenovec is also a character, but instead of playing himself, Jake Johnson plays Jasenovec. And then there are puppets.

Confused, yet? Turned off? Believe it or not, it works, and works well.

Review: A Trio of Women Vs. 'Inglourious Basterds'

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Inglourious Basterds

All three of us -- Debbie, Jenn and Jette -- saw Inglourious Basterds last weekend during Cinemapocalypse. We hope that the incident with the Nazi flags, and the presence of writer/director Quentin Tarantino and actor (normally filmmaker) Eli Roth, didn't bias us one way or another.

The Summary:

Inglourious Basterds is set in Europe during WWII, and is about the ways in which several characters survive (or not) while working to defeat Nazi Germany. The title characters, the "Basterds" (Brad Pitt, Roth et al) are a secret U.S. military group of Jewish soldiers all determined to strike fear into German soldiers by their acts of extreme violence. But that's not all. Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) is determined to have her revenge, particularly on a certain Colonel Landa (Christophe Waltz). And actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) has some very secret, very special information that raises the stakes significantly.

What did we think? Keep reading to find out which one of us compared the characters to Hollywood actors from the Thirties and Forties, who praised the strong female characters and who found it disconcerting but still worth seeing.

Review: Adam

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Adam

It doesn't bode well for a film when it opens with a voiceover comparing the title character to that of The Little Prince, and how he taught her about love. It reeks of Movie-of-the-Week-itis, and all the clichés that implies.

Throughout the opening scene, and most of the film, Adam is calculated to manipulate the heart strings, which gets tiresome right from the start. With a dysfunctional meet-cute, this take on the boy-meets-girl story never strays outside of predictable boundaries.

Adam (Hugh Dancy) is an electronics engineer with Asperger's Syndrome; Bethany (Rose Byrne) is a teacher with aspirations to write children's books who moves into his building.

Review: Bandslam

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Bandslam

At first glance, Bandslam might appear to be just another "new kid in school trying to fit in," but it's far from the stereotypical outcast story. Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is a high school who just wants to be left alone. Instead he attracts others to him, including emo girl Sa5m ("the 5 is silent"), played by Vanessa Hudgens in a departure from her High School Musical feature roles, and former cheerleader Charlotte (Aly Michalka) who's intent on forming a new band. Turns out there's a high-school battle of the bands competition, Bandslam, that's "Texas high school football big."

Although not as candy-coated as High School Musical, there's still something slightly odd about the minimal presence of teachers in a high school in New Jersey, not to mention the absence of drug and gang activity. However, serious issues are addressed in a realistic manner once it is revealed why Will welcomes the opportunity to change schools.

Group Review: District 9

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District 9

This week, all three of us saw District 9, the science-fiction produced by Peter Jackson that is Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut. Jenn caught it at a special screening with Blomkamp and the film's star, Sharlto Copley, in attendance.

Keep reading to find out which one of us praised it as "old-school science fiction," who admired its unpredictability but wished the politics were less shallow, and who "spent almost two hours on the edge of my seat" and wants a sequel.

The Summary:

Twenty years after an alien vessel stops over Johannesburg, tthe worker-class aliens from the ship who resemble crustaceans are still not acclimated into Earth society. They are trapped in a slum known as District 9. The multi-national corporation tasked with alien affairs decides to relocate them outside the city, and milquetoast Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is promoted to head the project. A freak accident in one of the shanties has unexpected results, putting Wikus at odds with his employer and finding himself with more in common with the aliens than he would ever expect.

Review: Thirst

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Thirst

The Fantastic Fest/AICN Presents series of special screenings leading up to the festival at the end of September is surpassing last year's screenings, with Deadgirl, The Collector and Chan-wook Park's latest, Thirst (Bakjwi), in the last two weeks alone.

In Thirst, Sang-hyeon is a man of intense faith who subjects himself to an experiment with unexpected results. Starring Kang-ho Song (The Host, The Good, the Bad, the Weird), and an unsettling Ok-vin Kim, Thirst completely twists vampire mythology into an exotic tale of domestic horror with elements of faith, taboo, family and the inevitable consequences of giving in to forbidden desires.

Review: Jenn & Jette on 'Julie & Julia'

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Julie and Julia

Julie & Julia has one connection to Austin, which isn't mentioned at all in the movie: the real-life Julie Powell grew up here, leaving for the Frozen Yankee Tundra when she went to college. In the movie, when we hear Julie's mom on the phone, as voiced by Mary Kay Place, the strong Texas accent sounds more Dallas than Austin, but that's Hollywood for you.

The movie, directed by Nora Ephron, is a blend of two stories about cooking: Julie Powell's book Julie and Julia about her attempts to cook her way through a Julia Child cookbook, which she tracked on a blog; and My Life in Paris, about Julia Child's learning to cook, teach cooking, and eventually co-author her first cookbook.

Fittingly, Jette and Jenn saw Julie & Julia and have some opinions to share. Let's start with Jenn:

If you are on a diet, don't go see Julie & Julia. Seriously. You will gain five pounds before the closing credits, and have an irresistible urge for beurre blanc (that's a white wine/butter sauce, for the culinarily challenged). Even at a run time over two hours, with some scenes desperate for a trim, it's destined to take its place next to Under the Tuscan Sun as a film that makes gourmet retailers very, very happy.

Review: A Perfect Getaway

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A Perfect GetawayA honeymoon in paradise is a newlywed's dream ... unless you're newlyweds in writer/director David Twohy's latest chiller, A Perfect Getaway.

The needy Cydney (Milla Jovovich) is ecstatically in love with Cliff (Steve Zahn), as they explore Hawaii. Their bliss is disturbed when they encounter a suspiciously pushy couple (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth) trying to hitch a ride, and shortly after learn of a double murder in Oahu, from where they'd just come. Unsettled and with only sporadic cell reception, a chance encounter with braggart Nick (Timothy Olyphant) seems to be a welcome salve, only to find out Nick didn't mention his girlfriend, Gina (Kiele Sanchez).

Twohy, who wrote and directed the underrated Below and Pitch Black, has a fondness for twists, and has so many red herrings in the script that it includes a discussion about them. Combined with the tendency for characters to adopt a threatening gaze, it seemed like it would quickly fall into the conventional traps of most slasher flicks.

Review: O'Horten

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O'Horten

On the eve of his retirement, a train engineer's life starts to derail when he stops following his usual routines. O'Horten, director/writer Bent Hamer's tale of the limbo of transition, is a slow simmer that doesn't even approach a boil, and is not likely to appeal to most audiences.

Odd Horten (Baard Owe) has an orderly, simple and lonely life until he reluctantly allows coworkers to invite him to a party, only to get stuck outside. From that moment on, everything seems out of control. Through most of the film, Odd Horten has things happen - and done - to him, yet most of them are relatively ordinary with uneven elements of the absurd, until he finally starts taking action to stop being a victim of circumstance.

Review: The Collector

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The Collector posterThe Collector is one of the most frustrating horror films in years, not because it's bad, but because it could have been brilliant. The emphasis is on "could" because, like most contemporary horror films, it fully embraces the clichéd horror conventions that make most American horror films look like and feel alike, despite some truly brilliant moments.

The story is simple: Arkin (Josh Stewart), a handyman with an unfortunate habit of robbing his employers, is desperate for money. He returns to what should be an empty house to empty a safe. Unfortunately, he gets far more than he bargained for when he realizes he's not alone in the house, and a cat-and-mouse game ensues.

Instead of building on the tension from close calls and the unseen but otherwise sensed, Director Patrick Melton and his writing partner Marcus Dunstan quickly fall into the conventions of elaborate setups and extreme torture, which for the discerning audience makes the film nearly indistinguishable from so many other horror films. Melton and Dunstan, who wrote the Feast franchise as well as Saw IV-VI, mentioned at the Fantastic Fest Presents screening last week that they didn't want the film to be one of the Saw franchise scripts, yet it quickly turned into a Saw clone.

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