Drafthouse Films

Robin Wright in The Congress

Stardom is a fundamentally contradictory experience for audiences. On the one hand, we can feel like we know a star intimately as a human being, despite the many roles that they play and despite the fact that they do not know us. We carry our past knowledge of the star onto each new project. And every time a star is captured by a camera, a brief record of them is made, in a moment solidified for a seeming eternity. Marlene Dietrich may be long deceased, but in revisiting any close-up fashioned from Josef von Sternberg’s films, she can feel as immediate to us as she was to the cameras eighty years ago. On the other hand, a star is always both more and less than a human being. Stars are the foundation for an industry of magazines, brand names readily available for peddling products, personalities to be mimicked, fashion icons to aspire to, and economic conditions for a film’s making and marketing. We can experience fleeting moments of intimacy with a star image, but the industry that makes stardom possible continually alienates us from a polished, selectively represented human being before us. It is through this dual capacity of stardom that stars continue to exist well after the physical lives of the people who embodied them. These inherent tensions between personhood and media are explored in great depth in Ari Folman’s new film The Congress, a film that uses the strange condition of stardom and the technological advancements of the current […]

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Drafthouse Films

Drafthouse Films is still a relatively young label in the grand scheme of things — their first release, Four Lions, only hit theaters in late 2010 — but they’ve already established a clear and successful identity through their films. They’ve already seen two of their titles receive Academy Award nominations, and they’ve remained unpredictable in their choices thanks to a roster that includes dramas, comedies, documentaries and more as diverse as Pieta, Miami Connection and The Final Member. That proud tradition of finding and loving odd world cinema continues with what will be their thirtieth release, The Tribe. The Ukrainian film won multiple awards at this year’s Cannes Independent Critics’ Week, but the film stands out for more than its numerous accolades. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy‘s feature debut is a tale of youthful drama and abandon at a boarding school for the deaf, and it’s told entirely in sign language. No subtitles. No voice-over. Just sign language. Check out the first (NSFW) teaser for the film below. (This was the sales teaser used at Cannes.)

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Borgman

Here in Austin (home base of Film School Rejects) there’s a saying that fills the majority of bumper stickers: Keep Austin Weird. It was originally coined as a way to speak to supporting local business. Some people — mostly gosh-damn hipsters — take it a little too far and are just weird. It’s a weird place with weird people. And the companies that exist here are a little weird sometimes, too. Few are weirder (and more beloved for it) than our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse and Mondo. When it comes to picking movies to distribute and champion, they’ve got a taste that goes beyond eclectic. It’s downright strange at times. As is the case with the dark suburban fable Borgman, the tale of an “enigmatic vagrant who enters the lives of an upper-class family and quickly unravels their carefully curated lifestyle.” What sounds like the setup for an Adam Sandler comedy or an Arrested Development meta-movie featuring homeless dad is far more deranged in this particular case.  Seriously, you have to watch the trailer for this thing. Even then, you might not entirely believe it exists. But it does. And to celebrate, we’re giving away a coveted nerd item: a Borgman Mondo poster by artist Jay Shaw. More details after we subject you to the Borgman trailer below.

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Drafthouse Films

Editor’s note: Our review of The Final Member originally ran during Fantastic Fest 2012, but we’re re-posting it now as it opens today in limited theatrical release. It is an unfortunate state of affairs that, as far as sexuality is concerned, America is still vastly conservative. This is no place for a discussion of conservative versus liberal, but in the category of sexuality it’s important only to say that even the word “penis” is still relatively taboo despite being the proper medical term for the main part of the male genitals. People don’t go around talking about penises, generally, and if they do they tend to make other people uncomfortable. We’re also all 12 years old at heart, and so penis jokes and snickering are sure to abound when you produce a documentary about some dude in Iceland who collects penises. Fortunately, The Final Member takes its subject seriously, but not too seriously, and crafts a beautiful portrait of one man’s lifelong obsession.

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cc the act of killing 1

The Act of Killing is a fascinating piece of cinema that illuminates not only a tragic and disturbing slice of history but also the humanity behind it all. The term is usually used in a positive light, but one of the film’s points is that these aren’t monsters committing such acts of barbarity. They’re people. Director Joshua Oppenheimer‘s film is one of the year’s best, and while he received a helping hand from two big names in the documentary field both Werner Herzog and Errol Morris give him full credit for the accomplishment. Drafthouse Films’ upcoming Blu-ray release includes the theatrical cut with some solid special features, but it also comes with a second Blu featuring the 166-minute director’s cut (an additional 44 minutes). Even better? The longer cut includes a commentary track with Oppenheimer and Herzog. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for The Act of Killing.

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review ms 45

Thana (Zoë Lund) is having a bad day. Not only did she wake up as mute and socially awkward as she was the day before, but she also has the misfortune of being raped twice, by two different men, in completely unrelated incidents. Wrong place, wrong time… Thana is essentially the John McClane of rape victims. The double-barreled assault leaves her understandably traumatized, but instead of going to the police or curling up into a quivering ball Thana picks up a .45 and starts wandering the streets looking for misbehavin’ men. Abel Ferrara‘s Ms .45 has long been considered an exploitation classic, but while it’s often categorized as an early entry in the rape/revenge subgenre only the first half of that is accurate. There’s actually very little revenge to be found here. Instead, the film offers up a violent descent into madness that gives birth to a still mute and even more socially awkward serial killer.

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M is for Muff

By all accounts, the production behind The ABCs of Death 2 didn’t have to reach out to aspiring filmmakers to fill their 26th slot. With names like Sion Sono, Alex de la Iglesia and Vincenzo Natali rounding out the roster for the alphabet-inspired horror anthology, they could have easily enticed another heavy into the mix. Instead, they did what they did with the first film and sought a new voice from their fan base. It worked well before. So well in fact that one of the non-winners from the first contest — Chris Nash — made such an impact that he secured a spot alongside more well-established filmmakers as one of the 25. Thus, the search for the 26th director was on. Since both Rob Hunter and Scott Beggs were foolish enough to watch all of the 500+ entries, and now that the 12 finalists have been announced, they wanted to rank the disgusting dozen with an eye toward choosing who they would pick as the overall winner (and thus, the short that will be tucked away in the middle of the movie). The real winner will be announced December 15 after a mad scientist finishes his gruesome experiments or they torture it out of Tim League or something, but for now here’s two bloody cents (and 12 cool shorts to watch).

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Picture_2

Last week, Rob Hunter was so befuddled and inspired by Drafthouse Films’s newest resurrection project The Visitor that he coined a term to make sense of it: “WTF Cinema.” Says FSR’s resident critic Lorde Mayor, “Basically, these are movies that consistently challenge expectations (both visual and narrative) to the point that viewers have literally no idea what to expect. This has nothing to do with plot twists, reveals, or shock endings, and instead has everything to do with leaving an audience in a frequent state of head-scratching awe as the unexpected appears onscreen again and again.” Hunter’s coinage is a useful idiom to describe (or express one’s total failure to describe) a certain type of movie that defies easy comprehension or simple justification for its existence. But I think there’s another aspect of The Visitor worth focusing on that tells us a lot about why it’s taken on this wonderful WTF currency: The Visitor, despite not having been re-edited since its initial theatrical run, is in no way the same film it was when originally released. The Visitor is a film of 2013 more than it ever was a film of 1979.

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feature the visitor drafthouse films

I was going to review the new reissue of 1979′s The Visitor, but then a funny thing happened. I watched The Visitor. It’s hardly news to say that this thirty four year old movie is a mental fingerbang that bends genres and somehow teases both brilliance and stupidity, but I’m saying it anyway. Both highly derivative and wholly original, the film cherry picks elements from The Omen, The Fury, Phantasm, and more, and then swirls them together in a psychedelic mélange of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and pure nuttiness as it tells the story of good and evil battling over a young girl’s potty-mouthed soul. There are a handful of small distributors (including Severin Films, Vinegar Syndrome, Synapse Films) that bring weird and obscure older films to home video, but for most of them that’s their niche. It’s what they do, the very purpose of the label, and those of us who love movies are grateful for it. Code Red DVD is one such example, and a fitting one too as they were the first to bring The Visitor to the U.S. in an uncut incarnation on DVD a few years ago (that can still be purchased here). Their reach is small though, so the announcement that Drafthouse Films had acquired the film for a remastered rollout in theaters followed by a Blu-ray/DVD release was music to the ears (and eyes) of strange-cinema fans everywhere. It’s great news for many reasons, but most noticeably it’s a reminder that even with Academy Award nominees […]

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war

In honor of its latest release, I Declare War, being available on all of the usual VOD platforms as well as in theaters starting today, Drafthouse Films has decided to put the first five minutes of the film up on Youtube for everyone to try out—which is probably a smart move for smaller films like this that people might be on the fence about seeing or maybe aren’t even aware of, don’t you think? From directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, I Declare War is a sort of fantastical film about a group of kids running around outside playing war. Where the fantasy comes in is that we see things the way kids do—with an overactive imagination that makes sticks look like real guns, paint-filled balloons look like real grenades, and daycare centers look like real villages full of possible foreign operatives that need to be massacred and burnt to the ground. Okay, so I made that last one up. This film doesn’t seem to be that dark. The main kid is inspired to play war games by Patton, after all, not Platoon. Click through to watch the first five minutes, as well as a pretty stylish title sequence that spells out exactly what the rules of playing war are. Just in case all that stuff you got up to in your college years wiped away the memory.

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whydontyouplayinhell

For a lot of people, including me, hearing that Sion Sono has a new film is enough to sell the ticket. Doesn’t matter the title, doesn’t matter who’s starring, doesn’t matter the story. After Noriko’s Dinner Table, Love Exposure and Cold Fish, he’s proven himself as a visionary that’s nearly peerless in the kinds of films that he’s making — exploring identity and moral downfalls in fascinating ways. And now he’s taking on The Yakuza. In Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, Sono tosses an amateur film crew in the middle of an ongoing grudge match between two crime lords in what he calls, “an action film about the love of 35mm.” With a description like that, it’s wholly unsurprising that Drafthouse Films will be releasing it. There’s no exact date yet, but they’re planning a theatrical run for some and VOD for all. Check out the teaser trailer here:

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Sharknado

Last week, my partner hosted a screening of Miami Connection, Drafthouse Films’ release of the heretofore largely unseen low-budget Tae Kwon Do musical from 1987, for a small group of friends. Ever the meticulous party-planner, she made the viewing interactive by constructing, amongst a litany of other viewing activities, a series of Bingo cards that our friends could play while watching the film. At first, I was a bit worried that this might make the viewing of a ridiculous ‘80s cult film all too predetermined, forcing our friends to anticipate amazing lines like “I thought we are all orphans” or the transcendent pro-friendship tunes of Dragon Sound ahead of time rather than experiencing these moments organically, as she and I did the first time we saw Miami Connection. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. The interactive viewing was a great success for our dear Miami Connection virgins, and everyone went home whistling “Against the Ninja” whether they wanted to or not. But I’m not interested in talking about a party that went well (okay, maybe a little bit). I’m interested in what something like Miami Connection Bingo cards represent for people seeing the film for the first time: the simultaneous, seemingly paradoxical engagement with cult film initiation and cult film participation.

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review band called death

Ask the average person on the street to name the city that saw its walls shake with the birth of punk music and odds are they won’t answer “Detroit.” Ask them to name the band who first mashed the raw and the melodic together to create punk music before the term even existed, and they most assuredly won’t say “Death.” And we won’t even bother asking if anyone knew that the forefathers of punk were African American. But thanks to the new revelatory and inspiring documentary A Band Called Death, the truth behind the band’s nearly simultaneous birth and death may yet find them their proper place in music history. There were four Hackney boys growing up in ’70s Detroit, but while the oldest kept himself busy in other ways, his three younger brothers developed a serious interest in music. Bobby, Dannis and David taught themselves bass, drums and guitar, respectively, and then set out to change the sonic landscape. Christened Death by David, their de facto leader, the trio recorded a demo tape only to see door after door shut in their face. For some it was the idea of Black musicians rocking out instead of going the Motown route, but for most it simply came down to the band’s name. As quickly as the flame was lit it was subsequently snuffed out again. But like a phoenix, Death was destined to rise again, and when the internet came calling thirty five years later, what remained of the Hackney boys […]

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commentary-abcsofdeath

No one can accuse The ABCs of Death of lacking ambition. It features 26 short films from different directors, one for each letter of the alphabet, all centered on the theme of death. As is typical of of the format it’s a bit of a mixed bag quality wise, but genre fans and the perverts among us you will probably find enough to enjoy here to make it worth a watch. Thoughts on the actual shorts aside, this is one of the most hilarious and entertaining commentary tracks I’ve ever heard. Technically it’s 27 commentary tracks as there’s one for each short and then an opening/closing credits add-on from co-producers Ant Timpson and Tim League. As with the shorts some are better than others, but there are a handful that had me laughing aloud and rewinding in disbelief. A few others are just plain old interesting too. Keep reading to see what I learned from the commentary track for The ABCs of Death.

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A Field in England

Looks like Drafthouse Films is picking up some primo real estate, as the film distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has just announced that their latest acquisition is Ben Wheatley‘s A Field in England. Wheatley is a name well-familiar to the Drafthouse genre buffs, as he’s already directed three uniquely terrifying films (Down Terrace, Kill List, and Sightseers) and contributed a segment to Drafthouse’s own The ABCs of Death. Drafthouse and Wheatley is a perfect pairing, and one that we’ve been expecting for quite some time. For the new film, which has been described as “a psychedelic trip into magic and madness,” Wheatley goes period all over the asses of some poor schmoes, as it centers on “English Civil War soldiers in the 17th century who are captured by an alchemist and led into a vast mushroom field, where they fall victim to violent and nightmarish forces.” Soldiers? A crazy alchemist? Mushrooms? If it’s half as scary as Kill List, theaters will have to put down tarps to capture the tears and wee of moviegoers. (This is a good thing, really, we promise.)

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poster band called death

The past couple years have seen a healthy stream of fantastic documentaries focused on the world of music. More precisely, Searching for Sugar Man, Paul Williams Still Alive and Sound City all entertained and enlightened by offering viewers a glimpse into stories from the past about people that today’s audiences have forgotten. The upcoming Drafthouse Films release, A Band Called Death, aims to do the same by re-introducing the world to a little-known but much respected punk/rock band from the early ’70s. They preceded bands we do remember but were forgotten to the ravages of time. It’s not just their timing that makes them stand out from the Caucasian crowd though… Check out the first trailer for A Band Called Death below.

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review graceland

The value of a really good story hook can never be overstated, but it’s become fairly uncommon these days to find a film that has one. The odds decrease even more when it comes to movies with a fantastic premise and a successful execution of that idea. Ron Morales‘ second feature, Graceland, manages to do both. Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes) is low level driver for a sordid congressman, and while he hates what the elected official does with his free time, he needs the paycheck to help raise his own daughter Elvie. He drives the congressman’s daughter to school every day and makes a habit of bringing Elvie along for the ride, but when a routine traffic stop turns into a botched kidnapping, his life is thrown into immediate turmoil. The captors have mistaken Elvie for the politician’s daughter and are now demanding a hefty ransom. The immoral congressman won’t pay if he thinks his own little girl is safe, so… what’s an honorable and desperate man to do?

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Angela Bettis

It seems like years since Drafthouse Films announced that they’d be boldly making a 26-part anthology that would shed a bloody spotlight on 26 different ways to die. With entries like “B is for Bigfoot” and “J is for Jidai-geki,” The ABCs of Death appears to be the kind of teaching tool that’s almost perverse enough to end up in Texas public schools. We’ve seen a trailer, written a review, and now the icosikaihexagonal horror is hitting all sorts of streaming and On Demand services ahead of its theatrical release in early March. Amidst a coordinated slew of interviews, I was lucky enough to speak via email with a personal favorite, filmmaker Angela Bettis, who starred in May, directed Roman and helmed the ABCs segment “E is for Exterminate.”

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Miami Connection

A rock band who practice Tae kwon do and sing about the joys of friendship. Ninjas who move noisily between drug deals on speeding pocket rockets. Welcome to the dangerous world of Orlando, circa 1987, and the little film that found a second chance on eBay. Miami Connection opened and closed in central Florida in 1987, never to see public exposure again, but when an industrious Alamo Drafthouse employee bought a print online for $50 a legend was reborn. The film follows a group of friends who go to college during the day and rock out at night as the house-band for an Orlando nightclub. Their world is shattered though when they’re forced into a confrontation with a rival band, poorly dressed gang members and drug dealing, motorcycle riding ninjas. Let’s listen to some commentary!

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The ABCs of Death

There’s a danger to anthology films in that the films often lack consistency when it comes to quality. They consist, after all, of multiple short films, each with their own writers, directors, and actors, and that variety can only lead to varying levels of success. So how do you combat the chance some of your shorts might suck? Make a movie featuring 26 shorts, of course. The ABCs of Death is an original Drafthouse Films production that gathered 26 filmmakers, assigned each of them a letter of the alphabet and gave them a simple task: make a very short film about death inspired by their particular letter. The roster of directors who answered the call are an international directory of genre fans and masters, and a small sampling includes Jason Eisener, Xavier Gens, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Nacho Vigalondo, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, and more. The first red band trailer has just appeared online, and you should check it out after the break.

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