Joe Swanberg

ff the sacrament

The past is no guarantee of the future, but it’s often a fairly good guide. A new film from Ti West, for example, offers the soft promise of an unhurried pace and escalating terror as evidenced by his two previous movies, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. Past films about cults offer a similar road map to where future ones will go, and while there are far more than two on the topic they seem to be split pretty evenly between two destinations. Some say the world will end with guns and Kool-Aid, others say with sacrifices to the gods. VICE is a journalism outfit known for breaking the stories that other outlets pass by out of fear or worries over ratings, but their latest story finds Sam (A.J. Bowen) and his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) tagging along with a photographer friend named Patrick (Kentucker Audley) who’s concerned with his sister Caroline’s (Amy Seimetz) welfare. She’s joined a cult that recently transplanted itself outside of the U.S., and Patrick wants to confirm her safety and extricate her if necessary. The trio arrive, and while things seem calm and relatively normal at first it’s not long before the truth comes calling. The Sacrament is well made in many regards, but it’s also sadly predictable and somewhat pointless. And thanks to its format choice, that of an actual episode of VICE, it’s irritatingly distracting too.

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Happy Christmas Trailer

When the words “Anna Kendrick” and “Christmas” are combined, one has the pretty justified idea that they’re in for a feel good, wholesome time that they could probably share with the whole family. She’s just so darn cute, amiright? But Pitch Perfect: Holiday Edition this is not, nor is Happy Christmas seem anything remotely like the worlds that Kendrick seems happy in making hospitable for her bubbly, shortcake characters. The first trailer for the Joe Swanberg film shows a bleak holiday season devoid of singing, definitely devoid of acapella and anything that makes Kendrick peppy. Everyone gets a makeover every once in awhile. Happy Christmas follows Jenny (Kendrick), a twentysomething with a penchant for partying hard after after a particularly hard breakup knocks her down on the ground (feel you girl). With no direction and less options, she moves in with her brother (Swanberg, playing double duty as actor), her sister-in-law Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their baby to figure her life out. It’s the tried and true story of the dopey shlub of a dude trying to get out of arrested development, but this time, it’s been hoisted upon young Anna Kendrick’s shoulders. Will there be different results when it’s Jenny trying to cobble the pieces of her life together, and not say, an unshaven, unwashed bro in a hoodie named Jeff? Check out the trailer below:

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IFC Midnight

Director/writer Zack Parker‘s plot-heavy thriller Proxy opens on Esther (Alexia Rasmussen), a young, expecting mother at her doctor’s appointment. Good news follows her down the street and into an alley where bad news finds her. She’s knocked unconscious, and her pregnant stomach is savagely attacked by someone with a brick, and it’s exactly as shocking and uncomfortable a scene as you’d expect. The entire first hour of the film relies on the pure dramatic value of this scene to keep your interest, and, to be fair, it does. It’s a challenge though as Esther’s character develops painstakingly slowly, meandering around her apartment until she finally reaches out at a support group where she meets another mother, Melanie (Alexa Havins), who has lost her son. About halfway through the film, a major plot twist reveals that the two women are alike in that they have some serious, underlying issues. The complex characters become a bit confusing, and thanks to either a few errors in continuity or possibly intentionally vague editing decisions, much of the story is muddled. Proxy is the type of film that slowly reveals answers over time, but Parker and co-writer Kevin Donner seem to have flat-out forgotten to answer some necessary questions, despite the space that the film’s two-hour running time allows.

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We

This summer marks a very special anniversary. It’s fair to say we all remembered what took place on August 4, 2000. On that most likely quiet and peaceful summer day, one film dominated the cultural conversation, a true game changer unlike any other film of its kind. For years people had been asking, “What is this Coyote Ugly? Is it more than just some bar at the New York, New York hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada?” Kangaroo Jack director David McNally finally answered that question with his unconventional story of a small town girl trying to make it in the big city with Coyote Ugly. That picture co-starred Melanie Lynskey as Gloria, the young girl’s best friend. Needless to say, it’s not Lynskey’s best film — that honor goes to The Informant, which is her personal favorite as well — but it was the last film I watched of Lynskey’s before speaking with her at SXSW, so why not discuss it? Lynskey wasn’t at the festival to promote the upcoming 14th anniversary of Coyote Ugly, though. Instead she was down for We’ll Never Have Paris, Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne‘s romantic comedy starring Lynskey as a woman whose relationship is thrown off track by her boyfriend’s selfish neurosis. Since I hadn’t seen the film when I spoke with Lynskey, we mostly discussed other topics, including Coyote Ugly and never wanting to take a paycheck for something she doesn’t believe in. Check out our conversation below.

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Gene Jones in

In recent years dramatic features like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Kill List, and even documentaries like The Source Family, have seemed to have started a movement that has brought the subject of cult to the forefront of movie thrillers. Perhaps the zombie craze and the vampire craze are finally over, and the next big thing is going to be films of all sorts that tap into the fringe groups of the late 60s and early 70s for inspiration. If we get a misguided movie aimed at tweens where a bookish young girl comes out of her shell after starting an unlikely romance with her school’s dreamy Charles Manson-type, we’ll know we’ve stumbled into a full-on trend. Before the movement can reach its mainstream peak, however, we’ve probably still got some room for a couple more artistically-driven filmmakers to make a couple more legitimately creepy movies about cults, and to that end modern horror master Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) is getting ready to release his next feature, The Sacrament. It’s a found-footage affair about a group of documentarians visiting a cult called Eden Parish, and getting more than they bargained for. Click through to get a glimpse of the carnage, but be warned, the red-band before this trailer only seems to be there because of a little bit of blood and destruction, so don’t expect anything too gruesome to be given away.

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heart machine still

Spoiler warning: If you haven’t watched the first ten episodes of this season of House of Cards, there are some small potential spoilers ahead. One of the strange things about small screen programming and binge-watching is that opinions can form, break, change, and reform in a matter of days and hours, not over the course of whole weeks and months. Earlier this week and on the tail of watching just the first episode of the second season of House of Cards, I happily penned a bit of a rating system for who viewers should be rooting for this season, and although I won’t detail just how and by whom I have been disappointed, mere days later, I’m already scoffing at my own early predictions and hopes for a season that has become more about diminishing returns than building up good stories and good characters. But although plenty of House of Cards has crumbled into soap opera-styled twists and double-crosses that are increasingly hard to believe, there is one plotline that continues to maintain both intrigue and interest – the near-imprisonment of former prostitute Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), who has unexpectedly found solace in a close new friend, in the form of Kate Lyn Sheil as the strangely soothing Lisa Williams. The duo met early in the second season, when Lisa reached out to Rachel on the bus to query her about her musical choices. For Rachel, so long trapped by Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), the concept of a friend was […]

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Sundance

And thus ends another Sundance Film Festival. This year’s festival provided us with plenty of feature fodder to examine for the next eleven or so months, despite the lack of any big breakout a la Fruitvale Station or Beasts of the Southern Wild. As ever, though, the festival featured some recurring trope and tricks (a few of which we identified early), but not all of them seemed rote or repetitive. In fact, there are more than a few themes and players that popped up throughout the festival that we would like to see more of – either at Sundance or out in the wide release world. So what kept showing up in this year’s Sundance selections that deserves a bigger stage? Read on, and make some notes.

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Drinking Buddies

Editor’s Note: This review was originally part of our SXSW coverage, but Drinking Buddies is in theaters this weekend so stop messing around and go see it. Joe Swanberg is one of a group of filmmakers who made their mark with movies that relied on improvisation more than script, 20 something ennui more than narrative and friends more than professional actors. This model works for some viewers, but it’s not designed to ever really appeal to the wider audiences. His latest film, Drinking Buddies, keeps the improv method, but it still manages to tell a cohesive and truly affecting story. A big reason for that is a cast of extremely talented actors with wicked good comedic timing in the lead roles. The four performers, along with a more assured Swanberg directing and editing, have crafted a story about heartbreak, temptation and friendship.

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sxsw_yourenext

Editor’s note: Rob’s review of You’re Next originally ran during this year’s SXSW Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in theatrical release. It’s become pretty fashionable these days for people to retroactively bash movies that enjoyed honest and deserved praise upon release. Wes Craven’s Scream has received such a backlash in recent years, as both a lesser movie and a less influential one, and it’s fairly inexplicable. Sure it has some issues, but the movie remains a fun, scary and smart take on the slasher genre that has rarely (if ever) been duplicated. But it also came out seventeen years ago. You’re Next aims to enjoy the same prestige by giving the genre a real kick in the ass with thrills, chills and a fresh take on it all, but while it misses the mark in some important areas it comes far closer than most. And bottom line? It’s a fun and bloody good time at the movies.

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Randy Quaid Independence Day

It’s high time we celebrate the on-screen boozer who saves the day, adds some comic relief, falls into spiraling depression or a combination of all three. To do that, we’ve invited on Alamo Drafthouse Ritz programmer Tommy Swenson — the man behind a tipsy August lineup in honor of The World’s End – who knows more than a thing or two about movie drunks. Plus, our big interview this week is with Drinking Buddies writer/director/producer/editor Joe Swanberg who will take us into the craft brewery of his mind. Double plus, Geoff and I respond to this article about intentionally bad movies, and tie it into the overall theme as loosely as possible by drinking a beer beforehand. And after. What? It was a long day. You should follow Joe Swanberg (@joe_swanberg), Tommy Swenson (@80s_Lightning), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) for more fun stuff on a daily basis. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #27 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Drinking Buddies

Do you like fun things? Things like beer and love and friendship and mostly improvised movies? Or even fun people? Fun people like Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston? Would you like to see all of those things and people together in one of SXSW’s biggest hits from earlier this year? Good, you can do that quite soon. Until then, here is a poster. Refreshing! Drinking Buddies will be available on VOD on July 25th, with a theatrical release following on August 23rd. [EW]

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Drinking Buddies

The positive buzz surrounding Joe Swanberg‘s SXSW Film Festival premiere, Drinking Buddies, was heady enough to carry over throughout the 89-day (almost) festival, so it was quite surprising that the filmmaker’s latest had not found a home by the time the fest ended this past weekend. No matter, however, as the Olivia Wilde- and Jake Johnson-starrer has lined up a big deal that will put the favorite into theaters nationwide by the year’s end, as Magnola Pictures has just picked up North American rights to the comedy. The film “follows the lives of Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) who work together at a craft brewery. They have one of those friendships that feels like it could be something more. But Kate is with Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick). And Jill wants to know if Luke is ready to talk about marriage. The answer to that question becomes crystal clear when Luke and Kate unexpectedly find themselves alone for a weekend.” Uh oh.

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Youre Next Masks

You’re Next caused up quite a stir at last year’s Fantastic Fest. The movie was swiftly picked up for distribution by Lionsgate after receiving stellar reviews, one of which came from our own Scott Beggs, who described the movie as, “pure horror bliss, delivering an engaging group of characters, a badass chick, some iconic masks to add to the collection, and a new twist on slashers.” Rob wasn’t quite as taken with the film, but one thing is for sure, You’re Next is packed with horror images and a song that’ll stick with audiences. While at SXSW, we spoke with the director of You’re Next, Adam Wingard, about those memorable masks, finding its theme song and getting to direct fellow horror directors:

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Austin Cinematic Limits

As many of you probably know, I have been juggling an all-consuming day job with various writing gigs, essentially leaving no time for anything else (life, sleep); and, as the saying goes, all work and no play makes Don a dull boy. We have enough Jack Torrance’s in this world, and before I start running around abandoned hotels with an ax, I figured it was in my best interest to start hacking away at my current workload.

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Director George Clooney

What is Casting Couch? Proof that not everyone’s tracking Hurricane Sandy’s path on Twitter. Some are still out there casting movies. The big casting news over the weekend was all of the big names that were announced for George Clooney’s next project as a director, The Monuments Men. Deadline had the scoop that this period drama about a group of art historians and museum curators trying to recover important and historical works from the clutches of the Nazis is going to star names like Bill Murray, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban. As far as I know none of these people can even speak German, but you’ve still got to look at that list and be impressed. You could cast this crew as an office full of telemarketers and everyone would still watch the movie, making them heroes during the dying days of the Nazi regime is just icing on the cake.

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Editor’s note: Sundance screamfest V/H/S finally hits theaters this week after a successful VOD run, so here’s a re-run of our original review, first posted on January 26, 2012. Chilling! The brainchild of producer Brad Miska, horror anthology film V/H/S features five shorts (and one wrap-around story) from a variety of genre directors, writers, and actors handily proves that the found footage genre is far from dead and there’s plenty of new material to bleed. The film’s “wrap-around” section features a group of Jackass-inspired wankers who get their kicks by filming mayhem and destruction. Dispatched by a mysterious person to break into a house and steal something, they agree – partly for the laughs, partly for the pay-off. The item they must procure? A simple, singular VHS tape. The actual mission? Multi-level and rife with unexpected complications.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

As was also the case with the previous seven Fantastic Fests, I wish I had more time to see more films at Fantastic Fest 2012. That’s the bad part about having an all-consuming day job, it prohibits me from going totally hog wild at local film festivals. Sure, said job pays my mortgage, but I am really pissed off that it prohibited me from witnessing Joe Swanberg knocking out Devin Faraci at the Fantastic Debates. The previous night at the Chaos Reigns Karaoke Party, I did catch Swanberg perform Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” (which, I should note, is one of my least favorite songs of all time) which was followed closely by Swanberg’s boxing coach Ti West performance of The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — though, I have got to say that the karaoke performance of the evening goes to Tim League‘s krautrock interpretation of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” Sadly, though, that is the only Fantastic Fest event that I was able to attend. Yes, I even had to miss the Red Dawn-themed closing night party! Of course my liver has been continuously thanking me for not destroying it, but my liver clearly does not understand that half the fun of Fantastic Fest is waking up each morning with a massive hangover. Just you wait until next year, liver! You will suffer the alcohol-fueled wrath of Fantastic Fest!

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It seems as if Anna Kendrick is on a mission to prove to us that she’s the most versatile, multi-talented actress working in Hollywood today. Not just content to turn heads and get an Oscar nomination for her performance in Up In the Air, Kendrick has also been a tween idol in the Twilight series, made us laugh in the strange and hyper-stylized Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, straddled the line between comedy and jerking tears in 50/50, and she’s even set to prove that she can sing in the upcoming Pitch Perfect. When all is said and done, she will have appeared in five films over the course of this calendar year, and all signs point to the fact that she won’t be slowing down any time soon. Case in point, Deadline Deering has word of a new project that has scooped her up as its star, an indie comedy going by the name of Drinking Buddies. Set to be largely improvised and shot in Chicago later this summer, Drinking Buddies stars Kendrick and Ron Livingston (Office Space) in a story that’s said to be about a “fun and flirtatious friendship that goes off the rails.” It’s being directed by king of the micro-budget comedy, Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends), and it will also star Olivia Wilde (that chick from your dreams) and Jake M. Johnson (New Girl, Safety Not Guaranteed) in undisclosed roles.

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VHS Horror Movie

The red band trailer for V/H/S – the new horror anthology from a slew of indie writers and directors – was excellent, but there’s something magical about a green band trailer for scary flicks that makes a movie sing. The limitations either mean the trailer will sink miserably or soar to pants-wetting heights. This feature does the latter. From Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Dennis McQuaid, and David Bruckner, the movie wraps five horror tales inside a story about thieves trying to find a mysterious video tape amongst a pile of dangerous found footage. Plus, it might be the first movie to have two forward slashes in its title. Check out the new trailer for yourself:

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Anthology horror films are an inconsistent genre by their very nature, but when they work well the results can be fantastically creepy entertainment. Films like Asylum, Creepshow, and Trick ‘r Treat are well written excursions into fun-filled terror. Unfortunately, the anthology film is in decline, and of the handful that do find release only a few manage any degree of consistent quality. Sadly, V/H/S is more miss than hit. The movie features five stories plus a wraparound tale all presented in the “found footage” style, but while the last two segments are pretty damn cool and terrifying the initial three (and wraparound) leave a lot to be desired. They each have a singular standout element, but it’s never enough to make you forget how lacking in scares and thrills they are. (And the third one should have been cut all together.) Much like its home video format namesake, V/H/S chooses running time over quality, and the result is a movie that never really finds its footing until roughly two-thirds of it has passed. But once it hits that second to last story the scares, fun and wide-eyed thrills come fast and hard making the film well worth a watch…provided you don’t mind wading through mediocrity to get there.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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