SXSW 2011

The FP

Editor’s Note: Since The FP is hitting theaters this weekend, we’re bringing back Brian Salisbury’s very enthusiastic review from SXSW 2011. The FP opens in limited release March 16, and will be available to create your own screening nationwide through Tugg.com. For more information on where and when it can be seen, check out Drafthouse Films. Ah snap! You just stepped into The FP! This is the place where pride is measured by street cred and scores are settled in the ultimate competition: The Revelation. When the greatest competitors around, the guys from the 248, decide to accept the challenge of those dastardly 245’ers, everyone expects the 248 to arise victorious. The champion of the 248, BTRO (Brandon Barrera), arrives ready for battle and fully prepared to take down the evil leader of the 245: L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy). He brings along his brother, and protégée, JTRO (Jason Trost) to take down another 245 soldier in an opening bout; which he does with ease. But in a nasty turn of events, L Dubba E beats BTRO so savagely in the tournament that he ends up dead. With his hero slain, JTRO vows never to compete again and leaves the FP. Months later, an old friend catches up with JTRO and beseeches him to return home; enlightening him on the sad state of affairs in the FP since JTRO’s retreat. Begrudgingly, JTRO returns to the FP and tries to rebuild his life piece by piece.

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Editor’s note: This review was originally published as part of our SXSW 2011 coverage on March 17, 2011. We’re bumping this baby back up to remind all of you dear readers that the film is finally hitting limited theaters this Friday, February 3. Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) do not have what you might call glamorous jobs. They manage the front desk at the oldest hotel in town that just happens to be closing its doors forever. These unflappable, amateur paranormal investigators decide that their last hurrah will involve drinking beer and capturing definitive proof that this tiny little inn is indeed haunted. But when a washed up actress-turned psychic checks into the hotel, she becomes convinced that the novel little pastime these two share may end up being their undoing. I don’t know, I’ve had worse jobs. I really enjoyed The Innkeepers. It’s a very basic horror film that actually benefits as much from its comedic elements as it does its frights. The crux of the film is the relationship between Sara Paxton and Pat Healy who play the desk clerks at the failed Yankee Peddler Inn. I had a blast with these two wannabe ghost hunters. Their dry back-and-forth fosters some fantastic laughs. The dialogue batted between them is very genuine which is both a compliment and a criticism; it’s genuine to a fault. Occasionally, though not often, the lines ring true but un-cinematic in a way that makes them flat and dull. It’s a strange […]

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Lots of great stuff comes from Great Britain. Fish and chips, the Beatles, history, and the basis for all American television are but a few of the treasures that we’ve looked on with jealousy…and then shamelessly imported. Of course, movies and horror in particular are no exception, but perhaps one of the greatest things that the British perfected was the horror anthology. Amicus made a name for themselves with great anthology films like Tales from the Crypt, From Beyond the Grave and Asylum, films that starred fine British actors like Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance. Taking a page from the past, three crazy directors have banded together to produce a new British anthology film, Little Deaths. It opens with Sean Hogan’s story entitled House & Home. Richard and Victoria are a typical couple, solidly upper middle class, maybe even more well to do than that. It’s clear from the get go that Victoria is in control of the relationship, but it’s also clear that something not quite right is going on. Richard’s been more or less stalking a young homeless girl, and finally approaches her posing as a Christian interested in her well-being. He invites her home for dinner. The couple drugs her wine and, after she bathes, make small talk until she passes out. She wakes naked and bound to a bed with a gag in her mouth. Richard and Victoria prepare to have their way with her, but they’re in for a big surprise themselves.

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Source Code really solidifies a suspicion we all have had about director Duncan Jones: he’s a real people person. Yes, unlike most sci-fi filmmakers, there is very little cynicism or dread to his films. While both Moon and his successful sophomore effort, Source Code, do explore the idea of man abusing science, ultimately, there’s a huge amount of hope in his work. Not only that, but he follows generally fun and – if a tad flawed – good people. That’s right, there’s no mopey, emo action lead in Source Code. Colter Stevens, the hero of the film, is the Han Solo archetype. He’s charming, brash, and sometimes, thinks more with his fists than his head. Stevens is quite similar to Duncan Jones’s previous antagonist, Sam Bell. There’s an everyman quality to both leads. They’re not macho. They’re not invincible. And they’re both flawed individuals. Like Bell, Stevens doesn’t shy away from acting like a jerk here and there. The predicament he’s in – once again, just like Sam Bell – raises ethical questions. Although Source Code isn’t entirely hardcore science-fiction, Jones does what all classical films of genre should do: ask a few questions. If you’ve ever seen Jones an interview before, then you already know he’s a personable and fun-seeming filmmaker. He manages to take that upbeat spirit of his and interject that good nature in his films, and as was the case with Moon, it works. WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers.

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 Director Tom McCarthy is back with his third feature film, following the incredibly well received and reviewed films The Station Agent and The Visitor. I’m ashamed to say I’ve seen neither, but based on reactions from trusted colleagues, I have no doubt they are both great films. Unfortunately, Win Win didn’t bowl me over. It’s a fine film that has a good deal of warmth and charm, but it just doesn’t cross that line from good to great. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a typical family man. He has a nice home, a loving wife, and a few adorable kids. He spends his time working in a private law practice and coaching the local high school wrestling team. But lately the work has gone from steady flow to trickle. The office needs a new furnace, the kids need food and clothes and the mortgage isn’t going anywhere, but the money is starting to dry up. Mike reaches his breaking point, unable to tell his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) about the financial troubles and admit to what he sees as a failure as the provider, and decides to take advantage of a situation with an elderly client. Leo Poplar (Burt Young) has been deemed incapacitated by the court and despite his strong desire to stay in his own home, he’s going to have to be moved to an assisted living facility. Leo has no family to speak of, only a daughter he hasn’t spoken to or heard from in years. […]

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The thought of an indie film about a struggling guitar player teaming up with a C-list TV star may inspire cringes in potential viewers. It certainly sounds like a festival film you’ve already seen. Did I mention that the guitar player was quietly pining for his ex to fill the emotional heartache quota? And that the film is shot in black and white? Despite what these revelations may do to your preconceived notions, Surrogate Valentine is a genuinely funny and enjoyable film that transcends these indie film cliches. The aforementioned guitar player is Goh, co-writer Goh Nakamura essentially playing himself in the lead role. He’s a musician trying his best to make it, teaching guitar lessons and playing shows all along the West coast, but particularly trying to make a dent in the Seattle music scene. When his friend Amy (Joy Osmanski) offers him a paid gig teaching a TV star how to play guitar for her indie film, which is kinda sorta based on Goh and his relationship with Rachel (Lynn Chen), who he still has feelings for, he reluctantly agrees, dragging Danny Turner (Chadd Stoops) along with him on a road trip to Seattle.

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If you don’t know who Duncan Jones is, it’s high time you learn. Jones burst onto the movie scene with his debut feature Moon, a low-budget sci-fi flick that wowed audiences at Sundance back in 2009. Picked up by Sony for US distribution, Moon is a subtle, quiet film featuring an incredible performance from Sam Rockwell, but the best part about it is that it’s a smart film. With the bright shiny colors and backseat plot propelling Avatar to eleventy billion dollars worldwide, it’s surprising that anyone rolled the dice on a small, smart sci-fi film. It’s refreshing that someone had the balls to say “yes” and doubly refreshing that audiences mostly embraced it. Now Jones is back at the helm with about 35 million of Summit’s hard-earned Twilight dollars to play with for his second feature, Source Code. Note: I saw Source Code blind and I think that’s a good way to see this type of film. I’m told the trailer gives away basically the same information that I’ll reveal below but it could be considered spoiler-y. If you’d rather go into not knowing anything, and I highly recommend that method of film-viewing, then please skip the next three paragraphs.

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Jake Gyllenhaal last foray into the action lead world wasn’t exactly a successful one. If you don’t know which film I’m referring to, it was the one where he had that interesting accent and played a prince of Persia. Still don’t recall that film? Understandable. But a year after seeing it, you may actually still remember director Duncan Jones’s Source Code and the lead hero of the film, Colter Stevens. Gyllenhaal is a charming guy. He’s the type of person you could throw a stupid question at who would give you back an interesting or, at the very least, a funny answer. Gyllenhaal rarely gets to show these charms on the big screen, which is a shame, but Duncan Jones smartly allows him to. Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens is the type of leading man all us nerds like: he’s brash, witty, vulnerable, and even acts like a jerk at times. During a recent roundtable interview at SXSW we discussed what type of hero Colter is, Duncan Jones’s style, the script, the ending, and what’s going on with Nailed. There are a few spoilers, but they’re all clearly labeled and skippable:

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Mike Mills‘s latest film, Beginners, bares many similarities to his directorial debut, Thumbsucker. Both films are personal tales from the acclaimed filmmaker, they cover similar thematics, and are honest and, somewhat, dark stories told in a heightened manner. That style is mostly due to, as Mills claims, his art background. Nearly every frame in Beginners feels precise and beautifully composed. The auteur director has a style of his own, despite all the inspirations he mentions in our chat. Woody Allen is definitely the clearest influence, but this is the type of film that even Allen himself hasn’t made in quite some time. Here’s what director Mike Mills had to say about losing a father, finding financing, and creating art.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk SXSW with the Reject team and find out why Netflix is doing what they’re doing. Gigaom site editor Ryan Lawler joins us to help makes sense of why Netflix would get into the distribution game with House of Cards and what it might mean for the future. Joe Nicolosi (who made that video of the girl retelling Star Wars without seeing it and that Super Mario indie short film the kids are talking about), discusses the perils of the SXSW softball game, how he got the job making all the bumpers that play before the movies, his creative process, and the beauty of film festivals. Neil and Rob dust off the SXSW from their chaps to tell us about their favorite films and the movies that will coming to a theater near you. Plus, Kate Erbland from Gordon and The Whale and Scott Weinberg from Twitch Film go head-to-head in our movie news quiz, and we all end up talking about Cameron Crowe and the power of nostalgia. Loosen up your tie and stay a while.

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When a young man is dumped by his long-time girlfriend, he suspects the source of their collapse lives in his very own city. He knows she was communicating in a chat room with a blond Lothario so he has a female acquaintance get in touch with the same blond man to find out where he lives. The acquaintance, having been invited to the blond man’s house for some romantic entanglements, is greeted by a rather nasty surprise.

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When it was announced that the newest film from eighteen-year-old director Emily Hagins, entitled My Sucky Teen Romance, was going to premiere at SxSW, I was ecstatic. Almost every member of our SXSW coverage team either lives or has previously lived in Austin and knows Emily personally. Hell, some of us even donated our time to assist in the movie’s completion. That made it slightly difficult to lend our voices to reviewing the film. So do we decline to review it? Do we expend no words on it at all? Yes…and no. There is a story here, and a damn good one at that, completely divorced from the film itself. Emily’s story. Hagins wrote her first feature-length film, Pathogen, at age 11.  The next year, she earned a grant from the Austin Film Society to produce Pathogen, effectively becoming the youngest recipient of that award. Her tireless dedication to making her first feature film, and the fact that she wasn’t even in high school yet, attracted the attention of a trio of documentary filmmakers who noticed Hagins’s casting call posted on a local website called Austinactors.net. They crafted their 2009 film Zombie Girl: The Movie around her efforts. Between 7th and 8th grade, when the biggest thing that happened to most of us was getting our first kiss at a skating party, she was hard at work on The Retelling, her second feature. And now, here at SXSW 2011, Hagins’s third film played to bright marquee lights and packed houses […]

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Detention appears to be built from the ground up as a movie whose detractors will inevitably be told that they “just don’t get it.” A hyper-stylized, post-modern teen slasher of sorts, the movie mixes an incredibly self-aware attitude with onscreen text and graphics, a shattered fourth wall, a confused mash-up of 80s and 90s homage, time travel, suspected bestiality, Hoobastank, suicide bombers, Fraggle Rock, and more. It also claims to be a comedy.

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Hobo with a Shotgun is a gritty, nasty, depraved movie that no parent should let their child watch…and I loved every goddamn minute of it. It’s rare that we film journos are given the opportunity to be reduced to slimy, foul-mouthed 12-year-olds within the safe confines of a movie theater, but I’ll be a tiny little bastard if this film didn’t turn me into…a tiny little bastard. Its brazen conceit and relentless insanity touched upon all the things that pint-sized Brian loved about watching movies. But, as Attack the Block taught us, it’s not simply enough to compile the various pieces of genre films in a room together and expect them to play nice. And while Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t aiming for the same socially relevant subtext and deeper meaning of Attack the Block, within the rules it establishes from the onset, it shoots for the same high score in excellence. Scratch the surface of Hobo with a Shotgun, divorce yourself from the wickedly indecent content, and you will find a damn fine film that excels on almost every technical and artistic level. I am incredibly impressed with Jason Eisener as a director. There is a certain expectation with which one enters a film knowing that it began life as a trailer created to win a contest. But Eisener goes to such great lengths to tell his story in a way that is both stylishly entertaining and visually interesting that it’s hard not to be taken in by it. […]

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; I am not Banksy. But like that ninja/superhero street artist, I appear from nowhere and deface your perfectly good internet walls with my tasteless taste in movies. I will eviscerate history’s most problem-laden cinematic missteps before circumventing any notions of a favorable reputation by singing the film’s dubious praises. To drive the proverbial nail into the coffin, and into your aorta, I will then pair the movie with an appropriate junk food selection to ruin your swimsuit season. South by Southwest is a film festival that carries with it a debauchery only outdone by the Mos Eisley-level of scum and villainy that is Fantastic Fest. With the daunting schedule of pounding beers, drinking lager in line for various films, and taking a break from running from venue to venue with an ice cold brew, it can be really hard to grant the same level of attention and diligence to one’s weekly features that one normally does. But luckily for me, the Ain’t It Cool News secret screening during SxSW provided the perfect fodder for this week’s column. This week’s snack: Dragonslayer.

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If there’s one thing consistently more frustrating than a film being out-and-out unwatchable it’s a film on the cusp of being really good if not for something irredeemable getting in the film’s own way. All of the elements to make the vision happen are there and firing; the acting is solid to standout across the board, the non-linear structure is used well, and the writing is done well…for the most part. Where 96 Minutes loses effectiveness in intensity and diverts into frustration is in the primary catalyst for the film’s conflict. Partly the character at the center of it, but mostly our lack of significant knowledge about him that justifies him doing what he does and allowing us to connect with the motive. I gather that there’s much more to him beyond ignorance and anger at his current situation (at least I hope so), but all of that story happens over the course of the prior 16 years before the 96 minutes of time we experience.

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SXSW 2011 may be coming to a close, but we’ll be sharing more interviews and reviews as the week rolls on. All of which will have barbecue stains. It’s a big night tonight. Neil is standing in line for Hobo With a Shotgun, cleverly putting his hat out and asking for money to buy a lawnmower. Rob has been lured into a vegan screening of a low-budget Asian pink film. Brian is wandering around town trying to figure out just how much he loved Attack the Block. Luke and Adam are luring people into Asian pink film screenings, and Jack hasn’t been seen since last Thursday. We’ll be earning a few awards for our coverage, no doubt, but SXSW has crowned a few winners this evening – the most awarded being the Rachel Harris comedy Natural Selection. You thought for a second they were posthumously celebrating Charles Darwin, didn’t you? Congratulations to all the winners, and to all the films at SXSW. Here are the winners as listed in the official press release:

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Moses and his friends live in the roughest part of South London. They all reside in an apartment building in an economically arrested neighborhood. Part of the “hoodie” culture that gives older Brits nightmares, Moses’s crew gets into more than its fair share of mischief – going so far as to mug a woman in the street. But when meteors begin raining from the sky, toting vicious aliens in their wake, the hoodies in the street may no longer be the most dangerous thing on the block. They teach us not to use the word “I” in reviews. The first person voice is said to be less professional and less in the mold of the old school of journalism. While this is not an unreasonable standard, Attack the Block spoke to me on such a deeply personal level and suppressing that experience does the film no justice. I don’t know what it is about Britain, but over the last ten years or so they have been churning out genre films that carry the keys to my soul and therefore find easy access. Not only that, but they seem to be released at just the perfect interval to find me at precisely the right moments in my life.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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Thinking back on most of the teen dramas I’ve seen I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a personality like Terri. He’s the social outcast, he’s poor, he’s fat, he gets picked on, he’s a pushover, he isn’t particularly good at anything beyond showing up late to school and he goes everywhere in his pj’s. He isn’t just ripe for brutal ostracization, he’s the tree that bears all the types of fruit that get eaten by it.

However, what makes Terri different from the represented amalgamation of almost every other outcast characteristic you may have ever seen is his indifference towards everything. He doesn’t get particularly angry particularly often. He holds no pure grudges when he has every right to. He doesn’t bother anyone by drawing further attention to himself. He’s shy and he wants friends and he wishes he could fit in, but he can’t really figure himself out beyond knowing that he really just doesn’t care much about anything.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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