SXSW

Reel Sex

Woosh! You hear that sound? That’s the air finally making its way back into my brain after 10 days of the taco-eating, famous people elbow-rubbing, beer-chugging, and back-to-back movie-watching one happens to experience at South by Southwest. I’m sure you’ve been reading the Rejects’s extensive coverage of the all-encompassing festival of exhaustion (even I have some opinions to share shortly), and have been living a bit vicariously through each of us. Let me tell you now, it was just as great as you would imagine. Being a Texas native, SXSW is one of my absolute favorite film festivals, and I’m lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to watch it grow to some pretty epic proportions over the past eight years. SXSW Film prides itself on having a bountiful lineup of films from the tiny directorial debuts to the star-laden big budget features audiences stand in line for over two hours to see. While it does succeed at being a taste marker for new talent, the festival does have a tendency to execute lackluster panels. Of course, this isn’t a huge priority for the over 20,000 people attending, but for a lady obsessed with sex-positivity in cinema I have to admit I was over the moon thrilled when I discovered the fest had finally booked a sexy-time movie panel. Brought together by the fabulous Lisa Vandever, director of the all erotica film festival Cinekink, the “Bringing Sexy Back: Where’s the Line Today?” panel introduced me to a pair of directors who […]

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If you’ve been rocking back and forth with anticipation for The Raid: Redemption, your wait is almost over. It hits theaters this weekend (alongside another certain highly-anticipated movie), and to whet your appetite, we talk with writer/director Gareth Evans who dissects an action scene for us. Plus, Kate Erbland and Rob Hunter join us for the Movie News Pop Quiz and to share their favorites from SXSW that will be coming to your neck of the woods. Download Episode #126

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The Cabin in the Woods isn’t much of a deconstruction of the horror genre. In actuality, it’s a love letter from writer/director Drew Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon to the genre. Some have labeled the horror-comedy as being in the vein of the Scream series, but The Cabin in the Woods should not be mistaken as a satire. Aside from a few winks here and there, Goddard stays away from smug self-referential storytelling. He tells his own story, rather than making fun of others. Forget the conventions you know about the horror genre, because what you know won’t help you say “I saw that coming!” while watching The Cabin in the Woods. It takes turns we haven’t seen before, making the film all the more difficult to discuss, especially with Drew Goddard. Here’s what Goddard had to say about The Cabin In the Woods and making out with wolves:

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Would you have ever expected that a completely eccentric, beautifully talented artist, and sometime puppeteer was behind the some of the puppets and set design on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse? Actually you might, because those were some of the strangest puppets ever to hit television. But there’s an equally strange personality behind them. Wayne White, a Tennessee-born surreal pop art artist and puppeteer, is the subject of the incredibly impressive Beauty is Embarrassing documentary that was one of the most entertaining films I saw during SXSW this year. The film, which documents White’s beginnings as an artist (paying a lot of attention to the time he spent working on Pee-Wee up to the present day) opens with White and his one-man art retrospective show, which is presented more like a stand-up act than an art show: White plays the banjo, tells jokes, shows slides along with his artwork, and sings. It’s highly entertaining, and shows you that while he might look like a curmudgeonly man yelling at you to get off his lawn, he’s actually a lovable guy underneath.

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We open with a gasp. Amy Seimetz’s feature directorial debut, Sun Don’t Shine, kicks off with its lead actress (Kate Lyn Sheil) fighting for breath under the blazing Florida sun, thanks to a knock-down-drag-out fight with her boyfriend (Kentucker Audley) in an empty slice of wetland far from any prying eyes. The two struggle in the mud and sand, until the scuffle is finally over and they resume driving far away from something very bad, very bad indeed. An understated take on the classic Bonnie and Clyde trope with a mumblecore vibe, Seimetz’s film centers on two runaway losers who need to get somewhere far from home – and fast.

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Set in the Sequoia National Forest during a last-ditch attempt at romance-saving by way of camping trip, Adele Romanski‘s Leave Me Like You Found Me imagines that relationship rehab amongst the trees can be both cathartic and catastrophic. Erin (Megan Boone) and Cal (David Nordstrom) have been apart for a year, and while we don’t ever learn just who made the first move and who conceived of the trip, we do know who left in the first place. Cal walked out on Erin, and it’s easy to see why he might have felt compelled to do so – she’s woefully insecure about herself and their relationship, yet she’s also convinced that she’s the better catch of the two. The camping trip is both a bonding exercise and a try-out period to see if the two have overcome their problems and differences and are now able to participate in a healthy and loving romance. But while a year has passed since their initial break-up, it’s clear that their issues have not disappeared and that they’re extremely prone to allowing little tiffs and digs to turn into blowout arguments.

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The skin-crawling world of Small Apartments is presented without irony or judgment – so it’s not surprising that, in such an off-kilter environment, Matt Lucas’ Franklin Franklin (yes, that’s really his name) sounds relatively sane. Even when he’s off-handedly confessing to the murder of his landlord, Lucas’ delivery is so deadpan that no one takes him seriously – after all, why would Franklin kill anyone? Oh, possibly because (like everybody else in his crumbling apartment building) he’s totally deranged?

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Billed as “a deadpan fable about time sneaking up on and swerving right around us” by the SXSW programmers, Bob Byington‘s Somebody Up There Likes Me is boring twaddle masquerading as something more exiciting and more important, thanks to a barely hidden high concept conceit that frequently make the production just look sloppy and inattentive. The film and its often blank-faced lead, Keith Poulson, are without any of the charm and cheekiness of Byington’s previous films, namely the lovely and funny Harmony and Me. Poulson’s Max Youngman is a typical shiftless twentysomething – a waiter, he doesn’t appear to have many life or professional goals and, personally speaking, he’s not doing so hot either. His ex-wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) doesn’t want to get back together, which she proves handily by having sex with another dude within minutes of Max leaving her house. Max’s only friend is his waiter co-worker Sal (Nick Offerman) who, even later in the film after over thirty years of friendship and a number of job changes, Max still calls “the waiter.” A slightly spur-of-the-moment date with co-worker Lyla (Jess Weixler) appears to signal a positive change in Max’s life, and thus the film, but while Somebody Up There Likes Me tracks decades in Max’s life and innumerable changes, there’s little actual evolution to be found.

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In which a review begs to open with a deep-seeming quote about memory – its price, its collapse, its malleability, its importance, something about Mark Twain – and fails utterly. Director and co-writer Nir Paniry attempts something similar with his Extracted. The film follows Sasha Roiz as Tom, an inventor who has crafted a machine that is able to plug into a person’s memory and allow them to experience it as if it was currently happening, all while processing those memories into video capture. Unsurprisingly enough, Tom’s invention doesn’t quite work as planned, and he’s plunged into the depths of another person’s memory – except the memories he’s found are bad ones, and he’s trapped inside of them. Though Tom creates his machine with the hope of helping people work through their past issues, when his apparent manager comes to him with an interested buyer who plans on using it for something very different, Tom buckles. Turns out, a local corrections bigwig sees potential in the project that doesn’t quite fit Tom’s altruistic aims – he wants to plug perps into it to discover if their memories prove them guilty (or innocent, though he seems fairly convinced that everyone is guilty). Swayed by the promise of a big pay-out should the corrections department adopt his invention as part of their standard interrogation procedures, Tom sets up a trial demonstration, during which he gets plugged into the memories of accused murderer Anthony (Dominic Bogart).

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Jay Chandrasekhar’s twist on the bank heist film, The Babymakers, takes a somewhat clever and fun premise and buries it under muffled performances, piles of unfunny jokes, and a complete disregard for clarity of theme. The film is packed with all of the markers that we’ve come to expect from current Hangover and Apatow-inspired comedy – it’s raunchy and dirty and even occasionally offensive – but there’s no bite or originality behind any of it, it just feels tired and wrung out. Chandrasekhar’s shtick has worn thin since his best and ballsiest comedy, Super Troopers, and lensing a flick from writers Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow (best known for stuff like Black Knight and Say It Isn’t So) hasn’t done him any favors. The film centers on happily married pair Tommy (Paul Schneider) and Audrey (Olivia Munn) who decides it’s high time to conceive a baby. After months of trying, it becomes evident that there’s something amiss with either one or both of them, and when they discover it’s Tommy and his “confused sperm,” he lets slip that there’s no way that could be so. After all, he paid for Audrey’s engagement ring with money from donating his sperm for twenty weeks in a row. Oh – oops! She didn’t know that. Determined to win back his wife, Tommy and his pack of moronic pals (including Kevin Heffernan and Nat Faxon) cook up a plan to rob the sperm bank that’s holding Tommy’s last batch hostage, with help from a […]

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If there were ever a director who resembled Lucy from “Peanuts” (in both spirit and looks), it’s Robert Rodriguez. His explanation for all the talk and no action? “You work on a number of projects, and then everything eventually bottlenecks.” What’s bottlenecking currently is his sequel to Machete and about 10 other projects he’s announced over the years, but none of them comes close to the anticipation that grew, waned, resurfaced, died out, and then blossomed again for Sin City 2. The first was a perfect neo-noir that made brilliant use of Frank Miller‘s raw language and story. Now, according to Lucy himself (via Empire), he’ll finally be shooting it this summer while editing Machete 2. Apparently he’ll be beating the heat by staying indoors with his green screens. Miller has stated before that Jessica Alba‘s character Nancy has a continued story, and since it’s partially based off the graphic novel entry “A Dame To Kill For,” Mickey Rourke‘s Marv should also be in the mix. However, no casting has been announced, so if this thing really does go this time, it’s going to be just how Rodriguez seems to like it: on the fly. The only question is whether we, as fans, should keep our eye on the football this time.

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As a romantic subgenre, the alcoholic love story doesn’t typically hit upon anything fantastically new or groundbreaking – drink, fight, cry, love, repeat until something terrible happens – but director and co-writer Adam Sherman and his charming cast have done something wonderful with their Crazy Eyes. Sherman and stars Lukas Haas and Madeline Zima have injected life and humor into their story of two shiftless Hollywood alcoholics and their maybe-love story. In terms of fitting into its genre, Crazy Eyes feels a bit like a more light-hearted Leaving Las Vegas or a more energetic Somewhere – comparisons that are meant as compliments.

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Even with its relatively limited resources, John Dies at the End creates a bigger and more involving world than most films with over 20 times its budget. This is one crazy world filled with even crazier characters. Writer/director Don Coscarelli‘s adaptation isn’t a lick afraid of silliness, and that is John Dies at the End‘s key charm. To describe everything that goes down in John Dies at the End would be a massive and confusing chore. In short: there’s a lot. From alternate universes to a meat monster, it’s got plenty going on. The two leads, young and good-looking twenty somethings Dave (Chase Williamson) and his buddy John (Rob Mayes), take a drug known on the streests as “soy sauce,” and it’s the kind of drug that opens one’s eyes in ways unimaginable. The pair get into some oddball situations, involving the likes of Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown.

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Like most people, there was a time in my life where I fancied myself a filmmaker. I will readily admit now that I do not possess the creative talents to be able to take the written word and make it a visual piece of art. Heaven knows I tried to dream it up, but I just wasn’t meant for that world. Well, during my most recent case of wanting to be a filmmaker, I worked on the short film Knife (currently playing in the SXSW Texas Shorts Showcase) directed by Fort Worth, TX writer/director/producer/vegan chef and all around awesome man, James Johnston. James has been a staple at SXSW for as long as I’ve been attending and his commitment to promoting Texas filmmaking is just one of the many reasons he continues to earn respect and praise in our little Texas bubble. As you can imagine, James is pretty busy this week promoting Knife and working on various other projects, but he took a few minutes to talk with me about some of his fondest SXSW memories.

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There are a tremendous number of mistakes that one can make when it comes to film festival attendance, though the least of which is probably showing up late. Which I do. Pretty much all the time. It’s long been my bag to arrive at out-of-town festivals on Saturdays, even if those festivals kick off on Thursdays or Fridays. It always sounds good in theory – a square week of travel (Saturday to Saturday), I get to miss the initial crush, badge pick-up is usually easier, and there’s a lot more excitement from friends when I pop up hours or days after everyone else. But, no matter what, it always means that I get to spend a couple of days wishing that I was already there, which is a nice way of saying I always regret it during the interim. And though that’s personally awful, it does put me in the unique position of understanding, even temporarily, how terrible it feels to not be at a festival when seemingly everyone on your Twitter feed is. In the spirit of wanting to be at SXSW, and because I’ll be feeling mopey and sad until I land in Austin tomorrow at 11AM, let’s have some fun – and watch a bunch of SXSW trailers I’ve pillaged from around the web for some films that us Rejects (read: me, bitter me) are pretty pumped to see. Hey, it’s drier and cheaper than being there! After the break, check out trailers for Fat Kid Rules […]

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Premiering in the Narrative Competition at SXSW, Matt Ruskin‘s Booster dives deep into the Boston underworld to tell a story about family, loyalty, and the looming specter of crime. Nico Stone stars as Simon, who is asked to commit a series of armed robberies after his brother is arrested for the same kinds of crimes. As the film’s poster asks – “what would you do for your family?” Just what will Simon do for his brother, and what effect will it have on both of their lives? Interestingly enough, Ruskin cast non-actors for his production from the area in order “to add a layer of authenticity and relevance to the film.” Such a choice brings to mind films like Act of Valor and Gummo and lauded television series The Wire, who all used the same casting aim (to mixed results). The film’s very first (and very cool) poster was designed by Caspar Newbolt for Version Industries in Brooklyn. You might know Newbolt’s work and not even realize it, as he’s crafted a bunch of work for films and bands, including the Daft Punk soundtrack for Tron: Legacy.  Prepare to get locked and loaded with the full poster for Booster after the break.

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Documentaries done right serve a number of purposes for cinephiles – to educate, to inspire, to reflect, to synthesize – but my favorite brand of documentary has always been the kind that chronicles a people and a lifestyle that are diametrically opposed to the sort of person I am and the lifestyle I lead. And thus, enter The Source, which looks to fit perfectly into my preferred type of doc. World premiering at SXSW, Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos’s film chronicles “The Source Family,” an “Aquarian tribe” that embodied just about everything people think of when they think of hippies, the 70s, and what it meant to be groovy. The Family was “a radical experiment in ’70s utopian living. Their outlandish lifestyle, popular health food restaurant, rock band, and beautiful women made them the darlings of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip; but their outsider ideals and spiritual leader, Father Yod, caused controversy with local authorities.” You read that right – they weren’t just a group of young beauties – they also crafted their own cottage industries. But what happened to Father Yod and his Family? You’ll just have to find out. After the break, get an embrace from Father Yod himself with the full poster for The Source.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

It is still very unclear to me why SXSW Film opted to forego their Lone Star States category in 2012, but what seems abundantly clear is the shortage of feature-length films by local filmmakers at the festival this year. As I continue to rummage through the schedule to plan my nine-day marathon of film screenings, various questions keep popping into my mind. Did fewer local filmmakers submit their features to SXSW this year? Has SXSW lost the desire to support local filmmakers? Do SXSW’s standards exceed the quality of local film productions? What does all of this say about the Austin film community? Inquiring minds want to know! The lack of local films in this year’s feature-length film categories would not have been as much of a shock if Austin had not enjoyed such a powerful presence at SXSW 2010 and 2011. In 2010, SXSW Film screened seven feature films by Austin filmmakers: Dance with the One, Earthling, The Happy Poet, Lovers of Hate, Mars, Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, and When I Rise. In 2011, SXSW screened eight feature films by Austin filmmakers: Blacktino, Building Hope, Five Time Champion, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, My Sucky Teen Romance, Otis Under Sky, Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, and Wuss.

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Mad Max Cars

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s difficult to explain, really. We do know what it isn’t: boring. We begin this evening with one of two images from the scene of the crime where George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road could very well be shooting. We know this because some wicked Mad Max-esque vehicles have been spotted near where the production is said to begin shooting in April. It’s got Tom Hardy, it’s George Miller back in the saddle, and it’s okay by me.

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Kid doesn’t like his family, isn’t really into the strict Christian upbringing that’s tied him down his whole life, jumps ship for a super-liberal college in Portland, where growth and hijinks inevitably ensue. Standard stuff, right? Well, that’s the brief outline for Steve Taylor‘s Blue Like Jazz. But while the plotline for the new film doesn’t really stand out, the film’s background does. Taylor’s film is based on Donald Miller’s wildly popular book, “Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” Miller’s collections of semi-autobiographical essays spent forty-three weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, and inspired legions of fans to help Taylor’s production make it the the screen (more on that later). Will it be worth it for them? This new trailer alone doesn’t inspire a lot of hope in me – it’s loaded with scenes we’ve seen before, clunky platitudes on life, and a very obvious romantic entanglement. But maybe there’s more to it. Ignore that shoe-horned in bit about where the film gets its name and check out the film’s new trailer after the break.

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