Below are some of my favorites for the first half of the SXSW Film Festival. This year there are about 150 films with about 100 being premieres (world or US).
Trainwreck – 4 out of 5
This is still listed as a work in progress, so it can still change (so I’ll need to see it again!). This is Judd Apatow’s latest starring Amy Schumer. Like most Apatow films, it’s rude, crude, very funny and has a heart. Schumer plays a magazine writer with commitment issues (explained via a very funny opening sequence). The supporting cast includes Bill Hader (as the orthopedic surgeon for athletes and one of Schumer’s love interests) and Lebron James in a much larger role than I expected that he totally pulled off (including a very funny 1 on 1 match with Hader). I thought the ending went a bit overboard, but if you are an Apatow fan, you will definitely like this movie.
Raiders! – 4 out of 5
Back in the 1980’s a bunch of kids spent their summers doing a shot for shot remake of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. They remade the whole movie from the time they were 11 to around 18 with the exception of the airplane scene (that includes lots of explosions and a guy fighting Indy meeting up with an airplane propeller). Last summer they decided (with the help of Kickstarter) to film that last scene.
This documentary tells about their making of the remake, their lives since then, and the filming of the final scene. It’s a fascinating, funny story. These kids did an amazing job and this doc shows their obsession and ability to persevere on a film that had tons of special effects, people burning, hanging on to speeding trucks, etc. Luckily they survived. The course of their lives and friendship over the next 30 years and the filming of the final scene is also fascinating.
After the screening they showed the final version of The Raiders of the Lost Ark remake with their final scene included. It was awesome but you don’t need to see that to enjoy this documentary.
Get Hard – 3.5 out of 5
This is the new Kevin Hart and Will Farrell movie coming out soon. Will Farrell is framed for a crime and headed to jail and hires Kevin Hart to train him on how to survive in prison. I found it very funny. It is also rude, crude, politically incorrect and definitely goes over the edge at times (there are parts that are definitely offensive). Despite that I did like it a lot and this is my favorite Will Farrell movie in quite a while. While watching this, I wondered if Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor remade Stir Crazy today if this is how it would turn out.
The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson – 3 out of 5
Another good documentary. Wilco Johnson is a musician who is told he has inoperable cancer and he has at most 8 months to live. Instead of just succumbing to his fate, he decides to live the rest of his life to the fullest and goes on one last tour.
T-Rex – 4 out of 5
A very good documentary about a U.S. boxer hoping to become the first winner of Olympic gold in women’s boxing. This is not just about her training, but also about life in low income neighborhoods and her interactions with family, friends, and trainers.
Peace Officer – 4.5 out of 5
A documentary about a policeman who set up a SWAT team in his city and how thirty years later the SWAT team he originally set up killed his son-in-law. This explores the militarization of the police in the U.S. and how in some cases they’ve lost sight of their true mission. This is a very topical film with events such as Ferguson in the current news.
Spy – 3 out of 5
The latest from Melissa McCarthy. The title says it all. If you like her you’ll like this. If you don’t, you won’t.
Best of Enemies – 3.5 out of 5
Another really good documentary about the 1968 debates between Will F. Buckley and Gore Vidal on ABC during the 1968 political conventions that year. ABC did this because they were the last-place network and they need to do something out of the ordinary for ratings. Some say this was the start of the road to our sad state of discourse now with Fox News, MSNBC, etc.