SXSW 2017 – Part 2

During the second half of SXSW I make it to fewer movies due to the music bother re a few I liked:

The Big Sick: This was my favorite movie  last week.  A romantic comedy based on the real life romance of Emily V. Gordon and  Kumail Nanjiani as they deal with family issues (including those of being a Muslim in America) and her illness.  This is very funny and moving.  Nanjiani also stars and this has a good supporting cast including Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.  Judd Apatow was one of the producers and he, Emily and Kumail had a great Q+A including a discussion of how Apatow helps push people to maximize their creativity in the writing process (as he did with Amy Schumer in Trainwreck and Lena Dunham with Girls).  This comes out in June and is a must see!

May it Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers: Judd Apatow directed this one although musical documentaries are not what he is known for.  I really enjoyed this documentary that gives good insight into the Avett brothers  as people, their creative process and lots of good music.  This will be on HBO at some point.  Later in the evening, at a different venue,  they performed in concert (they are great to see live).

Patti Cake$: A good narrative film about a young woman trying to make it as a rapper and escape her New Jersey circumstances despite the odds being stacked against her.

Small Crimes: A narrative about a former cop being released from prison and returning to his small home town.  The events that led to his imprisonment are slowly revealed as he tries to put his past behind him.  This was slo pretty good.

Doug Benson and Master Pancake Theater mock Leprechaun 5: In the Hood: Every year on St. Patrick’s Day Benson teams up with local comedy troupe Master Pancake Theater to mock a movie in the Leprechaun series with their running commentary.   This year was the fifth in the series and took place in da hood, last year they mocked #4 which took place in space.  The movies are terrible, the mocking is hilarious.  Unfortunately, unless someone makes another one there are only 2 left.

The Work: An excellent documentary that takes place in Folsom prison.  Every year there’s a 4 day session where inmates and people outside the prison get together and try to help each other work through their issues.  It was pretty intense.

That’s it for festival coverage until Fantastic Fest in September

SXSW 2017 – Part 1

SXSW started last Friday and runs through Saturday (technically it ends Sunday with some good BBQ, the traditional softball game (which I may sign up for) and just a couple of final bands).  This entry will just cover a bunch of the movies I’ve seen but SXSW is a lot more – music (which is just heating up), comedy (which I haven’t made it to at all), tech, health, sports, politics, parties, etc.  For more on other parts of SXSW see the link above or my wife’s blog on her experiences. 

There are about 125 full length movies covering many genres, as well as shorts and episodic (TV shows or streaming).  There are also related panels. For example, there was a panel with Michael Fassbender and Terrence Malick hosted by Richard Linklater discussing Malick’s new film, Song to Song, a panel with the showrunners for Game of Thrones, Bob Odenkirk discussing his projects, the whole cast of VEEP (interviewed by Chuck Todd of Meet the Press, etc.

Here are some of the best (and a couple that I didn’t like):

Fits and Starts: Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) in a comedy about a struggling writer married to a much more successful one.

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong: a couple of inept thieves get stuck in the house they are robbing.  This was pretty funny and won a best ensemble cast award.

Becoming Bond: a cute, quasi documentary about George Lazenby, the actor who played James Bond once.  It was interesting and funny.          Lazenby talking about his life is interlaced with humorous re-enactments.  He is an itneresting guy (and was at the screening).

Muppet Guys TalkingSecrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched:  Frank OZ directed and participated in this movie with other of the original Muppets.  Archival footage was also used.

Mr. Roosevelt: the directorial debut and starring Noel Wells.  This is a comedy, set in Austin.  Wells character returns to Austin and spends an awkward weekend with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and comes  to terms with her previous choices.

Bill Nye, Science Guy: an update on Bill Nye and what he’s up to.  Entertaining and relevant.  As the Q+A demonstrated, he likes to talk.

Hot Summer Nights: Sort of a coming of age movie (but he never really comes of age).  A teenager spends the summer on Cape Cod in 1991, falls in love  and gets involved in drug dealing.

Free Fire:  This opens soon.  An action/comedy movie that flies by.  If you like action/violence you’ll probably like this.  Also pretty funny.

Unrest: A great documentary by and about a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Eye opening and very moving.

Meth Storm: Arkansas USA: Another really eye opening and moving documentary.  The film maker spends time with a law officer on an operation to try to make inroads to cut off the supply from Mexico and with a family with meth addiction problems.  This will be on HBO and is a must see (but tough to watch the drug addicted family).

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo: A really good documentary on the Apollo program from the perspective of mission control.  Inspiring.

Song to Song:  This is the new Malick movie.  It has a great cast that includes Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender.  If you are really into Malick you might like it but I was disappointed.  Too much cutting, not enough fleshing out of the story.  If you live in Austin it might be worth watching just to see all the locations he used.  Sometimes it seemed he just drove around and had people get out of the car if he saw something he thought was interesting.

The Challenge: So far my winner for worst film of the festival.  A documentary about  folks in the middle east that train falcons to catch pigeons in the desert.  If they had interesting characters that did the training or explained why this is a compelling activity it could have been good but they never got into the backstory.  Based on the picture below doesn’t it look like it could be interesting?  This still didn’t get my worst SXSW movie ever award.  That goes to 2010’s Trash Humpers by Harmony Korine.  I wanted to walk out of that one but since I was watching it at the Alamo Drafthouse and had to pay my bill I couldn’t.

Logan

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Logan is set in post apocalyptic (for the mutants) 2029 with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) both in ill health and in hiding.  While there’s tons of good action this is also a more thoughtful and somber super hero movie than most dealing with  issues relevant in today’s society.

Patrick and Jackman give excellent performances with the Professor having seizure/mental issues and Jackman  shows different emotions  and he still wrestles with his issues of how to handle  the destruction he causes and hurting those he cares about.   Dafne King also does a great jobs as a young mutant on the run.  This probably could have been tightened up a bit to be closer than two hours and while I liked the plot at times it was predictable.

As with Deadpool last year, this is not for kids – tons of bloody violence.  But for those who like a good action movie this is worth seeing.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

John Wick: Chapter 2

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

If you are just looking for totally escapist, ridiculous action movie with a very high body count to kill  two hours this is the movie for you!

Keanu Reeves reprises his role as John Wick, hired assassin extraordinaire!  Keanu is perfect for this role as he doesn’t really need to act, talks very little but does a great job with fighting, loading his gun and just killing an incredible number of people (since most of these people he kills are fellow assassinsI didn’t feel too bad rooting for him).  Until this comes out in DVD and someone can continually pause the movie I don’t think there will be an accurate count. Keanu is sort of the baby Liam Neeson in terms of being able to star in an action movie well into his 50s (although I think Keanu does more of his own stunts).

The set pieces are never boring (although of course they are ridiculous) and if you like this type of movie definitely check it out.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

I am Not Your Negro

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I Am Not Your Negro is a thought provoking documentary about race relations in America.  It is based on an unfinished project by author James Baldwin exploring race relations using Baldwin’s remembrances of murdered civil rights leaders (and friends) Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X as a jumping off point.  The film uses archival footage of events in the 60’s + Baldwin interview/speaking engagements as well as footage of more recent events.  Samuel L. Jackson provides additional narration based on Baldwin’s writings.

Unfortunately, despite Baldwin having died 30 years ago much of what he said and wrote is still relevant today and this film is worth seeing

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Paterson

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

As a public service right here I will provide a short quiz you can take in order to determine whether you should see this film, as follows:

  1. Are you curious what Adam Driver’s character from Girls would be like after a lobotomy?
  2. How about watching Adam Driver appear in almost every scene in a movie while not moving any facial muscles?
  3. Are you tired of movies that are driven by plots, and have dramatic and compelling scenes?
  4. Do you have heart problems and need a movie to not cause your heart to go above resting state?
  5. Would you like to see what it’s like for a bus driver to go on his route every day?
  6. Did you ever wonder what would happen if a city bus stopped working in the middle of the route?
  7. Do you like to see sets of twins make appearances at unexpected times throughout a movie?
  8. Do you like poetry, and would you like to see an ordinary person compose poetry on the fly, writing about ordinary objects such as matchsticks?
  9. Do you live in, or work in, or were you born in, Paterson New Jersey?
  10. Are you walking outside in the cold and need a warm, quiet place to sit for a couple of hours?

If you answered yes to any of those questions then by all means go see Paterson!

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The Founder

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Michael Keaton gives an excellent performance in this biopic about McDonald’s ‘founder’ Ray Kroc.

The film covers the period when Kroc, as a a struggling milk shake machine salesman discovers the McDonalds brothers burger stand through it’s rise as a conglomerate.  The move is not only showcases the growth of the company but the birth of an industry.

The decisions that led to the success of the business and overcame early struggles are fascinating but even more interesting is how Kroc deals with people, especially the McDonald brothers.   In addition to Keaton’s performance there are also fine performances by Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern and others.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Best of 2016

Here’s our picks for the best of 2016.

 Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Moonlight
2 Manchester By the Sea
3 Lion
4 The Edge of Seventeen
5 Hunt for the Wilderpeople
6 Birth of a Nation
7 Kapoor & Sons, Since 1921
8 Doctor Strange
9 Sausage Party
10 Deadpool
11 Silence
12 Star Trek Beyond
13 Arrival
14 Hail Ceasar
15 Hell or High Water
16 Eye in the Sky
17 Morris from America
18 Pink
19 Deepwater Horizon
20 Ones Below
21 The Girl on the Train
22 Weiner
23 Allied
24 Rogue One
25 10 Coverfield Lane
26 Free State of Jones
27 Jason Bourne
28 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
29 Barbershop, the Next Cut
30 Captain America: Civil War
31 Passengers
1 Moonlight
2 Manchester by the Sea
3 Hell or High Water
4 Sausage Party
5 Don’t Think Twice
6 Eye in the Sky
7 Green Room
8 The Edge of Seventeen
9 Arrival
10 The Crew
11 Toni Erdmann
12 Hunt for the Wilderpeople
13 The Handmaiden
Best Documentaries1 Gleason
2 Weiner
3 Tower
4 Newtown
5 The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years
6 For the Love of Spock
7 Tickled

Bill I’s Best of 2016 Comments

Narrative Films

1 Moonlight – both beautiful in its depiction of a boy growing up to manhood, and the close friendship between 2 boys, and brutal in the reality of life with a drug addicted mother and bullying of a non-conforming young man
2 Manchester By the Sea – for a movie about grief it has plenty of wisecracks, and incredible performance by Casey Affleck and the kid playing his nephew. Such a non-Hollywood ending!
3 Lion – reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire, based on a real-life story of a lost boy from the slums of India to adoption in Australia then search for his birth family. Young actor is amazing
4 The Edge of Seventeen – perfect mix of comedy and drama focused on an amazing teenage girl, great performance by Hailee Steinfeld, and a small but key role by Woody Harrelson
5 Hunt for the Wilderpeople – what a surprising film, tour de force by the teenage actor. Now that I am summarizing my top film list, I see that all top 5 films have young actors starring in them!
6 Birth of a Nation – what was life truly like from the plantation slave’s perspective. This film seems to show the realities
7 Kapoor & Sons, Since 1921 – A Bollywood film about a disfunctional family, lots of laughs, characters and drama
8 Doctor Strange – My favorite “super hero” film of the year, with focus on character more than theatrical stunts
9 Sausage Party – how to take essentially a one joke premise and make it rolling on the floor funny, genius from Seth Rogan and friends!
10 Deadpool – I had no idea what I was getting into when this innovative, in your face film played out. What violence, what crudity, what fun!
11 Silence – a “great Scorcese film”, but didn’t really capture me until the end when Liam Neeson starts talking.
12 – Star Trek Beyond – very well done, true to Star Trek
13 – Arrival – Slow exposition, but Amy Adams keeps it compelling, and I walked out at the end thinking how well out together the plot was
14 – Hail Caesar – best dancing/singing scene in my film going life
15 – Hell or High Water – Jeff Bridges is a smart, tough ass dude, hunting down some wild criminals in the west
16 Eye in the Sky – extremely topical take on ethical questions of using drones to take out bad guys
17 Morris from America – another amazing teenager performance, showing a great father son relationship (Craig Robinson as the dad!)
18 Pink – Indian film, but no singing and dancing, as the rape culture gets examined and dismantled piece by piece in the courtroom by a crafty old lawyer
19 Deepwater Horizon – what is life like on an offshore oil rig, and what actually happened when it exploded
20 Ones Below – don’t think this film was widely shown, but very well done, about a happy young couple with a baby having to deal with suspicions about their creepy nice downstairs neighboors. What an ending!
21 The Girl on the Train – talk about creepy, Emily Blunt holds this film and my interest throughout
22 Weiner – Amazing documentary about Anthony Weiner’s self destruction (his second!) in real-time
23 Allied – Maybe this should be rated higher, as it is extremely well done war/spy romance thriller with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
24 Rogue One – Star Wars prequel, fun, action, well done
25 10 Coverfield Lane – best depiction of a creepy dude played by John Goodman. This kept me guessing till the end, then I had to laugh, but it was fun
26 Free State of Jones – Matthew McConaughey as a Civil War good guy, leading the rebellion within
27 Jason Bourne – another typical, action with Bourne
28 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – Life as reporters in the war zone
29 Barbershop, the Next Cut – lots of talk, lots of laughs, but reality about senseless (is there any other kind) gun violence
30 Captain America: Civil War – super heros battling it out, made me wonder why are they fighting each other
31 Passengers – great premise, fantastic depiction of travelling in space, and great ethical question. Turns into typical disaster story at the end

 

Bill C’s Best of 2016 Comments

Narrative Films

1 Moonlight – Great character study of inner city kid at three important junctures of his life.
2 Manchester by the Sea – Well told story of a man trying to cope with having to deal with his nephew after the death of his brother.  The story unfolds slowly with great performances.
3 Hell or High Water – A modern western.  Great interplay between all the characters
4 Sausage Party – Funniest (and rudest/crudest) movie of the year.  Based on the coming attraction I thought it was a one joke movie but it was much more
5 Don’t Think Twice – The people in an improv group reach a moment of truth and a fork in the road.  Funny and touching.
6 Eye in the Sky – Tense drama as the controllers of a military drone have a target in sight but what action to take is not so clear cut.
7 Green Room – Another tense drama/trhiller.   A punk rock band gets booked in a club run by evil Patrick Stewart.  Pretty violent
8 The Edge of Seventeen – An entertaining coming of age movie.  Great interaction between Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.
9 Arrival – Amy Adams is terrific in their thinking ma’s sci-fi fi/alien movie.
10 The Crew – Excellent French action movie focusing on botched job by a group of thieves.
11 Toni Erdmann – Quirky German comedy as a father tries to ‘help’ his daughter balance her life.
12 Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Offbeat New Zealand comedy about a city kid trying to bond with a new foster family
13 The Handmaiden – A period piece Korean crime drama from the director of Old Boy

Documentaries

1 Gleason – Moving documentary as former NFL player (and wife) show great courage as they deal with his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease as he also documents lessons for his son before all his physical abilities are gone.
2 Weiner – Anthony Weiner allowed documentarians full access as he attempted a political comeback by running for mayor after his (first) sexting scandal.   The film makers hit gold when things don’t work out as Weiner hoped.  Poor Huma Abedin.
3 Tower + Newtown – Tower is the retelling of one of the first mass shootings in U.S. history 50 years ago at the University of Texas tower in Austin.  Newtown covers the more recent mass shooting that killed 20 6+7 year olds in Newtown Connecticut.  Both just make you shake your head  when considering the lack of reasonable gun control laws.
5 The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – Entertaining documentary about the Beatles.
6 For the Love of Spock – This is really a documentary about Leonard Nimoy.  Entertaining.
7 Tickled – Weirdest documentary of the year.   This documentary about tickling turns very dark.

 

Fences

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

A platform for tremendous acting by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, it’s a great way for those of us who haven’t seen the play on Broadway to experience this well written production. Yes, a movie version of a play, with most scenes set in the backyard, or kitchen, of an old brownstone in Pittsburgh in the late 1950s. Lot of talking from the lead character played by Denzel, a blowhard, a has been baseball star (from the Negro leagues before blacks were allowed in Major League Baseball), a hard working, hard drinking family man who beats down his teenage son verbally while ostensibly instilling discipline and forcing him down a reasonable career in his eyes and not following his own path of refuse collector/driver. The second half allows Viola to come to the front and take charge of the household when her husband stumbles. Solid film, just not too exciting or compelling enough for me to rave about.

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Rogue One

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

First, let’s see if this film follows the legacy of its predecessors. Does it focus on a young warrior who has father issues? Check. Does the main bad guy wear a billowing cape? Check. Is the fate of the galaxy in jeopardy? Check. Are the foot soldiers of the bad guys in full armor uniforms where they all look alike, faces covered, and just get mowed down while having terrible aim and slow reactions? Check, check, check. Is there a funny robot? Check.

So far, so good, although not many surprises. Now more questions that arose for me while I watched. Why do so many vehicles and equipment in this super advanced society have steam shooting out of them? (my best guess: the better to appear dramatic and give the good guys cover). Where is the wind that causes the bad guys cape to billow when he’s standing literally in outer space? (guess: maybe it’s the air rushing out of the spaceship?). Why do most of the characters have English accents? (guess: the best actors are English, right? Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench, Sacha Baron Cohen…) When do these characters ever eat or sleep? (guess: they’re taking some kind of futuristic super amphetamine) How do they travel from one galaxy to another so quickly? (guess: worm holes, what else?) Finally, not to give too much away, but pay attention to the data warehouse of the future, where you actually have to remove the data with a mechanical arm from its slot in the shelves.

I hope I didn’t give any spoilers. Pretty fun film, good for all ages.

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