Here are some very quick reviews of my favorite movies from SXSW so far. There are still 4 days to go.
Don’t Think Twice – This is one of my favorites so far. When it is released in July I recommend it for everyone. The comedian Mike Birbiglia directs a great ensemble cast. A successful improv group is at a crossroads. Some will find more success while others need to decide if this is the life for them. This movie is both very funny and very moving. The next day I went to a taping of Leonard Maltin’s podcast with Birbiglia and Ira Glas (a producer) as guests. It should be available in a week or two and I recommend that also.
Tower – An excellent documentary on an early mass shooting incident that took place at the University of Texas Tower in Austin in 1966. This focused on the survivors (both those that were shot and those that helped either rescue victims or take down the shooter). Most of the people (who are now mostly in their late 60s or 70s) participated in a Q+A afterwards. Ironically (and sadly), the 50th anniversary of this shooting on August 1 will also be the day the new ‘campus carry’ law allowing guns on campus goes into effect in Texas.
Newtown – Another great, very moving documentary on an American campus shooting tragedy. This also focused on the victims – both the dead and their survivors. Twenty 6 and 7 year olds and six educators were killed by a mentally disturbed person with guns they should not have had access to. Sadly, not enough is being done to prevent future events but hopefully movies like these will help change that.
Everybody Works Some – This is the newest Richard Linklater film. It opens soon and is being marketed as a natural follow on to his early 90s hit Dazed and Confused. It’s a semi-autobiographical film of his first few days on campus before classes start as a freshman on his college baseball team. Its sort of a coming of age movie, has it’s funny moments but also some heart. I liked it but it’s not as good as Dazed and Confused (and nowhere close to Boyhood).
Gleason – This is a great documentary about Steve Gleason and his wife. Gleason used to play football for the New Orleans Saints (and is famous for blocking a punt that lead to a key score in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina). Shortly after retiring and one month after finding his wife was pregnant he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). It’s an unflinching look at the toll the disease takes but also shows the courage the couple has as they deal with this horrible disease. This is often tough to watch but it’s worth the effort. They were both there for the Q+A.
The Bandit – An entertaining documentary about Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham and the making of Smokey and the Bandit. I think this will be on CMT later in the year and while not great is worth checking out. Reynolds was there for a Q+A.
In a Valley of Violence – An homage to some old westerns (it most reminded me of The Outlaw Josey Wales). If you like westerns this is worth seeing.
Demolition – A good movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, as he struggles to deal with the death of his wife. Gyllenhaal definitely takes on unique roles. This movie won’t be for everyone but has good performances.
The Trust – Two cops plan a heist. It stars Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood. Lots of tension and some humor. if you are a fan of Cage’s quirkiness he doesn’t disappoint.
Operation Avalanche – A good comedy about how the CIA faked the moon landing (they really didn’t)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople – This is an Australian comedy about a city kid that goes to live with a foster family in the Australian bush country. Unique and funny.