Fantastic Fest 2016

This was my third year attending Fantastic Fest and I now look forward to this every year.  Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S. and features horror, science fiction, action, fantasy, foreign , and cult or anything else that strikes Tim League’s fancy.   The festival is wholly contained  in Austin at the Alamo South Lamar theater (except for special events) so there are no worries about traveling to other venues to make it to a film on time.  You  pick the movies you’d like to see the following day  online and that evening receive your schedule.  You don’t always get your first choice but being forced out of your comfort zone is not a bad thing,   you usually get your first or second choices and you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll get into the movie you go to.

In addition to the movies with directors, producers, and actors in attendance, there were several events and parties at the neighboring The Highball, including  podcasts with Leonard Maltin  and the  Doug Loves Movies podcast with Doug Benson.

Here are a few that  I really enjoyed (not in any specific order):

The Invisible Guest – This movie from Spain is a very good mystery/thriller with lots of plot twists and turns.

The Handmaiden – This and the next two are excellent films from South Korea.The Handmaiden is the latest from Chan-Wook Park, the director of Oldboy.  This film is set in the 1930s and their are more twists and turns in this one than in the Invisible Guest above!  I think this will be released in the U.S. in the next few weeks.

Age of Shadows – This one is also set in the 30s (maybe 40s) in Japan occupied Korea.  A Korean police chief is ordered by his Japanese superiors to hunt down members of the Korean resistance.   His allegiances are tested!

Asura: The City of Madness – The story of a corrupt cop who is caught between the corrupt mayor he works for as an enforcer and the district attorney.   Very atmospheric with lots of violence.  The director could have probably chosen a more subtle final act but he went for all the gusto.

Toni Erdmann – A funny and touching German movie about a man trying to reconnect with his adult daughter in unconventional ways.  Very funny with some important life lessons.

The Crew – An excellent French heist thriller.  This is a  taut, action packed 81 minutes

Arrival – Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star in this mystery, science fiction drama as scientist trying to communicate with aliens before an apocalypse can occur.  This opens in November.

SXSW 2016 – Part 1

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.

Best of 2015

While we were slackers in terms of writing reviews, we were not slackers in terms of seeing lots of movies.  Here’s our picks for the best of 2015.

Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Spotlight
2 The Big Short
3 The Revenant
4 Trainwreck
5 Brooklyn
6 Sicario
7 Bridge of Spies
8 Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens
9 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
10 The Martian
11 Creed
12 Trumbo
13 Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
14 Focus
15 Selma
16 Ex Machina
17 The Gift
18 Mr. Holmes
19 Straight Outa Compton
20 Hateful Eight
21 Southpaw
22 Chi-Raq
23 Spy
24 A Most Violent Year
25 Crimson Peak
26 MacFarland, USA
27 The Age of Adaline
28 Girlhood
29 Mad Max – Fury Road
30 Kingsman: The Secret Service
31 Grandma
32 Carol
33 Sisters
34 The Night Before
35 Phoenix
36 The Intern
37 Magic Mike XXL
38 Entourage
39 Black Mass
40 Furious 7
41 Aloha
42 Dope
43 Ricki and the Flash
44 Ted 2
1 The Big Short
2 The Martian
3 Trainwreck
4 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
5 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
6 Mad Max: Fury Road
7 Spotlight
8 Bridge of Spies
9 Son of Saul
10 Sicario
11 Victoria
12 Inside Out
13 Ex Machina
14 Selma
15 Brooklyn
16 The Revenant
17 The Hateful Eight
18 The Gift
19 Straight Outta Compton
20 Green Room
21 Creed
22 Carol
23 Love & Mercy
24 Trumbo
25 Room
Best Documentaries1 Amy
2 Mavis
3 Best of Enemies
4 Meru
5 Raiders
6 Peace Officer
7 By Sidney Lumet
8 Twinsters
9 Being Evel
10 Man Vs. Snake

Bill I’s Best of 2015 Comments

Narrative Films

1. Spotlight – thrilling combination of investigative reporting combined with a spot-on portrayal of how the sexual abuse of children is covered up and repressed until courageous survivors come forward

2. The Big Short – making global financial meltdown understandable and enjoyable to watch

3. The Revenant – Stunning scenes in terms of the natural environment, including a bear mauling Leo. A work of art that captivated me much more then the director’s last one, Birdman.

4. Trainwreck – many hysterical scenes, I’d love to see it again

5. Brooklyn – epic period piece, perfectly done

6. Sicario – brutal action, the other side of Breaking Bad

7.  Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens – JJ Abrams does it again!

8. Bridge of Spies – true story told very well

9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – I had no idea what to expect, and got blown away

10. The Martian – how much time and money does it take to rescue Matt Damon?

11. Creed – Rocky is revitalized as a mentor, and young Creed is his inspiration

Bill C’s Best of 2015 Comments

1. The Big Short – Great job of making an important, potentially dry  topic both informative and entertaining

2. The Martian – Accoring to the golden Globes this is the best comedy of the year!  But the visual and dram were exceptional with a little humor.

3. Trainwreck – Really the best comedy of the year.  Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow made a great movie and Hebron James, comedian, was a revelation.  I did see it again.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Moving story + coming of age story told with touching humor.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Great re-invigoration of series

6. Mad Max: Fury Road– A great, non-stop ride

7. Spotlight – Another story that needed to be told. A modern day ‘All the President’s Men’

8. Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg also still makes great movies

9. Son of Saul – A brutal concentration camp story of a Jewish prisoner trying to give his son with a proper Jewish burial

10. Sicario – Drug war from the good(?) guys side

11. Victoria – This is a two hour movie with a single take! Amazing to watch

12. Inside Out – Another really good, touching Pixar film

Best of 2014

While we were slackers in terms of writing reviews, we were not slackers in terms of seeing lots of movies.  Here’s our picks for the best of 2014.

Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Boyhood 4.5
2 American Sniper 4.5
3 Whiplash 4
4 Calvary 4
5 Top Five 4
6 Beyond the Lights 4
7 The Grand Budapest Hotel 4
8 Wild 4
9 The Imitation Game 4
10 Ida 4
11 St. Vincent 4
1 Boyhood 4.5
2 Guardians of the Galaxy 4
3 The Grand Budapest Hotel 4
4 SnowPiercer 4
5 Whiplash 4
6 The Tribe 4
7 Foxcatcher 4
8 St Vincent 3.5
9 Top Five 3.5
10 Birfman 3.5
11 Goodnight Mommy 3.5
12 NightCrawler 3.5
13 Master Pancake Theater
Best Documentaries1 Life Itself 4
2 Citizen Four 4
3 Kung Fu Elliott 4
4 The Dog 3.5
5 12 O'Clovck Boys 3.5
6 No No: A Dockumentary 3.5

Bill C’s Best of 2014 Comments (Not in order)

Narrative Films

Boyhood – This was my favorite movie of the year.  Not really any plot – just a boy growing up.  For someone with kids who grew up over the past 12-14 years, it was very moving.
Guardians of the Galaxy – A totally different action movie based on a Marvel comic.  Upbeat and fun with great music.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Another excellent, quirky movie from Wes Anderson.
Master Pancake Theater (anything) – This isn’t really a movie.  This is the group in Austin that mocks movies.  Like Mystery Science Theater 3000 only with less  no inhibitions.  All their shows are hysterical and they never disappoint.  I go to as many shows as I can.
St Vincent – Funny and moving.  This was much better than I expected.  Both Bill Murray and a reined-in Melissa McCarthy were very good.
Top Five – Very funny, but with serious themes, starring and directed by Chris Rock.
SnowPiercer – Very good sci-fi movie with the last survivors in a post-apocalyptic world living on a train dealing with serious class issues.
Goodnight Mommy – Best Austrian horror movie on my list with the worst title.  If M. Night Shamalyan could still make good movies, this is the movie he would make.
The Tribe – Best Ukrainian movie on my list about a gang of deaf students. This movie has no dialogue—just Ukrainian sign language and no subtitles—but I was able to follow the plot with no problems.  Very intense.  Brutal ending.
Birdman – This is just great  movie-making on display.  I love the way they make it seem like one take (like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope).
NightCrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal gives a masterful performance as a total sleeze-ball roaming L.A. at night trying to get good footage of bad things to sell to the highest bidder.
Foxcatcher – Great performances all around in this drama based on a real story.
Whiplash – Sort of An Officer and a Gentleman set in the world of jazz music.  J. K. Simmons is amazing.


Life Itself – A life-affirming bio of Roger Ebert.  Much of this is shot during his final days, but his whole life was interesting.  Very moving, although parts are tough to watch.
Kung Fu Elliott – A very funny documentary about a guy who wants to be the greatest action star of Canadian films.  It gets dark towards the end, with several surprises.
12 O’Clock Boys – A fascinating  documentary about lower income gangs in Baltimore and their dirt bikes.
The Dog – A documentary about the real life character Al Pacino played in Dog Day Afternoon and his life both before and after the robbery.
No No: A Documentary – Doc Ellis and his no-hitter while high on LSD (and the rest of his life).
CitizenFour – A documentary about Edward Snowden just before, during and just after he leaks classified info from the NSA. Really good.

Worst Movie

Mood Indigo – I really like some quirky stuff (see The Grand Budapest Hotel above).  Unfortunately quirky along with boring doesn’t work for me.

SXSW 2014 – Days 1-3

Here are some quick reviews of movies I’ve seen so far at SXSW.   SXSW started on Friday, March 7 and goes through Saturday March 15.

Chef – 3.5 out of 5

Chef is a small indie effort written, directed and starring Jon Favreau.  It’s not up there with Swingers but is a  light hearted comedy about a high profile, stressed out chef who loses his job and goes back to discover the basics that made him happy by opening a food truck and reconnecting with his son and family.  The movie picks up and is more entertaining and touching  in the 2nd half when he, his son and friend go on a road trip in the food truck.  This had a great cast (Favreau,  Jon Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman,  Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt (who has obviously stayed around for more of the festival as I’ve seen him around town), Robert Downey Jr. and more) and an entertaining Q+A).

The Legend of Shorty – 2.5 out of 5

I think I just had too high expectations about this timely documentary about 2 journalists searching for the  Mexican drug king who was arrested in late February.  While they appear to get  close to being granted an audience with Shorty they best they do is get to his heavily guarded estate and meet with is mother.  It is interesting to see how his career evolved and the reach of his (former) empire.

No No: A Dockumentary – 4 out of 5

This is a must see documentary for baseball fans.  Doc Ellis pitched for the Pirates (and later the Yankees) back in the seventies.  Doc is famous for throwing a no hitter while supposedly high on LSD.  It is probably true as he let 8 players reach base that day without giving up a hit.  This is very entertaining with many ex players telling stories about Ellis but also very touching due to his battles with drugs and alcohol and his redemption later in life as a drug counselor.

Prredestination – 3.5 out of 5

This is a very slick time travel adventure with great plot twists as they try to prevent a mass murder from taking place. It’s fun trying to follow the plot twists and figure out what is going on.  It’s one of those movies I enjoyed a lot while watching but when thinking about afterwards concluded they probably didn’t need to do quite as much time travel or make it quite as convoluted to prevent the crime. But then  what fun would that have been??

Boyhood – 4.5 out of 5

This is a great movie that everyone should see when it comes out in July.  It’s a narrative that took over 12 years to make.  Richard Linklater shot for 3 days every year with the same actors telling the journey of a boy and his family as he grows from 1st grade to his first few days of college.  While Linklater had the basic arc he wanted to follow it’s interesting to watch as he weaves in the cultural events of the time into the story.  And it’s just fascinating to watch as he and his family go through change (including physical changes during those 12 years.  While nothing incredibly exciting is going on plot wise it’s just fascinating to watch.    This also had an excellent cast led by Ethan Hawke (also great in Predestination), Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane (as the boy) and Lorelei Linklater as his sister).

This  movie packs an emotional wallop.

Supermensch – 3.5 out of 5

Mike Myers directorial debut is a documentary about Shep Gordon, the legendary agent for Alice Cooper and many others.  This is a very funny/touching story of his life and some of the careers he touched, Myers, Gordon and Tom Arnold held a good Q+A afterward.

The Raid 2 – ???

I was (am) really looking forward to the sequel to the incredible martial arts film I saw at SXSW a year or two ago.  Unfortunately, after waiting on line and in the theater for quite a while the movie started and was missing the subtitles.  They couldn’t fix it so the director and two of the actors came out did a Q+A and a demo of their fighting skills.  Hopefully I’ll make one of the rescheduled showings (although one is at midnight tonight).

Best of 2013

We once again decided to list our best in various categories as well as our overall best.  Please add your comments with your views as that is half the fun.

Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Overall1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Dallas Buyer's Club
4. Captain Phillips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. The Spectacular Now
7. Mud
8. This is the End
9. The Way Way Back
10. Fruitvale Station
1. American Hustle
2. Mud
3. 12 Years A Slave
4. Fruitvale Station
5. Dallas Buyers Club
6. This is the End
7. Amour
8. The Way Way Back
9. The World's End
10. Saving Mr. Banka
11. A Band Called Death
12. Gravity
Best Film Based on Historical Events1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Dallas Buyer's Club
4. Captain Philips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Fruitvale Station
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Dallas Buyers Club
3. Captain Phillips
4. The Act of Killing
5. The Attack
6. War Witch
Best Unique Film1. This is the End
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
4. In a World
5. Concussion
1. This is the End
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. In a World
4. Elena
Best Crime Film1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street 
3. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
4. The Attack
1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. The Angels Share
4. Graceland
Best Romantic Film1. The Spectacular Now
2. Drinking Buddies
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
1. Amour
2. The Spectacular Now
3. Drinking Buddies
4. Don Jon
5. The Bounceback
Best Comedies1. This is the End
2. The World's End
3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
4. In a World
1. This is the End
2. The World's End
3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
4. In a World
5. The Heat
Best Documentaries1. Blackfish
2. We Steal Secrects; Story of Wikileaks
3. Elena
4. Sound City
1. A Band Called Death
2. The Act of Killing
3. The Armstrong Lie
4. The Gatekeepers
5. Hawking
6. Elena
7. Linsanity
8. Getting Back to Abnormal
Best Foreign Language Film1. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
2. The Great Beauty (Italy)
3. The Attack (Israel)
1. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
2. Graceland (Philippines)
3. The Attack (Israel)
4 War Witch (Canada)
Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Music Related Movies1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Twenty Feet from Stardom
3. Sound City
1. A Band Called Death
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. Muscle Shoals
4. Good Ol' Freda
5. Sound City
Best Actor (Not in Order)- Chiwejel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
- Ryan Gosling (The Place Beyond the Pines)
- Chiwejel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Best Actress (not in Order) - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Rooney Mara (Aint Them Bodies Saints)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Amy Adama (American Hustle)
- Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
- Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies)
- Emanuelle Riva (Amour)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Lake Bell (In a World)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actor (Not in Order)- Tye Sheridan (Mud)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Will Forte (Nebraska)
- Barkadh Abdi (Captain Phillips)
- Keith Carradine (Aint Them Bodies Saints)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
- Tye Sheridan (Mud)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)
- Jackson Nicoll (Bad Grandpa)
- Will Forte (Nebraska)
- Barkadh Abdi (Captain Phillips
- Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall street)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actress (Not in Order)- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Shailene Woodley (Spectacular Now)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Reese Witherspoon (Mud)
- Eva Mendes (The Place Beyond the Pines)
- Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Shailene Woodley
- Julianne Moore (Don Jon)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Worst Movie1. The Wait
2. Maladies
3. Thor, The Dark World
1. Computer Chess
2. The Lone Ranger
3. Maladies
4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
5. The Internship
Worst Actor/Actress1. Christina Applegate (Anchorman 2)1. Jody Foster - Elysium
2. Steve Carrell - The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Best of 2012

Due to the wide variety of movie we saw we decided to have our best in various categories as well as our overall best.  Please add your comments with your views as that is half the fun.

Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Overall1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Argo
4. Arbitrage
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
6. Lincoln
7. Looper
8. Django Unchained
9. Skyfall
10. Silver Linings Playbook
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. A Separation
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Argo
5. The Raid: Redemption
6. Looper
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
8. Safety Not Guaranteed
9. Django Unchained
10. Lincoln
11 .Marley
Best Film Based on Historical Events1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Argo
3. Lincoln
4. Django Unchained (Tarantino’s version of life during slavery)
5. The Impossible
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Argo
3. Django Unchained
4. Lincoln
Best Bond/Action/Super Hero Film1. Skyfall
2. Ek Tha Tiger
3. Bourne Legacy
4. Haywire
5. Safe House
6. John Carter
7. The Dark Knight Rises
1. The Raid: Redemption
2. The Avengers
3. Haywire
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. The Amazing Spider Man
6. The Safe House
7. The Bourne Legacy
Best Unique Film1. Looper
2. The Master
3. Sister
4. The Kid with a Bike
5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
6. Snow White and the Huntsman
7. The Grey
1. Looper
2. The Master
3. The Kid With a Bike
4. The Queen of Versailles
5. Robot and Frank
6. Seven Psychopaths
Best Crime Film1. Arbitrage
2. End of Watch
3. Premium Rush
4. Lawless
1. Killer Joe
2. The Headhunters
3. End of Watch
4. Thin Ice
Best Romantic Film1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
3. Trishna
4. Silver Linings Playbook
5. Your Sister’s Sister
6. Best Marigold Hotel
1. Silver Linings Playbook
2. The Perks of Being a Walflower
3. The Sessions
4. Moonrise Kingdom
5. Your Sister's Sister
Best Comedies1. This is 40
2. The Dictator
3. 21 Jump Street
4. Ted
5. The Three Stooges
1. Safety Not Guaranteed
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Sleepwalk With Me
4. Klown
5. The Pirates Band of Misfits
Best Music Related Movies1. Marley
2. Searching for Sugar Man
3. Shut Up and Play the Hits
4. Under African Skies
5. Girl Walk/All Day