Monday, March 22, 2010

The Final Day, March 20 SXSW 2010

Day 9, Saturday March 20


This is the last film of SXSW 2010 that I watched. I returned to the Paramount theater for my final screening early as I had been for most of the other films I previously watched. There were hardly any people in line at first which on one hand was nice because I knew that this meant a guaranteed admission, but on the other hand, felt a little sad because this film deserves a full house of energetic people much like Bill Hicks deserved as a comedian. Fortunately, the lines swelled at the last minute and my wish came true. I would watch this film with an almost full house with a highly energetic audience. Mr. Hicks would have liked this.

William Melvin Hicks was a stand-up comedian who began his career at the age of seventeen at the Comedy Workshop in Houston, Tx. He would emerge as a moderately successful and very controversial comedian in the United States developing more of a cult following. He would enjoy more success as a comic superstar in the UK before his untimely death due to pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. Hicks was controversial for his material which was critical of the United States government, organized religion, and consumerism. Posthumously, Hicks became even more of a cult figure and would become a major influence on future comics.

This film documentary is very unique in its style and presentation. Using animation created by photos taken throughout Hicks’ life, filmmakers Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas recreate key moments in both his personal life and his career. Combining this with interviews of Hicks, his friends, and family along with footage of some of Hicks’ best stand-up performances, the directors create an incredible documentary about this “god” of confrontational humor and social criticism. For fans of Bill Hicks, or those interested in learning about him, this film is a must see. This was my favorite documentary of the SXSW 2010 film festival. Watching it with a very lively crowd who applauded and cheered during some of Hicks’ hilarious and ingenious bits was absolute bliss.


Mark the Movie Doc's Blog Day 8, March 19


I missed out on day 7 to attend a regular movie screening (REPO MEN) and get some much needed rest. Friday I was ready to get back into the game and attend more SXSW movie screenings. I have been a big fan of The Doors since my senior year of high school. Oliver Stone’s film bio-pic opened in theaters this year (1991) and this definitely sparked my interest in the band, their charismatic and troubled leader Jim Morrison, and the incredible music they created. Even after watching the film, reading a couple of books about Morrison and the band, acquiring most of their music catalogue, and watching a few documentaries done for video and Vh-1, I was still very excited about attending this documentary about one of my favorite rock groups.

Narrated by Johnny Depp, WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE is probably the best produced documentary about Jim Morrison and The Doors that I have ever seen. It is very comprehensive in scope and contains all of the best clips that I had previously seen as well as some new footage I had never seen. Writer/director Tom DiCillo does an incredible job telling the story of this amazing and enigmatic rock group. Johnny Depp provides some excellent voice-over work as the narrator of this story. For this fan of The Doors and for other die-hard fans, the film doesn’t offer us much new that we haven’t already seen or read but it is still an enjoyable piece to watch. For people who know little about Jim Morrison and The Doors and are interested, it is a must see. It was also an absolute joy to have Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger in attendance and on stage afterward for the Q & A.



Considering that the music fest portion of SXSW was now in full swing, it was most appropriate that I view some music documentaries. After watching the film about The Doors, I grabbed some dinner and then returned to the Paramount theater for the next film which is a documentary film about the leader of metal band Motorhead. LEMMY gives audiences a glimpse of the man often dubbed “the godfather of metal”. The film starts in the present time and shows what his personal life and career is like. During various moments of the movie, the film takes a moment to go back in time and tells the audience about Lemmy’s early days as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix experience and the first bands in which he performed before forming the band Motorhead. It is in this band that Lemmy became a legend and influence for future metal bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer.

Directed by Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski, Lemmy is not the most complete story of a legend, leaving out his background as a child and mainly focusing on his rock career. Still, the film gives audiences some real insight on who the man behind the legend really is. Lemmy Kilmister is very no-nonsense in his approach to music as well as life. He is a simple man who doesn’t live in a fancy mansion but prefers his small L.A. apartment near his favorite hangouts. Peers and friends such as Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Slash, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, and wrestler Triple H make appearances and discuss what a genuine person Lemmy is and the impact he has had on their lives and careers. The godfather himself was present for the screening and was just as genuine in person as he is portrayed in this great documentary.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mark the Movie Doc's Blog: Day 6, Wednesday March 17


As I arrived downtown today, I noticed that the increased traffic as well as some of the street closures, and also the masses of people on bicycles and walking the streets on foot. These were the expected indications that the music fest had begun. Still, this did not take much away from the crowd in front of the Paramount in lines awaiting admission to GET LOW. This film marks the feature film debut of Aaron Schneider, but one cannot tell this from watching this excellent motion picture. The film tells the story of a 1930s old hermit who wishes to plan for his death by throwing a funeral “party” before he dies. Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is the enigmatic hermit who lives with his mule in the quiet woods away from a small town in Tennessee. The town folk, who fear him, like to spread gossip and stories about frightening encounters with Bush.

Bush comes to the realization that he may not be alive much longer so he goes to town to make arrangements for his funeral. After receiving an unsatisfactory response from the church’s Reverend Horton (Gerald McRaney), he turns to the good hearted Buddy (Lucas Black) and the moderately sleazy Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) who both run the local funeral home. Felix wishes to throw a “going-away” party before he actually dies. The problem is that he has few real friends in town and some emotional baggage and issues from his past with which he must come to terms before he dies. While planning the event, Felix struggles with these issues involving former love Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) and and old friend (Bill Cobbs).

So far, this has been the best feature film I’ve seen at SXSW. Director Aaron Schneider does an excellent job recreating the era of the 1930s in Tennessee and bringing the beautifully written script by Chris Provenzano, C. Gaby Mitchell, and Scott Seeke to life. Provenzano who attended the screening mentioned that the story is based on a real Tennessee legend. The writers out did themselves with a lovely story that combines humor, heartbreak, and poignancy. It truly is a very well rounded story and movie that captures real life problems spectacularly. The performances by Duvall, Murray, Spacek, and Black are all truly wonderful. I joyfully sat in the third row of the Paramount Theater and saw these legendary stars up close during the introduction of the film and the Q & A afterward. Murray was hilarious during these moments. It was a joy to experience this film and get a close glimpse of the actors in person. I hope this film receives much accolades during next year’s award season because it definitely deserves it.


Laurie Coker's Blog: SXSW Red Carpet and overall RECAP

Opening night for SXSW always holds a huge air of excitement and even though I ended up on the wait list for the red carpet for the opening feature, 'Kick-Ass,' I arrived early and secured my line on 7th and Congress, which eventually extended down 7th, around the next block and beyond. For me 'Kick-Ass' offered one of the best opening films to date, but my most standards, I'm still an infant SXSWer. 'Kick-Ass' opens on April 19 and at the Q & A following the screening it was wholly apparent that the cast, crew and entire audience was pumped. They offered an excellent after party, free van rides anywhere downtown and logo shirts and key chains, and a spread of food and drink.

Next I had stood on the red carpet interviewing and photographing Patrick Wilson, Chloe Sevigny and director Chris D'Arienzo, who also penned the screenplay. Are three were extremely gracious as we visited and waited to see their film Barry Munday, a comedy about a man who has to lose his "manhood" in order to learn what it is to be a man. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and was even more psyched to meet Wilson, Sevigny, D'Arienzo and co-star, and very funny gal Judy Greer at a round table interview the next day. Sadly, at the moment, 'Barry Munday' has no distributor, but it is an excellent film and I feel certain it will soon. Its characters are endearing, interesting and its theme clear.

After seeing 'Barry Munday,'I moved right to the red carpet for the premier of 'Wake,' meeting its stars Josh Stewart, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Chris Browning. I'd like to say I liked the film, because again the actors showed graciousness and willingness to answer questions. Stewart told me he saw the film as a "powerful thriller' and co-star Browning agreed, stating that is not meant to be a "horror or slasher film." It is not, but I felt the film moved a bit too slowly for my taste in thrillers.

Shortly after, I was standing on the red carpet again with the French director of 'Micmacs'Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a wonderful subtitled, humorous film about a crew of oddball junk dealers and artists who take in a man who has a rightful beef with arms dealers. Jeunet's message is clear and his means for delivering, heartwarming, funny and pleasing.

Within minutes, I stood back in line for 'Cyrus' starring John C. Riley, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei, because I once again was wait-listed for the red carpet, but it mattered not, since the next morning I interviewed both Hill and Riley with a few other critics about the funny and entertaining rom-com with a touch of twist - a love story about a woman and the two men in her life - her new boyfriend and her grown son, who does some pretty wacky things to stop the relationship. Not sure when it will hit theatres, but it is worth a look.

The next day, I spoke to Rhys Ifans and Chloe Sevigny (again) about there pairing in 'Mr. Nice,' the story of Britain's most notorious drug smuggler, Howard Marks. Ifans told me he was "thrilled to be cast as Mark,' a man with whom he had a pen pal relationship in his youth. 'Mr. Nice will not please everyone, but it did me. Ifans is wonderful - perfect actually - in it and the story of Marks' dealings and role as a loving father and husband is amazing if nothing else.

Later that nigh I was able to photograph a few of the ladies of 'Electra Luxx' on the red carpet, from a side "seat," but was sorely disappointed when two-thirds of the way through the film, the Paramount projector broke. I have yet to see the end of the film, which is a sequel to last years "Women in Trouble,' by director Sebastian Gutierrez, who along with his cast of beauties (including Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman)attempted to entertain the audience, only to discover that the show would not go on. Electra Luxx, by the way, is a former porn star who is pregnant and now teaching sex ed classes in a community center.

Again, I did not make it on to the red carpet for the next big film 'MacGruber' based on the 'Saturday Night Live' sketch of the same name, but did get to see the cast - Val Kilmer, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe and Will Forte, who obviously LOVED making this film (all that is except for Kilmer, who looked less than enthusiastic about his role as the film's villain. I have to say, I did not enjoy to much about the film, although I did find a few gags funny, but the audience seem to love it and I am assuming the target audience (SNL fans and teens to thirty-some (especially males) will LOVE it.

On Tuesday I met the cast of 'Stateland,' an amazing kind and gracious group of young people - Ashley Greene, Casey LaBow, Bret Cullen, "Taylor Handly, James LeGros, Heath Freeman, lead Shiloh Fernandez and director Anthony Burns. I'd like to say I enjoyed 'Skateland' better than I did, but it moved a bit too slowly for me, as it looked at the live of a young man, trying to find his way in small town Texas. Feeling a great deal like an 80s version of Linklater's "Dazed and Confused,' but without the heartbeat. The kids are awesome and so humble and approachable. I hope the movie does well.

I missed the opening of "Get Low,' starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, but fellow critics tell me it is a must see. I opted instead to spend time with my grandson and then my pillow.

I have seen several other amazing films, like 'Harry Brown' starring Michael Cane - about a retired man who decides he has had enough of the violence and corruption in his neighborhood. A documentary called 'The Parking Lot Movie' had me laughing and intrigued by the characters (all lot attendants of the Corner Lot) and their philosophies of life, people and the cars they drive. And "Lovers of Hate' a psychological thriller about two brothers, a huge house, and the woman they both love.

I have two more days of SXSW film to see, or not, and plan longer reviews as they enter theatres and art houses. All in all, my SXSW 2010 experience thus far has been a good one. Problems with lines, difficulties in getting from venue to venue and covering as many films as I like, the nightmare of parking and paying high prices for it, the one broken projector and a rainy day haven't dampened my spirit too much, but I am exhausted to be sure.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Laurie Coker's Blog: This Movie is Broken at SXSW

Just ask my husband. I do not like watching concerts on film or television. Unless the movie has some special draw, like I just want to share the experience with him because he LOVES music, I avoid concerts what are not live. I also have a huge problem with most music videos. At it is SXSW world premier, ‘The Movie is Broken,’ is basically a long, long music video with a tiny, interesting but all too brief story woven in between songs, performed in concert format by Toronto’s famous Indy rock band “Broken Social Scene”. Directed by Bruce McDonald and written my Don McKeller, ‘This Movie is Broken’ had me engrossed in the story of its characters, but since the film’s main footage shows the band in performance, I felt frustrated and dissatisfied. BUT, I did like the story, what little there was of it.
The love story involves Bruno (Greg Calderone) and Caroline (Georgina Reilly) a young man and woman who grew up together and are best friends, who wake up on his roof after a night of passion and who plan to attend a concert together the same night. Bruno wants to flesh out the relationship – becoming more than friends – but he only has one night, since Caroline is head to Paris the next day. We also meet Blake (Kerr Hewitt), Bruno’s male friend and the trio ends up at a concert by “Broken Social Scene.” The music is far too loud, the conversation far to quiet and frankly too limited and when Bruno does profess his love, Caroline bolts, leaving the two fellows to attend the after concert party alone. Truth is, I liked the relationship aspect of the film – even when it went terribly and weirdly off the rock – but the music, while actually very good, overwhelmed it to the point of utter distraction. Yes, “Broken Social Scene’s” music is pleasing, but its songs as appealing as they are, are far too long for a film that is supposed to involve a story too.
The four people I sat with for the screening range in age from 16 to say 20 and one fell asleep – in fairness she volunteers at SXSW and the schedule is grueling – one was as frustrated as I, saying “this movie IS broken”, another kept her mouth shut, and the last, the only male, enjoyed the experience a great deal, even explaining what I might have missed. I did not overlook any of the story really, not even entirely surprised at a shocking twist, but I simply wanted more story and less (and quieter) music.
I know ‘This Movie is Broken” will please fans of the band for sure. As a concert film, it is fine, but it is not slated as such, and as I said, I do not enjoy un-live music. It is supposed to be a dramatic love story. The story is decent and actually interesting enough, especially with the weird turn of events in the final scene, but this is a case where I appreciate the parts, but do not like the end result of the two together. Giving a grade for “This Movie is Broken” is difficult for me. If I give the concert aspect an B- and the too short story a C- (I needed MORE), then the average is C, so that is what I give it. Lame of me to calculate, but I think it helps to make my point.

Laurie Coker's Blog: Mr. Nice at SXSW

Mr. Nice, an ironic name for one of Britain’s most notorious “criminals,” but that indeed an alias for drug dealer (marijuana) entrepreneur, Howard Marks, a man’s whose life is chronicled in ‘Mr. Nice,’ I was fortunate to see at SXSW 2010 and to meet its stars on the red carpet. Rhys Ifans, who stars as Marks, told me that he was excited to have the role, since he knew Marks personally, through pen pal relationship and felt honored to fill his shoes. Director/ writer Bernard Rose took on the project because he did not see Marks as a criminal, even though British and American authorities did. I will stay out of that debate, but am delighted that I had the opportunity to see the film.
‘Mr Nice’ is based on the bestselling autobiography by Howard Marks, who became one of the UK’s largest drug smugglers, who ran his business out of a dress shop at one time and who married and had three daughters and a son, before he finally was arrested and jailed. The film follows Marks from his youth, with Ifans playing all ages before and after he moves away from home to study at Oxford and Sussex Universities and into his days in prison. His fame came following his release from an American penitentiary after being convicted and serving seven years, for international drug-smuggling offenses. He claims to have connections with MI6, the IRA, and the Mafia, but the movie only touches on these aspects of Marks’ life, focusing rather on Marks’ the intellectual, the master businessman, the drug smuggler and most clearly the father and husband, who truly loves his family.
Ifans is wonderful in the role and even if he played all age levels of Marks, several for which he is far too old. I don’t know anything about Marks’, but Ifans gives us a character who on one hand knowingly breaks the law, but justifies it with the obvious love for and the desire to take care of a provide for his family. His character is indeed a paradox – both criminal and loving family man. I suppose, if I look closely, it is in his family that Marks’ finds his validation for making gobs and gobs of money selling trafficking marijuana – that and the fact that he saw the illegalization of cannabis unwarranted.
Gracious and pretty Chloë Sevigny, who stars as Judy Marks, Howard’s wife, a woman who loves her husband dearly, but is frightened to lose him, told me that “tortured wife” was easy to play given her costar and the circumstances of the story. Sevigny looks and acts every bit the part, although she appeared to struggle with the British accent. She told me she “enjoyed the opportunity to try the accent.” Judy’s personality has her speaking up infrequently, at least in my opinion, so while I was wholly impressed with the actress’s portrayal of Mrs. Marks, I think the accent was too subtle and mainly unrecognizable or notable. I wonder why, in many cases it seems easy for British or Australian actors to do an American accent, but so much more difficult for Americans to pull off other accents – ah, I digress to one of my peeves.
Every actor in ‘Mr. Nice’ does an amazing job. The realism of costumes and sets and feel of the periods and locations covered are ideal – transporting the audience into life and times of it characters. David Thewlis, who was not at SXSW with the others, adds fire and sparks as an IRA member, Jim McCann, collaborates with Marks, all the while fighting for his own battles. I suppose what impressed me most about Howard Marks (from what I gathered watching ‘Mr. Nice’) is in the way that the man’s technical brilliance of his networking skills, in a time when there were no computers, social networks, or cell phone allowed him to trafficking an amazing volume of marijuana - smoked all over the world – a great deal of it by Marks himself apparently.
The young woman who watched the screening with me enjoyed the film as well and she’s decades younger than I (though old enough for an R film), so I feel the R-rated ‘Mr. Nice’ will find a wide audience. Sure part of the excitement for me came from sharing the experience at SXSW, with members of the cast and crew and 1200 other pumped up movie goers. A B is what I am putting in my grade book for ‘Mr. Nice.’ It has its flaws, but seems very true to form for the type of life Marks lived back then.

Mark the Movie Doc's Blog: Day 5, Tuesday March 16


This one was a pretty straightforward screening with little hoopla. There were no celebrities, involved in the making of this film, present for this screening. Still the crowds lined up like they have been for the past few days. This particular film, directed by Daniel Barber and written by Gary Young stars Michael Caine as a lonely geriatric British gentleman who goes on a path of bloody vengeance to eliminate the teenage hooligans who murdered his best friend. Caine’s performance is magnificent. He perfectly portrays all the emotions of a broken man brought to the edge and dives over it. The director Daniel Barber through some dark and gritty cinematography by Martin Ruhe captures the mood of the film involving an otherwise good hearted protagonist who embraces his dark side to counter the evil in his neighborhood.

Also effective in the film is the work of the sound crew who really outdo themselves in the sound mixing and editing of the film. The gun shots ring loud, almost as loud as being there. Almost every time a gun fires I and few audience members who I noticed jumped. The film also stars Emily Mortimer as police detective Alice Frampton who is investigating the recent onset of violence in Brown’s neighborhood including the murder of his friend Leonard (David Bradley). Mortimer’s offers a great performance of a woman who is disrespected by her male superiors and must prove herself on through heroic measures. Overall, I really enjoyed this film which although is not entirely original (similar to GRAN TORINO and LAW ABIDING CITIZEN) but is still thrilling and compelling through effective story telling and great performances by the cast.


Following HARRY BROWN, I trekked over to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar to get in line for AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE. This was the perfect location to end my evening because I was hungry and was in the mood for a couple of pints of draft beer. “Grindhouse” cinema and the appreciation of it has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years thanks to directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez who have named several movies from this school of filmmaking as key influences in their careers. Quentin’s famous film festivals usually showcase his favorites from grindhouse/exploitation movies from mostly the seventies era. Both Tarantino and Rodriguez attempted to capture the experience with their double feature project titled GRINDHOUSE, complete with fake trailers. As a child of the seventies and eighties, I remember some of the golden nuggets of trashy cinema which usually encompassed the action, horror, and soft core genres.

So naturally I could not miss this very educational documentary which is a wonderfully comprehensive history of grindhouse cinema. Director Elijah Drenner takes his audience through various clips and interviews with directors involved in this movement of film. Starting with the early films of Thomas Edison and ending his history lesson in the early 1980s, Drenner’s lesson is probably somewhat incomplete but still excellent nevertheless. The Drenner and his crew do a spectacular job arranging this study both chronologically and also according to the different styles and sub-genres. For the movie doc who is still in the process of studying film, this movie was very educational. I actually took notes in the darkness of the theater writing down all the films discussed that caught my interest. I recommend this documentary for fans of exploitation cinema or people who find much amusement in bad movies. So far, this is my favorite documentary of the festival.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Halfway point: Mark's first timer take on SXSW 2010

It is Tuesday March 16, day five of the world famous film festival that has helped put our beloved city of Austin, Texas on the map. I’m a little tired and still adjusting to sometimes hectic pace, the crowds, and the long waits in line to see movies. This is my first year to participate in the fun, madness, and mayhem of the festival which according to my associates and other veterans has grown immensely in recent years. Long are the days when festival badge holders casually sauntered in a theater at their leisure to view a film.

This year, even the badge holder lines are insanely long, especially for red carpet premieres at the Paramount Theater. As for the Movie doc, I applied early for my press badge but was denied because of the high demand for this coveted ID. I settled for the seventy dollar press pass because I honestly could not fathom spending three hundred dollars on a badge when I was only interested in the films and not any of the other programs. For the most part, this pass has been a good investment. Since opening night, I have watched a total of six films, one of which was through a press invite that didn’t require my pass. I am hoping to watch at least eight more films. If things go as planned--which honestly they haven’t but I’m hoping and praying—I will end the festival after having watched fourteen films. Divide this by seventy and that equals five dollars a movie. That is one hell of a bargain these days! Throw in some celebrity viewing along with some fun Q&A sessions at the end of most films and one will have a great investment.

Mark the Movie Doc's Blog: Day 3, Sunday March 14


Once again, I returned to more long lines at the Paramount Theater but have become used to this scene. I spoke to a nice young lady behind me in line and we kept each other company while we waited about two hours for ELEKTRA LUXX. We managed to get descent seats in the balcony area which actually isn’t so bad. The seating is similar to the stadium setup in most modern theaters except that it is higher up. We were treated to writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez’s latest installment in a planned trilogy. ELEKTRA LUXX is the second chapter following his film WOMEN IN TROUBLE. Starring his girlfriend, the lovely Carla Gugino, as the title character, the film follows an ex-porn star’s life as she is trying to adjust to being out of the business and prepare for her unexpected pregnancy. I had not seen the first film in this series but I had no trouble following the story when there are allusions and references to the first installment. The film is hilarious but also very R-rated. Of course, one should understand that a story about a former porn actor and her friends and other associates is not G, PG, or even PG-13 material.

Gugino is amazing in this role. Gutierrez also has a great supporting cast in Emanuelle Chriqui, Timothy Olyphant, and Marley Shelton. Two actors really stole the show with their hilarious performances. Joseph Gordon Levitt is crazy funny as porn blogger Bert Rodriguez, a wanna-be porn critic/reporter who is trying to run a website out of his mom’s basement. Also hilarious is Adrianne Palicki as Holly Rocket, an extremely dumb-blonde porn actress. She is given some of the best comic material in the movie which is performed beautifully. Alas, I did not get to finish watching the film. The movie was interrupted when the projector at the theater died. The SXSW people rescheduled the film for the next day but I had a scheduling conflict and was not able to attend. I hope to catch this movie either in theaters or on DVD. Because of the risqué and raunchy content this film is not for everyone but for those who can handle it, I think it is worth a viewing and that’s because I didn’t get to finish the film.

Laurie Coker's Blog: Lovers of Hate at SXSW

‘Lovers of Hate,’ a film by Bryan Poyser is an intriguing (although at times slow moving) tale of bitterness, deceitfulness, and sibling rivalry, involving two adult brothers, Rudy and Paul. Rudy the eldest brother represents failure and Paul, the author of blockbuster series of young adult novels, represents success. The painful part is that Rudy, an aspiring writer, was Paul's original childhood collaborator on the stories and now he is estranged from his wife and living in his car.
Poyser cast is small, but powerful and convincing in this tale that could have easily turned from dark comedy thriller to horror film with a few additions to the script. When I asked Poyser about this, he laughed and said he realized it could have gone that way, but he really liked the more subtle stalker, creepiness of his film. I have to agree. ‘Lovers of Hate’ does what similar, larger budget films fail to do – hold the audience’s attention until the end, except that is for a few segments that spend too much time lingering and not enough time on suspense. The house, a character in and of itself, is remarkable and easy for Rudy to play his furtive game with his brother.
Chris Doubek plays Rudy and Alex Karpovsky plays Paul, and both men are wonderful in this. As the tortured Rudy, Doubek, impresses start to finish and according the cast, he deserves catering credit on the film too. I enjoyed hear them all at the Q & A that followed the film and found out that the film came to mind partly because of the house in which the majority of the film is set.
Getting back to the story and my reviews, Rudy epitomizes resentment and Paul empathizes, but clearly enjoys his success. They are as different as any two brothers can be. The one thing they do have in common is their love for Diana (Heather Kafka). Although Rudy is married to Diana and their divorce is impending, Rudy still very much loves her. Having taken full credit for the ‘Invisible Kids’ series of books, the opportunist, Paul makes his move on Diana inviting her to a house (a huge one at that) for the weekend in Park City, Utah. Unbeknownst to the couple, Rudy is already in the house, hiding and spying and leaving little clues of his presence, but staying elusive and intimidating.
I am not sure of distribution for this film, but art houses will benefit from showing it. It is far from perfect, but for its genre, I found it a good mix of quality performance and interesting storytelling. I cannot say I was riveted to the screen for the whole if it although others I spoke to were, but I was most definitely intrigued by Poyser’s (who wrote, directed and editing this film) efforts. I am placing a B- in my grade book.

Mark the Movie Doc's Blog: Day 2 SXSW 2010



I awoke early to catch the press screening for HUBBLE 3-D at the Bob Bullock Texas State Museum IMAX Theater. The wonderful people running this screening provided breakfast tacos and some much needed coffee. As a huge fan of the IMAX experience, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to watch an official IMAX film depicting the tremendous work NASA has done to get the amazing Hubble telescope out in space and maintain it to study the far and currently unreachable places in outer space.

Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film does not disappoint. The visual experiences of IMAX 3-D amazingly make one feel like they are witnessing the images on the screen in person. The movie follows the astronauts from their training sessions in an underwater tank practicing their work and repairs on the Hubble telescope, to their lift off, life in space, and the hard work and conditions the crew endures to improve the potential images of the telescope. As proven by the images shown on the screen, the work of the astronauts is not futile. The Hubble telescope is a truly amazing device which provides the human race with images of distant stars and galaxies, nebulae, the birth and death of stars. I recommend the movie for people of all ages. IMAX does some wonderful work in educational films and makes the 3-D experience like no one else. FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)


I returned to the Paramount Saturday evening around 7:45 pm to get in line for yet another red-carpet premiere. This time the film would be the comedy CYRUS starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei. The crowd once again grew immensely and the familiar flashes of the cameras indicated when the celebrities arrived. This time from where I was standing, I could see John C. Reilly as he slowly walked the press row as well as LEAVE OF GRASS (another SXSW film) star Edward Norton. It helped that these guys are very tall so they towered over the press crowd. I did get nervous as the lines continued to swell. What a relief it was when they started admitting my line.

CYRUS, written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass (THE PUFFY CHAIR), tells the story and problems faced by lonely divorcee John (John C. Reilly). While coping with the new marriage of ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener) and trying to get back in the dating game, he meets the lovely Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party. The two hit it off very well to put it mildly and become involved in a sweet but passionate love affair. John and Molly’s “relationship” hits a snag when it is revealed that she has a twenty one year old son named Cyrus who still lives at home. This poorly socialized and unusual young man soon becomes a threat to their relationship when he becomes jealous and plots to break them up. The film is very nicely written with some great comedic material for Reilly and Hill. Their rivalry and “war of words” exchanges are often hilarious but sometimes a little silly. Reilly, Hill, and Tomei, along with their supporting cast offer great performances in a film that doesn’t pull punches on the profanity but still has a big heart.


As soon as I left the Paramount I hopped the convenient SXSW (only available March 12-15) to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar theater to catch a midnight show. I hopped into the shortest line just at the right time too. A staff member was doing a head count of the line and stopped at me. He tells me, “You are the last one to be admitted.” The film is the documentary movie THE PEOPLE VS GEORGE LUCAS. This is another film that I had been highly anticipating. As a big STAR WARS fan, I was excited to see what exactly director Alexandre Philippe had in store in terms of George Lucas and what he has done with the STAR WARS film franchise. The movie chronicles the journey of George Lucas as a student filmmaker through his successes with the original STAR WARS trilogy and the reactions of die hard fans to his “Special Edition” tinkerings and the prequel trilogy. The movie is both informative and hilarious. Philippe not only celebrates the casual fans of STAR WARS but also lampoons some of the more obsessive and crazed followers. When it comes to some of the rantings and ravings critiquing Lucas’ more recent films, the film gets a bit long winded and redundant. I highly recommend this documentary for fans of STAR WARS. Those people who are not familiar with the saga probably won’t find much enjoyment in this.

Mark the Movie Doc's 2010 SXSW Blog (Day 1)

Day 1, March 12: KICK-ASS PREMIERE

I arrived at the Paramount Theater around 5:00 pm very pumped up and excited for the KICK-ASS red-carpet world premiere. In a short span of one hour the lines expand for blocks. I talked to guy behind me who is an experienced pass holder. He reassured me that we would get in. Laurie Coker, my True View associate also reassured that admittance shouldn’t be a problem. It was exciting to see the massive crowds of press and photographers around the press row surrounding the celebrities walking through whom I could not actually see from where I was standing. Right around 7:00 pm, we received the crushing blow to the gut that the theater was full. I was not going to watch the film I was most anticipating!


I left the theater broken hearted but wiser. It would not be easy to get into these films. Not that I ever thought it would be but I was willing to settle for the crappiest seat in the house for the world premiere of a comic book based movie. As I was leaving to figure out my next move, I saw a few people already forming the line for the next film which would be a concert documentary film on rock band known as The White Stripes. After a couple of cold beers at Bikini’s—yes, I know I’m shameless but it did cheer me up for obvious reasons—I returned to the line at the Paramount which really had not grown much in the time I was gone. Well, the line grew eventually but not to the size it had for KICK-ASS. I would actually get into this film!

THE WHITE STRIPES: UNDER THE GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS is a remarkable concert documentary film which chronicles the band’s tenth anniversary tour through Canada. Jack and Meg White choose some very small and obscure locales in this country for their concerts. Their purpose in doing this is to get closer to their fans and not let the luxuries of larger venue shows take away from their performances. The Stripes perform shows in a bowling alley, parking lots, city busses, and a retirement home ending with the anniversary celebration at the Savoy Theater in Nova Scotia. The performances captured are amazing, electric, passionate, and sometimes poignant. Director Emmett Malloy does an incredible job capturing these lovely moments and fiery performances on film. Malloy combines footage in black and white as well as in color. The look is very vintage similar to classic concert films such as THE MONTERREY POP FESTIVAL. I highly recommend this film for fans of THE WHITE STRIPES and hard rock music in general. THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

Laurie Coker's Blog: Cyrus at SXSW

When I am out for SXSW, I don’t have as many opportunities for interviews, red carpets and such as the bigger papers or websites, but I occasionally, I am afforded some great interviews or round tables and of course, I take in a panel or two. Fortunately, I sat in on a round table (with some very nice other film critics) to speak to Jonah Hill (Cyrus) and John C. Riley (John) talk about their new film ‘Cyrus,’ an interesting and entertaining film about a woman and the two men in her life – her new boyfriend and her extremely co-dependent son. Director brothers Jay and Mark Duplass using an extremely personal filming style offer a fun loving look at weirdly dysfunctional relationships and with the cast they chose, I loved the overall experience.
Riley and Hill are two very funny guys and when I asked Riley about playing a bit of a straight man to Hill, he corrected me saying, “No, Marisa [Tomei](who plays Cyrus’ mother Molly) is the straight man here” and perhaps he is right, but for Riley, I saw him as far more low key comedy in this than his typical comedic characters. And there are some great moments when the pair spars verbal, mentally and a tad physically as they compete for Molly’s love and attention. Cyrus, you see, is a mama’s boy to the nth degree and to say he resents and attempts to sabotage the fledgling relationship between Molly and John is an understatement. Cyrus even goes as far as stealing John’s shoes and stares him down during a hilarious moment when he shares his music with John and even faking anxiety attacks and more to push John out of the picture. I won’t take time to offer too much of a synopsis here, but a photo of Molly breastfeeding nearly school aged Cyrus speaks volumes about the mother son relationship.
Admittedly when I first began watching the film, the Duplass camera style threw me, but as it progressed, I enjoyed the personal feel and appreciated when I spoke to the pair their commitment to their style of direction and writing. I found their sibling relationship refreshing and interesting and will post more on that as time permits. ‘Cyrus’ is not a typical romance comedy and that too is refreshing. The characters are oddly real and so endearing that I love the whole package. It is a small story with a big-hearted feel and with so much mediocre stuff out there, I, for one, am thrilled. This is perhaps Hill's best work today and his ability to draw laughs and engage his audience into his nuttiness with simple facial expressions is remarkable! I adore Riley and in this there is no exception. I cheered him on in this and wanted to reach out and help John get past the bizarre antics of Cyrus.
‘Cyrus’ may or may not get the audience it deserves, but I hope that all of my readers give it a look when it hit theatres. I am placing an A- in my grade book. My plan is to write up additional interview details and my experience for this and other red carpet and round table experiences and a longer review when the film opens.

Laurie Coker's Blog: Barry Munday at SXSW

One of the things that never fails to surprise me for the good or the bad, when I attend SXSW or any other film festival, is the fact that some extremely crappy films, like say last year’s ‘Observe and Report,’ can get funding and distribution from the likes of Warner Brothers and, other far better films, have to seek private promoters or never get out at all. ‘Barry Munday,’ a movie from filmmaker Chris D'Arienzo, making his delightful directorial debut, still waits to be picked up by a major studio and it is a remarkably simple and entertaining film about a man who, after waking up to find his testicles gone, discovers what it really mean to be a man. It is a coming of age for a thirty-something year-old and it is good.
Patrick Wilson, who I had the pleasure to interview at SXSW, plays the titular character, a fellow who envisions himself as a real ladies man and who appears to be perpetually stuck in the 90s and who Wilson himself refers to as a “definitely douchey, but not a bad guy.” And he’s right. Barry, bouncing back from what is clearly the most difficulty pitfall for any man, simply loves women and imagines himself quite the lady’s man, and after the “accident,” he views life far differently. From his odd strut to his braided belt, Wilson embodies the man who most woman would laugh at and still he manages to get himself in trouble (i.e. losing his manhood, because of a gal), but not before he impregnates a woman (hilarious Judy Greer) with whom he cannot remember sleeping. Barry is surprising endearing and from his clothes to his attitude, he anthropomorphizes a man trapped in his glory days, who paradoxically has to lose his manhood in order to really become a man.
Now on to Greer, whom I spoke to too – what a delight she is. At first, nearly detested her character, Ginger, for her out and out meanness and bitterness, even in the face of Barry who is really trying to do right, by her and the baby. Ginger wears some of the ugliest clothes and her hair is a mass of frizz and curls, unlike her pretty and nicer sister, Jennifer (Chole Sevigny), playing in her first comedic role and when I spoke to her she told me she hoped she is funny. She is. Ginger is the less pretty, less likable daughter and the one who we grow to really love, in spite of her unpleasantness.
Bottom line – I truly enjoyed ‘Barry Munday. Its characters are rich and interesting and the story offers a fresh take on romance with a real feel in what seems like a completely ridiculous situation. The cast – which also includes: Jean Smart, Malcolm McDowell, Cybill Shepherd, and Billy Dee Williams – hits every mark, making for a delightful ride. In person the leads are as endearing as the characters and I appreciate getting to speak to them.
I hope ‘Barry Mundy’ finds its way and its distributors. Wilson, who also typically plays in dramas and Greer have a personal and on screen chemistry that fills the air and I loved both the film and meeting them. I am placing an A- in my grade book. Bravo to Chris D'Arienzo. I hope more and more people get to see it.

Laurie Coker's Blog: Kick-Ass at SXSW

2010, thus far has been mostly miss with movies for me., so each time I attend a screening, I wonder, will this be the one – the film to wow me? SXSW opening night, I stood in line for almost two hours (yes, even with a badge we stand in line) to see ‘Kick Ass,’ a raucously funny, rightly R-rated film about a wannabe super hero and the good and bad guys he encounters. English director Matthew Vaughn and comic and screenplay writers, Jane Goodwin and Mark Millar (comic book series creator) do kick ass (sorry – it is just too easy) with this truly funny tale of coming of age, good versus evil, the angst of teenagers and a some serious ass kicking!
The film’s stars Brit Aaron Johnson, who well plays Dave Lizewski, an awkward American teenager who becomes, or at least attempts to become Kick-Ass, a green wetsuit wearing superhero. He and the entire ‘Kick Ass’ cast pleases. Nicolas Cage does an incredible job playing Damon Macready, a former cop turned vigilante – an embittered fellow who seeks to exact revenge on the man who caused his wife’s death. His alter ego, Big Daddy – who, to pleasing laughter from the audience, speaks a great deal like Adam West (the original television Batman) – and his 11 year-old daughter Mindy (excellently portrayed by Chloe Moretz) live in a warehouse-like home filled with guns, gadgets and other assorted weaponry. Mindy, born at her mother’s death, is taught and groomed by her father to be the purple, bob wig and school uniform wearing, adorable fighting machine – Hit-Girl. She can withstand bullets (with the aid of Kevlar), perform martial arts like Bruce Lee, shoot and reload nearly simultaneously and looks adorable in pigtails. It’s all great fun!
A superbly sinister Mark Strong plays Frank D’Amico, drug kingpin and father to Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Chris, a slightly awkward geek, wants to be involved in daddy’s very successful drug business. It seems, however, that a masked, batman-like super hero is stealing drugs and money from him. Meanwhile, Dave in a strange “coming of age” way, decides to don a green and yellow wetsuit and mask and to help the helpless – starting with a missing cat, and he inadvertently falls into the public eye, when first falling on and then taking on three armed attackers.
Strong and Mintz-Plasse are excellent picks for these characters, and when I sat in on a SXSW panel and mingled at an after party, I learned that comedy and campy suit Mintz-Plasse and he is awesome as Red Mist (Kick-Ass’ new nemisis). He is truly a funny guy. Pretty Mortez sat in on the panel too, and I could not help but laugh when she told us all that she has not seen ‘Kick-Ass’ yet, because she is too young for an R-rated film. She does have some strong (an understatement) language and exceptionally violent scenes in the movie – not the kind of stuff you expect to see from an eleven-year-old girl, but in truth, she steals the show. I did not mind, but a couple of my fellow critics, thought her being more interesting and appealing than the lead took away from the film. She does pretty much own the show, and I can easily imagine sequels and spin offs.
Vaughn told the audience at a Q & A session following the film that no studios would back ‘Kick-Ass,’ apparently hesitant to have a little girl act as a killing machine (among other things) and the language overall is pretty harsh. I initially assumed I would hate ‘Kick-Ass,’ the same way I hate say ‘SuperBad,’ because I have a difficult time with teenagers (and old people) spewing out curse words like so much vomit and doing idiotic things. Using his own connections, Vaughn found funding for his film and now Lion’s Gate has pick up distribution – big money will be had by all. When it opens on April 19th, word will spread and cash registers will ring – big!
‘Kick-Ass’ succeeds because Vaughn and crew manage to bring a totally fresh perspective to the superhero genre, mix in a decent teen drama, add a kick-ass (oops I did it again) soundtrack and the perfect amount of campy, witty humor. I am placing an A in my grade book. ‘Kick-Ass offered an outstanding opening to SXSW this year, revving me up for the rest of the week.