Monday, March 21, 2011

Movie Doc's Friday and Saturday

Running on fumes, I managed to watch four more movies on Friday and Saturday. Friday afternoon, I watched 3 back to back films. I began with BOB AND THE MONSTER, an interesting and well done documentary on rock singer Bob Forrest of the band Thelonious Monster and his battles with drug abuse and his eventual recovery and new calling as a drug counselor. I followed this film with the winner of the best narrative feature in both the Jury and Audience categories, NATURAL SELECTION. Writer/director Robbie Pikering presents a dark comedy which tells the story of Linda White, a barren, devout Christian housewife who discovers an ugly truth about her husband when he suffers a stroke. Pikering does a wonderful job with this film and Rachael Harris offers an amazing performance as Linda White. The film also earned awards for best breakthrough performances (Rachael Harris and Matt O'Leary), best screenplay (Robbie Pikering), best editing (Michelle Tesoro), and best score/music (iZLER, Curt Schneider). My last film on Friday was another dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. ANOTHER HAPPY DAY by writer/director Sam Levinson boasts an excellent cast of talented actors including Ellen Barkin, Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Thomas Haden Church, George Kennedy, Ellen Burstyn, and relative newcomers Ezra Miller, and Daniel Yelsky. Perhaps dysfunctional is an understatement when describing the family in this movie. This family has some serious deep seeded problems which Levinson presents with an unusual, but effective mix of humor and drama. This is one movie that should not be overlooked when released in theaters and hopefully come awards season. Saturday, because I had some family matters to attend to, I only made one movie. I finally got to see the movie which won the audience award in the Midnight Feature category. I say finally because when first considering which films I wanted to see this one was high on my list, but because of schedule conflicts, I missed all the previous screenings. From executive producer Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, SCOTT PILGRIM) and director Joe Cornish, ATTACK THE BLOCK combines horror, humor, and non stop thrills is a film which deserves its audience award. Fans of Edgar Wright and horror/comedies with a small dose of sci-fi should take notice of this excitingly fun motion picture. A South London street gang is forced to stop terrorizing their neighborhood and defend it when a new terror in the form of space aliens attacks. Be sure to look for this film in theaters when it arrives. I get the feeling that this one might fly below the radar and could be easily missed. Mark Saldana The Movie Doc

Friday, March 18, 2011

WUSS Screening

The director and stars of WUSS at the Alamo South Lamar screening

Movie Doc's Wednesday and Thursday

It's time for me to play catch up now and post about the films that have kept me busy these past couple of days. On Wednesday evening, I went to the Paramount to watch THE BEAVER with director Jodie Foster in attendance. The film stars Mel Gibson as a father and business executive struggling with major depression. He finds an unusual form of escapism and communication by using a beaver puppet. I really did not know what to think of the movie when I first heard the premise and saw the trailer. All I can say is that the film is truly remarkable and something that film fans should experience. If you think you know what to expect from this film you may just be wrong. With all the bad press and personal problems Gibson's had recently, I am not sure how audiences will treat the film. Whatever problems the man has, there is still no denying his talent as an actor. Following this, I headed to the Alamo South Lamar for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. This grindhouse tribute/throwback was first conceived for a fake trailer contest held by Robert Rodriguez a few years back. He was seeking an additional faux movie trailer to play during his GRINDHOUSE collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. I LOVED the trailer when I first saw it. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the full length film treatment. The attempts at humor fail through most of the film. The structure and pacing of the plot is so uneven that I felt bored and unamused during the screening. The film lacked the sharp wit and cool writing and style which made the feature length MACHETE a perfect extension of its fake trailer. Thursday fortunately, I remained at the Alamo South Lamar for two screenings. I say fortunately because downtown has become so crazy congested with people and traffic ever since the Music portion of the festival began. I was grateful to get a break from this. The first film I watched was a Chilean romantic comedy called F*CK MY LIFE. While normally not a fan of romantic comedies, the film with its mix of relavant satire, screwball comedy, and likable characters kept me invested and entertained even if the plot was somewhat formulaic. Director Nicholas Lopez manages to take an often tiresome plot and refreshes it with well developed characters and rich humor. The final film of the evening was a movie called WUSS. Director Clay Lifford takes us into the sad and frightening world of Mitch Parker (Nate Rubin), a high school English teacher who gets attacked by his drug dealing student Re-Up (Ryan Andeson) and his cronies. Mitch has to decide how to handle this scary new development as Re-Up continues to torment him and also has to come to terms with his timid personality and arrested development. Speaking of which, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT's Tony Hale has a hilarious role in the film as Mr. Crowder the band teacher. Lifford mixes dark comedy and real drama, which actually gets seriously disturbing at times. Nevertheless, the comedy does work tremendously well and had me laughing constantly. The acting by Parker, Anderson, and Alicia Anthony, who plays Maddie Worth, is excellent.


Mark Saldana’s Interview with director Anlo Sepulveda and actors Roberta Colindrez, Anis Mojgani, and Jacqueline Leal from the film OTIS UNDER SKY Monday afternoon I was blessed with the opportunity to interview the director and lead actors from a film that is visually gorgeous, has characters who should win the hearts of any audience, and was achieved without a definitive script. This was no easy feat, but at the same time felt liberating and exciting for the cast and crew of OTIS UNDER SKY. Mark Saldana: How did this film idea come about? Is it based on any personal experiences? Anlo Sepulveda: Otis is loosely based on a guy I knew named Garrison. He was a bull rider who really got into Eastern philosophies and eventually moved to Morocco, grew a beard, and learned Arabic. In the movie, Otis is not a bull rider, but his interest in Eastern religions and philosophies were inspired by Garrison. MS: You’ve directed shorts and documentaries prior to this film. How did this film differ from your previous work? AS: The whole production spanned over a larger period of time. It was much more time consuming than shorts. My work in documentaries did prepare me for the task, though. I took this approach to OTIS in that I shot it much like a documentary is. MS: Would this fall under the category of guerilla style filmmaking. AS: Exactly MS: How challenging was it to produce a film unscripted? AS: Very challenging, but my wife Mandi who produced the film kept everything organized and on track. MS: How challenging was it for you the actors? Anis Mojgani: Challenging, but beneficial and fun. Roberta Sepulveda: Very liberating without the structure of the script. Awesome, but stressful MS: I have not seen the film yet. What should I expect going into this film if you could describe in a few words? AS: It is a gentle tale of love and loss, a struggle for connection in a often disconnected world. AM: It attempts to be sincere without being cynical. RC: There is a theme of growth, a duality of connection and disconnection, growth and learning Jacqueline Leal: Visually beautiful. MS: Anis, tell me about your career as a poet and spoken word artist. AM: I have been writing poetry for 12-15 years now and doing spoken word for 5 or 6 years. I have done shows at schools and colleges. It comes from a quieter and organic place very much involved in the imagination. MS: Roberta, I read in the press kit that you are currently a cast member for the Neo-Futurist. Tell me about this. RC: It is a unique Avant Garde aesthetic in NYC. 18 artists write, direct, perform about 30 plays within 60 minutes. MS: What projects do you all have next? AM: I’m getting married, planning a wedding. After this I will be working on a children’s book and finishing a script. RC: I just hired an agent and plan to seek more work with the agent’s help now. Until then I will continue with Neo-Futurism and I have started writing a screenplay. AS: I started working with Paul Collins on a documentary on the San Marcos River. Also will continue to seek distribution for OTIS UNDER SKY JL: Will act in a surfer film and a film thriller in Uganda.

Mark Saldana The Movie Doc

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Liz at SXSW- From horror to romantic comedy and dramas

Wednesday was an interesting day of films for me as I stayed in the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar area for most of my business from 9:30 am to almost 6pm.

I was able to attend another one of the SXFantastic film screenings, selected by the Fantastic Fest folks. I viewed 'Kill List' and it is a very good film and great departure from the previous film I saw, Jez Jerzy (George the Hedgehog). 'Kill List' keeps the viewer very much intrigued with the characters and their actions, as compared to one about a hedgehog. Both hail from different countries, but I prefer the film with humans over the one about a hedgehog, who somehow thinks and acts as if he is a human, including getting the girl; a human girl at that!

I took a break over at Casa Garcia's and had some yummy food to keep me going for the rest of the day. The staff is always very attentive to me and give me a quiet space to think, or just get refueled while I run from one screening to another during this city's film festivals (this is my fourth since September 2010).

Later that afternoon, I was glad to catch the film from Chile, 'F*** My Life' (Que Pena Tu Vida) and it is a film that connects the viewer with the man-boy who has his ups and downs in life. Typical to some people, he does not know what he has until he gives it up, then he crys about it- almost forever. It is funny to see the protagonist go from day to day in his pursuit of whatever he is chasing that day. There are some very funny scenes and if a romantic comedy is your fancy, there is another screening tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar Theater at 8pm. There are still single ticket sales available to the films, but I would advise to arrive early to secure tickets.

Just as a reminder, Sudor Frio (Cold Sweat), from Argentina, is also screening tonight at the Alamo South Lamar Theater tonight too, starting at 11:30pm. This is part of the SXFantastic films presented, so it will be a drastic change from the romantic comedy of 'F*** My Life'.

I ran back into the Capital area looking for parking in order to try to get into the film screening of 'The Beaver' by director Jodie Foster. How lucky I was to find a free space close enough to get into the badge line and join my friends and fellow critics. I am so glad I did not miss this film and throughly enjoyed the film with the cast that includes Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson and Anton Yelchin. The Q&A after the film was also quite informative. I certainly hope this has a theatrical release in the near future.

Jodie flew in from Paris where she is shooting another film and was flying back to finish the project. The audience in attendance was very lucky to have had the opportunity to hear from her during SXSW, considering her other current film work. Keep your eyes open for this drama, based on a screenplay by Austin based writer, Kyle Killen.

Hope the rest of this day is a good one for you. I am wearing green just in case for this holiday.
Feliz Dia de San Patricio!
sub-title= Happy St. Patrick's Day!!


Riley's Paul and Bridesmaids recap

Sunday was another exciting night at SXSW, a long night. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz), and Kristen Wiig (SNL), all sowed up in Austin, for the US premiere of their new movie Paul, followed by Wiig's new film Bridesmaids. The theatre was packed; everyone in the audience went crazy and started screaming when Paul's writers and main stars, Frost and Pegg, along with co star, Wigg, and Directer Greg Mottola (Adventurland), came onto the stage to introduce their new movie. Practically everyone whipped out a camera or phone, and started taking the talents' pictures. About fifteen minutes later, everyone took their seats, and the movie begain.
I loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and had high expectaions for Paul, but honestly, the movie is just "okay." The Film's comedic timing is spot on the special effects are very believible for CGI, and the acting is quite good. Unfortunitly, other than a few random scenes, not necessary to the plot , the movie is quite predictable, and a bit chiche. The Film makes many different references to alien films, much of which I enjoyed, but have been done before. The only moments which could surprise the audience have already been previewed in the movie's trailer. Instead of being a spoof on the genre of alien films, it was nothign but lots of overblown,hackneyed references to these more remarkable films. It's as if the writers made a list of all the memerable moments in their favorite alien films, and then tried to incorporate these moments into a script, without much plot attached. While the humerous style of the Brits worked very well in Shaun of the Dead, it did not translate well in Paul. The Main feeling this film left me with is one of nistalgia for the better films it mocked. An okay film- not a great film.
After the film was over Pegg, Frost, Wiig, and Mottola returned to the stage for a quick Q and A. Pegg and Frost were hilarious. they joked about the Spielberg cameo, sayingthat they auditioned many big nameed directors before settling for Speilberg. A few members of the audience kept asking Frost of he would eat crazy, gross things, like chocolate jerkey, a waist of a good question. They wraped up the Q and A, passed out "Paul" masks to everyone in the audience, and then, wearing the masks, we all took a group picture with the cast. It was AWSOME!
A little bit after midnight the second movie, Bridesmaids, staring and co- written by Kristen Wiig began. I was seriously surprized by how much I enjoyed this film. I was afraid this movie would be overdrapatic, like last years film MacGruber, but instead I saw Kristen Wiig give her most subtlest performance to date. She gives a very natural performance, and while the film has still has some quirk, overdramatic, situations, perfect for SNL, the acting is much more realistic, not allways going for the laughs. But this is a great , feel good, hillarious (my friends and I could not stop laughing), girl bonding movie, with some very sincere moments, in case you can't tell- I really liked this film.

Laurie's NEXT Blog - The Other F Word, Beaver, Win Win and MORE!

Smack in the middle of SXSW, my beautiful granddaughter, Leia Anne Roselyn Coker was born. I typically am more on top of my blogging and reviews and while I have managed to make several screenings and a few red carpets, I have neglected the writing aspect. Shame on me, I suppose, but my new little angel and her wonderful parents and of course, my adorable grandson, take top bill with me.

Jumping right in, however, I'd like to mention a documentary that I saw called 'The Other F Word,' about punk rockers from the eighties (from bands like Pennywise, Blink 182, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others), who are fathers now (thus the "other F word"). Honestly, the day I saw the film, I was exhausted, sleep deprived really, but colorful characters, perfect editing and excellent direction kept me engaged and entertained. I had opportunity to speak to the film's producer, director and editor the next morning and I truly enjoyed the visit (which I will write more about later). They tell me no one has picked up the film yet (I am thinking IFC, HBO, VH1 or MTV should). More than a film about punk rock dads, 'The Other F Word' is about all fathers and the way men can grow up and out of past bad experiences and become fathers if they want to bad enough and about how no one is perfect, no one. These father just do the best they can and they love unconditionally. Most has rough childhoods and most has lousy or absent fathers, so being better dad holds priority to career even and the irony of singing about how authority sucks and dropping anti-establishment credos and every foul word in the world and then turning around as authority figures for their children is not lost in the film, in fact was suppose to be the focus, but there is so much more to this dads. I cannot say enough good about 'The Other F Word,' which will screen one more time at the festival, (Thursday 17th March) and I do really recommend it and hope that some smart company executive does pick it up. Dads from all walks of life, heck all parents, will appreciate the candor and honesty of the film.

My festival favorite so far and holding firm, is Win Win, starring Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan and directed my Thomas McCarthy (who gave me my festival favorite two years ago with The Visitor). 'Win Win' will hit theatres soon and I was lucky enough to catch it at the Paramount (even if it was 8:30 am) with only two other people. I loved it. McCarthy has a way of capturing people - real people in real, not always perfect situations and in this case, we get a laywer who business is waining, a boy who hates his mother, a wife who loves her family and a mother who is terrible at the job of parenting. HUMAN, REAL and MOVING to watch. The film introduces us to newcomer
Alex Shaffer (a high school wrestler) and I sat down with Alex to ask about his transition into acting. Because of a back injury, he is dropping wrestling (he is GOOD) and focuing ALL his energies on acting - and I will say, he is a natural. I spoke to Paul and Amy on the red carpet and Thomas McCarthy and all are so gracious and sincere. I see Paul, like I do Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) as quiet, gentle and yes, sexy men and love them in leading roles. I will be writing a longer review when the movie opens and more about my red carpet experiences and conversation with Shaffer, but for now, know that 'Win Win' is a WINNER!! Wonderful film!!
I also saw 'Beaver,' starring and directed by Jodie Foster and co-starring Mel Gibson, a film about a man's battle with depression, his family's struggles and a beaver puppet. As weird as it sounds, Foster's take on depression and the hold is has over all involved is moving. I felt the film was too short (just over 90 minutes) and I don't say that every often, but I needed more character discovery and with a side story involving the son, Foster rushes out too soon. Still, I did enjoy and appreciate the film's message.
For now I am going to call it quits and head once again to the festival and the Alamo South. 'The Dish and the Spoon is on my list today, so off I go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Update from Liz on Cold Sweat (Sudor Frio) screenings

Cold Sweat (Sudor Frio) is one of the five Fantastic Fest films to be screened during SXSW 2011.

I went to see the film from Argentina on Tuesday night at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and can safely say it had me on the edge of my seat! I was able to listen to the Q&A with Tim League and the director, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, who traveled from Argentina to screen his film as an International Premiere. The Spanish language film has sub-titles.

I had the pleasure of an interview with the director this afternoon and if you are a fan of this genre, I think you will not be disappointed in staying up late night for this one.

The film from director Garcia Bogliano will screen tonight, Wednesday the 16th, at the Alamo Ritz Theater at 11.30pm. In case it is too late for today, the third SXSW screening will be on Thursday at the Alamo South Lamar Theater, also starting at 11.30pm.

Stay tuned to films that will be showing soon at the Alamo Drafthouse Theaters, in case we have an update if the film will have a theatrical opening here in Austin.

Gotta run, as I am off to catch another screening. Be back soon to let you know how things have been going on the other films and interviews. This is tiring, but what fun and opportunity to meet people.


FOO FIGHTERS Documentary

The band arrived to introduce their film. They later performed a concert for their premiere party at Stubbs


Director Greg Mottola with actors Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Kristen Wiig at the screening for PAUL on Sunday night.

ELEVATE: An Interview with director Anne Buford

I got to meet and take a photo with Assane and Dethie from ELEVATE.

Mark Saldana’s Interview with Anne Buford, director of ELEVATE On Monday morning March 14, I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing a director whose first film made its premiere and debut here at SXSW Film 2011 the night before. I attended this first screening with much interest and anticipation and was not disappointed. Anne Buford’s ELEVATE tells the true stories of four young men from Senegal, Africa (Assane Sene, Byago Diouf, Dethie Fall, and Aziz Ndiaye) who join the SEEDS Academy. This program, started by Amadou Gallo Fall, a native of Senegal and former NBA player, assists Senegalese boys seeking educational and athletic opportunities in the United States. The film truly touched my heart. I absolutely loved learning about the inspirational stories of these young men who have struggled to get where they are today. When I met with Ms. Buford, she obviously feels much pride for these young men who have come along way (not only in distance), like a close aunt would feel for her nephews. She was very easy to talk to, down to earth, and a joy to interview. Mark Saldana: This is your first film. Was pursuing this career as a filmmaker something you have dreamt about for a long time or something that just evolved through your previous work in communications and fashion? (Anne Buford previously worked for Vogue magazine.) Anne Buford: I always loved film, especially documentary film. I grew up in Kansas. When I grew up, I wanted to see the outside world, experience different places, and pursue a career in media. I attended the University of Kansas where I studied art history. Eventually, I got a job at Vogue magazine as an assistant to Anna Wintour and worked my way up. Writer/director Robert Benton was one of my inspirations to pursue a film career. MS: Regarding the SEEDS Academy, besides education and career opportunities through basketball, do you see a possibility for branching out and expanding to other sports or even other fields such as careers in art or science? AB: Amadou’s (Gallo Fall) dream is to take it beyond sports. His main expertise and connections lie within the world of basketball. He needs more co-collaborators that could assist him with expansion. It’s hard to find someone who loves the work as much as he does. MS: Would you ever consider allowing Hollywood to adapt your documentary into a feature film? I couldn’t help, but think of how well THE BLIND SIDE was adapted into a feature motion picture. I truly believe your film could translate very well also. AB: Yes I would love to have my film adapted. It’s about the boys. They are like family to me. Actually, Assane (Sene) could play himself. He has the right personality for film and looks great on camera. MS: Have you or Amadou received any criticism from people stating that the boys in SEEDS are being exploited for their attributes or skills in sports? AB: Amadou has an open program which works well with the boys’ families. I personally haven’t received or heard of any criticism. In making the film, I did walk a fine line where it could have gone on an exploitive path, but I care a lot for the boys and would never hurt them or allow them to be hurt. MS: Have there been any young men in the program who have not been successful and returned home? AB: I don’t know. Amadou created a program that oversees the recruitment process for the boys. He makes sure they are getting the right mentoring, good coaching, and that they have positive influences and reinforcement in their lives. The boys will always have each other for support. No matter the distance, they stay in constant contact with each other through the telephone or computer. They are a band of brothers. MS: Can you see the SEEDS program expanding beyond Senegal assisting youth in other countries? AB: Amadou would love to expand, but I encouraged him first to perfect the model in Senegal before thinking of expansion. Senegal has a very particular culture. The other thing is that you don’t want a program to expand too large for its own good. MS: What were some of the challenges of working there? AB: We were using new technology with our equipment. The heat would be hard on our computers and with our resources limited there, we had to discover new ways of doing things. Weather was the big factor. We had to deal with the rainy season as well as the harsh heat. MS: This was a project very close to your heart. Do you have any other film ideas similar to this one and as close to your heart as this one? AB: I have one, but can’t say I know how to do it. MS: Can you elaborate or explain? AB: (Shakes her head) MS: Too personal? AB: All of my projects are personal. It is the only way to get a finished project

Movie Doc's Tuesday March 15, Day 5

My Tuesday went pretty smoothly and not so hectic and chaotic as some of the other days. I checked out the Narrative Shorts 1 program at the Alamo Ritz. This program features some lovely gems (FATAKARA, PIONEER, NOCTURN), heartbreaking reality (FRAN'S DAUGHTER, THE THIRD ONE THIS WEEK, THE STRANGE ONES), and some attempts at comedy (THE ANNOUNCEMENT, HOWLING AT THE MOON). In all fairness comedy is a difficult genre to pull off, and this is evident in those last two films mentioned. Overall, this program displays the work of talented filmmakers who deserve an audience for their hard work. I lined up immediately after this at the Paramount for the FOO FIGHTERS documentary. I have been a fan of the Foo Fighters' music since their first album, but I honestly did not know much about the lives of the people in the band, other than Dave Grohl, the former drummer of Nirvana. This comprehensive music doc. takes audiences on a journey throught the career of Grohl as an aspiring punk rock drummer in Seattle, through his too short career with Nirvana, and his perserverance through his love of rock music with his own band. This film is a must see for fans of the Foo and for fans of hard rocking music. Casual fans of the band will get to know the people in the band well and will become die hard fans after watching this. Following this movie, I left the chaos of downtown and drove to a theater closer to my home, the Regal Westgate. This was a refreshing change from the craziness and long lines of the main venues of SXSW. Here, I watched OTIS UNDER SKY, a low budget Austin production by director Anlo Sepulveda. This unscripted, guerilla style film takes us through a few days in the life of Otis (Anis Mojgani), a depressed. socially disconnected young artist searching for ways to either cope or escape the inevitable dark times, sadness, and heartbreak that life sometimes deals humanity. He becomes intrigued, or obsessed with Eastern religions in an attempt at a more Zen-like, peaceful, and less needy existence. Besides his spiritual pursuits, Otis keeps himself busy with his techie-art projects, video blogging, and recording people with his camcorder. While on one of his more unusual endeavors, he catches the eye of Ursula (Roberta Colindrez) who has been coping with the departure of her girlfriend and anxiously awaits her return. Ursula and Otis connect in a profound way which helps revive Otis at first then crushes him later. His experience drives him to take his spiritual pursuits to a higher level and also inspires his latest project in a major way. As I stated in a previous blog, I interviewed director Sepulveda and three members of his cast on Monday. Now that I've seen the film, I must say that Sepulveda, his crew, cast, and producer/wife Mandi did a remarkable job on this film which feels like an extended short film, but still manages to develop the characters well, perhaps more so than most mainstream motion pictures. Anlo Sepulveda has an incredible eye for visuals and uses this talent in an amazing and artistic way to tell his story. His cast, mainly Anis and Roberta, offers incredible performances and should have bright futures as actors. It still amazes me how well the filmmakers pulled this film off and made it flow well without a definitive script. That is not to say that there are no awkward moments which stall the film. Nevertheless, the fact that Sepulveda and cast put together this film, which plays very well without the aid of a script is proof postitive of the immense talent they have. I look forward to more films by Anlo Sepulveda and hope to see Anis Mojgani and Roberta Colindrez in more movies. Go see this movie because this one has been overlooked by SXSW audiences for the most part. (Note: Been tremendously busy so I haven't put together my notes from my interview with the director and cast, but will get to it as soon as I can and will post here.) Mark Saldana The Movie Doc

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Movie Doc's Sunday and Monday of SXSW Film 2011

After recovering from the switch to Daylight Savings Time, I had the pleasure of watching a beautifully moving documentary of the SEEDS program which helps basketball players in Senegal relocate to the US to pursue educational and basketball endeavours. ELEVATE tells the stories of four young men and their experiences through the SEEDS program, the trials and tribulations of adjusting to American culture, and the hard work each had to give to succeed in high school and college, not just athletically, but academically. I truly enjoyed this film and highly recommend it. Catch it at SXSW if possible. If not, look for it hopefully in theaters or on video.

Following the screening, I was honored by an invitation to the premiere party of ELEVATE. I had the pleasure of meeting two of the young men from the film, Assane and Dethie, as well as director Anne Buford whom I interviewed the following morning. I took a picture with Assane and Dethie and will try to post later.

After eating some delicious food and enjoying some good beer at the party, I rushed over to the Paramount theater to catch a movie I highly anticipated. PAUL which stars SHAUN OF THE DEAD's and HOT FUZZ's Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who both wrote the film as well. This movie teams the hilarious duo with American director Greg Mottola (SUPERBAD, ADVENTURELAND). I enjoyed this comedy which tells the science fiction tale of Paul, a laid back, slackerish, rude, but still likable alien from another planet. While visiting the US, two sci fi and comic geeks Graeme and Clive decide to visit the infamous sites where aliens supposedly landed. Near Area 51, the two stumble upon Paul (voiced excellently by Seth Rogan) who had just escaped the secret government facility and just wants to catch a ride to his home planet. I absolutely loved the humor which poke fun at and celebrates nerdiness and pop culture. The movie also stars Kristen Wiig in a lovely role as Ruth, an innocent, but lovable devout Christian. While the movie lacks the cool stylings of Edgar Wright who usually directs Pegg and Frost, Mottola manages to offer audiences a lovely mixture of his American sensibilities and the excellent humor of the British duo.

It seems that it was a Kristen Wiig night at the Paramount. The audience was treated to a double feature which was refreshing in that the SXSW staff allowed us to remain in our seats after PAUL instead of joining the line outside. The second film in the Kristen Wiig double feature was a "work in progress" print of BRIDESMAIDS. Wiig stars as Annie, a sweet but down on her luck, lady who has been selected by her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to be her maid of honor at her wedding. With Annie already struggling with her own crises, things get worse when Lillian's other good friend Helen (Rose Byrne), a beautiful and wealthy woman who seems to have it all, tries to use her money and resources to take over the wedding and the role of maid of honor. A struggle between Annie and Helen ensues with mostly funny results. I say mostly funny because not all of the jokes succeed. In fact, the movie does run on a bit long, much longer than it should. Again, it is a work in progress so perhaps by the time it gets released, director Paul Feig or whoever has the final cut will trim the running time down. I did enjoy most of the humor, but was not entirely pleased with the resolution. Still, with a great cast which also features Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey, both women and men should find some enjoyment in this movie.

On Monday morning after not enough sleep, I met with director Anne Bufford (ELEVATE) for a scheduled interview which went really well. Ms. Bufford was a joy to chat with. She obviously feels very passionately about her film, the SEEDS program, and the young men on whom her film is based. She is very close to these gentlemen, much like a loving aunt would be. Ms. Bufford is easy to talk to, down to earth, and was a great pleasure to interview. I will either post the interview on the blog here or on our website, but need to consult with my editors first.

Following the interview, I took some time to rest a bit, but couldn't do this too long or I would be asleep for the rest of the day. After taking this much needed pause, I lined up at the State theater for a film called SMALL BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS. Written and directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson, this film explores the inner struggles of Sarah Sparks, a technical whiz who can fix just about any kind of machine. The trouble is she doesn't know how to fix her problems in her life and has trouble relating to people. Sarah becomes pregnant and has trouble coping emotionally with this new development. She feels that if she cannot connect and relate to people how can she raise a child as a mother. Sarah confronts the main source of her issues, her estranged mother whom she hasn't spoken with in a long time. I thought the film was an interesting piece with a well conceived purpose. However, it seemed nothing was resolved in the films conclusion and while Sarah makes a breakthrough by facing her mother, she still has more issues to face. I can't say I highly recommend this movie, but if one happens to miss another film and can catch it, it is not a bad way to kill time.

Next, I had another scheduled interview with director Anlo Sepulveda, and actors Anis Mojgandi, Roberta Colindrez, and Jacqueline Leal from the film OTIS UNDER SKY. I have not seen this film, but will be watching it on Tuesday night. I did enjoy chatting with Sepulveda and his cast members and learned much about their film, their careers, and their approach to this movie which is mostly unscripted. Anlo Sepulveda is another director who feels tremendously passionate about his art and hopes that his movie gets picked up for distribution so that he may continue creating more work.

After enjoying my two free drinks at the registrants lounge (badge holders are allowed two a day here), I ran back to the Paramount to line up for WIN WIN. A colleague from another website had informed me that this film is a must see at SXSW. I have to say that the film does not disappoint. Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, and Alex Shaffer, this Thomas McCarthy directed movie will probably become this year's BLIND SIDE. Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a struggling attorney and high school wrestling coach who, in a desperate attempt to save his practice and protect his family from financial trouble, makes some poor unscrupulous decisions regarding one of his clients. When the client's grandson Kyle (Shaffer) enters the picture, things get even more complicated. With no one to turn to, Mike and his family take in Kyle and practically raise him as one of their own. Kyle also happens to be a gifted and talented wrestler and helps revive the struggling team. Unfortunately, as things seem to improving for everyone involved, Kyle's mother Cindy (Melanie Linskey) tries to re-enter Kyle's life after a stint in rehab. Mike and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) have to decide what is best for their family including Kyle even if it involves an ugly courtroom battle. I loved this movie which wonderfully combines heartwarming poignancy, intense drama, and wonderfully written and performed comedy. I feel that while this movie isn't based on a true story like THE BLIND SIDE, that because of the complexity of the characters and their dilemmas, WIN WIN surpasses THE BLIND SIDE on several levels. The cast deliver near perfect performances. Up and coming actor Alex Shaffer should be watched carefully as I hope he goes on to bigger and better things.

Immediate after this film, I rushed outside to get in line for the much talked about and highly anticipated Ain't It Cool News 15TH Anniversary Screening. World famous film blogger Harry Knowles toyed and teased the audience at first before introducing his co-host, director Guillermo Del Toro and revealing that the film would be the 80s fantasy classic DRAGONSLAYER, complete with old fantasy film trailers from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. While I was hoping for a new film such as the rumored THOR (among other rumors), I still enjoyed watching this movie about wizards and a huge fire-breathing dragon.

Mark Saldana
The Movie Doc

Haylin's Weekend Recap

Good morning, Truvies! Haylin here. As I volunteer at SXSW to get my film badge, I usually have to spend the latter half of the week working and not seeing too many films. Sunday night was the final of its kind: a night that I didn't have to work, and could devote all of my time to checking out some of the great films here at SXSW this year. So, here's a quick recap of the weekend so far!


SOURCE CODEB+ Duncan Jones's freshman feature, MOON, played at SXSW; how fitting that his sophomore effort SOURCE CODE would open the 2011 festival. Featuring solid performances from personal favorites Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, and Michelle Monaghan, SOURCE CODE was a fun if somewhat underdeveloped film - enjoyable, but not much to write home about.

PRESSPAUSEPLAYB- PRESSPAUSEPLAY claims to be an analysis of the interaction of creativity, artistic industry, and new media. But it's far from being critical or analytical in the slightest. Instead, this documentary merely illustrates the current climate in music, film, and literature, using gorgeous aesthetics and a fantastic soundtrack to maintain viewers' attention. It was fun, but very shallow.

A+ Following two young men who lead easy lives of thievery and no responsibilities, A BAG OF HAMMERS is a beautifully directed comedy with some of the most intensely emotional moments I've experienced at any SXSW film. I suspect this movie will be my BROTHERHOOD of 2011 - my favorite film of the festival, and one that never gets picked up. Fingers crossed that A BAG OF HAMMERS will receive the attention it deserves.

C Advertised as the story of a mild-mannered high school teacher who seeks revenge after being physically abused
by his students, WUSS is actually a bizarre mixture of comedy, melodrama, and crime drama. Unfortunately, the mixture doesn't quite work. WUSS doesn't have enough ideas to fill its run time, and the premise quickly wears thin. Mediocre acting from the supporting cast only makes this film even more of a disappointment.

B+ A gritty and incredibly violent comedy about justice, revenge, and letting go. Though it's relentlessly funny and has fantastic performances from stars Ellen Page and Rainn Wilson, a tightened up script could have helped the film immensely. Still a definite stand-out film, however, if only for its brilliant animated title sequence.

B+ A quiet, queer film about sex and relationships between men - specifically a closeted man and an outspoken, wanderlusting artist he picks up at a club. Spanning 2-3 days (depending on how you count), WEEKEND has an interesting pacing and deeply realistic style that makes it fascinating, if a bit slow. Gorgeous, gorgeous storytelling.

A- A brilliant documentary of the story of Vikram Gandhi, a young man who pretends to be a Hindu mystic named Sri Kumare. The conclusions he draws about spirituality and identity are profound regardless of faith or background. Also? It's hilarious.

A A pop art film without all the things I hate about pop art. Based on "Living Between Fucks," LBF is a look at love in the postmodernist age, with all the traditional tropes of straight white men and their Manic Pixie Dream Girls. What saves LBF is its surprising honesty, gorgeous soundtrack, incredible directing, and short, concise run time. Definitely a film I'd see again.

B+ Starring my favorite actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as a mysterious homeless man of indeterminate age and background, HESHER contrasts chaos and order to express the catharsis of indulging one's primal, violent id. The film is dragged down by Natalie Portman's uninspiring performance and redundant script, but saved by Gordon-Levitt's comedic ability and the strength of the child actor lead.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Laurie' First SXSW Post

Laurie here. After a pretty eventful day yesterday (Saturday the 12th), Sunday has turned out mellow. But first back to Saturday. Having seen Source Code on Friday night, as I mentioned earlier, I attempted the panel for the movie, but the room was HOT. I knew I had roundtable interviews with the cast, so I wandered over the press suite (food, drinks, massages, free use laptops, info and more. Then my photographer, Riley, and hI made our way to the Four Seasons for our interviews (no photos allowed as it turned out, but Riley sat in) and the group at my table was super nice. First we spoke to Michelle Monaghan who stars as Christine in Source Code. What a dynamic, outspoken women she turned out to be. I appreciate her zeal and candor. Most of the questions proved pretty heady since the movie subject matter lends itself to that and once I go back over my audio, I will add more and include details in my full review.

So for now, I am just going to fill everyone in on the interview (roundtable) experience. Disappointingly, as noted, we were asked not to take pictures, and boy, I wanted pictures, especially of Jake Gyllenhaal (Capt. Steven Colton), who is a handsome in person as he is on the big or little screening, having seen him with Anne Hathaway in Love and Other Drugs, I could not help but imagine him nude (I know, I know, I am old compared to him, but he is beautiful! As in all of his roles, his eyes speak volumes and he, like Monaghan, is amazing candid, approachable and dynamic. He answered several questions regarding performing virtually alone for many scenes in the film and for having to repeat the same 8 minutes (with some variations) otherwise. He and Vera Farminga (Goodwin), who was also in attendance, both had scenes where there were basically talking to themselves rather than acting to or with other actors. He is in a pod of sorts and she is sitting at a control panel speaking into a computer camera. Again, I marvel at Gyllenhaal's ability to act so clearly with his eyes. Farminga, too, excels in her role, but in person she is far more quiet and demure than the others.

I also spoke to Duncan Jones who directed and writer Ben Ripley. I want to save details for my review, but I thing that Duncan and Ripley did an exception thing with Source Code, by successfully creating a non-linear story that NEVER loses its way and they keep the audience engaged and interested every minute of the ride.

After my interviews, Riley and I stopped my the IFC Crossroads House to see an interview with Raine Wilson who stars with Ellen Page in Super, which I saw late Saturday night and I must say that was film is one wild and crazy, sometimes unsettling and quite surprising movie. I am not sure I would see it twice, but I am glad I saw it when I did. There was a super Q and A following it with Raine, the director and Ellen Page. What fun! Still, it was difficult dragging myself out of bed this morning after getting in near 1:30 AM.

Before Super, I watched a ghost story of sorts called The Innkeepers, starring Sara Paxton and Pat Healey and I enjoyed it, so much more than Insidious starring Patrick Wilson, which I saw at a pre SXSw screening, but is screening here too, and I love Wilson. Paxton, whom I met with Healey on the prescreening red carpet, tosses out all the beauty products and long locks to play, Claire, a frumpy small town gal, who along with her buddy, Luke (Healey) man a haunted inn on its last open weekend. What made this film so much better than Insidious for is the cast (all five or six of them), because they actually can act. Where in Insidious, the cast, except for Wilson, let me flat. Poor acting abounds, even Barbara Hersey seems uninterested in putting out much effort. Add to a less than stellar cast, cheesy costuming and lame creature make up and poof I hated it! I talked to a few folks who agreed with me on the cast issues, but still liked Insidious better. Go figure.

Today, Riley and I made our way to the Alamo South Lamar to see The Sound of My Voice, which came highly recommended by my friend Stephen Davis (owner of, who saw it a Sundance, but I cannot say I hold it in as high regard, although it held my interest. It is the story of a couple who joins a cult in a effort to do a documentary revealing the fraud being perpetrated by a woman, known only as Maggie, who claims to be from the future. It is intriguing and suspenseful, but I suppose, if I am being honest, not actually my thing.

I am probably going to opt out of the SXSW biggie Paul tonight, starring Simon Pegg, choosing instead to spend the evening with my grandson and daughter-in-law because my granddaughter is due to arrive on Wed, if not earlier. So there is where I am in my SXSW experience thus far. Oh and I saw Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Ruebens) on 7th and Congress with the PlayHouse truck and he and his crew handed out free ice cream before the screening of his documentary set to air on HBO on March 19th. I am not sure if I will see The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway here because of conflicts, but am curious enough to catch it on HBO.

I am off now, to see what more I can get into before I call it quits for the afternoon. Back soon.

Liz sends 'Hello' from downtown Austin and SXSW 2011

Hello film fans and faithful readers of from Liz Lopez!

SXSW 2011 officially started on March 11th, but for some of us, it started much earlier as we started reviewing films early in anticipation of interviews during the forthcoming SXSW 2011 Film Conference and Festival.

There is quite an energy in the air, as this is the 25th anniversary of SXSW. The event started as a regional music festival in Austin, Texas and has since known expanded to film and then an Interactive conference and festival with a myriad of activities to suit many tastes. SXSW is host to local, national and international talent and is known worldwide.

In case someone is not familiar with all the history of SXSW, I highly recommend the film documentary, 'Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW', an ARTS+LABOR Film and directed by co-founder, Alan Berg from Austin. The World Premiere will be at the Paramount Theater on Wednesday, March 16th and will screen one more time during the festival.

I have had an amazing time from the start, even on Thursday (March 10th) when I was at the Austin Convention Center picking up my badge. I met two gentlemen from Monterrey, Mexico who were picking up their badges for the Interactive Conference and they were very excited to be in Austin. We discussed how there was going to be very interesting panels relating to the international community, including Mexico.

On Friday, I did not have the opportunity to be on the red carpet for photos of the talent from 'The Source Code' movie, so I missed seeing Jake G. in the flesh, especially after his performance in another film released in Fall 2010.

The bright spot of the beginning of SXSW on Friday (11th) was covering the red carpet at the Alamo Drafthouse South for 'Girl Walks into A Bar'. The director/writer, Sebastian Gutierrez, along with cast, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson and Carla Gugino were extremely pleasant to talk to and they provided loads of information on the film that is now available for the public to view on the Internet. Gutierrez did the same for the SXSW 2010 film, Electralux, so there were many questions from fellow press members about his decision to release the films online instead of theatrically.

I am very disappointed that I did not have a seat available in the actual screening of this film that evening, since I was a press member who covered this red carpet. I was told they were at maximum seating capacity. I wanted to see the film on the big screen, not just on a computer. That has never happened to me when I have covered red carpets before, so I am not sure where the breakdown was. At that point, it mattered not that I had a SXSW press credential and everyone saw that I had been there since 5pm! I know better for next time and will try to ensure I am left out again!!

I happily left the theater and raced back to the Paramount Theater area to be ready for the World Premiere of 'blacktino' by director Aaron Burns, son of Elizabeth Avellan. Make sure not to miss this spunky film during the other two screenings of the film in two different theaters during SXSW. The film features Austin Marshall, in his debut acting performance. Marshall hails from the Austin/Round Rock area.

Saturday the 12th was a totally busy day, starting at 9am with interviews with the director, writer and producer for 'Insidious' that is screening during SXSW. It has screened once, but there are a couple of more screenings available for fans of this genre. Like Patrick Wilson's performances? If so, here is your shot to see him in this indie flick. Despite a disclaimer from James (director) and Lee (actor/writer) at the start of their interviews that their energy level was quite low from a long, long night in Austin, they were both very animated and energetic in sharing information with the press members in my interview. Lee had his shades, so I wore my shades during the interview too to keep him company. He said it was a very acceptable thing to do in California, but since we are in Texas, he was not quite sure how cool it was here.

I then ran off to the Austin Convention Center area for a press event hosted by Filemaker. I had a good opportunity to network over brunch with local press I know, as well as meeting a great freelance journalist from Amsterdam. We had a great time connecting over professional and personal challenges and felt more empowered to have a good and productive time during SXSW 2011. The presentation that we received from the Filemaker staff was very impressive and we look forward to using the product in the near future.

Next, my journey led me to the location of the former Kyoto Restaurant on South Congress for my interview opportunities with the director and cast of 'blacktino' that screened the previous night. Great energy and information for me on the 2nd floor venue with the great people and very welcoming Ivette Rodriguez who flew in from California to coordinate the publicity activities. What a buzz!!

I took some time to chill and get my battery charged (not just the cell phone), before the evening screenings at the Paramount, 'The Innkeepers' and 'Super'. Both films were very well attended and I had a great time in the badge line for a couple of hours. Bystanders and festival attendees were treated to ice cream by Pee Wee Herman himself. He had a handheld video device and scanned the audience participants, pausing momentarily in front of me to take some footage. I hope I do not end up on the Internet or something, but in today's world, our activities are online with the push of a button and before we know it!

Although I did not do the red carpet coverage for 'The Innkeepers' or 'Super', the cast and crew for each of the films was present for a Q&A after each film. They were both very entertaining and informative. Sara Paxton looked elegant in a black strapless dress and high heels. Ellen Page is petite and cute, wearing a black hat and all black sportswear attire for the evening.

Even though I was up late for the second night in a row, I was back downtown at the Alamo Ritz at 10am this morning for a press screening of 'You Instead'. I have been offered an opportunity to interview the director and two cast members tomorrow, so I am certainly looking forward to this pleasant surprise. I love music and I believe other music and festival attendees will enjoy this film. I will tell you more soon. If readers are not badge holders, not to worry, there are some tickets sold individually if the theater is not at maximum capacity.

I have to run off to the next event, so catch up with you all soon!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Movie Doc's First Day

Well, everything went according to plan surprisingly. I was able to go to my first panel at the Austin Convention Center called The Beginner's Guide to SXSW. While this is my second year participating in the fest, this is actually my first year to participate with a Film Badge. Last year I had a Film Pass which only allowed me to see movies and not participate in panels, parties, and other activities exclusive to badge holders. While a badge isn't entirely necessary to participate, it definitely does help!

The Beginner's Guide was quite informative in offering tips for how to travel from venue to venue in a timely manner, which parties are recommended, and also provided plenty of information for out of town people visiting Austin for the fest. If planning to participate in the festival for the first time next year, I highly recommend this panel.

Following this I enjoyed a scotch and a beer at the Registrant Lounge, which was chockful of people enjoying the free beverages. Badge holders are given drink cards for the lounge which will serve them up to two free drinks a day.

After this, I headed over to the Paramount to get in the very lengthy line for SOURCE CODE. This movie starrring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, and Vera Farmiga, and directed by Duncan Jones, offers thrills and excitement with a sci fi story that borrows a little from GROUNDHOG DAY and a little from THE MATRIX. While the story lacked originality, the action, suspense, and very likable characters held my attention well and kept well entertained. Jones, Gyllenhaal, Monaghan, Farmiga, and writer Ben Ripley were all in attendance and provided a fun Q & A following the film.

After grabbing some pizza from Sixth St (Yum!), and a couple of free beers from the SXSW Film Opening Party, I headed to the Alamo Ritz for the midnight screening of INSIDIOUS. This film, which was directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell (the duo responsible for starting the SAW series), has a unique and interesting take on haunting/possession stories. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Barbara Hershey, Wan and Whannell tell a ghost story that mostly relies on loud music and loud sound effects to startle audiences instead of truly messing with their heads. There are a few genuinely scary moments, but unfortunately this story, which was obviously inspired by THE EXORCIST and POLTERGEIST lacks the true horror to really frighten people. Wan and his crew seem to rely on "parlor tricks" to momentarily startle without the lasting effects that an honest to badness horror movie should have.

Mark Saldana
The Movie Doc
Officially on day two of SXSW. Saw two films last night - Source Code and blacktino. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan star in Source Code and were around with Vera Farminga (who also stars) and the writer and director for a Q and A following the film. I truly enjoyed the film which is an exciting ride! It's an ingenious adventure like Groundhog Day, with a thriller plot. I know I am being vague, but today I'm off to one on one interviews with the cast and will report more later and even add a few photos.

As far as blacktino goes, while the movie's storyline held my interest, the cast, except for a couple of folks and some big name cameos, left me a bit flat. Director Erin Burns and much of his cast are locals and I will reveal more about that and conversations of the red carpet later when I have more time. I do think blacktino deserves a look for sure, but don't expect exceptional acting.