SXSW 2014: CHEF Review

by     Posted 288 days ago

chef emjay anthony jon favreau

Jon Favreau very clearly has something he’s eager say in his latest directorial endeavor, Chef, but there’s no harm in letting him use the film to express his feelings when he’s doing so in a highly entertaining and motivating manner.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a talented chef working in a popular Los Angeles restaurant. The problem is, it’s not his restaurant and the owner is afraid of losing a good thing so demands that Carl push creativity aside in order to maintain their clientele with the familiar menu. When a popular food critic calls Carl out for playing it safe and sticking to the same old dishes, Carl loses his temper in the midst of a packed night and winds up an Internet sensation. Trouble is, Internet infamy doesn’t equal job opportunities and now, the only way for Carl to clear his name and get back on his feet is by taking the plunge and finally trying to do things his way – in a food truck.  Hit the jump for my full review of Chef from the SXSW Film Festival.

Full 2014 SXSW Film Festival Lineup Announced; Includes NEIGHBORS, JOE, and Episodic Series Featuring PENNY DREADFUL and SILICON VALLEY

by     Posted 325 days ago


The SXSW Film Festival has announced its full 2014 lineup.  We previously reported that the festival would include the premieres of Jon Favreau‘s Chef and the Veronica Mars movie, and now another big premiere has come along with Nicholas Stoller‘s comedy, Neighbors.  There’s also a strong addition with David Gordon Green‘s Joe (my review).  The other stand-out is a new section, “Episodic”, which features “innovative new work aimed squarely at the small screen,” and “tunes in to the explosion of exciting material on non-theatrical platforms, including serialized TV, webisodes and beyond.”  Attendees will have a chance to get a look at COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Penny Dreadful, Silicon Valley, and more.   Finally, the Festival Favorites category will include the popular Boyhood (my review) and The Raid 2 (my review).

Click here for the full lineup. The 2014 SXSW Film Festival runs from March 7 -15th.

Jon Favreau’s CHEF to Premiere at SXSW 2014; VERONICA MARS to Make World Premiere

by     Posted 346 days ago


At last year’s SXSW Film Festival, I saw The Act of Killing and Short Term 12, two movies that ended up landing on my Top 10 Films of 2013 list.  Their selection committee is top notch, and this year they’ve chosen Jon Favreau‘s latest, Chef, as their opener. Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a man who starts up a food truck business in the hopes of reestablishing his artistic promise after he loses his job as a chef, all the while trying to reconnect with his estranged family.  A lot of directors who moved from indies to blockbusters don’t return to their roots, and I’m excited to see what Favreau has in store.  The festival will also play host to the world premiere of Veronica Mars and some other intriguing titles.

Hit the jump to check out the first wave of screening announcements along with the first image from Chef, which opens May 9th.  The 2014 SXSW Film Festival will run from March 7 – 15th.

Sharni Vinson Talks YOU’RE NEXT, Playing the Survivalist Girl, Embracing the Film’s Stunts, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 275 days ago


Back in 2011, I caught You’re Next at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I really dug the film, and I’m glad that it will finally hit theaters later this year.  The plot centers on a family reunion that turns deadly when the family becomes targeted by masked murderers.  Their only hope is Erin (Sharni Vinson), a girlfriend of one of the family members.  The film also stars AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney, Rob Moran, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, and Ti West.

The movie recently played to an enthusiastic crowd at SXSW 2013, and I got the chance to sit down with Vinson and talk about the flick.  We discussed how festival audiences have responded to the film, turning the “survival girl” into “survivalist girl”, her eagerness to do her own stunts, and more.  Hit the jump to check out the interview.  You’re Next opens August 23rd.

Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett Talk YOU’RE NEXT, Writing a Strong Female Character, Designing the Iconic Masks, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 276 days ago


Back in 2011, I caught You’re Next at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I really dug the film, and I’m glad that it will finally hit theaters later this year.  The plot centers on a family reunion that turns deadly when the family becomes targeted by masked murderers.  Their only hope is Erin (Sharni Vinson), a girlfriend of one of the family members.  The film also stars AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney, Rob Moran, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, and Ti West.

The film recently played to an enthusiastic crowd at SXSW 2013, and I got the chance to sit down and discuss the movie with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett.  We talked about writing a strong female character from the inside-out, designing the creepy and iconic masks worn by the killers, shooting carefully inside of a historic mansion, and more.  Hit the jump to check out the interview.  You’re Next opens August 23rd.

TOP 5: VERONICA MARS Gets Kickstarted, G.I. JOE: RETALIATION Set Visit, KICK-ASS 2 Trailer, JURASSIC PARK 4 Names Director, SXSW 2013 Coverage

by     Posted 1 year, 280 days ago


I’ve patiently waited for the opportunity to include Veronica Mars in the Top 5. As one of my favorite pop culture artifacts, I’m thrilled that this past week has finally afforded me the chance. That said, I’ll reserve any and all debate regarding the impact and merit of its now famed Kickstarter campaign for after the jump. For now, I’ll just say that, as much as I loved the show, I didn’t feel shortchanged by its somewhat abrupt finale. Moreover, I never felt like I needed a movie to bring some sort of closure to that world and its characters. Don’t get me wrong, by series end I wanted more VM in my life. But maybe that’s a good thing. Looking back I’d much prefer a series leave me wanting more than continually ask me back every week when it can barely muster even a shadow of its former self (cough…The Office…cough).

In addition to more Mars talk, this week’s collection also includes our G.I. Joe: Retaliation set visit, the first red-band trailer for Kick-Ass 2, Jurassic Park 4 naming its director, and all of our SXSW 2013 coverage to date. Keep reading for a brief recap and link to each.


by     Posted 1 year, 281 days ago


History is written by the winners, and in Indonesia in 1965, the winners were killers.  In Joshua Oppenheimer‘s shocking and thought-provoking documentary The Act of Killing, we bear witness to a nation transformed by its past into a sick, twisted culture that seems like an alternate reality created by a science-fiction writer.  It’s a horrifying “What if?” where killers are revered as celebrities, smile about their mass executions, and barely wrestle with any question of remorse.  The Act of Killing brilliantly uses the power of media to ask if a monster was created by violent entertainment, can then he be aware of his monstrosities through the same medium?  Smashing together perception and reflection, Oppenheimer has created a mind-bending picture that’s deeply disturbing, darkly comic, and endlessly fascinating.

SXSW 2013: SHORT TERM 12 Review

by     Posted 1 year, 282 days ago


Earlier this week, I wrote in my review of Kelly + Victor about how love couldn’t always overcome past abuse.  The film makes a fine presentation of its theme, but it left me feeling empty all the same.  I want love to triumph, and I want characters to cope with emotional trauma.  Most importantly, I want that that sentiment to be earned.  Anything less is a corny and condescending.  A film has to go to the dangerous places in order to earn the emotionally powerful crescendo it hopes to achieve.  Destin Daniel Cretton‘s Short Term 12 goes to those dangerous places, and delivers that emotional powerhouse through the confidence of its direction, the thoughtful and surprisingly funny script, and the tremendous performances from its cast led by a breakthrough turn from star Brie Larson.

SXSW 2013: REWIND THIS! Review

by     Posted 1 year, 282 days ago


Nostalgia and entertainment technology go hand-in-hand.  We spend so much time with a physical device that we develop a personal bond with the joy it brings us (talk to any fan of the Sega Dreamcast, and they’ll talk about it like it was a dead child; “Gone before its time!” they’ll cry).  VHS holds not only a special place in the hearts of movie fans, but it was a game-changer in the production, distribution, and viewing of entertainment.  In his documentary Rewind This!, director Josh Johnson takes a fun, insightful, and exhaustive look at the history of VHS and the sub-culture that remains devoted to the format.  However, even at 90 minutes, the documentary feels like it’s searching for more material, and it grasps at finding a conclusion to its thoughtful examination of VHS’ lasting impact.

SXSW 2013: MILIUS Review

by     Posted 1 year, 283 days ago


Writer-director John Milius is too colorful of a filmmaker not to have his own documentary.  Ironically, the man who wrote Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry as well as writing and directing Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn has now faded into semi-obscurity behind contemporaries and colleagues such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.  While Spielberg and Lucas rode to fame on cutting-edge special effects paired with an appreciation of the sci-fi and adventure genres, Milius came from a completely different place that earned him the admiration of his peers, but also turned him into an outsider and eventually a pariah in Hollywood.  In Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson‘s documentary Milius, his friends and family come to speak about the greatness about the controversial filmmaker, and how his personality brought him to success, but also may have been part of his professional downfall.

SXSW 2013: I GIVE IT A YEAR Review

by     Posted 1 year, 283 days ago


Dan Mazer‘s I Give It a Year is the rom-com in reverse and two rom-coms in one.  Mazer takes the difficult task of showing a marriage fall apart, and turns it into a surprisingly funny and witty comedy that never feels cynical.  And it’s absolutely easy to be cynical when it comes to marriage because of the 50% divorce rate.  But like any good comic writer, Mazer finds the humor in an unlikely topic, and succeeds with sharp dialogue, talented actors, and wisely keeping the tone of the film the same as an average romantic comedy.

SXSW 2013: KELLY + VICTOR Review

by     Posted 1 year, 284 days ago


Love cannot conquer all.  I would like to believe it could.  I like movies where love can overcome misunderstandings, doubt, and various illnesses.  Kieran EvansKelly + Victor is an anti-love story.  It doesn’t argue that love is false or it can’t exist.  But it presents love as something that’s powerless to penetrate the damage done by physical and emotional abuse.  Love becomes not an affliction or a panacea, but perhaps something far worse: an illusion. However, as the film slowly pushes us to its painful and powerful conclusion, we’re left with a sentiment that’s not only bitter but hollow as well.


by     Posted 1 year, 284 days ago


There are two ways to go about creating a movie that’s so-bad-it’s-good (or “good-bad” as I’ll refer to them from here on).  In its pure form, a filmmaker lacks the competence, awareness, and funds to create a good movie.  A good-bad movie can also be created if the filmmaker knowingly sets out to create schlock but has the talent and ambition to surprise the audience with the outlandishness of the premise despite the limited resources.  Big Ass Spider! attempts to be the latter, but director Mike Mendez lacks the requisite ability and drive to push his movie past the promise of its B-movie title.  The result is the worst kind of good-bad movie where the filmmaker cynically creates a proposition where he thinks he can’t lose.


by     Posted 1 year, 285 days ago


One of the great joys of the documentary form is the unpredictability of the narrative.  Fictional narratives can indulge us, but a documentary must be rooted in some perception of a hard fact.  It’s up to the documentary filmmaker to craft that perception, and more importantly, adjust his or her perception when the facts no longer fit pre-conceived notions.  Director Timothy Wheeler sets out to create an inspirational tale of success with his film The Other Shore, but reality didn’t go the way he or his subject, marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, expected.  Rather than find a new theme for his movie, Wheeler remains committed to an approach that no longer works and the result is a vapid, unfulfilling ending to his picture.  [Warning: Spoilers follow after the jump.]

SXSW 2013: AWFUL NICE Review

by     Posted 1 year, 285 days ago


When I was a kid, I stuck a plunger on my brother’s face.  Another time, he hit me in the back of the head with a hockey stick.  Brothers fight, and some of the time they grow out of it.  Todd Sklar‘s Awful Nice focuses on Jim (James Pumphrey) and Dave (Alex Rennie), brothers who have kept their sibling rivalry alive and immature as possible.  The movie begins by exaggerating the conflict while still making it relatable, but eventually, Awful Nice doesn’t know how to progress beyond the brothers beating each other up and Dave being disgusting and idiotic.  The film has some wonderful moments of strange comedy, and Sklar and co-writer Rennie clearly have some talent, but Awful Nice has trouble moving past its solid premise.

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