sxsw 2012

SXSW Review: The Infinite Man

Mar 07 // Matthew Razak
[embed]217401:41307:0[/embed] The Infinite ManDirector: Hugh SullivanRated: NRRelease Date: March 7, 2014  At it's heart The Infinite Man  is a love story. At it's other heart The Infinite Man is a time travel story. You may already recall a film that handled these themes last year called About Time. The differences between the two are many, though they both do star a wonderfully quirky lead. While both films push to the side the mechanics of time travel The Infinite Man doesn't quite ignore the implications as much, narrowing down its focus far better and delivering themes outside of love including obsession, attachment and dedication. This is the better time travel love story not simply because it's time travel rules actually make sense, but because it uses those rules to define itself and its themes. We open on Dean (Josh McConville) and Lana (Hanah Marshall) arriving at an abandoned hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The two spent their last anniversary there and the OCD  Dean has brought them back to recreate the magic with a perfectly constructed weekend plan. The problem is that the magic isn't quite working and when Lana's ex-boyfriend shows up things really go off the rails. After the two break up Dean spends a year moping around the motel and then calls Lana and uses his time travel machine to take them back in time and make the day perfect. Of course things go wrong again and eventually Dean is traveling back multiple times, meeting himself and desperately trying to figure out how to make things perfect. As well all know things are never perfect. The confined space of the motel coupled with the film's time travel logistics makes for a wonderful set piece for Dean's character to slowly unravel as he tries to win back his love and figure out exactly what he wants. As things get more complex and timelines cross the film brilliantly unfolds, never breaking its own time travel rules while tossing in healthy doses of its subtly clever screenplay and humor. It's short running time (about 90 minutes) also means that it never gets overly complex on itself and as it unfolds you realize how intricately created it is, with continuity time travel errors turning out to be fantastic twists in plot. Director Hugh Sullivan also does a fantastic job editing together the colliding timelines, using the construction of the film to not only represent the wibbly wobbly nature of time, but to emphasize the thematic nuances of the movie as well. A conversation replayed four times over unfolds each time we hear it into deeper and deeper meanings, and wonderfully lays out a metaphor for Dean's life. This is also mainly a one man show. McConville is one of the most charming screen presences I've never heard of, with that sort of comedic timing and delivery that straight men almost never get to have because their overshadowed by their comedic partner. While he's joined on screen by Marshall he's the one that carries this movie and he does it fantastically. Hopefully his career will start moving outside of Australia.  It's hard to complain about much with The Infinite Man since the screenplay is so tight and well designed. There's no wasted time or loss of momentum because there's no space to lose it in. While some holes may exist, they're easily overlooked and excused thanks to the quick pace and fact that all time travel films by their very nature must have holes. The film knows its goal and drives toward it with pluck and panache leaving the viewer not only working out the time line, but the growth of its characters as well. This an easy to enjoy feature length debut from a director who I'd be happy to see more of. 
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Infinitely charming
Usually the first movie you watch for a festival is a bit of a let down. You're super excited for the festival to kick off and you've hyped yourself up so much that almost nothing is going to stand up to your expectations of ...

Review: The Comedy

Nov 09 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]207509:37932[/embed] The ComedyDirector: Rick AlversonRating: NRRelease Date: November 9, 2012 (Los Angeles, additional limited engagements through November) The Comedy opens with privileged Williamsburg resident Swanson (Tim & Eric's Tim Heidecker) partying with his friends. More specifically, trying to pour beer down each others' underwear as a slow-jam plays in the background. It's the kind of foolish jackass antic that keeps Swanson and his friends entertained throughout the day. Beer, jokes, and pointless activities seem to be the only constants in his life. When Swanson isn't engaging with his friends -- ironically celebrating the chemistry of their friendship and clean bathrooms -- he is making the world his stage for his own brand of dark comedy. In one early scene, he pretends to be a gardener on a rich estate. He walks around with his beer gut out and tells the owners that he has been letting the other gardeners swim in their pool. After getting no reaction from the owners, he walks away bored and disappointed. He isn't performing for laughs. It is resentment he craves. Swanson would be a very likable person if he weren't such a cold, detached asshole. His boldness and comedic instincts are admirable, but he treats everyone around him like shit. He ridicules the nurse who changes his father's bedpan, unaffectedly watches others' misery, and finds new ways to desecrate a church. He is a wonderful conversationalist and Heidecker is a very exciting actor to watch. Whether he is talking about Hitler as a role model or hobo dicks, Swanson is a character that gives us enough reasons to stick around and watch his foolish antics play out. The Comedy doesn't make any grand messages about its character. It just presents a collection of moments in his life that let us discover who he is and what he represents. The film is very much an attack on the mythological hipster. Pabst Blue Ribbon, fixed-gear bikes, and ironically self-aware humor. We know this guy and it's a testament to The Comedy that we like him at all. By the end of the film, I even felt a bit sorry for him. Even with all his money, friends, and natural talents, he can't make sense of the world around him. He wants so badly to connect to something that feels real, but he can't help but push it away through his ironic humor and bitterness. The Comedy may be a challenging film, but it's one of the few character studies that has a clear focus and entertaining hook that will keep you invested. Heidecker was the perfect actor for this project. When he looks past his surroundings, you believe him. Sometimes making a joke is all you can do in a bad situation. For Swanson, life in its entirety is a bad situation. If you ever shouted, "DIE! HIPSTER SCUM! DIE!" This is a film for you and, maybe, even about you.
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[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage for this year's South by Southwest Film 2012. It has been re-posted to coincide with the film's wider release.] Hipster is a word that means nothing ...

Review: Rec 3: Genesis

Sep 07 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]207424:37912[/embed][Rec] 3: GenesisDirectors: Paco PlazaRating: NRCountry: Spain[Rec] 3 is more of a side-story than a true prequel. In fact, there is very little here to chew on for fans of the previous films, unlike [Rec] 2 which practically required viewing the original. Far away from the Barcelona apartment of the previous films, [Rec] 3 takes place at a large ballroom where a newlywed couple and family celebrate in the way all good Europeans do: Loudly and drunk as hell.To say [Rec] 3’s opening is long-winded and mind-numbingly dull is to put it lightly. It’s hard to make faux-family videos interesting, but Plaza manages to not only make it dull but also incredibly fake as well. [Rec] opened with a similar, tension-free setup but I didn’t mind because the characters were charming and wonderfully established which informed the horrors to come. Here, the characters are cartoon characters that are either loud, obnoxious, or just boring. One thing they all have in common is that they are one-dimensional cliches, including (but not limited to) the groom who is the knight in shiny armor (he literally wears shiny armor!), the bride who snaps and becomes a zombie ass-kicker, and the fat cameraman who gives up before the fight even begins. If you haven’t read about [Rec] 3 or seen the above trailer yet, you need to know that this sequel largely departs from the series’ found footage roots. After the lengthy opening, shot by a wedding videographer with an HD steadycam, the film abandons the found-footage format with only a few exceptions that feel like unnecessary fan-bait. It’s hard to fault Plaza’s new direction, as there are only so many excuses and gimmicks you can come up with under the constraints of found-footage fiction. Even so, he doesn’t make use of the freedom given. The most spectacular sequence, in which a zombie massacre occurs during the wedding after-party, is shot on handheld. What follows is a mess of zombie films cliche competently shot but hardly interesting.So what cliches are we talking about? We have a zombie in a room with strobe light effect, rushing to open garage doors, gruesome chainsaw kills, and the classic “Oh no, family member X wants to eat me!” Even if [Rec] 3 just turned the franchise into an uninspired zombie flick, it wouldn’t be so bad. The problem is the film’s schizophrenic script, sappy acting, and overbearing soundtrack. I thought [Rec] and its sequel were a wonderfully restrained response to the loud, shock scares of Hollywood horror in the early ‘00s. After [Rec] 3, I have to wonder if those films only turned out that way due to budgetary restraints. If there is one thing [Rec] 3 is not, it’s subtle. Unlike the previous films, there are no scenes where tension slowly builds up. Instead, you have a series of oddball gags and exploitation cinema nods interrupted by cheap and irritating jump scares. This is a film where one of the surviving members of the group is dressed in a costume parodying Spongbob Squarepants. Then there is the scene where the bride tears off her bridal skirt with a chainsaw and starts mowing down zombies. If the film wanted to be stupid, it should have just embraced it. The best moments of [Rec] 3 is when it does just that. Such as a Dead Alive-esque scene where the groom kills a zombie by putting a hand blender to the zombie’s mouth. The crowd cheered, but then it was back to the heavy-handed script and loud, cheesy music (I swear those guitars were ripped out of the mid-’80s!)Even with [Rec] 3 being a terrible sequel and one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen in a while, it shouldn’t effect my memories of [Rec] 1 & 2 … but it does! The only substantial tie to the previous films is that origin of the infection at the wedding is the vet of the sick dog established in [Rec]. The main gripe is the zombies themselves. Now that we see the infected in mass, outside the perspective of found-footage, it’s a lot easier to see how inconsistent they are. Some get infected within seconds, while others take hours. Some run while others walk. It just doesn’t seem well-thought out and only further damages the established fiction built in the previous two films. Are we shooting for reality or a spectacle of violent stupidity? In either case, [Rec] 3 doesn't commit to either and is all the poorer for it.Just as Jaume Balagueró proved himself capable of successfully channeling Hitchcock in last year’s Sleep Tight, Paco Plaza has proved himself incapable of making sense of his various influences in the muddled, brashly composed [Rec] 3. The series is so damaged at this point that Balagueró will need to work miracles in his own upcoming solo sequel [Rec] 4: Apocalypse.
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[This review was originally posted to coincide with our coverage at South by Southwest Film 2012. It has been reposted to coincide with its wider theatrical release.] As a sequel to two of the best found-footage horror f...

Review: Killer Joe

Jul 27 // Geoff Henao
Killer JoeDirector: William FriedkinRating: NC-17Release Date: July 27, 2012 Facing death by some businessman/rich figure, Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is told that his Mom has a $50K insurance policy with his younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), as the sole beneficiary. Armed with this knowledge, he conspires with his Dad, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), and indirectly with his Step-Mom, Sharla (Gina Gershon), to murder her by hiring a Dallas sheriff/hired killer, Joe (Matthew McConaughey). However, because they're unable to afford his asking price, Joe instead takes Dottie as a "retainer" until they're able to make the money, leading to a series of outrageous events that culminate into one of the most amazing/disturbing third acts in a film ever. Killer Joe is adapted from a play by Tracy Letts, which calls for a majority of the scenes being very dialogue-driven, shot with long takes, and typically set in a small number of sets. However, that's not to say the film is full of "boring" conversations, as there are some minor action scenes sprinkled along to break from the heavy dialogue. However, the film is moved along by "moments;" this might be a hugely obvious observation to make, but these "moments" are different in Killer Joe's world. Simply put, every character is racked with so many problems. I can't spoil what happens, but what I can say is thatKiller Joe takes the dysfunctional family and exaggerates it into an extreme level. I honestly wish I could speak freely of the final act I alluded to earlier, but I don't want to spoil any of it. Just know that, however you may have felt about the film up until that point, it all goes away in how outrageous things turn out. Again, given the film's roots as a play, Killer Joe is very dialogue-driven. The chemistry among the actors is great, united by McConaughey's memorable performance. I'm not gonna lie, I'm not the biggest Matthew McConaughey fan. However, his role as the title character was phenomenal. Despite Joe's twisted interests, he's the glue that holds all of the characters together. Paired along with him is Temple's role as the 12-year-old Dottie, who plays just as much of a pivotal role in the family's shenanigans as Chris does. Church also delivers a wholly understated performance as the family's patriarch. His monotone, deadpan lines provided some of the funniest moments in the film. Killer Joe is an outrageously disturbing film full of sex and violence mixed together in a juicy dark DARK comedy shell. Friedkin and Letts are very, very twisted men. Depending on your interests, you'll either appreciate everything they two of them were able to translate into the film, or you'll absolutely hate everything and wonder what happened to traditional films. But seriously, Killer Joe is like an exploitation film without feeling like one. By reading that, as well as the film's tagline, you should know which side of the fence you fall upon. 
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[This review was originally posted as part of our South by Southwest Film 2012 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with its theatrical release.] I honestly don't know how to introduce this review for Killer J...


Review: The Imposter

Jul 13 // Allistair Pinsof
The ImposterDirectors: Bart LaytonRating: NRRelease Date: TBAStop me if you heard this one before: A 14-year-old boy from a small Texas suburb disappears for three years only to appear in Spain, saying he was forced into a European human trafficking ring run by military soldiers. Also, this boy is actually a 23-year-old French man who bears no resemblance to the Texas child he is pretending to be. And yet, the media, authorities, and Texas family buy it. Okay, so you probably haven’t heard that one before. Therein lies the hook to The Imposter. The setup and outcome is known from the outset, for the most part, so the interest is placed on how Frédéric Bourdin pulled off this incredible con. “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be someone else. Someone acceptable,” Bourdin tells the camera. He is a charismatic, energetic man with a sweetness you wouldn’t expect from someone wanted by Interpol for most of his life. Despite convincing a grieving family that he is their missing son, he is very easy to sympathize with. Unlike other con men, he is not after a trust fund or position of power. He only wants to feel that thing he never had growing up: the love of a family. Or, so he says.Like all good con men, Bourdin is an electric performer who could have been an actor in another life. He is at home in front of the camera, as he tells this bizarre story and re-enacts key moments with his voice. Director Bart Layton brilliantly contrasts this performance by recreating the scenes discussed (a la Man on Wire). Unlike the recreation-based documentaries that came before it, The Imposter creates a wonderful cohesion between the interview footage and the reenactments. Layton doesn’t limit the recreation footage to filling a complimentary position. Instead, he often guides the story through them. Important story beats are struck within these moments, giving a grandiosity to the story that nullifies that “Oh, this needs to be made into a dramatic script”-feeling. The reenactments are wonderfully shot and performed. You really get the best of both worlds in The Imposter. On one hand, you have emotional interviews with the real people and, on the other, you have a well-paced, cinematic drama unfolding before you.By the time the credits roll, it’s hard to imagine this story being told any other way. This story of a master imposter worming his way across the globe could be told in a dramatic feature film if smartly written and performed. What can’t be as easily recreated is explaining the family's position in all of this. Despite having a rugged French accent, the appearance of a grown man, the wrong hair color, and the wrong eye color, this simple, Texas family believe Bourdin is their 16-year-old son. It baffles the mind that they can look past all these issues that outside sources spot clear as day. In a fictional film, I’d think, “No way! This is just stupid! These people don’t exist!” But, here, we see them explain themselves or, at least, sit silently in shame. “The main goal was not to think,” the mother admits at one point. You don't doubt it for a minute!The Imposter is a much larger film than the synopsis and this review imply. There are other characters, subplots, details, and twists that are best not spoiled for audiences. Just know you are in for a wild ride. Bourdin is a fantastic subject with an odd story that Layton helps tell through unconventional recreation footage that shifts the tone, tension, and pace to great effect. The Imposter is a crowd-pleaser of a documentary. You’ll laugh at the subjects throughout and maybe even laugh at yourself afterward.
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[This review was originally posted as part of our South by Southwest Film 2012 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with its wider theatrical release.] Everyone wants to believe in something. Sometimes, we try...

Review: Crazy Eyes

Jul 06 // Geoff Henao
Crazy EyesDirector: Adam ShermanRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD Crazy Eyes follows Zack (Lukas Haas), a young, divorced father, and the pursuit of a female friend of his, Rebecca (Madeline Zima), whom he refers to as "Crazy Eyes." When he's not actively pursuing to lay Rebecca, he frequents a bar where his best friend, Dan Drake (Jake Busey), tends bar and another girl of the group, Autumn (Tania Raymonde), is a mainstay. As he pursues a sexual relationship with Rebecca, Zack grows increasingly aware of the importance of his son's role in his life amidst the dwindling health of his own father. The tagline for the film is "Just another love story," which is both ironic and very telling of the plot. Yes, it IS just another love story, but it's reminiscent of "ACTUAL love stories," rather than "MOVIE love stories." At the same time, there's no real love in Crazy Eyes. Rather, Zack's entire pursuit of Rebecca is solely driven by sex. There are moments where, while she's sleeping over, he is way too desperate and forceful of his attempts to lay her, which always get rejected. It's uncomfortable, both in the way in which the scenes play out like a borderline rape, but also because that's just how some guys are. The main problem with Crazy Eyes is that Zack is not a likable character at all. Films don't necessarily have to make their protagonist likable, especially with films that strive to be as realistic as possible. But without that audience empathy, who will actually care about Zack, or in an extreme extension of that, who will actually care about the film itself? Beyond his pathetic attempts to get with Rebecca, Zack is a raging alcoholic, a womanizer, and narcissistic. There are a few scenes where a man attempts to fight him, at which point Dan Drake defends him while Zack takes advantage of the missing bartender by filling his glass. Zack's ONLY saving graces are his sparse moments with his Dad and his son, but they're not enough to make up for his character. The problem with Crazy Eyes is that it's just too real. Because of this, it's a bit uncomfortable to watch. The best way to describe it is that there isn't any "movie magic" to save it; that is to say, there aren't any normal movie thematics or elements that would influence the plot to heighten the protagonist's likability. I'm not against realistic films at all, it's just that the majority of them have enough of a separation between art and life. Crazy Eyes was ambitious in countering this, but the end result is just messy and bad. Much like a long day of drinking, Crazy Eyes results in a horrible hangover you regret ever putting yourself through.
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[This review was originally published as part of our South by Southwest Film 2012 coverage. It is being reposted to coincide with its limited theatrical release.] Crazy Eyes wasn't what I was expecting it to be...

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Clip: The Imposter


Jul 02
// Liz Rugg
The Imposter is a documentary about the weird-but-true story of Frédéric Bourdin, a 23 year old Frenchman who convinced a grieving Texas family that he was their 16 year old son that had been missing for three ...

Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

Jun 08 // Geoff Henao
[embed]207449:38384[/embed]Safety Not GuaranteedDirector: Colin TrevorrowRating: RRelease Date: June 8th, 2012 After discovering a newspaper wanted ad looking for a companion to time travel with, a magazine reporter, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), chooses two interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), to accompany him to track and write a feature on the person that posted the ad. However, upon meeting Kenneth (Mark Duplass), Jeff realizes the job might be tougher than it actually is. Darius then steps up to continue the feature, leaving Jeff and Arnau to accomplish their own objectives. Almost from the beginning of the film, the film's direction establishes itself not as a film about time travel, but of one about relationships of all types, leaving the time travel aspects as a minor plot point in a film that aims for something more. Honestly, the movement away from the time travel ends up making the film feel more whole. Yes, the film is driven by Darius' adventure to discover what motivates Kenneth to accomplish his goal to go back in time, but in saying that, it also illuminates just how character-driven the film is. The subplot involving Kenneth's attempt to reconnect with an old girlfriend and his push to help Arnau become a man don't quite carry the same weight, yet they're full of their own special moments that keep it from becoming an afterthought when compared to the main plot. Given that Safety Not Guaranteed is Plaza's first lead role, I was worried that she'd be limited to this archetypal character that she's unfortunately been typecast into the past few years. However, screenwriter Derek Connolly wrote Darius specifically for Plaza, allowing her to tap into the deadpan, sarcastic character she's known for playing, but to also explore more character depth that haven't been allowed to her in her previous roles. She's at her A-game with her comedic delivery (as if this comes as a surprise to anybody that knows her talent), but she also shows a softer side that is sympathetic and separate from the sarcastic persona. Paired along with Duplass, the two have chemistry that easily feeds off of the other's performance. There are moments where Kenneth could fall into this ubergeek, Napoleon Dynamite-esque character, but Duplass is able to save him from devolving into that territory by bringing an empathetic personality to Kenneth. Despite his quirks and eccentricities, you can't help but hope Kenneth is successful. He's just an honest and noble character. I came into SXSW highly anticipating Safety Not Guaranteed and I didn't leave the theater disappointed. Anchored by a very strong performance by Plaza that will hopefully be earmarked as her breakout role, Safety Not Guaranteed is able to find that perfect mix between comedy and heartfelt character relationships.  Allistair Pinsof: As Bill and Ted proved long ago, time travel and comedy go hand-in-hand. Then Hot Tub Time Machine proved that theory wrong. Somewhere between the two lies Safety Not Guaranteed, though it centers on a possible crazy person's belief in time travel rather than the act itself. Parks and Recreations' Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and Jake M. Johnson round-out a strong cast of actors that can deliver humor without sacrificing the darker themes of the film. It may be the first good movie based on an internet meme. -- 74, Good
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[This review was originally published as part of our SXSW coverage. It is being re-posted to coincide with its wider release. For more on Safety Not Guaranteed, read my interviews with Jake M. Johnson and Karan Soni, Derek Co...

Review: God Bless America

May 11 // Geoff Henao
[embed]207434:37913[/embed] God Bless AmericaDirector: Bobcat GoldthwaitRating: RRelease Date: May 11 (US Theatrical and VOD) God Bless America is about a jaded middle-aged man, Frank (Joel Murray), who is diagnosed with a life-threatening tumor. Facing the inevitability of death, he contemplates suicide. However, while channel surfing across the garbage being shown on TV, he stumbles across a My Super Sweet 16 parody in which a young girl bosses her parents around. Driven by a notion of hate and disgust, he ventures out to kill her. Supported by a classmate of Chloe's, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), Frank embarks on a mission across America to kill those he believes to be rude people. Simply put, both Frank and Roxy are driven by their anger towards society, specifically the outrageous depictions of society in the media. However, a huge plot hole arises: If Frank is so disgusted and jaded with pop culture, why is he shown obsessively watching TV? Wouldn't it be much easier to turn the TV off instead of, say, going on a killing spree? Granted, there wouldn't be a movie without it, but I just don't see why somebody so consumed with hatred and anger would feed into that. The world that writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is full of extremes, as is the nature of any proper satire (Perhaps this is why Frank was so obsessed with TV?). With any satirical work, God Bless America is rooted in American politics, just heightened to extreme levels, ranging from extremely standoff-ish Sean Hannity-like political figures to office workers obsessed with making fun of the latest terrible American Superstar contestant. Anybody whose interests run counter to that are cast off and looked upon with judgmental side-glances, much like Frank and Roxy.  Abetting the theme of extremes is exactly how dark and violent the film is. Goldthwait didn't hold back punches as he allowed both Frank and Roxy to kill anybody within reason (that is to say, those who Frank thought were "not nice people"). There's about as much blood in this film than most of the gore-driven horror films out, which helps add to the "dark comedy" theme Goldthwait was going for. The chemistry between the two leads is great. Contrasting Murray's droll portrayal of Frank is Barr's hyperactive and WAY-too-interested-in-death portrayal of Roxy. If you were to take Hit-Girl from Kick Ass and place her into a more grounded, realistic universe, you'd come up with Roxy. The problem, though, is just how drawn-out the film is. It has some legitimate laughs, but the premise is just played out. We get it: America is run by inconsiderate jerks and celebrity-obsessed fanatics. God Bless America presents nothing new, other than simply putting to film what we've all wished we could. Maybe if the film were better grounded and not so extreme with its depictions of what's wrong in the country, the effects of Frank's and Roxy's "mission" would carry more gravitas. But as it stands, it's nothing more than yet another political and social satire, just with extreme levels of violence. Harumph! Maxwell Roahrig - It's rare that I see a movie that hits me this close to home. I've been in the state of mind pop culture as it stands is the worst thing about our society. It has done nothing but breed hateful idiots devoid of any sense of intelligence. I thought there were six of us that felt this way. But as it turns out, Bobcat Goldthwait gets me. God Bless America is the movie made for people like me who're fed up with the status quo of bullshit reality TV and awful music. The film is a breath of fresh air from indie movies who don't have anything interesting to say. It's a movie that doesn't take itself seriously, and why should it? Its absurdity and satire speak for itself. I love this movie, and I can't wait to share it with my like-minded brethren. 89 - Exceptional
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[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of SXSW 2012. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical and video on demand release.] I think that we live in a very jaded world where it's very eas...

Review: Bernie

Apr 27 // Geoff Henao
BernieDirector: Richard LinklaterRating: PG-13Release Date: April 27, 2012 Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is a popular, well-liked mortician (or "assistant funeral director," as he wants to point out) in the small town of Carthage, TX, becoming a huge part of the community by taking part at the church, in community plays, school musicals, etc. After he handles the funeral of a Mr. Nugent, Bernie begins a friendship with the widowed Mrs. Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), who is known to be very stingy and cold to everybody, neighbors and family alike. However, Bernie's positive disposition is enough to break through her cold demeanor as the two quickly become close, resulting in Bernie becoming both her "travel companion" and financial advisor. However, Mrs. Nugent begins to treat Bernie like crap, culminating in a twist that ends with the Dallas district attorney, Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) to investigate the secret surrounding Bernie.  The film is presented as a traditional narrative with documentary segments mixed in with Carthage residents and Davidson commenting on Bernie, his relationship with Mrs. Nugent, and other gossipy elements. Billed as a comedy, there weren't many laughs to be found in the film. Actually... there weren't any at all. Funny enough, this wasn't because of Jack Black, but of the script itself. Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth, which was based on a true story that Hollandsworth wrote a magazine article on in 1998. Because of this, the characters aren't made to be caricatures of the real people they're based on. However, I think allowing the cast to exaggerate would have made for a much more interesting film. Instead, the entire film is held back to depict the events as accurately as possible (beyond the typical "movie" sheen), despite the multitude of opportunities for comedic gold. Seriously, is it possible to drop the ball with a film that has Jack Black in a relationship with an 80-year-old widow?! Black dials back the typical character he plays to portray Bernie properly, but it's just not funny. Sure, he has a face that was destined to be laughed at, but there's nothing funny about his character. What does exist, however, is how empathetic the audience will be of him. He's an honest-to-god likable character, perhaps even being TOO nice. MacLaine serves as the perfect contrast to Black, as Mrs. Nugent is manipulative and controlling. While McConaughey's character plays a larger role in the last quarter of the film or so,  Bernie had the makings of a solid comedy with its cast and source material, but it didn't allow itself to tap into that potential. Despite being billed as a "dark comedy," it's a light film with dark elements lacking any true comedy. The film wasn't that interesting until I found out that it was actually based on a true story, which made me re-think just how absurd and outrageous the real-life Bernie Tiede actually was. I think this is what inspired Linklater to make the film; however, it simply wasn't enough to make Bernie a good film. Allistair Pinsof: There are very few Linklater films I don't like. Bernie, unfortunately, makes this short list a little bit longer. This simple story about a simple killing by a simple man in a simple town is just a bit too, well, simple! Linklater has a knack for telling a story smoothly, as he did with School of Rock and the underrated Me and Orson Welles, which makes him such a valuable director to Hollywood as well as indies. The problem with Bernie is that the story isn't a very interesting one and the way it is told only makes it more dull. I'm not a fan of fake interviews in non-documentaries, so I already have a lot against the way Bernie is structured. Even more damaging is that you know the entire story before it even finishes. It's as if Linklater thought this was a great moment in history that audiences would be happy to just see on the big screen, never mind conflict or drama. And, the little conflict and drama there is, is weakened by a lackluster performance from Jack Black -- he does comedy well but not drama. -- 42, subpar.
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[This review was originally published for our South by Southwest Film 2012 coverage. It is being re-posted to coincide with the film's wide release. ] Everybody knows that Jack Black is known for a specific typ...

Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Apr 12 // Alex Katz
[embed]207387:37907[/embed] The Cabin in the WoodsDirector: Drew GoddardRating: RRelease Date: April 15 Cabin in the Woods has a seemingly familiar setup. Five pretty college kids head out to an old cabin in the middle of the woods for a weekend of drinks, drugs, and sex. There's the established couple, footballer Kurt (Chris Hemsworth, pre-Thor as the film was shot in 2009) and Jules (Anna Hutchinson), the nice guy Holden (Jesse Williams), stoner Marty (Fran Kranz enjoying his ability to walk away with basically every project he's in), and innocent, virginal Dana (Kristen Connolly). If this is looking familiar to you already, you're both right and wrong. When the gang reaches their destination, which is almost a room-for-room dead ringer for the cabin in Evil Dead, things start to get very odd very quickly. At this point, if I say anything else about the plot or its direction, I do a great movie a serious disservice. Suffice to say, the film's tagline, "You think you know the story," needs to have a big honking emphasis on the word "think," because even with what's been spoiled in the trailers, you really have no idea of what is truly going on here. The script, written by Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard, is exactly as sharp and clever as you'd expect it to be. You've got that trademark rapid-fire Whedonesque patter, positively oozing wit. Every actor on hand does brilliantly, though the best work is being done by Fran Kranz, essentially adding a stoner bent to his character from Dollhouse to great effect. He's the most genre aware character in the film, key to the ongoing horror deconstruction found in the film, but more on that later. In traditional slasher movie fashion, no single character gets too much development or back story, since there's that looming, unspoken agreement that most of these pretty collegiates aren't going to make it out alive. There are two other standout performances, though I'm wary of sharing the exact details of their roles. Veteran character actors Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford bring a wry sense of humor to their weighty roles, evoking a bizarro-Office Space vibe in some truly horrible conditions. That's exactly as much as I can say without giving anything away. Horror deconstruction is almost a genre of its own now, with stuff like the Scream movies and the underrated classic Behind the Mask, and with good, fun reason. Horror movies are second only to romantic comedies and maybe hero's journey pictures in terms of near-universally recognizable tropes and traits. Everybody knows the one about the black guy always dying first. Everybody knows the one about the slutty girl dying and the innocent girl living. This is where the magic really happens in Cabin in the Woods. It's kicked down the door, put its feet on the coffee table, and crowned itself the new king of horror deconstruction. The film mines such wonderful material through its own unique way of lampshading the various cliches and tropes of horror, but it never gets into Scream territory, where a character mentions a trope, explains several examples of the trope in cinema, and then the trope happens in the film. With Cabin, the tropes occur, but it's all a part of the writer and director's master plan, rather than something to be explained in a "Hah hah look how intelligent we are that we know how horror films work!," manner. This is about the point in the review where I'm hitting the wall in terms of what I can comfortably share with you gentle readers without spoiling the singularly unique experience of The Cabin in the Woods. I am quite sorry, as this is going to turn into a bit of a shit review, just for this sake, but you have to understand that basically everything after the half hour mark ratchets the film up to a crazy level of intensity and weirdness while still managing to continuously build on the ideas and scenarios. This pacing continues right up until the final fifteen minutes, which features one of the wildest sequences you're going to find in any recent horror movie, all leading to a beautiful, John Carpenter-esque ending. If I say a whole lot more (and I really really reeeally want to!), I'd ruin people's enjoyment of this movie fairly deeply, and I don't want that. The Cabin in the Woods is a true original, effortlessly deconstructing the horror genre while also providing the most exciting horror movie in years. Everyone's going to be talking about it, and it's got the surefire potential to be a massive cult hit if it doesn't light the box office on fire. Every couple of years, there's always THE keystone genre movie that gets everyone talking and excited. Most times, you get a mediocre movie with pretensions of greatness like Donnie Darko. Once in a while, though, you get something like The Cabin in the Woods, and man, is it worth it. Do not miss it. Geoff Henao: If you're familiar with Flixist, you'll know that I tend to stray away from horror films. Simply put, they're not my type of films. However, what Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were able to accomplish with Cabin in the Woods just might have converted me, if only for the time being. The film was able to successfully and creatively twist and exploit the very characteristic tropes and cliches that make up the foundation of the horror genre, and portray them in a way that could potentially change the way horror films are made. That might be hyperbolic, but if Cabin in the Woods clicks with the right people, it could very well be the beginning of a new wave of horror films. 87 - Exceptional. Allistair Pinsof: Cabin in the Woods isn't the movie you may expect it to be. It also doesn't end up being the movie that the opening 15 minutes hints at. It's rare that a movie continuously plays against expectations in this day and age, but writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard manage to pull this off through spirited, bold writing. Behind the deconstruction of horror tropes, the two touch upon truly heavy material that asks us to question the nature of our enjoyment of horror and the cost of ending human suffering. The film is also full of moments of genuine tension, horrific spectacle, and attempts at humor so twisted and bizarre that you can't help but laugh. However, with this ambition and wide scope in storytelling, atmosphere is sacrificed. In this sense, Cabin in the Woods falls short of being a truly great horror film. It's one hell of a post-horror film, though! - 84 - Great Hubert Vigilla: There was a study last year that said spoilers don't necessarily ruin the enjoyment of a story. While that's true in some cases, The Cabin in the Woods serves as a strong rebuke. Don't get me wrong: the film would still be enjoyable if I knew what was going to happen, but there's a thrill to being surprised and having your expectations subverted (and occasionally confirmed). Not only is The Cabin in the Woods a celebration and enrichment of horror movie ideas, it makes the case that surprises can be valid aesthetic experiences; that surprise may even be an essential part of how we experience art. There's such an anarchic creativity to what Goddard and Whedon have achieved, and it goes far beyond previous horror-deconstruction movies. Too often those films feel like mere sightseeing -- they're too detached, the posturing is too cool. By comparison, The Cabin in the Woods is like watching two insane kid geniuses locked in a giant toy store and simply told, "Go." 88 - Exceptional Andres Bolivar: What Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard accomplished is something I never thought could be successfully achieved. With The Cabin in the Woods, we have a genuinely smart film that delivers laughs, frights and a buttf*ck of a twist(s). Most importantly, Goddard and Whedon have crafted this brilliant homage to the horror tropes we all know and love and executed in a manner that doesn't beat you over the head with it or comes off as the writer masturbating over how smart he is and "finishing" all over final draft. It is an epic deranged film that is insane and completely unapologetic. It's the film Scream wished it was and what Evil Dead would've been if it had a budget. I cannot stress how important The Cabin in the Woods is to the horror genre, much less cinema in general. 95 - Ultimate
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[This review was originally published as part of our coverage of SXSW 2012. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's national release.] There is so much amazing stuff going on in Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's The Cab...

Review: Intruders

Mar 30 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]207510:37933[/embed]IntrudersDirector: Juan Carlos FresnadilloRating: RRelease Date: March 30, 2012Intruders is a bit of a paradox. The film is told through two languages, two sets of characters, and two primary locations but it feels intimate throughout. This is a testament to director Fresnadillo who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Christopher Nolan when it comes to building a sense of place and unique tone in a matter of minutes. In fact, his debut Intacto feels like an early Nolan film, though his spectacular follow-up 28 Weeks Later was much more ambitious and free-flowing in its direction. In both concept and execution, Intruders has a lot more in common with Intacto. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. I approached this film as a fan of Fresnadillo, rather than a horror fan. On that note, Fresnadillo’s direction is as refined and invigorating as ever. The way he sucks you into this world and shows you around immerses you completely. It’s a damn shame then that some shoddy storytelling gets in the way of Fresnadillo’s impeccable vision and a wonderful cast. Even when the film becomes an implausible mess, it is still very easy on the eyes. At its core, Intruders is a bogeyman story and a fairly harmless one at that. The film follows one family in England and another in Spain who are dealing with the same struggle. They both have a child who is haunted by a bogeyman that the children call “Hollow Face”. The young British girl (Mia) and Spanish boy (Juan) are defenseless against this supernatural intruder that terrifies them at night. Their parents can only hold them and skeptically tell them everything will be okay.That’s not to say Clive Owen isn’t one hell of a dad. The bond between his character, John Farrow, and Mia is one of the sweetest I’ve seen on film in some time. What the film lacks in genuine scares, it makes up for in some wonderful moments of tension and snapshots of family life. However, this isn’t a film entirely about family so these moments are fleeting and, at times, superfluous. Intruders may be old-fashioned in its approach to horror but it is still a horror film. This is something it fails at, greatly. The design of the bogeyman is atrocious. It’s nothing more than a shadow figure wearing a raincoat with a hoodie tightened. It just isn’t scary. For the better half of the film, he doesn’t harm anyone; even when he does, it inflicts minimal damage. As a result, it just feels kind of silly. The sound design and direction do nothing to build Hollow Face into a character that strikes fear in me. It not only failed to scare, it ruined the reality being portrayed on screen -- little does that matter by the end of the film, however. Intruders' third act is full of hard-left turns that will leave some audiences scratching their heads. The film leaves behind the horror altogether to explore some psychological ideas that are interesting but not well implemented in the script. It's all dumped into the final minutes, making for a perplexing mess. I can appreciate the ambition of the ideas but the notes themselves land flat due to not being properly introduced and built upon earlier in the film. Even worse is the finale that manages to be laughably improbable and confusing at the same time. This is one of those twist endings that people will leave the theater talking about, but not necessarily in a good way. It almost beats out Red Lights! Fresnadillo is a director with a hunger to tell new stories. He has yet to tackle the same type of film twice. He has also yet to stumble as hard as he does in Intruders. Lackluster plot aside, though, Intruders is a well-made film. The way the music plays off the visuals is a touch of class we rarely get in horror films these days. The movement of the camera, scope of the exterior shots, and originality of the interior shots is a stroke of genius. The film can even be described as music in the way it flows and strikes certain moments. It’s just a shame that it isn’t a particularly memorable song Intruders chooses to play. It's one free of tension and an interesting coda.
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[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of our SXSW 2012. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's national release.] Horror used to be a sandbox for great writers. Now it’s just a landfill wh...

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My SXSW 2012 journey ended last week, but as you may have seen throughout the week, the work was far from over. After all of the interviews, reviews, screenings, walking, sweating, crying, and bleeding, we can finally say goo...

Flixclusive Interview: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Los Chidos)

Mar 23 // Geoff Henao
Could you tell me a bit about Los Chidos and why you wanted to make the film? Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: Just to open a dialogue, to get a dialogue open about things that aren’t really discussed, but are there in plain sight. I thought that satire was the best way to do it, because otherwise, it would be a mean film. If you use humor and satire, and the over-dub, you know, to keep an arm’s distance from the thing, then you remember you’re actually looking at something that’s actually supposed to provoke questions more than anything else. The over-dub was a huge thing. Why did you choose to do that instead of just recording live? ORL: Again, to keep an arm’s length from the whole story in and of itself, and to remind the viewer constantly that it’s a fantasy, that it’s a farce, that it’s a fable, that’s it allegory. It’s not about, like normally, films are about being emotionally invested in the characters and all that sort of thing. I did an interview earlier with a man who said, “Well, there’s too much crazy stuff and I couldn’t be emotionally invested in it.” That’s not the point of the film. That’s not the film I made. The film is to, again, get a dialogue going about a very real problem, not only in our culture, in Latin culture, but every culture in the world. For women who see the film, for the majority of them, they say, “Thank you. Finally someone who did this.” And there’s people who really like the film, and then there’s men who say, “Why?” They’re sort of off-put by it because it’s a critique on male culture, that’s the culture I’m talking about when I’m saying I’m critiquing my own culture. Yes, I’m a male Latino, but you have to see it in a broader perspective and not, you know… I’m talking about male culture, I’m talking about domination, oppression, exploitation, and the relationship between The Exploiter and The Exploited. You do keep the film at an arm’s distance, but do you feel that distance could possibly undercut what you’re trying to say? ORL: No, because there’s other films that can do it as a drama. That’s not the path I chose. Again, my intent is to have a dialogue going, like how one speaks is up to the individual. I chose to speak in a very particular way here during this dialogue. And I understand that it’s not for everybody, some people will be put off by it and not want to have the dialogue… It could because they don’t want to talk about the issues, it could be because, quite frankly, they didn’t like the film, and it wasn’t their cup of tea. All things being equal, that’s completely valid and just as important as the people who like my film. For the over-dub, you did everything in post-production, I remember you saying that at the Q&A [following the premiere of Los Chidos]. You mentioned that your own Father did the voice of the Father. Did all the other [actors] do their own voices? ORL: A couple of them, but I liked switching men for women, women for men, older people for younger people, younger people for older people, that kind of thing. It was just another part of the process that was really fun and really expressive, and it was an interesting tool to be able to use, and that’s a lot of the freedom that comes with choosing satire, also. I’m sure you’ve seen these roles, you’ve seen these kinds of characters in your own life. Were there any specific people you had in mind as you were creating the characters? ORL: Sure, a lot of it is family members, people I grew up around, people that I met through school. Just like you said, just fractions of conversations I’ve heard from people. I didn’t grow up in a misogynistic household. I grew up in the very much opposite [household], especially for the time, for it being the 70s, I had very, very progressive thinking parents. When I finally did get into a public school system, the way that men talk about women and sort of the roles that are so obvious there, it really stuck out to me, because I was brought up… I never heard my Father say a degrading thing about women, quite the opposite: He would never refer to women in a derogatory way, or [to] homosexuals. I was very fortunate to grow up in a really amazing household. A lot of this, if not all of it, is taken from personal experience. I heard people cringe when I say that at one of my Q&As, but that’s part of the world we live in, you know? Statistics say that eight out of 10 women that we know are raped, and usually by someone they know. That’s a fact we have to deal with as a culture and ask ourselves why it’s that way, especially the “usually someone they know” part. That’s really deep, and it cuts deep. For example, that scene where he [The Exploiter] puts the broken glass on the floor and she [The Exploited] steps on it: that seems crazy to someone. I met someone in the early 90s when I was really involved with the feminist movement and feminist groups who her own father would make her walk around in the house barefooted so she couldn’t leave, and he would cut the bottoms of her feet with glass from his bottle. That image obviously stayed super ingrained in my mind. Like any filmmaker, I’m pulling from reality and obviously making it far more absurd here and far more striking, but with a point in mind. What I really liked was the… What was the cross dresser’s name? Did you give them defined names? ORL: Rulo. But really, I tried to treat everything, again, as caricature, as just them representing something. You know, Mother, Father, Son, Cousin, and for them throughout the script and throughout our production, it was The Abused and The Abuser, The Exploiter and The Exploited. She is The Exploited, because again, we have to examine the relationship between those two archetypes throughout history. Generally speaking, the thing that happens psychologically, for example, [in] a kidnapping is referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, where the kidnapped person starts to fall in love, but that’s not a true love. [They’ve] been exploited, [they’ve] been broken down to the point that [they] thank [their] exploiter. I’ve seen this in relationships with my Aunts, with all sorts of women I’ve known where they just stick around like, “Yeah, he beats me, but he loves me.” This kind of thing, so to a certain degree, it’s also… It’s definitely the relationship, that’s one of the deepest things, the relationship between those two elements. What I liked with Rulo’s character is that he’s so dominating, he’s so full of hate towards his girlfriend, but at the same time, he’s trying to express that love, but then the roles are switched when he’s with his lover. I thought that was really interesting. Do you think, if you had to define his character, would you say that he’s possibly the vital character, the anchor of the film? ORL: I could see how it could be perceived that way. I mean, he’s definitely the most obvious character, again, for the point of The Exploiter and The Exploited, you know what I mean, because he in turn… He cuts off his own penis. In Spanish, we have this old joke where your Grandparents tell you where it’s like, where Jesus is about to be nailed to the cross the next day and he knows it, and so the night before, he’s partying with the apostles and they say like, “Master, you’ve never slept with a woman. You should sleep Mary Magdalene.” They push him into a room with Mary Magdalene, and the next thing they know, she comes out screaming, saying, “He’s crazy! He’s crazy!” with her robe covering herself, and he comes out and they say, “Master, what happened?” and he says, “Well, nothing. I helped her. She started to get undressed, and then I saw she was missing something, so I cured her.” It shows us just how sexist our culture is, and the psyche of man seeing woman as someone who is missing something instead of somebody who has something over man. So again, he cuts off his penis, thinking that makes him a woman, and obviously he’s completely misguided. He has to be dominated because he can not create, so he chooses to destroy. And then when he finally does get into a relationship with the bar owner, with the guy there, then he’s in that role all of a sudden because that’s what he thinks the woman’s role is, to be submissive, because that’s what he does. So the chain continues so on and so forth. I can’t believe I missed on that completely. I didn’t even… That’s a very good point. That’s a really good point. ORL: It’s the same as the scene where he’s eating the excrement. You can see it just as that, as outrageous or whatever. But really what I was trying to say in a very outward way was sick ideas being passed down from one generation to another, you know, bullshit ideas being passed down and being consumed, and shit back out, and consumed again. Society as a whole is happy to do it. You know as well as I do, like all of industry thrives on the exploitation of women. There’s not one. If you look at a guitar magazine, if you look at a car magazine, if people are selling bread, whatever they’re selling, they put a woman in a bikini. They’d just degrade a woman, they say they treat her like an object, and that’s it, like a piece of meat. Obviously, those things are all throughout the film: the meat, the shit, the urine, the obvious analogy of man as dog and urinating on a woman to claim ownership. The girl that falls in love with Kim, she’s the younger sister, right? ORL: Yes, exactly. What kind of role does she represent? She’s very innocent, she’s very naïve… ORL: Here’s the thing, here’s what I think a lot of people are missing: She chooses to be that way. The Sister is the one that is my favorite character. For me, her and the Mother are the ones I relate to the most. She chooses to believe in true love. She chooses, no matter how the world is around her. She chooses to say, “Hey, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, but that doesn’t mean I have to live that way.” So like, I can go through all through life thinking that people are trying to rip me off or whatever, or when I’m in the studio, I’ll give the runner, the intern, I’ll give him my card to get food for everybody. I give him the passcode, because if he steals from me, that’s on him, not on me. I don’t want to go through life, living and thinking that everybody’s trying to steal from me. That’s not how I want to live. It’s a bad way to live. ORL: It’s a bad way to live. So The Sister, at the beginning, remember when they first introduce her and The Brother and The Cousin, they play Rock Paper Scissors, remember? She chooses paper; she always chooses paper, even though she knows… And they think they have a one up on her, because they’re like, “She’s so dumb,” and they choose scissors. They choose something that cuts, they choose something that destroys. She chooses something that’s flexible, that’s the color white that obviously represents pure thought. And she chooses it over and over and over. It’s her choice to live that way. No matter how ugly the world is around her, she knows that love exists out there and that she can participate in it, and it’s not her prerogative to buy into it. And she gets beaten down for a minute in the film when she says, “I don’t care if he ever comes back.” But then, there’s a shot of her turning where you realize she obviously doesn’t mean it because that representing we all get beat down. I get beat down. There’s days where I think, “Gah, the world is awful.” But that’s not my purveying philosophy. It’s not… no matter how many awful wars I read about, I still have deep faith in humanity and people. So she’s the wholly-good person, she’s the only person in this film that’s just untouched by society’s whims, right? ORL: Yeah. And you know, The Brother has a big extent… he’s a little more cynical, but he has a large… He’s a homosexual, you know, there’s pure love there, as well, between him and Haji, you know what I mean? They’re having a good time in the face of sort of that Romeo and Juliet thing of not being allowed to love. But short of the rooftop scene where he tells Kim that he sucked him off while he was sleeping, he doesn’t… He’s just doing his thing, you know. He wants what’s best for everybody, even though people are constantly berating him. He stands up for himself. When they give him the clown, the clown gives him the rose and the doll… He thinks it’s the greatest present. ORL: Yeah, and they’re all making fun of him. He’s like, “This is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me. You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.” Because they don’t have that experience, that honest representation [of love]. It’s pure. ORL: It’s pure, it’s completely pure. In that relationship, there’s no domination, there’s just that great innocence that comes with love, and that great optimism that comes with love, that love will get us through anything. And then we have Kim, who you said at the Q&A, he goes through the whole film and he returns back to his old life, and he just did not learn anything. ORL: He didn’t learn anything. I was blown away that was that young man’s take on it. [At the Q&A, a commenter mentioned the character growth of Kim, which Rodriguez-Lopez instantly shot down.] But at the same time, it says a lot about his own psyche, and what we were talking about at the beginning of the conversation, which is Stockholm Syndrome. I wanted to say that, but I didn’t want to get too far into it. This is the world at large, this is exactly it. America, American culture, American politics, American government, American money, whatever you want to call it, dominates the world globally, exploits the world globally, and yet, almost every country in the world says, “America’s my friend.” It says a lot about his own psyche. [Rodriguez-Lopez imitating the Q&A commenter:] “How come that white guy’s the only good [guy]?” I was like, “You saw him as a good guy?!” So this is very normal. In Mexico, the biggest festival, Vive Latino Festival, about half of the bands are American. 80% of the films in the theaters are American films, not Mexican films, and that’s not a trend that’s unique to Mexico. Everywhere in the world, every country is being handed over dictators, handed over corruption, handed over mass consumption without consciousness, handed over exploitation by America, and at the same time, “Give us more. Oh, that’s popular? Yeah, we’re going to make that popular here, too.” That’s why you have to respect… Regardless of how you feel about people like [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez, or certain people in the Middle East who stand up to America, at least someone’s saying, “No, we don’t want that in our culture.” At least someone’s rejecting these Americanisms. Again, it was very telling of his own psyche, that he thought that that was… Kim’s character obviously didn’t care about anyone in the whole film. He just wanted to get laid, he liked the girl, he wanted to see what he could get out of it. He says, “Fuck it. This is cool,” then he’s like, “I’ll solve all of your problems. I’ll buy the tire shop” not understanding that that’s theirs, that’s what they do, that’s their life. Again, this is American consumerism, “Oh, I’ll just buy it. What do you mean you don’t want to sell it to me?” He can’t even conceive it. That’s very telling of that young man’s psychology. Even at the end, when he gets the tacos at the end, he’s like, “I’ll never forget you guys. Cool, I got to go!” And he goes to his wife and he starts talking about himself. Here’s a woman who’s waited three days for him, and he’s been through all this crazy stuff, and he’s like, “Oh, I met these amazing…” and he’s talking about himself. He’s not listening. That’s another thing, constantly it’s like nobody’s listening to each other. Everybody’s sort of talking at each other, saying things and doing something else, and never truly listening. It’s all about him at the end, and that arrogance is what causes him to not even to go, “Oh, you’re probably hungry. Here, let’s eat.” His own arrogance, which is what will catch up with this society one day. So do you think that that nobody’s listening theme that you just mentioned, that also plays into your decision to over-dub then. ORL: Definitely. You can’t avoid it because it’s so blatant. Listen, there’s something being said here. Moving from Los Chidos, I read that you’ve also made a couple other films. Do you have plans to release those? ORL: Yeah, the film before this was The Sentimental Engine Slayer. [It] played at Tribeca, and at Rotterdam, and a lot of film festivals, and [we’ll] probably put that out in the fall some point. What is that about? ORL: That’s just about a young man’s search for identity after his parents’ divorce. And how long ago did you make it? ORL: That one came out in 2010, made in 2009. When did you start filming Los Chidos? ORL: Los Chidos… I think it was last year. I haven’t seen your earlier films, but do you think Los Chidos captures the themes that you wanted to discuss? ORL: It makes blatant the themes that I’ve discussed all throughout all my work, music included: the feminist theme, the exploiter theme, the cultural themes, the religious themes, those are in any of my records from whenever anyone was made aware of what I was doing to now. It’s the same themes, you just find different ways to say it. Like again, I want to make clear, Los Chidos was just... it was a choice, it was a specific color. I used a specific color or tone. I’ve made a drama, I’ve made… The Sentimental Engine Slayer is completely different from Los Chidos, you know. It was a choice, that’s something that people… versatility, you know? Do you have plans on doing another film? ORL: Yeah yeah, we’re working on one right now called Nino y Esperanza. That’s the title right now, it might change, but that’s the working title, and we’re hoping to get that made in the fall. Do you know what kind of film you’d make that into? ORL: I’ve always wanted to do a typical body of film, so I’m going to take a body of film, but try and do it my way. Is Los Chidos getting distribution? ORL: I hope so. You haven’t heard anything yet so far? ORL: We’ve had distributors who are interested and they want to get back to us also after SXSW, which is really crazy. We only had one distributor pass. To me, that’s crazy, given the type of film it is, so that’s cool. But that’s more the department of my editor, Adam Thompson. The business side of it. ORL: Yeah. I tend to focus more on whatever’s current. This is a film I made already. You want to move to what’s next. ORL: Yeah, exactly. If/when Los Chidos gets a wider release, how do you expect people to take it? What do you want to take out of it, and do you think that the general population will understand what you’re trying to do and trying to say? ORL: I don’t know. I get asked that a lot, and my response is that it’s too abstract of a question in a way, simply because it’s a great, big world. A certain group of people, like the theater people, when I took them to the script, they said, “We love this. We want to be involved.” They got it right away. Another person maybe says, “I don’t buy it.” There’s all sorts of attitudes in the world, and that’s what makes the world interesting. That’s why we have to have tolerance. If we don’t have tolerance, we’ve been down that road. That’s the basis for religious wars, for war in general. Other filmmakers are saying the same things as me in a more subtle way, in a more delicate way, and a much more beautiful way. I just chose a particular way of speaking, and I understand that it’s not for everybody, but all things being equal, everything equals everything, and therefore, someone not liking my film, not seeing my film, not caring about it, hating it, is just as important as somebody supporting it, writing about it, getting it. All things are equal. The Chinese have taught us this through what us Westerners called their symbol. of the Ying Yang. There is no black without white, there is no hot without cold, there’s no god without the devil. All things are equal. It’s cool. I’m not invested in… again, I just want to get a dialogue going. I seem to have done it, so therefore, it’s good. Last question: I’m sure you don’t want to limit yourself because you’re an artist in many senses of the word, but if it ever came to a point where you had to choose between your music and your film career… ORL: Film. Film? Definitely film? ORL: Without a doubt, because it’s the biggest medium, it’s completely collaborative. You can’t dominate it in the way that you can music, and because it’s a medium that includes everything. The medium itself includes music. I would still be able to make music for the films. I get to work with people, with bodies as instruments. I get to work with them and see the actors’ choices to the texts I’ve written. I get to work with a cinematographer, I get to use the image, I get… the food in the film, the food not in the film, the set dressing, the colors of the wall, the locations, the weather. All of those are things that are not in music, and music is very contained. You make it in a studio. If you know how to play a lot of instruments like I do, and if you know how to engineer like I do, then you can pretty much do it on your own and you don’t have to be collaborative. So film, without a doubt. It’s gigantic.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass

Mar 23 // Geoff Henao
I’m a real character lover, and your characters are so beautifully, nicely real and rounded. I just wanted to tell you guys that right off the bat. What was it like helping create these roles? Mark Duplass: Awesome. We got a great, great script, and it was very funny and touching and all those things. For me personally, I felt like a little bit of responsibility to keep the tone of the movie on the rails with Kenneth because he could have gone a lot of different ways, from crazy Napoleon Dynamite-ville to Travis Bickle to lots of stuff. I felt like my job was to kind of try to keep the heart going, try to keep that purity of someone who believes that they can time travel… Keep that alive and use that to try to draw in Darius, because Kenneth is not an easy sell, romantically speaking. Aubrey, how was that seduction scene in the grocery store? How many times did you have to shoot that, because I thought that was hilarious. Aubrey Plaza: Seduction scene? I like that. We did that really fast, but we talked about it before and we had a couple of ideas that we added in there. We both kind of knew that that was an important scene. It was like the first magical moment between the two of them where we see they can maybe have a connection or something, so it felt important. MD: Jake [M. Johnson]’s character [Jeff] says something in the movie like, “I’m sure your weird mojo clicked with his weird mojo.” That’s a lot about what this movie is. You mentioned last night about how you started off as a producer, and obviously you’re involved a lot in the filmmaking side, not in this film, but in general. And then you kind of slid into being an actor. Can you talk about that process? MD: The easiest way to get a role in a movie is to become a producer on it, that’s the long and short of it. When the movie was brought to me, and when movies are brought to me and Jay [Duplass], and my producing partner, Stephanie Langhoff, they’re usually brought because someone has tried to get a lot of money to make their movie and nobody has given it to them, and they know that we know how to make movies fast and cheap. It was given to me under those premises, “Let’s go make the movie.” I was very concerned about the Kenneth character, and when we talked about casting it, I said, “Look, if somebody plays this thing as a joke, it’s going to crash the whole movie.” And so Colin [Trevorrow], the director, and I got into a conversation sort of accidentally, a creative conversation about Kenneth, and through that, after about half an hour, he was like, “Why don’t you do it? You know everything you’re saying is right. You should just do this.” I was like, “Yeah, I tricked you. I got you.” So yeah, we’re shooting two months later. So you wanted to do it all along, or no? MD: I was interested in it. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t sure I was right for it, because when I first read it, I did imagine someone much more quirky, just as you read it and you see it. But then when we started talking about it, “Actually, if we can just use me to ground the character a little bit more, that might be what the movie needs to make it feel a little more real and not like a screwball quirky comedy. Did you guys have anyone in mind when you guys were talking about the character? MD: No, no. We kind of threw around cast ideas and it kind of quickly, between me and Colin, came back to me. AP: I really wanted Charlie Sheen, but everyone told me that wouldn’t work out. MD: He already lives in a different time. AP: Nicolas Cage, maybe? MD: NC. AP: The Big NC. MD: The Big NC. AP: We’re sick of working with each other, I’ve done so many movies with him. What’s the difference between playing film roles and TV roles, and do you guys have a preference? MD: One of them pays more money. I don’t know what your experience is. AP: I don’t really have a preference. I like both for different reasons. It’s fun to be on a TV show that goes on for a long time because you get to just know that character so well and it’s kind of fun to stay with a character, I think, for that long. But it’s also fun to get in there and get out of there. MD: Yes, which we did on this movie. In and out very quickly. They said 24 days? MD: 24 days was the shoot. I was only there for 12. That’s quick. MD: Yeah. I mean, it is and it isn’t. I’ve been on sets where we’ve shot for nine or 10 days before. 24 is not crazy quick… That’s true. Long days too, right? MD: Yeah yeah. For the TV stuff, I really like shooting The League because there’s zero emotional content on the show and it’s all improvised, so it’s just so easy, it’s just so fun, and the people I work with are really, really nice. It’s very low maintenance, honestly, and just very fun and loose. But when I direct a movie with my brother or something, it’s stressful or crazy, but nothing is quite as rewarding as that. They did say the script stayed pretty true, but was there anything that changed significantly, like one little thing that maybe was altered just because of the cast, or as the cast came together? MD: It’s a dialogue throughout because we’re obviously doing some improvisation with our backgrounds. We shot multiple endings for the film because that was one thing, honestly, I was adamant about, was that the tone of this movie probably wouldn’t be fully defined until the edit room. We kind of needed to have options, so we talked a lot early on about different options for the ending, because my experience in working with first-time directors and the way I was when Jay and I made our first movie, is you’re like, “I know exactly what I want.” But the truth is, you’re never really in control of a movie. It takes its own life at a certain point, so the biggest variable in this movie was we had lots of different ways to end it. Aubrey, what appealed to you when you first read the script? What made you want to get involved? AP: I loved the story. I thought it was really sweet, and I thought all the characters were really well-written and believable and grounded in a way that most scripts I read aren’t… I feel like I connected to it on a lot of different levels. I also felt it was kind of exactly what I was looking for at the time. I really wanted to do something where I was breaking out of this zone that I’ve been in a little bit, mainly just because I’ve been cast as this sarcastic, deadpan kind of character in a lot of things that happened one after another. So I thought it was kind of awesome, the transformation that Darius has in the movie and the journey that she goes on. As an actor, it was really appealing to play her and start out in a similar comfort zone, and then break out of that as an actor, but also as that character. It kind of worked. It felt really organic, too, and not forced. How was it making that transition, especially being from an improv background and doing straight-out game. You have to think really fast, not just about the character you’re playing, but the whole story of something, and how was it to transition into something where it’s so subtle? AP: It was really scary, especially because of that, because I got really used to not kind of say the words line for line, or I can kind of mess around a lot in a lot of the things I did before, and this was the first time that I really need to nail all of the little emotional moments that Darius has in the movie because it’s kind of you see you it through her eyes, in a way. That was really hard for me, and the most challenging thing is to make sure that everything I was doing is tracking in the right way and that I’m really… I’m changing in the right case and having the arc and stuff, and focusing more on that than playing the game of the scene or whatever, which is definitely something I’m used to. That’s just how I was trained growing up with improv and stuff. It was nice to kind of do both, because everyone that works on the movie is an improviser, too, so I feel like we kind of all had that as a tool if we needed it, and this script was so good that we didn’t really need it that much, but sometimes we utilized it, anyways. It was kind of cool to have both. I know you guys shot for 24 days, and you were there only 12, and probably only three of you were there for the whole 24. Did you have that after-shock emptiness, the kind of, “I miss them” feeling afterwards? AP: Oh yeah, totally. I cried. I mean, totally. It’s like such a camp feeling when you’re eating every meal together and working for 15 hours a day, you get so close and when it’s over, it just sucks. Did they have an Aubrey or a Mark suite at the Sixth Avenue Hotel in Seattle? AP: No, they only had the Jake Johnson suite. MD: We didn’t urinate in the corner of ours, so we couldn’t get any named after ours.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: Jack Black (Bernie)

Mar 22 // Geoff Henao
You gave [Shirley MacLaine] a foot massage and that’s more intimate than a love scene, according to Pulp Fiction rules. Jack Black: Is that Pulp Fiction, they say a foot massage is more intimate than intercourse? They get angry about it. JB: And I didn’t just rub the feet. I also buffed and shined them. You saw, it was a full-on pedicure. Did you spend any time with the funeral director to get some of those techniques down pat? JB: I talked to a mortician, but I was not allowed to go in to see the corpses as I wanted to. There’s rules against it, but then I heard later than Lindsay Lohan was doing work with corpses and I was like, “How did she get around it?” She’s just a pretty lady, I guess. I don’t know. That’s what she got for her drunken driving. Part of her service was working with… JB: Is that it? Right. Well, okay, I didn’t have that deal. You were great in this movie. You were fantastic. You seemed to really embrace Bernie, and Richard was talking about you meeting Bernie. You want to talk a little bit about his character? JB: It was something I had never done before. The script as a whole, obviously, has a dark theme and it’s funny, but it’s very dramatic and very… There’s a lot of pressure playing a character who’s based on a real person, and someone who’s got a lot on the line, you know, they’re in prison and you’re going to tell their story and there’s a hope… “I hope this doesn’t make me look bad.” So you’ve got that in the back of your mind the whole time, you want to do justice to the guy’s story. And it’s a tricky spot to be in when you want to be funny, but this is a person’s life you’re playing with. So it’s a little dance you do with respect, but it was amazing to go and meet him in the prison, in the maximum security prison. It’s just intense going to a prison. I’ve never been to one before, and the five security checkpoints, you get scared. You’re going in like, “I don’t know if I’m ever going to come out of this place.” There’s some rough characters in there. There’s some serious dudes in there with lots of face tattoos and lots of heavy stories around every corner, you’re like, “Wow. There’s like a hundred movies in there waiting to be made.” And then you see Bernie, and it’s so incongruous because all of a sudden, there’s this sweet angel of light. He’s just a gentle giant in there. It’s like, “What are you doing in here?” It’s like, “Yeah, you had one bad day.” That’s really what it comes down to. That was Rick’s feeling about the whole feeling, and he had personal... He’d been obsessed with the story since he went to the trial, he read a little story about it, and then he went to the trial because he was so curious about it. Every since then, he’s felt like this guy was not a monster. The fact that he was the most loved guy in the town was a real reflection of who he was as a person, and that if he could commit murder, maybe anyone could under the perfectly wrong circumstance. That’s the goal of the movie, to communicate that. I don’t know if we did, I hope we did, but going to visit him in there definitely confirmed that feeling that this guy was actually a great person that just snapped. Was there a feeling of sadness in Bernie, or is there more of a, “This is what’s happened and I’m going to move forward from that?” JB: Bernie is still Bernie. I mean, he’s still the most-loved person in the maximum security prison. Everybody loves him from what I can tell. Very popular, not only with the inmates, but with the guards and the staff there. He’s leading Bible studies and teaching cooking lessons and is just very involved. But he definitely isn’t totally happy with the living conditions. You know, it’s tough. No one has sympathy for prisoners because they’ve all committed horrible crimes and they shouldn’t have a comfortable existence, necessarily, but at a certain point, it does turn into cruel and unusual punishment in his mind because people are just getting sick just from eating Doritos. It’s just pure junk food. The prisons have some kind of deal with these junk food [companies], and so that’s all they’re eating, and they’re all getting… He’s got diabetes, they’re all getting sick, and then eventually, it ends up costing the tax payers more because the medical bills are way higher than it would cost to just mix in a couple fresh fruits and vegetables for Christ’s sake, man. That was his main bummer. He was mostly bummed that there wasn’t anything healthy to eat. He just wanted his peeps to be well-nourished. What about getting into that small town Texas mindset? Did you do any preparation in that way? JB: Well, you know, he was a public figure, so it was good that I was able to get a lot of video and audio tape and just listen to him a lo and try to get into his voice. That was my way in. I focused on him. I came out here, I didn’t go to Carthage, TX, but I came out here for a few weeks and worked with Rick and just… that was it. You nailed the Methodist Church. Did you go to a service? JB: I did. We went to a couple of services and I loved the music. I actually was really into the gospel songs, especially that… You ever hear Jim Nabors’… I didn’t know he was an incredible gospel singer. He’s got a powerful baritone bass voice. He actually trained to be an opera singer. JB: Is that right? Yeah. “Blessed Assurance” was probably my favorite song, and he does an incredible version of that. But yeah, I never really explored the gospel music before, so it was cool. Why wouldn’t the real Jack Black volunteer to host the Muppet telethon [in The Muppets]? JB: Oh yeah, I know. Why’d they have to kidnap me? Because that’s the thing: the REAL Jack Black had to be a horrible Hollywood asshole. It was hard to do that. I didn’t want to be an asshole. And then I was worried because I took my boys to see the premiere. Actually, only one boy; the other boy didn’t want to see my head shrunk. I had to warn them, I was like, “Look, I’m warning you guys: I’m going to take you to the premiere, but Daddy’s head gets shrunk down really tiny, and it might be a little scary.” And then he’s like, “I’m not going! I don’t want your head to be shrunk.” So I took the other boy and then he didn’t know why I was being so… it’s weird. You don’t want to take your kids to see you in a movie. It’s a real… it does a number on their heads because they’re all of a sudden sharing Daddy with a bunch of people in the room. What did they think of little Lilliputians stuck in your butt in Gulliver’s Travels? JB: That was also slightly disturbing. But I warned them, and once again, I’m really big on the warnings: “Listen you guys, there’s a little man that’s going to go in my butt, okay? But it doesn’t hurt and it’s not real.” They were prepared, psychologically, for the trauma. That’s surely what Jonathan Swift originally intended, right? JB: Jonathan Swift… I don’t want to get too much into the Gulliver’s Travels junket, I feel like I’m going to time-warp now. [Swift] was very scatological even more so than we were, actually. There was all kinds of weird, crazy, sexual shit happening in this. We didn’t make up the pissing on the fire at the palace. That was in the book, too. In this movie, you have a lot of great scenes with Shirley MacLaine, and I think one of the reasons that your role worked so well was because you guys really play off of each other very well. It’s kind of that “lovable guy, hateful bitch” [scenario], but I think it’s because she’s such a great actress. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship working with her, and what were you guys were able to figure that out ahead of time? JB: Well she didn’t want to play a straight-up hateful bitch. She didn’t read it that way. When she read it, she was like, “You know what, fuck these townspeople. They’re a bunch of gossips. She’s not a bitch. She’s right! And I’m going to play it right, and when people see this movie, they’re going to say, ‘You know what, she’s right! I’m on her side.’” And that’s what was good. You want that, I think, when you get someone who’s playing the character, you want them to be on the side of the character no matter what. You got to be rooting for yourself, even if you’re a villain. She had Marjorie’s back and that makes for good battle of good vs. evil, I guess. I don’t want to say that, but that is kind of what the movie is, it’s like there’s someone who… The two of them together, their relationship was very much him trying to sweeten, try to be the sweet one, bring her to the light, and her being like, “Nah, fuck that shit. I’m bringing you over to the dark.” Who’s going to win? And in the end, she won, but then she was, obviously, she was killed. Can you talk about the relationship you two had, in terms of how you worked that out on screen? Or did you guys bring your own things…? JB: We talked about it a lot, but it wasn’t explicitly on the page. It didn’t say that in the stage directions, but that’s stuff we talked about. I remember she said that she didn’t want to be like Nurse Ratched [from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest] where she was just a straight bitch. She wanted to have some sweetness to her, too. Were there any elements to Bernie’s character that you kind of exaggerated to fit the comedic tone, or was it all just Bernie’s personality? JB: Well, I only spent a day with Bernie… really, only about 45 minutes, so I didn’t really have time to say, “This is absolutely exactly what he’s like.” I mean, a lot of it was just imagination. Was there anything I exaggerated? Like you said, he was a very sweet person. Did you heighten that? JB: I tried to accentuate it. But no, that’s just stuff that’s documented. People loved him. He was a really sweet, warm, caring guy. I don’t think I exaggerated it at all. How close did you get to his voice? JB: I think I nailed it, but that’s not for me to say, and now I’m all of a sudden tooting my own horn. But I did have the audio tape and the video tape, and I studied hard. I’m curious, when you went to visit Bernie, he’s been in jail for awhile. Did he know who you were, and did you try to accept his acceptance? I mean, he didn’t have a lot of say in the matter. JB: No. He had been in prison for 12 years, so he was not aware of my career at all. Because yeah, School of Rock was before that, and that’s how he’d have known who I was, but no. I was definitely going over there to try to just soak up some of who he is and just try to… I guess a part of me was trying to get his blessing to do the thing and going off to play someone’s life and reassure him it wasn’t a smear campaign, that there was going to be some comedic elements, but it wasn’t going to be at his expense. He was a little quizzical. He’s like, “Yeah, when they told me that you guys were making this movie and it was a dark comedy, I didn’t really understand what’s funny about it.” It doesn’t seem funny from being in it, but it’s not so much funny, I explained to him, “ha ha” as it is amazing like, “What? How did that happen?” He was into it by the end of it. He could see where we were coming from, what we were doing. But I remember just sitting in the room, they gave us a little room where we could sit and talk to him and interview him for awhile, and I was feeling very nervous just being with a guy that’s going to be in there for another 20 years or something crazy like that. The pressure of the situation, because he’s thinking, “Please tell my story right. Please don’t make me look like a monster. I’m not a monster.” I started to feel a little faint. I felt like I was going to pass out at a couple points. I felt like my hands were getting really big and swollen. I felt like… it’s hard to explain, but I was definitely feeling a little... I was having a slightly out of body experience in the interview. What made you decide to take on a character like this? JB: Well, it was really Rick. It was his passion project that he had been thinking about for so long. It was a challenge, it was something I had never done before. I’m attracted to that kind of story. I like a little darkness in my entertainment. I find it more interesting, maybe a little more honest, so it was cool. It was something I wanted to do. And also, I would have done anything to work with Rick again. He’s my favorite director to work with since School of Rock. Been looking for something for years. We’re trying to do School of Rock 2, we’re working on that. I’m sorry, we don’t have a script. Hopefully someday we’ll come up with it. What kind of director is he? It sounds like he is very hands-on with the actors. JB: He’s a real worker. He does not just show up on set and go, “Alright, good to meet you all. Let’s start shooting.” He likes to do his due diligence. We’re reading through a month in advance, we’re rehearsing it, it’s a lot more like we’re rehearsing a play, and when we start filming, that’s opening night, which is a great process. And none of the directors I’ve worked with have been into rehearsing like that. He’s the only one. It goes against the grain of most productions. So he likes doing a lot of one take and if it’s good, it’s good, and you move on? JB: We’d never do just one take, no, but I know what you’re saying. The brunt of the work, the bulk of the work is already done when we get there. Things do move faster, yeah. You mentioned earlier about how when you were meeting Bernie and your hands were getting swollen, you’re getting all nervous… There’s that great shot at the end of the film when the credits start rolling where it shows the real Bernie and he’s joyful, and it just pans over to you and you just have this look on your face of, “What the hell [am I getting into?]” *Ed. Note: Too much laughter concealed the second half of this sentence* Was that pretty much the moment you were describing, like, “I’m not really sure if I should do this.” JB: I’m not sure. I got over it after about halfway through the interview. I don’t know what we were talking about at that time. We could have just been talking about cheeseburgers, I don’t know.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: Jake M. Johnson and Karan Soni

Mar 21 // Geoff Henao
First of all, I didn’t think your character was a douchebag at all. When you said that last night [at the premiere], in reality, you were like the least douchiest douchebag that I’ve seen in film in a long time, so I wanted to let you know that. Your characters were so well-drawn and so well-imagined. Did you feel like it was easy because of the script, or did you feel like you had to put a little more of yourself in it. Jake M. Johnson: I thought it was easy because of the script, and it was easy because of our director, Colin [Trevorrow]. I think Colin was pretty pinpoint accurate with this one where he knew all the characters, he knew all the arcs, he knew who we were, so sometimes you’ll say as an actor, you’ll say to the director, “Who do you think here…” and as they’re answering, you know they’re kind of lying, or not lying, but making it up. “You know, I think he can do a lot of things,” and you’re like, “Ugh, why did I ask? I wish he knew.” Colin is one of those directors who, every question, “This is what I wanted. This is how I want it.” And then if you do something else, he’ll go, “That’s good, but I’m going to use this other one, so this is how I want it.” So he was editing as he was directing. Did he edit it as well? JMJ: He was part of it, yeah. Karan Soni: He’s done some editing before, professionally. JMJ: It made it easier with a great script and a great director. Was it fun seeing it last night at the Paramount [Theatre], that pretty theatre? JMJ: The theatre’s gorgeous. KS: What a cool theatre. It’s like old school. JMJ: When I walked out on stage, I didn’t realize there was a balcony. That balcony is huge! It was great. The SXSW audience is… I don’t want to say Rock and Roll, but when we were at Sundance, it was a great audience, but it was more like an earnest audience, and they liked the tender moments. They laughed hard, they were into it, but they were more, “Aww…”  In this one, there were more hard laughs and clapping. There were moments where my character says to Jenica’s character, “This is going to sound crazy…” I heard some guy go, “Oh no…” It was a really fun audience. Do you think your Jeff character was overall noble? He was trying to help him [Karan’s character, Arnau] get laid. Or was he just straight selfish? JMJ: I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle. I think that Jeff has been obviously, he created a game plan for his life that he felt… the Escalade, and the job, and the cool clothes, that was going to have him win. And I think when she rejected him, he realized his strategy was wrong. And rather than at that crossroads, make the decision and say, “Oh I was wrong, I should do something else,” he rather said, “Fuck you, I’m right, and I’m going to prove I’m right by taking this kid out and teaching him that I’m right, and you’re [Arnau] going to be my Army of One. You are going to live like me.” And when he’s alone in the go-kart, you actually see him, it’s his realizing that he wasn’t right and he’s sad about that. But I think… it’s a combination. I also think that Jeff really likes Arnau and wants to be his friend because I think Jeff’s a lonely guy. So part of it is, the scene where we’re in the hallway and he gets Arnau to get the courage to ask the girl out, he doesn’t get why people would think he’s being jealous. He’s like, “This is the answer. You pop your collar and you put these glasses on and you go kiss her. That’s just what you do. That’s what you should do.” That’s what usually works. JMJ: Yeah, it’s worked for him. So yeah, but I don’t think he’s a noble guy. You had such amazing chemistry. What was it like working with each other on set? KS: It was great. I think me, Jake, and Aubrey, we didn’t get to work with Mark [Duplass] as much, the both of us, but the three of us kind of lived together, basically, in the hotel, we had the connecting doors, and we would get dinner and lunch together. We had the kind of same sense of humor, I think, and that was really important. It was instantly… it felt really fun and jokey. JMJ: Movies like that, sometimes, at their best, and it’s embarrassing because I’m 33, but they sometimes feel like camp. When they’re good, they feel like your cast mates are your friends, the crew’s your friends. We went to Seattle in this really great hotel which, by the way, if you want a discount on a room, there’s a Jake Johnson Suite. There’s a hotel bar and the bar manager and I got along one night, and John Hodges, one of our producers, said “You know, it’s a shady little hotel. You should give Jake Johnson his own suite.” I now have… at the Sixth Avenue Inn, for I think $59 a night, you get a room, there’s a headshot I have with a full mustache, a Chicago Bears sweater, I got the Ditka sweater… my first headshots, I wanted to look like a Linebackers Coach from 1985. Believe it or not, I didn’t get a lot of work from it. They got a little thing on the wall, there’s a plaque, and it’s called the “Jake Johnson Suite,” and if you ask for that room, you get a discount: You get free parking, you get a cheeseburger with a salad, honey mustard, and a Stoli on ice. Like every night, it was a cheeseburger, a sald, and a Stoli on ice. If you contact the Sixth Avenue Inn… oh, the password, you have to say a password. It’s “Stoli.” To all the readers, they are personal friends of mine now. That’s kind of what this movie was, there was a bar on the second floor of the hotel and we would shoot, and our hours were weird, and then we’d all hang out. Our crew was small, and everyone in Seattle has such passion for filmmaking, and that’s not to take away anything from LA, but sometimes in LA, we’re all like specialists. So everybody and crew comes in, everybody’s good, but it’s a job. And in Seattle, it was like… KS: Everyone just does everything. JMJ: Yeah. Everybody loved it. It was just a different energy and it became a really fun thing to do. And I hear they just got their tax incentive back for films in Washington state, so everyone’s going back to Seattle, which makes me really happy. Are you anything like your character? KS: I was a lot like my character, I think, in high school, but not in college, so I tried to draw a lot upon that stuff. But not anymore. I’m more street smart than him now, because I’ve been on my own for a little bit and I’m pursuing acting, so that’s something… that’s very risky. I don’t think he would do that. But in high school, I was very by the book, and I was like, “If I do all of these things and steps, I will end up here and do all these things.” But that changes. In high school, were you planning on pursuing acting? KS: No, not even in college, but in high school… I went to high school in New Delhi, India, but I went to an international high school. I always wanted to go to college abroad just to experience it, and we had this program where we had to pick seven subjects and you had to do one science, one math, one English, whatever. And you had an extra one. You could do one of the arts, which no one took because they’re not encouraged… one person would be painting. You could take another science, which was very popular, or another math or whatever. So I did all the sciences, and I was trying all the classes, and I couldn’t do two. I did physics and I tried chemistry, and the only one left is drama in this time slot, and I was horrified. It was 15 girls, me, and this really stoner guy sitting in the corner of the class, and we would just have to do plays, and there was no choice but to be the lead in everything because there were no guys in the class, so I kept getting thrown into it. I really got into it, but I never thought it’s a career. I never thought that, because Bollywood is very different, there’s no Actors Access or LA Casting, so it’s like you know a producer, or you’re famous because of your father, so you end up in movies. It’s just another world. When I came here, I saw there are working actors and stuff like that, then I tried to get into it more. What made you want to become an actor? JMJ: What made me want to become an actor? I was a big fan of early SNL. When I was growing up, I saw the reruns of [John] Belushi and all that. Belushi looks like a weird version of my uncles and my Dad combined, so his look and Bill Murray’s look looked like family members of mine, kind of like… I don’t know, I related to them and I had a really hard time in school. Believe it or not, I was not the best student. I had a very hard time paying attention and I didn’t do well in any of my classes, so I didn’t feel like I had that many options, and there weren’t a lot of things that I thought I could do on a regular basis, so I started doing acting without the full strategy of what was going to happen. But I also really wanted a weird adventure, and then I moved to LA and I booked a commercial and I made $25K by being a pop-up ad. I literally had a big mustache, I had to wear a red sweater, and it was an hour’s worth of work, and I was working at a casino at the time, and then the checks kept coming, and I felt like, “I’m in love!” I think I’m going to do this until Hollywood’s like, “You have to leave now.” I’ll be doing it until… and then The New Girl happened. You know, doing a bunch of indies is great, but it’s a grind in terms of… When we said we didn’t make a lot of money in Safety Not Guaranteed, that’s not an actor being like, “We didn’t make a lot. We made $500K.” We really didn’t make a lot of money, so you know, the advice is if you’re going to do it, you better love it. Especially if you go to LA, it’s going to be a grind for a lot of years. Honestly, there are so many talented people I know, people I have come up with who are HUGE talents, HUGE, like… kill it on stage, kill at every job they have…. They’re dead broke and deep in their 30s, and their talent level should have them being big stars. You need to work hard, you need to be good, but it’s also you need to get lucky. You need to be in a thing, you can be in a great movie that no one sees, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything. People have to see it, they have to like it, it’s got to become a thing. KS: I didn’t understand what independent movies were before doing this movie. I didn’t… I went to school in LA and watched all these movies, but I didn’t understand how many are made every year, how hard it is to make them. When I started hearing the conversations, “Oh festivals. Distribution.” It’s just very scary. JMJ: I used to think that if you were in independent movies, that meant you’re a movie star. That meant you had a pool. I really did. I thought, “Oh! That guy’s in a movie! He’s a millionaire.” You’re not even a thousandaire. You’re getting a hundred dollars a day, and then a bunch of people are putting their hands in your pocket, and you’re like, “How can I even survive?” I was watching [Inside the] Actors Studio with George Clooney, and he said he hasn’t made any money off his last few films because he’s made his last few films. JMJ: You make your money on either a TV show or a big studio movie, but those are so rare that, as an actor, especially with a movie like this, you do this because you genuinely like the script and you want to do it. And you want people to see it so that you can have something where you can stand behind and say like, “Oh, we made that.” You can never take that away, and you hope one of those hits big and people like it so that the other ones you make can get bigger and bigger and bigger. We made this movie for well under $1m. Everything about this one was running and gunning, 24 shooting days. KS: 32 locations. Did not know what that meant, but now I do! It means a lot of running around.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: Matthew McConaughey and Richard Linklater

Mar 20 // Geoff Henao
You [Matthew McConaughey] played a lawyer in this film. In some of your best movies, you play a lawyer, and I was trying to think of all the movies: The Lincoln Lawyer, A Time to Kill, Amistad… Am I leaving any out? Matthew McConaughey: What do we got here? A Time to Kill, Amistad, The Lincoln Lawyer… yeah, I have fun playing lawyers. And you wanted to be a lawyer, originally? You were in pre-law? MM: I did, that’s where I was heading. Luckily, I ran into a friend of ours, Don Phillips, in the right bar who introduced me to this guy [Richard Linklater]. Richard Linklater: Not far from here, yeah. He came in, auditioned, and no more law school. MM: I worked for a few months on a movie, quit being a lawyer, and moved on to do something else. RL: You can act a lawyer. MM: Yeah, much more fun. How does Bernie fit into your j.k. livin (“Just Keep Livin”) philosophy? MM: Well one, I’ll tell you, Rick’s really the only director that I’ve worked with that can go, “Hey McConaughey, I got a role in this next film I’m going to do and I think you might be right for it.” The Newton Boys we talked about more. Rick and I will always know… and that’s someone I can go, “Yeah, let me read it,” but it’s pretty much a, “Yeah, we’ll work something out.” The process of getting to the day of shooting is really fun for Rick and I. It’s a really fun process. There’s nothing formal about it. We really play. How many hours it takes us, it doesn’t take us that long. RL: In this one, we were pretty dialed in, but it was crucial, a couple days of crucial rehearsal. MM: And it’d usually be he and I, one-on-one, and I always look forward to that. And so, that’s part of the j.k. livin philosophy right there. He’s a good friend, a guy I like to work with, a really talented director, somebody that [says], “I’m going to do the work, I’m going to be serious about it, but I like to have fun doing it.” I always have fun working with Rick, as well. There’s obviously the opportunity to do some research, one-on-one research, for this role. Did you have any resistance from some of the real-life people? Did you go out and seek them out? RL: I sought out Bernie himself. I started writing him just when it looked like the film was about to happen, and then I talked to Scrappy and Danny Buck, also. That was good getting to know Bernie. Jack wanted to go meet Bernie, so we did that, and I’m so glad we did. It confirmed a lot of what I felt. I went to the trial over 10 years ago, I was into it back then. I felt like I knew the guy just seeing him testify. The scene where he nails Bernie with the Les Miserables [pronounced "Lay Mis-Er-Ay-Bels"] and all that, that all, word for word, really happened. Matthew threw in a bunch of cool stuff around that. It’s tricky when you’re doing something based on real events, real people. I was concerned of the Nugent family and the survivors. You just dive in and be as accurate as you possibly can. What was it like to work with Skip [Hollandsworth] (Bernie screenwriter)? RL: Skip’s great. He’s a very beloved writer in these parts. It all started with him. Skip has that nose for an off-beat story and that’s what I responded to when I read the Texas Monthly article way back when. I know he’s involved with you writing the script, but was he involved with helping you developing the characters? Did you work with him at all? RL: No. I mean, I worked with him on a script level over the years, but he was around. He visited when he could. I consider him a partner all the way through. He had done so much research. He was great. I noticed that it was his first screenplay that he had ever written. Did you have to talk him into getting involved in that? RL: I think I have this way of just sort of pulling people into my world. I mean, most people, you option a story, and that’s it. Usually, you would never talk to the director, like some agent calls. But I called him directly and started talking about… You know, I grew up in East Texas. I was just talking about how much the story got to me, how much I liked it and thought, “I think that’s a movie. I really want to tell that story.” I think, subconsciously, I’ve been looking for an East Texas story. I had a football-related story I’ve been sort of trying to tell for years, but that hadn’t quite come to fruition, so this was just one more story I was trying to get told. I think it’s up to me to just include or not include, and I kept including him. Why wouldn’t I? He had so much good point[s] of view, and a good, appropriate, dark, twisted humor I think that this story lends itself to. The more collaborators, the better. Why did you want to use this sort of documentary-style of interviewing the characters, but they’re the actors playing the characters? RL: Well, the main characters aren’t interviewed. They are, but you’re talking about all the gossips, the townspeople. I just thought… having grown up in a small town, I hadn’t really seen that in a movie before. If you think about the story, it’s about how I receive the story: Mrs. Nugent gone, Bernie in prison not talking or on trial. You have no access to the two main players, right? So what are you in this world? You’re what everybody says you are. You hear it from a lot of different angles. And as I went through all of Skip’s interviews and his notes, I was reading a stack of his journalistic notes, that’s when it hit me. It’s like, “Gossips, yeah. It’s all people saying different things, their own experiences.” So, I got that little notion in my mind about gossips and thought that could tell the story. There are movies that do interviews, they just have a different angle. This is kind of right in the mix. You know, I went to that trial, I saw how people… you know, they’re excited. Gossip is fun. Socially, it’s kind of a lubricant for a town. It’s a small town thing. It’s human, but it’s especially strong in the small town, so I thought people would understand that. I never thought it was a documentary element, though obviously when you have someone speaking to the camera, it has that, but I just thought it was a storytelling device. I like the structure of the film: Light and whimsical in the beginning, then it kind of goes dark and macabre. When you were editing the film, was there… We concentrate on Jack Black’s character in the beginning, and then we introduce Matthew. Was there ever a point where we’d meet Matthew before the first 30 minutes? RL: No, he comes into the story… We had a couple bits where he comes in early. It was just interesting, because it’s like, “Well, that’s Matthew McConaughey. Is he just a townsperson?” It was when to bring him in, how to feather him into the story. There were a few things earlier I ended up not using and got it more on message. There were a few things I ended up shortening for that reason, but really, Danny Buck shows up kind of when he showed up in their lives. Matthew, how did he describe the story to you, because it can, just straight-up on paper, seem a bit really, really dark, and your kind of humor is a bit more whimsical, I suppose. When he described the story to you… MM: Have you seen Killer Joe? (Everybody laughs.) MM: Rick’s got a… When he pitched the story and when I read it, I was pretty much on tone. And I thought it was the funniest thing on paper that I had read that has his hand on it. I really thought it was very, very funny. There’s an innocence that Rick… there’s a bit of charm that you give to a place and a people. You did it in Dazed [and Confused]. You’re charming from it. There’s something charming about this movie, and there’s something innocent about that… attractive in that way, in that innocent, charming way. I never read this and thought, “Oh boy, that goes really…” I know it came from him after he pitched it to me for 50 minutes in his truck, and when I read it, I felt on pace with the tone. And really, I thought it was much more funny than I ever thought it was dark. I liked that it was dark comedy, but I was laughing more. RL: Yeah, that’s the appropriate tone, because I don’t really think it’s dark. I mean, it’s described as a dark comedy only because there’s a murder in it, and that’s the darkest subject you can imagine. But in Bernie’s life, he had a few seconds of darkness. I think really the tone is supposed to be… And then there’s the avoidance… denying for months. How exaggerated were the characters in the movie compared to their real-life counterparts? RL: You’ll see. Danny Buck’s going to be at the screening tonight. Matthew underplays him. Jack so nails the real Bernie. When we visited, he picked up his walk, he picked up the exact… He was kind of working on an accent thing, because we had some recordings of Bernie. He was going on, I have some videos of him, like a one hour church service he had lead. We had some recordings of, not only singing, but talking. Jack was kind of working on the accent a little bit, but when he finally met Bernie, we got to hang out with him for a few hours, [he] dialed in that last little bit. Was Shirley MacLaine’s character really that vicious in real life? RL: Oh yeah. Shirley was talking to Mrs. Nugent, too. Could you talk about your collaboration with Dick Pope (Bernie cinematographer)? He shoots a lot of Mike Leigh films. Didn’t he also shoot The Matrix? MM: No, he didn’t shoot The Matrix, no. Could you see Dick Pope doing The Matrix? RL: He’s worked with Matthew a couple of times. MM: Thirteen Conversations [About One Thing], yeah. RL: He’s a great guy, British DP. I worked with him on Me and Orson Welles in England. I just enjoyed the experience. He really responded to the script. We started talking about it, and yeah, he was able to come over. I hope to work with him again, but there’s no… It’s kind of like actors, there’s no long term… you know, when it’s right, it’s right. He seemed like the right, fun guy to get it done. I totally understood everything that the characters were saying, but sometimes you’ll see these British films, like a Ken Loach film, and they subtitle everything. And I’m thinking, “This film might be subtitled for the East and West Coast.” RL: I wonder if you have to. I had a friend in New York who saw it at a press screening. He called me up and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way,” a real New York guy, “but I thought I was watching a film from like another country or something.” I was like, “Eh, you kind of are.” Its otherness, even in Texas where I live, it’s another country, isn’t it? MM: Absolutely. That scene with the breaking down of the states. That was hilarious. RL: I had that in my mind for years. I had always wanted to do that in a movie because if you live here and have friends elsewhere, they don’t know Texas, and it’s hard to describe, it’s impossible. They say, “Oh, did you grow up in…” They think you’re in a John Wayne movie. I say, “No, I grew up in the East. It’s all woods.” They go, “Huh? There’s trees in Texas?!” And there’s South Texas, there’s all these different sections. I had been wanting to kind of break that down in a funny way. I remember seeing that postcard as a kid, did you ever see that, how a Texan sees the country? It was a postcard like in the 70s and that stayed on my mind. Texas goes all the way to Canada and the other states are squeezed all around it. So when we were working on that graphic, I went, “Oh yeah!” I did want to talk to you [Matthew] a little about how it came about, and what it was like working with your Mother. MM: This is the guy to ask this! He’s done this in The Newton Boys; he hired my oldest brother, Rooster, and put us in a scene together. So Mom tells me she went to audition and goes, “Rick said he thinks I’m just right for it.” I go, “Alright.” So a couple weeks go by and I go, “So… did you get the part?” She’s like, “Well, I mean Rick said I was just right.” I go, “No no no, that’s what a director says when they like it in the room, but did he say, ‘You’ve got the part?’” She goes, “…no, no he didn’t.” I said, “You may be getting a callback. You better get ready to get out there some more.” So I get her pumped up. She keeps working, and I work with her one night. She’s walking around at any given time for a week saying her, “Weeeeell maaaaaaybe.” I’m working with her and stuff and telling her, “Don’t worry about the lines, just relax and be yourself, and that’s what Rick is probably going to like the most, too.” I don’t remember exactly how it went down, but you finally said yes, you gave her the formal yes. And everything went notched up. Then she’s in the movie, that’s great… RL: Here’s the punch line. MM: But then, I got a scene where I’m in the café one day and old cat here, sneaky cat here, who’s sitting next to me in the scene? He puts my Mom in the scene right there next to me. RL: It was in the script. It took him awhile to notice. MM: But there were all kinds of different townies. RL: But once I assigned names to all of that… you had to do a lot of math and go, “Oh wait!” MM: I had no idea until she was sitting there. He got my brother and I in one film, and now he got Mom and I. I don’t think he’ll have too much luck getting the middle brother. RL: One more brother to go. Patrick will be good. Kay (McCabe, McConaughey’s Mom) would say, “Hey, I got a part for you.” She’s been trying to get into every Matthew film. She wanted to re-do The Graduate with you early on. She was going to play… Mrs. Robinson?! Well that’s twisted. RL: She thought that was a good idea. When I finally cast her, she’s like, “Well, at least someone appreciates my talents.” MM: And tonight, I’ll be there having a great time. What did she say to you after Killer Joe? MM: I don’t want to spend too much time on that because we only got our 20 minutes here. She liked it. What did she say? I don’t think she said too much interesting about that, I don’t think. I think she was just like, “You bad. Oh, you bad. Matthew, you’re no good. You bad.” Were you looking for a real change of pace from the lovable, romantic leading guy? MM: Sort of, just a different chapter, same book. I’ll probably do some more of those again. They’re fun in a very different kind of way. I just wanted to go… and it actually ended up five films I’ve done, with this one being the second in a row, they’re all independents. So the material was much more attractive, the budgets were much lower, but working on them was just so much fun. RL: What artist isn’t looking for a change? Have you screened this in Carthage, TX? RL: No, not yet. We’re going to sometime. We’re hoping to get a screening at the prison where Bernie’s in. I’ve talked to the warden; she’s kind of up for it. I hope we get the chance. I know that Some Came Running was one of your favorite films and you’re finally getting to work with Shirley MacLaine. Surely, you had to bounce some thoughts off of her from that film. RL: No, not until months after we had worked together. When you’re working with someone with such a career… I never asked any questions, but she would offer things, and I was all ears. She wants to talk about [Alfred] Hitchcock, or Billy Wilder, or Bob Fosse, or anything, I’m like, “Oh!” But I wasn’t going to be one of those, “Oh, tell me…” Someone with a career like that, she’s got her stories and she’s got her own experiences, but I wanted her to concentrate on Mrs. Nugent. I wanted her very much in the present. It’s just a weird thing sometimes. Months later, I called her up because we were showing Some Came Running, and she told me everything.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Flixclusive Interview: Kirsten Sheridan (Dollhouse)

Mar 19 // Geoff Henao
Geoff Henao: How was the premiere on Saturday [March 10th]? Kirsten Sheridan: It was good. It’s a different kind of crowd, because I’ve been in Berlin, but I’ve found everyone pretty open and kind of welcoming, I guess. And they didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas of what it should or shouldn’t be. It was kind of refreshing. GH: That’s what I’ve noticed about people here. Everyone’s really happy to be watching these movies. The culture here, everyone’s really into films. Back home, it’s not really the same. You have the film crowds, but you know… “Let me ask this director some arbitrary question about the movie.” Everyone here actually cares, they feel it. KS: Yeah, they really do. And people said that to me, and I was going, “Yeah yeah yeah…” But then you get here and you go, “Oh yeah, it’s true.” GH: And they have places like the Alamo [Drafthouse Cinemas] where they mandate those super strict rules. It kind of shows… it’s a reflection of Austin as a movie community. KS: Yeah, exactly. I actually had fun, which is weird for me at a screening because you’re usually just biting your nails. You go, “Is that person walking out or going to the bathroom? Oh, they’re going to the bathroom.” You feel like running out after them, “Are you going to the bathroom?” GH: About the film, you guys just used an outline for the script? KS: Yeah, 15-page outline. Essentially, I didn’t want to work with a traditional script because I had been doing that for the previous two years, and I made two other movies very traditionally. I just wanted this to be about a free-fall kind of roller coaster about someone who gives up control. I kind of thought if that’s what I wanted the subject matter to be, I better make the process reflect the subject matter. GH: That’s good. That’s a really good pitch. KS: I’m usually a total control freak, but I thought it’d be great to have the characters speak in their own voices and their own words. So we did a lot of improv and I sent them away for a week on their own and gave them a video camera and they had to interview each other every night. They were allowed to answer as themselves or their characters, but they basically just got to know each other and bonded and ask questions that you’d never ask someone you just met the day before. It was like a crazy therapy session complete with a lot of beer. GH: In your notes, I’m sure you had bullet points for each character’s development. KS: Well, I didn’t even have it for character development. I only had bullet points for the plot. We kind of built the characters a couple of months before we shot and in this very strange way, they reflected what was in my mind for them, but they came up with it. It was a very strange group dynamic that happened. It was kind of life imitating art and characters crossing over into real life and that kind of stuff. I hope some of that authenticity translates onto the screen. GH: Can you pinpoint any specific scenes or moments you didn’t have in the outline that helped aid the script? Was there anything they brought to the film that changed it in a positive way?  KS: Yeah, let me think. One of them turned up one day… he had been in a fight, so he had a lot of bruises, so that became a part of the story. I thought, “Right, we’re going to have makeup issues. Let’s just make it a part of the story.” One of the actors auditioned for one of the parts of the group of kids, but he wasn’t from that area, so I didn’t want to cast him. He had a bit of an edge, so I ended up casting him as the nice boy. So it was good, then, that he was able to turn around and become violent himself. I guess I saw that hint to that in the audition. Then another one of the actors, instead of auditions, I’d go on really long lunches with them. One of them told me about suicide, just about someone close to him, so it all fitted in like a jigsaw. The themes came together. I didn’t take things directly from their lives or what they said, but it kind of circulated it. It circled around for a lot of the themes because it’s a pretty delicate moral line to walk. If someone says, “Oh, something happened to me,” that you put it right in hard and right there, unexposed. So it was more that I try and fit it in, you know, in the background, in the unconscious life of the film. GH: The movie didn’t really go into backstory a lot. It pointed out certain things, and they did mention Jeannie had run away a year prior to coming back to the house. Did you have a backstory in mind, at least for her character? KS: At one point, I had a whole idea of a backstory that she had a dead younger brother, and that’s why she runs away, and that’s why her family came apart. I thought if I’m going to do a film that I have a lot of freedom to take risks, then why not NOT do that? Because it seemed a bit neat and a bit easy, you know? I’ve seen it before. And it also made me think you might not like her because you think, “God, don’t be so selfish.” There’s life and death going on, and you kind of really just checked out. I did think at one point she would open the door and we’d see kids toys and kind of know, but then I just thought, “Oh, then it becomes a movie kind of like Rachel Getting Married, a movie about a girl getting over the death of someone,” whereas in actual fact, teenagers are just selfish, you know what I mean? They are just self-obsessed. I don’t mean selfish, I just mean self-obsessed. The whole growing up process can be so delayed until you’re 40. It’s about realizing you’re part of something bigger and things like that. I guess it’s just about my arrested development. GH: So would you say there are elements of yourself in Jeannie, then? KS: Yeah, there are elements of myself in every one of the characters. I think that’s the writer’s self-obsession there. But it was more looking at the younger generation and seeing how lost and disconnected they are, and maybe there’s a bit of that in me, too, and I was just seeing the reflection of that heightened in them. Because when I grew up, there were things that were solid, like the government and the church in Ireland. And those things have crumbled completely, so you go, “Where does that leave people that’s on total shifting sands and they’ve got nothing to hold them steady and hold them still?” Apparently, everyone’s really connected through social media and mobile phones, but they’re not connected; they’re totally disconnected at the same time. It’s just a fascinating world and I wanted to dip my toe into it. GH: There are a lot of scenes where it gets pretty violent amongst the kids. Would you say that’s a product of the partying, or is that just their relationship? KS: I think a bit of both, really. I think if you’re from a very tough neighborhood and that’s normality… What I find fascinating when I go down to those neighborhoods is how people use language, and they say things like, “Oh, how are you? Do you want a cup of tea? Oh, your man is up in hospital with a broken neck because of that fight. Do you take sugar?” GH: So it just comes up casually then. KS: Casual and normal, and you realize that’s their actual life. That’s the same with me having small talk. So it’s that, but when you also put drink and drugs in the mix, I have been at many nights that go from people hugging each other to them fist fighting then to them hugging each other again. There’s no logic, and that’s kind of the point. GH: Jeannie does come from a very affluent lifestyle and then she is able to enjoy the group, but she’s still not exactly a part of the group at the same time. How does her character mesh along with them? KS: Well, I think she’s playing a part, and she’s been playing a part for the whole year she’s with them. I think her problem is she’s probably been playing a part for 18 years. So she’s not sure who the hell she is. I think she was trying on this skin for the last year, and I think she realizes she needs to figure out which mask is real or if there’s anything behind the mask. They’re all wearing masks. They all lie to each other. The only thing that’s true is what they do. GH: So her conflict is internal, whereas everyone else’s is external from where they grew up. KS: Mmhmm. And that’s pretty tough to play, I think, because you can just seem really ethereal and enigma-like, and that can get on people’s nerves after awhile. So trying to keep the sympathy with her and the empathy was a challenge. GH: How do you feel about people who externalize their pain versus those who are able to keep it in? Who do you think is stronger of the two groups? KS: I guess when you keep it in, it’s probably initially stronger, but possibly more damaging for you in the long run because it’s got to come out somewhere, so it’s going to come out in some perverse way if it doesn’t come out directly. I think sometimes the stronger you try and be, the more damage you do to yourself. I guess that’s what the movie is, she has this hidden secret and it insists on coming out. And that’s better for her in the end. GH: How long did the shoot go for? KS: 21 days. GH: Where there any major problems in shooting? KS: No, the shoot was the most fun, and I never had fun on a set shooting because you kind of feel you’re just, when you have a script and storyboard, that you’re just executing that. Whereas with this it was like, “Well, how are they going to react today to this surprise? Who’s going to freak out?” It was much more fun because it was a live process, but then the edit was hell. You have to pay for it somewhere. GH: You revealed the twists as they came along. Did you tell them before you started shooting? Or exactly how did that happen? KS: Kind of like, “Turn over, roll camera, action.” And then the doorbell would ring and they’d all go, “Oh my god, who the fuck is this? What the hell?” So they knew absolutely nothing. It was all on camera, first reactions. They only knew what they were supposed to know in that moment. GH: Were there any problems with those revelations and having to reshoot because of some technical thing? KS: Well, yeah. I found it difficult. I shot so much and such long takes that it was cards vs. drives. So that was a nightmare. But for those reveals, we ended up with two cameras, one on the person coming usually and one on the other. But then we’d have to do more takes for the coverage where they knew what was happening. GH: But it’s hard to catch that initial reaction. KS: Yeah, with the initial reaction, we were lucky we didn’t have any technical problems with them, but they would do things, like when she came up and said it was her house, they at first were totally shocked, and then they started being like, “Oh my god, you look so nice in that dress,” because they’re actually friends. They’d forget to act, and I’d be like, “Guys!” What generally ended up happening was that we’d use the first half of the first take, and then in the edit, I’d end up using the more constructed, directed [scenes] after the initial blow. GH: That’s a good way to cover. Were there any SPECIFIC moments you took from your own life? Like have you ever had huge parties like this? KS: This is the thing, I never have, and I think I wanted to, so I had to do it on film instead. I’m trying to think… In some ways, there are things I think I would do, like if a pigeon flew into a window, I probably would paint all the windows. GH: I heard that the house you use was your parents’ house. How was that? KS: That’s how we decided to make the whole story because I had this house and my parents were going away. Me and my Dad were making a movie at the time over here. This is the first movie to come out of a place called The Factory in Ireland, which is a filmmakers’ collective run, by me and two other directors. And I said to one of the directors, “We have this house. Why don’t you make a film in it?” And he said, “Well, it’s your house. You better make the film.” So I’m not from where that house is, it’s from a very affluent suburb, and I’m not from there so I decided I couldn’t write about people I don’t know. So I decided to write about the type of people I do know and have the clash of cultures. GH: So when you say it’s your parents’ house, were they living in it? Not at the time, but they lived there? So all that destruction you guys caused…? KS: We had to put it all back and make it nice again. GH: I really liked the bedroom scene where they flip everything upside down. That was a good touch. What made you think of doing that? KS: It was inspired by a short story about a breakup where a man and a woman were breaking up and she actually glued herself to the ceiling as a joke because he was saying something about the glue not working. It was just a really small moment, and I thought it was really defiant and yet funny at the same time and really made a good statement. Obviously, it’s symbolic and that she’s turning her world upside down with this night. I just wanted to have a bit of fun, really, because a lot of the movie is intense.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

SXSW 2012: Best, Worst, and the Rest of the Fest

Mar 19 // Allistair Pinsof
Killer Joe is an outrageously disturbing film full of sex and violence mixed together in a juicy dark DARK comedy shell. Friedkin and Letts are very, very twisted men. Depending on your interests, you'll either appreciate everything they two of them were able to translate into the film, or you'll absolutely hate everything and wonder what happened to traditional films. But seriously, Killer Joe is like an exploitation film without feeling like one. [Read the Full Review] I came into SXSW highly anticipating Safety Not Guaranteed and I didn't leave the theater disappointed. Anchored by a very strong performance by Plaza that will hopefully be earmarked as her breakout role, Safety Not Guaranteed is able to find that perfect mix between comedy and heartfelt character relationships. [Read the Full Review] If you're familiar with Flixist, you'll know that I tend to stray away from horror films. Simply put, they're not my type of films. However, what Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were able to accomplish with Cabin in the Woods just might have converted me, if only for the time being. The film was able to successfully and creatively twist and exploit the very characteristic tropes and cliches that make up the foundation of the horror genre, and portray them in a way that could potentially change the way horror films are made. That might be hyperbolic, but if Cabin in the Woods clicks with the right people, it could very well be the beginning of a new wave of horror films. [Read the Full Review] The Comedy may be a challenging film, but it's one of the few character studies that has a clear focus and entertaining hook that will keep you invested. Heidecker was the perfect actor for this project. When he looks past his surroundings, you believe him. Sometimes making a joke is all you can do in a bad situation. For Swanson, life in its entirety is a bad situation. [Read the Full Review] As film-goers, we want to believe an interesting story. The more bizarre and true, the better. The Imposter is a tricky, manipulative film fully aware of audience expectations. It gives the audience exactly what it wants, while constantly shifting directions and tone. By its end, I couldn’t help but smile at how well all parties have been duped, including myself. [Read the Full Review] Cabin in the Woods isn’t the movie you may expect it to be. It also doesn’t end up being the movie that the opening 15 minutes hints at. It’s rare that a movie continuously plays against expectations in this day and age, but writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard manage to pull this off through spirited, bold writing. Behind the deconstruction of horror tropes, the two touch upon truly heavy material that asks us to question the nature of our enjoyment of horror and the cost of ending human suffering. The film is also full of moments of genuine tension, horrific spectacle, and attempts at humor so twisted and bizarre that you can’t help but laugh. [Read the Full Review] [Rec] 3: GenesisDirectors: Paco Plaza While fans have groaned at [Rec] 3’s departure from being a purely found-footage film, they should really be griping about its director. Without Jaume Balagueró, who co-directed the previous films, [Rec] 3 director Paco Plaza is lost. Instead of creating another uncomfortably intimate horror film, he has created one of the most tonally confused, brashly directed horror films I’ve seen in some time. It’s a bloody mess but not exclusively in the way a horror fan might expect. [Read the Full Review] Crazy EyesDirector: Adam Sherman The problem with Crazy Eyes is that it's just too real. Because of this, it's a bit uncomfortable to watch. The best way to describe it is that there isn't any "movie magic" to save it; that is to say, there aren't any normal movie thematics or elements that would influence the plot to heighten the protagonist's likability. I'm not against realistic films at all, it's just that the majority of them have enough of a separation between art and life. Crazy Eyes was ambitious in countering this, but the end result is just messy and bad. [Read the Full Review] The Raid [91] *Editors' Choice*21 Jump Street [89] *Editors' Choice*V/H/S [86] *Editors' Choice*Sinister [81]Indie Game: The Movie [78]Girl Model [78]Compliance [75]Extracted [75]Shut Up and Play the Hits [70]Los Chidos [70]Casa de Mi Padre [68]John Dies at the End [65]Dollhouse [65]Intruders [58]God Bless America [57]frankie go boom [50]Bernie [47] Video Interview: Intruders director Juan FresnadilloInterview: The Girls of Cabin in the WoodsInterview: Cabin in the Woods actor Jesse WilliamsInterview: Cabin in the Woods' Jenkins and WhitfordInterview: Writer and director of Safety Not GuaranteedFlixclusive Interview: Kirsten Sheridan (Dollhouse)Interview: Matthew McConaughey and Richard LinklaterInterview: Jake M. Johnson and Karan SoniInterview: Jack Black (Bernie)Interview: Aubrey Plaza and Mark DuplassFlixclusive Interview: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Los Chidos)A photo collection... kind ofFlixist's Ten Most Anticipated SXSW 2012 Films
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Against all odds, Geoff and I survived SXSW and managed to actually get some work done as well! Between fine dining (Geoff says this Jack in the Box place has the most authentic burger in the city!) and late night parties, we also saw a great number of movies and conducted an insane amount of interviews at SXSW. Read on to see our SXSW 2012 exclusives, highlights, lowlights, and inbetweens.

Interview: Writer and director of Safety Not Guaranteed

Mar 19 // Geoff Henao
Talk a little bit about how you created the characters. Derek Connolly: I wrote Aubrey’s character specifically for her. I didn’t know her before, but I kind of drew what I thought she was sort of like from what I’ve seen from her previous stuff. The Jeff character is probably… actually, all four main characters are probably different aspects of my personality. If you add them all together, you get me, but I’m a little bit of all of them.  Colin Trevorrow: I offered him a detailed analysis of that on a chalkboard. Like this is really separated into four quadrants. You said last night [Safety Not Guaranteed’s premiere on 3/10/2012] that you guys have been working together for quite awhile. Does that mean this idea has been floating around for awhile as well? This specific film? CT: No, this came from… I think it was two summers ago. DC: 2009? CT: This came from him and he was on vacation and I was actually hanging out with Aubrey [Plaza] in Montreal, we share a manager, and so I told him I was hanging out with Aubrey Plaza and he had just seen Funny People and he had seen this ad, and all of those sort of came together. He took a spin on this. What amazes me about Derek’s script is when you read that classified ad, you could see that as, tonally, a very different movie: a guy with a shotgun traveling through time fighting dinosaurs. Maybe it’d be funny, but it’s not our movie. And he just instinctively saw a very, very different, very melancholy and sweet take on that language, on that ad. And that’s what the movie is, and this script is shot… It’s not verbatim, we found a lot of moments as we shot it, but all those lines, everything that Kenneth says is word-for-word on the page. But it did literally start with that ad, though? It was an actual ad that you actually saw. In what paper and when did you see that, and how did that sort of evolve? DC: Jay Leno claims I saw it on his headlines. I did not know. I saw it on the Internet because it came this joke where people were making parody videos and they put it to that song, “Push It to the Limit,” and just added the mullet man guy. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, it’s a guy with a mullet and he looks dead serious, and they put it next to the ad. So there’s all this stuff happening, and I saw it, and I thought it was hilarious and funny, but also kind of sad and I just wondered, “What if this guy’s for real?” And all these people are making fun of him, so the whole thing started from that. Did anybody ever find the originator of the ad? CT: Yeah, I did. DC: He’s in the movie. Oh really?  CT: Well, that was a big part of this. When we took this package to Big Beach as producers, we got all the actors and we brought Mark and Jay [Duplass] on board and part of the source material was that we had to track down the writer of the ad. We optioned it like a novel or anything else, like just a piece of literary work. And John writes for a survivalist libertarian magazine called, “Backwards Home,” out of Oregon. He does bring his own weapons wherever he goes. He brought a gun to our first lunch; he was strapped. He came to Sundance. I got to call him out in front of 1200 people. He got a big applause. It was really good. What was his initial reaction when you went to him and said you wanted to make a movie off his ad? CT: He just told me to fuck off. Basically, he really did NOT trust me at all. So how did you win him over? CT: I kept calling and kept calling and was just really persistent. And I think it was almost a year from when I first contacted him. I live in Vermont, and so he was in New Hampshire, and I met him for lunch. It was just a very slow process of getting him to see I wasn’t some Hollywood douchebag that was going to ruin it  and that we really respected it on a level where we’re not going to make fun of the character he created. And also, just convincing him that this is his legacy, this thing, and it’s something that’s important that he created. Now that he’s seen the movie, he gets it, but at the time, he thought we were just guys who were going to make fun of him. He’s kind of like Kenneth, in a lot of ways; he thought we were going to mock him in the same way that people who’ve used it before. They put it in video games, like there’s World of Warcraft “safety not guaranteed” stuff, like it’s sort of permeated the internet in this way that makes him feel like people sort of stole his idea. My pitch to him was, “We’re not going to steal it. We’re going to write for an option, we’re going to pay you money, and we’re going to respect it in the way that it should be respected. But you didn’t need his approval though, right? Because this is not his story, outside of this [premise]. DC: It’s kind of a shady legal territory. So there’s copyright issues or something? CT: Well, it was copyrighted, but our thing was more that, as writers, we respect writing. And there was a little story in that. Whether or not we legally had to do it or not, we just felt that it was the right thing to do. Were any of his characteristics used to create Kenneth’s character? You said he was kind of standoff-ish a bit. CT: I think that’s embedded into the ad ‘cause that’s his personality, like the way it was written is the way that he thinks. I don’t know if you went to any of us and said, “Alright, write a classified ad about how you want someone to travel back in time with you.” I don’t know if any of us would think, “Okay, you got to bring your own weapons.” Like… that’s your first instinct. He’s also a guy who just really wants a girlfriend, like when you meet him. That’s kind of what he’s always… his comment to me when we showed it at Sundance at the Eccles [Theatre] is, “If I had known you were going to call me out in front of everyone, I would have brought a woman.” I think he just wants to be loved, and there’s a lot of that in Kenneth, too. And yeah, there are pieces. Later on in the film, time travel becomes secondary very much. I would imagine that’s intentional as well, the time travel gets pushed into the background in favor of the relationships and human story. That’s kind of the idea. DC: It was always about the character and the relationships. Time travel is just sort of this concept that thematically tied things together, but wasn’t really about time travel. It seems it’s more about the type of person who would want to and thinks they could time travel. CT: I think it’s about how all of us wish we had a time machine sometimes. We all have regrets, we all have things we wished we had done differently. I think it’s a very universal want to go back and treat someone better or make a different choice. I think that, in the end, all these characters need a time machine for a different reason. I’ve seen it happen, like people latch on to different characters and care more about Kenneth’s story or care more about Jeff’s story, and hopefully we created four people who have different enough reasons to need that emotionally that everyone will find a piece of themselves in the movie. Moving aside from the film, which time period would you guys go back to and why? DC: I would go back 15 billion years and just see how it all started. I’m a science nerd, I want to watch it all happen and see evolution. That’s what I’d go watch. Just kind of see everything first-hand.  So no place in your life? You’d just go back beyond it? DC: Yeah, my life’s boring. Like there’s so much stuff that happened before I was born. Nothing awesome has happened to me, so… CT: I’d go to the future. I’m one of those people who will want to live as long as possible just to see what happens. I would go 50 years ahead and see what’s going on. Hopefully, we’re all still here. Hovercrafts? CT: Yeah, I’d be on board a hovercraft. [This interview has been edited and truncated to eliminate any possible spoilers.]
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

SXSW Review: frankie go boom

Mar 16 // Geoff Henao
frankie go boomDirector: Jordan RobertsRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD After his brother, Bruce (Chris O'Dowd), is released from rehab 90 days sober, Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) believes their relationship can become much stronger than it has been (especially because of Bruce's knack for filming and uploading embarrassing events of Frankie's life onto the Internet). After Frankie meets Lassie (Lizzy Caplan) one night, the two attempt to do sex awkwardly. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that Bruce has the shack bugged with cameras. Once Frankie and Bruce realize that Lassie is the daughter of a famed, albeit washed-up actor (Chris Noth), they must go to desperate lengths to ensure he doesn't find out, the least of which including getting help from a transgendered hacker, Phyllis (Ron Perlman). The biggest draw for frankie go boom is Ron Perlman in drag. However, after the initial shock, which admittedly lasts for awhile, you realize that the film doesn't do much to separate itself from any other raunchy comedy. Every character fits into archetypes that have been staples of the comedy genre for years: Frankie is the sympathetic protagonist; Bruce is the asshole antagonist that honestly means well; Lassie is the quirky love interest that tries to fit into the overall scheme; and Phyllis is the wacky side character that is almost always destined to steal the show from the others. Even if frankie go boom doesn't change the direction of the genre, at least it's funny, right? Well.. the film definitely has some moments, but they're not very memorable. Again, outside of seeing Perlman in drag, nothing really sticks out. It's unfortunate, too, because with a vast of this pedigree, you'd assume it'd be funnier than it actually turned out to be. This isn't a knock against any of the actors, though. In fact, Caplan steals some of the spotlight from the others herself with her performance. She's still a bit of an unknown actress to general audiences, so it's good to see her catch a role that could give her more exposure. frankie go boom should have been funnier than what it ended up being. With comedies, the real laughs are in the risks that are made. While it did take a successful risk with Perlman, the one-note gimmick wasn't enough to carry the entirety of the film. It's still, however, a light comedy with a happy ending that might attract general audiences. However, if you're looking for something more, you won't find it here.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

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[From Mar. 8 to 17, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of t...

SXSW Review: Casa de Mi Padre

Mar 16 // Geoff Henao
[embed]207511:37934[/embed] Casa de Mi PadreDirector: Matt PiedmontRating: RRelease Date: March 16th, 2012 Casa de Mi Padre is a satirical take on the telenovela where a Mexican rancher, Armando (Will Ferrell) is embroiled in a struggle involving family, love, and drugs. His brother, Raul (Diego Luna) is a financial businessman that returns to the family's ranch owned by their father (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.) with his fiancee, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Armando is the black sheep of the family, so to speak, as he is more interested in nature and love rather than business and "masculine" things. However, when it turns out that Raul's business is actually revealed to be involved with drugs, their lives are put in danger as the local drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), is not ready to lose his turf to Raul. The main draw with Casa de Mi Padre is the fact that 99% of the film is spoken completely in Spanish, with the main gimmick surrounding Ferrell's performance. His Spanish delivery is equatable to high school Spanish. That's not to say it's bad, but rather, writer Andrew Steele and director Matt Piedmont wanted the translation to be as loose as possible to accentuate the comedy. I'm not the biggest fan of Ferrell, but this performance ranks in maybe the Top 10 of his performances. However, that's not to say Casa de Mi Padre is a sure hit. When the film is funny, it's absolutely hysterical. There's a bit of a running gag where Armando and his two friends, Esteban (Efren Ramirez) and Manuel (Adrian Martinez), will crack a joke, laugh softly, but extend the laugh longer than necessary. For some reason, the subtle laughter cracked me up every time it happened. It's the type of borderline "stupid" comedy that Ferrell is known for, but legitimately funny. The problem, though, is that there are long lapses of funny scenes through the film. Again, when they're on point, it's great, but you'll find yourself waiting for that next hilarious scene... which might keep you waiting longer than you'd want to.  There are other little gags thrown in, like animatronic puppets, low budget film splices, and a few "music videos" that fit the telenovela theme. They're cute. The performances aren't gonna blow you away. The fact that Ferrell had to perform in Spanish actually helps "confine" his typical outrageous way of acting. It essentially anchors him down. Nick Offerman, who plays a minor role as an American DEA agent investigating the drug business in Mexico, is a great, though admittedly underused, character in the film. I wished they utilized him more, but I understand that that would have taken too much away from the rest of the primary cast. Casa de Mi Padre fits in somewhere between Anchorman and Talladega Nights in terms of Ferrell's filmography; it's nowhere near as funny as Anchorman, but it's definitely a lot better than Talladega Nights. It'll prove to be a fun, light comedy that most comedy fans will enjoy... just don't expect anything too surprising or beyond the typical comedic formula. Simply enjoy the gimmick for what it is.  
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

SXSW Review: Girl Model

Mar 15 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]207470:37919[/embed]Girl ModelDirectors: David Redmon, Ashley SabinRating: NRRelease Date: TBATokyo and Siberia couldn’t be more different but a thriving modeling industry connects the two. Tokyo’s fashion industry loves young, pale girls and Siberia is full of them. By young, I mean way really young. These aren’t only 13-year-old girls. These are 13-year-old girls that look like 10-year-old girls. Some Japanese cliches are true, after all. Nadya is the latest in line to be plucked by Switch Models agency and sent to Japan. Far from being the cynical, arrogant girl you imagine a young model to be, Nadya is a sweet, earnest girl who states that beauty comes from having compassion. Her family lives in poverty, as do most girls in her neighborhood. She, however, is the only one who will be pulling in thousands of dollars for her family. At least, that’s what she is told. Though Nadya’s parents are concerned about her trip -- her mother makes a rather creepy comment about keeping things “nice and tidy” -- the outcome is worth it: two modeling jobs and $8,000 guaranteed. Except, it’s not really guaranteed. Nadya finds herself lost in Tokyo, not knowing English or Japanese. She gets a small amount of work, but never sees the pay. Even worse, she is in debt by the end of her trip. It’s all part of Switch Model’s plan, however. They depend on having these models in debt to them, so they can continue to use them.Switch Models model recruiter Ashley Arbaugh is our guide to the other side of the industry. She is a wonderfully manic subject that adds some much needed variety to Girl Model’s rather dour subject matter. Arbaugh is a bit of a nutcase, which may be due to her years spent as a depressed model in Japan. These days, she travels around hiring foreign models for Tokyo fashion groups. Arbaugh’s camcorder diaries of her 1999 Japan trip give some depth to her character. These days she is numb to the exploitation she inflicts on others. She knows these girls are destined for debt and even checks up on them on their way to failure. Her quirky, humorous attitude makes her strangely endearing. Her actions are reproachable, but she’s a hard person not to love.Girl Model barely touches upon prostitution and the lives of the truly hopeless models. Rather, it shows what the life of a Russian model in Japan is like. It's beautifully shot and reveals a world that few know about. It's very fair in its representation of all parties involved. It's one of the most interesting and exciting documentaries I've seen this year.
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[From Mar. 8 to 17, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the ...

SXSW Review: Los Chidos

Mar 15 // Geoff Henao
Los ChidosDirector: Omar Rodriguez-LopezRating: TBDCountry: Mexico Los Chidos is about the Gonzalez family, a tight-knit family living in a small Mexican town. Their daily routine consists of laying around at a garage the Padre owns, eating special tacos the Madre makes for them. However, their routine is derailed when an American man, Kim, stumbles upon the garage in need of a tire. At first resistant and cold, the family warms up to Kim, essentially taking him in as one of their own. However, each member of the family is involved in some sort of "social taboo," categorizing them into a defined role in which they play. The roles as defined in the film are extreme caricatures of various characters found in society. The character I believe to be one of the most pivotal of the film is The Exploiter, a neighbor of the Gonzalez family that is very abusive to his girlfriend. Yet, he constantly apologizes for his missteps. Secretly, however, he is a cross dresser in a relationship with another man where he himself plays the submissive, "female" role in the relationship. This is a prime example of the extremities Rodriguez-Lopez brings the film, as well as the type of social themes he's analyzing with Los Chidos. To add to the satirical nature of the film is Rodriguez-Lopez' decision to not retain any live sound from filming. Rather, he chose to add dialogue in post-production, sometimes mixing women for male characters, older actors for younger characters, etc. This choice was made to not only accentuate the satirical nature of the film, but to also bring attention to the dialogue and verbal themes that Rodriguez-Lopez was attempting to focus on. However, while it's ambitious and fits the goal that he's striving for, it ends up being too distracting within the confines of how film works. It definitely takes you out of the fantasy that films usually try to do, instead making it VERY apparent that what you're doing is watching a film. I think that might be the problem with Los Chidos. Rodriguez-Lopez is VERY ambitious with the themes he's exploring, but such deep analysis is sometimes undercut with how exaggerated and over-the-top the film is. The basis of a good satire is to find an extreme way to analyze social problems. What Rodriguez-Lopez is analyzing are gender roles and the misogynistic tendencies in male-dominated families, but they're contrasted with some extremely graphic scenes.  It's admittedly hard to review Los Chidos because there's so much in the film that Rodriguez-Lopez is using to formulate his thoughts. It's a bit entertaining, sure, but there are harrowing elements, like the dubbed voice-overs, that can distract you and possibly take away from the "film experience." Los Chidos definitely isn't for everyone; it caters more towards the art-house crowd that can appreciate the deeper elements that Rodriguez-Lopez is analyzing. For everybody else, there might be some entertaining qualities found within Los Chidos... just don't be put-off by how off-putting it can be.
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: The Girls of Cabin in the Woods

Mar 15 // Allistair Pinsof
There’s a lot of weird scenes in the film but the one that stuck with me was the scene with you making out with a stuffed wolf. What was your reaction when you first came across that scene in the script?Anna Hutchison: I didn’t know if it was going to be a real wolf. When I was reading it, I didn’t know if the wolf would come alive and attack me. So that was a real page-turner for me! I didn’t even know if I would ever want to make out with a wolf. Who know I’d get a co-star with a wolf and it would be the best kisser I ever had in a film? That wolf is up there. If you ever need a co-star: WOLFIE!Kristen Connolly: Frankly, I’d like to make-out with a wolf!AH: Especially if it’s with a bit of tongue -- and it was! Was it weird having Drew Goddard direct you during that scene?AH: He was like, “What do you wanna do Anna? Go for it! More tongue, less tongue, this way, that way." It was all very technical stuff. It was very fun! Probably only had to do three takes but I wanted to do 50.KC: It was like a full day of shooting! (laughs)Joss has such an oddball sense of humor in this film. Was it difficult to tell which lines should be read for laughs or be delivered a bit more seriously?KC: I think you just commit 100-percent and trust these guys are the best and that you will be taken care of. Some of what makes it funny is that we are playing it straight. AH: It’s kind of funny that playing it straight makes it easier to laugh, but if you ham it up it’s just like … no! The film was shot and shelved in 2009. How did it personally effect you to not know if it ever would reach theaters?KC: It’s kind of frustrating because we all knew how great of an experience it was and how awesome of a movie it was going to be. You just want people to see it. I want my family and friends to be in the theaters and able see it. I think it ended up being the perfect situation. It’s perfect it ended up with Lionsgate and at SXSW. AH: For me, it was just exciting to film it. You never know about distribution stuff. The rest is up to the other guys. My job is to just do the acting.When you see the film now, does it feel like revisiting a hazy memory?AH: No, because it was a good time; you remember that stuff, and every time we catch up we are like, "Ahhh, do you remember when this happened?"KC: It’s been such a cool past couple days. You see the film and you go, “Oh god, I totally forgot about that thing!” Even some of the parts that are really scary, I remember we were cracking up during and couldn’t film because we were laughing so hard. Joss Whedon has a real knack for creating a group of characters that form a strong relationship over the course of a series. How was the bonding process like during pre-production?AH: It was cool. We were all staying at the same place, so we’d hang out. Everyone just got on straight away.KC: Really easily. We are a friendly and fun group of people so we gelled really easily. We were always doing crazy things during the day for two weeks of training. Jesse and I had scuba diving training together. So, you get close to people very fast.It seems Joss and Drew went out of their way to make the decision-making of the characters very rational in the script. Did you ever say, “This is stupid! I would never do that!” while reading earlier versions of the script?AH: No way! If you are given something by Joss and Drew you go, "This is gold right here!" There are many projects I work on that get revised and stuff as the production goes on, but this was good from the start. KC: Almost nothing changed in the script. The only thing that changed, if anything, was edits to keep the script tight. If that was you in the cabin, would you have done anything different?KC: It’s hard to say. I like to think I would do things well. The film is really hard to discuss without getting into spoilers. How was it originally pitched to you?AH: I have the same problem! Someone was like what are you doing? "It’s like a horror and a drama and a comedy." So I said to Joss, what is this thing? “It's that and everything else!” he said.If you had to die at the hand of a supernatural force, what would it be and why?AH: Oooh, that’s a good one! Maybe a pterodactyl because you get to fly.KC: I definitely don’t want to die by a molesting tree. That’s just insult to injury!
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[From Mar. 8 to 17, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: Cabin in the Woods Actor Jesse Williams

Mar 14 // Allistair Pinsof
You and Chris Hemsworth are both jocks and nerds in this film. You have the witty lines and clever plans, but you also kick some ass. Was that part of the appeal to you? What appealed to me was having a bookish awkward weirdness but bringing a humanity to this guy. But he’s also new to the group, while the others have established relationships and are long time friends. Holden is just thrown into the mix last minute. Curt is trying to set him up [with the girl]; he’s kind of awkward -- it’s just a square peg in a round hole kind of thing. So that was an interesting vantage point to approach the adventure with. I think it was by design to give a another outlook on these relationships as we watch them possibly be deconstructed. So as we change as individuals and those relationships do to,  how do we analyze that? So I think Holden had a really interesting vantage point there and that’s what originally attracted me to the role. The film is really hard to discuss without getting into spoilers. How was it originally pitched to you?Very mysteriously. It was shrouded for sure. We were told form the beginning it's a horror film but it's more than that -- very much like how we are marketing it. Less is more would be the description. Our auditions were fake. The material we were reading totally wouldn’t be in the film at all but you could still see the elements of it, that it was going to be a genre-bender. You could see whatever angle you try to view it it's not straight comedy. It's not straight horror but it's totally legit. There is no shortage of creativity in these guys voices! I’ve seen Cloverfield, I’ve seen Lost. I know Joss and his status in the community. So you know these guys are going to swing for the fences. So it's really a matter of do you respond to the cadence and atmosphere of the atmosphere they are painting?Joss has such an odd ball sense of humor in this film. Was it difficult to tell which lines should be read for laughs or be delivered a bit more seriously?Yeah, but I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the written word or the circumstances at the given time.  This is a movie that gives you a lot of room for playback, for rewind-value. Not only aesthetically for the monsters and the crazy stuff. I was talking about this with Drew the other day -- I can say this without giving anything away -- there is an angry molesting tree in this movie. There is a tree that actually grabs someone and gently molests them and kills them. You know, it’s with love! Stuff like that … you want to be original. You want to be in this ballpark. Other horror films are so derivative. So many sequels and remakes. So if they are going to go for it, hey, that’s why we are here! So I’m willing to take risks for that.The film was shot and shelved in 2009. How did it personally effect you to not know if it ever would reach theaters?It was tough at first because you want your stuff to come out, but it honestly didn’t concern me. For one thing, I didn’t think it would ever stay on the shelf. It’s too different. “Oh, it’s another rom-com. We can just get Sandra Bullock and make another.” It’s not like it’s too much like something else. I knew that the moment I read for the audition. This isn’t like anything! It’s just not! After working so hard on it, we all wanted it to come out. Our work is our calling card; it’s how we get our next job. I was fortunate enough to book another job soon after so I was less stressed about it but its something I’m so proud of. I just want people to see it. You feel like you have one-hand tied behind your back. “I really want you guys to see it, but I can’t tell you a word about it!” This is a great movie but if you tell someone anything about it it kind of spoils it. Do you think that’s a problem?Yeah, I think it's unique and kind of a throwback in that way. I’m pleased to see that press aren’t spoiling it. We aren’t saying that from a selfish perspective. “Don’t ruin my marketing plan!” We are saying, “Don’t ruin it for yourself!” We want people to see the film unfold the way it was designed. You don’t need to see seven trailers, a teaser, a behind the scenes [video] and two spoilers. That shit is lame! In the ‘60s you’d just go to the movie. You let the movie contain the story. Now you go to Fandango and it tells you what’s in the movie. “It’s a tear jerker and she loses her arms!” And at the same time the bar is moving. “It’s not a spoiler if I tell you something that happened in the first 20 minutes” Yes, it is! Somebody busts their ass to write that and rewrite it. Those first 20 pages count!There is a scene early on where you remove a painting, revealing a one-way window into the girl’s room next door. When you put the painting back, a lot of people in the audience groaned. Would you of told her, too?I wondered the same thing. I waited a couple seconds and then was like, “Oh, I just noticed!” You can be a dirtbag about it and no one would be the wiser. But you learn about your characters through moments of struggle and conflict. Not moments of joy but really tough moments (this isn’t a really tough moment). I think the point was to demonstrate him being honorable. He has a conscience. And then hell ensues. It’s one of those little ways to show who they are first before the real elements of the film start. It shows itself throughout because it makes me think of what’s the point of being a good guy. What is the value of being a good guy? All you have is your character and honor, but you still think, “It wouldn’t of mattered. You could still have seen her naked!” Everything else would have played out the same. He’s acting nice and sweet but he could be a dirtbag. I think that was definitely by design.
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[From Mar. 8 to 17, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipa...

SXSW Review: Dollhouse

Mar 13 // Geoff Henao
[embed]207454:37922[/embed] DollhouseDirector: Kirsten SheridanRating: TBDCountry: Ireland A group of five rambunctious hooligans break into a suburban Irish "mansion" to throw themselves a huge party full of liquor, drugs, and destruction. As one of the ranks, Jeannie (Seana Kerslake) wanders away, the others enjoy themselves until they discover a box full of family photographs... with Jeannie in them. As the unofficial leader of the group, Eanna (Johnny Ward) confronts her about the revelation, Jeannie reveals that the house is, in fact, her own. Feeling betrayed, the group questions Jeannie's true nature... until a person from her past comes knocking on the door. Dollhouse has this somewhat subtle, uncomfortable tension that runs through the entirety of the film. The boys in the group, Eanna, Shane (Shane Curry), and Darren (Ciaran McCabe) are able to balance both fun and violence at the same time, always teetering on the fence between the two. That's not to say that the tension is bad, though. Rather, it's just a reflection of the characters' lives and a product of the implied rough lives they've lived. Adding to the tension is the other girl in the group, Denise (Kate Stanely Brennan), uses her sexuality to both heighten and diffuse the tension surrounding the kids. Writer/director Kirsten Sheridan used a fifteen page outline for the "script," allowing each actor to essentially create the characters they wanted to play. Of course, certain revelations were shared with the cast just prior to shooting, allowing for their actual reactions to be filmed. By doing this, Sheridan was able to capture the natural chemistry among the cast. Given that Jeannie is the main character, Kerslake's performance is much stronger than the others. This isn't meant as a strike against the rest of the cast, but as a promotion of her ability to effectively display the wide range of emotions her character goes through. As I alluded to earlier, the plot is bare, driven specifically by the actors' own reactions to the planned revelations planted by Sheridan. While this led credence to the realism behind the characters, it also makes for some empty moments between the "anchored" plot points. There are moments where too much time is spent seeing the cast simply party. The real emotional growth is solely imparted on Jeannie.  Dollhouse, in a word, is ambitious. Sheridan wanted to tell a very character-driven, emotionally charged film that dips its toes slightly in the disconnect between upper and lower class Irish kids. However, this plot point, which I believe to be more interesting than the simple character journey Jeannie explores, isn't explored as openly as it could have been. However, Dollhouse can be an enjoyable film for those who are interested in character-driven films. The revelations in the film help keep things interesting, but they're too few and far apart to keep most people's attention intact. Allistair Pinsof: There are plenty of films that prove you can make strong stories by putting a solid script in front of carefully selected non-actors (the recent Sundance darling Beasts of the Southern Wild, for instance.) There are also films that that thrive on loosely scripted improv performances from talented actors. I’m not convinced, however, that you can make a great film with non-actors using improvisation through a loosely scripted scenario. Dollhouse would be exhibit A in this argument. In fact, the story behind the making of Dollhouse is significantly more interesting then the film itself which feels like a Skins episode stripped of both style and substance. In presenting such a head-on depiction of reckless youth, free of nuance, the film is both monotonous and (ironically) hard to believe. There are some nice moments and it maintains a strange watch-ability, but its high concept never finds a comfortable meeting place for the viewer. -- 46, subpar There are plenty of films that prove you can make strong films by putting a solid script in front of carefully selected non-actors (the recent Sundance darling Beasts of the Southern Wild, for instance.) There are also films that that thrive on loosely scripted improv performances from talanted actors. I’m not convinced, however, that you can make a great film with non-actors improving their way through a loosely scripted scenario. Dollhouse would be my exhibit A in this argument. In fact, the story behind the making of Dollhouse is significantly more interesting then the film itself which feels like a Skins episode stripped of both style and substance. In presenting such a head-on depiction of wreckless youth, free of naunce, the film is both monotonous and (ironically) hard to believe. There are some nice moments and it maintains a strange watchability, but its high concept never finds a comfortable meeting place for the viewer. -- 46
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[From Mar. 9th to 17th, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most antici...

Interview: Cabin in the Woods' Jenkins and Whitford

Mar 13 // Allistair Pinsof
More than any other character in the film, I went through an emotional roller coaster of liking and disliking you guys. When you first read the script did you think your characters were morally deplorable? Richard Jenkins: I think that’s the dilemma and the fun of these guys. They have huge egos, but it is a big job and you deal with the death with humor.Bradley Whitford: There are moments of solemnity. We feel bad for them! (laughs)There is a dance scene in the film with you two. Were those your own moves?RJ: Bradley was our choreographer. (laughs)BW: The music was speaking to us. You guys don’t usually do horror. What drove you to this project?BW: I think for both of us if anything the horror of it all we don’t fit into the horror genre unless we are pederasts or funny uncles. You hear it’s a horror movie then you hear its more you hear its Joss and you read the script. The really wonderful thing about this moive is that you had two really wonderful writers that looked at each other and said, “If I can write anything what would I write?” And they stuck to taht and boy is that rare. And they got it made. It’s a mircale!For a long time there, it seemed like it wouldn’t come out. BW: It was all part of their master plan!RJ: There was a while there where I didn’t think it would come out. This was Drew’s first time directing and I hadn’t seen it but I know how good he is. It’s a nice part of the story now: this film sat on a shelf for 3 years and it's so good.BW: Lionsgate saw this movie and -- I hate to be nice to executives -- they got this thing immediately and were instantly excited about it and totally behind it. Thank God! Writer Joss Whedon has such an oddball sense of humor in this film. Was it difficult to tell which lines should be read for laughs or be delivered a bit more seriously? RJ: You couldn’t hear mine because they were too busy laughing at his.BW: I don’t think it would be as uproarious as it was, but when you see the film put together and the way it’s cut it becomes something else. You really pick up a tone reading the script; this is not an entirely irony-deficient read. (laughs)We’ve already covered a lot of topics in this interview that I won’t print because they go into heavy spoilers. It’s a difficult film to talk about and the film’s marketing is doing a good job of keeping things secret. Is it nice to be part of a project that isn’t so transparent?RJ: The more you know going in, the less fun it is. It’s kind of the truth. It’s nice, except people complain about that too. It’s a hard film to sell and to get out there and get people to want to see it. But, I think the best way is to not give it away.BW: What’s fascinating about it is that these two guys have written the opposite of a cynical studio genre offering.
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[From Mar. 8 to 17, Flixist will bring you live coverage from deep in the heart of Texas at South by Southwest Film 2012. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipate...


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