Friday, April 29, 2011


Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, and Melissa McCarthy

Netfilx Instant: Cool TV and Movie picks

Jonesy here for this weekends picks.  Again, mine are a little all over place, but there should be something for everyone!

A little independent film from Greece that was the wild card choice for Best Foreign Film at this past Oscars.  A mother and father keeps their three adult children sheltered from the outside world, and the siblings create their own world.  Dark and twisted and not for everyone.

With the wit and charm of MEAN GIRLS and TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, EASY A is another notch in the must-see teen comedy.  Based sort of on that one book you said you read in high school but never really did (The Scarlet Letter), we follow Olive as she creates a slutty reputation to help others.  Funny, charming, and smart.

A sweet documentary about a rural town in Tennessee where a simple project about the Holocaust became something extraordinary.  The 8th grade students set out to collect 6 million paper clips to represent each Jewish victim of the Holocaust, and what happens next is nothing short but inspirational. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


So, thanks to JoBlo, we have the trailer for HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2! I know Jonesy has been waiting for this, and now this trailer has me even more hyped up for this movie. Check out the trailer after the break.


Seems like the guys over at the Apple QuickTime site have updated their gallery for their TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON daily picture reveal. Hit the jump for the image.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Logic Dictates You Will Check Out This TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON Picture Countdown!

Ha! You thought I'd stop writing about this most potentially atrocious movie? Nope! Especially when it deals with sweet images! Earlier this week, the cool guys over at the Apple trailers website are featuring a gallery of five images that will be released one per day before the release of the trailer later this week.  Yesterday, I was too busy/tired to write about this awesome image featuring Shockwave that was released yesterday!

AFI Top 100 Countdown #93: THE FRENCH CONNECTION


Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Ernest Tidyman
Starring: Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider

Friday, April 22, 2011

Netflix Instant Cool TV & Movie Picks - Dumb But Fun!

Hey cats and kittens! Javi here, with this week's Netflix Instant picks for your 3 day weekend (depending on your profession of course.)  As the title says the picks will be not too cerebral, perhaps they might be described as "turn your brain off" type movies.

Seriously, why not? Another Asylum gem.  I mean, they did give us Transmorphers after all!  Basically, it deals with the maiden, but obviously doomed voyage of the horribly named Titanic II

I'm only about to watch this, but going along with the theme of this week's column, it fits in perfectly.  This will make a ridiculously awesome double feature with the upcoming COWBOYS VS. ALIENS.  But, if you're watching this, you know what you're getting yourself into.  Otherwise, set your expectations low and just have fun with it.

This is the biggest surprise for me.  I usually don't laugh whenever I see comedies by myself, but this time I laughed so hard so many times. So many people have billed this as "The Movie Will Ferrell Haters Will Like" and it's true! I don't hate Will, but his routine as a super cocky dude has gotten old and considering he plays a meek accountant, you couldn't ask for anything more.  The sense of humor is off-beat, and I can understand why some people wouldn't find it funny, but I couldn't stop laughing.  Oh and Mark Wahlberg? He is the best uptight asshole ever.

Ok guys, please remember that if your brain turns to mush watching these dumb but fun movies, I can't be held liable! See you in two weeks!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RUBBER Review- Or How A Bunch Of Loud D-Bags Could've Ruined Jonesy's Birthday, But The Texas Theatre Was Awesome And Took Care Of It.

So one of the venues that we wanted to go back to ever since DIFF was the Texas Theatre. It is a historically important and really classy venue in the Dallas area. I won't go into a history lesson here, but here's a link to their page to read up on them. Anyway, as part of Jonesy's birthday extravaganza, we went to the 5:30 showing of RUBBER, a very hyped and unique movie about a killer tire.

Directed by: Quentin Dupieux
Written by: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida, and Wings Hauser

RUBBER is everything you could have hoped for and more. The opening monologue is sheer brilliance as is the first 30 minutes of the movie where young Robert, the tire, learns to be sentient and telepathic all the while developing a crush on a girl. Novelty aside, how does this movie hold up? Pretty well actually. The writing and the sound design are two highlights in this movie.

From the aforementioned opening, the movie belongs to the clever and witty dialogue. I'm sure someone might call it B-movie dialogue, but it's too self-aware to be bad. For all of the praise for its writing and acting, I am so utterly impressed at the great sound design of this movie. During the times that the movie just focuses on Robert and he learns to be psychic, I could feel the desert winds, and I could feel the vibrations coming from the tire making my head about to explode.

Honestly, I don't feel I can talk about this movie without spoiling anything or perfectly duplicating the great images going on screen. There are some issues with the movie of course, such as a sometimes-confusing meta element to the movie that comes out of nowhere and is never fully explained. Or the fact that it has a pretty dreadful second act, with the running times being a mere 85 minutes, it still felt a little long at times.

Regardless, this movie is something one that if you're even remotely interested in seeing, you should see it. You know what you're getting, comedy, gore, and just a silly premise that exists for no reason.

Now, this review is a bit shorter than usual because I wanted to talk about the inconsiderate drunk assholes that almost ruined the movie for us. They kept on yelling, talking, and laughing during the most inappropriate times. There were several times that someone told them to shut up, and one time we were under the impression that an employee had told them to be quiet; however, such was not the case. If I hadn't been in the presence of friends and birthday girl, I would've been potentially a lot ruder.

When the movie was over, we chatted about it on the Twitter. Within a couple of hours of the incident happening and us going along with the rest of the birthday celebration, the person who runs the Theatre's Twitter account contacted us and apologized. Apparently, if they had been made aware of the situation, they would have kicked those dicks out. They apologized and were super helpful about the situation, even offering us free tickets for the next showing. I loved the fact that within hours of this incident, over the Texas Theater Facebook page, they posted a note about the incident.

I am so glad that the Theater reacted the way they did, between AMC, Studio Movie Grill, and The Inwood, it seems that the theaters that are safe for respectful movie goers are dwindling in Dallas. What boggles my mind is that there are people that think that it is okay to act this way. This is one of the most ridiculous forms of selfishness I know of. You're ruining an experience that paid good movie. Is it really that hard for people to shut up and not text for 90 minutes? Then again the fact that a member of an unidentified press organization narrated DAYDREAM NATION to herself during this year's DIFF, it really makes me wonder what the hell is going with people's common sense. If you're going to be loud or drunk or both, why on earth would you want to go to a movie? It's experiences like this that have kept me from enjoying movies in the theaters the last few months. If Jonesy and I are not at a press screening, then I will try to go to a matinee to avoid as many people as possible so my movie experience isn't completely ruined. As I have talked with many Twitter friends, and the Midnight Madness movies at the Inwood have become a hell for a quiet moviegoer, with the THE ROOM screenings almost certainly being to blame for setting the precedent of super loud shouting.

Even with this dire state of affairs in Dallas movie theaters, I'm glad that even though it's far from where we live, The Texas Theater will keep their promise and maintain a a classy environment for us that appreciate silence during our movies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown #94: PULP FICTION


Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer

Monday, April 18, 2011

Post DIFF thoughts- He said/She said

Jonesy:  It's been about a week since The Dallas International Film Festival has come to a close, and I feel I still haven't fully recovered from that ten day of complete movie fun and madness.  With this being our second time around, I felt more confident going into the festival knowing more of "the ropes". 

What I learned and did differently this time around:

Tickets: Last year, I thought I had to stand in line to get a ticket for every movie I wanted to see.  Nope!  Pass holders get into a special line and enter the movie first!  (Yes, this seems common sense, but hey, I was a rookie back then.) 

Parking: I also learned where NOT to park when seeing movies at The Magnolia in Dallas.  Did you know they have a parking garage?  I didn't last year.  I parked in a random parking lot during the day and didn't have a problem.  However, when I returned for a 10pm show, I parked in the same area, and when I came out at midnight, low and behold, no car!  Now, no one would steal my car because it looks like it has leprosy, so I knew it had been towed.  I called the cops and was given the address of the impound.  Then, my phone died, so I went into Blockbuster, sobbing, and they let me charge my phone.  I called a cab to go to the towing company, which ended up being a 20 minute drive away in a what can only be described as a glorified alley, paid too much to get my car out, and got home at 3:30am.  Lesson learned.  This year have a charger, which I do, and park in the correct area, which I did. 

Utilizing the Lounge: Also, last year the festival lounge was within walking distance from the Angelika Dallas theatre.  We didn't realize last year that it was open to press the whole festival (we thought it was just open to filmmakers), so we never frequented the lounge to hang out between showings.  So, we were dead set on taking full advantage this year.  However, they switched the location to the Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas, which was gorgeous but a pretty inconvenient location not anywhere close to any of the theatres.  Unfortunately, we only made it down there once. 

The movies:


Things I wish I had seen:
1) Parked
2) Five Time Champion
3) Wild Horse, Wild Ride

What I plan on doing different next year:

Hydration:  The first Saturday of the festival is the busiest.  If the schedule works out, you could see up to five movies that day.  I saw four, which was fantastic; however, I forgot an important aspect that I needed while traveling from venue to venue living off popcorn...water.  For most of the day, I forgot to drink water.  I didn't realize how dehydrated I was until Javi and I were in line for WUSS, and I felt lightheaded.  Thankfully, he had a bottle of water with him that he kept refilling all day and that woke me up.

Snacks:  Between gas, drinks, and food, a festival can get expensive.  Next year I am planning on keeping snacks with me so I can cut costs wherever I can.  Plus an apple or trail mix is a whole lot better than junior mints or popcorn.

Networking:  Talking to random people I sit next to in the theater or in line isn't particularly easy for me, yet I know, in this field, networking is key.  I plan to step out of my comfort zone more next year and meet more people.  Also, always find out if people have a twitter because if anything, you two at least have the festival in common. 

Final Thoughts:
The overall experience of the festival is something I wouldn't trade for the world.  Sure, I was exhausted by the end of it, but that's all part of festing.  There are always tweaks needing to be worked out in a big event like this, but I have a feeling the DIFF crew will work out the bugs from this year, which means there will be new bugs that'll show up next year. 

The experience of seeing a movie with people who love movies as much as we do is always the best part.  My favorite moment is when the audience irrupted in applause in the middle of GREATEST MOVIE because we were so engrossed at what was happening on screen.  Seriously...who cheers at a documentary except movie fanatics??

I just got to work on somehow making time for a normal sleep schedule next year.

Javi: This was a big deal, as I'm sure everyone who follows us on Twitter and Facebook knows, because it was the first time we were in a festival as press. Plus, we got totally awesome and stylish T-shirts made thanks to the beautifully talented Julie Fitzgerald! I'd say I can't wait for the next super long and draining festival.  Hopefully you guys enjoyed our rather speedy reviews!

What I learned and did differently this time around:

Food: As ridiculous as it sounds, I made sure to pack various snacks and bought an aluminum water bottle to keep me going. I packed raw almonds, Clif bars, some dried fruits water, and a 5 Hour Energy that I never used. You'd be amazed how draining it is to watch 5 movies in one day. All of the snacks I had were high on protein and were meant to keep your energy up. Oh...and some delicious chocolate covered almonds ;-)

Notes: I have always heard of people taking notes during movies. I never understood this because I can usually remember most of the things that happened. Given that my schedule was going to be pretty packed before I got around to writing reviews, I took to taking notes in my Moleskine Movie Journal. It was such a life saver, and considering how the days started to blend together, I was forgetting details like crazy. Thank goodness for all of my notes.

Breaks: Since it would just be Jonesy and I, we worked it to have some days off. I had a Monday and Tuesday off, and she had a Wednesday and Thursday off. This was good for a few reasons. First, to get our minds together and to get a chance to catch up on our writing. Second, since we're not comfortable enough doing interviews yet, our focus was solely on movie reviews, so we tried to get as many as we could out. This is also good so our lives didn't get too messy. We're not as lucky as some and have day jobs (unfortunately).

The movies:
4) PARKED/ THE RUNWAY (they're both Irish, it's OK) 

3) IRONCLAD (I walked out of this movie out of sheer boredom)

Regrets(didn't see):

What I plan on doing different next year:

Plan enough time between screenings: This year I made the mistake of scheduling a movie at NorthPark mall, then the Magnolia, and then the Angelika.  Considering there were scheduling problems that delayed things across the board, it was not as bad as it could have been, but 30 minutes between very popular venues with bars and shopping surrounding them sure makes for a stressful time.

Make time for interviews:  This goes along with getting more exposure, but I would have liked to do interviews, but lack of preparation, nerves, and a packed schedule prevented me from doing so.  Trust me, I'll do some next year.

Final Thoughts:

First, I'd like to thank the press office of the Dallas International Film Festival for letting us cover this festival.  Tanya Wright and Emily Hardgrove were of amazing help, and I can't thank them enough for putting up with my ridiculously naive questions. I loved the variety of the venues, from Highland Park Village, to the Texas Theatre, and the Plano Angelika.

Now for the bad(sorry!). Vittorio Verre. I'm not sure what happened with this year's bumpers, but they were not of the same quality as the ones from last year.  I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to put a pompous, moronic, and self-centered character such as Vittorio in front of the movies, but it was completely off putting.  What I don't understand is what the message of the bumper was.  I figured you'd want to promote the magic and greatness of film, not some guy that personifies "style over substance".  At least last year there were two different bumpers which made for good variety.  Kudos to the You Plus Media crew for their bumper involving Metro Diner (RIP) and the Texas Theatre.  That bumper actually made more sense to put in a film festival as it showed the simple, and almost literal, love for movies that was endearing.

Another huge complain I had, which probably has a lot of political and logistic reasons behind it, but man what a drag to go downtown to get passes and screeners and just to be able to try to connect and network with other festival goers.  The Palomar was such a great central location, and I just couldn't imagine how they could have topped it.  This year... they did not.  The lounge was actually great to look at it, and it had a really cool and modern feel for it.  But we could only really enjoy it once.  The location also kept us from getting screeners at the Press Suite which closed at 4 PM, and neither of us could get to because of work.
For the first weekend, there was something wrong where all of the movies were starting late.  Add in Q&A's and there seemed to be a complete mess trying to follow a set schedule.  Apparently, when the schedule was made, the bumpers, which took about 15 minutes, were not taken into account which was the cause for some of these delays.  I just know that the people running this festival know how to rock it, so I'm confused as to how this happened.

Regardless, the experience became a rather enjoyable one, and apart from the time where we tried going to the Lounge one last time and got turned away because it was a VIP event (which we were unaware of), it was such a good time, and we hope to come back again.  Seeing the amount of people out of town coming in to cover this, and the talent involved gave me something which I never get often, which is a bit of pride being from Dallas.

Friday, April 15, 2011

DIFF review MAMAS AND PAPAS- She said

Directed by Alice Nellis
Starring: Zuzana Bydzovska, Zuana Kronerova, Filip Capka, and Ivan Shvedoff

Cool Netflix Instant: TV and Movie Picks

Jonesy here... stepping away from my usual musical suggestions because two movies I absolutely adore made it to Netflix this week.

A chance meeting between two young people on a train in Europe end in a once in a lifetime night of just talking.  This is an absolutely wonderful little film about chance encounters and how they change your life.  One of my favorites.

In a follow up, BEFORE SUNSET explores our couple ten years later.  What has happened in their lives since, how each effected the other, and is there a second chance at love.  A wonderful sequel.

The great thing about movies sometimes is you know what you're getting into from just the title.  HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is super cheesy fun set in the backdrop of the 80s.  The concept is completely ridiculous, but I had such a fun time watching this movie, I didn't care.  If you were hesitant about paying $10 to see this at the theatre, now you have nothing to lose!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


We've been treated with a couple teaser trailers over past few months from Jon Favreau's new western sci-fi (never thought we'd hear that combo) COWBOYS AND ALIENS.  Favreau announced on his twitter that a full trailer would premiere tonight on American Idol. 

Up until now for those of us who didn't read the comic, details about the plot have a been vague, but this trailer gives a clearer picture of maybe why the aliens are coming.  From the trailer, the movie looks the perfect, fun, wild, summer action movie. 

A full embedded trailer is not available yet, but you can check it out in high definition at here!

COWBOYS & ALIENS will be released July 29th starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde.

DIFF Review Midnight Shorts - He Said

Directed by: Jonathan Caouette
The director is definitely a David Lynch fan. I missed the first 3 minutes of this short and, I felt completely lost until I asked Jonesy and Crystal if I missed a crucial plot point.  Turns out I didn't, but this did not keep me from enjoying this macabre and unsettling short.  The editing is masterful as is the imagination and the style that went into creating this short. Highly recommended, and I'll be watching out for the director's next work.

Directed by: Matt Bird
This charming short is the definition of a horror comedy.  I won't spoil it, but suffice to say that I found the clever use of a very familiar situation, such as a young couple meeting and wanting to hook up, as a way to unexpectedly turn to a completely different movie in the second half.  The two leads are charming, but more so the girl here. She's really spunky and gives off such a nice presence on screen, and you can't help but like her character as she deals with getting a cold sore after a hook up.

Directed by: Zellner Bros

Can't say much, expect this was the funniest thing I've seen in a while.  Find a way to get a hold of this now!

Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy
This is the most polished of the shorts.  It stars the oh-so-cute Jewel Staite, of FIREFLY and SERENITY fame, as a woman dealing with her mother's recent death.  Her and her brother talk about their dark past and how strange it is to be back in their old house.  They both chose different ways of dealing with their childhood, and in the end, we see how hard it is to confront one's demons.  This movie would've benefited from more time in getting to know the characters and a bit more visual flare. Interestingly, this movie is being shopped around as a feature film, which interests me as the subject matter has really great potential that feels unrealized here.

Directed by: Valere Amirault, Sarah Lauger, Jean Delauny, Benjamin Mattern
This short was the reason I wanted to check out the Midnight Shorts program, and yet this was the most disappointing.  The premise was that an 8 bit video game character was going to fight a more advanced 64 bit video game character.  The result was so underwhelming from what I originally imagined.  The designs were a bit off for my taste. The style is barely reminiscent of video games save for some parts, and frankly, I couldn't tell what was going on for the most part.  A good concept that was mired by a bad execution.

Directed by: Jerome Sable
Probably one of my favorite shorts of the whole festival. This is a story of a nerdy kid with his group of campers telling stories of the ghost of the Beaver Dam.  The kid is constantly getting picked on until he becomes the hero of the day, or does he?  This is the best horror/musical hybrid, and director Jerome Sable needs to do something similar to this.  The production values, the music, and the humor are all top-notch here.  It actually ended up winning the Best Short Film award at this year's Dallas International Film Festival.


Directed by: Shawn Ku
Written by: Michael Armbruster, and Shawn Ku
Starring: Maria Bello, Michael Sheen, Alan Tudyk and Kyle Gallner

In this day of Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, Foursquare, and what ever boundary breaking social media sites are next, we have cultivated a constant need to have access to insane amounts of information.  Whenever a tragedy happens, we hear about it as it's happening with unprecedented speed.  And when we see a criminal or a killer on the news, we always are quick to demonize these people.  But what about the other people on the receiving end? Without getting too political, BEAUTIFUL BOY explores the aftermath of a couple dealing with the fact that their son shot up his college then committed suicide, and the media's relentless quest for an interview or answers. All while, the couple is dealing with their broken marriage.   This movie was relentlessly powerful, and while it never has a "breaking" moment meant to make you tear up, the weight of the emotions being displayed by the actors can be felt through this beautifully shot movie.

BEAUTIFUL BOY stars Michael Sheen and Maria Bello as Bill and Kate Caroll.  As we see in the beginning of the story, their marriage is slowly falling apart. Bill is looking for apartments around town, and he has even found a good place near his work, while Kate is desperately trying to book a vacation to the beach with him and their son Sam (Gallner), who is away for college. After a brief and detached 3 way call, we see Sam going to bed.  Then, the next morning, tragedy of his actions hit the news, and the parents are hit face first with what their son has done. What follows is one of the most frustratingly difficult situations anyone could ever experience.  When you see that the world calls your son a psychotic villain and you know him as something else, how can you even begin to deal?

There are tons of issues and questions that movie brings up.  A big issue is obviously the way that the media hounds the Carolls relentlessly to answer questions about their son.  You get a very sympathetic look here towards the parents, as they try to recover from the shocking news. They have to flee their home to Kate's brother's house for some privacy.  Then you have the Facebook messages on Sam's wall, the video that Sam sent to the authorities, and every loudmouthed Glenn Beck-type wanting to put concrete blame to the situation. This media assault and the constant stream of information coming up about Sam is what keeps the tension high through this whole movie and creates a very claustrophobic effect.  Even people just making offhand remarks about Sam seem to take a toll on Bill and Kate.

For a movie with a very small and personal scope has some incredible cinematography.  There are very deliberate shots that take place during the movie that are just breathtaking, and even something as mundane as a fight is done with just the right amount of zoom on a face or a pan to the other side of the room.  Adding to that, there's a strange effect going on through the whole movie that Jonesy and I noticed (which I liked but she hated).  A very cool pitch shifting effect or a constant tremolo technique on the score during some of the more intense parts of the movie, and I liked this so much is that I took it to symbolize the couple's very unstable mental state during this tragedy.

On the surface, a lot of the great emotional lifting during this movie is done by Ms. Bello because Kate is meant to be a more emotionally open character unlike the very reserved  Bill.  All of this gives Michael Sheen a lot of very interesting scenes where he has to bottle up a lot of emotions and restrain himself.  I am always a person that believes restraint is a lot harder to pull off artistically.  This is not meant to say that one actor is superior to the other, but in my opinion, comparing the two is like apples and oranges.  Alan Tudyk was actually a very pleasant surprise in this pretty dire movie.  He plays Kate's brother, who offers the grieving couple a sanctuary in his home as the media is camped outside of the Caroll's house.  His upbeat humor and support are exactly what the couple and the audience needs as to keep the movie from being a downer of BLUE VALENTINE proportions.

The biggest problem with this movie is that the focus is a bit off.  In the beginning, there's a big focus is made on the media and their relentless approach to get answers from the Carolls.  But that subject is not explored nearly as much I would have liked.  I'm not sure what it's trying to say about media coverage of tragedies like this; maybe the public's need to place blame on someone when things go wrong?  Obviously, we only see things from the Caroll's perspective, so there's not a rounded out view on the issue being presented.   Another issue that gets raised is who is to blame? Is it the parents? Sam? The environment? Though the movie may not want to tackle these issues directly, it sure felt like it was going there for the first part of the movie.

This is a movie that you just can't randomly go see.  You have to know what you're getting yourself into, but if you appreciate a challenging story full of very strong performances, this is something you need to check out.

Remember That Time We Saw A 2 Minute Movie? RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Trailer Hits

I can't say I have an attachment to the PLANET OF THE APES franchise, but when I found out James Franco would be starring in a prequel/reboot, at least my interests were a little picked.  And then the trailer hit.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I really didn't think the movie would basically be summarization, give or take a few details.  The trailer does show off a lot of good effects and a good amount of suspense and horror. Head on over to Apple's Quicktime trailer site for a look at the upcoming movie.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES comes out August 5th, 2011. It's directed by Rupert Wyatt and stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, and Andy Serkis.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown #95: THE LAST PICTURE SHOW


Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Peter Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry
Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and Cloris Leachman

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

DIFF review PROSECUTOR- She said

Directed by Barry Stevens
Featuring: Luis Moreno-Ocampo

The International Criminal Court has only been in existence for about ten years.  It's charged with bringing people to justice who commit genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and/or crimes of aggression when the country's national court is unable or unwilling to prosecute, just as it's predecessor, The Nuremberg Trials, did.   Currently, there are three separate trials underway; all having to do with crimes committed in Africa.  Behind these investigations is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, head prosecutor for the ICC.

At the heart of the ICC is Moreno-Ocampo who wholeheartedly believes in justice and the rule of law.  However, the problem he is facing with the nations is the ICC doesn't have an army, so when a leader or criminal is indited by the ICC, they have to rely on neighboring countries to arrest the criminal.  Like the United Nations, the idea of the ICC is appears more idyllic than the actual process.  For the ICC to work, the nations of the world would have to give up some sovereignty, so when crimes against humanity are committed, the perpetrators go straight to trial.  However, asking the big wigs like China, Russia, India and the United States to give that kind of power to a court they don't control will probably never happen.  Also, the prosecutor has to convince the people that bringing this criminal to trial is the right decision.  The three individuals who are standing trial right now all come from war-torn African countries where many citizens are pleased justice is being brought, but many still support these individuals, and usually the supporters have weapons and take out their frustration on the people. All in a day's work for Moreno-Ocampo.

So, his job isn't easy, yet his persistence for justice is astounding.  Even though he is defending humanity, he is met with criticism after criticism.  There are leaders who say the ICC is targeting African countries because they're not western enough, and this is the international community's way of making them fall into step.  Others want him to investigate the Gaza Strip area where hundreds of Palestinians were killed by Israelis because of a Hamas attack on Israel.  One problem though, Palestine isn't considered a state as far as the world is labeled, but the atrocity happened.  So, now there's international pressure to bring Israel to trial, and international pressure, especially from the United States, to leave them alone.  Then, there's the criticism that the ICC would never go after the bigger countries, such as the United States because the ICC is scared of them.  Moreno-Ocampo has stated that it doesn't matter what country; the ICC would investigate anybody.

Director Barry Stevens is given incredible glimpses of remote areas of the world.  We following Moreno-Ocampo to the Congo where he talks to tribe about an upcoming trial gathering their support.  We also follow Mike, a former ICC employee who left because he felt that he needed to make a difference and the ICC wasn't powerful enough, as he tries to free military personnel (from the good side of the Congo war) from the rebels in the jungle.  Mike, who is now employed through the UN, is the symbol of being able to take action to make a difference. 

If you were to ask someone about the idea of having an international court of law, I would predict many would agree with the idea.  Then, if you were going to go into detail about what that would mean to their country, such as giving up part of their sovereignty, then people become hesitant.  The idea of the ICC, on the surface, is one of striving of equality, justice, and standing up for the voiceless victims.  However, the road to such an idyllic court is arduous and a political nightmare.  PROSECUTOR shows us the other side, with faces beyond all the politics and policies. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

2011 Dallas International Film Festival Award Winners

The 2011 DALLAS International Film Festival Announces
Award Winners

JESS + MOSS receives the $25,000 Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature

ELEVATE receives the $25,000 Target Filmmaker Award for Best Documentary Feature

FIVE TIME CHAMPION receives the $20,000 in Cash, Goods and Services for the MPS Studios Texas Filmmaker Award

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT receives the Environmental Visions Award

ZERO PERCENT receives the $10,000 Embrey Family Foundation Silver Heart Award

THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM, THE ROBBERY and PATHS OF HATE are named winners for Best Short Film, Student Short and Animated Short

Audience Awards go to SNOWMEN for Narrative Feature, WILD HORSE WILD RIDE for Documentary and THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM for Short

Friday, April 8, 2011

DIFF Review THE LAST CIRCUS - He Said/She Said

Directed by: Alex De La Iglesia 
Written by: Alex De La Iglesia
Starring: Carlos Areces, Carolina Bang, and Antonio De La Torre

Jonesy: I thought it looked very pretty with really great production values.  Everything looks authentic with part of the story taking place in 1930’s Spain and the other half taking place in the 1970’s.  I enjoyed the first 30 minutes, but then I ended up not liking it and checked out of it mentally with probably an hour to go. 

Javi: This is probably one of the best-looking Spanish movies I’ve ever seen.  I don’t blame someone for not liking this movie, but at the same time I enjoyed the crap out of it.  Even when it got just beyond insane, I was so into it. I think this just fed into my most weird and dark aspects of my personality.

Jonesy: You hit the nail on the head; it’s a very specific movie for certain people.

Javi: So what did you think of the characters?

Jonesy: Well I liked all three of the main characters like Javier…

Javi: I Know!! Why did he have to be chubby :0(?  It’s weird because he looks like fat Jared Lento when he plays John Lennon’s killer.

Jonesy: I thought the 3 main ones, Javier, Natalia, and Sergio, were fantastic.  They gave you enough pieces of their life that you could put together and create their own motives.  They all fit into a specific character niche we’ve seen before.  And then when Javier joins a circus troupe, all the members are all very memorable; they weren’t just background faces.

Javi: I had a good feeling that Natalia, was just supposed to play a truly messed up Manic Pixie Dream Girl type. She was the best thing about this film because you could believe that this girl was downright messed up enough to think and put up with what she did.  In terms of the circus people, I think they fulfilled the Greek Chorus role in the movie..  Funny side note under IMDB, the movie is classified as a comedy and war drama. 

Jonesy:  My big problem with this movie is the story.  In the past year of watching movies, I’ve learned if the story doesn’t engage me, it’s almost guaranteed that I won’t like it.  That’s my issue with this one.  There were so many random elements thrown in there.  The first part of the movie is set during world war II (ed.note: actually it’s the Spanish Civil War) Javier’s dad get recruited to fight in the war, then gets captured and becomes a POW working to build a huge cross.  He then tells his son to get revenge, which I thought that’s where the movie was going, but then the son grows up to be a clown like his dad and his grandfather, and then gets involved in a love triangle, and you think that’s where it’s going, and then more crazy random stuff happens. After the love triangle scenario gets established, the movie just shows random events just happening with all of these characters and events come back in the end in a very convenient and unconvincing sort of way. Just seemed very lazy.

Javi: There’s a lot of stuff that gets set up early in the movie that you just wish had a bigger pay off.

Jonesy: There’s a big 20-minute section in the middle where they reference Javier’s past.  That was just such a waste because you could very well have cut out the scene, and still have had Javier’s character be complete.  It’s almost as if someone else started writing the last half of the movie, or they were just smoking weed.

Javi: For me, the whole story makes sense, and I agree some stuff could be cut, but since it is part of this movie I still enjoyed it.  You were saying that this was crazy and weird, but not in a good way, but I’m saying that it’s crazy in a very good way because that’s what you come to expect from this movie.  This sort of insanity is set up very early in the movie. The first scene dealing with a crazy machete-wielding clown, well where do you go from there? In terms of you complaining about the crazy aspects to me makes no sense, but this was the only place where it could have gone logically. And I know that there are some points where it gets so ridiculous it’s goofy. 

Jonesy: Him eating a deer isn’t out left field??!?

Javi: Not really, mean that was the thing that grossed me out the most in terms of violence, but it makes sense. 

Jonesy: You were talking about the machete clown, it’s goofy and silly but it is better incorporated into the plot of the movie.  Where they had to fight right away and they had no time to do anything but fight. The father even had to ask the general if he could change.

Javi: And the general said that a clown with a machete would be much scarier. 

Jonesy: and that’s fine, I’m agreeing with you, it made “crazy sense”.  There’s a lot of craziness towards the end of the movie.  Then you have the fact that there is no sense of time at all.

Javi: You could make the argument of the “unreliable narrator” for Javier.  If we assume he has gone crazy then how can we really trust anything that he is experiencing? 

Jonesy: Well and then there’s when Javier and Natalia start their relationship.  I felt that their relationship got started off way too quickly, and the danger was really amplified too quickly in terms of them sneaking around. I don’t like that excuse. I would agree with you about the unreliable narrator if they had stayed with Javier throughout the whole movie, but there were a lot of scenes without him. 

Javi: I’m not sure what the rules for this type of storytelling, but I feel that with the time issue; it could be that time shrinks when we focus on Javier, and then we move away from him, time goes back to normal.  For example, there’s a point that Sergio and Natalia have another business, that should have taken at least a few weeks to get together, and it was just one scene. I will say that the final climactic confrontation has a lot of set up that is not explained very well.  It’s as if Batman got his Batcave in one day. 

Jonesy: I’m not sure where that came from.  It seemed one last attempt at creating a circus, like holding on to a dream from childhood.  Also, the title is not fitting at all. I like the Spanish title better. (The Sad Trumpet Ballad) That relates more to Javier’s journey as a sad clown than just a circus.

Javi: I feel like I need to rewatch it again, because I feel that there are lots of instances of symbolism that I’m not sure I got.

Jonesy: You know, considering that this was supposed to be a war drama, I thought that some of the craziness would really come to symbolize or be allegorical to something relating to the culture, but I don’t know enough Spanish history. 

Jonesy: In the end this is a very specific taste of movie.  I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy it because I usually like crazy films.

Javi: For me if I could gather my friends that appreciate movies, and then cut it down to people that like weird movies, then cut it down to the extreme types, then I could recommend it.  I feel like you’d have to be like ReelDistraction and ZombieFreak who understand exploitation movies and the seedier side of film.  

SIDE NOTE: So this is a conversation recorded at 2:30 AM the night we watched it. Later in the week I met a gentleman named Tom, who I chatted with after the Documentary Shorts Competition.  Apparently, we had seen a lot of the same movies, THE LAST CIRCUS being one of them.  Turns out that he was a Spanish History professor for a longtime and loved Spain. He was able to offer some insights on the movie. Turns out that the movie WAS an allegory to the Spanish Civil War, and the effect that it had culturally and psychologically speaking on the country in subsequent generations.  Seems Javier represents the aftermath and deep psychological scars of those most affected by the war.

At the time of the war, there wasa total division of ideology, between the people that supported the rebels, the Nationalists, and the Republican government. The victory of the rebels devasted and reconfigured Spain in an extreme way, with complete families and clans were wiped out in the aftermath in Francisco Franco’s regime. The artistic and philosophical way of thinking was changed to a more romantic and introscpective sense due to the harsh oppression experienced after the war.

Knowing this, the movie is more powerful and more disturbing in showing, in an allegorical way, the way that war affect us beyond just politics.  I’m pretty moved that such a war that is nowhere near as infamous as any of the World Wars has had such a deeply saddening effect on a countries psyche. 

THE LAST CIRCUS screens Friday, April 8th at 10:30 PM during the Dallas International Film Festival  

Lars Von Trier's MELANCHOLIA has a sweet trailer!

If you know me, you know that I LOVED Lars Von Trier's 2009 film ANTICHRIST. To me, it was the cinematic equivalent of drone metal bands such as SUNN 0))). So when I heard about MELANCHOLIA a while back, I was beyond excited. It has Charlotte Gainsborough, Kirsten Dunst, and Kiefer Sutherland in a story where there's a planet on a collision course with Earth. With the backdrop of a wedding, we see people's reactions to this impending doom, which seems very interesting. This seems to be his most accessible work yet. Then again, ANTICHRIST seemed pretty normal until the last 30 minutes. Anyway, please enjoy the beautiful trailer below. MELANCHOLIA has no release date yet, but it will debut in the Cannes Film Festival later this year.

Melancholia from Zentropa on Vimeo.

Netflix Instant: Cool TV & Movie Picks-Music Edition

Hey guys, unlike Jonesy, I'm not down with the musicals, but I am down with music.  With this week's Netflix Instant column, I'm gonna give you some good music concerts and documentaries.  Hope you enjoy!

Those that know me from years ago know that I was a huge metalhead.  Sadly, the heavier music world has gotten stale for me.  Yes, it is impressive to listen to poly-rhythmic drumming, harmonies and guitar solos, but after a while all the technicality gets boring.  Opeth on the other hand is band that has never gotten boring or stale, and this concert footage shows this. 

It's almost cliche to list Wilco's album Yankee Foxtrot Hotel as one of the best albums of the last decade, and the best one of their career.  But their path was not an easy one, am uncooperative label, lackluster response and inner band fighting all but destroyed the group.  Told in beautiful black and white, this movie gets in the psyche of the band and tells fascinating story in the end.

Frank Zappa is a one-of-a-kind musical genius.  He lived, breathed, and ate music in a way that I envy to no end.  With his group The Mothers of Invention, he went on to release a string of great avant-jazz weirdo rock music.  This great documentary shows Zappa and company talking about the group in the 1960's along with some great performance footage.  

Well, that's it for this week's Netflix column! Hope you enjoy the different themes.  This might actually be something we try to implement from week-to-week.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

DIFF Review ARTHUR - He Said

Directed by: Jason Winer
Written by: Peter Bayhan, Steve Gordon
Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, and Jennifer Garner

So Russell Brand, for better or worse, seems to be the male version of Megan Fox, in that there's so much whining from the Internet whenever he gets cast in movies. I totally get why people would not dig the guy: he looks half like a super feminine hipster/dude-bro covered in leather, he married Katy Perry, and his humor might not even be considered funny at all! Regardless, maybe it was my first impression of him in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, but the guy doesn't bother me, plus I don't watch MTV or any of that nonsense where he usually appears. So needless to say, I was not negatively biased towards this movie as much as some other people, and take into account I haven't seen the original ARTHUR in such a long time, I might as well never have seen it, plus Helen Mirren is in it, so I was pretty OK watching this. So how does this remake about a selfish, frivolous, alcoholic millionaire man-boy do? Surprisingly well, if your expectations are well grounded.

As I stated above, I can't quite remember the original movie. Given this, I was still surprised that "in this economy" someone would dare release a movie starring a highly polarizing dude playing basically a drunken asshole throwing money around. I think not even director, Winer, seems to know. Early in the movie, a reporter asks him that question, Arthur (Brand) exclaims "What recession?" and gives a crowd about $100,000 in cash. Ok, so I can get past this. Once we get into the story, you see that fortune has warped Arthur's perception of the world in a very tragic way. He literally is a little kid trapped in a horny, booze-loving body. He parties recklessly, he seems to sleep with whoever, his behavior seems downright psychotic given his lack of normal and healthy social skills. I must say though, half of the time I was jealous of this character, between the BATMAN FOREVER Batmobile and the floating magnetic bed, I don't see how anyone couldn't be. Arthur relies too much on his nanny Hobson (Mirren) to get around, yet she is always there trying to protect him all the while being frustrated at the apparently stunted growth he has experienced.

The story starts with Arthur embarrassing his Lucille Buth-type mother, Vivianne, during fundraiser after crashing his Batmobile. His mother gives him the ultimatum of marrying a respectable woman such as Susan (Garner) to help him get his life together, or be cut off his $980,000 inheritance. Not quite ready to give that up, he is willing. That is until he meets the whimsical Naomi, a poor illegal tour guide with an eye for making the world beautiful, who he is immediately attracted to for some reason. After bailing her out of going to jail, Arthur becomes pretty obsessed with her, maybe because she is one of the few women that seems to not put up with him, or maybe she is just that magical.

I found that the privileged guy with demons seems to be Brand’s go-to role; he basically plays the same guy in GET HIM TO THE GREEK. Yet for all of the praise that movie got, I feel he plays that type of character better in this movie. There’s a bit more subtlety to his acting here which I enjoyed. That’s not to say that all of the sudden he is an amazing actor, but at least he’s getting better. I think that his relationship with Hobson is really amusing but ultimately familiar, with Hobson being the strict one with a sarcastic tone and Arthur making some funny remark towards her when he doesn’t get his way. Helen Mirren has done better comedic acting in RED, but I’m not sure if she’s to blame because I would like to bet she could only do as good as what she got from the script. As good as all of this is, I have to say Gerwig steals the show; every time she steps on camera you cant help but focus on her 100%. Her character is very self-aware which leads to some of the best lines in the movies. It’d be easy to once again use the Manic Pixie Dream Girl title to her, but that seems to fall short of the charm her character exudes. Yes, she inspires Arthur in an almost magical way, but she also challenges him and doesn’t put up with his shit. For the majority of the movie she’s actually a very strong character.

The big issue with this movie is the writing. There are a lot of jokes that fall flat in an almost uncomfortable way. I get where they tried to go with those jokes, but it just doesn’t work. Then the characterization of Arthur is insanely uneven. He is characterized as a man-child with no knowledge of how to make even a simple cup of tea or Spaghetti-os, and yet his dialogue is very clever and referential in a way that would lead you to believe he keeps up with the news or at least reads. It seems that the writers just turned on one aspect of Arthur to suit the situation without much thought to consistency. This is beyond frustrating. The alcoholism subplot is something that I think was handled decently, with a few very tragic scenes relating to it. I'm not sure if that would have drastically changed the movie, but there was a point where I felt it would have been really appropriate to deal with the subject, but instead that moment gets pushed back 20 minutes.

The story itself goes through many of the same plot points you would come to expect from this sort of movie, which is fine and you can tell that they were trying to go for something deeper from this comedy in the veins of Judd Apatow movies, and yet once again, it fails because of the unnecessary situations the characters are put in that start conflict and give them something to overcome. A big example is when Susan puts bigger strain in Arthur and Naomi’s relationship, where she reveals that Arthur might be using his money to sneakily help Naomi. That would have been fine and dandy and cemented Susan as evil, but there is absolutely no reason why she should have known that information prior to this scene. Other big issue is Jennifer Garner; she is given nothing to do in this movie but play an even bitchier version other character from JUNO. Her character is not developed at all and just shows up randomly to mess stuff up. Her biggest scene where she shows up drunk at Arthur’s place to show she’s spontaneous is so out of character, for what little we know about it, that it could have been cut out completely and the movie would’ve been better for it.

Overall, this movie is ambitious in where it is trying to go, in terms of a comedy, but I think that adhering to the constructs of a comedy with romance and some downright awful dialogue seem to kill the chances of this movie, which is a shame because any movie with Helen Mirren in a Darth Vader helmet should be Oscar material. What’s worse is that the ending is so safe it almost belittles the journey Arthur goes through. If you see this movie, you will laugh, and Brand, Mirren and Gerwig are pretty funny here, but don’t expect a comedic revelation here. I couldn’t tell anyone to spend his or her $10 at the theater for this movie, but it would be a great matinee or Netflix rent.