Tag Archives: movies

Dallas VideoFest: A Primer On What To Expect

For those inexperienced or unsure of the “film festival” atmosphere, Dallas VideoFest28 should be the perfect time to dip their toes into the festival waters. A communal and one-setting event, it’s a breeding ground for films both regionally and internationally (125 of them).

Even though the festival officially kicked off earlier this week with a Yen Tan art exhibit and a special event of Metropolis featuring the Dallas Chamber Symphony and the SMU Dance team, films begin screening Thursday night and run through Sunday, October 18 at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

A few highlights of the event are as follows:

Jackelope, directed by Ken Harrison- one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a while is Jackelope, a documentary that follows several Texas artists in the mid 1970’s as they travel the vast expanse of Texas (with a pit stop in New York) to exhibit and share their unique “Texas funk” creations. Ranging from sculpture work to painting to fabricated exhibitions, the film hits some sentimental notes with me when one scene purportedly shows some of the men shooting guns and blowing cars up in my hometown, probably only a few miles from the very house I lived in for years. Aimless, entrancing and fascinating, Jackelope (which originally aired on KERA in 1976) is a terrific time capsule exploring the against-the-grain philosophy of the snooty art world paradigms.

Jackelope screens on Saturday, October 17 at 3:30pm

Havana Motor Club, directed by Bent Jorgen Perlmutt- No ‘gearhead’ intelligence needed with this one as Perlmutt’s film lays out the dynamics of Cuban street racing’s quest for legitimacy well. Following two sets of car builders and the tireless efforts of car lovers around Cuba to establish a racing order that matters, Havana Motor Club is a solid documentary that fawns over and explains its subjects and their metallic creations. It also raises some ironic questions, including why did such personal freedoms become illegal immediately after the Cuban revolution that fought for such a thing. It’s an entertaining examination of male bravado and showmanship.

Havana Motor Club screens on Sunday October 18th at 8:15 pm.


Buckwheat’s World, directed by Andrew Kolker and Louis Alvarez- Mosaic portrait of zydeco player Stanley Dural Jr. that mixes video, backstage footage and direct interviews to flesh out a thrilling portrait of not only the musician, but the food, camaraderie and overall lazy feeling of Louisianna and its ensconced musical heritage.

Buckwheat’s World screens Friday October 16th at 9:30pm.


Other films and events to watch for:

Charlie Kaufman’s latest mind-screw entitled Anomalisa

Albert Maysles’ final film In Transit

Veteran festival films such as Krisha, (T)error and Excess Flesh

Aint It Cool News, with Harry Knowles in attendance

Ernie Kovacks award presentation to comedians Bob and Chris Elliot

Local interest films such as Cinema I and II: A History of Movies In Dallas As Seen Through NorthPark’s Iconic Theater and Big D Film Festival

Dozens of short film blocks sure to amaze, surprise and, perhaps, turn one onto a new talent.

Full festival info, tickets and schedules can be found at videofest.org. All screenings and events will take place at the Angelika Dallas from Thursday, October 15 through Sunday, October 18.

Opening: ‘The Lazarus Effect,’ ‘Focus,’ Plus 8 Indies

Olivia Wilde in 'The Lazarus Effect'
Olivia Wilde in ‘The Lazarus Effect’

Opening Friday, February 27

    • The Lazarus Effect. Olivia Wilde dies and is then resurrected, to the misery of her fellow scientific experimenters. With Mark Duplass and Evan Peters. Wide release.
    • Focus. Will Smith and Margot Robbie in con-man adventure. Wide release.
    • A La Mala. A comedy from Mexico about a woman who helps her best friend test out her fiancee’s fidelity. Hmm, this sounds familiar. Wide release.
    • Human Capital A drama from Italy about two families and a tragic accident. Angelika Dallas.
    • Maps to the Stars. David Cronenberg looks at Hollywood. With Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, and Robert Pattinson. Look Cinemas.
    • Out of the Dark. Newly-arrived in Colombia, a married couple (Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman) discover their daughter is in mortal danger due to … ghosts? The movie is better than it may sound. with Stephen Rea. Studio Grill Spring Valley.
    • Red Army. An acclaimed documentary about the famed and fearsome Soviet Union national hockey team. Angelika Dallas, Cinemark West Plano.
    • Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal. A Chinese New Year’s confection from director Peter Pau. Cinemark Legacy.
    • Timbuktu. Academy Award-nominated drama about a cattle herder and his family. Landmark Magnolia, Angelika Plano.
    • What We Do in the Shadows. A horror-comedy mockumentary from the very funny and talented duo behind Flight of the Conchords. Advance word is positive. Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano.

Remembering JFK at The Texas Theatre

Oliver Stone's 'JFK' at the Texas Theatre
Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’ at the Texas Theatre

The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff will present a special day of movie screenings in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. All descriptions below provided courtesy of the theatre.

War is Hell. 1:20 p.m.
We will present a partial screening of War is Hell, the film that was playing the day that Lee Harvey Oswald sneaked into the Texas Theatre following the JFK assassination.

“During the Korean War, a glory-hunting sergeant leads his platoon on a mission against the enemy–not telling them that a cease-fire has just been declared–so that he can win medals. Trouble arises when some members of platoon begin to suspect that something is fishy.”

Cry of Battle. 2:45 p.m.
Cry of Battle was one of two films showing at the Texas Theatre on November 22, 1963.

“During World War II, the spoiled son of a wealthy businessman finds himself involved in the guerrilla movement fighting against the Japanese, and finds romance and adventure.”


At 6:30pm, the ticketed evening program begins with an on-stage theatrical re-creation of the Warren Commission interviews with the Texas Theatre’s employees, Julia Postal and Butch Burroughs, as well as John Brewer, the man who noticed Lee Harvey Oswald enter the Texas Theatre. Following the performance, the stage will be reset for an 8:00pm 35mm archival print presentation of Oliver Stone’s JFK.

A special preview to the film will be a short screening of archival footage from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI): “Texas Responds to the Assassination.” Included is TAMI-exclusive footage of Texas Governor John Connally giving his own, very personal account of November 22, 1963, as well as home movies made in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, and interview footage from the filming of JFK.

The November 22, 1963, assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy shocked the nation and the world. The brisk investigation of that murder conducted under the guidance of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren distressed many observers, even though subsequent careful investigations have been unable to find much fault with the conclusions his commission drew, the central one of which was that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone. Instead of satisfying the public, one result of the Warren Commission Report was that an unimaginable number of plausible conspiracy theories were bruited about, and these have supported a sizable publishing mini-industry ever since. In making this movie, director Oliver Stone had his pick of supposed or real investigative flaws to draw from and has constructed what some reviewers felt was one of the most compelling (and controversial) political detective thrillers ever to emerge from American cinema.

Indie Weekend: ‘Your Sister’s Sister,’ ‘The Woman in the Fifth,’ ‘Bill W.’

Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt in 'Your Sister's Sister'
Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt in ‘Your Sister’s Sister’

Three indies are opening locally today, June 22:

  • ‘Your Sister’s Sister.’ Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt play sisters who reunite at a remote cabin in the company of recovering friend Mark Duplass. Advance reviews have been mixed to positive. (Landmark Magnolia.) Not previewed.
  • ‘The Woman in the Fifth.’ An American novelist (Ethan Hawke) hopes to rekindle a romance in Paris; when that doesn’t work out, he takes a questionable job and meets a mysterious woman (Kirstin Scott-Thomas). Advance reviews have been mixed. (Angelika Dallas.) Not previewed.
  • ‘Bill W.’ A documentary about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. (Texas Theatre.) Not previewed.

Opening wide:

  • ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.’ With only a scant few days remaining before an asteroid destroys Earth, neighbors Steve Carell and Keira Knightley take a road trip to resolve past regrets. My review. Recommended.
  • ‘Brave.’ The new Pixar films is a dark fairy tale revolving around a 10th-century Scottish princess and her battles with her mother. My review. Recommended.
  • ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.’ The 16th President of the United States gets a violent historical makeover from the director of ‘Wanted.’ Advance reviews have been mixed to negative. Not previewed.

Review: Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012 – Live Action and Animated

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore'

Ah, the Oscar-nominated shorts! How I look forward each year to seeing them — and be assured that, for once, my scribblings contain not a single iota of irony.

The Oscar shorts program annually showcases the best of both animated and live action films, typically of no more than 30 minutes in length, with the animated films generally trending closer to five or ten minutes in length.

This year’s crop of shorts can be seen at Dallas’ Landmark Magnolia, and kudos to them for providing one of the few opportunities to see them on the big screen before Academy Awards time.

Here are capsule reviews (observations, if you will) about each of the shorts in the two categories. NOTE that there is also a set of Academy Award-nominated documentary shorts, which will be playing separately at the Texas Theatre, starting on February 19.


Raju (German with English subtitles)
A German couple travels to India to adopt an orphaned child and take him into their European household. All goes well until Dad takes the young boy for a stroll around the seedy looking Delhi neighborhood; then events take a nightmarish turn as the boy disappears. But all is not what it seems. The action is presented documentary style as the new adoptive father prowls the streets looking for Raju – and for answers. We are eventually forced to ask ourselves the question: where is the higher moral ground here? And what is the right thing to do — for Raju?

A comical tale about a failed Irish altar boy whose focus is more on football finals than his assigned duty wielding the censor in high mass. The priest’s pep talk before the big game — er, I mean the mass — is done with tongue firmly in cheek.

“Let’s see some grace, some vision – go out there and have the mass of your lives.”

Slacker dude and would-be quantum physicist Stillman has made a scientific breakthrough — from his cluttered garage workshop. But when he lets his best friend in on the details, a startling revelation about where he’s been traveling in time comes to light. This plays like Groundhog Day done short and sweet, and asks the question: How far would you go to do your friend a solid? (How far in time, I mean.) Obsessives will relate.

“So, you built  a time machine, and you’ve been traveling around yesterday?”

Tuba Atlantic (Norwegian with English subtitles)
A crusty, curmudgeonly Norwegian bachelor farmer has six days to live, says his doctor. (Yes, exactly six.) In order to enjoy his final days in the comfort of his seaside home, he’ll need a companion to monitor over his progress (says the government). Enter a pert and extremely annoying blond angel of death named Inger, who learns that there are many ways to murder seagulls. (Machine guns, dynamite and washing machines, to name a few.)

The Shore
An unassuming, almost inconsequential half-hour story filmed on the green, green tidal shores of Northern Ireland. Two old friends whose lives took radically different courses come together again after 25 years. Ciaran Hinds stars as a former IRA man who immigrated to America — when he returns to his homeland, he has his lovely daughter in tow, and quite a backstory to tell. A case of mistaken identity leads to hilarious results; then mistaken motivations result in an emotional reunion.


La Luna
This magical Pixar-produced fantasy tale presents us with three generations of fishermen in one rowboat, on a sea of dreams. It’s not fish they’re going after, but star stuff. Complete with an engaging starry-eyed little boy and a ladder to the moon. Stylish design – artistic composition – a joy to behold. Don’t ask what language they’re speaking — think the Swedish Chef and you’ll get the idea.

A Morning Stroll
Presented in vintage line-drawn animation look and accompanied by a jazzy score, this odd story spans several decades to tell the story of a pet chicken who startles passersby as he (or she) ambles down a busy urban sidewalk and then pecks at the door of a flat to be let in. Look out for 2059, where zombies appear to hold sway on the populace.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (pictured above)
A phantasmagorical celebration of the printed page, and a paean to those singular individuals who devote their lives to them. Literally. Features gorgeous traveling camera effects. Sure to elicit a sympathetic sniffle from librarians and bibliophiles everywhere. (Kindle users need not apply.)

Charming, naive, childlike animated art is employed to tell this whimsical slice of life story about a little boy forced to spend his Sunday going to church and then struggling through a visit to his grandparents’ house. Here, he discovers that bears mounted on the mantlepiece still have some life in them, and that life is permeated with glimpses of death. (In an interesting way.) Three squawking crows make for a fine Greek chorus.

Wild Life
Tells the tale of a dandified Englishman who decamps to early 20th century Canada — a land of rugged adventure — to try his hand at ranching. Glowing, shimmering impressionist animation highlights this surprisingly melancholy story. The significance of a cryptic comet backstory remains clouded ’til the bitter end. A very moving piece of work. “A’fore too long, I shall be as rough as a cowboy.”

The Oscar Nominated Short Films programs — separate admission for Live Action and Animated — is now playing exclusively at Landmark Magnolia for a limited engagement.

Weekend in D/FW: ‘Brotherhood,’ ‘Cedar Rapids,’ ‘Lovers of Hate,’ ‘Unknown’ and More

Lovers of Hate
Sometimes it curdles. 'Lovers of Hate' (IFC Films)

As we return slowly to our regular schedule, we are delighted to see several reasons to get out of the house. Listed in order of interest.

Limited engagements and wide openings:

  1. ‘Brotherhood.’ A drama with thrills; a fraternity prank goes very, very wrong. (Angelika Dallas) [My review.]
  2. ‘Cedar Rapids.’ Amusing character study of innocence and insurance. (Angelika Dallas; Cinemark West Plano) [My review.]
  3. ‘Lovers of Hate.’ I’ve missed this one, but it’s described as: “When love curdles, someone still has to eat it.” (Texas Theatre)
  4. ‘Unknown.’ Liam Neeson flies to Berlin, loses his passport, must appear in this movie. (Wide.) [My review.]
  5. ‘I Am Number Four.’ Beautiful teen aliens must fight off ugly older aliens. (Wide.)
  6. ‘Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son.’ Like, not screened for critics. (Wide.)

Special screenings:

  • ‘Dear Pillow.‘ Bryan Poyser’s first feature. (Friday, Texas Theatre)
  • ‘The Room.’ The legend of Tommy Wiseau continues to grow. (Friday and Saturday midnight, Landmark Inwood)
  • ‘Texas Legends Before They Were Legends.’ Short films by Wes Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater and others. (Sunday, Texas Theatre)

Coming up mid-week at the Texas Theatre: ‘Slacker,’ ‘Disco and Atomic War,’ ‘Jules and Jim,’ and ‘House’ (‘Hausu’) !!!