Jon Stewart to present “Rosewater” at Austin Film Festival

“Daily Show” host Jon Stewart will present his directorial début, “Rosewater,” as the Austin Film Festival’s closing night film Oct. 30.


“Rosewater” is based on the memoir “Then They Came for Me” by London-based journalist Maziar Bahari (written with Aimee Molloy). Gael García Bernal plays Bahari, who was detained in Iran for more than four months and savagely interrogated. Bahari has said that a 2009 interview he gave on the “Daily Show” was used as evidence that he was in contact with the American intelligence community. “Rosewater” is out in theaters Nov. 7.

Barry Levinson’s “The Humbling” will open the festival October 23. Based on the Philip Roth novel, “The Humbling” follows an aged and addled actor (Al Pacino) and his affair with a much younger woman (Greta Gerwig).

Also kicking off AFF’s 21st anniversary, writer/director Richard LaGravenese will present the Jason Robert Brown musical adaptation of “The Last 5 Years” starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

As was reported last week, Edward Zwick will accept the Extraordinary Contribution to Film Award at the AFF awards luncheon. He will also be joined by frequent collaborator Winnie Holzman (creator of “My So-Called Life”) for a conversation on their work in television Oct. 26.

Luke Wilson joins the 2014 Retrospective series, presenting “The Pope of Greenwich Village.” Austin Film Festival’s Retrospective series allows guest programmers to present works that have inspired their careers. “The Pope of Greenwich Village” will be programmed alongside Wilson’s short film “Satellite Beach,” which he wrote, directed and starred in, with producers also in attendance.

The full film and conference schedule is live on the AFF website,

Fantastic Fest capsule review: Cub

Special to the American-Statesman

Another terrifying Fantastic Fest entry from Belgium, “Cub” is the feature debut from director Jonas Govaerts. It follows a group of scouts as they head out to the French countryside to go camping. Troop leaders Chris and Peter scare the boys before they even leave on the trip, letting them know that a half boy, half beast known as Kai has been spotted in the area where they will be setting up camp.

Sam (Maurice Luijten), a 12-year-old boy with a violent past, is the only one who really takes the warning seriously, and he begins hunting for Kai pretty quickly after their arrival. Initially, it seems as though the only troubles on the trip are going to come from a few local residents, but Sam soon sees Kai with his own eyes even if he cannot convince his fellow troops.

Along the way, we see that there may be more to worry about than just Kai. The forest is elaborately rigged with traps and triggers that seem to be far too complex for a feral child to develop on his own. The script slowly and deliberately works within genre conventions to begin killing off people on the periphery of the story and then target our leads.

For all of Sam’s issues, he’s extremely clever and quick on his feet. It doesn’t take long for him to traverse the wooded area around the camp site and discover Kai’s hiding place high in the trees. Govaerts establishes his fears, but also his determination to survive at all costs and protect his fellow troops.

“Cub” is highly intelligent at the same time that it’s ridiculously far-fetched. There are some comic moments, but the film chooses mostly to play it straight and dark, with an undercurrent of evil at all times. Unfortunately, it has another example of this year’s disturbing trend of extreme animal violence. The brutal beating of a dog in the second half of the film will undoubtedly be a trigger for some viewers. I’d argue, however, that if you’re ok with the thought of watching pre-teen boys get needlessly slaughtered, you should be able to handle the same happening to a pet.

The film builds to an over-the-top climax that is one of the most violent I’ve watched over the last five days. For horror fans, “Cub” delivers in every way imaginable.

Fantastic Fest capsule review: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

In the excellent new documentary “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films,” there is a really great description of Cannon Films, the legendary low budget movie studio.

Electric Boogaloo
Electric Boogaloo

It comes from a music supervisor who worked on a lot of Cannon flicks. He’s describing one particular film in their singular archive but he might as well be talking about all of them: “That’s sorta the Cannon way,” he says “it completely resembles something minus good taste.

“Electric Boogaloo,” which screens at Fantastic Fest this week, was directed by Australian director Mark Hartley, whose previous two films, “Not Quite Hollywood”and “Machete Maidens Unleashed,” also focused on trash cinema. Here, the oeuvre of cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who moved from inventing the modern Israeli film industry to coming to America when they bought a small company called Cannon Group and created Cannon Films, responsible for some of the most awesomely terrible movies of the 1980s. From musical bombs (“The Apple,” sort of a sci-fi cross between “Tommy” and the book of Genesis, kind of has to be seen to be believed) to teen sex romps (“The Last American Virgin” tagline: “See it or be it!”), Cannon just kept going. Golan, himself a director, and Globus, who kept an eye on the books,  are inspiring figures. Unencumbered by taste but hemmed by low budgets and a sense of the foreign market, they are a two-man grindhouse, often making movies after pre-selling the poster.

There’s even an Austin connection, as Cannon was the studio that made “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” which, like the original was directed by Austin born Tobe Hooper. (Hooper also directed the cult classic “Lifeforce” which one talking head refers to as “Tobe Hooper’s Ben Hur.”)

After scoring a fluke hit with the breakdancing movie “Breakin’” (which one dancer calls “The ‘Enter the Dragon’ of hip-hop”), Golan and Globus go all in, cranking out various “Death Wish” and Chuck Norris movies and making some fine-ish art now and then (John Cassavetes’ “Love Streams” for example,  was a Cannon Film.)

Unfortunately, as often happens in these situations, the cousins suddenly started to act like they were a real studio, spending five-figure budgets on movies such as “Masters of the Universe” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” By the end of the 1980s, it was all over but the shouting.

The two cousins didn’t participate in the documentary, but seemingly everyone else did. Look for interviews with Sybil Danning, Bo Derek and Marina “Counselor Troi” Sirtis. A must-see. for anyone interested in terrible movies.