Martin Starr in Austin to chat about “Amira & Sam”

Drafthouse Films’ romantic dramady “Amira & Sam” opens today and star  Martin Starr will at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar to answer questions about the movie at the 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday screenings and the 4:25 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10:10 p.m. Sunday screenings.
Martin Starr plays Sam and Dina Shihabi plays Amira in “Amira & Sam.”
Martin Starr plays Sam and Dina Shihabi plays Amira in “Amira & Sam.”
Austin’s active duty military and veterans can bring a date to “Amira & Sam” for free at the Alamo Drafthouse. Check out details on this special “Military Date Night” offer here.
The début from writer-director Sean Mullin, “Amira & Sam” follows Sam (Starr), an army veteran who meets Amira (newcomer Dina Shihabi), his war buddy’s niece.

More details on ‘Knight of Cups’

Here’s a further update of Austin director Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups,” which has its Berlin premiere Feb. 6. This description is from the official festival program and provides more details than the earlier synopsis.

“Rick is a slave to the Hollywood system. He is addicted to success but simultaneously despairs at the emptiness of his life. He is at home in a world of illusions but seeks real life. Like the tarot card of the title, Rick is easily bored and needs outside stimulation. But the Knight of Cups is also an artist, a romantic and an adventurer.

“In Terrence Malick’s seventh film a gliding camera once again accompanies a tormented hero on his search for meaning. Once again a voiceover is laid over images which also seek their own authenticity. And once again Malick seems to put the world out of joint. His symphonic flow of images contrasts cold, functional architecture with the ageless beauty of nature. Rick’s internal monologue coalesces with the voices of the women who cross his path, women who represent different principles in life: while one lives in the real world, the other embodies beauty and sensuality. Which path will Rick choose? In the city of angels and the desert that surrounds it, will he find his own way?”

So, the Knight of Cups is a tarot card. And when you google the tarot card, you get stuff like this:

When you are inspired but not productive, when you have champagne taste but a wine cooler budget, when a smooth-talking person in your life has big plans but no resources … in all of these cases and more, look for the Knight of Cups to appear in your Tarot reading to describe this phenomena.

The knight is typically described as more in touch with his feelings, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a manly man. The white horse on which he rides is apparently a symbol of masculinity.

So, there you have it. Christian Bale is the knight of the title, and he’s torn between two women, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman, who represent the “real world” and the world of beauty and sensuality.


‘Black or White’ finds dramatic promise in American race relations (Our grade: B)

Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner star in Relativity Media’s “Black or White.”
Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner star in Relativity Media’s “Black or White.”

By Roger Moore – McClatchy-Tribune News Service

“Selma” wasn’t the only film about race to get short shrift from Oscar voters this past year. “Black or White” is a frank, touching and very well-acted melodrama about child custody and cultural perceptions of “blackness” and “the race card,” and could have earned Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner fresh Oscar nominations.

‘Amira & Sam’ offers a sweet, subversive romance (Our grade: B)

Martin Starr plays Sam and Dina Shihabi plays Amira in “Amira & Sam.”
Martin Starr plays Sam and Dina Shihabi plays Amira in “Amira & Sam.”

“Amira & Sam” is a sweet little movie that seeks to subvert our expectations of romantic comedies in various ways.

Most importantly, it tries — and mostly succeeds — to make a leading romantic man out of Martin Starr, the rather gentle dork on NBC’s short-lived sitcom “Freaks and Geeks” and one of the stars of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”

» Read full review on | Find showtimes for ‘Amira & Sam’

‘Mr. Turner’ offers luminous look at British master painter (Our grade: A)

Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner in “Mr. Turner.”
Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner in “Mr. Turner.”

By Jane Sumner – Special to the American-Statesman

“Mr. Turner” is an absolutely luminous film. Mike Leigh’s biopic exploring the last 25 years of the visionary British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner radiates brilliant-cut craftsmanship, talent and light.

» Read full review on | Find showtimes for ‘Mr. Turner’


‘Black Sea’ offers plenty of thrills (Our grade: B)

Jude Law plays Robinson, a rogue submarine captain who’s trying to find sunken World War II treasure, in “Black Sea.”
Jude Law plays Robinson, a rogue submarine captain who’s trying to find sunken World War II treasure, in “Black Sea.”

Scottish director Kevin Macdonald, who’s best known for the Oscar-winning “The Last King of Scotland,” knows how to build tension, and his talents are on full display in “Black Sea,” a claustrophobic submarine thriller.

» Read full review on | Find showtimes for ‘Black Sea’

Austin filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt’s short “World of Tomorrow” wins Sundance Grand Jury Prize

Austin filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt‘s animated short film “World of Tomorrow” won the Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Grand Jury Prize. It beat out 59 other sort films (animation and live action are not separated for this competition.) It premiered Jan. 22 at the fest.

A still from "World of Tomorrow"
A still from “World of Tomorrow”

This is Hertzfeldt’s second win in this category; he won in 2007 for “Everything Will Be OK.”

His 2014 couch gag for the Simpsons’ was one of the greatest in the show’s history; indeed, considering how hit-or-miss that show has been since the end of the Clinton administration, it’s probably the single coolest thing the Simpsons has aired in the 21st century.

More details on Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’


Film fans have been wondering what Austin director Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups” is all about.

The highly secretive director hasn’t given many clues, but the questions will be answered Feb. 8, when “Knight of Cups” makes its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Publicists sent an email to me today giving this synopsis for the film, which stars Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. “Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep.”

Hmm. That clears things up, doesn’t it?

Publicity materials indicate that Malick will not be available for interviews or for the press conference on Feb. 8 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Berlin. But Bale and Portman are expected to show up.

The running time is 118 minutes, far shorter than usual Malick fare. So we’ll see how things shake out. Stay tuned.




Watch: New ‘Fantastic Four’ teaser trailer definitely promises doom

Remember 2005’s “Fantastic Four,” with its foam-suited Michael Chiklises, poorly-dyed Jessica Albas and scenery-chewing “Nip/Tuck” actors? How about its sequel, “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer”? (That movie translated a classic comic antagonist to the big screen as a puffy space cloud. It’s OK if you purged it from your brain, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” style.)

(20th Century Fox)
(20th Century Fox)

Even if you have fond memories of Fox’s earlier attempts at bringing the first family of Marvel Comics to Hollywood, it seems the studio is trying very, very hard to make sure you forget all about it with a teaser trailer for the reboot of the franchise released Tuesday morning. Watch it below:

Let’s unpack a few initial observations:

  • It seems that the studio that brought us “X-Men: Days of Future Past” would like to bring us “X-Men: Days of Future Past” again, but with The Thing instead of Wolverine. The tone of “Fantastic Four” looks dark, stormy and apocalyptic, a far cry from both the plastic sheen of the 2000s movies and the Space Age, wonderstruck tone of some of the comic’s quintessential incarnations. If audiences are in for a sci-fi horror interpretation, we’ll give it an eager shot. (Director Josh Trank says he’s going for a Cronenberg vibe, which if we’re honest, fits pretty intuitively with the inherent body horror aspects of the Fantastic Four concept.)
  • Speaking of darker interpretations, the film definitely, consciously resembles 2004’s “Ultimate Fantastic Four” comic, which reinvented the foursome as a much younger group whose powers resulted from a scientific think-tank experiment gone awry, instead of Kennedy-era adults gifted/cursed with strange abilities after trying to beat the Commies to outer space. Hopefully, an infamous pair of goat legs won’t trickle through the influence funnel, too.
  • Stray thoughts on the cast: Miles Teller (“Whiplash”) is certainly bringing to Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards a more nerd-cool, child prodigy vibe and less of a pipe-smoking, fatherly Cold War science hero schtick. This was expected, but it’s nice to see that the quick-lipped Teller might be anchoring his wiseacre routine with a little more vulnerability. Or maybe it’s just the glasses talking.
  • Kate Mara (“House of Cards”) doesn’t do too much in the teaser aside from looking steely as the Invisible Woman/Susan Storm. But with such a low bar set (apologies to Ms. Alba), steely glances are cause for relief. The Susan Storm in the comics is a consummate badass, so we’re optimistic.
  • Michael B. Jordan (“Friday Night Lights”) doesn’t get too much to do in the teaser as the Human Torch/Johnny Storm, but we do see some pyrotechnic CGI that gets our inner 12-year-old amped. Chris Evans’ portrayal of the self-immolating hero was the undeniable high point of the 2000s films, so we’re curious to see where Jordan takes the character.
  • Finally, Jamie Bell (“Snowpiercer”) gets minimal screentime as Ben Grimm before transforming into the Thing, but we do see some lumbering piles of orange, CGI-ed rocks in brief flashes. The Thing is pretty much the definition of a character that works great in a comic book and seems absurd in live action (well, more absurd than a man with elastic limbs). The teaser’s coy stance on the clobbering hero could be an attempt to whet moviegoers’ appetites, but we’re worried that the filmmakers are embarrassed to show off this latest take on the rough-skinned bruiser. Here’s hoping there’s no foam rubber.

    Remember, it could always be worse.
    Remember, it could always be worse.
  • Was that disembodied voice at the end Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) as Doctor Doom (or evil programmer Victor Domashev in this film, which .. yeah)? We’ll say this: The movie definitely reeks of doom, one way or another.

“Fantastic Four” is set to hit theaters August 7.

‘Goodbye to Language 3D’ to screen in Austin


A dog is one of the big stars in Jean-Luc Godard's "Goodbye to Language 3D." Kino Lorber
A dog is one of the big stars in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language 3D.” Kino Lorber

Jean-Luc Godard, the French New Wave auteur who shot to fame with 1960’s “Breathless,” has a new movie that’s opening in Austin on Friday, but there’s a caveat. It’s screening only once a day, and only at one theater, the Alamo South.

Still, for adventurous Central Texas cinephiles, the movie, “Goodbye to Language 3D,” shouldn’t be missed.

I saw the movie at the Cannes Film Festival last May, but it hasn’t screened in Austin, so it’s risky to write a full review based on memories of many months ago. But I can say it doesn’t have a plot that can easily be described. Instead, it’s a meditation of various philosophical issues. It centers on a married woman and a single man, who have a tumultuous relationship over time. And there’s a dog.

Godard has long been associated with experimental cinema, and introduced the world to the hand-held camera, much to some people’s dismay. This time, he’s experimenting with 3D in unusual ways. For instance, in one scene, a naked man and a naked woman appear on screen, and the image is quite blurry through the 3D glasses. But if you close one eye you can see the naked woman, and if you close the other eye, you can see the naked man. It’s sort of a 3D of choice, and this goes on at special moments throughout the film.

It’s a playful device, and the movie is much more playful than some of his last few films. A big part of the movie focuses on Godard’s dog, a mutt that wanders around nature as voiceovers discuss what the dog might be thinking or doing. Godard sees the dog as being much more in touch with the world than humans. And he notes at one point that dogs are the only living creatures who love someone else, their masters, more than they love themselves.

Make no mistake. This is strictly an arthouse film. It was hard to sit in the audience at Cannes and not think that you were a part of a French version of the “Saturday Night Live” skit the Sprockets, featuring the pretentious avant-garde German duo, dressed in black. But that’s somehow appropriate, since it makes you laugh at the whole scene. And some of “Goodbye to Language” is quite funny.

The jurors at Cannes gave Godard, who’s in his 80s, the jury prize for “Goodbye to Language.” Godard shared that prize with Xavier Dolan, the 25-year-old French-Canadian director, for “Mommy,” which is scheduled to open in Austin. Feb. 6.

The mutt, named Roxy, won the Palme Dog, the tongue-in-cheek prize for the best performance by a dog in Cannes.