Four movies you should see this weekend instead of “X-Men: Apocalypse”

So, yeah, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is pretty rough. Here are four movies you can see on yet another rainy weekend instead:

The-Lobster-Cannes-Image-1023x575“The Lobster” Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is going to find a whole new audience with this feature, not to mention perhaps giving Colin Farrell yet another lease on life.  Lanthios’s romantic dystopia, which screened last year at Fantastic Fest, is on its way to be being one of the year’s best regarded films. 

“The Lobster” is playing at select area theaters.


belladonna-of-sadness“Belladonna of Sadness” A gloriously trippy, long-lost anime classic, the 1973 film  “Belladonna of Sadness” is a the final film of the adult-themed Animerama trilogy produced by anime and manga god Osamu Tezuka. Directed by Tezuka’s frequent collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (“Astro Boy,” “Kimba the White Lion”), “Belladonna” is a tale of assault and revenge, of brutal lords and the Devil. It is not for the faint of heart. Recently, the film was restored using the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements; the new cut contains over eight minutes of new weirdness. As 1970s as it gets and showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz this weekend.


THE THIRD MAN, Joseph Cotten, 1949
This dude right here. (Joseph Cotten in “The Third Man”

“The Third Man” (3 p.m. Saturday, Paramount Theater) and “Citizen Kane” (5 p.m. Saturday, Paramount Theater) Of course these are both films featuring Orson Welles — in the former, he had one of the greatest cameos of all time and the latter is still, yes, still, to this day, one of the best American movies ever made. But you should see them both this weekend and you should see them both for my man Joseph Cotten.

That guy’s early résumé as a brilliant supporting player is unreal: between ’41 and ’43” the guy was in “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons” for Welles and essayed a hall of fame psychopath  in Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt.” “The Third Man” was in ’49.  In “Kane,” he is the moral center, the voice of integrity and decency when Kane’s will-to-power starts to overwhelm. In “The Third Man,” he is our POV, a classic noir everyman caught in a chaotic post-war Europe. Never less than a professional, reportedly a very classy guy, Cotten remains one of my all-time favorite screen presences.


Alamo Drafthouse floats idea of gender-neutral bathroom at Mueller

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and the Highball
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and the Highball. The gender-neutral bathoom was proposed for the upcoming Mueller location.

UPDATE: League clarified his comments Tuesday evening: “A clarification on the gender-neutral bathroom thread (there was some interesting discussion on Twitter that prompted this clarification). My intent on the previous post was to discuss architectural design details for the proposed bathroom. But as to “taking sides,” I have taken a side. My side is that bigotry and the associated violence and/or shaming stemming from your choice of stall is unacceptable. But changing that mindset is likely going to take a long time. My hope is that by changing the design of restrooms we can in the meantime avoid some potential violence.”


Alamo Drafthouse head cheese Tim League posted some thoughts on Facebook Tuesday on plans to perhaps build a gender-neutral  bathroom at the upcoming Alamo Mueller.

“The issue of gender neutral restrooms has gotten a bit… heated,” League wrote. “Instead of taking sides on whether or not sexual predators will be invading the restrooms of our stores or public schools, we’ve been thinking about what an inclusive commercial gender-neutral restroom design might look like so that these challenges are not even part of the dialogue.

“I’ve been working with our architect Richard Weiss for the past couple of weeks to come up with a restroom design for our upcoming Mueller location in Austin, Texas that 1) meets city codes, 2) is comfortable for all genders, and 3) gets the job done. The consensus was that we’d have a room with “standing” toilets (heck, we’re even looking at those all-gender urinals) and individual rooms with sinks, mirrors and trash cans in each room, our “seated” toilet area. I don’t want to have any “men” or “women” signs in the building.”

League attached a drawing of the bathroom’s potential layout to his Facebook page and welcomed comment.


New “Finding Dory” trailer introduces new characters, reminds you that Disney’s ownership of 2016 will continue unabated

Here is the latest trailer for “Finding Dory,” which is due in theaters June 17.

Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane  (the latter has worked on Pixar shorts) and co-written by Stanton, “Finding Dory” is the long-awaited sequel to the 2003 film “Finding Nemo,” also written and directed by Stanton.

This third trailer is easily the strongest. A few notes:

  • My only beef: Someday we will stop using Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” in trailers. That day is not today.
  •  Though the film is largely set six months after “Finding Nemo,” we see Dory in flashbacks (Ellen DeGeneres) as a young fish who has lost her family. Looks like her short-term memory has never, ever been good.
  • Some new face– um, fish: Ed O’Neill as an octopus named Hank, Ty Burrell as a beluga named Bailey and Kaitlin Olson as a whale shark named Destiny.
  • The animation looks glorious.
  • In perhaps the greatest ever nod to “The Wire,” Idris Elba and Dominic West play two very chill sea lions. Truly, we are living in a Golden Age.
  • Between “Captain America: Civil War,” “The Jungle Book,”Zootopia” and, oh yeah, “Star Wars” movies at the end of last year and the end of this, Disney is owning 2016 like few studios have ever owned a year. It is Disney and then everyone else.

So what do you think, Austin? Comment below.

The wonderful world of Disney is finally headed to Netflix

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. Netflix reports quarterly financial results on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. Netflix reports quarterly financial results on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

The time has finally come. Netflix announced Monday that it will become the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar, starting in September.

Though specific films weren’t named, Netflix’s head of content Ted Sarandos listed other new additions coming at users this summer. In June, we can expect sci-fi adventure classics like the first three original “Jurassic Park” films and Oscar-winner “Spotlight.”

July welcomes “The Big Short” and Netflix Original “Brahman Naman” while “The Little Prince” and “The Fast and the Furious” arrives in August.

Basically, if you thought you were going to be active this summer, Netflix is going to shut that dream down pretty quickly. Oh well.

Cannes, the final day: Britain’s Loach wins Palme for ‘I, Daniel Blake’

Hayley Squires and Dave Johns in "I, Daniel Blake."
Hayley Squires and Dave Johns in “I, Daniel Blake.”


In a big surprise, Britain’s Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday evening, his second after 2006’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”

And in yet another surprise, the highly divisive “It’s Only the End of the World” from French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan took the grand prix, or second prize, while the critical favorite, “Toni Edmann,” by Germany’s Maren Ade was shut out. Also missing from the award winners were two highly acclaimed American films, Austin director Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson.”

“The Salesman” from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi took best screenplay and best actor, for Shahab Hosseini. Best director was shared between Romania’s Cristian Mungiu for “Graduation” and France’s Olivier Assayas for “Personal Shopper,” another highly divisive film that starred Kristen Stewart.

Britain’s Andrea Arnold won third place, the jury prize, for the American-set “American Honey,” while Jaclyn Jose of Brillante Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa” won best actress. The latter was also a surprise, since Isabelle Huppert wowed critics with her performance in Paul Verhoeven’s thriller “Elle.”

The Camera d’Or, which goes to first-time directors, went to “Divines,” which played in Directors’ Fortnight.

MORE FROM CANNES: Talking animals and religion with director Jim Jarmusch

The ceremony capped a contentious festival, where many critics voiced strong opinions about the competition entries. The biggest victim of the annual barrage of vitriol was Sean Penn’s “The Last Face,” which ended up getting the lowest score in history from the critics featured in the British trade journal Screen International. It got only 1 star from two critics, and the rest gave it an “X,” or “F.”

Loach’s Palme winner, however, was in the middle of the critical pack. It has an overt political message, criticizing the bureaucracy that administers the British welfare system. It stars Dave Johns as Daniel Blake, a pensioner who faces loss of payments, and Hayley Squires as Katie, a single mother of two who is befriended by Daniel after she, too, loses battles with the welfare bureaucracy.

It’s a very touching, humanistic tale, as most of Loach’s movies are. But it treads dangerous ground in almost becoming too preachy — a turnoff for most critics. Still, it has heart, and Loach is a veteran, beloved filmmaker in Cannes.

Dolan’s victory was greeted with boos in the press audience. But his movie, which deals with a gay man who goes home to tell his family that he is dying,  has been far underrated by critics, some of whom deride the 27-year-old for his early success. He first appeared in Cannes when he was only 19 and has become Canada’s filmmaking prodigy.

It’s too early to say which films from Cannes will be contenders for an Oscar. Certainly, Iran’s “The Salesman” should be among the best foreign language Oscar contenders, if Iran chooses to submit it. Variety and other American outlets have been predicting that Nichols’ “Loving” will also be an Oscar contender.

Cannes Day 10: Two fine movies close out competition

Isabelle Huppert gives a wicked performance in "Elle."
Isabelle Huppert gives a wicked performance in “Elle.”

Two fine but very different movies — Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” and Asghar Farad’s “The Salesman” — closed out the competition this weekend for the Palme d’Or in Cannes. And either one could get a major prize.

First, let’s talk about the deliciously evil and perverse “Elle.” Verhoeven, who brought “Basic Instinct” to Cannes in 1992, is back with another tale of a woman in danger who is also dangerous.

This time, it’s the brilliant Isabelle Huppert as Michele, a video game company founder in Paris who is raped by a man in a black ski mask in her luxurious home at the beginning of the film. Michele doesn’t act the way you might think. Once the rapist leaves, she calmly cleans up the broken glass from the floor. Then she takes a hot bath, not crying, just going about cleaning up in a methodical way.

She doesn’t call the police. At first, she doesn’t even tell anyone. She goes to work the next day and pretends nothing happened while giving instructions to her employees about how to build the suspense in a violent video game.

We slowly discover why Michele has an aversion to going to the police, and why she’s so determined to stay in control of life. When she was a child, her father went on a killing spree in Paris, and after the massacre, he came back home and asked his girl to help burn up the family possessions. She did, and as her father was being arrested, she was photographed in front of the fire, with ashes on her face. Ever since, she has been associated with the murders and has fought hard to build a prosperous life.

The rapist has her cell number and starts texting her, and she suspects that the perp might be someone who works for her. But we’re kept guessing.

She has a loser son, Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), who works at a fast-food joint. The husband whom she divorced is named Richard (Charles Berling), and he’s a frustrated writer. Her best friend is Anna (Anne Consigny), who co-founded the game company with Michele. And her next-door neighbors are the stockbroker Patrick (Laruent Lafitte) and his religious wife Rebecca (Virginie Efira).

All of these characters are introduced with skill by Verhoeven, but the movie centers on Huppert’s Michele, who is in every scene.

The movie is full of suspense, irony and, surprisingly, many laugh-out loud moments. Most of these come from Michele’s bluntness about those around her, and her peculiar take on life — that she’s going to live her life in freedom and not be constrained by societal norms.

In no way does the movie suggest that she’s come to terms or is OK with the rape, as some have suggested. Far from it. She plots to figure out who the rapist is, and then she carefully maneuvers the man, who knows that his identity has been discovered. And rather than immediately turn him in to police, she begins a rather unnerving game. It’s not a revenge thriller, necessarily, although you might end up interpreting it that way. But there’s more ambiguity than you might think. And the movie is very French. It’s hard to imagine anyone except, perhaps, Sharon Stone, playing such a role in an American film.

Huppert does so with wry glee. There’s a disturbing glint in her eye, and you come to understand that she’s completely amoral, in an almost scary way. But that’s why the movie is deliciously perverse. Huppert and Verhoeven are a great team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t walk away with the best actress prize at Sunday’s awards ceremony. Her main competition: Ruth Negga of Austin director Jeff Nichols’ “Loving,” or possibly Kristen Stewart of “Personal Shopper.”

Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in "The Salesman."
Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in “The Salesman.”

The other late standout in Cannes is Iran’s “The Salesman,” which follows the fate of Rana (Taraneh Aliodoosti) and her husband  Emad (Shahab Hosseini). The two work at a local school, and both are starring in a play, Arthur Miller’s “The Death of a Salesman.” One day, Rana thinks the person ringing her high-rise bell below is her husband, coming home from practicing the play, and she buzzes the caller in without asking. She starts to shower, but ends up being attacked by an intruder. She hits her head on the bathroom glass and goes unconscious, and neighbors discover her lying on the floor as the intruder runs down the steps.

When Emad gets home, he discovers that his wife is in the hospital, possibly with a concussion. But his wife won’t tell Emad exactly what happened. He suspects the worst, possibly a sexual assault, but his wife refuses to discuss the matter. She’s scared, and she doesn’t want to stay in the apartment any more.

While Rana tries to return to normalcy, her husband becomes obsessed with finding the attacker. It turns out that the man left his keys to his truck, a cellphone and some money behind. And Emad finds the truck and waits for the owner to come back to claim it, planning on a confrontation.

To say much more would give away some key plot points, but the director, whose previous films include “The Past” and “A Separation,” is masterful at building tension between the wife and husband, leading us to wonder where all of this will go.

With the premieres of “Elle” and “The Salesman,” the race for the major prizes on Sunday becomes more complicated. Some think “American Honey,” from British director Andrea Arnold, will score big. Others think Nichols’ “Loving” has a shot at a major prize. Some, including me, think Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” has to be among the contenders. And it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Germany’s Maren Ade become the second woman to win the Palme d’Or, for “Toni Erdmann.” Jane Campion is the only other woman who has won such an honor in Cannes, for “The Piano.”

There are several people, mainly among the European press, who think Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” starring Stewart, will be among the award winners. And it would not be a surprise to see Kleber Mendonca Filho of Brazil win something for his Brazilian tale of a widow fighting a corrupt developer in “Aquarius.” And, no, you can’t rule out the Dardenne brothers, who premiered “The Unknown Girl” and are longtime Cannes favorites.

Sunday should be interesting.

Tonight, the winner of Un Certain Regard, the prestigious sidebar event, will be named.


Movies to see this weekend? All Noir City, all the time, baby

There are all sorts of movies to see this weekend, but may I direct your attention to the third annual “Noir City Austin” festival?

Fallen_Sparrow_poster_240_355_81_s_c1There are seven double features over the course of three days, full of dames and guns and folks up to no good.

Each double bill features an original “A” and “B” title from a given year, so a well-known noir classic such as Fritz Lang’s “Scarlet Street” plays alongside a rarity such as Julien Duvivier’s amazingly titled “Flesh and Fantasy.”

All the films are presented in restored or carefully preserved 35mm prints and hosted by Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller.

Check out the full slate at the Austin Movie Blog

Here is a link to tickets for the first screening.

Cannes Day 10: 5 reasons why Sean Penn’s ‘The Last Face’ is a disaster

Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron in "The Last Face."
Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron in “The Last Face.”


Sean Penn told the Financial Times that he had a lot riding on the Cannes premiere of his new directorial effort, “The Last Face.” If he was counting on gaining support in Cannes for his film, he’s in a lot of trouble. It was one of the worst receptions of a film I’ve ever seen in Cannes, and he still has to do a press conference later in the day. Here are a few reasons why the movie failed so badly.

  1. Here’s a film about the ravages of war in Africa, mainly in Liberia and the South Sudan. But unlike last  year’s “Beasts of No Nation,” there are no significant roles for black people.
  2. Instead, Penn focuses his story on a love affair between two doctors who work in refugee camps. They’re played by Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, and the central argument in their relationship is whether they could do more good at the United Nations in Switzerland or helping the wounded in Africa. Theron’s character prefers the halls of the U.N., while Bardem prefers the camps. They argue and argue. But the dialogue is dreadful. And most of the words spoken in the film are mumbled voiceovers.
  3. The supporting cast is equally awful, including poor Jean Reno, who utters some of the most ridiculous lines ever penned for the screen.

    MORE FROM CANNES: Five weird moments at the festival

  4. The movie features lots of surgeries, with an approach that almost seems like war-wound porn. We see legs being chopped off. We see a Caesarean section done in the jungle, on a woman who has had her throat slit. We see gaping wounds in legs and stomachs and elsewhere. It’s rather clear that Penn is trying to show us the horrors of war, but he goes too far.
  5. The movie is so didactic that it ends with a lecture, given by Theron at a gathering of philanthropists, where she talks of the dreams of refugees and how they’re just like us. But lets make this clear: While Penn’s intentions might be good and warm-hearted, his movie is woefully tone-deaf. Cannes is the temple of art films, and there’s an artful way to tell the tragic story of African wars. See the aforementioned “Beasts of No Nation.” This is didacticism at its worst. It’s hard to believe that Penn, who has been known for his philanthropic works, hasn’t been warned about the “white savior” complex. But he walks right into it in “The Last Face.” He might want to return to acting.

Cannes Day 9: Five weird things about ‘The Neon Demon’


Elle Fanning in "The Neon Demon."
Elle Fanning in “The Neon Demon.”

Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon” premiered at Cannes Thursday night, and it has to be one of the strangest takes on the horror genre ever made. Here are five things you need to know before seeing it.

  1. It’s bound to be unrated. Refs has always pushed boundaries, but this stylish film also features necrophilia from no other than Jena Malone. She works in the coroner’s office and puts makeup on the dead, when she’s not working for fashion executives.
  2. The movie’s tagline should be: If you can’t beat them, eat them. Yep, we’re talking supermodel cannibals.
  3. Elle Fanning seems like such a nice girl at first, but something goes terribly wrong with her. She knows all the other supermodels want to “be” her. So she really should be a bit more careful about choosing her friends. She says she’s not as innocent as she looks, but can she do battle with vicious supermodel cannibals?
  4. The soundtrack by Cliff Martinez is fantastic. He’s reportedly coming to Austin in June for interviews, and it’s time to brush up on his past. He worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, fyi.
  5. Refn thrives on controversy, so he probably won’t be too sorry to hear that his movie got wild boos on Thursday night at its press premiere. The press conference is on Friday. Be there or be eaten.

Cannes Day 9: Loving ‘Captain Fantastic’


The family in "Captain Fantastic," dressed up for a funeral in their own peculiar way.
The family in “Captain Fantastic,” dressed up for a funeral in their own peculiar way.

U.S. director Matt Ross has a winner in his Un Certain Regard entry at Cannes, “Captain Fantastic.”

The movie stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben, a left-wing father who is raising his family in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where he’s home-schooling them in the ways of anti-capitalist, anti-fascist thought. His big hero is Noam Chomsky, and the family celebrates Noam Chomsky Day rather than Christmas. All the kids long for a serrated gutting knife, knowing that they’ll one day be required to stalk a deer and kill it, thus becoming a grownup.

These kids are smart. They’re physically fit. They can survive in the wilderness. And they have elaborate routines to fill their day, with plenty of reading time. Even the young ones are reading books like Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” And one young woman is reading “Lolita” and being asked to analyze its morality, especially that of the older man who seduces the young girl.

It’s fascinating to watch, but you begin to wonder where the mother is. It turns out that she has a bipolar disorder and has moved back in with her parents in the American Southwest. But even this attempt to seek treatment doesn’t work, and she ends up slashing her wrists.

Ben tells his children the truth, and they’re devastated, of course. But Ben and his merry troupe decide that they must attend the mother’s funeral, so they hop into an old bus and begin venturing out into civilization. And that’s where the real fun begins, as the children marvel at everyone being overweight.

The movie strikes a delicate balance between some of the children who are fascinated by video games and others who are fascinated by the variety of choices at a restaurant. But the most touching moments involve the oder son, Bo (George Mackay), who has no idea how to respond to a young woman’s flirting. It reveals what the kids have been missing, and it’s a beautifully handled scene.

The big problem for the family is this: the mother’s parents, played by Frank Langella and Ann Dowd, want to have a proper funeral and traditional burial for their daughter. But Ben has his wife’s will, and she wants to be cremated and have her ashes flushed down a public toilet. This doesn’t sit well with the parents, of course.

So the oddball family arrives at the funeral, in the scene pictured above, and fireworks ensue.

Ross not only directs but also wrote the screenplay. And it’s wonderfully funny, full or little kids quoting philosophers and the great thinkers of the past. It makes you wonder about our educational system, even while making you also wonder about the merits of raising children in the wilderness — far from the socializing influences of public or private school.

Whatever your views, the dialogue is crisp, and the performances are wonderful, even from the little kids. There’s full frontal nudity, so this isn’t for the whole family. It is, however, a perfect film for anyone who questions the values of consumer culture.