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Maxwell’s Picks For The Top 15 Movies In Austin

by Maxwell   March 21, 2014 at 10:00AM  |  Views: 3,333
Hey everyone! Maxwell here and I just flew all the way down to Austin to watch some movies. Well, that and sample the town's fine food, music, and panels as part of South By Southwest. But the real draw has been the eclectic film selection, ranging from big budget premieres to indie genre stuff. So with the trusty Intern Greg in tow, I went about sampling some of the cool new movies you'll be able to see throughout 2014.

Veronica Mars

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Now Intern Greg understands why I was calling him "Marshmallow" for a full day before this Kickstarter-funded follow-up to the cult detective TV series.While Intern Greg may have been a little lost with some of the goings-on in the film – seriously, this is one of the loyal fans – it was great for the rest of us to catch up with our favorite teen private eye (all grown up), and the rest of the denizens of Neptune. Now if we could just get someone to Kickstart a big screen follow-up to Malcolm and Eddie...


Jon Favreau takes a break from his recent stint making big budget action movies to return to his small-scale comedy roots. Well, Chef - which Favreau also wrote and stars in – is a bit of a dramedy, following his Character Casper John, a renowned chef who rediscovers his passion for cooking by opening up a food truck (and bonding with his estranged son and wife to boot). The Chef screening was most notable for this exchange, though:Me: That looks delicious. Intern Greg: Maxwell, that's bacon. Me: Yeah, and? Intern Greg: You know where bacon comes from, right?Me: (rubbing my belly) Yeah, and I know where it's going, too.


I'm just going to continue ignoring Intern Greg's suggestions that we start a band (he plays his iTunes playlist at one holiday party and he thinks he's a DJ). But if we did start a band, I hope it would be as strange as the one in Lenny Abrahamson's Frank, AKA the movie where Michael Fassbender wears a giant, paper mache head as the title character. The charismatic, and maybe a half-mad Frank leader of a misfit band of musicians, who recruits Domhall Gleeson's character Jon into their ranks as they attempt to find their sound before unveiling themselves to the world. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the film's not-so-secret weapon as Frank's fiercely loyal (and just plain fierce) second-in-command/enforcer. And for the record, if we did start a band, I'd be on the keytar. You know, in case you were wondering.

Big in Japan

Moving from the story of a fake band looking to make it big, to another oddball band that, well, is looking to make it big, we have director John Jeffcoat's story of Seattle-based rockers Tennis Pro, who pack it all up for a tour of Japan. Big in Japan is more of an ensemble piece and travelogue as the band navigates an unfamiliar country with its own customs and fandom. It's a cute and unorthodox look at a band that has to travel across the world to discover themselves.

Infinite Man

What we have here is a mix of Groundhog Day meets Primer with this sci-fi feature from director Hugh Sullivan. It stars Josh McConville as Dean, a not-quite-mad scientist whose attempt to use time travel to set up the perfect weekend with his girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall) leads to an ever-increasing number of Deans running around, competing for his girlfriend's affections. After the film, Intern Greg says he wishes he had that invention so that he could go back in time in order to make an infinite number of "time clones." When I asked what he'd do with them, he just started laughing in what can only be described as a maniacal manner. Should I be worried?


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With the new Godzilla on the way this summer (and according to the trailers, a direct sequel to the first film), I thought it'd be a good idea to introduce Intern Greg to the movie that started it all.Before he would go on to become a monster-smashing, alien fighting, sometime-hero, the first incarnation of Godzilla was downright scary, laying waste to Tokyo and the surrounding countryside and unleashing his signature roar. I'm happy to say that 60 years later, the movie still packs the same wallop. Even the man in a rubber suit effects still work, shot in stark black and white, Godzilla's mighty form an alien, weird presence against the skyline. Now here's hoping the new film carries that mantle and runs with it.


National treasure Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) returns with this daring, multi-year drama about the life of one family shot between 2002 and 2013. This one hit both Intern Greg and I right in the feelings, as we followed the twelve-year journey of young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he makes his way through the trials and tribulations of youth and the breakdown of his parents' (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke) marriage. Instead of feeling like a gimmick, Boyhood's multi-year setup feels like a series of windows into one family's life. And because it's Linklater, it feels so real and full of texture and – oh, man, Intern Greg is getting a little misty just reading over my review.

Rubber Soul

And we go from one boy's maturation over a decade to one musician's: Rubber Soul juxtaposes a pair of interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in order to better understand the evolution of the artist in his post-Beatles career. John Lefkovitz's documentary combines audio and transcripts from an interview on the eve of the release of the first Plastic Ono Band albums and an interview while Lennon and Ono were recording Double Fantasy. And what an evolution: in both cases, we see a pair of vibrant artists continuing to express themselves through their music, with the added element of domesticity and family, making Double Fantasy, in a way, a more personal work. Again, I look over at Intern Greg and tears. Tears, I say.

Thank You a Lot

Writer-director Matt Muir takes an intimate-ish look at the Austin music scene through the eyes of failing manager Jake Hand (Blake DeLong) in this easygoing drama. It's as much about the city in which it's set as its hard-luck lead as Jake attempts to reconcile with his country-western singer father in order to save his job (and the careers of his other struggling clients). Now, who had to spend a full hour and a half trying to talk one impressionable intern from packing up his things and moving straight to Austin? This guy right here. According to Intern Greg, this could be the town where his dreams of DJ stardom come true. Which says to me he wasn't exactly paying attention, but okay.

The Case of the Three-Sided Dream

Blind from infancy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk went on to become a wildly-skilled, multi-instrumental musician, a sort of one-man band without seeming like a gimmick. This documentary from director Adam Kahan, tells Kirk's story through the man's music, his own words, and interviews with his friends, family, and colleagues, spanning a professional career that didn't end until his death at the age of 42.Consider it: most of us can play exactly zero instruments (Intern Greg has what can only be described as negative musical skill), while Kirk would be up on stage with three, four, sometimes six instruments at once, dazzling his audiences with new, free-flowing sounds. His story is at once audacious and inspiring and well worth checking out.

What We Do in the Shadows

I'm having enough trouble rooming with Intern Greg (he whistles in his sleep) – how bad would it be to have a vampire as your roommate? Who knew someone could squeeze so much affection for Nosferatu out of a mockumentary about the undead? Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement co-direct and co-star in this comedy about a trio of aged bloodsuckers just trying to make it in the modern day. Clement (one half of Flight of the Conchords) and Waititi (director of a handful of episodes of the Conchords HBO series) find a great deal of affection for their subjects as well as some of the weird mythology from around the world surrounding vampires. Really, what could have been an overlong excuse for bad accents and moldy old clothes turns into an fun look at one of fiction's most overexposed monsters.

Animated Shorts

Mr. "I love cartoons" Intern Greg demanded that we take some time out to peruse the animated shorts program at South By and I'm glad we took the time out. Offering 13 shorts from around the world, we've got metaphysical trips (Don't Hug Me I'm Scared 2 - Time), the world of art in clay (Eager), a desert survival adventure (Confusion Through Sand), and one young man's struggle with mental illness (Through the Hawthorn). There's, of course, a lot more, but for us, the standout was the 2D/3D Brazilian export, Caveirão from director Guilherme Marcondes, depicting the late-night, eternal battle for the soul of Sao Paolo.

Ping Pong Summer

Ping Pong's not that hard to understand, is it? Because I had to spend about 15 minutes explaining the rules to Intern Greg, then another 20 trying to make him understand that it wasn't just "tiny tennis." You might not get that kind of in-depth tutorial on the in's and out's of the truly international sport (yeah, I was the captain of my high school team), but it's got a great cast including Amy Sedaris, Susan Sarandon, and Judah Friedlander in a coming-of-age period story set in 1985. It's a quirky story of first friendships, Ping Pong, and hip hop which sounds a lot like my first summer out of middle school.


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It was time for a little uplift after all of the doom, destruction, and craziness (and that was just waiting in line to get our badges). This documentary profiles the first famous white mariachi, Matthew Stoneman, AKA Mateo, as he overcomes his criminal past to achieve unexpected musical stardom. Director Aaron I. Naar doesn't sentimentalize his subject, presented hear as a guy with possibly outsized dreams just trying to get by - kind of like Intern Greg and his "political hip hop" career.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

We ended our festival viewing on something of a down note with this wintry drama based on the urban legend of a young Japanese woman thought to have suffered exposure in the the middle of Minnesota while searching for the missing money at the heart of the Cohen Brothers' Fargo. Pacific Rim star Rinko Kikuchi returns to the kind of understated performance that won her so much notice for her work in Babel.Intern Greg, as insightful as ever, summed it up thusly: "I loved it but it was too sad."