Tag: Carla Gugino (Page 2 of 2)

SXSW Film 2010: Keeping Austin Reel Weird

One of the first things I heard after arriving in town for South by Southwest was “Keep Austin Weird.” It’s sort of the city’s unofficial motto, but it’s one that resonated with me over the course of my week-long trip. Though it’s hard to say whether Austin really is as weird during the rest of the year as it is during SXSW, the city exudes a certain energy that makes it the perfect place to hold such a unique event. It also helps to have some of the most passionate movie lovers in the country populating the streets, because while SXSW attracts cinephiles from all over the globe, it’s the locals (from the volunteers to the everyday attendees) who actually make you want to come back.

For anyone that followed my SXSW Blog throughout the course of the film festival, you already know that my experience was a rather positive one. In fact, of the 17 films screened during my time in Austin, there were only two that I didn’t particularly like. You’d think that would make selecting my personal favorites even more difficult, but my Top Three easily blows the rest of the competition out of the water. Here are some highlights from my reviews of those films:

micmacs

1. “Micmacs

[Jean-Pierre] Jeunet’s latest film, “Micmacs,” may just be his best yet – a whimsical crime caper that boasts his trademark visual style, a classic Max Steiner score, and an ensemble cast filled with familiar faces. Though it likely won’t have the crossover appeal of “Amelie,” “Micmacs” is one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences of the year… It’s all done so effortlessly, and with [Dany] Boon and his co-stars so charming throughout, that you’d have to be in a pretty sour mood not to walk out of “Micmacs” with a giant grin on your face.

2. “Kick-Ass

Director Matthew Vaughn clearly understands the world that [Mark] Millar and [John] Romita Jr. have created, and that familiarity resonates throughout, from the high-energy action scenes to the colorful performances from its cast… The end result is an entertaining blend of action and comedy that, despite falling short of its ridiculously high expectations, delivers everything that was awesome about the comic and more.

3. “Four Lions

A pitch-black satire in the same vein as “Dr. Strangelove,” [Christopher] Morris has created a film so relevant to our current political climate that many will feel guilty just for watching it, let alone laughing at all the gut-wrenching humor along the way… “Four Lions” is one of the funniest, most provocative comedies of the last decade – and one that has more to say than any of the numerous self-important war movies that Hollywood has been cranking out for years.

Of course, one of the things that makes SXSW such a great place to watch movies is the venues. The theater experience in Austin is hands down one of the best in the country – from the historic Paramount Theater to the Alamo Drafthouse. While the Paramount is typically a more star-studded affair, complete with a red carpet and the opportunity to see a movie with its director and stars sitting just a few feet away from you, the Drafthouse (both the Ritz located on 6th Street and the South Lamar, which is a short drive from downtown) is a little more intimate. Star-crazed attendees will find little in the way of celebrity sightings, but the chance of seeing a hidden gem like Best Documentary winner, “Marwencol,” more than makes up for it. Plus, midnight showings of genre films like “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” are usually more enjoyable when you’re watching it with a bunch of fellow cinephiles.

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SXSW 2010: Elektra Luxx

It’s only been a year since the premiere of the micro-budget comedy, “Women in Trouble,” but that hasn’t stopped director Sebastian Gutierrez from rushing out the second installment in his proposed trilogy just in time for its anniversary. There wasn’t a whole lot of outcry for a sequel, but considering just how fast and cheap these movies are to make, there probably wasn’t any time to wait around to find out. Unfortunately, while “Women in Trouble” featured a series of fun interconnected stories anchored by a clever script and strong performances from its mostly female cast, “Elektra Luxx” only offers a sliver of what made the first movie one of 2009’s underrated gems.

Picking up weeks after the events of “Women in Trouble,” the film opens with adult film star Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) still coping with the news that she’s pregnant. Now teaching a class on on making love like a porn star at the local community center, Elektra’s life is complicated once again when Cora (Marley Shelton) arrives in town with a proposition: help ease her guilty conscience by sleeping with her fiancé (Justin Kirk), and in return, she’ll give Elektra the lost lyrics of her late boyfriend, Nick Chapel (Josh Brolin). On the other side of town, porn blogger Bert Rodriguez (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) mourns Elektra’s exit from the adult film industry, only to be horrified to discover his sister (Amy Rossof) is interested in breaking in to the business, while Bambi Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Holly (Adrianne Palicki) head to Mexico for vacation.

electra_luxx

To say that either plotline is integral to Elektra’s story would be pushing it, however, because while they do eventually come together in the end, “Elektra Luxx” isn’t as much of an ensemble effort as the first film. You needn’t look any further than the title of the movie to know that it’s predominantly about Elektra, and although Carla Gugino is great as the blonde bombshell (even getting a chance to show off her diversity playing Elektra’s lispy twin sister in a flashback sequence), it just doesn’t have the same charm as “Women in Trouble.” Only a handful of actors return for the second go-around (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose role has been expanded beyond a short cameo), while many of the new characters, like Timothy Olyphant’s private investigator and Emma Bell’s cheating wife, aren’t on screen long enough to make an impression.

Thankfully, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Adrianne Palicki are also back for more, because they’re easily my favorite characters of the series. Palicki, in particular, steals the show as the lovesick amateur porn star, earning big laughs just about every time she opens her mouth. It’s at times like these where Gutierrez’s script shines, and although there aren’t as many here as in the previous movie, the writing remains his biggest strength. As a director, it’s a completely different story. Though Gutierrez definitely deserves points for experimenting with everything from black-and-white flashbacks to fantasy sequences and musical numbers, none of them are necessary and only take you out of the moment. Granted, “Elektra Luxx” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s still a disappointment after seeing how much could be accomplished with so little in “Women in Trouble.”

Entourage 5.8 – First Class Jerk

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen an episode of “Entourage” as good as the one tonight, but after weeks of pointless subplots, Doug Ellin and Co. finally delivered some of that old school flavor that has been sorely missing from the new season. But before I get into any of the specifics, first thing’s first. In last week’s blog, I made a comment about how it might be fun to see Vince represented by Adam Davies for a while, but what I meant to say was Josh Weinstein. I know that doesn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still an important distinction – especially considering tonight’s episode revolved around exactly that.

Now, it didn’t pan out quite like I imagined it would, but it’s probably for the best. After seeing Weinstein sandbag the guys with a promise that Frank Darabont was interested in Vince for the lead role in an upcoming project, only to discover that it’s a TV show he’s executive producing, I’m more than certain that Weinstein (or Adam Davies, for that matter) wouldn’t be right for Vince’s career. They might get him the jobs he wants, but they’ll never care about him like Ari does. Which brings us to the biggest story of the night: Ari’s decision not to take the Warner Brothers job.

Entourage 5.8

At first, I was utterly perplexed by the decision. I mean, if most people were offered a promotion of that magnitude, they’d take it no questions asked. After all, isn’t the life of a Hollywood agent all about bigger and better opportunities? If it wasn’t, then no one would care who they were representing as long as they were good pals with their clients. One thing I didn’t considered, though, was that Ari didn’t like the consequences that might come with the new job – namely, less time with his family. When he finds out that Amanda Daniels is not only next in line for the job, but refuses to put Vince in “Smoke Jumpers” if Ari turns down the offer, however, Ari decides to take the job just to spite her. (On a side note, that shot of Amanda’s reaction as Ari left the office was great.)

In reality, Ari’s visit to John Ellis’ office wasn’t about him accepting the offer, but rather suggesting Dana Gordon for the job instead. It actually works out pretty well. Ari still gets to be Vince’s agent, Dana agrees to cast Vince in “Smoke Jumpers,” and perhaps most importantly, everything is back to the way it should be prior to the “Aquaman 2” fiasco that started this downward spiral in the first place. I still call bullshit on the fact that the real-life Ari would never turn down such an incredible opportunity, but kudos to the writers in making the best out of the situation.

The other major story of the night featured Turtle in his own subplot involving an unlikely meeting with Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Not only does he get her number after the guys return from their Hawaii getaway, but he also claims that she gave him a handjob on the flight back. Drama is more than skeptical (I loved how he kept referring to Jamie-Lynn as Meadow Soprano), and since Turtle refuses to prove that it really happened, Drama takes it upon himself to start asking around town. As it turns out, Turtle really was telling the truth, but when Jamie-Lynn discovers that Turtle was blabbing about it to his friends, he loses any chance he might have had of taking things farther. Still, you can’t feel too bad for the guy. Not even Vince has been so lucky as to get a first class jerk from Meadow Soprano.

Entourage 5.2 – Unlike a Virgin

Turtle: You wanna go to the Villa tonight, E?
Eric: What, just you and me?
Turtle: Yeah, you’re right.

If there’s one thing I learned from tonight’s episode, it’s that the writers have no reservations about taking things slow. That’s actually good news, since it means they’re serious about the show’s future, despite the fact that some fans were probably hoping the new season would start off with a little more of a bang. All I can say is, be patient, because although the first two episodes have been relatively tame, they’ve also shown real promise for the things to come.

Even Vince is taking things more seriously since being courted back to Hollywood. He’s busy reading scripts, and though the films he’s interested in already have actors attached, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get back into the game. Unfortunately, no one is listening, and while Eric would love for him to do an indie film called “Nine Brave Souls” from a duo of up-and-coming screenwriters, he agrees with Ari that Vince’s next project should be a studio film. He’s also probably not willing to gamble away what little left there is of Vince’s career, but that doesn’t stop him from tracking down the writers to discuss the possibility of signing with him.

Entourage 5.2

What he doesn’t expect is for LB (Lukas Haas) and Nick (Giovanni Ribisi) to be so demanding. A little too demanding for a pair of unknowns, perhaps, but they also have a point. After all, if Eric is Vincent Chase’s manager, then why can’t he convince him to star in their movie? Eric explains that Vince is only interested in doing a studio movie right now, but Nick doesn’t want to hear it. Instead, he suggests that Eric sell their script first before they begin worrying about any kind of contract.

When Eric goes to Ari for help selling the script and is immediately blown off, however, Eric takes it to the one person who I honestly thought we’d never see again: Amanda (Carla Gugino), Ari’s temporary replacement from season three. Depending on whether or not she likes the script (and why wouldn’t she, if they’ve gone through the trouble of bringing her back into the fold?), it’ll be interesting to see how her involvement will affect Vince’s relationship with Ari. The fact that Vince wants to do the film, combined with Ari’s recent confession that Vince isn’t a good actor, will likely play a major role in the weeks to come.

For the time being, Vince is sticking with Ari, but how much longer is Ari willing to stick with Vince? Sure, he’s movie star quality, but if he can’t get the guy a job, what exactly is the point of keeping him on the client list? It looks like he’s willing to commit to Vince’s career for now (“This town loves a comeback, and since Britney fucked hers up, it’s all you!”), but wouldn’t it be fun if Vince had to completely rebuild his career from the ground up without the help of a super agent? It would certainly be different, and it might help the show regain its identity without feeling like it’s selling out.

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