SXSW 2018 was a fun experience in most ways, but it was not without its issues for sure. Normally, the lines are chaotic the first day, then a sense of order happens; but this year the chaos went on for most of the festival. The lines were getting confused, mixed up, and blurred, and at more than one occasion I saw people scamming their way to a section and their badge did not get scanned. Hopefully, the process will be better for 2019 because usually it goes like clockwork. The bus system was another step backwards this year, in the past the buses would go with a two way route but this year it was a one way route, which meant longer waits. We missed several movies this year due to having to wait for a bus for more than 45 minutes, and on one occasion being “rescued” by an independent film maker and his shameless plug bus to give us a ride while we watched part of his movie. My last rant is for the changes to the SXXpress passes, while I give a big kudos for trying to bring this piece into the electronic age, this turned out to be not such a great idea. The idea being that express passes would be available 24 hours before the movie and it was all online, sounds great in theory; the first problem comes when you are in a movie that happens to fall within that first fifteen minutes of the 24 hours for the next day’s movie, the passes are gone by the time you get out of the current film. I should not have to give up one movie to “setup” the express pass for another film for the next night; this adds a whole new level to the planning phase that should not have to be in the equation. In this case, the old way of getting in line the morning of the films to get express passes work a whole lot better and makes more sense.
Now that my rants are out of the way, SXSW did a great job in what they do best, bring us some of the best movies and talent that is out there today. 2018 was a banner year with films like THE QUIET PLACE, BLOCKERS, and READY PLAYER ONE as the headliners while giving us other gems like A VIGILANTE, AMERICAN ANIMALS, YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY, and other smaller films that just wowed the hell out of us in the audience. It was great seeing one of my heroes, Steven Spielberg speaking at the Q&A for READY PLAYER ONE, and the contrast of first time director John Krasinski at the Q&A for his freshman feature THE QUIET PLACE. SXSW knocked it out of the park with the films they chose this year, and in that respect, they show why SCSW is one of the best film festivals around.
2018 was also one of the more interesting Interactive years for sure, with the READY PLAYER ONE interactive and the WESTWORLD town recreated for our pleasure; SXSW took us to new places and new experiences you normally do not get unless you are in Hollywood or Universal Studios. They went all out on this and it paid off in spades.
Thank you SXSW for another fun filled, exciting, and memorable year for us celluloid junkies.
SXSW 2018 FILM REVIEWS:
A QUIET PLACE
Director: John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Fellow movie-goers: One of my favorites from SXSW 2018, edge of your seat thriller that will keep you glued to the screen from the beginning to the nail biting end.
Here’s the premise: Two parents do what it takes to keep their children safe in a world full of creatures hunting every sound they can hear. Not a sound can be heard from the family hiding in silence, but all it takes is one noise and everything can go wrong.
What an amazing movie, Krasinski does an awesome job directing and keeping the audience’s attention throughout the movie. The coolest part for me was that because there is so much silence, the slightest small sound is deafening. The cast is incredible, especially the kids, who stood toe to toe with Krasinski and Emily Blunt and shined throughout the movie. There are few movies that can have limited dialog and still convey a story, and A QUIET PLACE sets a high bar for other movies that will be hard pressed to surpass.
I highly recommend A QUIET PLACE, it does not disappoint. I give it 5 out of 5 reels.
Director: Kay Cannon
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Leslie Mann, Gina Gershon, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz
Fellow movie-goers: Blockers is a laugh out loud till soda comes out your nose kind of movie.
Here’s the premise: Three parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz) discover that their kids (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adion) have made a sex pact to lose their virginity on prom night; so they set out to do anything and everything they can to stop them.
When I was younger, there was Porky’s, later came American Pie, this generation’s version is Blockers. In this version, it is told from the girl’s perspective, and it is just as funny as its predecessor. Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adion do an outstanding job stepping into this pivotal role we have seen guys do a million times, they deliver the heart all the way, from first love to wanting independence, they give us the female perspective of that moment you are moving from teen to a adulthood and the emotions you feel.
The comedy comes largely from the parents, who stop at nothing to keep their kids pure and from making what they feel are life changing mistakes. While Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz all do a great job, it is John Cena who garnishes most of the laughs, Cena is the emotional Dad, who cries at every moment, from his daughter first going to school to her last day at school, he is put in many situations that leads to the films funniest moments (Butt chugging scene was one of the best.)
I do recommend Blockers, but remember it is a very hard R rating, this is dealing with a very adult subject and they do not hold back, so not recommended for a family outing. I give it 4 out of 5 reels.
SXSW 2018 FILM REVIEWS:
Director: Shana Feste
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall
Fellow movie-goers: For the most part a decent movie, I just could not get past the Grandfather teaching his 14 year old Grandson to deal pot.
Here’s the premise: Single mom Laura (Farmiga), along with her awkward 14 year-old son Henry (MacDougall) is forced to drive Jack (Plummer), her estranged, care-free pot dealing father across country after he’s kicked out of yet another nursing home. The road trip veers off course when Jack decides to make a couple ‘stops’ and Henry asks to see his ne’er-do-well dad Leonard (Cannavale), completely upending Laura’s attempt to hold her family together and ultimately forcing her to finally see her father for the man he really is.
At the heart, this is a great story of a daughter and father really discovering each other and healing old wounds, but truthfully, if my father was showing my son how to deal pot, I would have the man arrested. BOUNDARIES crosses boundaries that I could not I could not take and ultimately it ruined the movie for me.
I give it 2 out of 5 reels
Director: Sarah Dagger-Nixon
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Morgan Spector, Betsy Aidem
Fellow movie-goers: Olivia kicks ass and takes names.
Here’s the premise: Olivia Wilde plays Sadie, an abused woman who learns to protect herself because of her past issues and vows to help other abused people get out before it is too late for them.
Much like A QUIET PLACE, this movie relies on great acting and says so much with little dialog in many places. Director Sarah Dagger Nixon and Olivia Wilde’s collaboration gives us a woman with a heart but battling the demons of her past, In one moment she is making a man pay for what he has done to his wife and kids and the next she cringes at a song that reminds her of her ex-husband. Wilde deserves an Oscar for her performance; she was brilliant in so many ways.
The script is fantastic and shines a light on the lowlifes who prey on people they say they love. A VIGILANTE is definitely an eye opener as well as great entertainment.
I highly recommend A VIGILANTE, and give it 5 out of 5 reels.
WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY
Director: Madeleine Olnek
Starring: Molly Shannon, Susan Ziegler, Amy Seimetz
Fellow movie-goers: Molly Shannon brings a great twist to one of my favorite writers.
Here’s the premise: WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY explores the scandalous love life of Emily Dickenson in a comedic manner.
What a delightful film, I found myself not only interested in the story, but laughing out loud at several of the scenes. Shannon brings heart along with the comedy and gives us a side of Dickenson that few people know about.
I highly recommend WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY, and give it 4 out of 5 reels.
YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY
Director: Miranda Bailey
Starring: Danielle Campbell, Samantha Mathis, Anna Gunn, Jim Gaffigan
Fellow movie-goers: A comedy that will touch your heart.
Here’s the premise: A seventeen-year-old boy blackmails his father after discovering his secret second family.
I love Jim Gaffigan’s standup and think he is one of the funniest guys out there, but he was a bit subdued in this film, almost taking up the straight man part. This did not take anything away from the film, mainly because the script was so smart and funny. Writer Glen Lakin takes a subject that would be drama fodder and turns it on its head and laughs at it.
I give it 4 out of 5 reels.
THE LAST OG
Starring: Tracy Morgan, Tiffany Haddish, Allen Maldonado
Fellow movie-goers: An okay tv show, but I felt like Tracy Morgan could do better
Here’s the premise: An ex-con is shocked to see just how much the world has changed when he is released from prison for good behavior after a 15-year stint and returns to his newly gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood.
There are moments in the first two episodes that were laugh out loud funny, but also many spots that fell flat. I have hope that the series will settle in and become funnier as it goes on.
I give it 3 out of 5 reels.
Director: Bart Layton
Starring: Evan Peters, Ann Dowd, Barry Keoghan
Fellow movie-goers: A heist movie that is stranger than fiction, and true.
Here’s the premise: Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.
A great movie riddled with comedy, suspense, and what could have been a huge art heist. As I watched the film unfold, I was just shaking my head not believing this crazy story actually happened. The acting was awesome, with Evan Peters as the crazy friend egging everything on. I loved that they wove in the actual people in the movie, telling the story of what happened, getting each person’s perspective.
I give it 4 out of 5 reels.
THIS IS US season finale
Starring: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown
Fellow movie-goers: A SXSW treat, being able to see the finale before most of the population.
Here’s the premise: In case you’ve been under a rock the last two years… a heartwarming and emotional story about a unique set of triplets, their struggles, and their wonderful parents.
It was great to see the finale with a great crowd, and then to discuss it afterwards with much of the cast. This is why I love SXSW, they don’t box themselves in to just movies, they know what the people want and they give it to us.
I give it 6 out of 5 reels.
READY PLAYER ONE
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn
Fellow movie-goers: Highly anticipated and highly entertaining movie.
Here’s the premise: In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.
I hate to fanboy, but STEVEN SPIELBERG!!!! SXSW brought in my childhood hero, a man who riddled my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood with some of the best movies in history. When he came out on stage, I was seriously speechless. This began an incredible night that led to a fantastic movie followed by the Q&A to end all Q&As.
As for the movie, it was everything I hoped it would be and more, There is so much to see in the movie that you will not catch all of the nods, references, and Easter eggs on the first viewing. If you are a fan of the book, just know it is totally different, but the same at the same time. There are different references in the movie that were not in the book and vice versa.
From start to finish, READY PLAYER ONE was one of the best movies I have seen in a while. My favorite moment of the evening was when the film lost sound, and they worked to fix it and brought it back up with no sound still right in the middle of a battle scene, the audience chimed in with loud pew pews (sound of guns) until they did get it fixed.
I give it 5 out of 5 reels.