SXSW 2019 was full of some pleasant changes as well as old frustrations. Last year the lines were chaotic most of the festival, but this year they had a handle on it and the lines were smooth as silk; this made for a very enjoyable time indeed. Also a good change was the train schedule; after years of complaining, we finally see a longer schedule, so this year I was able to take in some midnighters. As the show FACTS OF LIFE taught us, you have to take the bad with the good, and the express passes are still muddled up. Most of the time passes were gone within Nano seconds, there just has to be a way to make this fair all the way around, but alas I have no answers. My only other complaint is I took my son this year and most of the fun stuff was for 21 and over, that just seem to put a slight damper of the fun activities. With all of this, I still had a blast like always, there ain’t no fun like a SXSW fun, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I spent time going to some great events, some without my son, and going to some of the interaction portions when we had time. We also got to see some great concerts while dining several of the days; it was super special for me this year because I got to share it with my son. Thank you SXSW for bringing the best movies around…AGAIN, 2019 was a great movie year, we saw some thought provoking movies and documentaries, we saw some just downright best damn movies for 2019 period, and we owe it all to you guys who strive to give us quality entertainment. Thank you again!!!
SXSW 2019 FILM REVIEWS:
ADOPT A HIGHWAY
Director: Logan Marshall-Green
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Elaine Hendrix, Christopher Heyerdahl
Fellow movie-goers: Another Ethan Hawke movie, this guy is one of my favorites and he does an outstanding job in his new movie.
Here’s the premise: Russell Millings (Hawke) is released from prison after a long sentence and tries to adjust to a society he is not used to; to complicate the situation, he finds an abandoned baby in the trash can outside of his job and wrestles what to do with it.
ADOPT A HIGHWAY has a triple threat; first there is the king of independent movies, Ethan Hawke, then you have the awesome Logan Marshall-Green writing and directing; if that was not enough, none other than Blumhouse Productions is the production company. The movie was written with heart and never ever talks down to the audience or the characters, it is just simply a story about second chances in the simplest of forms.
I was blown away by the dialogue, or lack of it at moments (so much can be said in silence), showing us that the things we take for granted mean something different to someone who has not experienced them (cell phone, internet, etc.)
Hawke is phenomenal, but he always is in my eyes, the cinematography was perfect for the film and setting the mood. I give ADOPT A HIGHWAY a solid 5 out of 5.
THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE
Director: Riley Stearns
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots
Fellow movie-goers: An old idea, but a new way of telling it; fresh, funny, and quirky.
Here’s the premise: A man (Eisenberg) is attacked at random on the street. He enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei (,Nivola) in an effort to learn how to defend himself.
What an interesting movie, just when you think you have the movie figured out, they throw in a twist and BAM, it becomes a different kind of movie. Everything about it works, and comes together to give a top notch performance and deliver pure gold, from acting to script. I give THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE 5 out of 5.
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates
Fellow movie-goers: What a fantastic movie about Bonnie and Clyde, well worth the wait.
Here’s the premise: A retelling of the Bonnie and Clyde story told from the perspective of the Texas Rangers that took them down, ending their killing spree.
Who said movie festivals can’t be educational? I learned from the Director that the family of Frank Hamer (the Texas Ranger that headed up the investigation against Bonnie and Clyde) successfully sued the studio that made the original for making Frank look like an idiot. This retelling is to set the record straight.
This was by far the best story of Bonnie and Clyde I have ever seen, it showed their celebrity status (seems like things have not changed all that much) and how people were cheering for them and taking souvenirs whenever they were around (even parts of their clothes after they were killed.)
It was great to see exactly how it happened with the investigation.
I give THE HIGHWAYMEN 5 out of 5.
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
Fellow movie-goers: Jordan Peele is this generation’s Alfred Hitchcock.
Here’s the premise: In order to get away from their busy lives, the Wilson family takes a vacation to Santa Cruz, California with the plan of spending time with their friends, the Tyler family. On a day at the beach, their young son Jason almost wanders off, causing his mother Adelaide to become protective of her family. That night, four mysterious people break into Adelaide’s childhood home where they’re staying. The family is shocked to find out that the intruders look like and talks like them, only with grotesque appearances.
On the heels of his huge hit, GET OUT, Peele delivers a suspense filled terror ride that will leave you on the edge of your seat the entire movie, and will have you talking about the meaning of it with your friends and family. I have my own theory, but will not reveal it because it would spoil the end, but even between the group I was with; we all had different ideas about what the movie was about. Personally, I think a good movie makes you think and discuss the different thoughts we have, and US hits the mark so well. As I was watching this, Alfred Hitchcock sprung to mind, Peele has that same flare for storytelling, and he brings the bizarre and creepy into the forefront, and again, makes you think.
The cast did an amazing job, especially the kids, who handled the dual parts like pros. I loved Lupita Ngong’o, who I also saw recently in a film called LITTLE MONSTERS, and she blew me away in both films, her dual role brought the creepy factor up to a whole different level.
I see a lot of negative reviews, but if you enjoy creepy movies, do yourself a favor and see US. It is an easy 5 out of 5.
TALES FROM THE LODGE
Director: Abigail Blackmore
Starring: Mackenzie Crook, Dustin Demri-Burns, Laura Fraser
Fellow movie-goers: Okay, but it was the old bait and switch
Here’s the premise: An isolated lodge somewhere in England. Five old university pals, now nudging 40, gather for a weekend to scatter the ashes of their friend, Jonesy, who drowned himself in the lake three years earlier. They settle in for a fun evening, entertaining each other with stories of murders, ghosts, zombies and possessions, but as day turns to night, the gang become aware of another horror story unfolding around them – And this one is real.
My main gripes, seeing the trailer it looked like a VHS type of movie, about different scary stories that may be true; in reality, the friends make up stories that are supposed to scare everyone. Also, the “surprise” ending was way too easy to figure out. I give TALES FROM THE LODGE 2 out of 5
Director: Michael Dowse
Starring: Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Betty Gilpin, Kumail Nanjiani
Fellow movie-goers: What, Another buddy cop movie? This one is pretty decent.
Here’s the premise: A mild-mannered Uber driver named Stu picks up a grizzled detective who is hot on the trail of a sadistic, bloodthirsty terrorist and finds himself thrust into a harrowing ordeal where he has to keep his wits, himself unharmed, and work with his passenger while maintaining his high-class rating.
I loved Bautista in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but was not sure if he could pull off a movie of his own, but he did and did a bang up job to boot. Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make a good team, and I did not stop laughing through the whole movie. The action, comedy, and sometimes heart-warming scenes all blend together very well to make a memorable buddy cop/Uber driver movie. I give STUBER 4 out of 5
RED 11/ROBERT RODRIGUEZ FILM SCHOOL
Director: ROBERT RODRIGUEZ
Starring: Carlos Gallardo, Roby Attal, Pierce Bailey
Fellow movie-goers: What a great experience, movie making lessons from a master of film.
Here’s the premise: Based on the research hospital where Robert Rodriguez sold his body to pay for ‘El Mariachi’. ‘Red 11’ is the shirt color and number he was assigned.
So RED 11 started out as a teaching tool for film makers; Rodriguez and his sons wanted to recreate how he made “EL MARIACHI” with such a low budget, but they discovered they made a pretty decent movie to boot.
We got to start off seeing clips from the movie and then hear Rodriguez talk about the different tricks and short cuts he used to film not only El Mariachi, but Red 11 as well. The movie itself is a pretty suspenseful and freaky movie where going into a research study turns deadly.
I give Red 11 a 4 out of 5.
Director: Abe Forsythe
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Stephen Peacocke
Fellow movie-goers: A comedy with heart, soul, and zombies; and it works beautifully!!!
Here’s the premise: A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies during a seemingly routine field trip.
Little Monsters is one of those rare gems you find, not expecting much but come away with a smile in your heart and a song to sing (in this case SHAKE IT OFF, that scene alone is worth the price of admission.) I will have to say, this was the funniest I have seen Josh Gad, he was awesome as a children’s entertainer who goes full me-mode when faced with death. The whole cast was fantastic and the story was fun, cute, and creepy at the same time.
I absolutely loved LITTLE MONSTERS and give it 5 out of 5.
I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU
Director: Adam Mason
Starring: Scott Barkan, Gregg Zehentner
Fellow movie-goers: Yeah….No…not for me
Here’s the premise: A pair of siblings suffer through a night of frightening practical jokes during their stay at a secluded motel.
This is one of those cases for me where nothing went right in the movie. It was meant to be funny but wasn’t; it was meant to be full of suspense but wasn’t, the dialogue sucked, the acting sucked. To me, it was a complete waste of time.
I give I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU a 1 out of 5.
BAND TOGETHER WITH LOGIC
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sam Wasserman
Starring: Daniel Goh, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Handschin
Fellow movie-goers: Fantastic documentary with heart.
Here’s the premise: In this YouTube Originals special, Logic invites the world to collaborate with him on an original song, and opens up his creative process like never before. After Logic lays down some rough ideas and releases them on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s online collaborative platform, HITRECORD, the song takes on a life of its own: Thousands of people from around the world build on what Logic started, bringing their own ideas and influences, and inspiring each other to push the music in unexpected directions. Through this unique process, Logic discovers the stories and talents of 21 musicians: an unlikely band of collaborators who come together to create a truly original song and music video.
The result of this collaboration was an awesome song about self-worth, the doc was heart-warming and uplifting. I give BAND TOGETHER WITH LOGIC 5 out of 5.
THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA
Director: Michael Chaves
Starring: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Fellow movie-goers: Decent scary movie, not the best though.
Here’s the premise: Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide. musicians: an unlikely band of collaborators who come together to create a truly original song and music video.
I thought the idea was good, I loved this folk tale, but in horror movies the execution is always key. While there are moments that will send a chill down your spine, especially when the weeping woman appears; most of the movie is a series of jump scares and not good ones. The acting is ok, but the story is weak. I wanted to love the movie but instead feel a luke warm like. I give this movie 2 out of 5.