Russell Lockhart: SXSW 2016 Film Reviews

2016 SXSW overall:

There was a lot less to do this year, or at least it felt like it. Walking the streets in between films seemed a little more like SXSW lite, fewer vendors, fewer give-a-ways, and fewer attractions. I did love the Preacher set and the giant ferris wheel and carnival like setup from Mr. Robot. There was plenty of food (I gained a few pounds) and plenty to drink but it still felt a little lite this year for sure. I do feel like every year the transportation gets better and better; I just wish the train would run the entire time frame as the festival, it was a bit disappointing that I had to leave so early most nights because of the train to get to my car. Overall, another fantastic year, already looking forward to 2017.

Midnight Special

Director/Screenwriter: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, and Sam Shepard

A father is on the run with his son from a powerful man with a lot of money and long reach. As they are being pursued across the country, the “gifts” of his child become more and more dangerous and it becomes evident that his child’s life is on a supernatural timer and he’s now racing to save his life. With the help of an AWOL state trooper and the boy’s birth mom, they race against time and destiny.

What a great story all the way around, sweet and magical from beginning to the end. It was like ET meets Close encounters of the third kind. The acting is good, especially Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the mysterious son, he is pure gold and has a great future in movies. My one complaint is there are times the story drags, but it does not ruin the movie in the least.

I give this one 4 out of 5 reels.



Director: Mike Flanagan

Screenwriter: Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegal

Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr, Michael Trucco and Samantha Sloyan

A deaf woman, living alone in a secluded cabin, falls victim to a psychotic killer in a very traumatic and intense game of cat and mouse. Trapped in the house, unable to hear, and all methods of outside contact cut off, she desperately fights for her life.

I really loved how they filmed the movie so the audience would feel how the main character feels and senses everything. From the beginning of the film, the producers put you in her world and it doesn’t stop, and what a great way to view this kind of movie. The movie continues to switch back and forth between the hearing perspective of the woman and that of the killer.  While some of the situations are typical of other horror movies, the cutting back and forth with and without sound increases the tension and helps creates a freshness to it.  Some really inventive situations help keep the viewer on the edge of their seats all the way through to the end.

I give this one 5 out of 5 reels.



Hardcore Henry

Director/Screenwriter: Ilya Naishuller

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Andrey Dementyev, Dasha Charusha, and Sveta Ustinova

Based on a video game, this is a first-person action film where you are the main character, Henry, who wakes up unable to move, speak, or remember anything. As he is put back together and his memory is filled in, you learn along the way as he does.  Henry is on a mission and a special agent who has talents and training that make him an unstoppable force.  Henry desperately tries to figure out who is trying to kill him, why, and who he can trust.

You are going to either love or hate this fast paced film, if you love action as I do then it will be an awesome experience. The movie is full of some truly amazing stunts. 90% of the film is shot from a go-pro camera mounted on the head of a stunt man.  It is innovative and basically a 90 minute video game without controls.  Some very humorous things and truly jaw dropping/audience gasping stunts.

I give this one 4.5 out of 5 reels.


Peewee’s Big Holiday

Director: John Lee

Screenwriters: Paul Reubens and Paul Rust

Cast: Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Jessica Pohly, Alia Shawkat, Stephanie Beatriz

Peewee Herman is a very reliable and dependable member of his small town. Possibly too much so.  A chance meeting with the movie star, Joe Manganiello, has Peewee wanting to take a holiday and leave the comforts of his routine.  Along the way to attend Joe’s birthday party in New York City, Peewee meets some interesting characters and has one grand adventure.

What a great movie, just as fun as any Pee Wee vehicle.   Fun, funny, entertaining and charming all the way through.  Wonderful cast and very fun and funny script, with kudos to Joe Manganiello for not being afraid of poking fun at himself.  What a great adventure, next Pee Wee movie please.

I give this one 5 out of 5 reels.





Director: Carles Torrens

Screenwriter: Jeremy Slater

Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Ksenia Solo, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Parsons, John Ross Bowie, Da’Vone McDonald, Janet Song

When a lonely man chances upon an old high school crush during his morning commuter ride, he tries to strike up a conversation with her but is shut down very quickly. He becomes obsessed with her and begins to stalk her.  He shows up outside her apartment and her place of work.  When she still spurns his attentions, he decides to kidnap her.  When she comes to and finds herself locked in a cage, she realizes that he is mentally unstable.  He tells her that he is doing this to save her and as the story unfolds, it becomes very evident that she is not what she seems and that maybe he isn’t as crazy as he seems.

What an edge of your seat type of movie, and awesome to see I Carly actress Jennette McCurdy stretching her acting chops. An absolute psychological thrill ride that does not let you go throughout the entire movie.  This story keeps you engrossed all the way through.  Full of shocks and twists throughout the film.

I give this one 5 out of 5 reels.











Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word

Director: Simon Rumley

Screenwriters: Ben Ketai, Marc Haimes, and Tony Giglio

Cast: Mike Doyle, Erin Cummings, Devin Bonne, and Sean Patrick Flanery

Based on the true story and documentary entitled “Last Words”, this is a tale about a man who, despite evidence to the contrary, was convicted and executed in Amarillo, TX. Johnny Frank Garrett is a vagrant who worked odd jobs at the local church and is arrested for the brutal rape and murder for an 80 year old nun. The trial is riddled with questionable testimony, “lost” evidence, and fumbled investigation due to election year for the DA and the public’s clamoring for a quick conviction of such a heinous crime.  On his execution bed, Johnny Frank Garrett uttered a bloodline curse on everyone tied to the case.  Per accounts from eyewitnesses, the curse still continues to claim victims.  Amarillo courts still refuse to reopen the case to allow for a re-examination of the evidence, despite public interest and compelling information unearthed by the documentary.


Very well made although the acting is just okay; I also felt like I wanted more at the end of the movie. Definitely causes one to want more questions answered, but not a waste of time for sure.

I give this one 3 out of 5 reels.


The Trust

Directors: Ben & Alex Brewer

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Elijah Wood, Sky Ferreira, and Jerry Lewis

Two crime scene investigators, who walk a grey-line, stumble over a large stash of money held by a crime lord. They decide that the amount of money involved is too tempting to steal from a criminal gang that would presumably never report the crime.  They plan what seems to be a very simple heist, but soon realize that they may have bitten off more than they can chew and it is far too late to turn back.  They soon begin to turn on each other as the tension of the foiled heist and the impending danger takes its toll.  Will they get the pay-off or can they find a way to walk away?

I wanted to like it more than I actually did. The cast was great, terrific writing, and engrossing story.  It just left me wanting…more. It is intense and well done.  Wood and Cage are absolutely entrancing in their troubled partnership.  The ending was not what I wanted, so it ruined a great experience.

I give this one 3 out of 5 reels.

The Bandit


Director: Jesse Moss

A super-charged documentary about Hollywood legends Burt Reynolds, his best friend and stuntman Hal Needham, and how the pair of these two loose cannons dreamed up, financed, and shot one of the most authentically kickass road movies of all time: 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit.

Wonderful documentary that gives us insight to the beginnings of the hit movie Smokey and the Bandit as well as the friendship between Reynolds and Needham. You find out that Reynolds deep down always wanted to be a stuntman and Needham always saw himself as a leading man movie star like Reynolds. You learn interesting facts such as there was never any script, most of the movie was ad-libbed. My favorite part was seeing the love Burt had for Sally Fields and the regret he felt for letting her go.


The Bandit is an intimate portrait of two good old boys a bad ass car and a 4.3 million budgeted dark horse that ended up netting over 300 million and counting. If you loved Smokey and the Bandit you would love this movie. I highly recommend this movie.


I give it 5 out of 5 reels.


Don’t Breath


Director: Fede Alvarez

Stars: Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang, Jane Levy


Don’t Breathe takes place in Detroit, centering on a group of friends who break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.

Dylan Minnette plays Alex, the son of a security company owner who often “borrows” his father’s keys to rob his clients with Rocky (Jane Levy) and her bad boy boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto). Initially they’re careful. They break into homes when the owners aren’t there and stick to stealing luxury items rather than cash to avoid larceny charges. However, when Money finds out that one of Alex’s dad’s clients scored a $300,000 settlement, he insists that they up their game and go for the money. Alex isn’t thrilled about it, but the homeowner is a blind army veteran. The trio certainly has no idea what they’re walking into and it’s unlikely that any written description of what goes down in that house can truly reflect the intensity of the thrills and violence.


The man played by Stephen Lang might be blind, but that doesn’t mean he’s at a disadvantage.  is his home is fortified for such a robbery but if someone happens to get inside, he’s more than capable of tracking them down and killing them. Between Lang’s incredible physical performance and Alvarez’s haunting camerawork, the blind man quickly becomes downright nightmarish. He’s extremely strong, knows how to navigate the home more swiftly than visitors who can see where they’re going and has some very effective back-up, a snarling dog eager to go to great lengths to catch his targets. This isn’t a haunted house story, but Alvarez quickly establishes that Lang could be anywhere, turning the location into a deeply terrifying place where a threat could sneak up on you in a flash.

I really liked this movie, especially the performance of Stephen Lang’s. You alternate

Rooting between the Old man and the group of friends. In the beginning you root

For the old man but as events transpire you might end up changing your mind


I give this movie 4 out of 5 reels.

Everybody wants some
Director: Richard Linkletter

Stars: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman


A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.

Linkletter does it again, such a phenomenal movie with an awesome cast and terrific writing. Definitely feels a lot like Dazed and Confused, this is why Linkletter refers to it as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 reels


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