The Best Laughs at SXSW and Sundance: the Danielle Solzman Lowdown

Chicago Indie Critic Danielle Solzman reports to us from SXSW this year with the comedies she loves the most: 

While the early months of the year tend to be a dumping grounds for the studios, there’s a lot to be discovered at film festivals.

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Hearts Beat Loud is a beautifully made, music-driven film from Brett Haley.  What makes the film work isn’t just the screenplay Haley co-wrote with Marc Basch but it’s the music from songwriter/composer Keegan Dewitt that Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons shine through on screen.  To say that Clemons is phenomenal in this musical masterpiece is an understatement. (Featured Image Credit: Jon Pack)

Clara’s Ghost is the feature directorial debut from Bridey Elliott and offers us an exaggerated glimpse into the life of the comedic Elliott family.  While Chris, Abby, and Bridey may be the more familiar names, it’s Chris’s wife, Paula, who gets a substantial amount of material to work with in the film.  It’s a fun film that’s best watched with a glass of wine in your hands.

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Blockers is the feature directorial debut of comedy writer Kay Cannon.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny and I found myself falling out of my seat during the world premiere at SXSW.  The film offers a teen sex comedy from the female perspective with some great performances.  When it comes to R-rated comedies, this film is an instant classic and joins the likes of so many great films from the Judd Apatow brain machine.

What I love about Summer ’03 is that it comes from a first-time feature filmmaker and is so full of heart, emotion, and comedy.  Becca Gleason has a fresh voice and ought to be around for a long time to come.  It’s actress Joey King who carries this film from start to finish with an amazing performance.  That being said, everyone in the film, including improv pros Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage, get upstaged during June Squibb’s brief role as a dying grandmother whose biggest regret is never learning how to perform a proper blow job.

You Can Choose Your Family takes us back to 1992, where Jim Gaffigan’s Frank Hansen is married to two different women and has two children with both wives.  It’s going great for Frank until his son, Phillip (Logan Miller), discovers his secret and threatens to spill the beans unless his father gives him the money to attend NYU.  There’s times where it feels like the audience knows more than what the characters do and as such, there’s a few OMG moments late in the film.

I’m not ignoring Sorry to Bother You but I’m placing the satire into a category of it’s own.  It’s the new Get Out on so many levels but it’s not an outright comedy or drama.  Somewhere in between to be honest.

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_n   Danielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

Pharrell Williams and Forest Whittaker’s Roxanne Roxanne has its upcoming Netflix premiere. Hip Hop Legend Spyder D is conisdering bio/historical pic of his own.

The legendary Spyder D is headed to New York to see two of his tracks as they appear in the Netflix Premeire of Pharrell Williams and Forrest Whittaker’s Roxanne, Roxanne today. This film looks like a can’t miss watch, but considering a crowd at Sundance and a Limited Release has already declared that, my opinion is only adding to the obvious fanfare about the ambitious (and well-recieved) project. Chanté Adams’s performance is clearly that compelling.

Word also has it that Spyder D is strongly considering a bio/historical pic chronicling the life and times of the legendary Power Play Studios and is talking to the right team to get it done.

We are definitely excited about the prospects of this project, for all the right reasons. There’s something about the art of the mix and the oral history that is just . . . appealing.

 

Don’t miss DIM THE FLUORESCENTS as the Slamdance Cinema Club continues screening at ArcLight Chicago.

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Work. It’s usually a drag. But, sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s also an opportunity to create art. Most creative people, at some point in their life or another, make a compromise for the sake of advertising or the corporate agenda. For some of us, it’s a cry for acceptance. For others, it’s about survival.

But how, do we as creatives, transcend these boundaries we find arbitrary? That’s what some of the best corporate training videos and Dim The Fluorescents are really all about.

Share Audrey and Lillian’s journey through the world of the “corporate presentation.”

See Dim The Fluorescents on July 19 at 8 p.m. as it screens at ArcLight Chicago

 

Summer with the Dallas Skyline: James Wallace, Alamo Drafthouse Creative Manager, Has Crafted a Season of Awesome.

We recently got the opportunity to probe James Wallace’s brain about Alamo DFW’s
new summer lineup of fantastic events at the Vetted Well, his thoughts about Free Fire (and the Director’s Q&A), the MST3K showing with Frank Conniff and Trace Beauleiu, and some other items. It looks like he and his teams have gone out of their way to craft some really fun times.

Kate: So, it looks like we can look forward to a summer full of patio-themed entertainment events. I think the inspiration there is obvious, but if there’s something specific there, I’d love to discuss it. What’s your favorite aspect of the Vetted Well’s patio? It’s quite nice. 

James: Well, it’s hard to ignore that beautiful view of the skyline! I think that’s everyone’s favorite aspect so any excuse to have fun stuff going on outside when the weather is nice is a bonus.

Beyond that, it’s just coming up with creative ways to use the Vetted Well space outside of just being a place that people may grab a drink before or after their movie.

That was the concept of Vetted Well from the inception really – to go beyond just the movie theater lobby bar and have a multipurpose entertainment space that was connected to the theater and could tie into events there but could also exist on its own with its own programming. And it’s been great to see that happen; where people just come to Vetted Well for the karaoke rooms or Geeks Who Drink or Outdoor Comedy or any of the other signature programming we have had going on up there.

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The Vetted Well is a great place for cocktails, brunch, karaoke, or just an overall good time.

I’d say our crowning jewel in the new programming is Funky Brunch (at least that’s my favorite!) and that inspiration came out of just trying to come up with a really fun and unique brunch on Sundays. Dallas is such a brunch city with a pretty competitive market for it, and everyone who does it has their hook. So we had to have ours, besides of course having great brunch offerings. I have to admit that the concept really started with the punny name and pretty naturally and quickly developed out of that.

That theme really informed the inspiration for the menu and the vibe. Then we found the perfect DJs for it in PICNICTYME & Cory Kilduff who are not only Funk & Soul aficionados but spin vinyl. And then it all came together!


Kate: Free Fire is a film I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Good to see you guys have set up an awesome Q&A. Are there any burning questions you’re looking forward to asking Ben Wheatley?

James: Me too! Yeah, you know Ben Wheatley is one of those filmmakers that I see as kind of part of the Alamo Drafthouse extended family. I remember when his first feature DOWN TERRACE has its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2009 (Alamo’s film festival in Austin).

I remember seeing the film there and just being blown away and so excited to see what else he was going to do. And here we are eight-years-later with KILL LIST, SIGHTSEERS, A FIELD IN ENGLAND (which Drafthouse Films released), HIGH-RISE, and now FREE FIRE.Looking at his filmography, I think he just makes the kind of films that we’re all about at Alamo. And FREE FIRE looks to be very much that type of movie. Not to mention it’s from A24 and we’re all such huge fans of the movies they release.

I do have a lot of questions I’d love to ask him but firstly I think I would have to ask him how it felt shooting a shirtless Tim League with paintballs.

Kate: It looks like we have a lot to look forward to when Frank Conniff and Trace Beauleiu come to visit Richardson at the end of the month. Do you have a favorite MST3K moment?

James: Oh man, you have no idea how excited I am that we get to have The Mads at Richardson! I mean it’s Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV’s Frank live and in-person riffing in the theater! And it couldn’t be better timing with the premiere of the new MST3K on Netflix. 

I have so many fond memories of watching the original run on Comedy Central when I was a kid and then later on the Sci-Fi Channel in my formative teenage years as a budding comedy nerd and genre film nerd. But there’s one that sticks out and, at the risk of being boring, I have to say it’s the episode with MANOS: HANDS OF FATE. That was the moment that my eyes were really open to the world of “best worst movies” that would inform so much of my tastes as a fan of those gems of obscure ’60s/’70s genre movies.

Side Note: Someone should do a movie mashup called MANOS: HANDS OF FATE OF THE FURIOUS

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Tickets available in advance at https://drafthouse.com/dfw.


Kate: Are there any films on your radar you consider a Drafthouse must-see?

James: Well, there are the obvious big ones coming next month – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2… ALIEN: COVENANT….

But in terms of indie fare that might not be on people’s radars, there are a few in the next couple of months that I’m really excited about – IT COMES AT NIGHT, BABY DRIVER, and A GHOST STORY. COLOSSAL is also great and now playing at an Alamo Drafthouse near you!