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2014 marks the tenth year of Fantastic Fest, and also the re-opening of the South Lamar location of the Alamo Drafthouse. The team has announced the first programming for Fantastic Fest X (or #FFX) with much more to come. The first round includes one of our Sundance faves, The Babadook (above), along with the US premiere of Kevin Smith‘s Tusk, and the debut of V/H/S/ Viral. We’ve got the full first wave list below, along with the fest’s poster (by Geoff Darrow!) and info on some of the other fest events, such as an Austin version of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, and the Balderdash-like movie synopsis game Maltins, with Leonard Maltin in attendance to oversee proceedings. Read More »

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It’s that time of the year, when the Toronto Film Festival begins to announce its giant movie line-up. In so doing, the film calendar formally begins the transition from summer to fall, as the more serious films of the festival circuit approach their debuts.

Foxcatcher (above; trailer here) will show up, as will the Reese Witherspoon film Wild (trailer), the strange-looking Jake Gyllenhaal crime film Nightcrawler (teaser), and Jon Stewart’s first film as a director, Rosewater. There will also be another notable directorial debut as the first film from Chris Evans, Before We Go, will play.

Below you’ll find a list of the Galas (big premieres of generally mainstream films, such as The Judge and The Equalizer) and the Special Presentations, which are often high-profile indies that have distribution already set. Some of these have already premiered at other festivals, while others make their world premiere at TIFF. There are 13 Galas and 46 Special Presentations announced so far, with 37 world premieres. Other directors represented include Jason ReitmanNoah Baumbach, Susanne Bier, François Ozon, Hal Hartley, Mike BinderLone Scherfig, and Chris Rock.

While the festival’s opening night film has not yet been revealed, the closing presentation will be Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Stanley Tucci, and  Rickman. TIFF runs September 4-14. The full lineup as announced so far is below.

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Steve James Life Itself

NOTE: Life Itself is now in theaters and on demand. To mark the occasion, we’re republishing our interview with director Steve James that took place following the film’s premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Steve James credits Roger Ebert with launching his career. It was Ebert’s championing of James’ first film Hoop Dreams, at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, which put that film on people’s radars. James scored an Oscar nomination and the film enjoyed a successful box office run. Afterwards, the two remained friends and James was eventually tasked with directing Life Itself, a documentary based on Ebert’s memoir.

Soon after filming began, Ebert tragically passed away. James endured and finished the film in time for the 20th anniversary of the beginning of his relationship with Ebert, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking look at the career of the man many consider to be the most influential film critic in history.

During Sundance I was lucky enough to talk to James about the film. We discussed his approach to the story, balancing the tragedy with humor, the relationship between critic and filmmaker, and the choice to include Gene Siskel’s story. Check it out below. Read More »

Life Itself

Editor’s Note: The following review was originally published on January 20th 2014 after a screening at the Sundance Film Festival. The review is being republished as the movie is hitting theaters.

A movie about the life of a film critic might sound a tad indulgent, but there’s never been another film critic with the influence and character of Roger Ebert. Almost anyone who’s ever seen a movie in the US (and many other countries) has heard his name or taken one of he and partner Gene Siskel’s patented “Two Thumbs Up” recommendations to the box office. As a young film fan, I remember scouring the TV Guide searching for the Sunday morning broadcasts of Siskel & Ebert, and devouring every episode. In particular, I’ll never forget an episode where Ebert dissected Quentin Tarantino’s camerawork in Pulp Fiction. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of film language. Ebert had that effect on a lot of people.

If Ebert opened up that world to people then Steve James‘ latest documentary Life Itself opens Ebert to the world. Based on Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, the film tells Ebert’s life story, yes, but it does so via the framework of our own love of the movies. Great care is taken to specifically illustrate not only how Ebert changed the face of film criticism, but how he helped us all discover our own passion for the movies.

Make no mistake though, this isn’t some simple love letter. Life Itself is a warts and all dissection as well as a beautiful tribute. Issues such as alcoholism, struggles with weight, ego and sex are all part of his story. This is a vast, entertaining and thought-provoking look at Ebert the man and Ebert the icon.

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Intramural

Like many sports movie fans, I find the conventions of the sports movie both stultifyingly familiar yet oddly comforting. So when I saw the trailer for Andrew Disney’s Intramural recently, I knew I’d have check it out at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. While /Film readers didn’t really warm to the film’s trailer when it debuted, I found the Intramural to be quite charming and hilarious — a lovingly made Dodgeball-esque lampooning of a genre that has become all-too-familiar.

I had a chance to chat with Intramural writer Bradley Jackson about his favorite sports movie tropes, and why Air Bud 4 sullies the realism of the Air Bud franchise. See our video interview after the jump.
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Time Lapse Movie

Let’s say you’re making a sci-fi film featuring a camera that takes pictures of what happens 24 hours in the future. You’d probably need a lot of note cards to make sure you keep all the events of the film straight. That, plus yarn to connect different scenes and photos together. Lots and lots of yarn…

Time Lapse just had its North American debut at the Seattle International Film Festival, and it definitely makes great use of this time-bending camera premise. I thought the film was a super fun genre exercise, a thriller that reminded me of Timecrimes and old-school Twilight Zone episodes. The film is immensely satisfying, especially for a person like me who loves the use of time travel paradoxes in films. No detail in this film is wasted as it barrels towards its inevitable conclusion, and all previous plot points lock into place.

But there are also a lot of challenges associated with making a film like this. I chatted with the filmmakers, BP Cooper and Bradley King about the difficulties of keeping all the events straight, as well as which other time travel movies inspired them. Learn more about Time Lapse at the film’s website and check out our video interview after the jump.
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Mondo Logo

There are many things wrong with mega-conventions, and the team behind MondoCon is going to try and fix them. At many conventions the food sucks, it’s too crowded, and the lines are too long. These are problems Mondo knows about, and seeks to improve upon for the company’s first con. The stuff they won’t be able to fix — in fact, what Mondo might make worse — are the many geek Sophie’s Choices fans constantly have to make.

MondoCon, the first Mondo-centric pop culture convention, takes place September 20-21 in Austin, Texas. (That’s during the opening weekend of Fantastic Fest.) Tickets go on sale Wednesday June 4. An initial press release giving some general idea about the convention came online Monday but it raised many more questions than it answered. I got on the phone with Mondo’s Creative Director Justin Ishmael to get more answers. We talked about questions such as, how Mondo will handle the lines, what kind of events will be at the con, which artists are attending, and exactly how big the event will be.

Ishmael was able to answer some of those questions, as well as others. The prevailing feeling I got speaking to him is that, much like Comic-Con, MondoCon is going to have so much excellent stuff happening simultaneously that fans will have to make some really tough decisions on what they want to do over the course of the two days. Read more about MondoCon below. Read More »

SIFF 2014: Making a Movie for $6,000

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This weekend, I saw a movie at the Seattle International Film Festival that had a budget of $6,000. Joshua Caldwell’s Layover, which had its world premiere here, was shot in 11 days in Los Angeles and takes place during the course of a single evening, as a itinerant frenchwoman Simone (played by Nathalie Fay) re-connects with a friend from her past. Layover is a film in the tradition of Linklater’s Before series, and I found that it perfectly captured the paradox encountered by many a millenial: feeling trapped, while also realizing that the possibilities for your life are still endless. It’s a beautiful, moving, and wistful film.

But what goes into making a film with a budget that’s slightly more than the cost of the camera you’d need to shoot it on? I spoke with Caldwell about how he shot the film and why he went the low-budget route. Find our conversation after the jump, watch the film’s trailer, and be sure to check out the Indiegogo campaign for Caldwell’s next two films.
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