Are you a maniacal Neil Young completist? Fantastic. Enjoy ‘Paradox’

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A voice-over fills the first minute of “Paradox,” which screened March 15 at South by Southwest and will be available March 23 on Netflix. Over a shot of a night sky filled with stars, said monologue is read by one Willie Hugh Nelson of Luck, Texas; a green oscillogram on the bottom of the screen maps his dulcet tone:

“Many moons ago, in the future, when the womenfolk had rightfully just about given up on us, a mangy group of outlaws hid out by a precious water source while the real bad guys quietly stole the seeds of life. Thankfully, music still helped our spirits fly.”

So, yeah, that’s what we’re dealing with here.

“Paradox.”

Shot over three or so days in fall 2016 while Neil Young (who has directed movies under the name Bernard Shakey) and the Promise of the Real (his backing band of late that stars Lukas and Micah Nelson, sons of the above mentioned Willie) got used to the altitude in Colorado before a short tour, “Paradox” was written and directed by actress Daryl Hannah, Young’s romantic partner since 2014.

RELATED: Neil Young talks about “Paradox,” his archives and more

Shot quick and cheap, “Paradox” blends a vague, possibly improvised Western narrative with a terrific instrumental score and a few new and old songs.  Young has a roles as the enigmatic Man In Black; Lukas and Micah are Western-ish outlaws called Jail Time and the Particle Kid. Sample dialogue: “Those two fellas are the Nelson brothers. The older one, the one on the left, he’s a gunslinger. They call him Jail Time. The other one? The Particle Kid. Nobody knows what planet that boy’s from. The man in the black hat, they all steer clear of him. I heard he can be kinda … shakey.” Oy gevalt.

RELATED: Daryl Hannah on “Paradox,” her “spitball production” with Neil Young

Ever wanted to see Young’s legendary manager Elliot Roberts as a cowboy? He’s in there! There seems to be some mining going on, also plenty of guitar playing. Willie himself pops in for a scene as Red (a scene shot in Willieville).

This was during Young’s anti-Monsanto period, so there are lines such as “Y’all are excited for flowers, but you haven’t yet sowed the seeds. Protect the seeds” and “When saving the seeds is outlawed, it’ll be the outlaws who saved the seeds.”

The guitar playing is, naturally, a highlight. Young and the band run through a song or two, and there’s a furious jam (that feels like the end of “Cowgirl in the Sand”) recorded at Desert Trip, aka Ol’ Chella. And the soundtracky bits — all guitar feedback, vague chordings and massive toms — are totally great, as is the acoustic ramble that floats around here and there.

It is exactly the sort of flick that everyone involved will say was a lot of fun to make. Is it a lot of fun to watch?

Well, how many Neil bootlegs do you own?

‘Weed the People’ makes powerful, poignant case for medical marijuana

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“Weed the People,” a new documentary that premiered at South by Southwest on Sunday, looks at the healing properties of cannabis and its anti-cancer properties – and at how everyday people are making all sorts of efforts to get it to help themselves or their children.

“Weed the People.”

One of key players in the documentary, directed by Abby Epstein, is the no-nonsense, blunt-spoken Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s, a nonprofit collective in California that helps chronically ill patients maximize the benefits of cannabis. She describes herself as a Jewish Texan from Dallas, although she lives in Northern California today.

Gordon says she went in for a routine surgery in 1999 and came out of the hospital with bacterial spinal meningitis. She used marijuana to help her reduce the number of medications she had to take, and this led her to experiment with ways to use marijuana to help others.

She came up with recipes that used cannabis-infused oils and then founded Aunt Zelda’s.

RELATED: 10 documentaries to look for at SXSW 2018

The documentary follows her and others as they try to figure out the right doses for those with cancer, since many people have widely varying reactions to the treatment. But one thing seems rather clear: Cannabis has helped many folks not only deal with cancer but also live longer.

It’s heartbreaking to watch some of the individual cases, especially those involving small children.

When Gordon agrees to help various families, she carefully explains that she’s not a doctor. She says that whatever is going to happen will happen, and that cannabis isn’t a cure-all. But Gordon is offering families a way to cope with the cancer – and maybe extend and improve lives.

Like many documentaries, “Weed the People” has an agenda: that laboratory studies are increasingly touting the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer – and that the government should allow more people access to the drug.

Undoubtedly, not everyone will agree that medical marijuana should be available. But “Weed the People” makes a powerful argument.

“Weed the People” had its world premiere on Sunday at SXSW. It screens again at 6:30 p.m. March 12 at the Alamo South and at 4:45 p.m. March 14 at the Alamo South. Grade: B

SXSW 2018: ‘Lean on Pete’ shows why Charlie Plummer is destined to be a star

“Lean on Pete” tugs at the heartstrings in the best way, and most of that tugging is the direct result of the acting of Charlie Plummer, who appears poised to become one of our most versatile young stars.

In “Pete,” the 18-year-old who played John Paul Getty III in “All the Money in the World” is guided by the low-key yet distinctive British director Andrew Haigh, whose earlier credits include “45 Years,” “Weekend” and HBO’s “Looking.”

Plummer plays Charley Thompson, who’s being raised by his single father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), and the two have recently moved to Portland, Ore., because of work. Charley likes to go on runs during the summer vacation and discovers that they’re living near a quarter horse racetrack. He’s fascinated with the track and especially with a horse named Lean on Pete, who is owned and trained by the cranky Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi).

Del notices that Charley isn’t afraid to pitch in and help in order to be around Pete, so he offers him a part-time job. While at work, Charley also meets Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny), a local jockey who is good friends with Del.

RELATED: 20 movies to look for at South by Southwest

All of this sounds fairly straightforward – and somewhat old-fashioned – from a narrative perspective. And the movie is indeed traditional. But the movie stands out from many others because of Plummer’s performance. It’s hard to watch him and not understand the loneliness and need for connection that’s just under Charley’s skin. And the scenes between Charley and the horse are classic in the way that they develop the bonding between a teen and an animal.

Without giving away too many spoilers, Charley’s home life takes a drastic turn for the worse, and then so does his life at the track. So Charley takes off with Pete on an epic journey to find his aunt – whom he has not seen in many years but remembers fondly.

RELATED: 10 tips to make the most of your SXSW Film experience

For the cynical among us, the narrative might smack of sentimentality, like an afternoon family TV movie. The cynical among us would be wrong when it comes to “Lean on Pete.” Yes, it’s hard not to shed tears throughout Charley’s ordeal, but Haigh does not hammer us over the head. Instead, he shows Charley’s resilience, his longing for love and his desire to finally find a safe home – for him and the horse.

The book is based on a novel of the same name by Willy Vlautin. He and Haigh worked on adapting it for the big screen.

But this movie is all about Plummer’s Charley. Go see it, and you’ll understand why. The guy has acting chops – in spades.

“Lean on Pete’ had its South by Southwest premiere on Friday. It screens again at 6:15 p.m. March 11 at the AFS Cinema and 2:15 p.m. March 14 at the Alamo South. Grade: B+

Harry Knowles ‘steps away’ from Ain’t It Cool News as sexual assault allegations escalate

Harry Knowles, an Austin movie blogger and founder of the long-running movie criticism/fandom site Ain’t It Cool News, is taking a leave of absence from the site after being accused of sexually assaulting or harassing several women.

Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN Harry Knowles, of Ain’t It Cool News, arrives at the 2008 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards in Austin, Texas on Friday, March 7, 2008. SXSW08

Knowles, who co-founded Fantastic Fest with Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, allegedly groped and harassed multiple women over the years, according to a report that appeared yesterday on the IndieWire film site.

FROM SATURDAY: Fantastic Fest co-founder Harry Knowles accused of sexually assaulting Austin woman two decades ago

Knowles said his sister, Dannie Knowles, will take over AICN indefinitely. (Longtime Austinites may remember Dannie Knowles as the manager of the Pedazo Chunk video store.)

Knowles launched AICN in 1996 at a time when the idea of the “movie blog” was virtually unheard of. Having survived the economic collapse of “Internet 1.0” in the early 2000s, AICN stuck around as symbol of the sometimes blurry line between criticism, fandom and outright promotion that can exist in entertainment journalism.

Earlier this week, fellow Ain’t It Cool contributors Steve “Capone” Prokopy, Eric “Quint” Vespe and “Horrorella” all quit the site after the first round of allegations against Knowles.

The Alamo Drafthouse, reeling from its own harassment scandal, cut ties with Knowles earlier this week.

Our continuing coverage of the Drafthouse/Knowles situation

This is a developing story.

Terrify yourself this summer by watching ‘Jaws’ in the water

You know what many might find terrifying? The idea of watching Jaws in a body of water.

You know what people really like to do? Be terrified.

Which is why the Alamo Drafthouse’s “JAWS On The Water” is back for summer 2017.

I always loved this image

The movies hit the shores of Volente Beach on Austin’s Lake Travis for a month-long run of weekend “dive-in” shows, including – for the first time – screenings of “Jaws 2,” “Jaws 3D” screened in 3D, and “Jaws: The Revenge” hosted by Master Pancake.

Tickets to these On the Water shows include full access to Volente Beach attractions including Lazy Lagoon, The Sidewinder, the water slides, a shark-ified inner tube, fireworks display and the experience of watching Jaws with your feet in the water.

The Alamo Drafthouse locations nationwide are hosting screenings from June 30 through July 6, including interactive movie parties.

Also look for a Mondo-designed Jaws pint glass, featuring original artwork by acclaimed artist Kevin Tong available exclusively at our Movie Party screenings.

Check out dates and tickets here.

 

That’s a wrap: Catch up on the winners and what’s next for Cannes Film Festival

Actresses Elle Fanning, from left, Nicole Kidman, director Sofia Coppola, and actress Kirsten Dunst pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film “The Beguiled” at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, on May 24, 2017. Coppola was named best director at Cannes on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The 70th Cannes Film Festival wrapped Sunday with jury prizes, including best director Sofia Coppola for her film “The Beguiled.” The Palme d’Or went to “The Square,” a Swedish satire set in the art world. See the full list of winners here.

Charles Ealy, who attended his 20th Cannes Film Festival this year, wrote about the challenges facing the storied event as it reacts to changes in viewing habits and technology. There were no high-profile studio films to draw mass attention, but Ealy says the lineup, with an emphasis on arthouse and European titles, was one of the fest’s strongest in its 70 years. Read that story on MyStatesman.com.

Also on MyStatesman.com, Ealy writes about going through a virtual reality installation by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu, titled “Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible).” The experience puts participants with migrants on a journey across a desert border. From Ealy’s story: “They’re old and young. Some are injured and tired. Most are scared of what lies ahead. You can’t make conversation with them, but you can go up to them, and if you get close enough, you can see their hearts beating.”

What movies to see this rainy Memorial Day weekend, including some that might be gone soon

So it looks like Memorial Day weekend is going to be wet, at least part of the time.

Fortunately, Austin is the best city of its size for cinephiles in the United States. (Yeah, I said it.) And a possibly rainy three-day weekend is a fantastic time to catch up on new releases, repertory screenings and second-run movies.

The big movies opening this week are “Baywatch,” the self-consciously parodic reboot of the insanely popular TV series, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” both of which are playing all over the place.

As for bigger movies from earlier in the year, I was not wild about “Alien:Covenant,” and I don’t see that changing any time … ever.

“Baywatch”

But in retrospect I was perhaps a little too hard on “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.”

Over at the Alamo Drafthouses, a new restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s still-incredible “Stalker” plays 2 p.m. May 27 and 6 p.m. May 28 at Alamo Ritz. Also at the Ritz, check out Kurt Russell (currently in “Guardians”) when he was much younger in “Escape from New York,” which is playing a number of times.

 

The gang debs, they are teenaged

 

The Austin Film Society’s newly refurbished AFS Cinema is now open for business. This weekend’s screenings include the Italian comedy “Divorce, Italian Style” and the genre classic “Teenage Gang Debs.”

Then AFS goes into its “Texas Christening” with screenings of such films as “The Last Picture Show,” “Rio Bravo,” and “Tender Mercies,” as well as other films. Check out the full slate at www.austinfilm.org

LOOK: A sneak peak at the gorgeous new AFS Cinema

Over at the discounted Southwest Theaters Lake Creek 7 we have “Kong: Skull Island,” “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” “Get Out,”  “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Power Rangers,”  “Logan,” “The Shack,”  and “Ghost in the Shell.”

Of these, “Get Out” is absolutely essential viewing. Jordan Peele’s horror film about race and privilege is that rare bird: a smart film that is also one of the year’s most unexpected hits.

I am also in the tank for “Logan,”easily the strongest (and most adult — this one is NOT for kids) of Fox’s X-Men franchise. I also enjoyed “Kong: Skull Island,” which had a much stronger monster-to-screentime ration than the “Godzilla” reboot from 2014, while I can recommend “The Lego Batman Movie” with little reservation.

If you don’t feel like leaving the house, you really should do what you can to catch up on Showtime’s new season of “Twin Peaks.” All 18 episodes were co-written and directed by David Lynch; the first four are currently available for streaming on the Showtime site (subscription needed). It is very easily the weirdest thing on television, a showcase for Lynch’s tics, interests and singular vision.

Over on Netflix, David Michôd’s “War Machine” stars Brad Pitt as a general very obliviously based on NATO-forces-in-Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal. With Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, Topher Grace and more.

 

Roger Moore’s James Bond was more suave, less serious

 

Word has come down that Roger Moore, best known for his turn playing James Bond, has died at the age of 89.

My all-time favorite piece of writing about Moore isn’t actually about him; it’s about Bryan Ferry and his band Roxy Music.

Roger Moore as James Bond

In the “Spin Alternative Record Guide,” critic Rob Sheffield — then all of 28 or so, later to pen “Love is a Mixtape” and this year’s amazing “Dreaming the Beatles” (which isn’t just probably the best book ever about the Beatles, but one of the best books of 2017 in general) — wrote that Roxy Music was divided into two parts: the Sean Connery years and the Roger Moore years, meaning the first five albums (bleeding-edge art rock, a few with Brian Eno, beloved by hardcore) and then the final three, recorded after a band hiatus (slicker, more Romantic, all surface, total pop).

This is a brilliant characterization of both Ferry and Moore. For much in the way that later-period Roxy could write “Avalon” or “Oh Yeah,” it is impossible to see the rougher, realer Connery raising an eyebrow and delivering a one-liner the way Moore could, or in space, a la the admittedly terrible “Moonraker.”

(Bedding Grace Jones in the admittedly terrible “View to a Kill”? They probably both could have handled that one.)

And besides, for anyone between the ages of, say, 30 and 50, Moore was the guy they grew up with as Bond.

After playing bit parts in American film and TV, then doing time in the thriller series “The Saint” for 100 episodes (wherein he refined the style he would bring to his next role), Moore embodied 007 for seven films and about 2,000 (OK, 12) years.

Playing Bond as suave and corny, dashing and dopey, Moore traded in Connery’s hairy chest and weightlifter physique for a guy who flat-out refused to take himself so seriously (or maybe ever work out).

Because, man alive, if anyone deserved to be made fun of a bit, it was the character of James Bond.  This was Bond as a British Dean Martin (who himself played the spy Matt Helm) — Moore as Bond approached being a spy the way Martin approached acting, as the true player for real who truly did not give a [beep].

Moore’s Bond liked shooting people, making jokes and sleeping with any available lady, probably not in that order. Indeed, as Bond, Moore out-Martin’ed Martin-as-Helm, if that makes sense.

And say what you will about the scripts and Moore’s wry vibe, the stunts and chases in Moore’s Bond pictures, all pre-CGI, were uniformly terrific.

As far as the actual films, the best Moore Bond flick is probably, oh, let’s say “The Spy Who Loved Me,” with Barbara Bach as the Bond girl, that dope Lotus  and Richard Kiel as Jaws. (Which reminds me, Moore-era Bond had the best villains.)

I also remain fond of “The Man with the Golden Gun” (Christopher Lee killed it as the always-fun-to-say Scaramanga) and the extremely racially sketchy “Live and Let Die,” which is what happens when British people make a blaxploitation movie. Amazing theme song, though.

Rosie Carver as Gloria Hendry and Moore as Bond in “Live and Let Die.” They were kind of an awesome couple.

 

(That said, Moore’s diary about the making of “Live and Let Die’ is flat-out amazing.)

As for the others, well, “For Your Eyes Only” tried to get serious (the skiing stuff was cool), “Octopussy” was almost unforgivable trash, “Moonraker” is in spaaaace and “A View to a Kill,” while sporting one of the best Bond themes, is not good but featured Christoper Walken in a part that was supposed to be for David Bowie and Grace Jones, who is welcome in anything, anywhere, at any time.

Requiescat, Mr. Moore. You were a smooth operator. 

 

 

Matthew McConaughey, Alamo’s Tim League join forces for new movie

Two of Austin’s movie men have a new project together.

Tim League’s distribution company, Neon, and Vice have bought the U.S. rights to “Beach Bum,” a film to be written and directed by Harmony Korine (“Spring Breakers”) and starring Matthew McConaughey. The movie is scheduled to begin production this fall for a 2018 release, Deadline reports.

Matthew McConaughey introduces his new film “Gold” at the Austin premiere at the Alamo South Lamar on Jan. 12, 2017. Contributed by Rick Kern

League, founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, will be an executive producer on the film, described as “an irreverent comedy that follows the misadventures of Moondog (McConaughey), a rebellious and lovable rogue who lives life large.” Sounds about right for Austin’s spirit animal.

 

RELATED: Watch a young Matthew McConaughey in the world’s smallest jean shorts (you’re welcome)

RELATED: Matthew McConaughey, coach Tom Herman and Chancellor McRaven walk into a bar…

PHOTOS: Matthew McConaughey through the years

Three family movies to watch this summer

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.” Not a reboot, but the cast of the first three Wimpy Kid movies have officially aged out of usefulness as wimpy kids, their siblings and their parents. Steve Zahn, we’ll never forget you. (May 19)

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”

“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” The children’s book series moves to the big screen as an animated feature (that “first” really does seem like a slightly undignified request to the audience — “please make this a franchise!”). Stand-up comedian Kevin Hart and Thomas “Silicon Valley” Middleditch voice the kids who pull their comic book character (voiced by Ed Helms) into the real world. (June 2)

“Cars 3.” “Is Lightning McQueen dead?” was the questions thousands of parents had to hear from extremely upset little kids who made the mistake of watching the incredibly grim first trailer for this third film in the “Cars” franchise. The answer is probably not, but wow, that trailer was rough. (June 16)

Check out the full summer movie preview here.