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.

 

SXSW winner ‘Transpecos’ gets distribution deal

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Here’s an uplifting tale for aspiring filmmakers out there. And it also illustrates why festivals like South by Southwest, Fantastic Fest and the Austin Film Festival are so important.

Austin resident Greg Kwedar got his debut feature, “Transpecos,” into the narrative feature competition this March at South by Southwest. It was unheralded, and few people in the Austin film crowd even knew who Kwedar was.

But securing a spot in the competition – and providing an early screener to critics – helped build buzz,, and the  thriller about the Border Patrol went on to win the audience award – which means festival attendees thought it to be the best of the bunch.

Kwedar and his team had no distributor for the film, however. And without a distributor, most movies just end up screening here and there, at places like the Austin Film Society and various festivals, without reaching a wide audience.

But that’s what festivals are for – raising the profile of small, independent films. And this week, Kwedar got the best news possible. Samuel Goldwyn Films is buying the rights to “Transpecos” and plans a theatrical release in the fall.

And in May, Screen Media Ventures will be attending the Cannes Film Festival, trying to sell distribution rights to international territories.

The deal was first reported by Deadline.com. And Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films said, “Greg is a raw talent in independent cinema. ‘Transpecos’ is an accomplished first feature that we’re eager to deliver to audiences in theaters and in homes across the country.”

Details of the deal were not disclosed.

The thriller stars Johnny Simmons, Gabriel Luna and Clifton Collins Jr. Kwedar co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley.

 

 

Austin Film Society grants open for submissions

The Austin Film Society’s annual fund for emerging Texas filmmakers, the AFS Grant, is open for submissions.

During this year’s grant cycle, AFS will hand out more than $100,000 in cash grants. The application is online at austinfilm.org, as are grant instructions, a grant writing tip sheet and information about live instructional workshops offered in El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Forth Worth and Austin. Since 1996, the society has awarded more than $1.7 million in cash and services to Texas filmmakers.

In addition to cash grants from AFS Grant fund, this year’s grant partners are offering applicants a range of services and cash for many different production phases.

New this year, AFS is partnering with Colaborator and the Texas Motion Picture Alliance to offer the Colaborator Narrative Short Film Grant, which will provide $5,000 in production funds and support for one narrative short film project.

The Stuck On On DCP In-Kind Grant will award one theatrical digital cinema package for two different feature-length films.

Kodak Motion Picture Film will create a 35mm exhibition film print to one film of any length, and the grant recipient can to screen their print in a theater in Austin. Kodak will also continue their in-kind grant of $5,000 of motion picture film stock.

This year’s Austin Film Society Powered by Dell Grant includes an in-kind Dell post-production suite, valued at $10,000. The MPS Camera and Lighting Austin Grant offers $10,000 in equipment rentals and production services.

The grant will close for submissions on June 2. Applications are reviewed over the summer, with the panel of national film industry representatives convening in Austin in late August to determine the recipients. Winners will be announced in early September.

Ethan Hawke joins AFS for special screening of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” chat with Linklater

AWAAQAHQ-P604101On  Feb. 17, Austin Film Society will present a special screening of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” Sidney Lumet’s final feature film starring Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman, complete with a conversation with Hawke about the making of the film, and collaborating with Lumet and Hoffman.

The following evening, Hawke will be the featured guest at an AFS Artist Spotlight, where he will participate in a live, on-stage conversation about his life and work with AFS Artistic Director and Founder Richard Linklater, Hawke’s long-time creative collaborator.

Hawke is the star of Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” and “Before Midnight,” considered by many to be both some of the most romantic and realistic-about-marriage films of their era.

Hawke is also the star of the extraordinary “Boyhood” and has appeared in other Linklater films such as “The Newton Boys” and “Waking Life.”

Both Linklater and Hawke will participate in a private reception Feb. 18. A very limited number of tickets are on sale for the reception and can be purchased by contacting AFS Director of Relationships and Revenue, Lauren Alexander-Labahn at Lauren@austinfilm.org. Tickets are $275 for the public and $250 for AFS Members.

Tickets to the  screening are $25 public / $15 for AFS Members. Tickets for the AFS Artist Spotlight are $40 General Public / $30 for AFS Members. Tickets for both are $60 for the public and $40 for AFS members. All are on sale now at austinfilm.org/EthanHawke. Ticket packages are on sale here.