joe & chris's columns
- Film News
BY JOE O'CONNELL
Pepe Serna's name may not be familiar, but his face is. Think Angel in
Scarface, Mundo in American Me, and most definitely Reno Nevada in The
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. The Corpus
Christi native has hundreds of film and television credits, but he's
never played the lead. Leon Rodriguez is setting out to remedy that with
Clean Sweep, a low-budget, noirish "cloak and dagger" film that is set
to go before the lens in Austin in October. The story has Serna as a CIA
agent being forced into retirement and hunting the guy who caused his
wife's death. On the agent's trail is another agent played by Fabian
Carrillo, an actor/martial arts pro who starred with Serna in Latin
Dragon. Rodriguez sees the script as paralleling Serna's own story: that
of a respected journeyman actor recognized with a lifetime achievement
award from the Screen Actors Guild, but still falling just outside the
limelight. "He's just such a brilliant actor," he said. "This is his
chance to shine." Rodriguez is still completing the script and has had
to make changes to add fight scenes that will be choreographed by
Tsuyoshi Abe, who has organized wire stunts for films including
Collateral, Daredevil, and The Replacement Killers. If Rodriguez's name
is familiar, you might remember his illustrious music career, including
stints as road manager for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and sound engineer
for Frank Zappa, Delbert McClinton, and Asleep at the Wheel.
Fall film fills fast
Look for the lazy days of summer to end for the Austin film industry by
October, when shooting is expected to be in full swing on a Jonathan
Liebesman-directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel (the Platinum
Dunes folks have been scouting locations), Richard Linklater's Coyote,
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, and perhaps another
project from Burnt Orange Productions.
Dallas does movies
The Metroplex isn't content to let Austin take the Texas filmmaking
crown. Just completed is Amy Talkington's The Night of the White Pants,
featuring Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) as a Big D powerbroker whose
wife (Janine Turner of Northern Exposure) kicks him out with an empty
wallet. He falls in with his daughter (Selma Blair of Hellboy) and her
punk rocker boyfriend (Nick Stahl of Sin City) for a wild night. On deck
is Jon Keeyes' action/adventure film Living & Dying, with a cast said to
include Michael Madsen and Edward Furlong. And expect cheerleading
feature The Team to shoot for a couple of weeks in Dallas soon.
And the rest
The How to Eat Fried Worms kids have been escaping the heat in Wimberley
recently by jumping into Blue Hole during breaks. Kimberly
Williams-Paisley of According to Jim and Father of the Bride, has signed
to play the mom, while Tom Cavanagh, star of TV's Ed, has joined the
cast as the dad... An I Dream of Jeannie movie? They've made Austin
inquiries recently… Tommy Lee Jones' Texas-shot The Three Burials of
Melquiades Estrada, which was honored at Cannes, will have its North
American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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Sept. 1, 2005
• The 'Chainsaw' keeps buzzing: An unnamed prequel to 'The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre' will start a nine-week shoot in the Austin area Oct.
10. It follows the 2004 Austin-area filming of the grisly remake of Tobe
Hooper's 1974 horror classic. Big-shot Michael Bay, who produced the
remake, is producing. Jonathan Liebesman, the under-30 director of
'Darkness Falls,' is directing and Sheldon Turner, who wrote this
summer's remake of 'The Longest Yard,' is writing the prequel. Jordana
Brewster, who made her film debut in Robert Rodriguez's Austin-made
horror-thriller 'The Faculty,' stars. Andrew Bryniarski and gruff R. Lee
Ermey, as Leatherface and Sheriff Hoyt respectively, return from the
remake. The film is eyeing a 2006 release. -- Chris Garcia
• Like most major productions in town, the 'Chainsaw' show has set up
shop at the Austin Studios at the old airport, renting office space and
a stage, where sets will begin construction next week.
This means the studios are going to have a busy fall. Richard
Linklater's feature adaptation of Eric Schlosser's bestselling
nonfiction book 'Fast Food Nation' is opening offices at the studio next
week and will use stages when it starts filming in mid-to-late October.
Much of the movie -- an indictment of fast food practices, from farm to
plate -- will be shot on location in Austin, Colorado and Mexico.
Casting continues, but Oscar-nominated actress Catalina Sandino Moreno
('Maria Full of Grace') has a major role. The film's working title
'Coyote' is designed to throw fast food joints off the scent when crews
set up near the fat factories, which presumably aren't big fans of the
Also in October at Austin Studios: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin
Tarantino's horror duet 'Grind House,' which has each filmmaker shooting
an hourlong splatter flick. Rodriguez persuaded QT to shoot in high-def
digital video for the first time (not counting the one scene QT shot in
'Sin City'). QT agreed on the basis that Rodriguez serve as his
cinematographer/camera operator. If all this activity isn't enough,
Rodriguez will be shooting 'Sin City' parts II and III back-to-back at
the studios, either late this year or in early 2006. He hopes to have
both sequels in the can by spring. -- C.G.
• Austin filmmaker Mari Marchbanks' feature debut 'Fall to Grace'
premiered at South by Southwest in March, reaping good reviews. Now it's
won Best Narrative Feature at the New Orleans Film Festival, which runs
Oct. 6 through 13. (The jury elects fest winners before the event.) Shot
in Austin and filled with music by local bands, the teen-family drama is
cruising the festival circuit, hitting the Rome International Film
Festival in Georgia on Sept. 10. -- C.G.
• Cinematexas is just around the bend -- Sept. 14-18 -- and its
socio-politico arm Parallax View has a killer lineup, with films by
Fernando Solanas, a rare screening of the 1972 Vietnam War doc 'Winter
Soldier' and a wealth of shorts and filmmaker discussions. But the
mostly free program needs cash to continue, so it's throwing the
prismatic bash Resuscitate Resistance III from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sept. 10
at the American Youthworks Warehouse (216 E. Fourth St.). It features a
silent art auction, offbeat multimedia fashion show, international short
films, live music and dancing. www.cinematexas.org. -- C.G.
• Another Cinematexas event: The festival's youth component Cinemakids
happens all weekend Sept. 17 and 18 at the University of Texas. Films by
kids and moviemaking workshops for kids ages 6-12 are slated.
Reservations for the workshops required. 475-8648. Info at
www.cinematexas.org. -- C.G.
• We like Alison Macor, the film aficionado who for years was a
freelance movie critic for the American-Statesman. Her cinema knowledge
is abundant, varied and deep -- she earned a doctorate in film from UT
-- making her a perfect film-class instructor. Macor is teaching two
courses at the Austin Museum of Art's Art School: 'Movie Lovers'
Weekend: Made in Austin,' which covers our homegrown movie scene, runs
Sept. 17 and 18; and 'Movie Lovers' Sundays: Scream Gems!,' a look at
the machinery of classic, cult and new horror movies, is Oct. 2 and 9.
We also like Martin Thomas, co-host of popular cable access movie show
'Reel Deal,' who will teach 'Movie Lovers' Sundays: From Comic Book to
Super Heroes,' which explores the leap from page to cineplex Dec. 4 and
11. 323-6380 or theartschool.amoa.org. -- C.G.
• Script doctor extraordinaire Aubrey M. Horton presents another one of
his popular screenwriting workshops -- an eight-week whopper beginning
Sept. 25 at St. Edward's University. The class runs Sundays and costs
$380. Several of Horton's students have gone on to make good, including
a young alum who recently signed a two-picture deal with Paramount, says
teach. 249-6501. www.ScriptDoctor911.com. -- C.G.