Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
An overview of the diverse features selected to screen at this year's Austin Film Festival.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn't exist.
A cycle rickshaw, adorned with a Texas flag billowing in the wind, whizzes by while blaring a Luke Combs tune. Massive murals of Willie Nelson and Post Malone gaze down on passersby like the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg. A man in a Blue Lives Matter shirt waltzes past a "PROTECT TRANS KIDS" sign planted on the lawn of a Catholic Church. Welcome to Austin, Texas, a Southern hotspot that, for the final weekend of October 2023, wasn't just home to these and other oddball sights, but also the backdrop for the 30th edition of the Austin Film Festival. Though not as world-famous as the Toronto International Film Festival or Cannes, Austin's annual ode to cinema is still a much-ballyhooed event attended by freelance journalists, aspiring screenwriters, iconic filmmakers, and everyone in between. Continue Reading →
By the time Silo’s action builds to a crescendo in its back third, it causes a deep ambivalence. On the one hand, after episodes of fastidiously building to this moment, it is akin to arriving at that fireworks factory. Conversely, there is a certain sadness in disrupting the series’ strange, contemplative tone. Continue Reading →
When we think back to actors of the 80s, we often think of the Brat Pack, that group of young charismatic stars whose impossible good looks occasionally compensated for middling acting ability. They were cute, and likable, but often lacked that element that makes certain actors more interesting, that sense of danger and mystery. Those actors, like Mickey Rourke, Sean Penn, and Nicolas Cage, didn’t get “Dream Date of the Month” write-ups in Teen Beat, but were more talented, more versatile, and more compelling to watch. Continue Reading →
Mission to Mars
Brian De Palma's bizarro, big-budget blastoff is rocky, but it remains an effectively fun entry in the director's filmography.
Although primarily known for dark suspense thrillers, Brian De Palma’s filmography is studded with a number of seemingly offbeat projects that one might not normally associate with the director of Carrie and Dressed to Kill. Even among his most ardent fans, though, a project like his 2000 effort, Mission to Mars, continues to serve as a bit of a bafflement. If you had to select the least suitable project imaginable for one of Hollywood’s most iconoclastic and cynical filmmakers, you could hardly do better than propose he make an expensive, optimistic PG sci-fi epic for Disney that was loosely inspired by one of their theme park attractions.
The results were perhaps not very surprising. Aside from France, where it screened as part of that year’s Cannes Film Festival and was ranked #4 on Cahiers du cinema’s list of the best films of the year, it was a financial and critical failure. It’s rarely discussed today even amongst De Palma scholars. (De Palma himself only briefly touches on it in the documentary De Palma.) And yet, to watch it again 20 years after its initial release is an interesting experience.
It clearly pales in comparison to such works as Blow Out, Phantom of the Paradise, and Femme Fatale and it’s still wildly uneven in many ways. At the same time, to watch De Palma attempt to embrace new things in both genre and mindset is fascinating. It even contains one of the most absolutely spellbinding set pieces in a career that is not exactly wanting in that regard and as such, the end result makes sense in the grand scheme of his career. Continue Reading →
The Truth About Charlie
Every month, we at The Spool select a filmmaker to explore in greater depth — their themes, their deeper concerns, how their works chart the history of cinema and the filmmaker’s own biography. For February, we’re celebrating acclaimed genre-bender Jonathan Demme. Read the rest of our coverage here.
Jonathan Demme’s The Truth About Charlie is a miscalculation on every level. As a meat-and-potatoes thriller, it fails utterly. As an exercise in style, it’s disjointed and unimpressive. A remake of Stanley Donen’s 1963 Hitchcockian comic mystery, Charade, could’ve brought out Demme’s humor, something largely absent from his films post-1990. Instead, the movie is a joyless, dull affair, resulting in something completely unnecessary.
The film follows the broad plot of the original movie: a woman on holiday in Europe meets a mysterious man. When she finds out her husband has been murdered, she gets caught up in a game of international intrigue, fortune-seeking, and mistaken identity. While the original starred Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, The Truth About Charlie stars Thandie Newton and Mark Wahlberg. Already the film has an issue—namely, that Newton and Wahlberg are no Hepburn and Grant. A simple comparison to the original movie is warranted only because The Truth About Charlie is so hollow and unmotivated that the comparison has to be made. Otherwise, it's incomprehensible as a work of art. Continue Reading →