2 Best Releases Directed by Robert Rodriguez

The Spool Staff


Watch afterAvatar (2009)
StarringKat Dennings

Local filmmakers, horror & desire are all given the spotlight at the Chicago International Film Festival's shorts program. 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. The first program of shorts featured at this year's Chicago International Film Festival, titled “City & State,” highlighted local voices with astounding range. Dustin Nakao-Haider’s film Ethan Lim: Cambodian Futures is a poignant and complex film highlighting Chicago chef Ethan Lim and his hope for a different future that moves Cambodian food in revolutionary directions. Director Linh Tran’s Video Funeral grapples with similar issues of loss, (re)connection, and family brought about by diaspora. Like Linh Tran, Ian Kelly’s animated short Soft Lights and Silver Shadows is a tender testament to how art and media can help transcend time, distance, and mortality. Equally fascinated with different domestic dynamics, Tetsuya Mariko intently investigated what makes a family against crumbling infrastructure in his tense Before Anyone Else. Continue Reading →


There's at once too much, and somehow not enough, of the whimsical DIY spirit of writer-director Robert Rodriguez in his latest film, the shaky B-thriller Hypnotic. The Austin native made his name in the halcyon days of '90s indie filmmaking, shooting his first feature (El Mariachi) for a mere $7,000 at the tender age of 23. Since then, he's leveraged that inventiveness into a cottage industry of his own based out of his hometown of Austin, Texas, whether it's kid-friendly fare (Spy Kids), big-budget CGI blockbusters (Alita: Battle Angel), moody noirs (Sin City) or grindhouse splatterfests (Planet Terror, From Dusk Till Dawn). Hypnotic is all and none of those things, a chintzy lo-fi Christopher Nolan riff that doesn't have nearly enough life to work. And yet, there are just enough charming elements to save it from outright dismissal. Continue Reading →