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SxSW 2012: The Paramount Theater

Every state capitol in the Union has a legitimate theater, a big one where the road companies of major Broadway shows can come and entertain the elite. Such a place is the Paramount, a fine old palace dating back a century or so, located about 10 blocks south of the State capitol building in Austin, Texas.

The place is huge, and decorated with faux art nouveau paintings and looking exactly like it should: A movie palace par excellence. This is why all SxSW’s gala premieres take place here.

Cabin in the Woods

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods opened the festival and well it should. This is a really good theological action comedy, and possibly Whedon’s best work to date.

What do I mean by “theological?” You’ll have to see the movie to find out. The title refers to the stereotypical dwelling, where a standard bunch of college students (Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz) are forced to battle the forces of evil (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford)….or do they?

This is one of the most self-referential horror films since Scream One, playing up on each and every movie cliché in the history of genre to hilarious effect. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of scares here too, but this is an action comedy, and Whedon, who gave us the likes of Buffy and Firefly, is a master of those.

The film careens from jokes to scares with wild abandon, and we’re not sure where this thing is going, but the ride is too fun to care much, and when we finally get to the climax, which is totally mind-blowing, we’re almost totally exhausted as the protagonists are supposed to be. Think of Westworld meets Scooby Doo.

Blue Like Jazz

Director Steve Taylor’s latest opus is a theological coming-of-age movie and as such is too cute by half.

What do I mean by “theological?” it means that God is discussed ad nauseum. It’s all about region and what it means, and while it pretends to come from a free thinking atheist perspective, it’s as pious as an afterschool special on the Pope Channel.

According to the blurb, Don (Marshall Allman), a 19-year-old sophomore at a Texas junior college, tries to escape his Bible belt upbringing for life in the Pacific Northwest at the “most godless campus in America.”

Well, it ain’t. It’s a right-wing parody of the “most godless campus in America” and isn’t that good a depiction. The characters are all cardboard cutouts, and the edges aren’t all that well cut out either. It tries to have some Animal House moments, but while it comes close once in a while, it cannot shake that piety that Don and the film are so dead set on rebelling against. The ending is broadcast well before the middle of the film, and despite what we fervently hope, it gets there, ug.

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