North Texas Daily

Festival Review: Lone Star Film Festival 2013

Festival Review: Lone Star Film Festival 2013

Festival Review: Lone Star Film Festival 2013
November 12
19:12 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic and Cole Clay / Intern

The Lone Star Film Festival, which took place this past weekend in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square, was a five-day event that brought together movie lovers to see some of the most anticipated films of the year while interacting with the artists who made them.

Celebrating its seventh year, the festival featured some of the best films to come out of 2013— some of which are already garnering Oscar buzz.


“August: Osage County”

Director: John Wells

Stars: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor

Oscar winners dig for more gold

An all-star cast is usually the harbinger of a doomed movie, but Well’s film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “August: Osage County,” is one of the few exceptions where an impressive cast rises to and exceeds expectations.

While this black comedy tale about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family of thoroughly awful people can be very difficult to watch at times, the film and its studio (The Weinstein Company) deserve some credit for exploring a rarely traveled road. In a movie culture obsessed with likability, we tend to ignore hard-hitting films such as this one because they are too realistic and don’t embrace escapism in the way that we want. “August: Osage County,” however, piles on the punches instead of pulling them, and is all the better for it.

The film features some of the best acting of the year, especially from Streep (no surprise) and Roberts (diving into herself in a way that we haven’t seen since 2000’s “Erin Brockovich”) as mother and daughter. They are sure to land nominations for their towering performances come next year. But when it comes singling out the supporting performances for their sheer astonishment it’s like trying to pick your favorite child. Everybody (Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale and many more) in this forceful ensemble certainly brings their A-game.

If you’re not one to watch ill-tempered people eat at each other, you might want to head two states north to “Nebraska.” But if you’re willing to witness an impactful script and a perfect storm of acting, then you might walk away from one of the best films of the year.

“August: Osage County” opens everywhere December 25th.

Rating: 4.5/5

– Preston Barta


“The Book Thief”

Director: Brian Percival

Stars: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson

A vigorous take on a solemn subject

Based on Markus Zusak’s staggering novel, “The Book Thief,” is a moving interpretation of a story that follows a fearless young girl (Nélisse) who transforms the lives of those around her when she is sent to live with a foster family (Rush and Watson) during World War II Germany.

This wonderfully nuanced film is perfectly weighted in every way, from its pace and acting to its technical achievements, including an inspiring musical score by John Williams (“Star Wars,” 1977). The subtlety of the looks passing between the actors and a finale that ensured silence until the end credits rolled make “The Book Thief” an unforgettable experience for the whole family.

“The Book Thief” opens at the Angelika Dallas November 22.

Rating: 3.5/5

– Preston Barta


“Little Hope Was Arson”

Director: Theo Love

A firestorm of suspense

“Little Hope Was Arson,” directed by the Los Angeles based filmmaker Love, is a documentary that hasn’t made much noise on the festival circuit after premiering at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis.

The film chronicles the story of 10 churches that were burned to the ground in East Texas. Love crafts the film as a crime thriller that turns into a manhunt to find the culprit, and the revelations that the film uncovers are astounding.

Love’s filmmaking talents shine in his directorial debut. What he does is wildly creative – he takes this tragic story that gained a fair amount of national attention in 2010 and transforms it into something deeply personal. The story is told through interviews with pastors, law enforcement officials and a colorful array of small town personalities. It might be difficult to see this little film, but what you get in return is well worth the search.

The release of “Little Hope Was Arson” is to be announced.

Rating: 4/5

– Cole Clay



Director: Alexander Payne

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb

A classic of warmth, wit and charm

“Nebraska” is witty, enduring and just plain genius. Payne (“The Descendants,” 2011) is a filmmaker known for his wonderfully enchanting cast of characters that have had audiences in tears from both laughter and pure emotion. He is in top form with this film, which is by far the best of his illustrious career.

Set in rural Montana, an aging curmudgeon named Woody Grant (Dern), who drinks more than he speaks, is hell-bent on traveling to Nebraska in order to claim his Mega Sweepstakes Prize of one million dollars. He and his son, David (Forte), embark on a journey where they encounter an eclectic mix of family and friends from Grant’s past.

The film is essentially a series of small, seemingly insignificant moments that give you a glimpse into the lives of this simple family. Rather it is a slight grunt from Dern (“Django Unchained,” 2012), or a twinkling smile from Forte (“MacGruber,” 2008), the two stars forge a wonderful father-and-son relationship with a payoff that is simply perfect.

“Nebraska” opens at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas November 22nd.

Rating: 5/5

– Cole Clay


“One Chance”

Director: David Frankel

Stars: James Corden, Alexandra Roach and Julie Walters

A sweet Hallmark card of a movie

With a seemingly run-of-the-mill story of a bullied shop assistant (an excellent Corden) who wins Britain’s Got Talent and becomes a celebrated opera singer, it is quite the feat to have a movie as warm and entertaining as “One Chance.” It’s a true rag-to-the riches tale that unfolds amazingly well, without pulling your heartstrings as shamelessly as other movies tend to do. So expect intriguing characters, utterly convincing performances and a message that we love to love: follow your dreams.

“One Chance” will open January 2014.

Rating: 3.5/5

– Preston Barta



Director: Stephen Frears

Stars: Steve Coogan, Judi Dench and Sophie Kennedy Clark

It will leave your heart bursting at the seams

Acclaimed British filmmaker Frears (“The Queen,” 2006) masks his richly sophisticated film as an odd couple tale. But where the film truly finds its heart lies underneath. Frears directs vastly talented actors Coogan (“Tropic Thunder,” 2008) and Dench (“Skyfall,” 2012) through a whirlwind of emotions that will have you walking the emotional tightrope. This mixed bag of feelings travels poignantly from woeful to uplifting before colliding into a climax that will leave you dizzy from enchantment.

“Philomena” is about sardonic journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), who is appointed to write a story on Philomena Lee (Dench), a woman searching for her son who was taken away from her 50 years prior, after being forced to reside in a convent.

Coogan penned the screenplay, although it juggles a wide variety of tonal shifts, it strikes a confident balance that uses sharp humor to keep the film from tipping over into sappy melodrama. Topics including religion, faith and forgiveness are tackled as each of these elements is allowed to coexist without being heavy-handed. Coogan’s pitch-perfect performance accompanied with the legendary Dench is marvelous as the duo strike up a friendship that is one for the ages.

“Philomena” opens at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas and Plano November 27th.

Rating: 4/5

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