Good Morning Austin, March 15: SXSW’s Double ‘Dragon’

It’s “Dragonslayer” times two at SXSW … but where’s Mel?

As the fest heads toward Tuesday night's awards ceremony, more news 'n' notes from South by Southwest:

There were so many rumors flying in the days leading up to Monday's surprise 15th anniversary screening from the Austin-based Ain't It Cool News that AICN founder Harry Knowles was forced to write a post saying that all the rumor-mongers – he mentioned the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and the Austin Chronicle – didn't know what they were talking about when they said he'd lined up a major summer film for his surprise screening. He came close to landing one summer and one fall release, he said, but in the end went for a vintage film with "a spectacular special guest" and "an incredibly awesome Q&A discussion." (Ain't It Cool News)

DragonslayerSo at 10 p.m. Austin time at the Paramount Theater, the secret screening was revealed to be … "Dragonslayer?" Yep, the 1981 fantasy adventure from Disney and director Matthew Robbins (left) was AICN's anniversary selection, with "Pan's Labyrinth" director Guillermo del Toro the special guest on hand to speak about a film he loves. And judging from the Monday-night tweets, the choice left some of the fans a bit underwhelmed. One tweet ended with the hashtags "#punkd #sxsw." Others: "I've never seen & have nothing against, but sleep too tempting so we ditched" … "Not too up on craptastic fantasy films from the year before I was born" … "I'll be asleep in 5 minutes, so checking out. Rather sleep in bed than a Paramount seat" … "Lame. Glad not to be there." Others, to be fair, were actually excited. (Twitter)

Dragonslayer documentaryCuriously, Knowles' selection is the second film called "Dragonslayer" to screen at SXSW this year. A skateboarding documentary of the same title (right) screened on Sunday night, and drew a largely favorable review from Robert Koehler. "Despite a slew of skateboarding films in recent years, each one quite distinct," he writes, "[Tristan] Patterson's pic arguably comes closest to channeling the culture's punk vibe and youthful abandon, albeit filtered through an outsider's aesthetic." Harry Knowles' and Guillermo del Toro's thoughts on the film have yet to be recorded.  (Variety)

Want a filmmaker's-eye view of SWSW? How about a filmmaker's girlfriend's-eye view? Duncan Jones and "Source Code" provide both, with director Jones and his significant other Rodene Ronquillo keeping a daily journal of Jones' U.S. press tourfor his new film, which opened SXSW. Their sojourn in Austin was clearly dominated by interviews, with a little time out to meet Pee Wee Herman ("it's his show's fault why I am the way I am," says Ronquillo), check out the Museum of the Weird, and ordering room service when the restaurant lines turned out to be too long. Jones also explains why the pressure of the premiere got to him, and his introductory remarks weren't quite as cogent as he wanted – or, as he puts it, "my eloquent spiel went the way of the dodo" (SourceCode).

The afternoon after the SXSW premiere of Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" – which is to say, Mel Gibson's first film since his widely publicized meltdowns – Summit Entertainment and Participant Media are throwing a party to celebrate the "Social Action Campaign" based around the movie. The film deals with a man who uses a beaver puppet to deal with his mental illness, the campaign is designed to "provide audiences with tools, resources and opportunities to heal the pain of those suffering from mental illnesses," and Jeff Wells wonders if Gibson, unmentioned as a participant by the press release, will be on hand. "If he appears, it'll be a circus," says Wells. "If he doesn't appear, it'll be a bigger circus." (Hollywood Elsewhere)

On the heels of its Sunday SXSW premiere, the documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" has signed a distribution deal with Magnolia Home Entertainment … and Abramorama … and AT&T. The unusual multi-platform deal gives theatrical rights to Abramorama ("Exit Through the Gift Shop," "Anvil!"), home entertainment and VOD rights to Magnolia, and a pre-theatrical sneak to AT&T's U-verse TV subscribers, while also bringing in the telecom company as a "distribution and marketing partner." Producers Gavin Polone and Rachel Griffin are positioning the deal as an attempt to "not follow typical business models." (indieWIRE)

And a few SXSW reviews:

"Bridesmaids," the Judd Apatow-produced comedy from "Freaks and Geeks" creator Paul Feig: "reaches levels of hilarity and heart that [chick flicks and romantic comedies] haven’t reached in over a decade … Confident, a mix of laugh-out-loud funny, smart, raunchy, and heartbreaking." Peter Sciretta, /film

Fambul Tok"Fambul Tok" (left), a documentary about a grassroots forgiveness project in Sierra Leone: "Director Sara Terry brings a career's worth of journalism experience to this assured filmmaking debut, organizing her material into chapters that escalate in drama and illuminate her main subject's mission without ever getting distracted by his personal life or history." John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

"Insidious," from "Saw" director James Wan (billed as "some thoughts" rather than a review, because reviews are embargoed even though the film screened at SXSW): "one of the scariest, most entertaining, enjoyable horror-watching experiences I’ve had in a theater in years." Scott Wampler, Collider

"Kill List," a bloody tale of contract killers from British director Ben Wheatley: "Littered with the grotesque images of a man murdered by a hammer and another holding his own intestines, 'Kill List' has plenty to satisfy gorehounds, but there’s a much more satisfying dimension of human behavior that allows it to transcend cheap thrills." Eric Kohn, indieWIRE

"Girl Walks Into a Bar," a dark Sebastien Gutierrez comedy told in 10 parts, with YouTube distribution following its SXSW premiere: "At its best moments, the flick feels like a foul-mouthed (yet still insightful) Woody Allen piece, but 'Girl Walks Into a Bar' also brings welcome dashes of film noir and highly-stylized banter to the equation." Scott Weinberg, Cinematical

"The FP," a "certifiably loony campfest" about gangs competing in videogame dance contests: "No matter its inanities, the movie is certainly a wonder to behold; it’s an indulgent work of pop art that affectionately mocks its influences and never lets up." Eric Kohn, indieWIRE