Courtesy of SXSW [http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_FS17780]

What does it mean to be human? Viewers are forced to ponder this existential question and more in Ex Machina, a stunning science fiction thriller that began garnering buzz long before it hit European theaters in January.

Ahead of its highly anticipated U.S. release on April 10, SXSW Film attendees got a sneak peek of the movie that compels audiences to reflect on their own humanity. Actor Oscar Isaac told CultureMap that the festival was the perfect place for a screening because of the huge technology scene.

The story centers around an intelligent computer programmer (played by Domhnall Gleeson) who is asked to study a gorgeous robot woman. Her artificial intelligence is so convincing, in fact, she even caused a stir on Tinder during SXSW.

Despite a dense plot, intense marketing ploys and potential existential crises, writer and director Alex Garland said making the film was easier than it looks — and it looks amazing. "This is the easiest film I've worked on. By miles," Garland told us on the red carpet.

The story was different for those in front of the camera. "There was a bit of a challenge for the actors," Garland said. "We had to shoot it in six weeks, which is quick. So for them, there was a lot pressure to sort of get things right fast so we can move on."

Watch our interview with Garland above, and check out quick red carpet snippets from Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson.

Courtesy of SXSW [http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_FS18148]

Taissa Farmiga talks off-screen chemistry and the making of The Final Girls

Exclusive Video

In a world full of Hollywood starlets, celebrity divas and viral TMZ videos, it's not often that you hear about the cast of a movie getting along as well as, well, kids at summer camp.

During its SXSW premiere, CultureMap caught up with the stars of The Final Girls, an upcoming horror comedy flick that is equal parts terrifying, hilarious and endearing. The film follows Max (played by American Horror Story actress Taissa Farmiga) and her friends as they are sucked into a classic, cheesy 1980s horror movie starring Max's mother (Malin Ackerman).

The off-camera chemistry between all of the actors translated well onto the screen, where most of the story takes place at a fictional summer camp. "We shot at an actual summer camp," explains Nina Dobrev, who plays Max's friend Vicki. "We're all adults, but I felt like we became kids at a camp. It was a really fun vibe."

"When I say it, I genuinely mean it — I love the entire cast," insists Farmiga. "We had such a blast. Everyone's so funny and we just mesh so well." Co-star Ackerman reaffirms the sentiment. "Honestly the best cast, the best crew, the script is incredible and the final product really reflects just everybody's love for it," she says. "We all still hang out whenever we can!"

An official release date for The Final Girls has yet to be announced, but you can catch more from the cast in the video above.

Courtesy of SXSW [http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_FS18319]

New film catapults legendary Texas gospel band into national spotlight

Exclusive Video

Get ready to meet the Jones Family Singers. The Texas-based gospel group stars in a new documentary, The Jones Family Will Make a Way, which premiered at SXSW 2015.

The feature film has thrust the family band, well-known by gospel fans across the state, into the national spotlight.

Ahead of the SXSW premiere, CultureMap caught up with Bishop Fred Jones and Alexis Jones, who spoke passionately about the documentary and the flurry of media exposure. "Well, first of all, we were excited about the red carpet," joked Alexis. "And then we're excited about the world getting to know the Jones Family as we are."

When Bishop Jones decided to debut the band outside of the Pentecostal church circuit, he met Michael Corcoran, the man who would help take the band countrywide. "I think our big lucky break was trusting God for the outcome of what you see today," said Bishop Jones. "And allowing us to meet Michael Corcoran, along with [director] Alan Berg," Alexis added.

For the full interview with the Jones Family Singers, watch the video above.

Photo by Daniel Cavazos

Top 5 performances from SXSW — and the artists to follow this year

SXSW Review

SXSW 2015 was a throwback to five years ago: crowds were lighter, marquee names weren't in abundance and (most crucially) people were more interested in discovering new acts than waiting around all day to see established ones. This made for an easier and more pleasant experience than the two prior years. Police were helpful, the safety measures seemed smart and lines were mostly quite reasonable. Overall, it was the thoughtful course correction many hoped for.

The "Choose Your Own Adventure" festival means everyone has a completely different experience. After 2014, where we happened upon Sam Smith, Chet Faker, London Grammar, Future Islands and Charli XCX, we thought there was no way to top it. However, we still found tons of notable artists old and new while catching nearly 50 acts. Of that lot, there were dozens of great moments, but here are five we'll remember for years to come.

Run The Jewels: Stubb's on Friday
You could be forgiven for thinking that Run The Jewels would simply turn up and honor an obligation. The rain was mucking things up at SPIN's day show, and Killer Mike was just back from a visit to his Atlanta doctor after being attacked at an earlier showcase. But that's not how these guys do things. As El-P and Mike hit the stage, the crowd roared approval and flashed the duo's signs, leading them to declare, "We're gonna burn this [expletive] place to the ground!"

They weren't kidding. The audience at the gig sang every word from both RTJ albums, and the rappers prowled the stage with an intense confidence. It's rare to see a live act that's at once totally on point and also having a great time, but this was it. Run The Jewels resonated with rap fans and you could see the group feeding off the massive energy and audience love.

Courtney Barnett: Mohawk on Wednesday
Courtney Barnett may be the Keyser Soze of indie rock. Her lolling voice and lo-fi guitars may initially strike the listener as shambolic, but she's pulling a fast one on you. There's a serious method and craft to her tunes. It's always interesting to see a talkative audience quiet down and step away from the bars when something engages them — such was the mood at the Mohawk.
Barnett's demeanor was low-key but chipper: She barreled through songs and kept the banter lean. New cuts showcased from Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit were impressive. Toward the end of the set during "Avant Gardener," we actually saw someone punch up the Amazon app and order Barnett's records. Barnett's talent stood out in a big crowd.
Hot Chip: Samsung on Friday
While not a public showcase, Hot Chip's Samsung-sponsored gig Friday was their first Austin appearance since 2008 — and they made the most of it. The band emerged just before 1 am in polished and fine form. After a quick run through the excellent new single "Huarache Lights," the group treated the crowd to a "best of" set with a few new songs sprinkled in. The crowd loved all of it, but exploded when "Over And Over" started.
This is a fanboy band, and Hot Chip fans really, really love them. Of the older cuts, "Night And Day" was a real killer as well, but the biggest thrill of all was finally getting this fantastic group back to Austin.
Swervedriver: Red 7 on Friday
While we often think of Swervedriver as the spiritual cousin to bands like Ride and Lush, the band's rollicking set at Red 7 had us reassessing our memories. These guys were, and are, more metal than their peers. Despite a driving rain that cascaded sheets of water onto portions of the crowd, the band's massive sound was entrancing. New songs from this year's I Wasn't Born To Lose You blended seamlessly with those from 20-plus years ago and it became obvious that this wasn't a nostalgia run or a cash grab.
Swervedriver have come back fully embracing their sound and their legacy, and as we left, we hoped they'd come back for a full set soon.
Kate Tempest: Red 7 on Wednesday
British wunderkind Kate Tempest definitely produced the most interesting set of the 48 we saw this year. We're not 100 percent sure how listening to her albums would go, but we'd sure as hell buy a ticket to catch her live show again. On stage, Tempest alternates between beat-based songs and a capella poetry. The narratives are like sketches or one-act plays describing party conversations or a naive twentysomething arguing with a wise old man.
Like many of our best SXSW sets, Tempest won points for playing serious music joyfully. She radiated excitement, and the audience responded by paying rapt attention until she finished. "I've never seen anything like this festival! I'm walking 'round with my jaw dropped," she exclaimed. The feeling was mutual, as the audience had never heard any music quite like hers.
Courtesy of SXSW [http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_FS17776]

John Cusack takes on challenging role of Beach Boys' Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy

Exclusive Video

Brian Wilson's fame is a complicated one. He will always be known as the driving force behind the Beach Boys, but, like many geniuses of the time, he fell prey to the pitfalls of drugs and success.

The new film Love & Mercy delves into Wilson's life during the 1960s and 1980s, each time period portrayed by Paul Dano and John Cusack, respectively. CultureMap caught up with Cusack and the director of the film on the red carpet of the U.S. premiere during SXSW.

"I think Brian, he's a genius," Cusack tells CultureMap. "So I think if you were doing a film with Mozart or Brian Wilson or Jackson Pollock or Salvador Dalí or something, you're sort of humbled by that. Because we're not geniuses. We're just people."

It's difficult to do a dramatization of someone when the subject is still alive, Cusack explains. "I think the fact that he's still here and it's his life story [is challenging]," says Cusack. "And he went to some very dark places in that period in his life."

Director Bill Pohlad says his focus was on the stories "that will be able to paint this portrait of him that people will be able to relate to, hopefully."

Love & Mercy is scheduled to be released on June 5.

Photo by Nicole Raney

Your guide to navigating SXSW in the rain


Reports of torrential downpours, flash flood watches and potentially canceled events have certainly dampened the SXSW mood, but it doesn't mean that the party has stopped. If you're braving the storm this weekend, here are some last-minute tips for navigating the festival in the rain.

Hit up the indoor venues
Unless you're absolutely dying to see your favorite band at Stubb's, we suggest looking into what the indoor venues have planned for the remaining two days. The Parish, The North Door, St. David's and Austin Music Hall will host shows indoors, just to name a few. Search the SXSW schedule by venue to get a better idea of the offerings this weekend.

Catch a movie
The festival is still screening films Friday and Saturday, with start times as late as midnight. You can watch one of SXSW's buzzworthy movies downtown at the Vimeo Theater, Stateside Theater or the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. There are even screenings at satellite venues such as the Alamo Drafthouse on Lamar or the Marchesa Hall & Theatre, that way you can avoid the hassle of downtown all together.

Seek refuge in the Austin Convention Center
If you need to escape a sudden downpour, you can always find refuge at the Austin Convention Center. While you're there, check out the Music Gear Expo and Flatstock, both of which are open to public until 6 pm on Friday and Saturday. There are also tons of cool panels left to attend. A stop here is also a great opportunity to fill up your water bottle, grab a snack or take advantage of the clean, indoor bathrooms.

Bring extra cash for a good meal
Some of Austin's greatest food trucks have flocked to the city center for SXSW, but nobody wants to eat kimchi fries in the rain. Splurge on dinner at one of those downtown restaurants your friends are always talking about. Hang out inside until the rain stops and get a delicious, much-deserved meal.

Check social media before you go
Whether it's an official SXSW event or a separate festival, visit the event's official Facebook page for any final statements regarding the weather. For instance, the free SXSW music showcases at Auditorium Shore are still green-lit for Friday and Saturday, but festival officials have stated that they will be canceled if there is a risk of lightning. If you don't already, follow SXSW on Twitter and Facebook.

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Rock star Bono's daughter makes her own sweet music in Flora and Son

Movie Review

The new Apple TV+ film Flora and Son centers on a single mother and her teenage son, a situation that typically calls for an uplifting story about the mother’s struggles trying to support the two of them, and the bond that develops between them as go through the troubles together. While that element exists somewhat here, it goes down a much different path that’s both saltier and equally as rewarding.

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son.

Set in Dublin, Ireland, the film follows Flora (Eve Hewson), a single mom to Max (Oren Kinlan), who gets in a fair bit of trouble. She shares custody with her ex, Ian (Jack Reynor), and their antagonistic relationship, along with Max being a teenager, likely has an effect on how Flora and Max get along. A typical interchange between mother and son has them calling each other all sorts of bad names, although there rarely seems to be any true animosity behind their arguments.

When a guitar Flora refurbishes for Max goes unappreciated, she instead starts taking online lessons herself with an American named Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). She’s no less brash with him, but her sincere interest in learning how to play and in finding out more about Jeff’s music opens a new door for Flora. Soon, a discovery that Max is making music of his own on his laptop helps them communicate better than they have in a long time.

Flora & Son is the latest music-focused film from writer/director John Carney (Once, Sing Street), and he once again finds the sweet spot in telling a personal story enhanced by song. Flora has more than a few rough edges, making her a less-than-ideal protagonist, but the heart of the character shines through precisely because she has no filter. Once music is added to the equation, it become that much easier to see the type of person she is and why you should root for her.

Both Hewson and Gordon-Levitt are charming actors, so they establish a connection through a screen well. Fortunately, though, Carney chooses not to leave it at that, adding a slight fantasy element to some of their scenes by having Flora imagine Jeff in the room with her. A romantic element naturally arises, but it’s the unexpected way in which two lonely souls find each other from across the world that makes them the most interesting.

There are a couple of decent songs that come out of the process of all of the music-making, but nothing that you could truly call an earworm. Instead, it’s the feeling you get seeing the characters interact when they’re sharing music with each other that makes the film sing. Only one character could be classified as a professional musician, with the rest of them making music for the pure joy of it, an emotion Carney translates well in his storytelling.

Hewson (the daughter of U2’s Bono, in case you were unaware) is having a moment after 15 years in the business. She has a boldness that serves her as well in this role as it did in the recent Apple TV+ limited series, Bad Sisters. This is Kinlan’s first major part, and he acquits himself well. Both Gordon-Levitt and Reynor are seasoned actors who know how to make the most of their limited scenes.

The depiction of a mother/child relationship in Flora and Son is atypical, but it still winds up in a great spot thanks to the power of music and some fine performances. Carney’s love for both songs and filmmaking has yielded some memorable movies over the years, this one included.


Flora and Son opens in select theaters and on Apple TV+ on September 29.

10 restaurant and bar openings — including a pop-up — top Austin's tastiest food news

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

ICYMI: Buckle in for tons of openings this week. During our busy week we covered the opening date for Radio/East, which is the highly anticipated expansion of Radio Coffee & Beer; the arrival of Tarbox & Brown, a San Marcos restaurant with lots of cultural influences, led by a chef with South African and Chinese roots; and the debut of Bacalar, a Mexican restaurant that marks the return of a former Top Chef winner to the Austin food scene. We also heard about a secretive new speakeasy, Trona, from an entrepreneur with a very cool track record. But there's more we haven't told you about yet.

First-year Texas Longhorn player Deandre Moore just got a check for his "name, image, and likeness," and used that money to open the Jive Turkeyfood truck (1637 E. Riverside Dr.). And even cooler — he hired his mom. Taleea Moore is cooking up lots of turkey dishes, inspired by the family's athletic at-home eating that has long subbed out poultry for beef. There are only three regular menu items so far: a turkey burger (of course), a Thanksgiving-inspired cornbread comfort bowl, and a deep-fried turkey taco. The rest are seasonal treats.

Austin could always use more cool cocktail spots — they book up fast on the weekend — so people are excited to welcome Daydreamer, a "cocktail and champagne bar." (That's not to be confused with Daydreamer Coffee, which opened last year.) There's lots to dream about, but most appealing is that this venture comes from the minds of a whole bunch of industry vets from very cool spots all around Austin. Follow your dreams to 1708 E. 6th St.

Longtime Austin establishmentJuliet Italian Kitchen, also known for dreamy vibes thanks to pretty interior design and a great location in the Zilker area, is expanding into Georgetown. The stylish vibes will continue at 701 S. Main St., in Georgetown's Old Masonic Lodge Building, which was built in 1900. This will be the restaurant's third location, and will include an upstairs bar and dining area, plus a patio, seating 188 guests in total.

The team behind Drinks Lounge just launched Drinks Backyard, bringing even more casual vibes to South Austin — where they'll really be appreciated. Located at a former liquor store (6328 S. Hwy. 183), this bar takes advantage of the two acres around it with a stage, covered lounge seating, and a 14-foot TV for sports and movies. The bar and patio are open now, but the backyard is still getting ready. Eventually, it will welcome guests under 21 and pets. Smokin' Brew-B-Q is the first food truck onsite, with more coming soon.

We focused on other things last week, but two casual chains shared news we don't want to gloss over. Graze Craze, a charcuterie shop, has opened its first location in the Austin area, in Lakeway (2127 Lohman’s Crossing Rd., Ste. 304). The company takes its meat-cheese-and-other-snacks curating very seriously, and these gargantuan charcuteries are sure to impress large parties.

Similarly, Seattle-based Eastern European pie-maker Piroshky Piroshky is making its Texas debut — but in this case, they're not sticking around. Catch the pop-up in Austin on October 6 to see why this bakery is popular enough to pull off a national tour. The team is posting locations as they go on Instagram.

Radio Coffee brings the brews to new East Austin shop and music venue in October

going live in the fall

When it comes to expanding the influence of coffee connoisseurs in Austin, there's room for everyone on the East Side.

One East Austin coffee shop just changed hands for a fancy rebrand, and another recently expanded out of the area into Buda. Cosmic Coffee, a South Austin staple, blew everyone out of the water with a gorgeous, sprawling industrial complex on East 4th Street, and now another neighboring coffee and beer combo is following suit.

Radio/East, a second location spun off from the original music-loving Radio Coffee & Beer, will open its doors at 3504 Montopolis Dr. in East Austin on Wednesday, October 18.

The new family- and dog-friendly space sprawls across two acres, which is divvied up among a 1,200-square-foot indoor coffee shop, indoor and outdoor live music stages, and a food truck park. Guests will be able to order their favorite drinks from the indoor counter, or they can choose to order from either of the two outdoor windows that open to the grand shaded backyard. And we can't forget one of the more rare features: plenty of parking for customers.

Radio's founding father-son duo Jack and Greg Wilson brought on two new partners — Trey Hudson and Nine Mile Records owner Rick Pierik — in the hopes of developing and maintaining this new spot as a community-focused space, much like the beloved original.

“With the new space, we’ve been able to create a through line to the existing concept of Radio,” said Hudson in a release. “With Radio/East we tried to listen to what the Montopolis community needed and we hope that we can be as central to this neighborhood as we have been to the area around Menchaca.”

Pierik will be the driving force behind Radio/East's musical events. Local musicians and touring bands will all get their chance to take the stage with four nights of performances planned indoors and outdoors beginning on Thursdays.

With Austin's wide-ranging music taste, Pierik will seek to reflect the city's musical diversity with every show.

"Jack Wilson and I are looking to bring together diverse programing from every corner of the music industry, booking up-and-coming national and international acts alongside all of the amazing Austin talent we've known and admired for years," said Pierik. "We're especially committed to helping local artists develop their fanbases through quality concert experiences and eclectic bills."

A list of events following Radio/East's grand opening is as follows:

  • October 19 – Sunrosa with Guma and Feeling Small
  • October 20 – Redbud with Mockjaw, Tearjerk, and Creekbed Carter Hogan
  • October 21 – Peachfuzz 10th Anniversary Party featuring The Texas Gentleman, Brown Burlesque, Lady Dan, and a to-be-announced special guest
  • October 28 – First Annual Radio/East Chili Cook Off and the Austin Flea, featuring Mother Neff, The Push & Shove, and Sour Bridges
  • October 31 – A Rocky Horror Halloween featuring A Giant Dog with Trouble in the Streets
  • November 11 – A Free Lunch Benefit featuring Caroline Rose and BRUCE
  • November 17 – Money Chicha with The Tiarras

Tickets for the upcoming shows can be purchased online beginning Friday, September 29.

In addition to keeping Radio/East music-focused, visitors can expect to see some classic beverages on the menu, with a few new twists to keep customers coming back. The new location will have two tap towers with eight craft beer taps, four rotating specialty draft cocktails, and plenty of wine to go around.

Radio/EastGet a local favorite beer on draft, or try a new specialty draft cocktail.Photo by Renee Dominguez

Bar Manager Jacob Biggie has been hard at work to develop new creative cocktails for the new location, including Phantom Mood (Still Austin Gin, hibiscus, lime, and cucumber with soda) and Sensitive Artist (Senza Maeso hybrid spirit, Aperol, St. Germain, lime juice). Guests can also try the new seasonal non-alcoholic highball, dubbed the Chai-ball.

The lineup of food vendors at the new East Austin digs include Veracruz All Natural with its binge-worthy tacos; organic pizza slices from Side Eye Slice (a sister concept to Side Eye Pie); and Radio's own food truck – Shortwave Diner – offering classic American diner fare and comfort food such as smash burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken and waffles, and more.

Following the grand opening at 7 am on October 18, Radio/East's operating hours will be 7 am to 1 am Monday through Saturday, and 7 am to 10 pm on Sundays.