Film and TV

The Observer Reviews DIFF: Brooklyn Castle, Bindlestiffs and More.

We love film here at the Observer, so this year we dispatched our finest stringers to chronicle what they've seen and guide you through the Dallas International Film Festival. Touch base for daily reviews by Merritt Martin, Jennifer Medina and James Wallace.

Movie fans are damn happy that we live here every spring when Dallas International Film Festival comes around. For 10 days of film-loving fun, we get to run to our favorite theaters and see the best in independent, international -- and just plain entertaining films.

With my perfectly packed film tote (tips to come) and a well-planned schedule in hand, I'm hitting the Angelika, the Magnolia and my beloved Texas Theatre to tell you what the can't (and can) miss films are this year. I've rated what I've seen so that you don't waste your time sitting in the wrong theater. Punch (7) It's easy to see why Punch, one of the films in this year's South Korea Spotlight, was a blockbuster hit in Korea last year. The story of Wan-deuk, his strange family, and his efficiently agro teacher, Punch is a great reflection on family, self and the things people do to get by in the world. And there's kickboxing. If you've missed it so far, you can catch it as Punch screens again at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Angelika.

BROOKLYN CASTLE - trailer from Hot Fuss Films on Vimeo.

Brooklyn Castle (10) Reminiscent of 2008 AFI Dallas favorite Resolved, Brooklyn Castle has set the doc bar high this year. An example of the awesomeness that documentaries can be, Brooklyn Castle has made competitive middle school chess the most interesting sport in the world. Following some of IS 318's finest young chess players (I totally heart Alexis and Justus), this movie shows just how hard kids work these days, in spite of repeated cuts in after school funding all over the country. Fingers crossed Brooklyn Castle wins one of the big prizes this year, because this film should be on everyone's must-see list.

Documentary Shorts It's a sad fact that shorts (of all kinds) are overlooked and underrated. This year's lineup of seven shorts covers everything from taxidermy (Lifelike) to the neuroscience of love (The Love Competition) to the nutters better known as the Westboro Baptist Church (The Elect). Love Hacking, the story of an online relationship turned Nepalese wedding, was a fan favorite, and one that definitely deserves the full length treatment. If you have this evening free, run up to the Angelika tonight at 9:15 p.m. and catch them all.

Bindlestiffs (8) At this year's fest, "Bindlestiffs" and "raunchy" are always said in the same sentence and with good reason. It's probably because the geniuses behind this fun as hell Houston-based production are barely of drinking age. A full force attack on anything highbrow, Bindlestiffs is crass entertainment at its finest, complete with book burning, hobo killing, mini-train riding and blow jobs for meth - because that's what happens when three high school virgins decide to "read" The Catcher in the Rye. Though there aren't any more regular screenings of the film, you can hope it wins an award, otherwise you'll have to wait for its main release this summer as the first feature from Kevin Smith's SModcast Pictures Presents.

Bringing Up Bobby (ehem, lower numbers) Maybe it was because I had such high hopes, or maybe it was because I was in my 10th hour at the Angelika, but ... meh. I know that there is definitely an audience for this film, but I guess I'm just not it.

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Jennifer Medina