Bernie, rated PG-13

Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey

Austin Family critical rating: 5 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Bernie, the new film from Austin’s own Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Me and Orson Welles), is the best film I’ve seen this year. In this endlessly funny and sometimes achingly sad true story of small-town murder, actual locals from Carthage, Texas recount the tale of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a beloved small-town mortician on trial for murdering a disliked elderly woman (Shirley MacLaine). East Texas is an area that hasn’t received much cinematic attention (and an area that I hold close to my heart, having spent quite a bit of my childhood in Hallsville and Longview), and it comes to vivid life as a loving and warped environment in Linklater’s film. I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Linklater after a screening of the film in New York City, and he remains the quintessential Texas filmmaker. Bernie, which also features career-best performances from Black and Matthew McConaughey, is a testament to Linklater’s enduring genius.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits, rated PG

Starring Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Imelda Staunton

Austin Family critical rating: 4 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Like a gloriously unhinged episode of The Simpsons, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, the latest film from stop-motion animation pioneers Aardman Animations (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run), is a hilarious treasure. It pains me to note that The Pirates! is the latest in a slew of brilliant family films (including Hugo, The Muppets and The Adventures of Tintin) that deserve far larger audiences than they’ve received. If you are looking for clever entertainment for the entire family, look no further! There is something unique and special about stop-motion animation – indeed, The Pirates! is the funniest animated film since Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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