How Students Stay Active

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness.

By: Pete Ramirez

One of the most significant ways the pandemic has affected Austin Community College is by the cancellation of in-person intramural sports. Losing these extracurricular events placed a hold on what is normally a fun way for students to stay active and socialize with their classmates.

No one has felt this loss greater than Tracy Partin, intramurals coordinator and health & kinesiology professor at ACC.

“It’s been kind of tough, the last year, not being able to see my students or get out on the court with them,” Partin said.

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness. Last March, Partin began sending an email with workouts and health tips to his subscribers every Tuesday and Thursday during the semester.

Partin’s email fitness program hasn’t missed a semester since it began a year ago.

“Tracy’s emails have been great,” said Brienz Edwards, a student at ACC studying peace and conflict within the interdisciplinary studies program. “I used to think that a gym was a pretty necessary part of working out and it has been quite the revelation for me that that’s not what I really need.”

Edwards mentioned underestimating a workout Tracy sent earlier this semester that only called for using a kitchen chair for the movements. 

“I was like, ‘oh I can do a chair workout, that’s no problem’ and I was immediately sweating,” Edwards said. “It sounds ridiculous that you can sit in a chair for ten minutes and sweat but I promise you.”

Partin’s fitness emails not only include workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels but they also touch on mental health and wellness advice.

“I send them suggested YouTube workout videos,” Partin said. “And on Thursdays I touch upon mental health a little bit. Stress relief. Things that you can do mentally to help your mindset.”

For Jeshika Lamsal, a prospective ACC student and subscriber to Tracy’s fitness emails, staying active means being conscious about what you are doing.

“My favorite way to stay active is first meditation and second is working out,” Lamsal said. “I think everyone should try to meditate.”

Lamsal encouraged ACC students to adopt a meditation practice a few times a week at first and then slowly increase the frequency as time progresses. 

Lamsal also compared starting a meditation practice to going to kindergarten and learning the alphabet. When you first begin, you may not know anything about the subject but as you continue to practice, you learn and grow to have a better grasp of the practice.

Regardless of the route Partin’s students take to stay active, his ultimate goal is to get his subscribers to reconnect with their bodies and improve their mental and physical health.

“It gets those endorphins going and it does make you feel better so anything you can do – whether it’s taking a walk, whether it’s doing some exercises at the house – it helps”, Partin said.

Edwards said her favorite way to stay active is by taking walks at her own pace through her neighborhood.

“It’s a really good way for me to get back into my body and be able to think clearly”, said Edwards. “It helps me organize my thoughts for whatever I need to do next and reconnect with myself but also with the world outside.”

With his fitness emails, Partin wants ACC students to realize that there are simple yet effective things they can do to be active while staying within and nearby your home. 

“Most importantly, try to keep a consistent time when you are going to workout”, Partin said. “There’s going to be those days where you are tired and want to blow it off, but you’ve got to push through.”

Partin said he will begin to send out his summer semester fitness emails on June 8 and students will be able to sign up via Student Life.

“I would just like for the students to know they can contact me at any time,” Partin said. “I want them to know that there is somebody out there, that we do care about them.”

Signing Up with a Study Group

The Study Session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.

By: Jaxon Williams

In this time of remote learning, Austin Community College resources have found ways to support students in challenges that come with virtual classrooms. Shortly before the pandemic, the Learning Lab began offering study group sessions where students could easily register for a wide array of online tutoring sessions with their ACC Gmail accounts, held through services like Zoom and Google Meet. As more and more students transitioned to remote learning the attendance numbers for all Learning Lab online sessions shot up. So much so that the Learning Lab made the effort to hire full time online instructors to help meet the new demand. Wondering myself exactly what benefits students were receiving from participating in these sessions, I decided to register for one myself.  

After attending my first online session, it was clear to me that the Learning Lab at ACC is one of the most valuable resources available to students. A resource that I myself have not been taking advantage of. My experience with the Learning Lab and with their online methods of instruction was nothing short of insightful as well as convenient. From the process of registering to the actual delivery of the instruction, the Learning Lab has definitely managed to make something that could be difficult to navigate and plan out so streamlined and quick. All students need to do is visit ACC’s website and register for a session under the ‘Tutoring’ tab. There, students will find a calendar with a list of future sessions in a variety of different subjects. It only takes registering with an ACC ID and email to reserve a space for you in the session held through Google Meet. The session that I attended was centered around Redox Reactions in Chemistry. I myself am not majoring in science, but surprisingly I was still able to keep up and participate in the session. The instructor took the time to answer any questions I had while also making sure that what was being reviewed was being fully understood. No stone was left unturned. No question unanswered. The experience as a whole was surprising and incredibly insightful. It made me wonder how I had gone for so long without taking advantage of such a useful service. 

After having such a positive experience, I decided to reach out to José Resendez, a tutor at the Learning Lab, to discuss what benefits students saw after participating in online study groups. Resendez shared that students who participated in these study groups on a regular basis saw an improvement in their class performance. Not only that, Resendez also reported that the majority of students who attended the Learning Lab sessions were successful in both graduating and transferring to other institutions. He credits these figures to the fact that by attending sessions on a regular basis. Resendez said that “Students begin building the good study habits that are the foundation for success.”. 

The study session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.  Getting started with these good study habits is as easy as going to ACC’s website. There, you will find the option to sign up for online study sessions under the Tutoring tab of the Student Support section of the website. All available upcoming sessions will be shown in the list of Learning Lab Virtual Events. 

I Tried Pomodoro Studying

By: Pete Ramirez

I’ll admit it, managing my time has never been easy for me. At times, I have felt as if my to-do list is a never-ending tower that enjoys piling onto my anxiety. Luckily, I received an assignment that has given me an effective tool to combat that pesky to-do list. I have a feeling it can help you too.

My task was to learn about the pomodoro technique. Then, adopt pomodoro into my studying methods for a couple of weeks. Finally, create a vlog along with a companion opinion piece. I had never heard of this technique but after speaking to Jordan Easley, an Austin Community College academic coach, I was ready to go. If you haven’t watched the vlog yet, here is a quick explainer:

  • The pomodoro technique is a time management strategy that uses intervals of time to focus the mind on one task at a time.
  • Begin by choosing a task to complete, limiting distractions, and setting a timer for 25 minutes.
  • After working for the allotted time, take a five-minute break.
  • After four rounds of this, take a longer break.

I had a few issues at first, but it did not take long for me to get used to using this technique. During the first few rounds, I would get frustrated when my timer would ring because I did not want to be pulled away from my work. But I soon learned to enjoy those precious five-minutes. Those breaks are great moments for you to assess how your work is going.  During one of those breaks, I realized that putting my phone on silent was not enough for me to overcome the hypnosis of my little black mirror. I learned that airplane mode is a much better solution.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

Easley, mentioned that you can make this technique as flexible as you like so I also tried various work-time to break-time ratios. Most things fit nicely into twenty-five minute increments but with some tasks, like writing, I get into a flow and refuse to stop working when the timer rings. The pomodoro technique helped me prioritize and hone-in on one task at a time instead of doing twenty tasks all at once.

Give it a try. Play around with the work-to-break ratios and find what works for you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you break the rules (I broke plenty.) Sometimes the hardest part is getting started and this technique will help you take the first step.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

SOJOURN Stands out in Stage 32 Screening at Austin Film Festival

Creativity and storytelling skills from around the country were on display in one of the many short film screenings at the Austin Film Festival

Review by: Alexa Smith

Austin Film Festival’s Stage 32 Short Film screening offered a variety of productions in varying genres. The short films originated from a contest that was hosted by Stage 32, an educational and social media platform for creatives. This is Stage 32’s 4th year hosting this contest and it is clear that they’ve found some gems even though some films struggled to match the quality of their competitors. 

The screening started with a film titled “Dolphin Girl” (director Tanya Lovrics). A rough way to start the screening as this was one of the weaker films shown. The film follows a young boy as he struggles to make friends after moving to a new town. A young girl befriends him and helps him find a way to fit in. We watch as the boy slowly figures out that the girl was actually a figment of his imagination. The plot sounds promising but ultimately fell victim to clunky dialogue and even clunkier sound design. The score is heartwarming but was overshadowed by the unbalanced sound effects and rough sound transitions. Overall, the movie is nice but lacked in production and writing quality. 

This first short left me worried about the quality of the following six films. However, the next film “Duke” (director Thiago Dadalt) assuaged my fears. Based on a true story, “Duke” is about a boy with severe autism. The film highlights the difficulties the family faces when trying to figure out how to help him. I feared the film would fall victim to stereotypes and flat characters as many stories of autistic people do, but Dadalt created a realistic picture of what it is like to live with autism. According to an interview Dadalt did with the Napa Valley Film Festival, he spent over a year with Duke’s family to really understand not just Duke but the relationship he had to his mother as well. The carefully conducted research is not where the film’s merits stop. The viewer can see how intricately this film was planned from the beautifully constructed shots and well-conducted lighting design. “Duke” had a lot of work and effort put into it and resulted in a heartfelt film. 

The following film, “The Man With a Pillow For a Face” (Director Carlos Grana) had fantastic production value and sported a gorgeous set. The lack of dialogue in the movie left the story somewhat open to interpretation but felt like a grasp for originality. This plot of a man being stuck in a repetitive rut every day and solving it with a dramatic action is nothing new. While the sight of a man’s body with a pillow head leads the viewer into an area of Uncanny Valley that is thrilling and disturbing at the same time – this film lacked the heart of the other films that not even a Black Mirror-worthy set can make up for. Despite these flaws, this film is still worth a watch for the production value and slightly terrifying ending alone. 

The next two shorts, “Dream Catcher” (Director Avery Rouda), and “Things That Fall” (Director Sy Huq) were some of the weakest ones of the bunch after “Dolphin Girl”. “Dream Catcher” is a computer-animated film that unfortunately had the quality of something from the mid-2000s. However, this did not take away from the creativity and imagination of writer/director/producer Rouda. “Dream Catcher” shows what goes on inside of a dreamcatcher in a child’s bedroom. We watch as employees in a dream factory take bad dreams and turn them into good ones. Even though the animation quality of this film put it behind the other ones, it does not take away the enjoyment and childlike wonder an audience member feels while watching it. While “Things That Fall” had fantastic sound design and impressive cinematography that featured beautiful bookshelf shots, the plot felt overdone. It was a simple meet cute with an interesting twist that was unfortunately not enough to keep it from feeling trite. “Things That Fall”  was still an enjoyable film and still has the ability to create a warm-fuzzy feeling.

The real standouts came in the form of the final two films of the screening. The final film that was shown, “Tell Him” (Director Virginia Bach) is a French film about a widowed father who is struggling with how to tell his son that his mother has passed that was created with empathy and the perfect amount of coldness. The film takes place over one day and starts in the morning with the boy asking about his mother. As the audience slowly starts to understand what is happening, we start to feel the same sense of dread the father must be feeling. This sense of dread is not just present in the actor’s performance but also in the cinematography and direction. Bach has crafted a film with extreme close ups that help us feel the stress of the father. While the trope of a dead mother can often be overused or relegated to being a simple plot point, this film takes time to watch the mourning father and for the audience to feel compelled enough to mourn along with him. The film’s excellence comes to a crescendo by ending with the son walking into the hospital room that his mother is supposed to be in. The film ends before we see the son’s reaction, showing that Bach trusted the audience enough to draw their own conclusions. 

“Tell Him” is a story told in a beautiful way. Even though “Tell Him” was the grand prize winner of the Stage 32 contest, I found the real star of the screening to be “SOJOURN: A Visual Proverb” (director Jonathan Lewis). This film exemplifies the creativity and rule-breaking that you hope to see in up and coming artists. Lewis is able to take the simple tale of returning home and turn it into so much more. The film lives up to its title of “A Visual Proverb”  by using poetic narration and artistic visuals interspersed with an African American man contemplating his place in the world on his journey back to his home. “SOJOURN” is such a great film not just because it tells a story that needs to be told but also because it is not afraid to take risks. Jonathan Lewis, who also wrote the film, says in his director’s statement on the film’s website

“I knew I had to lend my voice and story, as an aid to help young black men and others find peace within, and extend my hand to help close the gap between ignorance and understanding.” 

Lewis was able to use beauty and artistry to express issues he had dealt with and create a film that is so gorgeous you can’t look away. “SOJOURN” stood out from the crowd. 

The Stage 32 Short Film screening at the Austin Film Festival offered a wide array of points of view and stories told in 20 minutes or less. The screening as a whole helped show just how important it is to believe that your voice matters in the film industry. It also helped show why it is important to listen to the voices and stories of others. Stage 32 is doing a great job at helping bring up indie filmmakers not just through this contest but through the number of resources on their website as well. The website features a place for filmmakers to digitally network and learn more about their craft. This is a great tool to use if you are an RTF major at Austin Community College, so make sure to check them out. 

If you’re interested to learn more about any of the films mentioned, check out Stage 32’s contest page and keep an eye on the website for future screenings of the films. 

 

Clarification 11/26/19: “Dolphin Girl” was an additional screening shown at the Austin Film Festival and was not a part of the 4th Annual Stage 32 Short Film Program.

Austin Film Festival: A Patient Man Review

Independent film reflects on the condition of the human mind in drama thriller.

To read ACCENT’s interview with the filmmakers, click here.

Review by: Nalani Nuylan 

How do we know the people we choose to befriend? By proxy, how well does the audience know the character(s) they are following?  

A Patient Manis the film debut of writer/director Kevin Ward. Screened at the 2019 Austin Film Festival, this hidden gem introduces Tom (Jonathan Mangum), a man who is trying to piece his life back together after a great tragedy. On his road to recovery, he befriends a man named Aaron (Tate Ellington) who rides the same train with him. All the while answering these pivotal questions in the process.  

Told in a nonlinear plot structure, the film takes the audience on a trip to solve the mystery of what happened to our protagonist while revealing truths on how grief, guilt and revenge affect the human psyche.

The best way I can describe this trip is in the metaphor of a massive puzzle with a box that has no big picture finish. You will notice some key puzzle pieces and involuntary want to join the game. After seeing how some of the pieces of the film fit together, you will eventually begin to assume how the story will unfold in the end. Yet, as the audience puts that last piece of the film together the big picture may actually surprise you. 

That’s how this film was for me. I was already picking it apart for the sake of reviewing it. But once I saw a clue, I wanted to find more. Sure, I saw what was coming. But at the same time, I also didn’t see it in when it came to the grand view.

Ward does an amazing job of hiding the clues to the mystery while showing a very real depiction of how a person can descend into revenge because of their grief. As the old joke goes, the descent into madness is not a rapid downward spiral, but a slow progression of moments. 

Mangum, who is mostly known for his work in comedy, shines playing Tom as we see his fake smiles at his work progress into the subtle flickers of dark intentions. I have to give credibility to Mangum’s performs as an actor. 

The praises continue to Producer and Cinematographer Harrison Reynolds, who used the close-up shots and the Los Angeles sunlight to completely flip the thriller tropes on its head. Rather than installing the suspicion, the clever use of Reynold’s surroundings in combination with his camera work when characters are in a conversation to instill this sense of security to only make the ending more enjoyable.    

For his film debut, Ward did a wonderful job of cinematic storytelling. Nicely paced and ever so juicy, one can’t help but marvel at the film being made on a minuscule budget and mostly shot on a moving train. 

This film will leave you with questions and an odd sense of satisfaction. It was an enjoyable ride, and I urge you to join along. 

Update on February 24:
“A Patient Man” is available to rent or buy on  Google Play Store, iTunes, and Amazon Prime Video. If you are curious about this film in any way, I urge you to watch it for yourselves on these platforms.

Film Review: “Olympic Dreams” SXSW World Premiere

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Review & Photo by Taylor Kokas Olympic Dreams is a sports romantic comedy directed by Jeremy Teicher that was shot during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The film centers around Penelope (played by Teicher’s wife; Alexi Pappas) a 22 year old cross country skier who is trying to make the most out of her dream of being at the olympics, despite not making it onto the podium. Along the way she meets 37 year old volunteer dentist Ezra (played by television comedian Nick Kroll) who is eager to meet people and make the most out of his own Olympic experience. After Ezra introduces himself to Penelope in the Olympic dining hall while she is prepping for her race, the two continue to run into each other and begin to form a bond, sharing an experience at the games neither one ever expected they would have.

It’s worth knowing that throughout the majority of production the films crew only consisted of the director/camera op Jeremy and the two lead actors. All their dialogue is improvised, as well as majority of the scenes where locations, props, and actors weren’t always guaranteed. Because on the surface the acting can come off amateurish in comparison to what one usually expects from a film. But I think it’s very fitting for this story to have been told in this way, it’s emotionally raw and awkward which life can very much be. Plus what you see on screen is the actors performing in a completely natural environment, not a soundstage in sight. Jeremy Teicher went into this film knowing what story he wanted to tell. What is the olympians and volunteers daily life behind the scenes at the olympics? What is social life like? What’s going through their mind before their event? What does the olympics mean for them? It’s clear throughout the actual people these characters represent are all there sharing the same dream, each hoping their experience is what they imagined in their own way. They meet strangers, make friends, romantic flings that may or may not continue once they leave to go back to their daily lives. For fans of the rom-com genre this is a breath of fresh air.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5079″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]

Alexi Pappas (Left), Nick Kroll (Right)

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Film Review: “Villains” SXSW World Premiere

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Review & Photos by Taylor Kokas

Dan Berk and Robert Olsen are back again as director duo for their third feature film, Villain’s. A dark comedy crime thriller about Mickey and Jules (Bill Skarsgard, IT)(Maika Monroe, It Follows), two lovers on their way to Florida. After making a successful gas station robbery their car happens to run out of gas. Just when it seems like they are stranded, Jules spots a nearby home. With no homeowners in site the two break in to try and steal the car that is parked in the garage. The couple roam around the home in search for the keys, with no luck thus far they nervously make their way down into the dark eerie basement only to find a quiet little girl chained up to a pole. Eager to help her escape they go back upstairs to find something to free the little girl from the chains, this is where they meet their match. Homeowners George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan, USA Network Burn Notice)(Kyra Sedgwick, TNT The Closer). It is here that for the remainder of the film the two couples fight to stay dominant over the other. Only time will tell if Mickey & Jules can make it out alive and continue on their way to Florida, or will George & Gloria get a chance to stage a scene and have a new opportunity to go live a new life elsewhere?

This film has a grand ole time playing with the Bonnie and Clyde dynamic, it’s almost like if you put an eager and messy version of the couple into an alternate dimension where a more conservative and seasoned version lived and you get watch them test each others flaws, see how witty they can be in tight situations, and as much as they are different from each other, just how similar they are in the same, especially when it comes to how much they care for their significant other. For movie goers that enjoy films like Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Coen Brothers Raising Arizona, this is definitely the movie for you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery interval=”3″ images=”5074,5073,5072,5071″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]

Jeffrey Donovan (1), Robert Olsen (2), Dan Berk (3)

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Film Review: “The Highwaymen”

the highwaymen posterWritten by – Nathaniel Torres

Stories of outlaws, gunslingers, and renegades have a tendency to captivate a wild side of our souls. By 1934 Bonnie and Clyde succeeded in procuring public favor in such a way. They were wanted for multiple murders and countless robberies.  They didn’t evade police, they blew through them; escalating shootouts with their firepower. The Highwaymen begins with this emboldened duo successfully pulling off a prison break.  In doing so the lovebirds cross Governor “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates) seemingly, blemishing her solid penitentiary record- Ma won’t have that going unanswered for.  After the moral cost of stopping Bonnie and Clyde is quickly discussed between Ma and prison director Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch), Texas sets retired Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) on their trail.  

 

After decades of romanticized depictions of Bonnie and Clyde, a partisan segment of the American people have felt disdain towards the law enforcement and the amount of force they used to take down the couple. The innocent lives taken by Bonnie and Clyde are too often forgotten or swept under the rug. The Highwaymen takes the Robin Hood aspect of the couple and resolves them into the deadly pair affected families know them to be. At the SXSW premiere Director John Lee Hancock personally dedicated his film to Frank Hamer Jr., feeling that previous representations of Hamer “[were] such an atrocity and injustice that we wanted to set it right”.

 

Costner stated that he felt privileged playing the role, putting it up in the ranks of playing Wyatt Earp. He added how important he felt it was when portraying someone’s real life saying, “the opportunity to play people that are willing to stand in front of us – police, sheriffs and whatever area you [may be] talking about is something I take really, really seriously. I hope we all do because they go out and sometimes we never know if they are ever coming back home”.

 

Though the film is to be released by Netflix, it is made for the big screen. Cinematographer John Schwartzman does a brilliant job of displaying the Texas landscape through wide angle lenses giving The Highwaymen a western touch. Using natural light and framing, Texas figures Hamen and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) are given the screen portrayal they deserve as figures of their time. By no means are these characters perfect. It’s obvious these retired Rangers are past their prime and hardly ready for action. Despite the public enduring the stagnant hardships of the Great Depression, police methods and innovations have evolved since the last time Hamer and Gault saw action. The common trope of older generations mixing with new technology is tactfully used as fodder for comic relief. The fact that it is the technology of 1934 sanitizes the humor from overuse or from taking an easy jab at millenials. In actuality, the punchy lines direct attention to the polished set detail throughout the film.

 

With the film’s crew dedicated to telling an honest story it is unsurprising that they went as far as to film on the very same roads upon which the hunt took place. Classic car enthusiasts will find themselves satisfied with 1934 V8 Fords featured in pristine condition on open, dusty roads.  Even more satisfying is Hancock and writer John Fusco leave room for an open throttle scene. 1934 V8 top speeds of about 65 mph hinders availability for any fast and furious moves, nevertheless the chase is part of a healthy pace in the film’s story arc.

 

The Highwaymen is ultimately a drama about morality. Hamer and Gault are hired to get the job done by any means necessary and they did not survive as Texas Rangers by sticking to  the rules. Costner and Harrelson deliver truehearted performances based on pieces of archetypes we have seen them play before. Together they communicate the solemn burden of carrying out the law by playing two sides of the same coin. Costner plays Hamer as reserved and determined, while Harrelson is the less than well-adjusted Gault delivering quips and serving as a moral compass. Kathy Bates, though given considerably less screen time, effectively embodies the first woman Governor of Texas, “Ma” Ferguson. With scenes of Ma before the press and behind closed doors, Bates builds a character that demands reverence. What the film lacks in action it makes up for in its characters’ convictions.

 

For some time media has been part of a chicken or the egg argument. Do their cover stories create a love of and normalize the actions of dangerous people? Or does the public’s thirst to live vicariously demand that they have such stories to relate to? In the same way that making an anti-war film is making a war film, Hancock’s The Highwaymen is an anti-outlaw film. This telling of the story brings the audience into a reality that does not allow room for them to cheer on its villains. Instead, it invites them to appreciate real individuals who do their own law bending to put a stop to a killing spree. For decades Hollywood played Bonnie & Clyde as a loving couple just trying to get by and beat the boredom of the times all the while making villains of their captors. The Highwaymen offers a fair account to balance the record, focusing on the valor of the men who left the safety of retirement to face the deadliest outlaws of their time. The Highwaymen is available to see in select theaters in Austin and will be available for streaming this March 29.