Every year Austin Film Festival hosts the "Hair of the Dog" brunch, and at the 2010 event I met Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story co-producer Craig Bentley and director/co-producer Kevin Tostado, pictured above. The pair could be found passing out "money" during the fest or playing Monopoly in the Driskill Bar. Their engaging documentary appeals to both young and old with a nostalgic look at a cultural phenomenon enjoyed for almost a century and loved across the world -- read my review.
If you've yet to see Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story, don't miss your chance. The Alamo Drafthouse will be hosting a special screening at the Lake Creek theater on Monday, May 23 at 7 pm. I'm disappointed I missed the Monopoly playing party along with Mr. Monopoly's appearance at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar earlier this week, but I can console myself with a friendly game at home -- after watching Under the Boardwalk last fall I was inspired to buy a game set for myself.
Yes friends, it's May, which means the "summer" movie season is upon us. Join me as we hack our way through this month's uneven crop of cinematic offerings for families.
Notable Theatrical Releases in Austin (May)
Hoodwinked Too: Hood VS. Evil (in theaters now, PG) -- Somehow the original Hoodwinked slipped by me, but based on the 11 percent Tomatometer rating for this sequel, I'm not at all upset about it. The trailer for Hoodwinked Too informs us that there's a covert agency dedicated to ensuring happy endings to fairy tales. That's about all I absorbed before a cavalcade of dumb, offensive jokes made me lose interest. No kidding: a two-and-a-half-minute trailer managed to squeeze in multiple fart jokes, homophobia, ageism, racism, out-of-date movie references, and (perhaps worst of all) the hackneyed comedy phrase "awkwaaard!" that South Park lampooned in the Funnybot episode just two weeks ago. (NSFW clip here.) Oh, and they stole one of those fart jokes from Kevin Smith circa 2001 (also NSFW – I should clean up my act). Not that I'm really all that upset about it; the first 10 seconds of sub-par animation told me all I needed to know about this movie. I can't recall seeing a well-written, poorly animated family film. If they're skimping in one department they're probably skimping in all the rest. Check out the trailer to see for yourself.
Here's the latest Austin film-related news.
- Texas Monthly is teaming up with Alamo Drafthouse for this year's Rolling Roadshow tour, which will take place all around the Lone Star State. The magazine recently published an article in which a panel of five (including Tim League) picked the "ten greatest Texas films," which are the basis for this tour. I'd argue the films, but of course that's the point ... debate is fun. The tour starts on June 3 in Fort Parker with The Searchers, will hit Austin on June 5 with Blood Simple and ends on July 1 with The Last Picture Show in Archer. Did I mention admission is free for all these movies? And that I wish I could just cancel everything I had to do in June and follow the movies around the state?
- If you're looking for some off-the-beaten-path films to watch this weekend, Lunafest will take place in Austin this Sunday, May 22. Reel Women is hosting this year's collection of ten short films by/for women at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar from 11 am to 2 pm (perfect brunch hours); admission is $10 if you're not a Reel Women member, $8 if you are.
- The Austin American-Statesman reports that Barton Creek Square Cinema (the one in the mall) is upgrading one of its theaters to include an "IMAX screen" that will show 3D and 2D movies. Why did I put that in quotes? Because Barton Creek is an AMC theater and their "IMAX screens" are not true IMAX -- they're smaller screens that are often called mini-IMAX or IMAX-lite. The screen is still bigger than regular theater screens, AMC says the projection quality is superior, and of course ticket prices will be higher to see movies in that theater. Look for it around the end of summer movie season.
One of my favorite movies from 2009 was St. Nick, a film from Dallas filmmaker David Lowery that I saw at SXSW that year. It is lovely and slow and rewarding and has very little dialogue, a description that I realize will cause some people to run away, but may intrigue others. A brother and sister run away from home and find a new place to live in an abandoned house -- and that's about it for story. The characters and their setting are the focus of the film.
St. Nick has had made a long and successful film-fest tour, but has not played in Austin since its festival screenings more than two years ago. Now, however, the Texas Independent Film Network is taking Lowery's feature on tour around the state. You can see it here in Austin on Saturday night, May 21, at 7:30 pm in the Austin Film Society screening room. (Lowery tells me that the first screening of St. Nick, in a rough cut, was at the AFS screening room, so this is quite fitting.) Tickets are available online through AFS.
Watching True Legend for a second time last week brought back memories of my favorite red carpet event of 2010, when director Yuen Woo-ping was in Austin for the world premiere at Fantastic Fest. After the screening, Yuen was awarded a Fantastic Fest Lifetime Achievement Sword -- yes, a sword -- which was presented by artist RZA (pictured above).
Master Yuen and RZA worked together on the Kill Bill movies. RZA spoke about how Yuen's work influenced his music as well as his first venture into filmmaking directorial debut with The Man with the Iron Fist, co-produced by Eli Roth. See more photos of RZA with Yuen Woo-ping event after the jump.
Well. Leave it to Alamo Drafthouse to rework the alphabet in a twisted and kid-unfriendly way. Drafthouse Films is teaming up with Magnet Releasing and Timpson Films on an anthology movie that will consist of 26 short films, each of which will feature death -- as the press release puts it, "Death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty." Each short film will represent a letter of the alphabet -- you probably already guessed that -- and will be directed by a different filmmaker.
The filmmakers for the 26 shorts in The ABCs of Death have not all been confirmed yet, but cover quite an international range (they need more than two female directors, though, please). If you are a frequent Fantastic Fest-goer, many of the names will probably sound quite familiar to you, even though none so far are Austinites. A full list is after the jump.
Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League and New Zealander Ant Timpson are producing The ABCs of Death. They'll start shooting in June and plan to finish next January, which makes me wonder if we'll see it in the SXFantastic section of SXSW in 2012.
One of the filmmakers might not be a familiar name: The producers plan to hold a competition to find a new director to make one of the short films in the anthology. We'll post more information about this as soon as it's available. You can also keep an eye on the movie's website.
It's the time of year when Austinites like to be outside -- not too hot, and usually not rainy (although you never can tell). Some of this week's new movies may lure you into a nice climate-controlled theater, though.
Interesting note: Two of the movies opening this week played SXSW this year, one played SXSW in 2010, one premiered in Austin last year during Fantastic Fest, and one previewed at Cine Las Americas last month.
Movies We've Seen:
- Bridesmaids -- I missed the rough-cut premiere at SXSW, wondering why in the world I'd want to see some girly wedding-y chick flick, anyway. Turned out I was completely wrong about this smartly written comedy that women won't find patronizing and that anyone might find funny. (Except my mom, who would walk out offended after the opening sex scene.) Read my review for more details. (wide)
- Everything Must Go -- This Will Ferrell movie has an Austin connection: edited by Sandra Adair, the local editor who has worked on many of Richard Linklater's movies. The Austin Chronicle has an interview with Adair this week. Read Rod's review to find out more about this drama based on a Raymond Carver story. (wide)
- True Legend -- The latest film from Woo-ping Yuen (Drunken Master) is an epic martial-arts action movie about family revenge. Debbie liked it so much at Fantastic Fest that she saw it again to review. (Alamo Lamar)
I'm resisting the very strong urge to write "OMG COMEDY WRITTEN BY SMART WOMEN GO PAY TO SEE IT THIS WEEKEND GO GO SO WE CAN HAVE MORE NOW NOW GO NOW." Let's face it -- we don't get many smart comedies written by women and starring women. Women are supposed to make do with comedies with a sexist and mean undertone, or ridiculously cliched melodramas, or those "women are all sisters" movies with bonding over shopping and/or Motown dancing scenes.
Bridesmaids has shopping and female friends being ridiculous and even wedding planning, all things that would normally have me running away as far as possible and begging someone else to please review the movie because I would rather clean the cat's butt than watch such a thing (unless it was made in the 1930s, but they understood wit back then). However, writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo have teamed up with director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow to bring us a comedy about women that is primarily meant to make us laugh, and secondarily meant to have strong and realistic female characters in it, and the result may not be perfect but it's damned refreshing.
When it comes to choice of roles, Will Ferrell and Tom Cruise share something in common. They regularly choose roles that are safe and play in a limited range. In a Tom/Will movie Tom is Tom and Will is Will. But every once in awhile they break from their self-created molds and pick roles that color outside of the lines. For Cruise, the roles that color outside the lines include Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia and Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder. For Ferrell, the role of Nick Halsey in Everything Must Go is his departure from a typical Will Ferrell movie.
Nick Halsey is having a particularly bad day: Fired from his job, returns home to find all his worldly possessions strewn across the lawn ... and to add insult to injury, the locks to his house have been changed by his wife. But his misery doesn't stop there. I won't go into details. Let's just say that more bad stuff happens.
After these initial tragedies, Nick gets drunk on PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) Tall Boys and eventually crashes on the front lawn of his house in a recliner. Having nowhere else to go, he sets up shop on the front lawn. In a normal Will Ferrell movie this is the point where we get silly slapstick comedy laced with filler to take us to the next comedy skit. Not this time. Ferrell does a commendable job of showing the despair of a man that has just lost everything. He carries this emotional thread throughout the movie.
Last week, Austin Film Society held a sneak preview of the movie Everything Must Go with a special guest: the film's star, Will Ferrell. You may remember he was here a couple of years ago for a screening of Semi-Pro in which everyone emulated the movie's keen fashion sense. This time, no terrycloth sweatbands were present.
Slackerwood wasn't there, but AFS and Roadside Attractions have graciously shared the above photo as well as some video from the event, which we've embedded after the jump. If you've got photos of your own, feel free to share a link in the comments. And if you missed the preview too, Everything Must Go opens tomorrow here in Austin. We'll have a review for you in the morning.