While I'm out of town, I didn't want to leave Slackerwood completely abandoned. I decided to pick one of my most popular photos from Flickr and post it ... and when I saw this photo, I realized it is four years this month since the original Alamo Drafthouse on Colorado closed down.
I miss it, in the same way you miss that first apartment straight out of college with the bad A/C and the roaches that fell out of the ceiling and the radiator that almost caught fire. It wasn't the fanciest movie theater, but I saw a whole lot of good films there.
If you are also feeling full of nostalgia for 409 Colorado back in its glory days, check out our Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon from June 2007 and take a trip down Memory Lane.
Apparently it's nostalgia day for me. I missed the fact that Nora's Will opened last week in Austin. This fantastic little feature is a witty and heartfelt tale about the first five days after a woman's death, and won over audiences at Cine Las Americas a couple of years ago. Thankfully it's still playing up at the Arbor. You might want to check it out if you make the mistake of trying to get tickets to Terrence Malick's latest this week, which is sure to be SRO and not just because he's local, and it's a local production. Many Years Ago, Malick's Days of Heaven was featured in the "Film as Literature" course at my college, and we discussed the sumptuousness of that film's cinematography along with other laudable attributes at length; word has it Malick's skill hasn't lessened.
Movies We've Seen:
Building Hope -- Local filmmaker/activist Turk Pipkin's latest documentary about the Nobelity Project's endeavors screened at SXSW this year. Now it's having a weeklong theatrical run in Austin. AFS is hosting two screenings tonight that include a reception with Pipkin at the theater. Debbie calls the documentary "well paced and balanced" in her review from SXSW. (Violet Crown)
The Tree of Life -- Filmed in Smithville by Texas filmmaker Terrence Malick, this is arguably one of the most anticipated films in years, and it doesn't hurt that it just won the Palme d'Or in Cannes. As this coming-of-age tale is only playing at one theater in town this week, I highly recommend getting your tickets in advance. Don reviews. (Arbor)
X-Men: First Class -- The X-Men franchise gets a prequel with Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) at the helm, and a plethora of stars established and new, including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence. Read Mike's review for more. (wide)
If you’re reading this, you should have seen X-Men: First Class by now. If not, stop immediately, get to a theater ASAP, and watch it!
That's my way of saying everything you're about to read is overwhelmingly positive. Director Matthew Vaughn has a proven track record with the incredible genre films Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass. X-Men: First Class is in a class of its own above all those. With only 11 months to work, Vaughn has managed to perform the unthinkable: Reboot the franchise within a prequel that faithfully and seamlessly builds the universe seen in the previous X-Men movies.
These days with Mad Men dominating cable and network TV prepping copycat retro shows like Pan Am, this X-Men movie, set in the 1960s and dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis, is coming to screens at the perfect time. Comic fans will be thrilled with the presentation of the characters in the Hellfire Club, a glaring omission from the third film, X-Men: The Last Stand. Yet, newcomers to the series will have no problem following the story as all the characters are introduced and their powers explained.
To flesh out a review, a film critic sometimes relies on production notes for a synopsis, short biographies of cast and crew members and production details that readers might find interesting. These notes usually are very concise, running no more than a few pages.
And then there are the production notes for Terrence Malick's sprawling and much anticipated new movie, The Tree of Life. If you're familiar with Malick, it may not surprise you that The Tree of Life's production notes are 45 pages long. With their lengthy expositions about the film's genesis and meaning, even the production notes for this most Malick of Malick films are themselves very, uh, Malick. (Much as I adore Malick's work, I did not read all 45 pages.)
Not that being very Malick is a bad thing, of course, especially if we define "Malick" to mean "laden with sumptuous imagery and thought-provoking ideas." And The Tree of Life certainly is thought provoking; had I not found the production notes' ponderous content to be a perfect metaphor for this exceedingly ponderous and metaphorical film, I might have opened this review with a paragraph containing only one word: "Hmm."
Austin has a number of special screenings and events coming up in the next week or two, so I thought I'd list some of them here. I also recommend checking the Austin Chronicle's weekly Special Screenings listing (updated online on Friday mornings) as well as Austin Creative Alliance's Now Playing Austin site (which I wish would make film event listings as prominent as the other arts, hint hint).
Don't forget to check our Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin for a great listing of film series that will fit your budget.
- It's a Very Joe Swanberg weekend here in Austin. The Chicago indie filmmaker will participate in an AFS Moviemaker Dialogue on Saturday night at Austin Studios. On Sunday, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz hosts two Swanberg movies, Art History and Uncle Kent (both featuring actor Kent Osborne), with Swanberg attending. And on Monday night, he'll stick around when AFS Best of the Fests brings back SXSW 2011 selection Silver Bullets, also at Ritz.
- The Paramount is going all John Hughes on us this weekend with a double-feature of Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful on Sunday. If you're one of the first 100 people admitted to the 2 pm screening of Sixteen Candles, you get a free birthday cupcake. On Wednesday night, June 8, the theater is showing a Marlon Brando double of Last Tango in Paris and Burn! ... and no, they are not having any related promotions (would you really want them to?).
- The free Texas Rolling Roadshow starts tomorrow night in Fort Parker with The Searchers. If you don't feel like a long drive, Austinites can see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in nearby Kingsland on June 4 and Blood Simple in Dessau Hall on June 5. If you want to spend a little money, VIP packages are available for the Chain Saw screening, and an after-party with The Derailers will take place after the Blood Simple screening. Finally, check out the gorgeous posters Jason Munn created for the tour; I really want the Giant one myself.
Here's the latest Austin film news, plus an Austin-shot short film at the end.
- Ain't It Cool News reports that Austin producer/TXMPA rep Paul Alvarado-Dykstra and local animator/actress Samantha Inoue-Harte have formed a new production company called Animetropolis. Their first project will be producing an animated feature adaptation of Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams. Check out the AICN link above for some interesting concept art for the movie.
- The Boston Globe and Roger Ebert have both been publicizing the fact that many theaters are now projecting 2D movies using 3D lenses, making the movies look darker and murkier. On some digital projectors, the 3D lenses are very difficult to remove, so theaters don't bother. Now Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League has stepped in to talk about how the Drafthouse theaters, which use the Sony projectors under discussion, deal with the problem. I'm hoping that his article inspires other theaters to do the same things (because I'm cynical enough to believe that very few chains are doing the same things Alamo is doing, sadly).
- Local production company Arts + Labor is profiled in the Austin American-Statesman. You'll find a lot of familiar names in the article, from founder Alan Berg (Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW) to former Alamo programmer Brad Parrett (so that's where he is now!) to local filmmakers Kat Candler (who has been tweeting lately about some intriguing-sounding film projects) and Joe Nicolosi (the guy behind the SXSW 2011 bumpers).
Anyone who lived in Austin in the late 1960s and 1970s likely remembers Carolyn Jackson. As the host of a popular local daytime television show for more than a decade, Jackson (shown above with Jane Pauley) was a familiar Austin face who played an important role in shaping local television during the era.
Jackson's career began in 1968, when she replaced Jean Boone as the host of Women's World (later renamed The Carolyn Jackson Show), a half-hour program that aired weekdays at noon on KTBC-TV. The show featured news, public service announcements, interviews and other standard daytime TV fare, such as segments on diet and exercise. The interviewees were an eclectic mix of writers, local politicians, musicians and other notable Central Texans, along with an impressive roster of A-list national celebrities.
Jackson was a true pioneer for women in the male-dominated world of television at the time. With no staff and a miniscule budget, she ran the show largely as one-person operation, serving as the show's producer, doing all her own research, writing and editing her news reports and landing interviews with everyone from Woody Allen to Texas First Lady Rita Clements.
Two sequels and three indies ... that's a typical summer movie weekend for you in Austin. One of the sequels is trying to be as raunchy as possible, one is trying to entertain entire families, including grown-ups. I personally would rather see silly animated kung fu spoofery than a bunch of guys dealing with the dumb things they do while drunk, but your mileage may vary. And if none of that sounds appealing, you'll find plenty of new and continuing indie films in town. Personally, I may see Bridesmaids again if I can persuade my husband to accompany me.
Don't forget that the Paramount is showing a great mix of Lone Star movies this week as part of the Texas Film Commission 40th Anniversary lineup. On Saturday, Robert Rodriguez will introduce Spy Kids and Richard Linklater will introduce Dazed and Confused (pictured above). [Update: Rodriguez will also give the Sat. audience a first look at the trailer for Spy Kids 4.] And if you really need a bargain movie experience, check out our Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin.
Movies We've Seen:
The Hangover Part II -- As the tagline tells us, the Wolf Pack is back. One of these movies was enough for me, and judging by the similarity of the trailers for the original and the sequel, I won't be missing much. Mike says in his review that while he was disappointed with many things about the movie, it's worth seeing "if you have a thick skin and enjoy a good shock treatment." (wide)
Kung Fu Panda 2 -- I'm much happier that the Furious Five are back, especially since Elizabeth is so pleased with the sequel in her review. I was pleasantly surprised by the first movie and look forward to the continuing adventures of Po the panda and his gang. I may even brave a 3D screening on Elizabeth's recommendation. (wide)
I'll admit first off that I really liked Kung Fu Panda when it came out a few years back. Therefore, it's not that big of a surprise that I loved Kung Fu Panda 2. This sequel, helmed by Jennifer Yuh in her film directing debut, comes the closest to Pixar heart than any other Dreamworks animated movie I've seen, but still keeps the laughs coming.
A colorful shadow puppet tale kicks off the movie. In this prologue, we learn the story of Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock who becomes so obsessed with firepower that his parents kick him out of their kingdom. Then we join our cuddly protagonist Po (Jack Black) and his Furious Five friends as they play with dumplings and fight Lord Shen's underlings, who are stealing metal from poor villagers.
Lord Shen forges the stolen metal for a cannon he uses to take out one of Po's kung-fu heroes, Master Thundering Rhino (Victor Garber!), when he refuses Shen entry into his childhood home. Po and the Furious Five must travel to protect this city from destruction, spouting silliness along the way. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) warns the group that Shen's weapons could mean the end of kung fu. Po replies, "But I just got kung fu!" This main plotline may seem somewhat predictable, but it's handled in such an enjoyable fashion that it didn't bother me.
I really wanted to love The Hangover Part II. Its predecessor left me laughing for days. The trio of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis was lightning in a bottle, and the over-the-top script pushed the limits in the name of harmless fun. I'm not a pessimist who expects to hate every sequel, and I was really looking forward to this second outing, also directed by Todd Phillips.
I didn't believe early reports that it was simply a rehash of the original script, though it would seem so at first. Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis again wake up and trace the events of a drug-fueled night of partying, and have to complete a mission in time to return for a wedding. Again, the jokes are outrageous, and The Hangover Part II is good for a few laughs, but that's where the similarity ends.
My first complaint is that it takes 30 minutes to muddle through the setup at the beginning of the movie. There's a scene at Stu's (Helms) office, another at the Garner mansion, a banquet in Thailand, and so on. It really takes a while to get moving as compared to the snappy script of The Hangover.
Second problem regards the fourth companion, Justin Bartha as Doug. Doug spent the entirety of the first movie missing (and it was his wedding they had to get to). I had hoped in The Hangover Part II, we would see more of him and it would bring a new dynamic that would allow Bartha to show off his comedic chops. Instead, though Doug gets more screen time, he is stuck back at the hotel while the rest of the "wolf pack" parties without him. Taking his place as the missing man and object of the search is Mason Lee as Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law, Teddy.
Third problem I had was that the dynamic here is changed. Cooper is no longer really leading the group and feels like he's just along for the ride. He's underused, and isn't really the focus of any of the gags, which are held almost exclusively for Helms. It felt almost like he has grown to be too big a star and was doing his pals a favor being in their little movie.