Debbie Cerda's blog
Tragic news in our community derailed my week: Walt Powell, Vice President of Operations at Hospitality Investors, Inc. and co-founder of Flix Brewhouse, passed away unexpectedly on June 4 at age 33. On Tuesday, June 18 at 1 pm, Flix Brewhouse will host a memorial service for Walt. The event is open to anyone and everyone who was affected by the loss, to share stories and raise a pint to Walt, self-proclaimed beer geek.
I find myself struggling between the professional responsibilities of covering a local newsworthy film community event and processing the loss of a dear friend. I've repeatedly had the impulse to vet my facts through the source -- Walt himself -- with the realization that he's gone. The most difficult part of writing this memoriam was not being ready to write in the past tense, something anyone can identify with after the loss of a loved one. However, the importance of memorializing a valuable and well-respected man in our local film and beer communities far outweighs these difficulties.
Walt and I were vaguely acquainted many years ago when he was general manager at Main Event Entertainment in northwest Austin. Being a Dave and Buster's alum myself, I teased him about it being a "D&B wannabee." Walt's reaction was to brag about his staff, ask me for my feedback, and challenge me to compete in skeeball.
It's the end of the world as we know it, and at what more fitting location than a drug-and-booze-filled housewarming at James Franco's fortress in the Hollywood Hills would the damned be found? Based on their original short film, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, writers Jason Stone, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen expand on how Rogen and pal Jay Baruchel -- playing characters named Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel -- come to terms with one another during the Apocalypse in the bromantic comedy, This Is the End. Only this time, they are holed up and trying to survive on the last Milky Way and crackers with James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, while also dealing with the likes of Danny McBride and Emma Stone (all also playing "themselves").
You don't have to be a fan of these celebrities to enjoy this scary rollercoaster ride, but you do need a strong constitution for the explosions of profanity, nudity, gore and bodily fluids. With that said, I found This is the End to be a sidesplitting raunchy ensemble piece that draws strength from a cornucopia of humor ranging from immature to witty self-referential, as well as razor-sharp timing of physical jokes.
This Is the End begins with a simple premise -- in Los Angeles for a visit, Jay just wants to hang out with pal Seth at his place, playing games and smoking weed like old times. However, Seth insists on meeting up with his new group of pals including James, Jonah and Craig. Jay reluctantly goes to the party full of celebrities, which includes a coke-infused, butt-slapping Michael Cera, as well as Mindy Kaling, Emma Stone, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many other familiar faces from the big screen and comedy stage.
Actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson pair up for the first time since their wildly successful 2005 movie, The Wedding Crashers, in The Internship, which opens in wide release today. The onscreen team that prefers to play by their own rules has gone from chasing skirts to competing for a coveted job at one of the largest tech vanguards, Google. What results is a fairly lighthearted comedy that attempts to transcend the transgenerational gap by including current pop-culture references alongside outdated ones from the 1980s. Rather than bridge that gap, these references provide an opportunity for The Internship to be appreciated by a broader audience.
The premise of The Internship is built on fairly simple principles: The digital age is no place for watch salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), with everyone dependent on their smartphones to check the time of day. When the boss (John Goodman) closes up shop without warning, the pair must find a way to start anew.
Nick reluctantly accepts a job at a mattress store owned by his brother-in-law (Will Ferrell in a cameo), but Billy has bigger dreams. Billy gets lucky when he discovers that Google is interviewing for their summer internship program. The pair are then on their way to Mountain View, California, to the Google campus where they are faced with job competitors half their age and exponentially more tech-savvy. They must collaborate with their team of misfit geeks if they want to win new jobs.
The Austin Film Festival (AFF) and Bob Bullock Museum's fourth annual Made in Texas Family Film Series continues this weekend with Texas native John Lee Hancock's The Rookie. Based on a true story, the film follows the story of Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid), a small-town baseball coach who has a chance at the major leagues. Hancock, who's also known for his award-winning film The Blind Side, will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. This screening is free and open to the public, but you do need to RSVP here.
Texas documentary favorite Trash Dance returns for another week-long engagement with afternoon matinee screenings beginning Sunday at the Violet Crown Cinema. Don stated in his review, "In the Austin indie documentary and the dance performance it celebrates, the treasure isn't the trash -- it's the unlikely beauty of trash collection." City of Austin employees receive a $2 discount on ticket purchase at the box office or by phone.
My Facebook newsfeed has been abuzz with friends enjoying The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series, and this Sunday is The Paramount Kids Opening Day featuring The Adventures of Robin Hood and Looney Tunes. The Kickoff Party starts at 1 pm with crafts and games before the 2 pm screening of Robin Hood. For the Paramount Kids Classics movies, kids 18 years old and under receive $5 off the regular ticket price at the box office day of show.
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.
A new chapter in life in life is beginning for many Central Texas teens with graduation ceremonies taking place over the course of the next week. My words of advice to these graduates? Take some time out from college or work to travel and get out of your comfort zone, whether it's backpacking with friends in Big Bend National Park in West Texas or trekking across Europe. Better yet, find a service project in another country where you can experience different cultures and meet people from around the world.
Brothers Colin and Michael Harman are doing just that with their film Out of the Bubble, which is funding through Thursday, June 13 on Kickstarter. However, the Harmans are taking their travels to a whole other level. What was originally intended to simply be documentation of their explorations of the landscape and culture of Norway as they venture "out of their bubble" is now intended to be the foundation of a online movement. The Harmans hope to inspire others to step out of their familiar surroundings and document their stories. These travelogues will then serve to build a network connected through an online hub. See their inspiring pitch video after the jump.
Last year the Alamo Drafthouse inaugurated their signature wine series featuring classic movie themes with the inaugural Princess Bride-inspired "Bottle of Wits" Inconceivable Cab and As You Wish White.
Today, Alamo revealed their second wines in the limited edition series: The Cannibal Chianti and Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio, inspired by Jonathan Demme's Academy award-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs. The wines will be available at The Silence of the Lambs Feast at select Alamo Drafthouse locations nationwide -- the Austin event will be held June 19 at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter. I had the chance to sample the wines as well as the feast at a press preview on Tuesday night at the Slaughter location.
The Cannibal Chianti is an Italian wine (DOCG, for those in the know) from a vineyard located between Sienna and Florence. This dark fruit-forward medium-bodied wine gets its flavor from a blend of 85% Sangiovese with small amounts of Canaiolo and Malvasia del Chianti. Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio is a crisp and light-bodied white wine featuring grapes from California’s Central Coast and inland vineyards. The light citrusy finish makes it suitable for summertime enjoyment.
While we wait for various summer movie series to begin, Austin still has lots of interesting alternative film choices this week. And of course the summer blockbusters have begun and you already have your choice of the new movie with the Star Trek gang or the movie that released last week (and therefore is practically ancient) with the man in the iron suit.
Tickets are still available through the Austin Film Society website for Sunday's triple-feature of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and the sneak peek of Before Midnight, with director Richard Linklater in attendance after the first movie.
On Tuesday, Violet Crown Cinema presents Holiday Road, a comedy in which 13 filmmakers each devote a short film to a different American holiday. UT alum Todd Berger tackled January and October, and Austin's own Kelly Williams was a producer for this anthology.
If you're interested in young filmmakers, AFS presents the 2013 Film Club Spring Festival screening (pictured at right) on Saturday at 10:30 am at the Marchesa, showcasing student projects. The AFS Film Club is an afterschool program that teaches AISD students about filmmaking and other digital media techniques to promote self-expression and creativity. Schools presenting work in the Spring Festival range from elementary to high school.
The Brewers Association proclaimed May 13 - 19 as this year's American Craft Beer Week, which means film-and-beer events are taking place across the nation. Just down the road in San Antonio, the documentary Crafting a Nation premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak last evening. Unfortunately I missed the screening, but I did get to the premiere after-party at Freetail Brewing Company. There I caught up with producer Courtney Cobb and a couple of the featured subjects in the film: Scott Metzger of Freetail and Davis Tucker of North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery (pictured above with Cobb).
The Crafting a Nation filmmaking team has been traveling across the U.S. this week with their film -- director Tom Kolicko hosted the San Diego screening. Cobb reports that the team is holding off on the Austin premiere so that they can "do it up really big" since central Texas was a featured region of the film. I heard a few of the audience members got a bit teary-eyed during a couple of scenes, and hope to see the movie for myself in Austin soon.
As the crème de la crème of the film industry begins invading the French Riviera for the 2013 Festival de Cannes, it is quite apropros for a movie about one of the Impressionist masters who spent his last days in the lush French countryside to open this week at the Regal Arbor here in Austin.
Based upon Jacques Renoir's work Le Tableau Amoureux, director and screenwriter Gilles Bourdos' drama Renoir paints a lush vignette of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at the age of 74. Arthritis wreaks havoc on his body, and his middle son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) is dealing with his own combat wounds from his World War I mobilization.
The pair are both enamored and inspired by Renoir's latest model, the fiery headstrong young Andrée (Christa Theret). Pierre-Auguste's grief over the death of his wife Aline is lightened by Andrée's free-spirited nature and graceful body. Despite Jean's determination to rejoin his comrades once he's recovered from his injuries, his love for Andree inspires him to plan for a future in cinema as a filmmaker.
When Chris Nicola traveled to the Ukraine, it was to understand his own family's history and explore caves. Not only did he inexplicably discover everyday objects such as buttons and shoes in a remote cave, but he also unearthed a rumor of a group of Jews who lived in a cave. These discoveries led to an incredible Holocaust survival story of how 38 people lived underground for a year and a half -- the longest recorded sustained underground survival -- to escape the death camps. Nicola confirmed the story by locating 14 of the original cave inhabitants.
The experiences of these Ukrainian Jews is captured in the documentary No Place on Earth -- which opens in Austin tomorrow at Regal Arbor -- by longtime television producer Janet Tobias in her film directorial debut. The survivors are now in their eighties and nineties, but they were quite young when they took refuge in the cave. According to Tobias (from the press notes), "There were no leaders in the cave above about 35. And they were doers – they weren’t thinkers and analyzers. They really didn’t have the time to sit around and contemplate."
No Place on Earth can easily be described as a docu-drama rather than documentary, as the movie relies mostly on dramatic re-enactments of the group's experience in the cave. This vérité style is enhanced with interwoven present-day interviews with the main storytellers, including brothers Saul and Sam Stermer and sisters Sonia and Sima Dodyk. Thanks to the resourcefulness and determination of the brothers, the group had a community that survived despite the odds -- often with very little food or water for days on end, and with very little light.