Review: Captain America


Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell & a crowd of soldiers in Captain America

Perhaps Iron Man made me expect too much from superhero movies. That Marvel film combines a great storyline and thoughtful acting along with the requisite blow-'em-up special effects. While Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun summer movie, it's far less cohesive than that related film, and far less memorable as well.

First off, I'll admit that I'm not very familiar with the Captain America canon. I happened upon this primer on NPR's Monkey See blog the day I saw the film, so I knew a little of what to expect, but there were still some surprises thrown in!

Captain America: The First Avenger is mainly an origin story of how Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) comes to be Captain America, WWII propaganda figure and hero of the Allied armed forces. Rogers begins the film a 98-pound small-statured man who keeps trying to enlist, but is continually denied because of his size and health conditions. His pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan in a vanilla performance) takes him along to a "World Expo," where we first see Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, quite believable as Iron Man's dad).

Movies This Week: Captain Terri with Benefits



A couple of weeks ago, this looked like it would be a drab weekend for new movies: another big dopey comic-book extravaganza (in 3D) and yet another tired romantic comedy. However, it turns out that most of us at Slackerwood have actually enjoyed these films, at least a little, and would recommend them to you. This has been a great summer to learn not to make negative predictions about movies we haven't seen yet.

For those who aren't convinced, Austin once again provides plenty of options. You can head over to Ballet Austin on Sunday afternoon to watch the 2000 film Center Stage followed by a ballet class -- the last in the Ballet Austin/Austin Film Festival series. That night, Cinema East is showing locally shot movie Rainbows End (an AFF 2010 selection) on the French Legation lawn. On Wednesday night, you might like this month's Celluloid Handbag selection at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz: the original Mildred Pierce. Or you could head to the Hideout for Cinema 41's screening of Coming Apart. But what I want to do most is see Paper Moon again in a theater, and the Paramount is obliging me by showing it on Wednesday night as part of a special Iron & Wine presentation.

Don't forget our Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies for other inexpensive moviegoing options.

Movies We've Seen:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger -- I liked this movie more than Elizabeth, whose review will be published Saturday. She says, "While Captain America is a fun summer film, it's not very cohesive or memorable. If you want to see it, find a 2D showing, as the 3D adds nothing to it." I agree about the 3D, but this was my first comic-book adaptation of the summer and I think I picked the best of the lot. (wide)
  • Friends with Benefits -- Mike was annoyed that this romantic comedy with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake screened for press on the same night as Captain America ... and then pleasantly surprised by what he calls "this year's best date movie" in his review. (wide)
  • Terri  (pictured above) -- Don caught this movie at SXSW. Check out his review, in which he notes: "A funny and entertainingly odd take on the adolescent (and adult) desire to be accepted, Terri is a modest but finely made film that will ring true with anyone who's ever felt like an outsider looking in." (Arbor)

Review: Friends with Benefits


Friends With Benefits

On Wednesday night, I missed a Captain America screening to instead enjoy this year's best date movie, at least since No Strings Attached (my review). Actually, Friends with Benefits is much better than the Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman rom-com, with a funnier script and more believable chemistry between stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Riding a similar plot vehicle, Timberlake and Kunis catapult lines of dialogue each other in the comfortable banter of best friends, a stride into which Kutcher/Portman could never quite settle.

Jamie (Kunis) is a recruiter/headhunter who attempts to woo hotshot graphic artist Dylan (Timberlake) from his LA blog to a position at GQ. After a whirlwind tour of non-touristy NYC culminating in a Times Square flash mob, he agrees to take the job. With Jamie as Dylan's only New York friend, and an immediate chemistry, they begin to spend all their free time together. While drunkenly relating accounts of their most recent exes, they decide to experiment with having sex while keeping it in a box, free of emotional demands and attachments. The result is some of the most hilarious-yet-steamy sex scenes ever caught on film.

Patricia Clarkson and Richard Jenkins as Jamie and Dylan's parents provide guidance and advice, as naturally the arrangement does result in emotional entanglements. Clarkson is always a delight, and her character Lorna is a bohemian free spirit few other actresses could play well. She delivers my favorite line of the movie, "Baby, you need to adjust your fairy tale." Jenkins' Mr Harper struggles with declining mental health and pines for a lost love. Both of these characters feel as though there is an unfinished story arc that would have connected them, perhaps left on the cutting room floor.

Robert Rodriguez Reveals Upcoming Projects at Comic-Con


Robert Rodriguez

On Thursday afternoon, Robert Rodriguez took the stage of the infamous Hall H at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con with a plethora of announcements, and I was fortunate enough to be there to hear them all. The Austin filmmaker started his panel with an overview of a number of projects in varying states of development.

The first project he mentioned was the imminent release Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Rodriguez spent time explaining Smell-o-vision -- a scratch-and-sniff card that's a throwback to gimmicks of John Waters and William Castle. He also took credit for reinvigorating 3D technology. I'm not so sure I'd list this as an accomplishment, but that is just one man's opinion.

In more exciting news, Rodriguez announced Troublemaker Studios is greenlit to make two sequels to the grindhouse classic Machete (Jette's review). These sequels will be named Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. Rodriguez joked that the last one would take place in outer space and will bring to the world (I paraphrase) "The first Mexican in space." Maybe he forgot Khan.

Could Netflix Price Change Help Local Video Stores (Please)?


Vulcan Video by David Grant on Flickr

The big movie news late last week was from Netflix: the company is restructuring its subscriptions to separate DVD rental plans from online streaming. Right now, I pay $9.99/month for one DVD out at a time plus unlimited streaming; under the new plans, I'd pay $7.99/month for unlimited streaming and another $7.99/month to rent one DVD at a time (and that doesn't include an extra fee for Blu-ray rentals).

The decision was easy for my husband and me: we can't remember how long the Netflix DVD has been sitting on top of the TV stand, nor even which movie is actually on that DVD. Therefore, we're going to refuse the DVD-only subscription and subscribe only to online streaming, which we use like crazy. And if we want something that's not on Netflix Watch Instantly, where will we get it? From our neighborhood video store, quite possibly.

I'm wondering how many other people are deciding the same thing, and if this could potentially help Austin video stores. Some people might figure if they're saving $6 a month, they could buy the occasional DVD and still come out ahead. Some might add Hulu Plus, which now has the Criterion Collection movies available for streaming, or rent streaming movies/TV from Amazon. And some might try the increasingly popular Redbox. But I like to think -- okay, I hope -- this change could give our remaining local video rental stores a little boost.

Slacker 2011: Bradley Beesley Sneaks Oklahoma into Austin


Beesley filming Slacker 2011

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. The trailer is now available. As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project.

Today's interview is with Bradley Beesley, an Oklahoman documentarian (Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, The Fearless Freaks, Okie Noodling) who now calls Austin home. He is a past winner of the TFPF grant; here's Jette's review of Summercamp! (for Cinematical, RIP).

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you re-shoot?

Bradley Beesley: My scene was "Oblique Strategies".

Slacker 2011: Berndt Mader Decides It's Not Such a Bad Idea


filming Slacker 2011

In celebration of Slacker's 20th anniversary, local filmmakers are re-creating scenes from the Richard Linklater movie for Slacker 2011, a fundraising project benefitting the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. The trailer is now available. As we await the August 31 premiere, we're chatting with some of the filmmakers participating in one or more of the short films that will comprise the project.

Today's interview is with Berndt Mader, cinematographer (Winnebago Man), and writer and director of Five Time Champion, which won the Texas Filmmaker Award at the Dallas International Film Festival. Read Don's review from the movies premiere at SXSW this year.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

Berndt Mader: I had the Jerry Deloney and Tommy Pallotta scene where Jerry accosts Tommy on his way out of a coffee shop. He follows him down the street going off about global conspiracies involving the CIA, the moon landing, and illicit Guatemalan drugs. Pretty hilarious scene.

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2


Harry Potter 7.2

Although Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was not one of my favorite novels in the Harry Potter series from J.K. Rowling, that didn't lower my expections for the pair of movies, particularly the one opening in theaters this weekend, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. After all, I didn't like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at all the first time I read it, and I thought the movie was better than the book overall (my review). And I did enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, as you can see from my review last year. Still, I was wary of how the movie would be able to represent what I considered a very jumbled and confusing set of climactic sequences, not to mention an epilogue I could have done without.

I did enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 while actually watching it -- but for days afterward, I found myself picking it apart in a way I haven't done with the previous movies, or at least not since the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I found rather rushed. In fact, some of the problems I had with this latest movie are the same ones I had with Goblet of Fire: the sacrifice of character time in favor of action and spectacle. (Hell, that's the problem with the first two movies as well, now that I think about it.)

Movies This Week: Harry Potter and the Blustery Day


The Trip

It's a good weekend in Austin for juvenile films -- and no, I don't mean Adam Sandler fare, but rather movies that appeal to kids of various ages. Grownups who aren't thrilled by the gangs at Hogwarts and the Hundred Acre Wood might want to head over to Arbor or Violet Crown.

If none of the new movies are grabbing you, head over to the Paramount, where they're showing a Katharine Hepburn double feature of The African Queen and the underrated and delightful Holiday, Tuesday through Thursday. Or perhaps you'd prefer The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Sunday night.

If you like short films, Austin Film Society is bringing the Texas Filmmakers Showcase to Austin Studios for two screenings Wednesday night. The lineup includes local films The Man Who Never Cried, Sasquatch Birth Journal 2 and short doc Noc Na Tanecku (Night at the Dance); two Dallas favorites from SXSW 2011, Pioneer and 8; and two shorts from the Houston area, Fatakra and LCD Soundsystem - "Home." Find details and buy tickets on the AFS site.

Movies We've Seen:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 -- This end to the seven-book and eight-film series is review-proof; you're unlikely to care what I say when my review is published Saturday. I'm glad I saw it but it did feel like one of the weaker movies in the series, focusing more on special-effects spectacle and not enough on the characters we've come to enjoy over the past decade or so. The 3D was unremarkable; save money and go to a 2D screening instead. (wide)
  • Winnie the Pooh -- The joke is on Don and me; we thought he should see this movie with the possibility of going all Dorothy Parker in his review. Turns out it's "gentle and charming and funny and warm-fuzzily retro." We're thrilled to have our expectations exceeded. (wide)

Stage Magic Onscreen This Weekend in 'Make Believe'


Make Believe

Stage-magic documentary Make Believe screened to a packed house at Alamo Drafthouse earlier this week, so it's coming back this weekend for two afternoon screenings at the Alamo Ritz. The movie won an audience award at Austin Film Festival last year.

Quoth the Alamo synopsis:

"This amazing documentary exposes the steamy and high-stakes world of teenage magic competitions as it follows six adolescent outsiders who all share an extraordinary passion for the art of trickery. Armed with great skill and a dazzling array of illusions, these teenagers embark from all over the world to attend the annual World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas, where they each hope to be named Teen World Champion by master magician Lance Burton.  From the producers of the fabulous KING OF KONG, this film will leave you inspired and dumbfounded, as it showcases some of the most incredible, eccentric young performers working today."

I'm assured by some of the folks doing PR for the film that it's kid friendly and tons of fun.

Get details and tickets for these screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse website.

The trailer for Make Believe is embedded below.

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