Okay, I'm just going to up and say it: I think Russell Brand is hot. There. Now you know. I liked him better than anyone else in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (although I have a bit of a Jason Segal crush too), and I felt embarrassed for him in that dreadful Bedtime Stories. I hoped Get Him to the Greek wouldn't suck, and that if nothing else, I could at least enjoy watching Brand as a rockstar for two hours. Happily, I not only enjoyed Brand on that guilty visual level, but I laughed my way through Get Him to the Greek. Writer/director Nicholas Stoller has brought us a film that feels shorter and funnier than his previous outing, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Get Him to the Greek reunites Stoller with Brand and Jonah Hill -- Brand plays rockstar Aldous Snow from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but Hill's character, Aaron Green, is different. He's a junior staffer at a record label, and his boss is Sean Combs. Aaron is a huge Aldous Snow fan -- well, up until the point where the rocker released that awful "African Child" song and sank into a drug and alcohol-fueled decline -- and thinks it would be great to bring Aldous to LA for a big concert to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his best concert. His boss agrees ... and makes Aaron travel to London to pick up Aldous and make sure he gets to the concert venue (The Greek, natch) on time.
Some movies are hard to dismiss for the overall quality and cheats used during the story because they are simply so brazenly ambitious they deserve acclaim for the chutzpah. Splice has all the chutzpah of groundbreaking science fiction with as much mishugas that often comes with an auteur work.
Vincent Natali isn't new to genre-bending concepts; his first screenplay and directorial debut was Cube. While Cube was not a groundbreaking film, it was a throwback to provocative sci-fi with horror elements that challenge the morality of the characters without taking the safe way out.
Splice focuses on Elsa and Clive, two rock-n-roll geneticists who make the cover of Wired and are riding high on their success of creating a new life form that produces compounds valuable to the pharmaceutical company that gave them free reign -- until now. Their ambitions curbed by corporate reality checks, but both Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) chaff at the restrictions in project scope. Playing fast and loose with genetic material, including human samples, Elsa defies the new directives -- and Clive's ethical concerns, an unapproved experiment ultimately leading to nightmarish consequences.
In a way, it's sad that 9500 Liberty is such a timely and relevant documentary.
Opening at the Dobie tomorrow, the film chronicles a fierce and divisive immigration battle in Prince William County, Virginia, where the county board of supervisors enacted a law requiring police officers to question anyone they have "probable cause" to suspect is an undocumented immigrant. The Virginia law took effect in 2008, but the recent enacting of a similar law in Arizona gives 9500 Liberty a painful immediacy. The movie is a powerful statement about the continuing us-versus-them fight over our nation's immigration policies.
As America's demographic makeup rapidly changes, the recent history of Prince William County is increasingly familiar. For generations, the county had been a mostly white, mostly conservative semi-rural enclave. The booming economy of the past two decades brought a rapidly expanding population to the area, including many Latino immigrants seeking jobs in construction and service industries. The longtime residents never openly welcomed the immigrants (many of whom were undocumented), but for many years the two groups managed to coexist as neighbors, if not as friends.
Every summer night, hundreds of people gather to see the world's largest urban bat colony emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. Approximately 1.5 million Mexican freetail bats reside in this mostly female colony, until early June when each one gives birth to a single pup. On their nightly flight out from under the bridge, the Austin bats eat from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests. Recognizing the benefits of these gentle animals, the City of Austin has adopted the bat as its official animal, and is hosting its first ever city-sponsored family event "Night of the Bat" to celebrate these furry and fanged flyers.
Night of the Bat kicks off on Sunday, June 6 at 2 pm with a matinee screening of the original classic film Batman (1966), featuring the Batmobile and special guest and original Batman Adam West, who will introduce the film and host a Q&A. Batman made its world premiere at the Paramount Theatre forty years ago -- and a few months after the TV series debut. As a child of the '60s I watched re-runs of Batman religiously, although I thought that Batman was overly bossy towards quasi-hearthrob Robin. Hard to believe that Adam West is 81 years old, and still making appearances -- so don't miss this chance!
As I reported on Cinematical earlier this morning, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema announced today that Tim League is now the company's CEO. What exactly does this mean, and how does it affect moviegoers in Austin? Now that more detailed news than the press release I received is starting to appear, let's sort this out. Bear with me while I time-travel a bit to provide background, and then we can discuss the effects. (My sources are all listed at the end of the article.)
In 2004, Tim and Karrie League sold the company Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to a group of investors who planned to expand and franchise the Alamo brand name. The Leagues retained some financial interest in the company, as well as the right to use the Alamo Drafthouse name on the three theaters they owned in Austin: South Lamar, Village, and Downtown (then the one on Colorado). Alamo Lake Creek isn't owned by the Leagues; it's part of the company they sold. If you've noticed that the menu at Lake Creek is different and the programming is not quite the same, this is why.
Since 2004, the company opened more new Alamo Drafthouses around Texas. By 2010, nine company-owned or franchised Alamo Drafthouses were open in Austin, San Antonio, Houston/Katy, and even one in Virginia.
Local action film fans enjoyed an extra special double-fisted dose of bone-jarring action at a free screening of Mandrill and Undisputed III: Redemption at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar on Friday night. The audience was also treated to a Q&A with Mandrill producer and star Marko Zaror and Isaac Florentine, director of the second and third films in the Undisputed series -- seen above with Fantastic Fest and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League.
I enjoyed Mandrill at Fantastic Fest, and it was interesting to see it again with an audience full of action fans. I was disappointed to hear that plans for an American version of Zaror's 2007 action film Mirageman have been scrapped. Zaror alluded to the release of Kick-Ass having an impact on the loss of interest in Hollywood for a film about a hero from the streets that fights only with his fists. Check out a nice photo of Zaror (wearing a Mirageman shirt!) after the jump.
It's Memorial Day, and I suppose everyone is outdoors today, grilling or having picnics and/or dealing with relatives. But for those of you sitting at home, eager for Austin film news (I have no idea who this would be, besides myself), here are a few updates.
- For some reason, Willie Nelson was all over the news last week. He cut off his signature pigtails, which led a lot of people to quail in fear as though he were Samson. The Austin City Council voted to rename part of Second Street after the musician. And there's some movie-related news: Nelson's currently producing the feature The Dry Gulch Kid, scheduled to shoot somewhere in Texas this summer, and casting is in progress. Johnny Knoxville will star, but the news that got media outlets astir was that Lindsay Lohan is in talks to appear in the film. Lohan was in town last year for the Machete shoot. Other names being thrown about as possibilities for roles in the film are Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConnaughey and Owen Wilson, all of whom are no strangers to Austin.
- Have you registered for your Austin Film Festival Producers Badge yet? Do it today, and you'll be entered into a contest to win lunch with Texas writer/director John Lee Hancock. Yes, it has to be today ... go now.
- The Burnt Orange Productions feature Elvis and Anabelle is finally going to be available for all of us to see, Joe O'Connell reports. The locally shot film toured the film-fest circuit but was unable to land distribution. Now it's playing on Lifetime (next airing: June 7) and will be released on DVD on June 20. Elvis and Anabelle stars Max Mingella as a mortician and Blake Lively as a small-town beauty pageant queen. The cast also includes Mary Steenburgen, Joe Mantegna, David Carradine ... and local TV reporter/film critic Victor Diaz. Hopefully we'll be able to get our hands on a copy of the movie to review for you.
Not a lot of new films out this week, with too many screens taken up by other blockbusters and the new hopefuls. Many of the arthouse and indies are holding strong, and you know how I feel about those.
George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead -- Romero is at it again, with this Fantastic Fest 2009 selection pitting islanders against zombies. (Alamo Lamar)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an epic action-adventure film based on the Ubisoft video game of the same name. Set in medieval Persia, the story's central plot focuses on an adventurous prince who reluctantly teams up with a rival princess to stop a ruthless ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that will scour the face of the earth. Director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) attempts to create a film of epic proportions that falls a bit short of its predecessors.
Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) was born and raised a pauper, but after king Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) witnesses an act of bravery by Dastan, he is welcomed into the royal household. As an adopted prince and brother, Dastan enjoys wrestling with his men to the politics of the kingdom, leaving the future leadership to brothers Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). The brothers invade the holy city of Alamut after their Uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) convinces them that the citizens of Alamut are providing weapons to their enemies. Dastan isn't fully convinced, but rather than disagree with his brothers he instead leads a successful and heroic attack on the city. There he meets the mysterious and beautiful princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who is guardian to an ancient dagger that is a gift from the gods. Through chance, Dastan discovers the dagger's exceptional power -- by releasing the Sands of Time contained in the hilt, the possessor can reverse time. It doesn't take long for Dastan to realize that the dagger is the ultimate weapon -- someone with malicious intentions could use the dagger to rule the world.
Sex and the City 2 has a lot going on. The cast is large (so many cameos!), the storylines are many, puns -- and crotch shots -- abound, the budget is sizable, and the movie clocks in at just less than 2.5 hours. Could the movie have been simpler? Sure, but then it wouldn't be Sex and the City.
The film begins with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), our narrator, reminiscing about when she met Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) in NYC; this is mainly an opportunity to show how the ladies look in 1980s era fashion. From there the story moves to Connecticut, where Anthony and Stanford are getting married by Liza Minnelli (their wedding hall looks like something out of The Gay Divorcee).
Carrie is still getting used to her role as Big's wife, Charlotte's two daughters are overwhelming her (despite the help of her Irish nanny), Miranda is working with a sexist boss, and Samantha is dealing with aging. These are the basic plot threads through the film. The first portion of the film feels like a standalone episode of the former TV show, but then the ladies travel to Abu Dhabi.