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Film on Tap: From Almodovar to Mr. Creosote

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Film on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.

Since 1997, Alamo Drafthouse has set the bar high for Austin in offering moviegoers the option of enjoying libations and food during screenings. For several years this local favorite has also offered themed film-and-food pairings through their feast events, such as the Julie and Julia Feast, and Sommelier Cinema, which offers wine flights to complement classic movies. This month, Alamo Drafthouse executive chef John Bullington has joined forces with Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris to delight the palate and test the fortitude of film fans who crave an unique and memorable film, food and drink experience.

This partnership is most notably responsible for a Spanish tapas and wine menu available at Alamo on South Lamar for the first two-week run of Pedro Almodovar's new movie, The Skin I Live In. Local media were invited to a sneak preview of the menu items last Sunday -- seen above is the tapas of tomato, leek, almonds and manchego in sherry vinegar with herbs, paired with the '06 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Reserva Ecologico, a 100 percent organic Methode Traditionelle sparkler. I was so impressed by the wines Norris paired with Bullington's tasty tapas that I not only bought a bottle of the '09 Juan Gil Monastrell on the way home, but I plan on seeing The Skin I Live In for a third time just for the Spanish menu experience.

Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek also has some special events this month -- a beer dinner featuring Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and another "Meet the Brewer" event. Find out more after the jump about both events, as well as events taking place on the auspicious 11/11/11.

Lone Star Cinema: Dear Pillow

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Dear Pillow

Society has long had a love-hate relationship with pornography. We often condemn it for reasons both moral and aesthetic -- but the porn industry has been thriving for decades, so somebody (not us or anyone we know, of course) must be buying all those dirty magazines and movies.

This often hypocritical relationship is the subject of Dear Pillow, one of my favorite Austin-made films of the last decade. Writer and director Bryan Poyser's engaging story about a friendship between an awkward teenager and a middle-aged writer of erotica is a frank, unflinching look at how adult entertainment reflects human sexuality.

Released in 2004, Dear Pillow is the story of pudgy, mop-haired teen Wes (Rusty Kelley), whose love life (okay, his sex life) isn't exactly on fire. He's your basic flop with chicks; the closest he gets to any real action is eavesdropping on the wireless conversations of a woman selling phone sex somewhere in his apartment complex. Wes's home life isn't much better; he shares a tiny apartment with his divorced father (billed only as Dad and wonderfully played by Cory Criswell), a loving but boozy and mostly inept parent whose idea of a suitable birthday present for his son is an evening at a local strip joint.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: November 2011

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The Muppets

It's official: the holidays are here, and that means time spent with the kids. It's good to have some entertainment in your pocket -- especially if you can con a grandparent or other visiting relative into taking your urchins to the cineplex for you.

Notable Theatrical Releases

Happy Feet Two (November 18, rated PG) -- Remember when a film other than Pixar's latest release won the Best Animated Film Oscar? No? Well, it was 2006 and that film was Happy Feet, up against Pixar's Cars and Monster House. We saw the sequel to Cars this past summer and sure enough, here comes Happy Feet Two to make sure our holiday quota of dancing (and flying?) penguins is filled.

Support Local Filmmakers' 'Three Day Journey'

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Chris Todd

Local production company Rocket Crab Films (director Chris Todd pictured above) are throwing a special benefit screening of classic Austin movie Dazed and Confused on Wednesday, November 9 at 10 pm at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Rocket Crab is raising funds to shoot a short film that they hope will ultimately lead to a full-length feature based on the short.

Here's a synopsis of the short film Three Day Journey, a Western, from writer Patrick Palmer:

"Judah is dying. Stricken with tuberculosis, he has little time left on this earth. Judah has tasked Luther, his only real friend, with ending his life early sparing him the pain of his debilitating illness.

LSIFF: Catch Local Favorites in Fort Worth This Weekend

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Five Time Champion

If you're looking to combine movies and a road trip this weekend, you couldn't do better than head to Fort Worth for the fifth annual Lone Star International Film Festival. The fest kicks off Wednesday night with The Descendants, Alexander Payne's latest movie starring George Clooney (and Austin actor Nick Krause), which recently played Austin Film Festival. The festival runs through Sunday night, November 13.

Austin film-fest regulars might recognize a fair number of titles in the LSIFF lineup. In fact, this is a great way to catch up on selections you missed at AFF and SXSW this year. In addition, the lineup includes a few features that have yet to play Austin, like Rampart, Collaborator, and the Jet Li film Ocean Heaven. One of LSIFF's programmers for 2011 is Austin producer Kelly Williams, who also programmed the excellent Texas Independents category at AFF last month.

Here's a list of movies with Austin or Texas ties that will screen at LSIFF next weekend. I admit when I started this article I expected to list a half-dozen films; to end up with so many is pretty amazing. And I'm not even counting non-Texas films that played local fests, such as The Innkeepers, Butter, The Artist and Shame.

Review: Tower Heist

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Tower Heist

Eddie Murphy was once the funniest man in America. Then something happened, and he just lost it. I don't know what it was, a bad agent or maybe having kids and wanting to make movies they could watch. But since the 90s, he has had a solid string of releases that made big money largely because of their family-friendly PG-13 ratings. The Nutty Professor, Doctor Dolittle, Holy Man, Bowfinger, Shrek, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, Norbit are all rated PG-13 or even PG. His last R-rated film was Metro in 1997, 14 years ago.

Therefore, I approached Tower Heist with hope for the potential I saw for Murphy to get back to the edgy, offensive, adult mode that made him famous. The trailer gave me hope that his first R-rated film in more than a decade wouldn't be a total flop. I'm happy to report that while he's not back to 100 percent, at least he's in fighting shape in Tower Heist.

However, Tower Heist isn't just a vehicle for Murphy or for Ben Stiller. This comedy, which owes much to heist films such as Ocean's Eleven, assembles a great ensemble cast. (Co-writer Ted Griffin also scripted Ocean's Eleven, which might explain the resemblance.)

Stiller and Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Judd Hirsch, as well as Tea Leoni, Matthew Broderick and Gabourey Sidibe all have memorable lines. The last three are the real standout characters: Broderick with moments of self-effacing charm he hasn't pulled out since Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sidibe with lusty no-nonsense pushiness, and Tea Leoni the picture of sexy, forceful authoritah.

There are no surprises in the plot of this Brett Ratner-directed farce. It's all in the Tower Heist trailer: The staff of a NY high-rise is screwed out of their pension investments by a Wall Street scammer. They set out to rob him back, enlisting the help of Murphy's street thug Slider. Hilarity ensues, and everyone gets what they deserve. However, there are some surprises in how it all happens.

Movies This Week: A Very Heroic Tower, Martha

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The 6th annual Austin Polish Film Festival is underway as of last night and continues through next Saturday. Tonight it includes two films at the Texas Spirit Theater (Texas State History Museum), Stone Silence and Joanna, which include Q&A with the directors. Check out the APFF website for the full schedule and locations.

Cine Las Americas is showing The Colors of the Mountain at Alamo Village on Sunday. And in keeping in the international theme of the week, the always-free Austin Cinematheque is showing Andrey Tarkovskiy's The Sacrifice on Monday. Tarkovskiy was described by Ingmar Bergman as "the most important director of all time," which is about as strong an endorsement any director can get.

Movies We've Seen:

Martha Marcy May Marlene -- Elizabeth saw this taut, simmering thriller and says in her review, "With his debut full-length feature Martha Marcy May Marlene, director Sean Durkin has created a truly original work. Olsen pulls off the title character in an understated performance." (Arbor, Alamo Lamar)

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas -- Jette reviewed this movie and calls it, "completely offensive, even appalling at times ... and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It's also a rather sweet end (I hope) to the series." (wide)

Austin Film Festival 2011: All Our Coverage

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Updated November 4, 2011.

Slackerwood has several contributors covering Austin Film Festival this year. Here's all our coverage to date. We'll update this list as we publish more reviews, interviews and features during and after AFF.

Review: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

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A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

My husband and I share a special fondness for a particular kind of movie. While we dislike blatantly sentimental films ("triumph of the human spirit" is a taboo phrase in our home), we love films with a sweet but not sentimental heart surrounded by a completely offensive, shocking, even outrageous exterior. The films have to have at least a little cleverness and can't be too gross. One filmmaker whom we agree does this very well is Bobcat Goldthwait -- we both really liked World's Greatest Dad. Bonus points are earned when these movies tie into a holiday and still avoid treacle, as with Bad Santa.

And now, one of our favorite appalling-yet-delightful comedies has spawned a holiday sequel: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. We don't like 3D, we don't like syrupy holiday movies, and yet this film had him laughing loudly and me spontaneously bursting out with my trademark "Oh, dear God" along with a few expletives of amazement. In the press row, natch. I apologize to my colleagues, although I heard some of them reacting with humor and disbelief as well.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas opens on Christmas Eve, with the title characters estranged. Harold (John Cho) is working on Wall Street (there are protestors, how timely), he and Maria are married and trying to start a family, and his in-laws descend upon their fancy suburban home en masse, led by Maria's dad Carlos (Danny Trejo). Kumar (Kal Penn), on the other hand, is living in a crappy apartment, drowning his sorrows in weed after his girlfriend Vanessa left four months ago, saddled with an annoying roommate who's even less responsible than Kumar.

Slackery News Tidbits, November 4

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Here's the latest Austin and Central Texas movie news.

  • Former Austinite and Fantastic Fest Programmer Coordinator Blake Ethridge will consult on programming and acquisition efforts for the inaugural Oak Cliff Film Festival, which will take place June 14-17 in the Dallas neighborhood. (Ethridge co-hosted Slackerwood's Alamo Downtown Blog-a-Thon in 2007.) OCFF will focus on screening movies previously shown at prestigious film festivals, from Sundance to SXSW to Cannes. Movies will play at the Texas Theatre  -- whose owners are also the fest coordinators -- as well as the Kessler Theater, the Bishop Arts "TeCo" Theater (formerly the Bluebird Theater) and the Belmont Hotel in Dallas. Festival submissions open November 7.
  • The Austin Polish Film Festival starts today. Anne Lewis at the Austin Chronicle has written an excellent preview.
  • Actor Johnny Depp and director Bruce Robinson didn't just visit Austin Film Festival last month, but also spoke with and answered questions from UT RTF and journalism students about their movie The Rum Diary, currently in theaters. RTF instructor John Pierson moderated the panel event. Austinite Amber Heard stars alongside Depp in this action/comedy about an American journalist's exploits in Puerto Rico, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson. 
  • Another AFF 2011 selection opens in theaters today: winner of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award for Best Drama, Martha Marcy May Marlene (Elizabeth's review). Former Austinite John Hawkes stars alongside Elizabeth Olsen in this drama about a woman trying to re-connect with her family after fleeing an abusive cult. Hawkes spoke with Austin360 last week about his time in Austin and his acting experiences.
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