Photo Essay: Alamo Slaughter, A Theater In Progress


Alamo Slaughter

I recently participated in a hard-hat tour of the newest Alamo Drafthouse in the Austin area, which is called "Alamo Slaughter" since it's on Slaughter Lane (just off Mopac). As I mentioned yesterday, Alamo Slaughter will start showing movies for the first time as a SXSW satellite venue -- it'll also have a "soft opening" starting March 8, with some second-run selections. The theater will officially open to the public with first-run movies on March 22. Alamo Slaughter will have eight screens -- the largest ones seat about the same as the big theaters in Alamo on South Lamar, and the smallest one is more like a half-theater, with 32 seats, a nice choice for private rentals.

But on to the photos! The tour was conducted by the four gentlemen in the following photo: Alamo Drafthouse CEO and co-founder Tim League, architect Richard Weiss, Executive Chef John Bullington, and Beverage Director Bill Norris. We all wore hard hats and construction was still actively going on around us in some parts of the building.

SXSW Slackery News Tidbits, February 15


It's that time of year: SXSW news is flying around thick and fast. Even if you're just concentrating on the film conference and festival, it's hard to keep up. In addition, SXSW has announced some new titles and conference sessions today. Here's the new information and some other recent news, all in our handy-dandy news tidbit format.

  • SXSW has just added 15 features and four shorts to this year's lineup. The features announced today include the world premiere of  Todd Rohal's Nature Calls, Sundance selection Safety Not Guaranteed (the cast includes former Austinite Mark Duplass), the cameraphone-shot King Kelly, and Blue Like Jazz, about a Texas student who escapes to the Pacific Northwest. Oh yes, and a restored print of Yellow Submarine, which I might not be able to resist.
  • SXSW also announced five new Film Conference panels today, including "A Conversation with Seth MacFarlane." Personally, I'm interested in a panel about restoring films at Universal, on Monday at the Paramount, which I hope means they'll show some restored footage.
  • If you're more interested in the movies than the panels, and you're on a budget, be aware that SXSW Film Passes will go on sale starting tomorrow, Feb. 16. The passes cost $80 and are available to buy from Waterloo Records and three Alamo Drafthouse locations (Ritz, Lamar, Village). A limited number are sold so if you want one, don't wait. Look for our updated guide about getting the most out of SXSW with a film pass as we get closer to the festival.

Ready, Set, Fund: From Roky Erickson to Anthony Burgess


Two Headed Dog with Roky Erickson

"Ready, Set, Fund," is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

With SXSW looming on the horizon to take over Austin for 11 days next month, it seems an appropriate time to feature crowdfunding for local film projects centered around music and performance. One such project, Two-Headed Dog, is seeking funding on IndieGoGo through February 22. This documentary centers around local rock legend Roky Erickson, who is about to embark on a tour for the first time ever through Australia and New Zealand with his son Jegar Erickson and his band. (Local film fans who like cable access might remember Jegar's Austin Movie Show, which ran 2004-2007.)

Local filmmaker Mike Mann, who premiered his short doc Brewed at SXSW 2011, has been invited to document Erickson's tour Down Under. However, Mann is in need of funds to cover his travel expenses as well as production costs at Erickson's live shows.

If you aren't familiar with Erickson's story, I highly recommend watching the powerfully moving 2005 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me, about Erickson's struggles with mental health, drug use and poverty as well as his underground success as a gifted psychedelic rock pioneer. Expect Two-Headed Dog to provide Erickson fans with insight into his progress dealing with his mental health issues and further establishing himself as a rock icon in Austin and beyond.

Check out more Austin film projects featuring local musicians and performers after the jump.

Experimental Filmmakers Go With The Flow in 'Yakona'



The experimental documentary Yakona will take viewers on a visual journey from prehistoric times through the present day from the perspective of the San Marcos River. San Marcos filmmakers Paul Collins, Anlo Sepulveda and Dean Brennan started collaborating on the movie 10 years ago because of their personal bonds with the river. Now they're working to finish the movie in time to screen it in early 2013.

Sepulveda, a digital video specialist at Texas State University- San Marcos, remembers tubing down the river as a child on annual family vacations from Corpus Christi. However, he said his bond with the San Marcos River really began when he started working for Texas State and moved into a house along the river, where for four years, he would swim every day.

"I really started to see what was under the surface there," said Sepulveda, whose film credits include the Austin-shot Otis Under Sky, which premiered at SXSW in 2011 (Jette's review). "It's such a dynamic environment."

Lone Star Cinema: Miss Congeniality


Candice Bergen and Sandra Bullock walk in front of a re-purposed Dillo in Miss Congeniality

Miss Congeniality, released in 2000, was filmed in New York City and San Antonio, but mostly in Austin. I recall it was a big deal when they filmed the movie in town because they closed down a section of Congress, and people attempted to catch a glimpse of the stars around town.  

The Sandra Bullock feature has her playing FBI agent Gracie Hart, assigned to a team investigating a threat to the Miss United States pageant. Benjamin Bratt plays her colleague/team leader/love interest Eric Matthews, who decides Hart will go undercover at the beauty pageant. Overseeing her entry into the pageant world is Michael Caine, who camps it up in this movie. Candice Bergen is the pageant -- er, scholarship program -- coordinator, and Heather Burns almost steals the show as a clueless Miss Rhode Island.

Miss Congeniality is your standard ugly-duckling-gets-turned-into-a-lovely-swan-by-federally-sponsored-beauticians tale. Hart is initially abrasive and female friend-less and by the close of Miss Congeniality has come to know and appreciate her fellow contestants ... after they have bonded over neon-paint-drumming (!!), Mr. Gatti's pizza and a makeover. The film aims for a girl power message, but it is far too muddled.

Slackery News Tidbits, February 13


Here's the latest Austin film news.

  • Deadline New York reports that a sequel to the 2010 Robert Rodriguez exploitation film Machete is tentatively scheduled to begin production in April. Machete Kills will find Danny Trejo's title character working for the U.S. government. He is sent on a mission in Mexico to take down an insane drug cartel leader and an eccentric billionare, who have teamed up to create weapon of mass destruction in space. The Deadline article does not mention whether the film will be shot in Texas. (via Film School Rejects)
  • Beginning Feb. 17, Austin Cinematheque will screen experimental films and rare documentaries in their original formats, if available. A selection of French filmmaker and academic Rose Lowder movies will kick off the free series, now screening in Studio 4D in the CMB building at The University of Texas.
  • This week's Austin Chronicle cover story is about graphic designer and filmmaker Yen Tan, who plans to begin filming his next movie Pit Stop in May in Texas. Pit Stop was accepted into the 2009 Outfest Screenwriting Lab, a three-day mentor-led workshop in LA, and received a 2011 Texas Filmmakers Production Fund grant. The Malaysia native's movies Happy Birthday and Ciao have received accolades from the Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival and Dallas International Film Festival, and screened at the Venice International Film Festival. Tan has collaborated with other Texas independent filmmakers such as Bryan Poyser (Lovers of Hate) and Heather Courtney (Where Soldiers Come From) to design and create posters for their movies -- you can see examples in the Chronicle feature.

Review: Safe House


Safe HouseIt's hard to imagine a movie starring an ass-kicking Denzel Washington and a non-comedic Ryan Reynolds would be something of a chore to get through, but Safe House is at times. It's not really the actors' fault, though. When you've got a story that isn't the most original, and therefore has to be filled with cliche after cliche, you can't really end up with anything other than just an okay film that has a few good fleeting moments and that's about it. It's not to say that Safe House is terrible, because it's not -- it's a more than competent effort from a director at the helm of his first American feature. Daniel Espinosa even proves here that he directs action very well.

Matt (Reynolds) is a young C.I.A. officer who hopes to one day be an active duty field agent. For now he's been relegated to being a "housekeeper" of a South African safe house, meaning he spends hours upon hours in an empty building that the C.I.A. might one day use, but usually never will. On this eventful day, a known international fugitive and former agent Tobin Frost (Washington) has turned himself in to the C.I.A. in order to escape some people trying to kill him. This is the first action Matt has seen, and Tobin Frost is his responsibility, but there seems to be nobody Matt can trust, not even the C.I.A.

Ryan Reynolds is certainly not out of his element in Safe House, but the movie missed the mark by not allowing his sense of humor to come through. Reynolds is certainly capable of holding his own in an action film, but when he isn't being funny while doing it, he comes off as stiff and unnatural. Of course, the argument can be made that that was the way the character was written -- trouble is, the film isn't that deep. Denzel Washington is an unrelenting badass, yeah, but he's not doing anything here that you haven't seen in any Tony Scott film that Washington has been in. Speaking of Tony Scott, it's clear that his visual style served as an influence on the look of the film, which should please fans of films like Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 123.

Movies This Week: A Star Pina Separation House Vow


A Separation

On Saturday night, Blue Starlite is screening a Woody Allen double feature: Annie Hall and Sleeper. Next week, the Big Screen Classics series at the Alamo Drafthouse is pulling out the stops with what's considered one of the most romantic classic movies ever -- Gone with the Wind. You can catch it Monday through Thursday up at Alamo Village.

If you're looking for something a little different, then head over to the Alamo Ritz on Monday for a special screening of Best in Show complete with all-you-can-eat hot dogs. APL's Weeknight Cinema series is playing A.I. Artificial Intelligence at Milwood Branch on Tuesday if you're looking for something a little less romantic. Or you could trek out to Round Rock, where Flix Brewhouse has picked two "romantic" (with the air quotes) movies to show on Feb. 14: War of the Roses and True Romance.

Movies We've Seen:

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island -- It's telling that the big-name star of the first film didn't sign on for this sequel. Mike braved the film and says it's "a story so inept it appears to have been written by members of its target 13-year-old audience." Read his review for more.  (wide)

Pina -- Wim Wenders' 3D documentary of choreographer Pina Bausch, whose work was so influential she inspired Pedro Almodóvar to make Talk to Her. Don says in his review that the film gave him "a newfound appreciation and understanding of modern dance." (Violet Crown)

Review: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island


Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandIn 2008, Josh Hutcherson starred in a rape of the classic Jules Verne novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. This week he returns for sloppy seconds in an almost completely unrelated vehicle, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, aka The Death of Michael Caine's Career. Hutcherson's character Sean Anderson is the only common thread connecting the two films as he again goes in search of a missing family member trapped in a 3D theme-park caricature of a Jules Verne environment.

This time it is Sean's grandfather, perhaps the worst role ever written for Michael Caine, who has sent a secret radio message from Verne's Mysterious Island. Joined unwillingly by his stepfather Hank (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Sean sets out for a weekend round-the-world trip of adventure and male bonding. Along the way they pick up down-on-his-luck pilot and single parent Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), who becomes Sean's love interest because apparently she's the first girl he's ever seen.

Calling Journey 2: The Mysterious Island a rape of Verne's work is not entirely accurate, since the movie really makes no effort to actually include any of his storylines instead of simply mining them for tiny elephants and giant insects seen in the trailer. These are used to populate a story so inept it appears to have been written by members of its target 13-year-old audience. It was actually penned by brothers Brian and Mark Gunn, whose prior feature film credits include only the screenplay for direct-to-video Bring It On Again. It was directed by Brad Peyton, who brought us Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

Forget about the blatant misuse of the word "science," the characters themselves are weak and inconsistent. Hutcherson's Sean Anderson, an insufferable juvenile delinquent, is so intent on finding his grandfather that he's willing to run away from home ... but as soon as he meets Kailani, his motivation becomes entirely the need to impress her.

Review: Pina



I've never claimed to be a fan of modern dance. While I have great respect for dancers' and choreographers' creative talents, physical abilities and dedication, I've always thought of modern dance as an art form that's more entertaining to do than to watch. Admittedly, I've seen only a handful of modern dance performances. Perhaps I'm but a mere philistine -- frankly, I just didn't get most of them.

After seeing Pina, however, I have a newfound appreciation and understanding of modern dance. The captivating new Wim Wenders documentary about German choreographer Pina Bausch is a feast of striking imagery that makes the art of dance come alive like no other movie I've seen.

Pina is a film of great beauty, although one that stems from great tragedy. After a long and distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and ballet director, Bausch died suddenly of cancer at age 68 in 2009. Her death came only days before shooting for Pina was scheduled to begin, so what was to be a film about an aging artist still at the height of her career is instead a moving tribute to her artistic legacy.

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