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A Texas 'Homecoming' Premieres in San Marcos

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Homecoming 2The high school homecoming queen competition was stiff for Claire and her friends in the 2010 horror movie Homecoming. There could only be one winner. Those who survived the first movie return to face the same masked murderer in Homecoming II, which premiered Saturday at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in San Marcos.

Last year, Dorell Anthony and fellow Texas State University - San Marcos alumni Terissa Kelton and Caleb Straus began collaborating cross-country on the independent, low-budget movie Homecoming II.

The trio had recently graduated from Texas State when Anthony became inspired to write the sequel to Homecoming.

Anthony wrote his first feature-length screenplay, Homecoming, in 2004, during his sophomore year at Oakwood High School in Oakwood, Texas. He said he wrote the script as a form of therapy after his aunt died.

"It's weird to think that I wrote a horror script where many people die after my aunt died," he said.

Anthony said he collaborated with Texas State writers and playwrights to revise and update the original Homecoming script. The entire Homecoming cast and crew consisted of Texas State alumni.

Homecoming II executive producer Terissa Kelton met Anthony as a Texas State Alphi Psi Omega theatre fraternity member. She said she and Anthony became "quick" friends, and he asked her to critique the Homecoming script.

Kelton said she thought the Homecoming script was "great" and became a fan. Her own short film debut, Myra, screened at the Homecoming II premiere. Kelton is also an actress, who starred in the Austin-based independent production company Twitchy Dolphin Flix's films Turkey Day, Wedding Night, Abram's Hand, Look At Me Again and the 2011 Metropolitan Film Festival's honorable mention, Snatch 'N' Grab.

Local 'Sushi' Doc Hits Theaters Next Year

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Another Austin film, another distribution deal. You may have heard that Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission was picked up by First Run Features and will open in Austin in mid-January. And the Twittersphere positively exploded with the news that Emily Hagins' My Sucky Teen Romance was picked up by Dark Sky Films a few weeks ago. The latest news: Austin goes global with Sushi: The Global Catch, from Austin filmmaker Mark Hall.

Sushi: The Global Catch just played the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival ("IDFA") in Amsterdam last week, and has been picked up by Kino Lorber for North American theatrical release in early 2012. The documentary won a Special Jury Award Seattle International Film Festival in June.

Insider's Guide: Thanksgiving at the Movies

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While many folks will be spending Thursday around the dinner table gorging on Thanksgiving dinner, some folks go to the movies. There is no need to choose between the two. You can still enjoy the classic dishes without messing up your kitchen, whether you go with family or not. No mishaps with turkeys, no nightmarish sides and no worries about finding a million and one ways to serve leftover turkey.

Theaters do big business on Thanksgiving, which is why this week new releases are opening on Wednesday. But in Austin, only Alamo Drafthouse is combining traditional Thanksgiving fare with their films. Even Violet Crown has no public plans to do anything special for the holiday as synonymous with overindulging as it is with the bird.

Like previous years, all Alamo locations are offering the option to buy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner along with your movie ticket. This year's menu includes turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, dressing, Parker House rolls and pecan pie. A (very) limited number of walk-up tickets will be made available, so it's recommended to purchase your dinner in advance. The ticket option is $22, which includes your film and the dinner, but doesn't include drinks. Check out the Alamo blog for details. Just note that this year they are not promoting the leftovers that you can bring home.

It's That Time of Year (Almost): Holiday Films at the Paramount

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Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye & Vera Ellen in White Christmas

If you, like me, wait until Thanksgiving to start watching holiday movies, it's almost time to bring them out. This year (as in years past) the Paramount is showing classic White Christmas, as well as a couple more modern Christmas "classics."

White Christmas will be shown on the night of Monday, Nov. 28th at 7 pm and 9:30. A showcase for music by Irving Berlin, the 1954 film stars crooner Bing Crosby, goofball Danny Kaye, songstress Rosemary Clooney and dancer Vera Ellen. A couple of song and dance men meet up with singing sisters and decide to take their show to Vermont. Post-World War II-era jingoism, romantic miscommunication, a song called "Choreography," child ballerinas and choirboys -- this movie's got it all.

In December, the landmark theatre will pair 1988's Scrooged with 2003's Love Actually. Jesse Trussell, the Paramount's film programmer, comments, "That double bill are two more recent selections than we've typically played in the past, but one of the things I like to focus on here at the theater is to find a good mix between the perennial classics we all love and titles that haven't played on our screen. With the three films picked this year I think we cover a wide spectrum of holiday film tastes."

If you like your schmaltz laid on thick and movies where multiple couples fall in love, then you can't go wrong with the ensemble romantic-comedy Love Actually. Richard Curtis' movie has some high points -- mainly the quality cast involved.  I know many people who love this movie, but I'm not one of them.  The less than subtle attempts at emotional manipulation are a bit much for me.  Still, Bill Nighy singing "Christmas Is All Around Me" almost makes up for the rest of the film.  Almost.  Love Actually shows at 4 pm on Sunday, December 18 and 2 pm and 6:35 pm on Monday, December 19.

One of the greatest (and least reverent) cinematic takes on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Scrooged features Bill Murray as an affluent network television executive led by a trio of spirits to face the selfish man he has come to be. Alfre Woodard plays his Cratchit-like assistant, Karen Allen his lost love, Carol Kane the Ghost of Christmas Present ... this cast is packed with talent (and the cameos!). Here's hoping that the audience at the Paramount screenings will stick around to sing along with "Put A Little Love in Your Heart." I'm getting verklempt just thinking about it. Scrooged screens at 2 pm and 6:55 pm on Sunday, December 18 and 4:35 pm on Monday, December 19.

Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

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Breaking Dawn Part 1

The Twilight films are a guilty pleasure. As someone who hangs with the film nerd set, it's fun to trash Stephenie Meyer's angstified hyper-romantic sparkly "cold ones" (we're forbidden to call them "vampires"). Yet, the inner 15-year-old girl in all of us can't help getting caught up in the story a little, if only because we want Bella to just get on with it and pick Edward or Jacob for god's sake.

While that choice would seem to have been made by the end of Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 has inadvertenly picked up Bella's indecisiveness and can't decide whether it wants to be a drama or a raucous comedy. In a series where no two movies were directed by the same filmmaker, a steady evolution can be seen from Twilight to New Moon as both the mythology and the films improve. Now Bill Condon, a respectable director with such titles as Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls under his belt, steps in and forces us to wonder if he's taking his work seriously.

Condon wastes no time giving everyone what they came to see: Taylor Lautner's bare chest and abs. The very first shot of the film is Jacob ripping off his shirt in a lupine tantrum set off by Bella and Edward's wedding invitation. David Slade's Eclipse joked about Jacob's persistent bare torso, but this shot appeared to be an excuse to get one more cheer from the audience that was already screaming when the title card appeared. It also seemed to be Condon's way of saying "OK, that's out of the way, now we're going to do things MY way." Unless I missed something, Lautner doesn't appear shirtless for the rest of Breaking Dawn - Part 1.

Sadly, Condon zigs when he should zag and vice-versa. Doing it his own way means Edward doesn't sparkle when in full sun, a huge break from Twilight canon. It also means we get to see what people are calling the "wolf circle," as Jacob's angry wolf pack circles up in a logging camp for us to hear human voices screaming their telepathic conversation. This was a serious moment presented so ineptly it had even the biggest Twi-hards in the room rolling in their seats. Calling it corny would be an insult to corn, and a gross understatement.

Movies This Week: Into Happy Melancholia Dawn

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The holidaze are upon us, and the next week is pretty light on special screenings. But Saturday is making up for the dearth thanks to the Paramount and the Association of Moving Image Archivists annual conference. Film times start at 9 am and the last films starts at 8 pm -- you can read more about it in Jette's article and Paramount Film Programmer Jesse Trussell's blog. ll of these films are open to the public and free. And don't forget that the next AFS Essential Cinema series kicks off with another classic, The Awful Truth on Tuesday -- Jette's got more info (and enthusiasm) on that series too.

Also, don't forget the Les Blank retrospective screens tonight and Sunday at the Texas Spirit Theatre in the Bob Bullock Museum.

Movies We've Seen:

Happy Feet Two -- More dancing penguins. Chris says it "skirts the line between the sincere attempt to tell a story and animated showpieces for their own sake." Read his review for more. (wide)

Melancholia -- Don says that while "Lars von Trier's latest movie is dark, dreary and relentlessly dour... there is, however, a striking beauty to Melancholia, a film full of memorably surreal imagery." Read his review for more. (South Lamar, Violet Crown)

Review: Happy Feet Two

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Happy Feet 2

It's taken a long time for me to be anything but suspicious of computer-animated movies coming from anyone but Pixar. The competing studios tended to favor style over substance, often eschewing character development and thoughtful storytelling for pop culture references and the flashiest animation they could manage. (And even that level of animation was often an embarrassment next to Pixar's artistry.) Recent CGI movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Rango seem to be breaking that trend a bit, but it's still kind of a crap shoot. 

Happy Feet Two skirts the line between the sincere attempt to tell a story and animated showpieces for their own sake. In the latter it is highly successful -- there's a level of spectacle on display here of which any animator could be proud. In the former, sadly, the film falls short. The central dilemma -- the hero's flock of fellow penguins is trapped in a valley of ice by a wandering iceberg -- is less than thrilling, though I suppose it's difficult to find a good threat that can be conquered by applied tap dancing. 

Spliced in between the scenes of penguin action are the adventures of two krill shrimp (Will and Bill, voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, respectively). The existential crisis of these two shrimp learning to live outside their swarm (Will maintains that he is destined to "move up the food chain") is easily the most entertaining thing about the movie. The shrimp seem to be more or less anatomically correct and yet anthropomorphized expertly, and the dialogue between the two is sharp enough to make me believe that these scenes were written separately from the rest of the movie. Not that there should be much surprise there -- four writers are credited for the screenplay. By the end of the story I was hoping the film would leave the penguins out of it entirely and shift into all-krill mode. Alas.

Review: Melancholia

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Melancholia

The most aptly titled film I've seen this year is undoubtedly Melancholia.

Lars von Trier's latest movie is dark, dreary and relentlessly dour, as we would expect from a story about family discord and the end of the world. There is, however, a striking beauty to Melancholia, a film full of memorably surreal imagery.

Melancholia follows the strained relationship of two sisters, newlywed Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and scandalously wealthy Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who has the unenviable task of coordinating a highly overproduced wedding reception for Justine and her husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). The film's first half focuses on what is mostly a party from hell: As if the fancy festivities aren't enough of a logistical challenge, Justine is your basic depression-addled bridezilla, wandering in and out of the party as she wanders in and out of various moods. (At one point, she disappears on a golf cart to commune with nature; at another, she locks herself in a bathroom for a prolonged soak in the tub.)

Ready, Set, Fund: Help Austin Cinematheque Relocate

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Austin Cinematheque crew, courtesy of Daily Texan

"Ready, Set, Fund," is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects. Contact us if you've got a film fundraising project going on you'd like us to know about.

If you weren't in Austin in the late 80s or missed the Live Your Cinema! Austin Media Arts documentary that screened during the 2010 Austin Film Festival, then you may not know about the significance of Austin Media Arts. This cramped space above Quackenbush's Coffee Shop on the Drag was the first venue that Austin Film Society (AFS) actually owned and operated. Formerly a psychedelic ice cream parlor, Austin Media Arts was the screening room of AFS founder Richard Linklater and Lee Daniels as they projected eclectic and diverse films by Ingmar Bergman, Michael Snow, Stan Brakhage, Michelangelo Antonioni and Jean-Luc Godard for eager film fans.

Austin Media Arts is long gone, but its spirit and intent has carried on in younger generations of film enthusiasts who drew inspiration from repertory programs including the defunct CinemaTexas. The most well known is Austin Cinematheque, the only free, 35mm retrospective film series in town, founded in 2005 by three University of Texas Radio-Television-Film students. Since their first self-funded screening of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows in the Texas Union Theatre, they have screened over 75 films from sixteen different countries spanning nine  decades.

Unfortunately, due to the upcoming remodeling scheduled at the Union Theatre, Austin Cinematheque will be temporarily homeless while working toward expanding their free repertory film series. Find out how you can help them and other film-related projects after the jump.

The Archivists Are in Town: Free Movies for All!

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Nothing Sacred

I can't be the only one thrilled to hear the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) is holding its 2011 conference in Austin this week. If you're not thrilled, you don't know what this means: Fascinating and well-restored movies screening at the Paramount, all free to the public. The last time AMIA held its annual conference here was 2005, and for me it was as though the circus was in town. In fact I was tempted to run away with them and become an archivist myself, except a) I don't want to go back to school, b) I don't think I'd be good at it and c) it's not a profession with many job opportunities in Austin. (As opposed to film criticism? Well ...)

The fun kicks off tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, with the AMIA "Reels of Steel" competition at 11:30 pm. Film buffs and archivists will be bringing all kinds of rare and interesting film and video clips from their personal collections to screen. Admission is free and first-come, first served.

More free movies are screening all day long on Saturday, November 19 at the Paramount -- you could get down there early and stay all day, paying only for parking and a meal or two. At 9 am, they'll show Nicholas Ray's 1976 film We Can't Go Home Again. At 10:45, the 1966 film Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Grab some lunch and go back for a collection of home movies from around America at 1 pm. Then at 3 pm, you can see a restored version of the 1977 documentary Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.

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