See 'The Perfect House' Free This Weekend


The Perfect HouseYou may have heard or read about an on-demand platform for streaming movies called FlickLaunch, an alternative to traditional distribution that uses Facebook as its interface. FlickLaunch is promoting the platform through advance theatrical screenings of the horror/thriller The Perfect House, including a free screening here in Austin that includes filmmaker Kris Hulbert and actors Andrea Vahl and William Robertson in attendance. We have some reserved seats to give away -- keep reading to find out more.

Not surprisingly, Austin is the first city of the 30-city The Perfect House tour complete with a bus and a "reality-style tour." Why start with Austin? Co-director and writer Kris Hulbert said, "When we came up with the idea to hit the open road and host screenings around the country, the Alamo Drafthouse was immediately at the top of our list. The Drafthouse goes hand-in-hand with high quality independent entertainment and provides the perfect location to start our tour!"

The Perfect House is a horror anthology consisting of three separate stories ("The Storm," "Chic-ken" and "Dinner Guest"), which reveal that a young couple's dream house has a very dark past. It's every homeowner's fear that their ideal home will turn into a money pit, but in the case of The Perfect House, Hulbert's story turns it into a real nightmare.

FlickLaunch will allow filmmakers to capitalize on social media strategies, from promoting films through fan pages to allowing filmmakers to give away free views -- paid views will cost between $1-5.  A FlickLaunch app has been developed for the iPad and plans are to develop apps for Android and iPhone.

Photo Essay: Blood and Bones at Drafthouse Sneak Previews


Franco, Yelchin, Mintz-Plasse

Austin film fans were treated to two very special events last week as the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar hosted advance screenings with special guests for both Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian.

At the Fright Night screening, stars Dave Franco, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse showed up for a post-movie Q&A, as shown in the above photo.

Mintz-Plasse, who was in Austin for his third Drafthouse premiere (Superbad and Kick-Ass were #1 & #2, respectively) dominated the Q&A with the comfort and confidence born of familiarity with Austin audiences, while Yelchin and Franco were generally more shy and reserved, as you can see in the following picture.

Slacker 2011: The Zellners Drop Stuff from Bridges


Slacker 2011 from the Zellners

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 (TFPF). 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 -- check out our interviews so far.

Today's interview is with David Zellner. David and Nathan Zellner are an Austin filmmaking team -- they're brothers -- who have brought us such comically twisted short films as Sasquatch Birth Journal 2, Aftermath on Meadowlark Lane and Quasar Hernandez (available online). They also wrote and directed the feature Goliath, which played SXSW in 2008 and is now on DVD.

Slackerwood: Which scene from the film did you reshoot?

David Zellner: The jilted boyfriend throwing his typewriter/tent off a bridge.

Photo Essay: 'Spy Kids' at the Long Center

Spy Kids 4 at OSS Spy Headquarters

The Long Center was transformed into a carnival setting and red carpet on Saturday, August 13, for the gala premiere of the Austin-shot movie Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Austin Film Society hosted this benefit screening for the Dell Children's Medical Center and the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund.

The attendees for the event included not only a lot of very happy kids but also filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, producer Elizabeth Avellan, new Spy Kids Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook, and the original Spy Kids, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara, who are also in this fourth installment in the series. I was out of town and missed the whole thing, sadly, but fortunately AFS has published a lot of great photos from the event, some of which I'm happy to share here.

Why the Long Center? I found out when I saw Spy Kids 4 this weekend (my review). In the movie, the exterior of the secret spy headquarters is in fact the Long Center. My guess is that it was very convincing for people who don't live in Austin; I thought it was amusing myself.

Check out the whole AFS photo set from the premiere on Flickr. For another viewpoint on the day, you might enjoy reading AFS intern Lauren Hill's behind-the-scenes account.

Shameless Self Promotion: Vote for This SXSW 2012 Panel


This is the second year SXSW has opened up the Panel Picker for its annual film conference, a tool that allows people to submit proposals for panels and other conference events. It's an ingenious way for the festival to vet proposals; instead of the staff or  advisory panel coming up with all the ideas, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can submit a proposal, which is then voted on by the public, which gets a lofty 30 percent of the decision power. This is no small thing, since those who plan on attending the conference have the opportunity to weigh in on what they feel is relevant and keep the topics fresh. The only downside is that there are many panel proposals to read and decide among.

So please allow me to direct your attention to a Slackerwood-inspired panel: Removing Barriers Between Press, PR, and Producers, submitted by yours truly. The original idea for the panel happened during SXSW 2011, when I surprised a producer of a great little film by mentioning that Slackerwood gets mileage out of reviews far beyond festivals. In some cases, we get serious spikes in page views more than a year after a review was posted.

For example, this month one of our top traffic-getting pages is a review of Main Street, which screened at Austin Film Festival last year and is about to get a limited theatrical and VOD release. Our list of top ten pages for 2010 includes a review of AFF 2010 selection DMI: The Spirit Molecule and also my review of AFF 2009 film The Donner Party. Cummings Farm may have been renamed All American Orgy but my AFF 2009 review was still being read by many, over a year after I saw the movie.

Review: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D


Spy Kids 4

I remember the delighted surprise of seeing the original Spy Kids with a friend one Sunday afternoon ten years ago. I didn't know who Robert Rodriguez was, didn't know much about the Austin film scene at all, but we'd heard the movie was fun even for grownups and gave it a try. It was a little silly with a few eye-rollingly juvenile jokes but much better than we'd expected. And the problem I've had subsequent Spy Kids movies has been that they simply don't measure up to the experience of the first.

Possibly if I were nine years old and hadn't watched any of the previous movies in the series, I might enjoy watching Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Not being in those circumstances, I can't be sure. But I think even my childhood self would get impatient and annoyed by the last 30 minutes of the film. On the other hand, my grownup self quite liked the first 20 minutes or so and is sorry the movie couldn't sustain that tone.

Also, I was disappointed by a shocking lack of Danny Trejo, who is billed high on IMDb for this movie but appears in a single blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment.

Review: Conan the Barbarian


Conan The BarbarianJoining the ranks of this summer's excellent slate of reboots, rehashes and reimaginings is Marcus Nispel's movie Conan the Barbarian, a 3D adventure starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan. With a story little resembling that of the 1982 hit that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian could best be described as a total reboot. This is not a bad thing, after all -- no sense fixing what was never broken.

The movie begins with a Morgan Freeman Patented Voiceover explaining the backstory about ancient sorcerers, their war with the barbarian tribes and a prophecy about a great warrior born on the field of battle. The first third of the film is therefore an origin story modeled on Robert E. Howard's writings with Ron Perlman as Conan's blacksmith father. Perlman's work here is outstanding, the best acting in the film and perhaps the best of his career.

After the pillaging of Conan's village and the murder of his tribe, Conan the Barbarian jumps 15 years, and Jason Momoa is finally introduced. His is a better image of Conan than Arnold gave us: more catlike, more intelligent and closer to the barbarian described by Howard's original works. The rest of the movie is concerned with his quest to track down and kill the warlord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who murdered Conan's father, as well as the other warriors involved.

Nispel shows off his skills as an action director here with a solid fight sequence in almost every scene. Little time is wasted in exposition or idle conversation. This is, however, unfortunately one of those films that gains nothing from being shot in 3D except for the rich detail of Momoa's bare ass in one brief sex scene. The only place 3D was used to any effect was in the opening titles.

Movies This Week: One Barbarian Spy Night


One Day

As the summer movie season draws to a close and schools start up again, we still have some very good new movies opening in Austin this week, both indies and Hollywood films.

In addition, Texas Filmmakers Production Fund panelists are in Austin this weekend and Austin Film Society is hosting screenings of their films. On Sunday night, you can see a selection of short films from Barry Jenkins, followed by Ian Olds' documentary Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi. AFS is also bringing Josh and Ben Safdie to town to screen Daddy Longlegs on Monday night and short films on Wednesday. If you want some classic comedies, the Long Center has a Cult Classics series that features movies such as Animal House and The Princess Bride. But my favorite cult movie of the week is at Alamo's Music Monday: Repo Man. Afterward, go get some sushi and not pay.

Movies We've Seen:

  • Conan the Barbarian -- "Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa lives, loves and slays at the box office this weekend in the gorgeous nonstop action reboot of Conan the Barbarian." Or so Mike tells me. Look for his review this weekend.  (wide)
  • Fright Night -- Mike says in his review that although this is a remake of the 1985 film, it's "original, smart, exciting and funny" and one of the most entertaining movies of the summer. It's showing in 3D and 2D -- I've heard the images are a little dark for the 3D to be effective. I've also heard David Tennant is marvelous, but you knew that. (wide)
  • The Guard -- Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson star in this Irish buddy-cop comedy, and Don says their chemistry and dialogue are the best parts of this slow-paced but rewarding movie. Read his review for more details. (Arbor, Violet Crown)
  • The Whistleblower -- Rod came out of this screening pissed off ... not at the movie itself but at the inhumanity so realistically portrayed in it. To find out more, check out his review. (Arbor)

Fantastic Fest Reveals More Movies and a New Director


The seventh annual Fantastic Fest is just over a month away, and the anticipation is building, especially with the newly announced second wave of programming.

What stands out the most for me is the announcement that Alamo Drafthouse veteran Kristen Bell is officially the Fantastic Fest Director. If you've ever spent any time at the South Lamar Alamo, you've probably seen Kristen (not to be confused with the star of Veronica Mars) as General Manager, taking care of business and making sure guests have a good experience. She's been an integral part of making Fantastic Fest a success in years past. Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League said, "We are all excited to have Kristen assume this expanded role at the festival and look forward to working with her to continue to improve what is undoubtedly my favorite eight days of the year." Congratulations, Kristen!

As deserving as Kristen is, you're probably more interested in hearing about what's going to be onscreen and not behind the scenes at next month's fest. The second wave of titles includes 17 new world, North America and U.S. premiere films, including a special vintage program of Asian Grindhouse titles called "Movies on Fire: Hong Kong Action Classics," which will be introduced by New York Asian Film Festival's Grady Hendrix. The first wave was announced in July.

Review: Fright Night


Fright NightThis summer's movies have included a number of remakes, revisits and reimaginings. The latest of these, opening this weekend, are Conan the Barbarian (look for my review this weekend) and Fright Night, Craig Gillespie's take on the 1985 suburban vampire hit. Newcomers will love this horror-comedy set on the outskirts of Las Vegas, and fans of the original should have no complaints.

This remake was in good hands as Gillespie has a short but sweet resume with the Ryan Gosling hit Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Woodcock, and a number of episodes of United States of Tara. Handling the screenplay was Marti Noxon, who is no stranger to vampires after writing for Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in addition to a number of other TV series, and she did a fantastic job. Her script echoes the 1985 source but takes surprising and unexpected turns.

Not the least of these is the reimagining of Peter Vincent as portrayed by David Tennant. While Tennant has similar voice and facial features to Roddy McDowall, as well as the energy and British accent, this Peter Vincent is a rock star at the peak of his career as opposed to McDowall’s older foundering TV host. Tennant is reported to have visited Las Vegas to watch Criss Angel, and his performance here is at times an unflattering caricature of the performer, but perfect for the story as written. Tennant fans will find this a treat and a glimpse of what we can expect from him post-Doctor Who.

Anton Yelchin as the teenage hero of the movie, Charley Brewster, is the focus of the story.  Having just "grown up" and traded in his nerdy best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Charley tries being part of the jock crowd to impress his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). After a few people have gone missing, Ed approaches with wild stories about Charley's new neighbor, and then the action begins. While 1985's Fright Night involved a slower build up, Gillespie's hits hard and doesn't stop, making for a more exciting while only slightly less suspenseful update.

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