Blogs

Stage Magic Onscreen This Weekend in 'Make Believe'

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Make Believe

Stage-magic documentary Make Believe screened to a packed house at Alamo Drafthouse earlier this week, so it's coming back this weekend for two afternoon screenings at the Alamo Ritz. The movie won an audience award at Austin Film Festival last year.

Quoth the Alamo synopsis:

"This amazing documentary exposes the steamy and high-stakes world of teenage magic competitions as it follows six adolescent outsiders who all share an extraordinary passion for the art of trickery. Armed with great skill and a dazzling array of illusions, these teenagers embark from all over the world to attend the annual World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas, where they each hope to be named Teen World Champion by master magician Lance Burton.  From the producers of the fabulous KING OF KONG, this film will leave you inspired and dumbfounded, as it showcases some of the most incredible, eccentric young performers working today."

I'm assured by some of the folks doing PR for the film that it's kid friendly and tons of fun.

Get details and tickets for these screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse website.

The trailer for Make Believe is embedded below.

Review: Winnie the Pooh

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Winnie the Pooh

"Oh, bother," said Pooh, "I hope my new film isn't just a cynical attempt to cash in on my beloved reputation."

Silly old bear -- you needn't have worried, for your latest adventure does you great justice. Winnie the Pooh is gentle and charming and funny and warm-fuzzily retro, a 2D (yea!), old school, hand-drawn Disney throwback that celebrates everything we've loved about Pooh and his friends for more than 80 years.

A melding of several familiar Pooh stories, Winnie the Pooh follows its titular character and his Hundred Acre Wood cohorts on a day that goes typically awry. Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings, who's voiced the bear since the 1980s) awakens one morning to find he's out of honey (familiar story number one). While searching for a meal, he finds Eeyore (Bud Luckey), who's lost his tail (familiar story number two). Pooh's friends organize a contest to find Eeyore a suitable new tail, with the winner awarded a pot of honey. (Sadly, Pooh's attempt to replace Eeyore's tail with a cuckoo clock isn't terribly successful; a half-dozen other items are equally silly and no more suitable.)

First Batch of Fantastic Fest 2011 Films Announced

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Fantastic FestAustin's Fantastic Fest has just announced the first 20 titles in its programming for the 2011 festival in September. I am not enough of a genre fan to know much about many of these titles, but then many of my favorite Fantastic Fest selections have been movies I knew very little about when I walked into the theater to watch them. 

The one title I recognized was one from my childhood -- and I did a double-take when I saw it at the top of the list. Comin' At Ya! was originally released in 1981 during the peak of the previous 3D movie craze in America ... back when we had to wear the red-and-blue paper glasses, remember? It has been restored with the latest 3D technology so we can watch a lot of things flying at us for two hours. Which, in my opinion, is still the most fun part of 3D. Actor Tony Anthony and producer Tom Stern will be at Fantastic Fest with the film.

The rest of the titles include U.S. and regional premieres of films from other countries including Belgium, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Russia, Japan and Australia; digitally restored presentations of two Lucio Fulci films, Zombie and House by the Cemetery; and a Cine Las Americas co-hosted screening of the Mexican film El Infierno. I can't see any Austin or Texas films so far -- only one of the movies is from North America, the 2011 science-fiction film Beyond the Black Rainbow. I've included the list of films from the Fantastic Fest press release after the jump.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: July 2011

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Here's the lowdown on family-friendly movies premiering or screening in Austin this July.

Zookeeper (in theaters now, PG) -- On a recent visit to the San Antonio Zoo, I saw a marketing team giving away t-shirts to promote this film. Even the promise of a free t-shirt didn't seem to convince the crowd. You can read Mike Saulters' review here. Based on that (he calls it "Pookeeper") I think you'll have more fun actually going to the zoo (even in these temperatures) than you will watching this movie.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Are We 'Best Of Austin' Material?

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Film Fest Geek BarbieI've probably filled out dozens of ballots in various Austin Chronicle polls over the years -- only one ballot per poll, of course, even though I am from Louisiana. Looking at this year's Best Of Austin ballot, I noticed a couple of interesting categories in the Media section that I would like to point out to all of you:

  • Film Critic
  • Local Entertainment Website
  • Local Blog

I actually see Slackerwood more as an entertainment website than a blog, myself -- we have eight regular contributors, we are a Google News and IMDb News Desk site, we report on events and review movies in the same way as many other online and print media sites. But I suppose it depends on your definition of "blog."

I have no illusions about Slackerwood actually winning any Best of Austin categories -- I suspect the above-mentioned awards will go to larger publications -- but I think it would be extremely cool to at least show up on the radar. So if you have a minute and haven't filled out one of those Best of Austin ballots yet, please consider Slackerwood in the categories I mentioned above. We have a number of fine film critics here and I'm sure you probably have one you especially like reading. (I will probably have to put all the names in a hat and pick.)

Quick Snaps: 'Slacker' at Austin Studios

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Slacker at Austin Studios

I meant to do an extended photo essay from the Slacker screening at Austin Studios last month, using some of Austin Film Society's excellent photos and some video I shot of Richard Linklater introducing the movie, but you know how time flies and those other cliched phrases we chronic procrastinators use. So I'll just share a few photos instead, and perhaps I can get to the video at a later time.

It was a fun evening (cooler than expected due to that crazy "rain" thing that happened the night before) with a good-sized audience that included many of the filmmakers shooting segments for the Slacker 2011 project. The gentlemen in the above photo are Alamo Drafthouse programmer Daniel Metz, who shot one of the Slacker 2011 shorts (Elizabeth's interview) and filmmaker/Austin Film Society staffer Bryan Poyser, who has been producing Slacker 2011. They introduced the Slacker 2011 trailer, which screened before the original movie. More photos after the jump.

Review: Horrible Bosses

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Horrible BossesHorrible Bosses, which opened in theaters on Friday, is the best workplace comedy since Office Space. Co-stars Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis capture a dynamic not seen since Tomlin, Fonda and Parton in Nine to Five. This movie is solid comedy that never misses a beat, destined to be the cult classic of the 20-teens.

Bateman, Day and Sudeikis, all regular guys caught in bad situations, play off one another like Larry, Moe and Curly as they land each other into ever more outrageously sticky situations. In fact, one of my favorite scenes involves simply an overhead shot of them trying to back their cars out of a parking lot -- a genius bit of vehicular choreography. The film plays out like watching the events that led up to The Hangover in real time. This is the Hangover sequel I wanted to see.

Horrible Bosses is of course about the bosses, and they are absolutely horrible. Colin Farrell is a cokehead spoiled rich bastard who wants only to squeeze every penny from the company he's inherited from his deceased father (Donald Sutherland). Jennifer Aniston takes sexual harrassment to new levels when she spices it up with a little blackmail. And finally, Kevin Spacey plays the meanest, toughest, slickest SOB to ever wield a pink slip. He makes Dabney Coleman look like Bob Newhart. These are bosses you really do kind of want to die.

To help that happen for the three leads, special recognition has to go to Jamie Foxx, playing a character whose name I can't spoil. Foxx has some of the best scenes in the movie as he instructs the trio on the finer points of murdering without getting caught. Other exceptional cameos include Ron "Tater Salad" White as a hard-hitting detective, Isaiah "Old-Spice" Mustafa, John Francis Daley and one very special cameo that steals the show.

Movies This Week: Horrible Zookeeper Queen

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The Ward

It's not a great week for new movies in Austin. The two big Hollywood movies are getting mixed-at-best reviews and only one arthouse film is opening (but it does have Kevin Kline in it). Frankly, I think a better option that would let you enjoy Zookeeper actress Leslie Bibb in a dark comedy about horrible bosses would be Miss Nobody, which played Austin Film Festival last year and is now available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

If none of the new movies grab you, there are not only lots of carryover options from previous weeks but special screenings galore. I am most excited that the Paramount is showing Brazil on Sunday -- twice, although I plan to see it only once. The Paramount also has an Albert Brooks double-feature of Modern Romance and Broadcast News on Tuesday and Wednesday; check their calendar for specifics. And if you're a Sam Peckinpah fan, head over to the Texas Spirit Theater on Wednesday for The Getaway, this month's AFF Made in Texas selection.

Don't forget to check our Free (and Cheap) Summer Movie Guide for plenty of affordable moviegoing options in and around Austin.

What We've Seen:

  • Horrible Bosses -- Mike saw this movie earlier this week and says that "Horrible Bosses is the best workplace comedy this decade, joining the ranks of classics like Office Space and 9 to 5." Look for his review this weekend. (wide)
  • Queen to Play (Joueuse) -- Don is pleased with the performances in this French film about a woman learning the art of chess (the cast includes Kevin Kline) but says in his review that he finds the pacing a bit slow even for his arthouse tastes. (Violet Crown)
  • Zookeeper -- I've never seen Mike so passionately disgusted with a movie -- in his review, he claims that the movie was so terrible it gave him a headache. And that's not the worst thing he says about this Kevin James vehicle in which zoo animals reveal their powers of speech in order to help get James some nooky. (wide)

Review: Zookeeper

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ZookeeperWhy don't animals talk? Well, if Zookeeper is any indication, it's because they have absolutely nothing worth saying. At the end of the year, this movie will be tops on many worst-of lists.

Two former Spin City writers who brought us Norbit a few years ago teamed up with with a few of their buddies to write one of the most worthless, predictable, groan-inducing and even objectionable talent black hole of a script Hollywood's seen this decade. That's right, it's a script so bad it sucks the talent out of more stars than were at this year's Oscars.

Cher, Stallone, Nolte, Favreau, Breuer, Apatow, Rickles -- these folks are all so big they only need one name, but as the voices of a zoo full of obsessive-compulsive furry/feathered friends, they are telling more poo and pee jokes than you could dig up from a full season of South Park. Even Ken Jeong, one of the craziest funny guys in movies lately, is reduced here in Zookeeper to a tepid, boring, creepy approximation of his screen self.

The sad thing is that beneath all the jokes of extraordinarily bad taste is a family-friendly movie about being yourself and recognizing love when you find it. Kevin James as titular zookeeper Griffin Keyes has spent five years heartbroken over the girl who turned down his marriage proposal, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). When she suddenly appears at a reception for his brother's wedding rehearsal, his animal friends decide to help him win her back. How very Disney a premise. Indeed, many kids today can identify with the story as they've wanted to help keep their parents together or reunite them after a divorce. But Griffin is an adult so insane over his ex-girlfriend and somehow so intensely stupid, he is willing to listen to these animals as they instruct him in the finer arts of walking with his crotch thrust out and peeing to mark his territory.

Review: Queen to Play

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Queen to Play

Like the thoughtful, strategy-driven game of chess that is its focus, Queen to Play (Joueuse) is not for the impatient.

A study in parallels between chess and the larger game of life, this quiet French film is many things -- sophisticated, insightful, mildly funny and generally pleasant. One thing it may not be: captivating enough to hold most viewers' interest.

Which is not to say Queen to Play is a bad movie; to the contrary, it has many hallmarks of intelligent, competent filmmaking, with a believable story, great and sometimes surprising character development, and fine acting. And its pacing arguably is appropriate for its subject matter. But depending on your tolerance for slow-paced films -- and mine is quite high -- these attributes may or may not save Queen to Play from being rather dull. I'm still undecided.

Set on the picturesque island of Corsica, Queen to Play is the story of Hélène (Sandrine Bonnaire), a middle-aged chambermaid whose boring job and marital frustration leave her longing for a more meaningful, happier life. She develops a new interest in chess (actually, it's more of an obsession); to improve her skills, she asks for help from one of her employers, grumpy American expat Kröger (Kevin Kline).

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