Movies for Kids

Lone Star Cinema: The Iron Giant

Still from The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant may not have been a box-office success upon its original 1999 release, but the animated film based in 1957 Maine has come to be loved and appreciated by many in the years since. The quirky, heartbreaking sci-fi tale pairs the beauty of its hand-drawn animation with a powerful message.

Hogarth (Eli Marienthal, American Pie) is a young boy in fictional coastal town Rockwell (presumably named after this Rockwell) who stumbles upon a ginormous alien machine one night. Hogarth befriends the giant, who has lost most of his memory, and attempts to pass knowledge on to the larger being. Harry Connick, Jr. figures into the voice cast as a hipster scrap metal collector/artist who supervises some of Hogarth and the giant's interactions.

Meanwhile, Hogarth's widowed mom Annie (Jennifer Aniston) rents out a room to government agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald, Thelma & Louise), sent to the town after reports of metal monsters and strange happenings make their way to Washington.  As Hogarth tries to teach the giant that he can choose to be what he wants (instead of what the machine may have been designed for), Mansley is determined to prove the dangerous existence of the imposing metal figure.

2013 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin


SLACKER 20th Anniversary

Updated 6/6 to add Austin School of Film's Summer Film Series

With the Texas temperature slowly rising and the lack of UT students drawing nearer, Austin residents are rejoicing -- summer is upon us. And although the first day of the season is not technically until June 21, many organizations are already kicking off their summer activities.

Slackerwood is happy to bring you its fifth annual guide to free or cheap summer movies in Austin, as well as surrounding areas such as Cedar Park and Round Rock. Be sure to check out the websites for each of these series so you come prepared. Some of the movies are shown outside, so a nice blanket or lawn chair would be wise to bring, particularly for non-theater venues such as the French Legation or Republic Square Park.

While a number of free movie series are aimed at kids out of school, several are more adult-friendly, with the return of showcases such as Cinema East and The Paramount Summer Classic Film Series (though most of the films in the Summer Series are pretty tame for kids as well).

2012 Guide to Free (and Cheap) Summer Movies in Austin



Updated 5/29 7 pm with specific films/dates for Cinema East.

Not even 24 hours after local schools have let out for the summer, I've already met several kids from my new neighborhood eager for entertainment and ways to earn money. Aluminum-can recycling and lemonade sales can only go so far in today's economy, so affordable entertainment will be a valuable commodity this summer.

That's where Slackerwood is here to help, as we offer our fourth annual guide to free and cheap summer movies in Austin and the surrounding area including Cedar Park and the City of Round Rock. Some programs are outdoors so double-check to see what you can and can't bring -- such as lawn chairs like seasoned Rolling Roadshow fan Dshanya Reese is modeling above. Some film programs are offered in non-theater venues such as local libraries and a track-and-field lawn. The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in is closed for a season break as they re-locate into new space at Austin Studios. A couple of the major multiplex theatres as well as Alamo Drafthouse feature their annual kid-friendly summer programming.

A select few Alamo Drafthouse fans will win two free tickets to movies at the Alamo all summer long. Check out this page for details -- in a nutshell, you must join the Alamo Drafthouse mailing list, visit and "like" the Alamo Drafthouse Facebook page where you will be able to enter your name and email address, and then tweet about it. Five winners per market (Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Winchester) will be randomly drawn on June 25.

Programming for adults, especially independent film fans, is also plentiful this summer. Cinema East is at a new East Austin location for 2012, and is hosting a Launch Party at Cheer Up Charlie's on Thursday, May 31, to unveil its third season of outdoor film screenings.

If you have more info about a series or know about something we've forgotten, please let us know in the comments. We'll update this list over the next couple of weeks as we receive updates on more summer movie events.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: December 2011


Emmet Otter

It's been just more than a year since Eenie Meenie Miney Movies started; I hope this column has been useful to you over the course of 2011. Leave a comment below if you've enjoyed it or have any suggestions for changes. -- Chris

Notable Theatrical Releases

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (December 16, rated G) -- I didn't see the two previous Chipmunk movies, but the user ratings and reviews for the original and the Squeakquel (Debbie's review) lead me to believe they were mediocre at best. If you've already run through the other holiday offerings, however, the story of CGI animated rodents marooned on an island may be a necessary evil. Or maybe you can just go see The Muppets again.

I especially enjoy the little moment between Jason Lee and David Cross at about the 30-second mark of this trailer -- I'd like to think that they're poking fun of themselves and of the movie here.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: November 2011


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.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: October 2011


Rocky and Bullwinkle

Ssshhhhh ... you hear that? That's the sound of a very quiet month for family features in theaters. The closest we'll come in the month of October is Real Steel (Mike's review), a PG-13 robot-brawl movie with Hugh Jackman, and that's really only for older kids. There are a few special events mentioned below, but October is a wasteland for new releases for families.

Fortunately there's a whole world of home video options – so many, in fact, that it makes recommending home videos problematic. In this column, I focus on DVD/Blu-ray releases (which can be confusing as older movies make their first appearance on Blu-ray) and the Netflix "Watch Instantly" streaming service. (I call it Netflix Instant but the streaming service seems to have had a number of names over the years.) This can make my recommendations somewhat repetitive as a film like Disney's Tangled makes its way down the chain from theatrical to DVD and finally to Netflix Instant. Imagine how much more repetitive it would get if I included the other services, each of which has its own release windows.

Since there aren't any theatrical films to recommend this month, I'll use this space to spell out the different tiers of service available for home video -- maybe it will help you make some decisions about what services you want to use. If you don't need the discussion of video rentals, you can skip down to the home video recommendations below.

Review: Dolphin Tale


Dolphin TaleI have really mixed feelings about Dolphin Tale, which opens today in Austin theaters. On the one hand, it's relatively entertaining, has a couple of nice messages at its core, and it has some great actors in it. On the other hand, it is tailored and finessed within an inch of its life to win the affections of the audience. It does so by delivering trite-and-not-too-serious conflict, a fat handful of plot threads that weave together into a tidy narrative, and a deluge of boy-on-dolphin underwater footage that could easily be repurposed into a mesmerizing screensaver. Not that anyone but your local office products store has screensavers anymore, but you know what I mean.

To describe the plot fully would require several paragraphs and a score card. I'm pretty sure my 5-year-old daughter didn't catch all of it, but she waited patiently for the grownups to stop talking so the movie could get back to the kids and dolphins.

It boils down to this: Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) has trouble focusing at school, what with his daddy-abandonment issues and his college-aged cousin headed for a tour in the Middle East. Plans to catch up on his studies in summer school go awry when he finds himself rescuing a beached dolphin (eventually named Winter) and becomes The Only Person Who Can Inspire In It The Will To Live as it convalesces at the local aquarium.

The cast fills out with not one but two wrinkly voices of wisdom (Morgan Freeman and Kris Kristofferson), hot middle-aged mom Ashley Judd, aquarium brat Hazel (the adorable Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who is the best thing about the movie), and her dad Dr. Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.), who is trying to save the dolphin and the down-on-its-luck aquarium at the same time.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: September 2011


Dolphin Tale

If you're a parent, September rolls in and BAM! Fall begins instantly. There's a similar jolt as the theatrical releases for kids dry up until Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas, so it's slim pickings for kids at the movies this month.

Notable Theatrical Releases

The Lion King 3D (September 16, rated G) -- I think I'm already on the record as being bored (if not outright offended) by the 3D movie hype. Lion King is a marvelous movie, but I don't think it will be helped much by the injection of 3D. I suppose it's an opportunity to see this Disney classic on the big screen though, even if you have to order some 2-D glasses.

Eenie Meenie Miney Movies: August 2011


Spy Kids 4

Summer's winding down as kids head back to school in a couple of weeks, so the theatrical releases are tapering off. There's still plenty of summer fun in local movie theaters (I took my daughter to see Winnie the Pooh last weekend and had a pleasant time), so take advantage of the glut of kids' movies out there while you can.

Notable Theatrical Releases:

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (August 12, PG) - Not one for the younger kids, but it's not tough to imagine there will be 8-to-10-year-olds begging to see the Glee cast in concert. It's all the auto-tuned karaoke you can shake a stick at. Watch the trailer for a fun Jane Lynch cameo. (She's the only thing I miss about watching this show.)

Young Filmmakers Remake Classic Film Scenes


Untitled by Michael McCauslin on Flickr

With temperatures hitting triple digits for a record number of days in a row, a great summer escape in Austin has always been the annual Paramount Theatre Summer Classics Film Series. The Paramount often features something special for the classic film series, whether manicures before Breakfast at Tiffany's or live camels at Lawrence of Arabia.

This year, local non-profit organization Austin School of Film has teamed up with the Paramount Theatre to introduce the Kids and Classic Films Competition. Youth nationwide are invited to remake scenes from classic movies such as Aliens, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Godzilla, Psycho, Red Dawn, Some Like it Hot and others screened during the Paramount Summer Classics Film Series. $500 in cash and prizes will be awarded and a screening of the young filmmakers' final remade scenes will be held at the Paramount Theatre on September 20. What better way for young filmmakers to experience classic cinema?

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