Robert Rodriguez

Alamo Lakeline Ready to Host Grand Opening -- and 'Machete Kills'

Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline under construction

Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline has announced its grand opening for the week of July 22. The new location, near Lakeline Mall on 183 North, is the largest Drafthouse so far with ten screens and seating for almost a thousand attendees.

Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek shows its last movie on Sunday, July 21, with programming at Lakeline set to start Monday, July 22. About the closing of the Lake Creek location, founder and Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League says, "I built the original Lake Creek Alamo with my own two hands... I am excited that more skilled craftsmen than myself have replaced it with a brand new state-of-the-art cinema for the neighborhood."

The special programming for Lakeline's grand opening includes a screening of Planet of the Apes on Friday, July 26 [info], with moviegoers encouraged to wear primate-inspired clothing in honor of the ape-themed lobby in the new facility. A Girlie Night advance screening of The Spectacular Now will take place Thursday, July 25 [info], a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed pizza party on Saturday, July 27 [info], and a Curious George family red-carpet event co-sponsored by KLRU [info] late Saturday morning.

On the Red Carpet and Onstage with 'El Mariachi'

Antoinette Alfonso Zel (CEO of El Rey Network) and Robert RodriguezLast week the Austin Film Society hosted a special screening of cult favorite El Mariachi as a benefit for the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund (TFPF), with special guests including a live performance by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's band Chingon. Antoinette Alfonso Zel, CEO of Rodriguez's general entertainment cable channel El Rey Network -- seen above on the red carpet with Rodriguez -- was in attendance, as well as El Mariachi stars Carlos Gallardo (Desperado, Bandido) and Peter Marquardt.

The event took place the day after the 2012 TFPF recipients were announced, with over $89,000 in cash grants bestowed to 16 projects from emerging Texas filmmakers. I spoke to AFS Executive Director Rebecca Campbell about the significance of the screening as a TFPF fundraiser, and she stated: "Here we are giving out grants to help the next generation of emerging talented Texans, and maybe some of them will go on to have a successful career and keep it in Texas -- just like Robert did." 

Find out more about the special event and see more photos after the jump.

'El Mariachi': 20 Years Later

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EL MARIACHI 20th Anniversary graphicBy Charles Ramírez Berg

Robert Rodriguez never expected anyone to see El Mariachi.

He made it for $7,000 and hoped to sell it to the Spanish-language video market for $15,000. It didn't matter if nobody saw it, what mattered was getting the money to make Part 2. Then he'd repeat the process and finish the Mariachi Trilogy. "Those three films," he says now, "were going to be my film school, because the only way you learn to make movies is to make movies."

But his plan failed because El Mariachi was too good. He took it to LA, and showed it to a Spanish-language video company, which was slow to respond. While waiting, he decided to drop off a VHS copy of his nine-minute student film, Bedhead, which contained the two-minute trailer for El Mariachi, at ICM (International Creative Management), one of the world's largest talent agencies. He just walked in off the street and handed the tape to the receptionist, so I imagine he got a variation of the standard "Don't call us, kid, we'll call you" line.

They called him the next day.

They loved Bedhead, and they were really interested in that trailer. Was it for a feature? Was it finished? Could they see it? He immediately delivered a VHS copy of El Mariachi.

"Why didn't you just drop off the complete El Mariachi the first time?" I asked him at the time. "I wanted them to ask me to see it," he said, "instead of me asking them." You see how that changes the dynamic of the relationship, and how savvy this 23-year-old junior in the Radio-TV-Film Department at the University of Texas was -- and still is today. ICM loved El Mariachi and signed Robert, promising him a major studio contract. Studios scrambled to sign him, and Columbia won.

Columbia's first idea was for Robert to remake it in English (eliminating the need for those dreaded subtitles) with a star in the lead. But to get an idea of how the film would play, Columbia sent Robert and El Mariachi (with subtitles) on the festival circuit. Festival audiences ate it up -- subtitles and all. It won the Audience Awards at the Sundance and Deauville Film Festivals, and Columbia decided to release it theatrically just as Robert made it. Receiving glowing reviews by critics (two thumbs up from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) and aided by the entertaining appearances Robert made on The Today Show and David Letterman, the movie was a sleeper hit, and Robert's career was off and running.

Robert Rodriguez Shares His 'El Rey' Network Ideas

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In recent months, the news has included a constant stream of Robert Rodriguez stories, with his animation studios opening one week, winning an entrepreneurship award in another week, El Mariachi being inducted into the National Film Registry late last year, Machete Kills casting announcements almost daily in prep for shooting this summer, then Sin City 2 following that, then a Heavy Metal remake and the list doesn't end until early 2014 when his new television network, El Rey, will premiere on Comcast.

But amid his busy schedule, the Troublemaker Studios co-founder was able to set aside 90 minutes of his time to talk to the next generation of innovators, like he himself was back in the early 90s and still is today. The University of Texas at Austin hosted a conversation with Rodriguez and UT Radio-TV-Film Professor Charles Ramirez-Berg, "The Future of Latino Images in Film and Media," on May 2.

Honorary Texan Danny Trejo and More Texas Film Hall of Fame News

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Actor Danny Trejo has made so many movies at Troublemaker Studios that he already feels like an honorary Texan. Austin Film Society plans to make this title legit, though. Trejo will receive the Patrón Honorary Texan Award at the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards ceremony on Thursday, March 8, along with other previously announced honorees.

It should be entirely unsurprising that Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will present the award to Trejo that evening. Trejo has played Machete in Rodriguez's films starting with Spy Kids in 1999 through the then-fake Machete trailer in Grindhouse in 2006 and of course in the actual Machete movie in 2010. The photo above is from the Austin premiere of Machete, which AFS hosted at the Paramount in September 2010. Rodriguez recently announced a second Machete movie, Machete Kills, and while I honestly feel a sequel is unnecessary, I do enjoy watching Trejo in action as the character.

Here's another photo from the Machete premiere, this time of Rodriguez and Trejo together with actor Daryl Sabara.

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.

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

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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.

Robert Rodriguez Reveals Upcoming Projects at Comic-Con

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Robert Rodriguez

On Thursday afternoon, Robert Rodriguez took the stage of the infamous Hall H at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con with a plethora of announcements, and I was fortunate enough to be there to hear them all. The Austin filmmaker started his panel with an overview of a number of projects in varying states of development.

The first project he mentioned was the imminent release Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D. Rodriguez spent time explaining Smell-o-vision -- a scratch-and-sniff card that's a throwback to gimmicks of John Waters and William Castle. He also took credit for reinvigorating 3D technology. I'm not so sure I'd list this as an accomplishment, but that is just one man's opinion.

In more exciting news, Rodriguez announced Troublemaker Studios is greenlit to make two sequels to the grindhouse classic Machete (Jette's review). These sequels will be named Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. Rodriguez joked that the last one would take place in outer space and will bring to the world (I paraphrase) "The first Mexican in space." Maybe he forgot Khan.

A Night of Texas Filmmakers' Early Shorts

Bottle Rocket short

Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and other famed Texas filmmakers may be household names now. But like most filmmakers, they launched their careers with low-budget, largely unseen short films.

Despite the later success of these Texas cinematic giants, their early works remain relatively obscure and are rarely screened. So, if you're a Texas movie buff like me, you won't want to miss the upcoming "Texas Legends, Before They Were Legends" program, which presents a collection of first short films from some of Texas' most successful and cherished filmmakers. Presented by the Texas Independent Film Network, Austin Film Society and Screen Door Film, the program includes the following films:

  • Bottle Rocket (1992), by Wes Anderson. This short (pictured at right) is the basis for the full-length feature version of Bottle Rocket, released four years later.
  • Styx (1976), by Jan Krawitz. This documentary is an impressionistic view of the Philadelphia subway system.
  • Woodshock (1985), by Richard Linklater. This documentary captures the mayhem of the 1985 Woodshock Music Festival in Dripping Springs.

DVD Review: Machete

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Machete videoFans of Machete now can see Robert Rodriguez's brilliantly overdone homage to exploitation flicks on the small screen, and it loses none of its gleefully gory and sexy charm in the translation. The new Machete Blu-ray captures every severed limb, explosion and naked female body part in glorious HD video and superb sound. (If you don't have a Blu-ray player, you can enjoy Machete's brand of heartwarming family entertainment on DVD.)

For an exploitation film, Machete has a surprisingly complex and coherent plot, not that this matters terribly much amid all the mayhem. Set in Austin, south Texas and Mexico, the story follows Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo), an ex-Federale turned immigrant day laborer hired by sinister political operative Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate a Texas state senator, John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro).

Meanwhile, immigration agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) stakes out taco truck owner Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), the suspected head of The Network, an organization that helps Mexican immigrants cross the border and find jobs. The two storylines intersect when Machete befriends Luz at a day labor site, and Rivera suspects he is part of The Network also.

Things go horribly wrong during the assassination attempt, and Machete is the victim of a double cross. He finds himself on the run from several parties, including the cops, Rivera, Booth and Machete's old nemesis, a Mexican drug lord named Torrez (a perfectly miscast Steven Seagal). Vowing revenge on those who double crossed him, Machete sets out to give them their bloody comeuppance with the help of Luz, Rivera and Machete's brother, a well-armed priest named Padre (Cheech Marin).

This synopsis leaves out plenty of details involving a vigilante group, political corruption, shifting alliances, incriminating videos, drug smuggling, impressive weapons caches, lesbian incest, scores of dead bodies, way-cool lowriders and online porn, but to say more would spoil some of the surprises and all of the fun. It suffices to say that Machete delivers most every flavor of fu, all presented with great wit and style.

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