movies this week: dry weekend

Memorial Day weekend? For me, it is Cynical About Movies weekend. You have been warned.
Remember when cool movies used to open on Memorial Day weekend? Not this year, buster. I guess everyone’s assuming that we’ll all go see the Star Wars movie again so there’s no point in releasing anything except kids’ movies and maybe a few arthouse flicks. Oh, and a remake with Adam Sandler. I guess that’s supposed to be the blockbuster of the week.
It isn’t even a good weekend for movie events in Austin. There are a few movies I’d like to see during the week, but I am surprised at the rather lackluster programming for Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps theater programmers are assuming we’ll all be outdoors having picnics or something.
Last weekend, my boyfriend and I tried to see a movie, but couldn’t find anything we might like that we hadn’t already seen. This weekend looks just as bad. And what will future weekends hold?
I am looking ahead at the summer movie release schedule and am unimpressed. In fact, I’m a little disgusted.
It’s not that bad, I remind myself. Let’s not forget about Howl’s Moving Castle, The Aristocrats, a Terry Gilliam movie or two on the horizon, Jim Jarmusch, and a kids’ film from Robert Rodriguez. Maybe Charlie and the Chocolate Factory won’t suck. Maybe Richard Linklater will do something entertaining with The Bad News Bears.
But it is too easy to see a long arid summer full of Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff and movies made from TV shows and comic books and movies that never needed to be remade and sequels to dumb Rob Schneider movies and Ron Howard schmaltz. These are the movies that are supposed to pull the U.S. box office out of its three-month slump? I wonder.
Every cloud has its little silver lining, though, right? The lineup of summer movies makes me glad of one thing: that I’m not a newspaper movie critic who will have to sit through each and every one of those lovely summertime gems and write something unique and intelligent about them, without turning into Oscar the Grouch Critic. Thank heaven for that. I know you’re thankful, too.
(Yeah, right. Like I wouldn’t take a newspaper critic job in a New York minute, even if I did have to watch the Herbie movie and the TV adaptations. Get real. I would love to be paid money to write about film, even in that way.)

Continue reading movies this week: dry weekend

Paper Moon: twice in three weeks

Paper Moon: 1973, dir. Peter Bogdanovich. Seen on DVD (April 25) and at Alamo Downtown (May 14).
Here is what happened with me and Paper Moon: Polly Platt spoke to a class I was taking earlier this year, and I was impressed enough with her comments on Paper Moon and the clip she showed that I realized I really wanted to see it. A month or so later, I heard that Peter Bogdanovich was going to be in Austin, showing the film at Alamo Drafthouse and answering questions about it. I was very excited. Then Alamo cancelled the screening and I rented the movie on DVD and watched it at home.
I liked Paper Moon very much and was particularly impressed with the way it looked. So when I heard that the Bogdanovich appearance and Paper Moon had been rescheduled, I decided I wanted to see it again, this time in a theater. Alamo Downtown showed an excellent print of Paper Moon—Bogdanovich noted the print quality—so I felt very fortunate to see the movie under such circumstances.
The funny thing about my experience with Paper Moon is that I have heard Polly Platt and Peter Bogdanovich both talk about it, and their stories are often quite different.

Continue reading Paper Moon: twice in three weeks

movies this week: there can be more than one

You might wonder why I’m bothering with Movies This Week this week. We all know exactly which single movie has opened around the country, already pulling in more than $16 million just from midnight and overnight screenings, which has yanked the US box office out of its springtime slump, and which is dominating most theaters in town this week.
However, it is possible that Austin might contain a few people who don’t want to go see the big George Lucas extravaganza and would like to find out if any other movies are playing around town this weekend. Or perhaps some people saw the big movie already but would like to watch something else too.
If you didn’t catch them on opening weekend, you can still find some good movies playing in first-run theaters. Kung Fu Hustle and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room are both great films in entirely different ways. (I wouldn’t try them as a double-feature, though.) I can’t believe the Arbor is still showing Bride and Prejudice, which I would also recommend.
And there are lots of special event screenings in Austin this week, whether you like lesbian spy spoofs, Thirties musicals, John Hughes flicks, or Humphrey Bogart double-features.
Alamo Downtown, Alamo Lake Creek, Dobie, and Arbor Great Hills are the Austin theaters where you know you won’t have to push your way past long lines of lightsaber-loving fans to get to the smaller movie you might want to see. And you can always head over to Spider House or Pedazo Chunk for their regular DVD screenings.
And if you wanted to stay home to watch a movie, you could rent The Fearless Freaks, the documentary about the Flaming Lips that was just released on DVD.

Continue reading movies this week: there can be more than one

a quick reminder

I’ve been updating my list of twenty gaps on DVD to note which ones will be released soon. If you subscribe to my RSS feed (on Bloglines or elsewhere), you probably have noticed whenever I update the page. But if you’re not into the whole RSS thing, I have posted the link in the right-hand sidebar along with the date I last updated the list.
Check out the list, because you would not believe the number of times I’ve updated it recently with all kinds of goodies scheduled for DVD release: Unfaithfully Yours, Matilda, five Astaire-Rogers films, and most recently Ninotchka. And keep an eye on the sidebar, because you never know what someone might decide to release next. (Holiday? A Foreign Affair? A girl can dream.)

Jette: returning to the Forbidden Zone

When I heard that Alamo Drafthouse was not only showing Forbidden Zone at a non-midnight time on April 30, but that director Richard Elfman would be there, I couldn’t resist. I had to go. I wanted to see the movie one more time.
I first saw Forbidden Zone in college, on a videotape from a Baton Rouge video rental store. I don’t remember which store, or how we found out about the movie, or exactly when we started watching it. My guess would be that my friend Lara knew about it and found it. Lara knew about all kinds of weird and obscure movies, like Russ Meyer and Herschell Gordon Lewis films and the Cinderella porn film with the snapping pussy. We probably saw the movie some time in late 1988 or early 1989.
How and why a Baton Rouge video store managed to get and keep a videotape of an obscure 1980 underground cult film is something I suppose we will never know.
I didn’t have a lot of experience of low-budget or independent movies in 1988. Forbidden Zone was the strangest movie I’d ever seen. It looked like it had been filmed in someone’s basement, but it had Herve Villechaize in it, and Viva, and what seemed like the entire Elfman family, including Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo, who had done music for a movie I really liked, Beetlejuice. It was filmed in stark and less-than-glorious black-and-white.

Continue reading Jette: returning to the Forbidden Zone

The Beau: a night in the Forbidden Zone

“I’m sorry,” Jette said for perhaps the third or fourth time that day. “If you don’t like the movie, I apologize in advance.”
I once went to a movie Jette recommended and thoroughly hated it. It was a traumatic experience neither of us wants to repeat. Especially Jette.
That evening, we were going to see Forbidden Zone on her recommendation. She was taking a risk, but hedging her bets.
Jette had been telling me about Forbidden Zone for the longest time. At first, it was stories about this bizarre movie made by the Elfman family. Then, once she discovered the DVD was available, it was about how we should have a watching party and freak out all of our friends. Finally, when the Alamo Drafthouse announced they were going to show it with director Richard Elfman in attendance, she announced she was going and gave me the hard-sell pitch to go with her. I agreed, but as the date got closer she was getting anxious. Was our relationship strong enough to survive this twisted little movie?
She needn’t have worried. I had a great time.

Continue reading The Beau: a night in the Forbidden Zone

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Kung Fu Hustle: 2004, dir. Stephen Chow. Seen at Alamo Village (May 5).
Now, Kung Fu Hustle was not disappointing. I don’t think I read a single negative review of this movie beforehand. Admittedly, I tend to read reviews on small weblogs rather than mainstream newspapers or magazines, so my sample of reviewers may have been skewed in some way. But I was looking forward to a lively, funny film and Kung Fu Hustle exceeded my expectations.
Kung Fu Hustle was a gigantic hit in Hong Kong, where it was filmed, although it didn’t do as well in the US. Perhaps American audiences didn’t know what they were getting into. My sister thought it was going to be a straightforward kung-fu action movie, wasn’t all that thrilled that her boyfriend and my brother dragged her to see it, and then loved it. My mom was surprised to hear that I talked my boyfriend into going, rather than the other way around. I don’t think people realized that Kung Fu Hustle is a comedy.

Continue reading Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: 2005, dir. Garth Jennings. Seen at Galaxy Highland (May 15).
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the most disappointing movie I’ve seen so far this year. I didn’t expect it to be wonderful, but I thought it would be enjoyable in a fluffy summer-movie sort of way. But the movie didn’t work for me on any level.
I think the problem with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the same problem I encountered with the first two Harry Potter movies. The filmmakers try to be faithful to the books in appearance, but not in spirit. I remember being impressed with some of the visual aspects of the first two Harry Potter movies—the way Diagon Alley looked, for example—but there wasn’t much underneath. The characters were not portrayed with any depth and the director had a tendency to rely on annoying stereotypes. (The third Harry Potter movie was a great improvement.)

Continue reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

movies this week: paging Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

I am looking for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Has anyone seen her lately? I need her to cure my case of the Don’t-Wannas.
I don’t know how many of you have ever read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald (who also wrote The Egg and I), but they are delightful children’s books. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lived alone in an upside-down house and she understood children perfectly. In fact, the neighborhood parents were always calling her to ask for help with their children, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had wonderful and sometimes magical cures for kids who didn’t take baths, or refused to pick up their toys, or had terrible table manners.
I am sure that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle would have an effective cure for the Don’t-Wannas. I don’t wanna go to work. I don’t wanna write my grandparents. I don’t wanna change the cat’s litter box. I don’t wanna write movie reviews. And I don’t wanna write Movies This Week.
Perhaps she would provide some sort of magic powder that kept me stuck in bed for awhile. At first it would be lovely to not have to get out of bed and do anything. Later, I would get so bored and restless that I would jump at the chance to go to the office or clean the kitchen or see a Jennifer Lopez movie.
Without Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, I cannot overcome my apathy for the movies opening this week. I don’t wanna write about them and I don’t wanna see them. Can’t I go somewhere else for a little rest and recreation? I hear the south of France is lovely at this time of year.

Continue reading movies this week: paging Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

movies this week: inconceivable, dude

“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes.”
“I need a baby, Hi. They got more than they can handle.”
“That rug really tied the room together.”
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
“Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
“I want my two hundred dollars!”
“Son, you got a panty on your head.”
“I’m not left-handed either.”
I bet everyone reading this can recognize at least one of the above quotes. Who the hell cares which new movies are opening in Austin this week, when you can hear those lovely lines in theaters all around town? And by “theaters” I also mean the Rolling Roadshow setup at Republic Square Park and the Dart Bowl.
You’ve got your Coen brothers, The Princess Bride, some of the very best Bogdanovich movies, and a good movie involving George Lucas. Can’t ask for much more, but if you did, there’s also Ingmar Bergman and Audrey Hepburn (not in the same movie).

Continue reading movies this week: inconceivable, dude