Friday, April 18, 2014

Alamo Drafthouse Lubbock: Your Complete Guide!

The newest Alamo Drafthouse here in Lubbock is edging nearer to opening.  As Alamo offers a completely unique take on a movie going experience--I want to provide a comprehensive article to talk all things "Drafthouse" and whet your cinematic appetite for the change that is about to take over this community.

For many who read this blog who do not live here in the LBK, perhaps you live nearby an Alamo or have visited one and know the greatness.  Others of you, sadly, might not have one nearby or in your community. (*tear*)  In which case--have you considered planning your next vacation to a destination that holds one of the many Alamo Drafthouse locations?  Seriously... have you?  For any movie lover--I would highly recommend it.  Alamo Drafthouse provides great food, top service, stand out drinks, and a movie going experience unlike any other theater.  Period.  Just check out the video below from CEO Tim League:

video

Let's start with the facts:

1. SEATING:  All Stadium seating  - All reserved seating  That's right.  You can buy tickets online or at the box office and RESERVE YOUR SEATS!  No more wondering if you are going to have room for you and your family or friends--Buy your seats and reserve your spot.  Note that you share tables here for food.  Underneath that table is a small shelf that holds a menu as well.  More on food service later...

2. THEATERS: State of the art Sony 4K Digital in the theaters along with RealD 3D options  and a 35MM setup.

Yes--that means down the road you might have the chance to see a classic film like, say, GONE WITH THE WIND or CASABLANCA in an original 35 MM print. 
In addition, there is a *strict* no talking and no texting policy.  With servers coming in and out of the theater, it is easy to spot any violators... and that, my friends... is a good thing.  If needed, you can alert your server to someone that is disruptive by writing a quick note and posting it on the table (shown below).  In short, Alamo Drafthouse cares about preserving the theater going experience.  Just check out the famous viral video of one of Alamo's own PSA's regarding texting:

 
Want More?  Check out Will Ferrell's take on talking and texting in a theater:
 

 
 
3. FOOD SERVICE -  All theaters offer full dine-in service brought right to your seat in the theater.  The custom designed kitchen includes state of the art equipment for the made-in-house food items (Pizza, Salads, Cookies, etc.). The menu is updated and customized on a seasonal basis.  In addition, there is a special kids menu as well as specialty program themed menus.  
All food is made to order in the kitchen, and much of it is sourced locally.  How do you order--well you simply choose from the menu and write your order on one of the order cards and slide it into the carrier there at the front of your table.  The wait staff (like theater ninjas) will come and grab your order and take it to the back to be filled.  A couple things to note from my visit: To start--BRUNCH ALL DAY!  Hello!  Yes you can have anything from French Toast to Egg Frittata--along with all the other great things on the menu--custom pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads, tons of appetizers, etc.  I had a Fried Egg BLT that was *triple* stacked with bacon.  Mmmmm. I also sampled the Chips and Queso which was a nice blend between white and yellow cheeses and just enough heat.  Tasty. Want some fresh baked Cookies for dessert?  Giddy-up. Just want a soda and popcorn?  Cool--it will be served in actual glasses and a metal bowl--no paper cups and bags here.  And one more thing--refills are free.  Period.    
 
4. THE BAR
Named the Glass Half Full, There is a stand alone bar as well as drink service in the theater.  Special beer system can tap 32 beers at a time (26 available for in theater, 4 seasonal/rotating, and another 6 exclusive to Glass Half Full). There is also a unique cask tap system to serve beer at exact temperature the brewer designates.  The following is an extensive list for beer lovers--including the local beers that Alamo Drafthouse will offer.  They do take that "Draft" part of their name seriously...
Local Texas Drafts
Fraconia Dunkel--Franconia Kolsh--Real Ale Fireman’s 4--Real Ale Lost Gold --Real Ale Full Moon Rye--Shiner Bock--St. Arnold Lawnmower-- Wicked Beaver Hoperation-- Wicked Beaver Blood Eagle 
Additional Drafts
Ace Pear--Alaskan Amber Ale--DFH 60 min-- Great Divide Hercules--Green Flash Le Freak --Goose Island 312-- Guinness-- Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown
Leinekugel Summer Shandy--Magic Hat #9-- New Belguim 1554-- New Belgium Fat Tire-- New Belgium LOF Gruit -- North Coast Old Rasputin-- Ommegang Rare VOS-- Oskar Blues Dales --Pale Rouge Dead Guy-- Sam Adams Lager-- Sam Adams Summer Ale-- Spaten Franziskaner-- Stone IPA-- Stone Arrogant Bastard-- Victory Prima Pilsner  WHEW!  That is a lot of suds!  In addition, Alamo Drafthouse has one of Lubbock’s only wine tap systems with eight wines on tap, four white and four red.  Glass Half Full  as a stand-alone bar offers a custom cocktail menu and theater menu food offerings as well.  Consider this an entire bar/restaurant all to its own.  Glass Half Full offers seating for 60 inside and 60 on their patio. 

5. SPECIALTY PROGRAMMING:  Here is where Alamo Drafthouse really sets itself off as a unique and interactive experience for a film lover.  Not only are they running first-run films, but throughout the month, Alamo Drafthouse will offer specialty programming like:   – Big Screen Classics, golden age Hollywood Classics  – Only at the Alamo, special events you wont’ find anywhere else – Action Pack: Quote-Along Movie Parties, interactive screenings with props & quotes – Cult Classics, special films beloved by all –Sing-Along Dance Parties, subtitled movie musicals & music video dance parties  – Cult Classics, special films beloved by all.  You can see more at their Special Events Page.  Did I mention that their Summer Kids Camp Series is F-R-E-E?  Check out this video that celebrates "The Big Bad"... a Villains theme for the month of May:
video
And here is just a sampling of some of the fun coming up for the grand opening next weekend.  How about a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK QUOTE-ALONG during this upcoming week of staff training?  Show up early for your whip, fedora, and play games with audience members for prizes--including running from the boulder!  Follow it up with a INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM: QUOTE-ALONG event next weekend!  Bugs, snakes, and your very own heart to hold aloft when the evil Mola Ram rips out his victim's!    Is Marty McFly more your speed?  Well grab your Walkman and your Huey Lewis tunes and join Texas' own comedy troupe Master Pancake for a BACK TO THE FUTURE event.  Watch the movie and laugh along as the troupe from Master Pancake riffs on down vests and DeLoreans.  All this in just the first week--with lots more to come.  Want to go to any of those events?  Just click those links above and get your *Reserved* seats for the fun! 

6. ALAMO VICTORY.
Alamo also has an awesome rewards program for locals too.  “Victory members will be the first to hear news about our opening date and pre-opening activities,” says Triple Tap Ventures LLC CEO Neil Billingsley-Michaelsen, owner and operator of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Lubbock.  “Be sure to join Victory as it will ensure you will be one of the first guests invited into our new theater.”  Alamo Victory members will receive special offers and rewards such as free movie tickets, invitations to sneak previews, exclusive screenings and unique events, T-shirts, and DVDs. Every Alamo Victory member will receive at least two special offers each year in addition to a free movie ticket on their birthday.  Membership in the Alamo Victory program is free. To join the program in the Lubbock market, please visit www.drafthouse.com/lubbock.  

This week Alamo Drafthouse Lubbock will be open to the public during its staff training days.  Beginning Tuesday, April, 22nd the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Lubbock will offer a sneak preview of the new theater while the staff trains with current Hollywood Blockbusters and a sneak peek look at the Alamo signature programming. Designed to give Lubbock's own the chance to experience the Alamo prior to our Grand Opening, the programming includes daily screenings of CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLIDER, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, TRANSCENDENCE, RIO 2 and DRAFT DAY, and the previously mentioned Alamo fan-favorite Action Pack events such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Quote-Along and independent film highlights including screenings of Drafthouse Films: CHEAP THRILLS. Be the first one to experience the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and enjoy drink specials and 50% off food.  Visit http://www.drafthouse.com/lubbock for show times, to purchase tickets and reserve seats.  Grand opening is Friday, April 25th...and tickets are already on sale for films opening that weekend as well--including THE OTHER WOMAN, THE QUIET ONES, and BRICK MANSIONS.

Lubbock--the landscape of movies, food, and entertainment has just changed.  And Alamo Drafthouse is bringing state of the art film experiences matched with great food and drink, and some really special programming to keep things fun. 

You are going to be seeing me there... A lot.  

TRANSCENDENCE Review: 4 out of 10 (more like Transcen-DENSE)

 
Why is it that the smartest people in movies are the ones who consistently make the really stupid choices?  Choices that usually will, I don't know, effect the entire world as we know it?  Such is the premise of TRANSCENDENCE--another movie whose entire plot is revealed in its two and a half minute trailer. 

Ultimately the trailer is better since it is far more brief.

Wally Pfister, long time cinematography partner of Christopher Nolan, makes his directing debut here.  True to his form, this is a beautiful looking film with lots of thoughtful images.  Clearly more thought put into those than the script.

A very bored and bothered Johnny Depp stars here as Dr. Will Caster---a super scientist working in the field of nano-technology and artificial intelligence.  His wife and research partner Evelyn is played by Rebecca Hall... who isn't so much bored as stiff.  Paul Bettany plays Max Waters--Will's best friend who also works in the field of sentient computing.  All of their ideas are fairly high minded, with the idea of computing being able to re-shape the world, cure cancer, and feed the planet.  Its all ruined by an anti-tech terrorist group led by actress Kate Mara.  When a strangely contrived attack leaves Dr. Caster terminally ill with only weeks to live--the trio of eggheads decide to attempt to upload the consciousness of Caster into a powerful A.I. unit.  

When it works--Evelyn has her virtual husband back... or does she?  Soon the A.I. version of Will begins to infiltrate the internet for knowledge and power.  Soon, He/It is leveraging funds, technology, and even other people to work on behalf of making a really dumb premise far more ridiculous.

Morgan Freeman is wasted and out of place as another fellow scientist who comes in and out of the movie and works as a sort of Jiminy Cricket who warns of the dangers of taking science too far.  At the end in the desert he just looks like an out of place senior citizen wearing a floppy hat to keep the sun off his face.  Paul Bettany is the best thing about this project, but sadly is removed from the plot in another ridiculous premise that keeps him out of nearly half the movie.  He seems to be the only actor here trying to really prop up the silly story with an invested performance.  And when the nano-technology decides (seemingly on its supernatural own) to float and take flight into the air and beyond, it is tough not to see the irony in a movie about sentient super intelligence that is this stupid.
The film is well over two hours.  And yet there are giant plot holes and entire characters written in and out of the movie that are unexplained.  A line or two of dialogue here and there could have at least shored up some of the chasms you are asked to leap in the story.  Either that, or maybe the movie was just trying to beam them out to you transcendentally...

  Let me make it quick.  Take a smart movie about the future of A.I. like Spike Jonze's HER.  Add a cyber-terrorism plot to dumb it down.  Downgrade nearly all your actors. TRANSCEN-DENSE.  TRANSCEN-DUMB.  TRANSCEN-Don't-You-Wish-You-Had-Your-Nine-Bucks-Back.  At best, wait for this clunky film to hit Netflix.  Trust me--you won't wait long.


 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Radio Show/Podcast #26: OCULUS, THE RAID 2, and all things Depp

My reviews of OCULUS and THE RAID 2...and I give a rant on Johnny Depp and some recommendations for some of his earlier (good) movies to check out on Netflix

Saturday, April 12, 2014

OCULUS Review: 7 out of 10 (A Scary, Tense, and Familiar Tale)

OCULUS is the newest horror film distributed by WWE Studios and stars Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites as Kaylie and Tim Russell--a brother and sister who witness their own parents come under the spell of an mysterious supernatural mirror.  Eleven years after this childhood tragedy, Kaylie and Tim return as adults to find the antique mirror and destroy it forever.

Yeah, it isn't exactly original material--spooky mirror, look at it, bad things happen.  It would seem to be a pale reflection (HA!) of lots of other horror films before it.  But director Mike Flanagan offers some interesting story telling devices that puts just enough originality into this movie to make it feel new.  Taking the original incident with the Russell family and the young Kaylie and Tim (Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan) the movie twists the flashbacks of their previous story with the current one. 

When Kaylie and Tim return to their old home with the mirror in tow, they work to set an elaborate plan in place to document the spooky powers of the mirror--and at the same time--destroy it forever.  As they arrive at the house, the film begins to mix in flashbacks of how the mirror came into their family's lives and how it worked its black magic.   Many times it becomes hard for the viewer to ascertain which timeline is which.  This device creates suspense and tension, which is what any great horror film needs.  The mirror's power itself is to alter reality in such a way that Kaylie and Tim, as well as their parents in the flashbacks, can never know what is real and what isn't.  There is this little horror film (maybe you have heard of it) called NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET that used this same device with its characters' dreaming and waking lives.  As we watch, we struggle to know, like the Tim and Kaylie, if what we are seeing is reality or fantasy.  It is a cheap trick that Freddy did much better, and it does become a bit wearisome near the end of the film.  However, there are still plenty enough chilling moments to make this film rise above its otherwise schlocky premise.

OCULUS works to build tension, create some chilling moments, and attempts to breathe the last bit of life into some old horror tropes and parlor tricks.  Likely, you may leave the theater wondering exactly what you watched--and question what was real and what was imagined, but in that way, OCULUS does its job.  An above average horror thriller. 

THE RAID 2 Review: 9 out of 10 (Fantastic Martial Arts meets Epic Crime Melodrama)

Without a doubt, THE RAID 2 is  one of  the best martial arts action films of all time.  Period.  Full Stop.  End of sentence.  Right after I say it again... One of the best ever.  Really.  I'm not kidding.  Seriously.

...yeah...its that good.

I had the chance to see it at Lubbock Premiere Cinema 16 & IMAX on its opening day.  The movie's predecessor--THE RAID: REDEMPTION certainly had garnered a reputation all its own as a martial arts masterpiece--but had been criticized by some (including the late, great Roger Ebert) as being all slick style and action with no substance.  I had not yet seen the original, but suffice to say THE RAID 2 answers that bell with enough melodramatic storytelling to fulfill any epic.  Clocking in at 2 1/2 hours, there is plenty of plot to connect all the action set pieces.  And the action?  With dizzying camerawork and fluid choreography--the fight sequences move from bathroom stalls to muddy prison yards; inside of SUVs and huge open warehouses; hotel hallways and catering kitchens... and they all absolutely make sense.  None of the action here feels artificial or staged.  Instead, THE RAID 2 chooses to integrate these fight scenes into its story in a seamless fashion.  The movie takes place in Jakarta with connections to its underground crime syndicate.  Written and directed by Gareth Evans, the movie highlights the traditional Indonesian martial art pencak silat.

Picking up just two hours after the end of the last film, Rama (Iko Uwaris) is reporting in on the police corruption that he has discovered (in the first film) and is asking for his superiors to take action.  It seems, like many police corruption stories, that the mob has taken control of law enforcement and is paying them off.  Instead of making arrests, Rama's superiors ask him to go into deep cover to infiltrate the mob from the inside.  Though he fears for the lives of his wife and young son, our hero agrees.  Rama goes to prison to sidle up to Uco who is the son of Bangun, one of Jakarta's most powerful mobsters.  The plan works, and Rama  slowly befriends Uco, defending him against attacks inside the prison walls.  Two years later, Rama is released and brought in to work for the Bangun family--alongside his friend Uco.  However, Uco's taste for power and desire to unseat his aging father's position in the crime syndicate becomes far more dangerous when he begins to plot with Bejo, a self-made gangster who is making a play for power in Jakarta.  With Rama stuck in the middle, this undercover cop has to make some difficult choices in tipping the balance of power.

Embedded within all of this are some of the greatest fight sequences ever captured in film.  And with homeless vagabond assassins, another who uses a baseball and bat, and yet another enemy called Hammer Girl, there is no need to wait long to see these characters mix it up.  For fans of martial arts and action movie connoisseurs, THE RAID 2 offers some deep story elements as a backdrop for fantastic fighting and action.  One of the best films in this genre I have seen in a very, very long time.  Highly recommended.


 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Show #25: Reviews of Captain America and Special Guest Paul Hunton

My reviews of Captain America: THE WINTER SOLDIER and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.  Also special guest Paul Hunton and I chat about the Lubbock art scene.  Also movie reviews and Netflix recommends
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/24-frames-art-and-music-event



Friday, April 4, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: 10 (Comic Book films don't get any better than this)

When CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER came out, it proved to be easily the best Marvel/Avenger film made to date--and has since stayed in that position.  With the right mix of nostalgia, action, and effects, the sequel has been highly anticipated.  Now the ninth film in the Marvel franchise, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER arrives to match and maybe beat its predecessor.  Locally I hit the bonus seeing it in IMAX at Lubbock Premiere Cinemas.  

Starring a returning Chris Evans as the Cap, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Sebastian Stan, Anthony MackieRobert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson as the dubious Nick Fury.  Both screenwriters have returned for the sequel here, taking place about two years after the incidents from THE AVENGERS.

Steve Rogers is still a very uncomfortable in this new world.  Having been frozen in time for 70 years, his nostalgic sense of right and wrong is out of place in a world of gray morals and antiheroes.  The S.H.I.E.L.D organization that works to protect the planet is led by Alexander Pierce who is also a member of the World Security Council.  Redford stars here as Pierce and is absolutely stellar as a man buying and selling his own brand of corporate war and peace.  When Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are compromised, the Cap--along with Natasha/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) beginning looking to find the answers.  Their plans are quickly thwarted and their lives put in danger by the mysterious "Winter Soldier," a global assassin who has been contracted to eliminate the heroes.  When the two need help, they seek refuge with one of Rogers' only friends--Sam Wilson--a US veteran who works at the VA...and was part of (another) military experiment called "FALCON."

Unlike its other Marvel movie cohorts, CA:TWS is pretty serious minded.  Again, when you consider a movie like this *in its genre*, this film stands high above nearly every other film.  Though it still has a few chances to crack wise, this movie doesn't attempt to chase faceless alien enemies or other-worldly villains.  This is an instantly relatable film with political intrigue, talk of global security, and mixing corporate budgets with military power.  Sound familiar?  This film also bravely questions all of those ideas, whereas most post 9/11 movies opt for a more hawkish stance of sacrificing freedom for security and eliminating your global enemies before they even fire a shot.  Like DC's previous Batman films, and last year's MAN OF STEEL, CA:TWS chooses themes that matter.  The storytelling relies on themes that we see versions of in our own world every day--and that is why the film succeeds.

Speaking of crime, Chris Evans just nearly has his film stolen away by ScarJo and Mackie.  Johansson's Black Widow reveals a bit more of her softer side, and Mackie's Falcon is possibly the most thrilling of all the heroes here.  For anyone who enjoys these comic book films, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER brings a new level of serious minded action with great characters and in-depth storytelling.  Highly recommended.
 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

BAD WORDS Review: 8 out of 10 (Bateman is a comic G-E-N-I-U-S)

BAD WORDS is a *very* dark comedy film that stars Jason Bateman as a middle-aged eighth grade dropout who decides to enter the National Golden Quill Spelling Bee. It also stars Allison Janney, Phillip Baker Hall, and newcomer Rohan Chand as Chaitanya Chopra--a young 10 year old Spelling Bee contender.  This is the directorial debut for Bateman--and all I can say is I hope there is more to come.  This film certainly has the edge that previous dark comedies like some of Jason Reitman's work or even some of the better Apatow films.  

Bateman stars here at Guy Trilby--a 40 year old dropout who finds a loophole in the spelling bee rulebook and decides to enter the contest to get his revenge.  Revenge on what, exactly, we are never really clear on until the film allows its reveal.  However, it is part of that mystery that drives the movie's forward.  Trilby is clearly an unhappy fellow, angry at the world and ready and willing to take it out on his 10 year old competitors.  As he competes in each spelling bee, moving his way to the national stage, he is willing to do nearly anything to advance his cause, not to mention crushing the pre-teen competition.  Allison Janney stars here as Dr. Bernice Deagan who is the director of the Golden Quill event, and is attempting to remove the rabble-rouser Trilby from her hallowed competition. 

There is a lot here to like if you don't mind watching Bateman mercilessly pick on 11 year old kids.  What's worse (and hilarious) is seeing Trilby interact with these over achiever parents, cursing, calling them out, and smirking all the way.  For the comic brilliance that he has had in the past, this is easily Jason Bateman's strongest work.  Undaunted by his mean spirit, young Chaitanya (Rohan Chand) is one competitor who tries to break through Trilby's hard exterior.  As they slowly begin a friendship, albeit not one most parents would approve of, the movie finds a charm surrounding all the sharp barbs.  Young Chand here is infectious and is equal to Bateman here in his comic performance and deadpan delivery.  Regular comedy actress Kathryn Hahn shadows Trilby as a online reporter who is trying to understand all the "whys" behind his mysterious exploits and hoping for a great human interest story.

This film comes round in the final act and offers closure to all the plot threads here without being schmaltzy.  For one that is pretty picky about comedies, I was laughing out loud at several of the bits between Bateman and young Chand.  This is certainly a hard-R comedy, but there is just enough sweet center to enjoy--wrapped in the dark exterior of this cinematic treat.  Recommended.