Friday, March 25, 2011

Coming Soon: RED STATE w/ Kevin Smith

Hot on the heels of the wildly successful run of films during SXSW, The Paramount Theatre is hosting a special screening of a movie not due for release until the fall of 2011. The film is Red State, the latest from independent filmmaker, writer/director and all-around joker Kevin Smith. You know, the guy from Red Bank, New Jersey who burst onto the scene with his mini-budget indie hit, Clerks in 1994. In the years since, Smith has served us with many tales that (depending on whom you ask) are: silly, gross, offensive, charming, or even heart-warming. Although not a test answer, the answer is, of course, all of the above.

His filmography has consistently been comprised of comedies since his debut. Movies like Mallrats and Zack and Miri Make a Porno offer candy-coated silliness with a warm and gooey center. Kevin is probably best known for his "New Jersey Saga" of five movies that featured his signature characters, Jay and Silent Bob (played respectively by his friend Jason Mewes and Smith himself). A pair of stoners, their misadventures were the core of Smith's cinematic universe for many years, ultimately culminating in 2001's madcap adventure Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Often pushing the boundaries of good taste in his comedies, Smith stamps each of his films with his trademark quirky and witty dialogue. His characters always seem to have a unique sense of vibrancy that are, although occasionally appalling, still grabble with problems we can all identify with. With the exception of Chasing Amy (by far his most steady and mature film), Smith's work can be safely be described as "puerile cinema," populated by the likes of slackers and burger flippers. Although garnering a cult following over the past decade and a half, there are many who yearn for Kevin to expand his boundaries and venture out of his cinematic comfort zone. He has dabbled in a more tender fare before (Jersey Girl), which yielded mixed results. His most unique work is Dogma, a comedic adventure story steeped in Catholicism. It's safe to say that devout Catholics did not find it very funny.

So what's a guy to do? How can Kevin Smith evolve his cinema? Can he leave these silly stories of misfits and slackers behind him as he pushes forward?

Funny you should ask, because we're about to find out. Red State is not your ordinary Kevin Smith release. You're not going to find any Star Wars references or chocolate-covered pretzels in this one. For the first time, Smith has ventured into a new genre: the horror film. It's an interesting choice and a complete tonal departure from his earlier work. Have a look.

I think you'll agree with me. This looks NOTHING like a Kevin Smith movie. This looks more like a Eli Roth flavored fright fest. Red State, huh? Color me interested.

After debuting at Sundance, Kevin Smith bought the distribution rights from himself and decided to take the film on tour. He's raising awareness and funds to release Red State this fall, under his own banner and on his own terms. Although it's different subject manner, this bold strategy harkens back to Kevin's debut, where he made Clerks on his own terms. The film features a cast that includes: John Goodman, Stephen Root, veteran character actor Michael Parks, and recent Best Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo. Judging from the trailer, it looks to be an terrifying tale about something that really can be pretty damn scary... religious fundamentalism.

For a man whose career has been a vapid stroll through his own "ViewAskewinverse," this appears to be a promising reinvention. Here's hoping that the man who has served audience with Mooby burgers can now cook up something a little more... red.

Red State screens on Monday, March 28 at 8:00 p.m.
See what happens when Mr. Smith goes to Austin.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

AICN 15th Anniversary Screening. What the hell is it?!?

It's like the holidays here at The Paramount Theatre. South By Southwest (SXSW) is in full swing. Already, we've witnessed the premiere of Source Code inside our auditorium. In attendance were its director, Duncan Jones, as well as stars Vern Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal. Don't believe us? Have a look. And that's just the beginning. Not even Daylight Savings Time, in its devious act of stealing an hour from us, can derail the train of things to do. SXSW is 24/7, baby (ok, for one night it was 23/7), and there's always something going on.

For The Paramount, it's time to showcase itself as the magnificent movie house it has been for nearly a century. There are over 40 screenings taking place in the next few days, but this time help is here. Recently, one of the greatest sources of pride at The Paramount is the triumphant return of sister venue The State Theatre. Located next door, and dark since a ruptured water main flooded the place five years ago, it now has re-opened and is screening films during SXSW as well.

A list of screenings at The Paramount and State Theatres can be found here, and Lord knows I don't have enough time to preview them all. There is one event, however, that has grabbed my utmost curiosity. That happens to be the Ain't It Cool News (AICN) 15th Anniversary Screening. Austin movie geek Harry Knowles will be hosting a surprise screening to celebrate his website's 15 years as the source of movie news and general coolness.

The keyword in here that piques my interest is "surprise." What could that mean? What will be shown? Rumors are running rampant, and many felt that it would be the secret world premiere of an upcoming film. Are they true? Heck if I know.

According to his website, Harry claims it's not to be a new film, but instead that it will be a vintage favorite of his. To that, I say... hmmmm. We shall see. I've learned to be cautiously optimistic as a movie geek when it comes to his reporting, as he has become a showman as much as a webmaster of movie news.

You see, although I don't check out Harry's site as much as I used to, I have followed him from the very beginning. I'm talking pre-AICN days. True story. As a freshman at The University of Texas, I became quickly enthralled with the internet as a news source. Bear in mind this was the mid-1990s, when most people with e-mail were dabbling in the likes of CompuServe. Trolling internet newsgroups with a 56k dial-up modem in a dorm room, I recall reading a post from a Harry J. Knowles, detailing a presentation he had seen regarding the upcoming theatrical re-release of Star Wars. For a lifelong Star Wars dork like myself, that in itself was huge. But as I read further, Knowles detailed enhancements that the movie was going to have, including a new scene with Jabba The Hutt (now possible due to that "Forrest Gump" technology). Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday...

Looking back now, I realize that was the first internet film scoop I had ever encountered. Years later, I'm still a Star Wars nerd deep inside, and Harry is still cranking out movie news. Time flies, but true fandom never dies.

So as far as the screening goes, I'm finding myself growing more and more giddy. What cult classic could be revealed? Spielberg's E.T.? John Carpenter's The Thing? Or is Harry pulling a fast one on us? Will there be actually be a sneak peek at an upcoming title, contrary to the official party line? And if so, whatever could it be? The mind boggles at the possibility.

There is a precedent for a change-up on this scale, after all. Just two years ago, Austin fans bought tickets for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and instead were pleasantly surprised by Leonard Nimoy's unveiling of a screening of J.J. Abram's Star Trek before anyone else.

The AICN screening at SXSW is the equivalency of a cinematic grab bag. People are searching for clues like the friggin' Da Vinci Code, but there's really only one way to find out. Yep, you gotta go. Even if you're not a SXSW badge holder, you can still attend. There are advance tickets and day of tickets if you get there early enough. Whatever the film is revealed to be, whether an A-list premiere, a vintage masterpiece, or B-movie trash classic, it's sure to be a memorable night.
And that's pretty cool, ain't it?

The AICN 15th Anniversary Screening takes place on Monday, March 15th at 10:15 p.m. A late show, yes, but caffeine won't be necessary. I'm sure you're going to be buzzing long after the screening ends.