This weekend on the big screen
At the movies: Beats, rhymes, and aliens (sans cowboys)
Movie theaters dot the Austin landscape and, through a barrage of marketing tactics of every conceivable variety, you're well aware of the summer's biggest blockbusters and Hollywood hits. Here, though, we'll focus on the other stuff—the indie films and special screenings that will hopefully expand your cinematic horizons just a bit.
We're lucky to live in a town where we can enjoy both a brand new documentary about A Tribe Called Quest and an original print of an early 90s Chinese fantasy action film in the very same weekend. Let's take a tour of what various theaters have to offer to this weekend.
This Weekend at Violet Crown
Actor Michael Rapaport (Higher Learning, Boston Public) directs the new documentary Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, a chronicle of the pioneering rap collective's past, present and potential future. Praised at this year's Sundance Film Festival for its candid look into the band, drama and all, Beats Rhymes & Life is a treat for the group's established fans and those only casually familiar alike. Violet Crown Cinema premiered the film at midnight on Thursday with a live hip-hop showcase of local artists and the film is now enjoying a full run at the theater.
A recent addition to the theater's Friday lineup is The Joy Luck Club director Wayne Wang's latest, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The film tells the story of Nina (Li Bingbing) and her best friend, the comatose writer Sophia (Gianna Jun), paralleled with the world of Lily and Snow Flower (Li and Jun, again, respectively), 19th century Shanghai women whose forbidden friendship is communicated via a secret language written in the folds of a silk fan. It would appear Wang has found the perfect vessel for his powerful ability to connect the ancient lives and customs of Chinese women to their contemporaries, while providing insight into humanity at large.
This Weekend at Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse's South Lamar location is opening both the biggest new alien movie this weekend—Cowboys and Aliens—and the best: Attack the Block. Produced by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and written and directed by first time filmmaker Joe Cornish, Attack the Block is the story of Moses (John Boyega), a teenage thug who freely terrorizes a South London council estate until aliens of the intensely unfriendly variety decide to land in his neighborhood. Moses and his crew take up arms against the vicious lifeforms and learn some valuable life lessons in the process. Featuring economical storytelling, loads of humor and a few splashes of blood, Attack the Block is an amazingly assured genre film debut and a treat to watch over and over again (I will be seeing it for the 5th time on Saturday). CultureMap's own Chase Whale recently interviewed writer/director Joe Cornish and star John Boyega about the film.
Fun for everyone: the last Saturday of every month, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar hosts the free show Saturday Morning Kid's Club. This month's feature is The Puppetoon Movie, a Gumby-hosted collection of stop-motion puppet animated shorts created by animator George Pal. Kid's Club always features interactive games before the movie as well as goodies courtesy of Toy Joy. Don't worry, Alamo Drafthouse's no texting/talking policy is enforced, but you'll find out quickly that most kids are better behaved during films than some adults.
Finally, Sunday at the downtown Alamo Ritz you can catch two signature Drafthouse series. First, enjoy some more refined entertainment during Cinema Club, a monthly series focusing on classic films complete with a guest speaker and an interactive post-movie discussion. This month, Austin Chronicle critic Marc Savlov will present the 1958 feature Bell Book and Candle, an urban occult comedy that pairs stars Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak for the second time that year (the other being, of course, Vertigo). Immediately following Cinema Club is the Drafthouse's newest monthly series, Asian Invasion. Kicking off with a film by one of my favorite directors, Johnny To (Election, Fulltime Killer), Asian Invasion blasts into Austin with The Heroic Trio, an action fantasy shoestring-budget epic featuring the talents of Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, and Anita Mui. The best part about these screenings? They are both in glorious 35mm!