Every year Harry Knowles of Aint It Cool News puts on a 24 hour theater event for his birthday. He programs a mix of old films and not-yet-released films, trailers, shorts, live appearances and other fun things.
The films that were playing were not known to the audience in advance, so going is sort of a leap of faith. Especially if you live far away from Austin, Texas.
The whole thing goes down in the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s a great theater. Stellar projection without a bad seat in the house.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket this year. Was it worth it? Yes, I can whole-heartedly say that it was a great experience. The crowd was great and it was fun to watch movies in the atmosphere that was generated.
But the films are what it’s all about!
1) Hooper - Hal Needham (1978)
Hal Needham is one of the greatest stunt men who ever lived and he uses all his knowledge directing this gem. Burt Reynolds stars as an aging stunt man who feels like he still has something left to prove.
The film is full of stunts and actions scenes that you won’t forget. Including a bar fight to end all bar fights. It’s not only action, either. It’s full of so much charm that you can’t help but smile throughout.
2) Kingsmen: The Secret Service – Matthew Vaughn (2015)
Wow. This film put the theater into fits of joyous hysterics. Matthew Vaughn has been making great films for awhile now. He has managed to bring a mix of slick big-budget production values, indie spirit, and a fun off-kilter sense of humor.
This story of a secret agent organization is brilliantly fun. It’s aware of tropes, and in fact uses them to its advantage. Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson are great, and the tent-pole scenes are unforgettable. Highly recommended.
It didn’t hurt that Samuel L. Jackson stopped by to intro the film.
3) The King and the Mockingbird - Paul Grimault (1980)
This film was started way back in 1938 and finally released this year in the USA. It was a long road for this animated feature.
The premise is enchanting, and the imagination and the animation are great. But the film has pacing issues and suffers from variations of quality and tone. It’s a very interesting film oddity that influenced a lot of animators over the years, but it just isn’t that great as a film.
4) Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson (2014)
Paul Thomas Anderson is a remarkable director. That doesn’t mean his movies are always great, but they are always interesting. He has a handle on writing and directing like no one before him.
This reminds me of The Master in that it has great writing, great characters, great scenes, and a really weird ending. But the peices don’t seem to come together. Still, the film was really good and I think another viewing might reveal it to be even better.
5) The Interview – Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (2014)
Lots of fun! Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were in attendance. King Jong Un banners were unfurled and confetti rained down when they appeared.
See my review here.
6) 1941 - Steven Speilberg (1979)
Speilberg’s follow-up to Jaws and Close Encounters is a huge mess. The amount of acting talent on the screen for this film is unreal, but it’s over-long, over-wrought, and just… a mess.
I think Speilberg was given too much leeway and too much budget. Good comedy comes from the finding it at that moment, but if each scene is structured like a big-budget action film, there isn’t room to let that comedy breath.
Still, there are some memorable bits, but they are surrounded by too much rubble.
7) Captains Courageous - Victor Fleming (1937)
The classic book is put on screen with vim and vigor in this Victor Fleming adaptation. All of the acting is great, especially Spencer Tracey as Manuel.
The film has a sense of adventure, and the script really sets up the story well. A real classic in every sense of the word.
8) Million Dollar Mermaid - Mervyn Leroy (1952)
A wonderfully made old Hollywood film. It tells the story of swimmer/actress/performer Annette Kellerman (played by Esther Williams) and her rise to fame and fortune. But it ends up being more about her love-affair with her manager played by Victor Mature.
It’s melodrama, but a good old Hollywood melodrama in the best sense of the word. It’s just a warm hearty helping of nostalgia.
9) Santiago Violenta - Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (2014)
I can’t review this film in good conscious. I am a huge fan of Ernesto Díaz Espinoza’s Mirageman, so I was excited to watch this. But the opening didn’t grab me and I ended up succumbing to sleep (I was very tired by that time). I woke up for the ending, but that didn’t grab me either. I’ll have to watch it all the way through sometime soon.
10) A Christmas Horror Story - Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan (2015)
This horror anthology revolves around Christmas and stars William Shatner. That should be a recipe for a good time. And yes, it was. Nothing special, but it was a solid outing for a horror anthology, which is rare.
This one has santa vs. zombie elves, krampus, changlings, ghosts, and a really cool ending. If you are a fan of the genre then definitely check this out when it’s released next Christmas season.
11) Son of Kong - Ernest B. Schoedsack (1933)
Carl Denham was in a bad place after his disastrous display of King Kong ended up destroying the city. He winds up in some dead-end shipping job, but then rumors of a treasure on that island send him out on another adventure.
There, he meets the titular son of kong, and good old-school stop motion fun ensues. This is more light-hearted than the original, and Robert Armstrong and his lady love (Helen Mack) are likeable onscreen. And the ape is great of course. One of the better entries in the series.
12) Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – Peter Jackson (2014)
We got to see this in 2D 48 fps. That is probably the best way to see it. The 48 fps is odd, but there is zero motion blur and the clarity is amazing to behold.
The film itself was a fitting finale to the series. One huge battle, some talking and wrapping up of various sub-plots. The series was never great, but this one at least keeps it fun.
Overall, it was a good film to end BNAT on. I just wish the event could have lasted longer! I was having so much fun! I wanted to watch more movies!
Oh well, there is always next year. Will I be there? Yes, given the opportunity I would get tickets in a heartbeat. What’s better than a celebration of film with people who are obsessed as I am?