Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Alamo Drafthouse Theater Highlights from the Past 5 Months

If you're a regular visitor to this site, you probably know that I've become a huge fan of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema since coming to Austin just a few short years ago. I've paid a lot of visits there, especially when going out with... someone I used to go out with a lot, and had a lot of great times doing so. I can honestly say, if anything would keep me living in this fine city for the long haul, it's my love for the Drafthouse (and their amazing Carnivore pizza with a Coke and fresh parmesan on the side). I love it not only because you can order up dinner while you watch a movie, sometimes brought to you by a server well worth crushing on, but also because of the wonderful pre-film clip shows with every screening and the fact that they do screen not only current feature films, but movies from all throughout film history. It's a brilliant concept for the hardcore movie lover like myself!

But, that's not all they do at the Drafthouse! Besides the weekly themed nights like "Terror Tuesdays" and "Weird Wednesdays", which I also enjoy and need to make it out to more often these days, they also have a wide variety of special types of screenings. More than I will be getting into in this article, in fact, since tonight I'm gonna be talking about only the ones I've managed to make it out to so far, particularly in the past... oh, 5 months or so. Besides revisiting some retro classics, this included my first "Quote-Along" and "Sing-Along" experiences there. I also attended another star Q&A in December, not unlike the one I attended this summer at Lakeline with animation legends Don Bluth and Gary Goldman (which I did a thorough write-up on, if you'll remember). Once again, it was an amazing experience! Enough with the preliminaries though, let's get on with the show! 

Since I've been coming to the Drafthouse, I've gotten the opportunity to revisit a lot of old faves as well as classics I've never seen before. Sure, some of these movies I have on DVD and Blu-Ray or can find on Netflix, but that's not the same as seeing them on the big screen with an audience full of people. I took my dreamgirl Kiki to "Harold and Maude" at the Ritz location on 6th St., a first viewing of that film for both of us (we found it a bit underwhelming, honestly). We also saw the bizarre Japanese horror film "Hausu" at the new Slaughter location, and it was a riot. I went with my sister about a year and a half ago (or something like that) to see one of our all-time favorite films, "An American Werewolf in London", which we had never seen on the big screen, and it was a breathtaking experience! And I've had many more such experiences thanks to the Alamo, including the one I'm about to share with you, the Lakeline Drafthouse screening of the 1985 teen-angst comedy classic, "Teen Wolf".  

Folks, let me tell ya, this was a special experience for me. Yeah, I had seen "Teen Wolf" on the big screen before, back when it originally came out. I saw the sequel on the big screen too. I was quite the fanatic for this movie growing up. I watched the animated series religiously (when are we getting a DVD release of that one?!!). When I borrowed my cousin's VHS recording of the movie back in Jr. High, I watched that thing every single day! "Teen Wolf" was MY movie. 

As it happens, my younger sister/roommate (clearly, I'm stepping outside my character of Monty Moonlight for this article) loves the movie as well. In her case, maybe it's purely due to her lifelong Michael J. Fox crush, I don't know. Maybe I indoctrinated her, I can't remember. At any rate, she insisted we make some fun t-shirts for the Drafthouse screening we were reserved to attend the moment we got word of it. And so, we did. Using some fabric markers and iron-on letters, we recreated two shirts seen in the film itself (she fronted the dough, I did the work, the black shirt being mine). Admittedly, I drew the werewolf face larger than I was supposed to, ha, and the reason it's on the front AND back is that I drew it on the wrong side the first time, ha. It's only supposed to be on the front. But, luckily, she was very happy with the end result. 

Needless to say, we were psyched! For her, it was even going to be her first time seeing Teen Wolf in a theater. Disappointingly though, not a lot of people showed up! What's the deal? There were like 3 couples in there besides my sister and myself! Seriously? This is TEEN WOLF!

Oh well, apparently not everyone appreciates the movie like we do. At any rate, seeing the film on the big screen again was fantastic. For some reason, the preshow had an Action Pack label on it (a specific type of Drafthouse screening where live explosions are implemented) and didn't have much to do with the film, and that part was a bit disappointing too, and we noticed that at a few other screenings we went to after that one as well, but the film was just as excellent as we remembered it (granted, we probably had seen it on DVD very recently before this; it's no stranger to my PS3). I don't think anyone noticed our shirts (lame!), but we had a great time regardless. We even noticed a dodgy bit of editing during a game winning basketball shot that we had never seen before, and of course, the bit at the end where the extra in the bleachers has his wiener out in the background. Classic!

 Now, someone tell me why Scott doesn't have any hair on his hand in the promo shot above? That always bugged me about this otherwise great picture.

Can't say I'm certain if that Teen Wolf screening was in late September or early October, and of course, all the while during the time I'm covering in this article, I also attended lots of current release screenings at the Drafthouse for films I reviewed here on this site afterward. But, this next few all happened in October, a pretty busy month for me in general. If there was a Cartoon Cereal Party that month, I missed it (I have found those to be hard to catch, but I did catch a great Halloween-themed one the prior year). However, they made up for that by having THIS:

That's right! The greatest Halloween movie ever made that doesn't have a headless horseman in it, "Hocus Pocus"! Granted, they were screening it on "Girlie Night", and yes, it was a bit early in the month for this one. I traditionally always TRY to save "Hocus Pocus" for Halloween night itself (but with my current job, Halloween hasn't fallen on very good days for staying up late anyway). There was no way we were going to miss this one during October though! So we headed down to the Ritz, watched the Girlie Night-centric preshow, and enjoyed one of the greatest movies EVER! 

By the way, I hope you haven't been expecting me to give synopses on these movies. They are classics for the most part, and generally pretty well known. Okay, whatever. Teen Wolf is a teenager who finds out he's a werewolf and uses that fact to go from school nobody to big man on campus, with a moral lesson in the end about how you shouldn't do that because other people get jealous and all butthurt. Hocus Pocus is about the kid from "Eerie Indiana", his new dreamgirl with big "yabbos", and his little sister (who showed her yabbos in "American Beauty") bringing a group of 18th century witches back to life in Salem on Halloween night, and then having to try and stop them from sucking the lives out of all the kids in town before dawn. There, see? Two of the greatest movies of all time. At least in my opinion!

Anyway, back to "Hocus Pocus". As I recall, it wasn't the best looking print, but then I'm remembering back to October. Still, it was a lot of fun! Plus, one benefit of Girlie Night is that there are always babes EVERYWHERE. I mean, you might find the attractive ones are more numerous at the screenings for stuff like "Dirty Dancing", but who wants to sit through that?!! Anyway, the downside is that screenings for these types of things can sell out fast! It can be especially hard if you aren't going alone (which most people don't, it seems, but I often do). I went to this one with my sister, as I did all the movies I'll be talking about tonight. But my sis and I unfortunately didn't get to sit together. At the Drafthouse, seating is now reserved. I mean, you actually pick your seats when you buy your tickets, which most folks do online and far in advance. So, yeah, you really gotta jump on these special screenings right when you hear or read about them (like in their monthy magazine or on their website, which I try to check frequently and still end up missing great screenings; but sometimes that's just from being broke, ha).

Anyway, from there we go to our next Drafthouse visit, this time at the Village location, which was actually the very next day! What can I say, my sister was on a Drafthouse kick that month, which was great for me, except for the expense. Let me tell ya, a visit to the Drafthouse isn't exactly cheap. I mean, I guess it depends if you're gonna order food or drinks or whatever, but that's a big part of what makes it special! For me, it's usually a bit over 30 bucks just solo. That's 10 for the movie and the rest for pizza, a Coke, and tip (double when you pay for a date). That's no small amount for me, really, and I usually only make it out there once a month because of it (sometimes twice), but we went a little crazy in October. Of course, you don't have to order a pizza every time. I might have went without on one of these visits, or in some cases, I might have settled for a chocolate chip cookies 'n' cream milkshake, which aren't too bad price-wise for a place like this. There are other options, and some screenings are cheaper than others. Heck, Terror Tuesdays and similar screenings are usually just a couple bucks, but don't forget you are charged a little more for ordering the tickets online. In fact, the Drafthouse even has free screenings sometimes, but these are usually too early in the morning for me, ha, or on days when I just can't go. 

Anyway, as I was getting to, we went back the very next day for our first ever Drafthouse "Quote-Along" experience! And it was none other than one of our favorite comedies (naturally, we were hitting the Drafthouse so much in the past 5 months because they were doing so many faves of ours), "Spaceballs"!

You may notice a little "May the Schwartz Be With You" toy there on my ticket. I've got it on my desk somewhere, and I forget what it does, but I think it slips on your finger and lights up. Yeah, the Quote Alongs and Sing-Alongs are great because they usually come with free items (some even worth keeping) that you use to enhance the show. I forget if we were given any others that night. I believe there was a comb for "combing the dessert", but it was clearly a leftover from a "Grease" screening since it read "Tell Me About It, Stud," ha. And, I am sure there was something else too (there are usually three items), but my memory is failing me just now. Might have been a noise maker whistle thingy, and I think it was, but I can't for the life of me remember what we were supposed to use it for. Of course, we were to use the light above every time someone used the Schwartz ring onscreen. And, speaking of using the Schwartz...

If you see any special screenings at the Drafthouse, say a quote or sing-along, a cartoon cereal party, Terror Tuesdays, Action Pack, Weird Wednesdays, Girlie Night, and whatever else, there are usually some great hosts that introduce the thing, and often a fun contest or two as well. Incidentally, I really need to check out a Master Pancake screening; supposedly it's MST3K-esque. And, I'll confess to having gone to Afternoon Tea once too. Yeah, I was pretty willing to do just about anything for you know who. Back on topic though, at the Spaceballs Quote-Along, they had a Schwartz fight, which you can see taking place in the pic above. Sorry, this was a long time ago, so I forget the rules, but it was pretty funny for all those of us who didn't have to participate! Be careful what you volunteer for!

After that inappropriate saber fight came the movie itself, naturally, and it was as great as ever. This was a hoot for me, because I don't think I'd ever seen it on the big screen, and it's definitely one of the truly great quote-movies out there. Mel Brooks movies often are. And, quoting along was lots of fun! You can quote along through the whole film, but the most popular lines will have subtitles on the screen to help you along. Now, personally, I don't LOVE that. It helps to get things started, I'll admit, but it also sorta kills the fun of doing it with no help. A minor complaint though, and whether or not it is a bother depends upon the movie. A bigger bother are the guys who think they're so awesome at quoting that they want to be the first one to get the words out, so they don't even do it along with the film! Now, this is gonna happen a little to everyone. Jumping the gun, I mean. But, there are some douchebags who do it on purpose, which is what happened in one of the later quote-alongs we went to. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you aren't aware, Spaceballs, is a Mel Brooks parody of the Star Wars films (the original trilogy). Thought I'd mention that for any uninformed folks. It's a super funny flick and it was full of franchise and merchandise potential. Sadly, this only led a really bad animated series a few years back (oh, heck, maybe it was ten years back by now). Myself, I was once working on a script for a "Spaceballs the Prequel", and let me tell ya, what my best friend and I had come up with for it was brilliant. Of course, so many of the best ideas get set aside and never dabbled with again. Perhaps I'll make an online fancomic of it someday. 

Speaking of Quote-Alongs, here's the best one I've been to yet! Appropriate enough for the Halloween season and into the last 3rd of the month we made it back downtown to the Ritz to see another of our all-time favorite comedies, "Ghostbusters"! Again, this was epic for me! Yeah, I remember seeing this one in theaters as a small kid, but I also grew up a hardcore fan of the cartoon show, and I'm even one of those folks who mostly loved the sequel. Okay, I had to get used to some of the ideas they threw at us first, like the Ghostbusters basically going out of business after the events of the first film (hey, are you saying the animated series wasn't canon?!!! Oh, wait, I forgot, supposedly the live-action films are loosely based on the lives of the "Real" Ghostbusters of the animated series, ha). But let's forget all that. This was a quote along of the original film, a true masterpiece! Bill Murray at his best, too!

Complete with glow sticks and glow necklaces, along with a really cool slime ball I still have, we were set up to have a lot of fun with this one, and we sure did! We waved the glowsticks whenever Ecto 1 was on the movie, swirled our unlooped necklaces whenever the proton packs were in action, and, uh, squeezed our slime balls whenver someone got slimed. Hmm. I still think my "He Slimed Me" ball is totally cool. If I remember correctly, we were supposed to get marshmallows too, but they forgot to buy them or something, ha. I don't recall exactly, but they were very apologetic. Anywho, it was a great time, even though I THINK this MIGHT have been the quote-along with one really obnoxious guy sitting right behind us, quoting everything BEFORE it was actually being said, even though everyone got warned about that before the show. Some people! Still, like I said, a great time. I think the Action Pack folks even shot some confetti out of a cannon at this one. It was pretty cool!

 And I'm not going to explain Ghostbusters to you. It is obvious what the movie is about from the title, right? Tell me you get it.  And, if you haven't seen it yet, PLEASE go put it on right now, because that's ridiculous.

October 27th, and we were back at the Ritz again! I think the only times I've been downtown in the past two years have been when I was going to the Ritz. I really need to discover other things to do in Austin, but what can I say? I'm a movie and cartoon guy. If I have the spare cash, I wanna use it at the Drafthouse. Now, I think I mentioned that my sister was driving a lot of the Drafthouse visits of the past few months, and this next one is one of her all-time favorite films.

I'm not going to say too much about this one, because it wasn't a special type of screening beyond the fact that it's a Sci-Fi classic. I love the movie myself, but it was a very moving experience for my sister, as Sigourney Weaver is something of an idol of hers. This was pretty cool, because she happened to be the special guest at EPCOT Center during our recent visit, and we got to see her live-in person hosting the Candlelight Ceremony there. More on that in a coming article though (yes, it's coming, it's coming).

ALIEN is, if you are unfamiliar, the movie that started a subgenre I was never a big fan of: the dark spaceship movie with an alien monster chasing you through tunnels. There are a million tedious copycats, and some are set on Earth in sewers or caves, or in other places. Not the kind of monster movies I dig, but ALIEN and ALIENS are pretty darn epic. I'll have to watch the sequels a few more times before I comment on them though. Anyway, we naturally enjoyed this screening greatly, all except for one thing. The print was totally unacceptable. I mean, it looked BAD. Really, this print wasn't good enough to be using anymore, and we would have enjoyed it more if they'd just projected the DVD. And I only say that because the print was THAT bad.

Now, if you celebrate Christmas at all, I know you know the next film we went to see...

"Christmas Vacation" is one of the top Christmas movies out there, and in my book, that's saying a lot. I'm a holiday nut, as you all should know, and this is among my top faves. Of course, "A Christmas Story" holds strong at the top of my list, and I admit I was disappointed that I didn't get to catch that one at the Drafthouse this year (they DID play it, and it might have been a quote along too), but my mom was in town, and I think she might like "Christmas Vacation" just a bit more, so we took her to that one. However, it was a quote-along, and that's really not her thing. Plus, she wasn't feeling well halfway through it (my mom is still recovering from cancer treatments), but she picked up after getting something to it, and the evening managed to be salvaged. We still got to enjoy quoting some of our favorite lines, and let me say, this film has some great ones! In fact, maybe I was wrong, maybe THIS was the best Quote-Along we went to so far, now that I think about it! And maybe THIS one the one with the jerk sitting behind us who kept trying to say everything ahead of time. I'm really not sure, ha.

At any rate, this was a truly festive experience! The evening started out with an eggnog chugging contest with some very fine lady contestants (don't hold me to that; again, I could be mixing it up with a contest at a different quote-along, ha). I don't envy those ladies, either. They had to chug eggnog and then go back to their table where they probably had drinks and meals waiting for them. I just feel like I would be pretty full after chugging eggnog, but then, I've never done it. I drink about a cup a year (though I indulged a bit this year since I deemed my Indy mug the perfect eggnog glass).

Of course, the contest was followed by the quote-along experience of the film, and as I said, it was a truly great time! There's nothing like a theater full of people on downtown 6th St shouting, "Squirrrrrelllll!!!!!" in unison! We were also provided with Santa hats and glow sticks to make the night complete. The Drafthouse does a lot of great screenings for the Christmas season, and I always want to attend all of them. Of course, I usually can't, but I'm glad I made it out to this one!

So, how do you top all those great quote-alongs and oldschool classics? You hang out with the star of Gremlins, of course!

Yep, thanks to the good people at the Austin Horror Society (I really need to look into this group sometime, if I can ever spare a moment from work and going to the Drafthouse), with the cooperation of the Alamo, of course, I was able to take this geeky picture of myself holding a toy and looking giddy next to the star of one of my favorite films of all-time, "Gremlins" (and Waxwork! Woohoo!!!). Yes, that's Mr. Zach Galligan, who was kind enough to sign the back of my Gizmo's ear and even offered to take a photo with me, which I really wasn't planning on when I grabbed my last clean shirt before heading out that evening (if my hoodie wasn't zipped up, you'd see "KISS" emblazened across the front of it).

This Lakeline screening was a very last minute decision for my sis and I, but a must since we are both huge "Gremlins" fans. Like I said, if you're not careful, you can easily miss great events at the Alamo. You pretty much have to visit their website daily, and I bet you'll still miss stuff! Ha. Often, they have celeb guests do Q&A's after screenings of the films they made. As I mentioned before, I attended one in the summer with Mr. Don Bluth and his partner in crime, Gary Goldman, which I did a thorough write-up on, and one of my first visits to the Drafthouse was to see "Elvira's Haunted Hills" for the first time, with Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson in attendance. She signed an autograph for me and one for my alter-ego, Monty, as well. Pretty sure I've got one of them posted on this website in the Moonlight Movie Show section. Man, I need to do something with that section soon. Anyway, I've also missed a lot of great celeb guests since I've moved up here. I mean, they have them all the time! But I certainly look forward to meeting many more! Maybe I'll be on the other side of the autograph table someday too, ha. I've done it at comic-cons, so ya never know...

Anyway, it was awesome to see Zach Galligan in person, a really great guy, and of course, before his excellent Q&A session (in which he talked about meeting, working with, and kissing Phoebe Cates in her prime, *sigh*), we watched the film, a holiday classic! Funnily enough, I saw this movie at the Drafthouse last year too! It was a noteworthy night, because I went with both my sis AND Kiki. 

And, no, I did NOT mention to Zach Galligan that I dressed as Billy Pelzer for Halloween one year. That might have been.... awkward.

Speaking of awkward...

Listen, this is a good movie. It really is. I mean, the songs are really great. It's got Batman in it... It's really, actually, pretty damn good. Yeah, it's cult following is mainly girls, but that also meant I was surrounded by a lot of hot women, right? Right?  Anyway, it's a Disney movie. I love most Disney movies from the early 90's and before. And, besides that, of course this was my sister's idea, ha. I generally prefer to watch this movie at home, though I did see it in the theaters a couple of times when it initially came out. Hey, the songs are damn good! 

Talking about the songs, this was not a "Quote-Along", it was a "Sing-Along"! And it was fantastic! I have to admit, I knew nearly all the words to every song. I love Disney music. So sue me. Yeah, I'm sure most people there thought I was gay, and it didn't help that they gave us all vinyl biker hats to wear and told us they were newsboy caps, but I had a good time. My mom was along for this one as well, and we all three really enjoyed it! They gave us a nice booklet for singing along, though, like I said, I didn't really need it, ha. 

For our most recent "Quote-Along" though, we finally found ourselves down at the Slaughter Lane Drafthouse. It's quite a drive for us, as we live over by the Domain, which is closest to the Village. Though, most of the time we go to the Lakeline Drafthouse. A couple years ago though, we actually lived on Slaughter, and their new Drafthouse is really nice, though I can never find any parking there! Ha. Love the killer plant theme inside! 

For this one, well, there was no way we could avoid seeing this, though maybe a Quote-Along wasn't the best choice. This is truly one of my favorite movies ever, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", though, as I think everyone there came to learn, there are some movies that are soooo amazing you get too lost in them to remember to quote-along.

We had a ball with the cap guns and paper whips! The giant beach ball game the whole audience got to play before the show was amazing, and the whole thing truly was like a big party. There was also our server, Jade. God, she was beautiful, and such a sweetheart! And, there were times even, when, yes, we the audience managed to actually quote the movie a bit, but for the most part, everyone was just too caught up in one of the greatest movies ever made! This movie just demands too much respect for quoting along with it. This is, if you don't know it, the original Indiana Jones movie, in which the adventuring archaeologist goes on a quest to find the mystical Lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can. It's supernatural power could make whoever possesses it unstoppable. Truly one of my very favorite films! This was still a great experience, though one downside two the whole thing about the audience not really participating much in the quoting (which is more fun in comedies and movies full of one-liners anyway), is that they were using this screening to judge whether or not to do the other Indy films as Quote-Alongs too. Surely they won't now, considering that hardly any quoting happened. The bad part about that is, there's one Indy movie perfect for a quote-along: The much more comical and zany "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". Oh well, I will continue quoting along to that one at home, I guess. And, ya never know, maybe they WILL decide to do it as a quote-along after all.

Finally, I come back to the Lakeline Drafthouse and my most recent movie screening of the last 5 months, and it was neither quote-along nor sing-along, nor special guest event, but rather, like Teen Wolf and Alien, just a great, classic film. Granted, this one maybe should be better known than it is. Even I kinda write this one off as a chick-flick sometimes, and to some degree, yeah, it kinda sorta is, but not entirely. I mean, Drafthouse had it under the heading of "Tough Guy Cinema", and I can see it like that too. I don't know what makes a lot of us view "Streets of Fire" as a chick flick, really. Is it because the lead is a pretty boy with no missing body parts whatsoever? Maybe it's the melodrama that runs thick throughout? Maybe there's just something about the film's bizarro setting, though it's also one of the things that's so cool about it. Like "The Watchmen", "Streets of Fire" seems to take place in a parallel universe, an alternate reality, a world in which the style of the 80's clashes with the style of the 50's, and not necessarily in a Stray Cats, Billy Joel, later years Happy Days kinda way. It's weird. There's something, yeah, a little girly about the whole thing, in a gritty way though, and there's also something pretty cool about it, when taken in moderation. I mean, unlike my sister, who of course is the resident hardcore fan of this one, I wouldn't really want to watch "Streets of Fire" in a loop on any given day. Now and then though, it's a pretty good watch.

Plus, Diane Lane looks pretty amazing in this one. She plays a famous pop singer from a seedy part of the city who makes the mistake of going back there one night for a benefit concert. She is immediately kidnapped by psycho biker gang leader Willem Dafoe.

Below is the hero, tough guy ex-boyfriend of Diane Lane's character who goes on a mission to rescue her, and as you can see, he's more suited to being in a Nicholas Sparks movie than being the next Ash or Snake. Ooh, look at Diane Lane, all young and wet there...

What the movie dishes out in lady serving hunks and melodrama, it makes up for with the fascinating world it's set in, the excellent if dated music, and the presence of Rick Moranis, even if he can get a bit annoying in this. But, hey, Bill Paxton is in it too, and, look, Diane Lane, all young and wet. 

I wasn't sure if I was going to have a great time at this one, but I did. And my sister definitely did. And on top of that, god, our server, Ryanne, she was an absolute angel! How do I meet one of these gorgeous waitresses? And where do I take them if I ever do get a date with one? I can't bring them back to the Drafthouse! Ha. Can I take them to a different Drafthouse?

Anyway, that's about it for now. Guess I got to see a lot in the past few months. I know I missed a lot too, like my all time favorite film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit! And Goonies! And a Superman-themed Cartoon Cereal Party! And a bunch of Ghibli movies this very month! How I wanted to see Kiki's Delivery Service on the big screen! And, I only just found out about another Cartoon Cereal party they had in January! They showed Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers! But, I still got to see a lot of great stuff, and hopefully will see a lot more in the months to come. This is why I'm such a nut for the Alamo Drafthouse, even if I've been known to complain a bit about a few things here and there too. It's a pretty awesome place to go, and you definitely should check it out if you've never been! And, tell 'em Monty Moonlight sent ya! They will have no idea what you're talking about.

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