Shockingly, I missed my 11AM screening by a nose yesterday morning, so I decided to catch up on some much-needed caffeine consumption and writing before meeting up with some of the Cine gang for some delish cheese enchiladas at The Rio Grande. After lunch, we followed the herd of people heading into the 4:20 screening of Super High Me, director Michael Blieden's documentary about comedian Doug Benson's quest to spend 30 solid days smoking (legal in California, medical grade) marijuana from wake-and-bake to bedtime. While we at Cinematical would, of course, never advocate the use of illegal drugs, the concept of buying weed in a pristine shop, where they offer a veritable cornucopia of weed choices for your medical needs, was certainly intriguing.
The movie was pretty darn funny from start to finish; the crowd response was certainly positive throughout, though whether that was because a sizable percentage of the audience was engaging in their own scientific experiments on the effects of weed on the enjoyment of a movie about being stoned, or just because the movie itself was funny, is hard to say.
Here's a gallery of SXSW scene pics for you ... more of the post after the jump.
Following the stoner flick, we headed over to catch a screening of The Promotion, starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly. I'm glad I made time to catch this flick, because so far it's been my favorite of the fest. This film is everything a good indie film should be: a simple storyline that never beats you about the head and shoulders, with solid acting and some of the best editing cuts and music cuts I've seen recently. The film is about two assistant managers at a grocery store chain vying for one position as manager of a soon-to-open new storefront.
I went into the film expecting to see a comedy with the two leads pulling all sorts of dirty tricks on each other as their competition for the coveted position escalates, but the film is so much more than that, never resorting to cheap laughs or mean-spiritedness. Both characters are likeable, both make mistakes and missteps and feel badly about it, and the feel of the film overall is just fun and enjoyable throughout.
Our last film of the night was a midnight screening of Dance of the Dead, aka "that zombie prom flick" at my favorite of the SXSW venues, the Alamo Ritz. I know I said I was off the milkshakes after the first one, but I decided purely in the interest of objective, scientific fairness that I should give the strawberry shake a try tonight, and boy was it good. But that's it, I mean it. I will drink no more milkshakes at SXSW, mine or anyone else's.
As for the film, it was a rollicking good time. I'm not a huge horror flick chick, but I had so much fun at this film, and I'm glad I stayed up to see it. The film is directed by Gregg Bishop and written by Joe Ballarini, and I just have to compliment both of them and the entire cast and crew on a great zombie flick. The film is about a zombie epidemic on prom night caused by a power plant leaking some sort of mysterious goop that animates the dead. Unlike a lot of zombie movies where the zombies are slow-moving, somewhat moronic creatures, in Dance of the Dead, the zombies are wicked fast and have a definite attitude.
The special effects are fantastic -- there's a graveyard sequence where the undead are literally launching themselves into the air out of their graves that was pretty spectacular, and I think that just about the entire population of Rome, Georgia, where the film was shot, must have been extras in the film, because I don't think I've ever seen so many drooling, snapping zombies on-screen at once. At a particular point later in the film, they shot off a confetti cannon inside the theater -- I don't know whose idea that was, but it was brilliant. I could definitely see this film becoming a midnight-screening cult favorite, with audience members showing up costumed as zombies or splattered in fake blood. Great pick for a midnight screening at this fest -- when it comes your way, don't miss it.
Perhaps the oddest moment of the evening was after the screening, when the cast and crew and assorted audience members were hanging out in front of the Alamo figuring out where to go next. It was 2AM or so at that point; out of the blue the police showed up, and this cop came swaggering through the crowd shining his annoyingly bright flashlight into people's faces, yelling at folks to "Get out of the street! Get out of the street!" Then when people did as he asked and got out of the street, he changed his tune to "Get off the sidewalk! If you don't get off the sidewalk you WILL be arrested!" This kind of confused folks -- I mean, it was 2AM and we were tired, and we'd just seen a great zombie flick, so it took a while for everyone to figure out that these contradictory instructions really meant, "Get the hell out of here now or be arrested." When several cop cars showed up, though, people got the idea and dissipated pretty quickly.
Still, it was all rather disconcerting -- no one in that crowd was drunk or rowdy, unlike the drunken frat boys we saw hauling stumbling girls down the sidewalk and yelling the frat-boy mating call ("Whoooooooo!"), so we were a bit confused as to what exactly we were doing wrong -- the Q&A had just let out, folks were figuring out where to go next, and the guy was acting like we were rioting or something. Anyhow. Maybe he just needed a five-dollar milkshake to put him in a better mood.
I was up way too late last night, considering I have five films to see today, but I have a gallery coming with some SXSW scene picks, and our team here at the fest will continue bringing you more news and reviews from SXSW, so keep checking back for the latest.