Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Entertainment
2010: THE YEAR OF FREE STUFF

You know how a kleptomaniac will steal stuff regardless of whether he can afford it? It's the thrill of slipping that shiny bauble in his pants and wondering whether he will get caught. Or remember the lengths that J.R. Ewing would go to pursue another woman and then the minute he "got" her, the attraction was gone? Again, it was the thrill of the chase that drove his indiscretions. Well, in my own way, I made a resolution back at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 to feed my thrill-need. I basically made it my "New Year's Resolution" for 2010. My method, however, involved a different kind of thrill. My thrill-seeking was based on seeing how many movies and/or events I could get myself into without having to pay for tickets!

I had already made it into a few of these things before, like the LAND OF THE LOST advanced screener (with Marty Krofft in attendance) and the old defunct Wizard World convention in Dallas. So, I was already familiar with some of the tactics for getting free stuff. But this year I was going to be more vigilent and pro-active in keeping my eyes and ears open to opportunities. First thing I did was sign up for various advance movie screening services such as (but not limited to) GoFoBo (Go For Box-Office), Gordon and the Whale, Soulciti, and College Movie Review. I've kinda learned the system for getting these passes now. I can almost always score a pass for a movie, if it is offered (not every movie gets a screener in Austin). In fact, I scored a number of passes that I wound up having to skip for various personal reasons (e.g., LITTLE FOCKERS, HOW DO YOU KNOW, 127 HOURS, CONVICTION, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY).


The thing to remember about these various advance screening passes is that most of them don't "guarantee" admission. It's sort of like showing up for a flight with a boarding pass in hand and being told that they "overbooked" the flight and you have to take "standby" status on another flight, the screening organizers always give out more passes than the theater has seats in an attempt to have a full audience. As a result, it is always a gamble on whether I will get there early enough to make the cut and get in. As a general rule, if I can get there at least 2 hours before the film starts, I've never missed getting in. But as soon as I whittle it down to the 90-minute or 1 hour before, it becomes a crapshoot that kinda depends on the perceived popularity of the movie. If it's a 1/2 hour before the movie, then it's a guaranteed miss. What I will NOT do is one of those "camp-out" kind of things, which I've seen people do. That's absurd and moronic. We're talking about saving $9. Not worth giving up a day of my life for that. But I'll happily give up a couple of hours just for the thrill of expectation and, in the end, I may get a free movie out of it. Most of these events were me +1 guest. Some of them were just lonesome me by myself, but usually I can scrounge up at least one unlucky soul *cough* who gets stuck sitting next to me.


I was also able to parlay a little email luck into a concert and a TRUE BLOOD event (more details below). My role as a "respected" *snortle* freelance comic book/graphic novel reviewer into review copies of such amazing books as the SOUL STEALER and GREEN WOMAN graphic novels and DC Comics' ABSOLUTE PLANETARY 2-Volume set.

Presented chronologically are my 2010 freebies in pursuit of fulfilling my 2010 Resolution to do as much "free stuff" as I could get.

January 5
EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES
I had no idea what this movie was about and was surprised how interesting it actually was. It plays like a TV movie-of-the-week, but the caliber of the acting with Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser elevated it. Plus, the conflict between science for the public good and corporate funding has never been directly and specifically addressed like it was in this true story.







January 7
BRAD PAISLEY w/MIRANDA LAMBERT
AT&T Center, San Antonio
This one was a radio contest for a pair of tickets on KVET. Total chance in an email drawing. Had to take a long lunch one day to drive all the way from Salado down on Congress Ave. in Austin to the KVET studios to pick up the tickets. Great concert and that Miranda Lambert is a li'l spitfire.

February 28
THE WOLFMAN
This movie premiere was hosted by Aint-It-Cool with producer Scott Stuber on hand for a Q/A afterward. This was an email lottery contest and I don't "think" I got any special favoritism for being "Prof. Challenger" on the comic book reviews side of AICN. But if I did? BOOO-yaaaa! Besides the complimentary admission, we were each given a cap, a t-shirt, and a mini-sheet movie poster plus we were each served 2 lamb skewers in a raspberry sauce with a hand-made moon pie for dessert and your choice of themed beers. I chose 1 Coors Light (a Silver Bullet) and something called "Full Moon Pale Ale" in a bottle. The "Full Moon Pale Ale" was realllllyyyy bitter, but hey, it was free.
Oh, and probably the only real thing of interest in the Q/A with producer Scott Stuber was that the film was almost directed by Guillermo del Toro but when HELLBOY 2 was greenlit he had to step aside. But, that following del Toro's work on THE HOBBIT, he was planning to direct Universal's new FRANKENSTEIN film as a sister-film to this one. That was less than a year ago. Since then, del Toro has dropped out of THE HOBBIT and Peter Jackson is back "in" and I haven't heard anything more about this supposed FRANKENSTEIN film since THE WOLFMAN kinda bombed at the theater (even though the movie was actually a pretty good update).

March 8
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
This one was different. This one I got into through the HOT TUB TIME MACHINE website which had set up a viral marketing tactic of offering a limited number of "HOT TUB TIME MACHINE" screening parties around the country. I got us in to one of the parties at the Alamo Drafthouse. Lots of fun. Filthy, stupid movie. But I have to admit I laughed a lot. Notice the bad cellphone snap of me and my long-suffering wife in the background joining the stars in the hot tub.

March 31
CLASH OF THE TITANS
This one was in 3D. For free, I thought it was pretty decent although the 3D was awful. I came out and encouraged people not to spring for the 3D if they decided to check it out.











April 16-18
C2E2
I had never made a trek out-of-state before to attend a comic convention. The "Mecca" of the convention circuit is pretty well-known to be the massive San Diego Comicon. The odds, however, of me ever getting over there to the ever-expanding Conventionsaurus in San Diego make it highly unlikely that I will ever make it. But the same group that organizes the New York Comicon decided to start, basically a competitor to San Diego but set in Chicago rather than on a coastal metropolis and 2010 was set to be the inaugural year. The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. This was an opportunity to be in on the ground-floor of a new major comic convention and receiving a free pass to the 3-day event as a representative of the press for Aint-It-Cool and I took it. That turned out to be the highlight of 2010.

April 20
THE BACK-UP PLAN
This was the worst movie I saw last year. I also realized I must be completely out-of-step with the masses, because as I was groaning at yet another stupid gag involving pregnant females and their bodily fluids, the audience was howling. When I walked out and the representative asked what I thought about the movie, I said "It was awful" and immediately this lumbering trailer-park reject exiting behind me sniffed in derision as if I had just said her grandmother wears combat boots. She blurts out "I LOOOVED it! It was GREAT!" Yeah, whatever, Roseanne.

May 4
IRON MAN 2
This screening was won on the Facebook page for KEYE-TV. Right as I was getting in the car to drive home from work I checked my Facebook feed on my cellphone and saw the KEYE post. They had 5 trivia questions about Iron Man for passes and a bonus question to win an Iron Man Nerf rifle. So, using my phone, I quickly answered all 6 questions and was first to win the passes and the only one to win the Nerf gun!

Oddly enough, this should have been the hardest to get in to and I barrelled over there trying to get there in time. I was running late, so I knew it was probably a lost cause at this point, but for some reason there were only about 30 or so people already there. Listening in while we waited, I caught from the people in charge that some sort of mistake was made and a whole bunch of passes never got given away. So we got choice seats and the theater wasn't packed like a sardine can.

May 6
DATE NIGHT
Austin got a brand-new upscale theater called Gold Class Cinemas. I joined up and got a free ticket to this dinner, drinks, and a movie place. As opposed to the Alamo Drafthouse, which I consider it a way to make a movie-outing into a party, this fancy place is a way to make a movie-outing into a real date. So, it seemed a perfect opportunity to claim this free ticket to go on a date and see DATE NIGHT with Steve Carrell and Tiny Fey. Very funny and what a venue to see it.



May 9
LETTERS TO JULIET
This was a special free "Mother's Day" showing of the chick-flick LETTERS TO JULIET. I scored 4 passes to it, so I took my wife, my daughter, and my mother-in-law to see it. It was a fun experience and, hey, the movie's actually pretty good.





June 1
TRUE BLOOD ULTIMATE FAN EXPERIENCE
This was a sucker gig for me. I signed up on Facebook to be one of the lucky few to get to re-watch the TRUE BLOOD second-season ender, but this time on the big screen. Following the screening of the episode, there was a live Q/A with the creator of the show and the cast. I also got a TRUE BLOOD shwag-bag filled with a copy of one of the novels, some postcards, a shoulder-bag, and a bottle of "True Blood." Plus, they snapped a shot of me going into the screening and posted it on their fan page, but I can't find it anymore. But was able to track down my cellphone snap of the shwag.

July 29
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
One of the funniest movies of year, I started giggling during the opening credits and laughed throughout.









September 13
THE TOWN
This movie was the surprise of the year for me. It was a gripping thriller with great acting and superb directing. In fact, I was so taken by the director I waited for the end credits to see who it was and I was speechless when it said it was directed by...Ben Affleck. Hang up the acting shoes, Ben. You're a damn good director.



September 18
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE
This one was in 3D and was one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. Beyond the eye-popping visuals, it turned out to be a kids' movie that I would recommend to kids of all ages. It never compromises the story or danger or even death to cater to adults' misperceptions of what is "appropriate" for kids. This was an instant classic as far as I am concerned.

October 5
NEVER LET ME GO
Almost didn't make it in to this one. It got to the point where they were filling seats for members of the press that had not shown up and we made the cut. So, we actually got perfect seats. This movie was the second biggest surprise of the year for me. It was marketed vaguely as a love story and I went in to the screening with absolutely no idea what the film was supposed to be about. What I got was an intense movie with much to say about what it means to be human and what it means to be in love. It is depressing, but not in that "cancer movie" kind of way. It is a movie about the fact that being human means that true happiness is often grasping at wafting vapors and that death is always the goal line. But, it was very thought-provoking, beautiful, and intellectually stimulating even as it triggers that sense of unease inside.

October 14
JACK-ASS 3D
This was the first screener I actually attempted to get into that I couldn't get into. I guess it was always a lost cause when I realize it was (1) at the Alamo Drafthouse, (2) in a university town, (3) it's a JACK-ASS movie! So, we paid to see SECRETARIAT instead.




October 30
MEGAMIND
We saw this one in 3D and it was side-splitting funny. I will own this one on DVD for sure.


November 8
MORNING GLORY
This movie was very good. Harrison Ford is making some interesting choices lately, and I'm liking them. It's lightweight, charming, and funny. Kind of felt like a throwback to another time in terms of the completely irony and sarcasm free storytelling.





November 12-14
AUSTIN COMICON (Wizard World)
I wrote a lengthy column covering my experiences at AUSTIN COMICON for AICN (and a lengthier version here on my blog). But, I did get my 3-day ticket free as the press representative for AICN.

December 9
BLACK SWAN
This was a maxed-out showing of easily one of the best films of the year. I will be shocked if this movie is not nominated for Best Picture.









December 11
YOGI BEAR
Just as goofy as you would expect. Nothing more or less than what I expected out of a YOGI BEAR movie. However, there's no way I would've paid to see this in 3D, so getting to go to a free showing on a Saturday morning in 3D was just plain nice. There were representatives there from the Texas Park Rangers. That was cute. Also, a couple of people from the Jellystone Park campgrounds up around New Braunfels were there handing out brochures. The movie folks were passing out Yogi Bear suckers and wrapping paper.

December 14
TRUE GRIT
Last free movie of the year and also one of the best films of the year. The theater for this screening was way on the south end of Austin, so we were really pushing to get there in time and it was close. Once again, we made the cut as they were filling the seats of members of the press who did not show up. As a result, we got perfect seats. If TRUE GRIT doesn't get a Best Picture nod this year, that will be a travesty.

Now, onward and upward to 2011. My resolution this year is to see a bunch of free movies again but THIS year I want to try and review them that night! We will see if I can meet that resolution starting this week with THE GREEN HORNET advance screening!

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