The Screening Secret Handshake

Once upon a time, I thought that in order to see an advance screening of a movie certain things had to occur.  A) You had to live in LA/Hollywood.  Or 2) You had to know someone on the inside.  Or D) You had to be lucky.

In my younger days, I’d only ever seen “Stay & See” screenings.  That’s where you’d pay to see one movie and then be allowed to stay and see a screening of a not yet released film, or you’d pay to see a screening of a soon to be released film and then get to stay and see some movie that’s already been out a couple of weeks.  The last of these I went to was in 1993, and it was Son In Law (yeah, the Pauly Shore movie) coupled with either Life With Mikey or For Love Or Money (both Michael J. Fox movies).  I can’t remember which was the screening and which was the released film.  But it doesn’t matter.  Anyway, a few years ago, I finally realized number 2 from above and met someone on the inside, someone who worked for a movie promotion company.  Through them I got to see a few movies, but there were times they couldn’t get passes, or couldn’t get enough for everyone.  But at some of these screenings, I met people who let me know that while number 2 was good, D was better and you could minimize the luck part of the equation.

People have asked me, in person, in email and on message board, “How do you to see so many movie screenings?”  Partly because I just want to, and partly because of the FTC ruling, I’ll tell you.  The answer is… I Googled.  Obviously, I don’t use Google to find passes anymore, but it is where I started.  “free screenings” was what I searched for and it lead me to a number of really awful websites and blogs, but by doing the legwork and looking through many of those facades, I found a few places, legitimate places, to acquire passes to free movie screenings.

Before I go on, keep in mind that I live in Atlanta, and these sites are the ones that best service me as someone who lives in Atlanta.  If you Google and search yourself, you can probably find other sites that better service where you live.

Further, if you do get passes to movie screenings, remember, you are a guest and are getting to see a movie for free.  So, don’t be an asshole.  Always put your phone on silent, don’t answer it, don’t text.  Don’t talk during the movies.  Don’t cut in line.  Don’t let twenty friends cut in line with you in front of the people behind you who managed to get there on time (you know, letting one or two people join you in line is fine, but when you have to ask the line to move back and make room, you’ve gone overboard).  Be kind, be courteous, and enjoy your free movie.

That said…

My current favorite place is Shakefire.  They do reviews for movies, music, TV and video games.  They also have columnists who occasionally talk about other stuff.  They have a community built around their forums.  And of course, they give out passes for movie screenings.  You have to join their site to have a chance, and they seem to favor people who participate in the forums over people who are just there to leech passes.  But hey, if you are there for the passes, the least you can do is go post about movies you’ve seen and what you thought.  The whole point of screenings is to get the word out anyway, so, get the word out.

CHUD is another place on the net for reviews and such, and they also give out passes and do other contests, but you’ll have to work a little more for these as they usually ask a question or two you need to answer in order to enter.

Film Metro is a good site for screenings, but they don’t give them out.  Instead you have to keep an eye out for when they become available and claim them.  Sometimes you get to know when, sometimes it just happens.

Another big player is GoFoBo.  This is a site actually run by a couple of movie promotion companies.  With them, sometimes screening just open up and you can grab a pass or two.  Mostly, however, you need a reservation code.  Codes are given to various websites or radio stations or newspapers or other outlets as part of promotions intended to drive traffic.  People used to post GoFoBo codes all over the internet, but GoFoBo has been cracking down lately and convincing people to post links to the partner websites instead.  Finding links for these partners is sort of hit and miss searching, but one place that seems to get a steady flow of them is this thread over at FatWallet.  The FatWallet thread is also a good place to find out which radio stations or other websites in your area give out movie passes.  That link will always take you to the last post in the thread, so you may have to read back to see anything recent you may have missed.  Do them a favor, and make sure you actually visit partner sites and look around, the codes are meant to drive traffic, and a couple minutes of your time is worth the free movie pass you just got.  GoFoBo also runs groups on Facebook, just search there for screenings or gofobo.

Also don’t forget to check out local publications like Creative Loafing or other print media who often have pass pickups at their offices, or will post ads about pass pickups at local businesses.

Anyway, there you have it.  I check those sites about once a day, maybe twice, and in general I end up seeing a screening a week (though sometimes there are weeks with none, and sometimes there are weeks with three or four or more).  To me, the key here is that if you go to see screenings, make sure you tell people about the movies you saw.  Tell friends, post on message boards, write a blog.  The screenings are meant to get the word out about the movie, so, get the word out.

Movie Round-Up: October 2nd, 2009

Whip It:

One of my guilty pleasures a few years ago was Rollergirls on A&E.  There is something about people trying to get a sport off the ground, a sport they clearly enjoy and they want to impart that joy to others.  I got that same feeling watching the movie Leatherheads a while back about how professional football wasn’t originally taken seriously.  Anyway, this movie really captures the sport well, and the way many people probably look at the girls who decide to pursue it.  It was fun and funny, and even exciting during the bouts.  Definitely a thumbs up from me.

The Invention of Lying:

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the premise of the film is it takes place in a world where no one has ever told a lie.  One thing to keep in mind before you go see it is that a lie isn’t just what most people consider lies, like telling your boss you are sick when you aren’t or pretending you have a job you don’t to impress a girl.  Every fiction book ever written is a lie.  Every exaggeration of the truth is a lie.  So now, imagine a world without fiction, without storytelling as we know it, without any stretching of the truth.  This is the world of The Invention of Lying.  A world where people go to the movies to see a man in a comfy chair narrate the factual events of historical periods.  I found this movie to be incredibly funny, and Ricky Gervais pulls off the whole thing really well.  However, I can easily see how some people wouldn’t like it, especially religious folks, because, you see, unless you believe that the Bible is a 100% factually accurate depiction of events exactly as they happened, that make it fiction, and fiction is lying, and lying doesn’t exist until Ricky’s character invents it…


The only movie opening this week I didn’t see a screening of.  I had the opportunity (Thanks Greg and Neil!) but decided to see Whip It instead because, frankly, I’ll always pay to see zombies.  And this is the latest George Romero “I want to make comments on society and don’t care if my movie is boring or stupid” zombie film.  This is going to be funny, and disgusting, and a blast to watch, I can just tell.  So this weekend, Zombieland will be earning my $10.

Movie Round-Up: September 18th, 2009

Love Happens:

So I’m looking at the list of this week’s releases and I say to myself, “What is Love Happens?”  I hadn’t heard of it. No commercials, no previews. And it’s not like it is some low budget thing starring no names. Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart are in there.  Anyway, it looks like a nice romantic comedy drama thing. I’ll probably see it, but maybe not at the theater.

Jennifer’s Body:

I love horror films, and I dig Diablo Cody’s writing style, so I want to see this. But it does have Megan Fox in it, who I think is one of the worst actors in the biz today who gets parts purely on her looks, and I’m on the fence.  Sorry Diablo, I’ll probably be waiting for DVD on this one.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs:

This movie looks like a lot of fun for the whole family.  But not being a Pixar film means I won’t be rushing to see it.  DVD.

The Informant!:

I got to see this film at a free screening.  It is… interesting.  More a character study than an actual story, it stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, an executive at ADM in the early 90’s who blows the whistle on lysine price fixing.  But its not about the price fixing as much as it is how Mark goes about the whistle blowing.  It turns out that he’s bipolar and an embezzler and a fairly compulsive lier.  The unfolding of his actions and deeds and the performance by Damon is the reason to see this film.  It is, as I said, interesting, but not a particularly good film.  You won’t be on the edge of your seat, you won’t be howling with laughter, but you’ll be raising an eyebrow and snickering as you watch the whole situation spiral out of control.  I’m not sure I’d want to pay full price for this, but its definitely worth a DVD rental, or even a matinee if you are into this sort of film.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day One

The day began as no day should… waiting in line for registration.  However, once let inside, well, lets just say that a couple hundred geeks in a room being forced to walk a maze of a line can be pretty hilarious.  Some people shot video of it, I’ll provide a link if I ever see it posted online.

After a spot of breakfast I headed off to the “Write a Story in an Hour” panel, which I visit every year, because its funny to hear people shout out story elements and craft a beautifully weird story… not by the panel, mind you, they tend to ignore the really out there stuff, but there is always a group of us taking the best ignored suggested, like a typewriter possessed by the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson that requires a bottle of liquor to be poured on it before it will function, and making our own ridiculous plot.

Then it was off to the Fallen Earth panel where we got to hear that people who work on games tend to like working on game, and that crafting is the center of the game, and that they have no current plans for a series of Fallen Earth novels, but everyone would like to see that happen.

Next up… the Crypt of Trailers, where we watch movie trailers and make snappy jokes, like how the new Twilight movie, New Moon, would be much better if they just added a Predator, or some Aliens… yeah, Aliens vs. Predator vs. Twilight.  Hollywood? Are you listening?

After that I got to sit and listen to a panel of writer’s talk about how fun it is to destroy the human race in the Apocalypse Writer’s Roundtable.  John Ringo, S.M. Stirling, Kevin J. Anderson, Walter Jon Williams, Michael Z. Williamson, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  They were a very talkative and funny bunch, while also being very knowledgable and open.  Excellent panel.

Down into the bowels of the Hyatt I went to join the wife for a panel on Steampunk.  Steampunk, if you didn’t know, is the new Goth, or perhaps the new Vampires.  Everyone is steampunking it up, and it is awesome.  I’ll post some photos later as I take some around the con.  Beautiful stuff.

The third rule of Dragon*Con (the first being: shower, and the second being: sometimes you must go down to go up – if you’ve been, you know what that means) is don’t forget to eat.  Nothing ruins a party like drinking on an empty stomach and passing out early, so remember to feed yourself.  In accordance with this rule, we took a short break for sandwiches and chips.

With a full belly, I hit the Machinima panel.  I have an odd relationship with machinima.  The idea behind it is very cool – to take a game/game engine/game art assets and make a movie out of it.  Some of the best machinima, however, is clearly rendered in professional tools just using assets, while items rendered in the game engine often look stilted and of poorer quality, especially when it comes to characters talking.  Anyway, the result is that I generally don’t like the machinima people actually create, but I respect the ideas and effort that goes into their creation.  That said, Ignis Solus is just awesome:

I decided to end my day of panels with the Zombie Walk, which in hindsight was a poor choice.  Not enough zombies showed for it to be really great, and I never did complete my Francis from Left 4 Dead outfit, so it ended up being about 20 zombies walking through the con… I gave up and left them half way through.  Maybe next year.

The way a day at Dragon*Con should end is with parties, but I lost my enthusiasm for the Zombie Prom, and the line for the Time Travelers Ball was too long, so I hung out with some friends for a bit and then made my way to the All-Night (5am) Global Agenda party where I played absolutely zero Global Agenda.  Instead, I spent a good hour or more, maybe two rockin’ the mic in Rock Band.  Thank you Atlanta!  Good night!

Day One at Dragon*Con is a wrap!

Movie Round-Up: August 21st, 2009

Inglourious Basterds:

I’m on the fence about this film.  As such, I probably won’t pay $10 to see it.  It just looks like it might be a tad too over the top. *shrug* I’ll wait for DVD.

Post Grad:

I got to see a screening of this, and I’m glad, because now I don’t have to pay to see it.  I’m not saying the movie is bad, it is just not great.  It is about a girl who goes to college and dreams of being a book editor, only she doesn’t get the job she was after, followed by not getting any job in her field, and now she’s at home again trying to figure out what her next move is.  Alexis Bledel does a fine job as this girl, but she just doesn’t stand out.  And the plot really isn’t a mystery… from the very beginning you, the audience, know what she’s supposed to do and the journey to her finding out isn’t all that exciting.  Overall, I thought it would be funnier.


I really had no idea what to expect with this film.  I knew it was a kid’s movie, and I knew it was a Robert Rodriguez film (a director who keeps jumping back and forth from very adult to very kid movies), and I knew it was about a wishing rock.  I probably spent a good 70% of the movie laughing.  The movie has everything little boys could possibly want in a 90 minute story.  Some parents might object to the fart noises, the boogers, and the boys being boys, but it really is a safe family friendly movie.  Thumbs up!

Two Wallpapers

So, last weekend I didn’t post any doodles.  The reason for that is I went to go see a movie at the theater (and actually pay!) and then spent most of the day running around shopping.  In the previous week, my wife’s cell phone broke, and while we were discussing what we should do about it my cell phone broke.  My wife could conceivably live without her cell phone, but I rely on mine so that I’m reachable for work stuff.  We ended up at the local Best Buy, and they happened to be running a special on Palm Pre phones: $149.  Well, we already happen to be Sprint customers and both of use are out of our contracts so we get the full sign up discount.  We just couldn’t pass it up.

Love the phones.  They are fantastic, especially for me.  I’ve got it connected to my Google mail and calendar accounts as well as my work Exchange server, I can see both calendars at the same time but not sync them, so my work never knows about my personal appointments and I don’t have to clutter my personal calendar with work junk.  Sure, the Pre is a little lite on applications thus far, but eventually that will change.  Besides, while the iPhone has a million apps, most of them are crap anyways.  Yeah, that’s a real application.  But the Pre’s got the web, which gets to most things, and its got a Twitter app and a couple of movie time apps and other basics.

Anyway, this week I spent a little time messing around and making myself some wallpapers for the phone.  I mean, I’m not 17, so pictures of hot chicks, which is what 99% of wallpapers for phones are, aren’t what I’m looking for, and besides, I like making my own stuff.  Some of my experiments were complete crap, so I won’t post those, but I will post two that I am happy with.  The first is a cut version of a previous doodle, the castle and the moon:

The Castle and Moon wallpaper version
The Castle and Moon wallpaper version

After doing that one, I spent a while messing around with Gimp and various brushes.  So, while not a traditional freehand doodle, here is the best of the bunch, and the only one I felt worth sharing.

City with Symbols
City with Symbols

Clearly, I like black and white since I’ve been in more of a “sketchy” mood lately.  The whole thing was done with a city brush, a couple of mystic symbol brushes and some blood spatter and gunshots brushes.  Here it looks sort of bland, but I dig the way it looks on the phone where it takes over the screen with the icon bar overlay at the  bottom.

Anyhow, I’m sure to make some more wallpapers, and I’ll continue to share them.

Movie Round-Up: August 14th, 2009


Disney is making bank off their little sing song movies, and this looks to be no different. I’m sure it will be safe to take the kids to, and a fine fun guilty pleasure for adults, just like the High School Musical movies. Personally, I’ll wait for it to stream on Netflix, if I ever see it at all.


An animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. As a kid I saw Warriors of the Wind and loved it, and I own a copy of Spirited Away on DVD but have never watched it.  I’m not itching to see it, and might never, but if your kids aren’t in to singing teenagers, this could be your weekend alternative to Bandslam.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard:

I loved Used Cars!  And hey, I’m a Jeremy Piven fan from way back, so what’s not to like?  I might not make it to the theater for this one (see District 9) but I absolutely will see it at some point.


Its a limited release, but from what I’ve seen it look to be a decent film.  I want to see it, but likely won’t since it is sure to vanish from theaters too quick.

District 9:

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. It just looks awesome, so I will find a way to see it this weekend. I have to before people spoil it. This is going to be great!

The Time Traveler’s Wife:

I got to see a screening of this film, and I can’t say if its just because I had fairly low expectations or if it was a good film, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I suspect it is a little of both.  To be honest, I went in expecting The Notebook, in part because of Rachel McAdams but also because it was a sort of “star crossed lovers” kind of tale, only with the thing keeping them apart being his random uncontrollable time travel instead of more typical problems.  And maybe that’s the element that drew me in.  Henry (played by Eric Bana) keeps bouncing around through time, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for weeks, but always, it seems, around the people and events that are important to him.  I think the movie does very well at conveying the changes in time as the story moves around, but a number of people at the same screening mentioned not being able to follow it.  To each their own I suppose.  Overall, it was a sweet movie with just a touch of science fiction that kept me watching.  Good stuff.

Movie Round-Up: July 31st, 2009

Aliens in the Attic:

Looks like good family fun.  Not something I’d pay $10 to see in the theater, but I can imagine plenty of worse ways to spend two hours at the movies.

Funny People:

I want to see this film, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it.  It will definitely find a place near the top of my Netflix queue when its available if I don’t.  If you haven’t seen the RAAAAAAAANDY clips, do yourself a favor and watch them.

The Collector:

Did you see Saw?  Yes?  Then you’ve pretty much seen this.  Sure, its not exactly the same, but this movie isn’t much more than elaborate MacGyver like traps that hurt and/or kill people all designed by a faceless nameless villain whose motives we never learn and *SPOILER ALERT* who wins.  It would be nice to see more horror movies that aren’t just an introduction to a series of low budget ultimately high grossing pieces of crap.  But its show business; as long as people keep paying for this junk, they’ll keep making it.  I wouldn’t pay for this even if it were the only way out of one of this guy’s traps.


All I really knew about this film before seeing it was that it was about a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Its only open in four theaters at this point, but it may show up in more and if you look you might still find screenings of this in some markets, and it is worth seeing.  I think it really depicts quite well people with this illness and how they and their loved ones come to cope with it and make it part of their lives, working with the illness instead of railing against it.  A warm, funny, touching film that I really enjoyed watching.

Movie Round-Up: July 24th, 2009


Seriously?  I guess its okay that all I want to do is mock this film since I am clearly not the target audience… but, super-spy gerbils?  Really?


I managed to find passes to a screening of this film, and I’m glad I did.  I’m not sure I’d want to pay for this one.  Its not complete crap, and in fact it is quite enjoyable… solid performances by all the actors, and the dialog is decent enough, and I even thought the “secret” was clever.  But it wasn’t very scary.  In fact, most of the audience was laughing through much of the film.  Sure, there were a couple of scenes that made you jump, and a couple of things that made you cringe, but it just wasn’t scary.  A little creepy maybe.  If I were you, trying to decide where to spend my hard earned wages this weekend, I’d hold off on Orphan and spend it somewhere else.  Catch this one on DVD or cable.

The Ugly Truth:

“Tonight… we dine… in Heigl!” “This!  Is!  Dating!”  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  But if I have to admit to a man-crush, it would be Gerard Butler, even before the whole 300 thing.  And I’ve liked Ms. Heigl since “Roswell”, so this movie already had two things going for it.  Throw in the fact that I’m a sucker for battle of the sexes romantic comedies and you’ve earned my $10.  I didn’t get to see an early screening of this film, and so I’ll be paying my way like everyone else this weekend.  I don’t see any way this movie could possibly be disappointing.

Movie Round-Up: July 17th, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

This actually opened Wednesday, and its going to be huge.  Millions of people will see it, and I’ve seen quite a few good reviews of it already.  I’ve seen the other ones in the theater, so it is quite likely I’ll make the trek to the local multi-plex in order to plunk down my hard earned dollars for this one as well.  However, now that I’ve seen how the books end, and knowing that they’ve decided to split the last book into two movies, I’m just not as excited as I once was for these movies.  Perhaps the movies will end better.

(500) Days of Summer:

Opening in very few theaters and opposite Harry Potter means that this movie will probably not be noticed by many people, and that’s a shame.  (500) Days of Summer is a brilliant comedy that is not a love story.  Its a film about a break up, all from the point of view of the guy.  I was lucky enough to catch a free screening of this film and I absolutely loved it.  I’d almost consider going and buying tickets for it even if I don’t see it again just to support the filmmakers.  If this one happens to be showing at a theater near you, I highly recommend it.