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Addressing Jerm Pollet, Owen Egerton, and John Erler's 'Sinus' problems; plus, 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Tron' Suit Guy

By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 10, 2004

Absolutely Not Mystery Science Theater 3000 Dept.: Last week brought unwelcome news to Jerm Pollet, Owen Egerton, and John Erler, the artists behind the wildly popular Mr. Sinus film parody show that's been running at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown since 2002. The Austin Business Journal reported last Thursday that Best Brains Inc., the parent company behind cult-TV fave Mystery Science Theater 3000, has filed against the trio and Alamo Drafthouse LLC in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement. "It was news to us," says Pollet, who, along with Erler and Egerton, learned of the suit only after the Austin American-Statesman called for comment. "We haven't been served any papers yet," says Pollet, adding that he looks forward to working with Best Brains President Jim Mallon on a mutually agreeable decision. "I don't think the two shows are that similar, but I'm not sure of the details of their complaint yet." According to Pollet, Best Brains sent a letter several months ago asking that the Sinus crew change their name, at which point the trio's official moniker was abbreviated from Mr. Sinus Theater 3000 to simply Mr. Sinus. ABJ quoted Mallon as saying the "Alamo Drafthouse approached us maybe about a year ago about licensing Mr. Sinus. But the more we looked into it, the less comfortable we felt about it. The way they represent their product is different than the way we do ours. Ours is really more for any viewer, while they seemed to be going in a different direction creatively. We just want them to stop using our name." Egerton said Friday he has spoken with Best Brains attorney Laurie Mitchell, saying, "My hope is that we can work this out without having to go to court," and adding that another possible name change was being discussed among the trio.

Sometimes Dead Is Better Dept.: If you noticed more than the usual amount of the undead lurching around town last Wednesday, it wasn't a sign of the coming apocalypse (so far as we know), but instead the regional premiere of the smash British import Shaun of the Dead at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. Director Edgar Wright, star/writer Simon Pegg, co-star Nick Frost, and KNB EFX founder Greg Nicotero presented the film to an SRO audience, leading to a standing ovation that included Robert Rodriguez tossing his cowboy hat in the air in glee. Ain't It Cool News and Pedazo Chunk Video teamed up with the film's make-up artists to trick out some locals in the full spectrum of decedent skin tones before showtime. The "romantic comedy with zombies" has been so successful during its regional premieres that its American distributor, Rogue Pictures, has moved its opening date forward from March 2005 to Friday, Sept. 24.

King Geek No. 478 Dept.: You might not recognize the name or the face, but, by gosh, you'll recognize the suit. If you haven't heard of Jay Maynard, aka the Tron Suit Guy, who crafted his own light-emitting outfit from geek-fave Tron, you ought to rush over to www.ibiblio.org/jmaynard/TRONcostume to check out all the hubbub or, barring that, hop on your lightcycle and tool over to the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, which will host a screening of the prescient 1982 feature with Maynard on hand. You can even win a date with him, God help you. More info at www.drafthouse.com.

'Dear Pillow' Held Over: If you haven't already, you've still got time to get your whack on (or, um, off, as the case may be) – Bryan Poyser and Jacob Vaughan's award-winning tale of hormonally maddened youth, Dear Pillow, has been held over for a second long, hard week at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson. In addition, after the Friday and Saturday screenings, Poyser and company will screen deleted scenes, including the full version of "Pussy Heist." Take someone you love, but not your mom.

AFF Gears Up: The Austin Film Festival's 11th annual Screenwriters' Conference is fast approaching (you can hear Shane Black typing on the horizon if the wind is blowing the right way), and they've begun to announce this year's events and participants, among them a pitch competition that allows contestants to pitch their ideas to a gaggle of rabid agents/producers, as well as the usual screenwriting suspects and then some, including John August (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Elisa Bell (Little Black Book), Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent), and Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), among scads more. This year's fest runs Thursday, Oct. 14-Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Driskill Hotel. More info – including such nuggets as saving up to $100 if you buy your badge by Sept. 18 – at www.austinfilmfestival.com.

The Lone Patriot: ACLU executive director and director Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed) will be world-premiering his newest broadside against The Man, Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties, this Monday, Sept. 13, 8:30pm, at UT's Texas Union Theatre. The guaranteed-to-induce-apoplexy event is free, open to the public, and highly recommended.

IFC Wants You: The Independent Film Channel has chosen Austin as one of the casting-call cities for the second season of their popular Ultimate Film Fanatic competition, which pits film geeks par excellence against each other in a battle for global domination (of a sort) and the opportunity to program IFC for a night, which, let's face it, is probably the only way we're ever going to get to see I Am Curious (Yellow) back to back with Thunder Road. The Austin casting call is Wednesday, Sept. 15, 9am-4pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson. Contestants are encouraged to bring "their wackiest film memorabilia" (Madonna pap smears!) and a sense of the absurd. Harry Knowles, your hour is at hand.

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