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"Genre film fans will get a sneak peak at this year's hands-down craziest and wickedly enjoyable movies." While this year's Fantastic Fest at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas has wrapped up, the spirit of the festival will continue with a nationwide "tour". Tim League's Alamo Drafthouse has officially announced a Fantastic Fest tour featuring eight of the genre movies playing in the 2013 festival, including Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Ari Folman's sci-fi The Congress, Alex Van Warmerdam's Borgman and E.L Katz's Cheap Thrills. For fans of genre films, this is a cool opportunity to catch some great films.
It is with bittersweet feelings that we post our podcast recap of an absolutely wonderful Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas! Jeremy and I both had the privilege of seeing an abundance of excellent films and talking about them with our friends and colleagues for you to hear at home. The films mentioned include Machete Kills, Patrick, The Dirties, Afflicted, A Field in England, The Sacrament and others. We're also joined by friends of the show, such as Brad McHargue of Dread Central (who was our guest on Episode #171), Britt Hayes of ScreenCrush, Eric D. Snider of Twitch, J.C. De Leon of OneofUs.net & more.
Keanu Reeves knows Tai Chi, and, as evidenced by the appropriately titled Man of Tai Chi, the man's directorial debut, he knows it well. What a flurry with which to come out swinging right off the bat. Man of Tai Chi suffers, a lot, from the random cheesiness and ankle-deep script at work, and there is so much about the film that simply should not work. All that is easy to discard, however, when you consider just how kickass the action bouncing before your eyes truly is. Reeves has a keen eye for action and not much else, but Man of Tai Chi has a job to do, a very specific job; at what it aims, it absolutely has pinpoint precision. It almost makes you wonder what Reeves might do with the rest of all that Kung Fu he learned so long ago.
Two genres get a recharge in Derek Lee and Clif Prowse's Afflicted, the latest found footage monster movie that might have some, age-old fans of the genre rolling their eyes. It takes a lot to kick a found footage movie into the land of creativity, and, fortunately, there are filmmakers like Lee and Prowse still out there waiting to impress us. Afflicted uses what works best in the found footage pseudo-genre and even shows us a thing or two we've never seen before, but that's only half of the film's freshness. The monster movie and ultimate story of friendship and one man losing his humanity are powerful and engaging. Afflicted rips the throats out of its horror competition this year, giving us the coolest, most energetic genre film in a while.
In 2010, a Spanish cannibal movie called We Are What We Are dazzled Fantastic Fest audiences with its crazy tale of a family of cannibals living out their traditions in an urban setting. With any good, foreign horror movie, a remake quickly followed, and that same crowd is able to feast on it this year. But the real coup in this American remake is the voice behind it. Jim Mickle has had a strong hand in some of most powerful horror films of the last 10 years. Mulberry Street and Stakeland are deep, emotional dramas that just happen to be set in worlds running rampant with horrors. His We Are What We Are, then, is no exception, and Mickle's ability to draw emotion like blood from a stone is, once again, on display. Read on!
Single-location thrillers have been the craze ever since John McClane decided to visit LA, and, to an extent, the sub-genre has gone in some ridiculous directions. "Die Hard in a..." movies continue to thrive with the locations going from high-rise building to places like a phone booth or a city bus. To that end, Grand Piano is more Phone Booth than Die Hard, but the conceit is still there. A famous concert pianist must perform perfectly else a sniper will take him out. Simple enough, and the thriller at work here is flimsy and even cheesy at times, but that doesn't stop it from being a cool, taut, little thriller backed by a smattering of solid performances. Grand Piano doesn't refresh the sub-genre, but this entry never falls to insulting it.
Eli Roth's latest gore-fest, The Green Inferno, fits right in with his horror history. His films feature Americans dumb enough to travel to the strangest parts of the world who then meet unsavory endings, and they've carried him thus far. But where the Hostel films and Aftershock - to a lesser extent, given Roth's writer/producer credit - differ from The Green Inferno are their conceits. This is a throwback to 70s entrails-laden cannibal movies, the Cannibal Holocausts of horror. And, for what it is, it satisfies its purpose, occasionally slipping into the lesser of Roth's talents, but giving us a bite that leaves its mark.
Fact 1: Writer/director Randy Moore shot his feature film debut, Escape from Tomorrow, at both Disneyland and Disney World without permission or permits. Fact 2: The Walt Disney Company hasn't said a word about what Moore has done, and his movie, thought to only be a Sundance one-off, is going to see the light of day. And thus we have the strange, surreal story of a family man's mid-life crisis in the happiest place on Earth. Escape from Tomorrow is nowhere near a masterpiece, but the sheer ambition on making what can be described as an "impossible film" is undeniable. Walt Disney's frozen head may even be proud.
"A mind-expanding work of art." Now that is some great praise that makes me happy to hear. Genre festival Fantastic Fest 2013 is currently underway at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. Among the many films screening at the festival is a sci-fi documentary called Jodorowsky's Dune, profiling Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky's ambitious attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's Dune in the 1970s. It's an outstanding must-see doc that first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it ended up as one of my favorite films of that fest. The doc just premiered down at Fantastic Fest and is getting rave reviews from almost everyone.
Like a mean bastard, Cheap Thrills gut-punches its way before your eyes and into your head. E.L. Katz's "What would you do" scenario makes for loads of after-viewing conversation, but above and beyond that, the film is a dynamite charge of fun. Thrilling, as the title would suggest, edgy and hilarious all at the same time, Cheap Thrills is like that distant relative who knows exactly how to make you burst out into laughter, but usually only after the wincing. Phenomenal performances push the drama into extremely genuine territory causing everything to meld together perfectly as one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences this year.
Kill List and Sightseers director Ben Wheatley's A Field in England is drastically different from the British filmmaker's previous works, to the point that fans of his other films are having a difficult time wrapping their tastes—and minds—around this new one. A Field in England is shot in gorgeous black and white by his regular cinematographer collaborator Laurie Rose. That's a switch-up. Beyond that, though, Wheatley's delivers yet another head-trip of ideas, an extremely abstract work of art that requires the film to sink in and rattle around before the true genius at work is allowed to come to the forefront of your mind.
Machete Kills. "That's what he does," says Charlie Sheen as the President in Robert Rodriguez's violent follow-up to his 2010 Grindhouse hit. Machete was a blast of ridiculous fun, pushed across the entertaining finish line by Danny Trejo's awesome stares and gutters. But there can be too much of a good thing, and so we have Machete Kills. The sequel is nowhere near as much fun, almost limping along by the Looney Tunes antics Rodriguez has turned to this time. Machete seems almost subtle by comparison, yet whatever creativity this "now" franchise once had has vanished. Trejo's stares even seem tired at this point.