Lars Von Trier has become a side-show act. After the raging misogyny of “Antichrist” made everybody at Cannes 2009 want to puke – (See Willem Dafoe ejaculate blood and Charlotte Gainsbourg cut off her own clitoris. Good times.) – he returned in 2011 with “Melancholia,” a plodding meditation on well, melancholy, or depression to be more exact. Though “Melancholia” is not the shocker that “Antichrist” was, Von Trier still managed to offend as many people as possible by carrying on in a press conference about how he has sympathy for Hitler and the Nazis while poor Kirsten Dunst cringed miserably next to him. The problem with all that nonsense is that it becomes difficult to separate the Von Trier side-show from the main tent attraction. To be fair, a film should be judged on its own merits, separate and apart from previous efforts and controversies.
And so it was in the spirit of giving “Melancholia” a fair shake that I broke my personal promise to “never watch another Von Trier film as long as I live.” Perhaps I should be a better sport about female genital mutilation and the holocaust. …Sigh…
So, clean slate, fresh start, open mind, roll film.
The first 8 minutes of “Melancholia” provide some of the most beautifully intriguing images that I’ve ever seen, each one more lush, vivid, and mysterious than the last. For a moment, I began to think (and hope) that the film would be a sweeping visual symphony like Terrence Mallick’s “The Tree of Life.” Unfortunately, the remaining 128 minutes did not live up to the splendor of the overture. Read the rest of this entry »
Director Julian Gilbey’s “A Lonely Place to Die” is part wilderness survival story, part crime drama. It is effective at both. The action begins with a harrowing mountain-climbing sequence that sets the tone for the first half of the film. A group of friends have gone hiking and climbing their way into remote territory. When one of them hears a cry in the woods, they investigate further to find that a little girl has been buried in a shallow box just beneath the ground. She was given one bottle of water and an above-ground pipe for breathing. Clearly, someone had a plan.
The hikers don’t wait around to find out who may be coming for the girl. They quickly strategize the best way to get her to safety and call for help. Unfortunately, things go horribly awry when the culprits realize their ransom scheme has been interrupted. The wounded and unarmed hikers soon find themselves hunted in the wilderness like animals.
Strong performances from the ensemble cast add emotional resonance to the inherently suspenseful action. Melissa George (“30 Days of Night”, “Grey’s Anatomy”) plays Allison, the natural leader among the hikers and the most heroic of the group. Ed Speelers (“Eragon”) plays a much more reluctant hero but ultimately a willing participant in the quest to save the girl. Sean Harris is particularly memorable as the steely, soulless monster who put the child in the ground. Read the rest of this entry »
Julio wakes up in Julia’s apartment. They are strangers. Julia is cleaning up after a night of who-knows-what which neither of them can remember. She’d like Julio to leave. Problem is, while they were passed out, a giant UFO descended upon the city prompting massive evacuations. Those who didn’t get out in time are now stuck where they are with the 4-mile-wide flying saucer hovering menacingly in the sky above them. Julio quickly parlays this into an excuse to stay with the girl.
Complicating matters is the sudden appearance of Julia’s sweet but clueless big oaf of a boyfriend, and her tragically obsessed next door neighbor who declined to evacuate because he knew Julia was still home. There they are… all together.
With delightful performances from Julian Villagran (Julio) and Michelle Jenner (Julia), this odd little comedy is very likely to win over any audience members who stumble in expecting an alien-invasion action flick.
The film unfolds like theatrical farce as the characters struggle to maintain secrets, one-up each other with snappy bon mots, and deal with ever-shifting loyalties. Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo, known for his complicated, edgy sci-fi film called “TimeCrimes”, does something completely different here: he uses the specter of something big and weird going on outside to enable human comedy and drama to unfold inside.
The film opens on a disturbing incident in which a group of buddies stumble into the retreat where they’ve been staying and find their best friend’s mom dead on the floor, and their pal (Tyler) freaking out in the closet. He breaks out and goes berserk, cuts some of his buddies, and is ultimately subdued. It is assumed that Tyler witnessed his mother committing suicide and just snapped, hence the weird outburst.
Cut to: 10 years later. Tyler walks through the woods making his way back to the cabin. Upon arrival, he gets rid of his hospital bracelet. Was he released? Or did he escape? His buddies show up, too. They’re older, wiser (kinda), with families (or not), and commitments (or not). A couple of them still bear visible scars from Tyler’s breakdown those years ago. But they’re here to forgive him and get back to the good old days.
The reunion is a dull affair. Lots of male bonding and blatant attempts to highlight the differences in their personalities (the dumb jock has kids, the smart one is infertile, yada yada). Their hijinks include football, rough-housing, and (semi) good-natured teasing. Read the rest of this entry »
Have you ever woke up in a bad mood and resented your neighbors and co-workers who seem deliriously happy to be up-and-at-em first thing in the morning? The more chipper they are, the more you want to kill them?
Well, meet Cesar (Luis Tosar), a lonely concierge at an upscale Barcelona apartment building. He doesn’t so much want to kill the shiny, happy people that live in his building. He wants to make them so deeply miserable as to wipe the smiles off of their faces forever.
Director Jauma Balaguero is best known for horror films that take place in single-location settings (“Fragile”, “Rec”, “Rec 2”), but while those films rely on creepy interiors to create a sense of claustrophobic unease, “Sleep Tight” takes place in an open, sunny building that seems (aside from the hired help) a lovely place to live. It’s the interior of Cesar’s mind that provides the chills.
Cesar’s misanthropy extends to everyone around him, but he’s particularly fixated on the incessantly perky and pretty Clara (Marta Etura). He sneaks into her apartment by day and night, doing things that I won’t tell you. Suffice to say, I will be checking behind my shower curtain and under my bed when I come home from now on.
There’s a bratty little girl in the building who has caught wise to Cesar’s shenanigans at Clara’s place and she blackmails him for cash and “adult movies” in exchange for her silence. It is in this relationship and some of the technical choices of the film that its point of view can be a bit stomach-turning. For example, the bratty neighbor subplot seems to exist solely to add tension around the concern that Cesar might be found out. And there are music cues that indicate that the audience, at least subconsciously, is meant to be on the edge of their seats for Cesar when he is about to be caught in Clara’s apartment. None of the characters who threaten to get in Cesar’s way are portrayed with any sympathy. In truth, though his actions are abhorrent and utterly cringe-inducing, this is Cesar’s story all the way. We’re not exactly meant to root for him, but it does seem as though we’re meant to want to see his master plan play out in full.
And play out, it does.
There is a particularly gory scene that gives the film its obligatory splatter moment, but it’s the psychological cruelty that really makes the lasting impression here. The scene in which Cesar tells an elderly tenant just how little her life means to those around her, in the kindest of tones but coldest of words, is much more eviscerating than any slasher moment could ever be. It’s one thing to watch fake blood splatter on a wall. It’s something else entirely to watch cruel truth shatter a kind spirit. And the film goes one further: the final scene of “Sleep Tight” is so emotionally sadistic that it will stick with you for a long while.
Balaguero wields Hitchcockian techniques in new and twisted ways. This is a masterfully crafted psychological creep-out, and certainly not for the faint of heart.
Kitao Sakurai’s directorial debut, “Aardvark,” is an awkward attempt at a slow-burn crime thriller that stars a blind, recovering alcoholic Jiu Jitsu student as a blind, recovering alcoholic Jiu Jitsu student. That’s right: lead actor Larry Lewis Jr. plays himself, and he embodies all of those disparate characteristics in real life, but unfortunately a man who is probably quite interesting in reality becomes less so when dropped into a neo noir exercise so rife with cliché that it borders on parody (and not in a good way).
The film begins promisingly with an intriguing opening sequence followed by a series of getting-to-know-you moments that include an AA meeting and Larry’s first visit to a Jiu Jitsu studio where his instructor, Darren, espouses non-violent philosophies and techniques intended to “subdue” potential assailants rather than hurt them. One might think that Larry’s addiction and Darren’s philosophies might come into play later when the action picks up, but one would be wrong.
In fact, “Aardvark” feels like two different movies. I would love to see the movie that is set up in the first half, but alas, I had to watch the rest of “Aardvark” instead.
The first sign of trouble is when Larry begins “hanging out” with his instructor buddy and they (naturally) go to a strip club where Darren (naturally) has a stripper acquaintance (naturally) named Candy. Yes, just that quickly something seemingly original at the outset shifts drastically into rote territory.
Topic of Debate :: “Independent Film Is Dead” //
Pro :: Uwe Boll, Director of Rampage, BloodRayne, House of the Dead //
Con :: Tim League, Founder of the Alamo Drafthouse & Fantastic Fest //
Live from the South Austin Gym
Fantastic Fest is proud to announce the winning films from the 2009 festival. Taking top prize in the Next Wave competition is the darkly comedic drama from Britain, DOWN TERRACE. The audience award goes to A TOWN CALLED PANIC, the best horror film goes to HUMAN CENTIPEDE while Chilean action thriller MANDRILL takes the Fantastic Feature award. The photo in middle of slideshow below is MANDRILL leading man Marko Zaror doing a celebratory flip.
Be sure to check out Marko Zaror’s jump of awesomeness!
As Amber said, Bill Murray was in town for Fantastic Fest promoting City of Ember and he hung around a bit longer for ACL where he and Russ had a chance to talk. But! Until we get the full story on that, here’s my couple of minutes on camera with him.
Well, I wasn’t able to do a whole lot. But I had to find a way to see the second showing of one of the most talked about films at the festival, Let The Right One In. I had been hearing nothing but raves since the first showing on Saturday. I’ll tell you, it lived up to all of the hype. It was a relatively quiet movie about a pre-teen boy, Oskar, who has an over-abundance of bullies and an under-abundance of friends, more like none. Enter the new girl, Eli, in the apartment complex. She is stand-offish and mysterious and they become fast albeit strange friends. She has a secret. One clue is that she is never out during the day. Another is that bodies drained of blood are starting to pile up. I what I loved the most was the innocent trust and love built between them set against the violence of her secret noturnal life and the things that Oskar has to endure during the day . It really was a good movie. I will definitely be picking it up on DVD when I can. If I can make one recommendation to you, if you get a chance to see it, make sure it isn’t some crazy American version. I know you can handle the original version. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been having all kinds of technical difficulties this week! I tried to post some video and a blog yesterday to no avail. So here is that video from the karaoke party and the blog is to come next!
I’ll post more karaoke highlights in the coming days! Matt Dentler doing Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy… hilarious!!
So I was having too much fun to check in again yesterday. And I have to say that I am not sorry at all! Because of alot of factors, some of which I will get into and some which I won’t, I just haven’t really been “feelin’ the fest” this year. I guess my expectations were kind of high. I had such great times the past 3 years. This is the one festival that I look forward to each year, even though I usually go to several. This is the one that I have always felt was almost just for me. And I have always felt that personal touch that is almost seems built-in to Alamo Drafthouse. As the festival approached, I was really, really..uh…really looking forward to it. Then several things began to happen to harsh my vibe: Hurricane Ike, a lack of information, a lack of planning, a lack of communication and lack of time. So going into this year, my general mood has been less than excited. Then there were several changes in the way that the festival is being run this year. That took some time to get used to. Talking to some of the usual suspects revealed that I was not the only one a little concerned. So the days have gone on, and my festival experience has been very different than past years.
And just when I thought that I was going to have to settle for a overall festival experience that I was going to feel less than overjoyed about came DAY 3!
Well, yesterday was fraught with all kinds of technical difficulties for me, so I was unable to post anything, including video. Today is looking up (I’m actually online!!), so I will be doing all I can to get some video up. I know that some of you are looking for the Air Sex video…I know you….
It was good to see the festival starting to gain full strength yesterday. Folks finally able to get out for the weekend to kick back and really submerge themselves in some good, old fashioned fantasy, surrealism, gore, violence.
Earlier in the day, many people had some specific films they were looking forward to seeing: The Substitute, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Surveillance and The Wreck. And from the follow-up that I got from those folks, they were all they could have ever wanted and more. Didn’t get a chance to see them, but luckily I will have a second chance during the second half of the festival. Read the rest of this entry »
[fa:p:id=1570629209,j=r,s=s,l=i]MICHELLE WILLIAMS: You are here with your movie Postal. Tell us a little bit about it.
UWE BOLL: Well the movie is based on the video game Postal. It’s a crazy comedy basically about a loser who lives in a trailer park and his wife is 500 pounds. He needs a job and he has a very bad day. And at the same time we have Osama Bin Laden, George Bush, everybody comes together in the small town basically and the whole history of the world will maybe end at this day. Read the rest of this entry »