Fantastic Fest

Review: Adrift in Tokyo

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On Tuesday night, Fantastic Fest held a special screening of Satoshi Miki's Adrift in Tokyo, a film the fest organizers tried to get for FF2008, and one that hasn't any U.S. distribution.  Thanks to a special arrangement, the film is getting a special engagement run at the Alamo Ritz, which kicked off with a free screening primarily for Fantastic Fest badge holders. 

On a purely technical level, Adrift in Tokyo doesn't really fit into the Fantastic Fest programming categories other than being, well, fantastic. Austin Film Festival goers who fell in love with another Japanese film, Happy Ending, are sure to love this quirky, surreal piece of cinema. The Keep Austin Weird crowd will want to make Tokyo a sister city as well after viewing the eccentric leads and the quirky random characters that wander in and out of the film.

Watch Locally Made 'Pigeon: Impossible' Online

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Pigeon ImpossibleAt Fantastic Fest this year, I was pleased to see that one of the animated shorts was from a local filmmaker -- Lucas Martell's Pigeon: Impossible. I was even more pleased that it turned out to be one of the funniest shorts in the collection.

The film is about a secret agent with a briefcase and what happens during an encounter with, well, a pigeon. The street where the action takes place is supposed to be set in Washington, D.C., but I noticed some oddly familiar landmarks, like the Driskill and the Paramount. Look at the picture on the right to see what I mean.

Martell's short animated comedy also played Austin Film Festival this year. Pigeon: Impossible is now available online for everyone to enjoy. It's a little more than six minutes long, and just what you need to add some fun to your morning. Check it out after the jump or directly on YouTube.

Review: Bronson

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bronson by Alamo Drafthouse.

How do you make a film about one of the most documented delinquent characters in the British penal system? Turn it into an interpretive theatrical extravaganza. And that's just what director Nicolas Winding Refn does in the Fantastic Fest hit Bronson

Charlie Bronson, who's earned the epithet of most violent/famous/expensive prisoner in the UK penal system, has more character than most 10 people put together. And he knows it.  Looking at a list of the man's escapades, with violence and ridiculous demands, it make sense to turn the story into an absurdist commentary on the cult of celebrity and the addiction to fame. 

Fantastic Fest 2009: Jette's Photographic Wrap-Up

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Alamo South marquee

I'm feeling lazy this week, and the idea of writing capsule reviews of every movie I saw at Fantastic Fest, plus descriptions of the events and parties, sounds overwhelming. Therefore, I've taken the slacker's way out, fittingly enough for Slackerwood, and am offering a photo representation of my Fantastic Fest experience. Later on, perhaps I'll have enough energy to tell you how much I liked Bronson and Private Eye, although I'm not sure how long it'll take for me to clarify my thoughts about The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

What was I doing during Fantastic Fest, you may ask?

Pushing my way to the front of a crowd of Gentlemen Broncos:

Fantastic Fest 2009: Jenn's Wrap-Up

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It's over a week after Fantastic Fest, why are we still writing about it?  Because it was Fantastic Fest, and Chaos Reigns.

FF09-Lunch Down Terrace guys-cYou may have heard that even Variety picked up on the Chaos Reigns meme.  Chaos did reign, from a sexy Swede turning grown women and a few men into quivering fans, to Zack Carlson's amazing save of a Yatterman screening by split-screen magic to show subtitles from a screener with the actual film. We had traditions continued, from David Strong nudity (you had to be there, but if you've been to a Fantastic Fest related event, this is not shocking) to the extreme, watching Tim League in a patriotic unitard battle Uwe Boll in the boxing ring (Boll politely didn't wipe the floor with League). 

I finally understood the draw to karaoke, watching Matt Dentler belt out "Paper Planes" and Nacho Vigalondo going all out on classics, with poses that would put Elvis to shame. Tiffany Sullivan, new mom and Fantastic Fest veteran, even got a "Chaos Reigns" onesie for her infant son, photos of which are now plastered all over the Internet.

My biggest regret was missing the Fantastic Fest Awards, and the amazing flip done by Mandrill star Marko Zaror. And missing Mandrill as well.   If you want to get a sense of the actual experience, it's been posted on YouTube. I highly recommend you go to the Fantastic Fest YouTube page to catch most of the Q&As, and some of the special events, like the Fantastic Feud fights, as well as a brilliant compilation of "Chaos Reigns" chants. I think between Nacho Vigalondo and Tim League, the Alamo Army is alive and well, and ready to do their bidding.

Fantastic Fest 2009: Debbie's Wrap-Up

Debbie battles a zombie

The out-of-town fans, actors, filmmakers and film critics have gone home, the parties are over and the post-fest colds are slowly fading after Fantastic Fest 2009. It seems like a good time to reflect over and share my personal festival experience this year, including some films you might want to check out.

Movie highlights:

Solomon Kane - The talented and charismatic British actor James Purefoy portrays the title fictional character created by pulp-era writer Robert E. Howard, best known for his Conan the Barbarian series. Sword and sorcery adventure takes a twist, set in the Puritan era in a grim time portrayed through rain and snow. Despite all the action that packs a wallop in this film, what is truly the core of Solomon Kane is the vision of one man's path to redemption, found in an unlikely manner. The supporting characters in the Crowthorn family were well-cast, with Pete Postlethwaite and Alice Krige as the protective parents and siblings Rachel and Patrick Hurd-Wood as two of the Crowthorn children. Max Von Sydow also makes an appearance.

Q & A highlight: I especially enjoyed writer/director Michael J. Bassett talking about the process of determining the effects of certain weapons, which I described in our latest podcast. It's a technique that will make me question every action film I see involving a weapon from now on.

Fantastic Fest: The Awards

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FF09 - Awards 1 by Rich Merritt, from Alamo Drafthouse on FlickrWe were recording the latest Slackerwood podcast yesterday (which will be available soon) and I realized that Slackerwood hadn't yet published the list of Fantastic Fest 2009 award winners.

Some of our favorite films took home the prized beer steins this year: A Town Called Panic, which Jenn and I loved (check out my Cinematical review), won the Audience Award. Debbie was pleased that The Revenant took home an award for Best Horror Director, and interviewed Kerry Prior, the winning filmmaker. We're planning a special "extra" mini-podcast with that interview, which we'll publish in the next week.

The "Fantastic Feature" award for best film went to the Chilean thriller Mandrill, which sold out every screening very quickly so I couldn't see it myself. Producer/actor Marko Zaror was so pleased he did a flip onstage. Human Centipede, much discussed for its bizarrely graphic scenes in which the title creature is created, won Best Horror Film. The British dark comedy Down Terrace won top honors in the Next Wave competition.

I've reprinted the full list of award winners after the jump, plus a link to the video of Shakey Face competitors.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #8: Closing Night Chaos Reigns!

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FF09ChaosReignsIt's over. I can't believe it's over. Chaos Reigned.  I was ready for it to be over; eight days of films and fun, nearly nonstop, it can't go on forever, and the party has to end. But it ended on several high notes. 

I had a brief interview with the Spierig brothers, who brought Daybreakers in for the Closing Night film, although it's not getting released until January.  Despite my forgetting my notebook and being dead-tired, the highlight was their response to my saying "How can you forget someone who pulls a gun out of their ass?!" Having seen Undead, and loving it, it's hard to forget Mungo McKay. 

I ended up walking out of Dirty Mind, not because the film is bad, but because I was tired, and not in the mood for white-on-light subtitles.  Bad subtitles is a pet peeve of mine, especially having seen amazing ones in films like Daywatch and Slumdog Millionaire.  At least use yellow or a border around the letters, please!

Even less fun was the final secret screening, which turned out to be Universal Soldier: A New Beginning. Director John Hyams, Dolph Lundgren, and Andrei "the pitbull" Arlovski were in attendance for the film. I'm definitely not the film's demographic, and I found the fighting very monotonous and over simplified.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #7: Stingray Sam, Doghouse and Hipster Epidemics

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Not many official films today, as the festival is winding down, at least for me.  I didn't manage to catch Yesterday as planned because a press screening started late. I can't say much about that, but I think I can say that if you like Vampire stories, you're in for a special treat for the Closing Night film.

FF09-CoryMcAbeeDrPepperI did manage to catch Stingray Sam after having had a nice chat over at the Highball with director/star Cory McAbee (shown at left). Chris Holland and I introduced him to the wonder that is Dublin Dr. Pepper, which the pharmacy next door stocks.  If you haven't had one, it's very good, and made with real cane sugar. Nice guy, and he looks like he should be a regular at the Highball. 

Anyway, Stingray Sam is a lot of fun, and people applauded throughout this episodic film. When I mentioned seeing the film to other festgoers, they got very excited; it seems the previous screening included the audience singing along.  I suspect the crowd I saw it with was a bit tired. Still it was fun, and with an energetic Q&A, it's a highlight of the fest, for sure.  At some point I should be posting excerpts from the Q&A.

Fantastic Fest Rolls Out the Undead Carpet at the Paramount

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Dead Carpet

This year's Fantastic Fest has featured several gala events that brought all kinds of people to the historic Paramount Theater. Last Friday, Zombieland was the featured premiere. Moviegoers could be "zombified" by makeup artists from Eerie Industries, which also assists with the special effects for Zombie Manor, a haunted adventure in Arlington. Zombie Manor brought along some of their star zombies, who walked the red carpet before the living celebrities arrived. Director Ruben Fleischer and co-stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone were in attendance for the special screening. The event was open to the public as well as Fantastic Fest attendees.

The horror comedy Zombieland focuses on two men -- Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) -- who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies. I saw a press screening earlier in the week, and had to resist referencing Columbus's "Zombie Rules" afterwards.

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