Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the lovely Annette Kellerman back with a few reviews. I haven't seen DARKON yet, but it's the talk of the festival. Everyone I know is geeking out about it. 95 MILES TO GO with Ray Romano is also really damn funny and BICKFORD is a really fun movie, too. I've gone on my Tommy Chong rant in Monki's piece below, so look there for that one. Enjoy Ms. Kellerman's thoughts!!!
Hello all! It's Annette again, back with coverage from SXSW. My first film for the day was
Monki told me that I had to check this one out, and boy was he right. Darkon is a feature length doc about a group of hardcore fantasy role players in Baltimore. Complete with homemade body armor, weaponry, and plenty of intrigue, participants stage entire battles in order to expand their empires in the fictional land of Darkon.
Beautifully shot with sweeping aerial views of the battlefield, first time directors Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer do an excellent job bringing this incredible story to the big screen. Outside of Darkon, the film also reveals the day-to-day lives of the players. The contrast between the war gamers admittedly mundane everyday lives and their imaginatively adventurous Darkon lives make for a fantastic story.
That guy serving you your latte this morning could very well be a black elf, and that gal at the counter at the hardware store just might have killed three men in battle the day before.
As most of the participants agree, duality is a theme carried throughout everyone’s lives. We all play certain roles appropriate to certain situations. These players simply choose to actually do it for fun. For many, Darkon and role-playing provide a much-needed community of friends they might not otherwise have.
I’m not sure what kind of release DARKON is getting, but I’m sure it will eventually make its way onto cable and DVD. Keep an eye out for it.
My next film was
95 MILES TO GO
Another feature documentary (can’t get enough), 95 MILES TO GO chronicles one of comedian Ray Romano’s stand up tours through Florida and Georgia. It’s as simple as that. This ‘fly on the wall’ take on Ray’s good-natured yet neurotic daily musings is a good time.
One thing I mentioned in my SUMMERCAMP! Review is that its sometimes refreshing to just be able to be happy and enjoy a fun documentary without having to take some incredible emotional journey. Not that I don’t love a good ole’ gut wrencher, but its just nice to simply have fun with some lighter material.
Directed by longtime friend, colleague, and tour mate Tom Caltabiano the film does a great job showing a glimpse of Romano’s life behind the scenes while on tour. While I’m sure that Caltabiano would have no problem doing a doc on the comedian’s entire life (wife, kids, family, etc), I really like the fact that he chose to focus on one tour only. Not only does it show a unique side of Ray, taking him out of his comfort zone out on the road provides some hilarious situations and commentary.
95 MILES TO GO will be on HBO so most of you will have a chance to see it when it comes out. I definitely recommend it.
The third film for the day was
A/K/A TOMMY CHONG
Most of you are probably aware of the trouble Tommy Chong got into a few years back for shipping ‘water pipes’ from his family business into Pennsylvania where the sale of such items is illegal. The feature documentary A/K/A TOMMY CHONG follows the comic’s legal battle and subsequent jail time for his ‘offenses.’
Director Josh Gilbert does an incredible job of first re-introducing us to Tommy Chong. I mean, we all know the ‘Chong’ character, but despite popular belief, that is not the real Tommy Chong. I mean who knew that Chong began his show business career as the guitarist in an early 60’s Motown band? Who knew that his first wife was black and that he’s been happily married to a hot blonde for over 20 years? Who knew that he took tango lessons? Aside from their mutual taste for herbal refreshments, the similarities between Tommy Chong and his Chong character are few and far between.
The film goes into great detail about how Tommy was basically a victim of entrapment. His prosecution was anything but fair, and his penalty far greater than average due to his celebrity and past ‘glamorizing’ of drug use in his film and comedy routines. When compared to real issues going on in the world, it is just maddening to learn how much time and money went into busting Chong to set an example.
Really great stuff. Hope everyone gets to see it sometime soon.
My last film of the night was
BICKFORD SCHMECKLER’S COOL IDEAS
Starring Patrick Fugit as the unfortunately named lead character, this narrative feature film tells the story of Bickford Schmeckler and ‘The Book’ of metaphysical rhetoric he authored. Apparently the philosophies in The Book are so mind bogglingly brilliant that everyone who reads it experiences the ‘braingasm’ as well as an insuppressible urge to share it with the world. When Sarah, a nymph stoner artist sorority girl, steals The Book following her own foray into cerebral ecstasy, she unknowingly starts The Book on a journey that eventually finds it in the hands of a publisher.
Fugit’s performance as the often-troubled Schmeckler is absolutely super. He can handle the comedy during the humorous parts, even taking a couple pratfalls for the team. He also easily faces the dramatic parts with a true genuineness that doesn’t have a hint of cheese. I’m also equally impressed with the lovely Olivia Wilde. Her enthusiasm as Sarah is contagious and she handles all the metaphysical banter with convincing ease.
Director Scott Lew apparently took around nine years to finally get this debut film made. For a first timer, I think Lew did an amazing job helming a pretty big movie with many talented cast members. It didn’t feel like a ‘festival film’ to me at all. I understand that he is still seeking a distributor, but I really don’t think he should have any problem. I think a lot of people will really enjoy this film.
Well, its time to get some sleep in preparation for more movies tomorrow. I’ll actually be heading over to the convention center first to see Harry, Quint, and Moriarty on the 10 Years of Ain’t It Cool panel. That should be some pretty funny stuff.
Until next time,