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Augustus Gloop On Fantastic Fest! PAN’S, ROMAN, THE WOODS, PUZZLEHEAD And More!!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I hate everyone at Fantastic Fest, and I hope they all get boils on their butts. That would be different, of course, if I were there, but I’m not, so f all these folks:

Pan's Labyrinth ------------------------- By now, word is probably out that the not-so-super-secret screening (as opposed to the super-secret-screening of Apocalypto) tonight was Pan's Labyrinth. I like to be surprised, so I managed to avoid any rumors regarding this identity, and as it happens, I had no exposure to trailers, rumors, etc regarding this film beyond the poster hanging in the Drafthouse. A poster, I might add, that led me to think this was just another kids movie along the lines of the little David Bowie flick with which you are familiar. BOY was I in for a surprise... This one begins like a children's fantasy, complete with magical statue puzzles in a forest, and of course, an early introduction to the labyrinth, itself. In fact, the beginning in several ways draws on Narnia, including the original Spanish, which translated literally is "The Labyrinth of the Faun". Very shortly after the labyrinth is introduced, however, things get extremely ugly and nasty, R-rated nasty. So, this is then more of a fairy tale for adults, where Ofelia, the heroine, must navigate a world frought with danger, where everything good is counterbalanced by bad and ugly. We are treated to a WWII-era drama set in a rural outpost of Franco-controlled Spain with a magical labyrinth to which Ofelia journeys to escape the horrors around her. This was a visually stunning work both in the real and magical worlds. The action jumps between Ofelia's daytime surroundings and her nightly magical tasks, but unfortunately with too much of the harsh real-world and too little of the wonderful, magical settings. Two thematic elements are presented: the dichotomy of strict, authoritarian rule vs. questioning authority and doing the right thing and reality vs. fantasy. The film leaves the question open to the viewer whether the magical world is real, or just a flight of fancy inspired by children's books Ofelia loves to read. This is a common element of fantasy stories, and plays very heavily in Narnia, but the viewer/reader is always in on the secret that the magical world is, in fact, real. At most, a good fantasy story leaves a hint of doubt, as in the end of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy wakes up to find her friends look like the characters of Oz. Was it just a dream? It's left to the viewer to decide. Perhaps I lost all credibility last year when I trashed Werner Herzog's film, but I must call it like I see it in order to provide a fair review. I must be honest if I dislike something, or if I like it, regardless who the director is. There is one shot, perhaps a quarter of a second at the very end of this movie I feel breaks that spell. In the interest of remaining spoiler-free, I won't say what it is, but for me, it cements the story to the confines of the real world and is the only thing I would absolutely, positively change about this film. As it is now shot, there is no question the magic wold is just a figment of Ofelia's fancy, something entirely in her head. If you don't notice it, you'll really enjoy this film. If you do notice it, you'll have to decide for yourself if it carries the same weight for you as for me. ------------------------- Roman ------------------------- I only first heard of Lucky McKee and Angela Bettis a couple of weeks ago when a friend told me about talking to them at a party. Somehow, their previous work, "May", slipped under my radar. The festival this year featured two of Lucky's works, "The Woods", which I'll review later, and "Roman". Scripted by and starring McKee, this was Angela Bettis' directing debut. I wish I'd had a chance to catch May before the festival, because others have compared Roman to it in terms of tone and style. McKee's performance as social-misfit voyeur Roman is chilling, but likeable. Overall, it's a solid picture that makes the most of a little. ------------------------- Puzzlehead ------------------------- What would I, Robot look like if made by Stephen King? I'm much more of a sci-fi fan than horror, so it's nice to see a movie that is squarely in that category, with just a hint of a horror twist. Set in an unspecified future time, the film tells the tale of Walter, who appears to be a biomedical engineer that has salvaged the equipment from a robotics laboratory and sets out to create a cybernetic clone of himself. Told from the point of view of the robot, Puzzlehead, the film explores the concept that flaws in the creator's personality are expressed in the robot, to which his brain patterns have been cloned. Stephen Galaida plays a very robotic Walter and a somewhat human Puzzlehead. The main plot points are well-expressed, but I found the characterization of Walter didn't quite ring true. As the film explores the learning development of Puzzlehead, Walter is at first encouraging, like a patient, loving father. As Puzzlehead begins to grow into the potential which his creator has envisioned, Walter begins to become short, angry, as if he is disappointed in his creation, or perhaps grown tired of it. This happens well before the particular event which causes tension between these two characters, and makes Walter somewhat less likeable. Aside from that, this was an engaging story of creator vs. creation. ------------------------- The Woods ------------------------- The Woods is a beautiful work by Lucky McKee with appearances by Bruce Campbell and Patricia Clarkson. Set in 1965 in an all-girls school, this film has an authentic, washed-out, grainy look, as if it were actually filmed in 1965. The pacing of the story is excellent and never seems to drag as tension builds from the arrival at the school all the way to the disastrous end. This is a notable role for Bruce Campbell, who is, perhaps for the first time ever, playing a completely sane and normal average Joe. I love it when a director is able to make a scary movie without resorting to overt, gory violence. The Woods garnered an R rating, but in my opinion should have been a PG-13. Even so, I think The Woods has the potential to be remembered as a classic. ------------------------- Firefly ------------------------- Not the TV series, but almost just as good. This was an AMAZING film, considering its $5000 budget. It couldn't have been better if they'd spent a cool million. I enjoy a lot of bad movies just for special effects/eye candy. Eye candy just isn't enough for most people, because film is a form of communication that to be effective requires a good story. Firefly was made by a first-time director, with first-time actors (who all manage good performances), but it tells a single dramatic story from four points of view that each present a mystery. In the climax, all four stories are brought together as previously overlooked details are at last revealed to devastating and emotional effect. Not just one excellent mystery, but four. Excellent story backed up by solid acting and a haunting soundtrack, this is the kind of film that makes you want to make movies. ------------------------- Origin: Spirit of the Past ------------------------- Set 300 years in the post-apocalyptic future of Earth, Origin could be an installment in the Final Fantasy series. The story is nothing new, but it was an enjoyable film regardless. Visually, the backgrounds and action are stunning, with a great attention to realistic detail. Unfortunately, the character animation is somewhat lacking in detail, especially in the faces. It is distracting to see what appear to be hastily-drawn 2-d characters in such a rich, 3-d world. One complaint was that this was dubbed instead of subtitled, but I found the voice acting believable and well-synched with the character's mouths (or perhaps the mouths were redrawn to match the English voices. That would explain how they look so awful) The soundtrack was excellent, especially the opening and closing title songs, which are haunting and rich. Origin offers nothing new to anime, but will still make a nice addition to my collection. ------------------------- Augustus Gloop
Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 28, 2006, 6:39 a.m. CST

    Firefly on IMDB?

    by Cepper

    I keep hearing great things about Firefly but I can't find it (er, at least the new one) on IMDB. Anyone have any more info on it?

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 8:12 a.m. CST

    Beuller, Beuller, anyone anyone

    by Cepper

    You know, I was kind of excited about my first First-post but when nobody else writes for 3 hours, it loses its cachet. *sigh*

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 8:44 a.m. CST


    by bingo the clown

    Google "firefly pete marcy" (without the quotes) and you'll bring up links about the movie.

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 8:50 a.m. CST

    Pans Labyrinth

    by godzillasushi

    is in my backyard.

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 12:55 p.m. CST

    Firefly and IMDB

    by failureboy1

    I've submitted it to the iMDB a couple times, each time with the site responding that it "sounds too local" and small-time to be accepted. I think the reason it hasn't been accepted is because very few people did nearly all the work on the film, so it looks like just another home movie :( It's been frustrating, and hopefully when we re-submit it soon we'll have better luck, since it's now been in 5 festivals.

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 2:23 p.m. CST

    Pan's Dualism

    by helixbirth

    I know the shot that you're talking about at the end of Pan's, and I do not agree that it needs to cement the fantasy within Ofelia's head. I think that the film allows both complete and stark realism to harmoniosuly coexist with far-flying fantasy, without either being compromised. I saw the ending as being completely fantastical, within the context of the real world, just like the rest of the movie. However, the last shot is through the eyes of a realist character, and these characters do not see magic. So although the world may seem non-magic in that last shot, it is really just a particular, easier-to-accept point of view. If the ending had been some fantastical ending...the movie would have been untrue to its realistic side. I think that the current ending allows either interpretation to stand on equal footing.

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 2:45 p.m. CST

    cave in

    by lopan

    cave in

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 3:26 p.m. CST


    by smallerdemon

    I saw this last Saturday at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham. I wasn't remotely sure what to expect from it, but I had heard from a reliable source (massawyrm) that it was very worth seeing. He was right. For my own Sidewalk viewing list it came out completely on top. Although I was looking forward to Darkon the most, Firefly was the one that really blew me away. What they did with the resources they had available was just downright astounding. I can't really say enough good things about Firefly and I really hope that more people get a chance to see it. Kudos to the Failure Boys for it. You guys were great to meet at Sidewalk and your presence there was really appreciated.

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 3:39 p.m. CST

    some firefly info

    by smallerdemon

    The trailer for Firefly can be had here: Sidewalk's summary of it is here: For failureboy1 I would suggest to head over to Wikipedia and make an entry for your film. Include links to pages for festivals it has played as well as some production stills (if you guys have them). Wikipedia will be a LOT more forgivingin generating an entry than IMDB and you'll be able to put exactly the same information up there.

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 5:03 p.m. CST

    The Woods PG-13???

    by godoffireinhell

    You must have fallen asleep during the extremely gore showdown. I agree that the rest could have been PG-13, though. Great film, very unfairly shelved for years and now issued on a bare bones DVD...

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 7 p.m. CST

    what was the shot?

    by ephor

    i am reluctant to ask cos i don't want to ruin it for anyone. i saw pan a few weeks ago and don't recall a shot which "spoiled the fantasy". i'd agree with helixbirth, it's open for interpretation.