Review

Harry Says ASTROPIA is Geeky Cool Fun For The Soul!!!

Published at: Sept. 19, 2008, 4:15 a.m. CST by headgeek

Hey folks, Harry here at FANTASTIC FEST 2008 - year four. Saw 4 films today - Kevin Smith's hilariously raunchy ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO is going to hurt some folks when it starts its rib-cracking run here soon. The final version of FANBOYS is just the fun film they set out to make and was an oddly emotional screening tonight - to finally see this movie in front of an Austin audience. And at some point, I'll write about the first film I saw today and these above two, but they all have American distribution and established release dates, but what I love is finding something fucking phenomenally new and unexpected at FANTASTIC FEST. New talent that just came out swinging and kicked ass. Thus far, for me this year, the first film that has that criteria met is the awesome nerd-extravaganza... ASTROPIA. They essentially take the basic BEAUTY & THE GEEK premise, but whereas every fucking time that Hollywood takes a hold of that kind of material, they fuck it up, because they don't understand the hardcore fringes of geek society. In this case, the realm of RPG & LARPers... who also have an affinity for sci-fi, fantasy, horror, anime, asian cinema, comics, related novels and geek literature and television. We're talking meta-geeks. Sad alien beings like - well... you, me & the people we know. I went to this film because the Festival write-up said, "...in an alternate universe, Edgar Wright had an Icelandic brother making his own SPACED feature for the fanboy and comic book culture, then ASTROPIA is that film." Hmmm... a strange Icelandic Edgar Wright? I can't even conceive of that. Could there be an Icelandic Edgar Wright? What's geek culture in Iceland like? I figured I'd check it out. I didn't read much more about the film - that sentence signed me up, and I caught the phrase... LARPed... HMMMMM... If they've made a film to make fun of LARPers & RPGers... sign me up. Once you've met Massawyrm - making fun of this stuff just becomes second nature. I didn't know about the Beauty & The Geek aspect, because when I'm researching these screenings, I don't like to dig deep, just enough to get me interested or not. So as this film started with this gorgeous hot Icelandic beauty called Hildur - she's a model that poses in bikinis and is seemingly the least geekiest girl in the world. Though she does geek out over her favorite Joan Wilder Romance Novels (yes, an Icelandic film made that reference... how cool is that shit?) She has a boyfriend that is exploiting her - and he's played by the god, Peter Stormare! He gets jail time for various nefarious goings on - and she finds herself homeless and with no means of support. She stays with a friend with a young boy. Now Hildur... she's kinda cut from the Paris Hilton / Reese Witherspoon (helpless blonde mode). The lil boy at the house makes friends with her and at one juncture, she promises to get him whatever he wants, wherever he wants - and he decides he wants to go to ASTROPIA - an Icelandic Geek Paradise that supplies your geek drug of choice. From RPGs to LARPing implements to DVDs to COMICS to TOYS to basically... all the essentials. She was going to stay on the outside of the store, like a sensible non-geek, but when she sees a HELP WANTED sign... she decides to go in to make an inquiry. The second she walks in, the interior populace recognizes her for the Barbie Alien that she is. Male geeks rendered helpless or ineffectually erect and socially awkward. The guy who owns the store gives her a shot to work there, though she doesn't know anything about anything anywhere in the store. As you can probably imagine, she gets into this world - but what's fantastic about the movie is that it never talks down to either side. The Stereotypical Beauty may be clueless, but she has the capacity to learn, very well. The Geeks may initially come across as dorks, dweebs and geekettes, but once they accept a new person into their clan, they're awkwardness becomes truly endearing and heartfelt. And the "normals" begin to feel less Normal - and the Geeks become comforting. Yoko was eating this movie up! Seriously. Something that many of you don't necessarily know about Yoko is that she's not really a hardcore geek. She was the cheerleader and the Drill Team gal. Professionally she's involved in fashion retail at a managerial level - she has the things she geeks on, like everyone does and definitely the more time she spends with me, the further she descends into the pit of geek perdition. But - like now... she's a total TWILIGHT freak. But what she loved about the film was that she could truly see some of herself in Hildur - and she definitely could recognize the geeks of the film. And the just genuine love and passion with which it is all played out. The greatest invention of the film is what happens when they begin playing her first RPG. She's at the table. All the others are working up their character sheets, practice rolling, looking up spells and skills they wish to purchase or acquire - and the Game Master is working her character up for her, since she's a total novice, but the second this awesome Game Master kicks in with his silly intensely into it Narration - all the RPGers are thrust into his imaginative landscape and it's beautiful. Now - they had a micro-budget to make this film, but I promise you they didn't have 5% of the Kronas they would have loved to have shot this movie with, but you wouldn't really care, cuz it looks exactly right - and tonally everything that's slightly dodgy - is hilariously apt. The audience just signed up for everything this movie threw at us. This is EXACTLY the sort of film that would do wonders if it were introduced culturally either through a good arthouse release - reaching out to cities with strong comic and gaming and geek backgrounds... or there's the remake option, which is very very very apt - as this would be PERFECT material for a Megan Fox type. Perfect. Of course by the final act - things spiral wildly astray and challenges aplenty through themselves at our lovely Hildur. The film plays again on September 24th at 4:05pm - you'll be amazed just exactly how dead on this movie is to our own culture, although it comes all the way from Iceland. Director Gunnar Gudmundsson and the screenwriters Ottó Geir Borg and Jóhann Ævar Grimsson are talents definitely worth keeping our geek loving eyes on. Patton Oswalt would fucking cum out his ears for this fucker!

Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 19, 2008, 4:28 a.m. CST

    fisted

    by deanbarry

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 4:49 a.m. CST

    What's a 'Larper?"

    by Xiphos_2

    It sounds painful. Does penicillin clear it up?

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 4:53 a.m. CST

    Xiphos

    by Bloo

    if only, it actually stands for Live Action Role Player ie those sad fools that acutally go out intot he country with a plastic sword and acts out their roleplays

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 5:28 a.m. CST

    dvda

    by semisaj

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 6:03 a.m. CST

    I hate geek humor.

    by DerLanghaarige

    It can be done right (Shaun Of The Dead, many Kevin Smith dialogues) but most of the time it's just: "Look! We make a Star Wars reference!"<br> I really love The Venture Brothers, but I almost start crying, everytime when they switch to geek humor mode. And this ain't tears of happiness. Same with South Park. Okay, not everything in South Park, but especially within the last few season they don't even try to even try to bring in some original geek humor (like in the episode where Moses looked like the MCP from Tron), they just go the cheap route and make Imaginationland. (The "Look, it's ________" joke, stretched out to three painful episodes!)<br> I hope Astropia delivers the good kind of geek humor.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Double double dvda

    by semisaj

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 6:55 a.m. CST

    HELL!

    by rost

    This movie a was at the NIFFF in Neuchatel last july and i missed it. Well, looks like I have to wait a year or two for the DVD now.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 7:08 a.m. CST

    Is there an acronym for Auto Erotic Asphyxiation...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...While Dressed in a Watership Down Rabbit Costume and Listening to Qweensryche?....'cause that's what I'm into. OH, and this movie sounds good...thanks.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 7:08 a.m. CST

    its out on dvda now look it up

    by semisaj

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 7:08 a.m. CST

    I would hope....

    by Jotham

    that by the end of the film you see little geek LARPers and real people who live in the real world. It would be too easy to bash this subculture in a film like this, but it sounds like they take the high road. I hope it makes it to Madison, WI. It would do well here.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 8:11 a.m. CST

    by AllieJamison

    Just checked out the generic American trailer (the "Hildur lived the perfect life"-type which is kinda funny) for this on youtube and it looks kinda sweet. Good to know about it.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Thanks, Harry

    by Cobbio

    For the nod to this film. I'll try to see it now.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 8:33 a.m. CST

    Peter Stormare?

    by bnl771

    "She has a boyfriend that is exploiting her - and he's played by the god, Peter Stormare!" I don't think so harry. I didn't see much of a resemblance coming from the actor that ACTUALLY played Jolli - Davíð Þór Jónsson.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 8:43 a.m. CST

    this just in

    by bingo the clown

    Rolling dice does not prepare you for real hand-to-hand combat. Other than that, it was a cute film.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 8:49 a.m. CST

    @DerLanghaarige

    by bnl771

    Don't get your hopes up too high. Astropia definitely had some moments with audible groans from the audience (with some literal "Look I made a Star Wars reference!" moments) but it redeems itself (mostly) with some great characters. There were definitely flaws in this film (the editing in the last 15 minutes or so will make your head spin - it's the definition of choppy) and I wish we had gotten to see a 35MM print because it was soooooo dark it was hard to stay awake at times (plus - why is it 10 below at the Drafthouse right now? It's not been over 90 since Ike in Austin...) but it's a film full of heart, heart that exuded from the film making team that got up for the Q&A. It's a big step for Icelandic film...

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Exactly what is Fantastic Fest ?

    by Be_a_zed

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 9:14 a.m. CST

    @ Be_a_zed

    by bnl771

    I don't know if you're being sarcastic... But I'll bite anyways - Read all about it - http://www.fantasticfest.com/

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST

    What's LARPer stand for?

    by -guyinthebackrow

    And I remember when RPG stood for Rocket Propelled Grenade.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Athankya ...

    by Be_a_zed

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 10:52 a.m. CST

    Tell Yoko to watch the eating things up....

    by www.valiens.com

    You know why.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 11:15 a.m. CST

    -guyinthebackrow

    by frozen01

    That question was already answered in like the 3rd comment.___________ LARPer = Live Action Role-Player______________ It's basically someone who plays a role-playing game where you act out your characters actions instead of describing them (when possible). For example: Instead of saying "My character gets up and walks across the room", they get up and walk across the room. They don't roll dice but use a more mobile form such as a variation of rock-paper-scissors to decide outcome. Often, but not always, they dress up as their character would (though I've seen this for table-top games, too). The complexity of the outfit depends on the character... it can be anything from full period garb to a nice ball gown to street clothing to tattered rags. LARP is kind of like improv acting with a game thrown in... you have a character who acts a certain way, and you have to react to situations as that character would (as best you can).

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 11:18 a.m. CST

    Tell me at first glance you didnt think it was Porn movie

    by JackRabbitSlim

    "Wow - Harry reviewing a movie called Asstopia? Gotta check this out" And then it started and I was bored 3 paragraphs in realizing this wasn't going to star anyone with collagen-enhanced lips or abnormally-exploited orifices so I didn't read the rest.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 12:07 p.m. CST

    I don't play role-playing or video games, may I still be a geek?

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 12:13 p.m. CST

    nice to hear about some fresh films...but Harry,

    by future help

    You are so hard to read.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 12:38 p.m. CST

    One shall wait for the DVD

    by The Rabbit Of Carrot Shaped Doom

    This absolutely does not sound like something i would entertain the notion of watching on a large screen.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 12:44 p.m. CST

    @The Rabbit Of Carrot Shaped Doom

    by bnl771

    How pompous of you.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 1:29 p.m. CST

    bnl771

    by The Rabbit Of Carrot Shaped Doom

    I disagree. It is simply a statement of intent. If it came across as a pompous declaration, i can only apologise.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 1:36 p.m. CST

    Whats DVDA

    by dioxholster

    is that like what a dvd or what. or do u mean dvd audio which is old

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 2:03 p.m. CST

    @dioxholster

    by bnl771

    double vaginal double anal

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 2:08 p.m. CST

    @The Rabbit Of Carrot Shaped Doom

    by bnl771

    Then I apologize for assuming it was said with a pompous tone. My bad. As far as DVD - The filmmakers sounded very negative about the possibility of this ever coming stateside in any form. Sad though because despite some weighty flaws, it's a solid flick and a film that wears the enjoyment of those making firmly on it's digital sleeve.

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 3:34 p.m. CST

    Karl Hungus is in it

    by Horace Cox

    That's all you need to know. Watch it. NOW. Or he'll cut off your johnson...

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 3:40 p.m. CST

    Who are you calling a sad alien being?

    by Franco Begbie

    Fuck you, Harry!

  • Sept. 19, 2008, 3:45 p.m. CST

    remake? perhaps, but only problem is....

    by The Amazing G

    I doubt a Hollywood version would be as faithful as this version, remember Hollywood is supposed to be "cool" and all....

  • Sept. 20, 2008, midnight CST

    They made another movie about this.

    by Harold-Sherbort

    I think it was called "Drakkon" or maybe "Drakken". They play it on IFC. What an odd hobby. But I dig it I guess.

  • Sept. 20, 2008, 12:05 a.m. CST

    Harold-Sherbort

    by Harold-Sherbort

    The name of that movie was "Darkon" you fucking idiot.

  • Sept. 20, 2008, 12:59 p.m. CST

    Rabbit...

    by NNNOOO!!!

    If there's one reason to see ASTROPIA in a theatre it's the format. When Hildur and her friends shift into Fantasy Mode, the screen expands from 1.85:1 to full 'scope. On the DVD, those sequences just end up letterboxed. If you saw GALAXY QUEST in the theatre, you know what I'm talking about. <P>Regarding its release options, I doubt we'll see it in theatres in the US. Variety reported some months ago that an American remake was being considered, but I suspect a production like that would have trouble clearing all the pop-culture references (the video-clerk character curses Disney in the name of Miyazaki, and recommends THE EXORCIST to a small child), barring a SPACED-type situation where the filmmakers acquire some international clout.<P>Favorite moment? Gotta be the Leroy Jenkins bit.

  • Sept. 20, 2008, 1:27 p.m. CST

    P.S. Harold...

    by NNNOOO!!!

    DARKON is a different deal, in that it is a documentary. But don't be so hard on yourself.

  • Sept. 20, 2008, 1:31 p.m. CST

    Thank you for the review Harry

    by ELGordo

    The guys are so happy. Hope you enjoy the DVD.

  • Sept. 20, 2008, 2:36 p.m. CST

    Harry!

    by Archive

    You go after the Wyrm's storytelling juice, you gotta go through me first!

  • Sept. 23, 2008, 1:55 p.m. CST

    DVD for Astropia

    by schnorbis

    T'd like to check this movie out, but I'm having a hard time finding any place that sells a DVD for it. Some prior comments mention the DVD. Where can I find a DVD of this movie for Region 1 (North America)? Thanks.

  • Sept. 23, 2008, 6:04 p.m. CST

    Schnorbis

    by ELGordo

    Nowhere, it has only been released in Iceland.

  • Dec. 16, 2008, 10:15 p.m. CST

    test

    by Tin Snoman

    test <b> test <p> test

  • Dec. 16, 2008, 10:17 p.m. CST

    test

    by Tin Snoman

    test <p> test <p> test