FANTASIC FEST is... Well, pretty damn Fantastic. Hello fellow AICNers. As if you haven’t been bombarded by enough reviews and postings about Fantastic Fest 2008, I’d like to offer my opinions of the films I was able to attend. This was my first experience at FF, and I must encourage all of you to make the pilgrimage to Austin next year as it was a truly great experience all around. I’d like to thank Tim League, Harry, and all of the employees at The Alamo Drafthouse for pulling off a minor miracle. I never saw anyone that was having a bad time, and my and my wife’s time at FF went flawlessly. My wife and I were only able to get Day Passes, as I had to work in the evenings. She took the week off work, so we were able to attend all the screenings that started before 6pm. This was perfect for us and for $40 each – it was, I think, the best deal of the festival. We saw a total of 13 programs over the week. We weren’t able to get into any of the special screenings, but we still feel we got more than our money’s worth. So… onto the films. Many of these films have already been commented on, so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. Animated Shorts Program This was a great way to start off the festival. Short programs can always be hit and miss, but the majority of these shorts were really great. To me the standouts were Muto, which featured some of the most ambitious animation I have ever seen. Imagine graffiti coming to life and interacting with its surroundings. Each frame of animation repainted on the building walls. In my opinion, this should have won Best Animated Short. That honor went to Berni’s Doll which was a computer animated piece about a poor factory worker that builds his mate from spare mail order parts. It was good, but the madness behind Muto was far superior. Another standout favorite was Fantaisie In Bubblewrap. This short was possibly one of the most hysterically twisted experiments in animation I’ve seen since Bambi Vs. Godzilla. This is classic stuff. There were too many shorts to list individually, but the audience ate it up. (8/10) Just Another Love Story This was the first of a few films from Denmark. The concept of the film is similar to the recent Sandra Bullock film While You Were Sleeping. Just remove the comedy, and add a whole lot of tension, and suspense. After causing a horrible traffic accident, a man goes to visit a woman in the hospital that he had hit. She is in a coma and her family mistakes him for her boyfriend. He doesn’t correct them, and he ends up falling in love with her. He continues the charade up long enough to become involved in some nasty things from her past – including her murderous true boyfriend. (8/10) While some of the early scenes evoke While You Were Sleeping a bit closely, it quickly becomes its own film, and is quite terrifying at the end as you see the main character get further and further into a situation he can’t get out of cleanly. Beautiful photography and some terrific acting help raise this film above many of the other at the festival. Though there was about 5 minutes of images of trees at the end of the film that was a bit out of place and perplexing. The Substitute The second Danish film was a great surprise. This film is quite funny, and while you can see some budgetary constraints, it is really successful because of the kids in the film seem to believe everything that is happening to them. Imagine your mean nasty substitute teacher is actually from another planet and is here to capture your class and whisk you off to become interplanetary experiments. How would you convince your parents that this was true? She seems so sweet to the parents… Lots of fun. I heard this is already set for remake land. Hollywood sucks. (7/10) Terra I was really looking forward to this one. This is a Sci-Fi computer animated flick from Canada. I enjoyed the design a lot. For a fairly inexpensive film, it looks really great. The ships and the planet Terra look very original. It was exciting, and grabs you right from the beginning. However, the anti war message in the film is NOT subtle at all. It feels a bit heavy handed at times. It was touted as the kid’s film of the festival, but it is pretty hard core in spots. Some very violent battles. I enjoyed it. Q&A with the film makers afterwards said they are looking at releasing this in 3-D sometime next year, and it should be pretty thrilling in 3-D. (7/10) Fear(s) of the Dark This was probably the film I was looking forward to the most at the festival. Because of that it was one of the most disappointing films for me. It’s good. It just isn’t as great as it looked from the previews. It is basically 5 unconnected stories from different animators in different styles. In my opinion, the final story was the strongest. It follows a man alone in a dark house at night where every step and motion seems magnified to his imagination. You know how when you are trying to be quiet late at night and everything you do seems louder and brasher than you intended? This guy nearly scares himself to death. This particular short is primarily black with white highlights and accents – beautiful animation. It plays like a haunted house, and it was magnificent. Another great story involved a creepy old fart with 4 terrible dogs that he allows to enjoy themselves, one at a time, on an unsuspecting victim. The piece that tried to tie the stories together was the one that annoyed me the most. It was basically a moving Rorschach of black and white squares, circles and triangles while a woman babbled on about her fears of being boring and inadequate. This piece reminded me that my own worst nightmare would be being stuck in a bad impressionistic French film for all eternity. (7/10) Wicked Lake Avoid this film. It’s bad. Naked Lesbian Weed Smoking Witches can not save this film. I will say no more. (1/10) Fighter This was a great surprise. While not totally original, it was probably the most entertaining film of the festival for me. And a rare happy ending helped make this film a favorite among the audience. The film follows a basic meld of Rocky, Bend it Like Beckham, and The Karate Kid. Throw those films in a blender, and you get Fighter. What I loved the most about this film was the mesh of so many different styles, and cultures. It follows a Turkish girl joining a Kung Fu class and competition in Denmark. The film has Turkish, Danish and English dialogue, and weaves them into the story flawlessly. I really loved this film, even if it was a bit predictable. I have a small problem with our main character going from OK fighter to great fighter so quickly… but these are things easily excused in a well made film. There is also some truly terrific Martial Arts choreography on display here. (8/10) Donkey Punch This is a pretty good nasty horror film from the UK. Seems like its trying a bit too hard to be a Hollywood horror flick, ala Hostel. It takes a bit to get rolling, but it has some great suspense and some brutal killings in it. Bad things happen when a group of British Abercrombies head out on a drug fueled boat trip. Things go very bad, and only get worse. The outboard motor killing is beautiful in a gory slasher kind of way. The final payoff is a little weak – if only because some of the earlier killing worked so nicely. (7/10) Seventh Moon Seventh Moon comes from one of the creators of The Blair Witch Project. It has some good monsters, and nice gore. But please, someone… buy Eduardo Sanchez a freakin’ tripod and a flashlight. Its very dark – to the point of not being able to tell what’s going on. I realize that is a stylistic choice, but come on man! (6/10) Let the Right One In After reading the early reviews on this film, I was pretty excited to see it. The problem with reading such great reviews is that expectations often can’t be met. I didn’t know anything about the film other than everyone loved it. I liked it. It was good, and very atmospheric. Great performances, but a bit slow moving. That said, whoever picked the director of Cloverfield to redo this is retarded. This film is really subtle, and gruesome. Cloverfield was anything but subtle… don’t know how that is going to work out. If you enjoy a slower, more atmospheric brand of horror, you will like this film. It is inventive, and has some terrific performances by some very young actors. Recommended, but don’t be expecting fast paced action horror. (9/10) Astropia Here’s another one that had pumped expectations. Like all of you, I read Harry’s reviews because I love how excited he gets by unexpected films. Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a lot at this film. For geeks it is very funny. I heard a lot of comparisons to Spaced, and that isn’t really the case. It isn’t as consistently funny as Spaced is. I found the interactions between characters in the store Astropia to be hilarious. The interactions outside of the store, not so much. But if you read this site – and you obviously do – you should seek it out on video sometime. It does poke some great fun at us geeks – and I love that humor. (7/10) Gachi Boy: Wrestling With A Memory Nacho Libre meets Memento meets Rocky. This was a fun film. It starts out fully for laughs, and then switches up and gets pretty dramatic for a spell. The lead character is suffering from memory damage similar to the affliction suffered by Guy Pierce in Memento. Some is played for laughs, some is pretty thought provoking. The main character becomes involved in Japanese Pro-wrestling to help him escape his new life problems. The fact that he can’t member any of his moves bring on the frustration and comedy of the piece. There is a really bad re-occurring pun throughout the film that is quite hilarious in it’s execution. As bad is the joke is, the response is really great. (7/10) Not Quite Hollywood This was a great film to finish off my Fantastic Fest experience. After all – nearly all of the films playing fall into the category of “Not Quite Hollywood.” This film is all about the Australian film industry through the 70s and 80’s. Lots of T&A, Explosions, Car Chases, full frontal bush, and more explosions. This is a great documentary. I felt it relied a bit much on Quentin Tarrantino’s commentary, but it’s still a highly enjoyable film. After watching this you will want to go rent some cheesy 70’s grindhouse. (8/10) So there you have it. If you enjoy these kind of films, I would recommend nearly all of them. I only had one turd thrown in the bunch. I really can not recommend Wicked Lake. If you check that one out, don’t say I didn’t warn you. For those wondering – the secret screenings were: The Brothers Bloom Role Models RocknRolla City of Ember Thanks again to the folks at The Alamo! I also want to thank you for reading this long ass posting! I hope to see some more of you at Fantastic Fest next year!
Sept. 29, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST
do we still have a demand for this?
Sept. 29, 2008, 11:24 a.m. CST
One secret screening you missed was Appaloosa, starring and directed by Ed Harris.
Sept. 29, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST
Yes. There's still REC 2 on the way.
Sept. 29, 2008, 12:14 p.m. CST
Sept. 29, 2008, 12:56 p.m. CST
by Ray Gamma
Is this the same "Rando" Calrissian from TheForce.net a few years ago? With the top insider info?
Sept. 29, 2008, 3:02 p.m. CST
by Rando Calrisian
In a galaxy as large as ours there are bound to be a few of us running around. <br> <br> How cool to get posted on AICN! Thanks Merrick!
Sept. 29, 2008, 3:05 p.m. CST
Sept. 29, 2008, 3:14 p.m. CST
by Rando Calrisian
I Didn't even hear about Appaloosa. Just too much at FF to take in! Did you see that one?
Sept. 29, 2008, 3:38 p.m. CST
by master bitchfist
Sept. 29, 2008, 5:07 p.m. CST
by the beef
is very much a throwback to the classic western, the pre-Peckinpah era. It's not a visceral experience in any way. It has about 2 minutes worth of gunfights, but the characters are interesting, the dialogue works, and there's a good deal of unexpected humor. I loved the film.
Sept. 29, 2008, 7:09 p.m. CST
and I am from neither the FORCE.net or this guy...I am a third, much more mysterious Rando...not a rebel scum...but the sinister master of dark arts, LORD RANDO!!!!!!!