Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Terry Malloy’s Top Five Fantastic Fest 2012 Films!!



What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.


While I had a GREAT Fantastic Fest 2012, I didn’t have a traditional one. I ended up working throughout the festival and having to squeeze in films at night and over the weekend. In all, I caught 13 films, give or take, due to sometimes nodding off from exhaustion or having to ditch out due to schedule shifts (Sorry DANGER 5, you were really funny, though!) [See all 13 ranked here.]


So, my Top 5 list simply won’t be a definitive one, because I missed out on a few films that I would’ve killed to see, most notably CLOUD ATLAS. However, I still felt that I’d like to offer up my subjective experience of the fest in order to champion some great films!


Since this list is already pretty subjective to my own experience of the festival, I’m also going to rank my top 5 based simply on how much fun I had watching the movies. What absolutely thrilled me or played to my set of quirks and fetishes the most strongly? So this list comes a little more from the heart than the film analysis. Here are the films I simply had the most fun with!








Every festival needs a film that blindsides you and makes you lose your fool mind. I DECLARE WAR was that film for me this time around. Coming off of crazy positive buzz at both ActionFest and TIFF this year, I DECLARE WAR picked up the Fantastic Fest Audience Award and, in my opinion, this thing can’t secure a North American distribution deal fast enough! Audiences the world over will eat this movie up. 



I DECLARE WAR is THE SANDLOT meets PATTON meets BATTLE ROYALE meets PEANUTS. Out in the woods, two rival teams of tweens play out a time honored and rule-bound game of war. The entire film takes place in this single game. There are no adults and we never leave the woods. As the battle rages on, the filmmakers offer layer after layer of engagement and nuance. On one level, just watching the kids play their game is entertaining from an action standpoint and from a comedic standpoint. The audience often sees the battles the way the kids do, with real guns blazing. But just as often we see the battle as it really exists… with sticks and rocks and toys. Then you have some pretty incredible insights into the toll that real war takes on people’s personalities. Conflict changes people and this level of thematic depth comes across very well through the all-kid cast and whip-smart screenplay by writer/director Jason Lapeyre. 



There are so many ways to enjoy this movie. It nails the world of today’s young teenagers in a way that adult writers rarely can. The filmmakers said that they let their cast infuse their own dialog and updates to the script so that it would have an authentic ring to it. The script also authentically recaptures moments and mindsets of the tween years, and by inserting one lone girl into the mix (Mackenzie Munro as Jess), the filmmakers found a whole new element of entertainment and insight. Jess introduces gender politics and teen love into the mix with hilarious and devious results. Her presence in the film is crucial to the dynamics of this war game. Main character PK (Gage Munroe) is the General who has never lost a war because of his brilliance with tactics and strategy. PK is lovable on one hand, but at what cost have his victories come? PK is the smallest cast member, but has the biggest brain. His character arch is the heart and soul of the movie and it rings true with real, adult implications. I love this movie and its characters and will be keeping a close eye on Jason Lapeyre and his creative team. 


As I mentioned, this doesn’t have North American distribution yet, but the filmmakers mentioned during the film’s Q and A that they were “in talks” to secure a deal. 






2)  DREDD 3D 


Released in theaters to a tepid response just the night after we got to see it at Fantastic Fest, I’m am truly saddened by DREDD’s box office take. I loved the film and don’t like to imagine a world where action fans across the globe don’t rally to support this mean little movie! I have a feeling that time and home video figures will be much more kind to DREDD than opening weekend North American box office was. But that doesn’t help fans who would’ve loved to see a trilogy of these movies. 



I myself am a blank slate for the Dredd character. I’ve never read a single 2000AD comic book and my only reference point to the character is Stallone’s JUDGE DREDD film. Everything I know about the core of Dredd’s character I’ve learned through year’s of being plugged in to the geek machine and hearing Stallone’s version maligned repeatedly as veering away from the soul of the character. So fans, didn’t Director Pete Travis and star Karl Urban pretty much deliver the goods this time out, with a loyal adaptation AND a kick ass movie? Where were you? Why aren’t you seeing this film?



DREDD is stripped down and lethal, earning a hard R for some pretty gruesome violence that plays out before your eyes in glorious “Slo Mo.” By now you know the premise. One day in the life of a future judge who acts as judge, jury, and executioner. Dredd enters a mega high rise with a psychic trainee (Olivia Thirlby) and ends up engaging in full on war with Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her clan of drug dealers slinging the latest fad, Slo Mo, which slows perception of reality to a crawl. Dredd and trainee Anderson must outwit an army if they want to get out alive. The movie is funny, smart, visually inventive in it’s photographic representation of the Slo Mo drug and its effect on user, and offers Urban a real iconic action hero role. DREDD 3D is everything I want from a modern action film and I’ll see it many, many times. If you are an action fan, you should too, while it is in theaters.







While on some levels, I expected this movie to be my absolute number one film of the festival, I go back to my defining criteria for this particular list. I dug LOOPER very much, and will continue to watch it, experience it, think about it, and I’m quite certain it will only grow in my estimation as time goes on. That said, I simply had a better time watching the previous two films. And that is okay.



LOOPER is also now playing at a theater near you. And as of this writing, it is doing pretty well, although looking to be beat out by HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA. I couldn’t have taken it if both this film and DREDD had bombed because I genuinely love both films. Yet I expected to love these films, whereas I DECLARE WAR simply shocked me with how “left field” incredible it was.


LOOPER goes in directions that I didn’t expect. Watching the trailer just won’t prepare you for the journey that Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and future Joe (Bruce Willis) are going to take you on. This is ultimately a great thing. Time travel stories should twist and turn, and LOOPER does so with gusto. It also has a dramatic heft to it that I didn’t expect. You might actually be touched by this rip-roaring sci-fi opera. 



There is also plenty to think about and digest here. I had to ask a few questions of friends after the movie got out, just to clarify what I perceived to be happening. LOOPER is a little bit dense and I think that will make for a rewarding experience upon multiple viewings and after several coffeehouse chats with friends. Writer/Director Rian Johnson arrives on the mainstream director circuit here with bravado. He’s crafted a film that will appeal to wide audiences and geeks alike. And while the visuals may not compare with INCEPTION’s, I’m happy to go on record that LOOPER is the better complex-yet-mainstream sci-fi epic!








COLD STEEL is a WWII sniper film that could easily have been directed in the late 1980s by John Woo at the top of his game.




I had a silly smile on my face for this entire movie just because of how great it felt to be watching a wonderful John Woo homage that was so well done it could have, in fact, been a Woo film! What I learned in the Q and A is that director David Wu is a longtime collaborator of John Woo’s, and that while Wu hasn’t directed a massive list of feature films, he has been involved in the creation of some of Hong Kong’s greatest, including editing HARD BOILED and BETTER TOMORROW II just to name some of my favorites. Seriously, look over David Wu’s IMDB resume if you aren’t familiar with the guy (I admit I wasn’t.) He directs TV in Canada right now as his primary gig, but dude can direct big budget Chinese films, 2nd Unit Direct BRIDE OF CHUCKY, edit BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, and STILL be below most of our radars? How is this possible? Let’s just say it won’t be any longer for this action geek. I will have my eyes wide open for David Wu’s name in the future.



COLD STEEL stars Peter Ho as Mu, a young country hunter who gets caught up in the war as China fights against Japan (again). He is an excellent shot, but a brash and foolish young man who doesn’t know how to think for himself. As he gains battle experience and grows in brotherhood with his sniper squad mates, he also begins to fall in love with a teahouse owner back in his hometown. Love and loyalty will collide in proper, overblown, Hong Kong melodramatic fashion and old school action fans will love every minute of it. With massive battle sequences and cool sniper kills abounding, I can’t wait to see COLD STEEL again. 








Drafthouse Films is re-releasing this lost gem of 1980s ephemera and used Fantastic Fest 2012 to reintroduce the film to the world. MIAMI CONNECTION is the 1987creation of Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, a Korean-American immigrant who is a real life Tae Kwon Do expert and self help motivator and speaker. At one point in time, he was apparently hoping to kick off a career as an action movie star. 





Whoever it was within the Drafthouse Films ranks that first found this film saw the makings of a cult hit ripe for rediscovery, and that person deserves a promotion. MIAMI CONNECTION has literally everything you could ask for in a retro cult hit, only it had totally fallen off the cultural radar. Y.K. Kim stars as Mark, the bassist for synth pop band Dragon Sound. He is also the bands’ Tae Kwon Do instructor. Oh, and the band all live together, attend college together well into their early 30s, and are all orphans. This is simply the most bro-tastic group of heroes in film history. Our heroes will mix it up on a regular basis with a scorned house band from a local club whom their band, Dragon Sound, has replaced. But they’ll also get mixed up with a group of cocaine-dealing ninjas who ride motorcycles. “Stupid cocaine.”



In my opinion, the martial arts sequences are actually kind of fun and some elements of them are well done. No quick cuts here, MIAMI CONNECTION takes a page out of the JCVD handbook and gives us some pretty fun moments of slow motion flying jump kicks. Layer on top of that style a little bit of 1980s synth pop, and I’m in heaven as a film fan. Then throw in some hilarious sub-plots, such as one band member reconnecting with his long lost father, and another band member striking up a relationship with the sister of one of the cocaine dealers, and you’ve got some of the most hilarious injections of “heart” into an action film that one could possibly ask for.


The movie extols the virtues of Tae Kwon Do, power ballads, and re-affirms the evils of motorcycle ninjas who sling cocaine. I think we can all agree that this important message should be shared with the whole earth. 


There you have it! My top 5 Fantastic Fest films. Let me know what you think in the comments below!




And I’m Out.




Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis









Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Must see

    by unkempt_sock

    Miami Connection.... NOW

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:24 a.m. CST

    Dredd was ok

    by Beezbo

    Much better take than the Stallone film, but this character isn't exactly a household name. While there was much action and violence, almost all of it was just Dredd shooting guys. Great villain played by Lena Headley though, and the slo-mo drug was cool. Also dissappointed that we won't be seeing a sequel.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:33 a.m. CST

    Scumbag Parents. I saw Dredd last night a 10pm and...

    by future help

    these Trash Parents brought their 3, 5 and 7 yr old daughters to see it. It was hard for me to enjoy it with these small kids in front of me watching the HARD R movie. Fuck you parents who bring your little kids to movies like Dredd and Saw and Hostel and all the other hard R's. Fuck you!

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:35 a.m. CST

    No one's going to take their kid to an ultra violent movie.

    by Smerdyakov

    And the geeks are all downloading it for free. For all it's flaws the Stallone flick kept itself in acceptable action movie territory.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:56 a.m. CST

    Also thought Dredd was merely "okay".

    by AotD

    What The Raid got so right and Dredd didn't was a feeling of escalation. Being a one-location film pretty much start to finish, there had to be that level of escalation to keep it interesting. In The Raid (using it due to its obvious location similarities) the escalation comes in the shape of the fight scenes, with each one better than the last. Dredd just doesn't have that, once you've seen one slo-mo shoot-out, you've seen them all. It's a shame, the rest is bang on but this repetitive streak stopped me from enjoying it as much as I'd hoped I would.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Saw 30 movies, a dozen top level film pros @ FANTASTIC FEST 2012...

    by fathergeek

    Look'n back over 8 days of my FANTASTIC FEST 2012... Experienced 30 new feature length motion pictures, none of the vintage retrospectives this time. In addition to those I witnessed 3 twice; FRANKENWEENIE, DREAD, & LOOPER... Help shoot extended private one on one interviews with TIM BURTON & KARL URBAN... My fave films of the fest in no particular order: CLOUD ATLAS, OUTRAGE BEYOND, YOUNG GUN IN TIME, NO REST FOR THE WICKED, HOLY MOTORS, FRANKENWEENIE, SINISTER, LOOPER, ANTIVIRAL, COLD STEEL, DREAD, COME OUT & PLAY, THE COLLECTION, TOWER BLOCK, annnd THE WARPED FOREST... My fave Q&As were FRANKENWEENIE with MARTIN LANDAU, WINONA RIDER, & TIM BURTON; annnd CLOUD ATLAS with LANA WACHOWSKI & ANDY WACHOWSKI... HIGHBALL moments: a "perfect" Cuba Libre with dark Myers Rum while flip'n thru my sketch book, leaning on a rail watch'n WINONA bowl, talk'n for 45 minutes with ELI ROTH as a parade of hot babes pushed & shoved to get pics with him, sipping Yellow Chartreuse while visit'n in a quite corner with KARL URBAN... PLEASANT SURPRISES: ask'n KARL URBAN for a "doodle" in my sketch book and getting an accomplished purple ink draw'n of himself as DREAD complete with a snarl & stubble, stretch'n my hand out to greet LANA WACHOWSKI and receive'n a warm two handed grasp in return, wait'n on an elevator to open and the door parts reveal'n inches away MARTIN LANDAU face to face, find'n myself surrounded for a half hour by dozens of hot bubbly Japanese babes from THE ABC's OF DEATH early one morning in the FEAR.NET tent... TREASURED MOMENT: receiving a full page ink drawing in my sketch book of "JACK" by TIM BURTON...

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:11 p.m. CST

    LOOPER is very good. Not better than INCEPTION.

    by Frat Boy

    And this isn't coming from a Nolan worshipping fanboy. I think TDKR is incredibly flawed.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 1:08 p.m. CST

    true that frat boy

    by FreeBeer

  • what to compare these 5 films with. Were the other Fest entries all of Ed Wood quality, or was it a tough choice?

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 4:20 p.m. CST

    Top five "Action" films

    by Dan

    I can see that you might not identify that connective tissue there... or realise that Terry, for his sins, is the current go-to action guy on AICN (And actually okay at it) Though, actually, it's also just 'this dudes' top five films. He likes action. Are you this confused all the time? Must be tough...

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 4:47 p.m. CST

    Dredd was one of the best action films of all time.

    by Quake II

    It was a tight 95 minutes of intense futuristic carnage with dry humor and great characters. Ma-Ma was a fantastic villian and Urban/Thirlby were a joy to watch. I've seen it in 3-D three times now and will go back again before it leaves theaters. I went in with high expectations and they were surpassed!

  • I get what you are saying. What does a top 5 list even mean if you don't know the competition? Well, all 13 films I saw are ranked on Letterboxd, and only really the last 2 were films I strongly disliked. Fantastic Fest was good to me this year in that I dug almost all that I got to see.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 8:43 p.m. CST

    Dredd is my favorite film so far this year...

    by Mr. Waturi

    A great surprise. Loved it.

  • ... it might be the greatest movie trailer ever. Well, it is certainly the PERFECT distillation of the film itself. And if that trailer doesn't make you want to see this movie? We differ.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 1:33 a.m. CST

    Action has a name on AICN, and its name is...

    by adeceasedfan

    T.E.R.R.Y.M.A.L.L.O.Y...chk,chk (reload) ...A.K.A.E.D.T.R.A.V.I.S. And I'm Out... ...of bullets.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 7:34 a.m. CST

    Dredd, Go see it while you can

    by rebelpigs

    DREDD 3D= Seroiusly an excellent film, that no one is going to see when there's so much shit out there, unbelievably making more money. I've told everyone I know to go & see it, you know what's put them off? The extra money for 3D, Even though the 3D in this film is the best I've ever seen. A 2D release would really hgave helped the box office. Anyone with an iterest in Genre movies should see this, the potential it has is just incredible. One day you'll be sitting watching this on Bluray thinking, I wish I'd seen this on a big screen.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 9:01 a.m. CST

    Really enjoyed Looper - far more than Prometheus

    by 2for2true

    but I must admit, 'I Declare War' looks very intriguing. Maybe I just saw far, far too many B flicks as a teenager - for three summers, I worked at a drive-in theater in the south - but films like 'Miami Connection' don't really hold a lot of attraction to me. I saw so many of these that only a few really stood out as something I'd now want to own - among them, 'Sssssss', 'Slaughter Hotel', 'Last House on the Left', and the incomparable 'Arnold's Wrecking Company.' 'Last House' is probably the only one I could get nowadays on DVD, unfortunately.

  • Ditto for Shaky Cam movies.

  • I realized that after watching Raiders and Rubber (two more different films I can't think of..) in the same week, they share a connection. Both feature exploding heads. So why not top 5 exploding heads? Scanners and Dawn Of The Dead would be shoo-ins....

  • It's a movie that truly embraces 3-D and delivers an intense carnival ride made for theaters. I say "would you rather ride Space Mountain or watch a video about it at home". The Slo Mo scenes, depth of Peach Trees, opening credit glass shattering Dredd logo and Ma-Ma's fall were beautiful in 3-D on the big screen and I will truly be a little sad when all I have is the 2-D Blu Ray at home, knowing how glorious the 3-D was.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 3:19 p.m. CST

    Yeah, I also loved DREDD

    by Jon Forbing

    And I hate 3D movies. So there.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 3:20 p.m. CST

    P.S. Fathergeek

    by Jon Forbing

    Did you post those sketchbook pages anywhere? I'm an artist/art fan and I would love to see that Burton-drawn Jack and Urban-drawn Dredd.