Screen Junkies » Fantastic Fest http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Wed, 17 Sep 2014 01:59:03 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 Above All, ‘Human Centipede 2′ Is Boring http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/above-all-human-centipede-2-is-boring/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/above-all-human-centipede-2-is-boring/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2011 21:53:24 +0000 Screen Junkies http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=229845 This movie sucks ass...no, really.

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By Fidel Martinez

It’s really hard to talk about Human Centipede (First Sequence) in an intelligent manner, which isn’t that surprising since most of the controversy surrounding its predecessor focused on audiences’ visceral reaction to the concept of ass-to-mouth horror. The sequel Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is no different (the tagline is “The Deuce Is Loose!” speaks for itself) but I’ll try.

Dutch director Tom Six‘s follow-up to his 2010 meme of a film (yes, in South Park spoofs you, you’re a meme) opened up the 2011 edition on Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in North America, and I was there to witness it. The first thing that greeted me when I got to my seat was a barf bag filled with a mint and a staple remover. The former was there for more than obvious reason, whereas the stapler remover was there alluding to what I was about to watch.

Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) opens quite literally where the last one left off: the final scene from the first movie and its closing credits. The camera then zooms out to reveal Martin (Laurence Harvey), a short, mentally challenged, grotesque-looking garage attendant. Soon after, we learn that our protagonist–much like the film’s director– is obsessed with the Human Centipede (First Sequence), so much so that his plan is to recreate the fictional Dr. Heiter’s monstrous creation. There’s a catch, though. Martin won’t be happy with three people being stitched together ass-to-mouth. He wants to turn it up to eleven. Well, twelve, to be more precise. A dozen victims instead of the pedestrian three.

And so the film’s very simplistic plot begins to unravel. Martin uses his place of work to pick off his victims, clubbing all but two of them at the parking garage and dragging them to an abandoned warehouse. The two other are the skinhead neighbor who lives above his flat and Ashlynn Yennie– an actress in the first one who plays herself in this one (we told you that Tom Six is obsessed with his own work).

Once he has his twelve parts for his centipede, Martin rolls up his sleeves (by which we mean “takes off his pants and puts on a surgical coat”) and begins to work. What follows next is a bombardment of repulsion and the grotesque. There’s more blood splattered, more open wound shown, and more consumption of fecal matter than the first one. And yet, the film failed to make me feel sick. Going in, I had psychologically prepared myself to see the worst. It turns out my idea of “the worst” is more disgusting (or original) than what Tom Six imagined. Yes, I was partially grossed out, but more than anything I was bored. It was as if a previously hilarious joke stopped being sudden all of a sudden. It’s as if the meme had reached a point of over-saturation and exhaustion.

If I wanted to give the film more credit than it deserves, I’d call it a schlockier, gorier, and less entertaining version of Eraserhead. Tom Six opted to shoot his sequel in black and white instead of color to create a contrast between his two films (sterile in the first one vs. disgust and dirtiness in this one). Whether intentionally or not, David Lynch‘s experimental came to mind.

If I wanted to be honest about HC2, I’d call it a boring film that’s done in by its own hype and the director’s shortcomings as a filmmaker.

Fidel Martinez is the Managing Editor of Tu Vez. You can check out his vile rants on twitter.

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Review: Stake Land http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/review-stake-land/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/review-stake-land/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2011 19:43:40 +0000 Fred Topel http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=205661 The basic idea of the story is familiar, but I’m always up for another “surviving the wasteland” adventure.

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The fact that Stake Land played at FantasticFest is enough to make me interested. I have faith that any film qualifying for that festival has something interesting about it, whether I end up liking it or not. Stake Land is not to be confused with Skate Land, an ‘80s period piece coming of age drama.

Martin (Connor Paolo) narrates the story of how Mister (Nick Damici) guides him through the vampire apocalypse. Mister trains Martin in staking vampires, and they travel the wasteland on their way to New Eden. Along the way they encounter towns and outposts, and run afoul of The Brotherhood, a gang of apocalypse zealots.

The basic idea of the story is familiar, but I’m always up for another “surviving the wasteland” adventure. It could be zombies, vampires or just plain the end of the world, but in this case it’s vampires. My interest is always in what little treasures remain after it’s all gone, and Stake Land gives me everything from leftover beers to porno playing cards.

Mister is a real badass. He jump kicks and lands in cool poses. He’s the grizzled veteran who even sets traps for vampires to fall into. The vampire fights are good. One elaborate scene has The Brotherhood drop vampires from helicopters to attack a peaceful town. That’s not only impressive, but a really evil tactic.

The film features impressive wasteland roads and ghost towns, even a section of freeway gridlocked with abandoned cars. They can’t quite show national landmarks but it’s high production value to convey the end of society. When Mister and Martin stop in towns, there are actually moments of fun and happiness. That’s an area that The Road Warrior, The Road and any other post-apocalyptic thriller never really explored. Then when that respite is destroyed it’s even more tragic.

The somber musical score makes the film feel more indie than epic, although the music pumps up for fight scenes to give them a big action feeling. The people they meet on the road seem incidental. The nun (Kelly McGillis) shows the ultimate despair of the faithful. Belle (Danielle Harris) offers hope for a new generation because she’s pregnant, and she brings some light into world of pure survival. Jebedia Loven (Michael Cerveris) believes the vampires are instruments of God to purify the world, so he’s a dangerous nut job. All three remain familiar types in this genre.

I like the genre though and I was impressed by the story and details Stake Land presented. There are a few different ideas for how the world might continue, none of which are invalidated. Mister and Martin just press on so we see what’s left of the whole country. And then they fight vampires.

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Fantastic Fest Reviews: ‘Legend of the Fist’, ‘Ip Man 2′, ‘Agnosia’, ‘Bunraku’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-reviews-legend-of-the-fist-ip-man-2-agnosia-bunraku/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-reviews-legend-of-the-fist-ip-man-2-agnosia-bunraku/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Legend of the Fist One of my great joys at FantasticFest 2010 was getting to see new Hong Kong movies on the big screen. I usually pick them up on DVD long before their cursory theatrical release in an arthouse, so this was like being in Hong Kong and seeing the latest blockbusters. Hong Kong films are so polished now. They no longer feel like the secret world of films you’d have to really love to put up with the dirty, faded copies available. They even do shaky cam just like Hollywood movies. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is another retelling of the Bruce Lee movie Chinese Connection (original title Fist of Fury). Jet Li did it as Fist of Legend and others have too. In this version, Donnie Yen picks up as Chen after avenging his master in a dojo full of Japanese fighters. He goes from World War I to Shanghai in 1925, still dealing with Japanese/Chinese politics. He takes on the persona of a masked warrior to defend Chinese notables, so he can fight by night and romance by day. More reviews after the jump...

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Legend of the Fist

One of my great joys at FantasticFest 2010 was getting to see new Hong Kong movies on the big screen. I usually pick them up on DVD long before their cursory theatrical release in an arthouse, so this was like being in Hong Kong and seeing the latest blockbusters. Hong Kong films are so polished now. They no longer feel like the secret world of films you’d have to really love to put up with the dirty, faded copies available. They even do shaky cam just like Hollywood movies.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is another retelling of the Bruce Lee movie Chinese Connection (original title Fist of Fury). Jet Li did it as Fist of Legend and others have too. In this version, Donnie Yen picks up as Chen after avenging his master in a dojo full of Japanese fighters. He goes from World War I to Shanghai in 1925, still dealing with Japanese/Chinese politics. He takes on the persona of a masked warrior to defend Chinese notables, so he can fight by night and romance by day.

More reviews after the jump…

There’s a little more down time than I’d like but the five awesome fight scenes make Legend of the Fist a keeper. Yen in a World War I battlefield kicking ass with some Parkour style moves, basically making his own path, and some MMA style takedowns. He slides over and under the scenery and you see his preparation, winding up for the greatest moves. Chen flips onto an opponent and uses the momentum to flip the opponent again. Wires or not, that’s awesome.

The setting is full of production value, with prohibition era top hat wearing gangsters. Chorus lines dance to big band music. It looks like a Hollywood gangster epic. The postwar underground story is poignant. The Chinese really had to fend for themselves. Political intrigue leads to face offs and standoffs, but that’s only to say it doesn’t suck in between the fighting.

The finale lets Yen go full on Bruce Lee in a dojo fight. He does a mean Bruce and even wields the weapon of choice. This action is certainly bigger than the Li or Lee versions. The camera speed may reveal itself changing a few times, but man it is effective to capture the grace and vitality of Yen’s martial arts.

One thing that still gives a Hong Kong movie away is they still can’t find any white actors who can behave like human beings. The minor Caucasian characters can’t even deliver convincing stereotypes of racist pigs. That’s still a remnant of the old Hong Kong movies.

Donnie Yen is fast becoming the big gun of Hong Kong movies. He always had Iron Monkey but otherwise I think he played second fiddle to the Chans and Lis. He must have been holding back because recent movies like Legend of the Fist are amazing displays of talent.

 

Ip Man 2

Ip Man is a wonderful martial arts character. The Wing Chun teacher is legendary as the mentor of Bruce Lee. He embodies the best of martial arts with gracious modesty and humility. These are the masters we keep hearing about. Ip Man was one of them, at least according to the movies.

Ip Man 2 picks up with Ip Man (Donnie Yen) struggling after World War II. He finds some students, but they still can’t pay his bills. Local schools pick fights with Ip Man’s students and it gets back to Maste Hung (Sammo Hung). Hung runs the martial arts council so once again Ip Man has to prove Wing Chun worthy.

He’s so friendly. He schools his students without slaughtering them. Trying to not kill his opponents is more exciting than fighting to the death. He still thanks people for letting him win so they can save face when it’s clear Ip Man is the best. He also lets his aunt hang laundry in his empty dojo. What a guy.

It’s a good story about real world sacrifices and compromises. Nothing is free. Even awesome masters need money. Sometimes they have to make deals with the invading military. The story is loaded with philosophy.

Yen has such control over his body. There’s wirework for extra money shots, letting fighters balance on wobbly edges. The film really builds up momentum for the Yen/Hung fight, a battle that incorporates weight, balance and speed.

Then the movie becomes a remake of Rocky IV. Everyone seems to acknowledge this, from the actors in the film to the audience who agree with the comparisons. After all the above story, a western boxer named Twister (Darren Shahlavi) comes to town insulting the martial arts, so Hung steps in to show him a thing or two. Of course it’s finally up to Ip Man to defend the honor of martial arts.

At first I wasn’t down with the movie embracing old sports movie clichés. It was onto something so profound to digress into that, and how random for this element to be brought in. I guess I’ll have to research Ip Man’s biography and see if he really did fight the British Ivan Drago.

Looking back, I’m a little more okay with it. The Ip Man movies must be intended to glorify the legend of a master’s master. The Rocky motif fits that legend. Also Ip Man 1 had a dramatic shift between his local school and the war.

The fights with Twister are intense and it actually makes western boxing look way more formidable than martial arts. Hung and Yen get some good moves in, though nothing compares to their tabletop battle in the martial arts council. The bottom line is there’s so much fighting in Ip Man 2 it’s awesome. The character remains a classic and I hope there’s more story to tell with him.

 

Agnosia

Agnosia was a favorite of the 201 Fantastic Fest, both by audience reaction and the enthusiasm of Fantastic Fest cofounder Tim League. I just wasn’t into it. The film asks a profound philosophical question that is worth exploring, but getting the story there requires mechanics that are so uninteresting that I can’t care by the time it explores the question.

Joana (Barbara Goenaga) has a rare condition where her brain cannot process all the stimuli around her, so she sees and hears blurs of the people and surroundings around her. The condition first manifests itself when she’s a little girl and her father’s company is demonstrating the lenses they built for rifle scopes.

Her father’s mansion has an elaborate setup to help Joana get around, along with a full time staff. When her father passes away, an evil conspiracy concocts a plan to get Joana to reveal her father’s secret lens formula. Her doctor devises a treatment that requires her to be isolated in a blackened, soundproof room for three days to remove all stimuli. Vincent (Felix Gomez) will impersonate Joana’s fiancé Carles (Eduardo Noriega).

Got all that? Now the issue is: if you remove any superficial identifiers, would you know the difference between your lover and an imposter? That’s deep, but honestly, who cares about a lens corporation and a cockamamie medical treatment that sounds fishy before it’s even revealed to be a scam?

I suppose if you’re going to make a movie about scamming an agnosiac for her lucrative lens franchise, this is the way to do it. It’s got high production value with the period sets and costumes, particularly the elaborate contraption they build to isolate Joana.

Joana is a sweet, lovely girl. Goenaga is bright and luminous as an innocent, happy despite the limits imposed on her. She’s sexy and modest, in shots where we see her body without exploiting her, and in full on full frontal sex scenes. Let’s call is sensual. Perhaps the film’s biggest fault is that Joana isn’t in the movie enough. She’s the heart and the only hook into this bizarre plot and they spend a lot of time on the workings of the lens company and the conspirators.

You definitely don’t want anything bad to happen to Joana so by the time the film gets into the resolution of this conflict, you feel bad for her. But if you think about it, it’s still so stupid. It’s not even really evil. It’s just silly.












Bunraku

Bunraku is an ambitious movie that has a lot going for it. It ultimately doesn’t quite work but it’s still worth seeing once for the attempts it makes. Of the indie movies at Fantastic Fest, it seems a candidate for some kind of distribution, so you’ll probably be able to see it at some point.

In a post-war world where guns have been banned, a man with no name – well, they call him The Drifter (Josh Hartnett) – wanders into town looking for Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman). He teams up with a samurai Yoshi (GACKT), who’s after Nicola for stealing his clan’s talisman. Killer #2 (Kevin McKidd), Nicola’s, uh, number two, keeps the city in fear.

The plot is familiar but this crazy world looks like nothing else. The sets are like paper diorama, only large enough for human sized actors to walk through. Single colors fill in the backdrops like a living comic book, even more so than Sin City. It’s kind of like how I think Dick Tracy wanted to look. Costumes change colors as the character walks through different light.

A few little fourth wall breaks add to the surreal world. An off screen chant might signal the appearance of a villain. On screen identifications pop up sometimes, but not other times. The bartender’s (Woody Harrelson) version of Spider-Man uses satire to convey the differences between this world and ours.

The fights are a huge letdown. After setting up such a visually striking world, the combat looks like stage fighting 101. They move really slowly and only consist of basic hits. A tracking shot following The Drifter through several levels of a compound, taking out guards along the way, is a waste because the fights it captures are boring. One fight on a trapeze still only hints at ideas that could have made inventive battles.

The idea is that they’re more like dances, but they’re not really very graceful dances either. Killer #2 may tip his hat or sway once or twice, but he doesn’t rock any real moves. So it’s not a dance, it’s not a fight, it’s really slow. I have no doubt that the actors trained for months to get this down, but when Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman trained for months, we got The Matrix and Kill Bill.

The most impressive thing about Bunraku is the look. Director Guy Moshe creates a fascinating visual world. It’s too bad he couldn’t fill it with more interesting action. The basic revenge story would be fine, but it’s not even an entertaining revenge. Maybe this one will do well and they’ll be able to make a sequel and hire a better fight choreographer.

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Sound of Noise’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-sound-of-noise/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-sound-of-noise/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 When I read the description of Sound of Noise in the Fantastic Fest brochure, I thought there’s no way it could be as awesome as it sounds. It’s about musical terrorists, but if it were really that awesome, some Hollywood people would have done it already, right? Well, I discovered at a sold out Fantastic Fest screening that Sound of Noise is one of those rare indie foreign films that is as awesome as it sounds.

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When I read the description of Sound of Noise in the Fantastic Fest brochure, I thought there’s no way it could be as awesome as it sounds. It’s about musical terrorists, but if it were really that awesome, some Hollywood people would have done it already, right? Well, I discovered at a sold out Fantastic Fest screening that Sound of Noise is one of those rare indie foreign films that is as awesome as it sounds.

More after the jump…

Sanna (Sanna Persson) recruits a motley gang of disgruntled drummers to help her and her partner perform their symphony throughout the city. Their public disturbance is technically illegal, so tone deaf cop Amadeus (Bengt Nilson) is on their trail. It’s basically a heist movie where the score is a performance and they show you the plan and scope out the joint before they execute it.

They’re not just banging on the scenery. They use the signature noises of various machines as part of their composition. They use the texture of the road and engine speeds to create music with a van. These drummers are doing it for real. There are no fake computer noises and their creativity takes Stomp to the next level.

The four movements of the symphony become the major set pieces of the film but there’s more. The driving song is simply an introduction. There are drum offs between gang members. On the run from Amadeus, one of the drummers makes music as he passes by tempting vibrational surfaces.

I never would have thought I’d sympathize with a group of drummers. I have a hard time with modern music that’s all rhythm. Call me old fashioned but I like melody and harmony The spirit of rebellion is healthy though. The performances are destructive and dangerous, but so whimsical it’s contagious. Treating music like a crime is satire and Sound of Noise pays off brilliantly.
 

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Fantastic Fest: 100 Best Kills Party http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-100-best-kills-party/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-100-best-kills-party/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 The 100 Best Kills Party at Fantastic Fest was more of a sit down show than a party. It had tickets, attendees sat in a movie theater and Alamo Drafthouse hosts Zack and Lars introduced footage on the screen. I thought I knew movies, but very few of the clips they showed were movies I’d seen or heard of, so it was an educational presentation that will increase my Netflix queue exponentially. More on the films that made the cut after the jump...

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The 100 Best Kills Party at Fantastic Fest was more of a sit down show than a party. It had tickets, attendees sat in a movie theater and Alamo Drafthouse hosts Zack and Lars introduced footage on the screen. I thought I knew movies, but very few of the clips they showed were movies I’d seen or heard of, so it was an educational presentation that will increase my Netflix queue exponentially.

More on the films that made the cut after the jump…

Now they didn’t show 100 clips. All week at Fantastic Fest there was a submission box for people to drop DVDs featuring their favorite clip in them. They got six submissions and had to fill in the rest. Only a few were mainstream movies, and some surprising ones did not come from horror. From the world of comedy, the ending of One Night At McCool’s qualified, and a few action kills too.

There was no Freddy, no Jason, no Final Destination, no Saw. The classics you’ve heard of might be the finale of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a kill from each of the Omen movies, Rambo’s exploding arrow tip and Weird Al’s spoof of it, and Robocop’s toxic hit and run. New entries included Hatchet’s mouth ripping, and Punisher War Zone’s parkour explosion.

Honestly, some of the people who submitted have seen some really sick sh*t. A scene from Nekromantik has a gu whip it out, stab himself in the stomach and ejaculate while thinking of a rabbit getting skinned and disemboweled. Gozu has a guy impaled by a ladel and electrocuted in the ass. Gaspar Noe’s I Stand Alone has a guy punching his pregnant wife into an abortion. So be sure to check those out.

It didn’t have to be graphic to make the list though. The black and white Mask of Satan/Black Sunday hammers a mask on a woman’s face and you get the point. Leslie Nielsen wrestles a bear to death in Day of the Animals. Young Sherlock Holmes’ priest trampled to death by a horse-drawn carriage made the cut on the audacity of killing a man of the cloth.

Most of the clips were shown in the spirit of fun, the joy of watching people get killed but not for real. Stone Cold’s henchman crashing his motorcycle into a helicopter, a gay vampire sucking ass blood in Gayracula, Lady Terminator kicking a guy in the crotch after machine gunning him at close range, two of Charles Bronson’s rocket launcher kills, The Story of Ricky’s gut punch, Shogun Assassin’s desert head slice, Death Race 2000’s hospital run.

There was a sense of irony too. The finale of Old Yeller made it. One anime clip got submitted giving Lars and Zack a chance to slam anime. I don’t know what movie it was from, but they agreed all anime looks the same anyway. They closed things up with Arsenio Hall’s epic death in Amazon Women on the Moon.

They barely got through about 40 clips so there may be 60 more greats for future Fantastic Fests. On the way out the door, nine people re-enacted a human centipede to win free Human Centipede DVDs. They kept their clothes on, but still, let’s see Sundance attendees stick their faces in each others’ butts for free DVDs.
 

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Fantastic Fest: ‘Jackass 3D’ Footage Preview. Steve-O Says James Cameron Can Suck His D*ck http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-jackass-3d-footage-preview-steve-o-says-james-cameron-can-suck-his-dck/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-jackass-3d-footage-preview-steve-o-says-james-cameron-can-suck-his-dck/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Listen, I thought Jackass #2 was the best movie of 2006 and I stand by that. It was so creative with stunts, well performed, artistically composed and put together. It has motifs and plays with its own format. They’ve taken it to the next level of what entertainment should be and I fully expect Jackass 3D to be just as awesome in 2D, but a well deserved spoof of the 3D movement. At Fantastic Fest Secret Screening #3, Steve-O introduced some preview footage from Jackass 3D. It was the same reel they showed at the beer party at San Diego Comic Con, but if you didn’t get to see that I’ll describe it for you again. But first, he did a live Jackass stunt, lighting his hair on fire with hairspray, then having his buddy blow a fireball off it. Sorry, my camera missed the fireball but you can still see his head on fire. The video and more after the jump...

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Listen, I thought Jackass #2 was the best movie of 2006 and I stand by that. It was so creative with stunts, well performed, artistically composed and put together. It has motifs and plays with its own format. They’v taken it to the next level of what entertainment should be and I fully expect Jackass 3D to be just as awesome in 2D, but a well deserved spoof of the 3D movement.

A Fantastic Fest Secret Screening #3, Steve-O introduced some preview footage from Jackass 3D. It was the same reel they showed at the beer party at San Diego Comic Con, but if you didn’t get to see that I’ll describe it for you again. But first, he did a live Jackass stunt, lighting his hair on fire with hairspray, then having his buddy blow a fireball off it. Sorry, my camera missed the fireball but you can still see his head on fire.

The video and more after the jump…

 


Steve-O opened with a comment: “James Cameron can suck our dicks. We’ve got enough cocks coming out of the screen, everyone can suck a dick. My challenge to you when you see the movie is try not to suck a dick.”

The brief clip that impressed me the most was a recreation of the famous Maxell commercial. It looks like either Ryan Dunn or Bam Margera sitting on a couch getting blown away by a jet engine. I have to guess because he’s blown away so fast I didn’t have time to really see. Now that is not a stupid stunt. That is a social commentary putting a culturally significant image to the test. And they got a jet engine! That’s awesome.

In the traditional filmed Jackass opening, Johnny Knoxville says, “Welcome to Jackass” and gets pounded in the face with an air balloon. One of the guys takes a large ball slingshot into his nuts. Party Boy (dancing again with streamers) gets a spank from a giant hand. Preston Lacy takes a cannonball to the gut which jiggles in your face. Three other jackasses stand behind him dressed as pirates. Wee Man gets slapped around by fish. Bam plays a human piñata with his parents cheering him on.

There are so many layers to this I don’t even feel I can express it in words. First of all, it has become a motif of Jackass that the guys hit each other with giant hands and other objects. So the elevation of the smacking has become an art form itself. These little episodes address so much about the franchise, from Bam’s tormenting of his parents to the role of Party Boy in post-Janet Jackson society. And it’s in 3D.

They show one full scene, the Poo Cocktail Supreme. You may remember Johnny Knoxville’s first stunt in a tipped over port-a-potty. Now they attach a porta-potty to cranes on bungee chords. Steve-O worries, because it’s not the sh*t that bothers him, it’s the roller coaster-esque shaking. He’s wearing jean shorts, a tank top and a hardhat.

They launch the port-a-potty and on the way down, poo sprays out into the audience. Inside the john, the poo hovers in mid-air in 3D. Steve-O spits some of it out of his mouth, and the slo-mo replay totally works in 3-D. If Hollywood is going to make us wear 3D glasses to watch all our movies now, then they deserve to get 3D poop sprayed in their laps.

A montage of other stunts shows the Jackass goodness to come next month. Knoxville and others dress as Santa Claus and sit in a tree while it’s cut down. Most 3D of all, some jackass shot only from the waste down and bent over blows a party streamer out his ass, into the audience’s lap.

You may think it’s too much to analyze Jackass this much. I say if something creates this much joy, this much entertainment, it’s worth thinking about. Even if the guys are just doing what comes naturally, it’s my job to articulate why it works and I’m happy to turn my brain ON in anticipation of Jackass 3D.
 

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Exclusive: RZA Talks ‘The Man With The Iron Fist’ Fighting Techniques http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/exclusive-rza-talks-the-man-with-the-iron-fist-fighting-techniques/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/exclusive-rza-talks-the-man-with-the-iron-fist-fighting-techniques/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Wu-Tang Clan’s The RZA is moving into film directing with an idea that would make The Shaw Brothers proud. The Man with the Iron Fist will star Russell Crowe in RZA’s ultimate concept for martial arts. There’s been a little speculation so far about RZA’s ultimate vision. During Fantastic Fest, after he presented master Yuen Wu-Ping with a lifetime achievement award, RZA told me his idea for Iron Fist fights. More from RZA after the jump...

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Wu-Tang Clan’s The RZA is moving into film directing with an idea that would make The Sha Brothers proud. The Man with the Iron Fist will star Russell Crowe in RZA’s ultimate concept for martial arts. There’s been a little speculation so far about RZA’s ultimate vision. Durin Fantastic Fest, after he presented master Yuen Wu-Ping with a lifetime achievement award, RZA told me his idea for Iron Fist fights.

More from RZA after the jump…

“I think something that’s missing in some of these film, that lose tension is sometimes these guys’ll get his three or four, five or six times and get back up and try to kee fighting,” RZA said. “Bruce Lee once said that he likes his movies where he hits you one time and you’re down. That’s because what’s the use on knowing kung fu if it’s going to take you 20 punches to kill a man? Anybody could do that then. So I’m looking at trying to bring back the exciting impact of a martial art blow. It’s easier said than done of course but that’s my aim, to look at it like ooh, ooh, get a lot of oohs and not a lot of ha ha, ahh.”

If it only takes one hit to take a guy out, those fight scenes will end up pretty short. Don’t worry, RZA has a way to keep the action moving.

“I think there’s a way to do it. I think without revealing my technique, take [the example of] horror movies, like Jason. It’s one stab and that motherfucker’s dead. It’s a buildup to that death but you watch it and that’s your fear. When he does it, you’re like ugh. I think it’s that. I think it’s the impact of the one thing that makes an audience feel that kind of jolt you get when you’re watching these kinds of films.”

Now imagine Russell Crowe doing it.

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Never Let Me Go’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-never-let-me-go/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-never-let-me-go/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 **Sort Of Spoiler Alert** Mark Romanek’s cloning drama turned out to be secret screening #2 at Fantastic Fest. Never Let Me Go is about a school for kids who find out they’re being bred solely to donate organs, and they’ll probably die after three or four donations. There was an action movie version of this a few years ago, but it wasn’t very good and didn’t do very well so Romanek’s version may as well be original. More after the jump...

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**Sort Of Spoiler Alert**

Mark Romanek’s cloning drama turned out to be secret screening #2 at Fantastic Fest. Never Let Me Go is about a school for kids who find out they’re being bred solely to donate organs, and they’ll probably die after three or four donations. There was an action movie version of this a few years ago, but it wasn’t very good and didn’t do very well so Romanek’s version may as well be original.

More after the jump…

The first section, when the characters are kids, is a really sweet exploration of youthful discovery. It’s a little more sheltered and innocent than usual coming of age dramas, but it fits with that genre until the teacher explains the plot to them. When they grow into teenagers, they’re still innocent like kids.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan) loves Tommy (Andrew Garfield) but he gets more romantically close with Ruth (Keira Knightley). That is, if they knew what romance was, that’s how they’d be paired off but even that is awkward for these sheltered specimens. For all their education, they still can’t make sense of their feelings or physical touches. Eventually, the trio gets out into the world and they can barely order food at a diner.

The performances are good. They go from innocent to tragic at different points in the story. It’s a really mellow drama about how people live life with limited experiences and information. Once they are adults, the three characters only represent slightly different levels of maturity, but none of them are whole grown-ups.

It’s good sci-fi, just dealing with the concept of people bred for harvesting on a personal level. It’s not that exciting or eventful. They just have to live with this knowledge and either get the most out of life, or resign themselves to being a medical specimen. There’s not much to say because the characters are purposefully stunted, they have so little invested in life.

The language of the film is stark. They talk about “completing” as when they’re finished donating, which means they’ll die. Words like “donor” and “original” take on new philosophical meanings.

The film looks rather dreary, not necessarily because of the subject matter. Just every place from the children’s academy to the overcast city to medical facilities look very gray. Maybe it’s supposed to represent the lives Kathy, Tommy and Ruth lead or maybe it’s just England.

I appreciate Never Let Me Go. I don’t know if I like it. It does things right as a character study and maintains the ambiguity that the Michael Bay version needed. Other than the exercise of doing it right though, it’s not necessarily entertaining.

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Rubber’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-rubber/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-rubber/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Rubber became a Cannes phenomenon based on its outrageous premise. That alone carried it through Fantastic Fest where its first screening sold out, and I finally made it into the second, which also sold out. All you need to know is that it is about a tire that kills people. That is enough to get you to see Rubber. That’s certainly all I needed to hear. I would watch a trilogy about killer tires. More after the jump...

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Rubber became a Cannes phenomenon based on its outrageous premise. That alone carried it throug Fantastic Fest where its first screening sold out, and I finally made it into the second, which also sold out.

All you need to know is that it is about a tire that kills people. That is enough to get you to see Rubber. That’s certainly all I needed to hear. I would watch a trilogy about killer tires.

More after the jump…

It’s actually so much more and I don’t think that’s getting out. So I’m not going to ruin it, but I’m going to describe it. This is a French New Wave film about the phenomenon of visual entertainment.

Rubber opens with Officer Chad (Stephen Spinella) addressing the audience about movies. It’s hilariously self-referential and perceptive, and then it has fun with it, and with us. His speech is still true, even when his examples are purposefully wrong. Other characters are involved in creating this weird world of observing and creating, but describing the specifics is both a spoiler and unnecessary.

Be prepared for obscure dry humor that challenges the reality we accept in film. Rubber has its own rules, but they’re not the natural laws that govern reality or most reality-based movies. It questions our role in watching movies and still delivers a great viewing experience.

The tire moves with character and emotion. Having a practical tire goes a long way, whether they controlled it remotely or stop motion animated it or just had some dude shaking it off camera. Even killer tires watch girls shower, so the killer tire movie really delivers on genre, then goes above and beyond.

I love movies that just try to be awesome even if it makes no sense. Awesome beats sense every time. The plausibility of a killer tire is only the beginning of Rubber’s awesome nonsense. You can feel the satisfaction behind the scenes as writer/director/editor Quentin Dupieux invents a new film language.
 

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Fantastic Fest ’10: The Adventure http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-10-the-adventure/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-10-the-adventure/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 As you can tell from the above pic, Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX is a splended event for ass-picking. It also screens some mind-bending and stomach churning genre films that you won't see anywhere else. This was my first time at Fantastic Fest and I loved the vibe of the event. Everyone was jazzed to be gathering at a festival that showcases martial arts movies in one theater, cannibal movies in the next, and of course torture porn just down the hall. The festival goes through this Thursday, but I certainly took in my fill of askew cinema over the past five days. You can check out our reviews at the Fantastic Fest page, which I’ll continually update, as our writer Fred is still over in Austin soaking up the on-screen madness and mayhem.

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As you can tell from the above pic Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX is a splended event for ass-picking. It also screens some mind-bending and stomach churning genre films that you won’t see anywhere else. This was my first time at Fantastic Fest and I loved the vibe of the event. Everyone was jazzed to be gathering at a festival that showcases martial arts movies in one theater, cannibal movies in the next, and of course torture porn just down the hall. The festival goes through this Thursday, but I certainly took in my fill of askew cinema over the past five days. You can check out our reviews at the Fantastic Fest page, which I’ll continually update, as our writer Fred is still over in Austin soaking up the on-screen madness and mayhem.

Most of the screenings take place at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. You might have heard of it before. It’s considered the most entertaining movie theater experience in the country, and I can certainly corroborate that now. Right when you take a seat, a waiter comes over and asks if you’d like anything to eat or drink. And we’re not talking rubbery hot dogs or stale nachos. They have an entire menu with items that would make a pothead exhaust his salivary glands. Chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese, pizza, burgers, and a $5 shake called a $5 shake that could give you diabetes it’s so sweet. The prices are reasonable too. So you place your order, and during the movie the waiter drops off your food. He then brings your check before the end of the show, you pay, and you’re on your way. It’s an amazingly novel idea dreamt up by Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League. If there’s not one in Los Angeles in the next five years I’ll be surprised and depressed. I’ve heard they’re working on plans, so fingers crossed.

On to the festivities!

Opening night started with a battle cry at The Paramount Theater in downtown Austin. Tim League came out on stage to welcome everyone and introduce the screening of Let Me In. But it wasn’t long until he ripped off his suit to expose full Viking garb. Him and a few close Viking friends stormed the stage and belted Zepplin’s "Immigrant Song" at the top of their lungs. Ooooooh, the festival is Norwegian themed. I get it now!

After the Vikings went off to pillage 6th Street, Tim invited Let Me In director Matt Reeves out on the stage. He thanked everyone for being there and then asked Michael Giacchino, the film’s composer, to come out. We were then treated to something creepy. The Austin Boys Choir shuffled out single-file (creepy) and sang a song from the film’s score. I was expecting one of them to induce mind control over me at any moment.

After Let Me In was the screening of Buried a.k.a. Let Me Out! Claustrophobia/agoraphobia must have been another theme that night. You can read our review for the film here. After the screening, star Ryan Reynolds and director Rodrigo Cortes came out on stage for a Q&A. Of course the first question was asked by some douche. “Who carries Zippos anymore?!” Me, so I can light people like you on fire at any given moment. Reynolds fielded the question admirably though. He said a lot of people do, mainly because they do. That Reynolds. I can see why ladies and bi-curious bloggers crush on him.

The next day in between screening Break writer and my partner in crime at the festival Fidel Martinez ate a taco at the “Zombie Roadkill” taco truck. He makes them look more disgusting than they sounded. 

That night was the Master Pancake Theater screening of Independence Day with special guest Bill Pullman a.k.a President “Today is our Independence Day!” Master Pancake Theater is basically “Mystery Science Theater 3000” with humans replacing Tom Servo and Crow. Every time an explosion bigger than a helicopter erupted on screen we were ordered to shout out “Fuck me, Mr. President!” There are way too many explosions in that movie to feasibly keep up with that demand. They stopped the film halfway through so Bill Pullman could come up on stage and answer questions from the Master Pancakers dressed up as characters from ID4. The interpretation of Brent Spiner’s Dr. Okun was the best. He looked comatose. And by the way, Pullman was covering up his sloppy drunkenness with stammering drunkenness. It must have been all that Ambhar Tequila, official sponsor of Fantastic Fest 2010 ;) ;) ;) ;)

Later on that night, The Highball hosted the 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Flashlight Dance Party. It was pretty much like it sounds. 100 people were given flashlights and all of the lights on the dance floor were turned off. I imagine this was set up so as to not discriminate against vampire attendees. But if that was the case, I don’t understand why the sprinklers didn’t rain blood once the house music kicked in. That video would have gone viral before the B-positive even hit the floor. That’s how awesome it would have been.  


Fantastic Fest 30 Days of Night Flashlight Party – Watch more Funny Videos

That was The Highball at night This is it during the day:

Ahhhhh!!! Nerds!!! I’m JKing, nerds and File Front managing editor Mark. We ALL love video games. But some of them looked a little too intensely focused on their Alienware Laptops (sponsor alert! ;) ;) ;) There must be a nerd occupancy limit that is surpassed at some point during the Fantastic Fest Arcade. That’s why I left for everyone’s safety.

The final event I attended was Chaos Reigns Karaoke at The Highball on Saturday night. Everyone brought their A-game so they could win a Criterion Collection DVD of various movies. Since the remastered version of “Just Visiting” wasn’t up for grabs I decided not to participate. I did capture great footage of other people embarrassing themselves, though. Tim League opened up the competition by screaming “Ace of Spades” at the top of his lungs.


Fantastic Fest Chaos Reigns Karaoke Opening – Watch more Funny Videos

Then about halfway through a little known karaoke enthusiast named RZA stormed the stage with Elijah Wood, Bill Pullman, and others. The Devil himself could not have assembled a more motley crew. They sang “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas followed by “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. The video below sums up Fantastic Fest rather well. Only such a fantastic event could bring the Wu Tang and Frodo together to sing in perfect harmony.

Alright, it wasn’t perfect, but the universe can only take so much. 

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RZA and Elijah Wood Sing Black Eyed Peas http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/rza-and-elijah-wood-sing-black-eyed-peas/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/rza-and-elijah-wood-sing-black-eyed-peas/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 The RZA and Elijah Wood Sing Black Eyed Peas at Fantastic Fest - Watch more Funny Videos At Nerdeoke tonight at The Highball during Fantastic Fest, RZA, Elijah Wood, and friends gathered on stage to sing "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas. Will.i.am was nowhere to be found, but somewhere his ears were ringing as part of the Wu Tang spit his flow.

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The RZA and Elijah Wood Sing Black Eyed Peas at Fantastic Fest – Watch more Funny Videos

At Nerdeoke tonight at The Highball during Fantastic Fest, RZA, Elijah Wood, and friends gathered on stage to sing "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas. Will.i.am was nowhere to be found, but somewhere his ears were ringing as part of the Wu Tang spit his flow.

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘True Legend’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-true-legend/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-true-legend/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Drunken boxing is probably the most entertaining form of martial arts to watch. Jackie Chan defined it on screen in Drunken Master and took it to the next level in Drunken Master II. A few other artists have tried it but now master choreographer and director Yuen Woo-Ping is going back to drunken fist with all his decades of experience behind him and modern filmmaking tools at his disposal. More after the jump...

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Drunken boxing is probably the most entertaining form of martial arts to watch. Jackie Chan defined it on screen in Drunken Master and took it to the next level in Drunken Master II. A few other artists have tried it but now master choreographer and director Yuen Woo-Ping is going back to drunken fist with all his decades of experience behind him and modern filmmaking tools at his disposal.

More after the jump…

Yuan (Zhou Xun) and Su (Vincent Zhao) are soldiers together until Su leaves and Yuan fights for another five years. Yuan returns as a monster with armor embedded in his skin and a lethal venom punch. Su has to train extra hard to defeat Yuan and repair the arm poisoned in an earlier fight with Yuan, and eventually he develops drunken fist style. You get to learn Su’s motivations in life and martial arts, then see him apply them to the new style.

The story goes further than you think a martial arts movie would. There’s a good twist on the “training for revenge” tale and there’s more in the story than that simple plot. Sort of like Ip Man, where it was about his dojo and then about surviving the post-war depression. Maybe this is a postmodern phase of Hong Kong cinema where they’re exploring bigger themes with martial arts. Or it’s just a coincidence that there are two outsid the box martial arts movies in recent years.

I still maintain that all I want from a martial arts movie is good fights. I’m sorry, Master Woo-Ping. I know the story means a lot to you, and it’s a great story. It probably would be a strong enough story for a straight drama, but it does have lost of the fights we love.

The choreography is classic Woo-Ping. Fighters fly on wires, strike with fast hands, kick high, hold impossible poses and pull on a variety of weapons. He still invents fights I’ve never seen before, using geography and space like a total original. Zhou and Zhao are master fighters executing Woo-Ping’s moves. There are two epic climactic fights and three or four more sequences as good as The Matrix or Crouching Tiger fights.

The choreography is not limited to fighting. The strategic way soldiers cross a bridge is awesome. Characters swing on vines and there’s a little bit of walking on tree tops too. The segment on Su’s rebuilding his poisoned arm is like 36th Chamber of Shaolin hand exercises. That’s what you do when insurance won’t cover physical therapy.

There is more CGI in True Legend. That’s not what I want from a Yuen Woo-Ping movie, or any martial arts film (see Ong Bak 3 review), but these effects look real if that’s how Woo-Ping wanted to convey epic locations.  There may be CGI elements to the battles but there’s still a real martial artist dodging and striking.

Michelle Yeoh doesn’t have much to do. David Carradine has a cameo, but does not fight. It’s the Su and Yuan show and they perform with the creativity comparable to the best of Yuen Woo-Ping’s work.

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Fire of Conscience’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-review-fire-of-conscience/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-review-fire-of-conscience/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I’ve been very excited that so many Asian action films are in the Fantastic Fest lineup. I love martial arts and Hong Kong action, although one subgenre that doesn’t do much for me is the Hong Kong cop movie. Fire of Conscience is one of those, and if that’s your pet genre than I’d imagine this one is a solid entry, but not for me. Manfred (Leon Lai) is a tough cop who beats up perps because they deserve it. Kee (Richie Ren) is a more optimistic inspector with a baby on the way. Those two and Manfred’s team of cops (Michelle Ye and Kai Chi Liu) pursue a case of drugs, bombs and money. More after the jump...

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I’ve been very excited that so many Asian action films are in the Fantastic Fest lineup. I love martial arts and Hong Kong action, although one subgenre that doesn’t do much for me is the Hong Kong cop movie. Fire of Conscience is one of those, and if that’s your pet genre than I’d imagine this one is a solid entry, but not for me.

Manfred (Leon Lai) is a tough cop who beats up perps because they deserve it. Kee (Richie Ren) is a more optimistic inspector with a baby on the way. Those two and Manfred’s team of cops (Michelle Ye and Kai Chi Liu) pursue a case of drugs, bombs and money.

More after the jump…

The action is more gritty cop work than operatic or martial arts. They chase after suspects and throw things to try to slow them down. Gunfights are really destructive, not a graceful bullet ballet. That’s all fine but it means the spectacle itself is not an event. It’s just no fun.

You have to really care about the story and the characters to be involved in gritty kind of action, and I’m not. So some cops have impure motives. That’s no profound surprise. So Manfred lost his wife and child. I know that has more cultural significance in China but over here it’s just backstory. That’s your trauma so you go out and kick some ass to numb the pain.

This is the usual stock and trade of procedural crime movies, particularly the Asian ones. So Fire of Conscience delivers what’s expected, it coasts without really delivering above and beyond. It boasts an impressive fiery finish, but even the outrageous things that happen in the climax have also been done in other, more creative movies.

The film is shot with shaky handheld cameras. The recent Hollywood tradition has made it around the world. I really hate these movies where they shake the camera around as if that makes it more exciting. It’s aggravating in Fire of Conscience but at least the shots remain in focus. Green Zone couldn’t even do that.

It turns out Fire of Conscience is a literal title. There is fire in the movie and there is also conscience. So if you want to see fire and conscience, maybe you will enjoy Fire of Conscience. However, there is not much more to Fire of Conscience than some simple fire and conscience.
 

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Zombie Roadkill’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-review-zombie-roadkill/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-review-zombie-roadkill/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Fearnet’s web series “Zombie Roadkill” premiered at FantasticFest in its 30-minute entirety. It will be online in five parts beginning in October. “Zombie Roadkill” has a good spirit of silly fun and extreme gore. This is definitely a spoof done with a wink, with love for the genre. It’s not Shaun of the Dead but it’s something to watch online in parts. More after the jump...

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Fearnet’s web series “Zombie Roadkill” premiered at FantasticFest in its 30-minute entirety. It will be online in five parts beginning in October. “Zombie Roadkill” has a good spirit of silly fun and extreme gore. This is definitely a spoof done with a wink, with love for the genre. It’s not Shaun of the Dead but it’s something to watch online in parts.

More after the jump…

The film establishes the character types with dialogue that’s a little cleverer than the usual horror movie setup. A conversation about eye color reveals who in the car is the A-hole, the slut, the good girl and the nerd. That would be Simon (David Dorfman) as the nerd, Trish (Toni Wynne) as the nice girl, Greg (Michael Blaiklock) as the A-hole, and Nate (Jeff D’Agostino) as the D-bag. Gotta give props to a movie that has both an A-hole and a D-bag.

The writing is probably the element that most makes this film feel like a quality feature, even though it’s an online short. You don’t recognize any of the faces except for Thomas Haden Church in a cameo as a badass park ranger. The characters speak with the intelligence of a writer who knows how sincere they’re being, and how ridiculous that is. Henry Gayden also crafts scenes for those ridiculous clichés in which to play.

The puppets look great. Every attack looks real because there is an actual monster in the scene. Maybe its range of movement is limited but it turns out that it looks more real than smoothly flowing CGI. They’re supposed to be jerking zombie animals.

The camerawork mimics Hollywood movies with spinning cameras and shots expertly staged to enhance the joke or the shock. A fight taking place just out of view is far more awesome than if we’d gotten to see the battle. Gore scenes build, where you think you’ve just seen the money shot, but then there’s another one.

Director David Green follows the rules of zombie movies to establish the setting of the vehicle our heroes are stuck in. You know all the entry points that a zombie animal could crawl through, so you’re antsy with anticipation for how they’re going to blockade themselves. Green gets genuine suspense out of a sunroof. If he can do that with a hole in a car, I can only imagine what’s in store for the series.
 

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Fantastic Fest Review: ’30 Days of Night: Dark Days’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-review-30-days-of-night-dark-days/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/fantastic-fest-review-30-days-of-night-dark-days/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I think we all have a healthy attitude about straight to video sequels. We know they’re not going to be careful attempts to forward the story, but they can either have fun with it or not, and either way it doesn’t ultimately matter. Well, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days is not fun, and it is aggressively bad even by DTV standards. More after the jump...

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I think we all have a healthy attitude about straight to video sequels. We know they’re not going to be careful attempts to forward the story, but they can either have fun with it or not, and either way it doesn’t ultimately matter. Well, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days is not fun, and it is aggressively bad even by DTV standards.

More after the jump…

It starts right when Eben Oleson burns up, so they don’t have to worry about replicating Josh Hartnett. Kiele Sanchez fills in at Stella Oleson, sitting in front of a fake green screen recreating the final shot of 30 Days of Night. Then she catches us up on how they rebuilt her Alaskan hometown and covered up the vampire attack. Now she holds seminars to educate the public and lay traps for vampires. That’s where a group of hunters (Rhys Coiro, Diora Baird, Harold Perrinneau) find her and she joins them to go hunt vampires.

No effort was put into the script. All the dialogue is direct and straightforward, just explaining the plot and nothing more. Stella’s got a plan, the hunters have a plan, the vampires have a plan. The vampires’ master plan is actually pretty good. They should have led with that instead of saving it for the end when it’s already too late to get interesting again.

The film just plods through information we already know, not only vampire information but just being human info. The new hunting posse disagrees with each other but they go off and hunt vampires anyway. A character who gets bitten asks his friends to kill him so he doesn’t become one of “them.” If you’re going to play that way, don’t try to make it a big character moment. Treat it like it’s just what happens in vampire movies, because it is.

There’s no fun in this movie and it’s definitely not cool enough to be serious. The characters are all so morose. Oh, my family was killed by vampires, boo hoo. There are so many pauses between lines, and they’re only waiting to say more obvious clichés. If all you’ve got is exposition, at least get through with it quickly.

Plus, it’s so stupid. First they have a scene where they discuss how guns don’t stop vampires, then they pick a gunfight with vampires. There’s nothing exciting about firing guns into the dark. It’s all handheld shaky cam and there are some shots that I imagine came from the graphic novel, but look ridiculous in live action.

The new vampires are no sons of John Huston. Mia Kirshner is at least somewhat slinky as the leader Lilith, and she looks good getting out of a blood bath and showing her butt. The vampire underlings speak English though. Because why menace silently when you could be explaining your intentions and motivations? There’s even a good vampire who drinks hospital blood. That must totally turn the vampire story on its head! Can you imagine a GOOD vampire???

Every scene looks like a straight to video movie with simple staging. Cheap looking sets like a back alley, ferry boat and vampire lair feel totally unpopulated. There’s even a really unconvincing sex scene. You wouldn’t think you could mess that up, but here we are. Plus, Stella has sex with her bra on, because in movies women always leave their bras on when they have sex.

It doesn’t have to be like this. They can do crazy twisting stories like The Hills Run Red or solid copies of franchise movies like Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise about the Fantastic Fest screening. The first few gore shots got cheers, but the mood of the audience steadily dropped so eventually even money shots played to silence.
 

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Stone’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-stone/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-stone/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Stone starts with some intense emotional terrorism. This is how you show how seriously conflicted people can be. It’s not just hitting or yelling at each other. What young Jack Mabry does to his family is so sickening you feel anything could happen in this drama. I have not qualms with watching a tough, intense story. Just don’t wuss out on me. Make the characters really complex and manipulative, and let Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton play them. After about an hour though, you realize that the opening scene isn’t setting anything up for later. This is just going to be one of those films that revels in despair and monotony, just another “bad things happen, people are miserable” pieces for actors who want to show how downbeat they can be. More after the jump...

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Stone starts with some intense emotional terrorism. This is how you show how seriously conflicted people can be. It’s not just hitting or yelling at each other. What young Jack Mabry does to his family is so sickening you feel anything could happen in this drama. I have not qualms with watching a tough, intense story. Just don’t wuss out on me. Make the characters really complex and manipulative, and let Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton play them.

After about an hour though, you realize that the opening scene isn’t setting anything up for later. This is just going to be one of those films that revels in despair and monotony, just another “bad things happen, people are miserable” pieces for actors who want to show how downbeat they can be.

More after the jump…

The setup shows promise. We’re certainly watching masters perform here. Stone (Norton) is a convict up for parole. If anyone else did that corn rowed street talking schtick it would seem like blatant Oscar bait. There are subtle differences in this performance, distinctions that I don’t understand but Norton does.

Mabry (DeNiro) is a parole officer and Stone is his last case before retirement. (If only he were too old for this sh*t. THAT would be a movie.) There is a series of interviews where the film coasts on the merits of the performances. Stone is trying to express real emotion but he only has a vulgar vocabulary. Mabry just won’t be moved by any of it. Even visitations by Stone’s wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) are intriguing for the romantic interaction that contrasts the interviews.

When Lucetta makes her play, she is intense, provocative and seductive. Jovovich really holds up her end of this three-way drama. There is also gratuitous Milla skin. And I mean really gratuitous, she’s just sitting in a room naked. Is it because she wanted to show she’s still got the body after having a baby, or is it the usual reliable Milla Jovovich nudity? Either way, sincere thanks to Ms. Jovovich for sharing her beauty with us once again.

Once all of these potentially fascinating characters are introduced though, Stone just drags. Is this all just to show how bad life can be? There are much more fascinating expressions of that in cinema. If the evil isn’t even interesting, then it’s just boring. There’s still decent drama in watching these performers express character, but that just means it’s a consolation for not actually going anywhere. At least you got a little show along the way.

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Let Me In’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-let-me-in/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-let-me-in/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Lovers of Let The Right One In, I have some good news for you. Matt Reeves didn’t eff up the movie you cherish so dearly. In fact, he might have...

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Lovers of Let The Right One In, I have some good news for you. Matt Reeves didn’t eff up the movie you cherish so dearly. In fact, he might have even improved upon it, even though you didn’t think such a feat was possible. Let Me In is both a chilling and poignant horror tale that doesn’t stray too far from the original adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel. Unfortunately that could also be what bites it in the ass.

I don’t hold Let The Right One In in such high regard, which is probably a positive for Let Me In viewing. I didn’t go into the theater with a chip on my shoulder or a demand to be proven wrong. What impressed me most about Let Me In were the once again compelling performances by a new cast of actors. Kodi Smit-McPhee (the boy from The Road) plays Owen, an introverted kid who’s dealing with his parents’ spiteful divorce at home and the torment of masochistic bullies at school. How he walks straight after the wedge they lay on him, I’m still trying to decipher.

Abby (Chloe Moretz) arrives at Owen’s apartment complex just in the nick of time, when he’s running low and friends and options for surviving in the locker room. The two twelve-year-olds (more or less that age, in Abby’s case) form an immediate connection on the snow-topped playground equipment in the courtyard. Owen finds it odd that Abby walks barefoot without the consequence of losing her toes, but that doesn’t stop him from opening up to her about his troubles and handing over his Rubix cube.

The troubles that plague Abby are kept from Owen, and rightly so. Her caregiver (Richard Jenkins) forges out into the Los Alamos, New Mexico cold nightly to find his vampire cross to bear some blood. But he’s getting sloppy, and what are supposed to be quick drain jobs turn into unmitigated disasters. Jenkins does a terrific job as the browbeaten, exhausted custodian of a demanding vampire child. Abby lays into him when he fails to deliver, but she can hardly be held accountable for her intense desire to drink to survive.

As Owen and Abby get closer, the bodies around them pile up, forcing the Policeman (Elias Coteas) to delve deeper into the strange happenings around town. Coteas plays the role well, but seems just as morose and tired as Jenkins. Perhaps seasonal depression is running just as rampant as vampires are in N.M.

Director and writer Matt Reeves doesn’t shy away from the emotional complexity or intense violence that made the Let The Right One In such a standout film in the genre. Alright, maybe he doesn’t shine a light on Abby’s absence of sex organs, but I promise you won’t miss that fact as much as I’m sure she does. Staying so true to the original adaptation begs the question if a remake was even necessary, but considering most remakes aren’t, I’d mar Let Me In as both a successful and worthwhile one. If you’re a fan of the material, you’ll remain a fan. If you’re brand new to it, you should find yourself drawn to Reeves’s take. If you like vampires that sparkle, the copious amounts of blood and character depth in Let Me In may frighten you.
 

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Ong Bak 3′ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-ong-bak-3/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-review-ong-bak-3/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I knew there were going to be problems with Ong Bak 3, but I figured as long as there were some fights it couldn’t be all bad. So they turned a sequel into a trilogy. So Tony Jaa ran off into the woods. As long as he knees some people in the head I’d be happy. Unfortunately, the problems with Ong Bak 3 are palpable. More after the jump...

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I knew there were going to be problems with Ong Bak 3, but I figured as long as there were some fights it couldn’t be all bad. So they turned a sequel into a trilogy. So Tony Jaa ran off into the woods. As long as he knees some people in the head I’d be happy. Unfortunately, the problems with Ong Bak 3 are palpable.

More after the jump…

Flashbacks open the film to catch audiences up with Tien’s (Jaa) story so far. You get to see the old elephant flips and knees to the head. There are actually a lot of flashbacks in the film, either to keep explaining the story or just as filler. Maybe you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know the behind the scenes drama. You’d just think it was a part three with a lot of references to part two.

The first scene bodes well as Tien fights off his executioners. Then the filler picks up with Lord Rajasena (Sarunyoo Wongkrachang) having visions that he’s cursed. Then we meet Pim (Primrata Dejudom) and Mhen (Petchtai Wongkamlao) who recover Tien’s beaten body and nurse him back to health. The Crow Ghost (Dan Chupong) plagues Lord Rajasena and eventually terrorizes the kingdom in physical form.

It really feels like a Game of Death situation where they’re building a movie around existing footage of the star. Jaa probably shot more of this than Bruce Lee did of Game and he’s only absent, not dead, but there’s still a lot that feels like it’s padding out the running time.

The only part that even involves Tien is his rehabilitation. He spends a lot of time injured so Jaa doesn’t even walk, let alone fight. There’s some karma spirituality and a special recovery kata. Nothing new but nothing that would detract from a good fight movie. Although, the idea of a fighter practicing non-fighting against violent attackers is a bit tired.

Scenes like Tien’s kata dance feel like they’re longer than they would be if they’d had Jaa for the whole film. They didn’t, so they had to stretch out any scenes he was in by letting the takes run long and dragging out multiple angles. Maybe it reflects a new pacifist agenda for Jaa, but the film is really boring when it’s dramatic.

The finale is the real fight. Then you see the elephants and knees and everything. Tien’s new hand moves are not as impressive. The Crow Ghost has a good fight scene but it still feels like it’s the second best substitute for a fight Jaa didn’t film.

There’s some really terrible CGI, but I don’t watch Ong Bak for special effects. I watch it for the insane kick moves and there’s just not enough kicking in Ong Bak 3. The release may be a necessary evil to get the Thai choreographers working on new films again. If you’re like me you’ll have to give it a chance just to see, and then you’ll probably make the same conclusions as me.
 

 

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Fantastic Fest ’10 Review: ‘Buried’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-10-review-buried/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-review/fantastic-fest-10-review-buried/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 I really love high concept movies. Cinema is most exciting when there’s some crazy idea that demands to be a movie. “Guy in a coffin” is one of those concepts. The film really tests the audience’s limits immediately after the opening credits. I mean wow, it holds on for a long time. I’m sorry for folks in regular theaters where idiots will fill the effective silence with obnoxious chatter. More after the jump...

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I really love high concept movies. Cinema is most exciting when there’s some crazy idea that demands to be a movie. “Guy in a coffin” is one of those concepts.

The film really tests the audience’s limits immediately after the opening credits. I mean wow, it holds on for a long time. I’m sorry for folks in regular theaters where idiots will fill the effective silence with obnoxious chatter.

More after the jump…

Director Rodrigo Cortes revels in the visual discovery of the situation Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up, and the camera conveys the length of his tomb and the cramped limits confining his movement. Cortes and cinematographer Eduard Grau find a lot of shots in the limited space. Frankly, it was hard to write my notes in this lighting, but I managed to whenever he flicked the lighter or the cell phone rang.

The movie never cheats. There are no shots from outside of the coffin. No cute prologue about how great Paul’s life was before. No cutaways to the crack team of agents going all Jack Bauer on everybody’s asses. You would hope they wouldn’t need filler, but you can’t take it for granted, so props for really sticking with the coffin.

It is a phone game for a while. Paul calls a lot of people with the phone he finds in the coffin with him. That’s used for suspense too because it’s piecing together information, it’s got its own limits and it plays with all the humor and frustration inherent in all of our phone interactions.

The really important parts are when Paul is by himself with no one to talk to, piecing things together and trying to save himself. The film saves its best tricks for later, towards the end. They definitely didn’t blow their wad early. There’s good escalation in the series of complications that befall Paul.

The explanation for why Paul is in this situation is not entirely brilliant. You’ll either like the explanation or not but it shouldn’t ruin the experience. It holds the story together and it pays off in some of the film’s better thrills. Engendering sympathy for Paul is no problem though. The film plays some obvious cards (maybe most blatantly his mom), but the basics work.

There’s also no unnecessary talking. They cram a lot of information into his cell phone conversations, but Paul doesn’t say anything a person wouldn’t reasonably say to himself. Cast Away cheated by letting him talk to that volleyball. The film still needs a cell phone. They couldn’t pull this off pre-1990 but with that magic instrument, we have our high concept thriller.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s enough to simply sustain the premise for an entire film. I think they could have taken it to the next level Buried is certainly good and worth watching, but it could have been the definitive high concept movie. Instead it’s just one that doesn’t suck.

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Fantastic Fest http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/films/fantastic-fest/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/films/fantastic-fest/#comments Wed, 15 Sep 2010 21:04:50 +0000 Reza F. Your one stop for all the reviews, panels, and parties at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX.

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Your one stop for all the reviews, panels, and parties at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX.

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