Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world, starts here in Austin in just two days! Over the next several days, I’m previewing the movies I plan on seeing and blogging about over the course of the week long festival.
First and foremost, it should be clear that EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY is a film best experienced blind. Innovative, daring and about as original as film can get, the latest offering from the Romanian new wave is something that is better experienced and than read about. If you’re interest is piqued, stop reading and start watching.
The story is simple. Marius, a single dad in his thirties, travels to his ex-wife’s house to pick up his daughter, Sofia, for their annual beach holiday. Upon arrival, he is told by her grandmother and her step father that Sofia is sick and must stay at home with her mother. As Marius’ insistence grows, so do tensions in the household, pushing the situation to unimaginable heights.
Shot in almost real time, EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY shows how much can really change for someone over the course of one afternoon. Director Radu Jude’s hyperrealistic style helps to sets the stage for an intense discussion on family values. Drawing the most out of a plethora of incredible performances, he peppers the intensity with a dark and witty humor that resonates through the humanity of the film. As the action builds to a climax, Jude tries his best not to suffocate the audience, presenting the facts for a pure reaction. The result is often as humorous as it is horrific.
Breaking out of any mold that you could possibly put it in, EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY is not your typical Fantastic Fest fare. It is, however, simply too good and too unique to be ignored. (Michael Lerman)
Bullets show no mercy! War has ravaged China and chaos has reigned in many parts. An elite group of snipers have been assembled to take out enemies and traitors. Mu (Peter Ho), a rather young and naïve hunter, has been drafted to be part of the 204th unit after heroically shooting down enemies during an ambush. Squad leader Zhang (Tony Leung) welcomes him into the brotherhood by assigning him his first official mission. His task is to join the team in taking out four enemy generals and a handful of Chinese traitors. Mu’s recklessness and soft heart begin to cloud his judgment, and even diminish his abilities – as the best snipers need to be emotionally detached. Meanwhile, General Masaya sends some of his best sharp-shooters to retaliate. Whose bullets will speak louder?
Lock and load! Frequent John Woo collaborator David Wu returns with a vengeance and directs one of the most dynamic war films in years. Wu hits bulls-eye after bulls-eye with fast and furious gunfire action with a heavy dose of the kinetic energy from the best 80s Hong Kong action that will undoubtedly kick your adrenaline gland into overdrive. Based on the famous and popular online Chinese novel, Wu improves upon original material with more humor and excitement. Wu is one of the most influential action editors for 40 years starting with Chang Cheh and Lau Kar Leung at Shaw Brothers to Tsui Hark, Ronny Yu and of course John Woo (A BETTER TOMORROW, HARD BOILED is back to assault action cinema. Newcomer actor Peter Ho (upcoming MONKEY KING) brings a breath of fresh air as a leading actor to look forward to in the future, he keeps his performance intense yet funny and charismatic. (King-Wei Chu, Fantasia International Film Festival)
Johan and Saar are a couple in trouble. Their marriage on the rocks, the couple have left their daughter at home and hit the road, returning to the site of the Argentinean honeymoon in a desperate last attempt to recapture the spirit of their relationship and save their marriage. This is it for them. Should this trip fail their marriage is at an end. What Johan and Saar never suspected, however, is that this trip could be the end of them, period.
In a classic case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ the couple not only witness a shooting, they capture it on camera. Even worse, the shooter is a police officer and his target left dead in the street. Worse still, they were spotted on the scene. And suddenly their idyllic vacation spot has become a terrifying trap, the couple chased through a hostile environment unable to communicate with the locals and unable to trust any of the authorities they would normally be able to turn to for help. If they do not find their way to safety before being tracked down by the shooter then Johan and Saar will surely become his next victims.
A lean, taut thriller anchored by stellar performances from Barry Atsma and Susan Visser, TAPED takes a simple premise and works it out to its logical extreme. It is a film that takes the primal, irrational fear of being someplace unknown and suggests that the fear may not be irrational after all. Director Diederik Van Rooijen finds just the right balance between style and grit, tension and character as he delivers a thriller that Hollywood has already snapped up for remake. Here’s your chance to see the original version first. (Todd Brown)
Detective Ronald Plasmeyer is good at coming up with plans. The problem is that he’s bad at coming up with good plans. This is a particularly significant problem given the large Asian men who turned up for a ‘chat’ with Ronald’s estranged wife and young son over the money he owes them.
It’s not that Ronald doesn’t want to repay the debt, it’s just that ten thousand Euro is a lot on a policeman’s salary. Plan A involved winning at poker. But poker is how he racked up the debt in the first place so – no surprise – Plan A just makes the problem worse. Plan B? Well, since Ronald can’t win at poker why not steal a tournament’s worth of poker winnings, instead? But Ronald is even worse at hiring henchmen than he is at making plans and that goes spectacularly badly. And now Ronald is on the run and desperately in need of a good Plan C.
A deliciously dry and slyly absurd comedy, Max Porcelijn’s PLAN C captures a train wreck in slow motion, a Coen-esque tale of criminal ineptitude. Ruben van der Meer anchors the film with his nuanced, understated, and very funny central performance as Plasmeyer.
A weak willed and deeply passive man Plasmeyer as played by van der Meer is the world’s least likely criminal mastermind. This is, of course, entirely the point and Porcelijn takes great delight in letting the dominos fall as this incompetent cop proves to be an equally incompetent robber. As the chaos swirls ever higher Plasmeyer remains in the eye of the hurricane, not so much a beacon of strength but an icon of confusion and indecision. (Todd Brown)