With Day One in the books and only three movies, Fantastic Fest has already supplied some surprises.
Despite its interesting concept, the first directorial effort from Brandon Cronenberg, son of the legendary David, disappoints. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for a clinic that injects fans with diseases of their favorite stars. Syd contracts a fatal designer virus that kills megastar Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). In order to survive, Syd must discover its origins. Emotionally cold, the film features stark scenes punctuated with bright red blood and occasional action. Jones, almost always clad in white, successfully blends his bland character into the similar background. Though this exploration of the cult of celebrity toys with some interesting concepts, the film fails to shed new insights (or really any) on the fascination. While delivering some disturbing and even memorable imagery, Antiviral falls far short of its lofty promise.
The compelling Final Member introduces Sigurdur “Siggi” Hjartarson and his Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of mammalian penises. Siggi’s collection lacks one thing: a human penis. Meeting the “legal limit” requirement, two men offer to help: 95-year-old Páll Arason, a legendary Icelandic explorer and philanderer who wants his well-traveled member preserved after his death; and Tom, an eccentric American who dubs his manhood “Elmo” and is eager to donate while he is still around to view it. Co-directors Jonah Bekhor and Zack Math treat the potentially humorous subject with class and style. The compelling documentary delivers with intriguing sub-stories, fascinating information, and a tension-filled race to be the first human phallus in museum.
Seventeen years since his disastrous big screen appearance, the iconic Judge Dredd returns in the surprisingly good Dredd 3D. This time the movie features a modest budget and focuses on the characters rather than a big name superstar. Karl Urban masterfully portrays the dour. helmet-headed Dredd, successfully submerging himself in the role. Olivia Kirdby excels as the rookie Judge Anderson. Though the film displays some noticable flaws, the smartly simple Alex Garland script keeps the action and the story moving. Essentially a buddy film with elements of Training Day, Robocop, and Die Hard tossed in, Dredd 3D delivers a quality actioneer.
For more on Dredd 3D, check out my Blastr interview with Urban and Anderson.
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 on September 20. During the course of the eight day festival, I’m blogging about my cinema experiences.