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 five 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.
Vic (Pierrette Robitaille) is a parolee who retreats to her ailing uncle’s sugar shack in Quebec. She is joined by current love interest and fellow ex-con Flo (Romane Bohringer). Vic and Flo’s attempts to live a peaceful life in the woods are constantly interrupted by various people, including a parole officer named Guillaume (Marc-André Grondin) and an intrusive neighbor (Marie Brassard). Eventually, these pesky people create major problems for the couple.
VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR, which played in competition at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival, is Denis Côté’s follow-up to the documentary BESTIAIRE. The film’s mix of drama, noir, and dark humor defies easy categorization. VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR takes place in a small town inhabited by weird quirky characters that weave in and out of the story. At first, everyone’s motives are obscure. As the plot unfolds, a nasty underlying truth emerges. Robitaille’s and Bohringer’s excellent performances as the titular characters are at the core of the film’s power. Viewers will root for these flawed yet sympathetic characters. When the pair meets their fate, the impact is simply devastating. (Rodney Perkins)
The bumbling Tang Sanzang takes the stage as the perfect anti-hero. Armed with a book of children’s nursery rhymes, he’s been taught by his Buddhist master in the ways of demon hunting, a talent that he hasn’t fully harnessed yet. Ambitious and eager to prove himself, Tang sets off into the world to encounter a vicious plethora of monsters in all shapes and sizes, from a village-crushing fish to a gluttonous pig. Failing miserably, the unequipped Tang is forced to continuously turn to the beautiful and mysterious Miss Duan for assistance. But as this episodic adventure races at high speed through several types of traditional Chinese action and fantasy pics, it becomes abundantly clear that Miss Duan has her own motivations for helping Tang, which will all be revealed as the film culminates in a showdown with the conniving Monkey King.
This is Chow’s first film in five years, and it’s a triumphant return to the director’s chair. His high-energy slapstick style is on full display here, offering the best of his talents in utilizing special effects and lush production design to support vaudeville-esque gags. Brimming with creativity, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is a deeply hilarious and fun-filled escapade. (Michael Lerman)
Three armed men, one of them a priest, are out hunting in the woods. Their prey is not sport, but Camiel Borgman, a dirty and unshaven, frail man who sleeps in a makeshift underground bunker below their feet. They seem to know he is underground. They stab the earth with a large metal spear. He barely escapes.
Borgman arrives at Marina and Richard’s home. He asks for a bath. He tells Richard he knows his wife. Richard beats him out of jealousy. He later sneaks into their house and is given refuge by Marina. She treats his wounds, feeds him and bathes him. Borgman has installed his presence in the house and her world of plenty begins to crumble. Her reality and her emotions are at the mercy of the stranger in the house, while her husband haunts her dreams at night in the shape of a cruel monster. Two emaciated dogs slink through the house. Borgman tells the children there a story about a white child that floats above the clouds. There are flashes of something evil in the garden. The time has come!
If BORGMAN is your first introduction to the cinema of Alex van Warmerdam, then welcome and be prepared for a wonderful world where sinister darkness and delight are given equal footing, and his trademark adult fable style has been perfected here. With BORGMAN, the first Dutch film in competition at Cannes in 40 years, van Warmerdam wanted to show that “evil comes in everyday form, embodied within ordinary, normal, polite men and women who perform their tasks with pride and pleasure, and with ruthless attention to detail. I wanted to show that evil is enacted not just on cold winter nights, but in the optimistic summer, beneath a warm and comforting sun.” (James Shapiro)
In bustling Beijing, China, ambitious young “Tiger” Chen Lin-Hu (Tiger Chen) works as a lowly courier; but after work, he is a young martial arts star, rising through the ranks representing the Ling Kong Tai Chi tradition. Though most associate Tai Chi with peaceful, yoga-like movements, Tiger has perfected the ancient art and started to make a name for himself in the prestigious Wulin Wang martial arts championship.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, police investigator, Suen Jing-Si (Karen Mok), who works for theorganized crime unit OCTB, has run into a wall in her pursuit of Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves). Donaka is a powerful Hong Kong businessmen who runs a secret underground fighting ring, where cold hard cash is made by defeating one’s opponent in a no-holds barred fight privately broadcast to wealthy patrons. Looking for a new “star,” Donaka tries to lure Tiger with the promise of easy money.
At first, Tiger declines, committed to the purity and integrity of his pursuit. But when his temple is threatened with redevelopment, Tiger relents so that he may protect the legacy of Ling Kong Tai Chi. Soon, Tiger is an underground sensation, defeating international opponents with reputations of deadly force. But the darker side of Tiger’s skill begins to emerge. His public fights in the Wulin Wang tournament become more aggressive, bringing Tiger unwanted attention and shame to his elderly master (Yu Hai).
Seemingly unable to harness the darkness inside of himself, Tiger eventually agrees to work with Jing-Si to bring down Donaka’s deadly private game. But when every fight is the fight of his life, will Tiger be able to sustain his best intentions and manage the darkest and worst possibilities of his craft?
In the early ‘70s, Alejandro Jodorowsky achieved international status as the premier director of epic psychedelia with films such as THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and EL TOPO. His next project was to be an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s cult sci-fi novel DUNE. Jodorowsky assembled an amazing roster of talent to help realize the film. Dan O’Bannon was the screenwriter. Legendary artists and designers including Jean Giraud (aka Moebius), H.R. Giger and Chris Foss were hired. Pink Floyd and the French prog rock band Magma were to provide the soundtrack. Orson Welles was cast as Baron Harkonen. Salvador Dali was to appear as Shaddam IV at the obscene price of $100K an hour. This elaborate and expensive project was shut down before exiting the pre-production stage.
Frank Pavich’s documentary JODOROWSKY’S DUNE tells the behind-the-scenes story of the rise and fall of this legendary cult production. New interviews with numerous key players, including the director himself, H.R. Giger, and Christian Vander of Magma are featured. Rare archival footage is used. In addition to serving as the definitive document of this ill-fated production, JODOROWSKY’S DUNE also explores the failed production’s influence—ALIEN probably would not exist if the film had moved forward—and speculates about how the sci-fi cinema landscape might have changed if Jodorowsky’s film was actually made. (Rodney Perkins)
In this directorial debut from E.L. Katz and winner of the SXSW ‘13 “Midnighters Audience Award,” Pat Healy (THE INNKEEPERS; COMPLIANCE) stars as Craig, a newly out-of-work father who’s months behind in his rent. In an effort to avoid going home to shamefully face his wife, he heads to a local dive bar and runs into Vince (Ethan Embry), his best friend from high school, now a rough character who makes his money as a debt collector. They discuss their common woes and after one drink, Craig prepares to leave the bar, but is roped into a round of booze with a peculiar wealthy couple; Colin (David Koechner, ANCHORMAN), a perpetually young 40-something wanting to celebrate his beautiful wife Violet’s (Sara Paxton, THE INNKEEPERS) birthday.
Before they know it, they’ve drank the most expensive bottle of tequila at the bar. In order to amuse themselves, Colin engages them all in a series of innocuous bar bets and challenges. A game, just to keep the night lively, with each challenge increasing in both money and outrageousness. After being knocked out in a fight at a strip club parking lot for something he didn’t even do, Craig wakes in Colin and Violet’s lavish home, where the group has relocated the party. While scoping out the stylish house, Vince discovers a safe filled with cash and ropes a hesitant Craig into a plan to rob them. It seems like an easy task, but there’s more to this couple than meets the eye…. Over the next few hours Craig and Vince are going to learn just how far they’re willing to go for money and CHEAP THRILLS.