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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Fantastic Fest Day II:

    Border: Based off a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Border follows a young woman with a “chromosome defect” as she works her job as a cop in an airport busting people with her uncanny talent for knowing whom is hiding something. Her life shifts when she meets a man who she knows is guilty but can’t prove it.

    This was one my wife’s most anticipated movies and the one that disappointed her the most. The movie beautifully shot and well-acted throughout, but there is a reveal about halfway through that the viewer will either be on board with or think is ridiculous. And the movie goes “all in” on this to some very graphic results. While I was also mildly disappointed where the story went, on hindsight I’ve gained for appreciation for the film when taking it on its own merits and not off my previous expectations. This is definitely not going to be for everyone, but those that get on board will find much to appreciate. Grade: B-

    Apostle: I am a HUGE Dan Stevens fan. Though I thought he was okay on Downton Abbey, his subsequent performance in The Guest and on the first season of Legion were amazing. It was a no-brainer that I was going to check out his latest foray into horror.

    The plot sees Stevens’s character head to a mysterious island to rescue his sister from the cult, led by Michael Sheen, who is holding her for ransom. Once upon the island, Stevens finds that the cult worships something they call “the goddess” and that they have more than a few skeletons in their closets.

    Stevens and Sheen are both fantastic and Lucy Boynton—who I knew from The Blackcoat’s Daughter and my wife knew from Sing Street—rounds out a great cast that give weight to this film. Unfortunately, I got my directors mixed up on this one and thought that it was directed by Gareth Edwards, who directed the last Godzilla movie, along with Rogue One and my personal favorite, Monsters. The movie was actually directed by Gareth Evans of The Raid fame, which I was not a fan of. So I was expecting something a little more low-key and this movie is anything but. Loud, violent, and frenetically shot, this is a rollercoaster of a movie. Think The Wicker Man meets the aesthetic of late 90s/early 00s horror movies like House on Haunted Hill with the pace of The Raid and you’ll get an idea of what you’re in for.

    Though I expected something else entirely, I did enjoy the ride for what it was. For those interested, this will be debuting on Netflix on October 12th. Grade: C+

    Destroyer: I am a big fan of director Karyn Kusama. Though Aeon Flux is a deeply flawed film, I really enjoyed Jennifer’s Body and thought that The Invitation was a home run smash of a film. I was curious as to what her next flick was going to be. When I heard it was a crime thriller starring Nicole Kidman, I was hesitant. When I heard it was written by the two gents who had penned The Invitation, I was a little less worried, but still dismayed. I wanted a horror movie, not a crime thriller.

    Well, Ms. Kusama knows much better what I want than I do because I freaking LOVED this movie. Dark and bleak, beautifully directed by Ms. Kusama with a masterful performance by Nicole Kidman that carries the whole film, Destroyer is exactly what I wanted, I just didn’t know it at the time.

    Kidman plays a police detective who is burnt out, on the edge, and isolated from everyone in her life. Now a dead body turns up and the past returns to haunt her as she begins to hunt down a criminal that got away in the past and might have returned to town.

    This is a haunting film, full of anger and regret and loathing. Some didn’t like this film. I thought it was one of the best I saw at the festival. This is coming out in December and I highly recommend checking it out. Grade: A

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    I have sufficiently recovered from my trip to Fantastic Fest, so I felt it was time to chime in with my thoughts on my second attendance to the festival.

    I had a blast the first time I went and equally enjoyed myself the second time. There is something to be said about being around people who genuinely love what you love. Being in a theater full of people who are not only open to some truly offbeat films, but can then thoughtfully discuss it afterwards is such a fun experience. If anybody ever has a chance to attend, I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I did not beat my personal best of 15 films last time. This year I only caught 13, though I think that is pretty acceptable for a four-day period.

    Now on to the films!

    Fantastic Fest Day I:

    School’s Out: My wife and I kicked off our four days of Fantastic fun with this low-key French thriller about a substitute teacher who has to take over a class of gifted students after their previous teacher commits suicide in front of the students. It isn’t long before the teacher realizes that not all is right with the kids in his class.
    While the movie starts with hints of the “evil kid” genre, director Sebastien Marnier has more in mind that standard horror fare. As is standard with films shown at Fantastic Fest, talking too much about the plot spoils a lot of the fun, but there is more to the school kids than “Hollywood evil” and the film has more to say about the world around us than it first lets on. While not quite as unsettling as Marnier’s first film, Faultless (which I chewed on for days afterwards), it is quite an interesting ride. Grade: B+

    The World Is Yours: After the reflective, existential dread of School’s Out, I followed it up with another French film. This time, a heist comedy about a group of low-level con artists getting in way over their head with a drug deal gone wrong. I love heist movies so I was on board from the get-go. And while there is definitely a lot to enjoy—especially a hilarious performance by Vincent Cassel as an aging lovelorn con-man starting to see conspiracies everywhere—the humor didn’t quite land as often as I had hoped. I do have to say that there is a reveal at the end that had the audience cheering and laughing. A solidly, entertaining movie that while didn’t quite hit the mark for me is going to be some people’s favorite. Grade: B-

    The Guilty: This thriller imported from Denmark was high on my list to see after viewing the trailer online and it did not disappoint. The movie is as good as the plot is simple: an emergency responder is pushed to his breaking point upon receiving a phone call from a woman who has been kidnapped. Not knowing where she is or who took her, the emergency responder has to piece everything together to save the woman. Never leaving the offices where the emergency responders work, this tense thriller is led by a great performance by Jakob Cedergren as Asger, the responder being pushed to the brink. Almost all action is off-screen and most of the time, the movie is Asger on the phone, but the movie never gets boring and never lets up. Such a great film and one of my favorites from the festival this year. Grade: A

    The Standoff At Sparrow Creek: Fantastic Fest also became “James Badge Dale”-Fest for me as the actor was in THREE films that I caught at the festival. All three were great films with outstanding performances by Badge Dale, kicking off with this single location thriller about a group of militia members gathering together late one night to determine if one of their own was involved with a mass shooting a police officer’s funeral. It’s up to ex-cop Gannon (Badge Dale) to investigate the members one by one to determine their complicity in the violent act. All of them have secrets and none of it will end pretty. Tense, well-crafted with a keen ear for dialogue and filled to the brim with talented character actors, The Standoff At Sparrow Creek feels like the lovechild of David Mamet and Quentin Tarantino. A great movie that I hope gets its due. Grade: A

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  • Brian861
    replied
    Originally posted by Sock Monkey View Post
    I will definitely post, but probably won't be until I get back. Things can get pretty busy at the festival. Last time I went it was a great vibe. It's enjoyable to be around likeminded individuals who are actually there to watch the movies instead of being on their phones.
    Amen to that!

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Originally posted by Brian861 View Post
    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Keith!
    I will definitely post, but probably won't be until I get back. Things can get pretty busy at the festival. Last time I went it was a great vibe. It's enjoyable to be around likeminded individuals who are actually there to watch the movies instead of being on their phones.

    Leave a comment:


  • Brian861
    replied
    Originally posted by Sock Monkey View Post
    So last year, I was supposed to go to Fantastic Fest for the full eight day span. Unfortunately, life conspired against me and some family issues altered those plans. Though everything is for the better with the family, I was rather bummed about missing the festival as I had a blast in 2016. I didn't think I was going to be able to attend this year either, but the tide has turned and I'm super excited to say that I will be attending the festival again this year. I won't be doing the full eight days, but rather the truncated four-day second half of the festival, but I'm excited to be able to go at all!

    If anybody is interested here is the list of movies that have been announced so far: https://fantasticfest.com/films/features
    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Keith!

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    So last year, I was supposed to go to Fantastic Fest for the full eight day span. Unfortunately, life conspired against me and some family issues altered those plans. Though everything is for the better with the family, I was rather bummed about missing the festival as I had a blast in 2016. I didn't think I was going to be able to attend this year either, but the tide has turned and I'm super excited to say that I will be attending the festival again this year. I won't be doing the full eight days, but rather the truncated four-day second half of the festival, but I'm excited to be able to go at all!

    If anybody is interested here is the list of movies that have been announced so far: https://fantasticfest.com/films/features

    Leave a comment:


  • Martin
    replied
    If I lived in the area I would be in. I would probably do two or three movies and take a break for one before venturing in for more though.

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  • Brian861
    replied
    Originally posted by Sock Monkey View Post
    I was telling my wife the same thing the other day, but she looked at me like I might have lost my mind! I will say that 15 movies in four days was a rather demanding experience especially being in a theater. If it was at home on the couch in pajamas, it would be a little better, but you're out in public and fully engaged with each movie so it is surprisingly tiring. Three movies a day was nice, four was okay but tiring and five was brutal.
    And I'd think at some point it just wouldn't be fun anymore trying to squeeze in all those movies just for the sake of it. Maybe choose the ones you think you'd be most interested in and knock those out. If you're privy to the lineup and a synopsis of each film. Still sounds like a cool experience regardless.

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    I was telling my wife the same thing the other day, but she looked at me like I might have lost my mind! I will say that 15 movies in four days was a rather demanding experience especially being in a theater. If it was at home on the couch in pajamas, it would be a little better, but you're out in public and fully engaged with each movie so it is surprisingly tiring. Three movies a day was nice, four was okay but tiring and five was brutal.

    Leave a comment:


  • Brian861
    replied
    Originally posted by Sock Monkey View Post
    Don't know if anyone is interested or even cares ( ) but I bought my tickets to Fantastic Fest 2017!!! As stated in my previous post, this year we're doing all eight days! I figured that I did 15 movies in 4 days in 2016, I should be able to do at least 25 in eight days, right? My eyeballs might fall out my head, but it'll be fun!
    30. Double or nothing .

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Don't know if anyone is interested or even cares ( ) but I bought my tickets to Fantastic Fest 2017!!! As stated in my previous post, this year we're doing all eight days! I figured that I did 15 movies in 4 days in 2016, I should be able to do at least 25 in eight days, right? My eyeballs might fall out my head, but it'll be fun!

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Day Four Part II:

    Dearest Sister: This movie has the honor of being only the second horror movie to come out of the country of Laos and their thirteenth movie ever and director Mattie Do delivers a slow-burn thriller about Nok, a young woman from a poor family who is given the opportunity to earn money by taking care of her rich cousin, Ana, who is slowly losing her eyesight, but in the process is getting glimpses of the dead.

    Tackling the topics of money and class structure, along with the temptations that the Western world brings to a foreign countries, Dearest Sister slowly and methodically develops the characters and relationship between Nok and Ana even as it begins to break them down and send them down a dark path. Not a visceral horror movie by any means, but for those who like a slow burn thriller with supernatural aspects, it is a pretty great flick.

    I'm hoping it gets picked up for distribution as I'd love to see it again. My experience with it was rather challenging as the festival was running behind on the final day and typically you get an hour or so break between movies, this time right as I walked out of A Monster Calls, they were seating for Dearest Sister. Then halfway through the movie, I started to get a headache, which meant that I couldn't enjoy the movie to its fullest. Still, a great movie if you can check it out. Grade: B+

    Colossal:
    The festival's closing night film was an interesting one. Directed by Fantastic Fest alum Nacho Vigolando (who did the awesome Time Crimes), Colossal stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a hard-partying girl who has to move back to her hometown after getting kicked out by her boyfriend who finds out that her drunken escapades have a mysterious link to a large monster terrorizing Seoul.

    Like almost all the movies I saw at Fantastic Fest, I don't want to spoil too much because seeing this movie cold is such a good way to see it, but I do want to say that this is the movie--next to Autopsy of Jane Doe--that I most want to see again because I'm truly unsure about how I feel about it. The concept is great and Vigolando's ability to take the movie from funny to dark in the span of its runtime is amazing, coupled with a standout performance by Jason Sudeikis, there is so much to enjoy in the film. Unfortunately two things held me back from loving it. The first is Anne Hathaway's performance, who does a solid job, but I was never sold on the difference between the "drunk Gloria" and the "put-together Gloria" and maybe part of that has to do with the script as we never truly get a transition from one to the other, just a statement in a scent that she doesn't drink anymore. The second is that I felt that the movie struggled a bit to hold up its central metaphor. Overall, it is really good film with a few minor quibbles that held me back from fully loving it. Grade: B+

    After the last four movies, we were pretty much spent so we didn't go to the Closing Night Party, which was held at an amusement center with bowling and whatnot. Overall, I enjoyed all but two of the movies I saw which is a pretty great ratio, I think. We had a great time and have decided to do the entire eight day festival in 2017. Yay, movies!

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Day Four:

    After taking it easy for the previous two days with only watching three movies a piece, the last day we decided to add four more movies to the list:

    Dog Eat Dog: Nicholas Cage and Willem Dafoe star in this Paul Schrader-directed crime thriller about a trio of ex-cons who decided to pull off one last heist which includes kidnapping a baby for ransom. In all good crime thrillers, the tension is ratcheted up as mistake after mistake builds to suspenseful ending for the protagonists, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats wondering how the characters are going to get out of their situation. Unfortunately, this isn't a good crime thriller. I previously complained about The High Frontier not adding anything new or trying anything different and that being the ceiling that kept it from rising above mediocrity. Well, Dog Eat Dog is the exact opposite: from the beginning sequence with a drug-crazed Willem Dafoe committing an atrocious crime amidst some trippy camerawork and effects, to Nicholas Cage sporting a bad Bogart impression during the climax's surreal dreamlike set piece, there seems to be decisions made to make the movie stand out from the previous crime thrillers made (during the post-movie Q&A, Paul Schrader mentioned that Dog Eat Dog was a movie about crime thrillers, which, if it did have something to say about crime thrillers, it was lost on me) instead of trying to just be a good movie.

    Which is disappointing because there is a segment of the movie where our three protagonists have just finished their first heist together and have gone their separate ways to celebrate and we get to peek into their private lives. Cage's character wants nothing more to convince the escort he's with to run away with him to a foreign country, Dafoe's Mad Dog loses control of his temper when mocked due to his lack of sexual prowess, and Christopher Matthew Cook's Diesel wants nothing more to connect to the cute girl at the bar, but his previous life in prison--and his insecurities about it--ruin the relationship before it can start. If the movie had followed the course of this sequence in developing its characters, it could have been a solid movie. Unfortunately, it unravels into a rather boring mess.

    Dafoe as the manic, psychotic Mad Dog is fantastic, but the true standout is Christopher Matthew Cook who adds real pathos and grounds the movie as the straight man surrounded by Dafoe and Cage's idiosyncratic performances. Grade: D-

    A Monster Calls: A young boy, faced by the oncoming death of his mother from cancer, summons a tree monster as an unlikely ally in this funny, moving movie about grief and love. This is probably the biggest surprise for me at Fantastic Fest as it wasn't one that I was really excited to see, but it was high on my wife's list so I tagged along. I absolutely loved this movie. Lewis MacDougall as Connor is fantastic and the script and direction are carefully balanced to never let the movie drift across the line from emotional to eyeball-rolling cheesiness. In fact, for a movie that I originally felt was aimed more toward a family-oriented audience, it actually handles some rather complex topics about life and death.

    It was also interesting to be in a movie theatre full of genre fans with nary a dry eye in sight. After the showing, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League pretty much stated that if you weren't crying by the end you were a sociopath. Grade: B+

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Day Three:

    There wasn't anything playing in the first or last slot of the day that I was dying to see, so it was another light three-movie day.

    The High Frontier: In an attempt to share his younger days as a border guard, a father takes his two sons on a winter camping trip to the Poland-Ukraine border. Alone in the remote region, the father must make a tough choice when a stranger, injured and cold, arrives at their doorstep before falling unconscious.

    This was only one of two disappointments that I had at Fantastic Fest. It's not that The High Frontier is a bad movie, but merely a mediocre one programmed in a festival with a lot of great ones. And as a thriller it commits the most terrible of sins: it is just not very exciting. it promises some excitement by sending the father out to search for others who were travelling with the stranger and possibly hurt in the same incident--which revealed is rather meh--and leaving the two sons alone with unconscious stranger, who we know is going to awaken and cause trouble.

    And for the first part of the movie, it kinda works. The stranger is unsettling and cunning and the tension begins to ratchet up a notch. Unfortunately, once things are supposed to truly hit the fan, the movie shoots itself in its own foot and has the stranger make a decision that deflates all the tension in the movie, because you realize that the movie is not going to go there; it's going to play it safe and at that point it is just a basic cable movie in disguise. Like I said, it isn't horrible, but nothing to get excited about either. Grade: C-

    Safe Neighborhood: After The High Frontier, I wanted something fun, so I wound up switching movies and seeing this instead of The Handmaiden (I love Park Chan-Wook, but his movies require a certain amount of focus which I wasn't quite in the mood for. Also, I knew the movie would be distributed, unlike some of the other films playing, so I didn't feel the need to HAVE to see it).

    At 12-years-old, Luke doesn't really need a babysitter when his family goes out for a Christmas party, but since he is harboring a crush on his long-time babysitter Ashley, he figures this might be his last chance to make something happen before she leaves for college. Luke's plans are dashed when they become victims of an unusual home invasion and things begin to spiral further and further out of control.

    Horror-comedies have a hard note to hit. If it's too funny, then the tension can't quite build up enough to make the scares effective and if it's too scary, then some of the funny bits feel forced or out of place. I enjoyed Safe Neighborhood quite a bit, so I'd like to say that it finds the right balance between the two, but I really can't. I can say that when it works, it really works, especially a bit at the end that had the theatre cheering and clapping. I don't believe that this is the movie that will launch director Chris Peckover to fame, but I'd love to see what he does next. Grade: B-

    The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Austin Tilden wants nothing more to go hang out with his girlfriend for the night, instead of helping his father out with his duties as the town's coroner. Unfortunately, the sheriff brings in a perfectly untouched body of a young woman found at a crime scene where all the other parties were brutally murdered. With a storm bearing down on them, Austin and his father start the autopsy and find the mysterious body holds some secrets that they might not have wanted to uncover.

    This was one of my favorite movies of the festival and currently resides at number two of the year, just behind Green Room. It also happened to take Best Horror Film at Fantastic Fest. Suffice to say, it's good. Like really good. It's original, clever, drenched in atmosphere and featuring knock-out performances by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox, who just steals the whole darn movie. It works not just because the scares are good, but because we CARE about the characters. Austin loves his dad, feels responsible for him after his mother's death, and doesn't want to leave him alone. And Cox as Tommy, wants his son to be happy but has a hard time letting go of one of the last good things in his life. It's a tender true relationship with no back-biting or betrayals you'd normally see in a horror movie. And it's spooky scary.

    This is being released by IFC Midnight, which probably means that it will only have a limited theatrical run. It's unfortunate because I really think that they should go wide with this as it KILLED at Fantastic Fest (they actually added additional showings because it was so popular; and I almost went back to watch it again) and I think would be the kind of movie that could gain momentum by word of mouth. Anyways, if I'm wrong and it goes wide, check it out. If not, then seek it out on DVD or Netflix upon its eventual release. Grade: A
    Last edited by Sock Monkey; 11-18-2016, 01:55 AM.

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Day Two:

    This wound up being my "Foreign Film Day", with two from France and one from Spain. After the Day One's five movie sprint, I needed a little break so after the first film I went back and crashed for an hour or so, therefore missing out on one of the horror shorts showings. It was worth it though as I was reenergized upon returning to the festival and wound up catching two great films. It is a day like this, after watching a trio of great foreign films, that reminds me how much great cinema is out there and how much of it is not be created by Hollywood.

    Faultless: Now in her mid-40s and her life in Paris in shambles, Constance returns to her hometown hoping to mend the bridges she burned when she abruptly left years before. Unfortunately her plans begin to sour immediately as she finds the vacancy at her old job she was hoping to which she was hoping to return has been filled by a new younger woman. Curious, Constance reaches out to young woman in the pretense of wanting to purchase a new home and slowly worms her way into the young woman's life, slowly leading to revelations that Constance might not be as forthcoming about her past as we thought.

    This is a divisive film as it is touted as a thriller, but any thrills it has is pitched at such a low-key that viewers looking for something more visceral will feel let down. Even the audience I watched it with couldn't decide what it was; I was viewing it solely as a thriller, while others were laughing at it as if it were a dark comedy, which made it a strange viewing experience. In fact, when I left the theatre I was initially underwhelmed--it was good, but not great and it was by no means heart-racing--but as the day wore on, my thoughts kept going back to it like the mental equivalent of tonguing a loose tooth. Ultimately, I fell in love with it.

    It might not be a traditional thriller, but it is a fascinating portrait of our narcissistic society and how we lie to ourselves and those around us so we never have to face the truth about our actions and their consequences. Grade: B+

    The Invisible Guest: My wife's favorite film at the festival--and probably in my top three--this is everything that Faultless was not: fast-paced, thrilling with twists and turns and great plot reveals.

    Adrian Dora is at the top of the world: he's handsome, successful, and married to a beautiful woman. He's also having an affair and being blackmailed. And things go from bad to worse as after an attempt to pay off his mysterious blackmailer ends in Adrian being knocked out in his hotel room and awakening to find his mistress dead, the room being locked from the inside with no way in or out. Now as the prime suspect in his lover's murder, Adrian hires Spain's best defense lawyer and in one night, they have to find the truth in what happened that night.

    I love locked-room mysteries and this one is so fun and so smart. Good adult thrillers are hard to find these days and this is definitely one of them. Check it out as it really is just that darn good. Grade: A

    Elle: Oh, Paul Verhoeven...the director that has given us such highs as Total Recall and Robocop and such lows like Hollow Man and Showgirls. Leave it to him to give us the world's first rape-revenge comedy and leave it to the French to submit this film as their official selection to Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.

    The movie opens on the aftermath of Michele LeBlanc (the stunningly beautiful and masterful actress, Isabelle Huppert) being raped. As brutal and horrible as it was--and as it is portrayed--Michele is a woman used to being in control. She has a business to run, a son to take care of, and some secrets of her own to keep under wraps. To her, this is a situation that happened, but there is no reason to contact the police or to fret about it, even casually announcing to her friends on a night out to dinner. The thing is, it has affected her and the course Michele takes through out the movie is both hilarious and unsettling.

    This movie should not work. You should not be as deeply unsettled by a woman being victimized at one moment and then laughing out loud fifteen minutes later. The tones should clash and in lesser hands, it would. The humor would undermine the horrible crime Michele suffered and dark areas the movie transverses should make it impossible to allow the comedic beats to hit properly. But it doesn't and it works. And besides a wrapping up a little too neatly for my tastes, it works very well.

    The movie is a journey and the less that a person knows going in the better. Just don't expect to not be challenged. Grade: A
    Last edited by Sock Monkey; 11-18-2016, 12:38 AM.

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