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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day VIII:

    The last day of Celebration of Fantastic Fest brought a mixed bag. Up first was another block of shorts, this time horror-themed.

    Short Fuse: Like all anthology formats, these short blocks are a mixed bag and this one wasn't any different, though to be fair there were a lot more hits than misses.
    • "Abracitos" is a creepy story of two sisters haunted by something in their room. An eerie ghost story with a creepy stinger, this was one of the highlights.
    • "Blitzkrieg", a story of a young boy who believes that a whole in his wall is exposing him and his family to a deadly virus, didn't quite work for me.
    • "Fish Whiskers" had some of the most believable portrayals of pre-teen girls that I've seen in a long time and the slow creeping dread of the story as it unravels is captivating. Unfortunately, the story ends just when it's getting started leaving the impression of clip excised from a movie rather than a story in and of itself.
    • "Heat" was short and sweet and goopy about a sinister ice cream shop. Not my favorite but didn't out-stay its welcome.
    • "Milk Teeth" is a Del Toro-esque fairy tale of a young boy in the orphanage that finds wealth if he delivers his teeth to the creature that speaks to him through the drain in the bathroom sink. Creepy and fun with one of the best creature designs.
    • "Mime" is about, well, a mime. But this mime has reality-altering powers and a serious crush. Interesting but doesn't quite stick the tonal shifts it attempts.
    • "Stuck" is nothing but pure unadulterated wish-fulfillment that's a whole bunch of fun as a pervy man gets exactly what he deserves when he sneaks into a gymnastic studio. One of my favorites.
    • "Mourn" has multiple twists and turns as it reveals the story of a therapist trying to help a walk-in client. Doesn't quite hit the mark completely for me, but quite enjoyable.
    • "Otttie" was a rare miss. The story about a psychiatrist who has just been informed his most dangerous patient has escaped shows it's hand a little to early, ending with a punchline the viewer sees coming.
    • "The Three Men You Meet At Night" feels a little too on-the-nose in our political climate, but is executed with such assuredness that while I'm burnt out on political statements this year, I actually really liked this one.
    • The film block ends with "Great Choice" which I've heard fantastic things about as its been touring the festival circuit for a while. Carrie Coon, from The Leftovers and Fargo, plays a woman trapped in a Red Lobster commercial to increasingly comedic and horrific effect, and ends with one of the most emotional and satisfying endings I've seen in a short film in a while. So, so good.
    Grade: B+

    Bloodthirsty: The festival started with a werewolf film and is ending with a werewolf film. And unfortunately, this one was a complete miss. There is an interesting setup with a pop star whose feeling the pressure of writing her second album chooses to work with a reclusive music producer who might have killed his previous protégé and as her relationship with the producer develops her identity begins to slip and change as she begins to understand who and what she really is. Unfortunately, that setup gives way to the least interesting developments possible. The movie plays it's hand way too early tipping the viewer off in advance as to the dynamics (and the big reveal) while the script saddles the actors with awkward exposition dumps, especially during the climax with a reveal that is rather groan-inducing. I'd be curious as to what the director does next, but this one was a miss.

    Grade: D

    And with that another year of Fantastic Fest films have been wrapped up. Here's to hopping the world returns to normal in 2021 as I'd love to return to Austin next year.

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied

    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day VII:

    The Queen of Black Magic: So if you've been reading all these reviews I've been posting you're probably thinking to yourself, "Isn't this a genre festival? Where's the full-out, dialed to 11 horror?" And I would agree with you. We've had some French surreal drama, off-camera werewolf action, bloody psychological horror, some thrillers, but no completely insane horror. Well, wait no more.

    If you like the original THE EVIL DEAD, HELLRAISER, and squirmy gross body horror, then THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC is for you.

    The set-up is simple: three friends that grew up in an orphanage return with their families to say goodbye to the man who ran the orphanage before he passes away. Once there, long forgotten secrets are uncovered and lots of blood is spilled in the name vengeance. And honestly, there isn't much more to it than that plot-wise, but what the film might lack in character development, it surely makes up in tense creepy chills that erupt in brutal and sometimes downright icky bloodshed that will leave you squirming in your seat. While I'm not a big gore-hound, I did appreciate the creative set-pieces and the sheer willingness of the film to put all characters in jeopardy including kids. Unfortunately, a good chunk of the effects were CGI versus practical and they weren't good enough to bridge that "uncanny valley", taking me out of the film a bit.

    While the ending didn't quite hit the mark choosing to go from full-brutal to a little chickening out, it was a fun rollercoaster ride and recommended to those who like their horror on the icky side.

    Grade: B

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Ok, so I'm pretty behind on finishing up these reviews...

    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day VI:

    How To Deter A Robber: Over the holiday break, a young woman, along with her dimwitted boyfriend, are placed in the custody of her uncle after becoming suspects in a rash of burglaries in the area. The only way to prove their innocence is to face off against the robbers themselves in this rather light-hearted Home Alone meets Fargo coming-of-age comedy.

    I wasn't too enthused when I heard the words "home invasion comedy thriller" combined with Home Alone. As I was never nearly as enamored with the Macauley Culkin movie and have no nostalgia for it whatsoever and I'd already rewatched the similarly described Better Watch Out recently, so I didn't think this movie would do much for me. But since the choices were limited this year and it's free, I threw viewing time caution to the wind and settled in for what wound up being a fluffy little slice of fun.

    The film attempts to balance comedy, coming-of-age themes, and a thriller aspect and can't quite nail them all, so settles for the comedy aspect, which is unfortunate because the inability to successfully traverse all three aspects holds the film back and keeps it in the good-but-slightly-forgettable range, rather than in must-see territory. Not that the movie needed to go all The Strangers on us in the third act, but the comedy stays the driving force, undermining any tension that's built up, making the final confrontation with the robbers a little lackluster for thriller fans. What saves the film are the performances. I genuinely enjoyed spending time with the characters even if they were stubborn or grumpy or a stupid and immature. The main characters were likeable and the humor, when it hit, was great. And it was the most FUN I had with one of the films this year, so for me it was more "hit" than "miss".


    Grade: B-

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day V:

    Drawn And Quartered: I really enjoyed the first block of shorts programming so I thought I'd give the animation shorts a try and for the first couple of shorts, I was enjoying myself. Then my lack of research came back to haunt me. What I stumbled across was "Tomorrow I Will Be Dirt: Scenes From The Afterlife of Lothar Schramm", the authorized sequel to the 1993 German movie, Schramm. The filmmaking of this stop motion animated short is fantastic, but once the movie has a main character mutilating his genitals in explicit detail, I tapped out. I don't mind disturbing content matter, but I got my limits. Suffice to say, I did not finish this block of shorts.

    Laughter: A young woman survives a mass execution during a civil war in Quebec and as time has passed, she has found some solace as a nurse, but the tragedies of the past continue to haunt in this surreal and moving drama about death, grief, and life. Fantastic Fest finds these undefinable movies that aren't really genre, but are definitely west of mainstream and for the most part, these movies just hit the sweet spot for me. While I'm not a big fan of the surreal and this movie definitely swerves into the category, failing to provide any real answers to some of the plot points, I just didn't care. The characters are so fully realized, the acting so spot on, and the confidence of the filmmaking so assured that the movie cared me away and quite moved me in spots. The script does like its monologues, but instead of slowing everything down, they felt like a wave of emotion pushing the movie onward. This is the movie, I'm most interested in revisiting.

    Grade: B+

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day IV:

    Day Four was another light viewing day. I passed on the rental fee for new 4k DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS screening. I'm planning on picking up the 4K disc when it is released so I didn't feel the need to rent the film.

    The Secret Screening wound up being the lost 80s movie, ACTION U.S.A., which for some was probably a tasty slice of ridiculous 80s action movie heaven. While I love practical stunts and effects, this just wasn't for me, so I tapped out at around the 20-minute mark. I did check out one movie, though:

    THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR: Young Bobby finds himself trapped in a nightmare when he and his best friend Kevin are kidnapped. Escaping from the trunk of the car he's being kept in, Bobby finds himself at a rural home. Torn between escaping or finding his still-missing friend, Bobby has to make a tough choice. Friends don't leave friend behind.

    Essentially a cat-and-mouse movie as Bobby has to find a way to help his friend escape without his captors knowing that he is free himself, the film walks a fine line dealing with the disturbing topic of child kidnappings and human trafficking. There's a couple of moments when the movie goes rather dark and those moments, while probably true to the real life situations, clash a little with the overall tone. The two young leads are fantastic, especially Lonnie Chaves (young Randall from the TV show, This is Us) who has to carry the film on his shoulders as Bobby. Unfortunately, these films rise and fall on the filmmakers ability to maintain the suspense, usually by creatively throwing curve balls at our protagonist, and this is where the movie struggles a bit. The movie never challenges our heroes--or the viewers--with anything that we haven't already seen in other thrillers. That's not to say that the movie isn't well-executed and isn't worth the watch, just don't expect any new ground to be broken.

    Grade: C+

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day III:

    Day Three was a short one for me. I passed on watching the Leonard Maltin game, THE OLD MAN MOVIE did not look like my cup of tea (animation is very hit-or-miss with me) and I'm not into the MST3K-style of roasting movies so I skipped on INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS viewing. So that only left me with...

    THE STYLIST: It's always a tough stretch to take a successful short film and turn it into a feature length movie. When it's done successfully, you would be bewildered thinking it could have ever been truncated. When it's done poorly, the movie loses steam and whatever magic the short film had. So when I heard that the short, "The Stylist" was turned into a feature length film, I was was both curious and wary. The short was good, but there wasn't much to it, essentially the story of the pretty stylist that's also a serial killer who scalps her clients and wears them. I just didn't know if the idea could support a 90-minute runtime.

    Luckily, I was wrong. While not breaking a lot of new ground in the world where we had too many seasons of DEXTER, the STYLIST is a well-executed deconstruction of a lonely person who done monstrous things attempting to find normalcy and losing whatever tenuous grasp she had left. Stars Brea Grant and Najarra Townsend deliver great performances that help keep the film grounded and first time feature director Jill Gevargizian balances the tone and ratchets up the tension. A solid thriller.

    Grade: B+

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day II:

    Fantastic Shorts: I usually skip out on the the shorts programming due to wanting to check out more of the feature films, but since that isn't an issue this year, I settled in for the first block of short film programming. Like all anthology formats, some of these will be to the viewers tastes, others not so much. Luckily for me, most fell into the "Like It" category.
    • "Blocks" kicked off the program and it's naturalistic dialogue helped to carry this story about a young mom who begins to vomit Legos. Grade: B
    • "I Love Your Guts" is a fun, if somewhat lesser entry about two friends working an overnight shift at their fast food job. Hidden crushes are revealed as the girls have to battle the worst drunk customer ever. Grade: C+
    • "Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran" is reportedly based on true events involving a female metal singer in Tehran and the pull between her dreams and her family. Grade: B+
    • "Jack and Jo Don't Want to Die" was my favorite of the bunch. Brokenhearted, a man who works in a cryogenics facility has decided to become "suspended" but before he can, he has to finish his shift. One of his last duties is bringing back a young girl who was "suspended" because she had a week to live due to terminal cancer. Touching, yet not overly sentimental. Grade: A
    • "Please Hold" follows a young man after he's been imprisoned in a near future when jails are privatized and automated. Funny and clever, but doesn't quite stick the landing hard enough. Grade: B
    • A depressed young woman is given a gorilla mask that she soon finds herself unable to take off in "Solution for Sadness". Smart and silly and sometimes too on the nose, but one of the stronger entries. Grade: B
    • "(You'll Make It In) Florida" was by far my least favorite. A magazine ad comes to life taking a young teacher on a green screen journey through the wonders of Florida. Some things just don't hit for some people and this is one of them. The joke for me was one note and went on way too long. The cast and production were solid, but not my jam. Grade: D
    Overall, I give this a grade of B+

    GIRL:

    A backwoods noir with Mickey Rourke playing a crooked sheriff sounds right up my alley, but this film floundered for me. A young woman comes to town to track down her deadbeat father who has threatened the life of the woman's mother. Her plan is to kill him, but arriving at his house, she finds that someone else beat her to the punch. With things not quite stacking up right, she sets out to unravel the mystery.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much mystery and the movie spills it's beans fairly quickly. It wants to clever but the script just doesn't have cards up its sleeve to make this anything more than a standard thriller. The film also stumbled in its casting. I always enjoy Rourke, but the the titular Girl is played by Bella Thorne who I just couldn't buy as this hardened woman ready to take a hatchet to anyone who stands in her way. She scowls her way through the film, chugging beers and trying to look tough, but it just didn't work for me.

    Grade: D

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    FANTASTIC FLASHBACK #2:

    Title: Radius
    Year at Fantastic Fest: 2017
    How I Watched It: DVD

    Some times all you need is a good premise to get the audience into the seat. Some times that premise is so interesting and unique that part of the fun is seeing if they film can live up to that premise. Some times, movies can. Other times, they can't. Unfortunately, this one falls into the latter category.

    The premise is SO good. A man wakes up from a car crash in the countryside with no idea how he got there or what happened, but as he begins to look for help he finds that if any living thing gets within a certain amount of distance of him, they die instantaneously. Once he meets up with another amnesiac named "Jane", they have to work together to piece together the mystery.

    It's a premise that triggers the imagination while also setting up a couple of challenges for the film: (a) how do you play with the premise to keep it interesting versus just setting the whole thing in a remote cabin and (b) what will be the in-story explanation to give a satisfactory resolution to the mystery. For the most part, the film accomplishes (a), but it's that second challenge the film can't quite hurdle. There's a third act twist that swerves the movie into a different subgenre and its puts a little more gas in the tank just as the film begins to feel like its running on fumes. It's a bold move. One that provides the characters with a new conflict and adds more depth to the characters that are pretty much blank slates. For this to work, the script has to give us a good tie-in to how this new twist ties into the central mystery. And ultimately, we get the film equivalent of a shrug.

    The movie then tries to reposition itself as saying something about the human condition and hit an emotional apex, but the script has failed to make the characters interesting for the first two-thirds and then once the characters do get interesting, it fumbles the ball with the mystery leaving the viewer with characters they don't much care about and a bad taste in their mouth from the mystery resolution. I liked the movie just enough, that I wish someone would take another whack at the concept and see if they couldn't make it work.

    Grade: D+

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    Celebration of Fantastic Fest 2020 Day I:

    Yesterday kicked off "Celebration of Fantastic Fest", the virtual version of the festival. The schedule is very light in comparison to the physical festival. Instead of 15 hours of programming and/or events, there were only two yesterday, both of which I checked out.

    TEDDY: The titular Teddy is kind of a loser. A school drop out who lives with his dim-witted uncle and catatonic aunt, Teddy spends most of his time with his girlfriend and working at the massage parlor, a job the temp agency set him up with. His life in the French countryside might not be perfect, but there's at least a little happiness in his life. Unfortunately, there's a wolf in the nearby woods and once Teddy has a brief encounter resulting in a bite wound, things for Teddy begin to change.

    There might not be much surprise in the beats the movie follows--at heart, it's a fairly traditional werewolf movie--but all the details along the way make it a fun journey. Two-thirds of the film is really a French drama-comedy with the horror elements really weaving their way in and out of the narrative of a young man being left behind as his peers move on around him. And this is where it slightly falters as a horror movie: it's never actually scary. There are some very solid moments of tension and Teddy's changes are more in line with Cronenberg's body horror rather than the transformations of Landis's or Dante's films. But the movie never quite slips into the moments of full terror which will leave some viewers disappointed.

    I personally really enjoyed the movie, especially the central performance of Anthony Bajon as Teddy. This is a character that could easily slide into be simply obnoxious and grating to watch or made overly sympathetic, but Bajon's performance balances those traits allowing you to equally be annoyed at Teddy's immature nature but also root for his success.

    Grade: B-

    100 BEST KILLS: DECAPATTACK:
    A perennial fixture at Fantastic Fest is the 100 BEST KILLS clip show. Always having attended the festival during the second half, I rarely gave myself the luxury of checking out some of the non-movie events just because there is so much to see and only so many time slots to fit them in. That not being a problem this year, I decided to check out this year's edition focusing on decapitations in movies. Essentially blocks of clips are shown from various movies, some well-known, others never escaping the VHS era, all interspersed with commentary from the host.

    This is definitely a show best enjoyed with a rowdy group of people. With it only being myself and the wife, it was an enjoyable curiosity, but as I'm not a gore hound, 90 minutes of heads being severed can grow a little thin. Especially after the wife tapped out about two-thirds of the way through. This might have been due to the fact that all the deaths were relatively the same versus previous years' topics (vehicular deaths and child deaths) which could lead to a little more variety. This event definitely had the most technical issues, but the host kept it moving along. Overall, it was interesting, but not quite my bag.

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  • Martin
    replied
    Originally posted by Sock Monkey View Post
    So Fantastic Fest is going the virtual route this year with fifteen movies, four blocks of short films, plus some cool extras. And the best part, it's free for those living in the US. Everything will be streamed through the Alamo-On-Demand platform. I've included a link below with more info for those interested.

    I'll definitely be checking this out, since FREE MOVIES!, but I've got to figure out the streaming portion. Looks like AppleTV or Chromecast is the way to go, but my preferred streaming device is Roku, which Alamo-On-Demand is not currently available on. (Add HBO Max to this and I'm about to find a different streaming machine).

    I'm sure that this is not going to measure up to attending the festival in person. But I guess it's better than nothing. Hopefully 2021 will be much better and things will get back to normal.


    https://fantasticfest.com/news/entry...fantastic-fest
    I will check it out. Thanks!

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    So Fantastic Fest is going the virtual route this year with fifteen movies, four blocks of short films, plus some cool extras. And the best part, it's free for those living in the US. Everything will be streamed through the Alamo-On-Demand platform. I've included a link below with more info for those interested.

    I'll definitely be checking this out, since FREE MOVIES!, but I've got to figure out the streaming portion. Looks like AppleTV or Chromecast is the way to go, but my preferred streaming device is Roku, which Alamo-On-Demand is not currently available on. (Add HBO Max to this and I'm about to find a different streaming machine).

    I'm sure that this is not going to measure up to attending the festival in person. But I guess it's better than nothing. Hopefully 2021 will be much better and things will get back to normal.


    https://fantasticfest.com/news/entry...fantastic-fest

    Leave a comment:


  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    FANTASTIC FLASHBACK #1:

    Title: The Pool
    Year at Fantastic Fest: 2019
    How I Watched It: Shudder

    Day's a young man trying his best to make ends meet, working odd jobs where he can, including as an art assistant on a commercial being filmed in a huge diving pool. After filming wraps, Day decides to enjoy some time sunbathing on a raft in the pool, while it drains. Unfortunately, a quick nap results in him becoming trapped with no way out and no one but his dog tethered to one of the dive boards to keep him company. And then the crocodile shows up...

    "Trapped in a location" thrillers can be hit-or-miss and I never go into them expecting much. And at first, I thought this one was a winner. Yes, there are some plot contrivances to get our lead into his predicament, but the director had a great sense of suspense and as things go from bad to worse, the tension continues to ratchet up a notch providing some fun, if shallow, thrills. Unfortunately, plot contrivances give way to ridiculousness. Common sense is thrown out the window on multiple occasions to keep our lead in his predicament. It almost feels like the filmmakers knew the movie was silly and decided to just go for cheap thrills, which would have been fine. A solid "animal attacks" popcorn flick can be a lot of fun,even if the CGI crocodile is a bit dodgy as it is in this flick. But then the film decides to slide from ridiculousness to malice. There's an incident that is so mean-spirited that it turned me off the movie. I'm not a sensitive viewer who gets upset easily, but this seemed wildly out of place for the tone of the movie and so wrongheaded that the film couldn't recover.

    I'll throw it in spoiler tags for those that are curious:
    Spoiler!


    The movie has the hallmarks of a great midnight movie to watch with an audience, but it asks the viewer to suspend their disbelief a little too much, and then it just gets mean. If you're looking for a great crocodile/alligator movie, check out the recent Crawl.

    Grade: F
    Last edited by Sock Monkey; 09-05-2020, 04:03 PM.

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  • Sock Monkey
    replied
    This was announced awhile back, but I haven't had a chance to post about it. While this is probably no surprise to anybody, Fantastic Fest has been cancelled this year. I'm not too bummed as I was not going to be able to attend due to work obligations and even if I could attend and it had continued regardless of COVID-19, I wouldn't have gone. "Fantastic Flu" is a thing and it gets passed around like crazy during Fantastic Fest. Hundreds and hundreds of people in small spaces for days on end, eating and drinking galore, is ripe to spread a virus and either my wife or I (or both) get sick every year. So with COVID-19 still around...

    That being said, Fantastic Fest is going to have an online presence, but they haven't announced what that will be yet. It won't be a full online film festival, but more of a "celebration". I'm curious as to what they will do.

    So even though we won't be attending this year, the wife and I have decided to do Fantastic Fest in spirit this year and track down films that we've missed from previous years' festivals, both ones we've attended and ones we've missed. I've dubbed it "Fantastic Flashback"...because I'm a nerd. So right now I'm curating a list of titles and will be spending September going through them. I plan on posting reviews of what we watch on this thread for fun.

    Leave a comment:


  • tyree
    replied
    Sockster, Martin, anyone else. Hit me over at the "Rate Movie Section".

    I need to go back, see what I've watched since I've been absent. This ankle bracelet itches like cerrrrrrrrRAZY !

    Thanks, gang.

    Leave a comment:


  • Martin
    replied
    Originally posted by Sock Monkey View Post
    No problem, Tyree! I'm glad someone is getting something out of these posts! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the ones you watch.

    Unfortunately, due to shift of weeks for this year's Fantastic Fest coinciding with a work obligation, it looks like I'll have to skip this Fantastic Fest 2020. I'm hoping something will change that will allow me to go, but it looks doubtful at this time.
    Hope you are able to make it work and be able to attend.

    Leave a comment:

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