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My Fantastic Fest 2012, 15 films - Wendy

Sep. 30th, 2012 01:09 pm My Fantastic Fest 2012, 15 films

Flipping through the book that lists all the movies that played at Fantastic Fest, I am reminded what a small percentage I actually saw.  Here is my list of 15, in alphabetical order.  If the summary is in quotes, I'm taking it from the FF book.  Please forgive the short descriptions, I'm still getting over a head cold.

Bring Me The Head Of Machine Gun Woman (2012, Chile, dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza)
Summary: "Timid, video game-loving DJ Santiago seemingly digs his own grave when he agrees to bring a violent criminal kingpin the head of Machine Gun Woman."

The summary tells most of it, except for how little she is wearing at most times.  Eh, it was okay.  Violent, cliched, and in love with Grand Theft Auto, it was definitely a popcorn film.  It's not going to stick with you for long unless you fall hard for actress Fernanda Urrejola.

Cockneys Vs. Zombies  (2012, UK, dir. Matthias Hoene)
Summary: "When a badly planned bank robbery and a zombie outbreak collide, hilarity ensues in this ball-out, irreverent British comedy."

Full disclosure?  This was the film that I went to FF desperately wanting to see.  A zombie comedy?  Maybe.  A zombie comedy starring veterans of British television?  As soon as I started hearing the names Honor Blackman, Richard Briers, Dudley Sutton and Tony Selby I *needed* to see this film.  So, the plot:  two young men and their cousin plot a bank robbery in order to save the facility their grandfather lives in.  The robbery goes awry.  And then we get the zombies.  It's a hoot, the music is great, and they manage to throw in a few curves that Shaun Of The Dead didn't consider.  If you can manage to cope with zombie movie gore, go to this and laugh your ass off.

Cold Steel (2011, China, dir. David Wu)
Summary: China, during WWII.  A young hunter finds purpose and love as a sniper defending his homeland.

This is a gorgeous film.  The wartime effects are spectacular and it is an engaging historical drama.  If anybody reads the book it is based on, could you tell me if the communist guerillas actually appear in it?

Doomsday Book (2012, Korea, dir. Kim Jee-woon and Yim Pil-sung)
Summary: "Innovative Korean genre directors Kim Ji-woon and Yim Pil-sung turn their imaginations to apocalyptic sci-fi with this three part omnibus film which outlines three possible ways in which the world goes kaput."

This is made up of three films.  The first was about the spread of a zombie virus and while I found it amusing in spots, I didn't get a lot out of it.  The second part deals with a future where android workers have become common, and one at a Buddhist temple may have achieved enlightenment.  This one had something to say about life and perception, and I found it a very thoughtful piece.  The third dealt with an "asteroid plummeting to the Earth" scenario, and it was the most light-hearted of the three.  It was fun and sweet.

Dredd 3D (2012, USA, dir. Pete Travis)

Feel free to go read someone else's review, there should be plenty out there.  I felt like it was 3D overkill, with ultra-realistic (and very grim) violence and not much plot.  If you're seeing it for Karl Urban, ask yourself if you'd go see him in a movie where he spends the whole time with his head in a bucket.  Because he does.

The Final Member  (2012, Canada, dir. Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math)
Summary: A documentary about the Icelandic Phallological Museum and their quest for one last specimen -- a human penis.

I think most people talking about this film at Fantastic Fest referred to it as "the penis movie".  Well, that's what it is.  It is also an amazing documentary about a nice guy named Sigurdur "Siggi" Hjartarson who has been collecting penises for decades and claims at the beginning of the movie to only be lacking a human penis to complete the collection.  He has two offers: an aging Icelandic explorer and famed lothario who would like to donate his penis to the museum on his death, and an American who has decided that he wants his penis to go on to fame and fortune by itself...while he watches from a distance.  And maybe writes a comic book about it.  It's bizarre, and the strangeness is not helped by the fact that the American made me think of Will Ferrell.  I really, really hope this film gets out into the world, though given the subject matter it will be tricky.

Flicker  (2012, Sweden, dir. Patrik Eklund)
Summary: "...tale of a small town telecom company plagued by anti-radiowave anarchists."

The summary doesn't do it justice.  It may have been the translation, but it seemed that more than just a telecom company (while they were talking about 4G service), they were being blamed for the power outages in the area.  I found this a little confusing.  That said, this is a lovely, funny film that should otherwise translate to American audiences just fine.  It's a little Office Space, a little Ted Danson, a little Twin Peaks, a little melancholy, and just all-around recommended.

Fuck Up  (2012, Norway, dir. Oystein Karlsen)
Summary:  "Clearly it's all the moose's fault.  Jack had everything under control until his best friend crashed into a moose on the Swedish border.  With a trunk full of cocaine.  Now it's all gone to shit."

Four best friends who have been best friends forever.  One of them has really made something of her life.  The other three have fumbled their way along, complicating their life with sex and drugs in a small town on the border of Norway and Sweden.  When one of them crashes at the border while smuggling cocaine, the other three find themselves potentially implicated.  And then it gets worse.  Much, much worse.  This film was solid.  A thrill ride of humor, violence, and hope.  The acting was great, and I expect future great things from this director as well (assuming he doesn't die of alcohol poisoning).  It definitely rated a Wow.

Holy Motors  (2012, France, dir. Leos Carax)
Summary?  Um...a man travels around Paris for the day, going to appointments for work.  That's a lousy summary, but it's as true as it is bad.  The Guardian review called this "a fuzzy teacup of a film", which is probably just as good a summary.

This film is probably the most talked-about film that ran at Fantastic Fest this year.  Heck with Frankenweenie or Looper.  I heard people describe it as "one really fucked-up film" and also as "Possibly the best film I have ever seen."  I didn't have any trouble understanding it for the most part, for which I credit Harlan Ellison's "The Man who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore". (Is there a similarity of theme? Yes.  Do I think Ellison should sue?  No. End discussion.)  It is beautiful, it is strange, it is interesting, it can be disturbing.  It is linear, which I cannot say about everything I saw at FF.  I do recommend this for anyone who can handle odd movies.  If you feel that your favorite film out of everything I saw at FF would be Dredd, just skip it.

Plan C  (2012, Netherlands, dir. Max Porcelijn)
Summary: "Detective Ronald Plasmeyer has a problem in need of a solution: A 10,000 Euro debt to the Chinese mafia.  Plan A didn't work.  Plan B made things much, much worse.  Now it's time for Plan C."

There were things about this movie that I liked, and things that I didn't.  Sadly, the main thing I had a problem with was our main character.  Not the actor, but Ronald is written as a sad-sack character, and I kept seeing things that he could have done to make his situation less grim if only he would have stepped forward.  It wasn't a bad film.  You get the feeling of real danger to him and his family (particularly in the form of the actor Ton Kas, who reminded me of a younger, psychotic Donald Sutherland.  It might have been the glasses.) and the story is good, but....

Tower Block  (2012, UK, dir. James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson)
Summary: "The last remaining tenants of a deteriorating, soon-to-be-demolished tower block must band together to survive when a killer with a high-powered sniper rifle starts picking them off through the windows of their flats."

Wow.  This one was brutal.  Once things started happening, they just kept going, hard and fast, until the very end.  It's not until the last minutes of the film that you know if anyone is even going to walk out of this alive.  It's written by James Moran, who seems to have learned the rule that to mess with the audience, you need to kill off characters they're not expecting to die.  Or much sooner than you are expecting them to die.  Or more brutally.  It was a toughie.  A good film for this particular sub-genre.


UNIT 7  (2012, Spain, dir. Alberto Rodriguez)
Summary:  "Alberto Rodriguez's UNIT 7 is a gritty realistic thriller about a crew of narcotics officers in Seville, Spain, who go rogue during a citywide crackdown in the years preceding Expo '92."

That's a pretty good summary.  And that's basically everything that happens.  It shows us the officers and the changes in their lives over a five-year-period.  And then it stops.  It wasn't bad while I was watching it, it's a perfectly serviceable movie.  It's not particularly memorable, however.

Vulgaria  (2012, Hong Kong, dir. Pang Ho-Cheung)
Summary:  What does the producer of a film do?  Even better, what does the producer of a porn movie do?

This movie was a hoot.  A big one.  Our main character is played by Chapman To, who should be a huge star in China if he's not already.  He's incredibly likeable as a film producer who explains his role of producer of porn films to a class who is more interested as to whether or not he really did have sexual relations with a mule to get his funding than in the rest of what his job entails.  And oh, the things he had to do!  But he wins in the end, and so did the producer of this film.  According to the person who did the intro, this has been the biggest Chinese-language film in Hong Kong this year.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Amusingly, the only thing in this film that would get it an R rating here is language and subject matter.

Wrong  (2011, France, dir. Quentin Dupieux)
Summary:  Dolph Springer's beloved dog Paul has gone missing.  Where could he be?

Okay, it's probably not a good idea to see absurdist films when you have a head cold.  I was miserable and just couldn't get into this.  I might have even walked out, except that I would have been equally miserable anywhere else.  This is the follow-up to Dupieux's film Rubber, which was much loved by a lot of people (it's on Netflix, haven't seen it yet).  The acting was fine, visually it was fine, the absurdist elements were...well, absurd.  But I would have done much better with a straightforward film that day (which I did, as it was bracketed by Tower Block and Cockneys Vs. Zombies).  Wait for someone else to review it.  See the trailer. 

Young Gun In The Time  (2012, Korea, dir. Oh Young Doo)
Summary:  A cute girl wants our out-of-luck detective to kill someone for her.  He can't do that, of course, and witnesses her death shortly thereafter.  He goes to the museum where she works...and she is still alive.

This film blew me away.  Why?  Because not only is it a really likeable film with action and a good plot, but it was made for $30,000.  It's clearly not a big film, there are only maybe a dozen characters with lines.  The special effects are minimal.  But the story is tight, the characters and actors are likeable, and it has the best 4 1/2 person fight scene ever to take place in a van.  If you get a chance to see this, definitely do.

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