Taking place mere weeks after the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals, Fantastic Fest
is the cinematic equivalent of a hot fudge sundae that follows a meal full of vegetables. Founded in Austin, TX in 2005 by Alamo Drafthouse purveyor Tim League, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, screenwriter Tim McCanlies, and Ain’t It Cool News figurehead Harry Knowles as a celebration of exploitation and genre movies, the five-year-old festival runs from September 23-30.
Since becoming the largest festival in the U.S. devoted exclusively to horror, sci-fi and fantasy films, it’s become an annual destination for hardcore cinephiles, as well as for filmmakers and studios eager to determine the potential interest (much less commercial prospects) of their upcoming releases. Past films screened at Fantastic Fest include Bong Joon-Ho’s ‘The Host,’ Darren Aronofksy’s ‘The Fountain,’ Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood,’ Ruben Fleischer’s ‘Zombieland,’ Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist,’ and Tom Six’s ‘Human Centipede.’
Meanwhile, the Festival is also packed with a number of unique extracurricular events, including the Fantastic Debates, where participants square off over various movie-related subjects in an actual boxing ring; this year, for example, Tim League faces off against Michelle Rodriguez (revisiting her ‘Girlfight’ roots) to decide whether ‘Avatar,’ which co-starred Rodriguez, should have won the Best Picture Academy Award earlier this year. Additionally, there are panels addressing industry-related issues on a local and national level, trivia contests moderated by genre experts like FEARnet’s resident horror critic, Scott Weinberg, and video game tournaments and exhibitions to be held at Fantastic Arcade, a game-centric offshoot of the Fest which makes its debut this year. And the 2010 Fest culminates with a Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to iconic exploitation producer-director Roger Corman.
While this year’s schedule is decidedly heavy on Asian action cinema –- a tribute to iconic martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping, whose new film ‘True Legend’ will be screened — the festival roster is filled with a typically eclectic array of mainstream releases, cult and underground entries, and classic fare from a wide variety of genres. Check out a selection of some of the festival’s must-see films below.
– Written and directed by newcomer Guy Moshe, BUNRAKU
is an oddball thriller about a mysterious stranger (Josh Hartnett
) hell-bent on killing a crime boss (Ron Perlman). Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Kevin McKidd and Japanese Gackt provide supporting turns, while the film itself combines elements of spaghetti westerns, samurai films and kung fu flicks in a violent, balletic amalgam of filmmaking styles, genres and even cultures.
Buried – After digging up interest from genre fans at Sundance earlier this year, Rodrigo Cortes’ provocative containment thriller gets unleashed on audiences at Fantastic Fest in anticipation of its theatrical run next month. Though there’s a supporting cast that includes Stephen Toblowksy and Samantha Mathis, the film is basically a one-man show for actor Ryan Reynolds, who endures the horrors of being buried in a box with a cell phone, a lighter, and 90 minutes of oxygen.
Let Me In – Matt Reeves’ remake of Tomas Alfredson’s acclaimed 2008 vampire film ‘Let the Right One In’ is one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year, and one of the most controversial: should Hollywood rework cult foreign films, and if so, how should they do it? Casting Chloe Grace Moretz, Hit Girl from ‘Kick-Ass,’ was step one for Reeves, as was integrating material from Alfredson’s source material. But with ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’ converting new fans all over the globe, this is a must-see movie for virtually every attendee.
Machete Maidens Unleashed – The great thing about becoming addicted to exploitation movies is that there’s a virtually bottomless well of gratification. Following up his 2008 documentary ‘Not Quite Hollywood,’ director Mark Hartley returns with another chronicle of a film movement that’s destined to fill your Netflix queue – except instead of Australian cinema, this time Hartley targets the Filipino industry.
Mother’s Day – Darren Lynn Bousman (’Saw’ installments II through IV) offers up a nasty little slice of brutality with this remake of Charles Kaufman’s cult 1980 movie about a pair of rednecks who try to impress their mom by torturing a trio of female campers. Believe it or not, Rebecca De Mornay is already generating some dark-horse Oscar buzz for her turn as “Mother,” but the real mystery is whether Bousman’s film preserves the ending of the original – which is surprising enough without having to change a thing.
Playing Columbine: A True Story of Videogame Controversy – As the motives for school violence continue to be discussed and dissected, Danny Ledonne analyzes the history of a videogame based on the Columbine killers that’s as controversial as (if not more than) the acts that inspired it. Chronicling the game from its initial creation to its highly-contested removal from the Slamdance 2007 Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, Ledonne examines the social, intellectual and moral implications of making a game that tests the boundaries between role-playing escapism and recreating real-life violent acts.
Red – Clips of Robert Schwentke’s action-filled follow-up to ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ wowed fan boys (and girls) at San Diego Comic-Con last July, which means the movie’s got a lot to prove when it debuts at Fantastic Fest with co-star Karl Urban (’Star Trek’) in tow. Featuring a cast more likely to pick up an Oscar statuette (including Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Bruce Willis) than pick off a target with a sniper rifle, the highly-anticipated film promises action and comedy in equal measures.
Rubber – Written and directed by French electronic artist Mr. Oizo (nee Quentin Dupieux), Rubber may be the oddest in an already odd slate of films: it follows the adventures of a homicidal car tire named Robert. (Yes, you read that right.) Dupieux applies deadpan seriousness to the execution of this eccentric conceit, and adds a provocative layer of self-reflexivity as a group of humans simultaneously watch a movie about Robert’s travails, creating a sublime film that tests audience suspension of disbelief –- all the while satisfying their desire to see heads explode.
Stone – A film whose website synopsis fulfills the festival’s “fantastic” quotient while ostensibly being a comparatively straightforward drama, John Curran’s follow-up to the acclaimed, little-seen ‘The Painted Veil’ is an equally-complicated but markedly different sort of film, reuniting Robert De Niro and Edward Norton as they play, respectively, a prison counselor and an inmate desperate to get out.
True Legend – Yuen Woo-Ping is probably best known by mainstream audiences as the guy who gave ‘The Matrix’s’ fight scenes such an inventive, exhilarating edge, but he’s been choreographing fights and directing films himself for decades. ‘True Legend,’ his 28th film, uses the familiar conventions of one man’s redemption to showcase more stunning martial artistry, this time performed by the likes of international stars Michelle Yeoh (’Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’) and Gordon Liu (’Kill Bill Vol. 2,’ ‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin’). Yuen Woo-Ping, who is being honored with a lifetime achievement award at the festival, will be in attendance for the film’s U.S. premiere.
source: Wall Street Journal