This is the second year I’ve attended Fantastic Fest. It’s the largest ‘genre’ film fest in the U.S. and is held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar Location in Austin. Here is a link to my post last year which gives a more detailed description of the fest. I really enjoy this fest as it has some great movies from all over the world and many you are not likely to see anywhere else. It also has some great activities going on at The Highball . Here is a link to the schedule (which includes the Highball activities).
Here are some hilights from the first 4 days (this goes for 8 days):
A really cool German film. They made this 2 hour 15 minute movie in a single take as they move through multiple locations in Berlin. The single take was incredibly impressive. The movie follows Victoria as she parties, meets some people and makes some increasingly bad decisions. Very interesting.
Charlie Kaufman’s latest. This is all done in stop motion animation This is an exploration of one man’s psyche and sort of depressing. I think I liked it more for the animation and because of the Q+A with Kaufman. This film was also preceded by Don Hertzfeldt’s latest cartoon which was good (and he was there too).
The Brand New Testament
A French comedy about God’s daughter going off to find her own apostles and writing a new testament. Very funny (although some might be offended).
Son of Saul
This won awards at Cannes and is a great but very sad/depressing film. It takes place in a concentration camp during WWII over a day when one of the Jews that is forced to help the Nazis in the concentration camps finds what he believes is his dead sons body and wants to have a proper Jewish burial. Very powerful.
This is like last years Snowpiercer about class struggles but takes place in a high rise instead of a moving train. Entertaining but too long. See Snowpiercer instead.
Liza the Fox Fairy
I liked this one a lot. A dark comedy about a woman striving for true love. Very unique with a musical ghost.
Man vs. Snake
One of my all time favorite documentaries is ‘King of Kong’. It’s about Steve Wiebe trying to set a world record in Donkey Kong and is both hilarious and moving. Man vs. Snake is a documentary about the quest to get a billion points in a lesser know video game called Nibbler. This is also a funny documentary with lots off twists and turns. It’s good but I’d still recommend King of Kong first.
Schneider vs. Bax
Another good dark comedy. This one is about 2 hit man assigned to kill each other.
This is a sequel to a Borat like comedy that I really loved called Klown. Klown was hilarious, totally inappropriate and unique. The sequel is good, but not as good as the original.
Black Mass is the story of crime boss Whitey Bulger and his relationship with the FBI prior to his 16 year life as a fugitive.
I liked this a lot. It is reminiscent of Goodfellas (although not as good). Johnny Depp gives a great performance as Bulger – nice as can be one minute and then a psychotic murderer the next. Joel Egerton (who Bill and I both liked in The Gift) was also awesome as Bulger’s FBI handler. He gives a really nuanced performance as someone heading into the abyss as he lets Bulger use him and forgets what his true role is.
This also has a great supporting cast. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s brother, a powerful Boston politician. Peter Sarsgaard is terrific as a drug addict. David Harbour is also a standout as an FBI agent.
If you like this type of movie (and don’t mind violence) this is definitely worth seeing.
Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5
I liked it a lot, same as Bill C, although my rating is closer to a 4- or even 3+, because it’s not close to Goodfellas or Departed (another film that is based on Whitey Bulger, although fictional). I think I liked Ben Affleck’s Town better. This film apparently sticks close to the book written by Boston Globe reporters. I lived in Boston during the heydey of Whitey, and all I knew was that the major crime figure in town was free to walk around while his brother Billy ran the state senate, as the most powerful politician around. This movie doesn’t show really the crimes other than whacking his enemies, or supposed friends, or his scheming, rather it’s a character study of a sociopath, played compellingly by Johnny Depp, and the incredible gullibility/blindness/one-mindedness of the FBI as they focus on the Italian mafia as they let Whitey do his thing, supposedly giving them valuable information, which of course is mostly bogus or invented by his Southie buddy on the FBI. I really liked when they cut to the Winter Hill Gang members who end up informing on Whitey, in order to shave years off their sentences. So, overall an enjoyable couple of hours, and standout performance by Depp and others, but a somewhat cliche story portrayed in a straightforward fashion.
Grandma stars Lily Tomlin in the title role helping to get her granddaughter through a personal crisis. It’s sort of a one day road movie with Tomling revisiting some past and current relationships as she tries to get the money to help her granddaughter. It has it’s good moments and Tomlin’s characters is able to explore and hopefully resolve some of her past/current relationships along the way.
I liked it but I’m not sure it will stay with me very long. If you’re a fan of Tomlin check it out.
Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig team up again in this new comedy. As in the entertaining Frances Ha, they share writing credits and Baumbach direct while Gerwig stars. If you liked Frances Ha you will probably like this.
Gerwig stars along with Lola Kirke. Kirk plays Tracy, a college freshman in NYC who is lonely and bored. Tracy meets Brooke (Gerwig), soon to be her step sister, and Brooke show her how to open up and try to get more out of life. Though Brooke’s plans don’t always work out she is going for all the gusto.
Greta Gerwig is one of my favorite actresses during the past 10 years and, as usual, doesn’t disappoint.
Meru is an excellent documentary about the attempts by three climbers to become the first to scale the Shark’s Fin route up Meru mountain in the Himalayas.
While watching this, it is hard not to think about how crazy these guys are for doing this. They put up with incredible hardships as they hung off the side of this mountain in awful conditions while attempting this climb. They sleep in a little tent tethered to the side of the mountain while carrying everything they need while climbing.
One of the climbers was a co-director and the footage on the mountain is incredible. It will be interesting to see how the footage in the fictional movie ‘Everest’ of the disastrous climb in the late 90’s compares to this.
In addition to the great footage the backstories of the 3 climbers has a few surprises that add to the film.
If you like this type of movie it is definitely worth seeing.