George Hickman is an Austin film maniac who does not sleep. Here’s Part Two of his capsule reviews of all the movies he saw at Fantastic Fest 2013 this year! Part One is right here. Here’s more Fantastic Fest 2013 coverage.
Man of Thai Chi (solid rock fist up) is an extremely traditional martial arts film that feels completely at home among Chinese cinema, which is surprising, considering Keanu Reeves directed it. While the plot is basic, the fights are stunning and the pacing is brisk. If you’ve ever enjoyed a film in this genre, you should check this out.
Monsoon Shootout (minor rock fist up) is a well-crafted, dance number free Indian crime drama with an experimental, if not wholly original, narrative. Mumbai’s answer to Sliding Doors or Run Lola Run.
Mood Indigo (solid rock fist up) is the single most Michel Gondry film Michel Gondry has ever made. A uniquely told love story set in a completely surreal world. Fans of his music video work and especially people with a high tolerance for whimsy have just found their new favorite movie.
On the Job (solid rock fist up) is a tense, stylish, and well crafted crime drama about prisoners being released for a day to moonlight as hitmen for corrupt politicians. Set in the Philippines, this makes an excellent companion piece to last year’s kidnapping thriller Graceland.
The Sacrament (solid rock fist up) is Ti West‘s most assured film to date. (Review of The Innkeepers, House of the Devil) Yes, it’s found footage, and yes it’s about a Jonestown style cult. But West does not take the easy exploitation route, the supernatural is kept out. It’s refusal to color within the expected horror framework makes for a smart, even-handed, and deeply disturbing experience.
“Secret Screening Two” (minor rock fist up) is a film we’ve been asked not to talk about due to commitments to another film festival. (Redacted) is known primarily as an actor, but he has directed a few experimental films of mostly ill repute. While this is my first of his films to watch, I was pleasantly surprised by (Redacted), adapted from the novel by (Redacted). While it is an often uncomfortable and challenging viewing, it remained captivating throughout, and featured a commendably committed lead performance from (redacted).
^^ Can you guess what film this is? ^^
The Unknown Known (solid rock fist up) is a great Errol Morris doc about the fascinating and frustrating Donald Rumsfeld. It humanizes him in a way that makes it more difficult to hate or dismiss him. It’s like having a grandfather who is a war criminal.
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (solid rock fist up) Like No Country for Old Men and Killer Joe, here is another in a recent line of Texas set neo-noir films. It’s very solidly constructed, this time focusing on a group of recent high school graduates, caught in a difficult situation with a violent psychopath, played brilliantly by Mark Pellegrino.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell (rock fist way up) is the latest bit of gleeful insanity from Sion Sono, the Japanese director of past Fantastic Fest favorites Love Exposure and Cold Fish. It’s a comedy first, a declaration and exploration of the love of filmmaking second, and a bloody gangster movie third. This is exactly the type of film I love seeing with a packed house at Fantastic Fest.
Witching and Bitching (solid rock fist up) is an unhinged comedy about a group of inept criminals on the lam who stumble upon a coven of Spanish witches. While the CGI is dodgy and the third act spins its wheels a little too much, the high points are nearly unmatched at the Fest. From the unique mind of the irreverent Álex de la Iglesia.