Fantastic Fest

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mary Sledd's Day One Photos

Did you happen to notice the affable lady with a very expensive looking camera snapping photos on opening and closing day. That was none other than one of Austin's premiere photographers, Mary Sledd. She has delivered her opening night shots, and I must say they are "fantastic." Check out the complete photo set here, or you can check them out as a slideshow. The photo here of George Romero is downright museum quality. Check out Sledd Photo for more or her photos, gallery and services.

More photos coming soon from the Uncle's Paradise Feast and Closing Night!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

There Will Be Blood. And Photos.

Hey everyone. Fantastic Fest programmer Matt Dentler (from SXSW) here. I wanted to share some thoughts and pics from the amazing last few days of this year's event:

Paul Thomas Anderson's epic There Will Be Blood had its first public screening tonight as the Closing Night Film (and as a super secret screening) of Fantastic Fest 2007. Make no mistake, this is an amazing work of art. As one of the Fantastic Fest programmers, I've known this film was coming our way for a while now, so don't chalk this up to sheer surprise or excitement or bias: There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the year. Daniel Day-Lewis is obviously a major component of it, but Anderson's poetic treatment of the material cannot be dismissed. Plus, in a pleasant turn of events, co-star Paul Dano delivers a delicious and demented performance that could earn some serious award consideration a few months from now. God Bless P.T. Anderson, for making his fifth consecutive slam dunk. I'm just so stunned and impressed and shaken by this film.

For the first 15 minutes or so, there is no dialogue. Just men at work, and a swelling violin by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. And then, oil! Before long, Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview is doing what he can to uncover more of it, at any price. This leads to the discovery of a small community sitting "on an ocean of oil." Plainview sets up shop, but ends up warring against Dano's Eli Sunday, a young evangelist out to preach God's will and save souls. It soon becomes a battle between the two enterprising men, and each actor explodes with charisma and terror. Anderson is the architect of some great American stories, and this is one of his finest. Loosely based on Upton Sinclair's book, Oil!, the film is all Anderson. There are flourishes of Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, and Robert Altman (to whom the film is dedicated) but Anderson steps up his game as a master filmmaker beautifully telling a very scary story.

It was a great way to end the third annual Fantastic Fest. I think it was a great year. And, at the Closing Night Party, fellow organizers Tim League and Harry Knowles both looked at me and we just had a moment of pride. Here are some pictures I took in the final few days:


(Paul Thomas Anderson, left, greets the ecstatic audience after the first public screening of his amazing new film, There Will Be Blood. Alamo Drafthouse chief Tim League is on hand to moderate the Q&A.)


(Nacho Vigalondo, left, had one of the biggest hits of the festival: Time Crimes. He's here, chatting between screenings, with Chris "Massawyrm" Cargill of Ain't It Cool News. )


(The Orphanage crew had a terrific screening that they said topped their experiences at Cannes and Toronto. Here's the director, Juan Antonio Bayona, on the left and writer Sergio Sanchez. Interesting tidbit: while both filmmakers live in Spain, Sanchez spent one year of high school in Abilene, TX.)


(Liz Brambilla, from Picturehouse, cuts a smile at Fantastic Fest, in-between taking care of the Orphanage guys.)


(Cinematical writer Scott Weinberg hosted one of the festival's more unique and popular live events: Fantastic Feud. It was a game show style scenario, pitting the North American horror "experts" against those from Europe. It was a raucous and entertaining event, that soon gave way to a debaucherous karaoke session.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

TIMECRIMES wins Best Picture at 2007 Fantastic Fest

Awards were announced last night at the closing ceremony of the 2007 Fantastic Fest in Austin Texas. Taking top honors was Nacho Vigalondo with CRONOSCRIMINES (TIMECRIMES), a world premiere screening. Vigalondo won the “Best Feature” award in the AMD Next Wave Competition and wins a $3500 editing system from AMD/Dell and a $1000 cash prize. The Audience Award went to Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s MIRAGEMAN, a Chilean martial arts film featuring Marko Zaror. The complete listing of awards is below:
Competition Films

Jury Members
Joe Lynch (Director, WRONG TURN 2)
Adam Green (Director, SPIRAL)
Bill Lustig (Founder, Blue Underground)

Bronze Medal: FAR OUT - Phil Mucci
Silver Medal: THE FIFTH - Ryan Levin
Gold Medal: IN THE WALL -Mike Williamson

Special Jury Prize For Best Screenplay: THE FIFTH
Special Jury Prize For Best Actor: Sam Lloyd, THE FIFTH
Special Jury Prize For Best Actress: Bianca Rusu, DEMONOLOGY OF DESIRE
Special Jury Prize For Best Cinematography: HAPPY BIRTHDAY 2 YOU
Special Jury Prize For Best Effects: DEMONOLOGY OF DESIRE

Competition Films

Jury Members
Ryan Schifrin (Director, KING IN THE BOX)
Jonathan Brands (Funimation)
Michael Lerman (indieWIRE)

Bronze Medal: X-PRESSION - Laurie Thinot
Silver Medal: RAYMOND - BIF Filmmaking collective
Gold Medal: EVERYTHING WILL BE OK - Don Hertzfeldt

Competition Films

Jury Members
Todd Brown (Twitchfilm)
Don Hertzfeldt (The Animation Show)
Travis Stevens (Imagination Films)

Bronze Medal: SUITYMAN - Jon Spira
Silver Medal: SNIFFER - Bobbie Peers
Gold Medal: WAITING FOR YESTERDAY - Julien Lecat, Sylvain Pioutaz

Competition Films

Jury Members
Marc Walkow (New York Asian Film Festival)
Chris Cargill (Ain't It Cool News)
Tom Quinn (Magnolia Pictures)

Bronze Medal: AACHI AND SSIPAK - Jo Beom-jin
Silver Medal: NEVER BELONGS TO ME - Ki-woong Nam
Gold Medal: OFFSCREEN - Christoffer Boe
Special Jury Prize For Most Original Scenario: NEVER BELONGS TO ME

Competition Films

Jury Members
Scott Weinberg (Cinematical)
Harvey Fenton (FAB Press)
Ian Rattray (UK FrightFest)

Bronze Medal: DEVIL'S CHAIR Adam Mason
Silver Medal: ALONE Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Special Jury Prize For Best Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom for ALONE
Special Jury Prize For Best Actor: Kevin Howarth for SUMMER SCARS
Special Jury Prize For Best Actress: Masha Wattanapanitch for ALONE
Special Jury Prize For Best Gore: HELL'S GROUND

Bronze Medal: The Girl Next Door - Gregory Wilson
Silver Medal: Time Crimes Nacho Vigalondo
Gold Medal: Miragemen - Ernesto Díaz Espinoza

(Fantastic Fest Best Picture)
Competition Films

Jury Members
Charlie Boswell (AMD)
Eric Vespe (Ain't It Cool News)
Anne Goetzmann Kelly (Austin School of Film)

Bronze Medal: MIRAGEMAN Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Silver Medal: SPIRAL Adam Green
Gold Medal: TIMECRIMES Nacho Vigalondo
Special Jury Prize For innovative Vision: End of the Line, Maurice Devareaux

Zack goes to FF 2007: THE FINAL BATTLE

Today feels like I've unwrapped all my presents and now I lay in a nog-fueled stupor beneath the brittle dry branches of the Christmas tree. It's sad to acknowledge that Fantastic Fest is officially done for another year, and the only solace lays in the knowledge that it'll take at least that long for the world's filmmakers to create 60 more features of this year's line-up's high caliber. The last round of the festival contained some of my absolute favorites, and though I was all sleepless and movie-addled, really cemented that there's nothing I like more than watching monsters and guts.

I started Wednesday with Joe Lynch's WRONG TURN 2, which doesn't feel the need to aim above the belt and makes no apologies for being a no-brow backwoods slasher romp. I understand that we see an American Idol contestant get slaughtered in this movie. I haven't watched that show before so I didn't recognize her, but I'm always glad to hear about successful people being murdered. The performance from the older non-mutated hillbilly really stole the show, and made me want to start carrying dynamite on my person at all times.

Next was a surprise screening of the new Spanish horror film THE ORPHANAGE (LA ORFANATO). This was another skillful entry in the apparently rich genre of Spanish child-related ghost fables, and was very impressively shot considering it's the creators' debut feature. Equally dreamish in points to the inevitably comparable PAN'S LABYRINTH, THE ORPHANAGE also manages to inject several unexpected jolts and memorable images. The filmmakers flew in from Spain and their ever-so-slightly apparent jet lag added to the charm of the Q&A, the high point of which came when writer Sergio Sanchez told youthful director Juan Antonio Bayona that he looked like "a ten-year-old with sideburns." I also just learned that they'd also found out only hours before that their film had been selected as the official Spanish entry for the Academy Awards. Whhhee-ew!

The Nikkatsu series was consistently incredible, but the final entry of THE VELVET HUSTLER really seemed to wrap everything up in a perfect package. This color entry had all the criminal elements of A COLT IS MY PASSPORT blended with the detached teen cool of THE WARPED ONES, and though it sprawled all over the place and shifted moods on a dime, the movie maintained a weird winking attitude which showed that even cold-blooded murder can be a satisfying way to spend a lazy afternoon. It also featured my favorite line of any film in the fest: "Hey...let's steal that army ship! War is cool and lots of fun!"

I'd already seen (and loved) Thai siamese twin ghost story ALONE, so I instead opted for the Hungarian TAXIDERMIA. I had seen director György Pálfi's HUKKLE and heard that his new film went far beyond anything he'd done before in both scope and good taste, but I was still completely unprepared for this feature. There's a lot to be said for movies that are this deeply offensive and upsetting but are still made with all the craftsmanship and grace of a "fine art" film. There were scenes in TAXIDERMIA that made every single member of the audience visibly cringe, and this is a group of people who'd been sitting through gore movies for seven days straight. Regardless, I loved this feature and it very well be my absolute favorite of the festival.

Speaking of gore movies, my workload got nutsy and I was only able to catch one film on the final day. I was fortunate enough to have it be INSIDE (À l'intérieur), which is quite certainly the most blood-splattered gore fountain of this year's festival. If TAXIDERMIA was able to exact revulsion, INSIDE absolutely milked it, layering unspeakable act upon unendurable agony until it seemed impossible to find another way to violate the human body with household items. If you think I'm exaggerating, please note that an audience member actually puked at the earlier screening. No joke: this is a linear, humorless, excessively brutal horror movie for people that hate humans. I recommend it very highly.

And that was all. Yeah, sure, there were some alcohols and some hangin-outs and some goodbyes afterwards, but as the last credits rolled, we all bid farewell to FF 2007. It's hard to let go of all the dismembered corpses and carnivorous beasts, but I just have to tell myself that they'll be back next year in new and exciting forms. Until then, I'll be sitting in the corner, waiting.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lars' Wednesday at Fantastic Fest

Wednesday I saw two Fantastic Fest films in between urgently running around getting actual work done.

The first was UNCLE'S PARADISE, which I watched again with my girlfriend. It's such a small film that I don't want to build it up too much but I find it highly rewarding. If you love surrealism but find most surreal films cold and inhospitable, you may like this film. And you may not. Be advised that it's a pink film, so if 8 minute-long sex scenes make you uncomfortable, don't see it.

Then VELVET HUSTLER. I already knew this was one of my favorite movies ever but seeing it on the big screen with an appreciative crowd clinched it. Tetsuya Watari provides the ultimate blueprint of how to be Mr. Cool-guy down to your socks. He's so cool that he even uses his last breath on earth to whistle his jaunty theme song. He's so cool that he NAPS! He's so cool that his dancing is indistinguishable from sleepwalking. He's so cool that when every cop and gangster in Kobe is looking for him he wears a bright white 3-piece suit with matching shoes. Lead actress Ruriko Asaoka is a freak of beauty. She weighs like 85 pounds and she has a huge head with eyes the size of golf balls but pop her up on screen and she's a dream girl. It was Nippontastic!

It's been a great festival. I've met a lot of great new friends and great old ones too. Hope everyone has had as much fun as I have.

Fantastic Fest Is Over?! What can I do now? Here's a suggestion, see THE NINES. Special deal for FF Badgeholders.

If challenging mind-ripping films are your cup of tea, you're probably not jumping at the thought of seeing the next Hollywood Blockbuster. We can't blame you. So we'd love to see you back at the Alamo South Lamar for the new speculative fiction film, THE NINES.

Like a lot of the films at this year's Fantastic Fest, THE NINES is hard to describe and even harder to categorize. But if you like challenging films like TIMECRIMES, we think you're going to like THE NINES too.

Our opening night screenings with Ryan Reynolds and writer/director John August are sold out but we'd like to invite Fantastic Fest badgeholders to see it at a reduced rate. Instead of the usual 8 bucks we'll let you in for $6.25 if you have a Fantastic Fest badge, all through the first week.

Here's what the critics are saying about THE NINES:

"THE NINES is a philosophical mind teaser with satirical fangs." - NY Times

"An offbeat, unpredictable story that plays out in parallel universes." - Hollywood Reporter

"You'll go ''Huh?'' but you won't feel cheated." - Entertainment Weekly

Click here to buy advance tickets. See you there.

'Orphanage' Scores

Hey, Matt Dentler from the SXSW Film Festival here again. The fourth of five secret screenings at Fantastic Fest, happened last night. It was the U.S. Premiere of Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage, which I knew I had to bring to Fantastic Fest after watching it at Cannes in May. Shortly after the screening last night (which received some rave reviews), Bayona and screenwriter Sergio Sanchez were relieved things went so well but still a little nervous because Thursday morning was to bring the news of which Spanish film would represent the country for this year's Oscar consideration. Sure enough, it was announced today that The Orphanage will indeed be Spain's submission for the Oscar foreign-language category. The film opens in Spain next month, and in the U.S. by the end of 2007 thanks to Picturehouse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

As promised

Here's a clip from the Uwe Boll/Zack Ward Q&A:

Wow wow wow wow wow. Definitely a highlight of the fest so far. Zack Ward isn't perfect, okay? But you can suck his balls anyway.

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY 666

Big day, big fun, big computer-generated tentacled ghosts.

I felt a little misty as I toppled past the three-quarters mark in this year's fest. Today was a flexing abdominal wall of movies and it makes me wish that this fest happened all year round and I was an independently wealthy Alamo patron that could just sit and watch movies all day for decades until they named my favorite seat after me and let me shower in the bathroom. Watching so many good movies today made me realize I'll be very sad when the fest is over and maybe I will cry even though I'm extremely masculine.

The first show of the day was Larry Fessenden's sub-zero horror boiler THE LAST WINTER. I respect Fessenden's drive and the niche he's carved in the independent film industry, but sometimes his movies hit me sideways. THE LAST WINTER was an impossibly impressive presentation with cinematography that makes you want to run straight up to Alaska. The performance from the always-underrated James LeGros was perfect, and the film had some of the best slow-build horror movie pacing I've ever seen. The ending didn't entirely work for me, but I'd have to say that if I was going off the first 9/10 of a movie, this would easily be my favorite of the fest.

My testosterone boiled out of my pores during FLASH POINT, which may not have had the most action I've ever seen in a movie, but it definitely had some of the roughest. In these days of motion picture computer trickery, it's incredibly refreshing to see a good, slow-motion boot to the face. The crowd ate it up and I was also particularly fond of the detonating turkey dinner. Donnie Yen is a true icon of the knuckle sandwich and I look forward to everything that's coming from him.

I was pretty excited about seeing Kiyoshi Kurosawa's RETRIBUTION. I've been a fan of his since I first saw CURE, and the description in the FF guide made this one sound like another worthwhile entry. Then I watched it. Then it was over. That's all I have to say on the matter.

THE COLD HOUR (LA HORA FRIA) was next, and this was pretty far beyond my expectations. Though the entire film takes place in a fortified bunker, the claustrophobia I'd anticipated wasn't there, or at least it wasn't the movie's focus. Instead, this was a delicately crafted study of characters and their relationships with some mysterious horror injected at the right spots. Also, like a lot of Spanish movies, they don't let the fact that the protagonist is a child keep the film from going into some pretty grim places. Three cheers for not being nice to children!!

I was lucky enough to catch another Spanish horror film right after this one, and I have to say it's among my favorites of the fest: THE BACKWOODS. It was introduced by festival party-boy hero Nacho (TIMECRIMES) Vigalondo, who substituted for director Koldo Serra and talked a bit about the feature. I'd seen a segment of the film before, but I wasn't aware what a tense and '70s-influenced story this was, a very involving survival thriller with some great performances from both big names like Gary Oldman and also some new-to-me Spanish character actors. Everything was played straight and there wasn't a bad second. The Spaniards triumph again.

My super Fantastic Fest Tuesday

The fest is getting into its waning days but there are still a surprisingly large number of people here checking out screenings. It makes me very happy to hear from people here from out of town who are having such a good time.

My Tuesday was mostly a workday. But when I went down to introduce HELL'S FEVER I got sucked into it and watched almost the whole thing. Whatever you may think of it, it is a fascinating experience. Judging from the number of laughs I heard, the others in attendance found it amusing as well. Afterwards the whole audience held a group therapy session. We all vowed that if we ever found a crossbow at a bloody crime scene we would ask the police to put it in the lost and found.

Then I worked and worked like a rent-a-mule. Then it was suddenly time for THE WARPED ONES, part of the Nikkatsu series. The main character goes through life at a thousand miles an hour, stopping only to put on another jazz record. It's a pretty fascinating document of world cinema at a crossroads. It's also tremendously kinetic and entertaining.

Tonight's Nikkatsu screening, VELVET HUSTLER, is one of my favorite movies ever and it's a perfect synthesis of A COLT IS MY PASSPORT and THE WARPED ONES. So if you liked either of those you'll like it. If you liked both, you'll love it. If you loved both, wear a rubber. I don't even know what that means but you must BE THERE FOR VELVET HUSTLER TONIGHT! ALRIGHT! Again, author Mark Schilling, author of the FAB Press book NO BORDERS NO LIMITS: NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA will be there to fill you in on some of the backstory. I can't recommend this film highly enough. Eleven stars! Nine thumbs up!

I feel the need to cry out like a wild animal but I will just sit here silently until then.

Oh, and just to pop in an extra plug: I run a free weekly film series called Weird Wednesday. Midnight tonight at South Lamar I will be showing a movie called THE CARHOPS. It's not part of Fantastic Fest but I'd love to see all my new fest friends there.

Here's more about it:


If you’ve ever wondered about the sexual proclivities and appetites of those rollerskating waitresses at old-fashioned fast food drive ins, you’re surely not alone. A lot of very smart people have given it a lot of thought and the result is this groundbreaking motion picture. Carrying trays full of burgers and milkshakes is just the tip of the iceberg, from there it gets heavy. Can you handle it? Featuring nudity, comedy, nude comedy, comic nudity and more! Another dumb sex comedy from your friends at the Alamo. With Pamela Des Barres, Uschi Digard and her giant breasts. (Lars)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY FIVE

I type this from a shuttered Tijuana bunker, where I awoke after a lightning haze of shattered glass, karaoke and hyper-aggressive trivia warfare. Wait...let's start at the beginning...

Day 5 of Fantastic Fest started off as expected but escalated into a real humdinger. Though I'd already watched the incredible documentary BLOOD, BOOBS AND BEAST just the day before, I still felt the need for more and opted to sit in on today's screening. Director John Kinhart was there to answer questions, and word of mouth had apparently spread as the theater was well-attended for a Monday 1:30 show. It was my 3rd time through BB&B and it still managed to put my emotions in a headlock. Don Dohler...whatta man. If you somehow missed this one during the fest, do keep an eye out for it as it's one of the few recent movies I consider to be "important".

I'd heard word that the film OFFSCREEN was deeply unsettling and a convincing depiction of a man becoming unhinged. What I didn't know was how incredibly awkward and personal the film was. Before anything happens that would edge the title near the horror category, you become acutely involved in star Nicolas Bro's "personal life". Though the audience goes in with the understanding that the film is a work of fiction, the simmering build-up (which admittedly requires some audience fortitude) makes the events at the film's climax much more effective than in other mental meltdown films.

On the whole other end of the Fantastic Fest rainbow is Japanese comedy RUG COP, which really is just a feature length movie about a cop in a toupee. Like director Minoru Kawasaki's other films EXECUTIVE KOALA and THE CALAMARI WRESTLER, this movie takes its central premise and beats you in the funnybone with it until the skin splits. That's not necessarily a good terrible running joke, sometimes the humor comes from the fact that you can't believe they're still stuck on this goddamn wig issue. There were also moments of genuinely inspired humor, including the flashback in which the titular rug cop hones his toupee-throwing abilities, flinging his hairpiece against tin cans and shouting in victory. I recommend this movie to me and everyone else that wishes they were still 9 years old. Even though it has a boner joke in it.

I was lucky enough to catch the first entry in the Nikkatsu series, A COLT IS MY PASSPORT. This film is covered very well in an earlier post from Lars, but I do want to state that it was a gorgeous feature and I really felt grateful that we were able to see the Nikkatsu titles in the festival this year. These films may not be what modern moviegoers expect when they read the term "action cinema", and that in itself is a substantial reason to attend the next two screenings. If you want to see backflips and exploding tank-o-copters, there are plenty of new movies that fit the bill, but here's a very rare opportunity to view a too-often-overlooked faction of an underexplored genre, at least as far as us slow-ass westerners go. So quit snoozin'!

Last (but not least) was the most preposterously entertaining portion of the day...SCOTT WEINBERG'S FANTASTIC FEUD!

This was planned shortly before the fest and no one involved really knew if it was going to be good old-fashioned fun or a screeching, mangling car wreck. It turned out to be double of both. Alcohol flowed through the pulsing forehead veins of 16 fiercely pitted horror trivia contestants as the two teams (U.S.A. vs The Axis of Evil) went head-to-head in vicious verbal combat. The score was literally neck-and-neck until the sweeping heroics of red-blooded patriot Matthew Kiernan ushered in the New Dawn of Victory for the good guys (a.k.a. the team I was on). After this vulgar display of power, the event suddenly transformed into a raaaaaging karaoke maelstrom. Nacho (TIMECRIMES) Vigalondo was too sexy for his shirt and also taught us the swastika dance, Hasko (MOEBIUS REDUX) Baumann crooned us into submission with his Love Boat theme and Tim "Mondo" Doyle had money shoved into every available crack and crevice during his exotic dance workout.

I escaped at 3:30 AM but rumor has it that the party went off the rails far into the night. I'm sure that many of the attendees awoke with beer-soaked clothes, hairy tongues and misplaced wallets, but an immensely great time was had by all and if it happens again, I'm calling the police.

Truly Fucked

After the Sex & Death Q&A, I sat down with Patton and Daniel and Simon to talk about the screening, the movie, and other stuff. In this clip Daniel talks about alternate titles to the movie, which I gave away already with the title of this blog post. I couldn't help it though, because I had to follow my own advice.

Stay tuned for more from the Super!Alright! produced interview over at the Dell Lounge.

My Monday at FF: Nikkatsu, the Victory of America and the Karaoke Experiment

So Monday got really tough for me because I have a full-time job here too and it was a particularly trying day. Thus I only watched one feature, but man was it good.

I actually rewatched the Phil Chambliss program of shorts and those got a great reaction. We had more time for the Q&A and it went into more depth. For instance, the guy who plays the Devil's Helper apparently threatened to kill everyone at the gravel pit where he and Chambliss worked if he was fired. Phil said that at his funeral there were only six cars. Phil's Q&As are full of little details about rural Arkansas, which seems like a whole other planet.

Then over to the first part of the Nikkatsu retrospective, A COLT IS MY PASSPORT. It's dificult to describe what makes it so great. Words don't seem to convey the mix of stripped down pulp elements and new wave influenced film style. The whole thing is really glued together by Jo Shishido's performance as a highly professional assassin who is cornered by two mobs and forced to use all his resourcefulness to fight back. No time or motion is wasted. It's a pure film, and the audience would have injected it directly into their brains if they could. Average rating on this site from people who were there: 4.5 of 5. And there are two more screenings. It's in the big theater 1 so there's room for everyone at tonight's insane juvenile delinquent film THE WARPED ONES (aka WEIRD LOVEMAKERS). And just as at the first showing, expert and author Mark Schilling will be there to answer questions and sign copies of his FAB Press book NO BORDERS, NO LIMITS: NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA, which are for sale in the lobby before and after the show. And the great Marc Walkow of the New York Asian Film Fest will be there to run live subtitles again. Don't count on seeing these films in a theater ever again.

Then it was time to play the Fantastic Feud, a trivia game show hosted by the diabolical Scott Weinberg pitting the horror nerds of USA against the horror nerds of all the terrorist countries. It was pretty loose and was fairly close throughout but we freedom-lovers pulled away from the pack with a flurry of Matt Kiernan madness. Fangoria and AMC Monsterfest Blogger Kiernan was like George Washington, General Patton and the 1980 United States Hockey Team rolled into one trivia machine, and even though the Haters Of Our Freedom had some pretty spectacular players like Hasko Baumann and turncoat John Carpenter, the Patriots rallied behind Kiernan, Zack Carlson and Terror Thursday hero Daniel Kerr to keep the flame of liberty burning over the Earth.

Then there was karaoke, which was fun, then strange, then fun again, then disturbing, then even funner, then darkly disturbing. I'll leave it for the authorities to decide who did what. And I'll leave it for the philosophers to try to tell us why. All I know is that I am a different person. Stronger in some ways. Weaker in others.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Richard Kelly

This is a super brief excerpt of a fairly brief interview I got to do yesterday afternoon with Richard Kelly. Really, this was just an excuse for me to try to make him talk about Justin Timberlake, but then he wanted to talk about the entire cast and how he wanted to cast people against type and all of that. But he agrees that getting Justin to lip sync The Killers was the greatest thing ever. Oh man, I wish I could just watch that scene over and over again.

Fantastic Fest Sunday: Squid Porn, Child POW's and Japanese Biker Holocaust

I kicked off my Sunday with UNCLE'S PARADISE, which impressed me a lot. Many people didn't like it because it's loaded with wall-to-wall sex and crazy weird surreality. For me it was one of the highlights of the fest - probably THE highlight of the fest so far. It's a small film, shot on 35mm, with some of the most beautiful images I've seen in the festival. It's also full of near-hardcore sex so be advised. I wouldn't say it tackles the big issues. It's just a strange work of beauty that wouldn't benefit from too much dissection on my part so I'll just move on.

I got some work done after UNCLE'S PARADISE then watched SON OF RAMBOW, which was very sweet and well made and features some of the best direction of child actors I've ever seen. May not linger in the memory for long but it creates a real impression of the way a child looks at the world. Also, the '80s period costumery is some of the best I've seen. It gave me a sudden, but not unpleasant flashback to the 7th grade.

Next came the 1980 Japanese biker film CRAZY THUNDER ROAD, which has some amazingly experimental moments and was worthwhile viewing though somewhat tedious at times. I have a high tedium threshold though, so I was fine with sitting it out and listening to the music. I am so much more happy to put up with fumbling experimentation than the cold hands of the professional whores who create the antiseptic multiplex shit. Yaaaa!

Then I introduced HELL'S GROUND and went reluctantly home to get some sleep so I'd be ready for my actual work work today. I dreamed about a supercar.

Uwe Boll and Zack Ward talk POSTAL

Oh my god, how crazy was that POSTAL Q&A??? For a while there I thought we might actually get to see Uwe and Zack box, but no such luck.

We'll have some clips from that Q&A up later, but first, here's a bit of me talking to Uwe and Zack before the movie screening on Monday night. Zack seems to be attempting to offend people whenever he talks, doesn't he? In this clip I think he manages to be offensive to scientists and mentally disabled people in the same sentence. That's talent.

Come 'Inside'

One of the titles at this year's Fantastic Fest that I was thrilled to curate for the event, is Inside, a bloody gripping cat-and-mouse French horror thriller. It's a relatively simple premise (pregnant woman fights for her life inside her house on Christmas Eve), but the stylish and inventive ways it's handled, will leave you breathless. The film is pretty hardcore, and probably not recommended for any new parents. But for those brave enough to make the trip into the theater, will likely not be disappointed. Come see Inside at Fantastic Fest... if you dare!

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY FOUR

Another pulse-pounding day of sitting in the dark, looking up.

Things started off well with off-kilter Japanese horror drama DEATH NOTE, which plays like a thriller where one of the central characters happens to be an anti-gravitational grinning CGI goth demigod that only eats apples. It was well-written and paced right, though it took itself places that I'm not sure wrapped up right when all was said and done. Still, it makes sense that this series of films is a huge success with the teens of Japan, and I hope you join me in fearing the inevitable U.S. remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Richard Grieco.

As I look back on Sunday, September 23, 2007, I will always fondly recall visions of rubber beasts, floating death gods and gay punk bikers...but I will mostly remember the slow-motion emotional tsunami that swept over the audience during the best parts of John Paul Kinhart's excellent documentary BLOOD, BOOBS AND BEAST. This was a film that I'd really hoped to see play the festival, and I must admit I was a little nervous about turn-out as it was playing against the much-ballyhooed SON OF RAMBOW. My fears were unfounded and a respectable crowd turned out to learn about the accomplishments and struggles of all-too-often unsung genre micro-hero Don Dohler, creator of VHS-era treasures like ALIEN FACTOR and BLOOD MASSACRE. Dohler is a really fascinating subject, and the documentary is a really well-handled exploration of a complex and troubled point in the Baltimore director's life. Funny, tragic, creatively structured and personally involving, BB&B is definitely among the best chronicles of genre filmmakers and their craft.

I'd waited almost a decade to see CRAZY THUNDER ROAD. The movie's a legend among a very anemic cross-section of exploitation nerds, but has never seen a U.S. video release and there hasn't been enough of a demand to result in a bootleg market. Anyway, patience was rewarded with the opportunity to see the film for the first time in a 35mm subtitled print, and there were a surprising number of people on hand for the experience. The film was schizophrenic, loud, cro-magnon in all the right places and incredibly ambitious (and seemingly expensive), especially for a student project. The costuming and set design were the type that make you want to redecorate your house with a blowtorch and nailgun, and though the storytelling took some leaps and liberties, the overall effect worked really well for me. There were some folks in the crowd who didn't warm up to it, but when you're making movies about post-apocalyptic fascist homosexual street gang vengeance, you can't please everyone.

Last up for the night was our late-entry secret screening: DAI-NIPPONJIN (BIG MAN JAPAN). From what I can figure, some bunk rumor got out that we were gonna be running 30 DAYS OF NIGHT or BEOWULF or PATRIOT GAMES or something because there were people lined up down the street and this is a title that has gotten no coverage or build-up in the American press. Well, unless everyone was really hungry for Josh Hartnett, I can't imagine there was much disappointment. DAI-NIPPONJIN is a light and funny mockumenary/parody that exists entirely on an uphill slope to craziness. The first third is so dry and quiet that your brain hits a brick wall when the protagonist suddenly transforms to an 80-foot-tall tattooed sumo-beast with a Kid N' Play haircut. By the end of the feature, our socially outcast hero has battled a very inventive assortment of monsters and performed incredible acts of superhuman cowardice. The ending is so major that it had people howling and bouncing in their seats, and served as a truly delicious icing on my Sunday viewing funcake.

Then I went to bed.

- Z

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY THREE

There are a lot of movies in this world. Some are good. Some are bad. Some involve hunching men with bowl haircuts obsessively playing strip baseball with geishas. There's no chance that even the most obsessive agoraphobic film lunatic would be able to watch one tenth of the movies they'd be likely to enjoy within their lifetime. But that doesn't mean I won't keep trying.

Like Lars, I attacked MAIKO HAAAAN!!! first, lightly thrilled at the prospect of a "goofball romp" after so much bloodshed and knucklebusting. I was not disappointed, as MH!!! features about 300 cc's of Japanese madcappery in every minute. So much so, in fact, that the viewer becomes immunized to wide-eyed hollering and rubber-boned dance sequences and starts to accept that love means slapping each other's faces and the passage of time is best marked by beard length. Speaking of length, viewer endurance may come into play as the screwiness here reaches the 120-minute mark, but this is nevertheless a unique child-in-a-business-suit's fantasy of the adult world that should be watched by all ramen manufacturing enthusiasts and haters of professional athletes. I count myself among both.

Also like Lars, I spent the next portion of the afternoon being wholly decimated by the DEVILS-HELPER: THE FILMS OF PHIL CHAMBLISS program. Phil Chambliss himself was on hand, having driven solo and overnight from Arkansas just for our festival. He made a hasty introduction, the lights dimmed and the audience was instantly transported to a mysterious dimension where the rules of reasoning and human interaction have been completely rewritten. Chambliss makes mini-epics that move sideways instead of forward through completely unmapped filmmaking terrain, and I'm not exagerrating when I say that half the crowd was completely in awe of the singularity of his style. The Q&A that followed was great, and it managed to further endear the filmmaker to everyone present. Those of you who weren't there (and that's a high number of you) really missed out...except you didn't, because Mr. Chambliss will be returning on Monday at 7PM for another round of brainmangling. Seriously...DO. NOT. MISS.

Also also like Lars, I ended up at THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, which I'd been warned was a very dark and discomforting experience. Even still, I was more than sufficiently queased by the content, largely due to the fact that Alamo pal Rodney maintained that the most shocking aspects of the story are actually true. I hate to write more -- partly because I hate to spoil movies and partly because it makes several of my organs wither to dwell on this film -- so we'll move on to the final show of the night.

...Which was going to be EXTE: HAIR EXTENSIONS, but all of us Alamoids instead ended up caught in the pre-POSTAL Uwe Boll intro hysteria. So rather than watching Japanese women getting strangled by autonomous hair-dos, I found myself hoisting an Osama Bin Laden pinata at arm's length while the notorious (and extremely pleasant and well-mannered) Boll beat the hell out of it with a length of rebar. Locating that pinata was no easy feat and I have to admit it made me a little sad to see its sweet little head go flying off into the third row, but a rousing time was had by all and Boll only drew blood from my hand with the whacker once, so no regrets. POSTAL itself was very much the moral brutalityfest advertised. As a politically naive childless meat-eating agnostic of undetermined ethnic background, there isn't much to offend me, but I do sincerely appreciate Boll's attempt to create the most unmarketable career-destroying work possible. The Q&A afterwards was completely railroaded by a visibly tipsy Zack Ward and, as Lars wrote earlier, melted down into a frothing dispensation of expletives and animated rants. At one point, an exhausted Uwe Boll calmly interrupted and, with his forehead cupped in his palm, said, "You haff no idea vut you are talking about." The audience stared in fascinated confusion as the barrage continued, requiring almost no questions to fuel the massive insanitybeast the screening had become.


Stay tuned.

Fantastic Fest Day 3: Geishas, Hatchet-men, Martial-Arts, Torture and Chimpanzee-On-Midget crime!

So, yesterday was my Day 3 and I'm starting to feel the wear and tear a bit. I may pull back a little but but actually I probably won't.

My first movie was MAIKO HAAAAN! (I may be missing an A or two there.) It's a spectacularly weird comedy about a man who has an obsession with geishas. He maintains a website about them and his fondest dream is to play strip baseball with a geisha. He develops an unbelievably intense rivalry with a baseball player who seems to be having all the fun he himself should be having. The rivalry assumes toweringly absurd proportions as each man tries to one-up the other and then the film takes some unexpected serio-comic turns. It reminds me of the kind of comedy Jerry Lewis used to direct and star in, and that's no insult. The star of this thing, Sadao Abe, is spectacular and the movie works really well.

Then it was DEVILS-HELPER: THE FOLK ART FILMS OF PHIL CHAMBLISS with Mr. Chambliss in attendance. The films are molasses-paced with a kind of very eccentric humor that I loved. There's even a moment of real cinematic beauty in the short SHADOWS OF THE HATCHET MAN where a dog, who is chasing the hatchet man in a tracking shot runs right past the hatchet man and keeps running and running after the camera car. It's a really, really beautiful shot. I had seen these films before but it was nice to see the audience warm up to their humor. See them! And as Stretch says, "Don't hit me hard!"

I didn't watch the AICN Special Secret Screening of SOUTHLAND TALES because I didn't want to deprive a paying badgeholder a seat and honestly, unlike everyone else I know, I don't really care to see it - so I went with Donnie Yen's latest Kong Kong action movie FLASH POINT. It's really a throwback to early '90s HK Action and it's even set in 1996. The movie kind of percolates in a more or less predictable way until about an hour in and then it's pure action all the way. The fighting style is Mixed Martial Arts/Takedown style and the big fight at the end is glorious and super violent. I love those little moments when you can tell that an audience is totally in synch with the film and there was one of those moments when Donnie Yen took his jacket off about 10 minutes and 7 broken bones into the fight as if to say, "now it's just getting started."

Then I watched JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. I had seen the screener months ago but I was eager to see how an audience took it. I like the film pretty well but the rest of the audience LOVED IT. It's extremely rough stuff, based on a true story. The physical violence is minimal compared to some of the other movies in the (admittedly violence saturated) fest but the spiritual violence is second to none. There were several walkouts and at the end of the film at least one audience member was sobbing out loud. I talked to one staff member who was furious that the movie had been made, and was doubly furious that people were lining up to watch it. It's likely to create controversy wherever it is shown. There are a number of strong performances in the film but it's Blanche Baker (Carrol Baker's daughter!) who holds the film together with an intense and terrifying performance.

Then I went looking for Uwe Boll so I could get him into the theater for the POSTAL screening at midnight-ish. He was out talking to a KLRU TV crew and I waited while he wrapped up then spoke to him for a bit and we were on with the intro to postal. After Uwe and actor Zack Ward did the intro we pulled out a vintage Osama Bin Laden pinata and Uwe whacked the schiessen out of it with a rebar, spilling inexpensive and unpalatable candy everywhere. Soon audience members were enjoying POSTAL (and 3 year old Jolly Ranchers).

POSTAL is berzerk, lightning-paced and provocative. In a way it served as a mirror of our times. Especially when Mini-Me Vern Troyer is being sodomized by chimps, or Dave Foley is waving his dangle at the camera. Some of the most witty dialogue in the film is spoken by the terrorists who subsequently fly a 747 into the World Trade Center. It really does seek to offend everyone but I think the Fantastic Fest crowd was offense-proof because they laughed and howled throughout.

The Q&A afterwards was so crazy and chaotic it made POSTAL look like a Robert Bresson film. Uwe Boll was incredibly candid about the critics, Hollywood and his own complex feelings about Jean-Claude Van Damme, whom he wishes to someday face in the boxing ring. Star Zack Ward was like a rabid dingo, yelling about how much he hates babies, challenging the audience to fellate him, declaring war against mom and apple pie, etc. It was one of those Q&A's where every mouth in the audience is hanging wide open. It was the shazbot! Yeah!

Marko, 'Southland Tales,' BBQ, and Uwe Boll

The first weekend of Fantastic Fest 2007 is not even finished yet, but already, it's been an exciting and eventful series of screenings, events, and special guests. Saturday night's super secret screening was the first unveiling for the final/re-edited cut of Richard Kelly's sophomore feature, Southland Tales, probably one of this year's most highly anticipated fanboy films. I had to miss the screening, but the response was certainly more favorable than what the original version of the film received at Cannes in May 2006. Check out the review from Todd Brown of Twitch. Here are some pictures I took from Friday and Saturday:


(The marquee outside the Alamo South Lamar, welcomes attendees to the festival.)


(One of the big hits of Fantastic Fest's first weekend was Mirageman, a Chilean superhero adventure. Sharing a laugh during the Q&A, here is director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, star Marko Zaror, and moderator Todd Brown.)


(On Saturday afternoon, all the Festival staff and guests took a road trip to nearby Lockhart, TX for some BBQ. Posing at Smitty's Market, is Postal director Uwe Boll and Cinematical/FEARnet critic Scott Weinberg.)


(Hanging out in front of the Smitty's pit, are Fantastic Fest director Tim League and Marko Zaror. They're both wearing Kiltro shirts, in honor of the other Chilean action film Zaror is presenting at the fest.)

2008 VIP Fantastic Fest badges on sale now!

VIP badges sold out very early this year for Fantastic Fest, so if you want to join us in 2008, we are offering a chance to reserve now by putting earlybird badges on sale until October 1, 2007. Tickets are on sale here. Once they go offline, they won't be back on sale until 2008. If you are in the zone and having a great time at Fantastic Fest 2007, you may want to plan ahead now for September 2008. We are going to work hard to make next year's fest even bigger and badder than 2007.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Zack and Lars have already talked about the awesomeness that is MIRAGEMAN, but let me reiterate: I don't care who shows up for the Secret Screenings. Even if Harry has somehow managed to get his hands on experimental genetically modifying technology and created a one man conglomeration of Steven Spielberg, George Romero, Lucio Fulci, Quentin Tarantino, and Sergio Leone into a new sentient being known only as THE DIRECTOR who has secretly made a movie called INDIANA STAR WARS ZOMBIE, it won't matter. MIRAGEMAN will still be the film you remember. Take that, THE DIRECTOR! If you missed the first screening, see the encore. Do it!

Anyway, this is all a lead up to my vlog entry where Marc Savlov and I talked to Ernesto Díaz Espinoza and Marko Zaror, the director and star of MIRAGEMAN, on Friday night in front of the dancing fire machine. I hadn't seen the movie at this point, but Savlov had loved it, so I invited him to come on camera to help get this conversation about influences and high kicks going. Meet the Miragemen:

As usual, thanks to Super!Alright! for helping on the filming on this one, and be sure to check out the Dell Lounge later on for a more complete version of this interview along with dozens of other Fantastic Fest recaps.

My big super Fantastic Fest Day Two

Even more folks in town for day two of Fantastic Fest. I'm really enjoying the festival atmosphere, seeing out of town friends and meeting filmmakers and others. It's tough seeing all the movies I'd like to see too so I've been trying to check out movies I probably won't get another chance to see on a big screen and with an audience. So movies like WEIRDSVILLE can wait for me, since I know they will have big releases later.

My first movie was the Korean low-budget brain-eraser NEVER BELONGS TO ME, preceded by Canadian short GARY'S TOUCH, which I had seen on DVD and thought I wanted to see on the big screen. Not so sure it was such a good idea to order food during it though. It's a really disgusting, disturbing movie and it made the entire audience feel REALLY FUNNY. And not the tee-hee kind of funny. The feature, NEVER BELONGS TO ME, despite the regionally pervasive "twenty-minutes-too-long" syndrome and a bit of a cheesy '90s feel, is so imaginatively strange that I can't not like it a lot. It makes you ask some of the harder questions, like, "Is it better to have a penis that orgasms bullets or no penis at all?" Tough one, and I hope I never have to make that choice. I hope you don't either.

Then I bought the amazing FAB press book "Nightmare USA" from Mr. Fab Press himself Harvey Fenton, who had a table set up in the lobby to sell his fantastic line of books. I've had my eye on it for a long time but I finally had to have it. Now no one can take it away from me without a vicious and protracted rumble.

At 6:20 it was time for MIRAGEMAN starring Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror as a Chilean martial artist who has a lot of good reasons to be mad and decides to become a crime fighting vigilante superhero. The good news is that the movie is very funny and realistic. Mirageman rides the bus, checks emails, has a hard time changing into his superhero costume before the bad guys can get away. And Zaror specializes in a couple of astonishing moves like this side flip, kinda like a back-flip, but sideways, from a flat-footed standing position, which makes bad guys disoriented and audience members cheer and fist-pump. He also does this move where he jumps in the air and spins around kicking like a million times like some rubber-band/popsicle stick contraption. This made audience members turn red and urinate themselves as they stood in their chairs and bashed their heads against each other in a fakir-like trance of ecstasy.

Afterwards I spoke to Zaror in the lobby, he was very quiet and polite and we had a kind of unusual conversation about the next few career steps he makes, since he will certainly have a lot of opportunities. He is very eager not to sell his soul to make crappy action movies in Hollywood. He wants to reach a larger audience but in the right way with action and heart and humor. As one who loves action movies but hates most of what big Hollywood does, I'd have to say that's a damn good idea.

Then I had a bunch of boring desk and video work to do for a few hours. Afterwards I spoke to my new buddy Joe Lynch who was ecstatic about his new movie WRONG TURN 2. This was not a man with any butterflies whatsoever. He seemed more like a guy who had brought a really great birthday present and couldn't wait for it to be opened. But I know I'll be able to see that one later so I saw DOG BITE DOG instead.

DOG BITE DOG is highly, viscerally brutal. It's well acted, directed and shot. It definitely topped off my violence fix today. It's kind of interesting to see tiny Asian dudes pulling some Incredible Hulk type shit. The movie was compelling even when it was cliched, and it was pretty cliched at times, but then the classic John Woo movies have more cliches than gunshots and nobody complains. The ending is really odd. If the filmmakers would just drop me an email at I will be happy to offer some insight (for a reasonable fee) about how the final scene might be improved.

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY TWO

Admittedly, Friday's screenings felt slightly less electric as everyone got into a more relaxed, efficient festival mode, but the content is still maintaining the high level of quality violence and genital weaponry that we've come to expect.

Russia's THE SWORD BEARER is a grim, broad epic about a young outcast with the ability to pop a sword out of his wrist when provoked. Though I wasn't immediately inclined to take every "flight of fancy" the film provided, they handled the premise in a really unexpected way...don't expect a superhero, as THE SWORD BEARER's protagonist isn't necessarily concerned with using his abilities for the greater good. Rather, his priorities lie with slicing up deadbeats and evading the police.

NEVER BELONGS TO ME was next, more importantly preceded by the much-ballyhooed short GARY'S TOUCH, which had received many pre-festival whispers regarding its deeply objectionable content. Well...those whispers are deserved. Attendance was strong so I ended up sitting directly next to strangers for the most uncomfortable theatrical experience of my life. I think they were a young couple on a date, and if so, he will never hear from her again. NEVER BELONGS TO ME was equal in weirdness and had some pretty amazing moments, but the story is told in this meandering, dreamlike way that almost lulls you into a daze of anthropomorphic weeping, penile firearms and gender-bent mad scientists.

Man-mountain Marko Zaror presented MIRAGEMAN, which was a sincere exploration of what a real-life Chilean costumed vigilante would have to endure. Zaror is really damn likable on-screen, and the movie won over the room in a big way. A well-balanced mix of action, pathos and some really effective humor. It's an easy bet that these guys are going to build a following once the U.S. audience figures out what's what.

FIVE ACROSS THE EYES was introduced by the directors and star Sandra Paduch. There was a lot of curiosity about this title, and the room was nearly full. I'm glad to say that the whole thing works really well, especially considering the audience is being subjected to spending 90 min in a family van with five squealing teenage girls. Sound like a headache? Surprisingly, no. All the performances were strong and convincing, and though you may not be able to watch this movie every day, it's impressive how many standard horror formula rules the filmmakers chose to not follow.

My final show last night was blunt-trauma Hong Kong action opera DOG BITE DOG, which is likely the only movie I've ever seen that opens with the protagonist pumping three bullets into a 60-year-old woman's skull. The action was intense and the violence obviously severe, though like many HK films, the story took a couple head-scratch-inducing turns into emotional territory, sometimes accompanied by tender AM radio jams. Still, the strength of the fight segments and chase scenes kept it at pretty high marks. And I'll never hear "You Are My Sunshine" or ventilate an elderly woman the same way again.

See you soon,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tickets for individual shows...

We were freaking out because we sold out of festival badges this year and were worried about overstuffing our relatively modest-sized theaters with badge-holders. Attendance has been really great, but for the most part we've been able to accommodate almost everyone at the shows, even individual ticket buyers.

If you are interested in checking out a taste of Fantastic Fest, but don't have a badge, you should come down to Alamo South Lamar and check it out. Avoid the AICN Secret Screenings, the first screening of Sex and Death 101, and the closing night film (these will all sell out), and I think you will be able to get in to the movie of your choice. If not, there are 2 other movies at each timeslot, and we vouch for damn near all of them. We've got some amazing films and guests this year, so we invite first timers to check out the shows, and I bet we'll see you with a badge around your neck next year.

My first day at Summer Camp

Day One was full of lots of work and as many movies as I could cram in between other duties.

There's been a lot of preparation to get ready for the fest and everyone here has been working so hard that there's that great moment of relief when everything kicks off and things go well. And then the few problems that do arise are small and easily dealt with. So, my big time compliments to everybody who has worked so hard on this. I can't even start mentioning names but they know who they are.

In the afternoon I went down to check out a bit of the party but unfortunately I missed my colleague Zack getting a 400 psi blast of guts to the nuts. I understand the outpouring of concern almost drowned out the laughter.

Later, I got to meet George Romero, who was just kind of hanging out with fans and staff. He was about the friendliest, coolest guy you can imagine. It must have taken a huge amount of determination and hard work to make the movies he's made outside the Hollywood system and he came a cross as very funny, very intelligent and very tough minded with a little bit of the cynicism that you often find in the most human people. He's also very tall, which I've never heard mentioned. I'm in the tall business myself so I know what I'm talking about.

I didn't watch DIARY OF THE DEAD because there was such great demand for it that I would be taking away someone else's seat so I did a little work and then checked out HELL'S FEVER, a movie that we came to us from Rome's Fantafestival with a chest full of medals. We weren't sure what to expect because the screeners came in late and we hadn't had a chance to evaluate it! Oh my, it was lots of fun in the Weird Wednesday/Terror Thursday mold. I can see how fans of movies like LADY TERMINATOR and DANGEROUS MEN would love this. To say it shocked and delighted the crowd would be an understatement. When it was over, few could believe what they had just seen.

Afterwards there was an excited klatch in the lobby over movies everyone had seen. Those of us who were evangelizing about HELL'S FEVER kept getting blank stares from people who had just watched DIARY OF THE DEAD. But I had to get ready for the Bruce Lee Lookalike contest I was to host before FINISHING THE GAME. I got the prizes together from our friends at HOG WILD, BACKSPIN RECORDS and THE AUSTIN KUNG FU ACADEMY and then I watched to crowd pour in - not a Bruce Lee costume among them. So I decided to make it a Bruce Lee Yell-alike contest. You can see the results here.

FINISHING THE GAME was a very light mockumentary that had its moments. Total fiction of course but there were some barbs among the laughs about Hollywood's - and the culture's at large treatment of Asians. But for the most part, a very broad comedy that kept the audience laughing.

I was pretty knocked out but I decided to stay and watch THE FERRYMAN, which was a surprising and unusual movie. The performances and direction were very good, there were some very subtle touches involving tricky and difficult-to-convey plot points. Towards the end it becomes more like an exploitation film but that's A-OK with me. One thing about this film, there's an American character who looks and acts like a young George Bush. Intentional? Who can say?

Then sleep. Then waking up and worrying about little details. Then more sleep.

Henri and George Romero

Last night I got the chance to sit down with the one and only George Romero to interview him on camera for just this little ol' blog (and eventually the Dell Lounge), and wow. Awesome. I was a little sad at first because I had to be sitting and talking to him about DIARY OF THE DEAD at the exact same time as DIARY was up on the screen in another auditorium, but then I figured I'll have another chance to see the movie. Another chance to sit down with Romero? Unlikely.

Super!Alright! did the camera work and gave me this first quick edit of part of the interview, in which George talks about his love for the Bush administration, and, ironically, how he thinks that people who blog about life instead of just living it are kind of zombies already. Dang it! Check it out:

'Princess' and 'Taxidermia.' Finally.

There are two films screening at Fantastic Fest that I had nothing to do with programming, but I tried so very hard to have them play last year's event. They are Princess and Taxidermia. I caught them both at Cannes in 2006, and they are two very unusual and mind-bending explorations of human culture. Princess is a Danish blend between Dogme 95 and Japanese anime. Taxidermia is a Hungarian assault on the senses, particularly the sense of taste. Both are fairly disturbing and not for the faint-of-heart. But, man oh man, are they good films. And I'm so excited to have them at Fantastic Fest this year. Check the schedule, and make sure you don't miss 'em!

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY ONE

All right...Lars, Henri, Tim and I don't actually have to "go" to Fantastic Fest since we're already in this building all the time, but I'm approaching this year's festival from the point of view of the non-Alamo-employed attendee. This will give me a more objective experience, result in my ability to use our fine public restroom and -- equally important -- allow me to be totally honest about my FF07 viewings.

First off, the opening party was pretty incredible, albeit not in the standard party fashion. Usually, a memorable bash conjures images of drunken camaraderie, lampshades on heads, dancing on furniture and making new pals. But here at FF, "party" = a gut-blasting cannon, a full array of smoked goat meat, pepper spray on tortilla chips, an arc of flame, pinatas filled with animal skulls and making new pals. Though some badgeholders initially looked a little disoriented by some of the gathering's finer features, fun was had by all, including visiting special guest George Romero. Also, big thanks to Dorkbot for bringing in all the great modern inventions, especially the one that misfired and shot me in the penis.

At this point, everyone stampeded inside to kick off the celluloid proceedings. And yes, the attendance scales were tilted heavily in the direction of Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD. But a few of us ended up in theater 3, watching a movie I'm unlikely to properly describe: HELL'S FEVER. The first thing to note about HELL'S FEVER is that it's the only title in this year's FF lineup that wasn't viewed by a single member of the programming staff. Rather, it was included sight unseen after winning a major award at the Rome Fantafestival in 2006.
As Weird Wednesday's Lars pointed out, "Europe must be a very different place."
HELL'S FEVER is a fascinatingly stilted wedge of gory genre cheese, delivered in broken English by a troupe of European actors who play through every scene as if they've just met each other for the first time. The dialogue is from another dimension ("He has the intelligence of a 10-years-old!") and characters react to each other with a tourettes-level lack of rational emotion. The plot was filled with anti-logical twists and disappearing/reappearing characters and threads, and the entire audience was howling with laughter by the 15-minute mark. This is really a movie that has to be seen to be believed, another jewel in the Platinum Turkey crown, vying for a position alongside stilted greats like LADY TERMINATOR and TROLL 2. Recommended!

My next screening was TIMECRIMES, which is also from Europe but earns none of the same descriptive swipes as HELL'S FEVER. Rather, TIMECRIMES is a perfectly paced and constructed film, a tightly wound puzzle with great performances and just the right measure of humor. I don't think there was a single person in the room that wasn't thoroughly impressed, especially after writer-director-star Nacho Vigalondo's very spirited Q&A, in which he discussed murdering girlfriends, car wrecks, weeping, Blondie, morality and the unlikelihood of creating something both marketable and artistically substantial. He also slipped into gurgling sounds a couple times to illustrate his assertion that: "I don't understand English so perfect, so just treat me like I am a retard." What a man.

The final stop of the night was to watch shockingly strong religious-apocalypse film END OF THE LINE. Directed by Toronto's Maurice Deveraux (who was excited to be in attendance), this movie is pure and vicious, a pretty unrelenting exploration of a great expanse of nightmare territory. Most of the film takes place in the blackened subway system as dozens are murdered by a wingnut sect of misguided grinning zealots, but there are several unforeseeable surprises and the action is consistent. A certain "family" scene was so severe that you could hear toes curling throughout the theater. A really solid portion of this year's festival.

At the end, we went home, compared our experiences and fell asleep dreaming of severed hands, disgorged fetuses and fuzzy kittens.

More soon,

Vlog: Bruce Lee Look-Alike Contest!

So for tonight's first screening of FINISHING THE GAME, we had been working with the Austinist to put together a Bruce Lee Look-Alike contest. The idea wasn't to have the person that automatically looked like Bruce Lee win just because he was the coolest motherfucker in the room, though, but rather to encourage people to come out to the movie dressed up as their favorite Bruce Lee persona.

This concept made sense, see, because FINISHING THE GAME is all about the search for a new Bruce Lee to be the body double for the studio that needed to finish shooting THE GAME OF DEATH after Bruce Lee's own demise.

Anyway, it turned out that not a lot of people wanted to dress up for one of the many movies they planned on seeing that night, so Lars had to think on his feet in order to give away the fabulous prizes we had available from Hog Wild Toys, Backspin Records and the Austin Kung Fu Academy. Instead of having people look like Bruce, Lars decided to make them scream like Bruce. I think it made for a more entertaining show...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gore Cannon!

Okay, there'll be better video of this later, and there's a LOT more craziness to go into in the first few hours of Fantastic Fest (already! How is it possible?), but I had to share some of the video of the opening party as soon as I possibly could. Remember how we told you there would be a gore cannon? We weren't lying! But what we didn't even know when we told you that was that it would be shot at our own Zack Carlson who would be standing in his underwear! Hot mess! Check it out:

Getting around in Austin

For those of you visiting from out of town, here's a couple of tips for getting around.

First, we don't have great public transportation in Austin. The cool areas of town are pretty spread out, and you need a car to get to a lot of places. We do have a decent bus system, but no subway/train system.

On the plus side, we are an early adopter of the cool new Google Transit map system. Click there and Google will develop a bus route for where you want to go complete with schedules. You can also download a PDF of the bus schedules at the Capitol Metro Website.

Now for more bad news - the buses stop before the end of the midnight movie, so if you are a bus rider, you'll need to get a cab. You can ask one of our staffers to call one for you, we recommend:

American Yellow Checker Cab Co (512) 452-9999

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Simon Baker live in person for Sex and Death 101!

The guests just keep on coming here at Fantastic Fest 2007! Adding to the already impressive Q&A lineup for Sex and Death 101 of Patton Oswalt and Daniel Waters, we are pleased to announce the appearance of stars Simon Baker (Land of the Dead, The Guardian) and Pollyanna McIntosh. The quartet will introduce the film and also answer questions following the screening.

About Sex and Death 101:
Roderick Blank (Simon Baker) is a successful modern man, content with his personal and professional life. However, a week before his wedding to a suitably stuffy fiancée, Roderick’s perfectly planned existence is upended by a mysterious e-mail containing the names of every woman he has had sex with and, eerily, every woman he will have sex with in the future. He is stopped in his tracks when he meets a femme fatale (Winona Ryder) who targets men guilty of sex crimes against women. Co-starring Patton Oswalt and directed by Daniel Waters, writer of the cult hit HEATHERS!

Things to do (eat) in Austin


Maria’s Taco Express (2529 S. Lamar Blvd, 512-444-0261). We are crazy for breakfast tacos in Austin and Maria’s is the best. After the addiction sets in, you can pick up her Argentinian-influenced Loco Maria Chimichuri sauce to take home with you. Another breakfast recommendation is Curra’s Grill (614 E Oltorf St, Austin - 512-444-0012). Or you can cruise the east side to explore for taco trucks and authentic Mexican restaurants (east of I-35 between Caesar Chavez and Manor). It’s trendy, but I like El Chilito (2225 Manor Rd 512-382-3797) and I really like the tacos at Michocana Meat Market (1917 E 7th St #1, 512-473-8487). Another great tasty low price breakfast institution is Tamale House (5003 Airport Blvd Austin, TX 78751-2708 Phone: 512-453-9842). A good bakery option is Sweetish Hill (1120 W 6th St, Austin – 512-472-1347).

Whole Foods Flagship (525 N Lamar Blvd, 512-476-1206). Whole Foods started in Austin in 1980. Today, their flagship stands as perhaps the ultimate supermarket in the world. Not just a spot for groceries, Whole Foods features a dozen restaurants scattered throughout the store, and enormous specialty gourmet sections. We recommend trying out the cheese plate, hand selected by the Whole Foods Cheesemonger, or the seafood counter restaurant. Surprisingly, Whole Foods features some of the best in-town barbeque as well.
Quality Seafood Market (5621 Airport Blvd, 512-454-5827). Until two years ago Quality Seafood was nothing more than a fine seafood shop, selling fish to restaurants and the public over their retail counter. Then the owner had the epiphany to build a bar in the center of the shop and start selling delectable fried and grilled seafood as finger food. Now it’s my personal favorite hangout in Austin. The raw oysters are terrific, as are the catfish beignets.
El Regio (multiple locations). They start smoking the chickens at about 7 AM, and by 11, those in the know are lined up for what I consider to be the best bird that has ever passed my lips. There are only two things on the menu: half chicken ($6) or whole chicken ($11). It comes with a stack of fresh corn tortillas, a roasted onion, rice, and the tastiest, creamy green tomatillo salsa on the planet. There are several stands now in Austin, but my favorite location is 6615 Berkman Dr.
Barbeque. The best of the best barbeque joints close down shortly after lunch, so dinner recommendations for this traditional Texas fare are rare like fine prime rib. The undisputed king of the daytime BBQ run is Smitty’s in Lockhart, about 30 minutes south of town on 183 south. The two other day trips for BBQ are the original Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, Texas (206 W Second St, 76574, 512-352-6206) and City Market in Luling (633 Davis St, 77027, 830-875-9019). For in-town barbeque, although not necessarily up to speed with the day trip varieties, we recommend Ruby’s (512 West 29th Street, 512477-1651) and House Park (900 W. 12th, 472-9621). I haven’t tried the BBQ yet, but Uncle Billy’s Barbecue (530 Barton Springs, 512-476-0100) is very close to the theater and is now a hangout spot for the Alamo South Lamar Staff.They also brew their own beers, which I have tried and can vouch for. Another BBQ spot that is new on the scene and getting good raves is Mann's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que (8624 Research Blvd, 512-459-5077).
• (1209 E 11th St, 512-477-6600): Cajun-inspired soul food and po-boys. As good as you can get without crossing the Louisiana border. It’s also really close to Hoovers, another southern food specialist
• Krispy Kreme (701 E Stassney Ln, 851-8888). Old hat for those who have a shop in their hometown, but most do not. If you’ve never had a hot Krispy Kreme, this is definitely a stepping stone to heroin, so don’t do it unless you are ready for a lifetime of indulgence. When the red “hot” light is on, life-changing doughnuts can be yours.

The devoted will be catching dinner with us at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema while watching the movies, but if you want to get out for some we recommend:
Uchi (801 S Lamar Blvd, 512-916-4808): Within walking distance of the Alamo South Lamar, Uchi is hands down our favorite restaurant in Austin. Executive Chef and co-owner Tyson Cole was named one of the top ten chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine in 2005. Uchi features an ever-changing menu of Japanese and fusion dishes; the fish is flown in daily from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Reservations are a must.
• Hoffbrau Steakhouse (613 W Sixth St, 512-472-0822). It’s not fancy, but the steaks are terrific. Forget Ruth’s Chris and the fancy Sullivan’s…Hoffbrau is an Austin institution, and my favorite place for steaks in town.
• Hoover’s (2002 Manor Rd, 512-479-5006): “Stick to the ribs” soul food and southern home cooking. The atmosphere is not so great, but the food overcompensates. We recommend the fried pork chops.

Late Night:
• My personal choice is La Mexicana Bakery (1924 S First St, 512-443-6369). It’s relatively close to the theater and they serve Mexican sandwiches (tortas) all night long and they have a truly bizarre selection of Mexican pastries. Their Tres Leches dessert will take your sweet tooth to new heights.
• Thai Passion downtown is open late and is a godsend for post-midnight movies. (620 Congress Avenue, 512-472-1244)
• Sam’s BBQ (2000 E 12th St, 512-478-0378) on the east side. It’s not my favorite BBQ, but it’s open until 2 AM, 3AM Friday and Saturday, and the building certainly has a great vibe.
• Traditional cafes that are open all night are Magnolia, Kerby Lane and Star Seeds, and I rank them in that order.

Other Fun Day Time activites:
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 N. Congress Avenue, 866-369-7108) in downtown Austin, Texas, tells the “Story of Texas” with three floors of interactive exhibits, the special effects show, The Star of Destiny, in the Texas Spirit Theater, and Austin's only IMAX Theatre, featuring the signature large-format film, TEXAS: THE BIG PICTURE.
Shopping on South Congress. The South Congress district has become the hippest retail district in the city. There are a multitude of boutiques, antique stores and galleries, but our favorite three are Blackmail (1202 S Congress Ave, 512-326-7670) specializing in cool fashion, gifts and vintage cowboy boots; Yard Dog, (1510 S Congress Ave, 512-912-1613, a gallery specializing in southern primitive and folk art; and Uncommon Objects (1512 S Congress Ave, 512-442-4000) which features just that, a vast array of cool antiques and collectible, uncommon objects.
• Shopping at Hog Wild, Toy Joy and Room Service. Toy Joy (2900 Guadalupe St, 512-320-0090) features a huge selection of wacky new toys and some of your childhood favorites. Hog Wild (100 E North Loop Blvd # A, 512-467-9453) hits the other side with a huge selection of vintage toys, games and clothing. Across the street from Hog Wild is a cool vintage clothing and furniture store Room Service (107 E North Loop Blvd, 512-451-1057), who also stock the Austin Vintage guide that is in the VIP bags. And check out their new location right by the Alamo South Lamar at 1701 S Lamar Blvd, 512-383-9898
• Swimming at McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin TX 78744, 512-243-1643) McKinney Falls, just 15 minutes out of central Austin, is home to two na secluded waterfall-fed swimming holes.
• Hike/Swim at Hamilton Pool (512-264-2740). One of the most beautiful spots in the hill country, Hamilton Pool is a waterfall that flows into a collapsed grotto near the Perdenales River. Call ahead, as the trail is sometimes closed. This and McKinney Falls are both great spots for an afternoon picnic.
I Luv Video: Airport Location (4803 Airport Blvd, 512-450-1966). Behind Seattle’s mighty Scarecrow Video, I Luv Video may be the 2nd best video store in the U.S. It’s worth a serious gander if only to browse their Eurotrash, Blaxploitation and Cult DVD and VHS sections. (note, this is a video rental store, not a retail store).

I hope you enjoy your visit to Austin and are able to sample some of our unique local flavors. If you need other recommendations for restaurants, come and find me or drop me an email (tim(at) I take my chow pretty seriously, and have been to most of the restaurants in town.

Opening and Closing night PARTIES !!!

Holy smoke. We're practically just 24 hours from the gargantuan blast-off of Fantastic Fest 2007! Things here at festival headquarters are in an unremitting frenzy as we continue to piece together even more outrageous events and experiences that'll intensify what promises to be the most white-knuckle movie adventure of the year.

Our opening night party on Thursday, September 20 at Alamo South Lamar will be packed with enough insanity to choke a maniac. We're going to have the Austin chapter of mad technomachinobionic geniuses DORKBOT presenting unlikely inventions and post-apocalyptic electronic miracles including (but not limited to):
SINGING TESLA COILS and the much anticipated GUT CANNON, which shoots ENTRAILS up to 50 FEET at LIVE HUMAN TARGETS! Can you think of a better invention? Me neither.

Here's just a sample of their handiwork...THE LASER SURGENATOR:

For more info on the amazing DORKBOT-ters, visit their site HERE.

The opening night party will also give you the opportunity to participate in the wanton destruction of half a dozen MALFORMED CELEBRITY PINATAS (identities to be revealed only on site), fill your stomach with the magic of Mexican style crucifixionesque CABRITO GOAT SMOKING, and -- last but not least -- take part in a nigh-nuclear EXTREME HOT SAUCE CHALLENGE that will allow you to sample Texas' hottest offerings from Mild to MegaMaliciousMeltdown! Never fear, to clear your scalded palate, we will have passed appetizers and beer available.

Badge pickup will take place at the opening night party, which will be in a fenced area behind Alamo South Lamar. The festivities begin at 4:00 PM and run until 6:30 PM, when we'll all hustle inside to kick off the first round of screenings, including our Opening Night Film DIARY OF THE DEAD. After the shows, we'll be hanging out in the lobby bar and formulating our plans of film nerd attack for the coming week. Join us! sure to bring your fun to the closing night party! After the official Fantastic Fest 2007 Awards Ceremony, we're all heading over to one of our favorite bars in Austin: Donn's Depot. Donn played piano in Elvis Presley's band back in the 1970s and now holds court three nights a week at his railroad-car-turned-piano-bar. Join us to toast the winners, console the also-rans and, from 11:30 to 2:00 AM, revel in the wake of an action-packed week of movie bedlam!

See you there!!!