Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fantasia – Day 12 (Monday, July 30)

A dozen days in. Playing the back nine, as they say...

Yesterday was unique among my experiences thus far, in that it involved venturing outside the five-block radius of Montreal I’ve been occupying for the last two weeks. Following my interview with the gentlemen of The Human Race (co-stars Paul McCarthy-Boyington and Eddie McGee, writer/director Paul Hough and co-producer Trip Hope), they invited me to tag along on a visit to On Set Stunts , a Montreal stunt team’s workout space. Hey, who’s going to pass an offer like that up?

Monday, July 30, 2012

CITADEL takes Best Director and Best Actor at PiFan

Remember us raving about a little Irish movie called CITADEL a couple days ago? Apparently, more than a few others shared our passion, as it just walked off with the Best Actor and Best Director prizes at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) in Puchon, Korea.

Our sincere congratulations to director Ciarán Foy and lead actor Aneurin Barnard! We're going to be championing this film because it's a horror flick that deserves to reach as wide as audience as possible. Keep an eye out for it!

Fantasia Day 11 (Sunday, July 29)

Sing it, Mitch!

Sunday may be a day of rest for some, but not for the Fantasia faithful. This whole rest thing…yeah, I vaguely remember something along those lines, but it’s kinda fuzzy. Or maybe that’s my vision. Or my brain after nearly 50 films…

There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything one would like to do, so I slept for an extra hour (making for a grand total of five, gah) and then rolled out of bed to get some writing done. Completed the log for the day, then dashed off to meet with writer/director Rob Grant and lead actors Mike Kovac and Scott Wallis from Mon Ami for a little midday interview about their slick little indie film that could and does. The interview went well, with the gents all friendly articulate types, then the decision had to be made as to whether to head home for lunch/blog posting or see the new Thai action flick, The Kick. I rolled the dice in opting for the former, only to learn from my Chicago buddy Neil that I had missed “the best martial arts movie of the year,” in his estimation, better even than The Raid, which blew both of us away. So, there you go. Choices, my friends. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes not.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fantasia Day 10 (Saturday, July 28)

Holy schneike, we just went into double digits over here. Ten straight days of constant and consummate cinema consumption. Praise the movie gods and pass the popcorn…

I had hoped to get my tuckus out of bed in time to get the day’s writing done and catch the 12:30pm screening of Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend, a new kaiju featuring Ultraman with a new origin story, but it was not to be. Ol’ Man AC, he needed a few more Z’s after hitting the hay at 3am, so the giant suit-mation monsters will have to wait until I can see them on DVD. On the positive side, I was able to have a leisurely brunch and catch up on emails, one of which included a lovely conversation with Fantasia hospitality manager Stephanie Trepanier who kindly invited me to the Frontieres Market cocktail party.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fantasia Day 9 (Friday, July 27)

After a slow movie day on Thursday, we stepped it up a notch, taking in six features in addition to an extended interview with the team behind the sterling documentary, My Amityville Horror.

Producer Andrea Adams and writer/director/producer Eric Walter were joined in conversation by special guest Susan Bartell (a therapist who ends up playing a major supporting part in the film) to discuss their exploration of the reputed haunting’s effects on Daniel Lutz, who was 10 years old during the much-discussed/debated haunting.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fantasia Day 8 (Thursday, July 26)

With the exception of my interview with Citadel writer/director Ciarán Foy this afternoon (followed by a surprise encounter with none other than Johnny Rico himself, Casper Van Dien in the hotel lobby), it was a pretty low-key day. Saw a couple non-horror features (though I had hoped that the second, The King of Pigs would live up to its Fantasia catalog write-up as “borrowing touches from genre cinema, notably suspense and horror films.” Yes, there was a bit of animated blood spilling from its animated characters, but I guess I was lobbying for more fear factor than they were dishing out.

(For the record, the Foy interview went smashingly well, and I’m looking forward to championing this man and his work. And for the other record, yes, Casper Van Dien is just as ruggedly handsome in person as he is on screen. Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty man… I thought about asking him to take a photo, but he was sitting there on his laptop with all his luggage heading for the airport and I would have had to enlist someone else to take the shot, so it all seemed like a bit more trouble than necessary.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fantasia Day 7 (Wednesday, July 25)

As of yesterday, it’s been a full week of Fantasinsanity, and MAN what a ride it’s been. However, I’d yet to be leveled by any amazing horror features (that I wasn’t already aware of, hello Manborg and Juan of the Dead). Happily, I recently encountered a trio of fright flicks that with any luck with be arriving on everyone’s radar in the not-too-distant future.

With The Pact showing up as “sold out” on the Fantasia website yesterday morning, I opted to head over to the press room to view a digital copy rather than run the risk of not getting into the screening itself. While this meant missing out on the by-all-reports enjoyable Q&A with Casper Van Dien, his presence within the film is so incidental that it felt a bit like a (presumably small) “paycheck gig” for him, although the fact that he was willing to travel to Montreal in support of it (and his exec-produced Starship Troopers: Invasion) says something, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fantasia Day 6 (Tuesday, July 24)

The photo above kind of says it all. I love my job.

When you get to spend your lunch hour chatting with Michael Biehn (and his lovely work/life companion Jennifer Blanc), you have no right to complain about anything for about a week. My only regret is that it wasn’t long enough, but I’ll take it. Yes, I will.

My favorite thing about these snapshots is that they were taken by none other than the director of the original My Bloody Valentine himself, George Mihalka, who crashed our interview thinking we were just hanging out. He apologized profusely once he realized his error, so in recompense, I pushed my camera into his hands and told him to start clicking. Artfully composed, Sir George.

Fantasia Day 5 (Monday, July 23)

Day started off a little wonky – got behind schedule as I was racing to prepare lunch/dinner offerings for the week, and so ended up being about 15 minutes late for the first feature, the charming Japanese comedy, Mitsuko Delivers. That said, I’m glad to have the food element under control for the next few days – it’s not easy to do the festival thing on the cheap, and eats are a big expense if you’re not planning ahead. Maybe after I’ve done a few more of these, I can write a film festival survival guide or something. We shall see.

Another element that is rough to navigate is how early one needs to arrive at the next screening in order to gain admittance. Due to the sometimes limited seating, the powers that be have decided that a select number of VIP (industry/press/etc.) pass holders will be admitted prior to the G.P. (general public, i.e. the people who actually bought tickets), then those who exceed the cutoff limit (75 for Concordia Hall, 25 for the Seve) must wait until the G.P. have secured their seats. So, it’s important to be toward the front of the pass holders line, especially if it’s a film you want/need to see. I’ve yet to be shut out, but it’s been close a couple times. Fingers crossed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fantasia Day 4 (Sunday, July 22)

All right, friends, we’ve made it through the first weekend of Fantasia, which means a reprieve from midnight screenings aka Those Ol’ Man AC Killers until next Friday.

Author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse was on hand yesterday for the launch of her new book, House of Psychotic Women, published by FAB press. In conjunction with the book’s release, Janisse is programming a quartet of films also highlighted in her tome, the first of which being the 1977 Mia Farrow ghost story, The Haunting of Julia (aka Full Circle). Seeing this rare film on the big screen (via a digital copy made from what is believed one of the few surviving 35 mm prints) was absolutely a treat, having only seen it one previous time on VHS nearly 15 years ago.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fantasia Day 3 (Saturday, July 21)

Probably the biggest day of special guests we’ve had thus far. Things kicked off with the Canadian undead comedy, A Little Bit Zombie, which featured none other than Pontypool stud and character actor extraordinaire, Stephen McHattie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fantasia Day 2 (Friday, July 20)

The day started with me waking up (as most do – it’s the days where I don’t that get me a little worried) and heading over to the press office to check out their digital screening room, hoping to figure out – due to my overcrowded viewing schedule – which films I might be able to catch on the small screen. Good news is that pretty much everything on my wish list can be accommodated, and really, if they can’t, it’s no crime. (If all goes as planned, I’ll leave Fantasia with 100-110 more features under my belt.) One that I’m particularly interested in is Jaume Balaguero’s latest, Sleep Tight, which is slated for Fantasia’s last day, Aug 9. Due to the organizers adding two days onto the schedule at the last second, my flight leaves that morning, so I would not have been able to catch it. Looks like that’s less of a problem now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fantasia Film Festival 2012 – Day 1 (Thursday, July 19)

Having survived my first film festival experience earlier this year in Brussels, I had come away with one singular truth resounding over and over in my head: I need to do more of these. Well, as fate would have it, my summer work obligations just happened to have a mid-July to mid-August hole in them. Guess what happens for three weeks up Montreal way? Yep, it’s the 16th annual Fantasia International Film Festival (which I will not be abbreviating to FIFF, so just stifle those hopes right now), a 22-day assault on the eyes, ears, brain and stamina of adventurous cinephiles everywhere, one of the largest and most significant horror, sci-fi, fantasy and wild-ass genre film festivals in the world. And I’m here, right in the thick of it. Be careful what you wish for, right?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

G-FEST 2012 Survivor Report

I don’t think it’s any secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a fan of the giant radioactive lizard known as Godzilla. He/she/it was my gateway drug into the wonderful world of monster movies and by association, the horror and sci-fi genres. So, it might seem surprising that I had never attended a G-FEST convention, even though they have traditionally occurred right in my Chicago backyard. I chalk it up to lack of time, funds, and well, wondering what exactly they would have to offer other than a bunch of “impressive but out of my price range” model kits and toys.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fool's Views (7/2 – 7/15)

Greetings, boils and ghouls, lycans and geraniums,

This entry covers a frantic two-week period that not only included the 23 flickers examined below (5 of which being last-minute submissions for Elvira’s Horror Hunt), but also the closing of a certain critically acclaimed / commercially successful theatrical endeavor plus three days spent among the kaiju faithful at G-Fest XIX. The pell-mell pace continues into the recording of said Views, as I am poised on the brink of yet another plunge into the cinematic abyss in the form of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada.

Those of you who follow these blithe and blithering ramblings with any regularity at all observed an incredibly fertile Foolish period last April whilst I was in attendance at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival . Over the course of 13 days, I viddied 53 films, interviewed a slew of filmmakers of various international stripe, and I gotta admit, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. But a glance at the Fantasia schedule indicates that a much higher and more dangerous wave awaits any and all would-be Great Kahunas of the Moving Image.

With over 150 features on the docket (and nearly as many shorts) over a 22-day period, this will be an endurance test unlike any other. The good/bad news is that it may prove impossible to actually see every item on the menu, since many screen only once and there are at least two, sometimes three cinemas operating at all times. The press room screening laptops will allow me to keep a higher pace than the average festivalgoer, but there are only so many hours in the day and only so many synapses available for burning. Choices will have to be made. Stay tuned, as it’s about to get keeee-razzzzzy up in here.

However, before that, we’ve got some ground to cover, so sit back and strap in.

As always feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fool's Views (6/25 – 7/1)

Summer is here, friends, and it ain’t kidding around. It was a toasty week, which prompted at least one trip to the multiplex and a fair amount of time in the air-conditioned confines of Chez AC. (Yes, feel free to make all the “cool” A/C comments you please.) I’m also still plugging away at the Elvira’s Horror Hunt potentials, which will be unveiled at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis in September. If you have a film that you would like to submit, the final FINAL deadline is this Sunday, July 8 – visit www.elvirashorrorhunt.com for details.

I also turned another year older this Saturday, my 44th lap around the track. After spending the morning at my local LifeSource blood bank, donating some much-needed platelets to the cause, I headed back home to share in a bounty of burritos and cult favorites with fellow fiends Jason Coffman and Neil Calderone, followed by a capacity crowd performance of INHERIT THE WIND. (Only two weekends left!) Not a bad way to kick off Year Forty-Five.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.



Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) (1st viewing) d. Bekmanbetov, Timur

Adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel by the author himself, this bit of tongue-in-fanged-cheek alternative history posits the 16th President of these United States (Benjamin Walker) as a man seeking lifelong vengeance upon the undead creatures that claimed his parents’ lives as a child. From the opening titles, we know we’re in for a fantasy, and Bekmanbetov – who dazzled me years ago with his epic Russian Night Watch and Day Watch features – is a supremely successful visualist who expertly combines a drained color palette which invokes the austerity of time gone by with eye-popping stunts and blood-drenched vamp offings. (Rail-splitting Honest Abe’s selection of an axe as his weapon of choice also had me smiling.) Perhaps not as much “fun” as it could have been, but I appreciated the fact that Grahame-Smith and Bekmanbetov treat their outlandish subject matter as straight-faced as could be imagined. With Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and former Late Show with David Letterman “Lyle the Intern,” Jimmi Simpson.

Cabin Fever (2002) (4th viewing) d. Roth, Eli

You know what? I’m not even going to review Roth’s divisive flesh-eating virus/cabin in the woods mash-up, not here, not in an official capacity anyway. First off, we’re going to be having an in-depth discussion about the film over on Kitley’s Krypt in a couple weeks anyway as part of their Cinematic Crossroads program (a raucous round-table that includes Herr Kitley, Dave Kosanke, Brian Kirst, guest panelist John Pata and myself). Secondly, I think it’s pretty fascinating that a flick I initially hated upon first viewing I’ve now seen on three subsequent occasions, as well as listening to all four (count ‘em FOUR) commentary tracks. As a result, my relationship with the film has changed; I’m now so familiar it’s like an old schoolmate. Interestingly enough, my feelings toward Roth have undergone a veritable roller coaster of status updates. At first, I liked him/hated his movie. Then I hated his movie a little less/liked him a little more. Liked him less as he entered his "Tarantino Jr." period but liked Hostel more than CF, then really didn’t like him, his Hostel sequel or his undeserved ubiquity in every horror-themed documentary or TV show. Nowadays, I’m somewhat sad that this horror geek-done-good has turned into a Hollywood player who’s seemingly lost touch with his roots and moxie. He’s directed a mere three features in a decade, dividing his time between “developing” projects that consequently implode and serving as a “presenter” of mainstream fright fare. Curious to see what the future holds.

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) (8th viewing) d. Fukuda, Jun

Throwing physics and caution to the winds, this entertaining installment features the underwater race of “Seatopians” who unleash the giant cockroach-looking monster Megalon to destroy Tokyo. In response, Ultraman knockoff Jet Jaguar enlists the help of the Big G, whereupon Seatopians bring back Gigan from outer space, and the remainder of the movie is an oversized wrestling match for the ages. The dubbing is awful, the effects cheesy, the human characters inane, and logic entirely absent (Jet Jaguar’s inexplicable ability to increase from human to monster size is explained as “He must have programmed himself.” Whaaaat?). However, as a purely ribald roaring rumble, it delivers the goods, along with a couple good flying drop-kicks from our favorite rubber-suited hero.

Prometheus (2012) (1st viewing) d. Scott, Ridley

There are some smart ideas going on in Scott’s return to the Alien universe (screw the Fox marketing department dancing about – this is a prequel; quit trying to have it both ways, jerkfaces), but the wealth of missteps in terms of characters’ inconsistent and/or irrational behavior ultimately proves the more distracting of the two sides. There’s little denying the strength of the visuals on display, and the CG landscapes are jaw-dropping in their detail and austerity (the keyboard-spawned creatures are decidedly less successful), but the human drama that elevated early efforts like Alien and Blade Runner above their production values is notably absent. Prometheus’ flatly drawn characters are incapable of generating empathy or interest (especially within the maelstrom of Christian symbolism – given great illustration here http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html). I found myself wishing Scott had possessed the courage to create a stand-alone return to sci-fi instead of shoring it up with constant referencing of his 1979 xenomorph zeitgeist, since these details only served to detract and distract from the matter at hand. Our Space Jockey, once a sublimely fascinating enigma, has been transformed into something so crushingly literal – I mourn I’ll never be able to unsee what I have seen.

Again, can’t really discuss these due to their potentially being in competition, but you might be seeing them in September at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis 2012 as part of Elvira’s Horror Hunt. Stay tuned to www.elvirashorrorhunt.com for more information…

Trannysnatchers! (2012) (1st viewing) d. Porter, Benjamin / Gottleber, James

Ghost, Babes and Horror (2012) (1st viewing) d. Miniaci, Christopher


Black Shampoo (1976) (1st viewing) d. Clark, Greydon

Hunky hairdressing monolith John Daniels tangles with gangsters and lovely ladies in this magnificent blaxploitation schlockfest. No points for subtlety or innovation, but entertaining as hell.

Chinese Boxer, The (1970) (1st viewing) d. Wang Yu, Jimmy

According to Chicago Cinema Society programmer Neil Calderone, this was the first unarmed Shaw Brothers release, the original vanguard in the ’70 chopsocky invasion. Good stuff, with more eyeball gouging and rampant bloodshed than I was expecting.

Crazy Stupid Love (2011) (1st viewing) d. Ficarra, Glenn / Requa, John

Superstud Ryan Gosling schools recently separated schlub Steve Carell in the ways of the pickup. Some pretty funny sequences, satisfying plot twists and game performances all around.

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969) (1st viewing) d. Parrish, Robert

An intriguing sci-fi premise (the discovery of a planet in perfect contrary orbit to the Earth’s launches an exploratory expedition) that ultimately feels just a bit too padded for a Twlight Zone payoff we see coming a mile off. Not bad, just longer than it needs to be.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) (1st viewing) d. Anderson, Wes

Resolutely quirky tale about a cub (“khaki”) scout who deserts his troop to secretly meet his prepubescent lady fair; the local island community scrambles to locate them. So winning and diverting, it’s a shoo-in for a Best Original Screenplay nod (especially considering its ongoing – and surprising – resonance with mainstream audiences).

Rock of Ages (2012) (1st viewing) d. Shankman, Adam

A well-intentioned cash-grabbing Glee-chasing nostalgia-baiting failure. Clearly much, much more fun to make than it is to watch - when a duet between Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand is the most emotionally honest moment in the 2+ hour film, you know you’re in trouble. Hats off to extras in the pole dancing scene – you guys deserve a flick all your own.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) (1st viewing) d. Trevorrow, Colin

Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza stars as an intern at a prominent Seattle publication assigned to research a personal ad requesting “someone to go back in time with.” What starts off as a joke becomes increasingly personal following Plaza’s interactions with ad-placing Mark Duplass, a kindly but damaged social misfit who claims to be building a time-travel device. Despite being “by the numbers independent” (right down to its alt-folk soundtrack), I enjoyed it.

2012 Totals to date: 273 films, 232 1st time views, 152 horror, 77 cinema