October 28, 2011


Expectations can be funny things, can't they? I've been disappointed by films that promised more than they could deliver, and I've been pleasantly surprised by films that knock it so far out of the park your eyes water. Often though, it can be best to approach a film with little to no expectations at all; just opening yourself up to whatever cinematic delights may be presented to you.

However, sometimes you cannot help but have certain expectations for some films. You can be fairly certain Michael Bay is going to blow some shit up at "magic hour", for example. My initial expectations for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame were along the lines of "Sherlock Holmes with kung-fu". I was sorely let down on both of those counts. You know you’re in trouble when the kung-fu clips from the pre-show program outdo anything that follows in the feature film.

The plot, though seemingly simple in it’s set-up, becomes over-complicated and something of a mess. In ancient China, the current Empress is the first female to rule the land. She is something of a placeholder ruler who is soon to be permanently installed on the throne. To celebrate, a gargantuan statue of herself is being constructed – the type of statue you climb up inside and that can be considered (once finished) a bonafide wonder of the ancient world. Except it may not be finished, as important clerks involved in it’s construction keep bursting into inexplicable flame. Bit of a bother that, when you’re trying to cement your rule with a blimmin’ great tribute to your ever-lovin’ self. As the top cop sent to investigate finds himself quickly becoming a different sort of BBQ pork, the banished Detective Dee is summoned to the scene of the crime. And there seems to be a ton of back-story to his banishment that is touched upon but that I ultimately found redundant and that only weighs the story down. He and the Empress had a bit of an argy-bargy that lead to his imprisonment, though Dee once had a connection with the old Emperor who apparently gifted him with a nifty spinning staff thingy that can find any weakness. Handy that. Also, Dee’s old Watson is working on the Empress’ statue. And chuck in an albino cop, the Empress’ maidservant sent to spy on Dee and a couple of face-changing shape shifters while you’re at it.

As you can see, economical with story, this ain’t. In fact, Detective Dee is over long, fairly tedious and more than a little boring. Even the action scenes, which you could normally count on to spice things up, fall flat. Even with fight choreography by the legendary Sammo Hung, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. This is, yes, in part due to the disappearance of the old kung-fu/Chinese opera schools (because they were brutal and physical schools that took a flying kick over the line into child abuse) but also down to director Tsui Hark relying on a lot of poor digital FX. This only serves to make the action as weightless and dull as any number of poor quality Hollywood action films.

And Hark never seems to be sure on what he wants the film to be. Instead he tries to make it too many things at once – Chinese blockbuster, ancient epic, supernatural mystery, goofy comedy… none of them really hit home and gives the sense of Detective Dee veering drunkenly from tone to tone. If there was a sense of fun to proceedings that would have forgiven a lot but everything is played with such a straight face that the film plods when it should fly. A real disappointment.


Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors I am endlessly fascinated with; he flows between genres as if it ain't no thing: from sex, lies and videotape to Schizopolis to Out of Sight to Traffic to Erin Brokovich to Bubble to Ocean's Eleven to The Girlfriend Experience to Che to Solaris to The Informant! to Contagion. And that's not even half of the films he's directed but already you've got low-fi indie, breezy caper, intelligent sci-fi remake, sweeping true-life epic, comedy, multi-character narrative, big-time Hollywood film and, now, disaster film.

As with Traffic, Contagion tells an overarching story with multiple characters; occasionally inter-connected but often not. Beginning on Day Two of the epidemic - i.e. we're already screwed - Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns track the spread of the virus and the growing panic and pandemic across the globe. The cast is suitably large and the science (at least to the lay person) scarily accurate. Gwyneth Paltrow is the first human carrier identified, bringing this extraordinarily effective virus to the United States from Hong Kong. She stops over in Chicago on her way home, thereby infecting the windy city too. From there it's all downhill for humanity. As the virus spreads, we are rapidly introduced to characters at varying levels of authority and proximity. Matt Damon, Paltrow's husband who is seemingly blessed with rare immunity and who provides a ground-zero viewpoint.  Laurence Fishburne is the head of the CDC and provides a high level, government response with a vulnerable humanity. Kate Winslet is the CDC lead on the case in the States while Marion Cotillard is dispatched to Hong Kong from the World Health Organisation. Jude Law's sleazy, muckracking and conspiracy theory obsessed blogger provides a rough approximation of the media response. John Hawkes, Demetri Martin, Elliot Gould, Chin Han and Bryan Cranston all make appearances in supporting roles. Burns and Soderbergh pull no punches; no cast member is safe.

Whoo. Ok, so I hope all of that gives you a fairly decent idea of the basic plot and the cast! Contagion is a wide-ranging film, hopping to places all over the globe but managing to remain remarkably focused (and, unfortunately, American-centric). Not all the threads work as well as one another: the storyline with Law's blogger is the weakest link. Law plays him with an increasingly sleazy kind of charm; a man seemingly just interested in stirring up trouble and trying to make a buck. Something about it just doesn't click, possibly that he has a fairly small impact on the overall proceedings. Far more intriguing is Damon, a regular guy who happens to be immune and works hard to keep his daughter safe from infection. Through him we see Contagion become something closer to a sci-fi film, with society falling apart and the survivors looting what remains. Damon again shows himself as one of Hollywood's least showiest actors. He's a guy who just does the work, letting little moments shine and not needing to go for the big, obvious speechifying.

All of these story lines have their moments of impact and the cast is peopled with such gifted actors that every character has at least one moment to truly shine. And with a multiple storyline film such as this, you really need that to connect with. Contagion is an intelligent disaster film, positing a "what if?" scenario and working its way through to a logical extension of the thought. The pace just doesn't quit, especially in the scenes of CDC scientists rushing to find a cure for this previously unseen disease. But this is no "miracle cure to save the world" type of film, this is a "shit gets fucked up in a very real, very frightening way" kind of film. Come the end the world is irrevocably changed. You'll want to bring hand sanitiser.

October 23, 2011


Alternate poster by Deadlydelmundo via the
Posterocalypse tumblr

Joe Cornish's Attack the Block is a film I have been reading a lot about over the course of the year - it has been playing many film festivals overseas, enjoying a gradual release across the United States and had great word of mouth spread through the blogosphere. When I was recently in the States, I was lucky enough to catch it for myself (as it doesn't open in NZ on general release until March next year). If you have not heard of Attack the Block until just right now, it's an alien invasion flick set in a London block of council/low-rent flats with a young gang of "hoodies" as the heroes. It's well good. 

Comparisons have been made to Edgar Wright's debut feature, Shaun of the Dead, and it's easy to see why: Cornish has taken a typically big budget American genre (in this case alien invasion) and transplanted it successfully to a very British setting; Cornish and Wright are mates and both worked on the script for Tintin and have been working on an Ant-Man script for Marvel (Wright is also a producer for Attack the Block); both have performances from Nick Frost. But that's where the comparisons between the two end. Oh, except for Attack the Block also being really, really good. 

Cornish quickly sets up our band of hoodlums and associated block dwellers: Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is a young nurse, recently moved to the area and one night when on her way home she is accosted and mugged by the hooded and bandana clad gang. It's at this point something crashes down from the sky; the kids investigate and eventually chase and kill it. The gang is led by the badass Moses (John Boyega) and though we're introduced to the rest of this motley crew (none really as tough as they project) Moses is the heart and soul of the film. Sam is also a presence throughout the film and the relationship that unfolds between her and these kids is central to the film and the underlying themes; yes, this is a genre film that has something more to say. It's an interesting, potentially offputting, decision by Cornish to have a gang of kids rather than the typical sweet faced moppets (see Super 8) fronting up to the alien invasion. But then, Attack the Block is not your typical film. But Cornish gets the audience involved with these kids, who they are and what they're about. They might be little hooded shits, but they aren't without sympathy. As such, when things eventually get vicious and characters start dropping left, right and centre you actually give a damn about it - these aren't just disposable bodies there for the cheap thrills.

Cornish has an excellent handle on pace and storytelling. He effortlessly sets up moments in the beginning that will payoff later and economically providing background and motivation to the various characters. Each character gets at least one moment, one moment where Cornish provides some reason for us to care about them. The script is incredibly tight, again reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead as there isn't a wasted moment of screentime. The action sequences, as things intensify, are well planned and executed. They are tense, exciting and always have a payoff; they are about as far from "cool shit thrown at the screen to see what sticks" filmmaking as it is possible to get. The design of the aliens, however, is indeed some cool shit. These aliens are true beasts; like hybrid dog/gorillas with fur blacker than shadows in the night, no eyes and luminescent razor sharp teeth. They are a phenomenal design and the fact that, for the most part, they seem to be very physical presences rather than CGI creations makes them even scarier and downright badass. No ridiculous skin-bags around here, thankyouverymuch Mr. Abrams. 

Attack the Block is yet more proof that the indie sci-fi is in good health (better health, in fact than it's loud, brash big brother the Hollywood sci-fi). The script is tight as a drum, the tone switching from comedy to horror to action to gritty and dark and back round to comedy again. While not an out-and-out comedy like Shaun of the Dead, it's still a damned funny film. If you're one of the folks lucky enough to be going to the 24 Hour Movie Marathon next month in Auckland, you'll be in for a treat with this. As for myself, I can't wait to see it again when it finally gets a general release here in NZ. Allow it. 

October 20, 2011

13.09: HANNA

An ace alternate poster by UK artist Jock
Joe Wright, it seems, is not a director that will do what people expect. This is the man who has previously brought us two English period dramas (one an Austen adaptation!) and a true-life tale about a mentally-broken musician. Now, with Hanna, he gives us an art-house thriller; the espionage film as music-video; Bourne as a not-so-sweet 16 year-old girl. 

The young chameleon more commonly known as Saoirse Ronan is the eponymous Hanna, a remarkable young girl raised in the frozen far North, removed from civilisation by her father Erik (Eric Bana). Erik (with a pretty great Russian accent from Bana) has been raising Hanna in hiding, for her own safety. There are covert powers that would love nothing less than for her to be wiped from the face of the Earth, and these are personified in the brittle and deadly CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett). Hanna and Erik spend their days hunting, learning, fighting and testing. Erik is doing what he can to prepare Hanna for the day when she is ready - ready to be unleashed upon Marissa and the world. He has taught Hanna numerous forms of armed and unarmed combat, a vast array of languages and a host of other skills pertinent to a top secret agent. It's the kind of education that has taught her the theory of music, without her ever hearing any.

And then the day comes when Hanna is ready. The signal is sent, the black helicopters are on their way and Hanna is forced in to the world to kill Marissa and rejoin Erik. What Wright gives us is a chase/espionage/coming-of-age story as Hanna is quickly captured, escapes and hooks up with a vaguely hippy English family in Morocco. She hitches a ride with them and, through their daughter Sophie, catches a glimpse of the "normal" life she has been sorely missing. Marissa, determined to hunt Hanna down at any cost, employs the cruel, camp Isaacs (Tom Hollander - creepy and wonderful) and his henchmen. It's a propulsive plot, moving quickly across countries before climaxing in Berlin, amongst a host of symbolically decrepit playgrounds.

The score by the Chemical Brothers pumps throughout - especially during Hanna's initial escape through tunnels and airducts large and small. It is defintely a case of the score becoming an organic part of the action, the visual and aural feeding and feeding off one another. And Wright proves himself a more than capable action director - the centrepiece being another of his long one-takes involving Eric Bana, a subway and multiple agents being taken down with surgical efficiency. These scenes are also constructed with more thought and care than any other CG spectacles you care to name; these action sequences all speak to character and themes and are meant to be more than just "cool shit".

Hanna is not a perfect film, with a couple of missteps taken, and it will not redefine the action or espionage genres but it is something special and unique. And, in this ever-franchising world, that is something to be enjoyed and celebrated. 

October 19, 2011


I'll be the first to admit that this post is little more than a bit of fan wank, but X-Men: First Class was one of the better comic-book movies this year and, with the recent DVD/Blu-Ray release I wanted to get some thoughts down on any possible sequel. 

It should be noted that the studio behind the X-Men films, Fox, have not stated whether they will be going ahead with a sequel to the prequel (what do you even call that?!). Hopefully they've merely been waiting for all of us to plonk out our hard-earned cash for the DVD/Blu* before they go ahead with the greenlight.

Ok! Let's get presequelling up in here!

The first (and second) things I'd love to have for a First Class sequel (Second Class?) would be director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman back. This dynamic duo were a large part of why this film worked in the first place (the fact it worked at all, let alone really well is a testament to their awesomeness) and to think of a sequel without them... well, that kinda sucks already.

More support from the studio would also be key to creating a successful sequel. By that, I mean more lead time given to the production/post-production. X-Men: First Class had a ridiculously truncated production period (which may have worked for it, forcing Vaughn to go with his gut rather than overthink things). The first lot of advertising for this blockbuster summer release didn't even hit until early this year! Usually studios are pimping their tent-pole films a year or more in advance (case in point: next years The Avengers has not only had Comic-Con presence, it's already had a teaser trailer attached to Captain America and a recently released trailer). In addition, the promotional material for the film was largely crap (who can forget the truly awful posters with James McAvoy's floaty head in Xavier's wheelchair-bound crotch?), so that aspect would need to be revised too.

For the film itself my main concerns would be that it didn't get packed unnecessarily with new mutants. One of the (many, many) failings of X-Men 3 was the simple fact that it became overstuffed with X-cameos; what the hell was the point of Angel (aka Warren Worthington II) in that film? Compare that with the inclusion of Nightcrawler in X-Men 2 (and the removal of a couple of uselss mutants such as Sabretooth and Toad). Hopefully, with a sequel to First Class they can largely avoid this trap, as the mutant race is still in its infancy. That being said I also hope they don't ditch all the mutants from the first class either.

I would also hope Xavier isn't taken out in the early stages of the conflict (see X-Men 1 - 3). You can see why the filmmakers decided upon this for each film - his mental powers are pretty all-powerful and he's crippled so can't really get up to too much traditional action. However, I would hope Vaughn/Goldman can come up with some exciting, intriguing stuff the young Professor could get up to on the battlefield. While, with his telepathy, he could take on an overall strategic view it would also be great to see a guy in a wheelchair kicking ass, right?

And lastly, I would love to see a greater exploration of the Xavier/Raven/Erik dynamic. I thought the Xavier/Raven relationship was one of the more intriguing tweaks on the X-mythos in First Class and McAvoy and Fassbender are too good not to have bouncing off one another again. While the corruption of their friendship felt a bit rushed in an effor to make First Class fit in established continuity, I think writers like Vaughn and Goldman could still work some great mileage from it.

Ok. So, that was some random blogger's thoughts on a possible sequel to a modestly succesful prequel to a film franchise that may have a fourth sequel greenlit. Thanks for reading and, yes, I do have X-characters I'd love to see in a sequel but I'll leave that to list making sites.

*on a side-note: I understand the reasoning the studios have for loading their Blu-Ray releases with far more content than their DVDs for the same film, I'm just getting a little pissed at it. Even when I had a full-time job I didn't have the spare cash to fork out for a Blu-Ray player, let alone the HD capable TV I would need to receive the full advantage of the format.

06.09: THE GUARD

The Guard sets the tone for what is to follow in the opening moments: a car-load of hopped up, obnoxious kids tears through the rugged Irish countryside before crashing and killing all inside. When the local guard (read: copper) Sergeant Gerry Boyle, played with aplomb by Brendan Gleeson, happens along he cheerfully lambasts the expired occupants before nipping a tab of E from one of the bodies. It is perhaps no surprise that this is from the brother of the director of the similarly PC-flouting In Bruges.

Things begin to heat up for the seemingly dimwitted bu truly intelligent Boyle when an international drug ring comes to town, with the FBI hot on their heels. Lead FBI investigator Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) is as uptight and by-the-book as Boyle is abrasive and loose. Classic buddy-cop formula! And in less thoughtful hands, that's all The Guard could have been - a formula film. But writer/director John Michael McDonagh is smarter than that. For one thing, there's more to Boyle than first glance would suggest - not only is he not as stupid as he seems, he's remarkably well read. And he's not an entirely ignorant and abrasive fellow - he has a warm relationship with his mam and, despite initial impressions (and, to be honest, ongoing ones) he and Everett bond. Boyle is a strange and complex character - he enjoys Tolstoy, drugs, threesomes with prostitutes and catching bad guys (if only to nick a little bit of their drugs for himself).

Things get a bit shaggy midway through as Boyle and Everett constantly vacillate between co-operation and bickering, with the relationship never quite hitting a smooth rhythm. And that relationship is central to the whole buddy-cop genre - it certainly isn't enough to derail the film or lessen the enjoyment to be had but it would have elevated everything is these two characters could have found an easier rhythm to settle in to. The three drug dealers (including another great turn from Mark Strong) have an easier rapport - whether it be discussing philosophy quotes or a murder - they give the feeling of three different people working towards the same goal. 

All that said, The Guard is a genuinely, easily funny film with a complex and rascally central character to guide you through. It possesses more smarts, wit and outrageousness than any Hangovers could hope to.

October 17, 2011


Ok, so, yeah. It's been some time since I caught this film at a Film Society screening but I did have other pressing business to attend to.

Set in medieval Japan, a local governor is set into exile for standing up for his people. His family is forced out of the house and his wife and children set out to cross the country to reunite with him. However, they're set upon by slavers with the son and daughter (Zushio and Anju) being sent to the compound of the eponymous bailiff. Sansho is a cruel master, looking like an angry balding porcupine, whose own son helps the two new young slaves to survive. The brother and sister adopt new names and survive a grueling life under the "care" of Sansho. Years pass - the two siblings are now young adults. Anju is still hopeful they will one day find their mother, while Zushio has all but given up and resigned himself to the life of a slave. But Anju manages to convince Zushio to escape, whereupon he sets about trying to right the wrongs that brought about the family's downfall and to also reconnect with his parents. Of course, things don't go all that well and everything ends rather tragically. 

Sansho the Bailiff is what I would call an intimate epic - a story covering years, if not decades, and sweeping up huge social changes in its wake while telling the tale of but one family. There are moments of beauty to be found within, even if the tragedy is somewhat predictable at every turn. Whether that's due to the film concerning itself more with the journey than the destination or an increased awareness of story-telling construction, I'm not entirely certain. Unfortunately the sound was often piercing, with many a high wailing threatening to burst ear drums in the cinema - more the fault of the DVD than the film itself, but these matters of presentation, well, matter.

Honestly, to really give you a proper examination of the film I would have to watch it again - it has been some time since I saw it and the sound issue was often distracting when I was watching it. And dammit, I'm annoyed at this cop out, but I'd rather post something honest here than try and flub my way through. What I can tell you is that Sansho the Bailiff is flawed, sometimes beautiful, dramatic and, yes, an intimate epic.

October 10, 2011


Up until last year I had only ever seen the original Planet of the Apes, and I had seen that years ago. The pre-eminent thing I’d heard of the Apes series had been how the budget had been slashed and slashed and slashed for the subsequent sequels. As such, I didn’t really expect much from it. Then, last year, my partner and I sat and watched the entire series of films (on VHS no less!). I was actually astounded at how good they (mostly) were, and how they all strove to say something about our society as humans then and now. It iss a bonkers series, no doubt about it – the second film ends with the entire planet blowing up after a nuclear warhead is set off by a bunch of religious nutters who worship it (hmmm...) – but there is some serious intelligent thought behind it all. Planet of the Apes is a stone-cold cinematic classic and my favourite of the sequels is easily Conquest of the Planet of the Apes – where the slave apes, led by the hyper-intelligent Caesar, throw off the shackles of slavery and revolt against their human masters. There is some barmy sci-fi in there, but the film is really aiming to say something and seems to carry a real anger inside it.

The news that Fox were, once again, aiming to restart the Apes franchise filled me with more than a little trepidation. But then I began to hear great things about the script and how they were using Conquest as a jumping off point (rather than throwing out the baby, bathwater and logic as Tim Burton did). The end result; with a fairly great cast, astonishing performance capture from WETA and honest intelligence, is really very, very good.

The film begins in the jungle, as a family of chimpanzees are hunted and captured. I think it’s important to note here that no real apes or people in ape costumes were used for the entirety of the film. Every single ape is a performance captured digital creature and they look astonishing. Though some of the other visual effects come across a little hokey, the money has been spent in the right place with the apes. These captured apes are brought to San Francisco where they are used for medical drug trials – in this case, a possible cure for Alzheimer’s developed by brilliant bio-chemist James Franco. One female ape, “Bright Eyes”, shows particular promise with the drug not only working but enhancing her cognitive functions too. However, she rampages through the facility and Franco’s experiment is shut down. It is only afterwards they discover Bright Eyes was only trying to protect her child – a child Franco takes home. Franco and his father, once a pianist now deteriorating with Alzheimer’s himself (Jon Lithgow), name the baby ape Caesar and Franco raises him as his own son. Caesar grows into an intelligent, active young ape confused about his place in the world.

It is only when the adult Caesar, in the act of protecting Lithgow, attacks a neighbour and is placed in an animal shelter that the film really gets going. The shelter is run as more of a prison by Bryan Cox and his evil twerp of a son, Draco Malfoy. It is here that the majority of Caesar’s arc takes place, as he experiences firsthand the cruelty and callousness of humans towards apes – as he feels abandoned by Franco and as he witnesses fellow apes being carted off to the biotech lab where Franco works. Caesar first takes control of the apes, and then plans the breakout and ensuing revolution.

Director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, this being only his second feature film) keeps the pace up and helps to really make Caesar the star. There’s a reason I haven’t named any of the human characters – because I can’t remember their names and they barely matter anyway. To a studio flick aimed at restarting a franchise, Wyatt brings a number of deft, intelligent touches – the leaves falling as the apes move through the trees and the cutting across large swathes of time. There are some holes in the story (and considering the number of hands the script went through, it’s not a big surprise) but they only become apparent afterwards, if you really think about them. For the rest of the film, you are fully engaged in this smart story of a young revolutionary who helps raise his people up against their callous and fearful oppressors. He just happens to be an ape.

October 2, 2011


Making it to Fantastic Fest was one of my goals for this year (in addition to, among other thins, writing a feature length script) and, thanks in no small part to a lot of support from my friends and family, I made it. I travelled 7,000 odd miles and quit my job to get here, but get here I did. I may have missed out on the signature events of Fantastic Fest (such as the Debates, the Awards and the Feuds) but I packed most of my days with amazing, crazy, unmissable movies which is really the whole point to me. I'll get into my overall experience of the Fest in a separate post soon but first I wanted to thank all of the people who helped me get here. 

First, to my amazing, wonderful, loving and supportive partner Sarah who has encouraged me to go on this crazy adventure since Day One. I doubt I'd be here without her as she's been a constant source of suggestions and support. Second, thanks to my amazing family - my mum and dad, my brother and sister, my grandma and grandad, my aunts and uncles Anne, Don, Jamie & Pauline - who all supported me far more than I would have ever asked for or expected (financially, as my family has always been really good with being there and supporting). I am really lucky to have such a supportive family - they may not all understand this crazy love/obsession I have for films and genre films in particular but they have recognised the necessity of it for me and supported me above and beyond. A huge thanks to all of my friends who also helped me along the way here: Mez for taking the fantastic promo photos (that I'm still using around the place) for free; my fundraising supporters Rebecca, Ben, Meera, Chris H, Sarah-Rose, Alexis, Chris T, Patricia; Rajeev for the awesome poster (which you can check out as my twitter account background) and badge I wore every day of the Fest promoting this blog.

I'd also like to say a huge thanks to Tim League and the staff and volunteers of Fantastic Fest and the Alamo Drafthouse - these guys worked their collective asses off to provide an awesome Fest experience. From programming to ushering to wait-staffing to the intros before each film and the Q&As after these guys really helped to ensure a great time for all. Also a big thanks to all the fellow attendees of Fantastic Fest; I have never experienced such a friendly, communal vibe at a film festival before. While there is a sense of exclusivity surrounding some of the events at Fantastic Fest what it all comes down to in the end is the films, and everyone was really there for those great, crazy and wild films and it was never too difficult to start chatting with someone. And also a thank-you to the kind, helpful people of Austin, Texas. I've often been waylaid because I've just ended up chatting to someone, about politics, travel and whatever. This is, from my experience, a friendly city with a lot of great folks in it and, no joke, the most courteous drivers I've ever seen.

And to you guys, out there reading this blog. I know I don't have the biggest audience but I truly love writing this thing and I'm going to keep on doing it and I hope you keep on enjoying it (and sharing it with your friends!). I've got a few reviews to catch up on from between the NZIFF and Fantastic Fest and I hope to have separate entries for all films I saw at Fantastic Fest too. I'll also be bringing you tales of my further adventures in the States (I'm off to San Francisco tomorrow and then LA on Wednesday before flying back home on Friday).


October 1, 2011


I consoled myself with a "Michael Jackson" cupcake
- chocolate with cream-cheese icing.
Soon afterwards I sunk into a sugar coma.
So this is it. The end of the journey. This was my final day of Fantastic Fest and it would end, not with a bang, but with a whimper. With no sort of announcement that I could find anywhere the 1:00pm screening of The Loved Ones was pulled and a 12:45pm repeat screening of the award-winning Bullhead playing instead. What this meant, then, is that the ticket queue opened 15 minutes earlier than I thought it would. Meaning when I actually logged on to book my tickets EVERYTHING (that I hadn't already seen) was Sold Out, including a repeat screening of the popular A Boy and His Samurai. I was well pissed off. This was the final day of Fantastic Fest and I was going to spend it NOT watching movies?! Well that's not how I wanted to finish things. So, I was going to have try my luck with standby tickets and hope against hope I'd make it in to something.

Well, lucky I was at my motel catching up with some writing and had twitter open - the folks at Fantastic Fest opened up a second screen for Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope and I managed to score a ticket. Watching Comic-Con, a documentary on the annual San Diego Comic-Con, with a Fantastic Fest audience was pretty frakking great. The doco is no snide look at the world of geeks and their passion, but rather follows geeks on their way to Con for various reasons: there's two guys hoping to get work in comic-books, hauling their portfolios around the Con taking alll criticism on the chin. There's the obsessive toy collector who simply must get the new Galactus toy and that's all he's there for (thankfully, this is a very short segment). There's the cute couple who met at the previous year's Con and the guy's efforts to propose to her at the Kevin Smith Q&A. There's the owner of Mile High Comics - the largest retailer of comic-books in America - and who helps provide an insight into the diminishing "Comic" aspect of Comic-Con. And then there's the costume designer who works out of her garage with a small team making incredible, professional-level costumes from Mass Effect 2 who is there to enter the Masquerade and hopefullly score some work from it. These stories are intercut with talking head interviews; some are fellow Comic-Con attendees but the majority are, for lack of a better term, celebrity geeks: the likes of Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Harry Knowles (also a producer on the film), Stan Lee, Paul Dini, Matt Fraction, Seth Green, Guillermo del Toro and more. The documentary is, in fact, something of a celebration of all things geek and is a light look at the defining place of fandom in popular culture now and how the Con has become so diversified with it's pop culture the comic-book section of it is the smallest part. But it does go to show that what some of these fans create with passion, talent and hardwork is nothing short of phenomenal. Comic-Con is a movie I can't wait to see on DVD, as I hope there are oodles and oodles of more interviews - with the regular Con attendees and the "geek gods" - and seeing it with the Fantastic Fest crowd was an enormous amount of fun. 

And that's it. That's the end of my first Fantastic Fest. I'm glad I got to something on the final day and I'm pleased it was something as enjoyable as Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. I missed the Closing Night party due to my continuing sickness but I know for a fact this will not be my only Fantastic Fest. And heck, I want to get to San Diego now too.