bodied review

Bodied is not the movie I thought it was going to be when I walked into the Fantastic Fest screening. Joseph Kahn‘s previous feature, Detention, is one of those so-crazy-I-can’t-believe-it-exists kind of movies and I think that’s what was in my brain when I sat down to watch his new one.

The premise of Bodied is simple: a young fan is mentored by his idol and his nurtured talent shines. You’ve seen this story before, especially in movies about sports or martial arts, but never quite in this way. Battle Rap is the forum here, not a stadium or a dojo.

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Brawl in Cell Block 99 Review

S. Craig Zahler‘s Brawl in Cell Block 99 may be one of the most violent movies ever made. It’s easy to imagine scenes from its gore-soaked final act becoming YouTube shock fodder in the years ahead, moments that people spring on unsuspecting friends to get a reaction. That may sound like catnip for seasoned genre film fans, audiences who are numb to cinematic violence and feel like they’ve seen everything, but even those with the most hardened nerves may find themselves lightheaded. It’s that gross. It’s that unsparing. It’s that effective.

But it also comes at the end of a bad movie. Albeit, a bad movie that curious viewers should definitely check out for themselves because Brawl in Cell Block 99 is too weird to ignore, too audacious to write off, and too damn interesting to stop thinking about. But yes, it is bad.

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wheelman review

Allow me to thumb my suspenders and clear the kids off my lawn before I break out this old cliche, but they don’t make ’em like this much anymore.

Wheelman may represent the shifting cinematic landscape of 2017 – it was produced by Netflix and will skip theaters and arrive directly on the streaming service next month – but it’s a straightforward, simple, muscular, and blissfully old school thriller that, much like its leading man, feels like it escaped from 1974. But even when this crime-gone-wrong movie traffics in familiar beats, it does so with a slick confidence and calm-under-fire grace. Making a movie that feels this cool (this effortlessly cool) sometimes feels like a lost art. This is the kind of hardened, macho, dizzyingly entertaining crime movie that gets in, does its job, and gets out without wasting a single second of your precious time. You get the sense that Wheelman respects you, the audience member: it’s not here to beat around the bush. Like a great getaway driver, its focus is squarely on delivering the goods.

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Thelma Review

Joachim Trier‘s Thelma begins with one of the most haunting opening scenes in recent memory. A young girl and her father trek out into the wilderness surrounding their home, crossing over a frozen lake and entering the woods. The father is armed with a rifle. When his young daughter isn’t looking, he takes aim at the back of her head. He hesitates. He doesn’t pull the trigger.

And then we leap forward a number of years and Thelma (Eili Harboe) is heading to university in Oslo and learns that something is wrong with her. Or right with her. Because Thelma has supernatural abilities. And like any kid heading off to college for the first time, she’s got some serious stuff to figure out.

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anna and the apocalypse review

As a Scottish zombie Christmas musical comedy, Anna and the Apocalypse sounds like a joke. And for a little while, it feels like one.

Conceived as a High School Musical riff where the shambling undead arrive to wreak havoc on a more trivial teen movie, director John McPhail‘s film leans hard into comedy and irony in its first act. But like the 21st century’s greatest horror comedy (Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead), the film finds its voice and its soul when it drops the wink and becomes a fully realized musical horror movie with actual stakes…and the nerve to literally tear its lovable cast to pieces.

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five fingers for marseilles clip

The western may have been born in Hollywood and built to tell tales of adventure in the untouched American landscape of the 19th century, but the genre has broadened its horizons over the years. Now, a western is more of a state of mind than a description of where a particular movie takes place.

Cast in point: the new movie Five Fingers For Marseilles, which evokes strong western vibes despite taking place in modern South Africa. Michael Matthews‘ directorial debut premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this month and is set to play at Fantastic Fest this weekend. In the meantime, we’re pleased to debut an exclusive new clip from the film, which finds a band of righteous outlaws reuniting after 20 years to combat a new threat to their community.

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anna and the apocalypse trailer

Zombies and comedies go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Christmas and musicals go together like peppermint and, well, chocolate. But what happens when you take all of those seemingly disparate elements and cram them together into a single movie? You get the new zombie comedy Christmas musical Anna and the Apocalypse, which features characters singing and dancing their way through an undead uprising during the holiday season.

Yes, movie is real. And yes, you can watch the Anna and the Apocalypse trailer right now.

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GERALDS GAME

Fantastic Fest, the Austin-based film festival celebrating the weirdest and wildest movies from around the globe, has announced the first wave of movies playing at this year’s fest and it’s a perfect summation of what makes this my favorite week of the year.

The next films from the directors of In Bruges, Bone Tomahawk, and The Lobster? The next Takashi Miike joint? Two Stephen King adaptations? A Scottish zombie movie set during Christmas that’s also a musical? Yeah, that’s Fantastic Fest.

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split review

(This review originally ran after Split‘s first screening at Fantastic Fest 2016. It arrives in theaters today.)

Every filmmaker finds themselves in a rough patch every now and again, but few directors have had quite as public a rough patch as M. Night Shyamalan. It wasn’t enough that the immensely talented director of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs was stumbling with duds like The Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender – his name had become synonymous with disappointment for many moviegoers. He had become a punchline.

But now, it’s looking like Shyamalan has started to get his groove back. The Visit was one of last year’s more pleasant surprises and now Split, which held its world premiere as part of a secret screening at Fantastic Fest, has seemingly revealed his future going forward: he’s going to keep on making low-budget horror movies until someone tells him to stop. If his latest film is any indication, few people are going to tell him to stop anytime soon.

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givertaker short film

My love for movies was born out of my love for horror movies and my love for horror movies was born out of a childhood obsession with monsters and ghosts and whatever else goes bump in the night. Because of that, I’m a strong believer that kids (and young adults or whatever we want to call them these days) deserve quality genre entertainment. You don’t necessarily want to subject an 11-year old to something truly grisly, but they also deserve access to horror stories that don’t talk down to them or pull their punches.

And that’s why the short film Givertaker scratches a very specific itch buried in the back of my brain. Here’s a horror short that speaks the same language as the various books and movies that I devoured when I was younger, while also functioning as a clever and entertaining genre tale. And it’s online and available to watch right now.

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