With a shock of blond hair, braces, and a physique that has yet to even begin thinking about filling out, PK is an unlikely general. He’s a relatively tiny kid, maybe eleven or twelve years old, and the undisputed champion of War amongst kids at school. In I Declare War, PK (Gage Munroe) plays by the rules in games of capture the flag: two teams, two immovable bases, gunshots incapacitate for ten seconds, grenades “kill.” A fan of the movie Patton and a student of war history, PK believes in the rules of the game, and the rules of engagement, and winning.

His game of War is the same game many of us played as children, with sticks standing in for guns, and a give and take between honor and rule-bending dictating the outcome of a fight. But in this film, the combat is rendered as real, with splashes of blood, and hands full of real pistols and automatic rifles. When the bouncy, imaginative Frost (Alex Cardillo) finds a particularly choice tree branch, we see it in its natural state for a few shots, but the next time it appears the branch has transformed into what Frost sees: an olive drab bazooka.

The “game as realism” approach of I Declare War is the hook, but the reason to stick around is the way that writer/co-director Jason Lapeyre, who directed with Robert Wilson, weaves enduring ideas about friendship, betrayal and adolescence into the film. Their movie won the audience award last night at Fantastic Fest, and it’s easy to see why. The scenario transitions seamlessly from playground fluff to effective exploration of the causalities incurred as one kid follows his drive to secure victory at any cost.  Read More »

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I should have skipped out of The Collection five, maybe ten minutes after it began. It took just that much time to realize that the movie really is only a basic exploration of a simple premise, and ultimately (for different reasons) not for me. The sequel to 2009′s The Collector is once again written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, with Dunstan directing. Crafty masked machinist killer the Collector returns to menace more innocents, this time losing hold of Arkin (Josh Stewart), one of his last victims, as he attacks a rave full of revelers and takes a new living prisoner, Elena.

Knowing based on the Collector’s previous patterns that Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) is likely alive, her father’s commando-like right-hand man recruits Arkin to pursue the killer along with a small team of mercs. This does not end well. Presumably, that’s a good thing, as there’s really no reason to watch The Collection other than to see the various ways that characters are dispatched. Read More »

It’s the rare genre anthology film that satisfies entirely; at best, we can usually hope for a couple great stories amid the near-misses in any given collection of short stories. Many, however, don’t even achieve that, and the South Korean effort Doomsday Book falls in with that large crowd of mostly unsatisfying story collections. Directed by Yim Pil-sung (Hansel & Gretel) and Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the DevilThe Good, the Bad, the Weird), with the former tackling two tales and the latter one, Doomsday Book presents three visions of humanity’s future, and ways that it might end, or at least change.

Fitfully entertaining, with occasional flashes of black humor and  philosophical insight, this is a tome that isn’t even valuable as the sum of its parts — which isn’t much of a surprise, given the low individual value of each chapter. Read More »

Frankenweenie is an unusual film, which is the sort of thing that people always used to say about Tim Burton movies. In this case it is unusual because unlike Burton films such as Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, which seemed like uncontrollable explosions of the director’s own childhood impulses, Frankenweenie feels like a very calculated trip back down memory lane. It’s less a meander than a guided Star Tour.

To an extent, the calculated feel is pretty typical of Burton’s recent output. It is also an unavoidable byproduct of the stop-motion animation employed to recreate Burton’s early story of a boy who reanimates his fallen dog, Frankenstein-style. Stop-motion, particularly when using models and sets as intricately detailed as those in this film, requires meticulous planning, and while it can create stories that feel spontaneous and uncontrollable (see A Town Called Panic), Frankenweenie simply isn’t that sort of film.

Instead, this is a movie about gaining control. As a return to the story idea that famously saw Burton fired from Disney, Frankenweenie is more than ever a movie about doing things right the second time, whatever the consequences may be. In Burton’s case, the consequences are likely pretty good, as this is his first movie in some time that points directly to what people liked in his films in the first place. Frankenweenie is a pleasing, endearing movie, even when it fails to follow through on some of its own best ideas. Read More »

I don’t know much about the film The Conspiracy at this point, other than the fact that it is playing at Fantastic Fest. That implies a few things about the film that features a documentary crew that is covering the theories of one seeming conspiracy crackpot. But that “crackpots” disappears, the crew starts to think there might be more to the theories than they’d initially imagined.

While this trailer features some histrionics that are a little difficult to swallow out of context, there are also some very effective, unsettling scenes here. Writer/director Christopher MacBride seems to be using low-fi found-footage and other techniques to good effect, and as the central theorist Terrance, Alan C. Peterson looks like he’s got a juicy, fun role. Read More »

Fantastic Fest has announced its final wave of programming for the 2012 lineup, with the festival set to begin in just over a week. The big inclusions in this wave are Brandon Cronenberg‘s Antiviral, which is the feature debut from David Cronenberg’s son; Berberian Sound Studio, which has been getting raves for Toby Jones‘ portrayal of a sound technician who experiences crazy stuff while working on an Italian horror film; and Wake in Fright, the Australian thriller that wowed audiences at Cannes in 1971 but never got a proper US release. I’ve got an import DVD of this one, and can say that it definitely earns its reputation as an effective knife-twisting thriller. Drafthouse Films will be releasing Wake in Fright properly later this year, but for now this is a good chance to catch it on the big screen.

All the film details are below. Fantastic Fest runs September 20-27 in Austin, TX, and more details about the programming and schedule can be found at the official website. Read More »

We tend to love Fantastic Fest, because it is the film festival that caters to audiences who like movies that are weird, strange, and totally fucked-up, but with a quality that puts the films in a rare category that isn’t just simple schlock or exploitation. Fantastic Fest will take place September 20-27 in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, and a whole bunch of great films have been added to the lineup.

After the break you’ll find info on the great second wave of announcements, which includes Rian Johnson’s Looper, the anthology horror movie The ABCs of Death, and The American Scream, which is the new effort from Best Worst Movie director Michael Paul Stephenson. Then there is Leos Carax’s head-scratcher Holy Motors, which is one of the films I can’t wait to see, and Doomsday Book, the anthology from South Korea that includes new work from Kim Jee-woon. Read More »

I haven’t been to every film festival in the world, but I can’t imagine many being more fun than Fantastic Fest. For one week in Austin, TX the coolest genre films in the world screen along with some of the sickest, most inventive parties all for a passionate, excited audience. The 2012 edition takes place September 20-27 and while we knew Frankenweenie was going to open the fest, now we have the “first wave” of films.

Some of the obvious standouts are: Lionsgate’s awesome action film Dredd 3D; the amazing documentary Room 237 (playing along with The Shining, which is perfect); and Quentin Dupieux’s latest, hilarious film, Wrong. After the jump, read about all the films in the first wave, which also include movies about a sniper attacking a building, a woman resurrecting her dead husband, and killer sushi monsters. Read More »

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