#FantasticFest Day 5 Reactions – #TheLighthouse, Jallikatu, Vivarium, and In the Shadow of the Moon

The Lighthouse (★★★1/2)

What a wild ride. “The Lighthouse” is a film that basically locks us into a contained space with two individuals falling into insanity. Pattinson and Dafoe’s performances are both mentally and physically demanding and the fallout at times is tough to watch. The film is eerie and shot beautifully on 35mm film. Every frame is gorgeous, the sound work and music are eerie. It’s an atmosphere film that I won’t forget anytime soon.

Jallikatu (★★★1/2)

What a technical achievement! Long sweeping camera motions. Long takes. Short takes. Precision editing and sound work. Jallikatu is a colossal achievement that brings hundreds of local extras into the fray. Everything feels natural from dialogue to lighting. The choreography of the entire film is some of the best I’ve seen.

Vivarium (1/2)

“Vivarium” is entertaining with its high-key concept, but it’s just… not well made. The direction the film is heading is figured out early on. Eisenberg and Poots give it everything they got – and it’s entertaining to seem them spiral into insanity, but the mystery of their habitat is squandered and rushed to the finish.

In the Shadow of the Moon (★★★)

Like “Fractured” this film is another solid thriller/mystery from Netflix. It’s brilliant how the pieces fall together one scene at a time. It introduces some complex ideas and uses its science fiction elements sparingly. I love this trick because what we don’t see is left up to our imagination – and it’s bigger and more complex than the filmmakers would have bothered with. Boyd Holbrook puts everything into this performance – easily the best I’ve seen him. Like the days of “Frequency” the mystery-thriller is back and I love it.

#FantasticFest Day 3 Reactions – #TheLodge, The Whistlers, VFW, Phil Tippet: Mad Dreams and Monsterd

The Lodge (★★★)

I liked “The Lodge” a lot, but more so after simmering with it for a bit. It’s slow, it’s dreary, and operates in a bleak world. There are plot turns that I couldn’t quite commit too, but this is the kind of film that creates a mood and an atmosphere and it achieved that in many ways.

The Whistlers (★★1/2)

“The Whistlers” is a solid thriller. It has French New Wave vibes and sprinkles in some light humor throughout. One thing that really separates it from the dozens of films like it is the way it is put together. How we learn so much about each character without separating ourself from the core plot.

Phil Tippet: Mad Dreams and Monsters (★1/2)

I love a solid documentary about filmmaking, but this one is as textbook as they come. If you already have an idea of Phil Tippet’s massive talent and influence in stop-motion animation, then you’re just getting refresher course. The movie is solid and a good way to introduce those non-converted to the man’s absurd talents, but it is void of depth.

VFW (1/2)

The first true bust of the festival for me. “VFW” wallows in its grainy, blood-soaked grindhouse style, but shoots itself in the foot with choppy editing and dark filmmaking. It’s part of the style, I get it, but it’s nearly impossible to enjoy the gore or the action when the camera cuts every second and you can barely see what’s on screen in the first place.

#FantasticFest Day 2 Reactions – #ColourOutofSpace, Happy Face, The Black Pit of Dr. M, The Death of Dick Long

The Black Pit of Dr. M (★★1/2)

A Mexican horror film from 1959 akin to the old Universal monster movies. “The Black Pit of Dr. M” has no big selling point really, a part from being a well-made horror film of its era.

What shocked me the most was the attention to story and detail that many monster movies of that era neglected. Some shots reminded me of shots in “Citizen Kane.” It was expertly made and I’m glad to have experienced it.

Happy Face (★★)

“Happy Face” has me torn. I’m so glad a film like this exists. Director Alexandre Franchi (Wild Hunt) was in attendance and spoke after in his Q& A how the script was modified throughout production to adjust to the real-life stories of the characters.

All characters and actors in real life, struggle with different facial abnormalities. It’s a film that let’s you take a harder look at beauty and a nuanced look at the human condition. Something about the overall pace though didn’t sit right with me. It felt like it went on a tad too long, and the unfortunate side of the script changes left some of the subplots feeling detached.

The Death of Dick Long (★★1/2)

Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man) directs quite a film here. He was in attendance along with Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar). This film takes you on quite a ride – an unexpected one too.

Unfortunately its peak (film I can’t reveal too much of the plot too without spoiling) so I won’t. I enjoyed it so much. The blend of comedy/drama was exquisite even has things took a sharp turn in the second half. I heard a range of reactions for this one, so it will be divisive, but definitely give it a try.

The Colour of Space (★★★)

Probably my favorite of the festival so far. Another independent film starring Nicolas Cage that deals with something out of this world. Don’t worry, he goes full Cage often, but the overall story (inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s book) is handled with such grace.

What sold me on it was the sheer imagery. The practical, organic effects, the music, the mood. This was an incredible, yet disturbing experience that I’ll remember for some time.

#FantasticFest Day 1 Reactions – #JojoRabbit, Tammy and the T-Rex, & The Happiness of the Katakuris

Jojo Rabbit (★★1/2)

There were moments in this film that I felt heavy weight. Moments that’ll sit with me for some time. I remember smiling and being shocked often simultaneously. Yet, when the curtains came up I felt, well, nothing.

Jojo Rabbit is a solid Love vs. Hate film that brushes up with some real complex themes. When things start looking up for Jojo – his reality hits him and it hits him hard. The juxtaposition between the childlike innocence and Naziism is where this film soars. I tweeted shortly after that there were “moments” of brilliance, but they are shrouded in the cliche.

Tammy and the T-Rex (Gore Cut) (★★)

Yes, I knew about this film coming in, but had never seen the originally released PG-13 version. The movie was absolutely ridiculous and I found myself cackling quite a bit. About halfway into the movie I started feeling more exhausted – like a sense that I got the joke, and we’re just pressing now.

What helped bring me back was the absurd filmmaking-moments. It was definitely of its era (with homophobic jokes/slurs that got quite the groans out of our theater), but all-in-all it was a pleasant time. A celebration of B-movies in the 90s.

The Happiness of the Katakuris (1/2)

Some people love the work of Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Audition), who was in attendance here. I haven’t seen any of his films until this one and…. I didn’t like it.

I’ve heard fantastic things about his other films, but this film felt like a student film full of oddities put into a blender to create something off-putting for the sake of being off-putting. Was it original? Absolutely. But I left the theater simply thinking “Not for me, for someone, but not me”

Matt Mentions launch and #FantasticFest!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Looking forward to my first ever upper-tier film festival.

My plan is to write about EVERY movie I see and my experience along the way. I am on the flight to Austin, TX right now.


Tarantino Marathon: True Romance

So Quentin Tarantino didn’t direct this film – but he did write it and his style is all over it. I can’t however say that I loved this movie. The characters were complex and well-constructed, but overall it felt long and meandering to me.

True Romance is one of those films that I have a lot of respect for, but it just didn’t do much for me.

Tarantino Marathon – Reservoir Dogs

If you know me personally, you know that while I’m a huge fan of movies I still have a lot of homework to catch up with other cinephiles.

When it comes to writer/director Quentin Tarantino I have seen the following films:

Pulp Fiction
Kill Bill Vol. 1/2
Inglourious Basterds
Django Unchained
The Hateful Eight

Having seen these films I do not consider myself quite a Quentin Tarantino fan. I adored Pulp Fiction, but found Kill Bill exhausting, and a deep lack of narrative focus in Basterds, Django, and Hateful Eight.

I still consider the final three great films that are epic in scope, acted wonderfully, and written exquisitely. It has always been clear to me that Tarantino has at the height of artistry in his writing versus his directing.