Here is the last batch of films I saw as SXSW came to a close.
This movie had everyone talking at SXSW about how traumatizing and terrorizing it was. Obviously that’s way too much buildup, but even if I’d seen it cold, I would not have been impressed with Kill List. It’s really just a standard hit man movie where two guys kill some people who pretty much deserve it (pedophiles and child pornographers, etc.) The character setup feels like some lame indie movie improv about how unfulfilling his down time is. But the big shocker is the final image, which since it’s only there to leave the audience with a shocking final image, doesn’t feel all that shocking to me.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog is really passionate about exploring the Chauvet cave with 3D cameras. He follows scientists through it as they explain the cave paintings for us, with footage that puts the old rocks and stalagmites in our faces. Even with Herzog’s aggressive accented narration, he can’t make me care. The footage looks fantastic but it’s a history lesson. Maybe you’ll want to hear all about the prehistoric societies represented in these pictures, but it’s not for me.
This selection from the programmers of Fantastic Fest is exactly what I want to see at a film festival. The filmmakers created a wild and crazy world that’s pure fun. In Frazier Park, gangs do battle in the dance game Beat Beat Revelation. The world of The FP creates a fantasy realm where you believe people talk in rap slang and sincerely invest in these video game dance offs. The Trost Bros. nailed the tone and language, as well as the sports movie formula. The hero lost his brother to BBR and has to train with a master to save The FP. The costumes and sets are spectacular, but it’s the tone of sincere ridiculousness that makes The FP a real discovery.
If Apart were a Hollywood movie, it would be pretty generic. As a first time feature, it’s amazing that it holds up to that level. A boy wakes up from a coma and has to piece together the memory of what led him to the hospital. It turns out he has a rare condition where he can share delusions with another afflicted person. Those delusions reveal the backstory and mystery, and it all comes together in the end. The mystery plays out and the condition is just a device for the narrative gimmick, but the story holds together and the filmmaking is polished so it doesn’t look like a first film.
Fubar: Balls to the Wall
Canadian headbangers Dean and Terry have to get a job. They go to work for the oil pipeline and Terry romances the local waitress Trish. I never saw Fubar 1 but I can follow along. The characters do funny things, because they’re self-destructive slackers. Dean’s monologue about the finger banging bench is amusing and his attempt to get workman’s comp is good slapstick. The plot does resolve, but it’s not really important. Each scene is a somewhat standalone sketch. The Canadian accents make the headbanger schtick a little funnier too.
Goh Nakamura plays himself in this raw indie drama. Struggling at music, Goh agrees to let the actor Danny Tyler shadow him for a movie role. Danny is obnoxious and upsets Goh’s basic routine of hustling retail space for his albums and making time in the recording studio. You can feel Goh’s frustration as he keeps quiet through all of Danny’s acting exercises and invasive questions. Ultimately Goh deals with his stunted feelings for longtime friend Rachel. It’s the kind of indie movie you’d have to be open to experiencing, but it’s not one of those super obscure endurance challenges. Surrogate Valentine is straightforward, with good performances, so if you want to go there it should be a satisfying time.
I can see why Fantastic Fest included this in their SXSW lineup. It doesn’t get much weirder than an animated hedgehog sleeping with babes, getting cloned and saving the country. Weird doesn’t necessarily make it good, but if you’re like me, you can’t read the description and not see it. I’m sure some of it is lost in translation, but cartoon boobies and humping just feels immature to me. The pace moves though as George the Hedgehog keeps finding himself running through fun parks, hiding out with hookers or crashing a rock concert.
Last Days Here
This music documentary is like Anvil if someone had actually addressed Anvil’s major personal problems. Bobby Liebling was the lead singer of Pentagram, a heavy metal band that never made it. Instead of reveling in the nostalgic struggle to get the band back together, Last Days Here follows Liebling in a stark document of his declining health. Liebling does crack on camera, picks at his arm scabs and goes to the hospital. He does have a shot at getting back with Pentagram and recording a new album, but the filmmakers pull no punches about what’s really holding him back.