Monday, September 27, 2010

Dark Bridges Film Festival Day 3

Sunday September 26th marked the third and final day of the Dark Bridges Film Festival. Opening the festival was the Saskatchewan Shorts showcase which featured local short films varying from zombie comedies to an end of days Western and everything in between. Black Field, the first feature of the day hails from Manitoba and takes a turn in the festival as a serious period drama with some tension. The preceding short films included the wonderfully animated The Thomas Beale Cipher and Without Wings. Black Field tells the tale of two lone women left to look after their family farm when a lone strange appears and breaks things apart.

Tyler Baptist: "Quiet, beautifully shot, and richly character driven. Black Field's slow burn story of sisters alone to fend for themselves is disquieting and powerfully realized by Danishka Esterhazy." 3/5

John Allison, the Dark Bridges festival director, advised those in attendance, as well as in advance of the festival happening, to not seek out any information on the next feature, but to go in with an open slate. This was an Irish black comedy titled A Film With Me In It where a series of accidents go from bad to worse for a starving actor. The opening short film No Escape, a little German robbery thriller, had a great concept but a lackluster pay-off.

Skot M. Hamilton: "Neither dark enough, nor funny enough, to succeed entirely and trying to purposely pigeon hole itself next to black comedy peers. A Film With Me In It manages to avoid being totally mediocre through a few strong central performances, but does waiver beneath the weight of its overall drabness." 2.5/5

TB: "A fantastic set-up for a black comedy with a few great laughs and winces along the way, but in the end feels rushed and too tidy." 3.5/5

Adrienne Brody once again reinvents his career portraying a strung-out drug dealer in the new stoner-comedy High School. Preceding the film was a short also portraying high school life, entitled Worm, but this time from the point of view of a narcissistic teacher and much darker in tone. High School details a Grade-A student and his stoner buddy who get the entire student body to ingest pot brownies.

SMH: "A typical drug comedy about absolutely nothing. Immature, exhausting, and derivative. One could assume that the filmmakers were counting on the short attention spans of their target audience to ignore that they've already laughed at these lame jokes in the last six stoner comedies they've seen." 1.5/5

TB: "As unrealistic as stoner comedies are, High School takes the cake. Convoluted, unfunny, and actually getting high before watching would probably not make this any better or help pass the time." 2/5

And finally bookending the entire festival weekend took us to the far East. Junkios Shamisen, a live-action and animated multi-media short, told a fable of revenge with a Kabuki twist. Finally, the closing picture packed a wallop with the Korean kimchi Western The Good, The Bad, The Weird. The festival audience fully got into the film and were laughing and cheering throughout, thus ending the festival on a positive note.

SMH: "Relentlessly fun! This is the type of action-adventure picture that Hollywood should be pumping all of its money into. If North American's weren't so frightened of subtitles this could dominate the box office and deserve to at that." 4.5/5

TB: "As big as blockbuster action can get. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a wild Western mash-up that delivers the laughs along with the insane action and doesn't let up for one dull moment. Epic, entertaining, and pure fun!" 4.5/5

That wraps up the first annual Dark Bridges Film Festival, but listen below for an interview Skot and Tyler conducted with festival director John Allison.

John Allison Interview

All contents copyright 2010 Skot M. Hamilton and Tyler Baptist

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dark Bridges Film Festival Day 2

Day two of Saskatoon's first installment in to the Dark Bridges Films festival opened with a bang despite a less than desired turnout on September 25th. Due to an early showtime and a myriad of other early Saturday issues (Hangovers, work, etc..) Day two opener Werewolf Fever was seen by a only a fraction of the audience it deserved.

Surface and Remote were openers, and both drew more more from the sci-fi end of the pool then one would expect from a movie preceding a Werewolf-slasher-comedy. In Werewolf Fever A group of unwitting and heinously stupid twenty somethings jockeying a greasy burger joint do battle with one of the most hilarious on-screen creatures since Rawhead Rex.

Skot M. Hamilton: “A blast of an indie horror flick for which the word “Romp” was invented.” 3.5/5

Tyler Baptist: “An absolutely hysterical and entertaining mash-up of the werewolf genre and 80's Canadian sex comedies (minus the sex, and in this case that's not a bad thing!) Werewolf Fever is a howl!” 4/5

After the slapstick comedy and gore of the entertaining low-budget Werewolf Fever, the festival took a turn to the darker side with the next feature, Long Pigs. Opening the film was a short cannibal-themed Western starring Ken Foree of Dawn of the Dead fame called Dead Bones. The juxtaposition between the comedy and the now dramatic and sinister nature of Long Pigs, a documentary-style glimpse into the life of a cannibalistic serial killer, was unexpected by the audience.

SMH: “Despite issues in the pacing and acting departments (problems that seem to plague these lower budget Mockumenteries) Long Pigs is reasonably tight package with big pay-off. Man Bites Dog it's not, but a really respectable effort.” 3.5/5

TB: “Sinister satire and an interesting concept, but Long Pigs doesn't engage like it should and too many plot holes and pacing issues ultimately leave it to be rather boring and uninspired.” 2/5

From there we began the “Dead-walk-the-Earth” marathon starting with shorts 36 Sous Sol and the outrageously funny Inferno Of The Dead. By this point the number of festival goers had grown quite a bit, a handful of whom had shown up in full undead garb. Needless to say, 2008's Spanish favorite [REC]'s built in fan base had finally arrived. In [REC], a television crew witnesses the beginning of an unknown outbreak that has seized an apartment complex.

SMH: “Just as fresh as it was upon it's release despite a North American remake and other imposters vying for its limelight, [REC] losses nothing to multiple viewings. It is still just as jarring, exciting, and intriguing as ever.” 4/5

TB: “[REC] will scare even the most jaded of horror fans. Intense, claustrophobic, and extremely well executed. A masterpiece of modern horror.” 4.5/5

Now that the entire audience was shaking in their seats after being put through the paces with [REC] the festival is not going to let that sense of dread let up as we continue the story with [REC]2. But before the onslaught of tension and terror began we continue the undead short film theme with Alice Jacobs is Dead starring the lovely Adrienne Barbaeu and followed up with the intense, bizarre, and crazy Argentinian exorcism opus Deus Irae. Then it was time to follow a SWAT team into the quarantined apartment in [REC]2.

SMH: “Delving further in to the back story of any genre film is a risky situation, and [REC]2 launches head long in to its own with reckless abandon and is at the end of the day at least as strong a film as its predecessor for it. A retread would have been the easiest route, but Plaza and Balaguero make a really surprising and brave gear shift that most wouldn't have had the guts to commit to. Really smart genre filmmaking.” 4/5

TB: “Just as good as the first film if not better, [REC]2 amps up the scares and delves further into possession, claustrophobic terror, and intelligent horror filmmaking. A new horror franchise worth buzzing about.” 4.5/5

Finally it was time to let up from the scares, but not the undead, with some campy humour. Opening the midnight film were The Elusive Man and Game Night, two twisted shorts that had the audience busting a gut. Then came The Karate Kid as if written by Lloyd Kaufman and featuring zombies. The director Gary King and main actress Christina Rose were present to introduce the film and answer a Q&A following this campy low-budget zom-com which the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

SMH: “Unapologetic gag a minute Schlock-o-rama that plays like the Zucker Bros gone twisted. A genre mash-up that will please underground cinema aficionados from all ends of the spectrum.” 3/5

TB: “A campy, sophomoric, and slapstick spoof featuring karate-zombies, quite a few laugh-out-loud moments and a surprising amount of heart not commonly seen in the genre. Worth a look.” 3/5

Skot and Tyler had the pleasure of interviewing both director Gary King and actress Christina Rose at the first annual Dark Bridges Film Festival. Listen to those interviews below:

Interview #1 (Before the Death of the Dead screening)

Interview #2 (After the Death of the Dead screening)

All contents copyright 2010 Skot M. Hamilton and Tyler Baptist

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dark Bridges Film Festival Day 1

The first Dark Bridges Film festival kicked off September 24th in Saskatoon, SK at the gorgeous inner-city gem The Roxy Theater. The audience was small but poised to take in some adventurous fare from all over the globe and all over the cinematic spectrum. The festival is a first for Saskatoon, a three day extravaganza featuring twelve features and twenty-six short films in total.

Opening the evening was the energetic short Red Princess Blues, followed by the even more frantic Uncle Jack, a duo of openers guaranteed to give the audience whiplash.

The first feature, Neil Marshall's Hack and Slash Centurion opened the festival and proved a stimulating kick start for the meager but excitable audience. “Centurion” follows the few remaining soldiers of the 9th Roman Legion who are being hunted down by a ruthless Pict tracker because of the death of the Pict leader's son.

Skot M. Hamilton: “In typical Marshall form we are treated to an over abundance of style and an almost amusing lack of substance, luckily he knows how to make that a good thing somehow. In league with films like 300 in that it knows how to use being dumb as an asset rather than a hindrance” 2.5/5

Tyler Baptist: “Gory, action-packed warfare epic. But ultimately overly predictable and overly mundane like Marhsall's last effort Doomsday where it becomes just an homage to the genre rather than something new.” 2.5/5

In stark contrast to the first batch of high-octane fare we were treated to some more subtle work in a more pronounce horror vein. Wilted and Off Season set the pace for this set, the latter proving to be one of the most impressive short thrillers in years and certainly a highlight of the evening. Dawning, the second feature details an awkward family get-together turned sinister when a blood caked stranger wanders in to the picture.

SMH: “A largely effective and subtle thriller which is at its precipice and at its weakest all at the same time. Commendable for engaging in high concept, but it's a concept only marginally achieved.” 3/5

TB: “Finally a horror film where characters and well crafted drama add to the destructible nature of unknown surrounding evil. However the high concept played with is not fully fleshed out in the end.” 3/5

Finally ending the first night of the festival in true midnight fashion are two varying short films with a Lovecraftian twist. Dan Coolo: Paranormal Drug Dealer is ultimately an unfunny miss, but Necronomicon proves to be a hilarious good time at its under two minute running time. The midnight feature capping it all off, El Monstro Del Mar, is an Australlian mash-up of the Russ Meyer vixen, 50's monster movies, and Lovecraft's Shadow over Innismouth.

SMH: “At once sexy, hilarious, inspired, exciting and a consistently good time. In a word: wowy.” 4/5

TB: “Hot babes, practical Evil Dead-like sea monster effects, and a short and simple story make this a modern B-movie romp. A ton of fun and not to be missed!” 3.5/5

More coming as we tackle Day 2 of the Dark Bridges Film Festival.

All contents copyright 2010 Skot M. Hamilton and Tyler Baptist

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blood Bonds

Director: Debra Granik
Writers: Derba Granik and Anne Rosellini
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt
2010 | United States | R | 100 mins

The cold that encompasses the landscape of the Ozark Mountains is as familiar as the tension between the bloodlines existent in these rural regions of Missouri. Both this feeling of frigidity and the haunting awareness that you alone can only account for your own survival is what is deeply rooted in the structure of Winter's Bone and the story of Ree Dolly, based upon the novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a 17-year old girl forced to care for her younger siblings because of an absent father and mentally unstable mother, is now up against losing her family's home if her meth-cooking father does not show up for a court appearance. This adds more fuel to the already burning fire that is destroying the Dolly family as poverty barely lends them enough to eat and the cold winter is all-consuming. Having to grow up too fast Ree has to seek the answers to her father's whereabouts which will uncover darker secrets that haunt all the bloodlines in cold rural Missouri.

Having read Daniel Woodrell's novel, Debra Granik captures the cold icy grasp of family betrayal so hauntingly layered that Winter's Bone will send chills down your spine with its tense portrayal of a girl forced to carry her family on her back. The adaption is extremely faithful and Debra and co-screenwriter Anne Rosellini flesh out a tale of blood and family to the screen as expertly as Woodrell carved the original story. Jennifer Lawrence gives an absolutely flawless and strong willed performance. Her portrayal of Ree Dolly is so believably true to the nature of the character and the mental scars her life has inflicted on her that every emotion is masterfully and minutely executed that her pain and perseverance enters your very soul. John Hawkes, who plays Uncle Teardrop, is both menacing, calculating, and tender when it calls for it. Every cast member plays their role with such conviction that not once does the viewer leave the atmosphere heavily created by the film.

Winter's Bone is a film so rare these days where feelings and ideas of pain, hope, family, and trust are every bit as real as they are cold and encompassed by one's surroundings. Debra Granik and crew have crafted a film of enormous emotional suspense that stays true to the novel's almost backwoods noir and triumphs as powerful cinema that fully latches onto the viewer. I hope that we can see another female director nominated at the Oscars this year, and most definitely nominations for the cast as well, because Winter's Bone is the best American film of the 2010 thus far and will grab you with its powerful tale of family bonds.

All contents copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist