Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fantastic indeed.

Fantastic Fest was far more fantastic than I could have imagined, and I've now got another event that I'm going to have to attend every year until I die. The people who put on this show are some of the nicest most down-to-Earth folks on the planet, and their show is absolutely top-notch.

I spent the majority of the weekend with my good buddy (and New York Asian Film Fest honcho) Marc Walkow, ROBOGEISHA director Noboru Iguchi, FRANKENSTEIN GIRL director Yoshihiro Nishimura, MACHINE GIRL starlet Asami, and awesome-at-just-about-anything Cay Izumi.

Thrown into the mix were a bunch of other great friends, both old and new. If you helped make my time in Austin better, then you're very gratefully included in this general thank you. I had two of the best days... well, ever.

There were movies galore, massive alcohol consumption, pole dancing, karaoke, Australians serving Jamaican beer to Japanese, swords, a goth club, and the latest night I've had in over a decade (I passed out at... wait for it - 8AM).

For limited photos, check out my Facebook album here. If you can read Japanese, check out Iguchi's wrap-up (which includes a photo of me and N) here. And if you're not interested in either, here's

In between chugging Japanese alcohol from coffee pots, I managed to catch screenings of CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

While I expected CIRQUE to be tween-ish, sitting in the theater waiting for it to start felt like a Jonas Brothers concert. The plot has to do with a dreamy teenager who becomes a vampire to save his dreamy friend's life. Then his dreamy friend becomes evil and dreamy #1 has to team up with other G-rated freaks to stop him.

The film was weak, and dreamies #1 and #2 were even weaker. Sadly, the film's stellar supporting cast - who should have been able to save the flick from mediocrity - was extremely underused. Orlando Jones, Jane Krakowski, and Kristen Schaal - three amazingly talented, very funny individuals - probably share a total of 15 lines between them over the course of the entire film. Lame.

Also sadly - and surprisingly - underwhelming were Willem Dafoe (made up to resemble Vincent Price) and the usually stunning Ken Watanabe (who was apparently made up to resemble Sloth from THE GOONIES). The only real high points in the cast came with John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek, who always hit their marks and seemed to have a blast with the material.

Thankfully, the film is pseudo-saved by the special effects work, which is so good, its almost worth the price of admission. For horror fans with kids, check it out. Its Nickelodeon's version of TRUE BLOOD. For folks like myself... wait until it hits cable and Discovery isn't airing any good episodes of MYTHBUSTERS at the same time.

As for Romero's already-controversial SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD: I liked it. Its very different than DIARY and is lacking Georgie's usual political and social commentary. After LAND, he started a new mythos, and I think fans should step back and see where he takes us with it.

The acting is uniformly solid and the effects are fun - even with a touch too much CG. The plot has the dickish military dude from DIARY finding his way to an island off the coast of Delaware where two long-bickering families are duking it out over whether or not zombies should be mercifully put down or left to wander.

To add up the absurdity: we've got a team of soldiers (including a woman who is a chronic masturbator), island-dwelling Irish Hatfields and McCoys (oh, did I forget to mention they're all inexplicably Irish?), a random truck full of money, and... well, a few surprises that should really be seen to believed.

I say this film is "good" because, all insanity aside, Romero keeps things extremely fun for about 60% of the film. Sadly, the middle of the flick really drags and is filled with way too much exposition. Right when I was on the edge of my seat, he slammed on the brakes for a good half hour... but the beginning and end (especially the kickass final shot) do make up for it.

Apparently, Romero's plan is do several more of these spinoff stories involving minor characters from DIARY. Personally, I'm all for it. Let's see where these go.

And now, with all that behind me, I'm back in New York. I'm overjoyed to be with my wife, family, and friends... but I'm missing The Alamo Drafthouse a hell of a lot more than I expected to.

If you EVER have the opportunity to hit up this amazing festival, do it. It more than lives up to the hype (and name). I just wish I had another four or five days to soak up all of its awesomeness.

Ah well, I guess that's what next year is for.

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