SXSW Review: The Ranger

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Written by Antonio Quintero

The Ranger is if someone took an Anti- punk TV episode and turn it into a slasher feature film. One of those TV special episodes that tries to expose the evils of punk; but they only end up making the punks look awesome and the norms look like the weirdos. I love this film; I am glad I go to see at SXSW.

In this film if you’re a punk and go into the forest; you will meet the killer ranger. Although, the punks are not completely good people in this film; at least their honest. The Ranger in the other hand looks normal; but it hides a darkness inside him. I see this film as a fight between mainstream and punk culture.  I am rooting for the punks in this film.

This is a punk/slasher/cabin in the woods film; It’s about a group of punks that after a drug deal gone bad; they get a lot heat from the police and  flee the city. One of their members a girl name Chloe (Chloe Levine) takes them to a cabin in the woods of New Jersey that belonged to her uncle. The only problem is that these woods are guarded by a psychotic park ranger. He doesn’t mind spilling the blood and guts of this punk to keep order in his forest. Now this punk must survive one of the most dangerous camping trip ever.

I love the look of the two opposing forces in this film; the punks and the ranger; order vs chaos is perfectly capture in this fun flick. The punks with their FU attitude, leather jackets, dyed hair and chains. They are portrayed as the ultimate spirit of freedom and chaos. In the other hand you have the titular ranger (Jeremy Holm) that looks like if a Park Ranger poster came to life. Everything about him looks perfect from his hair to his perfectly press uniform. He is the perfect symbol of order. He is the symbol of order trying to stump down on the chaotic punks. His normalcy exudes creepiness in this film. His perfection makes you uneasy. Holm’s plays this role perfectly as his character enjoys enforcing his law on these punks. His character seems to have come from a Larry Cohen story. The filmmaker succeeded in creating a twisted version of an authority figure. I love it; the Maniac Cop would be proud of the Ranger. This is a great subversive horror film.

The kills in this film would fit in a mid-80s slasher film. Head rolls in this film. They feel like the classic slasher kills I would see at midnight movies. I specially love films that know how to use a bear trap. The ranger makes this kill great with his personality. He just seems to light all the death around with his performance. The film also boasts a great punk soundtrack which compliments the atmosphere of the film.

Fans of horror genre are going to love this subversive horror film. It provides great frights and laugh. This gets my seal of approval of a film that must be listen loud.

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SXSW Review: Number 37

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By Antonio Quintero

In the last few years covering Fantastic Fest I noticed many great genre films coming from South Africa. Just in the last Fantastic Fest I saw two great genre films from the region; The Five Fingers for Marseilles and Wizard. This brought to my attention The Number 37; the feature film debut of Nosipho Dumisa.

The Number 37 is being promoted as Rear Window in Cape Town and yes; it does have the basic structure of Hitchcock’s film; but this is more like a crime thriller; than the originals murder mystery. The film is about a criminal Randall (Irshaad Ally) that has recently being left a paraplegic after a job gone wrong. Randall is now confine to a wheelchair and is stuck in his small apartment in Cape Town. His girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman) gives him a gift of binoculars so that he won’t get bore in the apartment when she is away. During one of his watches of his neighborhood he witnesses a gang leader that lives in the apartments across the street from his murdering a woman. He comes up with a plan to blackmail out his money. At the same time there is a dangerous loan shark that Randall owes money and if he doesn’t pay him; he dies.

The film is a combination of the modern and classic cinema. The cinematography that uses the style of Fincher with Hitchcock’s use of suspense. Every time you get a moment of violence the camera pulls away which to me is even more terrifying as the mind fills in the blank. The director also is great at prolonging the suspense and not relying in jump scares. Most of the film takes place in the apartment and it gives us a claustrophobic atmosphere. This is an incredible use of a limited space. You hold your breath of the dangers that are heading toward this location from Randall’s decision.

The performances are great all around; but there were two that grab my attention; Randall the films lead. He is scum; it seems that his scheme gets everyone around him hurt.  At the same time, he feels guilty about it. You feel at any moment the guilt from his bad decision are going to crush him. I had hated him and at the same time I did not wanted him to get caught. This reminded me of Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window that he also wasn’t a nice person.  The other stand out acting performance that caught my attention is Pam (Monique Rockman) she is the character in the film I was rooting the most. Pam is loyal to Randall and takes a lot of abuse from him. She is the strongest character in the film, she goes thru some terrible challenges in the film. Yet, she still stands tall after going thru them. You can tell she is toughest character in the film.

I love the number 37; Nosipho Dumisa is now on my list of filmmakers to pay attention on their future projects. I am curious of the things she can do with a bigger budget. South Africa delivers another great genre films. If you love crime thrillers you should be in the lookout for the Number 37

 

SXSW Review: Heavy Trip

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Written by Antonio Quintero

              About 2 years ago at Fantastic Fest I was at the Fantastic Market. The audience there was shown a 10-minute clip of a work in progress Finnish film at the time called Impaled Rektum. Those 10 minutes were hilarious; I couldn’t wait to see the finish film. After not hearing much of the film I just forgot about the film. A few days before SXSW as I was looking over my schedule I notice a picture that remind me of the Impaled Rektum; but it was now called Heavy Trip. This quickly became one of my top film to see at SXSW. I am happy to say that after the long wait this film exceeded my expectation.

              Heavy Trip is the closest were going to get to a Metalpocalypse live action film. It features a kick ass Death Metal Soundtrack, Gallons of Deer blood, Explosion, projectile vomiting, ancient Scandinavian imagery and metal friendship. The film is hilarious; but it does not insult the metal genre. You can tell the filmmakers were in love with the metal genre with the reference and there is even moment when you can freeze an image in the movie and it would make a great metal album cover.

              The film is about a group of 4 friends in a small town in Finland that have a Death Metal band. They been practicing in one of the members parent’s basement for 12 years; but have yet to play in front of an audience. An opportunity arises from hell and they get an invitation to play at Metal Music Festival in Norway. Now it’s up to them to see if they can make it to this gig. At the same there trying to gain the respect of their hometown.

              Just like any metal song, this film is about rebellion as these friends are the outcast in their town. The reaction they have with the other locals in their town are hilarious. Even though their harmless they are seemed by the townspeople as dangerous. You will fall in love with the odd members of this band. The lead singer with the heart of gold that lacks the confidence to take the band to the next step, the lead guitar guy that is trying to come up with a sound for them, the bass player that has an encyclopedic knowledge of metal and my favorite one their drummer that is the one with the greatest enthusiasm to see the band finally break out.

              I hope this film gets distribution and I don’t have to wait years to see it again. I want to show it to all my metal loving friends. This is a film that will make you laugh and bang your head. Once again an a Scandinavian country delivers a great genre film.

SXSW Review: A Vigilante

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A vigilante a new film starring Olivia Wilde where she is the equalizer for abuse women cross with the punisher. Wilde plays a woman that went thru a horrible experience of domestic abuse and when going to counsel and learning the stories of other women that had similar experience; She decides to make a difference by creating a special service to protect women from abusive husbands. All she ask for her service is a few bucks and food. She doesn’t kill the husband; but severely kicks their ass and gives them the option to give leave most of their money to their wife and kids and get the hell out of their life. The consequences of not following her instruction its lots of broken bones.

This film does not shy away from the violence. The violence is visceral; it has the feel of a 70s revenge film. At the same time a threat from her pass has returned and she must now save herself. Everything she has learn in her journey will be put the test.

Although, this sounds like is an action film is; is more of a drama. The fight is short and brutal; with them being one sided. There is scene in which women counseling group of domestic abuse. This were the most disturbing scenes in the film. I was not surprised that these stories told in the group were based on true stories that were discover from investigation from the filmmaker.

A surprising film; I was not expecting it to be this visceral; but at the same time not exploitative on the subject. A big surprise at the festival.

SXSW Review: A Quiet Place

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SXSW started with a bang this year with the film A Quiet Place; A sci-fi apocalyptic film from Director John Kransinski. The film is a post-apocalyptic film about a family trying to survive in a world rule by monster that hunt by sound. In this world if you make a noise; you die.

The family consist of a mon and dad and their 3 kids. There oldest one is deaf and the cause of their most worry as she cannot discern if she makes a noise. The character is played by Millicent Simmonds a deaf actress. It adds to her performance. You can tell from her just movement that they cast a deaf girl. The parents are played by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt they do a great job as the parent trying to do everything possible to save their kids from the monsters. The child actors in this film are amazing. There great at expressing maturity in this dangerous world..

About 95% of the dialogue of this film is done thru sign language, which reminded me of this film I saw a few years ago the Tribe. As you don’t get spoken dialogue or loud sounds from the characters make poignant the moments were sound. It hits like a hammer the sound; after the film being silent. It was a great tool to create suspense. This film uses tension incredibly. I hope you get to see this film in a theater with a great sound system.  There were moments at my screening where you could hear everyone in the audience holding their breath; whenever the suspense ramps up.

They did a great job in showing a world where people do their everyday chores while not making a sound.  I never would have thought of the way they wash clothes and other things.

If you love Sci-Fi with a lot of drama, then this is a film you must seek out.

Top 11 Films of 2017

There were many films that I loved this year. This made it tough to narrow them down to a top 11 list, but this are film that I found to be perfect.

1) Get Out

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One of the biggest surprises of the year. One of the most subversive horror films in year. I am happy when a film like this one is successful. It was one of the best experience I had at a theater this year

 

2) Tigers Are Not Afraid 

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No film pull harder on my heart strings than this one. In a year with a lot of great Child performances; this one had the best one. The director Issa Lopez is one you should look out in the future.

3) Bad Genius

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The best heist film I saw this year. It takes place in a high school and its about kids cheating of test.

4) War of the Planet of the Apes

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It neatly ties all the knots of this trilogy and sets the future world of planet of the apes.

 

5) Dunkirk

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I feel bad for you if you didn’t get tow watch this film in a big screen. Nolan knows how to shoot epic scenes. Its amazing the way in which the 3 stories of the Dunkirk evacuation are edited together.

 


6) The Shape of Water

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Guillermo Del Toro gives us an amazing adult Fairy Tale. This is the closet we are going to get to Del Toro’s Creature from the black lagoon film.


7) Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

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This a great gray film, in which there not clear good or bad guys. It shows that life is more complicated that we think. I love this film does not take the easy way out in its choices.


8) Coco 

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Its been a while since Pixar has made a film I love. This feel like a welcome return to the Golden Days of Pixar.


9) Logan 

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It show you don’t have to follow the regular comic book formula to make a great comic film. A film that stands tall in taking comic book movies in a different direction. We get without doubt the best Xmen film of all time.


10) Most Beautiful Island

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One of the most important film in the age of Trump. A great immigrant story, about a new arrival trying to survive in the USA.

 


11) Top Knot Detective

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The funniest film I saw this year. I was also surprised that it has a great dramatic story. The only thing that disappointed is that I can’t watch all the episodes of this forgotten Japanese series.

 

Fantastic Fest Review: Top Knot Detective

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          Top Knot Detective is the funniest film I saw at Fantastic Fest and one of the best I seen this year. This is an amazing documentary about a forgotten Japanese television I never heard from before. It’s supposedly one of the worst TV shows ever made. It’s a crazy show that features lesbian cannibals, penis monster, and time traveling baseball bats. We get to see footage from the show that were rescue by fans that recorded episodes in VHS tapes. Even with all the craziness in the show the behind the scenes stories of the making of this show are even crazier; especially from its creator Takashi Takamoto.

The show starred, written and directed by Takashi Takamoto. He is not the nicest guy; it seems that he always had to be the center of attention. At the same time, he has the loyalty and love of a small group of people that worked on the show. The one person of the crew that hates Takashi is His friend/rival Haruto Kioke the more talented actor/stuntman of the show; he is constantly berated by Takashi. Their relationship is the core of this story as it reminded me of one of the greatest Simpsons episode “Homer’s Enemy” Haruto is the Grimes of this story. He can’t believe a man as incompetent as Takashi can get the fame, the fortune and the girl.

The Show is about a Samurai that after his lord is murder, leaves his clan and becomes Ronin. Well I should say he decides to become a Samurai Detective. He roams the lands of Japan to seek vengeance on the person that kill his lord.

One of the best film about Japanese Business Media Culture. You see the way in which their stars are groomed and their reputation are protected. You get to see the way in which the entertainment industry can destroy the life of an actor after embarrassing their company. The thing I seen many of this film. You also get to learn about the way in which the entertainment industry is run in Japan. Which too many of us look like a parody of commercialism.

The film has a lot in common with films like The Disaster Artist and Ed Wood in that your following a person with lots of passion; but not the knowledge of how to make a film. There is bad edit, bad special effects and a crew member walking into the camera. The film takes a different direction when a murder plot occurs in the behind the scenes of the show.

Top Knot detective is a film that you must watch if you like watching films about filmmaking. This is a film that you can watch many times as you start noticing new things every time you watch it. Now, the film does not have any distribution. I hope they do as this one of the funniest films I seen this year.  Oh Yeah, I totally forgot to tell you everything about this documentary is fake.