Mikkel Brænne Sandemose, director of Ragnarok.
I don’t actually know what day of the week it is anymore. All I know is that I watched a lot of movies (21 as of this writing) and I have a lot more ahead of me. When I drove Jerry Belich to the airport this morning and turned on the radio during the ride back, I was shocked to discover that there a world that still exists outside the confines of an Austin movie theater. I have achieved cinema zen; I am one with the silver screen.
TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE
Dir. Ric Esther Bienstock
Tales from the Organ Trade is a documentary that digs into the black market of human kidneys, where affluent people, stuck on long waiting lists for donors, sometimes pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the kidneys of extremely poor people. The donors only receive a fraction of the money, but it’s still often two or three years’ worth of income to them. Since the trade is underground, complications arise from illnesses and greed. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a system that exploits the extremely poor, or it’s a system that could be a path for the poor to escape poverty.
It’s a decent and interesting documentary, even though it’s not particularly exciting from a filmmaking standpoint. The film is narrated by horror director David Cronenberg, of all people; he’s an interesting choice, given that he’s a far better director than a voice talent. However, that’s really the only actual flaw in a film that focuses quite well on a very interesting conundrum.
COMMANDO: ONE MAN ARMY
Dir. Dilip Ghosh
Commando is a hoot. Basically, it looks like Bollywood set out to make a Cannon action film, and this is the result. They found an actor named Vidyut Jammwal (who is like a Dolph Lundgren / Tony Jaa lovechild), lined up a bunch of stuntmen willing to be kicked in the face, added a villain whose eyes cause ominous choir music to erupt whenever sunglasses are removed, and then added a few musical numbers.
No, really. It’s awesome. It will make you wish all action films had completely unnecessary musical dance sequences.
Jammwal is a wonder to watch. He looks ginormous, but he moves far faster than someone of his bulk and stature should. From the sound of it, he also did all of his own stunts, with the exception of one.
The lead actress is also a gem, playing a very atypical female character for a Bollywood movie.
The film’s biggest flaw is that the film drags a bit between head-kicking sequences (which is also just like old Cannon films). The politics of the ending are also a bit squirm-worthy. However, the film is still quite a ride.
Dir. Mikkel Brænne Sandemose
How did I make it 20 films into Fantastic Fest before seeing a Norwegian film? Seriously, the Norwegians have been turning out some great genre titles over the last five years. Ragnarok is a decent example of this.
Ragnarok posits that the Vikings stumbled across a huge lake monster 1,000 years ago; now, in the modern day, an archaeologist seeks to locate the lake and, possibly, the treasure of the Vikings. He packs up his two kids, two assistants, and a guide, and heads out into the No Man’s Land between Norway and the former Soviet border.
Nearly everything in Ragnarok was shot on location, and that alone lends an enormous amount of scope and weight to a story that would normally look like a Z-grade SyFy original. Also, the actors are good, the script is good, and the direction is solid. The result feels a little derivative of Steven Spielberg, but it works. There are a few scenes that get the adrenaline running a bit, and it’s great.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?
Dir. Shion Sono
Man alive, where has director Shion Sono been my entire life? Clearly, I haven’t been paying enough attention.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? may be the most joy-inducing thing I’ve seen thus far at Fantastic Fest 2013. When Todd Brown introduced the movie, he said that there would be scenes that would make us want to throw our arms to the heavens and thank the Movie Gods, and he wasn’t kidding.
This is a movie seems to be what happens when Japan retrieves everything that Quentin Tarantino borrowed from Japanese cinema. The first 20 minutes of the film are directed like an ADHD hummingbird on speed, setting up dozens of strange characters in a dizzying shower of weird dialogue and dazzling visual cues. The core plot slowly emerges: a yakuza gang enlists movie nerd gang to help make a film in celebration of the gang boss’ wife’s emergence from prison.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is fast, furious, bloody, joyful, entertaining, satirical, and really fucking funny. It moves at such a breakneck pace that you won’t want to blink, for fear you might miss something. I don’t know if this movie has an audience outside people who already have a deep knowledge of film, but movie nerd should do everything they can to seek this one out.