Cropsey (Barbara Brancaccio & Joshua Zeman)
An interesting enough piece of low-budget journalism that attempts to get at the truth of five or more missing children that became alleged murder victims around 25-30 years ago in Staten Island. Brancaccio and Zeman truly seem to be hunting for the facts and not out to exploit tragedy for "the sensational documentary"'s sake. Still, there's something wrong when a Geraldo Rivera piece - that is used within Cropsey for some frightening exposition (truly frightening... sickening even) - is more interesting that the doc that's enveloping it.
****** Mandrill (Ernesto Diaz Espinoza)
Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and his crew may be the most exciting new Latin American filmmakers going. In short time, they've - on modest budgets - made three well measured and breezy feel-good action hero flicks. After seeing their martial arts film, Kiltro, I knew it was only a matter of time before the studly Marko Zaror would cross over into Hollywood stardom. Well, that's already on its way as we were host to some early footage of the Mirageman remake (retitled The Defender, for some reason). I admit that Mandrill does go a little limp after a first half that's frontloaded with its brightest ideas, but seeing as how this was the first time they've screened the film for an audience, perhaps this version of Mandrill is still a work in progress. Highly enjoyable, nonetheless.
OK. So, through no fault of Metropia, I kind of hit the five day wall at this point and slid down into my chair relying on only the arm rests to keep me from sliding to the ground in glorious full-fetal nap position. Luckily, later in the night, I caught a brief second wind, but Metropia suffered for my red eyes, I won't deny that. With that disclaimer, I still wasn't feeling this animated film. Europe in the near dystopian future where the corporations blah blah blah..., and the media blah blah blah..., and the brainwashing blah blah blah... . Not that those topics are unimportant, but Christ, give it a unique spin, please. The programmers played an old Brazil trailer beforehand as a good-natured and appropriate lead in, but little did they suspect that being reminded of Brazil right before seeing Metropia was only going to shine the light on the latter's flaws.
Wow. What to say about Stingray Sam? I surely wasn't expecting this to be the funniest movie of Fantastic Fest before walking into it, but man oh man was it ever the most oddball-weirdo-nutball hilarious film I've seen in quite some time. Since the festival brings in people from across the globe, it's often telling to gauge audience responses based on geographic origin. I say that, because my perception is that Stingray Sam possesses a goofball humor to it that is distinctly American. Most of our European and Asian guests didn't seem to connect with it. Director, actor, writer, everyman, Cory McAbee talked about the political aspects of his work, and boy was it refreshing to hear an artist understand the difference between creating propaganda and letting politics influence your fictional art. I think this guy may be too smart for Hollywood to ever understand. A sad shame, because he's immensely talented... and a total freak!
****** REC 2 (Paco Plaza & Jaume Balaguero)
I wasn't too hot on REC, so I wasn't expecting to be too high on its sequel. While, mostly, that is true, I do think that REC 2 is a superior film to its predecessor. For one, the camera work is cleaner and single shots last for a much more extended and fluid period of time. Also, Paco Plaza & Jaume Balagueró's inspired idea to jump to a "helmet cam" periodically gives the film time to breath and gain some much needed punctuation that was lacking in the first. There's also a spiritual/possession element in the sequel that wasn't sound in the first. Because Plaza and Balaguero have matured as filmmakers, and because their original film has now been given space to stretch out its story (I would imagine a REC 3 is in the works...), the REC franchise has instantly become more interesting than I ever thought it could be. Props to Plaza and Balaguero for keeping their film under 90 minutes once again. Though the hands are much more steady this time around, there's only so much hand held one can stomach.