Keanu Reeves seriously does not get the credit he deserves. Over the years it seems like he's just been accruing knowledge from project to project, figuring out what works for him and what doesn't, and now he's distilled and perfected something that's almost hard to define. Last year he brought the crazy, crowd-pleasing martial arts flick 'Man of Tai Chi' to the Fantastic Fest film festival, and this year he returns with 'John Wick.' It's a ridiculous action thriller in which Reeves plays a former hitman-type out for revenge because some obnoxious Russian gangster's son steals his cool muscle car and kills the puppy his dead wife sent him as a present -- yeah, really.
Renowned pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) comes out of retirement for one night only to play a classical concert in honor of his late mentor. What is already a pressure-filled evening for the stage fright-stricken musician quickly devolves into a nightmare when a mysterious man threatens to murder Selznick's wife if he makes a single mistake. Drawing inspiration from Hitchcock, De Palma and Italian horror, 'Grand Piano' is a surprisingly fun and snappy little thriller.
Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia wowed audiences a couple of years ago with his dark comedic tragedy 'The Last Circus.' He returns this year with 'Witching and Bitching,' an overloaded tale of a group of male criminals who run straight into the mouth of madness when they seek refuge in a town of witches. The film is a comedic, outlandish exploration of the battle of the sexes told through the lens of de la Iglesia, whose everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach does his story a disservice.
It's been six years since director Eli Roth released 'Hostel Part 2,' after which he starred in a Quentin Tarantino movie and a horror movie directed by his pal Nicholas Lopez that he also produced and co-wrote. Saying that 'The Green Inferno' is highly anticipated is no stretch, especially for fans of the genre. Those who go in expecting a proper throwback to the Italian cannibal horror films of the '70s won't be disappointed, and those who go in expecting yet another Eli Roth story of annoying college kids getting ripped apart in exotic locations won't be disappointed, either.
'The Sacrament,' Ti West's follow-up to 2011's 'The Innkeepers,' feels like a more mature -- albeit still slightly flawed -- outing. A trio of reporters from bad boy news brand Vice head to a cultish compound in Africa to investigate when one of their sisters sends a mysterious letter beckoning him to visit. Inspired by Jonestown (as well as the Branch Davidians and numerous other cults), 'The Sacrament' isn't quite what you expect from West, known for his slow burn horror and sharp, stinging third acts ... and that's a good thing.
'Escape from Tomorrow' is a film that shouldn't be possible -- not just because it was filmed without consent at Disneyworld in Florida, but due to the sheer audacity of some of the (not always successful) ideas and visuals on display. The film follows Jim White, a middle-aged guy on vacation with his wife and two kids at the happiest place on earth. On the last day of vacation, Jim finds out he lost his job, an event that sends him into a spiral that's part mid-life crisis, part psychosis. 'Escape from Tomorrow' subverts expectations with its near-psychedelic transformation of Disneyworld from place of joy and comfort to hellish landscape of evil.
'Machete Kills,' Robert Rodriguez's follow-up to 2010's 'Machete,' ditches the grindhouse aesthetic and homage, and instead tries to emulate a late-'80s, early-'90s action flick -- basically, Rodriguez made the kind of movie he often makes. The result is an uninspired, joyless and oft-trashy exercise in self-indulgence. Rodriguez has spent his career making films the way he wants in his own backyard, and while you kind of have to admire the audacity of it all, the intent is questionable at best.
Fantastic Fest 2013 kicks off this week in Austin, Texas -- every year, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and his selection committee choose a variety of genre films to present to movie fans and Drafthouse devotees at the festival, which takes place this year at the recently opened Lakeline location in North Austin. Fantastic Fest is the kind of festival where you'll see everything from Keanu Reeves' new martial arts film, 'Man of Tai Chi,' to independent gems like 'Detective Downs' (a movie about a private investigator with Downs Syndrome), and festival favorites like 'Escape from Tomorrow,' which was filmed guerrilla-style at Disneyland.
We had a chance to chat with Mr. League about what we can expect at this year's festival, the movie he's most excited to share with attendees, and the big events he has in store.
The Overlook Hotel does something to people. In Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining,' it drives caretaker Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) mad -- turning his writer's block into full-fledged, kill-your-family insanity. In Rodney Ascher's 'Room 237,' six different critics, historians and fans of Kubrick's horror classic share their own theories about -- and obsessions with -- 'The Shining.' All tell much the same story: they saw the movie once. They couldn't get it out of their minds. They watched it again and again. They couldn't stop. They developed elaborate theories to explain the film's mysteries and to uncover its hidden meanings. They were trapped in the Overlook, lost in its hedge maze, searching for some elusive truth. They still can't get out.
Quentin Dupieux, the mastermind behind last year's cult hit 'Rubber,' has returned with 'Wrong,' an absurdist follow-up in keeping with his debut. When Dolph awakens to find his beloved dog missing, it sends him on a journey that will affect the lives of a lonely pizza delivery operator, an eccentric zen master and his own landscaper. Filled with quirky characters, 'Wrong' embraces an even quirkier world that feels familiar but just out of reach -- much to its detriment.