Fantasia International Film Festival Review: ‘Relaxer’ pulls you in with its beautifully weird premise.

Y2K is right around the corner, and Cam just gave his younger brother Abbie ( Joshua Burge) the dopest, most ultimate challenge, um, ever: to beat Billy Mitchell’s infamous Pac-Man high score (by going beyond level 256’s glitch, of course) without ever getting off the couch.

Emotionally abused Abbie has accepted this challenge to finally prove a point to his older brother. He is not a quitter. With the very real threat of Y2K looming on the horizon, Abbie is hell-bent on defeating his brother’s perception of him and earning a massive cash prize all at once. But literally not getting up has consequences for our leading man. Eventually, food and drink run out. The lengths to which he will go to survive on this couch are beyond ludicrous, some downright disgusting. But this is about principal dammit. Joshua Burge, once again, proves to be a master at tackling the oddball guy with an ease that is frightening. A longtime collaborator with writer/director/editor Joel Potrykus, the two have brought some of the boldest characters and stories to life over the past 6 years. Buzzard is still one of my top recommended films of all time. Potrykus pulls inspiration from his real-life experiences. Relaxer is set at a very specific moment in time and anyone who is of a certain age will feel bombarded (in a great way) with 90’s nostalgia. Fantasia International Film Festival is the perfect platform for this film to shine. The film has a genius undertone of supernatural and the final sequence is so satisfying, I cheered out loud.

Relaxer Director Joel Potrykus

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 12th- August 2nd. You can find out more about the full lineup and tickets at Fantasia.com 

6 Films to catch at this year’s New Directors New Films Festival

New Directors New Films logo 2015Last year’s fest was a total success in my opinion. I saw some of my favorite films of the entire year there; Buzzard, The Babadook, Fish and Cat, Dear White People, and the #1 film on my Top 10 for 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. This year’s selections were just as eclectic in subject and style. Here is my personal list of things to consider at this year’s New Directors New Film Festival.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRLDiary of a Teenage Girl 1 Original

Minnie is a 15 year old with a coked out mom and little self esteem. When she takes her childish fantasies to an adult level by sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend, emotional hell breaks loose in form of a tape recorded diary and sketches turned animated thoughts. This film jumps off the screen with a breakout performance from Bel Powley as Minnie. She is funny, insightful, and an apparent old soul, all while still just a kid trying not to lose her shit. The added element of the animation only adds to the wonder of this film. Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s absent mother. She is a revelation in this role. You know, those rare cinematic moments when you forget who the actor is because you’re so immersed in the performance, that it’s a winner. Alexander Skarsgård is the creepy object of Minnie’s affection. This is not a coming if age tale for our lead, but truly for the adults in the film. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl will remind you of your own sexual awakening. All the awkwardness, the curiosity, and frankly, the lies you were told by everyone around you. Rediscover your own past. Go ahead.

VIOLETVioletJesse has been through a terrible trauma. He is despondent after the murder of his good friend, just feet from him at a local mall. Violet is a look into the world of survivor’s guilt. The camera work alone should get you through the door. Breathtaking closeups coupled with soft focus and exquisite sound editing creates a barrage of sense memory moments for both for Jesse and the audience alike. The uncomfortable silence (dialogue wise) is the key to this film. At a tight 82 minutes run, Violet is about what’s not being said.

WESTERNwesternWestern is a documentary that takes us into the world of small town politics up against very large drug cartel violence in the two bordering towns of Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Mexico. Mayor Chad Foster puts on a brave face as violence escalates and threatens the harmony he’s worked so hard to procure in Eagle Pass. Mayor Jose Manuel Maldonado, tries his best to ease the minds of local constituents and the mass media alike. Local cattle rancher, Martin Wall’s, smile turns hard in the wake of a temporary USDA ban on livestock trade over the border. Each of these men is doing their darnedest to maintain peace, safety and the livelihoods of so many others. Pulling the curtain back on what feels like scenarios that only happen in the movies, is eye opening. You have to remind yourself that these folks are living, breathing people with families and loved ones. This documentary is unusually educational and will certainly restore your faith in humanity.

LISTEN TO ME MARLONLISTEN TO ME MARLON (300dpi)This doc opens up in a jarring fashion. Reminiscent of the floating head at Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion, there we see and hear the disembodied “Head” and voice of Marlon Brando. Director, Stevan Riley has granted the world the access he gained to mountains of audio tapes made by Brando himself. Some are self hypnosis tapes in which he recalls childhood moments once kept very close to his chest. Through archival footage and Brando’s own voice, we delve into the personal life of the reclusive star. These confessional tapes reveal a side of this legend not many people were privy to. Acting was somewhat of a spiritual outlet. His charisma was endless, as was his passion for sex and affection. Receiving little from his alcoholic parents, Brando‘s ego was lifted by his enormous talent, perhaps too far for the likes of some. Although, as you listen to him speak, you gather that he was a rather astute, observant, reflective man who struggled with real abandonment issues that never truly get resolved for him. Tragedy followed him in his personal life and the genius and attention swallowed him hole at times. Listen To Me Marlon is a gorgeous portrait. When you stop taking notes during a film and just listen, as a critic, that is the moment of pure magic.

GOODNIGHT MOMMYGOODNIGHT MOMMY_Still 2Give a kid an inch, so they say, and they’ll take a mile. Twins Lukas and Elias have been awaiting the return of their mother. She has just completed facial reconstructive surgery. Longing for her love and affection, the boys are thrown into detective mode when Mom returns a different person. Face completely bandaged and rage on the surface, she forces the boys to maintain quiet and changes all the rules. Something clearly amiss, Lukas and Elias must find a way to make her admit who she really is, while facing the changes themselves. Much like last year’s The Babadook, psychological torture is in the cards. Can you stomach the tactics used by children when they don’t fully understand the consequences themselves? Goodnight Mommy will scare the hell out of you and make you squirm like never before.

DOG LADYdog ladyFollowing a woman surrounded by a pack of discarded dogs, this film highlights the off-grid lifestyle to the nth degree. The film’s subject, played flawlessly by co-director Verónica Llinás, chooses to live on the outskirts of Buenos Aires in a what begins as a primitive lean-to, and progresses in sound structure along with the movie itself. We follow our lady through four full seasons as she forages for food and supplies. Her ingenuity is astounding, taking what is essentially trash and making a home for herself. She has absolutely zero dialogue. The sparse dialogue that does exist comes from what little human interaction she allows; taunting children, a clinic doctor, and a brief sexual encounter with a rather verbose rancher. This film is highly engrossing, perhaps causing the viewer to reassess the amount of material objects we carelessly cast aside. Her sense of survival and her clear warm spirit guide this film along it’s year long timeline. There is definitely something to be said about the it’s wide final shot. It will force you to  come to terms with your true feelings of our Dog Lady.

You can find out more about these incredible films, and so many more, at NDNF. The Diary of a Teenage Girl opens tonight! Screenings during the fest take place at MoMa and FSLC.

 

In Case You Missed It: News of the Week 3.7.15

avengers-marathonOn Demand

HBO GO Expiring – 3/15/15: Here Are 5 To Catch Before It’s Too Late

Tanks, Diaries, Fire, Cons & Secrets: 5 New Movies on Netflix

Buzzard04In Theaters

10 years Later… ‘WTC View’ is being released on iTunes. Liz interviews Director Brian Sloan and star Michael Urie

3 Movies For the Price of 1: The Animal Trilogy: ‘Buzzard,’ ‘Ape,’ ‘Coyote’ at BAM

Want to Attend Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Premiere with Robert Downey Jr?

product-1184x665-YOS-0107aTV News

Orphan Black Season Three Trailer is Here!

Community Season 6 Trailer is Here and It’s Spectacular

Are The Expendables Headed to TV?

NBC Releases Summer Premiere Dates Including Hannibal!

Jada Pinkett Smith Not Returning for Season 2 of ‘Gotham’

avengerstrip-125471Movie News

The Ultimate Marvel Marathon is Coming to Theaters!

Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams to Star in Sci-Fi Film ‘Story of Your Life’

‘Imitation Game’ Producer Takes on Roger Clemon’s Biopic ‘The Rocket’

Rumor: Drew Goddard Writing and Directing New Spider-Man Movie

First Look at Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’

Walt Disney Animation Studios Reveals ‘Zootopia’ Concept Art

dabs_myla-MA_logo_painting-14248148862015 MTV Movie Awards Nominations Announced

Saturn Awards Nominations Have Been Announced!

‘Independence Day 2′ Finds It’s Lead and Adds A Familiar Face!

RIP Albert Maysles

Disney’s Upcoming ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Adaptation Has Found its Beast..and Gaston!

‘Wolverine 3′ Will Shoot Early Next Year

‘Toy Story 4′ Won’t Continue Story from ‘Toy Story 3′, says Pixar president

Indy Film Fest Fave ‘Ben’s at Home’ is Getting a Web Series…Hell Yes

Our First Look at Jared Leto’s Transformation into The Joker!

Furious7onelastposterbigTrailers & New Clips

The New Trailer for ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is Here! Oh..and Our First Look at Vision!

The International Trailer for ‘Dark Places’ Starring Charlize Theron has Arrived!

Extended First Look at ‘Furious 7′ Has Been Released!

Potential Description of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Teaser Trailer 2!

1251623 - ChappieReviews & Interviews

Michael’s Review: ‘Chappie’- This Robot Story Doesn’t Compute

Jeremy’s Review: Riley Stearns’ ‘Faults’ Gives a Killer Twist on Cult Life

What the hell is ‘BUZZARD’?! It’s only the best thing ever – Liz chats with Writer/Director Joel Potrykus

Post-Oscar Rants & Raves on The Reel Big Show

Liz’s Review: ‘X/Y’ and why we’re not all fine.

Liz’s Review: ‘OCTOBER GALE’ is a quiet storm

What the hell is ‘BUZZARD’?! It’s only the best thing ever – Liz chats with Writer/Director Joel Potrykus

buzzard_final

I promised Joel I wouldn’t title this “The Buzz on Buzzard”, and I didn’t. I kept that promise (though, I guess I just wrote it… but I digress) Anyone that would degrade this film in using that title, just plain sucks at life. I know, my eloquence astounds you, but in all seriousness, BUZZARD is one of the weirdest, coolest, totally magical, and yet indescribable movies of the year. Yup. I said it, and I’m not even sorry. We’ve all had endless conversations, at this point, about our Top 10 Movies of 2014. And if you haven’t seen our posts yet, shame on your face. But, what most of you didn’t know is that I had a secret addendum to mine. BUZZARD was my special “I have to tell people about this movie” selection.

buzzard

So let me just launch into the premise. Marty works a crap temp job. Scamming the system is his game, and he’s pretty good at it. Until one truly face palm moment throws his existence into a series of even more terrible life choices and a downward spiral of paranoia. How long can Marty survive? It’s anyone’s guess. This film is an inspiration for everyone who has worked a mundane job just to live paycheck to paycheck. Marty is every man’s hero. He takes the “Damn The Man” attitude to the nth degree. He does all the things we think about doing, but he actually does them. Unapologetically and with much pride, Marty’s fearless audacity lies somewhere between genius and insanity. He is most definitely someone I would dub the “King of Mediocrity” or “Captain Bullshit”, both I mean in all due respect. He is kind of like a giant 14 year old in 1994, trapped in a 20-something year old’s body. Let’s be real, if you or I could get away with the shit this guy pulls, we would do it in a heartbeat.

Buzzard04

Joshua Burge plays Marty in such a effortless manner it’s frightening. One might almost think that this film were a documentary. This says a lot about both Josh’s acting ability and how sensational Joel’s script is. Fun fact I learned in watching the credits, Joel plays Derek, Marty’s best friend in the film. He is also downright hilarious in his honesty. He likes what he likes even if a tad socially inept. Playing by the rules is his safety net. He is the perfect foil for Marty, whose disdain for authority is incontrovertible.  BUZZARD is undeniably accessible. Everyone I’ve spoken with since I first saw this film at the New Directors/New Film Fest in 2014 love it. All ages, all backgrounds, not a single person has anything negative to say about this film. Clearly, I am on that ship. I cannot express how much fun this film is, so you know what that means, right? You now have to go see it and/or rent it on demand, and then you can come back and tell me how right I was. Good Talk.

Buzzard02

Speaking of good talks… I got to have a sweet one with Joel Potrykus about this awesomeness. Take a listen because we both know you’ll be better for it. *PS- a small office dog makes an appearance, you’ll hear the jingle of this little dude at moments. Try not to get confused. OK, now go! *

BUZZARD – TRAILER from Oscilloscope Laboratories on Vimeo.

Marty is a caustic, small-time con artist drifting from one scam to the next.  When his latest ruse goes awry, mounting paranoia forces him from his lousy small town temp job to the desolate streets of Detroit with nothing more than a pocket full of bogus checks, a dangerously altered Nintendo® Power Glove, and a bad temper.  Albert Camus meets Freddy Krueger in BUZZARD, a hellish and hilarious riff on the struggles of the American working class.

Oscilloscope Laboratories will release Joel PotrykusBUZZARD in U.S. theaters and digitally on March 6, 2015. Written and directed by Potrykus, the film stars Joshua Burge and was produced by Michael Saunders and Ashley Young. Associate Producers are Kevin Clancy and Tim Saunders.

New Trailer: SXSW Favorite ‘Buzzard’

buzzard_finalMarty is a caustic, small-time con artist drifting from one scam to the next.  When his latest ruse goes awry, mounting paranoia forces him from his lousy small town temp job to the desolate streets of Detroit with nothing more than a pocket full of bogus checks, a dangerously altered Nintendo® Power Glove, and a bad temper.  Albert Camus meets Freddy Krueger in Oscilloscope Laboratories will release Joel Potrykus’ BUZZARD in theaters and digitally on March 6, 2015. Written and directed by Potrykus, the film stars Joshua Burge and was produced by Michael Saunders and Ashley Young. Associate Producers are Kevin Clancy and Tim Saunders. Read More →