Action Fest

Austin Cinematic Limits

What have I been doing lately? I have been stalking Bryan Poyser (Lovers of Hate) on Facebook. Well, it is not technically stalking since he accepted my friendship, right? Truth be told, I am not actually a Facebook stalker, I am merely doing my job. (Really!) I am keeping tabs on the production of Poyser’s latest film, The Bounceback. As I write this, Poyser is entering week three of the Austin-based production which stars Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism), Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield), Sara Paxton (The Innkeepers), and Addison Timlin (Californication). The primary cast might not be very Austin-centric, but the crew – which includes producer Megan Gilbride, cinematographer PJ Raval, and editor Don Swaynos – certainly is. My love for Lovers of Hate and Dear Pillow knows no bounds, so let’s just say that I am eagerly awaiting the release of The Bounceback. Poyser is not the only Austin filmmaker lucky enough to be stalked by yours truly. A couple of weeks ago, I ran into the seemingly ubiquitous Alex Karpovsky at Tribeca 2012. Okay, I was not really stalking him, he was hanging out in the press lounge. (Really!) A periodic Austinite, Karpovsky mentioned that he will be in Austin in the very near future to act in Carlyn Hudson’s (Z and Beau) next film. As a fan of Hudson’s segment of Slacker 2011 as well as her short film Z and Beau, I am very excited to find out more about her project with Karpovsky.

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In an attempt to shake things up a bit and pay a bit of homage to the amazing fight sequences we saw at ActionFest, Brian and I will go back and forth on these reviews in a kind of point for point debate style as opposed to traditional review format. We hope you enjoy it. Brian Salisbury is only part man, the rest is composed of dense, angry layers of English muffin pizzas and Sno-Caps. Forged in the fire of Mt. Dubious Taste, Salisbury (alias Steak Plissken) now wages an unceasing war against the forces of good and pretentious. Entering the squared circle of ActionFest, he is determined to eye-gorge himself on action flicks and wreck as much havoc upon his Viking-bearded cohort Luke “Danger” Mullen as he routinely does upon his own digestive system. Will these two titans of genre consumption merely destroy each other in Asheville, or will their collective might leave the city a smoldering crater with only Zaxby’s cups and Cheerwine bottles to denote its former existence?  Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines is a documentary that owes more than a little to Not Quite Hollywood, but if you’re going to take cues from another doc you could do far worse than Mark Hartley’s loving ode to Ozploitation. Wonder Women starts strong, tracing the origins of Wonder Woman from inception to her modern day incarnations with several stops along the way. The film features interviews with everyone from the famous Wonder Woman TV show’s […]

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In an attempt to shake things up a bit and pay a bit of homage to the amazing fight sequences we saw at ActionFest, Brian and I will go back and forth on these reviews in a kind of point for point debate style as opposed to traditional review format. We hope you enjoy it. Brian Salisbury is only part man, the rest is composed of dense, angry layers of English muffin pizzas and Sno-Caps. Forged in the fire of Mt. Dubious Taste, Salisbury (alias Steak Plissken) now wages an unceasing war against the forces of good and pretentious. Entering the squared circle of ActionFest, he is determined to eye-gorge himself on action flicks and wreck as much havoc upon his Viking-bearded cohort Luke “Danger” Mullen as he routinely does upon his own digestive system. Will these two titans of genre consumption merely destroy each other in Asheville, or will their collective might leave the city a smoldering crater with only Zaxby’s cups and Cheerwine bottles to denote its former existence?  Goon is a low-budget hockey film written by comedy heavy-hitters Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg and directed by Fubar helmer Michael Dowse. It stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a simple guy with one specific talent: pummeling people into oblivion. This talent has landed him a job as a bouncer at a bar in Orangetown, Massachusetts. But when he attends a local minor league hockey game with his best friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) his whole life changes. He […]

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In an attempt to shake things up a bit and pay a bit of homage to the amazing fight sequences we saw at ActionFest, Brian and I will go back and forth on these reviews in a kind of point for point debate style as opposed to traditional review format. We hope you enjoy it. Brian Salisbury is only part man, the rest is composed of dense, angry layers of English muffin pizzas and Sno-Caps. Forged in the fire of Mt. Dubious Taste, Salisbury (alias Steak Plissken) now wages an unceasing war against the forces of good and pretentious. Entering the squared circle of ActionFest, he is determined to eye-gorge himself on action flicks and wreck as much havoc upon his Viking-bearded cohort Luke “Danger” Mullen as he routinely does upon his own digestive system. Will these two titans of genre consumption merely destroy each other in Asheville, or will their collective might leave the city a smoldering crater with only Zaxby’s cups and Cheerwine bottles to denote its former existence?  First up is A Gang Story, based on the true story of a gang that pulled several heists throughout France during the 70s. It focuses an aging gangster named Momon who ran the heists with a small crew, spent some time in jail for it and is now living comfortably on the earnings. When one of his former partners is caught and being sent back to jail, Momon is faced with conflicting loyalties to his partner and to his […]

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If you’re just catching up with us, Junkfood Cinema head honcho Brian Salisbury and I have made the dubiously sane decision to trek 20+hours across the country to attend ActionFest, an upstart film festival focusing exclusively on badass action films. It’s a long drive from Austin to beautiful Asheville, NC, but we’ve made it relatively unscathed and have two full days and 9 fest films under our collective belt. You can read about those first two days here and here. It is with little sleep and much caffeine that we make our way back to the Carolina theater for the third and final day of ActionFest 2012! We started day 3 with the first of 2 secret screenings on the ActionFest schedules. Rumors were flying, even as we were in line, but none turned out to be correct. The film was Sleepless Night which had previously played Toronto and our own beloved Fantastic Fest. Brian had already seen it so he went up the lounge to “work” (I’m fairly certain he drank beer and ate chicken). Despite trying to see it twice at Fantastic Fest, circumstances conspired to keep me from seeing the last 30-40 minutes or so. OK fine, the first time I just fell asleep. In any event, my dad and I stuck around for the French flick to which Warner Bros. has already purchased the remake rights. We rushed out as the credits rolled and managed to only miss the first minute or two of Goon. Yeah, […]

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If you’re just catching up, Junkfood Cinema auteur Brian Salisbury and I have driven across the country to attend ActionFest, a new film festival dedicated exclusively to the best in ass-kicking action cinema held annually in Asheville, North Carolina. After a 20 hour drive and less sleep than is advisable, we tackled day 1 with a vengeance taking in 6 films. You can read about that in my first piece here. With the closest thing to a full night’s sleep we were likely to get, we made our way back to the Carolina theater for day 2. The Carolina is much nicer than your standard multiplex, with a large open lobby, a concession stand featuring actual human food alongside popcorn and candy and a nice selection of beers on draft. There’s a lounge area above the concession stand featuring yet another small bar and a decent sized home theater-like cinema with a nice 100+” screen, an HD projector hooked up to a Blu-ray player and plush leather couches and love seats that can probably comfortably accomodate 30-40 people. This area is reserved for press and VIP badge holders during ActionFest and makes for a great spot to relax a bit and chat with other fest goers during breaks between screenings.

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ActionFest

If you haven’t heard of ActionFest, let this piece stand as your introduction. ActionFest is a young film festival held annually in April in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina celebrating, predictably, the best in badass action cinema. The fest is currently in its third year and is presided over by the likes of Magnolia founder and CEO Bill Banowsky, former Magnolia and current Weinstein Company acquisitions guru Tom Quinn, and Aaron Norris brother of Chuck. Colin Geddes, who programs the prestigious Midnight Madness slate at the Toronto International Film Festival, is in charge of programming and serves as Festival Director. These guys know action films and they’ve put together a scrappy if relatively small fest that’s a ton of of fun to attend. I happened to be in North Carolina in April of last year and decided to come up to Asheville for two days jam-packed with ActionFest films. Upon my return to Austin, I could feel Junkfood Cinema kingpin Brian Salisbury’s seething jealousy. I could literally feel it since we happen to be roommates and he spent time breathing down my neck about going to the next iteration of the fest. This is how I found myself pulling out of our driveway on Wednesday around 11:30pm, Salisbury at my side, a bag full of chips and Red Bull in the backseat and a 20 hour drive across the country ahead of us.

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Gina Carano in Haywire

When you think of the typical action hero, the image that immediately leaps to mind is undoubtedly that of a bloody, bandana-clad dude with a massive gun, or a rouge tough guy cop, or perhaps a macho kung-fu master. In other words…males. While action is a genre long dominated by men, there have been a few notable (read: 100% ass-kicking) action heroines that have left their own indelible mark: Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. To that list, we must now certainly add Gina Carano, star of Steven Soderbergh’s recent action thriller Haywire. Gina however had the advantage of being a certified badass long before throwing her first punch on screen. She is a longtime student of Muay Thai, a former champion MMA fighter, and was in fact involved in some of the first sanctioned female fights in MMA history. With knockout after knockout Carano, an undeniable knockout herself, proved that beauty and strength were far from mutually exclusive. Her work in Haywire, coupled with her successful MMA career, inspired the head honchos at ActionFest to create a new award for which she will be the first recipient. The Chick Norris Best Female Action Star Award, playfully adapted from the name of fest founder (and action legend in his own right) Chuck Norris, celebrates the contribution women have made and continue to make to action cinema. We got a chance to talk to Gina about the award, about Haywire, and, oddly, […]

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For those of you who haven’t heard, there’s a new film festival on the scene and its name is Action Fest! Founded by three men including Chuck Norris’ brother Aaron Norris, Action Fest is the self-proclaimed film festival with a body count. Magnolia exec Tom Quinn is also behind the scenes for the festival alongside Colin Geddes, the man responsible for the Toronto International Film Festival’s venerable Midnight Madness slate. Action Fest is a whirlwind festival held over a weekend in early April in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. Movies are jam-packed back to back over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was able to attend all day Friday and Saturday and saw 9 films in my short time there. I’ve done full reviews for Ironclad and A Lonely Place to Die which you can read here and here. For the rest of the films I saw I’ll be breaking things up into two pieces with three mini-reviews each, one for each day. You can read the first installment here. Finally, I’ll do a wrap-up piece summarizing the fest and what played and talking a little about the experience. Yes, for you math wizards that only adds up to 8 of the 9 films. I also saw Battle Royale which I’ll discuss in my wrap-up. This is what I saw on Saturday.

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For those of you who haven’t heard, there’s a new film festival on the scene and its name is Action Fest! Founded by three men including Chuck Norris’s brother Aaron Norris, Action Fest is the self-proclaimed film festival with a body count. Magnolia exec Tom Quinn is also behind the scenes for the festival alongside Colin Geddes, the man responsible for the Toronto International Film Festival’s venerable Midnight Madness slate. Action Fest is a whirlwind festival held over a weekend in early April in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. Movies are jam-packed back to back over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was able to attend all day Friday and Saturday and saw 9 films in my short time there. I’ve done full reviews for Ironclad and A Lonely Place to Die. For the rest of the films I saw I’ll be breaking things up into two pieces with three mini-reviews each, one for each day. Finally, I’ll do a wrap-up piece summarizing the fest and what played and talking a little about the experience.

read more...

The Scottish highlands are without doubt one of the most beautiful places on earth. In my mind, they are inexorably linked to Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and the Highlander series. There can be only one! While it may induce some snickers as audience members recall the TV series and sing the intro song in their heads, the Scottish highlands are the perfect setting for Julian Gilbey’s new film A Lonely Place to Die. A group of five friends take a vacation to hike and rock climb through the Scottish highlands. Their fun is cut short when they discover a young Serbian girl being held captive in the woods. Trying to save her, the inadvertently embark a new, more dangerous outdoor adventure. When the girl’s captors discover her missing, they begin hunting for her and those who uncovered their secret. With mercenaries sent by the girl’s father on their way for the ransom exchange, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues.

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While they’ve always been fairly popular, there seems to be a renewed surge of interest in medieval epics. Films like Valhalla Rising, Season of the Witch and Black Death as well as the impending premiere of HBO’s new Game of Thrones series are proof enough of that. Movie audiences love the mix of broadswords and blood, and Jonathan English’s new film Ironclad certainly provides both in more than ample quantities. Setting its sights on the real life siege of Rochester Castle in 1215, Ironclad is essentially a 13th century men on a mission film complete with Templars, misfits and enough carnage to sate even the most jaded genre fans.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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