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.
While attendance was definitely up this year over last year, the fest is by no means crowded. This is refreshing for attendees as we never had to rush to a screening or wait in line for an hour and could easily change our minds about what we wanted to see and walk into a different film a few minutes before it started. I have no doubt that this will change as the fest grows but for now it gives the fest a laid back vibe that bigger fests just can’t match.
Day 2 started with my dad driving up from Charlotte to join us. It was perfect timing as our first screening of the day was The Raid, a film I was anxious to see again and one I felt sure my dad would love. Things got off on the right foot with a special taped intro from director Gareth Evans who apologized that we would have to wait 3 or 4 minutes before someone got shot in the head. As penance for this treachery, he had the film’s star kick another actor in the stomach so we could see some ass kicking right away. It was a perfect way to intro the film, which, predictably, went over like gangbusters with the crowd.
After The Raid, we could all feel the hunger deep in our stomachs so we made the short trek to Zaxby’s to fuel up on chicken and french fries. The chicken is tender and juicy with a light, unobtrusive breading and the crinkle cut fries are sprinkled with some kind of dark orange spice that should be banned for its addictive properties. Fast food has no business tasting this good.
Mind-bogglingly full, we headed back to the Carolina and took in some of the stunt show taking place in the parking lot. Perhaps most jaw-dropping were the antics of one Crazy Mike, who did things on motorcycles that seemed to defy physics, safety and sanity all at the same time. Sufficiently impressed we headed inside for the Donnie Yen period piece The Lost Bladesman. A fine slice of epic Chineses filmmaking, The Lost Bladesman features Donnie Yen beating fools like usual, only this time he favors a longsword instead of just his fists. We took a few minutes after this film to relax in the upstairs lounge where they happened to be playing Johnnie To’s Vengeance before heading back down for Headhunters. Brian had missed this one at Fantastic Fest so he was playing catch up with the Norwegian black comedy. There were smiles all around as the credits rolled.
After this we caught a bit of the awards ceremony but it was time for food again so we didn’t stick around too long. We’d had so much junk that Boston Market called to us like a beacon of hope. It was probably the closest to home cooking we were going to get and we devoured a family style meal of juicy turkey breast and delicious chicken alongside corn, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. Brian decided that spiral noodle mac and cheese is vastly underrated and has generally been getting the shaft in the reign of the tyrannical elbow noodle. What can I say, these are how our conversations go.
We headed back to the Carolina once again to finish up the night with Dragon Eyes, which was the second entry in the new After Dark action series. Sadly, despite the presence of JCVD and Robocop himself, Peter Weller, Dragon Eyes faired worse than Transit. It should be noted that star Cung Le is certainly quite an ass-kicker, we just hope to see him in some better films in the future. That wrapped up day 2 for us and we schlepped back to the hotel for a few hours sleep with day 3 looming on the horizon like a roundhouse kick to the face!