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.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but 20 hours is a long time to drive. Luckily we brought Eddie Murphy standup from the 80s and the new Donald Glover standup to keep us laughing and mostly alert. We split the trip up alternating driving and cat-napping and managed to make pretty good time arriving at my parents house in Charlotte around 8:30pm on Thursday night and not too worse for the wear. After some dinner and catching up on work we caught a few hours of sleep.
We awoke the next morning and decided to head to Asheville early to catch the first screening of The Cabin in the Woods. While not a part of the ActionFest lineup, I hadn’t had a chance to see it and wanted to do so before someone had the chance to spoil something for me. It would be the first of 6 films for Brian and I and a perfect way to kick off ActionFest day one!
ActionFest is held at The Carolina Theater and while it doesn’t feature in-theater service nor the legendarily strict no-talking policy like our beloved Alamo Drafthouse, it’s a very nice theater with a cool vibe, comfy seats and a decent selection of beers at the concession stand, all of which can be carried into movies. While they are fully DCP capable, they’ve also kept 35mm projectors, an admirable practice that seems to be dwindling nationwide. In fact, our screening of Cabin was projected from glorious celluloid.
We started off with Olivier Marchal’s new film, A Gang Story, then dashed out of that into a screening of Seann William Scott’s hockey film Goon. We had our biggest break between films after Goon, a whole 30 minutes, so we grabbed Quint from Ain’t It Cool News and headed down to Zaxby’s. Introducing Brian to the greatest fast food chicken the world has ever known was high on my list of things to do this weekend, and Zaxby’s did not disappoint. I love Chik-Fil-A as much as the next guy, but trust me when I tell you that Zaxby’s is better. I swear they must sprinkle crack on their deliciously juicy chicken strips and crinkle cut fries. To make matters worse/better, they’ve decided to take on the world in the “give the population diabetes as soon as possible” contest. Last year’s big addition was a birthday cake milkshake, but this year it’s a brownie batter shake. Unreal.
After our tasty lunch break we hightailed it the 300 yards back to the Carolina just in time for feminism in comics and media doc Wonder Women! We finished up the night with back to back screenings of I Declare War and the first entry in After Dark’s new action film series, Transit. Brian and I will be doing debate style reviews of all the films we’ve seen at ActionFest, so look for those to saturate the site in the next few days.
Stay tuned for more from ActionFest 2012…