Drafthouse Films

cc the act of killing 1

The Act of Killing is a fascinating piece of cinema that illuminates not only a tragic and disturbing slice of history but also the humanity behind it all. The term is usually used in a positive light, but one of the film’s points is that these aren’t monsters committing such acts of barbarity. They’re people. Director Joshua Oppenheimer‘s film is one of the year’s best, and while he received a helping hand from two big names in the documentary field both Werner Herzog and Errol Morris give him full credit for the accomplishment. Drafthouse Films’ upcoming Blu-ray release includes the theatrical cut with some solid special features, but it also comes with a second Blu featuring the 166-minute director’s cut (an additional 44 minutes). Even better? The longer cut includes a commentary track with Oppenheimer and Herzog. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for The Act of Killing.

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review ms 45

Thana (Zoë Lund) is having a bad day. Not only did she wake up as mute and socially awkward as she was the day before, but she also has the misfortune of being raped twice, by two different men, in completely unrelated incidents. Wrong place, wrong time… Thana is essentially the John McClane of rape victims. The double-barreled assault leaves her understandably traumatized, but instead of going to the police or curling up into a quivering ball Thana picks up a .45 and starts wandering the streets looking for misbehavin’ men. Abel Ferrara‘s Ms .45 has long been considered an exploitation classic, but while it’s often categorized as an early entry in the rape/revenge subgenre only the first half of that is accurate. There’s actually very little revenge to be found here. Instead, the film offers up a violent descent into madness that gives birth to a still mute and even more socially awkward serial killer.

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M is for Muff

By all accounts, the production behind The ABCs of Death 2 didn’t have to reach out to aspiring filmmakers to fill their 26th slot. With names like Sion Sono, Alex de la Iglesia and Vincenzo Natali rounding out the roster for the alphabet-inspired horror anthology, they could have easily enticed another heavy into the mix. Instead, they did what they did with the first film and sought a new voice from their fan base. It worked well before. So well in fact that one of the non-winners from the first contest — Chris Nash — made such an impact that he secured a spot alongside more well-established filmmakers as one of the 25. Thus, the search for the 26th director was on. Since both Rob Hunter and Scott Beggs were foolish enough to watch all of the 500+ entries, and now that the 12 finalists have been announced, they wanted to rank the disgusting dozen with an eye toward choosing who they would pick as the overall winner (and thus, the short that will be tucked away in the middle of the movie). The real winner will be announced December 15 after a mad scientist finishes his gruesome experiments or they torture it out of Tim League or something, but for now here’s two bloody cents (and 12 cool shorts to watch).

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Picture_2

Last week, Rob Hunter was so befuddled and inspired by Drafthouse Films’s newest resurrection project The Visitor that he coined a term to make sense of it: “WTF Cinema.” Says FSR’s resident critic Lorde Mayor, “Basically, these are movies that consistently challenge expectations (both visual and narrative) to the point that viewers have literally no idea what to expect. This has nothing to do with plot twists, reveals, or shock endings, and instead has everything to do with leaving an audience in a frequent state of head-scratching awe as the unexpected appears onscreen again and again.” Hunter’s coinage is a useful idiom to describe (or express one’s total failure to describe) a certain type of movie that defies easy comprehension or simple justification for its existence. But I think there’s another aspect of The Visitor worth focusing on that tells us a lot about why it’s taken on this wonderful WTF currency: The Visitor, despite not having been re-edited since its initial theatrical run, is in no way the same film it was when originally released. The Visitor is a film of 2013 more than it ever was a film of 1979.

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feature the visitor drafthouse films

I was going to review the new reissue of 1979′s The Visitor, but then a funny thing happened. I watched The Visitor. It’s hardly news to say that this thirty four year old movie is a mental fingerbang that bends genres and somehow teases both brilliance and stupidity, but I’m saying it anyway. Both highly derivative and wholly original, the film cherry picks elements from The Omen, The Fury, Phantasm, and more, and then swirls them together in a psychedelic mélange of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and pure nuttiness as it tells the story of good and evil battling over a young girl’s potty-mouthed soul. There are a handful of small distributors (including Severin Films, Vinegar Syndrome, Synapse Films) that bring weird and obscure older films to home video, but for most of them that’s their niche. It’s what they do, the very purpose of the label, and those of us who love movies are grateful for it. Code Red DVD is one such example, and a fitting one too as they were the first to bring The Visitor to the U.S. in an uncut incarnation on DVD a few years ago (that can still be purchased here). Their reach is small though, so the announcement that Drafthouse Films had acquired the film for a remastered rollout in theaters followed by a Blu-ray/DVD release was music to the ears (and eyes) of strange-cinema fans everywhere. It’s great news for many reasons, but most noticeably it’s a reminder that even with Academy Award nominees […]

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war

In honor of its latest release, I Declare War, being available on all of the usual VOD platforms as well as in theaters starting today, Drafthouse Films has decided to put the first five minutes of the film up on Youtube for everyone to try out—which is probably a smart move for smaller films like this that people might be on the fence about seeing or maybe aren’t even aware of, don’t you think? From directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, I Declare War is a sort of fantastical film about a group of kids running around outside playing war. Where the fantasy comes in is that we see things the way kids do—with an overactive imagination that makes sticks look like real guns, paint-filled balloons look like real grenades, and daycare centers look like real villages full of possible foreign operatives that need to be massacred and burnt to the ground. Okay, so I made that last one up. This film doesn’t seem to be that dark. The main kid is inspired to play war games by Patton, after all, not Platoon. Click through to watch the first five minutes, as well as a pretty stylish title sequence that spells out exactly what the rules of playing war are. Just in case all that stuff you got up to in your college years wiped away the memory.

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whydontyouplayinhell

For a lot of people, including me, hearing that Sion Sono has a new film is enough to sell the ticket. Doesn’t matter the title, doesn’t matter who’s starring, doesn’t matter the story. After Noriko’s Dinner Table, Love Exposure and Cold Fish, he’s proven himself as a visionary that’s nearly peerless in the kinds of films that he’s making — exploring identity and moral downfalls in fascinating ways. And now he’s taking on The Yakuza. In Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, Sono tosses an amateur film crew in the middle of an ongoing grudge match between two crime lords in what he calls, “an action film about the love of 35mm.” With a description like that, it’s wholly unsurprising that Drafthouse Films will be releasing it. There’s no exact date yet, but they’re planning a theatrical run for some and VOD for all. Check out the teaser trailer here:

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Sharknado

Last week, my partner hosted a screening of Miami Connection, Drafthouse Films’ release of the heretofore largely unseen low-budget Tae Kwon Do musical from 1987, for a small group of friends. Ever the meticulous party-planner, she made the viewing interactive by constructing, amongst a litany of other viewing activities, a series of Bingo cards that our friends could play while watching the film. At first, I was a bit worried that this might make the viewing of a ridiculous ‘80s cult film all too predetermined, forcing our friends to anticipate amazing lines like “I thought we are all orphans” or the transcendent pro-friendship tunes of Dragon Sound ahead of time rather than experiencing these moments organically, as she and I did the first time we saw Miami Connection. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. The interactive viewing was a great success for our dear Miami Connection virgins, and everyone went home whistling “Against the Ninja” whether they wanted to or not. But I’m not interested in talking about a party that went well (okay, maybe a little bit). I’m interested in what something like Miami Connection Bingo cards represent for people seeing the film for the first time: the simultaneous, seemingly paradoxical engagement with cult film initiation and cult film participation.

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review band called death

Ask the average person on the street to name the city that saw its walls shake with the birth of punk music and odds are they won’t answer “Detroit.” Ask them to name the band who first mashed the raw and the melodic together to create punk music before the term even existed, and they most assuredly won’t say “Death.” And we won’t even bother asking if anyone knew that the forefathers of punk were African American. But thanks to the new revelatory and inspiring documentary A Band Called Death, the truth behind the band’s nearly simultaneous birth and death may yet find them their proper place in music history. There were four Hackney boys growing up in ’70s Detroit, but while the oldest kept himself busy in other ways, his three younger brothers developed a serious interest in music. Bobby, Dannis and David taught themselves bass, drums and guitar, respectively, and then set out to change the sonic landscape. Christened Death by David, their de facto leader, the trio recorded a demo tape only to see door after door shut in their face. For some it was the idea of Black musicians rocking out instead of going the Motown route, but for most it simply came down to the band’s name. As quickly as the flame was lit it was subsequently snuffed out again. But like a phoenix, Death was destined to rise again, and when the internet came calling thirty five years later, what remained of the Hackney boys […]

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commentary-abcsofdeath

No one can accuse The ABCs of Death of lacking ambition. It features 26 short films from different directors, one for each letter of the alphabet, all centered on the theme of death. As is typical of of the format it’s a bit of a mixed bag quality wise, but genre fans and the perverts among us you will probably find enough to enjoy here to make it worth a watch. Thoughts on the actual shorts aside, this is one of the most hilarious and entertaining commentary tracks I’ve ever heard. Technically it’s 27 commentary tracks as there’s one for each short and then an opening/closing credits add-on from co-producers Ant Timpson and Tim League. As with the shorts some are better than others, but there are a handful that had me laughing aloud and rewinding in disbelief. A few others are just plain old interesting too. Keep reading to see what I learned from the commentary track for The ABCs of Death.

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A Field in England

Looks like Drafthouse Films is picking up some primo real estate, as the film distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has just announced that their latest acquisition is Ben Wheatley‘s A Field in England. Wheatley is a name well-familiar to the Drafthouse genre buffs, as he’s already directed three uniquely terrifying films (Down Terrace, Kill List, and Sightseers) and contributed a segment to Drafthouse’s own The ABCs of Death. Drafthouse and Wheatley is a perfect pairing, and one that we’ve been expecting for quite some time. For the new film, which has been described as ”a psychedelic trip into magic and madness,” Wheatley goes period all over the asses of some poor schmoes, as it centers on “English Civil War soldiers in the 17th century who are captured by an alchemist and led into a vast mushroom field, where they fall victim to violent and nightmarish forces.” Soldiers? A crazy alchemist? Mushrooms? If it’s half as scary as Kill List, theaters will have to put down tarps to capture the tears and wee of moviegoers. (This is a good thing, really, we promise.)

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poster band called death

The past couple years have seen a healthy stream of fantastic documentaries focused on the world of music. More precisely, Searching for Sugar Man, Paul Williams Still Alive and Sound City all entertained and enlightened by offering viewers a glimpse into stories from the past about people that today’s audiences have forgotten. The upcoming Drafthouse Films release, A Band Called Death, aims to do the same by re-introducing the world to a little-known but much respected punk/rock band from the early ’70s. They preceded bands we do remember but were forgotten to the ravages of time. It’s not just their timing that makes them stand out from the Caucasian crowd though… Check out the first trailer for A Band Called Death below.

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review graceland

The value of a really good story hook can never be overstated, but it’s become fairly uncommon these days to find a film that has one. The odds decrease even more when it comes to movies with a fantastic premise and a successful execution of that idea. Ron Morales‘ second feature, Graceland, manages to do both. Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes) is low level driver for a sordid congressman, and while he hates what the elected official does with his free time, he needs the paycheck to help raise his own daughter Elvie. He drives the congressman’s daughter to school every day and makes a habit of bringing Elvie along for the ride, but when a routine traffic stop turns into a botched kidnapping, his life is thrown into immediate turmoil. The captors have mistaken Elvie for the politician’s daughter and are now demanding a hefty ransom. The immoral congressman won’t pay if he thinks his own little girl is safe, so… what’s an honorable and desperate man to do?

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Angela Bettis

It seems like years since Drafthouse Films announced that they’d be boldly making a 26-part anthology that would shed a bloody spotlight on 26 different ways to die. With entries like “B is for Bigfoot” and “J is for Jidai-geki,” The ABCs of Death appears to be the kind of teaching tool that’s almost perverse enough to end up in Texas public schools. We’ve seen a trailer, written a review, and now the icosikaihexagonal horror is hitting all sorts of streaming and On Demand services ahead of its theatrical release in early March. Amidst a coordinated slew of interviews, I was lucky enough to speak via email with a personal favorite, filmmaker Angela Bettis, who starred in May, directed Roman and helmed the ABCs segment “E is for Exterminate.”

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Miami Connection

A rock band who practice Tae kwon do and sing about the joys of friendship. Ninjas who move noisily between drug deals on speeding pocket rockets. Welcome to the dangerous world of Orlando, circa 1987, and the little film that found a second chance on eBay. Miami Connection opened and closed in central Florida in 1987, never to see public exposure again, but when an industrious Alamo Drafthouse employee bought a print online for $50 a legend was reborn. The film follows a group of friends who go to college during the day and rock out at night as the house-band for an Orlando nightclub. Their world is shattered though when they’re forced into a confrontation with a rival band, poorly dressed gang members and drug dealing, motorcycle riding ninjas. Let’s listen to some commentary!

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The ABCs of Death

There’s a danger to anthology films in that the films often lack consistency when it comes to quality. They consist, after all, of multiple short films, each with their own writers, directors, and actors, and that variety can only lead to varying levels of success. So how do you combat the chance some of your shorts might suck? Make a movie featuring 26 shorts, of course. The ABCs of Death is an original Drafthouse Films production that gathered 26 filmmakers, assigned each of them a letter of the alphabet and gave them a simple task: make a very short film about death inspired by their particular letter. The roster of directors who answered the call are an international directory of genre fans and masters, and a small sampling includes Jason Eisener, Xavier Gens, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Nacho Vigalondo, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, and more. The first red band trailer has just appeared online, and you should check it out after the break.

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Miami Connection

Editor’s Note: This review appeared as part of our coverage of the 11th Annual New York Asian Film Festival, and we’re bringing it back as the film opens this weekend in limited theatrical release. Anyone who lived through the decade knows the 80s were a hazardous and dangerous time to be alive… especially if you were part of a band spreading peace and a love of Tae Kwon Do through your music and kickass stage shows. Dragon Sound is just such a group, and when they’re hired as the house band at a popular club the musicians they replaced come looking for payback. The quite literal battle of the bands soon explodes into a violent conflagration involving drug running, murder and inspirational lyrics. And ninjas. Motorcycle-riding ninjas.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis: During his trek home to Sydney from the nowhere town of Tiboonda, bonded school teacher John Grant gets side-tracked in the rough and tumble town of Bundanyabba, or as the locals call it, The Yabba. What starts with some hesitant gambling to win enough money to quit his teaching job quickly spirals into a hellish span of five days stuck with hard drinking, hard fighting, quick shooting Australian rednecks who escort Grant to the gates of his own hell.

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Miami Connection Trailer

Just a couple of weeks ago, what is arguably the best-loved movie from the ’80s, Raiders of the Lost Ark, enjoyed a good deal of success getting re-released into IMAX theaters. Seeing that the market is hot for 8’0s revivals, Drafthouse Films, the distributing arm of the Alamo Drafthouse, has decided to take it upon themselves to ready what is probably the second biggest movie of the ’80s, Miami Connection, for a theatrical run of its own. What is Miami Connection? How fortunate that you should ask now, because Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener has just cut together a new trailer for the film that will answer all of your questions. To put it simply, Miami Connection is probably the best realized interpretation of the war between Miami’s motorcycle ninja drug gangs and its martial arts vigilante rock band, Dragon Sound, that’s ever been put on film.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

  I was going to yell at most of you (yes, even you!) for not buying an advance ticket to Cinema East‘s Tugg screening of I Am Not a Hipster. Why? Because I really want to see that film, but not enough pre-sale tickets were sold so it was cancelled. But as I thought about it some more, I realized that my yelling would have probably come off as being condescending or patronizing. Besides, it is not my job to lecture the Austinites reading this column about their lack of support of independent film, now is it? It does sound like Cinema East is going to give us another chance to see I Am Not a Hipster in the near future, so stayed tuned…and please don’t let me down ever again. While on the subject of cancelled screenings… You know those high winds that came in with the “cold front” on Saturday? Well, those very same winds that brought our daytime temperatures down into the 80s (!!!) destroyed the screen at the Blue Starlite! For those of you who were disappointingly turned away from the sold out Saturday night screening of Grease, there will be a “wind check” (you know, like a rain check but without the rain) date on September 28 but you do need to send an email to them to confirm your slot. If you cannot make it that screening, you can use your “wind check” anytime before the end of the year; you just need email the Blue Starlite […]

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published: 04.16.2014
B+
published: 04.16.2014
C-
published: 04.16.2014
B-
published: 04.14.2014
B

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