If short films are the new calling card for Hollywood hopefuls, then I’d like to jump the gun a bit and draw everyone’s attention to Toonocalypse. It doesn’t exist yet, but when it does it’ll be a Scottish sci-fi short, live-action mixed with animation, probably around 15 minutes in length, about cute, two-dimensional cartoon aliens who land on Earth. The pitch is that it’s Cloverfield meets Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and I’m thinking that Gremlins and District 9 are relevant to the plot, as well. The film follows these toons’ acceptance by and entry into society followed by a revelation, one year later, that they’re not as adorable and peaceful as they seemed. It’s all shown through the lens of a student’s camera as he documents the events. Yeah, found footage and documentary-style movies are becoming tired, but we occasionally see something worthwhile in the format, like Chronicle. I don’t know that every genre and subgenre needs its own found footage entry, but the Gremlins/Critters/Attack the Block type seems like a good fit. If E.T. was made now, Elliot would have a camera phone in the iconic extraterrestrial’s face immediately. So, I give writer/director Owen Rixon some credit and a break for coming up with this idea that is somewhat unoriginal yet something I really want to watch.



This year promised a number of great original science fiction movies from Hollywood, and then it turned out most of them weren’t even good let alone great — the sort that left us with way too many unanswered questions regarding their plot holes. Meanwhile, in the fantasy genre, we continued to see the studios churning out one YA adaptation after another in the hopes of it being the next Hunger Games (or still the next Harry Potter or Twilight or even Star Wars in the case of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and ironically having no clue how to find the *magic* in the appeal of these kinds of stories. And of course there’s the ever-growing subgenre of superhero movies, which really only disappointed this year because they arrived in the wake of 2012’s The Avengers, not simply because most of the output was sequels (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; The Wolverine) that were merely okay rather than totally awesome. As I’ve noted in the past, I don’t consider Gravity to be sci-fi (even after learning that some tech in the film doesn’t exist yet), but I’ll let it be known that if I were to qualify the outer space thriller, I’d put it in the number 6 slot on account of its gripping visual storytelling and little else. As for another popular choice (one that made a few FSR staffer’s best of lists, as well as our democratically voted top 10), Pacific Rim might have made this […]



There are big movies and there are little movies. I mean that entirely in the sense of budget and release, promotion and theatrical scope. In the United States we talk most about our wide studio releases, then homegrown smaller independent films and the big-name foreign imports. But that leaves quality filmmaking to fall through the cracks. Movies that, for one reason or another, no one seems to be talking about. There are overlooked gems, and then there are the deep cuts. The homegrown niche dramas, the Irish horror flicks, the Latin American comedies, the Scandinavian experiments in nonfiction? This year saw some extraordinary unheralded work from abroad, alongside some excellent films that came from unexpected domestic places. Here are thirteen of them.


discs header i declare war

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. I Declare War A group of pre-teen boys (and one girl), some friends and some not, gather for a game of war in the back woods. Using sticks, a simple set of rules, and their endless imagination, the battle grows to include M-16s, grenades, bazookas, and more, but while all of those are allowed things soon take a dark turn. Jealousy and insecurity fuel one boy’s rage to the point where the war stops being a game. This Canadian import starts off like the perfect encapsulation of a day in the life of a twelve year old boy with its mix of physical activity and imagination-fueled violence. It becomes something more though as one of the boys begins to crack, and some of the kids enter a Lord of the Flies-like scenario built on fear and peer pressure. It’s a bit rough around the edges at times, particularly with some of the child actors, but it never lets go of its sense of fun. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, trailer]


Midnight movies at Sundance can be fun, often offering up bizarre and strange experiences. In the past that has included movies like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (loved it) and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (wasn’t so fond of it). The real thing to take away is from this section is that you never know what you’re going to get, just like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. With Grabbers, a UK film set in Ireland, you’re getting something very enjoyable, which will hopefully get picked up and distributed somewhere, even if it’s the Syfy channel or BBC America. I’d even love to see the Alamo Drafthouse pick up this movie with their distribution arm and turn it into a midnight event film. Why? Because the premise involves Irishmen fighting monsters while drunk. If there was ever a perfect movie for a theater connected to a bar, this is it.

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published: 12.17.2014
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