Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

2013review_action

I’ve always been far more partial to action accomplished via choreography than with CGI shenanigans. There’s a place for both, obviously, but I’m more impressed by the agile movement of bodies than I am by the placement of pixels. Unfortunately, fight scenes unassisted by CGI or wire-work are becoming a bit of a rarity these days. That said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with action scenes, big or small, that are created with the aid of technology or that eschew fisticuffs all together for exciting gunplay or vehicular hijinks. This year’s best action films are a mix of all of the above and include both domestic and international movies. What’s not included? Movies featuring superheroes. It wasn’t an intentional slight, believe me, but when it came time to rank which films offered up the most legitimately exciting and visceral thrills the thirteen below beat out the likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and others. Remember, this isn’t a ranking of movies but of the action in the movies, meaning while these aren’t all necessarily great films they do represent the best action to have hit screens this year. To that end, keep reading for a look at our choices for the Best Action Movies of 2013.

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best big bad wolves

Another Fantastic Fest is in the books, and once again we’re left counting down the days until next year. The fest continues to be the best week of the year for fans of the weird and the wonderful from all around the globe, and this year delivered on both counts. From Indian martial artists to detectives with Down Syndrome, from men reincarnated as flies to a blackly comic look at a school shooting, this year saw dozens of films that entertained, challenged, and amazed. Sure, there was also Machete Kills, but they can’t all be winners. Here are 9 that were:

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ff journey to the west

I’ve been a fan of Stephen Chow since I was first introduced to his comedic style in Shaolin Soccer over ten years ago, but it wasn’t until just recently that it dawned on me how much Chow resembles a modern-day Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton in regards to his storytelling sensibilities (and ability to wear multiple hats) while also pulling a lot of the persona of a Harold Lloyd character when he steps in front of the camera. He takes many of the recognizable elements of classic slapstick comedy and its characters and toys with them just enough to make them his own on paper before making them his own on screen. He tells underdog stories, but his underdogs are endearingly arrogant. He also tells love stories, only his protagonists are not motivated by the affections of a woman. His heroes are self-centered and pathetically so. Yet, like the love interests in the film (eventually the hero comes around) we can’t help but fall in love with them no matter what it is that motivates them. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons puts us in very familiar Chow territory without, for the first time, the onscreen presence of Chow himself. Though, while it isn’t Stephen Chow in front of the camera, it still feels very much like Chow is in front of the camera.

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ff 2013 anticipated

The most magical time of year is once again upon us as Austin prepares to open its doors, coffee houses, bars, and RV-based donut shops to visitors from around the world coming to celebrate wonderful and the weird in international cinema with Fantastic Fest. This year’s roster is a bit lighter compared to recent years, but a reduction in quantity has no bearing on quality. The fest will also be taking place in a new Alamo Drafthouse this year at the Lakeline location, and if it’s anything like every other Drafthouse it’s going to be awesome. Two of the titles I can already vouch for as being incredibly entertaining slices of cinema include the blackly comic thriller from Israel, Big Bad Wolves, and the beautifully executed action/suspense Korean film, Confession of Murder. Both are so damn good that I may actually be visiting them for a second time. FSR’s team coverage this year will be in the mostly capable hands of Adam Charles, Neil Miller, Michael Treveloni, and me. We’re excited about the entire fest and just about every movie playing, but we decided to highlight our most anticipated by picking three films each to share below.

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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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