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Fantastic Fest 2015 Recap: Day 3

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Previous Recaps: Day 1, Day 2

Day 3- Sat 9/26

Saturday was another solid movie day with two splendid foreign animation films, a crowd-pleasing comedy, Ben Wheatley’s latest feature, and an intense performance from Itchy-O, the dark lords of percussion.

Film 9- April and the Extraordinary World
Director- Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci
Cast- Marion Cotillard, Jean Rochefort, Olivier Gourmet, and Philippe Katerine

April and the Extraordinary World, or April and the Twisted World, as the subtitles on the screen read, is a French-Belgian-Canadian animated film based on the graphic novels of Jacques Tardi. It takes place in 1941, in a bleakly revised France where Napolean V is the ruler and things like radios, televisions, electricity, and combustion engines don’t exist. For 70 years the world’s brightest scholars have been disappearing, causing a stunt in the growth of technology and creating a world that thrives on coal and steam.

April (Cotillard) and her talking cat, Darwin (Katerine), join up with her grandpa, Pops (Rochefort), and savvy police informant, Julius (Marc-André Grondin), and set off on a grand adventure to search for her missing parents. There’s so much to love about this movie; the compelling story, the old school hand drawn 2D animation, the steampunk aesthetic, and the contraptions like the flying blimp bikes that the police operate. It’s a grey world, but the characters are full of life and voiced with zeal. (In French with English subtitles.)

4 out of 5 Nerdskulls

April and the Extraordinary World was picked up by Gkids for U.S. distribution and will release in early 2016.

Stills (click to enlarge):


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Film 10- The Brand New Testament
Director- Jaco Van Dormael
Cast- Benoît Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, Yolande Moreau, François Damiens

“Blasphemy!” That’s the reaction some folks will have to the new film written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael (Mr. Nobody). In The Brand New Testament, God is real and he lives in an apartment in Brussels with his 10 year old daughter, Ea. She plans to choose 6 apostles and write a new testament to uplift the human race. It’s a fresh and funny religious satire–a co-production from France, Belgium, and Luxembourg– where God must enter the world he created and deal with the universal laws and consequences.

The audience was really into it. The movie is smart, it has a delightful tone, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It playfully mines religion–a somewhat taboo subject–for plenty of laughs without being mean or disrespectful. I enjoyed the failed attempts at creating humans, the laws of universal annoyance, and the advice given by J.C., Ea’s older brother that left and never returned, but is personified as a statuette. This is one of the sleeper hits of the fest.

4 out of 5 Nerdskulls


Film 11- High-Rise
Director- Ben Wheatley
Cast- Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss, Jeremy Irons

High-Rise was one of the most-anticipated movies going into the festival and it ended up being one of the most divisive. Based on J.G Ballard’s novel and directed by Fantastic Fest vet Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, A Field In England), it follows Robert Laing (Hiddleston) as he moves into a luxury high-rise complex in London, 1975. The movie uses the high-rise and it’s tenants as a metaphor for the social classes, similar to Snowpiercer.

This is Wheatley’s most grandiose and ambitious film to date. I really liked the first 30-40 minutes, but I feel like the movie got away from itself and was ultimately underwhelming. It has a strong performance by Hiddleston and slick cinematography (there’s a cool kaleidoscope effect), but I wasn’t invested in the characters and as the building spins into chaos the movie gets kinda… boring. I would like to see it again however; even with all of the other screenings, High-Rise managed to linger in my mind for a few days.

3 out of 5 Nerdskulls

High-Rise opens in the U.K. in March 2016. No U.S. release date as of now.


Film 12- The Boy and the Beast
Director- Mamoru Hosoda
Cast- Suzu Hirose, Aoi Miyazaki, Shōta Sometani, Mamoru Miyano, Kōji Yakusho

The Boy and the Beast was the last film of the day and it was a blast; a genuine crowd-pleaser. It’s a Japanese animation film about a boy in beautifully animated Tokyo, who travels down a back alley into a dark corridor and slips out of the human world and into the bakemono realm (Jūtengai), land of the beasts. There he meets Kumatetsu, a short-tempered bear-man who fights for a living. Humans are not allowed in this world, but Kumatetsu receives permission to train the boy as his apprentice and does so in an epic montage, eventually renaming the boy Kyuta. The two develop an interesting friendship in which they constantly bicker and go back-and-forth, but push each other and have an underlying love and respect for one another. An adventure ensues…

Kumatetsu and Kyuta are full of personality and are voiced with exuberance (in Japanese). They’re fun, likable characters that are easy to care about. The Boy and the Beast moves at a fast pace and it has a bright color palette. The story isn’t on the level of April and the Extraordinary World, but the movie’s more entertaining. I hope to see both films nominated for Best Animated Feature Oscars, up against Anomalisa, Inside Out, and possibly The Good Dinosaur, in what has been a magnificent year for animation.

4 out of 5 Nerdskulls

FUNimation acquired the U.S. rights to the film. It’ll play in select theaters at the end of 2015 and release nationwide in early 2016.

Check out some stills (click to enlarge):


When the movie let out, Itchy-O, the 32-member avant-garde masked band of chaos from hell Denver had already taken over The Highball. The darkly costumed percussive unit features an arsenal of drummers and people playing synthesizers, vocodors and other electronic instruments in a fully immersive, pulsating show complete with fog, strobe lights, and a Chinese lion. It was intense and incredibly badass.

Photos by Jack Plunkett

Day 3 was exceptional. Day 4 coming soon…

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