I’ve been calling my festival previews ‘Can’t Miss Picks’ for a while now, but that’s not a very good title. Sometimes, there is a festival where I’ve seen a lot of the films ahead of time, possibly at other festivals, or because they’ve sent me screeners – in that case, it works just fine. With something like Fantastic Fest, where I’ve only seen about 10% of the titles… how can I possibly know?

So I am calling this Future Fantastic. I’ve built a time machine, in a storage unit, and I can go 1 week into the future. I spent the whole time there memorizing the draft of my post-festival round up and I am pretty sure these are the titles I loved, or will have loved.

ARRIVAL
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
SYNOPSIS: When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: In the shadows on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and CONTACT, ARRIVAL proves Denis Villeneuve is someone we were right to bet on and knows what to do with a shit ton of money.

BAD BATCH
Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
SYNOPSIS: A girl walks across a cannibal-infested desert at midday…. one of thousands of Americans deemed unacceptable to civilized society. While wandering in her desert exile, she is captured by a community of cannibals. Escaping to another enclaves of outcasts, she teams up with one of her former cannibal captors who needs her help. The highly anticipated 2nd film from the director of A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: It’s like Mad Max without the cars and with an actual plot, although arguably less dialogue. It’s love story, about people need people and who need people to eat people.

BUSTER’S MAL HEART
Dir. Sarah Adina Smith
SYNOPSIS: Rami Malek is Buster, a mountain man on the run from the authorities who survives the harsh winters by breaking into empty homes. Between these on-the-run moments, Buster will cook himself simple meals, call a radio show to deliver rants about Y2K and think about the past. Because once upon a time, Buster was Jonah, a straight-laced man with a family he loved. Hard-working and loyal, all he wanted was to get his family a home. However, the arrival of an unnamed prophet of a Y2K prophecy will throw Jonah’s live into disarray and start him on a path from which there is no return.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: Austin audiences were treated to the Texas Premiere of Smith’s THE MIDNIGHT SWIM at an Other Worlds Austin screening, and this follow up dives once again into the depths of perception and understanding, where truth only exists if we want it to.

COLOSSAL
Dir. Nacho Vigalondo
SYNOPSIS: When Gloria (Anne Hathaway) drinks too much, other people pay for it… at the very least with their patience. Exasperated by her behavior, her posh boyfriend (Dan Stevens) puts his foot down and throws her out, an act that sends her meekly returning to her hometown, without a plan and with even less prospects. Despite reconnecting with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who is all too happy to help her attain a fresh start (and perhaps inspire a fresh relationship), Gloria gravitates back to the booze, and before long resumes her routine of stumbling home blackout drunk. Only this time, her morning hangover comes with the news that a giant lizard has rampaged through Seoul’s downtown core, and the sneaking suspicion that she’s somehow connected to this remarkable event.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: At a festival that featured a new GODZILLA film, I raised my arms to sky and asked is there room for two giant lizards. No reply, just the resounding thud of huge lizard foot stamping out my qualms (and killing screaming citizens).

DON’T KILL IT
Dir. MIKE MENDEZ
SYNOPSIS: In a small, sparsely populated corner of Mississippi, an ancient demon is released. The creature can take over the body of whoever kills its previous host, causing havoc, mayhem and murder in its wake. These strange murders attract the attention of FBI agent Evelyn Pierce, who was born in the town and is assigned to investigate. Before she can even settle into the investigation, her paths cross Jebediah Woodley, a rip-roaring, whisky-sozzled traveler who claims to be a demon hunter and has encountered this particular spirit before. At first, Evelyn doesn’t believe this outlandish character, but as the body count rises and each murder increasingly defies logic, she comes to realize that the man might be the only hope of humanity.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: Three words have echoed in my head for years – BIG ASS SPIDER. This man made the most entertaining film ever about spiders. Ever. And now, with Dolph Lundgren as his muse, tht’s a chlly thought, he conjures up more bed time stories for the fucked up child inside us.

FASHIONISTA
Dir. Simon Rumley
SYNOPSIS: April loves clothes. But more so, she loves Eric, with whom she owns a second-hand vintage store in Texas. Their lives are idyllic, spent in a house crammed to the rafters with vintage ware. Eric has dreams; he wants to open new stores, but April isn’t so sure about the idea. However, as Eric gets closer to new employee Sherry, April’s jealousy and paranoia start to spiral out of control. She finds herself turning more to the clothes as a crutch to get her through the day. All will come undone when Eric’s one deadly mistake is revealed and their lives hurtle towards a conclusion that none could expect.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: An ensemble piece where you are constantly handed off from one character to the next for your loyalties, and with a payoff that lets the plot come apart at the seams and fall into discarded remnants in the pile of emotional collateral damage.

THE HANDMAIDEN
Dir. Can-Wook Park
SYNOPSIS: In 1930’s Korea, Sook-Hee is hired and sent to Lady Hideko, a secluded Japanese young lady forced to live with her Uncle. Unbeknownst to anyone in the house, Sook-Hee is actually a pickpocket and has been recruited by Count Fujiwara to cheat Lady Hideko out of her inheritance. What no one accounted for are matters of the heart, which end up unravelling their lives, plans and more. One thing’s for certain: someone will pay by the end, because someone always does in a con game…
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: Murder! Revenge! Sex! Sex between people of the same sex! Yay! Finally a costume drama that rips off the lace with a knife and double-crosses us like only love can.

SALT AND FIRE
Dir. Werner Herzog
SYNOPSIS: Just thirty hours ago, Professor Laura Sommerfeld (Veronica Ferres) and her scientist colleagues (Gael Garcial Bernal and Volker Michalowski) were en route to South America to survey the volcanic Diablo Blanco disaster zone on behalf of the United Nations. Now, she has been detained, handcuffed, and secreted away to an unknown location under armed guard and the unblinking eye of a pillaging corporate imperialist (Michael Shannon) and a terrifyingly withdrawn, wheelchair-bound, machine gun-toting nihilist (noted cosmologist and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss in his acting debut).
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: With cinematography so absorbing it is hard to believe these are real places, Herzog once again proves the chameleon and tells any story he wants in any way he likes, often mesmerizing the audience but always leaving them with more questions than answers in the way that only a great filmmaker can.

SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL
Dir. A.D. Calvo
SYNOPSIS: Adele (Erin Wilhelmi) is a young woman whose only friends are stray animals and the strangers she carefully watches with her wide, appraising eyes. Adele is charged by her mother to move into an oppressively silent mansion and take care of her wealthy but agoraphobic Aunt Dora (theatre vet Susan Kellermann), with the vague expectation of an inheritance looming over this unhappy task. After weeks of silent chores in this newly inhospitable life, Adele meets Beth (Quinn Shephard) – glamorous, confident, free-spirited – and the two become fast friends, a thrilling new reality that fills Adele’s heart and her previously empty days. But Adele may be drawn to a darkness within Beth, a darkness that threatens to overtake everything and forever rift Adele from the peaceful, if lonely, innocence she once knew.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: What can I say, I’m a sucker for stylish films about lesbians that may or may not be planning murder… or maybe its just a dream sequence… and rocking chairs. I love rocking chairs. Rocking chairs in a kid’s room… so creepy.

THE YOUNG OFFENDERS
Dir. Peter Foott
SYNOPSIS: Growing up poor with no prospects in Cork, the fifteen-year-olds Conor and Jock have nothing but each other. And let’s be honest; when all you have is someone as dim as either Jock or Conor, that’s not saying all that much. Jock’s latest brilliant idea has literally washed in from the sea. Cornered by the Coast Guard and caught in rough waters, a boatload of drug runners have pitched more than sixty bales of cocaine into the choppy ocean, each of which is valued at more than four million Euro on the street. Surely the police can’t have found them all, Jock reasons. And, hell, at fifteen, we’re still considered young offenders.
FUTURE BEARS SAYS: I haven’t laughed so hard at people I could barely understand since the first two Guy Ritchie films. With a plot that spirals into ridiculousness, Foott’s film may not change the world, but really, does everyone have to be Werner Herzog?

 

FANTASTIC FEST runs September 22-29th at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.  Check out info on individual tickets here.

Bears Fonte covers indie film for AMFM Magazine and programs and consults for film festivals nationwide.  He is the Founder and Executive Director of Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival as well as the former Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival.  His short The Secret Keeper played at 40 festivals, his feature iCrime was released in 2011 by Vicious Circle.

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