Best of the Fest: The Films at Lone Star Film Festival ’14

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Screen shot 2014-11-12 at 9.06.03 AMPreston Barta // Editor

We plundered through the crowded docket of films that were on the schedule at the Lone Star Film Festival in Ft. Worth, TX, this past weekend to bring you our picks for the films you need to be on the lookout for in the coming months. Some of these films already have their release dates confirmed, while others may take longer than expected.

Without further ado, these are the best and worst of the Lone Star Film Festival 2014.

THE BABADOOK

Directed by Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall, Noah Wiseman and Tim Purcell

Of the 45+ films at LSFF, one of the biggest standouts was the incredibly effective Australian horror film THE BABADOOK. The film follows Amelia (a knockout Essie Davis), a depressed mother who thought her biggest issue was her son’s violent outbursts. Well, that was before Mr. Babadook, a ghostly figure that haunts the family.

With most horror films these days, the climax happens somewhere around the middle and loses momentum afterwards to where everything that follows doesn’t have the same effect (think INSIDIOUS, which is, nevertheless, a decent horror movie). But in THE BABADOOK, there is comic relief brilliantly placed throughout to bring you down from your own climax just so they get another opportunity to make you fear up and fall once more. First-time feature director Jennifer Kent understands the psychology behind tension and builds suspense through mere scene construction.

The scares, the pacing, sound design and camera work all lend to the film’s high standing, bringing messed up to a whole new level. It’s spectacular.

THE BABADOOK opens on 11/28.

THE IMITATION GAME

Directed by Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew GoodeMark StrongRory Kinnear, Allen LeechTuppence Middleton and Charles Dance

Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore have created something tragically beautiful with THE IMITATION GAME. Amidst some incredible scenes and performances (especially Benedict Cumberbatch), this remarkably true story (of a mathematician who helps crack the Enigma code during World War II) is one of the finest of the year. It is a wonderfully crafted, immensely lush and moving film that shows, above all, how storytelling can both heal and destroy.

THE IMITATION GAME will open around Christmas.

Our interview with writer Graham Moore

IT FOLLOWS

Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir GilchristLili Sepe, Olivia LuccardiDaniel Zovatto and Jake Weary

Cole Clay // Film Critic

David Robert Mitchell’s second film takes an entirely plausible occurrence such as an STD and instead of getting a few pesky bumps you get a supernatural entity calculating your every move. IT FOLLOWS plays a waiting game that most genre fare neglects to revel in, and while still relying on a few jump scares, it’s what you don’t see that is utterly terrifying.

If Mitchell stripped this disturbing piece of cinema of all its horror elements it would remain a compelling hangout film about the insignificance of days wasted in suburbia. Mitchell understands that the pockets of waiting are the most terrifying aspects of horror. In fact, these bored teens delight in the chance to get off the couch despite the bone-chilling circumstances.

IT FOLLOWS is a retroactive piece of filmmaking; rather than winking at this fact, Mitchell respectfully tips his cap to the classics that preceded this fantastic little horror film.

IT FOLLOWS will open around March of 2015.

Also, check out an interview we did with writer-director David Robert Mitchell at this year’s Fantastic Fest (click here).

PROJECT-M

Directed by Eric Piccoli
Starring: Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Julie Perreault, Hubert Gagnon, Julie Perreault, Marie-Ginette Guay, Ted Pluviose and Roberto Mei

If you like your space adventures smaller in scale (compared to the likes of last week’s release of INTERSTELLAR), then the Canadian film PROJECT-M might be the way to go.

After a disaster that destroys much of Earth, a band of astronauts must stay 1000 days in a space station in order to prove that a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons is practical. However, things go wrong as they tend to do with thrillers. But for PROJECT-M, it’s for good reason. It’s a gripping ride worth strapping in for.

PROJECT-M‘s release is TBA.

WILD

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern, Michiel Huisman, Kevin RankinThomas Sadoski and W. Earl Brown

It was only last year around this time that there was much buzz circling Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée’s DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, which went on to earn wins for two of the major acting categories at the Oscars. WILD could follow in similar tracks with its leading (Reese Witherspoon) and supporting (Laura Dern) ladies.

Witherspoon completely envelops Cheryl Strayed as this hardened young woman seeking to reinvent herself after a series of personal tragedies. To do so, Strayed goes on a 1,100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border to the mountains of Oregon.

While the subject material is hardly new, and there are far better films that tackle people finding themselves out in nature (INTO THE WILD, THE WAY), WILD is well made follow-up to DALLAS BUYERS CLUB that showcases Witherspoon’s strongest performance in years.

WILD opens on 12/5.

Honorable Mentions:

  • THE GREAT INVISIBLE
  • LIFE PARTNERS
  • MR. TURNER
  • THE TRIBE
  • ZERO MOTIVATION

Worst of the Fest:

  • LOW DOWN
About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.