Fantastic Fest is still in full swing and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the last five days here in Austin. I’ve seen films that made me cry, laugh and a few that frustrate to my core. In fact, the three films I’m talking about today in a short recap segment — which you can look for more throughout the week — did one of those three things. I’ll let you decide which is which. Without further ado, below you can find my thoughts on New Kids Nitro, Errors of the Human Body and Looper.
New Kids Nitro (Steffen Haars, Flip Van der Kuil)
Fans of the original are in for more action, more laughs, and more of the Manta in New Kids Nitro. For those unaware of just what New Kids is all about, the films follow a band of misfit Dutchmen as they basically wreak havoc on their small little town. They curse like sailors, commonly scream “HOMO!” as an insult, and are generally bumbling idiots. But they also stick together and fight for what they believe, even if it is hopelessly wrong. This makes their idiocy and rash behavior palatable and is why you don’t feel nearly as bad about laughing hysterically at what happens on screen.
There are two story threads: The first centers on a brooding turf war between a local town, while there is also a humorous overarching storyline focusing on a zombie outbreak. The film has no qualms with nudity, violence, or drugs, and mixing those elements with zombies has great results. The laughs are fast, silly, and mix slapstick–like a cop car careening into stationary objects again and again–with more subtle, verbal humor. New Kids Nitro has very little fat, and if this is your kind of brash comedy, then you will absolutely dig it.
Errors of the Human Body (Eron Sheean)
A film can lose sight of a goal if it isn’t careful and these are issues that should come to the surface in the editing room, where tweaks can be made. First-time filmmaker Eron Sheean fails to course-correct his own creation, and what starts as an interesting fringe science film devolves until it becomes a dreary mess. We start off following a scientist named Geoff (Michael Eklund), who simply wants to find a cure for a disease that struck his infant child. He has steadily become obsessed and seems to have stalled in terms of progress. His personal life is left in ruins and he takes an offer to move out of the country and a new locale. With renewed vigor, he finds out about a gene from a former intern Rebekka (Karoline Herfurth) that works at the facility. This socalled “Easter” gene has the potential to help cells heal themselves much more rapidly than previously thought possible, but isn’t able to translate to mammals yet.
That’s why Geoff is there, and when he finds out there is a potential link, he becomes obsessed with tracking down the solution. While that premise has promise, the film continually stubs its toe. First, this isn’t so much a science-fiction film as it is a story of obsession as our lead can’t help but become consumed by his research. Additionally, the dialogue often fails the subject matter. Two characters are supposed to be former lovers, and when we are introduced to them on screen for a potential second fling, the chemistry and dialogue is so poor it can feel that they are instead feeling each other out for the very first time. They should have an instant connection that the audience can feel, and it just doesn’t occur. These are important moments to put stakes in the characters so we care what happens. Throw in some jilted flashbacks, and we have an overall lackluster film.
Looper (Rian Johnson)
Set in the year 2042, Looper is a time-travel flick that doesn’t allow itself to get bogged down in the logistics and yet is thoroughly convincing of the rules it sets out. Director Rian Johnson’s latest flick is a brutal, violent, and straightforward science-fiction film that puts most of its focus on exactly what the genre needs: story and characters. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper, someone the crime syndicates in the future hire in the film’s present day to kill someone they send back to a set location and time. In the future, time travel has been outlawed, so only nefarious organizations use it. It’s also become incredibly complex to get rid of a body in the future so they allow the past to do their dirty work and dispose of a body that often doesn’t technically exist.
The people the crime syndicates hire agree to a time frame where they will eventually be killed themselves in a scenario they call closing the loop. Their future selves are sent back with a boatload of money and you are supposed to kill your future self without question. It’s the catch of the luxurious lifestyle a looper leads. In essence, this gives your life a finite time frame, but you aren’t committing suicide as much as just guaranteeing your eventual death. However, when Joe finds himself face to face with his future self (Bruce Willis), things go awry. That sets forth a thrilling exploration of love, life, and what it means to live in a world where the only uncertainty is your present actions.
To put it bluntly, the film is surprisingly dark for Johnson. If you’ve followed his career path, he his films usually have a certain amount of whimsy, while Looper has little to laugh about. Of course, as with most great flicks, there is humor to indulge in, but the level of violence, nudity, and more, this a vast turn for Johnson. Yet, within the context of the film, it works. Johnson also builds a fleshed out world without getting lost in the details. Cars are seen with solar panels and some of the technology is buggy. It’s the future, but it’s not clean and pretty for the most part, helping to ground everything further. Then there is the sound design, which is continually excellent and brutal throughout, as well as the score. Our full review will be coming later today, but Looper has my whole-hearted endorsement.
New Kids Nitro, Errors of the Human Body and Looper are currently screening at Fantastic Fest.
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