Film Reviews

USA Film Festival Schedule

Page 4 of 12

10:45 p.m.
Organized Crime and Triad Bureau. From Hong Kong filmmaker Kirk Wong, the director of Jackie Chan's acclaimed melodrama Crime Story, comes this action-adventure about the ongoing war between a ruthless fugitive (Anthony Wong of Hard-Boiled) and the driven squad of lawmen who are determined to bring him back to justice (they're led by Danny Lee, who played another obsessive lawman in The Killer). Not available for review at press time.

Road Kill. A surprisingly reserved, predictable low-budget road "thriller" about a dumb college kid hitchhiking to California who gets hooked up with a homicidal maniac and his dim-witted girlfriend. Although the film features rape, mutilation, and death by superglue, Road Kill isn't violent enough to entertain us, and it never quite musters the sleazy mood appropriate to the white-trash antics on display. (JF)

12:15 a.m.
Trailers from the Crypt. Joe Bob Briggs' midnight series spotlights the twisted tastes of Dallas-area special effects maven Tom Rainone, who will preside over an assortment of cheesy horror movie trailers.

12:30 a.m.
*Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Even bloodied-in-the-wool splatter fans have reason to dread yet another sequel to the 1974 low-budget smash: the last couple of entries have been lackluster, to say the least.

But this one, scripted and directed by Kim Henkel, who wrote the first film, is more than competent; in fact, it's terrific--possibly the toughest, nuttiest, most artistically committed horror comedy to come screeching down the pike since Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2. And as the leader of the band of incestuous killers, Austin-bred actor Matthew McConaughey (who played the eternal high schooler Wooderson in Dazed and Confused) gives the looniest, scariest, most inventively whacked-out performance since Jack Nicholson went way over the top in Batman.

This film is living proof that with a handful of chump change, a cast of talented actors, and enough burning vision, it's possible to fire up an old saw so that it roars like new again. (MZS) Kim Henkel in attendance.

12:45 a.m.
Cyberstalker. The Festival presents the world premiere of this slick, surprisingly well-written high-tech thriller about an army of cybernerds ordered through some ringleader named M.I.C.A. to change the world into an alternate universe where flesh fuses into pure information energy. The special effects are strictly '80s science fiction TV show, and the film itself has that not-quite-convincing aura of one of those USA Network original movies, but it moves along briskly enough. It's also got a supporting role by B-movie great Jeffrey "Whoever heard of a talking head?" Coombs (Reanimator). (JF) Christopher Romero in attendance.

Sunday, April 23
5 p.m.
Odile and Yvette at the Edge of the World. It's hard to issue a blanket judgment about the quality and intentions of this peculiar little movie, because whether you judge it a success depends entirely on how willing you are to embrace its very mannered style. Shot on location in the East Texas Piney Woods, this feature from writer-director Andre Burke takes a page from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and blows it up to feature size when a couple of junior high-age sisters impulsively jump out of their dad's car during a cross-country road trip and wander into a woodsy dreamland where their fantasies and wishes appear to come true--although not always in the manner they expect, as the sudden and vaguely troubling appearance of a sexy young man attests.

Burke tells the girls' story without narration and music and with a bare minimum of dialogue, letting their journey into paradise unfold in a series of amazingly long takes and even longer setpieces broken up by evocative shots of silhouetted treetops, verdant meadows, and rushing water, and backed with a soundtrack of twittering birds, whirring insects, and rustling leaves. There's a lavish Freudian picnic going on just beneath the pastoral surface of this movie, but the narrative is so spare, and developed with such obsessive slowness, that you'll either be too hypnotized or too bored to keep a mental list of symbols and signs. If you thought Heavenly Creatures would have been a lot more interesting as a silent picture, you'll probably like this one. (MZS)

Short Film and Video Winners. The USA Film Festival is keeping the winners of its annual short film competition a secret until the very last minute, but if the heavy-hitting lineup of judges is any indication, they're bound to be interesting: the panel includes Advocate film critic David Ehrenstein, Daily Variety critic Emmanuel Levy, Marian Luntz of the Museum of Fine Art s/Houston, humorist Joe Queenan of Spy and Movieline infamy, and director Todd Haynes (Poison, Dottie Gets Spanked). All the judges will be present to discuss the future of cinema after the screening. A pretty tall order, but they can probably fill it--especially when you consider the presence of the indomitable Queenan, who can write 11-page articles about actors with bad hair and never bore his readers, and Ehrenstein, who once penned an appreciation of Francis Coppola's Dracula for Film Comment that was as long as the New Testament and even more serious. (MZS)

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