Category Archives: Miscellanea

FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL CAPSULE 2021: FRANK & ZED

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DIRECTED BY: Jesse Blanchard

FEATURING: Voices of Jason Ropp, Steve Overton

PLOT: When the king’s line is severed, a demon’s curse comes to pass; meanwhile, Frank and Zed attempt to get through their days without too many pieces falling off.

Still from Frank & Zed (2021)

COMMENTS: Sometimes when you dip your hand into a swirling bucket of goo, you fish out something worth writing home about. Perhaps it’s not a traditionally worthwhile film, but there is plenty of diverting violence, clever visuals, and a suspicious amount of pathos to be found in Jesse Blanchard’s years-in-the-making fantasy puppet horror buddy comedy, Frank & Zed.

The tone is set with a puppet barbershop quartet in the opening short, “Shine.” The quad of dulcet singers croon in mighty harmony before slowly enduring a splat-stick massacre by unseen forces in the audience. The three minutes of chuckles, we are told, took two months to create; Frank & Zed took six… years. The scale of ambition behind this film boggles the mind, as does the occasional depth of feeling elicited by Blanchard and his gang of puppeteers. I was reminded often that effort of this kind translates to the screen in a way that movies made by committee—even those with exponentially larger budgets and a bevy of known actors—do not.

Frank is a (Frankenstein‘s) monster-style workaday minion, created from an unknown number of people and requiring a battery to recharge his heartbeat every day. This process allows for some of the incongruously sweet character interplay between the shambling monster and his differently shambling friend, Zed. Frank may be slowly falling apart, but Zed is in far worse way; we first meet this zombie when Frank chides him for trying to nibble on a piece of his own brain idly plucked from the large hole in his head. Watching gruesome puppet monsters with a near-wordless friendship feels odd, particularly when their interactions pull on the old heart-strings. The scene during which Frank lovingly reattaches Zed’s hand, donating some of his own reinforcing nails in the process, left me almost teary-eyed.

I shall pull no punches here, however. Frank & Zed nearly crumbles apart whenever the titular characters are not on the screen. While the pair is nailed to an adequate plot-frame, I couldn’t help but suspect that Team Blanchard would have done better keeping the film focused on the rickety duo. The Pavarotti-inspired baker was amusing as a victim, but the nearby villagers were (ironically) less fleshed out than Frank and Zed; time amongst them felt like time wasted. The gore that permeated was amusing until it went into overkill. (Possessed death-mice: good; forty minutes of puppet slicing-and-dicing, a bit less so.) Still and all, this was a great kick-off to the Fantasia 2021 festival; I find it unlikely I’ll find a sweeter friendship on display than Frank and Zed’s.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“As for the inevitable Muppets comparisons, this is a darkly beautiful Fraggle Rock, a perfect exploration of a weird and wonderful world brought to live by extraordinarily talented puppeteers… But that orgy of blood is where everything gets slippy, and the charm wears thin. It shows the downside of a passion project: that there’s no one around not so personally invested that they can say ‘no.'”–Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle (online festival screening)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 7/30/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

The Green Knight: An adaptation of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain, who accepts the Green Knight’s challenge to engage in a friendly beheading contest. ‘s long-awaited (and pandemic-delayed) epic is being characterized as “stoned” and “surreal.” The Green Knight official site.

Mondo Hollywoodland: We’re just going to drop this logline here: “A groovy mushrooms dealer and a man from the 5th dimension journey through Hollywood to find the meaning of ‘Mondo.'” Needless to say, you’re more likely to catch this one on VOD than at your local cineplex. Mondo Hollywoodland official site.

Never Gonna Snow Again: A mysterious masseur appears in an upscale Polish neighborhood. Comparisons to Teorema naturally arise. Never Gonna Snow Again American distributor site.

Nine Days: Souls interview to potentially be born on Earth. Jake Wilson of The Age was lukewarm but concedes that the movie has a “certain amount of genuine weirdness.” Nine Days official site.

STREAMING (ARROW):

Man Under Table (2021): Read our review and interview with Noel David Taylor. Thanks to Arrow’s streaming service, this microbudget surreal satire on indie filmmaking (and fracking) has a chance to be seen by a relatively wide audience. Be sure to freeze frame that trailer to read the critic’s quotes. Man Under Table at Arrow.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001): Read Giles Edwards’ review. Christophe Gans‘ genre-spanning cult movie (is it a werewolf flick? mystery? action picture?) gets a collector’s edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, promising four hours of bonus material. Buy Brotherhood of the Wolf.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002): Read Giles Edwards’ review. ‘s face-value script about “Gong Show” producer Chuck Barris’ alleged double life as a spy is released on Blu-ray for the first time (in North America). Buy Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

“Ken Jacobs Collection, Volume 1”:  A collection of Jacob’s experimental movies, including arty and weird films like the doll-abusing short “Little Stabs at Happiness” and the abstract feature-length experiment “Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son.” Despite being “Volume 1” this is a “greatest hits” 2-Blu-ray collection that spans the director’s entire output from 1955-2021. Buy “The Ken Jacobs Collection, Volume 1”.

L’amour braque [Mad Love] (1985): A bank robber seeks to rescue his girlfriend from mobsters. A confusing postmodern gangster film from , inspired by Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot.” Blu-ray only, with special features including multiple commentary tracks, from Kino Lorber’s “Studio Classics” sub-label. Buy L’amour Braque.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

This section will no longer be updated regularly. Instead, we direct you to our new “Repertory Cinemas Near You” page. This week, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art is officially back, hosting screenings of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) this Wednesday through next Friday. We also welcome back Pittsburgh’s  Row House Cinema, who reopens with a week’s worth of Night of the Hunter (1955) among their offerings. We will continue to mention exceptional events in this space from time to time.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: We’ll still be taking votes and comments on August’s Weird Netflix Watch Party (scheduled for August 7) until tomorrow.

We’ll be busy next week. The Fantasia Film Festival officially kicks off next Thursday, and we’ll be pre-gaming it as Giles Edwards kicks off his coverage with “fantasy puppet horror buddy comedy” Frank & Zed, while inspects the dream-auditing indie drama Strawberry Mansion. (That’s at a minimum; you might be seeing other movies covered, too). With all that, we still need to give you our take on The Green Knight (see trailer above); and, since you might be tired of all this current stuff, Pete Trbovich pitches in with a vintage review of Christopher Lee in 1967’s sque The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism. Onward and weirdward!

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

PLANNING AUGUST’S NETFLIX PARTY

We’re ready to take suggestions and votes in the comments for our August Netflix Weird Watch party, scheduled for Saturday, August 7 at 10:15 PM ET.

If you’d like to attend our watch party, then the important thing is to RSVP in the comments, where you can make a screening suggestion, or just say you plan to be there. As always, we’re looking for five likely attendees before officially scheduling.

The Canonically Weird movies on Netflix that we haven’t yet screened yet are Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). (Netflix is losing catalog titles at an alarming rate, replacing them with “exclusive” content). Feel free to nominate any of these, or ignore them in favor of other selections.

To participate, you’ll need a U.S. Netflix account, a Chrome-based browser, and the TeleParty (formerly “Netflix Party”) extension.

Okay, now join us in discussion in the comments.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 7/23/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

FILM FESTIVALSFantasia International Film Festival (Montreal, Canada and online, 8/5-25):

If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you know we make a big deal about Fantasia every year. It’s a huge genre festival and, although it doesn’t focus specifically on our brand of weird, the programmers’ tastes are wide enough that we discover a list-worthy film or two there just about every year. In 2020, the pandemic forced the festival to go online only; this year, they’re going with a hybrid format of limited theatrical screenings mixed in with virtual events. We will have extensive coverage, as usual.

It’s quite the lineup this year, especially when it comes to revivals and restorations. The biggest news is that rights issues have (finally!) been ironed out for the canonically weird Dr. Caligari (1989), the infamous sexy and surreal 1980s pop-art in-name-only sequel to the 1920s Expressionist classic. A home video release from Mondo Macabro should follow soon! There will even be a free “masterclass” with director , and it’s being teased that he may tease a future project.  Funky Forest: The First Contact is also getting an overhaul and future release (late 2021 or early 2022), paired with ‘s rarely-seen 2011 follow-up The Warped Forest. If that’s not enough, Fantasia is also screening a new restoration of 2000’s spiraling-horror Uzumaki.

Headlining the continuing festival favorites screening here is the / collab Prisoners of the Ghostlands; they’ve also got Sundance’s drama about dream-tax assessors Strawberry Mansion, the role-playing horror We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, and the trippy cryptid animation Cryptozoo.

Here’s just a few of the new titles we’ll be angling to see (Fantasia will also be debuting something called The Suicide Squad that looks like box office poison, but we’ll stick to the weird stuff):

    • Agnes – Oddball auteur is back with a y offering about a demonic possession in a convent.
    • Giving Birth to a Butterfly – Programmers describe Theodore Schaefe’s feature debut as a “surreal road trip.”
    • Hotel Poseidon – Set in a decaying hotel, programmers evoke the names of and the to describe this Dutch feature.
    • King Car – Brazilian satire about a man who can talk to cars.
    • Mad God – Thirty years in the making, stop-motion animator and fx guru Phil Tippet’s passion project is a Boschian nightmare.

  • Straight to VHS – A narrative/documentary hybrid about a locally notorious Uruguayan 1980s straight-to-video cult film called Act of Violence in a Young Journalist.

Tickets go on sale today. Sorry, all virtual screenings are geoblocked to Canada. Fantasia International Film Festival homepage.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Mandibles (2020):  ‘ latest surreal comedy is about two friends who try to exploit a giant fly they find in their car’s trunk. It’s getting better U.S. distribution (Magnolia) and better reviews than the usual Dupieux; we don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. Mandibles official site.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

This section will no longer be updated regularly. Instead, we direct you to our new “Repertory Cinemas Near You” page. (We just added Manhattan’s Quad Theater, screening 8 1/2  all week, and the Roxy, who will be showing Celine and Julie Go Boating this Friday, Saturday and Sunday). We will continue to mention exceptional events in this space from time to time.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Join us tomorrow night on Amazon Prime at 10:15 PM ET for July’s Weird Watch Party, Uzumaki (2000) (coincidentally, also mentioned above in our Fantasia preview). As always, the link to join will appear here, on Facebook, or on Twitter around 10 PM ET.

Next week’s reviews will feature Shane Wilson‘s review of Netflix’s hot absurdist comedy series “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson,” which just dropped its second season. In movies,

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 7/16/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

IN DEVELOPMENT (post-production):

Flux Gourmet (2022): There’s not much info on the plot of ‘s just-wrapped latest; all we really know is that it’s set at some kind of culinary institute and focuses heavily on “alimentary disorders.” Asa Butterfield and Gwendoline Christie star, and IFC will distribute. More on Flux Gourmet at Variety.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

The Carnivores (2020): A lesbian couple’s marriage is tested when Alice becomes jealous of Bret’s relationship with their dying dog. That synopsis sounds like it could make for a dry indie dramedy, but the trailer promises something much darker and weirder. Already available on VOD, it’s now on DVD (no Blu-ray) with a director’s commentary and alternate ending. Buy The Carnivores.

The Great Gabbo (1929): A ventriloquist () goes insane as he transfers he personality to his dummy. This early talkie experiment mixing bizarre and incongruous musical numbers with a tale of psychological horror is in the public domain, but Kino puts it on Blu-ray with a commentary track by author Richard Barrios. Buy The Great Gabbo.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

This section will no longer be updated regularly. Instead, we direct you to our new “Repertory Cinemas Near You” page. This week, Portland’s Hollywood Theater joins that list as it finally reopens, hosting a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) on Saturday. We will continue to mention exceptional events in this space, like the following:

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: We’ll have one more wrap-up post on the North Bend Film Festival on Saturday, as we cover the cryptid animation Cryptozoo as well as a handful of curious leftover features. Next week, checks out the “surrealistic” biodoc Moby Doc (2021), and we’ll take on a couple of items from the reader-suggested queue as Pete Trbovich roars about the notorious big cat extravaganza Roar (1981) and Giles Edwards handles ‘s dark take on Pinocchio (2019). Onward and weirdward!

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

PLANNING JULY’S AMAZON PRIME WEIRD WATCH PARTY

We’re ready to take suggestions and votes in the comments for our July Amazon Prime Weird Watch party, scheduled for Saturday, July 24 at 10:15 PM ET.

If you’d like to attend our watch party, then the important thing is to RSVP in the comments, where you can make a screening suggestion, or just say you plan to be there. As always, we’re looking for five likely attendees before officially scheduling.

Amazon Prime’s catalog of movies is larger (and less exclusive) than Netflix’s, and the lineup changes more frequently. Ed Dykhuizen’s availability spreadsheet is a good resource to check for Canonically Weird movies (look for ones marked “free w/ Prime” in the “Amazon” column). Or, do your own research and come up with a title from Amazon. Eligible movies will have a “watch party” button on their Amazon page. You must be a Prime subscriber; you don’t have to download an extension or additional software.

When the party is set to begin we’ll announce it in three places:

  • On this site (if you’ve signed up for regular email alerts via the sidebar you’ll also get a notice that way)
  • On our Facebook page
  • On Twitter

Make your nominations and/or RSVP in the comments below.

JULY’S WEIRD NETFLIX WATCH PARTY, “JIU JITSU” (2020), STARTS IN 15 MINUTES

July’s Netflix Watch Party— Jiu Jitsu (2020)—starts in fifteen minutes.

Please install the Netflix Party extension (now officially called “teleparty”) if you haven’t already. You must have a U.S. Nextflix account and a Chrome-based browser to participate.

Here is the link to join: https://www.tele.pe/join/e4c0f3043d6d44a8

Be sure to click on the red Teleparty icon to sync up and join the chat room.