For most people attending the American Film Market (AFM), the company suites set up at the Loews Hotel are all business. They’re looking for films to buy for various territories, they know their market so it’s all about deals and demographics. For the film lover at AFM, every suite is an adventure full of obscure projects with catchy titles or a marquee star or some exploitation premise. We may see these films on video or a small theatrical release if they really push it hard, but AFM is where they make those deals.
First of all, every production company has a Danny Trejo movie. I’m only exaggerating slightly. Walking through the halls on several floors of the hotel, I saw three posters with Trejo front and center and a few more with his name in the credits. Robin Hood Films’ Counterpunch is a boxing movie with Trejo as the coach. A poster for ITN Distribution’s The Bill Collector is pretty self-explanatory. If Danny Trejo shows up, you better pay your damn bills!
Some of the companies were kind enough to show me some of the materials they’re offering to buyers at AFM. Here are the highlights:
You know Gaumont as the French Company that distributes all of Luc Besson’s films. They have a full slate of studio quality projects, so this is the opposite end of the spectrum from the straight to video titles.
Only God Forgives
Gaumont showed the same promo reel for Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest Ryan Gosling movie that they showed at Cannes, and boy, it looks Drive-y in the best possible way. Slow moving camera set to the song “Sister (pt. 2)” by M83. It looks like they left the dolly track in the shot. That’ll be removed later. Gosling sits with his eyes closed for a good while, then exchanges glances back and forth with a dancer. Oh, Refn and his fetishes. Then he bursts into violence against Thai guys in white suits, first slapping them open palmed then throwing them into a gold hallway and whipping them with his belt. The Drive comparison is not to say it’s the same, just that it’s recognizable as the distinct voice of Refn.
The Young and Prodigious Spivet
This is the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet film and there’s no footage of it yet but they had a clip of Jeunet talking about his plans. Based on a Reif Larson book, it’s about a child genius from Montana traveling across America to accept an award. It’ll be Jeunet’s first American-set film, though shot in Alberta, which doubled for Legends of the Fall and Brokeback Mountain too. From the storyboards it looks like young Spivet (Kyle Catlett) fights a hobo on a train, and Jeunet showed the model of his 40 meter long train interior. Jeunet calls Spivet a more realistic, emotional story than his usual films, but he also talks about incorporating illustrations and notes from the book visually, so it sounds very Jeunet. The film will be in 3D and Jeunet promised some 3D surprises he didn’t want to spoil, not even in the pitch to potential distributors.
First on Gaumont’s demo reel was a high profile French gangster movie. This looks comparable to the genre stuff we’re seeing out of Europe, a very slick production with orange desert and blue city cinematography. There’s a cool slow motion gunfight that proceeds through a nightclub, brawls with mobsters roughhousing and breaking bottles over heads, and a fast-paced car chase.
Vive Le France
This comedy looks really funny, so nothing is lost in translation. It’s about two terrorists from Taboulistan (fake country) who are sent to Paris but diverted to Corsica. It looks much wackier than Four Lions, and of course they are fish out of water and eventually learn to have fun. The nude beach scene made me laugh out loud, more out of surprise for the big girl they show in all her glory. They make fun of the French health care system and red tape involved, which must be a scathing satire for them. There’s a lot of profanity, some ménage a trois jokes and beautiful photography. I’ll be looking for this one.
Robin Hood Films:
The producers of Counterpunch and a healthy catalog of titles, all with trailers online at www.robinhoodfilms.com, had one special presentation in the room for AFM. Their 3D movie was shown on a giant flatscreen TV with 3D glasses.
Dirty Dealing 3D
This is exactly the kind of movie I was looking for at AFM. It looks ultra sincere for its exploitation premise, and features Michael Madsen who we know hustles for jobs outside the studio system. There’s a serious story of a kid with leukemia, so his mom gets her hot friends together to make an erotic calendar to raise the money for an operation. Madsen is the casino boss who betrays the girls, because he finds their calendar too pornographic to associate with his casino. So the hot girls plan a casino heist. The 3D shots of the casino look great and looks like many sequences throw some 3D out of the screen, though it was a bit too quick cut to tell for sure. I really hope they find a buyer for this because I need to know what happens with the calendar and the kid!
K5 had their trailers and materials on iPads, and they were kind enough to let me sit in their greenroom with an iPad looking at their films. Steve Jobs, changing the way AFM does business.
The Starving Games
They did not have any video of the latest Freidberg/Seltzer spoof, but they had some photos revealing what I’m sure everyone’s dying to know. As Kantmiss Evershot, Maiara Walsh looks just like Jennifer Lawrence. Other photos showed The Expendables, a N’Avi, The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter. Because why wouldn’t The Hunger Games meet The Expendables and Avatar?
This had a full trailer, and it is a Paul Walker car chase movie. Talk about marketable. Walker picks up a minivan and finds a kidnapped woman in the back. He drives while she shoots. There are chases through the city, a truck hits a car and pushes it along, they crash through a minimart. I dare say you won’t see a faster more furious movie all year.
4 1/2 Minutes
Another movie in production with no video yet, this is Renee Zellweger’s directorial debut, starring her and Johnny Knoxville. K5’s tagline is “Bridget Jones has found her man, and he’s a Jackass.” I predict that will not be the tag line when the movie is released. Knoxville plays a standup comedian hard up for money (his father, played by Ed Harris, is suing him; how wacky!) who babysits for a single mom (Zellweger). Needless to say, he will learn to grow up by taking care of a child.
Night Train to Lisbon
K5 had a trailer for this, a Jeremy Irons drama based on Pascal Mercier novel. Looks really strong with Irons’ gravitas. He plays a reserved man who follows the clues in a woman’s red coat to Lisben, where his life presumably opens up.
Highland Film Group:
Highland Film Group has a bunch of trailers on their website www.highlandfilmgroup.com. They had a poster in the hallway for Brett Ratner’s Barely Lethal, starring Chloe Moretz in a high school action movie, and showed me some trailers in their suite.
This looks like a Kentucky Fried Movie style collection that’s trying overtly to be offensive with each sketch, connected by the concept of a series of mobile apps. “Blackass” has a black prankster blindfold his son and give him a spear. “Flirty Harry” has Adrien Brody as a flamboyant cop saying, “Go ahead, make me gay.” “The Amazing Racist,” “Sushi Mama,” you get the point. Rob Schneider, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan show up too, with Lohan shooting paparazzi with guns.
The Baytown Disco
This grindhouse-y action movie with a few big names looks like the sort of movie that will play at Fantastic Fest. The Oodie brothers are a trio of outlaws who take a job to rescue a mom (Eva Longoria)’s son from her ex (Billy Bob Thornton). It looks like the kid is in a wheelchair, which surely creates complications but the trailer focuses on the crazy Mad Max looking action. There’s certainly a post-apocalyptic super truck and a gang of badass women including Zoe Bell. Thornton looks mean and violent, and we see Longoria’s got stab wounds to prove it.
The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers
To balance the star powered exploitation above, Highland also has a loving, homegrown kids movie in the vein of My Sucky Teen Romance and I Declare War. A quartet of MMO gamers has to deliver a flashdrive with proof that some bullies are cheating to the gaming tournament, so they journey through the forest recreating scenes from Lord of the Rings. They’re hiding from motorcyclers just like the hobbits hid from the Orcs. The forest could be someone’s backyard, but the sincerity makes it real, like the homegrown movies I referenced above.
Now it wouldn’t be AFM without Troma, and they were the most eager of any company to show me their wares. The original indie company usually makes a big show at Cannes with the Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabukiman roaming the streets of France. I did not see Toxie or Kabuki but the trailers I saw were stunning.
Return to Nuke ‘Em High
The big Troma title is the Lloyd Kaufman-directed sequel to their second biggest franchise. The new high definition Troma logo shows that this, Troma’s first HD digital movie, is something new, though it still looks visually like their old film-based aesthetic. I can’t be sure but the clips looked like there are more heads splitting and naked boobies than any other Troma movie. Plenty of oozing, bubbling gore, showering girls sprayed with green goo, a girl masturbating in her dorm room, girl on girl, Ron Jeremy as Jesus smoking a bong and Lemmy as the president of the United States. This will premiere in Cannes 2013. I hope I can be there.
For a company that has released Killer Condom, of course there’s a movie called The Taint. This film is completed and looks like the filmmakers get Troma. A rapid fire Natural Born Killers style montage of cuts, we see flashes of nudity, rampant mysogyny, gore and blood. A head is crushed in a car door, another split in half, a guy’s head stomped in and a woman tossed off a bridge. In an age where it’s harder and harder to shock the desensitized audience and critic, The Taint looks like it could go there.
This “heavy metal murder musical” stars Tim Dax, a headbanging avenger with his bald head fully tattooed black. He crushes heads with bricks (notice a theme here?) and staples his own wounds back together. There’s a scene where he looks up at the sky and screams, “Scareleeeeeettttttt!” and there’s a Lloyd Kaufman cameo in the trailer. It definitely looks like one of the non-Kaufman Troma movies if you know what I mean, and even the trailer didn’t have quite enough outrageous moments to sustain a couple of minutes, but Mr. Bricks played at Sitges Film Festival so it’s legit.
I don’t know what to make of this. The trailer looks like a VHS quality used car commercial for Funtown Auto, with a playroom for kids where the plush creature will molest them. Is it a movie, is it a sketch? I don’t know but it’s definitely Troma.
Follow Fred Topel on Twitter at @FredTopel.