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Review

Harry Says ASTROPIA is Geeky Cool Fun For The Soul!!!

Hey folks, Harry here at FANTASTIC FEST 2008 - year four. Saw 4 films today - Kevin Smith's hilariously raunchy ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO is going to hurt some folks when it starts its rib-cracking run here soon. The final version of FANBOYS is just the fun film they set out to make and was an oddly emotional screening tonight - to finally see this movie in front of an Austin audience. And at some point, I'll write about the first film I saw today and these above two, but they all have American distribution and established release dates, but what I love is finding something fucking phenomenally new and unexpected at FANTASTIC FEST. New talent that just came out swinging and kicked ass. Thus far, for me this year, the first film that has that criteria met is the awesome nerd-extravaganza... ASTROPIA. They essentially take the basic BEAUTY & THE GEEK premise, but whereas every fucking time that Hollywood takes a hold of that kind of material, they fuck it up, because they don't understand the hardcore fringes of geek society. In this case, the realm of RPG & LARPers... who also have an affinity for sci-fi, fantasy, horror, anime, asian cinema, comics, related novels and geek literature and television. We're talking meta-geeks. Sad alien beings like - well... you, me & the people we know. I went to this film because the Festival write-up said, "...in an alternate universe, Edgar Wright had an Icelandic brother making his own SPACED feature for the fanboy and comic book culture, then ASTROPIA is that film." Hmmm... a strange Icelandic Edgar Wright? I can't even conceive of that. Could there be an Icelandic Edgar Wright? What's geek culture in Iceland like? I figured I'd check it out. I didn't read much more about the film - that sentence signed me up, and I caught the phrase... LARPed... HMMMMM... If they've made a film to make fun of LARPers & RPGers... sign me up. Once you've met Massawyrm - making fun of this stuff just becomes second nature. I didn't know about the Beauty & The Geek aspect, because when I'm researching these screenings, I don't like to dig deep, just enough to get me interested or not. So as this film started with this gorgeous hot Icelandic beauty called Hildur - she's a model that poses in bikinis and is seemingly the least geekiest girl in the world. Though she does geek out over her favorite Joan Wilder Romance Novels (yes, an Icelandic film made that reference... how cool is that shit?) She has a boyfriend that is exploiting her - and he's played by the god, Peter Stormare! He gets jail time for various nefarious goings on - and she finds herself homeless and with no means of support. She stays with a friend with a young boy. Now Hildur... she's kinda cut from the Paris Hilton / Reese Witherspoon (helpless blonde mode). The lil boy at the house makes friends with her and at one juncture, she promises to get him whatever he wants, wherever he wants - and he decides he wants to go to ASTROPIA - an Icelandic Geek Paradise that supplies your geek drug of choice. From RPGs to LARPing implements to DVDs to COMICS to TOYS to basically... all the essentials. She was going to stay on the outside of the store, like a sensible non-geek, but when she sees a HELP WANTED sign... she decides to go in to make an inquiry. The second she walks in, the interior populace recognizes her for the Barbie Alien that she is. Male geeks rendered helpless or ineffectually erect and socially awkward. The guy who owns the store gives her a shot to work there, though she doesn't know anything about anything anywhere in the store. As you can probably imagine, she gets into this world - but what's fantastic about the movie is that it never talks down to either side. The Stereotypical Beauty may be clueless, but she has the capacity to learn, very well. The Geeks may initially come across as dorks, dweebs and geekettes, but once they accept a new person into their clan, they're awkwardness becomes truly endearing and heartfelt. And the "normals" begin to feel less Normal - and the Geeks become comforting. Yoko was eating this movie up! Seriously. Something that many of you don't necessarily know about Yoko is that she's not really a hardcore geek. She was the cheerleader and the Drill Team gal. Professionally she's involved in fashion retail at a managerial level - she has the things she geeks on, like everyone does and definitely the more time she spends with me, the further she descends into the pit of geek perdition. But - like now... she's a total TWILIGHT freak. But what she loved about the film was that she could truly see some of herself in Hildur - and she definitely could recognize the geeks of the film. And the just genuine love and passion with which it is all played out. The greatest invention of the film is what happens when they begin playing her first RPG. She's at the table. All the others are working up their character sheets, practice rolling, looking up spells and skills they wish to purchase or acquire - and the Game Master is working her character up for her, since she's a total novice, but the second this awesome Game Master kicks in with his silly intensely into it Narration - all the RPGers are thrust into his imaginative landscape and it's beautiful. Now - they had a micro-budget to make this film, but I promise you they didn't have 5% of the Kronas they would have loved to have shot this movie with, but you wouldn't really care, cuz it looks exactly right - and tonally everything that's slightly dodgy - is hilariously apt. The audience just signed up for everything this movie threw at us. This is EXACTLY the sort of film that would do wonders if it were introduced culturally either through a good arthouse release - reaching out to cities with strong comic and gaming and geek backgrounds... or there's the remake option, which is very very very apt - as this would be PERFECT material for a Megan Fox type. Perfect. Of course by the final act - things spiral wildly astray and challenges aplenty through themselves at our lovely Hildur. The film plays again on September 24th at 4:05pm - you'll be amazed just exactly how dead on this movie is to our own culture, although it comes all the way from Iceland. Director Gunnar Gudmundsson and the screenwriters Ottó Geir Borg and Jóhann Ævar Grimsson are talents definitely worth keeping our geek loving eyes on. Patton Oswalt would fucking cum out his ears for this fucker!

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